January 7, 2007

Deers more dangerous than terrorists

Since the 1960s, the same number of Americans have been killed by peanut allergies, wayward deers and lightening strikes, as those killed by terrorists.

The last time a terrorist bomb was planted on a plane was Lockerbie, in 1988, very nearly 20 years ago.

Next time you get on a plane, rebel, insist on taking your lip gloss in your hand luggage, and if you’re a lactating mother, refuse to taste your expressed milk, preferring, instead, that airport security staff give it a whirl.

Isn't it time we demanded that our politicians stop treating us like idiots, and time that we demanded they put our money to rather less pointless and far more productive use?


  1. Anonymous6:16 PM

    You're a busy blogger today, Caz.

    I think the trouble is that they do take us for mugs, and sometimes we are big ones.

    Interesting post, indeed.

  2. Caz, this seems a particularly ill- timed post in light of the news that the police don't know where 6 stolen army rocket launchers are in Australia. One suspects that your average criminal does not have much need for them. I would have thought most Australian's reaction last weekend would be "shit, this is serious" rather than getting upset about limits on liquids that can be taken on aircraft. (And by the way, do you really think governments make highly inconvenient rules without having good reason to fear specific plots?)

    The point about accidental deaths is that, to a large extent, the cautious person can avoid them, and even if they fail to do so, they are not due to the maliciousness of another human. Yes, there is a sense in which you are statistically unlucky if you are victim of terrorism, or just run-of-the-mill murder, but there is still a huge moral and practical difference to the attitude reasonable people take towards it compared to an accidental death. For example, I expect that hundreds more wives die on the roads every year than are murdered by violent husbands, but you presumably don't argue that the system of domestic violence protection orders is a waste of time?

    I also note that the story is sourced from a 9-11 conspiracy promoter. Maybe his figures are correct, and you agree with him only on this particular point, but I hope you don't spend a lot of time at sites like that!

  3. Steve - given that this post has nothing at all to do with the rocket launchers, nor Australian circumstances in particular, your comment is out of the ball park.

    Interestingly, however, your comment also displays the irrationality of thought surrounding risk and causal factors. Which, even if unclear, was my point.

    I'm not aware of the journalist's background, so I'll take your word for it that he is a "9-11 conspiracy promoter" (nothing in this particular piece claims that he is promoting a conspiracy).

    Not aware of having spent ANY time on that site, other than reading that particular article.

    More simply: actuaries have the best insight into how irrational are human fears, that is, the simple failure to understand real risk levels, very often fearing and acting in relation to improbable events, yet taking little or no preventative action over the far more probable events.

    Oh, and your analogy about domestic violence illustrates the unclear thinking. As an analogy it fails. Besides that, I'm very sure that many a domestic violence protection orders is a waste of time, and unfortunately, many a woman and child has been murdered despite this mechanism.

    WRT the liquids on planes: the hoo-ha in Britain was strange, given that liquid bombs to blow up planes were first tried in the US back in the 1980s - an attempt, uncovered, obviously - so there was NOTHING NEW about the idea. Why wait a couple of decades to ban toothpaste and eyedrops it the risk to the public was SO huge that it required irrational actions?

    Rhetorical question.

  4. More simply Steve: do violence apprehension orders sometimes serve to defuse near and immanent danger for some people? Yes. And prevent future danger? Yes.

    Can or will the apprehension of toothpaste or hair conditioner from airplane hand luggage defuse near and immanent danger? No. And prevent future danger? No.

    It used to be what we called, in the olden days, common sense.

    Now it’s all about perception politics.

    (BTW - I have written my thoughts on 9-11 conspiracy theorists in the past, and it wasn't pretty. So your inference, from zero evidence, is offensive, and sloppily reductive.)

  5. You might also be interested in the 9-11 tribute I wrote this year, as part of a wider blogger effort to commemorate the anniversary. My 9-11 memorial post was for Jeremy Glick. You can do a search, or go to the archives for the obvious date in September.

  6. Caz, it's good that you are anti-9/11 conspiracy, and I although I haven't read you regularly for very long, I thought it was very unlikely that you were; but that it is exactly why I was surprised that you are linking to a story on a 9/11 conspiracy site.

    I made it pretty clear, didn't I, that I was expressing surprise; not accusing you of agreeing with the general garbage on the site? (By the way, you don't have to "take my word" for believing the journo is a conspiracist; there's a handy link at the side bar where you can check his past articles.)

    The big problem I have with the story you linked to (and why I covered the more general issue of just how valid it is worry about terrorism)is its obvious intention to encourage people to think that government concern about terrorism is "really" all about nefarious desire of government to control its population. While (presumably) you don't agree with that, you do seem to ascribe a degree of either dishonesty or ill will (or maybe just irrationality?) towards governments when you comment that "it is all about perception politics".

    It might also have something to do with governments being blamed for not taking enough precautions when security does lapse. (OK, so maybe governments should just tell people to be realistic and accept risk? But for the reasons outlined in my comments, I think it is actually valid to act a bit "irrationally" when it comes to terrorism threat.)

    It's also fine to argue that the initial reaction to carrying liquids in the US and Britain was too much. Well, overreactions happen at time of dire threat, which is what I reckon the police and intel services probably thought there was at the time. Before getting too critical, it might be useful to know what they knew, and to have some expertise in the field of explosives, I would have thought.

    The point that liquid bombs as potential danger was recognised in the 1980's but only acted on now is not any conclusive point in your favour. It can be used to argue either that governments are now acting unreasonably, OR they are now acting reasonably in reluctantly reacting to an old threat that new evidence shows they had better not ignore.

    As to the point about preventing on board conditioner won't help prevent danger, the point is true if the conditioner bottle only has conditioner in it. If you want to wait in line while it is tested to see it is conditioner, fine. I'ld prefer to go with the blanket rule of not more than 100 ml of liquid on any carry on, thanks.

  7. Further Caz, you presumably did not read the linked story all that carefully when you say that "nothing in this particular piece claims that he is promoting a conspiracy".

    From the article:

    "In that context, allied with the voluminous evidence that every major terror attack we have witnessed was either a provocateured set-up or an outright inside job, western governments are staffed at the very top by terrorists who are openly espousing the creed and statecraft of terrorism.

    Only by coming to the understanding that terrorism is such a limited threat to our livelihoods and communicating that to others can we disarm the alarmist propaganda that governments utilize in order to enlist our obedience for the construction of the prison planet."

  8. Ah, see, you've caught me out on his background and previous work. Still, nothing irrational about the current piece, at face value. As you allude to though, he has a prior agenda, which may be less sensible and pragmatic than it appears in this one article.

    Watching footage of airport security squirting and pouring passenger-surrendered liquids into vats sitting smack bang in the middle of the airport - during the initial days after the liquid bomb matter - was disturbing, for it's idiocy. Here they were, mixing it all in together - yeah, they must have been really convinced of the dangers, risking their own lives and everyone around them! Truly, it was in the realms of comedy.

    You'd HAVE to agree that governments are not especially rational in all that they do Steve, whether security or economic spending?

    Let's look at the environment: Ethanol? Wind farms? Economically or environmentally rational? No, not really. Although you'll find millions of people to argue otherwise, not very convincingly, but they’ll do it anyway.

    Perpetual water "conservation" - meaning: "consumers must stop using water". People wouldn't accept such nonsense if the gov't was talking about oxygen.

    In Victoria they saved something like an entire $300 K by NOT building water tanks at the squillion dollar upgrade to Spencer Street station. Clever, very clever. The water run off from that massive roof each year is …. well, rather massive. By contrast, if a child was killed on the road while wearing a purple jumper, the gov't would likely respond to community concerns by launching a $5 M awareness campaign. (Yes, flippant example, but there are very real examples like this many times every year - just don't have time to go in search and provide links.) It's the whole concept of spending huge sums of money to "prevent" something that will probably never happen again. When I say "probably", I mean the statistical reality of it ever occurring again.

    The fact is, life is inherently risky, and expecting governments to reduce risk to zero, is a bit like making gov'ts responsible for personal happiness.

    Sorry, don’t have time to pick up on other points at the moment.

  9. Very, very fair point!

    I skirted over that quote, as I was more interested in the figures and the facts, not his hyperbole, which, I was taking to be the usual run of the mill hyperbole ... "enlist our obedience for the construction of the prison planet" ... err yeah.

    Curious that he mentions the threat "to our livelihoods", as opposed to the threat to peoples lives.

    To date, terrorism seems to have created goods and services (sorry, being flippant again). I don't think I recall anyone trying to argue that terrorism has compromised livelihoods - at least not for us - can't say the same for in the Middle East I suppose.

  10. Oh, so YOU'RE Steve! Sorry, recognised the avatar, but wasn't sure from where.

    You're a far more prolific blogger than the likes of me Steve, and with a more serious bent - I mean the latter in the best way possible.

  11. Thanks Caz. [Now, could I trouble you to add me to your blogroll too?:)]

  12. Anonymous12:31 AM

    Just saw this, but I wanted to flag that this Watson guy's matter-of-fact statement regarding "the 1988 Lockerbie disaster, itself a false flag inside job" was, for me anyway, rather a jawdropper. I'm open to sceptical views about a lot of things, but that was a bit of a clanger.

  13. Jeez Jacob, I'm beginning to think that we pumpkins are expected to believe that everything in the world is just one giant inside conspiracy job.

    Evidence be damned.

    Logical deduction be damned.

    Common sense ... well, we know that common sense was shot to hell a long time ago, and it was almost certainly an inside job.

    What I don't understand is the agenda, the personal psychology, the intellectual framework and motivators, the purpose.

    I just plain don't grasp it.

  14. Anonymous5:19 PM

    Must be the desire TO KNOW, hence to be IN CONTROL.

    Other than that, I'm buggered (sideways and every which way) if I know!

  15. And yet, the paradox is that in believing such outrageous and stupid things, they must, ipso facto, believe the world is a far, far, far, more dangerous, sinister, random, manipulted and uncontrollable place than we are ... what? ... brainwashed into believing?

    The world of such people, must, surely, be a very dark place.