Commenter Archive

AvatarComments by greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon*

On “it was never the case that all terrorists were Muslim

RN- By what measure are you saying that most terrorists are Muslim??? Any proof for that? Now it is certainly true that most terrorists from Muslim countries are Muslim, but that doesn't really say that much does it. Most American terrorists are white Christian’s
(see T. McVeigh, anti-abortion terrorists, animal liberation, KKK, etc). Most terrorists in the UK were Irish Catholics, etc.

Acceptance of terrorism is generally higher is countries that have no other tactical option. I'm sure most Muslim terrorist would rather fight from M-1 tanks or fly F-15's.

On “(non)coercion

Good stuff, you explain the positions of different sides fairly and well. It is to often true that political debates are usually about underlying philosophies that aren't discussed openly as the true issue.

I did ponder, or maybe i was musing, that so much of the discussion of coercion, which you are correct is a central topic is such a western and American discussion. Not that only Americans think about this topic or that there aren't philosophical roots from Europe, but just comparing to native American or eastern or even more communitarian western cultures. It is takes highly western/American notion of hyper-individualism to even start the discussion. For many peoples in the world it would be assumed that society has considerable "coercive" rights and people should subsume themselves into the culture to a degree.

Bob- I can't remember, what was Plato's thoughts on the internet, the space program and stem cell research?

On “The Pakistan is on the Brink Meme

The big difference in Pakistan is that they are a fairly united country with a common identity. Afghanistan is a collection of violent, tribal groups taht don't necessarily want to get along. Pakistan has also been a functioning country where Afghanistan has not often been.


But there already has been anarchic criminality and exported terror. While we fiddled in Iraq, Pakistan has been getting worse. Khan, the Pakistani scientist not the star trek villain, already sold nuke tech. And the Pakistani intelligence services have already supported the Taliban. So some of the fretting is so much shutting the door after the horse has left the barn, wandered down the road, sired a few little horsies and has been to the glue factory for a few years.

The real question is whether the Army, who has the power, is likely to lose control? They are our ally to a degree. Given that AQ does not have the kind of military power to beat the Army then that answer is no. And the Army wants our support and weapons since it bolsters their power. However their intell service and various other supporters in the military can already cause plenty of havoc and make sure Pakistani policy does not drift to close to us. So how is this offensive going to damage the power of the AQ and Taliban supporters in the gov. I wonder if the Taliban supporters in the gov are using this offensive as a way to eliminate their internal enemies and bolster their power. Our intell on the internal workings/power structure, etc always seems piss poor, so we are often swinging blind.

On “secrets and substance

Fair enough but if you took Reagan out of the equation of the 1980's the republicans wouldn't have looked like much either. The president for better or worse becomes the leader of the party even if they didn't start that way before the election. Anyhoo, before the election the R's were grossly unpopular and while the D's were ascendant. There arn't large majorities in both houses because everybody hates the D's.

I agree the D leadership is often less then aspiring on some/many issues. Then again on support of veterans they are worlds better then the R's.


I agree with you about the power of personality in our/ any democracy, but I’m not sure there is any way around that. To a degree personality politics in not a bug but a feature of democracies. We don't have a particularly intellectual country that respects learning so personality often takes it’s place. Politicians are to a degree another consumer product. Although I’m not sure what you mean that the democratic brand lacks any substance.

There are plenty of D's who want a truth commission or better yet prosecutions. It is silly to assume all members of a party agree with all the same ideas. I actually don't think we will have any sort of truth commission, the public does not want one , the R's will burn down the country to prevent one and there are not enough D's who do want one. The truth will dribble out slowly over years.

On “the imperial presidency (again)

Part of the problem with the presidency, aside from acid trip conspiracy theories, is that to many people have come to see the pres. as a surrogate daddy and moral guide. So they allow and want him, or her eventually, to be powerful so he can protect and guide us. This is instead of the pres being a job, we hire somebody to do for a few years.


Obama wasn't on any committee’s or in a leadership position to suggest he was likely to have been briefed on torture.

Agreed, the apparent ability of president's to start wars whenever they want has indeed been a bad thing. Of course the majority of the American people don't seem to mind which is unfortunate.

On “teaching and choice

Oh and i should have added that i have never seen evidence that bad teachers are the root cause of the education problmes we have.


I am generally pro-union but some unions deserve criticism. The problem, as has happens in these discussions, is that unions or teacher merit pay/ assessment becomes the entire discussion of how to improve schools. Which ends up with ideological arguments instead of looking as all the issues schools/ teachers face and how to correct them.

On “the campaign finance law we have sucks only a little more than the alternative

Having “there are too few people/corporations running things” followed by “maybe we should give even more power to our betters” is *INSANE*.

Yes that is insane. Who said that?????

So what you are saying is government is evil and the source of all problems, so lets not have much. Which would be fine if there weren’t’ massive power imbalances in society. I think and I am sure you disagree that one of the functions of the government is to try to mitigate some of the power imbalances and to arbitrate between different groups that have legitimate desires. That is part of the purpose of the constitution, to set rules for how are to get along with each other.

I guess I think it is better if we have good laws then bad ones, and i am hoping we can have good laws. And I think it is possible for us to have good laws as opposed to bad ones.


This has nothing to do with private actions. This is about actions in the public sphere, so suggesting that I am with dobson in wanting to regulate private actions is silly and far off the point. Absolutism is great. It allows for grand pronouncements and indignation and being sure you are correct. It just doesn't deal with the world we have. Nobody is trying to protect you from anybody else’s views. None of us are trying to shut out voices. The issue is that there are to few voices who have influence on our politics.

The text of the constitution is great. And people have only been arguing about the original intent of the framers since, ohhhh...about, 1800, when the original framers started arguing about. Our task in a democracy is making it work, since the various rights and statements sometimes conflict or are less then clear.

My discussion of this post is focused on what I thought was freddie's topic of campaign finance, not all the legislating morality crap dave and jay are throwing in. In regards to the way we elect politicians there are tremendous power imbalances that result in a very few people, those with money, having a massive and deleterious affect on our country. There is nothing in our constitution that says we are supposed to live in a country run by the few for there own benefit, yet that seems to be what we have, at least in terms of economic policy. It looks to me like we have less democracy then we should since only a few get to have influence on our policies due to way we finance campaigns. So i am open to solutions to solve this and have yet to see any from the conservative or libertarian side. I am not even sure if Dave and Jay think it is a problem that our country seems to be run, in many ways, by a small number of rich businesses and people. Throwing up the legislating private morality stuff is off the point, especially since none the Lib's are suggesting that and we tend to agree with you on the government staying out of private morality.

Oh..if liberals seem schizophrenic on some issues it may be because, i at least, not to speak for anybody else, think you have to look at a specific issue in context and understand what is going on in that circumstance. Absolutism, which i am not totally against, tries to ignore context and the differences in each issue.


Jay- Did you even understand the question????? Everybody should have a voice. The problem is some people get a huge amount of voice based on money and that leaves many others with nothing. Some people have no influence while others get to run the country for their benefit. Do you even see what we are trying to talk about ? Or is a rambling change of subject the only way to deal with this question.


wow even more incisive views on the power of money to twist democracy. I am learning so much.



well i certainly see where the libertarian folk are coming from on the subject of the tremendous power of money to pervert our system of government.


Jay-who the heck said the right people will always make the right decisions. It will never happen. Maybe we need some inviolable moral and legal barriers to protect us all from the right or wrong people making wrong decisions.


yes you should just give up trying to achieve any pure form of a political ideology unless you can find a small country or planet somewhere where every single person is willing to go along with it. good luck with that.

no safety or enviro regs, no employee power, low or no corporate taxes would be hated by business. yeah sure. And i'm sure all sort of private companies would build roads for all of us to drive on.

so without going off on satirizing a pure Liberatarian fantasy world, how about aiming at Freddie's main theme. Is the huge influence of moneyed powers a problem for libertarians? Is a whoever has the gold makes the rules a good system? For who? Why? Should anything be done about it.

On “US Religious Landscape

Mahar's movie was very funny, caustic and spot on. Of course i am a godless heathen, but still. Its nice that us godless can come out of the closet a bit more freely now, so to speak.

On “defense spending: still spending

uhh yeah if young soldiers can't get married for a while they will either get out of the military or just have babies out of wedlock.

On “US Religious Landscape

hilariously i was watching the Bill Mahar flick Religulous before i checked this post.

On “The Salad Bowl

I would think the distinction is between the mainstream/big conservative yakkers/ sites/ republican party and the rest. There is quite a bit of discussion among the fringes on the right. Well by fringes I guess I mean the non-establishment right. The establishment right is easily, and pretty darn correctly, caricatured as seeing tax cuts as the solution to everything up to and including Manny R’s use of performance enhancing steroids. And I know as a Liberal I would love for the open minded conservatives to take back your party. That would be good for everybody. Sadly Viagra Limbaugh is a louder voice then the many thinking conservatives like Bacevich or Larison. And we do know Limbaugh’s views on conservative orthodoxy.

I made this quip already, but if Goldberg is only being “odd” he is having a good day. His description of Our Lord Obama’s philosophy is what you would expect from the author of liberal fascism ie: questionable. He just has no clue about the relative levels of state involvement in our lives and that Obama has strenuously avoided things like nationalizing the banks. I suppose jonah would have some explanation how the government doing good where and when it could is somehow bad. Although good does sound sort of …um… well.. good.

On “Liar, Liar: Jim Carrey and the Misinformation About Vaccines and Autism

Great post. The forces of ignorance are powerful and, it feels like, growing. Scientific literacy is clearly not a specialty of many Americans. But at least we are good at conspiracy theories.

On “Teachers Unions, Performance Pay, and Autonomy

Just because we need another part of this debate in here, but one roadblock to broad educational reform is that education is controlled primarily at a state and local level. School districts have a large degree of control over teaching philosophies and such.

There are also, in most places, alternative programs in school or alternative schools for children who learn in different styles. In my modest city of 250,000, there are three public alternatives for high school, one which is a grossly under funded vo-tech. There are also a range of public charter options for grade school kids. It is a bit of myth that public schools are one giant monolith.

Jay- Plenty of harmful teachers get fired. Maybe there are anecdotes about some dufus not getting fired who deserved it, but i just havn't seen anybody show that as a systematic problem.


Jay- nice "just so" story. FWIW class size has been studied extensively. Small class sizes have a profound positive affect on school achievement. The affect is greatest for grade school kids.

And FWIW again. I used to know several teachers in the outreach program to homeless youth when I was working in a homeless shelter. A tough population with multi-problemed families, you know, the kind who have trouble helping their kids in school, most troubled, etc. Those teachers were dedicated and worked their butts off far more then 40 per week. Some even spent their own money at times for supplies.

Why is it nobody proposes the way to improve medical care is to fire doctors or nurses?

On “Teaching Moments

I think the problem with incentive pay is that so much of student performance is not under the control of the teacher. Parental involvement is a huge factor in children's motivation and performance. Also poverty is strongly linked with school performance. So how well can you judge a teachers performance? That being said I am not particularly against performance based pay, except for I don't see any way it does much to improve education.

I know the free market ideologues believe sprinkling some magic competition dust will improve schools but I have never actually seen anybody show how teachers or their unions are the problem we face with education. Blaming unions and teachers is an ideological complaint from the right wing. I am not saying it may not have some merit but on its own it is inadequate to understand our educational system. Oh and we have a country where a largeish number of people believe in creationism, so how smart do you think adults are in this country.

If we want to improve education we need to look at a lot more then just teachers pay. How about fully funding and expanding Head Start programs? (These have a long history of success)

Making preschool cheaper and more available?

Having parents get more involved with their children’s schools?

Offer more vocational programs for high school students who aren’t on a college track?

Decrease classroom size especially for grade school kids? ( This has been shown to have a consistent positive impact on children’s performance)

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