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May 04, 2006

Other Stuff, 5/4/06

Quick thoughts on the rest of the universe:

* I do hope Zacarias Moussaoui had fun carrying on like a James Bond villian in court, because his fun is over and now he's off to an 8x8 room for the rest of his life, which one hopes is nice and long. I am happy and impressed that the jury didn't decide to give him the death penalty; it both denied Moussaoui what he wanted (for his own delusions of martyrdom), and denied the government what it wanted, which would have covered up all its various acts of incompetence prosecuting the case. That's as much of a happy ending as this case it going to get.

* A piece on SFSignal about SF writers and their Web sites (including me and mine). It's a fine article, although I can't help wonder when we're going to get to the point where authors promoting themselves online isn't going to be that big of a deal anymore (which is to say, when no one will think about writing about it any more). I think reality-wise we're pretty much at that point, particularly in SF; the number of working SF writers who don't have an online presence can pretty much be counted on one's fingers. At the very least, I take for granted that I can find writers online, and I'm always confused when I can't.

* Over at Boing Boing, an entry about the difference between the Washington Press Corps and the rest of us, which is that we think Colbert's performance at the correspondence dinner was funny, and they didn't (which is the excuse not to write about it). I think the real problem was that according to this NYT article, the guy who booked Colbert didn't actually get the fact that Colbert's schtick was what it was. This is like hiring a stripper for your kid's birthday party because she starts her act in a clown costume. If you aren't paying attention, you're to blame.

That said, I do have to say I think rather too much is being made of the Colbert thing. Look, he did his thing at a gig, the audience was confused and that's pretty much the story. I think that Colbert's performance is being retrofitted as a great moment in confronting power with mockery when it really was just Colbert doing what he was under the impression he was hired to do, which is say, the act which made him famous. I enjoyed it as much as the rest of y'all; I just don't think it was a significant moment in American dissent. The only real lesson to be learned here is that the White House correspondents maybe ought to pay more attention to who they're hiring as entertainment so there's no confusion on the matter when the dude gets up to talk.

* The Cato Institute rips Dubya a new one on the matter of the Constitution. Go Cato Institute. The Cato folks lose me in a lot of places regarding policy and philosophy, but we're on the same side of the street with this one.

Posted by john at May 4, 2006 01:01 PM

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Comments

Gabe | May 4, 2006 01:10 PM

You and I tend to differ on a good deal of politics but your summation of Moussaoui is spot on. I had never put it into Bond villain terms but if you give him some facial scar and a monocle it totally works!

Bill Marcy | May 4, 2006 02:28 PM

Hmmm, Moussaoui alive is a rallying point for future terrorists. Much better if he is offed in prison, or dies whiel falling up the stairs of the supermax, repeatedly.

As to our government, why is it tha tit is so damn fashionable to bash it? I mean a healthy skepticism is great, but this full fledged hatred is just a bit disgusting. Sure, everything is Bush's fault and he is the great satan as Al Jazzerra states, I buy that, but hey, how about a modicum of respect for the institutions? Or is that just to red state?

John Scalzi | May 4, 2006 02:37 PM

Bill, I don't hate the government. It simply did an incompetent job with the prosecution. If you'll recall, the judge herself came within an inch of taking the death penalty off the table because of the ineptitude of the prosecution in preparing witnesses.

I wouldn't cry if Moussaoui caught a shiv in the big house, but I seriously doubt he's a rallying point for budding terrorists.

John DeNardo | May 4, 2006 02:55 PM

Thanks for the SF Signal mention, John.

I think you are correct that many authors are using the Internet to promote themselves, although I think that applies more so to “newer” authors; Cory Doctorow, Tobias Buckell and you being the prime examples. What I would love to see is more seasoned authors with blogs. Where's Arthur C. Clarke's blog? Or Gardner Dozois'? How about Frederik Pohl or Larry Niven? Ursula LeGuin or Robert Silverberg? Vernor Vinge, Jack Vance, Neal Stephenson? John Varley, Mike Resnick, Gene Wolfe? Or (heh) Harlan Ellison's?

Sure, some of these folks have websites and/or sanctioned fan sites, but you and others have proved that blogging can be beneficial for writing careers.

(Of course, to be fair, I recognize that blogging isn't for everyone - and there are probably way more bloggers than there should be [whistles and looks innocently up and to the right] - but I'd love to read some weekly musings from any of these fine authors. Except Ellison. If he ever blogged, I would demand minimum daily updates because they would be a hoot to read.)

Lars | May 4, 2006 03:16 PM


He said: "As long as you don't hear, America, you will feel." For all the super-villainy on display in court that day, that line got under my skin, and it laid eggs of sympathy.

Obviously none of his actions are justified, but stuff like this sets me wondering about his cause. I don't condone the actions of terrorists in any way, shape or form, for the simple reason that terrorism is inherently horrific. However, I'm starting to regard them as a symptom of a problem that springs from the unwillingness of the first world to take responsibility for the rest of it. Misery loves company, after all, and we're the ones parting company (economically speaking).

AliceB | May 4, 2006 04:07 PM

The other good thing about Moussaoui's life sentence is that, for once, America doesn't come off as a bully, but as a country with a world class justice system. At least, sometimes.

Bob Westbrook | May 4, 2006 04:09 PM

That Moussaoui is a nut case goes without saying but to kill him makes him a martyr. That was what he wanted because in his warped religiously brainwashed mind it makes him right with god. Plus he would get to screw something like 72 virgins. I would rather see him rot for decades and deny him that. Death would be the easy way out.
Hey Bill. Full fledged hatred? I must of missed something. This country survives by adhering to the constitution and anytime our rights are whittled away that will effect future generations. We must preserve it

Andrew | May 4, 2006 05:54 PM

I think that Eddie Izzard or someone similar ought to be the next comedian at the dinner. Or go retro and hire Bill Cosby. I'd be interested what he'd have to say about Washington DC.
But the reason I suggest Izzard is I think he could actually pull some deeper meaning from the event, even if it wasn't "the pinnacle of dissent" or the like.

John Scalzi | May 4, 2006 05:58 PM

Eddie Izzard could make reading a phone book a hilarious time, so I would second that.

Scott | May 4, 2006 07:04 PM

I think that Colbert's performance is being retrofitted as a great moment in confronting power with mockery when it really was just Colbert doing what he was under the impression he was hired to do, which is say, the act which made him famous. I enjoyed it as much as the rest of y'all; I just don't think it was a significant moment in American dissent.
The thing that strikes me as odd about the way this is being talked about is that people make a big deal about Colbert talking about The President, essentially to his face. (which I think is great, and I wish I had balls as big as Colbert (I don't, and that's part of why he's funny and famous, and I'm neither)). But, what I heard most from Colbert was him talking about The Press to their face, at their party.

The whole sketch of the old-woman reporter (who's name I've already forgotten) is about the press-corps, not about The President. She is a dangerous bulldog that scares the Press Secretary? Isn't that kind of pathetic?
The whole series of lines about how news is made, and that the reporters can go home and write fiction about reporters with guts...

The President was not the target of the mockery.

Incidentally, this is exactly in line with what you said... it is just his schtick to make fun of the newsmedia, it's been his schtick for as long as I've been aware that he exists (The Daily Show).

CoolBlue | May 4, 2006 07:10 PM

the old-woman reporter (who's name I've already forgotten)

Helen Thomas.

And she wouldn't ask questions so much as make political statements that ended in accusations.

But she wasn't always that way....

Bobarino | May 4, 2006 11:45 PM

I hope I'm as coherent and as tough as that "old-woman reporter" when I'm 85.

Jon H | May 5, 2006 01:14 AM

Scott writes: "The whole sketch of the old-woman reporter (who's name I've already forgotten) is about the press-corps, not about The President. She is a dangerous bulldog that scares the Press Secretary? Isn't that kind of pathetic?"

Ah, but is it not *also* pathetic that the President's Press Secretary and the President himself are scared of her?

Colbert was lashing out in both directions, at the administration *and* at the press whose complacency has assisted in the rise of a man who thinks he's above the law.

Jon H | May 5, 2006 01:17 AM

John writes: "the guy who booked Colbert didn't actually get the fact that Colbert's schtick was what it was."

On the other hand, the guy who booked Colbert was the *outgoing* President of the organization that holds the dinner.

Seems like a perfect opportunity to toss a stinkbomb. He can even plausibly say that he was unfamiliar with Colbert's material, and nobody is likely to question that because, well, everyone knows how out-of-touch the White House Press Corps is.

darren | May 5, 2006 01:39 AM

"And she wouldn't ask questions so much as make political statements that ended in accusations."

Got any examples to back that up? Or is this just your opinion. I only know of one question that she has been allowed to ask since this administraion has become the first to shut her out in her history as a white house correspondent, and that is "Since all of your stated reasons for invading Iraq have been debunked, what was the real reason?" I'd kinda like an answer to that one myself.

mythago | May 5, 2006 02:06 AM

Has somebody pointed out to Bill yet that John lives in a red state?

Scott | May 5, 2006 03:07 AM

Jon H:
Ah, but is it not *also* pathetic that the President's Press Secretary and the President himself are scared of her?

Definitely true.

Bobarino:
I hope I'm as coherent and as tough as that "old-woman reporter" when I'm 85.
Sure, not a bad hope. I really didn't mean any intentional disrespect in my failure to remember her name... I just don't follow the whitehouse press-corps much, for reasons that Colbert harped on. Also, by using Ms. Thomas as a counter example, Colbert was giving her her props, in the same stroke as giving everybody else theirs. (Keep in mind that "props" are respect related deserts).

Though, I guess I also have to admit that with age comes a certain dismissive apathy about ones own image which would make it easier for her to start throwing her weight around than the young and spineless... but anybody who imagined themself a young turk rather than spineless would be ashamed, and I still think that that was the primary point.

Bill Marcy | May 5, 2006 07:20 AM

Mythago:

What does John's home state have to do with the discussion,let alone why woudl I need to have it pointed out? Might he jsut be the single island of rationality in an otherwise retatrded ocean? OR, maybe, the opposite? But does it at all matter?

Please do let me know.

WizarDru | May 5, 2006 07:55 AM

I think the issue with Stephen Colbert isn't just about his presentation. I mean, let's be honest for a moment, here. Unless we posit that the president is a complete puppet (and while I have little regard for Bush, I don't regard him as an unthinking, easy-manipulated slave to someone else's agenda), then nothing he heard at that presentation was something he hadn't heard elsewhere from someone else. And yes, it grated him to have to hear it to his face, with no opportunity for rebuttal. The lack of an option to spin Colbert's presentation is part of what probably made Bush most uncomfortable.

But the fact is that Colbert tapped into a general feeling that Bush feels his executive position gives him a certain degree of privelege that exceeds both precedent and potentially, in some cases, law. While no one believes that Colbert is suddenly going to disappear or be silenced, the issue stands that we currently have a (afaik) uncounted number of enemy combatants and suspects in a prison, all of whom are denied the normal rights we provide to our citizens. Four years ago, I was concerned about that. Now, I'm concerned that so few other people appear concerned by it....it's become accepted. Therein lies the greatest danger to the union, IMHO, from the current administration.

I don't fear George W. Bush undermining the Constitution, but instead fear the men who follow after him, who now see the bum knee they can kick.

Colbert hit a collective nerve with many across the country, because he vocalized those concerns to the people responsible...the president, his staff and the PRESS CORPS. I don't know about you, but I grew up during watergate. I grew up with the idea (however inaccurate) of men like Woodward and Bernstein acting as an unofficial check on the men in power. In the last four years, we've gotten none of that. It might even be accurate to say the last twenty years, I dunno. But Colbert FELT like he was doing SOMETHING other than being politely led into the lion's mouth. He wasn't the first person to do so, even at a Press Corps dinner...but his timing and the current zeitgeist just mixed together to make a perfect storm, I think.

I also think that next year, it'll be just Laura at the dinner, again. :)

CoolBlue | May 5, 2006 08:05 AM

Got any examples to back that up? Or is this just your opinion. I only know of one question that she has been allowed to ask since this administraion has become the first to shut her out in her history as a white house correspondent

Well, you are wrong on this account. Helen Thomas has been called on to make here statements, disquised as questions quite often during the Bush Administration. And not just at the White House press breifings. But it is true that up until this point, Bush has only taken one question for Ms Thomas at Presidential Press briefing. The particular "question" you noted came at such a briefing, in Prime Time, I might add, in March of 2006, and Ms Thomas preceeded the question with "You're going to be sorry".

I'd kinda like an answer to that one myself.

Bush answered the question in the following manner

Helen. After that brilliant performance at the Gridiron (dinner), I am -- (laughter.)

Q You're going to be sorry. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, let me take it back. (Laughter.)

Q I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?

THE PRESIDENT: I think your premise -- in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist -- is that -- I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect --

Q Everything --

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.

Q -- everything I've heard --

THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me. No President wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true. My attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th. We -- when we got attacked, I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people. Our foreign policy changed on that day, Helen. You know, we used to think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy. But we realized on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life. And I'm never going to forget it. And I'm never going to forget the vow I made to the American people that we will do everything in our power to protect our people.

Part of that meant to make sure that we didn't allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy. And that's why I went into Iraq -- hold on for a second --

Q They didn't do anything to you, or to our country.

THE PRESIDENT: Look -- excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where al Qaeda trained --

Q I'm talking about Iraq --

THE PRESIDENT: Helen, excuse me. That's where -- Afghanistan provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where they trained. That's where they plotted. That's where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans.

I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences --

Q -- go to war --

THE PRESIDENT: -- and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.

Q Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: You're welcome. (Laughter.) I didn't really regret it. I kind of semi-regretted it. (Laughter.)

Q -- have a debate.

THE PRESIDENT: That's right. Anyway, your performance at the Gridiron was just brilliant -- unlike Holland's, was a little weak, but -- (laughter.)

Sorry.

AliceB | May 5, 2006 09:57 AM

"Why did we go to war in Iraq?"

"9/11"

"But Iraq had nothing to do with that."

"Afghanistan."

"Still nothing to do with that."

"WMDs. And that's all folks."

Does that summarize it?


Brian Greenberg | May 5, 2006 09:58 AM

So many people, so little facts.

Re: Moussaoui - I had the same reaction Bill Marcy did to your post. The verdict was good because it was bad for Moussaoui and bad for the government and that's as good as it gets. Regardless of how the government handled the prosecution, this reads to me like a knee-jerk reaction against anything government related. But we've had that conversation on these pages before...

Lars:
I'm starting to regard them as a symptom of a problem that springs from the unwillingness of the first world to take responsibility for the rest of it.

There is no argument you will ever make that will convince me that killing innocent Americans is our fault. It's not. Even if you think everything our government or military has ever done is evil, no one in the World Trade Center deserved to die for it. These folks are pure evil. Period. (Breathe...breathe...98, 99, 100. OK, I'm better now)

Re: Colbert - people have very, very short memories. I think every year they have the Correspondents Dinner, the guest speaker is either ignored or held up as some shocking, inappropriate truth-to-power ordeal. I remember hearing the same discussion about Don Imus one year, and Jay Leno another year. None of these guys, IMHO, are making strong political statements - they're just doing political humor, which has been anti-president (whoever the president is) since the early days of the Johnny Carson monologue. The fact of the matter is that Colbert is getting plenty of press coverage - mostly about how he's not getting press coverage.

Re: Helen Thomas - obviously many folks here don't know who Helen Thomas is. She's been giving it to Presidents for decades, and truly is one of the great "truth-to-power" speakers in Washington, DC. She's been around so long that it became something of a tradition that she would get the first question when the President gave a press conference. Bush broke with that tradition by not calling on her at all for a while, offending many in the press corps. But she finally did get her moment in the sun with Bush (as quoted above), and she's had plenty of opportunity to question the press secretary and others in the daily briefings (which, after all, is her job).

CoolBlue | May 5, 2006 10:22 AM

Does that summarize it?

That's a personal question. Does that summarize it for you?

I would point out, however, the part about "And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him."

Which is precisely the point the Joint Congressional Resolution to Authorize war in Iraq made.

Bush did not make this decision alone, nor was he authorized to do so.

John Scalzi | May 5, 2006 10:55 AM

Brian Greenberg:

"Regardless of how the government handled the prosecution, this reads to me like a knee-jerk reaction against anything government related."

Eh. Read into it what you want to read into it, Brian. As I've said numerous time before, my problem is a lack of competence. That's not anti-government, it's anti-incompetence. The government didn't make its case that Moussaui deserved the death penalty, and did a lot of other things stupidly besides in its prosecution of the case, and so giving the death penalty would have been a travesty of justice, not for what Moussaui did or did not do, but because of what the government did (and didn't do) on its end. Justice is a process, and the government messed up its end of the process. Simple as that.

I would have preferred that the government had done a competent job, and then my opinion about the decision might be different. But it didn't, and it's not.

darren | May 5, 2006 11:06 AM

ColdBlue:
"I would point out, however, the part about "And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him."'

You're starting from the belief (or wish) that this particular statement is true. It isn't. bush keeps saying that we invaded because saddam kicked inspectors out and wouldn't give up the wmd etc etc, and it just isn't true. Pointing that out isn't making a political statement man. It. Just. Is. The arguement is ridiculous, because the true believers keep relying on debunked points to make thier arguements and when that gets pointed out you shove your fingers in your ears and go to the "LALALALALALALALALALALA! I Can't Hear You!! LALALALALALALALALALA!" arguement.

Anonymous | May 5, 2006 11:09 AM

"Bush did not make this decision alone, nor was he authorized to do so."

Um, oh nevermind.

Smurf | May 5, 2006 11:09 AM

They should attach Moussaoui(?) to the bottom of a low flying, speeding jet... then dive bomb in on the Dome Of The Rock... and release. I'd bet he would make a cool design.

About halfway through his act, Colbert shoulda took off his pants and menaced Anne Coulter with the Lil' Steven.

Luke | May 5, 2006 11:27 AM

Lars:

I'm starting to regard them as a symptom of a problem that springs from the unwillingness of the first world to take responsibility for the rest of it.

and then, Brian:

There is no argument you will ever make that will convince me that killing innocent Americans is our fault. It's not. Even if you think everything our government or military has ever done is evil, no one in the World Trade Center deserved to die for it. These folks are pure evil. Period.

I do not think Lars was trying to say the people deserved to die. Let's tell a story:

A man lives his life blissfully unaware that the battery he put in his fire alarm was already dead. His house burns down. He dies.

Did he deserve to die? No. Was he nonetheless responsible for his own death? Yes.

Got it?

CoolBlue | May 5, 2006 11:31 AM

You're starting from the belief (or wish) that this particular statement is true. It isn't.

The following is excerpted from Hans Blix's report to the UN Security Council Mar 7, 2003

"On 14 February, I reported to the Council that the Iraqi side had become more active in taking and proposing steps, which potentially might shed new light on unresolved disarmament
issues.

Even a week ago, when the current quarterly report was finalised, there was still relatively little tangible progress to note. Hence, the cautious formulations in the report before you.... "

"Against this background, the question is now asked whether Iraq has cooperated immediately, unconditionally and actively - with Unmovic, as required under paragraph 9 of resolution 1441 (2002)....It is obvious that, while the numerous initiatives, which are now taken by the Iraqi side with a view to resolving some long-standing open disarmament issues, can be seen as "active", or even "proactive", these initiatives three to four months into the new resolution cannot be said to constitute "immediate" cooperation.

Nor do they necessarily cover all areas of relevance."

The arguement is ridiculous, because the true believers keep relying on debunked points to make thier arguements and when that gets pointed out you shove your fingers in your ears and go to the "LALALALALALALALALALALA! I Can't Hear You!! LALALALALALALALALALA!" arguement.

Can you hear me now?

CoolBlue | May 5, 2006 11:31 AM

You're starting from the belief (or wish) that this particular statement is true. It isn't.

The following is excerpted from Hans Blix's report to the UN Security Council Mar 7, 2003

"On 14 February, I reported to the Council that the Iraqi side had become more active in taking and proposing steps, which potentially might shed new light on unresolved disarmament
issues.

Even a week ago, when the current quarterly report was finalised, there was still relatively little tangible progress to note. Hence, the cautious formulations in the report before you.... "

"Against this background, the question is now asked whether Iraq has cooperated immediately, unconditionally and actively - with Unmovic, as required under paragraph 9 of resolution 1441 (2002)....It is obvious that, while the numerous initiatives, which are now taken by the Iraqi side with a view to resolving some long-standing open disarmament issues, can be seen as "active", or even "proactive", these initiatives three to four months into the new resolution cannot be said to constitute "immediate" cooperation.

Nor do they necessarily cover all areas of relevance."

The arguement is ridiculous, because the true believers keep relying on debunked points to make thier arguements and when that gets pointed out you shove your fingers in your ears and go to the "LALALALALALALALALALALA! I Can't Hear You!! LALALALALALALALALALA!" arguement.

Can you hear me now?

darren | May 5, 2006 11:35 AM

I don't know if you thought your quotes from Helen Thomas' question were meant to somehow make your point ColdBlue, but they make mine nincely. She asks a straightforward question and a befuddled president makes a vague accusation that she is accusing him of wanting war, then he trys to morf Afghanastan into Iraq. Thanks.

Lars | May 5, 2006 11:48 AM


Brian Greenberg:

I whole-heartedly agree that terrorists like Moussauoi are warped and twisted minds, brainwashed and bent on the destruction of defenceless innocents -- all true. But in my experience, it's a mistake to call anything "evil," and doing so leads to grevious oversights. Terrorists are, after all, human beings, even though they fail to qualify for human being status by ethical standards.

Terrorists murder defenceless innocents for the very logical, if not very good, reason that that the United States' defences are too strong. What's the alternative for these people to vent their frustrations? The United States outgun them in every way, and before guns even get involved there's tactical missile strikes. Any straightforward, frontal attack can be shut down by the push of a button. So, how do you drop the 100 pound third-grader in the playground when he hits you up for your lunch money? Simple: you hit him below the belt.

I admit, the comparison isn't fair. The U.S. army does not, after all, send Marines door to door in Iraq demanding pay-offs, but the lifestyle of North Americans, puts on display a quantity of wealth that's BOUND to evoke jealousy. They look upon our way of life, see all that we have, and in their secret-hearts they want it for themselves. No truly jealous person in history, however, has ever admitted the fact. So they label our lives "immoral" and that's the banner they march under (or sneak under, if you prefer).

I'm not suggesting we negotiate with terrorists -- that would be ass-backwards -- I'm suggesting we use our resources improve the general state of things in their part of the world. North America is fantastically wealthy, and it's our responsibility to spread that wealth around. I suppose a responsibility is also a choice...but is it really?

Brian Greenberg | May 5, 2006 11:53 AM

Luke:
A man lives his life blissfully unaware that the battery he put in his fire alarm was already dead. His house burns down. He dies.

Did he deserve to die? No. Was he nonetheless responsible for his own death? Yes.

Got it?

What an absolutely fantastic analogy. Thank you very, very much. Because now I can make my point very succintly:

No, he was not responsible for his own death. The person who set the fire was responsible.

Got it?

CoolBlue | May 5, 2006 12:08 PM

I don't know if you thought your quotes from Helen Thomas' question were meant to somehow make your point ColdBlue, but they make mine nincely.

Just providing the facts. If you think it supports your position, fine.

Lars | May 5, 2006 12:27 PM


I just don't think it's productive attacking the problem that way. How many terrorists like Moussaoui have really been put on trial? Is it effective to be tearing countries apart in a search for them, when they're so illusive by nature?

At this point, I'd like to bring my mother into the discussion. That's right. She's on your side, however.

She suspects that the motivations of the terrorists involved in the attacks had a great deal to do with their refusal to accept the equal rights of women. Osama Bin Laden began identifying with the plight of Palistinian refugess relatively late in the game, and he himself comes from a wealthy Saudi-Arabian family. So how much of this, really, is about women being allowed to wear pants, instead of a hijab? I suspect it's an amalgamation of the two issues of 1.) North Americans having a lot more money than Saudi Arabians (nyah nyah) and 2.) the extreme threat that our equal-opportunity way of life poses to their male dominated power structure.

Maybe terrorists are more scummy than I originally thought.

darren | May 5, 2006 12:34 PM

"No, he was not responsible for his own death. The person who set the fire was responsible."

Well, if he put in his own faulty wiring in the house, was smoking in bed, or left the iron on........ Not all fires are arson and the post you're referring to didn't even allude to it. Pretty weak arguement for both of you though.

ColdBlue,
Yeah, I hear you but that doesn't mean you're making any sense. But keep going. You did in fact present the facts, but they were completely contrary to what you're saying they were. You're quote from Blix is the same. A vague assertion that Saddam may not have been complying with one paragraph of an entire resolution as your slam dunk that Saddam was 45 minutes away from putting a mushroom cloud over every major American city. I know you, as many other Americans, live in stifling, paralyzing fear after 9-11, but rationalizations are still just that. I don't *think* that the Helen Thomas/bush exchange makes my point better than yours, It just does.

Bill Marcy | May 5, 2006 01:04 PM

We can't do tribe building, it will end up like wrestling pigs (My apologies to the Muslim folks who abhor pigs, please do not behead anyone in retaliation for the analogy, ok?) The tribe will resist change and we, the stronger, smarter, more enlightened tribe will be forced to do things that will not benefit us, or our children.

Can we get right down to the matter that it is tribal warfare, and that we (The United States) has to win, for our childrens sake? And that to win, sometimes we need to 'hit the other tribe below the belt'.

, I am up for a healthy pogrom, as long as we can assure our tribe mates that we will win in the end. I think we have the technology to carry it off, now we need to find the balls.

We can all gnash our teeth and cry over spilt milk afterwards, and we can even blame those people who do what is neccessary, and we can try them and execute them, but it needs to be done.

Any other ideas?

AliceB | May 5, 2006 01:21 PM

Whoa! Any argument whatsoever that ends up justifying pogroms is... I'm at a loss for words. Do you have any idea what a pogrom is?

Bill Marcy | May 5, 2006 01:22 PM

Surely do AliceB.

What limits do you place on yourself to protect your child(ren)? Do tell?

CoolBlue | May 5, 2006 01:25 PM

Darren

Yeah, I hear you but that doesn't mean you're making any sense.

First, you said I'd kinda like an answer to that one myself. So I provided the answer you obviously missed.

Second, his answer was consistent with both the Congressional Resolution giving him the authority to go to war, and the conclusions of Hans Blix re UN Security Council Resolution 1441 which called for immediate and complete cooperation and full disclosure by Iraq regarding the open issues regarding WMDs pursuent to the cease-fire resolution that concluded the Gulf War. Issues which remained unresolved for 12 years.

Mr Blix's report concluded that after two months of 1441 being in effect, immediate and complete cooperation had as yet to manifest itself. This was the last report Blix gave prior to the initiation of major combat operations in Iraq later that month.

I'm quite sorry if I'm not making sense to you.

I'm sure it's my fault.

You may have to ask someone else to explain it to you.

AliceB | May 5, 2006 01:33 PM

Then, Bill, an occasional lynching is a good idea too?

'Cause you know, there isn't a whole lot of difference.

Luke | May 5, 2006 02:27 PM

Brian,

there are so many problems I don't know where to start. Okay, I figured it out.

First, blame does not add up to some fixed amount. If many people caused something, they are all responsible for it. Blaming OBL for 9/11 does not draw any responsibility away from the actual hijackers, correct? His guilt is added in on top of theirs.
Much like, at a lynching, the whole mob of them is to blame, even if the action was only actually executed by, say, two of them.

Second, moral responsibility ends when there was no reasonable expectation that a negative consequence would follow. However, causal connections are not blocked by this. And lastly, if we analyze our earlier behavior and find that it actually did have negative consequences, that does not automatically make what we did then immoral because we did not know then what we do now.

That said, to continue to do these things WOULD be immoral, because now we DO know.

So, the self-examination impulse is not self-hatred, but an attempt to figure out what we can do better.

A better analogy than fire, perhaps?

A man does not realize there is a hornet nest in a tree in the woods in a vacant lot behind his house. One day, he hits the tree to try to get his son's ball down. The hornets swarm, sting them.
I think you'll agree that the man was causally related to their being stung, but not morally at fault.
But if the next time the ball got stuck in that tree he did the same thing, he WOULD be morally at fault.

Luke | May 5, 2006 02:28 PM

That is to say, though making mistakes that lead to harm is not a moral wrong, failure to learn from such mistakes IS one.

Bill Marcy | May 5, 2006 04:03 PM

AliceB, You may not see the difference, but I do.

But do tell me, where do you draw the line at protection of your child(ren)?

Awaiting your answer with bated breath.

Ted | May 5, 2006 04:17 PM

Bill Marcy, where do you draw the line? Would you kill 10 innocent children born to other people if it was the only way to save one of your own children? 100? 1000? A million? Even more?

AliceB | May 5, 2006 04:24 PM

Let's see. The difference between pogroms and lynchings is: pogroms occur in Central and Eastern Europe, lynchings occur in the U.S. Pogrom's victims are Jews. Lynchings' victims are African-American. Both occur when mobs lob false accusations against another group then resort to violence, destroying innocent people and property.

The words "pogrom" and "lynching" have no business being in the same argument with "defend children," unless your talking about the children who need to be defended from the senseless mob.

Bill Marcy | May 5, 2006 05:32 PM

Ted, I don't draw any lines in the number of innocent children I kwould kill to protect my own, how about you?

John, you want to weigh in on this?

(AliceB, a pogrom can and does refer to mass killings, not only of jews).

Brian Greenberg | May 5, 2006 05:44 PM

Lars:

Terrorists murder defenceless innocents for the very logical, if not very good, reason that that the United States' defences are too strong. What's the alternative for these people to vent their frustrations? The United States outgun them in every way...

Sorry to be blunt, but this is total crap. You assume that they have to murder, and are asking what other possible way could they murder, given how powerful their opponent is.

The alternatives are all the obvious ones: live and let live, effect change through constructive dialog, heck - come over to the US and proselytize (tell everyone their going to hell & they need to convert to Islam) if you want. I could list a thousand others that are better than indiscriminate murder.

Unless you're suggesting that needing to vent frustration is a valid defense for murder...

Luke:
moral responsibility ends when there was no reasonable expectation that a negative consequence would follow. However, causal connections are not blocked by this. And lastly, if we analyze our earlier behavior and find that it actually did have negative consequences, that does not automatically make what we did then immoral because we did not know then what we do now.

I truly can't believe we're having this conversation. Look - assuming for a second that agree with you that the United States has done evil, awful things throughout the world and that 100% of the hatred exhibited by radical Islamist terrorists is caused by our foreign & millitary policy (a huge and, for the most part, incorrect assumption), the 3,000 people in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had nothing to do with any of those actions. If you've got a beef with our government or our military and you want to declare war on the United States, I still think you're doing something immoral, but at least there's a logical line of thought. Killing 3,000 business men/women who are minding their own businses in their offices on a random Tuesday morning? You're seriously suggesting those people should somehow expect negative consequences due to the actions taken by others at various times throughout history? Just because they live (or lived?) in the same country?

Sorry, I don't buy it.

AliceB | May 5, 2006 05:56 PM

Bill, pogroms, in modern usage usually refers to attacks on Jews. It has been applied to other groups, but in all cases it refers to a race based attack on a minority group. Still doesn't make it any better.

I don't know how to make links on this comment page but you can check out:

http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/p/pogrom.asp

http://www.bartleby.com/61/92/P0399200.html

http://www.answers.com/topic/pogrom

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pogrom

Scott | May 5, 2006 08:22 PM

Bill Marcy said:
Ted, I don't draw any lines in the number of innocent children I kwould kill to protect my own, how about you?

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the difference between somebody with moral and ethical compunctions, and one without.

Any moral/ethical argument which involves a line of reasoning like "no cost too high" and not recognizing that there are limits to all moral and ethical imperatives (like defending one's children) is doomed.

Jon H | May 5, 2006 11:03 PM

" the 3,000 people in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had nothing to do with any of those actions"

The people in the Pentagon had nothing to do with our foreign and military policy?

Sure about that?

darren | May 6, 2006 12:22 PM

Not to mention that World Trade plays a significant role in foreign and military policy. You have to have your head sunk pretty deep in some sand on a faraway beach to not see the corporate/government tongue kissing that has led to U.S. foreign policy both economically and militarily Brian.

ColdBlue,
You keep making points that sound as if you stopped paying attention to the news the day we invaded Iraq. Everything you're saying has been debunked. It isn't true. What bush's administration said was going to happen on day two of the invasion has not happened. Do you really not know this? Do you really think you've provided me with an irrefutable answer as to U.S. justification for attacking Iraq? Come on man. You can keep fooling yourself, but you're talking to someone who has been paying attention.

Ted | May 7, 2006 02:38 PM

Ted, I don't draw any lines in the number of innocent children I kwould kill to protect my own, how about you?
And people claim the left is big on subjective morality?

My belief is that it would be unethical and immoral to kill even one innocent child to save a child of my own. I can't promise that I would be able to stick to my ethical convictions in such a situation, as while I hope I would I really have no idea. But political and ethical decisions shouldn't be made on an emotional basis, they should be made on a rational one.

Brian Greenberg | May 8, 2006 09:51 AM

Jon H:
The people in the Pentagon had nothing to do with our foreign and military policy?

and darren:
Not to mention that World Trade plays a significant role in foreign and military policy. You have to have your head sunk pretty deep in some sand on a faraway beach to not see the corporate/government tongue kissing that has led to U.S. foreign policy both economically and militarily Brian.

Wow, you people paint with a pretty broad brush when the question is who deserves to die.

I've worked in the World Trade Center, and I know hundreds of people who have as well. They do everything from bond trading to running insurance technology systems to policing the Port Authority of NY/NJ. Not a single one of the people I knew (including myself) was ever involved in a single decision that would move foreign or military policy an inch. And let's not forget, many of the people who died also did nefarious things like mop the floors, deliver mail, and serve food at a restaurant. Practically Navy SEALs, those folks...

If anyone has their head in the sand on a faraway beach, it's the people who believe that a corporate name on your business card immediately makes you responsible for all the evil things that have ever happened throughout the world.

As for the Pentagon, at least some of the people there were military, where risking your life for your country is part of the deal you make. But that's not true of all those who died. And then there's the people on the planes. Do you have a leftist talking point for why these folks were valid terrorism targets as well?!?

Much of this is beside the point, IMHO. They didn't take down the World Trade Center to eliminate the people who set foreign & military policy (if they did, it was an extremely inefficient way of doing so, as evidenced by what's happened since). They did it to murder innocent people in cold blood, and in doing so, strike fear in the hearts of the rest of us. The fact that we're actually constructing logical arguments about whether or not those innocents somehow caused their own death is as shocking as it is disgusting...

darren | May 8, 2006 05:02 PM

"Wow, you people paint with a pretty broad brush when the question is who deserves to die."

"If anyone has their head in the sand on a faraway beach, it's the people who believe that a corporate name on your business card immediately makes you responsible for all the evil things that have ever happened throughout the world."

"The fact that we're actually constructing logical arguments about whether or not those innocents somehow caused their own death is as shocking as it is disgusting..."

Noone said any of that, but nice use of irrational emotionalism. You're the one using the word evil. Noone deserves to die. That is a dumb thing to say or think. I'm not claiming to have all the answers, but to sit there and type as though the U.S. was just some sovereign country full of babes in the woods who happened to be the target of terrorism without any kind of provacation (real or perceived) is ridiculous.

Brian Greenberg | May 9, 2006 09:51 AM

darren:
Noone said any of that, but nice use of irrational emotionalism. You're the one using the word evil. Noone deserves to die. That is a dumb thing to say or think. I'm not claiming to have all the answers, but to sit there and type as though the U.S. was just some sovereign country full of babes in the woods who happened to be the target of terrorism without any kind of provacation (real or perceived) is ridiculous.

OK, apologies for getting overly excited. No one said they deserved to die, but when I suggested they didn't deserve to die, you and Lars both argued that the Pentagon and the WTC played a role in foreign policy. I (perhaps incorrectly) took that to be the same thing...

Since we all elect (and re-elect) our leaders, we all bear a certain responsibility for our country's actions, foreign and domestic. But just like the guy who didn't change his smoke detector batteries, while our actions may have angered others, they don't absolve (or even mitigate) the unwarranted response those angry people gave.

darren | May 9, 2006 01:03 PM

Again Brian, noone is absolving anyone of anything. It is attempting to understand and even empathise with the reasoning behind certain actions. It doesn't make those actions right, but you have to gain insight and understanding into why anyone does the shit they do in order to figure out a way to make them stop. When the dems said that several years ago they were met with assholes serving up meaningless rhetoric in order to confuse their uneducated base like; "Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers, Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war." When we just declare war on everything and try to stop people from doing what they do by force, regardless of what it is, we have historically just made things worse. Unless you can reasonably argue to me that drugs, alcohol, sex, and terrorism have been eliminated.
Whether we like it or not, or agree with it or not, the folks that wish us harm feel provoked. They feel like we deserve it, and like it or not, Smirky McDumbass has done nothing to assuage those feelings. Like it or not, the facts are the facts and no amount of apologizing for this miserable, horror of an administration will change the FACT that the outgoing administration in 2000 gave the Chimp all the information he needed to understand that bin Laden was a threat. Like it or not, it is a fact that The Schrub got a Presidential Daily Briefing that was titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike In The U.S. even though they claimed they had no idea it was going to happen. Like it or not, it is a fact that during the July 2001 G-8 summit your pResident stayed on a boat becuase there was a fear that bin Laden was going to crash a plane into their hotel even though Condi Rice states in 2002 "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile."
You're right in that we all bear certain responsibilities for our country's actions, but Bush is all yours. You paid for him, you eat him. I claim no responsibility for the absolute devastation he has wrought as I have been screaming from the rafters since 2000 just what I think of the prick even though I was in the military as I did so.
I'd still like to know when he is going to "strong arm OPEC into opening up the spigot" like he said he was going to do in 99' when the GOP were all screaming Clinton's failed foreign policy drove oil up to $25 a barrel. Oh to have those days back. Funny you don't hear those same GOP guys opening their fat mouths about it now do you? And whatever happened to the precious GOPs "Contract With America" from 1994? If I remember right, one of the provisions of that contract were that none of them were going to stay in office longer than 3 terms, but when framers like (oh I don't know) Tom Delay came up on that mark, they had a change of heart (or in his case, a change of ice cube).
These aren't democratic talking points (I am not a democrat anyway) they are facts.
Finally your statement "t like the guy who didn't change his smoke detector batteries, while our actions may have angered others, they don't absolve (or even mitigate) the unwarranted response those angry people gave." begs the question: Can't the rest of the world say the same thing about our invasion of Iraq? (/rant)

J | May 9, 2006 03:43 PM

I would pay SO MUCH MONEY to see a woman strip her way out of clown costume.

John Scalzi | May 9, 2006 03:53 PM

We'll send Kathy Bates over right away.

Brian Greenberg | May 9, 2006 04:44 PM

Wow, darren, now who's being irrationally emotional? I think we can call ourselves even on that score...

As for the content of what you said, you threw out a lot of "facts," but many are untrue or misleading.

First, I think you'd be hard pressed to prove that going to war after 9/11 is indicative that we "just declare war on everything and try to stop people from doing what they do by force." The list of terrorist attacks that we have absorbed without declaring war (or even exerting force) is extensive: the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, the Bali nightclub, the American embassies in Africa, the USS Cole, etc. Examples like these have been used to make the counter-argument to yours: that "gaining insight and understanding" hasn't done anything to stop terrorism, and that the only language these people understand is the kind that goes BOOM. Interestingly, in fact, the examples you give - drugs, alcohol, sex, and terrorism, have all decreased in prevalence in the last few years. Not that I'm giving Bush credit for this - Clinton was very succesful in these areas too, with the big exception being terrorism (the 9/11 Commission Report gives Clinton generally high marks, but states that his chief failure in regards to terrorism was his inability to garner public support for war - even after the USS Cole, when sources tell us that even Bin Laden was frustrated at our lack of response).

To your point about the terrorists feeling provoked, I agree that Bush hasn't done anything to make it better. But I recognize that what provokes them is what they perceive as our arrogance in the face of God's law (treating women as equals, allowing people to say/do anything they want, exporting our culture & commercialism to Muslim lands, such as Saudi Arabia). I don't expect that any President will curtail these activities to appease the terrorists. Where I fault Bush is his failure to rally our friends, not his failure to assuage our enemies.

As to recognizing Bin Laden as a threat, Bush changed Clinton's policy "from one of rollback to one of elimination," according to one of his (now) harshest critics, Richard Clarke. If I remember correctly, the comprehensive report on how we were going to wipe Al Qaeda off the map hit Bush's desk on 9/9 or 9/10.

Re: the daily brief, I'd strongly suggest you take a look at the comment thread here, where I've been discussing with Jeff Porten the common misperception that the PDB warned Bush about an attack on the World Trade Center. I won't go into the details here, except to say that it didn't say anything of the kind.

As for the G-8 summit, you're right that Bush stayed on the USS Enterprise, but not because anyone was crashing planes into hotels. A parcel bomb was sent to the local train station days before the summit began, and Russia's Federal Bodyguard Service warned us that they heard Bin Laden was planning on assassinating Bush at the conference. You also fail to note that the other seven leaders also stayed on a boat (a luxury cruise liner called the "European Vision," chartered by the Italian government at a cost of $2.89 million) because Italy couldn't guarantee the safety of the world leaders in Genoa. CNN's coverage of it is here.

And as for "strong arming OPEC into opening up the spigot," I too would like to see more done to increase supply. Unfortunately, the world is very different today than it was in '99 for several reasons: China's and India's industrialization has taken off at a pace no one ever anticipated, and instability in the mideast (not only in Iraq, who was 11th of the 12 OPEC countries in oil production before the war, but also due to Iran's new government and their stated nuclear ambitions, as well as the political unrest in Nigeria and Darfur, Sudan). So says USA Today.

There are no simple problems here, darren, and while it's relatively easy to blame bad things (like 9/11) on the guy in charge at the time, the fact of the matter is the majority of the blame still rests with the guys who flew planes into office buildings. We can and should look for ways to prevent it from happening again, and we should hold our leaders' feet to the fire on things they could/should be doing better. But that doesn't mean the solution our problems lies solely in self-introspection and self-blame.

darren | May 9, 2006 08:26 PM

Ok Brian. I was going to rebutt, but it looks like we're starting to get made fun of. You seemed to miss the point on alot of what I was saying. Maybe I wasn't getting it across well enough. All I can do is shake my head, look up at the ceiling and yell "That's not what I'm saying!" when you write what you said in that last paragraph. I guess suffice it to say in this day and age of point -counter point media you choose to believe what you want to and disregard everything that challenges. (/shrugs)

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