[FoRK] America, F*ck yea...

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at ceruleansystems.com
Wed Feb 2 15:09:11 PST 2011

On Feb 2, 2011, at 9:50 AM, Kragen Javier Sitaker wrote:
> Your characterization of gassing peaceful protestors, killing some of
> them, as "arguably inappropriate", is unnecessarily inflammatory.

Then it is equally inflammatory to exaggerate the practical harm of CS tear gas.  You would think it was mustard gas or Sarin the way people are going on about it.  Obvious creative exaggeration does not make for constructive discourse, assuming anyone is interested in constructive discourse.

> (1) It is clearly not the case that in every case where tear gas is
> used, mass killing would otherwise happen. The use of tear gas is
> preferred to mass killing precisely because it's less harmful. In some
> cases, absent the option to use tear gas, police would indeed engage in
> mass killing or beating; in other cases, they would retreat.

This is orthogonal to the point I was raising, which is that tear gas is not a big deal.  

> There's some discussion over whether Egypt imports tear gas from the US
> because of US aid or not. It's certainly common for foreign aid packages
> to come with requirements to spend them on products from the donor
> country, and be lobbied for by suppliers in the donor country. This is
> the case, for example, with US military aid to Egypt. (If I understand
> correctly.)  

Generally true.

> ITAR also controls the export of tear gases, including CN and CS gas.
> As I understand it, this means you have to have explicit permission from
> the US government for each export shipment.  Every tear-gas canister
> exported from the US is therefore a concrete reminder of the US
> government's continuing political support for the Egyptian police force,
> which is renowned for its brutality.

No one reasonably interprets this to mean anything important. 

ITAR controls on CN and CS gas, like many US ITAR regulations, have no bearing on reality.  It is exactly like the ITAR restrictions on the export of cryptography software.  The manufacture of CS is low-budget industrial chemistry and is available pretty much anywhere in the world whether the US exports it or not.  A bureaucrat pointlessly inserting themselves in the trade of largely unrestricted global commodity has no meaning.

Basically, anyone that gets hot and bothered over this should have gotten hot and bothered that the US selectively allowed export of cryptography instead of banning export altogether even though cryptography was available worldwide.  Seriously, if you extend this logic it is pretty nonsensical or at the very least hypocritical to the extent a vast number of similar "outrages" occur every day in the global trade with nary a word.

Any day now, I expect Americans to rise up and curse the Austrians that manufactured the Glocks used by policemen the country over in acts of unjustifiable homicide. 

>> It has all the hallmarks of a bogeyman hunt.
> I think I sprained my mind trying to visualize your mixed metaphor, but
> what, pray tell, are the hallmarks shared by bogeyman hunts?

It is a favorite activity of ideologues: stringing together a chain of relationships no matter how tenuous until you find someone to blame that comports with a preconceived notion of where the blame ought to lie.  This is sometimes requires quite a bit of cleverness when no facts remotely support the desired conclusion but I admire their tenacity.

Popular bogeymen are terrorists, gays, Jews, illegal immigrants, Sarah Palin, Charles Darwin, et al depending on the color of your Kool-Aid.  No matter how implausible and ridiculous the "connection", the true believers always find a way to make it.

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