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August 25, 2006

The Needleless Haystack
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:35 AM * 65 comments

To what should be no one’s surprise:

No Terrorist Threat on Aborted Flight

HAARLEM, Netherlands — Prosecutors said yesterday they found no evidence of a terrorist threat aboard a Northwest Airlines flight to India that returned to Amsterdam.

They are releasing all 12 passengers arrested after the emergency landing.

Foreign Affairs, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, asks a pertinent question in the Sep/Oct 2006 issue: Is There Still a Terrorist Threat?
On the first page of its founding manifesto, the massively funded Department of Homeland Security intones, “Today’s terrorists can strike at any place, at any time, and with virtually any weapon.”

But if it is so easy to pull off an attack and if terrorists are so demonically competent, why have they not done it? Why have they not been sniping at people in shopping centers, collapsing tunnels, poisoning the food supply, cutting electrical lines, derailing trains, blowing up oil pipelines, causing massive traffic jams, or exploiting the countless other vulnerabilities that, according to security experts, could so easily be exploited?

One reasonable explanation is that almost no terrorists exist in the United States and few have the means or the inclination to strike from abroad. But this explanation is rarely offered.

When we combine that commonsense observation with the legal framework of treating international terrorists like pirates, we could do away with most of the unAmerican nonsense that the Bushites have burdened us with.

A return to rationality, a return to our core values, could start this November with voting the conservatives out.

Comments on The Needleless Haystack:
#1 ::: Dave Lartigue ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 09:24 AM:

I totally get what you're saying, but it's a tricky argument to make. To people who have no sense of nuance, as the recently-interested-in-semantics right wing are, it sounds too much like you're saying "There are no terrorists." And of course, the next time some bunch of yahoos come up with a half-baked terror plot that wouldn't have worked anyway and it gets trumpeted all over the news, the True Believers will be more than happy to point out how you said there were no actual terrorists and aren't you tired of being wrong?

What we have learned from all the "terror plots" on and since 9/11 is that these people are cursed with a bizarre fixation on air travel. You point out ways one could easily and effectively have most Americans wetting themselves in fear even more than they are right now, and it's not hard to think of more, but since they don't involve airplanes, these ideas seem to be rejected by those who would most like to carry them out. (It should go without saying, but obviously doesn't, that I do not advocate or hope for such things.)

Someone recently suggested that we reply to "terror plots" with "anti-terror". That is, treat the arrest of 21 people trying to take down a plane with Gatorade as a ho-hum occurance, and fail to give it the attention and sense of panic that these people want. I'm opposed to that. I think it's quite valuable to continue to react with horror whenever air travel is concerned with such a plot in an attempt to reinforce this notion that only plans involving airplanes are worth pursuing, since that's an area we seem to have focused on defending at the risk of every other wide-open-security-hole in the country.

#2 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 09:28 AM:

It's damn expensive for foreign terrorist cells to operate here in the US. It's cheaper to operate in Iraq.

#3 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 09:31 AM:

Jim, I'm curious what the appropriate behavior in the NW Airlines situation would be, under the "treat it like piracy" policy.

Make them walk the plank?

#4 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 09:32 AM:

It isn't a matter of saying 'there are no terrorists'. It is, rather, a matter of saying, there are means of dealing with such villains and those means, while excluding them from protection, preserve civil liberties. Voting the current set of idiots out would be a good start (though I am constrained to note that a growing number of conservatives, like Andrew Sullivan and Bob Barr, don't consider the Bushies to be conservatives -- I once thought it would be a cold day in Hell when I agreed with Barr, and must now report that the Styx is frozen, Tartarus is iced over, and it is snowing in Phlegethon), I agree, but if and when a more sensible administration and congressional majority are in place they need to avoid listening to the voices that will still be saying that we won't be safe till all of us are in prison.

Freedom cannot be defended by abolishing it. It is as simple as that.

#5 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 09:41 AM:

Without knowning the details of the Northwest Airlines affair (other than panicky Air Marshals running up and down the aisles waving weapons -- at least no one got shot), no, "treat them like pirates" has no relevance to that situation.

Treat Them Like Pirates adds centuries of examples and case law and international agreements, all fully tested and debugged, to the general problem of international terrorist groups.

No matter what you do you're not going to stop the Tim McVeighs or the Lee Boyd Malvos of the world. The more organized groups are vulnerable to the same tools and techniques that are used sucessfully against organized crime of any nature. Pirates, as stateless political actors, have various particular strengths and vulnerabilities. These are known, and can be exploited. And would be, if anyone a) smart and b) interested in stopping terrorism were in charge.

#6 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 09:51 AM:

Unfortunately, while I favor voting out the so-called conservatives as much as the next sane person, I doubt it will return us to rationality. The Democrats, or the uncrazy Republicans, will feel compelled to continue most of the charade.

#7 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 09:54 AM:

Other than the two WTC attacks, how many so called "terrorist attacks" in the US were conducted by foreigners? ISTR the rest of them were carried out by home grown wackos, who don't need visas, can purchase weapons without a lot of surveillance, and have access to equipment and chemicals in country already.

It's probably a good thing the foreign terrorists are so fixated on trying to blow up planes; consider how well guarded fully loaded school buses are in this country every day, for example. The chaos that would be created by 20 men nationwide all blowing up school buses simultaneously would be far worse than trying to blow up a handful of transatlantic airliners.

#8 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 10:31 AM:

When did subways and trains become incisible to terrorists? I see no fixation on airplanes here, except in the minds (such as they may be) of government officials.

And I like the idea of using the laws on air piracy as something besides filler paper.

#9 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 10:56 AM:

When did subways and trains become incisible to terrorists? I see no fixation on airplanes here, except in the minds (such as they may be) of government officials.

The last two publicised attacks inside the USA by foreign terrorists was done with airliners. A third extremely minor attack was done in an airport.

If there are foreign terrorists prepared to do further attacks in the USA, they're holding off for now. Maybe they're following Napoleon's dictum: Never interrupt your enemy while he's making a mistake.

#10 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 11:22 AM:

Other than the two WTC attacks, how many so called "terrorist attacks" in the US were conducted by foreigners? ISTR the rest of them were carried out by home grown wackos, who don't need visas, can purchase weapons without a lot of surveillance, and have access to equipment and chemicals in country already.

There have been minor incidents aimed at specific other foreigners or foreign groups -- e.g., Armenian terrorists going after Turkish diplomatic targets in the 1980s. But otherwise, yes.

It's probably a good thing the foreign terrorists are so fixated on trying to blow up planes; consider how well guarded fully loaded school buses are in this country every day, for example. The chaos that would be created by 20 men nationwide all blowing up school buses simultaneously would be far worse than trying to blow up a handful of transatlantic airliners.

Blowing up school busses seems like something only domestic terrorists would be interested in. Foreign terrorists aren't generally interested in creating "chaos" in the US; they're interested in striking dramatic, symbolic blows that will look impressive to other foreigners, so they're interested in targets with international recognition.

#11 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 11:35 AM:

Peter Erwin: Not hard.

For maximum impact, hit a national monument when school children are there on a field trip...

#12 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 11:48 AM:

A shopping mall on one of the days after Thanksgiving. Halloween night. Or New Year's Eve. (Parents one place, children someplace else, many people out at parties or travelling to/from someplace.) Any major freeway interchange or a bridge, at rush hour on Friday of a long weekend.

What I had in mind, earlier, was London and Madrid. Also the school and theater attacks in Russia. (As far as I know, 9/11 was the only airline terrorism in the US. All the other terrorist activities I've heard of have involved trucks and cars.)

#13 ::: Sugar ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 11:49 AM:

"How stupid of me not to have thought of that myself." Given that people inclined to kill and terrorise seem to be able to do so with minimal training and resources (Madrid planned and executed in six months; two teenagers were responsible for the Columbine massacre, and school shootings are done by children) this is obvious. Maybe some restrictions on weapon ownership might be in order?

Personally I think the reason terrorists have concentrated on transport so far is because there are a lot of people very close together, and the aftermath is so disruptive (pace the latest restrictions on flying.) The Bali bombings on nightclubs satisfy the first of these conditions, and are seen as intrinsically sinful places by Islamists; the 7/7 bombers considered blowing up the Ministry of Sound, IIRC.

Subject to a workable definition of terrorism, I am cautiously optimitic about Treating Them Like Pirates. Certainly I think a coalition of nations as seen in Paris, 1856, is plausible.

No. 2 Steve Buchheit: Granted, but why shouldn't home-grown cells attack America directly? According to Wikipedia there are over 500,000 Muslims in the United States; statistically, there must be some, though I admit that's a pretty small minority.

#14 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 12:16 PM:

Sugar --

The typical American terrorist is white, male, and very conservative.

The stuff that is regarded as "Islamic terrorism", is most typically a response to perceived invasion, rather than a culture clash as such.

Responding to it on those terms would be much more sensible than any sort of culture clash rhetoric, because, on the whole, nobody likes terrorists. It's only when they can be perceived as something else that they get any support -- starting with the US' Founding Fathers' experiences -- and helping that change in perception is gods-rotted bad strategy.

Which is presumably why Shrub does it.

#15 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 01:19 PM:

Sugar, actually most of our "home-grown terrorists" aren't muslims but racial extremists (on all sides of the issue). American culture has a great way of decompressing the political ideals of foreign terrorism followers when they've been here for some time. Most people may feel their vote doesn't count, but they don't feel fully alienated and disempowered. Those that do act out, but they don't find much traction in the population. A higher-level of concern would be if foriegn terrorists could "out-source" to local groups.

#16 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 01:23 PM:

I do not like the idea of viewing terrorists as pirates -- simply because it can be used by this Administration and others as legal cover for things like extraordinary rendition and violation of the Geneva Conventions. The article seems to point in this direction, to wit:

"TO UNDERSTAND THE POTENTIAL OF DEFINING TERRORISM as a species of piracy, consider the words of the 16th-century jurist Alberico Gentili's De jure belli: "Pirates are common enemies, and they are attacked with impunity by all, because they are without the pale of the law. They are scorners of the law of nations; hence they find no protection in that law.""

"Until 1856, international law recognized only two legal entities: people and states. People were subject to the laws of their own governments; states were subject to the laws made amongst themselves. The Declaration of Paris created a third entity: people who lacked both the individual rights and protections of law for citizens and the legitimacy and sovereignty of states. This understanding of pirates as a legally distinct category of international criminals persists to the present day, and was echoed in the 1958 and 1982 U.N. Conventions on the Law of the Sea."

Emphases mine.

#17 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 01:44 PM:

Notice that people who shoot abortion doctors are never called terrorists. They are, of course; they're trying to use fear to bring about political change. They're not classic Red Army terrorists, but neither is OBL.

I think we should send THEM to Gitmo, and try the "terrorists" there now in legitimate civilian courts. World'd be a better place.

#18 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 01:54 PM:

Given that people inclined to kill and terrorise seem to be able to do so with minimal training and resources (Madrid planned and executed in six months; two teenagers were responsible for the Columbine massacre, and school shootings are done by children) this is obvious. Maybe some restrictions on weapon ownership might be in order?

So, outlaw box cutters? Diesel fuel and fertilizer? Make it illegal to purchase glass bottles and gasoline?

Since firearms haven't been used in some of the biggest attacks, I believe you have committed a wild Non causa pro causa fallacy to attribute them as root cause. Eitehr that, or a Red Herring.

#19 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 02:15 PM:

Greg, for shame. As far as I know Red Herrings (nor any kind of fish product, for that matter) have NEVER been used in a terrorist attack!

Seriously, though: box cutters are forbidden to persons under 18 in New York City. And with good reason; many a schoolyard scuffle that would have been forgotten the next day can be transformed into a hospitalization or a homicide by the addition of a box cutter.

Personally, I think that adolescents should have no access to weapons of any kind, including automobiles, but I realize that this is a very unpopular position. And yes, I mean adolescents: I think there's nothing wrong with a ten-year-old being taught to shoot. Soon as he sprouts pubes, though, lock up the guns until he's 18. Or 25.

#20 ::: JeffAllen ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 02:42 PM:

Malthus,
Geneva Convention is international law concerning warfare & warriors. No, it wouldn't apply to pirates. But international law concerning pirates would. I believe that's the point.

#21 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 02:45 PM:

Ah, well, maybe I misunderstood the intent, but it sounded like Sugar was talking about a broad-spectrum weapons laws for all people, not just kids. And while I can go along with some restrictions for weapons, the point is that weapons-control-laws can't solve the problem. You can't outlaw everything that can be turned into a weapon.

Using this nonsense as an excuse to disarm the population via gun control laws, is no different than using this nonsense as an excuse to demand we submit to random stops, baggage checks, cavity searches, and the like. (Note I support gun control laws, but not gun disarmament laws.)

We must not defer our rights, authority, and power to the government. If we defer to the government, the government goes from serving us and representing the people, to ordering us and repressing the people.

Of course, those in government want us to defer to them. They want us to give them absolute power, and they'll use whatever excuse is handy to justify it. But if we succumb to their excuses, their fear, and defer our authority to them, then we deserve the tyranny we get.

#22 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 03:23 PM:

Bruce Schneier links to another flight diverted by the "threat" of an ipod that accidentally fell into the airplane toilet.

The culprit's account.

Also, according to BoingBoing, the TSA has reclassified the states of matter, declaring that ice is liquid, not solid.

#23 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 03:24 PM:

Xopher: I've been using the phrase "anti-abortion terrorists" (and -terrorism) for years. Just because it's not treated that way by the mass media doesn't mean ordinary people can't call a spade a spade. Perhaps if more of us did, the idea would start to take hold...

#24 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 03:43 PM:

Greg: I entirely agree.

Lee: If I had the time and energy I'd start a "Christian Terrorists" site with a list, with pictures and crimes, of all the self-defined "Christians" (CHINOS) who've done terrible things in the name of "God."

Or maybe that should be "Christianists." Or "Christo-Fascists." Take some of the freeper memes and throw them back.

I wish I believed in Hell so these people could burn in it.

#25 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 03:54 PM:

#22

I'd reply with "holy crap", but might get dinged for possible unintended puns. That's got to be some of the dumbest bureaucratic bullshit I've heard about in a while now. Because someone on the crew declared a problem, everyone had to follow suit. I wonder just what it would take to undeclare a problem. I mean, what if a flight attendendant found an ipod on the floor, thought it a detonator, declared a problem, and then realized what it was. Can they undeclare a problem? Or is it once the Keystone cops have been activated, do you have to let them run their program to the end?

holy crap.

#26 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 04:07 PM:

Xopher: Seriously, though: box cutters are forbidden to persons under 18 in New York City.

How the heck do you enforce that? Strip-search every highschooler who works in a supermarket?

(Answer, of course: They just slap another charge on top of any poor kid who gets caught with one. But it's not like kids have to buy these things.)

#27 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 05:04 PM:

It's illegal to sell them to them. And they get caught in the metal detectors when they go into the school building.

Cuts them down. Not out. The perfect should not be the enemy of the good, and just because you can't get them all is no excuse for doing nothing.

#28 ::: Sugar ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 05:33 PM:

No. 14 Graydon:

Forgive me my blinkered viewpoint. I assumed we were primarily discussing Islamic terrorism. So I agree with your points (especially about a response to perceived invasion) but I think the article implies that there aren't any "home-grown" Muslim terrorists.

No. 15 Steve Buchheit:

Sugar, actually most of our "home-grown terrorists" aren't muslims but racial extremists (on all sides of the issue).

Yes, entirely (see above.)

American culture has a great way of decompressing the political ideals of foreign terrorism followers when they've been here for some time.

If you say so; I've never been to the United States. If a (Muslim) terrorist cell can assemble in Leeds, I reasoned, why not in Lubbock? It hasn't, therefore there aren't any potential terrorists, or they're too disorganised to be any threat, and no foreign groups can "out-source" plots to them.

Maybe some restrictions on weapon ownership might be in order?

Sarcasm, I'm afraid, pure and simple. It's obviously impossible to outlaw anything that might be used as a weapon, but why be so free over weapons specifically designed to kill? However, I concede weapons controls wouldn't stop terrorism; to me, the United States simply seems more violent than England.

#29 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 05:38 PM:

The terrorist organisation that has had the greatest impact over time on the United States has been the purely home-grown Ku Klux Klan. That has been most effectively dealt with by legal and constitutional means (though I gather that Raid also helps).

#30 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 06:11 PM:

Sarcasm, I'm afraid, pure and simple.

ah.

to me, the United States simply seems more violent than England.

Could be. I have no hard data either way.

#31 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 06:46 PM:

Fragano: The terrorist organisation that has had the greatest impact over time on the United States has been the purely home-grown Ku Klux Klan. That has been most effectively dealt with by legal and constitutional means (though I gather that Raid also helps).

Superman also helped wipe out the Klan.

Really.

#32 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 06:49 PM:

Mitch Wagner: I know. Specifically, the Klavern in East Point, GA.

#33 ::: Rebecca Borgstrom ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 07:00 PM:

> How the heck do you enforce (a ban on pre-18 box
> cutter possession)?

Scatter large boxes throughout the city. Most of these boxes will contain gold or miscellaneous treasure. However, some randomly selected boxes will instead contain police officers ready to spring. In addition, opening a gold or treasure box will sound an alarm and in response to that alarm police officers within a certain radius should methodically converge on the box-opener. Make sure that the boxes are too tough to open without a box cutter and mark them with slang of the fresh, hip sort that will render the boxes inaccessible to prospectors over 18.

Rebecca

#34 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 07:03 PM:

scarily enough, that might actually work....

#35 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 07:04 PM:

#23 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 03:24 PM:

Xopher: I've been using the phrase "anti-abortion terrorists" (and -terrorism) for years. Just because it's not treated that way by the mass media doesn't mean ordinary people can't call a spade a spade. Perhaps if more of us did, the idea would start to take hold...

Terrorists, certainly. But "forced gestation" or "forced organ donation" would be far more accurate terms than "anti-abortion." They aren't merely trying to stop a particular medical procedure, they're conducting a wide-front campaign to force women to become and remain pregnant against their wills, and mandate that one human being can be forced to use their body for the benefit of another against their will.

(Why stop with the female uterus? Why not force blood donation, or kidney donation? It's a matter of life)

#36 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 07:09 PM:

breeder terrorists?

(too much caffeeine today. don't mind me.)

#37 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 07:53 PM:

Sorry, Greg. "Breeder Terrorists" are the people who beat up gays in the street. The guys who killed Matthew Shepard? Breeder Terrorists.

Just as bad, but not the same thing at all. Heavy overlap in the people, but conceptually quite different.

#38 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 08:09 PM:

gorram. how's about "reproductive terrorist"?

I lost count after the sixth Mountain Dew.

still have a ways to go tonight.

#39 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 08:49 PM:

"Reproductive terrorist" is nice.

But I think there may be a problem in separating "reproduction" from other ways a body can be co-opted for the benefit of another person, against the will of the person who's body is in question.

The whole pro-life/anti-abortion/forced-gestation/etc. movement is focused on the idea that reproduction is something Very Very Different from other things human bodies can do, and Very Very Special.

Sure, it's a great thing to be able to do when you want to do it.

But it is very far from the only way in which one human can be co-opted for the benefit of another, and far from the only way those people want to control human bodies against a human's will.

Forcing someone to live in pain when they would prefer to die before the pain becomes unbearable. Forcing someone to undergo invasive medical treatments without their consent (e.g., long-term tube feeding.) Forcing someone to reproduce against their will (criminalizing abortion in the case of rape or requiring parental/spousal notification, which amounts to consent if the parent/spouse can prevent the abortion by not acknowledging the "notification.") Forcing someone to refrain from sex out of fear of unwanted reproductive consequences. Forcing someone to marry when they would prefer to remain single (incorporating "pro-marriage" propaganda into the welfare regime, without regard to the type of person the welfare recipient has available for marriage.)

The people trying to infringe on reproductive rights and human bodily integrity have been defining the terms for too long.

If someone says they are against abortion, the proper question is whether they think a human should be required to use their body against their will for the benefit of another person when it is a matter of the other person's life or death.

If the nutwing's answer is yes, then a prompt demand for their kidney should be the next step. It is a matter of life and death for someone with kidney failure, and their consent isn't relevant, according to their own reasoning.

I figure a kidney donation is pretty close in invasiveness to pregnancy. There is some chance of death, and it involves use of a major organ, with potential long-term health consequences.

Perhaps with the caveat that the kidney donor should also be responsible for the recipient's medical bills and living expenses for the next twenty years. That is certainly within their abilities, even if difficult or involving great financial self-sacrifice.

#40 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 09:22 PM:

I was looking for a better name but had to stop. This made my head go sproing. Basically, an extreme christian fundamentalist view on sex. The only approved sex is between a husband and wife. All else is sin.

Sex sin can bring a curse on you, your partner and/or your children. Sex sin gives Satan a right to oppress us and our descendants through curses

And alien abductions are real.

Sex sin can produce unloved or unwanted children. Sex sin can expose us to sexually transmitted disease.

And abstinence is the solution.

Sex sin can lead to an unbridled pursuit of lust and perversion. Sex sin usually feeds a growing fire of lust in our minds. If we continue to feed that fire, we can easily drift further and further into decadence.

Slippery slope! If you eat one potato chip, you must eat the whole bag.

Sometimes the wacki-doodleness is just so freakin big that I can't even wrap my head around it.

The basic theme this all has in common is the idea of someone knowing what's best for someone else, even if that someoen else thinks otherwise. Parent-Child approach to things. They're the parent, anyone who breaks their rules are obviously immature children who need a good spanking. There must be a phrase that is more forceful than "parent-child" though, that reflects these people's demands to impose themselves in others' lives. Control? Proxy? don't know. Some word that isn't too high-falutin about idealogy and philosophy but really describes the "let me insert myself into your bedroom and tell you what you shouldn't do" mentality.

The other bit is something I can't quite put my finger on. There's a tone in their writing that reflects a subtle notion along the lines of "someone else's sin can spill on me". I get that you don't have to be a fundamentalist to want to do good, do the right thing, and try to get the world to do the right thing. But there are those who take this on in the form of "equal-equal" trying to negotiate out something that folks can agree on. And then there are those who relate to "wrong" as atmosphere, as an almost tangible thing, and if they are near an evil person, they'll breath in and become polluted by their evil spirits.

When I look at it this way, there is so many things messed up about this approach that I'm at a loss how to deal with it. containment, I guess. But that's only dealing with the symptoms, not the disease.

oop. test run is done...

#41 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 10:23 PM:

The other part of this 'sex sin' thing is that Women Are Evil. Getting pregnant is a punishment for both Having Sex and Being Female. (They seem to have a problem recognizing the fact that men are required for pregnancy to happen!)

It's all a control thing. They need to be In Control to feel good.

#42 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 11:08 PM:

Greg, it's all about Cooties. Masturbation really will make you go blind. And God is the principal of some enormous Junior High School in the sky.

I couldn't bring myself to go to the site you linked to, sorry. I didn't want to pollute my precious neurons :-) Seriously, I can't do it. It makes me too crazy.

#43 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 12:03 AM:

punishment for both Having Sex and Being Female

Masturbation really will make you go blind.

God is the principal of some enormous Junior High School in the sky.

I'm not really disagreeing here. It's just that that may be how they occur on the outside, but I don't really think that's anything near to how they're operating on the inside. These are all symptoms of an as yet unnamed problem.

When I life coach, someone might say something that sounds like "punished for having sex", but what I generally do with those lines is gently pull on them, because they're not the problem, they're the result of something underneath. You won't solve anything if you simply address the "You'll go blind if you masterbate" lines.

I almost want to find an extreme fundamentalist christian and coach them for a while. Almost.

The problem with that is that not everyone is coachable, so you end up with all these crap lines, and no access to any root causes, so nothing really changes. Fundamentalism seems like one of those conditions where the root causes reinforce each other so much that they may as well be welded in place.

Coaching just doesn't work for some people.

#44 ::: Sean D. Schaffer ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 02:29 AM:

I never quite thought of the homeland security stuff before, like you mentioned it here. What you said makes good sense. It also makes me wish I had never voted the way I did several years ago.

#45 ::: bad Jim ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 03:51 AM:

I'm not sure I buy the idea that "masturbation makes you go blind". Sure, I've been near-sighted since adolescence, and at fifty I need progressive lenses, but I can still drive.

As for treating terrorists like pirates, I don't think that Johnny Depp has anything like the gravitas of Osama bin Laden, nor bin Laden the sexiness of Depp.

There is a serious point here. There are still pirates in southeast Asia, but practically speaking they pose no more threat to life on earth than giant squid or Islamic troglodytes.

#46 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 09:25 AM:

Re Xopher #19: Box cutters make pretty good weapons. A guy in my hometown got disembowelled with a box cutter. IIRC the fight occurred at work, and the box cutter was supplied by the employer, so legislation wouldn't have helped.

Fragano #29: one of the legal tactics that's worked very well vs. the Klan lately is SPLC's habit of suing to confiscate their property, auctioning it off and giving the proceeds to the families of victims.

Greg #40: I actually share with your wingnuts the belief that sex outside of marriage is wrong. That's why I don't have sex with anyone but my husband. The difference between me and the wingnuts is that, having arrived at my moral beliefs through a combination of upbringing, experience and thought, I feel obligated to stay out of other people's way as they arrive at their own moral beliefs the same way. I'm a Christian, and when I read the Gospels I see a lot said about managing one's own behavior/attitudes, and NOTHING AT ALL about running other people's lives. Therefore I'm squarely in the "Don't like abortion? Don't have one!" camp. I don't like it, I won't have one, but I'm damned if I'd force someone else to carry a pregnancy to term. (Ditto for sex outside marriage; indeed, of my circle of friends I'm almost the only person who believes it's wrong. Fortunately for me, my husband is among the very few who agree.)

To my mind, the only reasonable course of action vis-a-vis abortions is to work to ensure that nobody ever gets pregnant who doesn't want to (universal access to safe & effective contraception; effective rape prevention). That should keep us busy for the next few generations.

Lizzy L #42: masturbation won't, but Viagra can.

Finally, re pirates, John McPhee has an interesting encounter with them in Looking for a Ship. Basically the pirates, armed with machine guns, zoom up to the cargo ship in small boats, and all the crew lock themselves in their quarters while the pirates take whatever they want and zoom off again.

#47 ::: John Emerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 09:28 AM:

I'm with Malthus. Declaring a category of outlaws is what Bush has done, in part, and the boundaries and definitions are slippery. Already "ecoterrorists" are being targetted by Homeland Security, and unless the state power changes hands, within ten years or so I expect to see an "ecoterrorist" stripped of citizenship and rights of appeal and held incommunicado without charges.

The scare quotes are valid. The ecoterrorists haven't killed anyone in 20+ years of sabotage. Not terrorists. In almost all cases they were taking specific steps to avoid killing anyone. In no cases did they try unsuccessfully to kill someone. The Portland Oregonian did a scare story about this a few years ago, and of you read it carefully you realized that there was not much there.

The comparison of the support of terrorists with the support of privateers strikes me as valid, though. It seems to consist of the provision of a home base under conditions of plausible deniability. The US did it in Nicaragua, of course, and as far as that goes, Afghanistan.

#48 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 10:11 AM:

Lila #46: I know we can't keep box cutters from everyone. And I know people over 18 do terrible things to each other. I think NYC's boxcutter law is a step in the right direction for decreasing the number of teenagers who get killed for stupid teenage reasons. I think this is a good thing.

Btw, I believe it would be illegal in NYC for a 17-year-old to have a job that required use of boxcutters, or for an employer to allow one to have access to them.

And major, major kudos to you for recognizing that your personal beliefs a) are not natural laws and b) do not oblige you to impose them on others! Duhh, you may say, but it's astonishing how few people realize that. As for the Bible not telling you to run other people's lives, I seem to remember a passage somewhere telling you NOT to. Something about not criticising your neighbor for breaking any law unless you keep ALL the laws perfectly...I can't remember the exact phrasing, or where it is. Sorry.

Btw, while a belief that sex outside of marriage is wrong is one path to monogamy, it's not the only one. I don't believe that, but I do believe that couples make agreements, and that they should keep their word. So now that I've told my boy that I'm not going to have sex with anyone but him, THAT makes it wrong for me to have sex with someone else (and, of course, once I got into a relationship guys started hitting on me, when I was The Invisible Man before).

But of course, as a gay man a belief that sex outside of marriage is wrong would be a very poor fit. And I would venture to say that you might come to a slightly different conclusion if you were gay or Lesbian. Or perhaps legal marriage isn't your criterion? Just curious.

#49 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 11:44 AM:

#46 I actually share with your wingnuts the belief that sex outside of marriage is wrong.

Actually, you don't. Based on your other comments, you hold the belief that it is wrong for you. Wingnuts hold the belief that it is wrong, as in a universal, absolute, this-must-apply-to-everyone, sense of wrong.

This distinction seems to separate people who are coachable from people who are uncoachable. Because coaching is all about figuring out what is right for you, what works for you, what doesn't work for you, and if you're not there, then why.

Since you have graduated to the level of personal morality, I'd only ask that you use wording that reflects that. It isn't that you think it wrong, you think it wrong for you. I get that you explained it in a later sentence, and I get that you are clearly not in the wingnut category, but I'd just feel ever so much happier if you didn't use a sentence that a wingnut might use.

And having said all that, I've suddenly lost my curiousity for coaching a wingnut, because I know exactly what it feels like. Uncoachable people pretty much give me the exact same experience as a coach. The only difference is the stories they tell.

#50 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 12:06 PM:

Lila, just in case that came across wrong, I don't think anyone is a wingnut for their personal moral beliefs. If you have a code that you follow, whatever it is, about whatever topic, then that's great.

The wingnuttery comes out when someone expects everyone to follow their own personal code, demands it, imposes it.

And it's clear you're in the first category, not the second.

Hm, that also clarifies another bit. Folks who have distinguished the difference between their internal moral code and external code, are more likely to get that an external code, for example, law, is something that is reached by agreement, with individuals as independent equals who can think for themselves.

Whereas wingnuts generally take on the idea that they have figured out the "right" moral code, and they must impose that code on the world. There is no sense from the wingnuts that it is a right of all people to give their consent to what laws they shall abide by. There is no sense from the wingnuts that it is a right of all people to institute a government that will effect their individual safety and individual happiness.

Wingnuts do not subscribe to the basic notion of Democracy that government is at its core an agreement between all who are governed. Rather they subscribe to the idea of an Oligarchy, where they are the few allowed to rule and impose upon the many.


#51 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 12:12 PM:

Xopher: I have a bisexual child. "Marriage" was a poor word choice. Substitute "publicly made exclusive commitment intended to be permanent." I am not only in favor of allowing people to make such a commitment to persons of the same gender, I'm in favor of a much broader law that would allow any individual to designate any other individual as heir, person-allowed-into-the-ICU, co-owner of all property, etc. without any requirement that the relationship between the two persons be sexual. And while I'm at it, I'd like a pony.

Greg: No, I don't just believe it's wrong for me, I believe it's wrong. But I also believe I might be wrong. Therefore the only person I can legitimately apply my standards to is me. I realize this is incredibly nitpicky, but there ya go. (Do I think my friend is wrong to sleep around? Yep. Does she think I'm wrong when I eat meat? Yep. Do we love each other anyway and butt the hell out? Yep.)

#52 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 01:16 PM:

Lila: that's pretty much what I thought. And re your comments to Greg: I think that perhaps the greatest of all intellectual virtues, the one that gives rise to all the others, is Doubt. Self-Doubt; Doubt that what you've been taught, believed, even observed is completely right.

I'm coming to the conclusion that you're rather a cool person.

#53 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 02:08 PM:

Lila #46: I know. The SPLC has gutted some remnant Klan and white power groups very effectively through the courts.

#54 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 02:46 PM:

I don't just believe it's wrong for me, I believe it's wrong.

Well, that's fine. I have an internal sense of what is right and wrong, and I think the world would be a lot better off if everyone subscribed to my moral view. But I still say "X is wrong for me" because I have another moral view taht supercedes all others that basically says what we, you and I, say is wrong for us must be made in agreement between us.

So, saying "X is wrong" is a global statement, implying it is wrong for me, and wrong for us. But we haven't agreed that X is wrong, so I can't say "x is wrong" and hold to my superceding requirement for agreement.

So instead of saying "X is wrong", I say "x is wrong for me". And then you and I can figure out what we agree will be wrong for us. and then I can say "X is wrong for us". It isn't that I don't think it wrong globally, it's that I won't speak a global statement that also speaks for you as a part of us.

So, saying "X is wrong for me" is basically saying that we haven't yet agreed among us as to what we will hold as wrong. It has nothing to do with whether i think X should be globally wrong or not.

An alternative to saying "X is wrong for me" is to say "I think X is wrong", which can be taken to mean "we haven't agreed yet what we hold as wrong". But not quite. The problem then is that if you say "I think X is wrong" and I say "I think Y is wrong", then if we can only agree that "we agree that Z is wrong", then your person moral view (X) doesn't match our agreed view (Z). And X and Z may be mutually exclusive. If you think X is universally wrong, but we only agree that Z is wrong, then you're stuck with a cunundrum of resolving your global view with our agreed upon view.

But if you say "X is wrong for me", and I say "Y is wrong for me", and we declare "we agree Z is wrong between us". Then you still have your personal moral view (X is wrong for your) and I still have mine for me (Y), and how we live our personal lives doesn't contradict what we agreed to (Z).

#55 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 03:25 PM:

Coming back to the original topic, most of these diversions/turnbacks and fighter-escorted landings seem to be caused by idiot pax who aren't terrorists, but whose behaviour is over the top and who ignore the cabin crew's attempts to calm then down.

I hope that arresting a few of these assholes, even if they can't be charged with anything and have to be released in the end, may get a message across that cabin crew are there for a serious purpose, not just to serve drinks and to endure endless low-level harassment.

I hope the idiots get a lifetime flying ban, too.

#56 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 03:28 PM:

Greg (and anyone else who has a morbid curiosity about net.loons): www.trosch.org seems to take the whole sex-cooties and pro-life thing to its logical conclusion.

(I apologize in advance for any damage that web site does to your sanity.)

#57 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 03:39 PM:

John: flying is stressful. Also, unlike a coach or train ride, you can't just stop the vehicle and get off.

A lot of people are borderline low-level claustrophobic but mostly asymptomatic in normal conditions -- it only surfaces if they're trapped in a stalled elevator, for example, or a narrow aluminium tube jam-packed shoulder to shoulder with other people and no way out.

They don't all fly off the handle; but adding alcohol to the mixture (a relaxant and soporific for most people) can aggravate the problem rather than making it better.

The additional restrictions added to air travel in the name of security make this problem worse, by scaring the shit out of people who are already edgy, nervous, uncomfortable, and possibly on the edge of a panic attack.

Most of the cases of people whose behaviour is over the top and ends up with a diverted flight and an arrest needs to be treated with medical counseling, not police tactics. (And it would help a hell of a lot if the airlines were legally required to increase their seat pitch and provide more elbow room, to reduce the claustrophobia stimulus.)

#58 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 06:06 PM:

I've never travelled anywhere by air.

With my medical problems, and the current level of security, and a few quite specific stories I've heard about how that particular combination can go badly wrong, I doubt I ever will travel anywhere by air.

Fortunately, there are these things called trains and ferries. I don't feel isolated. And, if I won the lottery, I'd be checking on the possibility of a ferry from Vladivostok to Japan.

I know I can get a through ticket to Vladivostok from Barnetby.

And wouldn't that be an adventure.

But I wish Kodak hadn't changed the colour of a box of Kodachrome.

#59 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 06:11 PM:

Greg #54: too complicated for me, alas, but then my brain is still fried from final exams.

Xopher #52: Well, I try. I believe I come across a lot cooler online than in person.

#60 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 08:02 PM:

Charlie: reading that site felt like I was reading the national enquirer.

Lila: get some rest.

#61 ::: Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 10:00 PM:

"On the first page of its founding manifesto, the massively funded Department of Homeland Security intones, “Today’s terrorists can strike at any place, at any time, and with virtually any weapon.”"

This reminds me of what my friend Gordon Robison posted recently:

"I spent a couple of days trying to puzzle out the logic President Bush used on Saturday to tie the London airplane plot to Hezbollah. And then it hit me:

The Bush administration is not fighting Al-Qaeda. Apparently, it is fighting SPECTRE."

He elaborates later:

"On the basis of President Bush’s Saturday radio address all this seems a pretty fair summary of what the administration believes is arrayed against it.

“America is fighting a tough war against an enemy whose ruthlessness is clear for all to see,” he said. “The terrorists attempt to bring down airplanes full of innocent men, women and children. They kill civilians and American servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they deliberately hide behind civilians in Lebanon. They are seeking to spread their totalitarian ideology. They’re seeking to take over countries like Afghanistan and Iraq so they can establish safe havens from which to attack free nations.”

Does the President really think Al-Qaeda is behind all these things? If an hierarchical Al-Qaeda still exists (which is debatable), it may well be behind the alleged London plot. Its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, has waned partly because of American military action and partly because those conflicts are increasingly local and sectarian or tribal in nature. The idea of operational ties between the Shia Muslim militants of Hezbollah and the stridently anti-Shia Sunni Muslims who run Al-Qaeda borders on the absurd."

Gordon's been in the field in the Middle East as a reporter (for Fox, CNN, ABC, others) for about 20 years. He's about as reality-based as it gets over there.

#62 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 04:54 AM:

That was Bush's August 12 radio address.

I doubt if the people behind Bush really have such an absurd idea of what's going on. That's just the simple version for the regular guys who will vote GOP in November (and, of course, for Bush himself).

#63 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 10:46 AM:

John Stanning (#55):...most of these diversions/turnbacks and fighter-escorted landings seem to be caused by idiot pax who aren't terrorists, but whose behaviour is over the top and who ignore the cabin crew's attempts to calm then down.

Just to be clear here - if you look at the recent events, the 'idiot passengers' in question are more likely to be those who think other passengers are terrorists (cf Boarding While Brown).

#64 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 12:31 PM:

debcha: yes, there's a rash of cases like that. I thought the Malaga incident was disgraceful - my preferred outcome would have been the captain interviewing the two Asians, realising that they were harmless and then inviting the racists to shut up and get on board, else forfeit their flights.

And yes, flights have been diverted by many other kinds of foolishness too. The one with the sickbag sounds like an echo of a case a while ago where a QANTAS plane turned back because someone had written BOB on a sickbag and that was interpreted as "Bomb On Board"!

#65 ::: John Aspinall ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 05:20 PM:

#28 (Sugar) to me, the United States simply seems more violent than England.

#30 (Greg London) Could be. I have no hard data either way.

The FBI statistics are a good place to start for the US end of the comparison. The key point is that under the country-wide averages there are huge variations from state to state. The northeast US states have murder rates comparable to many European countries. The rates in the south and west are significantly greater.

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