"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."


Glenn Reynolds:

Barack Obama:
"Impossible to transcend."

Albert A. Gore, Jr.:
"An incontinent brute."

Rev. Jeremiah Wright:
"God damn the Gentleman Farmer."

Friends of GF's Sons:
"Is that really your dad?"

Kickball Girl:
"Keeping 'em alive until 7:45."

Hired Hand:
"I think . . . we forgot the pheasant."

I'm an
Alcoholic Yeti
in the
TTLB Ecosystem

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Once is happenstance . . . .

Kathy Shaidle today points to yet another point/counterpoint in the Detroit Free Press. On 9-11, the Freep predictably published an article titled "Stares, whispers take toll on metro Muslims: They tire of defending religion, ethnicity." Today the letters column of that paper includes what Kathy calls "the uncommon sense of ordinary folks."

This is a recurring theme. Obviously all Muslims are not terrorists, but it most certainly seems that all terrorists are Muslims. One of the Freep's correspondents notes that Tim McVeigh was not a Muslim, and his attack has not led to generalized suspicion falling on white men. We can only observe, for what we know will not be the last time, that Mr. McVeigh did not detonate his truck bomb while shouting, "God is Great, and Jonathan Edwards is his Prophet." Nor did Unitarians dance in the street upon hearing of his blow against the Great Satan. Neither have Methodists notably insisted that the Zionists did it.

National Public Radio aired one story on 9-11 about a mosque somewhere here in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. The story claimed that "many members" of the mosque had experienced "backlash" since September 11. And NPR had the goods. One high school boy, they explained, "an ice hockey player, was called a terrorist by an opposing player during an ice hockey game." That's it. I'm waiting for the NPR story explaining breathlessly that other ice hockey players were being targeted and oppressed by opposing players because they had attractive sisters.

The truth of the matter is that regular people know what to do: Aggressively pursue terrorists as close to their home, and as far from ours, as they may be found; oppose or destroy governments that harbor them; concentrate security resources on those most likely to be dangerous; intercept the communications of suspected terrorists; interrogate terrorists in whatever fashion is most likely to yield reliable information.

As to the identity of our enemy, I am content to rely upon the analysis of the eminent philosopher, Auric Goldfinger:

"Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, but three times is enemy action, Mr. Bond."

Comments on "Once is happenstance . . . ."


Anonymous 'chesty' said ... (9:58 AM) : 

hmm. the underlying logic here seems to be that while mcveigh engaged in a clear terrorist act, because he was not muslim, and because he didn't invoke religion, he couldn't be labled a terrorist. not so certain i buy that definition of terrorism. it would of course rule out acknowledged terrorist organizations such as ETA. my normal folk, common-sense response would be to say if you engage in terrorist acts (regardless of who's god or political party you invoke), you're a terrorist. you could make 'being a muslim' an additional qualification, but in that case you'd just be using your conclusion (all terrorists are muslims) as evidence in your argument. you'd have a tough time convincing me that mcveigh, the unabomber, and the columbine kids weren't all terrorists, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...

not only would i strenuously dispute that "all terrorists are muslims" i would question whether muslims have even been responsible for the majority of the recent terrorist assaults on US citizens within the US.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:52 AM) : 

Dear Chesty,

You "would dispute that" blah blah blah? When "would" you dispute that?

You "would question whether" blah blah blah? Under what circumstances "would" you question it?

You hide behind the subjunctive to avoid making direct statements. Go for it: Being Muslim is irrelevant to terrorism risk. Just say it. If you saw a group of young men apparently of Middle Eastern descent carrying copies of the Koran and getting on a commercial airliner together on the anniversary of 9-11-01, you would see in that no rational marker of a heightened risk of a terrorist act.

You are in fantasy land.


Blogger Gentleman Farmer said ... (11:09 AM) : 

When the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna starts blowing up things in the United States, then will be time enough to target, profile, pick out, give higher scrutiny to, and be particularly suspicious of Basques. Time enough for backlash.

Until then, kick back with some txangurro, and a bottle of txakoli.

Besides, didn't they go out of the bombs and bullets business earlier this year?


Anonymous 'chesty' said ... (11:39 AM) : 

dear angry,

i use the subjunctive tense to moderate the tone of my rhetoric. it's a useful technique. my argument is not that there is no connection between islamic extremism and terrorism. there's an obvious connection. my argument is this:

-not all terrorists are muslims;
-many domestic terrorist attacks in the US have been carried out by non-muslim US citizens;

to assume that all terrorist are muslims or all muslims are terrorists is an absurd, dangerous simplification (or, perhaps "fantasy"?). there are 1 billion muslims in the world, and something like 4 million in the US. many of them carry the Koran. and many of them ride on airplanes. sometimes they even have to travel on the anniversaries of national tragedies. even the most generous estimates of the total number of terrorists in both the US and the world constitute only a very, very small fraction of the overall Muslim population. so yes, i *would* question whether a few Muslim young men getting on my plane represents anything of significance. i guess that could be seen as a fantasy land. i think of it more as my wishy-washy, lovey-dovey, bleeding heart weenie desire not to label 1 billion people based on the actions of a few thousand.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:07 PM) : 


You conclude, "so yes, i *would* question whether a few Muslim young men getting on my plane represents anything of significance."

Fine. You question it. So what's the ANSWER? In the circumstance that I described, would you conclude that the risk was heightened? or not?

Of course you would know that the risk was greater. But you seem to be one of those people who thinks we should profess a willed stupidity on the point. Why? Misguided multi-culti zeal?

P.S. Just to be catty, let me point out that subjunctive is a mood, not a tense.


Anonymous 'chesty' said ... (12:42 PM) : 

i'm not totally sure what you're getting at here as far as an 'answer' is concerned. do you want me to endorse legalized racial profiling at airport security checkpoints? is that the underlying agenda?

certainly there is a very slim slim possibility that the individuals in your scenario are among the, perhaps 0.001% of the muslim population who are terrorists. there's also a very slim possibility that the white guy next to you with a briefcase is the next mcveigh. if you truly feel that current airline security measures, intelligence gathering and terrorist monitoring measures are so woefully inadequate to stop would-be terrorists, and that even the most negligble increase in terror possibility is enough to warrant large scale racial profiling, so be it. i won't get into an in-depth debate on the ethics of racial profiling. my personal feeling is that there are better, more effective ways to spend our anti-terror dollars.

there is, of course, historical precedent for racial profiling in cases where a very slim risk of harm to the US was seen to exist. the japanese-american internments during WWII come to mind.


Blogger Village Idiot said ... (2:14 PM) : 

Boy, are YOU a jerk. Everybody knows you can't put enough ammonium nitrate and fuel oil in a briefcase to do no harm.

Now, if he was carrying a duffel bag, and maybe a couple of 5-gallon jerry cans, I'd give the guy a second look. Maybe flip a cigarette butt at him to see if he flinched. That sorta thing.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:22 PM) : 

"I question whether you're right" is an unhelpful contribution to significant discourse. The person saying it makes no assertions, takes no responsibility for ideas. Anybody can question anything.

It goes along with "I would dispute."


Anonymous 'Chesty' said ... (4:44 PM) : 

i would dispute that assertion.


Blogger Hired Hand said ... (5:03 PM) : 

Allow me:

Widespread racial profiling of Muslims, beyond the question of whether you can "racially profile" adherents of a partiuclar religion, would be a wholly inefficient way of reducing the risk of terrorism on US airlines.

Sure, it may actually be effective in locating the 0.0001% of the Muslim population that are terrorists - akin to detaining the entire haystack for want of a needle that may or may not be within. So too would grounding all U.S. air traffic permanently be a way of completely containing the terror risk on U.S. airliners.

And why stop at Muslims? To our knowledge, 100% of the 9/11 hijackers were also men. Let's detain every male that attempts to board an airplane. No, seriously. Think about this for a second. Do you think that would stop a highly organized, well-funded, and clearly effective terror organization?

Of course not.

Widespread racial profiling at U.S. airports would be a way of fighting the war on terror much in the same way we have fought the Wars on Drugs and Poverty. It would involve all the classic elements: pandering to a vaguely-defined fear; framing the problem with an unhelpfully broad definition; failing to establish clear, attainable goals; and throwing good money after bad.

End assertion.


Blogger Village Idiot said ... (5:12 PM) : 

Let's have a drink.


Blogger Hired Hand said ... (5:49 PM) : 

Kickball tonight - let's have 10!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6:01 PM) : 


I can't tell if you're saying that racial profiling is evil, or that it is ineffective in identifying terrorists, or that it is less effective than RANDOMNESS in identifying terrorists.

I think profiling (e.g., in this case, singling out young Arab-Muslim males for special scrutiny) would certainly be more effective than scrutinizing every 17th person. And yes, maleness is relevant, too. Any system that results in nursing mothers with babes in arms, or grannies in wheelchairs, being among the very few persons who get actually searched is loony.

No, I can't quantify the extent to which these searches effectively deter or screen out terrorists. But the searches are certain to be more effective if they are targeted than if they are random. And I'm certainly not in favor of relying totally on the metal detectors and having NO additional human-generated searches.

Alas, innocent Arab Muslim men of goodwill will be subjected to fruitless searches in greater numbers (and, happily, nursing Asian mothers with babies will be searched in lesser numbers). And there will be ironies: Profilers will sometimes scrutinize Israelis, or Palestinian Christians, or Sikhs. But if any of them gets huffy and how-dare-you, then the GS-8 security guy should be trained to politely explain to them:

"There are people in the world who look like you (to us, anyway--silly us) and who are intent on killing as many of us as they can, with as high a women-and-children ratio as they can get; and we can't tell who they are; so please shut up and spread em. Or, if you prefer, then those of you in the line who aren't U.S. citizens can simply go back to your own wonderful countries (where people apparently enjoy so many more liberties than we offer here in the U.S., and where you won't be mistaken for bad guys), and leave us alone. Did we ask you to come here? I didn't think so. Where's that return ticket? There you go. Buh-bye."


Blogger Hired Hand said ... (6:54 PM) : 

Anon - you (actually, your GS-8 security guard) said, "Did we ask you to come here?"

I forgot we no longer lift our lamp beside the golden door. My bad.

Beyond that, though, I completely agree with the idea that targeted screening is infinitely more desirable than random screening. I would LOVE it if we could heighten security scrutiny with respect to people with ties to Islamic extremism.

My point, and Chesty's point (I believe) is that screening targeted solely on the basis of visual appearance is not only borderline unethical, it's just not effective. I'm not even talking from a policy standpoint here - I mean, it's statistically NOT EFFECTIVE. If our explicit and sole criterion for heightened attention from TSA is "Arab-looking," then we've got a few waves of non-Arab-looking Islamist terrorists headed our way. These guys, these murderers, are simply too smart for something like racial profiling to deter or thwart them.


Blogger Gentleman Farmer said ... (7:30 PM) : 

It is quite alarming that in all of this discussion, no one has asked these two questions:

When was the last time an Israeli plane was hijacked?

What do the Israelis do about this?

The answer to the first question is: Way long. You could look it up.

The answer to the second question is that every single person is questioned before being permitted on an airliner leaving Israel, of an El Al flight going to Israel. Every single person.

The questioners are highly intelligent, highly trained agents who don't always ask the same questions, and aren't even always interested in what your answer is. They have developed "profiling" to a high art. Not profiling based on whether you're a swarthy fellow with prominent facial features.

It works very well.

All of which has almost nothing to do with my post.

Fishing expeditions sometimes catch no fish. But it's a foolish fisherman who refuses to drop his hook where he's caught some fish before.

Here's my point: There has been vitually no "backlash" against Muslims in the United States since 9-11. And I'm tired of hearing whining from the Muslim versions of Jesse Jackson, out to make their name or a buck. And I'm even more tired of hearing about how I'm supposed to do something about, and feel really, really bad about, something that's not taking place.


Anonymous Izaak Walton said ... (7:33 PM) : 

It's an even dumber fisherman who won't drop his hook in the water near where the fish are screaming, "HERE I AM!! HERE I AM!!"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:19 PM) : 

HH: You cut me to the quick with the allusion to "The New Collossus". How does it go?--

"Give me your surly, your entitled,/
Your huddled conspirators yearning to give their dying breath to kill American children,/
The ones who consider this country wretched,/
Send these, the pitiless, the conscienceless, to me./
I lift my lamp" etc.

It doesn't scan well, but it does bring a tear to the eye. Thanks, HH, for helping me to remember that this country isn't just about us, or about people who share our vision and would join us--no, it's about laying ourselves prostrate before those who hate us and would completely undo us. I think THAT's what Emma Lazarus REALLY had in mind.


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