Oh, well that just about settles it then....

>> Saturday, August 09, 2008

On Thursday, Slate's Timothy Noah gave his "first pass at compiling" the Justice Department's released paperwork in the Ivins case. I have to admit it's a scathing indictment that allays my concerns and sets my mind at ease. We find, per Noah, that Dr. Ivins was a contributor to Wikipedia, liked The Da Vinci Code, and juggled. If I find out he was also an amateur mime and taped every episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, I think Ivins' motive will be clear to everyone: a member of al Qaeda, obviously.

Noah goes through a series of damning points:

Kappa Kappa Gamma. Ivins had a bizarre obsession with this sorority (or, rather, "women's fraternity"), and investigators deem significant the presence of a Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter near 10 Nassau St. in Princeton, N.J., where the anthrax letters were allegedly mailed. One manifestation of this obsession was that Ivins spent a great deal of time battling with Wikipedia and other Web sites over what they wrote about Kappa Kappa Gamma....


I think we can all see how badly this already looks for Dr. Ivins. It's a well-known fact that almost nobody who contributes to Wikipedia is a detail-focused pedant who's obsessed with trivial ephemera that hardly anyone else would care about. Take, for instance, the folks who contributed to this discussion page about the Death Star, the imaginary superweapon featured in two Star Wars films, for a typical example of how Wikipedia is dominated by a bunch of ordinary folks with broad interests who add one or two things about a terribly important matter of life-or-death significance so as to contribute to the great wealth of all human knowledge and then move on, never returning to visit Wikipedia or even contribute again. I hear they're even having a real problem getting people to come back for further contributions to the articles, matter of fact.

Good grief.

The most likely conclusion one can draw from Timothy Noah's comments is that he's never actually visited Wikipedia; indeed, one suspects from his comments on Ivins and the internet generally (the Wikipedia posts, the pseudonyms, the flaming forum posts) that Noah creates his articles using the same model of printing press Franklin did and some poor lackey has to retype them into what Noah charmingly refers to as "one of those aetheric-magneto thingamijiggers with the symbols and what-ho on it" while nervously stroking his muttonchops.

I have no idea why Dr. Bruce Ivins was obsessed with a sorority. Perhaps it was because he was a batshit-crazy fucker who mailed anthrax to a bunch of people. Or perhaps he merely had the same mentality as someone who's gone to the trouble of attempting to calculate the "actual size" of Darth Vader's space station by carefully measuring degrees of arc on freeze-frames from Return Of The Jedi. Kind of nuts, in other words, but harmless.

(Let me add, for the record: I know about the Death Star talk pages because I am an enormous nerd who has read the debates over things like crew capacity, size and speed and pondered them at some length, sometimes casting my mind back to movie viewings, novels I've read, and RPG supplements I own while evaluating the arguments--yes, I've actually given some thought to the size of the Death Star. I probably argued about it with another nerd at some point. I may have even referenced the Wikipedia article while mucking about with the Star Wars RPG. It's not like my hands are clean.)

Would I be obsessed with Kappa, Kappa, Goose? Well, no--but I kind of doubt Dr, Ivins would have worn a Miskatonic University tee shirt or written a lengthy diatribe about Joss Whedon's limitations as a writer and given it a title that references a Thinkgeek tee shirt that references Return Of The Jedi. Ivins was a research biologist; this means there was a high probability he was a nerd. And we have our things that are hard to explain to people outside the tribe, whether those things happen to be comic books or Civil War battles or homemade fighting robots. Or sororities, I imagine. Not my bag, but I'm not impressed with its supposed "weirdness," nor am I shocked that somebody got into an edit war on Wikipedia over a pet obsession.

But maybe Noah found something else, something like....

Dave Twigg. In May 26, 2006, a man named Dave Twigg got entwined in a misunderstanding with a law enforcement officer.... Nothing came of it, but to Ivins it was the Dreyfus case all over again....


So he sent death threats to the paper! He skipped the death threats and sent them dead rats harboring plague-infected fleas! He left a horse head in someone's bed! He....

He stuck up for a friend by posting some smart-alecky comments in the forums of the Frederick News-Post.

Wait, that's it? Let me go back and check that out again. That's gotta be... that's gotta be....

No, that really is it.

Now, it's to be admitted that Noah just published some excerpts. From his tone--unless he's being dryly sarcastic and I missed it--Noah thinks these bits and pieces say something. He characterizes Ivins as being a ubiquitous web presence who, let me go back and pull the quote:

...a ubiquitous presence on the Web, frequently posting bizarre or angry comments under such aliases as "jimmyflathead," "kingbadger7," and "goldenphoenix111."


So, one would assume that Noah would post the most damning things Dr. Ivins wrote. You know, something more damning than:

Dave should sue the DNR and the officer involved for what happened.


Where's the crazy? Where's the raving and drooling and clawing at the screen?

I've read foamier posts... oh, who the hell am I kidding? I've written foamier posts. Lords Of Kobol save my sorry ass if I ever become a chief suspect in a terrorism investigation. Someone will dig up some ancient rant from a dead thread in the Wizards Of The Coast forums, and Timothy Noah will be using it to support the claim I'm a spree killer because I said a DM shouldn't roll a skill check in certain situations. He'll make fun of the pseudonym I used on Ficlets. Oh crap--I've posted things in the Slate forums before, I'm fucked for sure. I now regret everything I've ever written about Peter Jackson--some of it wasn't very nice at all.

Give me something, Timothy Noah. Something like:

The Da Vinci Code. Unlike most film critics, Ivins liked the Tom Hanks movie and reviewed it in a series of postings on the Frederick News-Post site....


Something like the fact Ivins had shitty taste in movies. Yeah. No. Actually, no--that didn't do it. Bad taste equals propensity for murdering people? Not really buying that one. I mean, I'm not going to sit here and defend Ivins' lack of good taste. I'm sure we'd all be more approving if Ivins had been a Jean-Luc Godard fan. But really, come on. This is the case against the dude?

Family Origins. The Washington Post found an entry in GreekChat.com from Aug. 2006 in which Ivins (posting as "Prunetacos" ) bemoaned real or imagined "skeletons" in his family closet....


Used a fake name online. Posted in a forum that he had family members with mental illness. Vented about his own stress and struggles on the internet. Ergo, one infers that Timothy Noah believes everyone on LiveJournal is a nascent terrorist.

Per the Post article Noah links to, Ivins apparently sought treatment for depression in 2000. The Post article goes on to include claims that are possibly disturbing, if credible: a licensed counselor (apparently the same one who, according to some sources, appears to have legal issues related to substance abuse, and who the Post article says "does not have access to the detailed notes she took in her sessions with Ivins") says that Ivins was obsessed with a young woman and talked about poisoning her.

You know, I don't want to minimize the significance that might have if it's true. But I also have to say that fantasizing about doing violence to others is... sort of normal, isn't it? I think half the known readers of this blog have made statements on their own blogs about killing someone, hitting someone, doing something bad to someone. I know I've joked about wanting to kick someone's ass, and I'm pretty much a pacifist. Not to claim that Ivins was joking, if he said it (maybe he meant it, maybe he was as crazy as they say): but the reason counseling sessions are purportedly confidential (hm...) is so that a patient can feel free to say anything and receive therapeutic feedback without his statements necessarily being used against him. If Ivins said such things to a mental health counselor, wasn't he supposed to?

Wouldn't the claims that Ivins talked about poisoning people seem just a little more chilling if he'd supposedly broached the matter to, say, some random person in line at McDonald's instead of a person who was supposed to be helping him deal with his problems?

But this wasn't the only time Ivins threatened violence:

The Mole. This is a reality TV series on ABC that someone the same age as Ivins who identified himself as "bruceivi" commented about on YouTube just one month ago. (The posts were found by True Crime Report.)


Wait... hang on. "[S]omeone the same age as Ivins who identified himself as 'bruceivi'"--

Objection!

Wait. Sorry. Thought I was in court for a moment. I meant to say, "What the fuck?"

Alright, alright. Let's just agree that "bruceivi" is "Bruce Ivins" They are the same age, after all. And there are some indications that Ivins may have used the name "bruceivi" elsewhere online (see the later discussion of Ivins' heinous inability or malign unwillingness to control his weird juggling fetish). What did "bruceivi" say? He talked about killing a participant in the show named Kathryn Price, viciously adding:

Sorry if my comments offended people. This occurred several years ago. It was meant as a macabre twist to a pretty lame reality show.


Agh! I can't believe I did that! I was supposed to quote the incriminating part! Dammit!

Alright, alright. Noah had one last point. This is it. This is the nail in the coffin. Get ready. Ready? Here it is:

Juggling. This was one of Ivins' hobbies. Five months ago, the poster "brucivi" was tickled to find an acquaintance named Deb demonstrating her juggling on YouTube. (This, too, was found by True Crime Report.)


I... I give up.

Look, I don't know. This guy may have been guilty as all hell. I don't want anyone to think I'm saying he wasn't guilty, because he might have been. I don't want to be a partisan, or a conspiranoiac, or a rube.

But people are saying this was a strong case. Well, if Noah's (admittedly initial) preview is any indication at all, the Feds' case wouldn't have survived a Motion To Dismiss at the close of State's evidence. Meaning that whether Ivins was or wasn't guilty, there wouldn't be enough evidence to even get to the jury. Not with what I've seen so far.

But I have a Firefox tab open to this DOJ webpage, where the Feds have posted the publicly released documents. I'm going to make time to go through them. And I'll probably comment on it here as I've looked at it. Could be there's something here that Timothy Noah missed or hasn't seen yet.

So far, though... I'm underwhelmed.

3 comments:

Nathan Saturday, August 9, 2008 at 8:33:00 AM EDT  

Nathan commented about this. But Nathan commented in the wrong thread.

Somehow, Nathan managed to comment in the thread "Send Rosie Some Love", the post immediately before this one.

Nathan is a moron.

I have no words to describe how much this makes me feel like an idiot.

I think I'll go visit Rosie now.

Hey, Eric...Does Rosie really want moron visitors?

Eric Saturday, August 9, 2008 at 11:06:00 AM EDT  

I think Rose needs all the morons she can get.

vince Saturday, August 9, 2008 at 7:44:00 PM EDT  

You would think that the government would have really substantial evidence of guilt before they start destroying someone with accusations of this nature. However, after reading both your post and doing a preliminary look at the DOJ web page, I see no concrete forensic evidence, or any other evidence, that Ivins mailed the anthrax.

At this point, this looks like another Richard Jewell fuck up.

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