The FBI has received substantial criticism over the past decade — much of it valid — but nobody can deny its record of excellence in thwarting its own Terrorist plots. Time and again, the FBI concocts a Terrorist attack, infiltrates Muslim communities in order to find recruits, persuades them to perpetrate the attack, supplies them with the money, weapons and know-how they need to carry it out — only to heroically jump in at the last moment, arrest the would-be perpetrators whom the FBI converted, and save a grateful nation from the plot manufactured by the FBI.
Last year, the FBI subjected 19-year-old Somali-American Mohamed Osman Mohamud to months of encouragement, support and money and convinced him to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas event in Portland, Oregon, only to arrest him at the last moment and then issue a Press Release boasting of its success. In late 2009, the FBI persuaded and enabled Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year old Jordanian citizen, to place a fake bomb at a Dallas skyscraper and separately convinced Farooque Ahmed, a 34-year-old naturalized American citizen born in Pakistan, to bomb the Washington Metro. And now, the FBI has yet again saved us all from its own Terrorist plot by arresting 26-year-old American citizen Rezwan Ferdaus after having spent months providing him with the plans and materials to attack the Pentagon, American troops in Iraq, and possibly the Capitol Building using “remote-controlled” model airplanes carrying explosives.
None of these cases entail the FBI’s learning of an actual plot and then infiltrating it to stop it. They all involve the FBI’s purposely seeking out Muslims (typically young and impressionable ones) whom they think harbor animosity toward the U.S. and who therefore can be induced to launch an attack despite having never taken even a single step toward doing so before the FBI targeted them. Each time the FBI announces it has disrupted its own plot, press coverage is predictably hysterical (new Homegrown Terrorist caught!), fear levels predictably rise, and new security measures are often implemented in response (the FBI’s Terror plot aimed at the D.C. Metro, for instance, led to the Metro Police announcing a new policy of random searches of passengers’ bags).
(6) As usual, most media coverage of the FBI’s plots is as uncritical as it is sensationalistic. The first paragraph of The New York Times article on this story described the plot as one “to blow up the Pentagon and the United States Capitol.” But the FBI’s charging Affidavit (reproduced below) makes clear that Ferdaus’ plan was to send a single model airplane (at most 1/10 the size of an actual U.S. jet) to the Capitol and two of them to the Pentagon, each packed with “5 pounds” of explosives (para. 70); the Capitol was to be attacked at its dome for “psychological effect” (para 34). The U.S. routinely drops 500-pound or 1,000-pound bombs from actual fighter jets; this plot — even if it were carried out by someone other than a hapless loner with no experience and it worked perfectly — could not remotely “blow up” the Pentagon or the Capitol.
This is the keeper quote from the entire article
Wouldn’t the FBI’s resources be better spent on detecting and breaking up actual Terrorist plots — if there are any — rather than manufacturing ones so that they can stop those?
My friend Bri mentioned this over drinks at the Smuggler’s Cove the other night and I don’t think I necessarily agree. More like “We break easily and live by mending” but that’s not as catchy. It’s a riff on a Eugene Oneill’s statement, “We are born broken. We live by mending. The grace of God is the glue.” Which is definitely some crazy Catholic bullshit that alludes to the concept of original sin. The important thing, I think, is that as humans we actively seek to heal our emotional and social wounds. To wit, my friend Jason remarked that “when you blame someone for something they become the only person that can fix that problem.”
+ Neutrinos appear to travel faster than the speed of light. Good critical piece in the NYTimes here. I am generally skeptical of boundaries but wouldn’t be surprised if this doesn’t pan out.
+ “UC Berkeley scientists have developed a system to capture visual activity in human brains and reconstruct it as digital video clips. Eventually, this process will allow you to record and reconstruct your own dreams on a computer screen.” >>>>>>>
+ “Gamers have solved the structure of a retrovirus enzyme whose configuration had stumped scientists for more than a decade. The gamers achieved their discovery by playing Foldit, an online game that allows players to collaborate and compete in predicting the structure of protein molecules. After scientists repeatedly failed to piece together the structure of a protein-cutting enzyme from an AIDS-like virus, they called in the Foldit players. The scientists challenged the gamers to produce an accurate model of the enzyme. They did it in only three weeks. >>>>>>
+ Dancing is getting more totally fucking awesome. Haven’t seen something this bomb since the likes of David Elsewhere:
The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to recognize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their own abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. As Kruger and Dunning conclude, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others” (p. 1127).
The effect is about paradoxical defects in cognitive ability, both in oneself and as one compares oneself to others.
“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” Helen Keller
Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. The story of how Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, broke through the isolation imposed by a near complete lack of language, allowing the girl to blossom as she learned to communicate, has become widely known through the dramatic depictions of the play and film The Miracle Worker.
A prolific author, Keller was well-traveled, and was outspoken in her opposition to war. A member of the Socialist Party of America and the Wobblies, she campaigned for women’s suffrage, workers’ rights, and socialism, as well as many other leftist causes.
The other day at lunch I found myself as the only person at the table who didn’t believe in prehistoric Alien contact. The primary evidence for this is that several pre-Columbian cultures knew “like, the weight of planets in outer space.” I found my counter argument compelling but no one seemed to buy it.
So let me get this straight: Aliens came to earth a couple thousand years ago and taught human beings what is now rudimentary astronomy and mathematics but they didn’t bother to teach us about germ theory, farming techniques, basic chemistry, basic physics or any of the like? What. A. Bunch. Of. Assholes! Fuck those guys, I wouldn’t want to hang with them anyway. Or maybe different civilizations just learn astronomy at slightly different paces.
As someone who really enjoys science fiction, I’m enraptured by the idea of a world where aliens swing down to help us but it never happened and I’m not really sure how to convince people that’s the case.
To understand something is to work hard to understand it’s counterarguments.
Relatedly, when I hear people talk about things forcefully the basic thing I ask myself before taking them seriously is “Has this person at least read the wikipedia article on what they are talking about?” Obviously, there are relevant pieces of information outside that basic context and people can know lots about a topic without reading the wikipedia article. Still, it’s my first line of defense to figure out if a person is a bullshitting me.