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September 14, 2003 9:13 PM   Subscribe

Methamphetamine is now a WMD. Well, I guess we should've seen it coming. According to this Salon article, prosecutors across the country are now using the Patriot act to prosecute drug crimes, fraud, and anything involving a bomb. This means any of these people may be detained indefinitely without an attorney. I don't like trailing questions, but I would like to see some constructive and creative posts about what can be done to protest this. It's so blatantly unconstitutional, it's not funny anymore, and I for one am not willing to welcome our new overlords.
posted by condour75 (100 comments total)

 
actually it's from the AP -- not a Salon article.
posted by condour75 at 9:14 PM on September 14, 2003


You can sign Howard Dean's anti-PATRIOT ACT petition. I, for one, would be less averse to the fundamental eschewing of the US' heritage of individual liberty were it not couched in horrible acronyms.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:19 PM on September 14, 2003


It's interesting that the definition of a WMD is increasingly becoming anything that can lead to the death of more than a small amount of people.

I await trembling for booze to be similarly promoted. Jim Beam and Jack Daniels both had moustaches too, you know.

Thanks for the article, condour75 - fwiw, I'm not willing to welcome them either. Bunch of hygieno-fascist nannies!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:29 PM on September 14, 2003


So I guess like, gasoline or lighter fluid is a chemical weapon now. That's just great.
posted by bobo123 at 9:33 PM on September 14, 2003


Ashcroft now has an official theme song. Bring your boombox if he visits your town.
posted by skallas at 9:48 PM on September 14, 2003


The next time someone tries to tell me that the US is still the freest country in the world, I will be pointing him to this article.

"We've already heard stories of local police chiefs creating files on people who have protested the (Iraq) war."

Time to start pricing apartments overseas, methinks.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:49 PM on September 14, 2003


What's just as ominous is that the (ab)uses of the Patriot Act occur largely without public scrutiny, since by its own terms, it hides information about how it is used.

Meanwhile, Orrin Hatch and some of his buddies want to redefine more drug crimes as "narco-terrorism." And of course Bush wants more police powers, like expanded access to personal data.

This must be that slippery slope we were warned about.
posted by homunculus at 9:50 PM on September 14, 2003


if he visits your town.

Is the Patriot Act Summer Tour still going? That rocks!
posted by homunculus at 9:54 PM on September 14, 2003


Where is the link between WMD and drugs?

Why do they care so fucking much about drugs? I mean, they all want us to die anyhow. Why do they care if the indigent of the inner (blue) cities wither away? This capriciousness is wearing real fucking thin.

I wish they'd just tell us what their point is. That's democracy right? The very thing we're "giving" to Iraq right?

I mean, here's what Cheney said on Meet the Press today:

"We’ve got Iraqis now in charge of each ministry in the government. We’ve got 90 percent—over 90 percent of the cities and towns and villages of Iraq are now governed by democratically elected or appointed local councils."

What in the wide world of sports are they up to? They have to know deep down that the whole world (for the most part) can see they've drained the term "democracy" of all previous meaning. Why do they carry on? And why are they so cruel? I just don't get it.
posted by crasspastor at 10:24 PM on September 14, 2003


thanks for the imperial march link skallas! That's great. I signed the petition (thanks IJ) and urge all Mefite-Americans to do likewise.
posted by condour75 at 10:28 PM on September 14, 2003


Here's something from Jimmy Breslin that won't make you feel any better.
posted by crasspastor at 10:29 PM on September 14, 2003


cpastor:Why do they care so fucking much about drugs?

Simply put, the conservative, puritanical, et al mentalities cannot stand hedonism in any form thus censoring of pornography, war on drugs, fight against sex-ed, abstinence propaganda, disinformation of the true effects of cannabis and other drugs, firings over saying 'masturbation is healthy', etc. I was just telling someone the other day how fake American film sex-scenes look. By carefully avoiding the nipples and shlongs, directors just have couples doing it under the sheets and doing it very dispassionately.

Secondly, large and powerful industries have emerged from these attitudes; afterall there is a buck to make. The prison system, the drug test companies, and of course funding for anti-drug programs that creates jobs, pork-barrels, etc.

So now, to get any kind of real change you need to fight not only the anti-hedonists (usually rooted in religious dogma) and the industry/government money but also terrorism laws. Prohibition and smart drug laws are farther away than ever I'm afraid.

The optimist in me sees a lot of this crashing down and exposed as for what it is when the PATRIOT ACT finally gets dismissed by the next president or SCOTUS. The pessimist, well, lets not hear from him today.

See Also: DRCNet
posted by skallas at 10:56 PM on September 14, 2003


This is somewhat specious but my discomfort is best expressed by this:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.


Not to compare common criminality with any of the above groups. . .but I am nervous, none-the-less
posted by Danf at 10:57 PM on September 14, 2003


Yeah I hear you Skallas. My day's been a real downer.

Just yesterday I was feeling great!
posted by crasspastor at 11:01 PM on September 14, 2003


Hmmm... has North Carolina inadvertently created a way to do in the tobacco industry once and for all? Surely the state's attorney general will begin wholesale prosecutions against the executives of these companies, right? After all, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with another substance that more perfectly meets the criteria of "'any substance that is designed or has the capability to cause death or serious injury' and contains toxic chemicals."

I mean, these laws are being applied even-handedly and without regard to lobbying power and campaign contributions, right?

(Going back to the happy little fantasy world I apparently live in...)
posted by KF at 11:24 PM on September 14, 2003


another thing I'm wondering, are there conservatives who are ready to come out against this shit? I mean, this is Article 6 of the Bill of Rights we're talking about. I'd love to hear from MeFites in the GOP camp who are thinking about getting a new guy up there in 04, maybe McCain folks or something. Please make your voice heard too!
posted by condour75 at 11:27 PM on September 14, 2003


Simply put, the conservative, puritanical, et al mentalities cannot stand hedonism in any form

This kind of facile oversimplification of conservative philosophy does not serve well to advance any debate. It's not like religious conservatives have a personal vendetta against pleasures of the flesh. Rather, they know (sometimes all too well) about the problems such impulses can cause in the presence of a lack of personal discipline. (You'll notice that most religious conservatives are also big advocates of personal discipline, which is not coincidental.) And it's considerably more socially-oriented than you might think at first. For example, if your neighbor is, say, an alcoholic, then according to this philosophy, you have a moral obligation not to drink around him, even if you have no problem handling alcohol yourself. By universally adhering to an ascetic philosophy, the whole community helps the people who have problems caused by indulging themselves keep out of trouble by reducing the demand for such pleasures, thereby making them harder to come by and thus less tempting, and also by establishing norms for appropriate behavior for membership in the group. Really, if you think about it, it's almost socialist in nature -- the majority will give up certain pleasures so that a minority who can't handle them will not have their lives ruined.

You can debate whether that's the right approach or not -- it might work okay with a small community that voluntarily adheres to it, but on the scale of a nation it is quite restrictive of individual freedoms -- but the conservative viewpoint is somewhat more nuanced than the strawman you've advanced here. You haven't explained anything about the religious conservative mindset; you've merely caricatured it.

That said, this news is extremely disturbing. Something to remember when you start thinking the left is a bunch of paranoid lunatics, as I sometimes do: just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you...
posted by kindall at 11:27 PM on September 14, 2003


kindall, i think that's exactly the post i was looking for.
posted by condour75 at 11:35 PM on September 14, 2003


So, they're out to get us? I knew it!
posted by password at 11:38 PM on September 14, 2003


Time to start pricing apartments overseas, methinks.

Well... I've wondered about this also. It's probably not a bad idea if you can afford it (and most can't, leaving them to suffer without additional voices in their favor), but aren't your friends, family, country and freedom worth fighting for anymore? Isn't this exact attitude that led us into this mess to begin with?
posted by a_green_man at 12:38 AM on September 15, 2003


[from the article] - Civil liberties and legal defense groups are bothered by the string of cases, and say the government soon will be routinely using harsh anti-terrorism laws against run-of-the-mill lawbreakers.

Run-of-the-mill? The article uses a pipe bomb maker, a man accused of running a methamphetamine lab, and a telemarketing scam to the tune of $4.5 million. I would hardly call those run-of-the-mill criminals. Can we agree on that?

[again] - And Muslim and civil liberties groups have criticized the government's decision to force thousands of mostly Middle Eastern men to risk deportation by registering with immigration authorities.

Too damn bad. What's the problem here? Should they not register with immigration?

[once more] - "We've already heard stories of local police chiefs creating files on people who have protested the (Iraq) war ...

And? If a string of violence or destruction of property related to anti-war opinions crops up in the area, guess who the police are going to look for? Probably someone who is strongly against the war. It's not like they have files on EVERY protester in town or something... as much as the article may like you to believe. I guess every police officer is pro-Bush, "pro-war"?

[from the FPP] - According to this Salon article, prosecutors across the country are now using the Patriot act to prosecute drug crimes, fraud, and anything involving a bomb. This means any of these people may be detained indefinitely without an attorney.

No it doesn't. That's an exagerration condour75.... a claim made by you. The article doesn't even make that claim. Enemy combatants can be held as such, yes. But none of the people mentioned in the article are being labeled enemy combatants. Just because federal agents and prosecutors are using (testing) portions of the Patriot Act doesn't mean the whole shebang is out of control and "just anyone" can be held without access to a lawyer. They may be stretching things (piling on... and it wouldn't be the first time) a bit... in the same way ANY new legislation is tested, but not nearly as much as the people in this thread would like you to believe.
posted by Witty at 1:29 AM on September 15, 2003


Did your grandad live with the PATRIOT ACT inacted Witty?

How did he get along in his world without it? The Constitution's been just fine since. How come everything's gotta change just because you're scared of Muslims and drugs?

Why don't you come clean with why you would even be remotely for this development? What do you stand to gain? Again, your grandad did just fine without it. Why do you need it?
posted by crasspastor at 1:53 AM on September 15, 2003


Oh please kindall spare me the apologism. Your "logical basis" for asceticism is interesting but ultimately failed because the religious have an authority to site regarding why x and y are wrong: their deity. To assume that religious laws are just the works of man and really a social contract spits in the face of divine revelation.

Secondly, you can call my description a straw-man until a man out of straw walks into the room but its fairly obvious that the "true conservative argument" is bunk. You can dismiss what most people who call conservatives do, put your head in the sand, but I'm afraid that's far from convincing.

I dislike the "everything is so much more complex than you think" posts when someone pegs a group and calls it on its actions. Simple-mindedness is more common with people than complex sophistry. You can defend anything with enough rhetoric and make it sound good on the surface but I'm calling these people on their actions: ridiculous drug laws, support for bullshit drug propaganda, porkbarrel anti-drug programs, etc.

Hell, Ashcroft could post in here a long winded diatribe on how the PATRIOT ACT is not really agains the constitution and how its needed and how you're all over-reacting but the facts point to another conclusion.

Nice attempt at apologism and sophistry though.
posted by skallas at 2:08 AM on September 15, 2003


Yeah, but if they shut down the meth labs, where the heck are we gonna get our speed from, is what I want to know.

And skallas, mate, please crank it down a freakin' notch, will you? You're even getting on my nerves these days, and I hate America way more than you. Heh.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:29 AM on September 15, 2003


(Sorry - all the standing-in-a-circle-kicking-each-other-in-the-nuts activity in MeTa lately has got me quick on the trigger.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:47 AM on September 15, 2003


Stav. Chill. You don't even live here. And let me tell you, there's a lot on our nerves. You're not the only one with the symptoms.

Shall we ask you to "crank it down a freakin' notch"? I didn't think so.

It's Metafilter. You know, the mothership?
posted by crasspastor at 2:47 AM on September 15, 2003


Yeah, well, OK, then, crassy.

Somebody just want to go ahead and start the revolution already, then, so we can go back to talking about the fun stuff and stop insulting each others' intelligence?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:52 AM on September 15, 2003


I, sure, wish, that, were, possible, stavrosthewonderchicken. If you have any ideas make them known, please.

Other than that, telling people to crank what they have to say down freakin' notches is counterproductive, seems to me.
posted by crasspastor at 3:03 AM on September 15, 2003


stwc:And skallas, mate, please crank it down a freakin' notch, will you?

I thought my last post was pretty straight forward, there's a difference between making a point and rationalizing away with no regard to the real world to defend one's position. I mean, I can almost picture Kindall running into a temple and yelling, "You can eat pork now! You won't get trichinosis in the desert anymore! Its the 21st century!"

Or berating George Bush about how he's not truly about state's rights and fiscal responsibly and expecting Bush to sit him down and give him a long intellectual lecture a la O'Brien in 1984 about why everything is the way it is. It just aint gonna happen. Its been fairly established that Bush is being led by the PNAC crowd and that many think his administration is working off the assumption that they're one termers thus - do as much damage (pro-conservative legislation and appointees) as possible.

There's a real difference between theory and practice and I find how Kindall ignored that to be disingenuous at the very least. This is not a personal attack, just criticism of one of his posts.

Sorry, stavros, the culture war is real and if you were in the US you might have a different perspective on how backwards things have gotten lately. Not that I think its beyond repair, but enough to scare/piss-off some people.

Lastly, I do not hate America. I love America, its highly diverse, people take civil rights seriously, there's lots of money, it has a rich history of protest and change, and has the best deep dish pizza in the world. Just because we're in a temporary slump with bad leadership doesn't mean its the end of the world or that I'm running off to Athens with a backpack full of Howard Zinn books while wearing a saucy beret and a purple neckerchief.
posted by skallas at 3:17 AM on September 15, 2003


Lastly, I do not hate America. I love America...

Now, see, this is why I poked you with a stick in the first place. I was joking, Mike, I was joking. But then 'running off to Athens with a backpack full of Howard Zinn books while wearing a saucy beret and a purple neckerchief' sounds like you're still capable of putting down the stick and joking around a bit too, so it's all good.

crasspastor : I got the (perhaps mistaken, it seems) impression that skallas was attacking kindall rather than his argument, and since kindall wrote this comment way the hell back when, well, I've been his biggest damn fan, 'round here, anyway. That's all.

I rarely disagree with what either skallas or you have to say with regard to the Decline of America, you are surely aware, but I also reckon that invective doesn't help anyone, and makes the arguments of those who stoop to it, no matter their ethical weight, less effective.

I await kindall's response to skallas, if it's forthcoming, and would like to bow out of this thread again, if that's OK.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:40 AM on September 15, 2003


It's not like religious conservatives have a personal vendetta against pleasures of the flesh. Rather, they know (sometimes all too well) about the problems such impulses can cause in the presence of a lack of personal discipline.

Please explain how someone else's inability to control themselves is morally my problem? Certainly it can become my problem pratically, but that's an entirely different issue. This is a fascinating, but I think rather convoluted, argument that you present, but I do not think that society is obligated to lower itself to its lowest common denominator.

And I agree with stavrosthewonderchicken that skallas' original comment was offputtingly unpleasant in tone, and that's from the perspective of someone who essentially agrees with him. I think "crank it down a freakin' notch" is the right response.
posted by rushmc at 4:33 AM on September 15, 2003


I was trying to explain to someone on another site how his faith in the EU Human Rights Act to protect people from abusive uses and extensions of terrorism laws wasn't the safeguard he thought it was.

Essentially it gives so many opt-outs for governments dealing with what they claim to be terrorism, national security, etc. etc. that it's effectively no security at all: not only does it give the opt-out on such matters, but the definitions are left up to the government, such as with the artle cited here, the government concerned can stretch the definition, or simply claim that national security is their motive, when it's not.

With the growing anti-freedom infrastructure we have growing and being proposed here in the UK, like mass surveillance by CCTV, compulsory ID cards, satellite car tracking, RFID chips, a compulsory DNA database of the entire population, the RIP act monitoring websites visited and e-mail & telephone correspondence, and the massive interconnected databases that lie behind them with access to all and sundry, us Europeans shouldn't be siting too comfortably as we observe the travesty that the neocons are unleashing on America.
posted by Blue Stone at 4:49 AM on September 15, 2003


skallas, beautifully put.
posted by substrate at 5:12 AM on September 15, 2003


They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin, 1706–1790
posted by Samizdata at 5:32 AM on September 15, 2003


If you're looking to escape the US, think about continental Europe, not the UK. People protesting the biannual Military Car Boot Sale in London were routinely stopped and searched under section 44 of the Terrorism Act: a clear overstepping of police powers, since there's plenty of authoritarian shit in section 6 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act they can rely upon.

As Mayor Ken and others have said, if you're going to stop and search peaceful protestors under the pretext of their being terrorists, the only consequence will be to undermine the anti-terrorism provisions. Not that that is a bad thing, since they show NewLabour's authoritarian streak at its worst. And makes Oliver Letwin once again appear reasonable when he talks about it being a slippery slope towards general application of the Act.

What's really disturbing is that the deputy commissioner of the Met appeared on the lunchtime news saying 'no, we're not using Section 44 powers, that's a filthy lie', then turned up a few hours later saying, 'yes, we have used them, because we can't run the risk of students with placards being suicide protestors'. Utter bullshit.
posted by riviera at 5:49 AM on September 15, 2003


I'd love to see the sources for this article.

That said, I'm going to press charges on this guy at college, because when that motherfucker farts, it might as well be a weapon of mass destruction.
posted by angry modem at 6:39 AM on September 15, 2003


any of you want to swap for a house in scotland , give me a shout , i'll have to think about how im gonna cope in land without meth labs though.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:45 AM on September 15, 2003


Simply put, the conservative, puritanical, et al mentalities cannot stand hedonism in any form...

I shall do my part for the revolution by drinking myself stupid and screwing my self silly. This is activism, I can get behind, man.
posted by jonmc at 6:47 AM on September 15, 2003


any of you want to swap for a house in scotland , give me a shout , i'll have to think about how im gonna cope in land without meth labs though.

Oh, I would love to live in Scotland. I adore Scotland. If I thought we could move there...and the job situation was any better there than it is here...I would so be in Scotland. Pull out my clan's tartan and go looking for lost cousins, I would. Run about happily in the heather. Drink good scotch by the fireside at night. Yum.
posted by dejah420 at 6:58 AM on September 15, 2003


are there conservatives who are ready to come out against this shit?

Of course there are. I am one. There are already laws prohibiting the manufacture and sale of methamphetamine, and RICO statutes to handle the distributors. Patriot Act not needed.

What we have here is an overzealous prosecutor testing the limits of a new law. It happens every day, and it is just as routinely squashed at the local judicial level. The good Reverend Niemoeller can rest easy tonight, I think.

Now then: are there any liberals are are ready to come out against hysterical Godwin-invoking and wild henny-pennying about the much-anticipated Decline And Fall of the American Empire?

*skunk-eye at stav, followed by air-kiss*
posted by UncleFes at 6:59 AM on September 15, 2003


Now then: are there any liberals are are ready to come out against hysterical Godwin-invoking and wild henny-pennying about the much-anticipated Decline And Fall of the American Empire?

*ahem*
posted by jonmc at 7:04 AM on September 15, 2003


... wild henny-pennying ...
i like that!

I think wild henny-pennying can help to prevent the decline and fall, if it serves to remind people of the freedoms we should be enjoying. Perhaps the wild henny-pennying by those in power re: the terrorists in our midst necessitating the need for patriot act had something to do with it too.
posted by amberglow at 7:12 AM on September 15, 2003


Perhaps the wild henny-pennying by those in power re: the terrorists in our midst

Well, there's the big question at the center off all this. Post 9/11, is there a threat of it happening again? It's not something that we can casually dismiss anymore. The question then becomes how do we deal with that possibility and what do we do about bringing those behind it to justice.

Obviously, the Patriot Act and other martial law like measures aren't gonna do it, nor is war with Iraq (which no matter how much I loathe saddam and his ilk wasn't neccessary). But what is? That's something we need to think on.
posted by jonmc at 7:21 AM on September 15, 2003


By universally adhering to an ascetic philosophy, the whole community helps the people who have problems caused by indulging themselves keep out of trouble by reducing the demand for such pleasures, thereby making them harder to come by and thus less tempting, and also by establishing norms for appropriate behavior for membership in the group.

Without being accusatory towards kindall the way some other people in this thread have been, I'd like to point out that the part where pleasures are supposed to become less tempting because they're kept underground and "harder to come by" is where this line of thinking gets run down in the street by the sheer facts of human nature.

Also, I'd note that many of the people I've met that subscribe to this point of view don't have many illusions about this approach working against "sinful" behaviors. They just don't want to have to look at it. At least, not when they don't want to.
posted by furiousthought at 7:29 AM on September 15, 2003


I suppose I'm a little blase about the Patriot Act because I have always viewed it as a temporary kind of thing. Wartime presidents have always curtailed freedoms - Lincoln damn near declared martial law - and when the threat was over, civil liberties invariably came back, and usually stronger than before. Americans are a freedom-loving people who have never known true tyranny. We have always - over time - traded security for freedom. And in light of the highly temporary nature of our presidential officeholders, I have faith that the future will see the much-maligned Patriot Act defanged and eventually decodified. It is actions like the North Carolina prosecutor's, after all, that point up the flaws in these sorts of legislative chicaneries and unifies opposition.
posted by UncleFes at 7:31 AM on September 15, 2003


kindall, I can understand when you state:
For example, if your neighbor is, say, an alcoholic, then according to this philosophy, you have a moral obligation not to drink around him, even if you have no problem handling alcohol yourself.

However, I don't see how you can legislate this sort of social kindness. I mean, heart disease linked to obesity is a widespread killer, so does this mean I shouldn't eat fattening foods in front of people who tend towards obesity? Or does it mean that I have an obligation to make them get proper exercise because I do? Where do we draw the line?

Really, if you think about it, it's almost socialist in nature -- the majority will give up certain pleasures so that a minority who can't handle them will not have their lives ruined.

That's not what you said earlier at all. Your example was to not drink in front of an alcoholic, which is not the same as giving up drinking altogether. There's also the issue of deciding when an individual "can't handle" something. Am I not handling my drinking when I have more than two drinks at a meal, or is it when I go above a state endorsed legal limit?

Can I reread "pleasures" as "activities?" If so, then it'd probably be best to give up shooting guns, because there is a minority that keeps using them on other people.

You may personally believe in certain legal controls because of ascetism, but that doesn't mean it's the reason those laws are in place.
posted by mikeh at 7:32 AM on September 15, 2003


Well, there's the big question at the center off all this. Post 9/11, is there a threat of it happening again?

but isn't the big question whether or not the expanded law enforcement powers and non-accountability or sunshine in patriot act were actually needed to deal with that threat?

We have plenty of laws on the books which could have stopped terrorists, and probably have in the past. There's obviously still a threat, but that threat existed well before 9/11. I especially don't see how clouding all of the patriot act stuff in secrecy helps us as a nation deal with those threats, or why that was built-in to it--it encourages wild henny-pennying because we're not allowed to be told about what they're actually doing.
posted by amberglow at 7:36 AM on September 15, 2003


Wartime presidents have always curtailed freedoms - Lincoln damn near declared martial law - and when the threat was over, civil liberties invariably came back, and usually stronger than before.

Yeah, but the Civil War wasn't an amorphous conflict against an amorphous enemy with an end-point that's a movable feast. The neocons don't want the 'threat' of terrorism ever to end, because a frightened populace is a compliant populace. Cheney and Rumsfeld have made it clear that they see the 'war on terrorism' going on for decades, and given the way they've elided Iraq into that masterplan, it's obvious that 'terrorism' is designed to be a catch-all for whatever military jaunt or distant threat comes next on the list.

And yes, you can put your trust in the four-year election cycle. But after 2000, I'd imagine that lots of people aren't convinced that the mechanics of democracy are in full running order.
posted by riviera at 7:41 AM on September 15, 2003


The neocons don't want the 'threat' of terrorism ever to end...

Sounds good doesn't it.

...because a frightened populace is a compliant populace.

Oooh, that sounds good to. You're good at this.

Cheney and Rumsfeld have made it clear that they see the 'war on terrorism' going on for decades,...

So you're saying that you were naive enough to believe that world-wide terrorism was going to be cleaned up by the end of the summer?

...and given the way they've elided Iraq into that masterplan, it's obvious that 'terrorism' is designed to be a catch-all for whatever military jaunt or distant threat comes next on the list.

No, not necessarily. But I'm sure you'll think so.

But after 2000, I'd imagine that lots of people aren't convinced that the mechanics of democracy are in full running order.

Worked as planned. Not sure what you're referring to there.
posted by Witty at 7:48 AM on September 15, 2003


i wanted to throw this in, too, about ashcroft's stalker.
posted by amberglow at 7:53 AM on September 15, 2003


Wow, Witty, you totally dissected and neutralised amberglow's post, there. Stunning.

/shakes head, rolls eyes.
posted by Blue Stone at 7:56 AM on September 15, 2003


"ready to come out against hysterical Godwin-invoking and wild henny-pennying about the much-anticipated Decline And Fall of the American Empire?"

Well..... sure...... once we can get some confirmation about it not being hysterical.

With the administration willing to repeat things which are well documented as lies, I really tend to worry about what's going on. If there are things the administration could legitimately be doing to bring about the "Fall of the American Empire", they seem to have already done them.

Moslems actually launch a major attack on American soil? Well, let's install a couple puppet governments in Moslem countries and start a war in the Middle East.

International terrorism creates a new security crisis? Well, let's badmouth the allies we need to track down terrorist cells. Nothing greases the flow of top secret security intel like calling people names and publicly enumerating the reasons why their country is irrelevant.

Investors and big corporations cause a meltdown in the economy? Well, let's give a tax break to investors and corporations. That will certainly increase everyone's confidence. Oh, and we should also give some token refunds to people who aren't rich, even though that will swell the deficit, and economists seem to agree it won't help at all.

Look, this is the government. There are meetings. People are standing up and objecting. "Ummm....... All of our justifications are lies. The military is asking for more than we're giving them. All of the experts say our plan won't work. And we'll be burning bridges with allies we need help from. Hello? All of this is documented and will come out. Shouldn't we *not* do this?" And the administration is pushing ahead full steam.

Oh, and now we're using the Patriot Act against non-terrorists.

UncleFes - I put it to you: Is this closer to hysteria or reality?

I really can't think of a better time for Godwin-invoking and wild henny-pennying. It is my sincere hope that we can vote these madmen out of office in the next election. But in the meantime they *do* seem to be trying as hard as they can to bring about the decline of America.

In short - I love my country, and I hate seeing it shit on like this. I support the troops, and I think they shouldn't be used and abused like this.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:01 AM on September 15, 2003


What we see here finally is the illusion of trading security for freedom, and getting neither. This is what people who refuse to accept inalienable rights for all do to those who adhere to such philosophy.

When a man aims a gun at you, you got two possible things you can do. Do what the man wants in hopes that he will not pull the trigger, or stand there and refuse to capitulate, knowing you're gonna take a bullet for what you believe in. Either way, your life and liberty are now in the hands of the terrormonger. Your inalienable rights have been stolen, whether he kills you or not. So, some are arguing whether or not the Patriot Act should expand the definition of terrorism? Should one gun not be given the same treatment as a dirty bomb? Actually a gun has the capacity to kill more people than a dirty bomb, and it's much more efficient at it, in the right hands. Terror is terror. Violence begets violence. Measuring the degrees of differing WMDs effectiveness makes splitting hairs look useful.

In recent decades it's become preferable to give up material possessions under the point of a gun, because it's better to lose a material possession than it is to lose a life. Therefore, those who believe in theft via firearms get the better end of the deal. The odds of their success increase because people don't realize that when they give up that material possession, they're giving up way more than that.

And now we as a country have taken a bullet. Nine Eleven was a shot heard round the world. A shot not only to our hearts, minds and egos but to the very spirit - the very fabric and foundation of what makes this country great. If we don't want this to happen again, we have to take the battle to them, but ultimately it's costing us billions of dollars to attempt to give countries like Iraq and Afghanistan what we think they want and need so that they will no longer feel the need to try for WMDs. So that they will no longer aim terror at our hearts and souls for their own selfish ends.

Shrub's asking for $87 BILLION dollars. That's a pretty big wallet. Personally I see no difference between our problem with Iraq now and some thief aiming a gun at a person in a dark alley. Terror is terror. The principle is the same. We think we're ahead of the game by taking the war against terror to their backyard? The terrormongers have us running in fear, and they have us throwing gobs of money at them, begging them to stop killing us.

So. Who's winning? Who's gaining freedom and who's losing it? Who's gaining security and who's losing it? You think the problem's the patriot act? That's just the tip of this iceburg, darlin. It goes much deeper than that. Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. How many bullets would you be willing to take for the freedom AND security of your children? How many buildings will we let fall? If the answer is zero, then embrace the illusion of security and loss of freedom that such things like the Patriot act ushers in. If the answer is a finite number, then you better hold on to that Patriot Act illusion too, because you don't believe in the alternative.

Benjy was absolutely right. We are letting our future civilization bleed away because we're not willing to make the sacrifices our elders did. We have become complacent, and we don't deserve security or freedom any longer. Tommy was right too. Thomas Jefferson once said, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." That happened on Nine Eleven. That happened yesterday when we lost another soldier on Iraq land. But how much are we willing to pay? As a nation. As a people. Before we protest and rally and cry and vote against more blood letting for the tree of liberty, measure your own belief in inalienable rights against the guns aimed at your head.

How much are you willing to lose? What blood will you pay? Again, if it's a finite number or less, you're kidding yourself, but you better embrace that Patriot Act. If you're not willing to lose it all for the tree of liberty, that piece of paper is all you got left. If you think we've paid enough already? Come over here and sit by me. We'll watch the stars go out together.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:05 AM on September 15, 2003


Hmm.

We've already heard stories of local police chiefs creating files on people who have protested the (Iraq) war ...

And? If a string of violence or destruction of property related to anti-war opinions crops up in the area, guess who the police are going to look for?


So then wouldn't the police want to keep files on people who showed support for the war in Iraq. You know, just in case a string of violence or destruction of property related to pro-war opinions crops up in an area?

By this reasoning, one would think so. Yet, this doesn't seem to have been the case.
posted by moonbiter at 8:28 AM on September 15, 2003


The neocons don't want the 'threat' of terrorism ever to end, because a frightened populace is a compliant populace.
Well, no one will contest their machiavellianism, but I think you have to take into consideration the idea that the neocons have no guarantee of being in power over taht long term, so unless the neolibs are complicit in the plan, it goes for nought after the time elapses.

Cheney and Rumsfeld have made it clear that they see the 'war on terrorism' going on for decades

I tend to agree, and rightly so. Reducing the threat of terrorism worldwide is not a long-weekend kind of operation.

and given the way they've elided Iraq into that masterplan, it's obvious that 'terrorism' is designed to be a catch-all for whatever military jaunt or distant threat comes next on the list.

I've always believed that the choice of Iraq is part of a long-term persina gulf pacification program. Iraq was the toughest, loudest, and most strategically located, and from there we can threaten most of the middle eastern trouble spots. By threatening them, we can coerce the goverrnments of these countries toward stopping supporting terrorist organizations. Most people willagree that terrorist organizations are hard to stamp out militarily; so how do you hurt them? Cut off their supply and succor. By invading and democratizing Iraq, and remianing a military presence there, we insert the proverbial steel gauntlet in position to support the velvet glove of diplomatic persuasion.

It might not be subtle, but it does seem like as valid a way of fighting terrorism as I've heard.

And yes, you can put your trust in the four-year election cycle. But after 2000, I'd imagine that lots of people aren't convinced that the mechanics of democracy are in full running order.

You may argue with the result, but I think the mechanics operated nearly without flaw. I mean, during all that, we all pretty much knew from one day to the next what exactly was going to happen and what the next step was, right? The process succeeded, I think, even if the results were flawed.

With the administration willing to repeat things which are well documented as lies, I really tend to worry about what's going on.

Well, I hate to break it to you, but politician's will say just about anything :) The heartening part here is that you and I *know* they are lies. That means our media - and our ciritical thinking skills - are operating as planned, and that there is an opposition to the current power structure that is willing to make the case.

Moslems actually launch a major attack on American soil? Well, let's install a couple puppet governments in Moslem countries and start a war in the Middle East.

Hardly. The one thing the US and the UN agreed on this weekend at theSecurity Council discussions was that the Iraqi people need to take the reins of their own government as quickly as possible. Now, you may or may not be able to make the claim that the US would weidl disproportionate influence as the liberating country, as well as the country pouring money into Iraq, but abandoning them now is not the solution, as they Baathist would simply reappear and reasset their authority with even greater brutality. And I doubt that anyone could make the claim that Afghanistan is not a hunred times better for the ongoing US campaign against the Taliban.

International terrorism creates a new security crisis? Well, let's badmouth the allies we need to track down terrorist cells. Nothing greases the flow of top secret security intel like calling people names and publicly enumerating the reasons why their country is irrelevant.

AS much hay as been made of that comment (admittedly stupid) by Runny as Gore's I Invented the Internet speech. But realistically, most of Europe side WITH the US on the Iraq war (France and Germany being almost the only exceptions) and, diplomatically speaking, they are still our very good friends. Our relationship with Europe is too old and too strong to fall to the wayside over a large order of freedom fries.

Investors and big corporations cause a meltdown in the economy? Well, let's give a tax break to investors and corporations. That will certainly increase everyone's confidence. Oh, and we should also give some token refunds to people who aren't rich, even though that will swell the deficit, and economists seem to agree it won't help at all.

If there's one thing economists agree on, it's that they rarely agree on anything. I will concede that the deficits proposed by the current administration are incredibly large and quite possibly economically bad; however, the ability to tax breaks to help economic conditions is well known, and that's what they are trying to do - jumpstart an economy so that it is at least *improving* prior to the November elections next year.

Realistically speaking, however, governments have proven themselves both ham-handed and ineffective time and again when it comes to economy tweaking.

Look, this is the government. There are meetings. People are standing up and objecting. "Ummm....... All of our justifications are lies. The military is asking for more than we're giving them. All of the experts say our plan won't work. And we'll be burning bridges with allies we need help from. Hello? All of this is documented and will come out. Shouldn't we *not* do this?" And the administration is pushing ahead full steam.

These items are not without debate. Many people argue for them. There are valid points to be made on all sides. Don't assume that everyone thinks like you, or that you have a lock on rational thought or inquiry. The question to ask now is not "Shouldn't we *not* do this?" but "What are the arguments for doing this, and do they outweigh the potential detractions?" and "Why do formerly influential people seem to disagree with positions and processes that they recently supported?" Once we have hashed that, we can decide write, wrong, or fix.

Oh, and now we're using the Patriot Act against non-terrorists.

Well, a prosecutor in NC wants to. He is not guaranteed of success.
posted by UncleFes at 8:29 AM on September 15, 2003


Sorry about the length, there.
posted by UncleFes at 8:30 AM on September 15, 2003


and the typos. The Muse was upon me.
posted by UncleFes at 8:33 AM on September 15, 2003


To assume that religious laws are just the works of man and really a social contract spits in the face of divine revelation.

Doesn't mean that they're not really just works of man, though. I happen to believe they are since I don't believe there's a God, and I was explaining it from a more secular viewpoint than the religious conservative himself would use.

And as I said, I don't think the ascetic philosophy scales well to America. You need everyone (or virtually everyone) to buy into it or it can't work. I also agree that it contradicts many of the founding principles of the country when applied by legislation. Religious conservatives completely miss that if this is done right, laws aren't needed, social norms are adequate. My goal was to explain where these people are coming from, which is a little more subtle than "they hate hedonism." But just to make it clear, I personally do not subscribe to this point of view. You can feel free to dump on it all you like, I won't take it personally because I have nothing invested in it.

That's not what you said earlier at all. Your example was to not drink in front of an alcoholic, which is not the same as giving up drinking altogether.

I did skip a step in the logic there, sorry. If you don't know who the alcoholics are because nobody drinks -- if you might be an alcoholic but don't know it -- it is exactly the same. If you don't want your children to become alcoholics, then you don't drink around them, either. It becomes a self-reinforcing behavior, which is why it has endured for so long. Rather neat, that.

There are many ways of making a society "work," though. There are others I like better.
posted by kindall at 8:39 AM on September 15, 2003


All hail length and typos. Long live the thread.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:40 AM on September 15, 2003


Yes, Zachsmind, if someone points a gun at you, you do have two choices - fascinating. However, if you are a mature democracy and someone flies two planes in to a building of your citizens you have a lot more choices. Thus your analogy is patently bogus, however, thank you for continuing with the rest of this laughable mish-mash.
Obvious choices are that you go after the people who attacked you and do your best to bring them to justice - I hope you succeed utterly with that.

Some other points:

Is anyone threatening the US with a dirty bomb? Or in fact is the US setting off quite a lot of bombs on other people?
Do all these people have a connection with terrorism and the attacks on the US? What is the connection between terrorism/911 and Iraq? Iraq is a sovereign nation which the US attacked despite the fact that there is no evidence that it posed any threat. The US is currently occupying that country and continues to kill its civilians and police. Do the people there get any say in your unusual gardening practices?

Also:
Inalienable is defined by the OED as "Not alienable; that cannot be alienated or transferred from its present ownership or relation." Thus inalienable rights can not be stolen.
posted by biffa at 8:43 AM on September 15, 2003


ZachsMind - Nicely put. I liked that. However.......

One of the things you seem to be assuming is that we need to either embrace the illusion of security and it's evils, or learn to live with a string of 9/11s in our future. I agree with the first, but disagree with the second. Certainly, terrorist attacks will be a fact of life. But we could have prevented more 9/11s just by learning from our mistakes.

We could have prevented 9/11 by not letting people carry box cutters on planes, and having the CIA and FBI keep each other informed about known terrorists being in the country. We didn't know how complacent we'd become. Now we know. We live and learn. The world didn't have to change, we just needed to pay more attention and do the jobs we were suppose to be doing all along.

We could have stopped there. That is, we didn't need to make a choice between two bad options. We could have increased our security without sacrificing our freedoms.

What I worry about is that we've actually ended up with both your options - Reduced freedom for an illusion of security, *and* a steady string of terrorist attacks due to our new draconian approach to things.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:51 AM on September 15, 2003


Do the people there get any say in your unusual gardening practices?

They talked to Zogby, and they seem pro-US generally
posted by UncleFes at 8:57 AM on September 15, 2003


They talked to Zogby, and they seem pro-US generally

What were the statistics for the dead ones?
posted by biffa at 9:10 AM on September 15, 2003


"Thus inalienable rights can not be stolen."

Then when someone uses violence to take life and liberty from another, I guess that proves life and liberty are not inalienable, eh? Which means everything the constitution stands for is a lie? Being a constitutionalist, after a fashion, I prefer to assume the OED is bupkus. If someone breaks into your house, holds you captive for awhile and later, takes your life then leaves stealing your tv, they've robbed you of life and liberty, which are inalienable rights. The analogy is not bogus. You refuse to accept that violence is violence regardless of how many complications or rationalities are added upon it. What Saddam did to his own people, what Al Quaeda claims to have done to America, Israel, and its own people, what a thief in the night does to an unsuspecting family, it's all the same thing. Violence. Terror. Evil. Those presently in power paint with this wide a brush, and it's why they come to the conclusion that only by volunteering our freedom for an illusion of security can we attain freedom again. Not very rational, that. I'm suggesting the opposite tactic. You're saying it's not as simple as that, which is precisely why I sit back here calmly and wait for the stars to go out. So long as one person on this planet clings to the futility, all of humanity remains in jeopardy. Lemme know when you're tired of fighting. I'll be over here watching the stars.

"...you seem to be assuming is that we need to either embrace the illusion of security and it's evils, or learn to live with a string of 9/11s in our future. I agree with the first, but disagree with the second. Certainly, terrorist attacks will be a fact of life. But we could have prevented more 9/11s just by learning from our mistakes..."

I'm not suggesting we embrace any illusion. I'm saying if you are not willing to accept the price of freedom, that piece of paper is all you have. I'm not necessarily choosing a side, just calling it as I see it. Attempts to prevent future Nine Elevens? That's what Shrub's people are doing now. They think they are being proactive but they're being reactive, which is precisely why things like the Patriot Act rear their ugly heads. We're not learning from our mistakes. We are falling for the same crappy guerrila tactics we used against Great Britain two hundred years ago when we won our independence. It's just that now we're the red coats, and the world's a much more complicated place. Complications we ourselves invented.

We would most certainly not have prevented 9/11 by increasing restrictions on citizens in planes. Think about it. We already kept guns and other obvious weapons from being used. So they brought in box cutters. Had those been restricted, they'd find something else. It's not the methods we should curtail but the purpose behind them. It's not the symptoms we should be concerned about but the cause. Violent action tomorrow can be minimized by logic and reason today, but instead we resort to violence. It's more immediate. It's more rewarding. It's more base to our humanity and for some reason gives us an eerie comfort zone of hate balanced with fear. It's de-evolution.

Having the CIA and FBI keep each other informed about known terrorists being in the country is like having large corporations which are supposedly competitors operate through favorable levels of leadership. This leads to an oligarchy that operates in its own best interests rather than the interests of those it pretends to serve.

We didn't realize how complacent we had become before Nine Eleven, and we don't fathom it now. We still don't know. We have not learned. The world does change, every day. We the American people have not paid enough attention to friends and foes foreign and domesitc. We can't even agree on whether we want to be the planet's peace keeping force or if we want to force democracy down their throats at the barrel of a gun.

We are a paranoid, schizophrenic, violent, warfaring, beligerent, despicable, ethnocentric, indecisive, empirical, snobbish, elitist, trigger-happy, and fearful people. And we have the gaule to wonder why the rest of the world hates us?
posted by ZachsMind at 9:15 AM on September 15, 2003


What were the statistics for the dead ones?

They were in the same folder as the poll numbers from the World Trade Center respondents, I think. Someone at the Pentagon had it on their desk, but no one can find it just this second.
posted by UncleFes at 9:15 AM on September 15, 2003


"By threatening them, we can coerce the governments of these countries toward stopping supporting terrorist organizations."

What makes you think these terrorists need government support? Can't they get along fine in a clandestine and illegal mode? Haven't they done that in most cases? For instance didn't our homegrown American terrorists make their attacks while under intense investigation by the FBI?

And once you answer those questions please explain how we'll reduce the source of terrorists overseas by militarily coercing foreign governments to conduct similarly intense investigations. I'm dubious. We can't stop *our own* paramilitary groups, but we're going to threaten other countries into stopping theirs? I just don't see it working in the real world.

And even if I agree that there is a *chance* it would work (and I don't), is it really worth the risk? And the cost? And the American lives?

Crazy schemes are one thing. But once those schemes cost $200 billion and the lives of our troops I think we need more than a wild hope that they'll work.
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:15 AM on September 15, 2003


Well, while I sympathize with the paranoia expressed here, there are some problems with the article. First it appears that the meth lab is being prosecuted under a state statute against WMDs and not the federal PATRIOT act. (But it is one symptom of a creeping definition of terrorism.)

I also don't think that the sum total of the definition creep can be attributed to Bush/Ashcroft. After all, the FBI was rather fond of the term "ecoterrorism" to describe not only ELF and ALF-inspired arson, but non-violent protest as well in the 1990s.

It is worth looking at history and seeing what happened during the first Red Scare at the turn of the 20th century. At that time there was widespread fear that the hundreds of non-English periodicals that provided news and commentary to a growing immigrant population were a front for terrorist organizing. The solution the government imposed was to submit English language translations to the local Postmaster prior to distribution. Before this law was declared unconstitutional, one of the richest multi-lingual media environtments in the world was decimated, (coincidentally, this was the start of the massive media consolidation.)

There is also some evidence that this was part of the culture war that led to prohibition, as an attack on immigrant labor organizing.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:17 AM on September 15, 2003


I guess that proves life and liberty are not inalienable, eh?

Yes, that's exactly what it does.
posted by biffa at 9:19 AM on September 15, 2003


You refuse to accept that violence is violence regardless of how many complications or rationalities are added upon it. What Saddam did to his own people, what Al Quaeda claims to have done to America, Israel, and its own people, what a thief in the night does to an unsuspecting family, it's all the same thing. Violence. Terror. Evil.

Actually, I do refuse to accept this. I think the US was largely justifed in using its armed forces in hunting down Al-qaida, and the violence that was inplicit in their use. I think the police use of violence in capturing criminals is more justifed than the random attacks of individuals on the innocent. It's a nasty old world and violence does solve some problems. However, I can see the parallels your staement implies for the link between the violence of Al-Qaida and the violence resulting from the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.
posted by biffa at 9:27 AM on September 15, 2003


They were in the same folder as the poll numbers from the World Trade Center respondents, I think. Someone at the Pentagon had it on their desk, but no one can find it just this second.

Well as long as you're happy for our countries to be operating on a level with the 911 hijackers that's fine, personally, I'd rather we all aspired to avoiding the murder of innocents.
Can we establish that I'm not suggesting that the Americans that were killed deserved it or that the murders were in any way justified? Can you accept that plenty of people the US has killed - using the justification of the 911 attacks - fall into the same category?
posted by biffa at 9:33 AM on September 15, 2003


"I think the US was largely justifed..."

Then Biffa, you better go git yerself a cave and club now while they're in great supply. Avoid the rush. I understand Osama makes a great neighbor. Right kind and accomodating. Embracing violence may solve immediate problems, but it leads to hiding in caves and throwing rocks at the moon.

IF life and liberty are not inalienable, then it's wrong to stop slavery of any kind. Right does make right and the weak are meant to forfeit their lives as it suits the strong. Raspberries to that.

Life and liberty are either priceless, or they have no value whatsoever, because they are not commodities. That's been tried and failed already.

"...violence does solve some problems..."

An armed society is not a polite one. It's a damned bloody one filled with fear and hate and you know it. Civilization goes out the window. It becomes 'survival of the fittest.' We take ourselves out of the driver's seat and throw the thousand monkeys banging on typewriters in the driver's seat, and they won't be hammering out Hamlet. Darwin may or may not be right, but there's no reason why we have to continue throwing rocks.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:35 AM on September 15, 2003


"Well, I hate to break it to you, but politician's will say just about anything"

Agreed. And frankly I don't expect otherwise, as sad as that is.

No, my point is that we aren't hearing the usual spin and "grey area" lies we've become accustom to from politicians. We're hearing huge whoopers which are being told to bolster support for the invasion of a foreign country.

"Hardly."

No. Not hardly. Absolutely. Look, what you are saying is reasonable, but that's not how it's going to play in every other country in the world. A government that is set up by an invading military, and kept in power only as long as that military supports it, is a puppet government. Or are you going to argue that Moslems (and just about everyone else around the world) won't see it that way? or should we not care about how our foreign policy is perceived by others?

"Our relationship with Europe is too old and too strong to fall to the wayside over a large order of freedom fries."

Agreed, but only if it stops there. I would lobby you that the administration's contempt for old Europe's chocolate makers isn't limited to that one comment by Rumsfeld. And everyone knows that. It's a big pink elephant sitting on the table at every meeting. Of course it won't kill the long-standing relationship. But it has to hurt big time when you replace warm friendship with contempt that we don't even bother to veil.

"Well, a prosecutor in NC wants to. He is not guaranteed of success."

So....... you haven't heard about the road trip Ashcroft is making? The closed meetings where he tells law enforcement how they can use this more broadly? You seem to be implying that this threat is imaginary. The abuses (and I don't see that as hyperbole) are well documented in the links here. It *is* the law. And the person in charge of the Justice Department is behind this 100%. Of course it might get overturned. That doesn't comfort me.

"and the typos. The Muse was upon me."

We like your muse. You go girl.
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:45 AM on September 15, 2003


But realistically, most of Europe side WITH the US on the Iraq war (France and Germany being almost the only exceptions) and, diplomatically speaking, they are still our very good friends. Our relationship with Europe is too old and too strong to fall to the wayside over a large order of freedom fries.

UncleFes, you are one of my favorite posters, but I am calling bullshit (sort of) on this one. Do not confuse the actions of a government with the prevailant opinion or mood of its people.

I cannot speak for the climate in other EU countries, but from my point of view, while Berlusconi has been busy bussing Bush's bum, public opinion towards the actions of the US government has done a radical 180° from 9-11. (on preview, what y6^3 said)
posted by romakimmy at 9:51 AM on September 15, 2003


"I think the US was largely justifed..."

Then Biffa, you better go git yerself a cave and club now while they're in great supply. Avoid the rush. I understand Osama makes a great neighbor. Right kind and accomodating. Embracing violence may solve immediate problems, but it leads to hiding in caves and throwing rocks at the moon.


Can't see the logic jump here, at all.

IF life and liberty are not inalienable, then it's wrong to stop slavery of any kind. Right does make right and the weak are meant to forfeit their lives as it suits the strong. Raspberries to that.

They're clearly not inalienable, as with all rights they are provided by society, and society can and does take them away. That's not to say its desirable to take them away and that I would want them taken away. It is also no reason not to work for society to extend the rights it grants to its constituents.

"...violence does solve some problems..."

An armed society is not a polite one. It's a damned bloody one filled with fear and hate and you know it. Civilization goes out the window. It becomes 'survival of the fittest.' We take ourselves out of the driver's seat and throw the thousand monkeys banging on typewriters in the driver's seat, and they won't be hammering out Hamlet. Darwin may or may not be right, but there's no reason why we have to continue throwing rocks.


What rubbish. The formation of a civil society is about providing a system that provides safeguards for people to live out their lives as happily as possible, but it is entirely reliant on the unspoken power of the group to protect itself from those who would destroy or damage it, either from within the group or from outside, and who are happy to use violence to achieve their aims, be it at the level of the mugger or the invader.
We have to throw rocks if rocks is the only way to proect ourselves from those throwing rocks at us, if there's a better way then we can use that - sometimes there is, sometimes there isn't.
posted by biffa at 9:56 AM on September 15, 2003


What makes you think these terrorists need government support? Can't they get along fine in a clandestine and illegal mode? Haven't they done that in most cases? For instance didn't our homegrown American terrorists make their attacks while under intense investigation by the FBI?

Apples and oranges, I think. I don't know about "can" but the terrorist organizations the US is fighting have operated with some tacit and very likely loads of sub rosa support from many of the governments in the region, even our allies. Large-scale multimational organizations like Al Qaeda absolutely depend on the good will of the region to survive. Our homegrown militia movements, otoh, are usually small, regional, disorganized, badly supplied, virulently anti-government, and overwhelmingly ineffective enough to be ignored. Much of that ineffectuality is due, I'd suyspect, to FBI infiltration. Regarding MCVeigh: one man, ora small group, acting alone can occasionally create great havoc. That won't change if/when the US coerces middle eastern nations to stop supporting terrorism. But it will cut their ability to conduct operations significantly. If we are successful in removing the philosophical underpinnings of the terrorist organizations (like putting the Israel-Paletine thing to bed, etc.) we can go a long way toward stopping that sort of terrorism.

It ain't perfect, but it's a start.

And once you answer those questions please explain how we'll reduce the source of terrorists overseas by militarily coercing foreign governments to conduct similarly intense investigations. I'm dubious.

My impression is that large scale middle eastern terroroist organization get a lot of their funding, weapons, training and logistics from the governments that support them. Remove those, and the organization will either wither away or be forced to reduce their scale of operations signfiicantly.

We can't stop *our own* paramilitary groups, but we're going to threaten other countries into stopping theirs? I just don't see it working in the real world.

We can stop our own, or at least slow them down considerably. I haven't heard much from the Michigan Militia of late, have you? Nor ELF.

And even if I agree that there is a *chance* it would work (and I don't), is it really worth the risk? And the cost? And the American lives?


Risk assessment is a subjective thing. The argument could be made that these costs are for the benefit of the entire world, not just the Americans, and that over time the possibility of a world in which terrorism is greatly reduced is worth the risk.

Can we establish that I'm not suggesting that the Americans that were killed deserved it or that the murders were in any way justified?

No one has implied that, and I believe you.

Can you accept that plenty of people the US has killed - using the justification of the 911 attacks - fall into the same category?

The US has killed innocent people in Iraq. It is not something that I, as an American citizen and a, at least in theory, supporter of the War on Terrorism, am personally proud of. However, I feel there is a difference: the US conducted the war on Iraq with a specific and overriding concern for civilian casualties, even where an individual target might otherwise be militarily justified. We conducted a campaign that specifically sought to minimize the incidence of civilian deaths. I think that says a lot of the US military, and the administration behind it. Baghdad is, remember, a city the size of Chicago, and the US Air Force could just as easily have simply levelled it. They didn't - instead, they decided on a ground campaign that puts individual American infantrymen in danger so that Iraqi civilians could be avoided. So, to answer, I would say that Iraqi civilians and American civilians are the same in that they are victims, and woefully dead. The impetus behind their deaths, however, I feel are diametrically different.

We're hearing huge whoopers which are being told to bolster support for the invasion of a foreign country.

Conceded. At the same time, we *know* they are huge whoppers. That goes a long way. The truth makes itself known in the free marketplace of ideas, and we still have the free marketplace.

should we not care about how our foreign policy is perceived by others?

Of course we should care - indeed, foreign policy in great part exactly that. But I can't think of any way we can avoid the puppetmaster label without complete withdrawal. The cure is worse than the disease, and that being the case I'd rather be dubbed a puppetmaster and not be than be rightfully accused of chopping the head off the Iraqi government and then leaving them in the lurch.

But it has to hurt big time when you replace warm friendship with contempt that we don't even bother to veil.

Agreed. It is my hope that, even as that whole PR campaign was farting it's way through the international press, the diplomatic back channels were open and operating. Even if not, Europe and America have traditionally squabbled, and I believe reasonable people on both sides know these squabbles are temporary.

You seem to be implying that this threat is imaginary.

Not imaginary, I suppose, just overstated and subject to an array of laws from the local city statutes to the Bill of Rights. There will undoubtedly be some injustices brought about by the Patriot Act, as they're were by the Three Strikes law, etc. Our judicial system, however, is very resilient, and the primacy of the Constitution has, as far as I can see, remained unchallenged. Fighting abuses of the Patriot Act is good; painting these abuses as Nazi-esque incursions onto the seat of all our liberties is not onlu innacurate but it detracts from the specific (and to my mind more effective) arguments against.

public opinion towards the actions of the US government has done a radical 180° from 9-11

THAT I hadn't heard. My impression was that Italy was pro-US on most points, the government AND the people. If that is not the case, the bullshit call is gladly taken. But in my defense, I was speaking more for the governments than the people in that claim.

congrats on your legality, btw!

Goodly lord, I am writing books today.
posted by UncleFes at 10:08 AM on September 15, 2003


You're saying keep the bandaids coming.
I'm saying stop the internal bleeding.
Meanwhile the patient's still dying.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:10 AM on September 15, 2003


Whoops, I was talkin' to Biffa, not UncleFes. =) Sorry I didn't make that more clear.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:12 AM on September 15, 2003


i wanted to throw this in, too, about ashcroft's stalker.

Here's an account of a failed attempt to see Ashcroft, who fears acid on his face but defends forced labor.
posted by homunculus at 10:26 AM on September 15, 2003


If someone breaks into your house, holds you captive for awhile and later, takes your life then leaves stealing your tv, they've robbed you of life and liberty, which are inalienable rights.

The entire point of the Declaration of Independence is not that governments or individuals are incapable of behaving in a way that is destructive in regards to these right, but that a government looses its legitimacy when it does so. The entire sentence reads:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
In the context of the time, in fact, perhaps in the context of all history, this is a radical statement. Under previous eras rights had been defined as the sole provence of nobles to grant and deny. Even to the beginning of the 20th century parts of Europe still maintained forms of fudalism where if one was born of a certain station, one could not leave one's villiage without permission from the landlord. A crime against a serf was a crime against the landlord the serf worked for.

While someone could take your life, they cannot take your right to life. The legitimacy of the robbers actions is judged in relationship to the victim's rights. The government in prosecuting crime does so to act on behaf of individual rights of victims.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:28 AM on September 15, 2003


"It ain't perfect, but it's a start."

We are in complete disagreement about that. I sincerely feel almost *all* of what we've done since the decision to invade Afghanistan has been another step backward. In my (admittedly non-expert) opinion we've fed a vast swell in grassroots support for terrorism against the US that simmered harmlessly before.

But I think you're a very smart person, so I could be wrong. But I'm a very smart person, so I could be right.

We'll disagree.

"I haven't heard much from the Michigan Militia of late, have you? Nor ELF."

Hmmmm....... ELF? Obviously you don't live in San Diego.

And the Michigan Militia lost their grassroots support. Perhaps I wasn't clear about that. Terrorists don't need governments if they have grassroots support. Which is why the Taliban continues to operate in Afghanistan and Bin Laden continues to send out tapes from Pakistan. If the government of Afghanistan doesn't crack down on them, should we invade to get rid of support for the Taliban and Bin Laden? Should we apply coercion to their neighbors?

You see my point? The *real* terrorists, as opposed to the bogeyman terrorists in Iraq, are in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The real world application of the coercion you advocate isn't working.

"At the same time, we *know* they are huge whoppers."

Who is this we you speak of? This is the whooper I was thinking of. (please excuse the partisan link - it's the quotes I'm referring to) The Vice President is asked about the 69% of Americans who believe something which isn't true. He then *supports* this belief in something which he knows to be false by telling more lies.

You and I might know them to be whoopers, because we read and try to think independantly. But, and I concede the arrogance here, 69% of Americans aren't smart enough to do that. The free marketplace of ideas has been overrun by blithering idiots. Which has led to a war I think never would have happened without the lies. Thus war + lies = 69% acquiescence.

Which is why I feel entitled to a bit of hysteria. This is so fucked up I'm unable to come to grips with it.

Look, I don't care if we track down all the terrorists and shoot them in the head, I don't care if we invade Afghanistan, I don't care if we have mass deportations of Arabs with bad visas. Hell, I think those are all good ideas. But somewhere along the line things just got seriously out of hand. We've blown past prudent security measures and currently well down the road to militant nationalism.

*We* know they are huge whoopers. Again, I'm not comforted.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:56 AM on September 15, 2003


My impression is that large scale middle eastern terroroist organization get a lot of their funding, weapons, training and logistics from the governments that support them. Remove those, and the organization will either wither away or be forced to reduce their scale of operations signfiicantly.

You make it sound like getting rid of any government that supports bad things is an objective step forward. We deposed Iraq's government-nasty as it was--but even
Paul Wolfowitz now admits that there was never an Iraq-al Qaeda link. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are our biggest friends despite their material support to the 9/11 hijackers.

You seem to be arguing in favor of a theoretical and justly prosecuted War on Terror. If only that was an actual option.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:00 AM on September 15, 2003


"While someone could take your life, they cannot take your right to life."

When one's life is unjustly taken, they may still have a right to live but the act of murder has nullified that right. You are quibbling with semantics. If one person kills another, they are denying that person the right to live. Same thing.

You're arguing that murder is okay so long as it's the "good guys" doing it. I'm saying that violence is violence and sentiments contrary to that are the very cancer which eats away at society. So long as violence continues to be seen by any one person on this planet as a viable option, I will continue to watch the stars go out. "The world ain't goin' anywhere: we are."
posted by ZachsMind at 11:54 AM on September 15, 2003


You can debate whether that's the right approach or not -- it might work okay with a small community that voluntarily adheres to it, but on the scale of a nation it is quite restrictive of individual freedoms -- but the conservative viewpoint is somewhat more nuanced than the strawman you've advanced here. You haven't explained anything about the religious conservative mindset; you've merely caricatured it.

i thought that was an excellent post, but i have one correction: it's even more restrictive in a small community, because if you're the isolated freak that doesn't adhere to the group ideals then you're in deep, deep shit with nowhere to hide. that's why cities are so liberating.

(eg "to kill a mockingbird")
posted by andrew cooke at 12:08 PM on September 15, 2003


zachsmind - why is violence is bad? if you say it's not bad because of the consequences, then why is it bad? you got a personal god telling you so? or if you do think your viewpoint is based on consequences, then why can't the good guy kill? if that good outweights the bad, what's the objection? what's the justification for an absolutist stance?

i don't have an answer - imho this is a big problem with modern morals (see, eg, mcintyre).
posted by andrew cooke at 12:11 PM on September 15, 2003


are there any liberals are are ready to come out against hysterical Godwin-invoking

Aw c'mon, he's asking for it.
posted by homunculus at 12:47 PM on September 15, 2003


A number of commentators have noted that the war on terrorism cannot be won in a weekend. This misses the point that many people believe that our current methodology can never win the war on terrorism.

We must win the war on terror by stopping the hatred of America, and that is not a task which can be accomplished with an Abrams tank or a Daisy Cutter. Reduction of anti-american sentiment and the creation of pro-american goodwill would fight terror more effectively than the neoconservative goal of global domination, an invasion which has lead to thousands of civilian deaths or legislation which allows for reduced judicial oversight of intelligence agencies.

Unfortunately, our administration has started down a road with a predictable and regrettable destination. One in which the Orwellian propaganda 'War is Peace' has become reality, and many of us are just dumbstruck, trying to consider a way to reconcile with the world, and make true steps towards peace, prosperity, and the elimination of hate.
posted by mosch at 12:51 PM on September 15, 2003


zachsmind - why is violence is bad?

Duh. Because it kills people. Duh.

I gotta God telling me thou shalt not kill but He said a whole buncha other crap too. Let's not throw Him into the mix m'kay? I mean there's been far too many people killin' and dyin' in the name of Allah or Jehovah or Yahweh or whatever His name is to bother takin' him seriously when it comes to murder.

For the moment, let's look over the thousands of years of history, wherein Man A killed Man B followed by Man C killing Man A cuz he agreed with Man B, and so forth. I'm talkin' simple common sense. If violence solved anything, would it not have stopped with Cain? How many times do we try to solve the problem through violence before we realize that answer is always wrong?

I mean I learned when I was a kid that two plus two didn't equal three and it didn't equal five. Knowing the right answer has gotten me pretty far. I also learned as a child that if someone beat up on me, and then I got a friend to help me beat up on him, and then he got two friends to jump us when we weren't expecting it, and then I got all my friends to retaliate, eventually we'd all get called in to the principal's office. Do you think the guy who started it was the one who got in trouble? No. We ALL got in trouble. And I don't even remember why that first kid beat up on me and I don't think he remembered either.

It's the little old woman who swallowed the horse to kill the fly. Violence doesn't solve problems. It IS the problem. When you use violence to try to stop violence you become part of the problem. It has been three thousand years and human beings still haven't figured out this lesson. What fools these mortals be.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:04 PM on September 15, 2003


so let me get this straight, if one opposes using the patriot act in catching meth heads...one is a terrorist and generally bad person because they would support the dealers by not supporting the patriot act...
THAT ALMOST DOES IT FOR ME.

Fes is right if i read this right, that current laws and law enforcement tactics already exist to combat meth heads, so why use this patriot act?

my i add, what a good thread this is.
posted by clavdivs at 1:20 PM on September 15, 2003



a man accused of running a methamphetamine lab...could get 12 years to life in prison for a crime that usually brings about six months.


Is the usual sentence for running a meth lab really only six months as the story says? Because that seems freakishly low.
posted by soren at 2:11 PM on September 15, 2003


Is the usual sentence for running a meth lab really only six months as the story says? Because that seems freakishly low.

Some of us might say it's freakishly high, but that's another debate for another time...

The point remains; the USA PATRIOT act is being abused to fight citizens, not terrorists. To no one's apparent surprise.
posted by nath at 3:24 PM on September 15, 2003


Some of us might say it's freakishly high

Whoa: I believe the War Against Drugs is a waste of money and legalization is a better option, but I'm not buying no jail time for meth labs. Unless you trust some shop class reprobate to park his trailer next door to you. Don't mind the explosions; he'll figure it out sooner or later.
posted by yerfatma at 7:11 PM on September 15, 2003


Headline soon to be seen: "Shawn Colvin's 'Sunny Came Home' banned."
posted by alumshubby at 8:28 PM on September 15, 2003


Yeah, but the Civil War wasn't an amorphous conflict against an amorphous enemy with an end-point that's a movable feast.

Hear, hear. And UncleFes, I don't grok your argument that it's okay for those who represent us in government to pursue wrong-headed, short-sighted, and destructive agendas, to lie and steal and sully our good name, to defy and deny the Constitution which they are sworn to uphold, simply because they won't be in office for more than a few years. Could you perhaps expound upon that?
posted by rushmc at 8:41 PM on September 15, 2003


You're arguing that murder is okay so long as it's the "good guys" doing it. I'm saying that violence is violence and sentiments contrary to that are the very cancer which eats away at society. So long as violence continues to be seen by any one person on this planet as a viable option, I will continue to watch the stars go out. "The world ain't goin' anywhere: we are."

Heh, you've not read many of my posts then.

I'm not arguing that murder or violence is OK. I'm arguing that violence is wrong because human beings have inalienable rights and violence is a violation of those rights. Nor is it just semantics. If rights to life and liberty are alienable, then that means that at some point, it is acceptable to deny those rights on an arbitrary basis without retribution.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:56 PM on September 15, 2003


kirk, we became an independent country thru war and revolt (violence, no?). Those words were just a manifesto until they were fought for and implemented. And haven't humans throughout history denied those rights to other humans for all sorts of reasons?
posted by amberglow at 9:15 PM on September 15, 2003


yerfatma: fair enough.

Of course, if speed was legal, we wouldn't need meth labs...
posted by nath at 1:32 AM on September 16, 2003


Yes this is a fantasitc thread. I love you all because we're all going crazy together. It's nice to see us all lose our minds in concert. Partisan schmartizan.

KirkJobSluder: The entire point of the Declaration of Independence is not that governments or individuals are incapable of behaving in a way that is destructive in regards to these right, but that a government looses its legitimacy when it does so.

And it has. And not in any way the most crazed leftist would have ever imagined. It crosses beyond that. There are some serious logical leaps those who have planned for this day have had ten years to deal with. Now that we've been clued in, we're not so sure.

It's unfortunate these fuckers in power want to make it so "not being so sure" could eventually be criminally extended to the age old conservative salve: "Capital Offense".

These times are all well documented slippery slope type shit.
posted by crasspastor at 2:23 AM on September 16, 2003


I don't grok your argument that it's okay for those who represent us in government to pursue wrong-headed, short-sighted, and destructive agendas, to lie and steal and sully our good name, to defy and deny the Constitution which they are sworn to uphold, simply because they won't be in office for more than a few years. Could you perhaps expound upon that?

Certainly. I didn't mean to imply that it's OK for politicians to be tyrannical; however, I think we have to admit that they are. It is the nature of politics, for those who have a little power to seek more, and for those who have a lot to employ it in their own service, rather than in the service of those it extends from. This is the natural order of things, and the framers of the Constitution understood this and accounted for it in the document. And politicians have always challenged the Constitution; I can think of at least once in the last month besides this Meth incident where they have, and not just squeaky dark corners of the Constitution either. Because of this, they designed our power structure so that no one individual or group could garner too much power (checks and balances plus strictly codified periods of office). What lends me faith in the eventual failure of these sorts of incursions is two-fold: first, that the structure is inherently conflictatory, and that even as it is natural for politicians to seek more power, it is also natural for their opponents to try and check that power, and the Constitution provides a well-designed structure to enable and promote exactly those checks; and two, that in such a diverse (and often, perverse) country such as America, there will ALWAYS BE an opposition. Even the tiniest petty dictator will garner detractors like dung garners flies, because where power in concetrated, there will always be those who seek to steal some of it for themselves. The tyrannical bent of politicians works against them. Because in our system power transfers so smoothly, it tends to transfer often.

To translate this into this thread's impetus: A prosecutor in NC seeks power through employing legislation to ends it is not designed to serve; though he may have the tacit support of those people who would enjoy seeing the applications of the law expanded, he is certain to encounter resistance from those who oppose him. They will challenge his power, and likely win, as the proposed employment of the legislation is already covered by existing law and fairly obviously a misapplication. The status quo is thus maintained. That's another thing to remember: say what you will about American politics, much of it is in service to maintaining the status quo. That helps, rather than hinders, us as the citizenry.
posted by UncleFes at 7:03 AM on September 16, 2003


Terrorists don't need governments if they have grassroots support. Which is why the Taliban continues to operate in Afghanistan and Bin Laden continues to send out tapes from Pakistan. If the government of Afghanistan doesn't crack down on them, should we invade to get rid of support for the Taliban and Bin Laden? Should we apply coercion to their neighbors?

Well, yes, I think we should, although there are degrees of "invasion," not all of them military. I agree with you about grassroots support. However, grassroots support, as the example of the Michigan militia shows, is far inferior to the support of states. Can a grassroots sympathizer provide the sorts of money, weaponry and logistics that a state can? Not even close. Removing state-sponsorhip from terrorist organizations is a first step; reducing grassroots support must necessarily come later.

You see my point? The *real* terrorists, as opposed to the bogeyman terrorists in Iraq, are in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The real world application of the coercion you advocate isn't working.

I disagree - I think it IS working! I think the example of Syria is a telling one. By diplomatically reaching out to Syria while the American forces are in Iraq, we have a far greater influence. We needn't conquer the entire middle east - we just need to show that it can be done. Middle eastern countries value the status quo as much as we do, and the Iraq war has shown, at least in theory, that American can remove an entrenched government fairly easily (I know this is awfully realpolitik, but bear with me). That fact gives them pause, and if decreasing and/or eliminating support for terrorists maintains their individual sovereignty and the status quo, they will choose to do so, I think.

You make it sound like getting rid of any government that supports bad things is an objective step forward. We deposed Iraq's government-nasty as it was--but even
Paul Wolfowitz now admits that there was never an Iraq-al Qaeda link.


Hmm. two points there: One, I do believe that getting rid of a government that supports bad things is an objective good. That includes our own (we, of course, needn't foment a junta here in the US when our government supports bad things, we simply vote the officeholders out). I will agree that the Al qaeda link was a marketing ploy, and one I disagreed with: eventually those chickens will come home to roost for this administration - they already are.

Two, I think the word "friends" here out to be taken in context. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are not our friends in the same way that, say, Britain and France are our friends. The old aphorism "keep your friends close but yoru enemies closer" comes to mind. The Pakistan situation is reminiscent of the Syrian one, I think, in that we are influencing them to decrease their support for terrorists, the Taliban specifically. Less iron gauntlet, more velvet glove there, plus a big wad of cash and the promise of more thrown in for sweetness. It's not working perfectly - Osama still enjoys freedom in the Pakistani hinterlands - but what works perfectly? I feel that we'll get him a baby step at a time. Saudi Arabia is a different story - we have a relationship with the Saudi government that is closer to our relationship with Europe than it is with the other middle eastern states - and therefore, influencing them is significantly more difficult. But in liught of the Saudi crackdown lately on terrorist cells, I think that we are starting to see some success there. Saudi ARabia is well aware of the American public's opinion of them and that vast majority of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals. They're friendship with us is very important to them, not leastly that we help toi guarantee the power and influence of the House of Saud, and I believe we'll see increasing Saudi participation in fighting terrorism. It's in, after all, their best political interest.

You seem to be arguing in favor of a theoretical and justly prosecuted War on Terror. If only that was an actual option.

Nothing theoretical about it. As for justly prosecuted? I don't know. Is there a greater justice at work here, the greater justice of deminishing the threat of terrorism worldwide? Maybe. Are the methods emplyed toward this end resulting in injustice? Perhaps so. I would guess that a War on Terror that you describe would not be an option, but I would counter that each front in that war is different and must be prosectuted differently, on different time lines, and to differings levels of public success. One size does not fit all.

But it is still my opinion that it is a good thing to fight terrorism, that fighting terrorism is a long-term proposition, and that fighting it in the fashion I believe we are - situating ourselves militarily in the region, then diplomatically influencing the surrounding terror-supporting countries - is a valid plan. Maybe not the BEST plan, but a valid one. And to those that say we ougth fight a PR war instead of a military one, I would repond with: that's ciould easily be step two. I would have *liked* to see the government come out and say exactly that, but for whatever reason they decided the American public and by extension the world couldn't or wouldn't support that, and so concocted the WMD angle. That was a mistake, I think, and one the Bush administration is already beginning to pay for.
posted by UncleFes at 7:39 AM on September 16, 2003


Your bank can blacklist you
posted by homunculus at 11:07 AM on September 16, 2003


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