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May 28, 2007

Comments

litbrit over at ezra klein's site also posted about imported chinese monkfish that contained tetrodotoxins, suggesting contamination from puffer fish (the fugu of japanese cuisine). couple people around Chicago got sick from it.

fugu toxin very, very toxic. allowing contamination like this also very bad, leading to question wtf?

The execution team stuck Christopher Newton at least 10 times with needles Thursday to insert the shunts where the chemicals are injected.

Not that this negates your point at all, but I have been stuck more than that for a blood test. Every method has its limitations. With a hanging the head can pop off. Firing squad might not be a fatal shot. Electric chair – Green Mile.

It took so long that the staff paused to allow Newton a bathroom break.

The rest of that paragraph (prior to that sentence):
But Newton, who had insisted on the death penalty as punishment and made no attempt to appeal, chatted and laughed with prison staff throughout the delay.

...

He was put to death for beating and choking cell mate Jason Brewer, 27, in 2001 after they argued during a chess game. He had slammed Brewer's head onto the floor, stomped his throat and cut a piece from his orange prison suit to strangle him.

I do have qualms about the death penalty, but you have to come up with really questionable cases to get me there. Sorry, this is not it.

On the other stories, I mostly agree with you, although making Chinese imports a BushCo problem is a bit of a stretch.

According to what was in the German papers he actually killed his cellmate in order to get the execution he desired (at least he is quoted with that, he may not have been truthful).

OCSteve: true enough about Newton; if I were makinga case about the death penalty, I don't know that he'd be the case I'd choose. I do think we ought to manage it so that people don't need to be given bathroom breaks during their own executions, though.

I've actually never understood this: is it impossible to come up with something lethal, non-painful, and effective?

About the Chinese imports: obviously, China's food safety practices aren't our fault. The state of the FDA is, though, and it seems to have been getting worse during this administration.

"It took so long that the staff paused to allow Newton a bathroom break."

It's a shame he couldn't get them to work a hearty snack and a conjugal visit in, as well.

"He was put to death for beating and choking cell mate Jason Brewer, 27, in 2001 after they argued during a chess game. He had slammed Brewer's head onto the floor, stomped his throat and cut a piece from his orange prison suit to strangle him."

You have to understand that he was responding to a really irritating move. Extreme chess is a much rougher game than many imagine.

For years, U.S. inspection records show, China has flooded the United States with foods unfit for human consumption.

I'm beginning to see why China sees importing food from New Zealand to be desirable.

Hilzoy: I've actually never understood this: is it impossible to come up with something lethal, non-painful, and effective?

Of course not. But the people who actively support capital punishment tend to see it as the ultimate punishment, and - it's my impression, at least - in general actively like the idea that the person sentenced to death will suffer before they die. After all, if a person to be executed was given enough morphine to make them unconscious, and then the dose gradually increased until it became a lethal overdose (or some such technique) there wouldn't ever even be a point when they knew they were being killed for their crimes: they'd just drift off to sleep and never wake up.

People who don't actively support capital punishment, if they're campaigning on the issue at all, are in general campaigning for abolition, not for amelioration.

For this reason, I doubt you could successfully get a pressure group together to require that capital punishment shall be painless.

"After all, if a person to be executed was given enough morphine to make them unconscious, and then the dose gradually increased until it became a lethal overdose (or some such technique) there wouldn't ever even be a point when they knew they were being killed for their crimes: they'd just drift off to sleep and never wake up."

How lethal injection works:

The drugs are administered, in this order:

* Anesthetic - Sodium thiopental, which has the trademark name Pentothal, puts the inmate into a deep sleep. This drug is a barbiturate that induces general anesthesia when administered intravenously. It can reach effective clinical concentrations in the brain within 30 seconds, according to an Amnesty International report. For surgical operations, patients are given a dose of 100 to 150 milligrams over a period of 10 to 15 seconds. For executions, as many as 5 grams (5,000 mg) of Pentothal may be administered. This in itself is a lethal dose. It's believed by some that after this anesthetic is delivered, the inmate doesn't feel anything.

* Saline solution flushes the intravenous line.

* Paralyzing agent - Pancuronium bromide, also known as Pavulon, is a muscle relaxant that is given in a dose that stops breathing by paralyzing the diaphragm and lungs. Conventionally, this drug takes effect in one to three minutes after being injected. In many states, this drug is given in doses of up to 100 milligrams, a much higher dose than is used in surgical operations -- usually 40 to 100 micrograms per one kilogram of body weight. Other chemicals that can be used as a paralyzing agent include tubocurarine chloride and succinylcholine chloride.

* Saline solution flushes the intravenous line.

* Toxic agent (not used by all states) - Potassium chloride is given at a lethal dose in order to interrupt the electrical signaling essential to heart functions. This induces cardiac arrest.

Within a minute or two after the last drug is administered, a physician or medical technician declares the inmate dead. The amount of time between when the prisoner leaves the holding cell and when he or she is declared dead may be just 30 minutes. Death usually occurs anywhere from five to 18 minutes after the execution order is given.

As per Hilzoy's account, practice doesn't always go according to theory.

But giving a drug "to make them unconscious, and then the dose gradually increased until it became a lethal overdose" is the procedure.

I'm opposed to capital punishment, as well, because it's too significant a punishment to be allowed to be gotten wrong now and again, or ever. This doesn't mean that I'll weep over each person who suffers the punishment, but that fact doesn't magically make us able to always determine for sure who is correctly guilty of what. The existence of guilty evil criminals on death row doesn't do anything to get rid of the problems with deciding who is worth killing.

And by the way: until I read Glenn Greenwald, I had completely missed the newest round of "OMG a FORGED DOCUMENT!!!" There are some people whose minds seem to have been permanently addled by the brouhaha about the Rather memos, so that every time they see a document whose every feature isn't clear to them, they go insane.

(Think I'm exaggerating? Check it out.)

The thing I really don't get about this stuff is the willingness of some bloggers to leap to conclusions, and then to say truly insulting things to people, on the basis of virtually no evidence. In this case, as far as I can tell, the "evidence" seems to have been: (1) the document creation date was different than its stated date (apparently because the person who posted it turned it into a pdf to avoid propagating MS worms), and (2) there was an image at the top that they found suspicious. That's it. On this basis, Ace insults half the known universe. As far as I can tell, he has yet to apologize, now that the memo has turned out to be real.

About Pat Lang:

"So -- this DIA official, "Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East, South Asia, and Terrorism," recipient of multiple awards for his dilligence and capability in evaluating intelligence, could not tell that an already-fake-looking document made to look even more ridiculous by the inclusion of a frigging hummel eagle as its "Official Logo of the State Department" might not be on the level.

What kind of idiots do we have in our "intelligence" community, exactly?

When they give you an intelligence test, do they require you actually fail to get the job? Or at least post a not-too-high, not-too-low score somewhere between "average intelligence" and "borderline imbecile who sits in the corner all day clapping and masturbating"?"

Personally, that's not the kind of thing I'd say about anyone -- well, ever, actually, but certainly not if I wasn't very, very, very sure that the document in question was actually a forgery. And if I were ever going to say it about anyone without being very sure of my case, I don't think I'd pick a career intelligence person to say it about.

Which often puzzles me about some bloggers: there are people who are willing to say things about other people that, if said about me, would definitely fall into the "if I believed in fighting duels, you and I would be fighting one now" category. Which means: things you don't say unless you're very, very, very sure you're right. Do they not think these things -- e.g., the example above -- are as bad as I do? Or do they think it's OK to say stuff like that about people without being sure you're right?

All a mystery. I do think Ace would be better off if he didn't write anything about either forgeries or vaginas for a couple of years.

"For this reason, I doubt you could successfully get a pressure group together to require that capital punishment shall be painless."

Painlessness is a key issue in Constitutional arguments over lethal injection.

"And by the way: until I read Glenn Greenwald, I had completely missed the newest round of 'OMG a FORGED DOCUMENT!!!'"

Feel free to check out the exchange in my own comments.

"The thing I really don't get about this stuff is the willingness of some bloggers to leap to conclusions, and then to say truly insulting things to people, on the basis of virtually no evidence."

They're not saying insulting things to people, Hilzoy. They're just talking about leftists, which is entirely different.

The leftists are, you must understand, such vile and hate-filled traitors to America that:

a) it isn't possible to insult them, and:

b) whether a given point is correct or not is irrelevant, the leftists are such terrorist-loving Muslims that they deserve to be hung, then shot, then rubbed in pig fact, and then tortured -- just on general principles. Don't bother me with petty details about trivial points of "fact" and "evidence"!

"And if I were ever going to say it about anyone without being very sure of my case, I don't think I'd pick a career intelligence person to say it about."

Colonel Lang's "credentials" are nonsensical MSM creations: the intelligence agencies are filled with liberal traitors, who hate conservatives and President Bush: DIA, CIA, it's all the same thing. Lang's so-called "credentials" prove what a traitor he is: why hasn't he captured Osama bin Laden? Obviously, he wants bin Laden out there!

Ace, on the other hand, is a true voice of American Patriotism.

Ace quotes Lang's bio:

Colonel W. Patrick Lang is a retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces (The Green Berets). He served in the Department of Defense both as a serving officer and then as a member of the Defense Senior Executive Service for many years. He is a highly decorated veteran of several of America’s overseas conflicts including the war in Vietnam. He was trained and educated as a specialist in the Middle East by the U.S. Army and served in that region for many years. He was the first Professor of the Arabic Language at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. In the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) he was the “Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East, South Asia and Terrorism,” and later the first Director of the Defense Humint Service.” For his service in DIA, he was awarded the “Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive.” This is the equivalent of a British knighthood. He is an analyst consultant for many television and radio broadcaststs.
This makes Lang, Ace explains, an "idiot" and "imbecile," etc. Because Lang is a "leftist."

Just compare Ace's credentials to Lang's.

Really, what more needs to be said?

I hope this clears away any confusion, Hilzoy, on this matter.

"...there are people who are willing to say things about other people that, if said about me, would definitely fall into the 'if I believed in fighting duels, you and I would be fighting one now' category."

Did you read Ace's comments on that post, Hilzoy? Including Lang's comments, and Ace's responses? Stuff like:

Forwarded Message
From: "Patrick Lang"

Date: Sat, 26 May 2007 23:22:01 -0400

To: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Subject: RE: Food-shortage memo an obvious fraud.

Can you prove it was not true? If you want to call me a lefty I will meet you anywhere.


Forwarded Message
From: "Patrick Lang"

Date: Sat, 26 May 2007 23:26:47 -0400

To: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Subject: RE: Food-shortage memo an obvious fraud.

Tell me where we will meet. Be prepared to remain there. Tell me where you live you yellow bastard.

Ace responds:
That threat would read a lot scarier if it wasn't in that gaywad font he favors.
Ace is such a charmer. I wonder why he isn't teaching at West Point?

But he has what it takes to have become a major rightwing blogger.

I might add that it's particularly hilarious watching the progress on the various rightwing blog comment threads as a wide variety of nitwits continue to insist the memo is fake, and that anyone who says otherwise is a blankety-blank-blank, but eventually the group consensus slowly and finally turns to varieties of "the memo may be fake, but our cause for concern is real."

Say, that sounds familiar. Remember when making fun of that claim was the rightwing meme-of-the-year?

I hadn't read the comments. Yikes.

What really struck me was the way the venom towards Lang morphed into speculation about what kind of work he had done, and why whatever branch of the armed forces and later intelligence community the person who was commenting thought he had been in was just a big bunch of wusses. Also, the juxtaposition of comments about that with comments about how of course the Left are not patriotic and hate the troops, with no sense of irony.

I'm pretty sure it was someone at this blog who said it was the job of the Aces/Malkins/Powerline to push the envelop of extremity, so that Fox News and so on would seem moderate.

Which struck me as the only way to explain why they still have blogging careers.

I also like the way soldier-guy Chad -- who is actually in Iraq -- first started piping up with "um, guys? The memo is real," and being ignored, and then mocked, as he got ever more dogged in tracking down the details of the authenticity of the memo, and he kept piping up more and more strongly, finally pretty much giving up in disgust with:

And on that I am done. I have gone as far as I am capable of going short of flying to Baghdad breaking into the green zone, photographing the memo, tracking down MGT/S. Muench (who I bet is a manager for KBR) photocopying his ID card, hacking into the network and posting it all online.

Even then I am sure people would accuse me of faking it all.

But what's truly impressive is the depth of the cognitive dissonance when these folks whose identity is seemingly staked around being More Patriotic Than Thou and More Supportive Of The Military And The War On Terror Than Anyone wind up viciously attacking expert members of our military and serving members of our military, and the intelligence community, who have the temerity to not support their wrongheaded claims and notions.

In their mind, the idea that anyone who disagrees with their insanity is defining themselves as "leftists" is so controlling that they've wound up with a worldview in which the military and the CIA and DIA and other military and civilian intelligence agencies are chock-a-block with "leftists."

Of course, this is what comes of the slippery slope one starts down when United States Senators are the definition of what a "hard leftist" is, rather than, say, a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, or the Socialist Workers Party, with whom we are, er, left with no terms for. ("Rilly rilly rilly super-duper hard leftist"?)

Crap. Sorry about that.

Hugh Hewitt, on Powerline's 5th anniversary:

Powerline's trio are thus the most significant citizen journalists of the first age of internet journalism, and wold be even had they not toppled Dan Rather. Like it or not --and those on the left won't-- their coming into being and their writings and associated endeavors will be studied far into the future.

I'm fairly certain the most significant citizen journalist of the first age was Morgoth, but I could be mistaken.

Later, Hugh informs us that all Powerline writings have been insribed onto abyssal granite and launched into orbit.

More comments, on Hot Air's announcement that the memo is real. I really hope the one from JohnJ is a spoof:

I don’t understand why people don’t believe this. It seems to me that the reason supplies are slowing down is because the Army had to start cutting costs due to a lack of funding. Why did they have a lack of funding? Because the Democrats wanted to hold troop supplies hostage. It seems pretty cut and dry to me. The Army wanted these funds by mid-April, so of course they’re having money troubles. It’s been well over a month. Why isn’t anyone pursuing this angle?
And then there's Seixon, who still thinks it's a fake:
A simple email was written in Microsoft Word, not exactly the best way to broadcast a message since it requires that the recipient has Word to view it ....
No one's ever e-mailed a message as a Word document unnecessarily? Has Seixon ever worked in an office? The world's business communications would take up a tenth of the disk space and bandwidth that they do now if people stopped sending simple text messages as Word attachments.

It seems to me that 'single issue' terrorists are actually more a problem than you imply, or I at least infer. It seems to me that majority of cases of domestic terrorism boils down to a single issue 'justifications.' Be it 'enviromentalists' interested in saving trees by placing metal slugs in trees to maim/kill workers, or 'prolifers' so consumed with saving lives they murder doctors, and the list that goes on and on. To be honest I suspect your interested in the topic more because it's an Alabama story and the assumption of bigotry that comes with it...not exactly a crazy conclusion, but still.

To be fair I've never associated gay rights advocates with violence against others, and I don't know anyone who does. Violence against them yes. But a 'vendictive gay' is not so contradictory as prolifer's or environmentalist's killing for their 'make the world a better place' cause.

Personally, I'm more an innocent until proven guilty type of person and believe that no one should automattically be on a terrorist list. I mean at least wait for some reasonable suspicion.

Call me an pollyanna, but I find it kind of charming that right-wingers believe government memos currently exhibit a degree of good taste in their graphic design.

More comments, on Hot Air's announcement that the memo is real.
Including:
[...] It seems to me that [....]

It seems pretty cut and dry to me.

[...]

Why isn’t anyone pursuing this angle?

Which, chopped to its essence translates as "Based on no facts or knowledge whatever, my imagination has conjured up the following purely imaginary fever dream. Why aren't people pursuing my fever dream angle?"

Yes, I liked that one, but one sees it all the time on the nut threads. If these people could tell the difference between "it seems to me" -- not to neglect that other favorite, "I heard that" -- and credible information and verifiable facts, they wouldn't think the way they did, and wouldn't wind up in their Land Of Imagination.

Tad: it's not that it's Alabama, it's that it seems to conflate all sorts of people who care about a single issue into "single-issue extremists." I mean, gay rights groups? I can see environmentalists and animal rights people, since some members of such groups have in fact committed acts of sabotage and serious vandalism, though I would hope government agencies would try to distinguish people who cross the line from people who don't. But gay rights activists? Have there been gay rights terrorists that I'm not aware of?

Tad, if most terrorist acts are committed by single-issue groups, that doesn't imply that most single-issue groups commit terrorist acts, so I'm not sure what you're disagreeing with Hilzoy about, especially after reading your last paragraph.

i bought some tilapia today at a local supermarket. i was surprised to discover that it, too, was imported from China.

this after hearing about the problems with monkfish and catfish on NPR Saturday morn, and having a bad fish experience a couple of weeks ago. the tilapia was (so far) fine, but... blech. between the lack of decent FDA, oversight and the problems with overfishing i'm 80% of the way to swearing off eating fish ever again.

their coming into being and their writings and associated endeavors will be studied far into the future.

sure... the same way people still study McCarthy and the Goebbels: as examples of the dangers of demagoguery and lust for power.

I can see environmentalists and animal rights people, since some members of such groups have in fact committed acts of sabotage and serious vandalism, though I would hope government agencies would try to distinguish people who cross the line from people who don't. But gay rights activists? Have there been gay rights terrorists that I'm not aware of?

Not one gay rights terrorist (or even aspiring terrorist) as far as I know, and I'm quite happy to say that.

Though I am a bit concerned about this apparent excemption for "sabotage" and "serious vandalism" from the heading of terrorism. One of the things that troubles me the most about living in NYC is this exemption, as it allows the frequent celebration here of sixties radicals, who, while maintaining an alleged desire not to kill anyone, managed to pick off a few anyhow.

Here is what was making me think about this lately - and I'm rather uncomfortable with the general consensus in comments there that it is mere vandalism. I guess it's not terrorism - wanting the motive of murder is completely understandable - but the attitude that it's no big deal seems rather excessively partisan.

No one's ever e-mailed a message as a Word document unnecessarily? Has Seixon ever worked in an office?

Well KCinDC, it's obvious you've never worked in a McDonald's. Unlike our friend Seixon here (whose handle btw, sounds like a bad hair-metal band).

Jonas: as it happens, I was recently reading a book about terrorism, and so when I started to type, I also started to think: I'm not sure that (for instance) breaking into a lab that does research on primates counts as terrorism at all. Something serious and bad, yes, but I don't think terrorism. Similarly, throwing paint at fashion models, or putting spikes in trees. None of these fits the bill of targeting civilians in order to induce fear in the wider population.

Again, the idea isn't 'not terrorism because not bad, or not worthy of prosecution, or something', but 'not terrorism, for the same reason that a hit man isn't a terrorist, because even though he kills a lot of people and should not be let off any hooks, he's not, specifically, a terrorist.'

Jonas; on reading your link, I would not have called the various arsons at e.g. horse slaughtering facilities 'terrorism', but would have taken the burnings of SUVs to be at least borderline. I mean: they presumably are trying to create fear in the wider population, rather than to destroy these particular SUVs, or even to destroy all SUVs, one by one.

The only question I have is: does terrorism have to involve killing someone, or trying to? On the one hand, you wouldn't want (or rather, I wouldn't) to say that anything you do to random people to try to produce fear in the wider population counts -- that would dilute the term beyond recognition, since it would include things like coming up behind random people and saying 'Boo!' And I'm not sure where to draw the line, exactly. On the other hand, torching someone's car is pretty serious, and moreover involves a real risk that someone will get seriously hurt.

I'm not sure that (for instance) breaking into a lab that does research on primates counts as terrorism at all. Something serious and bad, yes, but I don't think terrorism. Similarly, throwing paint at fashion models, or putting spikes in trees.

Agreed on the paint but spiked trees are quite capable of seriously maiming or even killing loggers. Which is why Earth Firster!s (sp?) such as the late, lamented Judi Bari helped put a stop to it as an acceptable tactic.

As for lab-breaking, what if those primates are infected with Rage?

Also, Earth (and ObWi) needs more lolcats!!!

Barry: I didn't know that. Consider the comment amended.

Also, what's a lolcat? (As I sometimes say to my cats when they are investigating things, as they often are: inquiring kittens want to know.)

hilzoy: Aren't those the pictures of cute kittens and suchlike with captions such as "Im in ur white houz breaking ur lawz" and all. Am I wrong? You were an early adopter.

hilzoy: If you know nothing of Judi Bari and her work, do read up. A true hero and briliant activist/tactician. And some astonishing FBI dirty tricks to boot (much evidence points to some FBI agents planting a bomb in her car-which detonated with her and a fellow activist in it, she survived, barely. Last I heard they sued the FBI and won. Well worth reading about.)

Oh, is that what they're called!

Yeah, check out Language Log blog. They've had a few posts on them. (sorry, no handy URL)

I also started to think: I'm not sure that (for instance) breaking into a lab that does research on primates counts as terrorism at all.

That, actually, would be a fun discussion/argument. I've been on a rights as compact kick lately, mostly because of what I find to be disturbing developments in the ideas of rights (i.e. extension to primates & robots.) In the case of primates, I think it is a moral obligation not to cause them harm, but this is a matter of human morality, not an extension of human rights to them.

Similarly, throwing paint at fashion models, or putting spikes in trees. None of these fits the bill of targeting civilians in order to induce fear in the wider population.

Fair enough. But the dangers of such behavior are quite grave. While speaking with friends of mine from India, the degree to which their society suffers from such actions makes me very happy to live in one where it so very rare - and I'd like to keep it that way.

Again, the idea isn't 'not terrorism because not bad, or not worthy of prosecution, or something', but 'not terrorism, for the same reason that a hit man isn't a terrorist, because even though he kills a lot of people and should not be let off any hooks, he's not, specifically, a terrorist.'

I don't think it's that simple. I'm not sure the hitman is analogous. If it's a hit man randomly picking off spouses and rivals of his or her clients, okay, it's not terrorism. If it's a hit man that seeks to constrain the actions of the public at large, we are taking a definitive step in that direction.

Jonas; on reading your link, I would not have called the various arsons at e.g. horse slaughtering facilities 'terrorism', but would have taken the burnings of SUVs to be at least borderline.

Whoa! Now you're making me feel more left than you. I believe the suffering of the horse priviledges that over the destruction of inanimate property.

The only question I have is: does terrorism have to involve killing someone, or trying to?

That's the question I'm grappling with too, and to be honest, I don't quite know. But the exemption of those who "accidentally" kill from the ranks of the truly horrible I'm severely discomforted by.

On the one hand, you wouldn't want (or rather, I wouldn't) to say that anything you do to random people to try to produce fear in the wider population counts...

To try to advance this conversation, I will tentitively state that I think that people trying to produce fear in the wider population are worse than those lacking that motive (i.e. a car thief, a drunk vandal, etc.) but nowhere near as bad as the terrorist seeking to murder people. But - if you manage to kill a person accidently while on my comfy middle ground, I have to say you wind up only standing slightly less closer to evil than the guy who meant to do it.

Slate on lolcats. (Related: lolpresidents!)

I will tentitively state that I think that people trying to produce fear in the wider population are worse than those lacking that motive

I'd venture a guess that most vandalism is done by teens and young people with self image issues, it may be difficult to draw a line between trying to produce fear in the wider population and merely trying to establish one's bona fides when one feels that society has ignored you. I remember a few years ago that they had some kids who had videotaped themselves going into nearly finished houses in a new subdivision and totally trashing the place and the video tape was the primary evidence. While the kids might not think there was a 'message', there most certainly was, and this seems to be a component of any terroristic act. I'm not equating torturing a group of men to death with power tools and then leaving their bodies in the middle of town is equivalent to spray painting tags on walls (but it would seem that Abu Grahib has more in common with terrorism than one might care to admit), but I'm not sure if intent gives us as clear a line as we might like.

Jonas: I think a lot depends on whether killing the person was reasonably foreseeable. But while I do think that being too cavalier to notice that doing something might kill people brings one, as you say, closer to evil, I don't think that killing someone accidentally brings something closer to terrorism in particular. -- I mean, if the killing is accidental (whether or not the killer should have foreseen it), it is not itself intended at all, and thus not intended to cause fear.

Again, though, I'm concerned here with what's terrorism, not what fits into "the ranks of the truly horrible." People who rape small children are in the ranks of the truly horrible, acording to me, but they are not terrorists.

I've never been sure what the difference is between these two statements:

(a) I have a moral obligation to do/not do X to you in particular (as opposed to, say, having a moral obligation to help people in need, which is not an obligation to help every single person in need, but an obligation to help some of them, as circumstances allow), and:

(b) you have a right that I do/not do X to you.

Addition to last post: I'm assuming we're talking about moral, not legal, rights. Obviously there are things I have a moral obligation not to do to you (e.g., be mean), which you have no legal right to my not doing.

I'd venture a guess that most vandalism is done by teens and young people with self image issues, it may be difficult to draw a line between trying to produce fear in the wider population and merely trying to establish one's bona fides when one feels that society has ignored you.

Okay, LJ, you broke my moral construct with the use of teenagers. It's a cheap trick!

I remember a few years ago that they had some kids who had videotaped themselves going into nearly finished houses in a new subdivision and totally trashing the place and the video tape was the primary evidence. While the kids might not think there was a 'message', there most certainly was, and this seems to be a component of any terroristic act.

And sometimes the kids will rationalize these acts with a "message" as well. (My friends and I were not that clever in our teens when we stole one of those barrels with a blinking light on it from a highway.)

...but I'm not sure if intent gives us as clear a line as we might like.

It never does, which is why I feel like I'm giving a devil's advocate type argument right now. But strengthen the weakened exemptions of minors from major offenses and that's at least a start...

Have there been gay rights terrorists that I'm not aware of?

ACT-UP had some disruptive demonstrations, including throwing condoms in a cathedral and passing a pornographic photo (on a safe-sex pamphlet) to high school children. It is unclear whether the clerics were terrorised by the latex, or the high-schoolers by a depiction of male fellatio.

Outing politicians might be considered terrorism if Hoover was still in charge of the FBI...

Hilzoy,

But while I do think that being too cavalier to notice that doing something might kill people brings one, as you say, closer to evil, I don't think that killing someone accidentally brings something closer to terrorism in particular. -- I mean, if the killing is accidental (whether or not the killer should have foreseen it), it is not itself intended at all, and thus not intended to cause fear.

I see what you're saying, but what keeps me very far from coming to that conclusion is that both you and I are doing a very good job of not putting other people's lives in jeopardy, and it might very well be the easiest part of our moral obligations.

Again, though, I'm concerned here with what's terrorism, not what fits into "the ranks of the truly horrible." People who rape small children are in the ranks of the truly horrible, acording to me, but they are not terrorists.

For certain. I may be overemphasizing collective action (which, child rape is thankfully not) over individual evil.

I've never been sure what the difference is between these two statements:

(a) I have a moral obligation to do/not do X to you in particular (as opposed to, say, having a moral obligation to help people in need, which is not an obligation to help every single person in need, but an obligation to help some of them, as circumstances allow), and:

(b) you have a right that I do/not do X to you.

You're right, and this is how a "rights as compact" situation winds up working out well for us, at least. (Others are not so lucky.)

Although I'd actually like to see this general sentiment play out more in politics - the degree to which people are willing to circumscribe each others actions through the law seems ridiculously high right now.

"But while I do think that being too cavalier to notice that doing something might kill people brings one, as you say, closer to evil, I don't think that killing someone accidentally brings something closer to terrorism in particular. -- I mean, if the killing is accidental (whether or not the killer should have foreseen it), it is not itself intended at all, and thus not intended to cause fear."

I suppose it depends on the act, but the fearsome act of eco-tage in California is arson, and I am willing to put it confidently in the terrorist tactic basket. Fires are difficult to control. The risk of having them spread beyond what you intend (including causing particularly horrible death) is very high.

(Organized arson also has a history of terrorist intent in the United States. The mob didn't just burn your shop to the ground to punish you for failing to deal with them properly, it did so to demonstrate what could happen if other shopkeepers didn't pay protection money).

Tad,

I doubt that the list of single-issue terror groups included any of Alabama's various local Chambers of Commerce.

It seems all that was required to get marked as a terrorist was a desire to change the status quo.

More WTF from the Washington Post:

"Poland's conservative government took its drive to curb what it sees as homosexual propaganda to the small screen on Monday, taking aim at Tinky Winky and the other Teletubbies.

Ewa Sowinska, government-appointed children rights watchdog, told a local magazine published on Monday she was concerned the popular BBC children's show promoted homosexuality.

She said she would ask psychologists to advise if this was the case.

In comments reminiscent of criticism by the late U.S. evangelist Jerry Falwell, she was quoted as saying: "I noticed (Tinky Winky) has a lady's purse, but I didn't realize he's a boy."

"At first I thought the purse would be a burden for this Teletubby ... Later I learned that this may have a homosexual undertone.""

In other news, Ace fails either to admit he was wrong or to apologize. "For what it's worth, I still think the actual PDF is fake, as in "not the original, but reconstructed to look like the original.""

Whatever, Dude.

Jesus' General has a good response.

I suppose it depends on the act, but the fearsome act of eco-tage in California is arson, and I am willing to put it confidently in the terrorist tactic basket. Fires are difficult to control. The risk of having them spread beyond what you intend (including causing particularly horrible death) is very high.

Hm. Could also be that the act is seen by OTHERS as hard to control and potentially murderous...You can conceivably set up, say, a fire and control it well, but that's not how it's going to appear to others...and you get that fear aspect...

Okay, LJ, you broke my moral construct with the use of teenagers.

If I believed in God, I would think that this is the reason he made teenagers ;)

As an European, I consider the death penalty to be a futile and counterproductive tool for controlling crime in general. In particular, the death penalty using lethal injection strikes me as unreasonable.

If you actually want to execute a human being, there are much more simple ways to do it. In 19th century France, the time from the cell to the decapitation on guillotine was about 10 seconds. The hanging method used on Saddam is also quite effective. The Chinese use, so I've heard, bullet in the neck, a particularly swift method, if you know what you are doing.

If you are going to kill a person, you get a dead body, no matter what. Trying to masquerade the execution into a medical procedure mocks medical profession and tells a tale of the timidity of the people sanctioning this crime. Such politicians definitely do not follow the adage: "May as well hang for a sheep as for a lamb."

Lurker, I would imagine that the guillotine (which may or may not have been painless*, but was certainly extremely quick) would not be popular among modern supporters of the death penalty, especially not in the US, because it's messy. Chop a head off, you get an enormous gush of blood. American methods of killing criminals all seem to be designed to avoid mess: to make it look like a medical procedure.

The guillotine was in use in France right up until 1977 - the death penalty was only abolished in 1981. Hanging was in use in the UK up until 1964. In a typically British kind of way, the death penalty remained on the books for various crimes - arson in royal dockyards, espionage, treason, piracy with violence - until 1998.

*How would anyone know?

Lurker: If you are going to kill a person, you get a dead body, no matter what. Trying to masquerade the execution into a medical procedure mocks medical profession and tells a tale of the timidity of the people sanctioning this crime.

Agree emphatically.

I have a lot of objections to the death penalty, but one of them is that it makes people into executioners.

"In other news, Ace fails either to admit he was wrong or to apologize."

I like the part where Ace explains that Glenn Greenwald is being "a little childish" while he, Ace, is consistently referring to Glenn as "Gleen," for some nitwitty reason or another.

He doesn't appear to know what "fulsome" means, either, but that's not terribly uncommon.

Don't miss the eloquence of comment number 3 (which can't be quoted here due to the posting rules -- but the reasoning! It's so powerful! Ditto #20).

Hilzoy: You may have missed one of the big death penalty stories of the week.

Lurker, I would imagine that the guillotine (which may or may not have been painless*, but was certainly extremely quick) would not be popular among modern supporters of the death penalty, especially not in the US, because it's messy.

Given the nontrivial portion of death penalty supporters who not only want criminals executed as swiftly as possible -- without all those messy, Constitutionally-protected appeals -- but actively want them to suffer, I think you are wrong here. Think about how prison rape is not only treated with a wink and a nod in the US, but sometimes actively alluded to by judges during sentencing of sex offenders, and extrapolate from there.

does terrorism have to involve killing someone, or trying to?

legally, yes. see USA PATRIOT sec 802, definition of "domestic terrorism".

err.. let me fix that: to meet USA PATRIOT's definition, your actions have to be dangerous to human life and intended to influence a population. it doesn't say you have to be intentionally trying to kill someone.

spartikus: I'm pretty sure it was someone at this blog who said it was the job of the Aces/Malkins/Powerline to push the envelop of extremity, so that Fox News and so on would seem moderate.

That's actually Dave Neiwert's "transmitter" theory of right-wing extremism in America. More details at his blog, Orcinus.

Jonas Cord: Not one gay rights terrorist (or even aspiring terrorist) as far as I know, and I'm quite happy to say that.

I dunno. There was that godawful queen who tried to grope me once; that was pretty terrifying in its own pathetic, banal sort of way.

Plus, now I'm giggling at the thought of gay terrorists skulking around, striking from the shadows and turning everything fabulous. Thanks a lot, dude.

Phil: Given the nontrivial portion of death penalty supporters who not only want criminals executed as swiftly as possible -- without all those messy, Constitutionally-protected appeals -- but actively want them to suffer, I think you are wrong here.

The guillotine is swift in terms of method of execution (10 seconds, from strapping down to head dropping in basket, apparently). That has nothing to do with how quick or slow a judicial system is.

A person who actively wants to ensure that a victim executed suffers would not push for a guillotine, which was designed to minimize the pain of execution. (As I said, it's impossible to know if it's painless, but certainly any pain has to be extremely brief.)

And everything about US death sentences suggests that the one thing Americans want from their methods of execution is that they shouldn't be messy: they like the gas chamber, the electric chair, or the lethal injection, all of which sound comfortably clinical. (I've read pro-death penalty people arguing ghoulishly in favor of hanging, but seen no indication that they're aware that hanging isn't a nice clinical death.)

This article about the theatre of the Japanese death penalty may be of interest.

Jes, have you read many firsthand accounts of electrocutions or gassings? Not really very clinical, particularly when they don't work as expected.

On the China topic, they seem to take accountability rather more seriously than we do:

China sentences former drug official to death

The death penalty was slammed on Zheng Xiaoyu by a Beijing court for taking over $850,000 worth of bribes in the form of cash and gifts. Incidently he also received a sentence of seven years' imprisonment for dereliction of duty.

I wonder if he serves the seven years before or after his execution?

Phil: Jes, have you read many firsthand accounts of electrocutions or gassings?

More than I ever wanted to.

Which is why I said they sound "comfortably clinical", not they are.

On the China topic, they seem to take accountability rather more seriously than we do:

I remember well when my wife and I were flying into Kowloon, on approach the pilots reminded us that the penalty for smuggling drugs in or out of the PRC is/was death. As far as I'm aware, the death penalty in China is administered by gunshot to the head. It's possible that the government no longer bills the family for the cost of the shell, though.

That was ten years ago, I ought to have mentioned.

The death penalty in the US is a bizarre combination of brutality and squeamishness. Guillotine or a bullet to the back of the head are both fast and nearly foolproof. As previous posters point out, it's the mess that bothers people. Killing a human being *should* be a nasty thing to see - it is a nasty thing to do, after all.

"Could also be that the act is seen by OTHERS as hard to control and potentially murderous...You can conceivably set up, say, a fire and control it well, but that's not how it's going to appear to others...and you get that fear aspect..."

You can conceivably set up a fire and control it well, but in reality you can't. Especially when you are sneaking on to someone else's property and trying to get out without getting caught--you can't just stick around with a fire extinguisher in case things get out of control. You also can't set up the scene to make sure it can't get out of control--it is someone else's property.

Most of that vandalism seems to be intended to control people through fear. Whether it is to keep women from wearing furs by throwing paint, or burning down new housing developments, or releasing private information about workers for laboratories involving vivisection, the implication is that anyone else who buids new homes, works for a lab, or wears a fur is also a target. Conform, or be a target.

It seems like terrorism to me.

does terrorism have to involve killing someone, or trying to?

The legal definition for domestic terrorism is found in the US Code Title 18, Chapter 113B, Section 2331:


(5) the term ``domestic terrorism'' means activities that--
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a
violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any
State;
(B) appear to be intended--
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by
intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass
destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of
the United States.

Intent to kill doesn't appear to be required, any illegal act that is dangerous to human life qualifies.

My guess is that any act of arson is likely to qualify, because someone is going to try to put the fire out, at some risk to their own life. If the perpetrators merely wanted to make it uneconomic to sell SUVs, there are other ways to do so that don't create a hazard to human life.

Spiking trees also presents a potential hazard, which is why the official position of Earth First is that they no longer endorse spiking.

Simple destruction of property, IMO, does not qualify as terrorism, whether it scares people or not. Non-violent and/or non-destructive acts, no matter how harmful in whatever other way, are certainly not terrorism. They might be illegal or otherwise actionable under the law, but they are not terrorism.

Thanks -

"Non-violent and/or non-destructive acts, no matter how harmful in whatever other way, are certainly not terrorism."

When the KKK had a massive campaign of burning crosses, including in front of people's homes, that wasn't terrorism?

I thought that was free speech...

I should have included this in what I was quoting and responding to: "Simple destruction of property, IMO, does not qualify as terrorism, whether it scares people or not."

Another query: if Kirstallnacht hadn't involved any killing or assaults on people, but just the attacks on property, would you then say it didn't constitute acts of terrorism?

Kristallnacht, that is.

BTW, I'm not sure why we have to accept the Patriot Act definition of "terrorism" for purposes of the Patriot Act as the definition of "terrorism" for all purposes.

I'm not sure why we have to accept the Patriot Act definition of "terrorism" ...

sure. but if we're talking about what the Alabama Department of Homeland Security considers "terrorism", it's a good one to start with.

When the KKK had a massive campaign of burning crosses, including in front of people's homes, that wasn't terrorism?

if Kirstallnacht hadn't involved any killing or assaults on people, but just the attacks on property, would you then say it didn't constitute acts of terrorism?

Good points.

If all the KKK had ever done was burn crosses, with no long-standing history of murder, mutilation, and public lynching, I'm not sure if cross burning would be considered to be terror or not. IMO it would depend on whether the act was seen to contain a credible threat of harm, or not.

Ditto Kristallnacht. If the worst the Nazis had ever done was trash the property of German Jews, in the absence of calling for the expulsion or extermination of Jews as a matter of public policy, maybe it would be terror and maybe not. Again, IMO it would depend on whether the act was seen to contain a threat of harm, or not.

It's hard to answer this clearly because it's hard to separate out these particular acts from the actual, and extremely threatening, contexts in which they did actually occur.

This leads me to wonder if the definition of terrorism should be expanded to include not only acts dangerous to human life, but acts that are cleearly intended to create fear of harm. In other words, not just the battery, but the assault as well.

The kinds of vandalism frequently associated with so-called eco-terrorists and animal rights activists -- spoiling experimental crop fields, releasing lab animals, destroying lab equipment, pouring paint on fur coats -- IMO *are not* acts of terror, because they are not dangerous to human life, and aren't reasonably interpreted to threaten harm to human life.

Arson is another story IMO because it clearly creates a hazard above and beyond the destruction of property.

Thanks -

I've actually never understood this: is it impossible to come up with something lethal, non-painful, and effective?
==========
Of course not.

I am told by medical professionals that breathing a 100% nitrogen atmosphere actually satisfies these conditions. The victim passes out in about 30 seconds, without ever feeling like they are suffocating (since there's no CO2 build-up in the blood). Irreversible brain damage occurs after five minutes, and the heart stops after about 15 minutes.

I'm old enough to remember when computer centers were equipped with halon fire suppression systems. Halon is an odorless colorless gas, and the halon "dump" displaced the oxygen in the room and put out the fire. The use of such systems was discontinued at least in part because of the risks associated with leaks. Halon is heavier than air and, in the case of a leak, pools under the raised floor. A tech who stuck his/her head under the floor to work on cabling in such a situation would pass out without noticing, and suffocate quietly.

I'm not opposed to the death penalty in theory, but the error rate in the US is so high that I find myself opposed in practice.

I've actually never understood this: is it impossible to come up with something lethal, non-painful, and effective?

Low oxygen atmospheres. The industrial gas companies have rigidly enforced safety standards, simply because it is too easy to kill yourself with absolutely no warning. People who have been revived will tell you that in 90%+ nitrogen atmosphere you will be unconscious within a minute without even feeling dizzy.

"It's hard to answer this clearly because it's hard to separate out these particular acts from the actual, and extremely threatening, contexts in which they did actually occur."

Exactly. That's why definitions that leave out context leave out a crucial and necessary aspect of whether the usage is appropriate.

But definitions aren't straitjackets: there's absolutely no reason whatever to come up with one usage of "terrorism" that covers all relevant contingencies. Words also have different meanings in different contexts, and when used for different purposes.

Struggling to construct One Perfect All-Encompassing Definition is a pointless waste of time (or at best, a game.)

there's absolutely no reason whatever to come up with one usage of "terrorism" that covers all relevant contingencies

I'm not sure I agree.

Speaking of context -- in our current context, being categorized as a terrorist makes you liable to "special handling" as far as criminal process goes. See Hamdan, Arar, Padilla, et al.

So far, that has only been applied to acts of terror carried out by Muslims. At least, as far as we know. I would not like to see that extended to, for instance, "eco-terrorists" or animal rights activists, unless or until they begin doing things like killing people, deliberately, in order to change political behavior through threat of harm.

Actually, I'd like to see elements of due process returned to those they are currently denied to, but I think you get my drift.

Since we live in a time when status as a terrorist can put you, literally, in a hole from which you have no hope of escape or relief, I'd like the definition of "terror" to be very, very, very crisp.

Letting the monkeys go is not terror.
Dismantling a McDonalds a la Jose Bove, not terror.
Destroying a field of genetically modified corn, not terror.
Vandalizing industrial equipment in ways that makes them non-functional but does not put human life at risk, not terror.

All of the above are illegal. I don't advocate or recommend any of them. But, none of them are terror. There are, however, constituencies that would characterize each as "eco-terrorism", and would advocate treating folks who do them as being the equivalent of Al Qaeda.

It's no game.

Thanks -

But definitions aren't straitjackets

i'll keep that in mind. :)

"Since we live in a time when status as a terrorist can put you, literally, in a hole from which you have no hope of escape or relief, I'd like the definition of 'terror' to be very, very, very crisp."

Yes, that's exactly why it's a bad idea to attempt to construct One Sweeping Absolute All-Encompassing Definition. Aside from the fact that that's not how language works. Blurring distinctions is almost always a bad idea.

Whether or not it's appropriate to use the word "terrorism" to describe something will always vary in context. Meanings always change according to context and usage.

Letting the monkeys go is not terror.
Dismantling a McDonalds a la Jose Bove, not terror.
Destroying a field of genetically modified corn, not terror.
Vandalizing industrial equipment in ways that makes them non-functional but does not put human life at risk, not terror.
I don't think one can usefully say this, as sweeping, all-encompassing, no exceptions, ukases. Context matters, as I'd hoped I'd made clear in my prior comment, which you previously agreed with.

If a person or group is, for instance, repeatedly setting fire to fields of corn, with the goal of terrorizing farmers into stopping growing it, that might perfectly reasonably be called "terrorism," for example, whereas a single incident wouldn't be.

All of the statements above that X "isn't terror" are true, but that's because "terror" is something felt by people, not by inanimate objects. I quite agree that acts aren't terror. Terror is what people feel about some acts.

I don't think that's what you were trying to say, though.

(Also, of course, "terror" isn't "terrorism": quite different concepts, they are; but either way, context and intent will always affect whether or not it makes sense to describe a particular act as one of "terrorism" or not.)

"There are, however, constituencies that would characterize each as 'eco-terrorism', and would advocate treating folks who do them as being the equivalent of Al Qaeda."

I think the larger issue here is that no one should be treated the way we've been treating those suspected of being connected to al Qaeda.

Applying those -- "protocols" is an overly-dignified word for Dilawarization -- to other alleged "terrorists" doesn't make it any worse than it was in the first place.

You know, every age has been want to come up with crimes that do not deserve the usual criminal process or merit otherwise unusually heavy punishment.

In medieval Europe, heresy was such a crime. In the early modern age, witchcraft was another. During the Georgian British era, treason was a crime which tainted the offender totally. That's why your Founding Fathers took pains to describe it in the constitution. As narrowly as possible, compared to the far-reaching British definition. In the 19th century Europe, anarchism and nihilism were codewords which carried about the same meaning as terrorism today. After the second world war, communism was a catch-all for all improper political activity.

No crime, how heinous it might be, can merit discarding due process and the benefit of doubt. Otherwise, we are on the slippery slope Russel is demonstrating: evaluating which crimes merit exclusion outside the humankind. This is extremely destructive and sets democracy in grave danger. Beware, dear friends.

I don't think that's what you were trying to say, though.

No, it isn't. And, your point about my use of the word "terror" here is apt.

What I was trying to say, and still maintain, is that the actions I described are not acts of terrorism. The reason they are not is that they do not involve or intend harm, or threat of harm, to people.

If they did, I'd likely think differently.

I'll also stick with my point that, frustrating as it may be to draw a bright line, it's important to have a crisp definition of what we mean, legally, by "terrorism".

The bogey of terrorism has become the new Red Scare, with all of the attendant excesses and abuses. The tighter the leash that can be placed on that, IMO, the better.

Thanks -

If a person or group is, for instance, repeatedly setting fire to fields of corn, with the goal of terrorizing farmers into stopping growing it, that might perfectly reasonably be called "terrorism," for example...

How is that "terrorism" as distinct from good ol' fashioned "arson"?

"I'll also stick with my point that, frustrating as it may be to draw a bright line, it's important to have a crisp definition of what we mean, legally, by 'terrorism'."

Legally, yes. "Legally" is a very specific and tightly bound form of usage. Just so we're clear that legal definitions aren't the only usable or legitimate definitions or usage.

"What I was trying to say, and still maintain, is that the actions I described are not acts of terrorism. The reason they are not is that they do not involve or intend harm, or threat of harm, to people."

Previously, you wrote this:

If all the KKK had ever done was burn crosses, with no long-standing history of murder, mutilation, and public lynching, I'm not sure if cross burning would be considered to be terror or not. IMO it would depend on whether the act was seen to contain a credible threat of harm, or not.

Ditto Kristallnacht. If the worst the Nazis had ever done was trash the property of German Jews, in the absence of calling for the expulsion or extermination of Jews as a matter of public policy, maybe it would be terror and maybe not. Again, IMO it would depend on whether the act was seen to contain a threat of harm, or not.

Now, I thought that when you wrote this, that by putting it into the conditional, with "[i]f all the KKK had ever done" and "[i]f the worst the Nazis had ever done," concluding that "maybe it would be terror and maybe not," that you agreed that considering the reality, which didn't meet the terms of the conditional, these were most certainly acts of terror.

But your subsequent statement goes back to contradicting that. So now I'm confused again, I'm afraid. Do you agree or disagree that the KKK burning of crosses in front of people's homes or business, in the context of reality, constitutes terrorism, or not? Ditto that if Kristallnacht had taken place with no direct harming of humans, did it constitute terrorism or not?

That is, "terrorism" not as a legal definition, but as a perfectly reasonable general usage.

Because I'd say that if those acts aren't acts of "terrorism," then the term has little useful meaning. I don't agree that those who committed these acts were without "threat of harm" to "people." I agree with you earlier, when you stated that "it would depend on whether the act was seen to contain a credible threat of harm, or not."

But I'm hoping you can clarify where you agree and disagree with yourself. :-)

I'd also say that it's perfectly reasonable to say that the act of burning down someone's home or business, against their will, "harms" the owner, even though it doesn't directly physically harm them. I don't agree that the only reasonable definition of "terrorism" is "terror of personal physical harm." Terror of other forms of major damage to one's life is still terror, isn't it?

That doesn't mean we have to include all crimes of damage to property as "terrorism," of course, but that's also because we're not trying to write laws here, but to encompass all meanings of "terrorism," and what's reasonable usage.

"How is that 'terrorism' as distinct from good ol' fashioned 'arson'?"

Pretty clearly by intent, I think.

Either an act is intended to terrorize, or it isn't.

Either I'm on a campaign to get farmers as a whole, or some particular group of farmers, to do or do not do something, by terrorizing them, or I'm not. What I do to terrorize people doesn't change whether or not I am terrorizing people.

Similarly, one can blackmail someone by any number of means, over any number of reasons, but blackmailing is blackmailing.

Terrorism, like treason, "is a charge invented by the winners as an excuse for hanging the losers."

Or at least, it seems that way sometimes. Gary, people do lots of things that seem intended to change conduct via terror. Heck, any demagogue tries to make people scared of the other side. So did the guy who gave me a headache on the subway some years back by screaming repeatedly that Jeeeeezus would send us all to hell. But I wouldn't want to see him end up in Gitmo. (Bellevue, maybe.) Terrorism, in the sense of something one must combat with the full range of governmental powers, and maybe make up a few just for the purpose, should mean something more than that.

Later, Hugh informs us that all Powerline writings have been insribed onto abyssal abysmal granite and launched into orbit.

I've fixed the typo! :-)

Aren't the ASPCA and the NRA "single-issue" organizations? Considering that actions by the NRA has led to the death of multiple citizens, I think they could be labled a "terrorist organization".

"Gary, people do lots of things that seem intended to change conduct via terror."

Sure. Obviously, terrorism isn't merely intent: it's intent and a certain level of violence (or at least threatened violence).

I just wouldn't, myself, insist that if the violence doesn't directly injure a human, it isn't terrorism. I'd call a wave of church/mosque/shul fires that intended to terrorize (and not just because the arsonists love fire, or thought it would be fun) members of a particular religion, "terrorism," under most circumstances. Ditto burning down or blowing up abortion clinics. And so on.

But that's me. Others are entitled to their own usages, within reason and defensibility.

I don't think the focus should be on constructing an extremely narrow definition of "terrorism" so that we don't sweep all sorts of disparate, and relatively unthreatening, people up with extreme measures against terrorism, if that's the ghost issue hovering behind this discussion, but instead that the focus should remain not engaging in constructing dangerous new exceptions in law to fight terrorists and terrorism.

"Considering that actions by the NRA has led to the death of multiple citizens, I think they could be labled a 'terrorist organization'."

On the other hand, I so wouldn't defend calling a lobbying organization a "terrorist organization," no matter how much I disagreed with their views.

Jimininy cricket, any bright person should be able to construct arguments at that level against any political lobbying organization (or individual!) you don't like.

The ACLU? They work to stop certain methods used in the fight against terrorists: they're a terrorist organization!

Noam Chomsky? Defends terrorism. That makes him a terrorist!

The Catholic Church? Threatens to excommunicate politicians who hold views they don't like: a terrorist organization using blackmail against our government!

The Boy Scouts? A militaristic organization that seeks to indoctrinate our youth in organized uniformed hierarchies that are the prototype for fascist organizations, and the first step in truly massive organized terrorism!

And so on.

Ever heard of freedom of speech? Even for ideas you hate, such as presumably the NRA's ideas about gun rights?

Legally, yes. "Legally" is a very specific and tightly bound form of usage. Just so we're clear that legal definitions aren't the only usable or legitimate definitions or usage.

We are on the same page.

Do you agree or disagree that the KKK burning of crosses in front of people's homes or business, in the context of reality, constitutes terrorism, or not?

I absolutely agree that, in the context in which they occurred, cross burning and Kristallnacht were clear examples of acts of terror, both as "acts of terror" is commonly used and legally.

Terror of other forms of major damage to one's life is still terror, isn't it?

My gut reaction to this is "Yes".

Burning down someone's house because it is that person's house, or destroying their business or property with the intent of bringing them to ruin, are acts directed as much toward persons as toward property. If these actions are taken with the intent of changing that person's, or any person's, political behavior through intimidation, it's terrorism.

"Do what I say you should do, or I will destroy you". That's terrorism.

The distinction I'm trying to draw here is between acts that create a credible threat to a person's safety and security, and acts that simply destroy property.

The FBI now says that "eco-terrorism" is the greatest domestic threat in the US. Congress last year passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, in which acts of "animal enterprise terror" include:

(A) intentionally damag(ing) or caus(ing) the loss of any real or personal property (including animals or records) used by an animal enterprise, or any real or personal property of a person or entity having a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise
So, let the rats free down at the behavioral psych lab and you're an animal enterprise terrorist. It's the law.

I think all of that is wrong. Terrorism is using the threat of harm -- personal harm -- to intimidate people into doing what you want them to do. Terrorism is not making them repeat their graduate research experiment because the monkey got away, or sitting in a tree to keep it from being logged, or blocking a logging road, or cutting drift nets, or even disabling industrial equipment through sabotage.

These things may all be upsetting, annoying, inconvenient, expensive, and even illegal, but they are not acts of terrorism.

Terrorism has become the new card to play. If you can label something as "terrorism", noone will dare defend it. You are free to criminalize it as you wish, and to take whatever extraordinary measures you see fit to suppress it.

I think it's important to head that off at the pass.

Thanks -

the focus should remain not engaging in constructing dangerous new exceptions in law to fight terrorists and terrorism.

Agreed.

oh, BTW, Plame was "covert".

On the other hand, I so wouldn't defend calling a lobbying organization a "terrorist organization," no matter how much I disagreed with their views.

Gary, I was responding to the post:

The site included the groups under a description of what it called "single-issue" terrorists. That group includes people who feel they are trying to create a better world, the Web site said. It said that in some communities, law enforcement officers consider certain single issue groups to be a threat.

If gay rights groups fit this category, then how much more does the NRA? I don't see the NRA as a "terrorist organization" (but it's close, just behind the tobacco companies), but this Web site should have.

Quoted without comment:

Gary: the leftists are such terrorist-loving Muslims that they deserve to be hung, then shot, then rubbed in pig fact, and then tortured -- just on general principles. Don't bother me with petty details about trivial points of "fact" and "evidence"!

Either an act is intended to terrorize, or it isn't.

Well yes and no. Are you arguing that terrorism is akin to hate crimes in that the specific action undertaken is in some sense separate from the crime? Otherwise, you'll end up having classify, say, Son Of Sam as a terrorist purely on the basis of his intent and while he wasn't out to spread sunshine and light I don't think he should be put into the same category as bin Laden or Zarqawi. YMMV.

"pig fact"?

I'm guessing: facts that make one unclean. And then I'm out of ideas.

Pig facts are obviously what a pig factory churns out. If you try to sabotage the machines and a pig factotum is harmed or killed, you become a terrorist.

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