Results tagged “Terrorism” from Six Hours A Week: Adventures in American Exile
Unpredictable, snarling traffic could be fodder for many an ethical discussion. If an ambulance can't reach me because of Lakers traffic, are the Lakers responsible? The Staples Center? The city planners?
The death and destruction related to automobiles is normal to us. There were 41,059 traffic-related fatalities in the US in 2007 alone. We've clearly collectively decided that this astounding loss of life is acceptable in our auto-centric culture.
Sometime while working with RAND I was at dinner discussing this with an acquaintance who worked in the office next to me. I'm not sure he was actually a friend. I believe he worked for Bruce Hoffman on some terrorism-related research but it could have been Brian Michael Jenkins -- I don't remember. He might have just been eliciting comments, as I now realize so many did in those years. We discussed Critical Mass, the bicycle protests where bicyclists flood the streets apparently to create an experience for drivers similar to the one they face every day. I had never taken part in one and am very unlikely to because I can barely ride a bike. He said that people shouldn't take part because if they did, they might be responsible for emergency services not being able to get through to someone in need.
I agree that would be terrible, and if I were a part of any large event that was the obvious culprit in preventing someone from getting essential medical care I'd feel awful. But traffic is so random. We don't consider a Lakers game a terrorist event when the traffic jams caused by it result in delays in all our lives -- in emergency situations or not. So, people involved in Critical Mass, who are on their bicycles, on the street to point out how violent and destructive our car culture is (not only in terms of direct destruction of human life, but astronomical CO2 levels that affect not just local communities but the whole planet) should be held to some higher standard of responsibility because their purpose for being on the street en mass biking is political in nature? What about jams caused by political conventions? It's complicated territory.
At that restaurant in that moment in time I thought that taking the risk to take part in such a demonstration despite the fact that a concurrent fateful act might make it difficult to get an ambulance through would be worth it because overall it might draw attention to the manner in which our reliance on cars kills so many. But it was all hypothetical, because, as I alluded, I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 21 and barely can. I had not intention of ever taking part in Critical Mass.
You would have thought I had approved of the most heinous atrocities known to man. By the end of that conversation my companion could barely look at me, and didn't speak to me much again. At first I thought it might have been simply that he was not used to being disagreed with, but came to believe that my comments about Critical Mass seemed to completely change his view of me -- like, change my category from nice friendly person to "bad person".
Now we see language from the Homegrown Terrorism Act popping up in last Friday's seemingly strategically timed plea agreements from two men who were caught in a Los Angeles-area terror plot. This is not incredibly surprising, given that this case supposedly inspired the Act. But we have to wonder if it's a coincidence that the pleas are being entered now, while we await Senate debate on the Act. From a Justice Department press release:
In plea agreements filed this morning and court proceedings conducted this morning in United States District Court in Santa Ana, James and Washington admitted that they conspired “to levy war against the government of the United States through terrorism, and to oppose by force the authority of the United States government.”Isn't enough that these men were caught in a heinous terrorist plot? That should put them safely away. Why the need to get them to use language about opposing the government's authority? What was their incentive to do so?
Further, what is "force?" Aren't we obligated as patriotic citizens to constantly question our government's authority? Like the suffragists on hunger strikes who were force-fed in prison? Like Civil Rights marchers? From the bill:
If you're trying to convince Europeans to create an international fingerprint and personal-data screening database, it's international. If you want to persuade a domestic audience to nationally standardize drivers licenses, it's domestic.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said this two weeks ago when addressing a European audience about the ways they would need to give up their anonymity when traveling to the United States:
Now Reuters reports in a story entitled U.S. Says Homegrown Attack Poses Biggest Risk:
The United States faces a lower risk of homegrown terrorism than Europe and should concentrate efforts on developing a global system of anti-terrorist screening at airports and borders, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday.
When asked whether the United States considered a homegrown attack likely — the prevailing pattern in Britain, where legally-residing extremists have plotted or committed a string of attacks since 2005 — Chertoff said America needed to make screening of international travelers its most logical priority.
"We have less of a problem with homegrown terrorism than in Europe. That's not to say we don't have a problem," he said, noting arrests in May of six foreign-born U.S. residents on suspicion of plotting to attack the Fort Dix army base.
"So I don't mean to suggest that the exclusive remedy is preventing bad people from getting into the United States ... but that is the point of their greatest vulnerability," he said.
The United States faces a heightened threat of terrorist attack "for the foreseeable future" but any attack will likely be homegrown, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Wednesday...
"There's probably a greater risk in terms of likelihood from a homegrown attack than from a massive international attack," he added.
Chertoff described that sort of "homegrown" attack as a single person or small group of people living in the United States who were "recruited" on the Internet and had pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
So, what's going on? Why the different assessments? Could Chertoff's domestic rhetoric have anything to do with the likely soon-to-be-debated Homegrown Terrorism Bill?