Of Moles and Men

Molehills and Mountains, too.

molehillHere's the start of the excellent New York Times article on the Ricin Boys:
TOCCOA, Ga. — At the Waffle House here, no one can believe that the gray-haired men who came in almost daily for egg sandwiches and coffee could have been terrorists plotting to blow up government buildings and kill masses of people using poison from a bean plant that people in this rural part of the state grow to ward off moles.
A bit long perhaps. Certainly it's a tough example to use teaching diagramming sentences. (They still do that, right?) But it expresses the absurdity of the government's allegations better than anything else I've seen from straight news sites. And it is actually the lede, it's not buried.

Attention in the story is fading fast. In the absence of stories poking holes in the allegations, that's probably a good sign. Although I'm still surprised that the storyline of "the government is lying about white people" isn't generating any buzz in newsrooms. I have to say I don't watch TV news or listen to radio news, so maybe somebody's pushing back on this, but I doubt it.

Here are the blogs I found that weren't credulous:
  1. Previously mentioned, Alex Pareene on Salon.com: "This looks like the same “entrapment in all but name” approach to fighting terror that the Justice Department has been pursuing against American Muslims for years. What will be interesting to see is whether the entrapment defense works any better for a gang of four elderly white guys than it does for teenagers with names like “Hosam Maher Husein Smadi.”"
  2. Jim White on Emptywheel.net: "The “attack” planned with ricin is laughable on its face"
  3. Gawker.com: "No law enforcement agency in the world is better than our own FBI when it comes to thwarting terror plots that never would have come to fruition anyhow, because they consisted mainly of pitiful people sitting around boasting to FBI informants. The latest triumph by our domestic anti-terror heroes: saving America from a bunch of old Georgia loons who sat around the Waffle House talking about their big assassination ideas."
My previous post noted some "she said" reporting of ridiculousness. But I can't find anything else in the lamestream media - besides the Times - that is explicitly subjecting the allegations to common sense.

Moving on - although I saw this right away, White nails it, so I'll let him take over:
[T]hey hadn’t gotten much farther than showing off a few castor beans after a meeting at the local Waffle House. Oh, and the FBI breathlessly tells us that a castor bean obtained from the plotters “tested positive for ricin”. Sheesh, I would hope so, since castor beans are the source of ricin. And yes, they even carried out a DNA test to prove the bean was a castor bean.
This castor bean (actually the seed of the plant) is what prompted the FBI to roll up the suspects after eight months of tape recording "covert" meetings of the four codgers. Did the FBI bother to check the first sentence on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention factsheet for ricin?
Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans.
Nope. So I'm sure they didn't stop by the CDC - it's in Atlanta - to talk to somebody. And they didn't scroll down a bit to see how deadly ricin is when left on roads, dropped from an airplane, or out of a moving car's window: (h/t White)
Skin and eye exposure: Ricin is unlikely to be absorbed through normal skin. Contact with ricin powders or products may cause redness and pain of the skin and the eyes.
Ingestion or inhalation of "significant amounts" of ricin could kill you, but the pinhead amount of ricin that is being cited in many news stories has to be injected into the body to be deadly. There's a reason easily-obtained castor beans haven't killed anyone since 1978. And these geniuses aren't the KGB.

Another point that is flying so low beneath the radar it's catching on laundry lines, the confidential informant is facing felony state charges and on a polygraph, he "gave less than truthful responses concerning the activities of the militia group." This would be regarding conversations not on tape, because when he's taping, he's reliable:
But, the affidavit states, the credibility of the informant has been demonstrated by the source's accurate recounting of the conversations the source recorded during meetings, "when compared to the audio and video recordings of the meetings and physical surveillance of those meetings conducted by law enforcement agents."
That's all it takes to be credible? That's like a pro wrestler abiding by the "rules" when the referee is watching. Do you then trust him after the ref goes over the top rope? I'll let Gawker sign off:
ALERT: OLD GEORGIA MAN GROWS BEANS. If you go into any god damn Waffle House in rural Georgia, I guarantee you will find an identical group of old men sitting around drinking coffee and talking about how government employees should be assassinated along with NObama and probably some uppity negroes and the Democratic fella from the teevee, blah blah blah.
Full disclosure - the writer is from Florida.

Media Matters is on the story, but only through the angle of the online novel Absolved author and blogger Mike Vanderboegh, because he's a Fox News contributor and militiaman. So they recount everything the government has slapped up on the wall and take it at face value, just so they can hammer Fox News. George Soros should be ashamed. (joke, Soros doesn't control Media Matters)

I have to say that I am generally impressed with CNN's online news. Here's their "they were quiet and kept to themselves" article: Neighbors surprised to learn of four elderly men arrested in terror plot