Friday, December 31, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

A couple of months ago, I was griping about comment spam and mentioned a Peanuts cartoon in which Linus provides Snoopy with one of the best threats ever-a threat that I wanted to become the Blogger’s Anti-Spam Creed. At the time I asked if anyone had the toon that I would love to have a copy of it. Well, reader Danny Pifer came through:

And if you look at my original post, I did a fairly good job of remembering the line–not bad for a cartoon that I haven’t seen in 18-ish years.

Many thanks Danny!

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By Steven L. Taylor

With the exception of a professional display, I officially hate fireworks: they wake up the kids, scare the dog, can cause a fire, and somebody could get hurt. Do I sound like someone’s Dad yet? (Oh, yeah, I am someone’s Dad…).

Plus, as a bonus sign of age: I really couldn’t care less if I am up tonight at midnight or not.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Leopold Stotch, blogging at Outside The Beltway, hits one of my pet-peeves:

What Americans need to realize is that there really is no such thing as terrorism; there are revolutions you support (freedom fighters) and those that you don’t (terrorists). But to label a person or a group “terrorist” is to say nothing more than that you disagree with their claims and their cause.

I wholly disagree with the whole “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” line of thinking. For one thing, not all who fight for freedom use terrorism, and certainly it would seem that most who employ terror aren’t fighting for freedom. I see, for example, no freedom fighting in what al Qaeda has done, and certainly the PLO’s utilization of terror has hardly resulted in much freedom for anybody.

Terrorism is largely a tactic, and a group is defined by the degree to which that tactic accurately describes its basic operation. I see terrorism (and I defined it online here) as the specific targetting of civilians in order to foment fear, which, is created in hopes of changing the policies of governments. I do not see all collective political violence as terrorism–I certainly don’t see guerrilla movements as terrorists, per se (although they may engage in terroristic tactics at times, which, granted, blurs the lines a bit). However, if one takes a group like al Zarqawi’s that detonates car bombs in markets and kidnaps workers and beheads them on camera, one is dealing with something quite different than, say, the FSLN in Nicaragua prior to the revolution (or the Contras after the revolution) or the FMLN in El Salvador during its civil war. In one case you have a very small group that is trying to create terror in the population, in another you have an army that emerges to attempt to confront the state militarily.

I had a piece along these lines at TCS a while back (What’s an Insurgent? What’s a Terrorist?).

Further, I disagree with Stotch’s oversimplification of all groups which utilize violence as being part of a revolutionary movement. Not all collective political violence is necessarily revolutionary in nature–certainly I am not certain that I would want to term al qaeda’s aims as “revolutionary” in the normal usage of the term (at least as a term of art in political science/sociology).

Of course, I don’t consider the American Revolution a true “revolution” (in the French, Russian, Chinese, Cuban, Iranian or Nicaraguan sense), but rather a war of independence. That, however, is perhaps a discussion for another time.

Update: This is from a comment I left below, which may help illustrate my position further:

Pablo Escobar, of the Medellin Cartel, used car bombs in places like shopping mall garages in Bogota in the 1990s to scare the upper class so that they would force the government to capitulate to certain demands by the cartels. This was clearly terrorism, but was there was no freedom fighting involved and no revolutionary aims were present, yet it empirically was terrorism. No need to be normative in my definition, either: quite straight-forwardly a group of persons who could not militarily challenge the state used the fomentation of fear in the population in the hopes that that fear would lead to governmental action–in this case, the cessation of extraditions to the US of Colombian nationals. It worked, by the way.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Colombia Extradites Rebel Leader ‘Trinidad’ to U.S.

The most important rebel commander ever captured by Colombia was sent to the United States on Friday to face cocaine smuggling and kidnapping charges.

Colombia’s president authorized the extradition of Ricardo Palmera, alias “Simon Trinidad,” after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish initials FARC, failed to comply with an ultimatum to free 63 hostages including three Americans.

A federal court in Washington wants Palmera for trafficking 11 pounds or more of cocaine and involvement in kidnapping the FARC’s American hostages.

Palmera, arrested in neighboring Ecuador in January, was handed to U.S. officials at a Bogota military airport and put on a U.S.-bound plane

This will, no doubt, infuriate the FARC leadership. It is also a demonstration of the continued unprecedented level of cooperation between Colombia and the United States.

President Uribe is, without a doubt, the most pro-US president Colombia has ever had. It is remarkable that his popularity remains as high as it has given that fact. OTOH, his high popularity allows him to do things like this.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via ABC News/Reuters: U.S. to Increase Tsunami Aid to $350 Million

The United States plans to increase its aid to victims of Asia’s devastating tsunami to $350 million from $35 million, CNN reported on Friday.

Now, will there be retractions coming from certain quarters? We shall see.

Here’s the CNN story.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the LAT we have an ineresting piece on gifts given to Justice Thomas and some of the other Supremes: Justice Thomas Reports Wealth of Gifts.

My first reaction was that the scrutiny of Thomas is beginning, given that he had been rumored to be Bush’s first choice to replace Rehnquist as CJ.

My second was that there is certainly something unseemly about the numbers in question vis-a-vis Thomas.

My third is that I am not sure where to draw the line, however, and that is doesn’t seem that there is an any evidence of these gifts being any time of serious potential influence over Thomas’ decision-making on the Court.

My fourth is that there is something to be admired, however, that several of the Justices have received little of no gifts of this type–although it bespeaks of Mr. Souter’s seemingly hermit-like exisitence that he seems to take no trips, give no speeches, etc.

In looking at the gifts, it strikes me that some of this is much ado about nothing. For example:

* $19,000 Bible from Republican donor

* $15,000 for a Lincoln bust from the American Enterprise Institute

Unless Thomas turns around and sells that stuff, I am not sure that the dollar figures matter all that much. The Bible, which is a lavish and nifty gift, is a symbolic one and doesn’t actually enhance Mr. Thomas’ wealth (again, unless he sells it). If one has a very wealthy friend, one might get that kind of gift. Of course, given that the wealty friend in question has direct links to the funding of the Swift Boat folks, the political synergy is quite significant.

Further, the statue from AEI is also not something that actually enhances his wealth, per se, and is more or less an award/a token of recognition (if one can call something worth $15k a “token”).

The “$5,000 cash gift from a mobile [that should be "motor"-Ed.] home enthusiast” which was apparently used to “help pay a relative’s education expenses” does strike one at first as being possibily problematic. The story describes it as follows:

Another businessman who calls Thomas a friend is Earl Dixon. A pest control company executive in Jacksonville, Fla., and former Republican state legislator, Dixon is also a motor-home enthusiast — a hobby shared by Thomas. He said they met about four years ago at a motor-coach repair shop in Florida.

Their friendship grew, Dixon said, and when he learned that Thomas was raising a grand-nephew, he gave the justice a $5,000 check to defray his education costs.

“I enjoy talking with him. I enjoy visiting with him. He’s a class act,” Dixon said of the justice.

So, in many ways, it was gift to the young man in question.

Some of the gifts are simply the kinds of thing one gets for being a celeb and engaging in certain public events: “an $800 Daytona 500 commemorative jacket after Thomas served as grand marshal at the race in 1999″ and “$1,375 in cowboy boots, Stetson hats, rawhide coat and a silver buckle after engagements in Texas in 1995 and 1996″ (and I guess none of it was used much, if at all).

The bottom line is that it is clear that Mr. Thomas has made friends and received gitfts because of his position, which does create an unseemly air of profiting from his office. While individual gifts can be explained it is also the case that perhaps Mr. Thomas should tone it down a bit.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Yanukovych Resigns Post As Ukraine PM

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych resigned Friday, making a grudging admission that he was unlikely to reverse the presidential election victory of his rival and saying he could not work under him.

Vanukovych announced his move in a televised New Year’s Eve address, saying he would push ahead with his appeal to the Supreme Court against the election results that showed pro-Western reformer Viktor Yushchenko as the winner — though he admitted it was likely futile.

“We are still fighting, but I don’t have much hope,” Yanukovych said

“I have made the decision to submit my formal resignation,” he said. It appeared his resignation was effective immediately.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Briton Surfs Tsunami, Survives

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Yanukovych’s Appeal Rejected in Ukraine

Ukraine’s election commission rejected the entire appeal by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych against results showing he lost this week’s repeat running, saying he had not proved there were any mass violations, a commission member said.

Yanukovych will now appeal to the Supreme Court, said his campaign manager, Taras Chornovyl.

Hmmm, maybe he can move to the US and join a third party.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Daniel W. Drezner has a lengthy, and interesting, post on the question of US international aid. It is based on like data and empirical evidence and stuff, and therefore better than, ya know, emotions and ideology.

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