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Religion, Politics and World Events They make great dinner conversation, don't you think? plus Political Film

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Old 10-02-06, 08:53 PM   #1
NCMojo
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FBI investigates mob-terrorist link

From the Baltimore Sun:
Quote:
FBI investigates mob-terrorist link

Agency to analyze white-collar crimes with terrorist data

Associated Press
Originally published October 2, 2006

WASHINGTON // The FBI's top counterterrorism official harbors lots of concerns: weapons of mass destruction, undetected homegrown terrorists and the possibility that old-fashioned mobsters will team up with al-Qaida for the right price.

Though there is no direct evidence of organized crime collaborating with terrorists, the first hints of a connection surfaced in a recent undercover FBI operation. Agents stopped a man alleged to have mob ties from selling missiles to an informant posing as a terrorist middleman.

"We are continuing to look for a nexus," said Joseph Billy Jr., the FBI's top counterterrorism official. "We are looking at this very aggressively."

The new strategy involves an analysis of nationwide criminal investigations, particularly of white-collar crime, side by side with intelligence and terrorist activity.

"We have developed an ability to look harder and broader in a greatly enhanced way to see if there is any crossover," Billy said.

Organized crime syndicates could facilitate money transfers or laundering, human smuggling, identification fraud, or explosives and weapons acquisitions, officials said.

The options are many for terrorists groups.

There are the five reputed La Cosa Nostra families in New York, Russian criminal enterprises from Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Moscow, and the emerging Asian crime syndicates that operate in many Islamic countries with al-Qaida offshoots.

A contract study produced recently for the Pentagon warned that the potential for organized crime assisting terrorists is growing.

"Although terrorism and organized crime are different phenomena, the important fact is that terrorist and criminal networks overlap and cooperate in some enterprises," the study said. "The phenomenon of the synergy of terrorism and organized crime is growing because similar conditions give rise to both and because terrorists and organized criminals use similar approaches to promote their operations."

The traditional mafia has highly developed networks for acquiring goods and services and money, all for a price.

The mob's potential interest in helping a terrorist has nothing to do with ideology or sympathy but with greed, said Matt Heron, head of New York FBI's organized crime unit.

"They will deal with anybody, if they can make a buck," Heron said. "They will sell to a terrorist just as easily as they would sell to an order of Franciscan monks. It's a business relationship to them."

"If the mob has explosives and a terrorist wants them and they have the money, they could become instant friends," he said.

Pat D'Amuro, a retired senior FBI official and now chief executive of Giuliani Security, said a Mafia boss once acknowledged that the mob would help terrorists.

"I am aware of a high-level Mafia figure, who was cooperating with authorities, being asked if the Mafia would assist terrorists in smuggling people into Europe through Italy," D'Amuro said. "He said, 'The Mafia will help whoever can pay.'"

Officials said they have no specific evidence that such a relationship has been cemented. But concerns were heightened last year after an Armenian immigrant was arrested in New York and accused of leading a plot to sell military weapons to an FBI informant posing as a middleman for terrorists.

Arthur Solomonyan had claimed to be able to deliver shoulder-fired missiles from his connection in Russian organized crime to the informant, who claimed to have ties to al-Qaida, federal prosecutors said. Solomonyan and 17 others in New York, Florida and California were charged in the case.

Solomonyan is scheduled for trial this month. His lawyer, Seth Ginsberg, said he plans to "vigorously contest" the charges and call the government's confidential informant to the stand to challenge his motives. The Italian, Russian and Asian mafia remain active, particularly in New York, even though the government has successfully prosecuted numerous figures in recent years.

In the past three years, well over 100 associates from all five La Cosa Nostra families have been arrested in New York, Heron said.

While the potential of a gangster-terrorist marriage is on the FBI's radar, homegrown terror cells and weapons of mass destruction are also big concerns for those in the FBI given the job of stopping the next attack.

"We are not only aware that they want to come across the ocean to attack us but they may be physically here developing in our own homeland," Billy said.
Okay, so here's what worries me -- we passed all of these shiny new laws to deal specifically with terrorism. Virtually unlimited wiretrapping. Harsh interrogations without legal representation. No Miranda warnings, no legal technicalities. Don't you know that the organized crime wing of the FBI has been drooling over the Patriot Act since its inception, hoping to use it against the Mafia? All they need to do is link terrorism and organized crime, and bam! Tony Soprano is suddenly an enemy combatant shipped off to Gitmo.

And it won't stop there. Aren't terrorists also getting funding from illegal drugs? So let's use these laws to crack down on narcotics. Computer hacking and piracy? Another form of funding, another threat to shut down. And after a while, couldn't you argue that just about anything is a threat to national security? Pornography? Counterfitting? File sharing? Even protesting against the war?


If you give the government power, they will use it. And they will never give it back.
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Old 10-02-06, 09:04 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NCMojo
If you give the government power, they will use it. And they will never give it back.
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Old 10-02-06, 09:09 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NCMojo

If you give the government power, they will use it. And they will never give it back.
Yeah, thats why the true motto of the US is "Writ of Habeas Corpus free since 1862."
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Old 10-02-06, 09:37 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by crazyronin
Yeah, thats why the true motto of the US is "Writ of Habeas Corpus free since 1862."
If the Supreme Court hadn't overturned that in 1866, it might still be.
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Old 10-02-06, 10:08 PM   #5
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You guys are assuming the US government isn't bribed and manipulated by members of the Mob and Mafia. Politicians could end up dead. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I hope they really do piss the mafia off. Unfortunately like JFK and Bobby did...
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Old 10-02-06, 10:43 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NCMojo
Tony Soprano is suddenly an enemy combatant shipped off to Gitmo.
They can do that to US citizens?
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Old 10-04-06, 03:56 AM   #7
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This thread needs teh funny. I can't believe someone on the internet hasn't photoshopped a picture of the Godfather with a towel on his head already.
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Old 10-04-06, 04:43 AM   #8
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You're going to wake up with a horse's head in your bed just for suggesting that...
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Old 10-04-06, 07:22 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kvrdave
They can do that to US citizens?
Yes, they can. From NPR:
Quote:
Bill Lets U.S. Citizens Be Held as Enemy Combatants
by Ari Shapiro

Sep. 28, 2006

All Things Considered, September 29, 2006 · The new detainee legislation passed by Congress this week addresses who can be detained as an unlawful enemy combatant and what rights enemy combatants are entitled to. And it could have an impact on the president's ability to declare that an American citizen is an enemy combatant.

In this politically charged atmosphere, competing perspectives on the topic emerge. Bradford Berenson, a White House lawyer during President Bush's first term, says the legislation is consistent with what courts have said about the president's right to imprison U.S. citizens as enemy combatants.

"U.S. citizens can be detained as enemy combatants if they take up arms on the side of al-Qaida," Berenson says. "But they get some extra judicial protections in that case."

Interpretation at the Discretion of the White House

The legislation that Congress passed does not say enemy combatants are people who "take up arms on the side of al-Qaida." The bill instead refers to people who provide "material support" to the enemy. The language of the bill says that is the standard for both citizens and non-citizens. But Berenson says that's not how the administration will apply it.

"As a practical matter, it would turn out to be a much higher standard for an American citizen," Berenson says. He says a "very demanding review" would need to take place within the executive branch before the president would sign an order declaring a U.S. citizen to be an enemy combatant.

"There's really no risk that a U.S. citizen who merely gives a charitable contribution, in error, to an organization that supports terrorism is going to find him or herself declared an enemy combatant," he says.

Yet this higher standard is not spelled out anywhere in the bill. Berenson acknowledges that what he describes is the White House's interpretation.


To Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, that sounds as if the administration is saying, "Trust us." And with a phrase as general as "material support," he's not comfortable doing that.

Ratner says the Bush administration has a history of broadly interpreting what constitutes material support. 'It certainly includes a very broad level of behavior, " Ratner says. "The real problem is, it's really up to the administration to define it, and that's pretty sad to me."

Legal Protections for Citizens vs. Non-Citizens

So far the courts have been vague on the topic of defining Americans as enemy combatants. The only explicit ruling the Supreme Court offered was in the case of Yasser Hamdi. The justices said an American detained on the battlefield in Afghanistan could be declared an enemy combatant, as long as he had an opportunity to challenge his detention.

The high court hasn't ruled yet on whether Americans picked up in the United States can be enemy combatants, and if so, under what standard. The new legislation spells that out. Fordham University law professor Catherine Powell says the court is more likely to defer to Congress than to a rule that comes straight from the White House.

"Going back to the Civil War, the Supreme Court has often felt more comfortable with actions that have the support of both the executive and legislative branch than those that just have the support of the executive branch," Powell says.

Americans held as enemy combatants have certain legal rights. They can challenge their detention, and if they're charged with war crimes, they get more rights at their trials than non-citizens.

By contrast, the legislation puts non-citizen enemy combatants in a very different situation. If they aren't charged with a war crime, they may never be brought to court at all.
The key phrase here is "interpretation". It's up to the Bush Administration to decide whether or not an American citizen has provided "material support" to terrorists -- and considering their broad interpretation of the law in the past, I don't see a lot of hand-wringing going on if they have the chance to stick it to John Gotti.

And again -- move beyond this Administration if you want. What happens in 2008? Hell, I'll go further -- you pretty much know the person who'll be the President in two years. But who will we elect into office in 2028? In twenty years, when our kids are having kids, who will be the President? We don't know. Maybe you personally trust Bush, Frist, Rice, or McCain (I don't), and maybe I personally have warm thoughts about Clinton, Gore, Biden or Edwards (and you don't). But who knows who'll be in the Oval Office in 20 years, with this much unrestricted Presidential power. Maybe we elect a crazy person -- who knows? But that person will have the unbridled authority to pretty much arrest anybody he wants, and once they're arrested, they can be subjected to the same "harsh interrogation" techniques that are in place today -- or worse, because what is technically considered "torture" is now exclusively defined by the whims of whoever occupies the office of President of the United States.
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Old 10-04-06, 07:28 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NCMojo
Yes, they can. From NPR:

The key phrase here is "interpretation". It's up to the Bush Administration to decide whether or not an American citizen has provided "material support" to terrorists -- and considering their broad interpretation of the law in the past, I don't see a lot of hand-wringing going on if they have the chance to stick it to John Gotti.

And again -- move beyond this Administration if you want. What happens in 2008? Hell, I'll go further -- you pretty much know the person who'll be the President in two years. But who will we elect into office in 2028? In twenty years, when our kids are having kids, who will be the President? We don't know. Maybe you personally trust Bush, Frist, Rice, or McCain (I don't), and maybe I personally have warm thoughts about Clinton, Gore, Biden or Edwards (and you don't). But who knows who'll be in the Oval Office in 20 years, with this much unrestricted Presidential power. Maybe we elect a crazy person -- who knows? But that person will have the unbridled authority to pretty much arrest anybody he wants, and once they're arrested, they can be subjected to the same "harsh interrogation" techniques that are in place today -- or worse, because what is technically considered "torture" is now exclusively defined by the whims of whoever occupies the office of President of the United States.
Great post Mojo. You always trade freedom for order and the real question is who uses this law for bad stuff way down the road.
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Old 10-04-06, 08:09 AM   #11
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Here's a nightmare that I have:

Osama bin Ladin and al Qaeda manage to launch another large-scale terrorist attack in the United States. Maybe they have jihadists with automatic weapons at shopping malls. Maybe they throw a suicide bomber into the Lincoln Tunnel. God help us, maybe they do get hold of a nuke, or they poison the water supply, or they crash an airliner into RFK stadium on game night.

The nation panics. Once again, we unite together, desperate for a leader. George Bush gets up and makes a speech in the Oval Office. For the good of the country, he's declaring martial law. Elections are suspended until "law and order" can be established. The Congress officially cedes all power to the Executive Branch "for the duration of the conflict". Our nation's media, already cowed by a renewed call for patriotism, does nothing even as the government cracks down on "leaks" by declaring reporters at the New York Times and the Washington Post "enemy combatants" for giving "material support" to terrorists. The Supreme Court issues a sweeping statement rejecting the Administration's advances, which the President then elects to ignore, stating that national security is above judicial review.

And then we push our troops over the border from Iraq into Iran. Iran responds by attacking Israel. Israel retaliates and drags in Lebanon. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt uses this opportunity to overthrow Mubarak and install an Islamic clerical state, which would side with Iran and put pressue on Saudi Arabia. The rest of the world, lead by China, Russia and Venezuela, call for an oil embargo against the "imperialist" United States -- and without oil, our country collapses into chaos.

How preposterous is this scenario? How unlikely? If you'd told me ten years ago that we could easily be on the precipice of a fascist state, I'd have scoffed and told you about the resiliency of democracy, and the determination of the American people never to let our liberties be taken away.

But now...
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Old 10-04-06, 08:47 AM   #12
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That's a bit over the top though Mojo. I'm hopeful that the loyal opposition will be able to win Congress and possibly the Senate to put some more checks on Bush's thrist for expanding the power of the executive branch.
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Old 10-04-06, 08:55 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VinVega
That's a bit over the top though Mojo. I'm hopeful that the loyal opposition will be able to win Congress and possibly the Senate to put some more checks on Bush's thrist for expanding the power of the executive branch.
If the Dems do gain power in '06 and '08, does anybody really think things will be that much different? I doubt it. I think the Dems pay great lip service to 'change', but in the end they won't do much of anything differently.
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Old 10-04-06, 09:57 AM   #14
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If the Dems do gain power in '06 and '08, does anybody really think things will be that much different? I doubt it. I think the Dems pay great lip service to 'change', but in the end they won't do much of anything differently.
They will put a serious damper on some of the more questionable actions of Bush. There will be real investigations into Gitmo and the run up to Iraq. Something that has been completely glossed over while the Republicans controlled all modes of power in this country.
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Old 10-04-06, 10:26 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by VinVega
That's a bit over the top though Mojo. I'm hopeful that the loyal opposition will be able to win Congress and possibly the Senate to put some more checks on Bush's thrist for expanding the power of the executive branch.
I'd like to see it, but I, too, have no faith in the DLC.

Besides, what if the terrorist strike happened two weeks before the elections?
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Old 10-05-06, 12:33 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VinVega
That's a bit over the top though Mojo. I'm hopeful that the loyal opposition will be able to win Congress and possibly the Senate to put some more checks on Bush's thrist for expanding the power of the executive branch.
Agree with Nazgul. Everyone likes power. We all know what power does. I think Democrat presidents would like a lot of this power just as much as Bush does.
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Old 10-05-06, 02:49 AM   #17
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My doomsday scenario is rather different. I imagine the west giving up on its values and refusing to fight for what is right. While people debate and disagree about how to do this and that, innocent people are blown to pieces, and the economic and social institutions that sustain our world are brought to a halt. Rival parties and leaders within our nations are singled out as corrupt and immoral over genocidal regimes abroad. A divided society with no moral strength or clarity wrings its hands in impotence as its world crumbles to the ground.

"This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper."
So... The only moral course of action is to never question your own morality and just go stompin'?
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Old 10-08-06, 11:01 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Nazgul
If the Dems do gain power in '06 and '08, does anybody really think things will be that much different? I doubt it. I think the Dems pay great lip service to 'change', but in the end they won't do much of anything differently.
They won't. (gain power)

The Dems leftist message that we have more to fear from the Bush administration than the radical Islamo Fascist movement is way off the mark, and the American people know it. Nevermind the tinfoil hats found all over the internet blogs and message boards.
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Old 10-08-06, 11:03 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Vandelay_Inds
My doomsday scenario is rather different. I imagine the west giving up on its values and refusing to fight for what is right. While people debate and disagree about how to do this and that, innocent people are blown to pieces, and the economic and social institutions that sustain our world are brought to a halt. Rival parties and leaders within our nations are singled out as corrupt and immoral over genocidal regimes abroad. A divided society with no moral strength or clarity wrings its hands in impotence as its world crumbles to the ground.

"This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper."

Well stated. Scary isn't it? You know whats scarier? We're well on our way down that path.
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Old 10-08-06, 11:35 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by MACD23
They won't. (gain power)

The Dems leftist message that we have more to fear from the Bush administration than the radical Islamo Fascist movement is way off the mark, and the American people know it. Nevermind the tinfoil hats found all over the internet blogs and message boards.
First, the term "Islamofascist" is an idiotic marketing phrase, used to somehow link the entirely seperate conflicts against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the attack on a secular dictatorship in Iraq, and al Qaeda worldwide. It's a dumb and insulting combination of terms; if you're going to use the term "Islamofascist", then you should logically use it to describe the oppresive regimes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. But we don't, because that doesn't play into the interests of the GOP and major oil conglomerates.

Second, even if you want to grant that America is threatened by Islamic extremists overseas, you have to also grant that the actual danger does not represent a significant threat to the future of America. These extremists do not represent a serious threat to American security yet -- except in the overreaction of our leaders. Realistically, we're not going to see the United States fall in a conflict with the Arab world in our lifetime. But we may very well see our notion of democracy threatened by those who would use the terrible tragedy of 9/11 to their own political advantage. That's the more pertinent danger -- that in the interest of national security, we give up the very liberties we claim to hold so dear.

Don't forget -- the Nazis did not seize control of Germany by force. They were elected democratically, by playing upon the same fears and the same paranoias we're facing today.
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Old 10-08-06, 12:22 PM   #21
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Spoken like a true liberal with his head buried in the sand.

I have a homework assignment for you:

Watch this movie and then tell me the threat posed by Radical Islam is not dire.

Last edited by MACD23; 10-08-06 at 12:30 PM.
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Old 10-08-06, 12:53 PM   #22
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Spoken like a true liberal with his head buried in the sand.
Nice rebuttal. So you blindly support the Administration in their ongoing fight against the "reality-based community"... and I have my head buried in the sand???

Quote:
Originally Posted by MACD23
I have a homework assignment for you:

Watch this movie and then tell me the threat posed by Radical Islam is not dire.
I'll be happy to watch Obsession and review it for you -- if you'll agree to watch Fahrenheit 911 and report back.
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Old 10-08-06, 01:15 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NCMojo
Second, even if you want to grant that America is threatened by Islamic extremists overseas, you have to also grant that the actual danger does not represent a significant threat to the future of America.
1. There are millions of Muslims worldwide who would love to see a nuclear weapon detonated in an American city.

2. The technology to build nuclear weapons is now over 60 years old.

3. There are now well organized Islamofascists who are actively working towards this goal.

4. These groups consist of many well-educated individuals, and have significant financial and popular support worldwide.

Now, reasonable people can differ as to how difficult this technology is to assemble, or whether this threat is 5 years down the road, or 10 or 20----but to say the Islamic extremists don't represent a significant threat to the future of America? What planet are you on?

You remind me of that liberal English member of parliament who, in the late 30's, famously remarked that he was much more worried about a Churchill/Roosevelt alliance than a Hitler/Mussolin alliance.
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Old 10-08-06, 01:49 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Ky-Fi
1. There are millions of Muslims worldwide who would love to see a nuclear weapon detonated in an American city.

2. The technology to build nuclear weapons is now over 60 years old.

3. There are now well organized Islamofascists who are actively working towards this goal.

4. These groups consist of many well-educated individuals, and have significant financial and popular support worldwide.

Now, reasonable people can differ as to how difficult this technology is to assemble, or whether this threat is 5 years down the road, or 10 or 20----but to say the Islamic extremists don't represent a significant threat to the future of America? What planet are you on?
I did not say they do not present a significant threat -- I'm saying that our nation can and will survive against the threat posed by these Muslim extremists, even if they get ahold of a nuclear weapon.

(And if that's our major concern, why hasn't the Bush Administration done more to secure the relatively "loose" nuclear weapons currently held in the former Soviet republics? Why haven't they done a damn thing in six years about port security?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ky-Fi
You remind me of that liberal English member of parliament who, in the late 30's, famously remarked that he was much more worried about a Churchill/Roosevelt alliance than a Hitler/Mussolin alliance.
I believe that's the second time you've said that. Who was this liberal member of Parliament? I went looking for that quote and could not find it, so if you could link to it, I would appreciate it.

Actually, I would appreciate it if you would not try and connect me to this particular liberal member of Parliament, since I frankly think it's kind of a smear. Unless you believe that Bush is somehow the noble equal of Churchill or Roosevelt.

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Old 10-08-06, 02:25 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by NCMojo
I did not say they do not present a significant threat --
Maybe you didn't MEAN to say that, but that's exactly what you said--I quoted you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NCMojo
(And if that's our major concern, why hasn't the Bush Administration done more to secure the relatively "loose" nuclear weapons currently held in the former Soviet republics? Why haven't they done a damn thing in six years about port security?)
I agree---and you're barking up the wrong tree if you think I'm a huge supporter of Bush's handling of the threats.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NCMojo
I believe that's the second time you've said that. Who was this liberal member of Parliament? I went looking for that quote and could not find it, so if you could link to it, I would appreciate it.

Actually, I would appreciate it if you would not try and connect me to this particular liberal member of Parliament, since I frankly think it's kind of a smear. Unless you believe that Bush is somehow the noble equal of Churchill or Roosevelt.

My apologies---the quote stuck in my head when I read it, but I didn't remember who said it, and I haven't been able to locate it since, either. But at any rate, there's certainly volumes of information on how the British left felt Churchill was a warmonger who was greatly exagerrating the threat of Nazi Germany, and that his actions were exacerbating the situation.

And the point I would make is that the reason France fell to the Nazis in 6 weeks, other European countries in less time, and that England almost fell was not that they were logistically incapable of mounting armies equal to the task of defending themselves, it's that the appeasers and pacifists so weakened their own countries that they were not able to face the threat when it suddenly appeared on their doorstep, and the loss of life was greatly increased than if the problem had been dealt with earlier.

I don't completely dismiss your concerns that overestimating the threat of Islamic terrorism could lead towards fascism in this country, but you shouldn't dismiss the idea that underestimating the threat can lead to a much more horrible confrontation and disaster down the road. And as far as your nightmare scenario as opposed to Vandelay's---I currently don't think the US is particularly close to either one. But Europe is definitely heading down the path Vandelay laid out, and that's something we can learn from.
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