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Snowden granted 1-year asylum in Russia, leaves airport (rt.com)
527 points by message on Aug 1, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 492 comments



As a U.S. Citizen I support Snowden.

Since 1865, there have been 5,031 deaths and 22,125 injuries caused by terrorism in the United States. Source: http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/terrorism/wrjp255a.html

5,000 deaths in 148 years.

In 2011, 32,367 people died in vehicle accidents. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in...

There are all kinds of cancers that "only" kill 1,000 or so people per year that are deemed not worthy of research because they are so rare. But for terrorism, we sacrifice nearly inexhaustible supplies of money and time. We sacrifice our liberty, our privacy. None of it makes any sense.

Terrorism is nothing but fear mongering to effect an increase in power.


> Since 1865, there have been 5,031 deaths and 22,125 injuries caused by terrorism in the United States.

Here's another way of spinning the same data: There have been more deaths caused by terrorism in the US in last 15 years than in the prior 135 years.

Furthermore, I don't think your comparisons to deaths from car accidents or cancer are completely valid. Those are both phenomena for which induction works well (what has happened previously is a good predictor of what will happen in the future) because the events come from more or less stationary distributions. As illustrated by September 11th attacks, the number of terrorist deaths can double in a single day. There's no reason that this can't happen again with an event with >5k deaths in a single day.

For those who have read anything by Nicholas Nassim Taleb: Nicholas Nassim Taleb might argue that terrorist attacks are black swan events (impossible to predict, potentially very large impact) and that the comparision of terrorist deaths (a distribution from Extremistan) to motor vehicle deaths is not very valuable.

On the other hand, I don't believe the level of NSA surveillance is appropriate. I'm just trying to illustrate the amount of effort one puts into thwarting something shouldn't just depend on its previous costs, but also on the probability distribution of the event (and your uncertainty in that).

tl;dr: Terrorism is more like pg's view of a startup in that it has potential for explosive growth, while motor accident deaths are more like a well established medium sized business.


If you're going to go by Taleb's logic, your point-of-view is directly contradicted in his later book, 'Anti-fragile'.

With every occurrence of a black swan event, you are made more resilient in preventing an event of a similar kind. So, now that we know that 9/11 can happen, we're now more mentally prepared than ever to prevent something like it if it happens again. Case in point, pilots now carry weapons and are much more likely to thwart attempts of hijacking. Passengers will also react more violently and vigorously now towards any sign of threat. Note that we actually have a few precedents since 9/11 in which hijacking of airplanes were thwarted in this manner.


How does Anti-fragile contradict lightcatcher's point-of-view? I understood him to say, simply, that terrorist attacks are from Extremistan, while car accidents are from Mediocristan, thus they aren't comparable phenomena.


Actually, there are a lot of reasons it's extremely unlikely to happen again with an event with >5k deaths in a single day.

And even if that does happen, so what? Even if an attack happens that dwarfs 9/11, it'll still be insignificant compared to the country as a whole, and not justify anything near the amount of money spent to fight it.

Barring the detonation of a nuclear bomb in a major US city, there's just nothing that terrorists can do that would really count for much, as long as we can avoid a massive overreaction.


As I've said before, I don't get this idea that we should strive to act like that darkly funny scene in Terry Gilliam's Brazil, wherein the patrons and staff at a bombed restaurant attempt to continue dining as if nothing has happened.

Let's suppose that some terrorist group became skilled enough to bomb a major sporting event or other large concentration of people every six months or so. Not big bombs, mind you, just enough to kill a few dozen or a hundred people each.

By the strategy seemingly being argued for here, a "resilient" or "rational" America would just let the existing police do their work as best they can, maybe with some not-too-expensive Federal assistance, and simply accept the added risk of dying at major events, which, after all, is not that much more significant than the risk of dying in a car accident on the way.

Obviously, that is not the response we'd expect, and it's not because Americans are irrational or fearful. It's because this prioritization-by-mortality-rate policy logic is faulty. It matters that there's an agency behind these deaths. One thing our society values highly is justice, and that often requires a disproportionately expensive response to an unjust act, and not solely to buy deterrence.


Well, we have historical examples of both approaches.

The British provide the stereotypical example of my suggestion. The famous "Keep Calm and Carry On" slogan, of course, comes from their experience during the Blitz. (And yes, I realize it was never published in that time, but it still typifies the response.) The Blitz killed 40,000 civilians, but people did basically go on with their lives and let the government handle things, because that was the best way to do it. Freaking out wasn't going to help the war effort.

The British provide another example of the approach with The Troubles. Not so much in Ireland, really, but I think the response to the attacks in Great Britain qualify.

The British approach seems to work well. The American approach got us mired in two unwinnable wars, sank the country deep into debt, and wrecked the economy. I know which one I prefer.


I don't get the analogy with the Blitz. At the time the entire British Empire, military and civilians all, was mobilized to stop the guys who were dropping the bombs. The resources and powers we're devoting to the "War on Terror" are a mere fraction in relative terms to those resources and powers at the disposal of Winston Churchill.


Well, we could spend hours arguing over the Blitz, or we could concentrate on the other analogy I made which you presumably did get....


Why would we need to spend hours arguing? Your analogy makes no sense at all there. Nobody is arguing that Americans aren't sufficiently panicky. It's an argument about the resources, powers and attention that should be devoted to fighting terrorism relative to its death count. The Blitz utterly fails as an example of a response proportional to a death count. The ongoing response was massive relative to the "mere" tens of thousands killed.

As to "The Troubles": Are you arguing that the British government gave it proportional attention and resources for number of people killed? I don't believe the death count was ever that high, but it was a hugely important issue for both the Irish and the British, again, for a variety of reasons that go well beyond the death count. Which, of course, is my point.


I don't know if they gave The Troubles proportional attention, but it was at least a lot more proportional than the American response to 9/11, and turned out way better.


The troubles escalated until government ministers were being killed, and two different prime ministers narrowly missed being assassinated. Ultimately the UK capitulated and the terrorist leaders ended up as cabinet ministers in the new Irish government.

Are you really suggesting letting the terrorists win?


If "letting the terrorists win" means getting out of mideast hellholes, ceasing to assassinate civilians with drones, and stopping the continual interference in various places they consider holy, then yes, I'm absolutely suggesting that.

We need to let go of the idea that it's us or them, and that either we win and they lose, or they win and we lose.

Wouldn't an outcome analogous to the modern-day UK and Ireland be great? People getting along well, no violence, reasonably stable governments? I don't see why you paint this as a bad outcome.


I totally agree that US foreign policy is terrible and should change.

However if that happened as a result of terrorism rather than politics then we would just have an escalation of terrorism anyone who was unhappy with the US (legitimately or not) started to use the now proven strategy. The 'police state' tactics we see now are nothing compared to what we'd see then.

You seem to be advocating terrorism instead of campaigning for justice.


By the same logic, ff terrorism under the flag of a cause is seen as an effective disincentive for policy change in a particular direction, then we would just have an escalation of false-flag terrorism sponsored by anyone who wants to avoid particular policy changes (whatever the merits) as they adopted the now-proven strategy.

Your position is no less "advocating terrorism" than the one you responded to. The only way not to encourage terrorism is to evaluate policy changes on their own merits, and not be swayed from acting on the merits of the policy changes themselves by the fact that terrorists have stated goals related to those policy changes, either as a positive or negative factor.


No, because there would be no proof that the false flag terrorism was having an effect, unlike the case where terrorism led to an obvious change in policy, as was the case in Ireland).

I agree totally that policy changes should be considered on their own merits. Therefore we should defend ourselves against terrorist attacks without regard for their stated goals.


> No, because there would be no proof that the false flag terrorism was having an effect

There are certainly ways of assessing why particularly policies are and are not chosen. The impact of "Can't do what terrorists want, so we must vote no" is no more difficult to assess than "Must do what terrorists want, so we must vote yes".


I never said anything about voting or not based on terrorist actions.

mikeash said it was ok not to defend so hard against terrorism because the outcome was good. I was refuting that.


"You seem to be advocating terrorism instead of campaigning for justice."

Thank you for the reminder that debating these topics on HN is pointless because everybody's a complete nut.


In the Irish case, terrorists achieved their stated objectives by using terrorism. You said that was a good outcome. I don't see how that isn't advocating terrorism.


If you don't understand that the ends don't justify the means, then I really don't know what to say.


> If "letting the terrorists win" means getting out of mideast hellholes, ceasing to assassinate civilians with drones, and stopping the continual interference in various places they consider holy, then yes, I'm absolutely suggesting that.

Sounds like ends (violence stopping) justifying the means (letting the terrorists win) to me.


You have that completely backwards. The means is what you do, and the ends is what happens after. The means here would be ceasing to kill and oppress. That is justified all by itself.


If you like, but it's not simply a choice between what you do (ends) or how you do it (means), it's both how and what that matter.


Right but you are justifying the terrorist means (killing civilians randomly) based on their ends (inducing political chance).


No I am not. I'm getting righteously tired of this ridiculous conversational tactic, in which the other guy takes what I say, then speeds about six thousand light years in a random direction using a warp drive built on speculation and assumptions, then attacks whatever random space junk he finds there.

If you think I said it, then go find it and quote it for me.


You: "Wouldn't an outcome analogous to the modern-day UK and Ireland be great? People getting along well, no violence, reasonably stable governments? I don't see why you paint this as a bad outcome."

That outcome also included dead British cabinet ministers, civilians and infrastructure and decades of fear and hatred.


I just said that it's a good outcome. Which it is. At no point did I say that this good outcome justifies the decades of violence that preceded it.


You said it in support of the UK's approach to terrorism. Which was to capitulate to the terrorists.


And?


I'm pretty sure his point is as follows:

  good means, good ends - no need for justification
   bad means, good ends - the ends justify the means
  good means,  bad ends - the means justify the ends
   bad means,  bad ends - no possibility of justification
UK terrorism is bad means. UK political change is good ends. If the ends didn't justify the means, they wouldn't be good ends. Any statement that the means were bad but the ends were good is justification; otherwise, your opinion would be that because the means were bad, the ends were necessarily bad too, even though they would otherwise appear to be good.

> it's not because Americans are irrational

> One thing our society values highly is justice, and that often requires a disproportionately expensive response to an unjust act, and not solely to buy deterrence.

A disproportionate response of the kind seen on 9/11 is mind-blowingly irrational, even if you call it pursuing "justice".

If you are so in the pursuit of "justice" you inflict a worse injury to yourself than you originally suffered, I'm not sure I can call it "rational" behavior anymore.

Especially if you're not doing it for deterrent effect.


That's not my point. I'm not interested in arguing how far the response to 9/11 was from some policy ideal. I'm trying to dispel the notion that as long as "only" a few thousand people are dying annually, then the rational response is to treat terrorism with no more seriousness than anything else that kills a few thousand people each year, such as ladders. That's an argument that people actually make here with some frequency.


> I'm not interested in arguing how far the response to 9/11 was from some policy ideal. I'm trying to dispel the notion that as long as "only" a few thousand people are dying annually, then the rational response is to treat terrorism with no more seriousness than anything else that kills a few thousand people each year, such as ladders.

My point is that treating it as any other spree or serial killing is rational - we already have mechanisms to deal with these kinds of events, including laws about the use of "weapons of mass destruction", etc.

The whole point of terrorism is to provoke a reaction outside of that normal process and get people to react to the terror... causing an allergy-style overreaction from the populace, much like we saw from 9/11 in the US.

So the rational response IS to simply go "ho-hum" and treat it as just another criminal act. Taking the cowardly path of "something scared me, spite it with full power phasers!" is what the terrorists wants, and is ultimately self-defeating.

Comparing it to more dangerous things - things that are statistically more likely to kill you - is a way to fight against our animalistic panic to smash! kill! destroy! the thing causing fear, and demonstrate that it is just fear we're responding to, rather than a rational danger.

tl;dr: Spending the privacy and civil rights we have on stopping the fear caused by terrorism is the height of cowardice and irrationality.


The comparison to motor vehicle deaths is very valuable: it's a part of how you score what's most threatening, namely, how many people is the topic killing. Another part of that scoring, is potential. Discarding the actual and only focusing on the potential, is every bit as bogus as the opposite.

Nuclear / biological / chemical attacks are the only high threat vector that terrorism presents. That should be the prime focus for anti-terrorism. The secondary focus should be terrorists like the Tsarnaev brothers that can hurt people on the level of the Aurora shooting. Neither of those threats require abandoning the first and fourth amendments to deal with properly.

The odds are strongly in favor of young children, via gun accidents, continuing to kill more people every year than what terrorists do on average.

It has to be noted that 9/11 and Boston both happened solely due to extreme government incompetence. Those two supposed black swan events should have never happened. They were not black swan events, they were sheer incompetence. The government failed at its job in numerous ways in both instances, and that's the nice explanation. Their incompetence was not because they lacked information on Average Joe citizen or because they didn't have my email meta data. They demonstrate that they're wildly incompetent at even basic security in multiple high profile cases, and yet they're given even more power. It's a failed approach top to bottom.

The NSA programs are much like our big security / security theater approach, and they'll be just as useless for the exact same reasons. It's trying to thread a needle with a hammer.


Due to its nature terrorism does not scale well, it's akin to a parasite/host relationship.

It could escalate into civil war though, or even regular war between nation states (especially if one nation selects random nation states to attack as a counterstrike).

Interesting reading on the subject:

http://reliefweb.int/report/world/2012-global-terrorism-inde...


The black swan event of terrorism doesn't need to scale, it's a big one-off event carried out by a few dedicated resourceful people.

A nuclear bomb over New York city, smallpox distributed in all Western major airports, or simultaneous nerve gas attacks in a number of major cities.


Terror attacks appear to follow the power law: http://arxivblog.com/?p=1186


Unfortunately I think those statistics are unreliable. I fully agree that outsiders (e.g. Al Qaeda) have done miniscule damage in comparison to, say, the tobacco industry.

But if you want to look at the history of terrorism in our country, don't look to Al Qaeda or whatever. Start closer to home, with the Ku Klux Klan. They were unequivocally a terrorist group; indeed, their entire raison d'etre was terrorism.

As I pointed out in a thread yesterday, here [1] is an example of homegrown terrorism, absent from your list. Ben Tillman [2], who played a leading role in the murders (or, at least, who claimed to; perhaps he was too chickenshit to do his own dirty work) was rewarded for his efforts by election to the South Carolina governorship and, later, the United States Senate.

African-American participation in voting in the South was virtually nil from around 1880 to the 1960's. Why? Terrorism played a major role.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamburg_Massacre

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Ryan_Tillman


I can't really find any ground on which it feels like this argument has any bearing or weight in the overall discussion. Anything can be redefined to terrorism by your measure as hindsight is apparently blind to context.


"Terrorism"! Just the word strikes fear into the hearts of many Americans. It has led us to suffer indignities at airport lines, spend billions on ill-conceived wars, and spy on everyone's internet communications.

And yet, terrorism has been an extremely widespread and common phenomenon throughout our history, even on our own shores, which has been aided, abetted, and welcomed by government. It is, in some ways, easy to overlook because privileged Americans were not targets. But African-Americans have endured terrorism in this country on an overwhelming scale and with far-reaching consequences.

Although I dispute the statistics in the link I mentioned, ultimately I agree with the basic point: to be excessively frightened of terrorism, in its current guise, shows a lack of perspective both on statistics and on our nation's history.

>Anything can be redefined to terrorism

Wikipedia defines terrorism as "Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, often violent, especially as a means of coercion." Do you dispute that the KKK systematically engaged in this?


Leaving out the major premise that the Wikipedia definition is to be accepted. There is no definition of terrorism: UN resolutions to the effect are regularly overturned. Different branches of US military use different definitions. Short a definition, your qualification argument is meaningless.


> Anything can be redefined to terrorism

Bingo


I do not wish to diminish the horrors the KKK afflicted on the US, in particular the blacks. However, gun violence amongst the inner city peoples has brought death and fear beyond anything the KKK could have hope for.

http://www.urbanohio.com/forum2/index.php?topic=28375.0

Terrorism come in many forms, and the killing going on between gangs is just another form


The KKK wasn't just one peculiar agent of white supremacy: it was the keystone that made it so effective.

If you were a black man engaged in any kind of political, economic, or social organizing, you stood a decent chance of being murdered by the KKK, which was implicitly supported by the white-dominated State. This created a system where people were too scared to even begin organizing, leading to all kinds of disempowerment and social malaise.

Those inner city gun deaths have the KKK in their genealogy.


I agree with you, but there is no such thing as gun violence. A gun is just a tool. The violence in most cases that hurts blacks is caused by the insane, racist, never-ending war on drugs specifically designed to put brown people behind bars.

The overall level of crime and violence in the USA has dropped dramatically over the past few decades despite the prevalence of guns. End the war on drugs in America and the place would be one of the most peaceful places on the planet.


I can't speak for anywhere else, but I know that in Chicago, most gun violence is about settling scores, not about drug trafficking. Ending the war on drugs would keep a lot of non-violent offenders out of jail, but when teenagers who have never been to jail in the first place are shooting each other, you have to take a different approach.

Just last night -

"A 17-year-old boy was shot in the 2100 block of North Mulligan Avenue about 9:50 p.m. He was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in good condition with a wound to his thigh, Police News Affairs Officer Ron Gaines said.

Another 17-year-old boy was shot in the back near 70th Street and Perry Avenue about 8 p.m. He was taken to Stroger Hospital, where his condition was stabilized."


Interesting. But don't you think the scores are often drug related or gang related? In which the gangs primary motive is trafficking drugs?


The KKK was actually formed for the purpose of protecting women's rights iirc. There were black members in some area's and they lynched Caucasians occasionally.

edit: Still terrorism and what they did was despicable, just saying that it wasn't their original purpose.


I am no source whinger, but that claim it too fascinating to let pass. I have never heard such a thing before.

Please tell us more, with, sorry to ask, sources.


I can say with a good deal of certainty there is nothing true about your statement regarding the KKK.


I think he might be referring to the WKKK (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_of_the_Ku_Klux_Klan) but its still a far fetched leap to claim that the KKK was founded for the sole purpose of protecting women's rights. That most certainly is not true.


Can you provide a source for this?


What's even worse is that there is an extremely simple, cheap, and constitutional way for US leaders to dramatically reduce the risk of terrorism: stop engaging in aggressive wars and stop supporting corrupt foreign governments.

That surveillance systems of unprecedented cost and scope are built while this option is not even considered demonstrates very clearly that the proponents of both militarism and surveillance are not genuinely interested in preventing terrorism but in increasing their own power.


While I agree with you, it's important to note that every government is corrupt to some degree and the US is forced to participate in these wars as, since the end of WWII, it's been looked upon as the de facto police force of the western world. The US can't simply turn a blind eye to the middle east and let oil prices be used to wage an economic war with all western nations(likely a war we'd lose). And I'm sure there are similar concerns with every other conflict in question.

Unfortunately, like all this related to politics, the situation is complicated.


So in order to avoid losing a hypothetical future trade war, we'll bankrupt ourselves with military spending, kill a couple million people, lose our civil liberties, and create 1000x more new enemies. Sounds logical!


No one's bankrupt(relatively speaking). The USD is still the world currency and western economies are still as a whole better off than China or Russia. The guys running the show know exactly what they are doing and what they are doing is keeping those other two countries out of the middle east.


> since the end of WWII, it's been looked upon as the de facto police force of the western world

Are you sure this isn't an American point of view, assuming the POV of others?

I've always gotten the impression that Europe generally treats US military actions with disdain.

Maybe it's not reasonable for the US to base their foreign policy on how the US may or may not have been perceived circa 1945.


What politicians say publically versus what they actually agree to are two totally different things. It's simply vogue to complain about American led international conflicts right now. It's just a big show to drum up votes. One has to look no further than the recent press surrounding the nsa, echelon and other programs to see just how complicit other western countries are with American imperialism. Heck, even if they didn't want the US involved in the middle east, no one else is going to stand up to China or Russia if the US was to leave. So, everyone maintains status quo.


The question also arises: how effective is the mass surveillance recently revealed? Probably have to wait to see but would a group of intelligent news-aware persons with terrorist intent choose to plan or discuss their malevolent actions via electronic media?


Not disagreeing with you on the sentiment, but the argument disregards causation.

It's like saying Fort Knox has never been broken into, so let's stop wasting money protecting it.

By the way, this example is only meant to highlight the fallacy, nothing more.


It's like saying Fort Knox has never been broken into, so let's stop wasting money protecting it

I disagree. It's not a black and white "protect Fort Knox" or "Don't protect Fort Knox". It's more like saying Fort Knox has never been broken into, so let's evaluate whether we need 240,000 employees to protect it (number of employees in Department of Homeland Security). Let's evaluate whether we need to pat down everyone at an airport to see if they have plans to rob Fort Knox. Let's evaluate whether we need to eavesdrop on everyone on the Internet and record information about their phone calls to see if they're planning on robbing Fort Knox. Let's evaluate whether we need to invade two countries because people from one of those countries actually were able to steal a tiny fraction of a fraction of the gold in Fort Knox.

Our response to terrorism is unique and we treat no other problem like it, going even further than the "war on drugs".


I just remembered reading an article [1] mentioning indirect impact of combination of fear of flying caused by 9/11 and annoyance caused by TSA (which one has bigger impact?) that pushed more people to travel by cars. That is less secure than flying and number of fatalities on roads increased by hundreds a month because of that.

The way I see it this is one example of how war on terrorism can kill more people than terrorism itself. I am beginning to believe that the best strategy to win the war on terror would be to basically just ignore terrorism and do only the most basic and least intrusive things to avoid terrorist attacks.

[1] http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-11-18/how-airport-...


And I think it's not only about whether the cost of protecting Fort Knox is not bigger than the value that can be potentially stolen from Fort Knox. The so called war on terror is not without consequences - it alienates people all over the world and sometimes it even creates hate against the US.

I am not only talking about drone attacks which I believe might create more new terrorists than it kills. All that spying is going to cost you many friends in Europe and the rest of the previously US-friendly world and alienating all your friends is not the best strategy when you want to be safe.

I don't have any hard data on this (how could we measure that?) but I personally believe that those claiming to protect US from terrorism do more harm than any terrorist could ever achieve.


If you're going to do a quantitative analysis of the effects of terrorism you'd need to analyze effects other than deaths. 9/11 caused the loss of 430,000 jobs, $40B in insurance payouts, damage to lower Manhattan that still isn't fully repaired, $100B losses in the financial exchanges, probably close to $1T in economic losses total, even before taking into account the misguided wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Likewise, the Boston Marathon bombing was far less devastating than 9/11 but still caused an estimated $333M in damage.

It does suck that more people die in car accidents but no single car accident can cause a billion dollars in damage.


This is the most ironic comment I have read in months.

You are effectively saying, "You must include X when considering A." You then completely ignore X when considering B.

9/11 caused the loss of 430,000 jobs

35,000 people die per year in car accidents. 9/11 happened 12 years ago. That means 420,000 DIED. That's worse than losing your job.

$40B in insurance payouts

Progressive alone pays out about $12B per year in auto accident claims. They're only the 4th largest insurer in the United States representing 8% of the market. If the ratio holds out there are approximately $150B per year in auto accident claims but admittedly I couldn't find a direct source for that. $40B in the last 12 years is a drop in the bucket.

I could go on and calculate the rest, but I hope you get the point which is your cherry picked (and made up) statistics don't hold a candle to other problems we have and relatively ignore.


Sure, but I'm saying a single event caused this. You're talking about the sum total of all auto accidents over 12 years. Even 12 years of auto accidents don't add up to one major terrorism event. I'm not saying I agree with the way the USA handles terrorism, but it does seem like something you want to avoid. If there was another 9/11 or a Boston bombing happened every year, the country's economy would be massively screwed. My numbers are all from wikipedia's page about the economic aftermath of 9/11 and a Boston Herald article about the Boston bombing.


The Banqiao Reservoir Dam failures in 1975 cost an estimated 171,000 lives and made 11 million people homeless. That was a single event too. By your line of reasoning that makes 9/11 pretty much irrelevant and we should all care about dam security instead, ignoring that it was an extreme outlier, and that aggregate deaths from other causes quickly outdistanced dam failures again.

Clearly there are psychological issues at play that makes us care greatly about large disasters, but that still does not make it rational to compare individual events to decide what resources to use to fight a type of event as a whole over long periods of time.


You mentioning 'psychological issues' reminded me of the (super interesting) book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. In that book there is something about our ability to asses risk and emotionally perceive danger that is biased by dangers that typically occurred during many thousand years of human evolution - physical violence is evolutionary very old and that's why we react to it strongly. On the other side there are things that might be more dangerous (like obesity which kills way more people than terrorism) but evolutionary these are relatively new and we have yet to develop the 'sense of danger' to them. [I am just paraphrasing that book - any mistakes made here are mine and Daniel Kahneman is totally innocent in this.]


You're talking about the sum total of all auto accidents over 12 years

I'm talking about the sum total of all auto accidents over 12 years an the sum of all terrorist attacks over 12 years.

Even 12 years of auto accidents don't add up to one major terrorism event.

How so? 420,000 people died in car accidents. 2,700 people died in the biggest terrorism event to ever hit the U.S. So that's deaths. Economic impact - no brainer, car accidents have bigger economic impact. By any measure, car accidents have a bigger impact in aggregate than terrorist attacks in aggregate.

If there was another 9/11 or a Boston bombing happened every year, the country's economy would be massively screwed.

I don't even know what to say to someone that writes this.


Comparing the Boston Bombing to 9/11 doesn't really make sense. The OKC bombing, that's a much better comparison.

Attacks on the level of the Boston Bombing happen every day in various countries around the world. But something like 9/11 or OKC, that kind of stuff doesn't happen every day. One of those was by far the most incredible act of terrorism in the modern world. Heck, even car bombs that kill 100+ seem to happen every couple months.


Well to be honest, I don't know what to say to you, either.


The harm of terrorism or the harm of our irrational response to terrorism?

Obviously 9/11 didn't start the Iraq War, President Bush did. He may have done that in a state of belief that the two were connected, but we should not repeat his mistake.

It seems odd to me to lump in how much we poured into terrorism over and above the direct damages, and not to lump in with car accidents how much money we pour into auto safety, road maintenance, and so on.

The general point is that we over-respond to trauma, both in our daily lives and a macro society level. Clean living is more important and has broader effects on your life than crime, but it is less sexy on the evening news. Just like car safety and terrorism.


The figures I gave were the direct damages, from wikipedia.


How do you end up with 430,000 lost jobs from direct damages due to the attack? No, I'm pretty sure those are damages due to the reactions to the attack, not damages due to the attack itself.


In New York City, there were approximately 430,000 jobs were lost and $2.8 billion in lost wages over the three months following the 9/11 attacks

That's just the number on wikipedia. 430,000 people lost their jobs in the 3 months after the attack. I supposed you could argue that it's not direct damages in the sense that 430K people were not all office workers in the WTC, but if they lost their job within 3 months of the attack it seems like the job loss is pretty directly related.

And, as a former NYC resident I would not at all be surprised if 430K people really did directly lose their job. The sheer number of people working in that area is immense. I remember an interview at the time with a guy whose bodega located down by Wall Street was destroyed, and he said he did $80K per week in business. And that's just one dude selling sodas, bottled water, cigarettes, etc.


Anybody who lost their job directly due to the attack would have lost it that day. Three months means job losses due to fear in the financial markets, economic pessimism, fear of subsequent attacks, etc. etc.

In other words, imagine a hypothetical world where the reaction to 9/11 was "damn, let's figure out who was behind this, go arrest them, and rebuild and carry on with our lives" rather than the "holy shit, let's declare a war on terrorism" reaction that actually happened. Do 430,000 jobs still get lost? No, I seriously doubt it. You lose some jobs because a bunch of office space got destroyed, but most of those jobs are still needed and will simply be relocated.


I've seen other figures that suggest that about 80K people lost their jobs immediately. I guess I'm not convinced that the rest of the job losses were due to economic pessimism and fear in the financial markets. I was assuming it included the bodega guy, the guy working for the bodega guy, couriers, tailors, every other small business owner in the area, people servicing those small business owners, the carpet cleaners, window washers, the outsourced IT guys, people servicing the physical infrastructure of the area, people who worked in the other buildings. etc. I could be totally off base, but blasting out part of the infrastructure of a city of 19M people seems like it could cause a relatively "direct" 2% job loss over 3 months.


The thing about job loss from the destruction of buildings is that most of it comes right back.. in a different building. It's only bad locally and temporarily.


I don't know if that's necessarily true. The downtown of the small city where I grew up was destroyed by a simultaneous flood and fire and most of the downtown businesses simply disappeared forever. Many small businesses are in economically tenuous positions and a catastrophic event will wipe them out. This causes all the employes to lose their jobs, and a chain reaction to other small businesses who relied upon the destroyed businesses. Applied to NYC scale, suggesting the job loss numbers mean "direct" unemployment in this sense seems reasonable to me, but I could be wrong.


This is deeply irrational.

The financial markets depend upon stability and law and order. They cannot function without it. The fear that markets and industries could be crippled with a simple bomb (not due to the reaction, but due to the event) did massive damage to the markets, which resonated and caused significant economic collateral damage. This is obvious given that the reaction to 9/11 was actually quite sedate for some time, and massive enterprises like the NSA's current adventure came about much later.


What markets and industries could actually be crippled with a simple bomb?


correlation apparently thinks 9/11 strikes in NY were caused by a simple bomb instead of planes crashing into buildings.


I confess to pondering: Is your reply sarcasm? Raw stupidity? An attempt at being clever? Sorry, but you fail miserably at all of those.

No, 300bps, 9/11 brought a sense among both the populace and business that big, bad things can happen by just a few people with ill will. The response was a realization that the basic security and law and order could be so easily overridden.

But good effort, regardless.


Exchanges, for one, in virtually any industry. Recall that one of the primary concerns after 9/11 were the NYSE, Nasdaq, Mercantile Exchange, etc. Banking centers. Oil refineries. Port. Etc.


I'm sure every major exchange has contingency plans to operate out of a backup location. I'm not aware of any single point of failure in banking, oil, or cargo, and if there were, mundane threats like weather would far outweigh terrorism anyway.


Singapore is a major point of failure in banking, oil and cargo.


But can't be taken out by a simple bomb, not even remotely close.


I think we disagree on what "crippled" means. You have taken it to mean "no longer functions or exists", which I think many handicapable people would disagree with. It simply means that it operates at a measurably diminished capacity in some regard, which with the economy can have profound implications.

If the NYSE building were bombed on an operating day, it would absolutely have dramatic financial repercussions, and that market would absolutely be crippled. Would some simile reappear? Of course it would, just as government would reappear if a full capital building were attacked. But the impact would be major and it would be felt.


If the traders could be rational enough to pick up and move to new temporary offices a few blocks over and carry on with their business the next day, the consequences of a NYSE bombing would not be so dire. The dramatic financial repercussions you mention would certainly happen, but only because people would panic.


How big part of the damage is caused by the terrorist attack and how big part is caused by (over?)reaction to it? If after each car crash the car traffic in the whole city had to be stopped and people were advised not to leave their homes until the 'hit and run' culprit was caught... how expensive would that be?


The numbers I gave were the cost of damage alone, not the response.


I don't know exact numbers but the numbers you provided do not seem to add up. The Boston Marathon bombing caused an estimated $333M in damage directly? I don't think you can do direct damage like that with primitive pressure cooker bomb. And if you count lost human lives (their insurance etc.) than it's comparable to a bus accident or a bit bigger storm. In my eyes the reaction to it still seems like hysterical overreaction. Calculate all deaths caused by car accidents and compare that to the damage caused by terrorism... and it still seems that the 'war on cars' would be more reasonable than war on terrorism.


  > 9/11 caused the loss of 430,000 jobs
Actually it is possible there were net jobs gained, when you add the increases to national security apparatus.


Security people don't necessarily think about the past, because it isn't relevant. The death/injury ticker isn't really relevant. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln and post-WW1 anarchist bombings are not related and aren't relevant to today.

Security people do think about what motivated individuals can do. If some lunatic with a semiautomatic rifle can massacre dozens of people in a school or movie theater or shut down a major city for days, what could a trained group of fanatics do? There's a nearly limitless number of horrible things that can happen, and many of these things are real risks, just waiting for the right fanatic or lunatic to go for it.

The open-ended nature of this anti-terrorist campaign/effort/whatever reflects the open-ended nature of the risk.

That said, I think Snowden did a valuable thing. I think the approach the government has taken is too secretive and too much of an overreach. In an attempt to foil terrorists, we're undermining our democracy and the integrity of our institutions.


The open-ended nature of this anti-terrorist campaign/effort/whatever reflects the open-ended nature of the risk.

The risk is not "open ended" than any other risk. It can be estimated. Objectively, as many others have argued here, the response has been far more costly, destructive, and damaging to institutions and ideals we say we are trying to protect than the threat itself.


It's interesting that the response to a lunatic with a semiautomatic is to mount massive internet surveillance rather than, for example, outlaw semiautomatics or provide free mental healthcare.


Or issue more gun permits to lawful, trained gun owners so that citizens can intervene when help is needed, and don't have to wait for the police to arrive.


Notice that the bogeyman of "terrorism" is coming up just as the drug war is winding down (Cali legalized medical MJ in 1996, and this year Colo & Wash legalized it completely for recreational use).

The powers-that-be need an everpresent bogeyman to keep us in control.


That's a pleasant thought. I think it's more likely we the people want an ever present bogeyman, but that's almost depressing.


> Terrorism is nothing but fear mongering to effect an increase in power.

This is absolutely true. The shadow of terrorism that our elected officials claim to be chasing is nothing more than a way to vastly increase government intrusions into our daily lives in a publicly palatable way. Everything that is used to "fight terrorism" also happens to be used against our own citizens to pursue increasingly questionable prosecutions - thousands of times more often than used against real life terrorists. Our tax dollars are in fact being used to fund a war - but the war is against us.


Then there is the question of reliability of the information collected through spying: if you know everything you say online is being read, and you are planning to commit a terrorist act, you will use your knowledge to spread false information.

One day we will consider spying just like torture, an immoral source of unreliable information.


And that's if you think this mass spying it's actually working. But so far we haven't seen any evidence that it does. In the vast majority of terrorist "events" they say they've stopped, the mass spying wasn't even essential in learning about them or stopping them. It may have no helped at all.

And for so little benefit, they spend hundreds of billions every year, and get the ability to blackmail or threaten anyone in the world.

So not only is not "not worth it". It's an extremely dangerous monster that should be slain as soon as possible, before it gets to do much more damage than any terrorist could ever do.


And of course there's the argument that everybody refuses to talk about with regard to the threat of Islamist terrorism, blowback.


The "5,031" statistic is ludicrous. At least that many people were killed by lynching alone, not to mention Wounded Knee.


Why this statistics doesn't include victims of US government terrorism? E.g. Vietnam, Iraq etc


A large part of the response is irrational fear, true, a good example of salience bias. That said, there is a rational argument as well, and that is that terrorism has two special features:

- High variance : Even though deaths to date are low, there is a non-zero chance that someone will manage to pull off a very large attack (9/11 is an example, the next one might be a dirty bomb)

- Escalation : The point of terrorism is to create fear - if low level attacks don't promote fear the incentive is just to escalate until the attacks reach a point that does trigger a reaction. In other words - you're battling a human opponent and they will adjust their tactics to what you do.


I think this misunderstands the nature of statistics.

Those are individuals.

I want to do everything we can to prevent the death of anyone who doesn't deserve it (Justin Bieber is off the list).

Now, our debate turns to "everything we can."

What can we do without defeating ourselves, and defeating the nature of our society, and becoming paranoid shut-ins?

My hypothetical question is this:

If an AI were watching our emails/texts/phone calls instead of people, and the data never made it to people unless the AI found a strong hit, would that be more acceptable?

Sometimes, I prefer the judgment of machines.


Regarding your final point, here's a lovely quote that I've found particularly useful recently:

"'National Security' is the root password to the Constitution." -- Phil Karn


This is a really bad way to do statistical inference. I don't want to go into the n number of ways this is wrong. But, Let me point out another factor that gets ignored in these pointless and wrong bean counting exercises: People are up in arms against terrorism not due to the perceived probability being higher. It is because deaths due to terrorism are wrongful deaths while most others are not.


It is because deaths due to terrorism are wrongful deaths while most others are not.

In 2011, 9,878 people died in drunk driving crashes - one every 53 minutes. Is that not considered wrongful death in your mind? That's twice as many people in one year dying from wrongful death than terrorism has killed in 148 years. If we were treating this wrongful death as seriously as we did terrorism, we'd require breathalyzer starters on every single car. Hell, we'd probably bring back prohibition.

Source: http://www.madd.org/drunk-driving/about/drunk-driving-statis...

Your lazy fake criticism of the statistics justifiably ignored.


Let's not forget the roughly 15,000 people murdered each year in the US (which number does not, as far as I know, count drunk driving fatalities). If those don't count as "wrongful death" then nothing does. But nobody cares, because it's a continuous drip instead of a single big event, and because it mostly happens to poor people and minorities.


Yes, nobody is doing anything about those 15000 people.


Proper inference should consider all available data not just historical data.

Just waving around numbers is not correct reasoning from first principles!

Correct and proper inference should include present threats, beliefs and intentions of relevant groups. Do you account for that?

Just because an axe-wielding madman has not committed any murders in the past, you would not let him be on his own.

Just an instant before the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, nobody in that city had been killed by an atom bomb. You would probably stare at the bomb dropping on your head waving around stats saying the bomb is not a threat to your existence.

"The past never repeats itself precisely; otherwise, historians would be rolling in riches." - James Gipson, Clipper Fund

Your comment is a one-way attack on sanity. It would take me a lot of effort to show where you went wrong. It takes you only a bit of effort to be wrong.


Random platitudes, tu quoque, ambiguity, lazy criticism, vague references, pedestrian insults

--cscurmudgeon


Instead of insulting me, care to rebut my arguments?

This is hilarious. I know you feel offended that I have shown that one drive a huge plane through the holes in your reasoning, but you don't respond with a barrage of "fallacies." Sigh.


While I agree with the sentiment and conclusion I don't think you can build a convincing argument by just looking at numbers of deaths.

Terrorism has no value but vehicles do.

Unchecked terrorism, ostensibly, begets more terrorism. This is unlikely to be true with vehicle deaths.

Terrorism also has effects beyond the deaths and injuries it causes and I'd argue those effects are much larger than the same number of deaths in a vehicle accident.


Am I the only one who find this flawed ? Why won't you take into account the deaths that would have occured both in short/long run if that money/time wasn't spent ? Note that this has kind of a butterfly effect. There is a possible argument for doing it more efficiently or differently, but this extreme comparison makes no sense.


As I understand it, the goal of Islamic terrorism (possibly internal anti-government terrorist?) is not to kill people. The objective is to bankrupt countries such as the US. Killing people is just a means to an end.


this is an incredibly short sighted view.

A threat should be evaluated on more than just historical performance. I don't agree with fear mongering based on unlikely events, but (much like unlikely financial downfalls) their probability is more than 0%, and possibly that % is significant. Unfortunately this is something that takes a long time to get good at, and resources have to be spent to get there over years of trial and error.

the damage done by 9/11 is colossal if you look at the economic and emotional cost. Do you really think it's equal to 2,977 drunk driver deaths?

furthermore, it is impossible to measure exactly what is prevented from catching a single terrorist. if 9/11 was thwarted who knows if we'd even hear about it. We don't know what we don't know. so unless you have some insight into what is actually accomplished by anit-terrorism programs it's silly to make such comparisons.

Lastly, nobody is saying we should ignore driver deaths. we have the resources to focus on multiple problems at once.


99% of the damage "done by 9/11" was actually done by the massive overreaction to 9/11. You cannot use the damage done by the overreaction to terrorism to justify the overreaction to terrorism.

It's like saying that your immune system's response to an allergen is justified, because just look at how terrible you feel when exposed to that allergen.


it's more like doing everything possible to avoid allergen because you know that reaction of immune system will be disproportional.


That's an interesting way to look at it, but it doesn't appear apt to me. These actions look to me like an ongoing reaction to attacks, not rational attempts to reduce the overall impact.

In any case, if you can reduce the immune reaction, that's far preferable. I don't see any reason why we can't reduce the overreaction to terrorism.


It's a very dangerous path to take when discussing statistics. Will it become moral to lie and extract taxation from people if there were 5000000 terrorists? At which amount of terrorists morality of gov lying and spying switches from "bad" to "good"? Or, if morality is not black and white, how can one lie and spy at the half the speed?


Seems like a fairly straight forward comparison at face value:

What negative value do you ascribe to 5000 people being killed by terrorists compared to 5 million people? Obviously, 5 million deaths would have a far greater effect on every day life and the ability of society to function.

On the other side, what value do you ascribe to freedom from government lies and spying? This is tougher, but it is generally assumed that the government performing such acts will lead to inefficient use of resources and services - resources that could have been used to prevent deaths in car accidents or raise the standard of society as a whole.

So at face level, the OPs comparison using statistics is fairly sound, and the changeover point is where the number of deaths or potential deaths switches over from one side of the argument to the other.

The OP is arguing that 5000 deaths is nowhere near the costs that the spying program has on society. This seems fair.

The arguments against the OP are that removing the spying program would increase the 5000 figure by orders of magnitude, or that the spying program has no negative effects. I disagree with both these arguments, so I think that the OP is probably right.


It's a very dangerous path to take when discussing statistics.

Statistics let you evaluate many things, including if the "cure" is worse than the "disease".

In this case, terrorism has killed 5,000 people in 148 years. The "war on terror" has killed 4,486 Americans in Iraq and 2,259 Americans in Afghanistan alone. Source: http://icasualties.org/

That's at least 6,745 Americans killed in a little over a decade to fight something that has killed 5,000 Americans in 148 years.

I'm purposely only mentioning American deaths to show how starkly idiotic what we're doing is.


So is it okay to take 5 good organs from a single man to save 5 lives? For me, morality comes first, then you use statistics to choose what's good for you, not me. I will decide on my own.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism


Straw man. You can be a consequentialist but still see the absurd rhetoric of the 'war on terror', noting actual casualty numbers due to 'terrorism'.


300bps pointed out that means justify ends. If there were more terrorists caught than people dying in car accidents, that would justify NSA activity in his eyes. (If it wouldn't, he would not defend his stats-based argument.)

I point out that with right statistics one can justify anything. E.g. giving up one man's life for 5 lives is measurable and sounds solid. Why don't we do that? Because we all have this gut feeling that some things are plain wrong.


300bps pointed out that means justify ends

I think what you meant to accuse me of is "ends justify means" but you're obviously a non-native English speaker so it's understandable. However, you are incorrect that I was saying "ends justify means". Instead I'm saying, "some ends justify some means". There's no legitimate point in attempting to ascribe a black and white philosophy to me.

If there were more terrorists caught than people dying in car accidents, that would justify NSA activity in his eyes.

Not even close. You have to admit that you completely made that up and ascribed it to me when I had never said it. However, I will say that if 310 million Americans per year were dying of terrorism I would think NSA activity might be justified.


You completely misread. Pretend you're looking at a theoretical 'wrong cure' for a problem. The first thing you should do is check if such a cure even works at all. Then you need to decide if it works well enough that you are willing to do something wrong.

300bps never said that you should automatically accept any wrong cure that works. Working is only one requirement.


HN has a nesting limit for comments (for probably good reasons), so replying here. Yes, I get your point.

> If there were more terrorists caught than people dying in car accidents, that would justify NSA activity in his eyes.

Ok, then our interpretations simply disagree, and that's OK. (edit here I mean that I do not believe that citing stats implies that were they reversed, NSA activity would be justified. I do not believe such a set of beliefs/etc. leads to inconsistency.)

I simply think that stats can be used to illustrate absurdity etc., but not necessarily to justify something. It is a slippery slope, but I believe it's a rather long slope ;) Indeed,

> E.g. giving up one man's life for 5 lives is measurable and sounds solid. Why don't we do that?

Here you are ignoring the slope entirely. What you're saying sounds like act utilitarianism. There are many types of utilitarianism and, more generally, "using the ends to [partly] justify the means" falls more broadly into consequentialism (utilitarianism being a subset of consequentialism.)

If we e.g. take rule utilitarianism, then your given example/situation computes differently. Indeed, this very example you cited is used to illustrate the difference [1].

All I'm saying is, there are many shades of gray. :) Just because you use stats to illustrate a point doesn't mean you're then bound by consistency to kill all lonely people to harvest their organs.

[1]: http://martinfrost.ws/htmlfiles/utilitarianism.html#Act_util...


If terrorism killed millions it would be easier to accept the loss of liberty associated with the current war on terrorism.

But loosing ALL Internet and phone privacy, basic human rights such as the right not to be tortured and to some degree loosing the checks and balances of a normal democracy in the fight against a ghost is hard to swallow.


I don't see how it's "dangerous". If terrorism were a leading cause of death, I'd advocate for fighting it with many resources. However, it's an insignificant cause of death, so I advocate for dedicating very few resources to it.

My attitude toward the NSA leaks is, "they should not be doing this." If terrorism killed millions, it would be, "they should be doing a better job of this." Numbers matter.


So if terrorism was killing some people, you'd justify someone forcing me to pay taxes to fund NSA? Or you'd prefer some non-violent, voluntary way to organise protection against terrorism? Would you kick ass of your neighbour if he disagrees on your terrorist-fighting methods, or would you try to argue with him peacefully and let him live his life if he still disagrees with you? Would you like to be able to peacefully disagree with people, or are you okay if someone is forcing you to comply?


Yes, I would justify someone forcing you to pay taxes to fund the NSA in that case, just like I currently justify someone forcing you, and me, to pay taxes to build roads, pay teachers and policemen and firefighters, fund the military, etc. I strongly disapprove of some activities of government, but not of the concept overall.


So you should justify putting Snowden in prison because that's what government wants to do with him for failing his obligations. And since you justify violence when it comes from government, there is a contradiction if you disapprove of it. Are you okay with government coming to your datacenter and forcing you to give them your customers' data or you are not? If government-issued violence is justified, then you cannot be disappointed, no?


You appear to be saying that if I approve of government violence in some cases, I must approve of government violence in all cases. This makes no sense whatsoever.


Ok. So what's the source of your knowledge about morality? You cannot refer to laws because you may disagree with some of them. Which principle do you use to find out when government is doing right and when it is doing wrong?

Also: why would you turn in police some people, but not your friends and family? It sounds to me that your morality is not universal at all, but just a whim. E.g. "I'm okay to kick people I dislike and not okay kicking people I like".


The ultimate basis of my morality is the idea that maximizing overall human pleasure and minimizing discomfort is good, and the opposite is bad. I don't think this has an objective basis. It appears self-evident to me, and as best I can tell most people agree, but I won't pretend it's any sort of law of the universe.

Once you have that basis, game theory lets you extrapolate. Theft is bad it most cases, for example, because it lowers the overall human good, even if it improves my own particular good.

Governments are useful because they're a way to overcome collective action problems like free riders or tragedies of the commons. Because of this, they can be a force for good.

I have no idea where you got this "turn in police some people, but not your friends and family" from. Please try to limit your commentary to things I have actually said, not things you have imagined.


> I have no idea where you got this "turn in police some people, but not your friends and family" from.

From your tweet:

@oleganza 1) No, I wouldn't turn them in, but I believe such enforcement is necessary and overall good. 2) No.

https://twitter.com/mikeash/status/362955640370503681

So lets say we have different ideas on how to maximize "overall human pleasure" (I also don't see how'd you measure it). Who should give up his idea? Should I force you to follow my recipe? Or should you force me to follow yours? Or could we just agree peacefully on some line in the sand and we try our ideas separately without insulting or threatening each other?

Example: if we develop a software and have different ideas on how to do it, should we fight till one of us gives up, or we can simply walk away to our computers and work with some other people, if we cannot work together?


How do you get from that tweet to the words I quoted? They are not even remotely the same thing.

If you can't hold an honest discussion then why are we here?


I asked you explicitly in Twitter "@mikeash two questions: 1) will you give your friends/family to the police if they don't file taxes? 2) did I threaten you for your beliefs?" https://twitter.com/oleganza/status/362954987661295616

You answered: "No, I wouldn't turn them in, but I believe such enforcement is necessary and overall good."

Before, in this thread I asked if you will turn me in, you answered:

"Yes, I would justify someone forcing you to pay taxes to fund the NSA in that case."

So my question was (quoting from above):

"why would you turn in police some people, but not your friends and family? It sounds to me that your morality is not universal at all, but just a whim."

How am I being dishonest here? Please answer what's the moral difference between turning me into police and not your family?


You never asked me if I would turn you in.


What does that mean, then:

"Yes, I would justify someone forcing you to pay taxes to fund the NSA in that case."

I simply don't understand how "justifying forcing me" is not the same as telling the police. If it is not, what's the moral difference for you?


Policing is, in general, justified. That doesn't mean I help them do it.


So you would be satisfied if police finds about unpaid taxes, but would not help them find out? Is that right?

What would "maximize your pleasure"? Not telling police and they don't extract taxes, or telling police and they do?


Yes, that's right.


You speak and comprehend English much better than I speak Russian. But I have to say that I don't speak Russian at all.


Using laws as a basis for morality is deeply, deeply confused.


I would agree with all your stats, but inevitably, a car crash or even to drive a car is by choice. To be a victim of a terrorist, is not by choice.


I disagree. For the majority of the United States, driving in a car is not a choice - it's a requirement to work.

Regardless:

In 2013, 1,660,290 people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer.

In 2013, 580,350 people are expected to die from cancer.

Source: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@epidemiologysurvei...

Did these people die by their choice also? Maybe they should have eaten more vegetables and exercised more? That's 116 times more deaths in one year than have died by terrorism in 148 years.

If we had 240,000 employees working on cancer prevention, screening, treatment and cures do you think we might be able to bring that cancer death number down by 1%? That would save 5,800 lives per year which is more than the last 148 years have killed by terrorism. (Department of Homeland Security has 240,000 employees, improving screening processes alone would likely reduce cancer deaths by 1% per year).


We invest billions to reduce driving accidents -- and have significantly reduced both accidents and fatalities as a result of accidents via investments in road engineering, vehicle engineering and rules.

We also invest billions in cancer research and prevention. That has reduced the death rate over 20% in the last 20 years. 152,000 lives were spared in 2009 (http://www.webmd.com/cancer/news/20130116/cancer-death-rates...)


The Department of Homeland Security has 240,000 employees and a budget of over $60 billion. There have been 5,000 terrorist deaths in the last 148 years.

We invest billions to reduce driving accidents

The National Transportation Safety Board has 400 employees and a budget of $100 million. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has an annual budget of $815 million. There are approximately 30,000 deaths per year from vehicle accidents alone.

We also invest billions in cancer research and prevention.

The National Institute of Health has an annual budget of $30 billion. This covers every type of infection and disease, but approximately 550,000 people per year die of cancer alone. Approximately 600,000 people die of heart disease per year.

Can you see how these things are totally out of whack?

DISCLAIMER: This is a comment on a message board. This is not a PhD thesis. There are plenty of additional nits to pick and I'm sure there are plenty of comments nit witty enough to be posted in response. The bottom line is that terrorism is given resources far beyond the scale of the problem and that is indisputable.


If the crux of your argument is the number of employees and funding are disproportionate to the number of deaths, you have to extract the number of employees and monies dedicated to terrorism specifically (If any).

Most of the DHS employees are part of pre-existing agencies that were combined to form DHS.

"187 federal agencies and departments, including the United States National Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United States Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the United States Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration, the 14 agencies that constitute the U.S. intelligence community and Civil Air Patrol"

Edit: removed FBI reference, posted subsumed agencies as per Wikipedia...


Read the disclaimer. I refuse to spend enough time on this to bring it to the level of PhD thesis. The numbers are so unbelievably heavy toward terrorism spending that it is not even necessary. You are nitpicking.

The TSA budget is $7.91 billion per year. Again, that's $7.91 billion toward stopping something that has killed 5,000 people in the last 148 years vs. Spending about $1.5 billion toward stopping something that kills 35,000 per year. Or does the TSA rescue puppies in addition to preventing terrorism?

I'm starting to think I'm on reddit with comments like yours.


My apologies, I didn't realize that a disclaimer meant that everything preceding it could be ignored.

If you truly believe that the proportionality is not debatable, then feel free to cease debating it.

I'm sorry to inform you, but I'll need to see something at least on the level of a 12th grade essay to concisely consider your argument. Simply yelling "It's Too Much!" is not helpful.

DISCLAIMER: I didn't realize that a disclaimer meant that everything preceding it could be ignored. If you truly believe that the proportionality is not debatable, then feel free to cease debating it. Simply yelling "It's Too Much!" is not helpful.


If you want to disclaim facts out of ignorance, go for it. If you spend 30 seconds researching highway death trends, you see that like cancer, there has been a significant reduction in highway deaths in the last twenty years, to the tune of 30% fatality reduction and 70% reduction per mile travelled. This was directly driven by federal investments.

The NTSB budget is a tiny piece of the pie. The US government has sent billions on vehicle safety, road engineering, road remediation, drunk driving remediation, etc.

You keep citing $60B (30% of which is the Coast Guard and Customs/Border Patrol) and 5,000 deaths since the civil war. You're out of touch. What is your threshold number where you care? Do we really need 30,000 people to die annually for you to care?


No, it's definitely a choice. If someone doesn't want to drive they can move to a city. Taking the job that led you to require a car is a choice. Having a kid that led you to require that job that requires that car is a choice, too.

It's choices all the way down.


Excuse me, but are you insane?

There's no way to make yourself safe from car crashes unless you confine yourself to your house. Even if you never drive, you are exposed to vehicular death simply as a pedestrian. There's no way to avoid it without becoming a hermit.

Meanwhile, it's pretty much trivial to make yourself safe from terrorism, if you wanted to. Avoid airplanes, avoid skyscrapers, avoid major cities. Done. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of Americans already happily live this way, although most of them don't do it specifically to avoid terrorism.


Using your logic, being a victim of terrorism is absolutely a choice. My girlfriend's parents live in Arkansas. In the middle of nowhere. 20 minutes drive to the nearest town that's larger than pop. 50, give or take. No terrorist in their right mind would even consider doing anything there.

So just move away from the city, easy peasy. Your choice.

I think this logic is flawed and the argument is a weak one.


The circumstances around a car crash are most certainly not voluntary or by choice. Negligence by other drivers (alcohol, distraction, and other factors) cause deaths to even pedestrians and bicyclists. One could argue that the victims of terrorist attacks are by choice - by choosing to work in a densely populated area or to send a child to school instead of alternative education. I think neither car crashes victims (in accidents caused by others) nor terrorism victims are "by choice". They are victims of circumstance.


My friends who were hit while walking across an intersection might disagree. (Fortunately, neither were killed)


neither is to be a victim of U.S. collateral damage or surveillance


There would be a bit of a spike in the last 10-15 years though, no?


5031 US citizen deaths caused by terrorism in 148 years is 34 per year.

US citizen deaths caused by terrorism in 2011: 17 [1]

So no, it doesn't seem to have spiked apart from obvious outliers like 9/11.

[1] http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2011/195556.htm


If you only look at the US, maybe just the one spike on that well known date.

If you look at the entire Western world as a whole, my guess is that deadly terrorism on the whole has actually decreased pretty dramatically since the 80's.


The fallacy of the comparison to heart disease/cancer/traffic accidents is that tremendous resources are spent preventing and then resolving those issues as well. They are side effects of living productively, however, so we can't rationally just ban cars. But we can put hundreds of thousands of officers on the road, and endlessly add regulations and safety features to our vehicles, etc.

Snowden is a true hero in the sense of the word -- he is in actual, physical danger for what he has done for others -- however it is not a reasonable argument when people argue that terrorism is a non-issue because <body count> less than <some other body count>.

Do you think those who wish to do you harm don't want to exponentially increase that count? If various groups could get a nuclear warhead or dirty bomb, do you really believe they wouldn't use it? If they could sabotage a major city's water supply or a nuclear power plant, do you think that would be below them?

This doesn't seek to justify the NSA's all-encompassing surveillance at all (human intelligence is where it is at), however there is an actual possibility that they have actually preventing significant events. But the problem with proactive actions is that no one gives you credit for what didn't happen.

As an aside, to add to what others mentioned about the enormous costs and economic damage that resulted from 9/11, for instance, another reason terrorism of even the smallest kind sees a dramatic response is that it is terrorism -- it terrorizes a whole populace. If someone randomly shoots people in parks, there will be a massive response because the impact is on everyone.


There are several issues here. First, the comparisons are often brought up in response to those claiming - directly or indirectly - that terrorism is an existential threat to America. The fact that we live with things that kill vastly more people puts the lie to that.

Second, the issue is the marginal expenditure to marginal deaths. We spend tremendous effort and some freedom reducing auto accidents, and we reduce them substantially. We don't spend trillions more at this point, because we don't consider it worthwhile. Before 9/11, we had some level of expenditure (of effort, money, freedom) on preventing terrorism, and doubtless saw some reduction in terrorism over what it would have otherwise been, and had it down to some particular level. Since 9/11, we've been spending that plus trillions of dollars and more of our freedoms, and the most we can possibly do is reduce terrorism to zero - and even if the alternative were a significant increase in terrorism (something like 9/11 every other day, instead of - generously - once every several years) there would still be more room to save lives in these other ways.

Finally, 9/11 had an enormous cost, but a lot of the psychological cost is due to fear mongering from people who lack the perspective the numbers bring. Another large portion of that cost is due to lack of resiliency in the companies with offices in the WTC, and companies doing business with those companies, &c. The former is addressed through education and leadership, the latter by encouraging behaviors that will also help in the case of (say) a massive hurricane. None of this is served by a panicked focus on terrorism.


So am I, as a citizen, supposed to be content with a 9/11 scale terrorist attack happening "every few years?" If the idea of that frightens me, am I just falling victim to fear mongering? Do I "lack perspective?"


Yes. You lack perspective.

If the state can't prevent every murder, why would you expect that it could prevent every terrorist attack? Why does it make any actual difference whether deaths are simultaneous or distributed? Horrible things, intentional and accidental, happen every day, and they can't all be prevented, but you don't waste your time worrying about drunk drivers or lightning strikes, because they're spread out and you don't notice.

You make a reasonable and proportionate effort to protect yourself to the extent that you can, and roll the dice and pray to the extent that you can't. What makes terrorism any different than plain old murder?


To all but the first, "yes." If that idea frightens you more than the greater number of murders or accidents or disasters, that kill more people and do more damage, then you have lost perspective - probably because you have fallen victim to fear mongering.

To the first, it depends on what we have to trade away and on what we get in return. There will always be risks, because our resources are finite and the world is occasionally hostile. A 9/11 scale terrorist attack happening every few years is bad, but unless the resources we shift there make a bigger difference in reducing those threats they can make elsewhere, you should be "content" in the sense that that is the result of the policy that you should prefer. In this context, freedom/power can be viewed as an important resource: power in the hands of the security apparatus makes them more effective, but freedom in the hands of the people helps to protect against government abuses (in the extreme, tyranny - but things don't have to get there for it to be important).


It's an iterated game. And the only way to win is not to play at all.

Once you get into the business of having your government spend trillions of dollars and destroying other countries in response to a couple idiots, you paradoxically make terrorism more likely, because shifts in policy accompany it.

When no one gives a shit, there's no incentive for ideological terrorists to attempt any interesting attacks, leaving only the occasional madman.


"We spend $0 a year on defense against meteor strike. Should I, as a citizen, be content with meteor strike happening every few years?"

"We spend $0 a year on defense against flesh-eating bacteria. Should I, as a citizen, be content with flesh-eating bacteria happening every few years?"

"We spend $0 a year on defense against maniacs going postal. Should I, as a citizen, be content with maniacs going postal happening every few years?"


I don't think any of those statements are true.


Compared to the US defense budgets and what the US spends on counter-terrorism, I think all of these are effectively zero. Yes, there might be programs in the million USD range, but certainly not in the hundreds of billions.


Hmm, depends how you count it. Arguably, hospitals are significant defense against flesh eating bacteria, just not terribly targeted. Likewise, police forces, firearm restrictions, and mental health services all serve to reduce somewhat the risks from "maniacs going postal". I wouldn't be surprised if either of these were in the hundreds of billions, though certainly not all of that is federal money. I don't know enough about meteor defense, but expect you're closer to unequivocally right there.


So, police forces do great job to prevent terrorism too. Hospitals have knowledge how to mitigate the casualties of a bioterror attack. By your reasoning, we might say that we already have the infrastructure to prevent the immediate dangers of terrorism too (without the defense budget monster). Oh yes, they are "not terribly targeted" :)


I don't know what you're arguing, here. Yes, by my reasoning it's fair to count some of that spending toward fighting terrorism - in fact, I believe that should be a significant portion of our response: investing in resiliency that will help in the event of terrorism but also in the event of the myriad other disasters we are occasionally faced with, and hopefully even when there's no disaster at all.

It's still wrong to say we spend $0 on X, Y, and Z.


Yes.

David Foster Wallace says it better than I could: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2007/11/just-ask...


> am I just falling victim to fear mongering? Do I "lack perspective?"

Yes.


So am I, as a citizen, supposed to be content with a 9/11 scale terrorist attack happening "every few years?"

We spend $0 a year on defense against alien invasions. Should I, as a citizen, be content with alien invasions happening every few years?


Has any alien invasion ever happened?

Also, you don't know that DoD spends nothing against alien invasions. :)


This is a poor response - I had posited "every few years"


Are you reasoning under the assumption that this can't be the case?


> Finally, 9/11 had an enormous cost, but a lot of the psychological cost is due to fear mongering from people who lack the perspective the numbers bring

What about the psychological cost of fearmongering about the possibility of 1984-style dystopias vs. the reality of violent attacks whether broken up beforehand or not?

I'm not saying the government should have the powers that it has now, but if you can "live with" terrorism then you can just as easily "live with" surveillance.


History has shown that given power people abuse it, the set up of mass, warrantless, surveillance is itself evidence of this, a feared consequence of the Patriot Act. It is a completely rational fear that given increasing powers government will increasingly abuse them. Also there has been nothing in recent policy that at all demonstrates that the federal government will ever relinquish power once given it. The more power that the government takes without challenge or checks and balances, the more it can easily take in the future. It's a positive feedback system.

"Terrorism" on the other hand does not scale, especially with an adversary so technologically limited oceans away from US borders. Terrorism isn't even meant to scale, it's entire purpose to create a maximal psychological impact because the adversary does not have the resources to achieve any significant damage through force. Even if you look at Isreal's total deaths and injuries from terrorist attacks you'll see that the numbers are small [0,1]. Also, unlike increasing government powers, there is no evidence that terrorists acts on US soil are increasing.

[0] http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/terrorism/terrisraelsum.html [1] http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/osloterr.h...


> It is a completely rational fear that given increasing powers government will increasingly abuse them. Also there has been nothing in recent policy that at all demonstrates that the federal government will ever relinquish power once given it

If you really think that then you haven't been paying attention. For example, the Church committee, and later when the U.S. belatedly relaxed controls on computer cryptography, and then even put the NSA and NIST in charge of ensuring the public had great cryptography available to them to protect the public's and government's communications and data.

> "Terrorism" on the other hand does not scale

It doesn't have to scale. You could sit and prepare for years for a single massive attack and get maximal value out of it. As technology improves, so does the ability to for a single malicious agent to kill or maim more and more and more people at a single time, which only gets worse when you combine multiple such agents into a group.

And as you mention, the psychological impact is completely out of proportion to the resources expended. The government is following the public's lead on this. No one wants to be blown up, but even more importantly, no one wants those who try to attack the nation to be simply let off the hook or allowed to attack unopposed.

> Also, unlike increasing government powers, there is no evidence that terrorists acts on US soil are increasing.

Wow, it's almost like there's some unseen force interfering with Al Qaeda's previously-stated wishes to bring violence to American soil...


> It doesn't have to scale. You could sit and prepare for years for a single massive attack and get maximal value out of it. As technology improves, so does the ability to for a single malicious agent to kill or maim more and more and more people at a single time, which only gets worse when you combine multiple such agents into a group.

So, if we extrapolate towards the future, what you're saying is that the only way to prevent terrorist attacks that kill millions in a single blow is to abandon any and all privacy on a global scale? Because that's what i conclude taking your argument to its logical extreme.

Also, al qaeda didn't have any success attacking on US soil prior to 9/11, so it seems the NSA did some time travelling there. I might also point out that all the information needed to stop the 9/11 plot was known to the government at the time, they just didn't know they knew it. The NSA's warantless wiretapping wouldn't have been necessary to stop 9/11.


> So, if we extrapolate towards the future, what you're saying is that the only way to prevent terrorist attacks that kill millions in a single blow is to abandon any and all privacy on a global scale?

No, but what I am saying is that there is very little some suitable middle ground between letting extremists do whatever the hell they want and a total police state.

Notice I've not really been arguing with people who say that more controls are needed on government surveillance, as I agree completely.

I am arguing with people who say things implying that terrorists are dumb or that there is no amount of fatalities that would make even a little bit of law enforcement capability reasonable.

There's a lot of different arguments going on around this, but you'll note that there was not much public outcry about the idea of the police being able to wiretap cell phones, subpoena emails, etc. pursuant to an investigation.

So the issue IMHO is not with government surveillance per se, it with the type of surveillance now available to the NSA, and the oversight that is not currently going along with it.

Back to the point though, the increasingly deadly probability of a single event makes it correspondingly more of a good resource and policy allocation for government to take pains to avoid these events. That doesn't mean unlimited police powers by any stretch; but it does mean we expect people to be detecting and breaking up terror cells before they become deadly.

> Also, al qaeda didn't have any success attacking on US soil prior to 9/11

Don't be silly, the 9/11 attacks were at least the second attack by Al Qaeda on the WTC site.

And either way, what's that matter for this? The U.S. Navy sucked at combat in 1941 and 1942 but by 1944 outclassed the Japanese Navy and aviators even on a 1:1 basis.

The reason AQ sucked at terrorism was because they were crap in general, but they learned over time, gained operational experience, developed training methods and command & control, and built what we in the military call 'corporate knowledge'. All of which leads to a much more effective terrorism 'machine'.


Many people believe we are (sooner or later) approaching a 1984-style dystopia.. So that may not be fear mongering, depending on who you talk to.


People's beliefs are simply not prima facie evidence of what is actually happening though.

Many people believe the Earth is 6000 years old. Many people believe it's impossible for humans to have evolved from apes. Many people believe gay people simply chose to be gay. Many people believed that Sunil was the Boston bomber, right up until it was proved it wasn't him at all. Many people believe that God will heal their child of disease modern medicine eradicated 100 years ago. Many people believe that vaccines cause autism.

In short, many people believe the dumbest things.

To the extent that these things are inaccurate they must be opposed; otherwise you can incite public panic by fearmongering and worse, the people who perceive accurate problems get lost in the noise of the crazies.

To the extent that these accusions are accurate, reason and logic are certainly the way to make that clear. You may get more followers with FUD and rhetoric but those tactics are still just as distasteful when used by us as it is when used against us.


> They are side effects of living productively, however, so we can't rationally just ban cars

Terrorism and crime are side effects of living freely.

> "Do you think those who wish to do you harm don't want to exponentially increase that count?"

Not sure how that is relevant. In fact I take it more as an argument for how normal, non-expanded powers have been surprisingly effective at stopping worst-case scenarios.


Terrorism and crime are a side effects of living freely.

And I didn't say otherwise. However that there are efforts to combat terrorism always gets compared to the traffic deaths/heart disease/cancer canard. It is a non-starter argument.

non-expanded powers have been surprisingly effective at stopping worst-case scenarios

Expanded relates to expanded avenues of communications and organization. The NSA moves into collecting data in avenues that "the other side" didn't have not too many years ago. The world evolves on all sides.

Further, as the critically important old saying goes: chance favors the prepared. There will come a day that a nuclear weapon gets in the hands of the "wrong" people (e.g. during a breakdown of the government in Pakistan, etc.). That chance event, which thankfully hasn't happened thus far, can have many possible outcomes.


And the NSA will successfully catch the people who have stolen nuclear weapons by collecting worldwide unencrypted internet traffic?


If someone randomly shoots people in parks, there will be a massive response because the impact is on everyone

This is precisely why terrorism is not a big deal. The people are not the ones demanding rendition, illegal wiretapping, drones, nude body scanners, etc.

These things are being created the the corrupt public/private partnerships that the US Government has created b/c of poor oversight and little transparency.

Suppose you want to strike terror into the American population. There are so many simple attacks that are impossible to prevent -- you could bring a few gallons of gasoline into a subway car and light it, you could open fire at a mall on black Friday, etc. Event the crudest, least effective permutation of these kinds of attacks would cause significant terror, yet nobody does them.

I'd argue that there are simply too few people in the US who want to, and most who want to are incapable of the minimal functioning required to do so.

9/11 was a larger scale attack, but as we can see from other countries' situations, low tech, less lethal attacks are very effective too.

Nothing that the US Government is doing can prevent against terror plots from succeeding. That ought to be obvious to everyone. The idea that the government has somehow spared us from attacks on the water supply or nukes is absurd, since there aren't even any terrorists willing to try the simplest, lowest-risk kinds of attacks.

The counter-argument would appear to be that terrorists have an insane delight in over the top attacks that will be even more symbolic. But worldwide very little terrorism is like this, and so I view it as propaganda. When you think about it, most of the "terror" caused by 9/11 nationwide has been due to all the fear-mongering elected officials engage in.

As we should have learned back on 9/11/2001 when the last plane was thwarted by its own passengers, people are resilient and will adapt to protect each other.


There are so many simple attacks that are impossible to prevent

To add to your own excellent examples, you could blow up the people standing in the security line at an airport. Which I guess they could solve by having a security line before you get to the security line. Which you could then blow up.

We're going to need a lot of additional security lines.


True, even conspicuous failed attacks would instill terror, such as a mysterious abandoned car with lots of fertilizer in the trunk... the media would play up the terror angle and terror would be achieved even w/o any intent to create an explosion.


Nothing that the US Government is doing can prevent against terror plots from succeeding.

Nothing? How utterly defeatist. People in all manner of ventures seldom act alone, and it is in those communications and networks that is precisely what the NSA (and the CIA, and the FBI, and the...) is targeting. Their wholesale capture is open to question, but it absolutely can thwart terrorism attacks.

Here in Canada we've had several potential terrorism events that were prevented by exactly that sort of action. Not by NSA type methods, but by someone in that network of associates coming under suspicion for some reason and it percolates out.

The idea that the government has somehow spared us from attacks on the water supply or nukes is absurd, since there aren't even any terrorists willing to try the simplest, lowest-risk kinds of attacks.

This is so profoundly broken of a thought process -- the "I have made my decision and I am sticking with it, logic be damned" -- that it isn't worth further consideration. It is a very good thing people like you have no part in safety and security -- by your failed thought process, things that haven't happened thus won't happen.


I would not classify my comment as defeatist. By definition, Terrorism is action that exploits a society's freedoms to create terror. Thus any free society will be vulnerable to terrorism.

No matter what areas our government cracks down on, as long as we have any freedoms left, someone can exploit them to create terror.

You dismiss my point about low tech, low sophistication attacks. But think about how everyone reacted when mysterious (but eventually harmless) white powder was found in a few envelopes. Terrorism exploits freedom for great psychological effect.


> Do you think those who wish to do you harm don't want to exponentially increase that count? If various groups could get a nuclear warhead or dirty bomb, do you really believe they wouldn't use it? If they could sabotage a major city's water supply or a nuclear power plant, do you think that would be below them?

Of course no one thinks those things. That's a straw man. There are a number of people who would be quite delighted to do each of those things. Everyone knows that.

But you're acting as if we're standing at that precipice--as if requiring narrow warrants to tap search histories will all of the sudden enable these people to obtain and deploy a nuclear bomb.

And the fact of that matter is: such events are unprecedented. There have not been hundred-thousand-death terrorist acts. You raise the possibility of them, but evidence suggests that it's actually very hard to pull off, and has been for a very, very long time, independent of various changes in surveillance technology and law.

IF (and it's a big if) terrorist attacks were to increase sharply in response to a strict interpretation of wiretapping laws, why couldn't we just deal with it at that time? Why do you want to deal with it now? The terrorism rates could increase 100x before even registering as a public health issue.

You're like someone who won't go on a date because they're worried about getting a divorce. Yes, sure, it's a possibility, but it's a long ways down the line, and we will have ample opportunities to try and solve each specific challenge along the way.


> There have not been hundred-thousand-death terrorist acts.

Little Boy and Fat Man would like to talk.


There are two ways to prevent terrorism. You can a) focus on preventing the actual act and b) focus on preventing people from becoming motivated enough to commit the act. If we truly want to prevent terrorism, we need to focus on both. Currently, we only focus on the first. My point is, there are other ways of preventing terrorism than by eroding our freedoms and tracking everything everyone does.


I am bold enough to say that even 'doing nothing' would be much more effective than what the US is doing right now. At least it won't increase the number of fanatics around the world who hate the US just because of the (from-their-perspective) unjust wars.

Unfortunately, 'doing nothing' is not in the dictionary of 'serious' managers, politicians or generals.


If you want something more easy comparable, lets compare terrorism kills vs murder rates. How much police resource is spent per murder citizen vs killed by terrorism.

Do anyone really think that the US would spend the same amount of money catching a shotgun wielding mass murderer who robs liqueur stores, or the same shotgun wielding guy that has a terrorism manifesto posted on youtube but with no prior kills on his hands. Who of the two is more likely to have biggest kill count in the end?


I would say the terrorist is likely to have the highest body count in the end.

Do some rough math on 9/11. 9 terrorists and 2977 deaths (331/terrorist).

The most prolific mass murders have "alleged" death tolls in the hundreds, but most are only multiples of ten.


That is average number spread out over all the terrorists and not median. Trying to merge those two concept is a common way to use statistic to mislead.

The question was if a shotgun wielding guy posting a video on Youtube is more likely to kill more people than a shotgun wielding mass murderer who robs liqueur stores. To clarify, he doesn't have a time machine to suddenly transfer himself to 2001.


Not fair; the public was not prepared to deal with that situation; now they are. Pilots carry; attendants and passengers are knowledgeable to fight back. And that's including revoking most of what the TSA has become.


Also, the cockpit doors are reinforced.


That's mostly a consequence of planes and skyscrapers having lots of people.

The death count could as well be seen with a place accidentally crashing into the Empire State Building.


Your argument is interesting but broken.

One simply has to extrapolate that all reasonable efforts to avoid terrorism aside, terrorism is simply the same result of liberated living as driving a car


Ugh, I know you meant well and are in support of Snowden (as am I) but try not to shoot yourself in the foot when making a point.

There's so much wrong with how you framed your argument that I won't bother picking it apart. Again, I know you meant well and I'm on your side.

Just don't join a debating team quite yet.

P.S. And YAY for Snowden!


What a strange world we live in, when you have to run from the US government after revealing its illegal and unconstitutional activity and hope for safe haven in Putin's Russia.


All this despite overwhelming support from young educated citizens in your country.


I am not a US citizen, nor do I live there. However I did live there for about 12 years.

I don't think there is a lot of support in favor of Snowden in USA, don't be confused by internet activism. The reality is most people is US doesn't care about snowden or the implications of his revelations.

In the current US, anti-government activism is a foreign concept. You won't find a lack of people complaining about the government, but you won't find them on the street and make some noise untill there is some real change.

Even the occupy movement was largely a farce and it wasn't really against the government.


>I don't think there is a lot of support in favor of Snowden in USA, don't be confused by internet activism.

This is spot on. Most people here don't even know his name. To the ones that do, he is "that guy that leaked all those secrets." It pains me to say it, but it's true.

The odd thing is that with the recent House vote that almost successfully de-funded the NSA with regards to the meta-data collection program, it seems that a lot of our representatives were ahead of the population (or responding to the more activist elements of the population) on the issue.

>Even the occupy movement was largely a farce and it wasn't really against the government.

I was there that first day that it started. To be fair, the movement was largely about the relationship between the government and the private sector, not just the private sector.


I'm finding NSA jokes are pretty common place now, between my dentist's office, my early baby boomer parents.


Do you have evidence for that? I've not personally seen any polling, so maybe you're right, but my impression is that a lot of people of all ages strongly approve of government anti-terror efforts in general.


I don't have any evidence, just personal impression from limited observation.


Well, beware sampling bias. As best I can tell, the tech crowd has very different opinions on these issues than the population at large, and it can be easy to fall into the trap of "most young people think this way" when it's actually "most young people with six-figure salaries at technology companies think this way".


I think we are both saying the same thing. I originally meant to say that there is very little support for snowden outside the online tech crowd eco-chamber. I think you are also sayin the same thing.


Er, yes, I was originally replying to someone who said the opposite.


I think what brought us to this point is our persistent belief into the Cold War era roles in the world. US the good guys. Ruskies - a menace to humanity. When the US invaded Iraq, everyone was upset, but in the end people shrugged it off. After all, the US is the good guys. They can't do no harm.

Now after a decade of American led wars, invasions, drones... and now the mass surveillance program, we slowly start to realize that maybe things are not as good as they seem.

Perhaps, it's time to reassess the past established roles and look at the world afresh.


This again?

Again, name the country which is acceptable, possible to travel too, and out of US reach.

Snowden has to take whatever he can get.


You misread me. I am not saying this is a bad thing, nor am I holding snowden against some moral compass for doing it. I support it 100%.


Has it ever occurred to anyone, that Putin's Russia today is a conservative's "paradise"? I mean, if you do not agree with everything that the 'progressive left' stand for, you may feel quite good in Russia.

Putin's government is supporting the church, and promoting traditional family values. They have instituted significant money benefits for families with children, and as a result the much talked about decline in Russia's population has been stopped in 2013. For the first time in modern Russian history there are more babies born in Russia than people die of old age. http://www.amren.com/news/2013/06/russias-population-decline...

The laws prohibiting "gay propaganda" should be viewed in the context of these policies. Obviously, being gay as such is not illegal in Russia. There are gay bars in any large Russian city, and quite a few of celebrities have admitted to be gay. However, they have made it illegal to promote homosexuality publicly.

Then, there are economic policies of Putin that would make Reagan jealous. Russian government has adopted a flat 13% tax rate on all incomes in 2001. Not only this has made Russia one of the lowest tax jurisdictions in the world. Most importantly, the flat rate has removed thousands of 'tax exceptions' that is the source of economic inefficiencies and outright corruption in most of 'developed' countries. Here is a noted US conservative lamenting that Putin has achieved something he had worked on most of his life. "We won the Cold War, but Russia gets a flat tax while America is stuck with a Byzantine tax system based on class-warfare ideology." http://www.heritage.org/research/commentary/2003/03/russias-....

Finally, the 'freedom of press opression' and 'political persecution of opponents' thesis is in many ways overblown. Most popular Russian internet media outlets are openly anti-Putin (lenta.ru, slon.ru etc. etc.). The most listened to news/talk-show radio station (Echo Moskvy) is strongly anti-Putin, and a very popular cable TV channel (Dozhd) is also anti-Putin and anti-establishment.

And the trial of the poster-child of anti-Putin opposition Mr Khodorkovsky (who was imprisoned years ago on fraud and tax-evasion charges) has just been recognised as a 'non-political' by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) (read: Khodorkovsky was indeed a crook, and his sentencing was not influenced by his anti-Putin stance). http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-european-court-khodorkov...

Putin's government is also following Western conservative script with regard to intellectual property. Actually, today the have effected a broad-reaching anti-piracy law that would outlaw any internet site that publishes links to illegal movie download or torrent-trackers. To Putin's credit, the downloaders of illegal content themselves will not be prosecuted. So, parents of teenagers need not worry about gigantic fines etc.

Obviously, Putin is no friend to US conservatives, primarily because Putin is a nationalist and conducts an independent foreign policy. What is good for Russia need not be good for the US. And vice versa. But Putin may be good for those Russians that hold traditional conservative values. Hell, such people may feel Russia is the last bastion of true conservatism left in the world, while not being exactly a Pinochet-like fascist place.


>Has it ever occurred to anyone, that Putin's Russia today is a conservative's "paradise"? I mean, if you do not agree with everything that 'progressive left' stand for, you may feel quite good in Russia.

Minus the extra judicial killing and prosecution of any serious political opponent.

Just to be clear, I don't try to judge Putin's russia through the "prism" of western media bias, I am sure he has done a lot of good for his country, but he has also done boatload of fucked up shit.


Not to mention the constant, evidence-based accusations of widespread electoral fraud, and the UN veto being used to continue selling arms to Syria as long as possible...


   constant, evidence-based accusations of widespread electoral fraud
There are conflicting views on that.

Accusations of fraud are mostly aboutRussian parliament elections of 2011. Pro-Putin party was accused of fraud in many districts, which I personally think is correct. (But, strangely enough, Israeli foreign minister, has found those elections fair and democratic... http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/lieberman-russ...)

On the other hand, most definetely Putin did not need any fraud to help him win presidential elections in 2012. He had an overwhelming support among common Russians. Forecasts by anti-Putin polling organisation Levada Centre promised him 63% of the vote (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_presidential_election,_...), and he indeed got 63.5%. His closest competitor (a communist) got 17%.

To win elections fraudulently, Putin had to doctor close to half of the bulletins, which seems unlikely, given worldwide scrutiny of the election, and his own efforts to dispel doubts such as installing live webcams at every polling station etc.

Tl;dr Putin won because he is popular, not because of the fraud.


Thanks for clearing that up! :)


I am not going to hold the UN veto against Russia; USA has done much worse with their veto power over the years.


Certainly agreed. I was only using that example as a reason why one might not "feel quite good in Russia".


I am not aware of any "extra judicial killings" by Putin.

There are claims that Dr Kelly was killed by Tony Blair for opposing Iraq war. But I am not believing it either.


>>I am not aware of any "extra judicial killings" by Putin.

You aren't supposed to be aware, is the idea.


What "boatload of fucked up shit" are you referring to? Why do so many negative comments pop up about him all the time? Either I'm missing something or it's just ultra-liberals complaining about the conservatism in the country.


What exactly do you find strange with this?


Its strange because a whistleblower has to run from US government as he is 100% sure (rightfully) that there is no chance of having fair trial or policy change despite the revelations and its implications.

And he has to run to Russia, a country that has much much worse human rights records (at least publicly, it is possibly that US government privately is much worse in human rights).

I think the people of the USA should ask their government what is the legal way to expose government wrongdoing, _to the extend Snowden did_, without being prosecuted and having to run for his life? I am afraid, currently no such law exist.


It's a fairly typical case of shooting the messenger and this is the generalized fate of whistleblowers the world over, be it in corporations, governments or other institutions. The first response is to squelch the source by any means available. If there is change it usually is much later.


as he is 100% sure (rightfully) that there is no chance of having fair trial

Why is there no chance of him getting a fair trial? Are you accusing Federal judges of being corrupt puppets of the Obama administration or something?


Not fair in the sense that the current law exists to not protect whistleblowers like snowden. The law is by default against him and there is no legal way to expose the government to the extend snowden did.

As to Federal judge's my understanding is that (might be wrong) most of these appointments are political in nature. And at least in case of supreme court the judges tends to align with their ideological bias and their interpretation of laws often wildly differs. Don't quote me on it though, just my understanding.


There were well-defined legal channels available to Snowden to communicate any concerns he had about the existing programs. By all accounts, he did not take advantage of any of them.


Did you see the interview that USA Today conducted with NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake and William Binney when Snowden's leaks were first published? They specifically addressed the myth that there are effective mechanisms in place to report and rectify misconduct. There are none, and these very intelligent, very principled men agreed that Snowden took the correct course of action in exposing all of this.

As dissenters within the agency, they have a more accurate idea about how all of this works in practice than nearly anyone else.


Feel free to show examples of said "well-define legal channels" which Snowden could have used to show the depth of NSA's activity as he did, where the discussion is open for public debate.

Also this has been going on for so long, why didn't anyone else from NSA use said well-defined legal channel to expose NSA activity or at-least put them up for scrutiny.

I can think of 3 reasons:

1) There is no well-defined legal channels to expose NSA illegal activity, to the extend Snowden did.

2) NSA only hires people who are morally corrupt.

3) NSA employees are genuinely concerned about their safety and well-being if they want to expose NSA.


That is ridiculously naive.


I'm really amazed at how many people complain about Putin. Would you all prefer to live in the Russia of 50 years ago?


The comparison was not between putin's Russia and Russia 50 years ago. It was between Russia and USA. Despite everything that is fucked up and wrong with US Government, I would hope (perhaps naively), its still better than Russia in terms of human rights at least?


> I would hope (perhaps naively), its still better than Russia in terms of human rights at least?

That depends on a lot of factors:

- are you homosexual

- ethnically caucasian

- A subscriber to Islam

- have a name that matches the name of someone on a no-fly list

- an 'enemy combatant' (ages 13 and up)

- an activist of sorts

Or anyone of a hundred other arbitrary criteria. Those could make the difference between a safe & secure life 'just' being harassed periodically by people in uniform or spending time in Gitmo or Siberia.


> ethnically caucasian

Actually, that matters in Russia a lot, too. Although, their meaning of the word is different (Russian Caucasians are people originated from around the Caucasian Mountains; that's where all the guerilla fighting is currently going on).


I agree with you and I am saying this from personal experience.


"He's better than Stalin."

Well, if that isn't the best damned endorsement in history!


That's basically the "at least we're better than North Korea" argument which has never ceased to be utterly stupid.


A not insignificant proportion of Russians do. You were guaranteed a job, a place to live and an education.


57% of those polled would prefer all that, today. Source: http://kommersant.ru/doc/2243079


I am a recently naturalized US Citizen, from Russia. In magic scenario USSR would be restored, I would go back and work in an institute, like my father happily did.


Before you happily go to (hypothetically restored) USSR, please read about the fate of Italian aircraft designer Robert Bartini, who moved to USSR in 1923. In 1938 he was imprisoned and spent 14 years working in sharashkas:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Ludvigovich_Bartini

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharashka

Be careful what you wish for.


Hell, you didn't need to be an Italian to get "conscripted" into a sharashka. Some of the best Russian aircraft designers (e.g. Tupolev) were contributing to the Russian war (WWII) effort from prison.


Yes. In fact, Tupolev worked with Bartini in the same sharashka (TsKB 29 NKVD - ЦКБ 29 НКВД). See "Tupolevskaya Sharaga" by Kerber (in Russian):

http://www.lib.ru/MEMUARY/KERBER/tupolewskaya_sharaga.txt


Thanks, but I'm pretty sure I am aware of the actual ratio of the horror stories to reality.

The reality is not as bleak as what the western propaganda made USSR out to be while it was out to destroy the only alternative political system on the same planet.


> I am aware of the actual ratio of the horror stories to reality

And what is the ratio? For example, try calculating this ratio for aircraft designers of the period: imprisoned_designers / free_designers. I don't think the result would be pretty.

I was interested enough to make (completely unscientific) assessment of what happened to some of the emigrants to USSR.

I've looked through all 8 Finnish emigrants listed in Wikipedia category [1]. The result isn't pretty: 3 executed during Great Purge, 1 commited suicide, 1 killed during civil war, 1 "lucky" to die just before Great Purge. The rest 2 were politicians (one of which was very high ranking). No scientists or engineers or technicians.

And here is the same assessment of all 7 American emigrants listed in Wikipedia category [2]: 3 spies; 1 scientist (Arnold Lokshin); 1 composer (Karl Rautio); 1 short-term technician, not allowed to go back to US, Gulag prisoner (Alexander Dolgun); 1 car toolmaker, not allowed to go back to US for 44 years (Robert Robinson).

Ignoring spies, we've got 2 miserable fates, and 2 good fates. So your ratio for US emigrants is 2/2. And those two are good mostly because of political reasons: the composer of Anthem of the Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic; and asylum seeking scientist.

Do you still want to move to (hypothetically restored) USSR?

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Finnish_emigrants_to_t...

[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:American_emigrants_to_...


I didn't realize until much later, but linking to a 60 year old events as a detriment to an action NOW is absolutely ridiculous. It's like, yeah, thank god I'm not Japanese, so I don't have to be imprisoned in a concentration camp right now!


Initially you wrote: "In magic scenario USSR would be restored, I would go back and work in an institute".

You didn't mention what kind of USSR would you like to be restored. Of course, there were different periods in Soviet history, with various rate and cruelty of persecutions. To stress my point I chose one of the most hideous periods. But unfair persecutions were always there.


If USSR was restored, it would obviously be the period of 2013. The pre-Gorbochev era was what my 'father' should obviously reference. The 'cruelties' of the Soviet period are directly related to the cruelties of the world at large, such as preparations for WW2.


> The 'cruelties' of the Soviet period are directly related to the cruelties of the world at large, such as preparations for WW2.

This statement is so generic, that it's very hard to argue about it. "World at large", "directly related" - what do mean by those exactly?

Pre-Gorbachev era was certainly safer to live in than Stalin era. But I would argue that "cruelty" was actually one the pillars of the Soviet system. Totalitarian system couldn't survive without the excessive use of force. That's why it's called "totalitarian". Less cruelty leads to less control, and finally leads to collapse of the system. Foreign intervention had very little to do with the collapse of USSR.


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110719/ has a scene right about people like you.


Just because Putin is better than Soviet misery doesn't make him good. Take a look at the recent anti-gay legislation, for example.


The problem is that most people wouldn't call it "Soviet misery". You were given a lot of things for free, so who cares you couldn't say bad things about the government? If you had a guaranteed job(at which you could just slack off and do nothing for the entire day with pretty much no consequences, since you knew you were getting paid at the end of the month regardless), free house/apartment paid for by the state, free medical care, free education, including higher education and state-sponsored holidays twice a year - why would you complain?

In fact I come from a country which used to be communist(Poland) and a lot of people(older people) say that it was fantastic. Obviously they don't realize that these policies pretty much ruined our economy and were unsustainable in the long run, but they don't care - they want their nice jobs, free stuff from the government and paid holidays twice the year.

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