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Another good reason not to work in Cambridge

It’s in lockdown mode right now while the terrorist suspects are being rounded up.  There are a lot of R&D facilities in Cambridge. Derek Lowe of In the Pipeline who works there just checked in with an update.

This is not the first time that R&D people were associated by location with terrorism activities.  In 2001, the pharma labs in central NJ had visits from the FBI when the anthrax letters made their way through the Princeton, Trenton and Rocky Hill post offices.

I’m sure it’s just an unhappy coincidence.

Stay safe, friends.

Ok, I’ll say it. It was terrorism. But first, some clarity.

When someone(s) plants explosive devices at locations where there will be crowds, detonates them and, as a result, kills and maims dozens of people, that is terrorism.

Why?  Because senseless death in such a dramatic fashion tends to scare the bejeesus out of people.  When the explosions are seconds apart and within walking/visual distance of each other, there is no question that it is terrorism.  The explosions were meant to kill and terrify.

The problem is that we have come to associate terrorism with scary brown skinned people with middle eastern names and have conveeeeeniently forgotten that before Al Qaeda, there was Timothy McVeigh.  Now, unless people are starting to refer to McVeigh as a freedom fighter, we should remember that we once called him a terrorist.

So, while we wait to determine who set the explosives off, we shouldn’t be afraid to call it what it is: terrorism.  And it’s just as likely to be homegrown as middle eastern.  All you right wing whip kissing cowards can chill until we get to the bottom of this.

When Fear Is All Around You

Kevin Drum has a new article up at Mother Jones that is, in my opinion, worth reading. Actually, I’m not 100% sure it’s worth reading because I was too lazy to do anything but skim through it, but I got the general idea. Basically, the National Park Service wants to bring a higher level of security to the Washington Monument and Bruce Schneier thinks we should just shut it down.

Kevin Drum, like me, could really care less what happens to the Washington Monument. I didn’t even know people visited it. Like most Americans, I just see it in movies and I think, “Oh… the Washington Monument.” That sums up my opinion on the whole thing. But Drum sums up my opinion on something else very clearly: the intellectual laziness of Bruce’s attitude.

Maybe we should just shut it down. But that particular issue aside, I think Bruce’s attitude needs some major pushback.

There’s a certain class of people to whom his prescription sounds great. Refuse to be terrorized! Stop being such babies! I’m a member of that class. I would happily accept a slightly increased risk of terrorist attack in return for a less intrusive security regime. I think we’re way too willing to let fear rule our culture. On a purely personal level, this stuff infuriates me.

But those of us who feel that way really have an obligation to understand just how out of the mainstream we are. I’m willing to bet that most of us are a bit nerdy, sort of hyperanalytical, maybe even slightly Aspergers-ish. We’re comfortable — too comfortable, probably — viewing the ebb and flow of human lives as an accounting exercise. We’re also very sure of ourselves, generally pretty verbal, and we have soapboxes to shout from.

And, at a guess, we represent maybe 10% of the population. At most.

I have a friend who does not represent this 10% of the population. Like most people my age, she pretends to be non conformist and unique… but really isn’t. At least on this particular issue, her non conformism is purely commercial. If I go out in the middle of the night to take a walk or stop by the 24 hour drug store to grab some eggs, I get a tut and a shake of the head from her. “Oh… that’s smart. You’ll get raped and killed.”

Neither of us have spent much of our lives in particularly bad neighborhoods. We have been comfortably safe in suburbia and have never had our lives threatened in any way. But like most Americans we watch the nightly news and stories about murder and general destruction are plastered across the screen. Yes, I do run the risk of danger if I go out at night. I try to let this frighten me or deter me but… it just doesn’t. I don’t care.

Maybe I’m just a reckless young person who believes in her own invincibility. My answer to that is: well, I’ve been reckless for a while now and I’m still here, right? Or maybe I’m just an idiot. Actually, I’m probably just an idiot, but I think I’m losing my point here.

The point is, I have a certain attitude about the things I do, and it’s a simple one: I do what I want. I run the risk of dying when I get in a car to drive. Hell, I could drop dead or be struck down at any moment. My attitude is the exact opposite of reckless belief in my own invincibility. I know the grim reaper could pay a visit at any time, unannounced, and I wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing about it. That’s why I don’t care about death. It’s inevitable. I accept her dark embrace. And I’m not going to sit around and be so worried about death that I forget to live. As far as I’m concerned, she can call me anytime, because frankly I would rather die young knowing I stood up for something than die old and realize I threw my life away.

Our modern society is deathly afraid of death. Go figure. And violence. And since I was a child, terrorism was thrown into the mix. When you can’t even go through a scanner at the airport without having your private business groped, you have to stop and take a look  around you and wonder, “why?”

I am growing up in an age of fear and it is getting old fast.

We’re afraid of Cancer. “Watermelons cause Cancer!” a Woman’s Health article screams at at us when we’re in the Grocery Line. Jesus Christ. EVERYTHING causes Cancer! Who cares??? Eat a god damned watermelon! They’re friggin’ delicious!

We’re afraid of teen pregnancy and sexual activity. Oh my goodness. It’s not that hard. Teenagers want to have sex because they’re HORNY. Just teach them about sex education, give them some condoms and birth control pills and send them on there way. Everyone gets sex and everyone wins. Simple.

But then, what about morals? Our culture of sex and drugs is degrading our preciously valued beliefs and traditions! The sky is falling! No, it’s not. Who cares about morals? Morals are boring. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone else do what you want. I have low moral fiber and I am proud of it.

But… Terrorism kills people! Yeah, it does. But Terrorism isn’t just about violence. It’s about using violence… to make people SCARED. I’m sorry, but groping my hoo ha when I’m at an airport is not the way to fight Terrorism. Closing the Washington Monument would just tell our enemies just how afraid of them we really are. I’d rather we stood up to them.

And most importantly, people are scared for America. Or of America. Which one? I don’t know, probably both. China is gaining influence, the media tells us ominously. And we are declining. Our standard of living is declining, our government is imploding from the inside out. The economy is down and won’t get back up for a while, if ever. What are we going to do? We won’t be the world’s biggest superpower anymore! By 2040 white people will be a minority! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

It’s all mass hysteria and it’s all silly. Stop giving into fear. That’s what you do. Don’t sit there and complain and let it happen. Don’t say, “America is doomed” and then go to Wal Mart to buy cups.  Do something. Vote. Get your shit together and get yourself organized. Protest. Raise Hell. It’s what the Founding Fathers would have wanted. They cared a lot more about that than “Family Values” and “American Security.”

And most importantly, stop being afraid for America. Fight for her if you love her. Don’t just let her go.

 

Sunday News – All Hallow’s Eve Edition

Boo!!

Happy Halloween Conflucians!! What are you dressing as today and tonight? I hope you all have a great Halloween.

Other than bats in the belfry, let’s see what else is spooky out there. Some fun yesterday was the Steward/Colbert rally yesterday. I quite liked Jon’s sentiment at the end. He basically echoed what we’ve been saying for a long time. Namely that all this crap and mud slinging and race baiting and nastiness on both sides is causing great harm. He called progressives out as much as he called wingers out. Which was such a change where we tend to only ever see wingers called out and hardly ever progressives called out except here and a few other places. More of that please. It was also nice to see his message of hope about how real Americans are out there working together and get things done, unlike people in washington or in the MSM. I liked it. Here’s a bit of the Miami Herald’s take:

“This is not . . . to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do,” Stewart said as he turned serious in his closing remarks. “But we live now in hard times, not end times. We can have animus and not be enemies.”

He lambasted the cable TV news mentality that amplifies outrageous statements, stokes fear and seeks out confrontation, singling out the left-wing media for equating tea partyers with racists and the right-wing media for “the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims.”

“The press can hold its magnifying class up to our problems,” he said. “Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire. . . . The press is our immune system. If they overreact to everything we get sicker.”

The message struck a chord with the large throng of people; the National Park Service no longer provides official estimates of crowds, but the National Mall was densely packed with many tens of thousands of people.

“It’s the first time a message like this has resonated with me,” said Jonathan Dugan, 37, a product engineer who flew from San Francisco to stand on the mall on a sunny fall afternoon. “We need to get people to talk to each other in a meaningful way.”

So as you’d expect, politics is in much of the news. WaPo has a bit about Obama’s “closing arguments” for the election:

Obama laid out a sharp contrast between his party’s agenda and the GOP, saying that Republicans have done little but play politics as his party has made hard choices to revive the economy, change the health-care system and regulate the finanical industry.

“We don’t want to relive the past. We’ve tried what their selling and we’re not buying,” he said. “We’re not going back.”

While Obama told supporters that the election two years ago wasn’t about him, Democrats are betting that his lingering appeal among first time voters, African-Americans and Hispanics will boost turnout – in Philadelphia volunteers handed out leaflets with a picture of Obama and his wife on one side and a plug for Rep. Joe Sestak, running for the Senate, and Dan Onorato, who is running for governor, on the other side. Polls show Onorato trailing behind Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, and Sestak gaining ground on former Republican congressman Pat Toomey.

But the best part, and why I didn’t think of this before, he’s now out talking about, wait for it, party unity after the election, sort of:

Whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s election, it’s time to put aside partisanship, President Obama is telling Democrats and Republicans.

Yet his appeal for unity includes a jab at GOP leaders in the House and Senate for comments that the president said were troubling.

House minority leader John Boehner of Ohio “actually said that ‘this is not the time for compromise,’ ’’ Obama said yesterday in his weekly radio and Internet address. The president added that Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky “said his main goal after this election is simply to win the next one.’’

The address was released shortly before Obama left Washington for a day of campaigning in Philadelphia, Bridgeport, Conn., and Chicago. The three states have competitive House and Senate races, as does Ohio, where the president was slated to hold a rally today in Cleveland.

In the weekly Republican address, Boehner said Obama has failed to deliver the change he promised. The man who probably would become House speaker if Republicans win control of the chamber also promoted party pledges to cut spending and keep taxes at current levels.

Meanwhile Bill Clinton is out campaigning his ass off. He was in Youngstown yesterday:

Clinton spoke to a crowd of 1,800 to 2,000 people, most of whom stood rather than sit during his speech, at Mr. Anthony’s.

The former president urged the audience to vote and urge others to do the same for the Democratic slate, particularly Gov. Ted Strickland.

“Where’s the enthusiasm gap? Where is it?” yelled Yvette McGee Brown, the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee. “You guys do us proud. We are winning on Tuesday because of you! I just want to tell you, this has been a long year. There are people who counted us out just like people counted out the Valley.”

National polls have shown that those most likely to vote lean Republican.

But Strickland said momentum is swinging in favor of Democrats at the right time.

Republicans “won this race in August,” he said. “We’re going to win this race in November, when it really counts.”

And Bill is returning to Orlando to help Meeks again in his campaign. You know, the guy the media lied about and said Bill pushed out of the race, even though everyone disagreed before they ran those stories. The Miami Herald article includes some of that:

Clinton will join Meek and the state’s other major Democratic Party candidates at a last-minute voter rally Monday night in Orlando, the Democratic Senate candidate’s campaign said Saturday.

The announcement comes after two days of media reports over whether Clinton privately asked Meek to step aside and endorse Crist, who left the Republican party to run as an independent. Meek and Clinton have denied those reports, even those confirmed by Clinton’s spokesman.

Both Meek and Crist trail Rubio, the tea party-backed Republican. To win, Crist would need at least some of the Democrats who plan to vote for Meek.

Meek has accused Crist of starting the rumors about Clinton and says Crist directly asked him to withdraw.

“I think he’s a nice guy, but I don’t think that that plays a role and I think it’s wrong to try to paint me into the corner and say that I’m the reason why he’s not winning,” Meek told reporters at Wilton Manors city hall, where he and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz were courting early voters. “I don’t blame the position of my campaign at any time on any other opponent.”

It was Meek’s only public event Saturday. He was resting up for 24 hours of nonstop campaigning across much of the state, beginning Sunday night in Tampa.

Meek said the rumors about him possibly dropping out of the three-way race have energized his supporters.

“What some meant for bad ended up being for good. People are now awakened of their responsibility to get out to vote,” he said. “Because now the ant bed has been kicked. Folks are highly disappointed.”

The other big news of the day was the apparent terrorist plot to blow up some synagogues in the Chicago area. It’s now being reported that Yemen has made some arrests:

Yemen has arrested a female student suspected of mailing the explosive parcels from the country to the US that sparked a global security alert, sources say.

The arrest took place on Saturday in the capital, Sanaa, after security forces surrounded a house where the suspect was hiding.

The woman’s lawyer said she was a “quiet student” with no known links of religious or political groups. Her mother was also detained, but was not a prime suspect, the lawyer said.

A Yemeni security official said the woman, a medical student in her 20s, had been traced through a telephone number she left with a cargo company.

Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president, confirmed her arrest, saying: “Yemen is determined to fight terror but will not allow anyone to intervene in its affairs.”

Security officials have been on high alert since the UK and the United Arab Emirates intercepted two packages containing explosive material that were being shipped by air from Yemen to synagogues in Chicago.

Who’s to know if that person really had anything to do with anything. They need an arrest and need it now. I’m not sure the truth really matters. But we’ll watch the events unfold. BBC has a list of Sunday papers with stories on this issue.

In other news of the world, Brazil is having elections, and with all the economic problems, the main race is about which candidate is the crazier religious wacko:

The pocketbook is battling the pulpit in Brazil’s presidential elections Sunday, as government candidate Dilma Rousseff faces opposition leader Jose Serra in a runoff election to lead this burgeoning economic power of 190 million people.

Issues that most Brazilians thought didn’t belong in national politics — in particular, abortion — have taken center stage, and both candidates are catering to the concerns of evangelical and Roman Catholic voters.

By abandoning her previous public stance on liberalizing the country’s anti-abortion laws, and attending church before the television cameras, Rousseff, a former atheist, appears to have outmaneuvered Serra. A national poll Thursday night gave her a 13-point advantage over the former governor of Sao Paulo state.

That’s some crazy shit. And I thought my congressional race was bad.

That’s a bit of what’s in the news. Chime in with what you’re doing for Halloween and what else you’re finding in the news.

What’s Going On Between Obama and the CIA?

President Obama speaking at CIA Headquarters

A kind of war of leaks appears to be going on between Obama administration and the CIA. I realize that it is nothing new for Presidents of the U.S. to have conflicts with the CIA–Presidents since Truman have struggled to control the intelligence apparatus he set in motion after World War II.

I’m certainly no expert on this kind of thing, and I’m hoping someone like Joseph Cannon will be able to explain it eventually. But for now, I thought I’d just post some of the things I’ve been reading in the hopes that together we can make some sense out of the situation. So here’s the deal.

First we had crotch bomber Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, who managed to get through multiple airline security systems and come close to detonating a bomb in his underwear on Delta Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas day. For a full examination of what is know about the crotch bombing incident, you can’t beat the two excellent posts that Joseph Cannon has written so far. Scroll down for the earlier post on the many strange questions about case.

President Obama’s first response to the aborted bombing attempt came on December 31. Here is a portion of the statement from the White House web site:

I wanted to speak to the American people again today because some of this preliminary information that has surfaced in the last 24 hours raises some serious concerns. It’s been widely reported that the father of the suspect in the Christmas incident warned U.S. officials in Africa about his son’s extremist views. It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect’s name on a no-fly list.

There appears [sic] to be other deficiencies as well. Even without this one report there were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together. We’ve achieved much since 9/11 in terms of collecting information that relates to terrorists and potential terrorist attacks. But it’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have.

Had this critical information been shared it could have been compiled with other intelligence and a fuller, clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged. The warning signs would have triggered red flags and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America.

Obama then went on to praise the intelligence community and to say that he understood that even the best people weren’t infallible. This was apparently interpreted by members of the CIA as an attack by Obama on their competence. Continue reading

Keep it up Obamaphiles!

Oooo, Clinton is FEARMONGERING!

And Obama is running around saying this is about Iraq and his excellent judgment (that he was not expected to verify with a vote).

No, this is not about Iraq. This is about dealing with fear rationally. Bush captured the market on fearmongering but the terrorism problem hasn’t gone away. In fact Bush has made the problem worse and likely more explosive. And as Clinton has correctly pointed out before, acts of terrorism frequently occur during transitions in government. Just before or right after elections.

Now, if you feel comfortable putting a complete neophyte in the driver’s seat during a period of time when we haven’t gotten a handle on terrorism, then by all means, vote for Obama. But if you are the kind of person who keeps a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, smoke detectors in you ceilings, double locks on your doors, drives within the speed limit and has no need to panic in the event of a natural disaster because you’ve made preparations in advance, then this should be a no-brainer. Go with the person who has seen it from the inside and who has access to the best mentor in the world.

Obama has it wrong here. There are still plenty of people who are justifiably concerned about terrorism and they are not going to be comfortable with someone who doesn’t understand their concerns about the ongoing threat we face. I still get a little unnerved by the sudden and persistent whomp-whomp of low flying helicopters over my roof (it happened a lot after 9/11 so now I pay attention to the noise). I get concerned about terrorism, probably because of my location in the NYC megalopolis. But I am not panicking. And I know I will rest much easier if Hillary is in the White House because I know she’s not going to trivialize the advice of her counterterrorism experts and tell them there’s nothing to worry about.

In any case, when McCain runs scarier ads in the general, Hillary will have much better bona fides on national security than Obama. McCain will make him look like a nonchalant weakling.  Now THAT’S scary.

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