One Confirmed dead in Plane Attack on Austin IRS

Police now say one federal employee died in today's plane attack on the building housing the IRS in Austin. (Background here .)

David Neiwert at Crooks and Liars discusses whether the plane attack on the Austin building housing IRS employees was terrorism. More on that here.

I don't see what difference it makes what you call it. The pilot's dead. It's not like they are going to try him in a criminal court for use of a weapon of mass destruction. Had he lived, that likely would have been a preferred charge.

There's already cries for increased protection of federal buildings. Seems like today's attack will cost us a pretty penny.

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    hello. (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by coigue on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 09:30:13 PM EST
    ter·ror·ism   [ter-uh-riz-uhm]  
    the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
    the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
    a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

    He used violence to get attention for his political agenda.

    Case closed.

    And...a liberal would have targeted a center of commerce, not the IRS

    A center of commerce, like (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Cream City on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 10:18:48 PM EST
    the World Trade Center?

    Bin Laden was/is a liberal.  Who knew?

    (This debate about what defines a terrorist now has gone over the edge.)


    It's silly to define (none / 0) (#9)
    by coigue on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 10:21:48 PM EST
    liberal vs conservative among different cultures...For instance in China conservatives are the communists.

    Yes, it was silly (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by Cream City on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 11:55:25 PM EST
    of you.  So I couldn't resist, silly me.

    yes it was. (none / 0) (#37)
    by coigue on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 05:28:36 PM EST
    but yes you could have. I wasn't thinking of bin Laden, I was thinking of who people are mad at right now. Thanks for taking the opportunity to make me feel stupid. I hope it makes you feel good.

    And yes, I clouded my (none / 0) (#10)
    by coigue on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 10:23:54 PM EST
    point with an example that evoked 9/11..my bad. A liberal would attack something appropriate to American liberalism. Like in the Monkey Wrench Gand.

    And no, I do not advocate violence.


    Well thanks for your service as (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 01:07:29 PM EST
    judge, jury and executioner ;-)

    yw. (none / 0) (#38)
    by coigue on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 05:29:01 PM EST
    So sorry to hear there has been a fatality... (none / 0) (#1)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 07:37:13 PM EST
    Has anybody been watching/reading non-internet news? I wonder about how this is being framed, and exploited, and to whose political advantage.

    Imo, it's very limiting to be discussing this whole affair primarily in terms of whether or not it is a 'terrorist' act. Likewise, it is  premature, and somewhat disingenuous, to be casting him as a teabagger. Both tendencies function as tactics that divert attention away from the more germane substance of the matter.

    I hope cooler heads will soon prevail (ha).

    Limited to the internet, but (none / 0) (#6)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 10:12:44 PM EST
    Headlines on MSNBC was "Angry Pilot".

    He started his own house on fire, but contrary to what I read in numerous comments around the blogs, his wife and daughter were not home. They returned home before the fire department arrived, but they were not there when he left.

    The WH spokespeople have kept this from raising the ALERT level to RED. :) Unless we want to live under Marshall Law, I'm hoping they continue to use discretion in what they classify as terrorism.


    The "discretion" is Stack's white and (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by Dan the Man on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 10:45:09 PM EST
    not a Muslim.  Nothing deep about it.  If Timothy McVeigh had bombed Oklahoma City now instead of over 10 years, he wouldn't have been classified by the government as a terrorist either for the same reason.  What is or is not terrorism is culture and time-dependent.

    Respectfully disagree (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Inspector Gadget on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 08:29:43 AM EST
    Then, I really don't do drama well. If Stack gets classified a terrorist, pretty soon we will have to find another word for terrorists...and just keep escalating and expanding what we are at war with.

    Greenwald has a column about the incident... (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 01:38:23 PM EST
    (I previously posted this on the Thursday Night Open Thread, but it's more germane here.) Terrorism: the most meaningless and manipulated word. Here's an excerpt:

    Yesterday, Joseph Stack deliberately flew an airplane into a building housing IRS offices in Austin, Texas, in order to advance the political grievances he outlined in a perfectly cogent suicide-manifesto.

    Stack's worldview contained elements of the tea party's anti-government anger, along with substantial populist complaints generally associated with "the Left" (rage over bailouts, the suffering of America's poor, and the pilfering of the middle class by a corrupt economic elite and their government-servants).  All of that was accompanied by an argument as to why violence was justified (indeed necessary) to protest those injustices...

    UPDATE: I want to add one point:  the immediate official and media reaction was to avoid, even deny, the term "terrorist" because the perpetrator of the violence wasn't Muslim.  But if Stack's manifesto begins to attract serious attention, I think it's likely the term Terrorist will be decisively applied to him in order to discredit what he wrote...

    Like Greenwald said.


    Not raising the threat level does not mean (none / 0) (#20)
    by esmense on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 10:03:34 AM EST
    Stark's intent wasn't to terrorize. It only means that it has been judged a self-contained incident without broader security implications.

    In general, the "threat level" hasn't proven itself very useful, except for political purposes. But if it is useful, it is only in the context of known enemies and organizations whose activities are being monitored and tracked.

    There is and always has been plenty of domestic terror activity in this country -- from lynchings to bombings to highway snipers and shooting spree mass killings in schools and other public places. They may be sponsored by organized groups or reflect individual resentments, but they are no less acts of terror, or less intended to be acts of terror, simply because the government hasn't color coded them. They are unpredictable but often not unfamiliar in terms of ideological origins, themes, patterns of resentment, etc.

    We do know that Stark spent time with an organized group that promoted the belief that the tax system was unjust and that citizens like himself should not, and were not legally required to, pay taxes. His situation wasn't simply that he was a victim of the IRS -- he had ideological objections to taxation. There are lots of others who share that belief, resentment and sense of victimhood -- and his manifesto makes it clear he hoped they would follow his lead.

    It's reasonable to think that the threat of others doing so is minimal. It is not reasonable to think that there was no political aspect to his act or that he didn't hope to terrorize his target -- the IRS.


    It's always culture and time-dependent (none / 0) (#22)
    by Rojas on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 10:37:27 AM EST
    Dick Rodgers and his crew got a cash bonus and a fat pension for their extrajudicial acts at Waco. But then the dominate culture at the time had so successfully dehumanized their targets that a large portion of the populace cheered at their demise.
    Unfortunately what constitutes terror or torture is a political question and is a more a reflection on the health of a society at a givin point in time. It's left to historians to sort out as our institutions are too weak and impotent for any objective measure.  

    Non-internet coverage has been shallow, imo (none / 0) (#8)
    by ahazydelirium on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 10:19:43 PM EST
    CNN interviewed a random psychiatrist about the pilot. I wonder how any mental health professional would feel comfortable talking about the psychology of a person she had only heard of a couple of hours prior to the interview.

    I think the MSM has not yet received their (none / 0) (#23)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 12:38:04 PM EST
    full talking points as to how to spin this. That will probably change in time for the Sunday talk shows.

    Any mental health 'experts' we hear from in the coming days will, in all likelihood, reflect the framing of the shows they're on.


    A teabagger!?! (none / 0) (#24)
    by Upstart Crow on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 12:41:45 PM EST
    Likewise, it is  premature, and somewhat disingenuous, to be casting him as a teabagger.

    Did you read the guy's suicide note?  He is anti-Bush, and decried the lack of universal health care.


    and the fat cat complaints (none / 0) (#28)
    by diogenes on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 01:08:47 PM EST
    He also was bitter about millions in bonuses going to corporate execs--an issue lately given more play by lib dems than anyone else.
    People of all political hues have come to hate the IRS.  Time for a value added tax to replace income taxes.

    It's hard to tell what you are agreeing or (none / 0) (#30)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 01:09:57 PM EST
    disagreeing with.

    I think he was an angry nutcase, not a (none / 0) (#2)
    by Angel on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 08:29:24 PM EST
    "terrorist" in the way that one might normally think of that terminology today.  As luck would have it, he was a bad pilot and ended up hitting a car before he hit the building or else the entire building could have gone down with a lot of fatalities.  At least that is what I heard on the local news today.  

    I guess you could put US Marshalls (none / 0) (#4)
    by Makarov on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 09:45:26 PM EST
    with Stinger missiles on the roof of every building where there's a federal government office. How they decide to shoot down a civil aircraft would be an interesting thought experiment.

    It's entirely impractical and, ultimately, there's nothing you can do to guard against someone willing to give up their own life to attack a structure.

    As a private pilot, I wonder what the impact on General Aviation is going to be out of this.

    They aren't going (none / 0) (#5)
    by JamesTX on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 10:10:19 PM EST
    to mess with general aviation because it is an upper income game. They will put in procedures to strip search the public trying to enter building, shoot people in the hallways for no ID, etc. It rolls downhill. I am not sure where we are going if the public doesn't wise up to your point that nobody can stop a person willing to die, and with increasing population, there will always be an increasing number of people willing to die. It is a hazard of our existence. It can't be solved by restricting our liberties, but that seems to be the only mode of thought available. What will we do when all liberties are gone, and the rate of violence is still increasing?

    Well, perhaps the ongoing roll back of civil (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 01:05:08 PM EST
    liberties has been happening because our 'leadership' has foreseen the likelihood of increasing domestic unrest over the next few years.

    Remember when Obama told the bankers "my administration is the only thing standing between you guys and the pitchforks". The existing arrest and detainment measures, and a thing like 'preventive' detention, will come in handy if/when any grassroots movement gets out of hand.


    I wholeheartedly (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by JamesTX on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 01:19:28 PM EST
    agree. That is what I have said since they started all this a few years ago. They are getting ready for the backlash, and they will put it down. That's a shame, because after that they won't even have to keep up an appearance of Constitutionality.

    Terrorist (none / 0) (#12)
    by ricosuave on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 11:07:27 PM EST
    Why is it even remotely controversial to call this guy a terrorist?  If the word has any meaning, it is a guy who flies an airplane into a building for political reasons.  This guy is a terrorist, as was Tim McVeigh, the Unabomber, and the guy who shot Dr. Tiller.

    The best proof that this is terrorism is that Fox News says it is not.

    Maybe the best proof that it is not terrorism ... (none / 0) (#14)
    by cymro on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 02:13:28 AM EST
    ... is that you have to use illogical reasoning based on Fox News to argue that it is.

    Each one of the criminals you cite (none / 0) (#16)
    by inclusiveheart on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 07:59:36 AM EST
    walked away alive from their terrorist acts.

    Eric Rudolph not only walked away, but also made use of a vast network of terrorist activists.

    As far as we know at this point, there was no organization behind this guy.  Seems that he snapped at the end of his rope.  He's dead now and he is clearly not a threat to anyone anymore.

    Frankly, I think we are going to see more people like him given the current economic situation, but that isn't a terrorist threat as much as it is a predictable societal dysfunction in a time of much upheaval and economic destruction.  Go back and take a look at some of the stuff that went on during the Great Depression.  If we start calling these individuals who snap under pressure - individuals who are clearly mentally unstable and desperate - terrorists - we are not going to respond as a society to the problem properly.

    Take a look at how our country deals with suspected terrorists and tell me if you think that every person who is emotionally on edge deserves to be under surveillance, put on the no fly list, put under surveillance, incarcerated "just in case", etc. - and tell me if you really believe that using those tactics would actually have helped this situation - I think it would have made it worse - because this guy was acting out irrational emotion.

    Real terrorists are cold and calculating and when they want someone to commit suicide in an attack, they find people like this guy and use them as pawns in their game - a game that they survive to keep playing, BTW.


    Very well said inclusiveheart... (none / 0) (#19)
    by kdog on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 09:07:43 AM EST
    and as others have also pointed out, there is literally nothing we can do to effectively stop people like this dude....not without making things unbearable 'round here anyway.

    Calling him a terrorist probably does more harm than good...judging by how we are dealing with the problem of terrorism.


    OK...I get it (none / 0) (#35)
    by ricosuave on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 05:09:57 PM EST
    Our designation of "terrorist" is based on our own political concerns about the word and not related to the act itself.  We'd better not use the term because it will give the right wing another excuse to go nuts.

    (Please note that this statement is as sarcastic as the one where I refer to fox news above.  Sadly, I feel I have to explicitly note this.)

    This whole conversation is an excellent example of why we always lose the language war to the right.  They adopt seemingly simple terms like "terrorist" and "justice" (I'm sure you see that one used in all sorts of ways) and "freedom" (as in Bush's "they hate freedom" as well as in "free-speech zones") and "liberal" (so maligned that we want to call ourselves "progressives" now) and load them up with all kinds of meaning.  And then we just sit around and debate what the use of the word means and the implications of it.  Now we are completely ceding the word "terrorist" so that it loses any relationship with the acts of terrorism (which are well defined by the FBI as well as by Funk and Wagnalls) and just becomes a synonym for "Muslim we don't like."

    This guy ran a plane into a building as part of a political protest (one that, apparently, doesn't fall into our neat left-right divisions we think we have in America, by the way).  He killed himself and one innocent person.  If the list of terrorists above was not good enough, I will add Richard Reid (the shoe bomber), the Underwear Bomber, Baader Meinhof, and the Anthrax mailers.  All of those guys (and groups) are terrorists, and so is this guy.

    Just to cause more trouble: Charles Manson technically fits the bill, too, since he claimed all of his killings were an attempt to incite a racial war which would result in blacks taking over the USA, who (he figured) would not be able to run things and would turn over control to him after he came out of hiding in the Mojave desert (if you didn't already think he was crazy enough, this should help).  But we don't commonly refer to him as a terrorist.  Perhaps we should.


    Words are wild... (none / 0) (#36)
    by kdog on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 06:39:43 PM EST
    and right now "terrorist" is one loaded term, you said it.  

    If a terrorist is anybody who kills with some kind of political motive in their warped mind then yeah, this guy would qualify.  In the past we seemed to use the term with more discretion...we were more apt to label this type of guy a simple homicidal maniac pre 9/11.  Terrorists were the IRA, the KKK, or Black September...now its every lunatic with a political angle.  Am I wrong?

    I'm not trying to fight some language war, though I understand what you're saying.  I'm just using the best words that pop in my head and bugging out on language.  


    Stark was taken in by a tax protest group (none / 0) (#21)
    by esmense on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 10:13:38 AM EST
    According to his letter he spent most of the 80s trying to avoid taxes based on some hair-brained scheme promoted by some person/organization which he doesn't provide a name for. It is the one really intriguing thing in his letter that no reporter has yet, that I've seen, followed up on. What was the organization? Who led it? What ties did it have, if any, to larger, more mainstream political groups?

    He wasn't simply someone who messed up on his taxes -- he was someone who deeply resented and had political objections to paying taxes.

    There are lots of very wealthy people who benefit from, and invest a lot of time and energy in, encouraging that kind of resentment. People like stark are just pawns in their game.


    There are a bunch of these lame-brained (none / 0) (#25)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 12:51:25 PM EST

    Wesley Snipes bought into this one:

    The 861 argument is a statutory argument used by tax protesters in the United States, which interprets a portion of the tax code as invalidating certain applications of income tax.

    The argument has uniformly been held by courts to be incorrect, and persons who have cited the argument as a basis for refusing to pay income taxes have been penalized, and in some cases jailed.

    He got sentenced to three years in '08 but is still free pending appeal.

    My buddy who was locked up... (none / 0) (#29)
    by kdog on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 01:09:36 PM EST
    said a guy on his block was always in his ear about the "assured party creditor" scheme to dodge debts, taxes, or criminal troubles.  Wouldn't shut up about it, drove the whole cell block nuts he said.

    Gotta say though, as someone who considers the tax code a scheme of sorts in and of itself, whats wrong with one good scheme deserving another?  

    Oh yeah, you can't beat city hall, thats what wrong with these schemes...:)


    Well, there is a legitimate reason for and benefit (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by esmense on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 01:33:14 PM EST
    to paying taxes. But when tax policy gets distorted to serve some special interest or for political reasons it becomes unjust.

    I don't object to paying taxes and in fact, as someone who has raised a family, built a business and am now reaping the rewards of that, would be willing to pay more in a more progressive system. That's because I believe the general  flattening of our federal tax code over the last 30 years has been unjust. It has served the interest of established wealth -- those with inherited wealth and older earners like myself who are at the stage in their life when their major responsibilities are behind them,when, hopefully, their investments are paying off and they have the most disposable income. But it has done so by penalizing young earners who are at the lowest earning, highest investment (in education, starting a business or career, gaining skills, establishing a home and family, educating children, saving and investing for retirement, etc.) stage of their life. It has done so not simply because it has increased their tax burden, but equally important it has decreased investment in the public resources that every generation depends on to create personal wealth. Progressive taxation isn't a transfer of wealth between individuals, it is a transfer of wealth between generations. When you flatten the tax code you create a stagnant economy of rich and poor that favors those who possess wealth over those who are anxious to create it.

    Unfortunately, most people who get angry about taxes don't understand that. So they keep getting suckered into supporting "reforms" that actually make their own situation worse.


    I don't object to.... (none / 0) (#34)
    by kdog on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 01:55:24 PM EST
    fair payment for services rendered...but I don't think thats what taxes are...or at least what taxes have become.

    As an anti-occupation, anti-market rigging avid recreational drug user...I look at taxes as funding my own demise and the demise of millions of other poor slobs...not payment for services rendered.

    I think thats where a lot of the b*tchin' about taxes come from, not the legitimacy of taxation itself, but how the taxes are spent and have been spent.  It's not funding nearly enough services of value, and funding too much that is nothing but bad news.  100% of taxpayers funding a protection racket for the top 5%...and a protection racket that gets innocent people killed and non-criminals caged.

    Making the tax code more progressive, while it looks good on paper, only serves to complicate things.  Create a cloud of confusion to better allow the top 5%, and their protection racket, to rob us blind and cause us harm.

    I tell ya, I'm intrigued by a federal "$100 a head" tax...simple, difficult to scheme and cheat...and fair.  I'm not really interested in soaking the rich or anybody else.  Thats a 300 billion dollars for Uncle Sam...if he can't run this puppy on that lets find somebody who can.


    I Just Pray (none / 0) (#15)
    by bob h on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 04:19:12 AM EST
    there is good air cover over the White House, maybe Stingers on the roof.  In fact, wasn't it attacked by air when Clinton was Prez?

    Ugh. (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by inclusiveheart on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 08:03:37 AM EST
    We are in a no fly zone.  No one can fly over the city anymore.

    I just pray that paranoia doesn't continue to make people think that this city needs to become more of a militarized zone than it already has.