2009 - %3, November

Letter From Fort Hood

| Fri Nov. 6, 2009 12:19 PM EST

A former reader emails today to pass along a firsthand account of the shooting at Fort Hood on Thursday. It's unedited except for paragraph breaks:

I was walking into the medical SRP building when he started firing (he never made it to the main SRP building....the media accounts are understandably pretty off right now).  He was calmly and methodically shooting everyone.  Like every non-deployed military post, no one was armed.  For the first time in my life I really wish I had a weapon.  I don't know how to explain what it feels like to have someone shoot at you while you're unarmed.  He missed me but didn't miss a lot of others.  Just pure random luck.  It's a very compressed area, thus the numbers.

I saw a lot of heroism.  So many more would have died if this wasn't an Army post.  We're almost all CLS trained and it made a huge difference. Cause the EMTs didn't get there for almost an hour (they thought there was a second shooter).  I just can't believe one of our own shot us.  When I saw his ID card I couldn't believe it.  After he shot the female police officer he was fumbling his reload and I saw the other police officer around the corner and yelled at him to come shoot the shooter.  He did.   Then I used my belt as a tourniquet on the female officer.

I hate to tell you this but in the course of the day it became clear that it was another Akbar incident.1  (Once they convinced them the blood drenching my clothes wasn't mine I spent the day being interviewed by the alphabet.) Akbar again.  God help us.  He was very planned.  I counted three full mags around him (I secured his weapon for a while).  Found out later that his car was filled with more ammo.

This was premeditated.  This wasn't VBC again.  That guy snapped, not this one.  He was so damn calm when he was shooting.  Methodical.  And he was moving tactically.  The Army really is diverse and we really do love all our own.  We signed up to be shot at but not at home.  Not unarmed.  No one should ever see what the inside of that medical SRP building looked like.  I suppose that's what VA Tech looked like.  Except they didn't have soldiers coming from everywhere to tourniquet and compress and talk to the wounded while rounds are still coming out.

No one touched him...the shooter that is...other than to treat him.  Though I told the medic (and I'm not proud of this) that was giving him plasma that there better not be anyone else who needed it because he should be the last one to be treated.  But I had just finished holding a soldier who was critical (I counted three entry wounds) and talking to him about his children....  If the shooter had a grievance he should have taken it out on those responsible; he wasn't shooting people he knew (media reports to the contrary).  He was just shooting anybody who happened to be present for SRP medical processing, mainly lower enlisted.

But please, no one use this politically!   The Army is not "broken", PTSD doesn't turn people into killers, most Muslims aren't evil, and whether we should stay or go in Afghanistan has nothing to do with this.  I'm babbling...sorry.

1Hasan Akbar was an Army sergeant who killed two soldiers and wounded 14 others in a grenade attack in Kuwait in 2003.  He's currently under a sentence of death.

There have been several media reports that the Fort Hood shooter yelled "Allahu Akbar!" during his rampage, but my correspondent says, "He was silent in my presence."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Climate Bill: Friend or FOE?

| Fri Nov. 6, 2009 11:30 AM EST

Most of the big environmental groups are cheering the advancement of climate legislation out of the Environment and Public Works Committee on Thursday, but the farther-left environmental groups are still not happy with the bill.

Laudatory responses came almost immediately from Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, to name a few. But Friends of the Earth—which along with Greenpeace was the only major green group to oppose the House climate legislation—blasted the bill as "a woefully disproportionate response to the tremendous economic, security and public health threats posed by global warming."

"It is extremely disconcerting to hear scientists speak about the level of action needed to prevent radical and dangerous climate destabilization, and then to see how far short even one of the most environmentally friendly committees in Congress has fallen," said Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica in a statement.

While some portions of the bill have been improved over the House bill, Friends of the Earth identified a number of concerns: "a poorly regulated carbon trading scheme," an allocation system that "showers polluting corporations with billions of dollars" without requiring stringent carbon reductions, and "massive carbon offset loophole."

"These flaws are unacceptable, and they are the result of a defective political system in which polluting corporations, Wall Street traders, and their lobbyists continue to exert far too much influence," Pica's statement said. And Pica said the negotiating effort by John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) appeared "to be moving forward with an attempt to produce an even weaker bill—one friendlier to the oil, coal and nuclear industries."

 

Need To Read: November 6, 2009

Fri Nov. 6, 2009 7:25 AM EST

Today's must reads:

Get more stuff like this: Follow me on twitter! David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, also tweets, as does MoJo blogger Kate Sheppard. So do my colleagues Daniel Schulman and Rachel Morris and our editors-in-chief, Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein. Follow them, too! (The magazine's main account is @motherjones.)

Taking Governance Seriously

| Fri Nov. 6, 2009 2:32 AM EST

Congress passed something today.  Hooray!

Congress gave final approval Thursday for an additional $24 billion to help the jobless and support the housing market as climbing unemployment poses a growing liability for elected officials.

The bill, passed overwhelmingly by the House and headed to President Obama for his signature Friday, extends unemployment nsurance benefits that were due to expire and renews an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, while also expanding it to cover many other home purchases.

And Democrats only had to break three separate filibusters in the Senate to get this passed!  The first filibuster was broken by a vote of 87-13, the second by a vote of 85-2, and the third by a vote of 97-1.  The fourth and final vote, the one to actually pass the bill, was 98-0.  Elapsed time: five weeks for a bill that everyone ended up voting for.

Why?  Because even though Republicans were allowed to tack on a tax cut to the bill as the price of getting it passed, they decided to filibuster anyway unless they were also allowed to include an anti-ACORN amendment.  Seriously.  A bit of ACORN blustering to satisfy the Palin-Beck crowd is the reason they held up a bill designed to help people who are out of work in the deepest recession since World War II.  Details here and here.  That's called taking governing seriously, my friends.

How to Bust an Escalator Addiction

| Thu Nov. 5, 2009 7:07 PM EST

The Fun Theory is, well, fun. I know this video made my rounds a couple of weeks ago, but not here (I don't think). For the students I met at Augustana College earlier this year, wrestling with their elevator addictions, this video offers a cool solution. I believe this is another example of the piezo-electric effect, powered by human feet, appearing in nightclubs in Europe.

 

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Ft. Hood Massacre

| Thu Nov. 5, 2009 6:55 PM EST

Mass murder at Ft. Hood:

Twelve people have been killed and 31 wounded in a shooting spree at a Texas military base by what officials believe was possibly carried out by an Army officer. The suspected gunman was identified by ABC News as Major Malik Nadal Hasan.

The shooter was killed and two other suspects, who are also soldiers, have been apprehended, Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone said.

Oh Lord.  This is very, very bad.  And it's going to get worse.

State Secrets

| Thu Nov. 5, 2009 6:30 PM EST

Here's an interesting little story.  Way back in 1993 a couple of CIA agents wiretapped a DEA agent in Burma named Richard Horn, and when Horn found out he sued both the agents and the CIA for violating his civil rights.  The case muddled along for years, and a couple of days ago the government agreed to a settlement.

So far, so boring.  But why, after 15 years, did the government finally cave?  Turns out it's because they were lying to the judge and got caught:

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth suggested that the past and present CIA men may have perpetrated a "fraud on the court" through inaccurate declarations....Until Lamberth's angrily worded July decision, government attorneys had successfully argued that the lawsuit, first filed in August 1994, must be sealed to protect state secrets.

....Tellingly, Lamberth further hinted in September that the government could be on a losing course if the case went to trial, as he suggested that "the only secret the government might have left to preserve is the fact they did what Horn alleges."

The CIA had invoked the state secrets privilege, insisting that the case against one of its agents be dropped because he was working covertly and his identity couldn't be revealed.  And they kept insisting that even after his cover had been lifted.  When Lamberth found out, he was not a happy judge.

More here.  This is yet another data point that restates the obvious: just because the government invokes the state secrets privilege doesn't mean there really are state secrets involved.  Congress and the courts, who know this perfectly well, would be wise to demand a wee bit more judicial oversight in these cases instead of allowing the executive absolute discretion.  Pat Leahy's State Secrets Protection Act would be a good place to start.

Soldier Shootout at Fort Hood Leaves 12 Dead

| Thu Nov. 5, 2009 6:14 PM EST

At least one US soldier (two other suspects are in custody) went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas today, killing 12 and injuring 31. The slain shooter has been identified as Major Malik Nadal Hasan. What that name means, if anything, we don't know yet, so let's not immediately jump to 9/11-type conclusions.

Longer and more frequent deployments, for a shrinking and less-qualified fighting force, means our increasingly stressed soldiers are under more pressure than ever. The Army has already seen PTSD spread among its ranks, its suicide rate skyrocket, and domestic violence (and this is a different type of domestic violence) has also plagued Army bases under the strain of dual wars.

President Obama called the Fort Hood shootings a "horrific outburst of violence." He added: "It is difficult enough to lose" soldiers overseas, but "horrifying that they should lose their lives at an Army base in the U.S."

Swine Flu Strikes Endangered Amazonian Tribe

| Thu Nov. 5, 2009 6:13 PM EST

I can't find this story anywhere in US news outlets. Whereas the BBC—twice as far away—features it on their online front page.

According to Survival International, swine flu has killed seven members of the Yanomami, an endangered Amazonian tribe. Another 1,000 Yanomami are reported to have caught the virulent strain. The regional office of the World Health Organization confirms swine flu.

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government has sealed the area and sent in medical teams, amid fears the epidemic could kill many more Indians. According to Survival International:

In the 1980-90s, when goldminers invaded their land, one fifth of the Yanomami in Brazil died from diseases such as flu and malaria introduced by the miners. Stephen Corry, director of Survival said, "The situation is [now] critical. We could once more see hundreds of Yanomami dying of treatable diseases. This would be utterly devastating for this isolated tribe, whose population has only just recovered from the epidemics which decimated their population 20 years ago."

The Yanomami are the largest relatively isolated tribe in the Amazon rainforest, with a population of 32,000 straddling the mountainous border between Venezuela and Brazil. Because of this isolation, the Yanomami possess little resistance to introduced diseases. Furthermore, there's virtually no medical infrastructure in their forested homeland. Certainly not an ICU, I gather.