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  #1  
Old 12-20-2007, 11:08 AM
Bloggingheads Bloggingheads is offline
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Default Acts of God

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  #2  
Old 12-20-2007, 11:48 AM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Default On the precipice of a surge!

I think Corn has coined a great expression that any hopeless candidate could use. http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/755...8&out=00:28:59
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  #3  
Old 12-20-2007, 01:01 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Good eye, David

I completely missed the floating cross the first time I watched the Huckabee Christmas commercial. Upon review, I don't think there is any doubt about it being intentional.

Watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xn7uSHtkuA

And on an unrelated note, who knew Jim was such a headbanger? Black Sabbath I could see, but he knows Slipknot? Bob Wright better not get into a pop culture face-off with him!
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Last edited by bjkeefe; 12-20-2007 at 01:08 PM..
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  #4  
Old 12-20-2007, 01:57 PM
threep threep is offline
 
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Default Re: Good eye, David

"Immoral" isn't as offensive as it seems at first, "improvident" is either petty or obvious, but "impure"? Who calls other people impure? To me that's coming pretty close to the stake-burning mentality, heh.
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  #5  
Old 12-20-2007, 02:07 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Good eye, David

threep:

Quote:
Who calls other people impure? To me that's coming pretty close to the stake-burning mentality, heh.
Agreed. Especially since Christian doctrine supposedly teaches that all humans are impure.

David was kidding, I think, when he referred to "the new citizenship" test that we'd have to take somewhere down the road, but sometimes I wonder. Guys like Huckabee and Romney do make me feel happier about in-your-face atheism, I will say that.
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  #6  
Old 12-20-2007, 02:26 PM
jmcnulty jmcnulty is offline
 
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Default Re: Good eye, David

I have to admit that although I am a Christian, I resent the bogus shows of piety offered up by candidates, Democratic as well as Republican. Remember that Bill Clinton always managed to be photographed with a Bible under his arm after a particularly egregrious lie. Hillary discovered her black dialect before a black church (after all, she is married to a "black" guy). In find it refreshing that Fred Thompson is the only one who says that his religion is "a private matter" and that he does not make a show whenever he goes to church. Maybe Reagan was guided by Nancy's astrologist, but I will chose that over Jimmy Carter teaching Sunday school. And we certainly do not need a Televangelist-in-Chief like Huckabee. "Lose 100 pounds for Christ, or at least for national healthcare." I have to believe that his star will fade when the news gets out about his lack of real conservatism and his naivete on foreign affairs, where he compares our foreign policy to high school rivalries. Does that make Iran the schoolyard bully?
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  #7  
Old 12-20-2007, 03:06 PM
breadcrust breadcrust is offline
 
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Default Re: Good eye, David

Hillary discovered her black dialect before a black church (after all, she is married to a "black" guy).

"Discovering" a black dialect in a black church is not a bogus display of piety, but a bogus display of "blackness". Hillary wasn't religiously pandering to religionists because she attempted not to sound like a midwesterner. I can't tell if this is knee-jerk Clinton bashing or knee-jerk something else.

It's also funny that, of the four politicians you deride for overt religiosity, three are (D)'s. Must have been an oversight.

Does that make Iran the schoolyard bully?

Turkey is the schoolyard bully, not Iran. I don't see the Iranians sending troops across the Iraqi border to deal with the "George Washingtons" of the Kurdish region.
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  #8  
Old 12-20-2007, 03:28 PM
jmcnulty jmcnulty is offline
 
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Default Re: Good eye, David

Repply to breadcrust:

I think that I made it clear that I was referring to the fake piety of BOTH Democrats and Republicans. If I cited more Democrats, it was only picking low-hanging fruit. Jimmy Carter wears his piety on his sleeve like a sweater. Clinton uses piety only to immunize himself. The scene of him walking with his "spiritual counselor," the Rev. Jessie Jackson (now they would really have some stories to swap), during impeachment was priceless.

Is that Clinton-bashing? It is so much fun and so easy. Frankly, I would like more quiet sincerity and less preening for electoral effect from politicians. But I stand with the comment that we are electing a President, not a Pope. I don't want a politician to be my spiritual leader. It turns out that Mike Huchabee does not have a theology degree, even though he has claimed unique wisdom because of one.

Hillary's black dialect was just an example of her insincerity. She really is Nixon in a pantsuit.

I agree that Iranian troops have not invaded the "George Washingtons" in Kurdistan; they are elsewhere in Iraq supplying munitions to kill Americans. By comparison, the Turks are mere amateurs.
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  #9  
Old 12-20-2007, 03:43 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Good eye, David

jmcnulty:

You forgot the biggest pious hypocrite of them all: your boy George.
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  #10  
Old 12-20-2007, 04:01 PM
jmcnulty jmcnulty is offline
 
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Default Re: Good eye, David

Reply to Bjkeefe:

Why do you consider Bush a hypocrite? Mlaybe he is, and maybe he isn't, but shouldn't you cite some reasons? And don't use the War in Iraq as a reason unless you consider ALL war evil. I am not aware that Bush has had himself photographed prominently with the Rev. Jesse Jackson or even James Dobson. Does he teach a Sunday school class? I haven't even seen pictures of him attending church. Does saying "God bless the United States of Anerica" at the end of speeches brand him as a hypocrite? He has bent over backwards to extend greetings to Muslims and Jews, even to holding Ramadan feasts in the White House. Does that make him a hypocrite? Is he a hypocrite because you do not like his domestic policies like "no-child-left- behind" or "S-CHIP"? Or do you just not like him and are looking for any "reason"?
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  #11  
Old 12-20-2007, 04:05 PM
ohcomeon ohcomeon is offline
 
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Default Re: Good eye, David

Well, he did say Jesus Christ was his favorite POLITCAL philosopher.
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  #12  
Old 12-20-2007, 04:05 PM
jmcnulty jmcnulty is offline
 
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Default Reply to Bjkeefe:

By the way, he is not "my boy George," not after the immigration bill, Harriet Miers, the Dubain ports deal, and the delusion that Iraq could be transformed into some kind of Islamic Switzerland.
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  #13  
Old 12-20-2007, 04:13 PM
ohcomeon ohcomeon is offline
 
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Default Re: Good eye, David

Bush also declared June 10, 2000 to be "Jesus Day" in Texas when he was governor.
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  #14  
Old 12-20-2007, 04:13 PM
jmcnulty jmcnulty is offline
 
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Default Re: Bush's Philosopher

I agree that it was a silly comment, although any answer would have seemed odd (what would you say, Bertrand Russell?) To Bush, whose faith led him to stop drinking and turn his life around, any other answer would probably have seemed ungracious to God. It also had the advantage of being politically advantageous. I don't think this was done to get votes, but I agree it was a silly answer as an intellectual matter. Jesus brought the Gospel, not philosophy.
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  #15  
Old 12-20-2007, 04:33 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Good eye, David

jmcnulty:

It amazes me that you're so in denial that you can't come up with any examples of GWB's pious hypocrisy by yourself. To begin with, if you can't see his invasion of Iraq, and all the lying he did to make it happen, as the most completely un-Christian acts imaginable, I'm sure you have rationalizations at the ready to explain away everything else that has characterized his time in office. The man supports torture and a myriad of other violations of human rights, he pisses on the poor and the environment every chance he gets, and he hires completely amoral hacks to do whatever it takes to serve his goals. He talks about compassion, but can't be bothered to help a drowning city or children without health care. His seven hundred-plus "signing statements," illegal wiretapping, and extraordinary renditions indicate that he has no respect for the law, which means he regularly violates the oath of office he took. With, I might add, his hand on the Bible.

I hope you're not going to ask me for examples of his nonstop invocation of Jesus, too.
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Last edited by bjkeefe; 12-20-2007 at 04:40 PM..
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  #16  
Old 12-20-2007, 04:40 PM
BloodontheTracks BloodontheTracks is offline
 
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Default Basketball Diaries?

I'm not sure WHAT movie Jim Pinkerton was thinking of when he was mentioning a film that glorifies school shootings, but the Basketball Diaries, which he cited, certainly ain't it. It's a not-so-great adaptation of Jim Carroll's memoirs of being a high school hoops star in '70s New York and getting hooked on heroin. It stars a pre-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio and a post-Funky Bunch Mark Wahlberg. It might give kids some bad ideas about heroin use, but school shootings it definitely does not have or boast.
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  #17  
Old 12-20-2007, 04:44 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Basketball Diaries?

Blood:

I wondered about that one myself. I didn't see the movie, but I do remember reading the book. It was quite dark and despairing, but I agree with you -- I don't recall anything to do with the glorification of violence.
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  #18  
Old 12-20-2007, 05:33 PM
jmcnulty jmcnulty is offline
 
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Default Response to Bjkeefe:

I think you forgot the failure to ratify Kyoto. As I suspected, your aversion to Bush is not specific, but instead a list of Democratic policy positions. In case you don't know, Bill Clinton, too, believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destuction. That was believed within government with all the fervor now reserved for the current NIE saying that Iran is not seeking a nuclear weapon. The truth is that ALL these "intelligence" reports are little more than educated guesswork. These are the same people who told us that it was a "slam dunk" that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Did the Serbs have weapons of mass destuction? Did Clinton, in view of September 11, "lie" us into Serbia? Iraq was a war based on mistaken intelligence, not Bush's "lies."

The debate about "torture" is whether particular techniques constitute "torture." Otherwise, anything coercing information is "torture," even playing Brittany Spears for hours or putting panties on someone's head. I have a friend, by the way, who was "waterboarded" during his military training. I don't believe that he has suffered any permanent damage. Your definition would prevent any CIA man from even slapping Osama Bin Laden, were he captured.

I am disappointed that you, yourself, sound like a Democratic hack, even raising the chestnut of Katrina, rather than a rational man (as you usually do). How much again has been spent in New Orleans? Two billion? Four billlion? I believe the S-CHIP bill has been passed. It could not have been passed with just Republicans voting for it since they are a minority.

I believe extraordinary reditions began during the administration of Bill Clinton. Terrorism, as you know, became a real problem during the Nineties, although we refused to recognize it within the borners of the United States --until September 11 when terrorists managed to accomplish something that neither Nazis nor Communists ever managed to do.
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  #19  
Old 12-20-2007, 05:59 PM
garbagecowboy garbagecowboy is offline
 
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Default Re: Basketball Diaries?

There is a prominent scene in the Basketball Diaries where Leo's character fantasizes about going into his Catholic school class with a pump-action shotgun and murdering his teacher and a bunch of classmates. It is not the main thrust of the movie-- I think it is a daydream he has while nodding on dope, but I think that it was one of the earliest cultural references to somebody going into a school and blowing a bunch of people away. I forget what year it was made, but in the early 90's, so conceivably it has some cultural connection to Columbine.

I am not a big believer that any of the often cited cultural "causes" of school shootings (violent movies, video games, etc.) are really a big causal factor, but there is definitely one scene in the Basketball Diaries that is school-shooting related.
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  #20  
Old 12-20-2007, 07:32 PM
dudeman dudeman is offline
 
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Default Re: Basketball Diaries?

I noticed that when James Pinkerton called the Nation and its readers "Castro fans", David Corn didn't deny it. But how could he, since it's accurate.

And once again, the were wonderfully way off on their "synchronized" opening. I love it. Let's hope they never get it right.
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  #21  
Old 12-20-2007, 09:28 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Basketball Diaries?

GC:

Thanks for the Basketball Diaries input. I don't recall that scene, but it's been a long while since I read the book.
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  #22  
Old 12-20-2007, 09:34 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Basketball Diaries?

dudeman:

Quote:
I noticed that when James Pinkerton called the Nation and its readers "Castro fans", David Corn didn't deny it. But how could he, since it's accurate.
Or, why would he, since it's ridiculous?

I read The Nation from time to time, but I'm not a Castro fan. On the other hand, I think the policy of the US government toward Cuba is laughable. If we wanted to move that island away from Communism, the best way to do it would be to remove all trade and visitation barriers. As soon as the residents saw what they could have, they'd be agitating for it. Isolating countries never works -- it just makes them crazier.
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  #23  
Old 12-20-2007, 10:03 PM
cragger cragger is offline
 
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Default Re: On the precipice of a surge!

I enjoy the Corn/Pinkerton interchanges as a rule. They seem to have good "chemistry" and to be able to maintain a good and usually good-natured back and forth. This is at least the second time though that Jim has seemed, well, less than honest, and though less deranged than before, more of a blatent partisan.

I understand that he is a Huckabee guy, but I can't imagine him excusing any candidate from the "other side" talking out of both sides of their mouths on the "I'm a uniter" vs. "its us against 'them' in a culture war" issue, let alone excusing the sort of coupling of characteristics, or perhaps labels is a better word, as Huckabee did in the quotes from his book.

Coupling "environmentalism", "pornography", "drug abuse" and "necrophiliac"! Come on already. His response that Huckabee was simply saying one thing to one audience, and another to another audience is what people normally refer to as two-faced dishonesty.

Pinkerton has stated several times, always without giving any supporting argument or evidence, that the US is "naturally right or center-right" politically. It seemed particularly telling that he here gives his evidence that the "natural" right has won by listing all the right wing Supreme Court justices that they have gotten appointed. Complaining that the left has unfairly, improperly, and unconstitutionally used the court to "legislate from the bench" has been a right wing staple for years. Crowing that the right has won and can get what they want since they now control the court seems dishonest to say the least.

Jim often seems like a likeable guy, and one who comes across as somebody you would enjoy arguing with over a beer. This diavlog however, in which he blames Hollywood for school shootings, shows him in as nutty and dishonest a light as the previous one in which he supported his anti-immigrant stance by claiming a personal friend's experience at a hospital, relating what was quickly exposed as a mass-email hoax (see Snopes.com).

This is often an interesting site, and a place where there is at times an opportunity to learn something and expand ones viewpoint. Just as you learn some posters aren't worth reading, and some bloggingheads aren't worth listening to, offering little more than knee-jerk partisanship or off the wall nuttiness, I'm starting to come around to the idea that Pinkerton is slipping into those categories.
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  #24  
Old 12-20-2007, 10:07 PM
breadcrust breadcrust is offline
 
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Default Re: Response to Bjkeefe:

jmcnulty,

Thank you for admitting you were wrong that Hillary C. was being falsely pious for blacking up her voice in church.

Regarding waterboarding: Twenty-one years earlier, in 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...100402005.html

He was convicted of other war crimes at the same time, but waterboarding was one of those war crimes.

Hmmm.... Waterboarding in 1947 = War crime. Waterboarding in Bush's America = Enhanced interrogation technique.
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  #25  
Old 12-21-2007, 12:59 AM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Default Re: On the precipice of a surge!

Quote:
Pinkerton has stated several times, always without giving any supporting argument or evidence, that the US is "naturally right or center-right" politically.
Yes, this is just nonsense. Left and right have no meaning except in comparison to the bulk of the electorate, which is center by definition.
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  #26  
Old 12-21-2007, 01:09 AM
Namazu Namazu is offline
 
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Default No Huckin' Way!

Jim: I enjoy the originality of your thinking and admire the depth and commitment that inspire your commentary, but I can't go down Huckabee Lane with you. I offer you this data point: I agree that America's elites show their contempt for the rest of the country in a number of areas, including illegal immigration. I believe government can and should create social capital by investing in public goods (infrastructure, libraries, parks), and by paying for universal access to good schools and good health care. I do NOT want a government run without principles which limit its reach. I do NOT want a President who feels my pains and tries to heal them all. I do NOT want the country's foreign policy boiled down to pre-adolescent homilies. And I certainly do NOT want a President who wears his religion on his sleeve, let alone MY sleeve. I will vote for Rudy, Fred, McCain, or Romney against Hillary or Obama. I will vote for any of the Democrats against Huckabee. Kudos on your predictions about his candidacy so far, but I hope you're wrong now.

P.S. For good measure, don't miss George Will's character study:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...d=opinionsbox1
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  #27  
Old 12-21-2007, 01:23 AM
basman basman is offline
 
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Default Re: On the precipice of a surge!

Testing, trying to get the hang of this!
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  #28  
Old 12-21-2007, 10:00 AM
jmcnulty jmcnulty is offline
 
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Default Re: On the precipice of a surge!

Reply to Bjkeefe:

I will have to give you that round. But how do you define "torture"? Inflicting permanent injury or intense pain is obvious. America should not do this -- beatings, electric shocks, pulling out finger nails, suspending from ropes, etc, -- but how do you define it? If it is defined broadly to include any "coercive techniques," as the article says, then it is torture to deny Osama Bin Laden his dessert. Even to question someone harshly may be considered "torture." I do not know of anyone who has died from "waterboarding," although I would not want to undergo it myself. But then again, I am not a terrorist whose job description includes killing random civilians. Like it or not, we are in a knife fight. We have to win. Losing means the end of Western civilization (and all discussion of the use of "torture") since nothing in Islam prohibits "torture" against unbelievers. Beheading is one the more "humane" techniques. A "torture" house used by Al Queda agaionst other Muslims was recently found north of Baghdad. I would hope that those on the Left would remember that if we lose this war, it means the end of all discussions of the morality of "torture." Winning the war is the most important thing.
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  #29  
Old 12-21-2007, 11:25 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: On the precipice of a surge!

jmcnulty:

Quote:
I will have to give you that round.
I don't know which post of mine you're replying to, but thanks.

Quote:
But how do you define "torture"?
Granted, not an easy question to answer succinctly. But even Wikipedia can give us a good starting point:

Quote:
Torture, according to international law, is "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
This, to me, means waterboarding is a form of torture. It doesn't matter to me that "no one died from it," or that some people undergo it as part of training or out of curiosity. When you're being held captive by hostile forces, and being made to think that you're drowning, it's a far different situation.

Quote:
Like it or not, we are in a knife fight.
We're in clear disagreement over this one. I don't see terrorists as presenting an existential threat. They cause localized suffering and destruction at most. Granted, these acts can be heinous, especially when they're targeted against innocents. But I view these acts as no different from any other form of violent crime. For example, lots of innocent people are killed or wounded in drive-by shootings and by nuts hosing down malls and schools. If we apply the same thinking, we should have a blanket ban on civilian-owned firearms. Obviously, the overwhelming majority doesn't want that, which means that we are accepting some negative consequences in return for the perceived benefits of gun ownership. Similarly, tens of thousands of people are killed in car crashes every year, and hundreds of thousands die annually from smoking-related causes. Yet we tolerate the known costs rather than implementing draconian solutions.

Now, I'm not trying to say that there is an upside to terrorism per se. I'm just trying to say that an overreaction to the problem, and a claim that we should do everything possible to stop it, is the wrong way to think about it. It seems much more sensible to me to view it as a criminal problem, and to address it with the same patient and multi-pronged methods we use to combat other forms of crime. This includes, in large part, removing motivations for terrorists to act in the first place, as well as the analog of community outreach programs. Basically, the harsh methods of combating terrorism -- torture, black prisons, and invasion of perceived state sponsors, for example -- tend to foster more terrorist activity.

Quote:
We have to win. Losing means the end of Western civilization ...
Again, we're in clear disagreement. It's a mistake to project from a few rabble-rousers with an inflated media presence babbling about jihad to thinking there is a unified movement among Islamic countries to destroy Western civilizations. Sure, a lot of them would like us all to convert to their way of thinking, just as many in the West would like them to change, but wishing is about the extent of it. And even if there were a determination on the part of the Muslim world to conquer the West, I have no doubt that they have no chance to pulling this off for the foreseeable future. Countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia have their hands full just suppressing their own populations. They're also pretty backward, technologically, as a consequence of letting their religion dominate their affairs of state and society. The best they can do, militarily, is to maintain a guerrilla level of harassment when we're trying to occupy one of their countries.

Quote:
Winning the war is the most important thing.
I don't see it as a war, at least not in the classic sense of the word. It's an ideological struggle, in part, maybe. There's another way to look at it, though, which is how I see it: We're all facing the challenge of figuring out how to get along on an increasingly crowded planet. The US's position as sole superpower makes it a target, and in some cases, for understandable if not legitimate reasons. I don't favor adopting an isolationist position, but there must be a number of places where we could be a little less intrusive. Obviously, invading Iraq and threatening Iran are two examples of poor choices, if the goal is to learn how to get along.
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  #30  
Old 12-21-2007, 11:30 AM
Bloggin' Noggin Bloggin' Noggin is offline
 
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Default Au Contraire! -- Jim's claim does make sense and may be true

It does have meaning if you are comparing the American political spectrum with the political spectrum of other 1st world countries -- and of course, the principle of charity in interpretation requires us to interpret Pinkerton as making a sensible claim if possible.
Not only is his claim sensible, but there's reason to believe it. The European "center" is clearly to the left of the American "center."
See the excellent _The Right Nation_ by Micklethwaite and Wooldridge.
Naturally there's room to debate the degree to which these differences reflect the "real" opinions of voters etc., but there's certainly a good prima facie case that America is to the right of other nations in the first world.
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  #31  
Old 12-21-2007, 12:30 PM
jmcnulty jmcnulty is offline
 
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Default Re: Au Contraire! -- Jim's claim does make sense and may be true

Reply to Bjkeefe:

First of all, I do not spend time watching Fox News. I never see O'Reilly, haven't watched Hannity & Colmes in years, and have never watched Greta (with the latest news on how she has NOT found Natalie Holloway in Aruba).
Theat was just a liberal snark and beneath you.

Regarding terrorism, you said:

It seems much more sensible to me to view it as a criminal problem, and to address it with the same patient and multi-pronged methods we use to combat other forms of crime.

I guess we should stroll into Osama Bin Laden's cave, cuff him, and read him his Miranda rights. Didn't the Clinton administration plan something like this in Afghanistan? I guess first we had better make sure that the extradition treaty with Palistan is in order. Then, he will ask for a lawyer, who will advise him to say nothing. And since we have no wiretaps or communication intercepts or witnesses or files or tax returns, and we can't engage in "waterboarding," I guess we will have to accept that he may walk.

Just wait until the terrorists, with access to Arab oil money, inevitabily manage to buy a nuclear weapon. Or gain power in Pakistan and get 50. Did you hear about the attack on the South African nuclear power plant recently that nearly succeeded. The attackers managed to get inside the power plant (through an electrified fence), inside the control room, and the alarm was only sounded when they tried to get inside a room holding highly enriched uranium. It is thought that they had "inside" help. The alarm was only sounded by a guard who was unexpectly there to see his girlfriend, and he called authorities although he was wounded. They escaped before the police showed up. There were two teams operating from opposite sides of the power plant, so this sounds more like a military operation than a robbery. There are nuclear power plants in 40 countries, one of the Iran. How likely is it that one of them has shoddy enough procedures to allow such a theft?

Obviously, you have not read Bin Laden or Ayman Al-Zawahiri. This IS an "existential" struggle. Either we will kill them, or they will defeat us. There is no middle course. The only alternative is the change Islam, which is impossible. As I have said, while there may be "moderate" Muslims, there is no "moderate" Islam. As Zawahiri emphasizes, jihad is an integral part of pure Islam, and it is NOT just an "internal, spiritual struggle."

When a city disappears in a nuclear flash, will you argue that "it is just ONE city, and there is no reason for us to get too upset."

Regarding "torture," at what point does something become "severe pain"? If you do not want to "waterboard," fine. Then, what form of interrogation would you allow? What if the prisoner is unwilling to talk to you? Isn't he as likely to give false information during a friendly chat as during "waterboarding"? Why is it that we should see CIA tapes of "waterboarding" -- our democracy demands it -- but we cannot see scenes of people leaping out of windows on September 11?

If you were an interrogator, would you take the risk of "waterboarding" someone on the expectation that a court would acquit you for breaking the law because you -- mistakenly, as it turned out -- thought that you could save lives?
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Old 12-21-2007, 12:53 PM
garbagecowboy garbagecowboy is offline
 
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Default Re: On the precipice of a surge!

Quote:
We're in clear disagreement over this one. I don't see terrorists as presenting an existential threat. They cause localized suffering and destruction at most. Granted, these acts can be heinous, especially when they're targeted against innocents. But I view these acts as no different from any other form of violent crime. For example, lots of innocent people are killed or wounded in drive-by shootings and by nuts hosing down malls and schools. If we apply the same thinking, we should have a blanket ban on civilian-owned firearms. Obviously, the overwhelming majority doesn't want that, which means that we are accepting some negative consequences in return for the perceived benefits of gun ownership. Similarly, tens of thousands of people are killed in car crashes every year, and hundreds of thousands die annually from smoking-related causes. Yet we tolerate the known costs rather than implementing draconian solutions.
Terrorism I believe is quite a different animal than random nuts going postal or car accidents. It's a category error (in my mind) to say that terrorism is simply one more risk in a risky world. The reason for this is that if, hypothetically, terrorists had many more resources and no one trying to stop them, they would not just try to kill a few thousand people a year. No other man-made force short of nation states acting in war-time has ever, say, destroyed two skyscrapers full of civilians, or released sarin gas into a crowded subway, or blown up a federal building with a truck bomb.

You'll note that those last two examples were not performed by Islamic terrorists, but if those kinds of attacks were tactically within reach of Islamic terrorists, they would certainly happen. Similarly, if a nuclear attack on a major American city (either with a dirty bomb or a "suitcase nuke") were possible, this would be the largest disaster ever to befall the United States, and would be the worst man-made disaster not committed by a nation state in the history of the modern world.

The terrorist threat, as currently constituted, is probably less of a risk to the lives of most American civilians than a legal regime where hand-guns are widely owned, or where millions people can drive on freeways. However, one can imagine it not being. There is a limit to the scale of the havoc that guns and cars can wreak, and it is orders of magnitude below what conceivably terrorists could do. Imagine a dirty bomb that kills 10,000 civilians and renders most of mid-town Manhattan unlivable for months, and deters people from wanting to live there for years to come. This is not even in the same ballpark.
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  #33  
Old 12-21-2007, 01:20 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: On the precipice of a surge!

GC:

Quote:
Terrorism I believe is quite a different animal than random nuts going postal or car accidents. It's a category error (in my mind) to say that terrorism is simply one more risk in a risky world. The reason for this is that if, hypothetically, terrorists had many more resources and no one trying to stop them, they would not just try to kill a few thousand people a year.
Good point. I agree. I should have made clearer that I'm all for an ongoing program to defeat and defuse terrorist groups. I just think (a) the methods chosen should be different from those that seen favored by the current administration and most of the Republican candidates, and (b) we are acting like a bunch of bunnies when we fret excessively about hypotheticals.

To continue with (b), of course I believe that we should not let up on preventing terrorists from acquiring WMDs. On the other hand, poison gas has been available for a century and nukes for half a century. The fact that the first has been used very rarely and the latter never says a lot about what we've done right in the past and/or how it's probably not that easy for a bunch of looney-tunes to acquire these weapons.

So I'm saying two things: First, let's keep up the good work, and let's chose techniques and policies that don't exacerbate the problem. Second, let's not lose sight of our founding principles while fighting this problem. Allowing fears of some imagined future catastrophe to cause us to turn into a nation that tortures, and abandons its citizens' civil rights is, in my view, doing far more to let the terrorists win than it is to stop them.
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  #34  
Old 12-21-2007, 01:33 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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jmcnulty:

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First of all, I do not spend time watching Fox News. I never see O'Reilly, haven't watched Hannity & Colmes in years, and have never watched Greta (with the latest news on how she has NOT found Natalie Holloway in Aruba).
Theat was just a liberal snark and beneath you.
Once again, I don't know what you're talking about. I don't remember saying anything of the sort to you. I've just searched this entire thread, and the only place the word "fox" appears is in your own post, from which the above excerpt comes. Is it really too much to ask that you reply directly to my posts by viewing them and using the "Reply" button that appears there, or at least to quote my words when you're responding to them?

As to the rest of your post, I'm not going to respond in detail. It seems to me that you're rehashing things that I've already responded to. Further, on most of them, we're at the point where there's nothing left to do but agree to disagree. You see Islam and terrorists acting in the name of Islam as an existential threat. I don't. You think we need to play dirty to win. I don't. You're worried that terrorists having nukes is just around the corner. I'm not. See my recent reply to GC for a more detailed view on this last, if you like.
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  #35  
Old 12-21-2007, 01:36 PM
jmcnulty jmcnulty is offline
 
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Default Reply to Bjkeefe:

You said two inconsistent things. On the one hand, you said that we should handle the war on terrorism, not as a "war," but as a criminal matter. On the other hand, you said that the war on terrorism is a real "war," but that we should not fight it as we do. Are you in favor of a quiet "dirty war" of assassination and back-alley killings, rather than precision bombing and military occupation? This would seem to be inconsistent with your views on "torture," which is a necessary part of a "dirty war." Which is it?

If we are going to treat terrorism like crime, then we are talking about "probably cause" and judges, search warrants, "right to remain silent," procedural punctiliousness and endless appeals. "War" on terrorism? I don't think so.

Maybe in World War II we could have indicted Hitler in 1940 and asked Germany to extradite him. I have heard it said that a good prosecutor can "indict a ham sandwich," but this might not have been wise given Hitler's treatment of the Jews.

Either this is a real war or not. I hope that we don't finally recognize it as a real war over the bodies of our fellow Americans ("But still less than the toll from traffic accidents in a year").
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Old 12-21-2007, 01:41 PM
garbagecowboy garbagecowboy is offline
 
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Default Re: On the precipice of a surge!

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The fact that the first has been used very rarely and the latter never says a lot about what we've done right in the past and/or how it's probably not that easy for a bunch of looney-tunes to acquire these weapons.
I would disagree fundamentally with this characterization of the terrorist threat. Maybe it was just an off-hand, throwaway phrase, but the people we are trying to stop are certainly not a bunch of idiots.

The people who executed the 9/11 attacks were highly motivated and educated. As has been repeated ad nauseum, Mohammed Atta had a post-graduate level of education in engineering.

The reason that chemical weapons are not routinely deployed in the U.S. is (probably) that it's hard for terrorists (especially post 9/11) to get here and then to get the precursor chemicals for making them. It's almost certainly not because they couldn't figure out how to do it.

9/11 may seem like it was pulled off by a fly-by-night sort of organization since instead of acquiring WMDs the attackers simply hijacked 4 of the thousands of flying WMDs we have in the air over this country every moment. However, the organization was quite well funded, involved a huge amount of planning, and was quite ingenious in its methods to pull it off. If you haven't read the 9/11 commission report, read about how much planning those guys went through. The way they took test flights to probe the system for weaknesses, seeing if they could fly unmolested, seeing to the feasibility of their plans, learning how to fly a large jumbo jet. Even though it did not involve, say, the synthesis of a bunch of chemical weapons, the attack was probably deadlier, than say, even a very ambitious, large scale sarin gas attack on the NYC subway system. I doubt very much, for instance, if Timothy McVeigh or other domestic yahoos who want to live out The Turner Diaries could have pulled it off.

That said, thankfully nuclear weapons are so difficult to implement that I am highly dubious that any non-state actor could prepare them. That said, the probability of a nuke from Pakistan or Iran falling into terrorist hands at some future date, while probably very, very low, is not zero. Furthermore, as I said in the above post, simply obtaining fissile material and detonating it with an ammonium nitrate fuel oil truck bomb (a la the first WTC attacks) would wreak havoc in millions of American lives and with our economy, even if it only killed a few hundred people outright.

I wouldn't live in Midtown Manhattan if I thought that an attack bigger than 9/11 was imminent, or even at a relatively high order of probability, but that said, I think that it is the heightened scrutiny of our security apparatus on the U.S. mainland, the difficulty of terrorists to organize in a post 9/11 world where there is no Taliban-held Afghanistan, the fact that terrorists are going for the low-hanging fruit of attacking American and western interests in the Middle East itself and a myriad of other factors most of which have been engineered by the west which make these attacks unlikely. It is not simply that producing WMDs is beyond the capability of the terrorists if they were given a free hand to organize and infiltrate our shores.
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Old 12-21-2007, 02:41 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Reply to Bjkeefe:

jmcnulty:

Quote:
On the other hand, you said that the war on terrorism is a real "war" ...
No, I did not. If you think I did, please quote the appropriate phrase from my comment.

Since your premise is flawed, most of the rest of your comment is, too -- you're arguing against a point of view that I have not expressed.

Quote:
Either this is a real war or not.
I know you think it is, but I do not. Worse, I think we undermine our chances of success by thinking of it in this way, just like every other phony War (tm) put forth by politicians and other blowhards; e.g., Drugs, Poverty, and for that matter, Christmas.
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  #38  
Old 12-21-2007, 03:02 PM
TwinSwords TwinSwords is offline
 
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Default Re: Response to Bjkeefe:

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Originally Posted by jmcnulty View Post
In case you don't know, Bill Clinton, too, believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destuction.
There's a hell of a difference between a mistaken belief about Iraq's arsenal, and leading the US and the world onto a disasterous course as a result of it. In case you didn't know, Bill Clinton didn't invade Iraq.
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  #39  
Old 12-21-2007, 03:04 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: On the precipice of a surge!

GC:

Quote:
I would disagree fundamentally with this characterization ["bunch of looney-tunes"] of the terrorist threat. Maybe it was just an off-hand, throwaway phrase, but the people we are trying to stop are certainly not a bunch of idiots.
It was partly, as you say, an offhand remark, but also, I think it accurately characterizes most of the people who want to be terrorists. Sure, some are fairly well educated, and some have actual skills, but most are nothing more than tough-talking, disgruntled losers.

The 9/11 hijackers were exceptional, I'll grant. On the other hand, my reading of the 9/11 Commission's report and other follow-up analyses suggested to me that they could have been stopped by better cockpit doors and better inter-agency communication. I believe we've addressed the first problem; I wish we could actually do something about the second besides redrawing the org chart. Maybe we're getting there, but my impression is that progress is glacially slow.

Quote:
That said, thankfully nuclear weapons are so difficult to implement that I am highly dubious that any non-state actor could prepare them. That said, the probability of a nuke from Pakistan or Iran falling into terrorist hands at some future date, while probably very, very low, is not zero. Furthermore, as I said in the above post, simply obtaining fissile material and detonating it with an ammonium nitrate fuel oil truck bomb (a la the first WTC attacks) would wreak havoc in millions of American lives and with our economy, even if it only killed a few hundred people outright.
Glad to agree on your first point. As to the second -- obtaining an existing device -- I'm also glad to hear that you recognize the low probability. I concede it's not zero, but I would add that I expect any government that has working nuclear bombs (of which Iran is not one) would have a fairly comprehensive, multi-level set of safeguards in place, so that even if a device were acquired, it might not be possible to detonate it; e.g., I would expect that there is some sort of encryption built into the device that prevents unauthorized use. Don't forget, the Pakistani government has to be at least as worried about a bomb being used on its own soil as elsewhere, and they also can't fail to be aware of the repercussions if one of their bombs gets used.

I suppose the device could be taken apart without it self-destructing and the fissile material extracted, which leads us to your third worry, a dirty bomb. I agree that this is something which could happen, and with greater probability than actually firing or rebuilding a stolen device, but I still think the threat can be addressed without the US having to turn into a police state. I also think that us turning into a police state is no guarantee of success, or even increased likelihood of success. We'd do better to be seen as someone worth cooperating with than as a resented overlord.

Quote:
I think that it is the heightened scrutiny of our security apparatus on the U.S. mainland, the difficulty of terrorists to organize in a post 9/11 world where there is no Taliban-held Afghanistan, the fact that terrorists are going for the low-hanging fruit of attacking American and western interests in the Middle East itself and a myriad of other factors most of which have been engineered by the west which make these attacks unlikely.
Agreed. I would add that I believe we could enhance our security by working to cut down on the excuses for resentment against us. We're not going to win over every heart and mind, but we could be doing a far better job than we are.

Quote:
It is not simply that producing WMDs is beyond the capability of the terrorists if they were given a free hand to organize and infiltrate our shores.
I don't think anyone is arguing that we should give terrorists a free hand. Certainly, I don't advocate this position. The only things you and I disagree upon are the tactics and policies we should be employing, and how much we should fear the terrorists.
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  #40  
Old 12-21-2007, 03:17 PM
garbagecowboy garbagecowboy is offline
 
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Wink Re: On the precipice of a surge!

Thanks for the reply, Brendan. I don't have time right now for a reply to most of your substantive points, but I would just note one thing you said:

Quote:
but I still think the threat can be addressed without the US having to turn into a police state
I think that you can disagree on a whole spectrum of issues about how the U.S. should go about trying to prevent being hit with another terrorist attack (with regard to things like whether terrorists picked up on foreign battlefields can be tortured) with alternatives other than "civil liberties protected" and "U.S. turns into a police state."

You know, shades of gray, nuance, etc. All those things you liberals love.
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