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Patrick S. O'Donnell


I see little or nothing to be gained by calling this group of Republicans "terrorists," literally or metaphorically, a term already used (and abused) in conventional political contexts "of a highly emotional, partisan, even hysterical nature." Terrorism involves "the intentional killing or other severe harming of noncombatants or the threat of same," and can of course be a tactic that governments and authorized government agencies (thus not just revolutionaries and other nongovernmental groups) can (and do) employ for political purposes. To use it in the current "partisan rhetorical war" diminishes the meaning of the term when we are rightly called upon to use it for reasons of legal and moral disapprobation. I think our vocabulary is rich enough to find other appropriate and colorful terms that communicate our anger, frustration, disgust, sense of righteousness, and so forth.

Steve Shiffrin

Thanks for the comment. If I thought the term would be watered down so
it would not have the same sting in contexts involving intentional
killing or other severe harm of noncombatants or the threat of same, I
would agree. But I do not think its metaphorical use in other contexts
would have that effect. I do see something to be gained by its use in
this context and so do same quite savvy politicians. I notice that
Henry Waxman has used the term and Vice President Biden (I assume many
others). I think it puts the Republicans on the defensive. Threats to
damage the economy if their demands are not met threaten needless death
and suffering. This is not easy behavior to justify, and the term
terrorist communicates the objection crisply. In politics,
communicating crisply is vital to success. The use of extended argument
regrettably is less effective than colorful phrases in mass media
communications though the former is much needed as well. I was going to
ask for the alternative you said was available. But I see that Robert
Reich refers to the hostage crisis that we just got through. Perhaps
you would not object to that phrase.


Of course government spending is great at creating jobs. Only government is in the position of hiring masses to dig holes and other masses to fill them in again.

The degree of unemployment is the measure of nothing. Adam and Eve enjoyed it until they sinned and I have spend hours maintaining my unemployment status, preferably gaming Unemployment Compensation in the process.

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