Monday, December 25, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

A compliment

I consider all my readers to be extremely well informed. So, you'll all forgive me when I don't provide you with a link to what I'm talking about in this post. I'm tired/lazy, and I know you know what I mean anyway. Ok?

Alright. First of all, all the people predicting doom because one of our congressmen in the 110 (A democrat from Michigan/Minesotta? Not important) will be sworn in on a Koran. These people need to stop whining, because this isn't a big deal, at all. Ever.

Our politicians swear on a bible because it's a book that they feel will make us take their oaths more seriously because we are supposed to think that they take that book seriously. This politician happens to have no problem with us believing he doesn't take the bible seriously, and feels instead that the Koran is more worthy of respect in his eyes. That is perfectly fine, both with our laws and our traditions. I'm glad that he isn't swearing himself in using a bible, because the book wouldn't mean anything in that case.

There is ablsolutely nothing wrong with using the Koran to be sworn in, just like there is nothing wrong with using nothing to be sworn in.

The other thing I'm going to refer to without linking, is the attempt to provide the world with Peace today, by having an orgasm. I'm glad that the left (well, the college-left) is still creative, but I can't see how this will help at all. I can imagine that this would create some good pick-up lines.

That's it. Both of these things have been pretty extensively blogged, so you should be able to find some good links from Althouse or TigerHawk if you have no idea what I'm talking about, but I'm still too lazy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

General Themes of Terrorism

(Eventually I'll provide links between the posts, but since it's not hard to find the previous one, I'm just going to be lazy now.)

The perception of terrorism among the general public is not very well developed. When asked what terrorism is, most people would respond with something like: “violence targeted at civilians." While it is true that a terrorist might target a bomb at a civilian group, one must realize that this is not the essence of terrorist tactics. Also, one should consider if it is possible for a civilian group to be targeted where terrorism is clearly not involved. For example, should the mafia be considered a network of terrorists? Generally, mafia-like organizations or gangs are described as “organized-crime,” which is a phenomenon distinct from terrorism. The difference is that the mafia lacks a political motive. Its violent acts are intended to coerce, but not for a political cause. The mafia may attempt to influence politicians, but only in an attempt to gain more power to support greed. The end goal of organized crime is not a new system of government, or the independence of a region from an existing government (which would both be examples of a political motivation). These things might happen (for example, the police might refuse to enter a certain area of the city, thus giving up the oportunity for the government to control those areas, but the goal of the mobsters is to get more money. A mobster might blow up a rival’s cafe, but this would not be terrorism because of the lack of a political motive.
The common perception of terrorism (violence against civilians), while probably not completely described in the words above, does include an important characteristic of terrorism. The tactics of terrorism are violent tactics. This is one of the most common elements in all the existing definitions of terrorism. However, some definitions disagree about the extent to which violence is necessary. Is the threat of violence sufficient to be called an act of terrorism? The answer to this question lies in another common element of definitions of terrorism, namely, the intent of the violent acts.
For something to be considered terrorism it needs to have a political motive. Groups that act as gangs rarely have a larger objective, so they cannot be considered terrorists. For something to be terrorism, it needs to be intended to create fear, which the terrorists think will allow them to more easily achieve their objective. Perhaps the most basic definition of terrorism would be that it is “violent propaganda,” because the violence is not the goal, it is the tool used to draw attention to a larger cause. Terrorists attempt to draw attention to themselves by killing others, or threatening to kill others. The media coverage helps the terrorist group spread its message, and the coverage also helps to encourage fear among the target population. This fear is the other goal (besides spreading their message) of terrorists. They want to cause the target population to fear, and thus be intimidated into giving the terrorist group what it wants. Usually, the fear felt by the target population is unfounded. For example, on 9/11, there were four hijacked planes, out of thousands of planes that would have flown that day. The actual chance of being aboard a hijacked plane is slight, as is the chance of being killed by any terrorist act on a given day. Far more violent acts caused by criminals without a larger cause each day, than are caused by terrorists, but a terrorist group tries to convince people to fear it more than they fear ordinary criminals. That fact is what causes terrorists to choose the specific tactics they use.
It is important for the public to have a better understanding of what the tactic of terrorism entails, and what is not terrorism. The reason for this is that spreading more information about the way terrorist groups operate and what are the goals of the use of terrorism is a way to combat the effectiveness of terrorism. The goal of terrorism is to spread fear, and is used by people who have limited options and strength relative to their opponents. Sometimes, the goal of a specific act of terrorism is to make the targets overreact and make it easier for the terrorist group to recruit people to their view. If the public knows what is and what is not terrorism, it will be better able to resist the evolution of society into a totalitarian state in reaction to a terrorist campaign. It will also be able to realize that terrorism is essentially a publicity stunt, and resist the effect of the media campaign put on by the terrorist group and its associates.
As Fallows said, the biggest danger posed by terrorism is what we do in reaction to the campaign, not the destruction of the campaign itself. That is why it is worrying to see that in Italy, a prosecutor said "The charge he is accused of is hijacking, and I'm working to see if we can qualify this as terrorism,"[1] This was in response to a man who hijacked a plane and forced it to land in Italy. At first glance, the charge of terrorism seems valid. However, looking at the details in the case, it can be seen that it was not. The man entered the cockpit of the plane while the door was left open. He lied about having an accomplice with a bomb on the plane, and he told the pilots to land in Italy. He also demanded a meeting with the pope. His goal was to get political asylum in Italy – arguably a political motive. His method was to threaten violence. However, he never had the intent to cause fear among a target audience. It is enough to arrest and jail him for the things he did do, rather than make up charges because they sound better, or will gather more support or a longer sentence. If the prosecutor feels that hijacking airplanes should carry a longer prison sentence than it does, he should lobby his government representative, not try his cases under false pretences. The erosion of civil liberties that this represents, this underlying tension of fear and willingness to submit to anything to be safe, will eventually cause more damage than the bombs of terrorists ever could. Correcting the public’s perception of terrorism will help keep this from happening.So, a basic, informed definition of terrorism could be: terrorism is an act of violence with a political cause, an act that is designed to promote fear. Is this sufficient? Is this all that is important about terrorism? In fact these are the most important characteristics of terrorism, but there is still disagreement, and a few other important points.
[1] (Giuseppe Giannuzzi, 10/05/2006, “Turkish hijacker may face terror charge” AP, accessed on 11/10/2006)

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Nature of Terrorism

So, I'm going to try something a little bit different. This past semester, I wrote a paper that discussed the nature of terrorism, and proposed a definition and a system of classification. It is quite long, so instead of posting it here in full, I'm going to post parts of it at a time, and then interlink it. I hope people are interested in it, cause I had fun writing it, and I think the points I made are pretty good points. So, read on, and feel free to give me comments...

The exact definition of terrorism has caused academics and politicians difficulties for decades. It is a very important concept to clarify, but there seems to be as many definitions as there are agencies and writers trying to define the term. These definitions range across a spectrum, and while they differ on many specific issues, there are a few concepts that are included in almost every attempt. It can be generally agreed upon that terrorism is violence, and that violence is used for a specific purpose. However, the nature of that violence and the nature of the purpose are defined differently, with some scholars and bureaucrats being more inclusive while others are more specific. This paper will explore these definitions and point out the significant aspects of each, while also exploring contributing issues - such as the nature of guerilla warfare and the concept of state terrorism - in an attempt to offer a more exact and complete definition.
Just as confusing and complicated as the issue of "what is terrorism," is the issue of the different kinds of terrorism that exist. Is there a substantial difference in the way that different terrorists (whoever they are) carry out their objectives? Do terrorist groups (whatever form they may take) have commonalities in their objectives? And, if these commonalities or differences exist, is there any way to create a framework to better understand the nature of terrorism? This paper proposes that there is a way to classify the majority of terrorist groups, and it will explain the system while giving examples for each type.
A rational observer might be tempted to ask the simple question: Why bother with an exact and specific definition? This is especially true when there is such disagreement and almost no hope of reaching consensus, and when most people agree that terrorism in whatever form is a bad thing that needs to be defeated. The reader might argue that a definition such as the one sought by this paper is a problem better left for academics, and then only after everything is settled and the immediate threat of terrorism has abated. While this point is valid, understanding the threat and its tactics is crucial to being able to combat that threat by developing useful strategies. Other factors must also be considered, such as society’s response in dealing with terrorism. Terrorism is fought in more locations than just on the battlefields spread across the world. We fight terrorism in the United States, where it is a tactic used by ‘homegrown’ dissidents. We do this using legal structures and protection of vital and vulnerable areas in our cities, but this is done in the western world of public opinion. We need to be careful that we don’t over-react, and target innocent people in our midst. We need to have a useful definition of terrorism, so that prosecutors and journalists will be able to describe violent actions appropriately, so that the right people are caught and the rights of the innocent are not infringed upon. James Fallows pointed out that the biggest threat caused by terrorists is how we allow them to change our society and culture in a negative way.(Link) Our reaction is potentially much more damaging to our long-term cultural health than any bomb the terrorist might (and probably will) set off inside the U.S. or anywhere else. If we become a culture that suspects each and every one of our neighbors or one that builds strongholds to protect ourselves, the terrorism will have succeeded in harming our way of life more completely than it could by destroying all the buildings in New York City.
To avoid this fate, the culture and its people need to understand terrorism. We need to have a definitive grasp on the nature of terrorism. This extends, but is not limited to, understanding what tactics are used and what are the motivations for those tactics. In this way, a culture can avoid confusing the issue in public discourse, and it can avoid locking people away for imagined threats. We have begun our fight against terrorism blindly, and we need to clarify what we are fighting so that we can fight effectively.
This paper will analyze current definitions, focusing on the official definitions of American federal agencies, and some of the definitions used by our allies in the war on terror. This paper will also examine a few of the most current and popular academic definitions. One factor in defining terrorism is defining what terrorism is not, so this paper will explain the difference between tactics used by guerrillas and tactics used by terrorist. This paper will discuss the nature of state terrorism and how that differs from state supported terrorism. This paper will also examine the old adage of “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter". These examples will be used to find a final, complete, definition, followed by an attempt to provide a classification structure for the different terrorist groups in the world, along with some general characteristics of groups in each category.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Leaving DC

There's no reason you should be interested, but tonight is my last night in DC. I have had a wonderful time here, and I've met the most wonderful people.

I spent the semester interning at The Terrorism Research Center, which is quickly becoming the foremost private intelligence and analysis firm in the world. They are now a part of the Black Group, which includes Blackwater, and they produce some of the finest analysis of world events on a weekly and daily basis. I encourage you to check out their website -
It's full of excellent information, including a weekly report that I feel is a great addendum to The Economist magazine, and a database of terrorist attacks from the world over. It's pretty exhaustive; I know, because I've contributed.

My friends here have been great; I have enjoyed my time with you all. Tonight, we will very much enjoy ourselves, and soon we will gather together again at the Lincoln Memorial.

Tonight I recieved the best card I think I have ever gotten, and it means the world to me. The writing on the card reads:
"Friendship is when people know all about you but like you anyway."
I think that just about sums it up perfectly. I will miss you all, but not too much, cause of facebook and aim and cellphones. Of course.

I'll miss DC, but I can't wait to get back to my home and school. DC is a great town, and I know I'll spend a good portion of my life here, so I don't feel too bad about leaving.

Now, to all my regular readers, sorry for the interuption.
Starting on Monday, I think I'll begin putting out a series on the nature of terrorism, but that depends on how I feel about blogging through the holidays. See you all again soon.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Thoughts on Christmas Trees

So, tonight I went with my dad to see the Christmas (good word to describe them) Trees that the Congress and the White House put up. I'm surprisingly technophobic (I scored a 52% on the Geek Test) where cameras are concerned, so I have no pictures. Sorry, go find it yourselves.

The Congressional tree was the first one we went to. It was nice. It was a tree given by a native tribe from out in the northwest. I forget which one. They used ornaments probably made by talented school children, which were cool, but I'm not sure exactly who made them because it was dark and I couldn't see a sign. The tree was kind of strange, because it had a trunk like a birch tree, and evergreen needles. There was also a surprising lack of branches. It was a fir, but unlike any fir I've seen in Maine. The lights were led lights. I like leds, but they didn't work perfectly here. Instead of using colored leds (they come in many colors now, in fact, white light was one of the more recent innovations in the technology), they used white leds inside colored globes. This made the lights shine not so brightly.

Overall, in this grade-inflated world, I give it a B-.

The White House tree was much cooler. It was huge, there were many train sets running around the base. Also, in the area around the tree, there were 56 smaller trees decorated by an organization from each of the 56 commonwealths/territories/states of the Union. Quite impressive, and cool, to boot. They also had an amazingly hot fire, in place of the traditional "Yuletide log." The lights were of the normal variety, and it worked quite well.

Overall, it gets an A-. Not perfect, but cool none-the-less.

However, some of the states had interesting ideas about who should give the ornaments. There were a couple states that decided to make ornaments that related to their states - Mighigan had ornaments with "the mitts," and Maine school kids decorated sea urchins (which we're trying to push as a sideline industry with Lobsters) - props to them. Others had local artists make some pretty things. That worked well.
Other states - the usual suspects - decided to make statements. New York (and some others) had origami cranes, for peace. A good idea, and in keeping with the season. That was fine. However, one state decided to use triangle folded American flags as their ornaments. This doesn't have much to do with their state, but is I'm sure intended to comment on the Iraq deaths. Protest is fine, and I encourage it. However, a Christmas (or holiday) celebration meant to bring the nation together in celebration should probably stay away from controversial subjects. There are plenty of other avenues for that kind of thing. Even if you insist on using the venue for a protest, you could choose to do it with some class, like New York and others did. Using an image that is meant to invoke scenes of military funerals is pretty inappropriate.

Any guesses as to which state it was?

If you guessed Vermont, you were right - 10 points to you.

If not, try not to feel bad. There was only a 1 in 56 chance of getting it. A 1 in about 20 if you pay attention to state politics and what I said above. And, if you cheated and saw it, so you knew, then no points. Just cause I feel like doing it that way.

If I'm reading this wrong, please let me know how and why, and if you have more information than was apparent to me, I'd love to hear it. But, based on what I know, I have to condemn Vermont for their decision.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More comment responses

So, over at Frank J.'s blog, a bunch of liberal commenter's got a head start on the regulars, and the result is priceless. I urge you all to go over there and check it out.

I felt the need to post a comment, and I want to put it here too...check out a couple of the comments over there for context, and then take a look at this. Enjoy.

Wow! This is the comment thread that keeps on giving! Frank, I don't think you even need to play "the game" with these guys; it's funny enough as it is.

I would love to see some proof from you guys about all the "constitution a**wiping" and whatnot. If that were actually happening, I would be concerned.

Your best arguments are: wiretapping without warrants and the "secret" prisons where torture happened. I will deal with them both.

First, I was quite worried about the wire-tapping until I read about the details, as published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and several liberal blogs. You get the best damaging information from those who would like to see the target fall, so if something bad for Bush happens, I'll read about it from his detractors.
It seems that those wire-taps were only used on Americans when they were part of an international call to known terrorists, and when they used key words, like "bombs". I, for one, would like to see those calls watched. Do you think those kind of calls last long enough for the FBI to run down to the local (hah!) FISA court? I concede that Bush should have asked congress to change the law to one he could work with, but I'm ok with stop-gap measures to plug the dam in the meantime. Then again, FDR (and every subsequent President) ordered tapped phones with wild abandon, in similar circumstances, and look at how the country ended up. Maybe I should be worried.

Now, the "secret" prisons where torture happened. Again, I read everything I could about it from the usual suspects before making a decision. And, I'm sorry, but sleep deprivation is not torture. The waterboarding stuff (which I have researched extensively, and I will give you a disertation, if you are actually interested) is harder to dismiss, so I won't. It's a rough treatment. It has not, however, crossed the line into unbelievably bad torture. "Torture" to me, involves electrodes attatched to nuts, and possibly carbatterires, when there isn't actually whipping and balls and chains.

The people we're dealing with aren't exactly nice guys, and if we don't leave physical marks, then I think I'm ok with it. Remember that when they get their hands on an American, they often behead them. That's not exactly torture, but it's also not very nice.

Also, remember the class with which our military and government servants act. When something horrible happens (like when one of our own does horrible things), we own up to it. Abu Ghraib was not reported by a news agency. It was first disclosed in a Pentagon Press release, following a preliminary investigation run by the military after recieving a tip from their own. People who break the ROE's (which are far too tight, and lead to many unneccesary deaths. The only "appropriate" level of military force is the "overwhelming" level) are tried, convicted, and sent to jail - and that doesn't happen very often. Not because of cover ups, but because of the class with which our American military servicemen, (republicans or democrats alike; it doesn't matter, they're all Americans) act in every situation.

Like I said above, I'd love to hear some more detailed claims from you guys, but I think you'll just give me more propaganda. Now, I like propaganda. It's fun to study, and it makes for some amazing posters and bumper stickers, but it isn't really good for making decisions and opinions. I don't think most things that have happened in the past few years lead up to fascism. If you'd like to see some real fascism, take a look at Russia or Venezuela. Until we start rounding up people like you, who "speak truth to power," into internment camps, I'll watch, wait, and not go off my rocker. Thanks. I hope you enjoyed my reasoned rant.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Today was the day

I took the Oral Assessment. I didn't pass, but got a 4.7. Which is fine, because I'll be taking the test again anyway. The score isn't low enough to make me think I'll never pass, and I've still got plenty of time to take the test. This was the first year I was eligible anyway. Thanks to everyone who helped me, I appreciate the advice, and I'm sure that I'll do better next year.

Bold line

"If I am correct about this, which I am" - Christopher Hitchens.

I haven't read the whole essay yet, but the parts I have read (Found on Althouse) are pretty good.

The Work Week

This is in response to this post, over at Consul-@-Arms.

While the sentiments of this post are right-on, it's still not a good idea to have congress sit around in DC all week. Most of the congressmen go home on the weekend - not just to hang out with their families, but to check into regional offices on Friday, and then attend events all weekend. Obviously this isn't true for the Alaskan and Hawaiian reps, but you'd be surprised how many west coast congressmen go back to their districts. This is a good thing, for three reasons.

First, they need to be with their consitutants.

Second, the longer they're in washington, the longer the lobbyists know exactly where to find them. This also places them outside of the more watchful eyes found back home.

Third, it just isn't a good idea for congress to spend more time making laws - have you seen what they've done already? I mean, do you really want them to do more of this "work"?

I'm actually a fan of a decentralized congress - one where the representatives work from their home districts. This is easily possible with available technology, and will be even easier as more effective video technology comes into play. This spreads the representatives out and makes them a more difficult target for two different kinds of vultures - terrorists (or rather, the issue is security in general) and Lobbyists. You only need to visit the capital once to know that the national teamster's union is but a block away, along with many, many other groups that vie for the attention of our representatives.

Many people say that spreading the congress out will not help them get work done, and would in fact make it harder to do any worthwhile legislation. While I've already mentioned that less is more from the congress, in my opinion, this is actually a valid point. However, every representative we elect is quite capable of getting things done through e-mails and phone calls instead of face to face contact. They may not be the smartest members of society, but they are certainly capable. (as are their staffs)

So, don't be so quick to disparage the three day work many ways it's a good thing.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wouldn't it have been cool...

...if the Dixie chicks had a press release like this after their infamous out of the country quotes?

I mean, here's a good celebrity. She's probably still crazy liberal, but at least she's got her heart in the right place...and England's a decent enough place too...

Oh, and to make sure people don't get the wrong idea about this, I noticed a few weeks ago that Paltrow had allegedly said that the English were smarter than Americans...which I thought was a stupid thing to say. Then, Instapundit (no link; you know how to get there, and he didn't give me one when he used my name. Tit-for-Tat! How doya like 'dem apples?) posted a link to this post, so I checked it out. I'm glad I did, cause I don't like to be under-informed. UPDATE: The point is, I don't generally follow celebrity gossip. I have a reputation to uphold, you know! issue.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Verification Words

Althouse does this sometimes, and I think it's fun, but this is the first time I've had a worthy word.


definition - crazy to the max. Ubercrazy doesn't even come close to describing that which is cairazqy.

For a real world example of this phenomenon, please see, CAIR.

What do I think about the resignation of John Bolton at the end of his term?

Well, I'm glad you asked.

First off, he's done an excellent job representing our president at the UN. He may not have gotten as much reform as he would have liked, but that's a tough nut to crack. Plus, since everyone watches American politics, especially foreign diplomats, everyone knew he didn't have the full support of congress. That made it easier to ignore his inconvenient truths. (heh, I made a funny pun.)

It will be a long time before we have such an effective representative of our country, and I hope one day to be as successful at that job (representing his president) as he was.

Too bad, that's what I think about the resignation.

Senseless bragging (about what? ask TigerHawk)

The context is that a friend of mine just got home from class, and I'm chatting with my friend who is her roommate. This girl generally works out everyday, but the gym closes at 9:30. It is now 9:08. Thus, the following conversation ensues. (oh, and we plan to go watch some football and have me watch them eat wings later tonight at a bar)

Ben: I figured she was out...
J: not yet
Ben: foolish athlete type people.
J: shes at the gym
Ben: evan just ran out the door...
Ben: that's what I mean...
Ben: there's only 20 minutes left...
9:10 PM
Ben: not worth my time...
J: i know lol
J: me too
Ben: course, I am lazy and fat, lying on the couch, watching athletes on tv.
Ben: which is kinda funny.

Today I wore size 36 pants for the first time since my sophomore year of high school; I've lost about 38lbs since the beginning of the summer.

Oh, and don't really ask Tigerhawk, it's just that's he's doing the same thing I am...

ABC is doing a decent job

in the interest of fairness, we should applaud the MSM when they do something good. The bar is set so low, however, that just doing their job deserves props.

I have followed the MSM relatively closely as part of my job, and ABC seems to do the best job. They haven't plastered sketchy AP stories on their news sites and such after following them up themselves, and they do good reporting on their own. Also, I can not detect any bias in their reporting, and I haven't heard that they're shills for the administration (which I also don't see, but my view is colored, so I'll depend on someone else's vision), so they must be reaching a good tone.

It's important to reward good behavior as well as discipline bad behavior. We bloggers should remember that.

My Favorite President

"Dare greatly. It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena."

Theodore Roosevelt

TR is my favorite. He had a good foreign policy, he had a decent domestic policy, and he worked hard to protect the environment. Plus, he had a good public persona, which is important for presidents now-a-days. I am one of the 'scholars' who see a distinction between the 'modern' presidency and the classical presidency. TR was the first modern president, though there were a couple more classical ones that came after him.

I'm not sure I like his role in the Spanish-American war, though I suppose I can explain that by attributing to him extreme patriotism (which if not good, is at least not horrible), and a media-induced blindness. The rough riders will go down in history, and it added to his later persona that I like so much. I'm sure that I could find some more things to dislike, but since he's got some great quotes and almost no effect on the current situation, I think it's safe to just like the guy, rather than be totally informed about him. I have already done quite a bit of research, so I don't think the marginal utility of more research equals the marginal benefit.

So, there you go, that's my word.

UPDATE: New quote, and I'm going from memory. "Walk softly and carry a big stick." - Advice for Foreign Relations.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Go check out the Instapundit...I'm not too excited about my last name being used without a link, but, hey I'm not going to complain.

Friday, December 01, 2006

British Committee Names

But in a sign of the continuing high alert on the political level, the government's top level COBRA committee, which usually meets in national emergencies, was convened again.
Why can't we have awesome names for emergency committees? I guess that's just what you get when you have a government as old as the Brit's do.

I'm also carefully following this spy case, especially the connection between this, the sickness of the former Liberal (read pro-democracy, I think) Prime Minister, and the killing of the reporter about a month and a half ago. More to come, I think.

Also, go check out Sadly, No. They are a good liberal blog, and I could use some fire support in the comments. They probably think I've abandoned them, since I haven't responded since yesterday, but I have a life, you know?