The Lone Gunman– A Continuing Drama

As of this writing we don’t know what spark ignited homicide in the mind of the latest famous shooter. This is happening near the campus of Texas A&M, but when all is sorted out, may have nothing at all to do with the college–may have no connection with anything we consider rational.

These days I am reminded of a book by journalist Jessica Stern called, ‘Terror in the Name of God’.

Jessica Stern interviews men and women willing to kill for a cause, Muslims, Christians and Jews across the globe. One of her interviewees is Bob Lokey, an American antiabortion activist–

“What fraction of the antiabortion movement supports killing abortion providers, what you call defensive action? I ask
“A small core would actually carry it out in my view” he says. “But one hundred percent of the people I talk to believe the things I says about it. I sometimes ask people, ‘Do you believe America needs a civil war?’ and everybody I talk to about that says yes. And I talk to a lot of people. A civil war would be pretty violent. Most people that I know and that I talk to would agree with me on this–it’s just that they’re not as vocal as I am.”

Bob Lokey names as an inspiration Paul Hill, who shot and killed Dr. John Britton, and his security escort, James Barrett, a retired air force lieutenant colonel. What is the motive?

“Individual operatives can have their own reasons for turning to terrorism unrelated to the group’s goals. “Individuals are drawn to terrorism in order to commit terrorist violence.” Jerrold Post argues. They feel “psychologically compelled” to commit violent acts, and the political objectives they espouse are only a rationalization.”

Wade Michael Page committed mass murder of his fellow Americans as they peaceably assembled for worship. It may be that he was a missile that misfired– an angry armed man whose suicide mission failed to inspire the masses. An unstable fellow-traveler whose regrettable action is to be deplored. The racists he hung out with are not canonizing him, more like distancing. S..t happens.

But if you believe that in the social ecology nothing persists that fails to serve some purpose, this from Politico raises some questions…

By TOMER OVADIA | 8/13/12 4:50 PM EDT

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Monday defended gun rights as police investigated a deadly shooting near Texas A&M University, saying firearms issues should be addressed by states and that he doesn’t think “taking guns away from law-abiding citizens” would make the country after.

“When it gets back to this issue of taking guns away from law abiding citizens and somehow know that’s going to make our country safer, it’s just I don’t agree with that,” Perry, who noted he didn’t have all the details of the shootings, said on Fox News while sitting next to Florida Governor Rick Scott.

“I think most people in Texas certainly don’t agree with that, and that is a state-by-state issue, frankly, that should be decided in the states and not again a rush to Washington, D.C., to centralize the decision-making, and them to decide what is in the best interest for the citizens of Florida or for Texas,” Perry continued. “That’s for the people of these states to decide.”

Perry also said people should be able to own guns so that they can defend themselves.

One of the dead was a law enforcement officer on duty, but the Governor is not wasting any breath on regrets.

More fear= more gun sales= more fear= more gun sales. It’s an ill wind blows nobody good.

A Target for Terrorists

One of the theoretical disadvantages of building more nuclear power plants may have become more real…

(CNN) — Security has been heightened at Sweden’s nuclear power plants after explosives were discovered on a vehicle entering a protected nuclear site, authorities said Thursday.

The truck was stopped at the Ringhals nuclear power plant on Wednesday afternoon, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority said.

The suspicious material was discovered before the vehicle had entered the protected area, it said.

Police are now investigating suspected sabotage, said the plant’s owner, Vattenfall.

The “explosive paste” was uncovered by sniffer dogs during a routine security check, the company said in a statement.

This story is new, we’ll hear more in the next few days.

Since 9/11, security in the US has been upgraded. From the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission…

One of the most important components of security programs at nuclear power facilities is the security force. Over the past five years, the NRC has required power plants to add more training and higher qualification standards for security personnel, while substantially increasing the number of officers on the force. Plant security officers, for example, must now be trained under more realistic conditions and against moving targets. In order to minimize security personnel fatigue and ensure a vigilant and effective security force, the NRC has instituted additional fitness-for-duty requirements and work hours controls.

In accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the NRC has also strengthened requirements for fingerprinting and background checks for various types of licensees and certificate holders. On Jan. 4, 2006, the NRC entered into an agreement with the federal government’s Terrorist Screening Center to review records of individuals with unescorted access to nuclear power reactor facilities. This collaborative effort automated and streamlined the collection and dissemination of information used to determine the trustworthiness of individuals who have unescorted access to certain vital areas of nuclear power plants. It also enhances the process of identifying anyone with access to these areas who may pose a threat to national security.

If you read closely, government is depending on industry to do its part. Japan seemed to have a well-run and transparent nuclear industry before Fukushima, but it has emerged that political and industry corruption suppressed efforts to maintain a level of safety that might have spared the people of Japan from a man-made disaster in the wake of the Tsunami. We don’t usually think of Japan as being eroded by organized crime, but that’s a factor too…

After the arrest of a yakuza boss for his alleged role in supplying workers to TEPCO’s Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Plant, we are learning the details of how Japan’s nuclear industry relied on organized crime. Since July of last year, a few months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami resulted in a triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant, investigators have been probing possible yakuza links to TEPCO and the nuclear industry under the guidance of the National Police Agency.

When we look at the situation of workers generally, and the inadequacy of government oversight in other areas, and add corruption and crime, it’s clear that there’s an expectation that the nuclear industry will operate on a higher and more pure level than any other. Have they earned this faith?

Any proposed new nuclear plant must factor in the cost of providing security, basically forever. Long after the plant has stopped producing power, the toxic waste will have to be kept from terrorists and criminals who could use it for weapons. That’s in addition to human error and whatever changes may come in the future that would make us relax our vigilance. There are dirty sites all over the world from decades of Cold War politics, from industrial and medical use of radioactive materials.

The incident in Sweden might not turn out to be a real threat, but the real threat is always a possibility– a curse we are handing down to future generations.

Spared by Fate on 9/11

Denise Oliver Velez at Daily Kos has a powerful 9/11 story.

I was working in the World Trade Center when we decided to move upstate, from our home in Astoria Queens, NY. We wanted more space, I wanted to garden and grow veggies, and we couldn’t afford to buy a house in the city. So we searched for an affordable home and found a fixer-upper for sale–cheap-two hours away from Manhattan. My husband was able to change jobs to a place nearer to the new house, but I didn’t have that luxury. After relocating I continued to commute to work early in the morning to make it in to my office, located on the 16th floor of 4 World Trade Center.

One morning, in September of 2001, I got up at 4:30 AM to get ready for the long 2 hour drive in. Before leaving I heard a strange grinding sound from our cellar. County homes often don’t have basements; ours had a cellar with a sump pump. For those of you not familiar with sump pumps–they are used to pump out ground water that accumulates under the house. I investigated and saw smoke; the grinding noises were the sump pump burning itself out. I figured out how to shut it down, but water started to flood over the boundaries of the sump hole and flood the cellar. I woke up my husband and told him to call a plumber. I had to leave or I’d be late for an early morning meeting with my boss.

The Velez family found themselves in a changed America, where race and religion took on new and ominous meanings, and Ms.Velez’ father’s American flag from his service with the Tuskegee Airmen became a shield against suspicion.

Read the rest here– After the Towers Fell.

September 11 After 10 Years

Wall of Peace Tiles

Last night I went to Waterfire, beautiful cool night with a full moon and our own unique civic festival in full swing.

Since September 11, 2001, I never go to a large public gathering without a small feeling of defying fear. We hear reports of credible threats, but that has been the background of the last ten years. So many parts of the world– Kenya, Northern Ireland, Chechnya– have suffered violence at the hands of organized religious and political fanatics. When that violence invaded our nation it brought into focus what had been on the margins of our national consciousness.

On that day, I was working as the Health Program Facilitator at the Providence Housing Authority. All day we stood in the community room in front of the large TV’s, or went into the apartments where the TV’s all showed the towers falling over and over. I stayed at work, glad that I believed my work mattered, but worried about my family and what might happen next. That night I couldn’t bear to be alone, and walked from Benefit Street to Rochambeau, stopping at three churches that kindly opened their doors to the lost and traumatized.

For the first time, I looked at people on the street and saw not Black and White, young and old, but simply, Americans.

In the days immediately following, the national mood was one of unity, coming together to help one another. An intern we worked with had started nursing school in NYC, and the student nurses were mobilized to assist with the wounded. There was no influx of survivors, the devastation was so complete.

There was, for a time, such a sense of selflessness. The anger, inevitable, had not yet set in. President Bush made a point of leading us away from prejudice against our Muslim citizens, though he failed to seize the moment of a national desire to serve and heal. Some of that spirit is captured in the tiles that line the walls of the peace walk at Waterplace Park.

Ten years on, our divisions are deep and painful. ‘Muslim’ has become a slur thrown at the president. Though this president succeeded in killing Osama Bin Laden, the enemy was never one man, or one organization. You can’t stop an idea with bullets, if that idea has power in the minds and hearts of people. Religious extremism flourishes when people despair of justice in this world. Angry people look for an enemy, or a scapegoat, as the terrible history of the last century shows.

Peace is not just the absence of war, it is a way of life built by work and sacrifice. War may temporarily stop an aggressor, but it cannot create a world we can live in. That is the work of the peacemakers.

I wish in this tenth year after the terrible attacks that took more than 3,000 innocent lives, and the even more terrible and costly wars that followed, that we can again find our commonality as Americans, and work in the world to stop conflict before it becomes war.

I hope that we can heal our own divisions, to make our society safe and welcoming to the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, free and just to people of all religions, and an example to the world that our American values of liberty and justice cannot be shaken by violence from without or fear from within.

Preaching to the Terrorized — An Allegory

[Seeing that Reverend Wright has emerged for more media time, I’d like to run this post again. The Good Lord spoke in parables, and so does Ninjanurse, when she manages not to forget the point halfway through]

It was a lovely day for a wedding at the Full Word of God Church, the church that takes the Bible literally. The bride and groom were both pure and uncompromised. Both home-schooled, and graduated with honors from Bible College. He was already making a good living selling Amway, and she looked forward to being a full-time Christian mother.

A guy with a guitar played that Paul Stookey wedding song, and then the guest preacher got up to say a few words to the happy couple. The Pastor, sadly, was in the hospital with a kidney stone. At the last minute they were able to get Reverend Ezekiel Bright.

Rev. Bright said a few words about the importance of faithfulness, and then launched with a thundering voice into these verses from the Bible…

“Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother:

And they committed whoredoms in Egypt; they committed whoredoms in their youth: there were their breasts pressed, and there they bruised the teats of their virginity.

… And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoredom, and she was polluted with them, and her mind was alienated from them.

So she discovered her whoredoms, and discovered her nakedness: then my mind was alienated from her, like as my mind was alienated from her sister.

Yet she multiplied her whoredoms, in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, wherein she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt.

For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses.” Ezekiel 23

The Reverend was winding up to share some more of the Holy Word, and elaborate on the ‘issue of horses’ but he never got the chance. Someone tripped over the microphone cord, and in that moment the choir director signaled the start of the Alleluia Chorus while the Ladies Guild surrounded Rev. Bright and hustled him to the back of the church.

The wedding went on with great festivity, and the Ladies plied him with cake until he fell asleep from sugar overload. He woke up in an empty church with a headache and a raging thirst, and a conviction that he had been greatly disrespected. ‘Tripped over the mike’ indeed. That was no accident.

“Lord!” he cried, “Why have they forsaken me?”

“What have I done, but tried to share your sacred word?”

“Have you not told us to be urgent in season and out of season, as St. Paul said?”

Tears filmed his eyes as he stared into the darkness of the empty church, and lo– the Lord appeared to him. Jesus walked up close to Rev. Bright and whupped him on the side of the head.

“Haven’t you ever heard of ‘context'”, asked the Lord. “How can you expect to reach people’s hearts and minds when you’re throwing a holy hand grenade at them?”

“But St. Paul said…”, Rev. Bright stuttered…

“Don’t start with me!”, growled St. Paul, materializing at Jesus’ right hand. “I was a Jew to the Jews and a Roman to the Romans. Give me credit for knowing a few things about politics.”

Jesus and St. Paul then stood on each side of Rev. Bright. St. Paul whupped him on the other side of his head and then they rose in a celestial cloud and vanished.

Rev. Bright pondered long and hard after that, but he never figured out what the Lord meant by ‘context’. It sounded too much like ‘compromise’. He ended up in a church that shared his vision, with a small congregation in a compound in Idaho.

He still feels hurt that the Full Word of God church would not hear his message about marital faithfulness, so biblical and appropriate to a wedding.

But sometimes it’s not what you say — it’s how you say it.

Reed More Cautious in Committing Troops to Afghanistan

After posting a video earlier in the month questioning why the US is adding troops in Afghanistan, particularly as many in Rhode Island are being called up to serve, (see video here), I am very pleased to see today that Senator Reed is helping to urge more caution in this commitment. From the Projo:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — “The burden of proof” will be on military leaders if they ask President Obama in the coming days to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, Sen. Jack Reed said Tuesday, as the political lines of battle on the issue sharpened.

But Reed stopped short of the declaration by his longtime ally, Senate Armed Services
Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan, that a further increase in U.S. combat troops should not be undertaken until the military attempts a vigorous training program to boost the numbers of Afghanistan’s own security forces.

Levin thus put himself at odds with Admiral Michael G. Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told the committee in forceful terms that the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, is likely to ask soon for additional combat U.S. troops — on top of the 17,000 that Mr. Obama ordered into the war effort in March.