I have an anecdote from a month or two ago. My girlfriend--she's German--and I were in Boston's central park, where there's a wading pool for children. The place was extremely busy with families and children everywhere--and also crawling with police. As the mother next to us ushered their 9-year-old into the pool, the mother loudly told her, "If anyone touches you, you scream!" My girlfriend laughed out loud at the silliness of it (the child was within eyeshot, in a pool filled with other children and families, in broad daylight, and surrounded by police) and commented to me about how afraid Americans are of everything.
Now that's just an anecdote. But we're seeing bits and pieces of this everywhere. Parents fearful of pedophiles around every corner. TV commercials about new drugs, scaring us into thinking we have some painful disease. ("If you've had chicken pox, the shingles virus is already inside you..."). People like the Free-Range Parenting blogger getting harassed and hounded. The ballooning security and surveillance apparatus. The militarization of our police, and draconian and unfathomable laws and sentencing requirements. The TSA, which is pure theater in service of fear. Bits and pieces.
I find myself increasingly thinking that the fear-based environment in the US is not a place I would want my children to grow up in. It breeds a dangerous us-vs-them (the brown people, the druggies, your neighbor) mentality and leads to suspicion and hatred.
Unfortunately I don't know what to do about it other than move to a different, more emotionally stable country. Culture is hard to change and takes a generation.
Just a counter data point here.
PSA: Boston is not liberal, except a little bit in the abstract NPR "latte sipping" academic sense. Culturally it is unbelievably, stiflingly conservative, far more so than "red states" for example.
She hated that I wore a tiny bit of gold jewelry (gold cross from my grandmother) because "that's what non-white people wear", so away that went. She hated that I wore T-shirts because... probably similar reasons. I took her to a beach on the Cape, and she wore... black. Covering her whole body. Formal black clothing. I mean basically, if you transplanted a Puritan circa 1750 into the modern age, you'd get this woman. She had never lived anywhere else. And then after breaking up with her, I looked around and it was all I could see... races not even interacting at all, both white and black people having REALLY limited "socially acceptable" clothing choices, etc.
I don't want to bash Boston too hard. I lived there for like 8 years. It has the best sports bars around, but this unfortunately only adds to its "provincial" reputation. Boston Harbor is really nice. The fact that Boston barely has any beaches (at least compared to, say, Long Island) was just weird for me (growing up on LI, I took the miles of beaches for granted, I guess).
I have a lot to say about Boston, both positive and negative. But yeah, socially? Can you even get more socially conservative while still being politically liberal?
Boston should have been Silicon Valley. It had all the pieces, everything aligned, best of the best. But it's not. I think there's a really good argument to be made that this conservatism is why. All the really smart people ran away first chance they got.
That seems extreme. The situation you describe seems directly under control of the parents. Eg you can solve this for your child by simply not subscribing to that culture.
"Global warming might be happening, shut down the energy industry!"
"We can't use nuclear power, someone might get cancer! Keep mining coal and etching solar panels!"
I don't think shutting down an entire industry in a knee jerk reaction is logical. Gently paring down fossil fuel energy consumption is logical. I think the extreme reaction is the illogical mentality that he was talking about.
This is so incredibly false it's on par with stating "commercial aviation has a spotty safety record overall".
I'm very pro-nuclear, but don't think there's an mileage in blowing off safety concerns.
Ditto Google's early drive for lowering watts per flop in their data centers and seeking lower costs of energy.
GDP (economic growth, however it's measured) has tracked fossil fuel consumption. Some smart people are working to decouple the two.
The sun is, but what about the raw materials needed to make the panels?
Though really, all this says is that even under a renewables scheme, we're not going to be able to provide power at the level some have come to expect for the population we've now got (7 billion) or are projected to have (10 billion).
The bigger problem from my PoV is that the existing financial and economic systems discount the sustainability capabilities of even a partial capacity provided by renewables to the point that little if any of it gets built -- the biggest hazard I and some others (Gail Tverberg is a pretty notable leading voice, Richard Heinberg another) see is that the financial and economic systems collapse well before energy or other limits fully impose themselves.
And yes, others note that renewables as presently envisioned draw heavily on nonrenewables for fabrication and construction:
The fact that providing energy needs under a renewables basis is going to be really hard doesn't make nonrenewables any better -- they're only going to work until they don't and we fall off a cliff.
What's your suggestion.
This is best viewed as an engineering problem; those are much easier to solve than social problems.
At that point, it becomes a rather pressing existential problem.
You cannot simply "engineer" more energy into existence.
Yes, there's quite a bit more energy striking Earth every day from the sun than humans use today. However it's not in forms we can utilize directly, other than simply basking in it. The most widespread process for converting sunlight into useful energy is about 1% efficient, we're already using 14% of all its productivity on the planet, and using it to replace existing fossil fuel uses would require another 21%. That's plants, and for humans to directly utilize 35% of all net primary productivity strikes me as manifestly infeasible.
Source: Jeffrey Dukes, "Burning Buried Sunshine"
And the lack of an engineering solution means that this is a social problem -- that's the fundamental conflict here: deciding how to allocate scarce resources.
My suggestion is to pick our energy sources carefully. Solar panels mean a dependence on China, which is hardly a departure from our current foreign dependence. Maybe there is no energy source that doesn't put us completely at the mercy of another nation, but who knows if that's the case? No one, because renewables are marketed as inherently endless. I'm not a civil engineer, so I don't know all the details and I can't tell you what the best system is. I defer to the actual experts on that. But I can tell you that the endlessness of renewables may be technically true, but often not at all in practice. That's all I'm getting at.
If you're referring to rare-earth production, my understanding is that this is more a matter of where mining operations are considered viable and acceptable (largely on a basis of environmental impacts). The elements themselves are relatively abundant in the Earth's crust, they're simply not concentrated as other minerals have traditionally been (though we've done a rather good job of ensuring that concentrated ores no longer exist).
Materials dependence is also different from fuels dependence. In the latter case, short-term interruptions can have massive disruption effects on whole economies. Look at what possible military action in Syria is doing to current oil prices, let alone the disruptions of the 1974 and 1979 oil embargoes. Were material flows interrupted, what would be disrupted would be additional energy systems development, but existing systems would continue to function fine (modulo maintenance and retirement).
the endlessness of renewables may be technically true, but often not at all in practice.
There's a fair bit of truth to that. Many renewables technologies are dependent on specific and limited materials, or on complex technology stacks: PVs also require an extensive chip-fabrication infrastructure. Once it's established and producing it's pretty efficient, but having to build it from scratch would be a challenge.
You're touching on issues that many who are looking at future paths (generally: "collapse", "transition", or some combination / variant of these and other options) with cold, clear vision see.
My point is that whatever challenges renewables offer, they're out only hope, so if it turns out that they do have profound limitations, we'd best start getting used to that idea. If this means going back to animal power and firewood -- well, we have a rough idea of what sort of population can be supported on that technological stack. And I don't paint renewables as necessarily being sufficient for present-day (or even technologically advanced) lifestyles, though I suspect they might be able to offer that.
Ok, we're on different pages then. I don't dislike renewables. I think at least one of them is probably the way of the future. I just dislike the black-and-white way renewables vs. nonrenewables are addressed.
Then do some research.
I've, literally, dedicated the past 9 months to figuring out what the hell is going on. And one way or the other, we're going to run out of fossil fuels in any practical economic sense (there will always be some coal, oil, and natural gas underground, but the ability to extract it and gain useful economic productivity from it will eventually expire).
You can quibble over whether we've got enough to last for 5 years, 50, 500, or 5000, but they will run out. Almost certainly at some point in the timespan I've just given. Very likely sooner rather than later for oil (on which we're tremendously dependent for anything involving transportation), and likely not much longer for gas and coal. And those timespans are well within the span of existing human history. Which is to say: we're facing the very probable end of industrial civilization of humans on Earth.
It's also hardly a "green" or "liberal" viewpoint: the finite nature of fossil fuels was realized quite early in the Industrial Revolution. William Stanley Jevons is often mentioned ("The Coal Question", 1865), but he was beat by 76 years by John Williams, "The Limited Quantity of Coal in Britain", 1789. More recently, M. King Hubbert (petroleum engineer), Hyman Rickover (US Navy admiral), and Colin Campbell (petroleum engineer).
It's geology, physics, and math. Not ideology.
And even if we've got reserves to last a million years, the environment can't take it. CO2, mercury, sulfur dioxide, particulates, and other pollutants from coal, oil, and gas will kill us.
We're stuck between those two prongs.
And beyond energy, there's a host of other resources which humans have done an exceptionally good job of drawing down. As if it's our job (and I could make a fair case that it has been).
And, as with any coldly rational bottom-line focused employer, once an employee has provided all the useful work they can provide you, you let them go.
That's us: humanity is very close to having worked its way out of a job. And no, the Universe doesn't offer unemployment insurance, welfare, or a pension.
Think it over. Do some research. See what conclusions you come to.
What I mean is I don't like how anything that is grouped into "renewables" is considered to be equally perfect. Like, "It's not fossil fuels so it's the holy grail". Nevermind that hydro backs up rivers and solar panels require rare earth metals. This sort of mindset, I figure, will hamper our ability to choose the best renewables. I'm not saying we should stick with fossil fuels.
In which case, you're projecting opinions on me which aren't correct.
In the world of energy sources available to humans, there are two classes:
Renewables which replenish given time.
Nonrenewables which don't.
For all of human existence save the past 250 years, we've depended virtually entirely on renewable resources. Which isn't to say they didn't have negative impacts on the land humans occupied. Deforestation and desertification are very common in human history and prehistory.
For the past 250 years or so we've had coal, oil, and gas. The chart looks roughly like this:
There are a handful of other nonrenewables which are sufficiently abundant that they might be able to address some of our energy needs (mostly electricity -- transportation, liquid fuels, and chemical feedstocks remain a major issue). They have some pretty tall technical challenges however. Thorium reactors are more probable, fusion rather less so: we've been unable to reach technical let alone commercial viability with 50 years' research during the period of maximum abundance.
And there's a very clear relationship between energy, economic growth, and population:
Anyhow, as I said: list out your options. Figure out how viable they are, and what the negatives are.
A list of questions I like to keep in mind:
1. How Much Energy is Returned for the Energy Invested (EROEI)?
2. Have the claims been verified by an independent third party?
3. Can I see the alternative energy being used?
4. Can you trace it back to the original energy source?
5. Does the invention defy the Laws of Thermodynamics?
6. Does the inventor make extravagant claims?
7. Does the inventor claim zero pollution?
8. Can I see blueprints, schematics or a chemical analysis of how it works?
9. Infrastructure Requirements -- Does the energy source require a corporation to produce it? How will it be transported and used? Will it require new engines, pipelines, and filling stations? What will these cost? Who will pay for them and with what? How long will it take to build them?
There's more ways to harness solar energy than photovoltaics.
With present known reserves (including recent finds in South America -- Bolivia as I recall), there's not enough lithium to build batteries for an EV for the entire world's population. I believe the number I came up was about 1 in 10. And that's for one generation of vehicles.
Turns out that you can recycle batteries. But the process recovers only 90% of the lithium. After about 7 generations, you've lost over half your original stock.
With sufficient energy, you can extract virtually anything from seawater (even stuff like uranium). But that "with sufficient energy" prerequisite is pretty much specifically the challenge we're looking at.
Not so much. There is plenty of energy... I mean tons... with one caveat: it's not always on.
But there's no reason that extraction of minerals from sea water couldn't be a daytime-only thing.
Talk about instilling fear and creating risk aversion. Sometimes you just have to let a child find out for themselves what's safe and what isn't. What you can get up and dust yourself off from and what you can't.
It's hard to do (I say this as a parent of 5 year old boy), but you have to resist the urge to hover over them and caution or approve their every move.
I wasn't allowed to even ride my bike past one neighbors house on each side when I was a kid because my parents were convinced I would be kidnapped. I couldn't go to a friends house without my parents walking me all the way up to the door and then I had to report home every hour or two or they would call the police as if I was missing. They wouldn't even let me use sharp silverware because I might have hurt myself accidentally. And don't get me started on learning to drive....
I realized only in college how sheltered my life was when I noticed how everyone else was living their lives while I was constantly afraid I was going to die any minute. It has taken years to undo the damage and I honestly despise my parents for it (among other reasons as well).
Also, paradoxically, the safer things get the more people worry about the dangers that remain. This is rational. Say doing this or that during pregnancy results in 1 in 10,000 women dying during child birth. If 1 in 100 women die during child birth anyway, it's not a big deal. But if improvements in medical technology gets the base rate down to 1 in 10,000, then suddenly you're talking about doubling your risk.
Gender probably has a lot to do with it. I'm a guy, so I don't have as much to worry about (whereas girls are perceived as more vulnerable to things like rape, etc.).
"First kid - food drops on the clean floor - burn the food sterilize the place. Second kid - food drops on the clean floor - wash it and give it back to him. Third kid - she ate the cat's dinner? It's the cat's problem, not mine."
If your child crashes his bike and gets a bloody knee on the playground, your relaxing afternoon at the park is most likely over and now you have a crying child, bloody clothes, a damaged bike wheel, and potentially another child who is now screaming because you have to leave the park to go find bandages. If your child breaks her arm, it's even worse -- off to the hospital you go, followed by a child who can't take a bath or get dressed by herself for a month.
Do some parents take this to an extreme and deny their kids some fun? Sure. But a lot of times, it's just about trying to maintain a level of mindfulness so that everyone can continue having fun for the afternoon.
And to your point, there are cases where this is valid - when the inconvenience would extend beyond just "oh my afternoon is ruined" and into "everybody's afternoon would be ruined".
Well, yes. This is called parenting: it is expected that, as a parent, you will have to endure a certain amount of inconvenience so that your kid can learn to ride a bike. Now, if he or she is endangering other kids while learning, then it's valid to step in. But thinking about your own convenience sounds a bit selfish.
In practise, there is.
Her: Don't let her run on the sidewalk.
Me: What? Why?
Her: She's not wearing pants, just a dress.
Me: ...OK... what exactly is the relationship between these two things?
Her: There's nothing covering her knees, she'll hurt herself if she falls on the sidewalk.
I couldn't even fathom the connection without having it spelled out for me. I, of course, completely ignored the whole conversation afterwards.
Because that's what we did when I was young.
This is because the safety net is non-existent here. If something really bad is about to happen, you know you're going to fall all the way down to the bottom. The solution? Sue the hell out of everybody.
> Amongst other things, medical treatment is very cheap here
Yup. Exactly the opposite in the US. When the hospital bill requires a second mortgage, covering the costs via money awarded in a lawsuit might be the only solution.
Yes, I'm a parent, but. . .
Growing up in the late 60's in New England, my parents kicked us out of the house in the morning during summers and no one thought twice about us unless we didn't show up for dinner.
Children in American live under house arrest, they are used to having people with guns in their schools. They have no freedom to play, think or do much of anything which isn't scheduled. The whole concept of a "play date" is so twisted and sick as to be beyond comprehension. And all of this is because of some weird belief that children are in more danger today than any time in history. It's not true, the rates of child abuse, kidnapping, and everything else that parents are scared of haven't changed much from when I was a kid.
I would never ever raise a child in the States....
We've had broken bones, cuts, scrapes and other injuries but they all know how to do limited first aid and are pretty cool in a crisis. I'm not worried about them at all.
My experiences are entirely anecdotal but it's an example showing that you don't have to feel trapped by those social mores.
Once, we picked up an obviously lost dog on a mountain road and dropped it at the first fire station after the phone on its collar resulted in a voicemail. It was during our 1st year in the US and the thing "what if the dog was stolen and we stopped by police while the dog is in our car" didn't even cross our mind. Now after 13 years here, i'm wondering what i'd do if it was say a child (and there is no collar with the phone to leave voicemail) ...
Rode in the back of a pick up truck
Rode a bike without a helmet
Sat in the front seat of a car before I was 8 years old.
Swam in a pool that didn't have a fence around it
Set off fireworks in the street in front of our house on July 4th
Walked to and home from school alone (not illegal, but against the policy of our public school, and if we ignored it, I suspect we'd get a visit from child protective services).
One of mother's best friends died riding in the back of a pickup truck; car accidents are common, but all that happened in her case was that the road had a pothole, she fell, and happened to hit her head too hard and in the wrong spot.
My girlfriend in college fell on her bike while she was going down a hill and passed over some gravel. Her helmet was destroyed. All she needed was stiches, but if she hadn't been wearing a helmet, she probably would have gotten a concussion.
These are just anecdotes, but the point is that taking a small cost (riding safely in cars; wearing helmets on bikes) is far worth it, because the cost is small, and the benefit in the unlikely case is huge.
It's not illegal where I live to not wear seatbelts in the backseat of a car, but I do anyway. I also use condoms when I have sex, and I wash my hands after going to the bathroom.
There's a big difference between systematically overestimating small risks, and blithely allowing black swans to shit all over your life. I hope you never allow your child to do most of those things, and I hope you never do most of them yourself. The world isn't as scary as the TSA wants us to think, but it can still ruin your life in a heartbeat.
You're right; riding in the back of a pickup truck is not a good idea. It's either a great idea and lots of fun for short distances on low-traffic roads at low speeds, or the only way to get work done because getting into and out of the cab takes too long.
it's very easy for one momentary lapse to cause death or permanent damage in any of the others.
As it is when swimming, hiking, driving, swallowing food, shaving, etc. Everything that's worth doing carries risk.
Just so I'm clear, I'm sorry to hear that. But that doesn't mean that nobody should ever do anything fun, ever, just that they should be mindful of the risks and take appropriate, measured, noninvasive precautions.
I don't think I could die if anyone made a momentary lapse of judgment on hacker news; and yet here we both are.
With that said, while almost always ride with a bike helmet, when I was in NYC this summer, I joyously rode the Citibikes around without a helmet. I would have been a less happy, less human person if I took your advice and didn't ride around NYC just because I didn't have a helmet.
I'm very clearly not arguing with that, but there's a difference between the TSA existing and wearing bike helmets.
I'm glad you didn't die while riding without a helmet, but I don't think there's any core part of the human experience that depends on eschewing small, cheap safety practices for massive risks.
This is from wikipedia. Pardon my language, but what the actual fuck. An arranged appointment for playing? I really feel sad for kids now in America.
My dad describes walking to school with other schoolchildren in Montreal in the 1950s. They'd be alone, without adults, going miles.
When playing, they were out dusk to dawn on city streets with no adult supervision.
I would absolutely not prefer to be living in the 1950s than in the 2010s. Society has improved in many ways in the U.S., particularly if you are not a white male, even if perhaps children aren't allowed to wander as freely in large cities. Perhaps Canada is different.
But I get your point, the whole helicopter and intensive parenting should go. Though I do think it's caused somewhat by the excessive need to make children excel in a successively difficult and competitive society.
The question the post you were replying to posed was: is this actually a new phenomenon? Or is it simply good ole day syndrome?
I suspect it's more the latter.
Now I see daycare children on leashes in Montreal. Quite often. That didn't happen in the 1950s.
This isn't something' easy to quantify, unfortunately.
You don't have to talk to people that old, the mass retardation of parents is a relatively new thing.
That is a terrifyingly difficult decision, given the potential consequences.
Only speaking for myself, but more often then not I just don't have the patience to NOT say it. But I try most of the time at least.
hilarious - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XBb-YYszLI
I know kids who were certified to fly airplanes by themselves at 14. We don't let them captain ships anymore, but that doesn't mean there aren't any capable teenagers anymore, they just do other things.
There were plenty of useless humans around a hundred years ago as well. We don't hear about them much, because why would anyone talk about a random 40-year-old who can't balance a checkbook a century later? The capable people are the ones who get remembered. The less-capable ones don't tend to be remembered much outside their family, and within that, there are plenty of stories floating around about Aunt So-and-so who never moved out of the house, never got married, never found work, etc.
Militarization of the police force is a big one for example - that has practically nothing to do with risk and everything to do with politics and budgeting. It's "tough on crime" writ large, with people then demanding to see the results of all the money being spent which isn't needed - so enter military surplus and suddenly every small town has an APC and a SWAT team but absolutely no need for one (and usually insufficient training). And once you have those things, every problem starts to look like it needs a SWAT response since you've got to justify having them.
Of course that's just one facet of it, there are others but it's totally disingenuous to pretend its some irrational fear of risk driving any of this.
This seems like a contradiction. It has nothing to do with risk, yet the people who want it are the "tough on crime" type. Don't you think that those people see NOT being tough on crime as a risk?
I see the anti-vax craze as primarily an issue of trust and control. "I don't trust Those People (the doctors)" or along the lines of "I need to control everything, including my vaccine schedule".
People have spent decades now having their lives turned upside down by forces they're told they can't control: market movements, giant corporations, unresponsive political systems. Rather than pushing back and trying to assert some control over those things, which would require collective action, they focus inward instead on those things in their lives that they know they can control. It almost doesn't matter if their interventions there make things better or worse; it's more about giving the feeling of being In Charge.
It's like the CEO of the failing company who spends all his time micromanaging the colors on the company Web site home page. He can't give an order that will turn the business around, but he can give an order to change those colors. Which makes him feel like he still has some control over the future, even though he really doesn't.
After all, in modern society we delegate an awful lot of stuff. Shoe making to shoe makers, security to police and military, health care to doctors, teaching to teachers, etc. etc. etc. The stuff we delegate is so close to 100% of our lives, the actual difference is lost in the noise.
On top of that, the little that most people do control is meaningless to their own lives. You do customer support at Big Widget Factory Inc. How is that relevant to you?
Probably home schooling is also an offshoot of this phenomenon.
I _think_ technology tends to offer us two things: (a) an illusion of meaning, as risks are reduced to a discrete set of numbers in excel sheets or databases, and (b) a false sense of control, because we try all sorts of actions (like the ones Schneier mentions) to reduce some of those risks.
Then of course there is the cultural angle.
> Risk tolerance is both cultural and dependent on the environment around us.
I'm from India and our willingness to tolerate or overlook risk is fairly high (I don't mean that in a good way, because most of the times we are fairly blasé about our personal/collective safety or about taking preventive actions almost to the extent of devaluing individual lives). But, for what it's worth, we are therefore more willing to tolerate violent risks like the ones Schneier mentions for longer.
Note: 2011 Schneier reference to a research study analysing risk and culture - https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2011/09/risk_toleranc...
If they had done just a targeted strike against Al Qaeda, larger in scope but similar to what they did against Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, we probably could have gotten Bin Laden years earlier and not spent more than a decade trying in the morass that is Afghanistan.
Our mistake was deciding that we needed to get rid of the Taliban and build a democratic nation from what was left after they were gone. There was never any hope of that; the Taliban just fled to the hills, to Pakistan, or just blend in with the local population because many of them are the local population. We have failed at building a nation that can take care of itself after we leave; within a year or two, the Taliban will be in power again.
The initial air strikes (unguided from the ground) were totally useless. It wasn't until they got SF/CIA on the ground working with the Northern Alliance that they could get it working.
In any case, it would never have been as simple as 'leave it to the local forces'.
This is more or less our current counterterrorism strategy in the wilds of Pakistan or Yemen. While I'm skeptical that such a strategy could have seriously damaged 2001-era AQ's ability to operate inside Afghanistan, I also don't think I'm qualified to debate its merits today. But that's not my point.
My point is that if another 9/11-scale attack occurred and the bad guys were in Yemen and the Yemeni government was not extremely helpful in bringing those responsible to heel, that "drones and spies" strategy could never be the limit of our response. It's just not politically practical, not even close. When Schneier talks about the "waste" of a war in Afghanistan, he should remember that the entire time Bush was sticking around trying to nation build, the Democrats were making political hay that Iraq was a sideshow and that we weren't spending enough attention/money/troops on Afghanistan. And indeed when a Democratic president was elected, he proceeded to spend more attention/money/troops on Afghanistan.
Once it was established that AQ was responsible for 9/11 and that the Taliban were not going to give them up on our terms, a major military incursion was politically inevitable. It's a little more dicey just how inevitable a long-term occupation was: President Gore presumably doesn't have to deal with an Afghani-Hawks-By-Convenience wing of his own party, and maybe gets out quick. But Schneier doesn't make this distinction: He seems to be imagining a world in which the war never happens at all because we properly measured its risks. I happen to think he's wrong about the risk/reward tradeoff of aggressively rolling up AQ and their support networks, but I'm sure he's being Utopian if he thinks he's in anything but a tiny minority who would be against a massive military response to another 9/11-like event.
If it were so easy, they would probably have done that anyway as an opener. But it isn't.
Acting humanely is not that hard.
In short, you have no idea what you're talking about.
Sounds like you think the IRA were freedom fighters. Did you donate?
So, what is your definition of "nearly". The cabinet were in a hotel that had the holy crap blown out of it. What injuries would be good enough for you for "nearly"? We they not hurt enough for your definition? Or was it soem sort of collateral damage?
As it happens, I despised that Thatcher Tory government with a passion and always will. Trouble is, I tend to think targeting and NEARLY killing an entire government is probably worse.
On the other hand, two of my close relatives got hit by Harrods building materials as that blew up, and I was personally 15 mins off being blown up in the Guildford pub bombing. I experienced what US funded IRA were capable of.
Incidentally, to really mess with your head, I sort of support the idea of a united Ireland. Problem is, neither mainland Uk or Ireland actually wanted Northern Ireland... Glad we got the solution of self governance. It was always my logical solution. Govern yourself, and if you still want to blow each other up, well, go for it. Or, govern.
Buy yes my friend, I know a thing or two about Northern Ireland. And I will never ever forget, especially in this US age of "Terror", that the IRA were funded by American dollars, freely given by American people, not in any way frustrated by the US government.
The article you quote says 5 were killed and 31 were injured...
Eric Blehm's "The Only Thing Worth Dying For" covers the same time from the perspective of the ODAs rather than CIA.
(The thing I still don't understand is what moron at Group decided to let the battalion leadership deploy to the field, rather than remaining behind. They caused a bunch of friendly fire incidents and generally lost the initiative CIA and the ODA/ODBs had gained. It seems like it was just a bunch of useless 1990s-military senior officers who wanted to have cool stories to tell.)
Which suggests that if you want to end the US's involvement in the Middle East, you should probably be vigorously supporting shale oil, even if you believe it may have some negative environmental impacts. If they no longer have a knife to the jugular of civilization as we know it, it's a lot easier to ignore them.
Sorry, but I happen to have lived through that year and the years following, and I know that given an America that lived up to its own hype, an invasion was easily avoidable. It's just that such an America doesn't exist. Too bad for us all.
Hook up with the Northern Alliance, bomb the hell out of their enemies, set them up, leave. They can't hold on to power? Oh well. The point has been made. The country returns to dictatorship and chaos? Well, that happened anyway.
The conventional wisdom (before 9/11) was it was "too risky" to fight back against hostage takers on an airplane. That bit of social engineering led to a huge force multiplier when trained pilots turned civivian aircraft into cruise missles.
So, the origins of 9/11 have to do with mis-understanding the real risks we face. The opposite of ignorance is education, however. Its not per-se a totalalitarian police state. Which is where we seemed to have ended up.
Its possible to use this technique to predict the next set of attacks:
1) High levels of security theater mean long entrance lines in front of (perceived) high value targets. Therefore instead of attacking the high value target the security theater is protecting, the line of people waiting to enter gets attacked. I get nervous waiting in lines knowing any terrorist who isn't an idiot has their sights on me.
2) Whats the prevailing wisdom for suspected violence in a school? Lockdown, shelter in place, sometimes for hours. Perfect target conditions for a poison gas attack and/or arson. Yeah yeah I know what I'm told, but under actual attack I would have no desire to die so rather than shelter in place I'd GTFO as soon as the cattle herders start yelling. The safest armor against a weapon is being well out of its range, not a cheap door lock.
I would predict the odds of both of the above as near 100% in the near future. Its just logical. The next step would be to identify the perpetrators as mostly Saudi citizens (yet again) and therefore invade Iran. Or Syria. Or whoever else needs an excuse right now, while the bubbas back home wave flags to support the troops.
This isn't going to happen because a bunch of people in line at an airport isn't a high-value target. I mean it would suck, of course, but 'bunch of people get blown up at an airport' isn't nearly as worrying as 'large plane falls/is steered out of the sky and into downtown.' It doesn't have much value to terrorists because it's not as scary and it won't generate vast numbers of photographs.
Yeah, it seems obvious, but it's wrong. Because killing people is not the whole goal on terrorism. Making people panic is. We have lots of mass shooting incidents in the US, but there's relatively little political will to change the gun culture here because people are rarely (ie never) confronted with pictures of the aftermath. Similarly, if a line of people at an airport were killed, all the public would see would be ambulances and body bags. They would feel sorry for you but would not actually care that much on an emotional level. What made the 9-11 attack so clever, and devastating, was that the attacks were staggered in time so that you had people flying planes into some of the world's most famous buildings on live television. The last time anyone saw large amounts of stuff getting blown up for real on TV was during the first Gulf War.
Yeah yeah I know what I'm told, but under actual attack I would have no desire to die so rather than shelter in place I'd GTFO as soon as the cattle herders start yelling.
We have enough school shootings that we have some data on this. If you are running around trying to escape then a) you're an easily noticeable target and b) you're probably going to be in the way of law enforcement firing back at the shooter. I don't find your approach any more sensible than suggestions that everyone should be armed and that the possibility of a gun battle will be a sufficient deterrent. Given the number of people who engage in shootouts with the police, this is plainly not the case. Looking to sneak out makes sense, departing in a disordered GTFO fashion is just panic.
The entire point of the article is that that sort of a analysis is ongoing, is that when you try to deal with an opponent you are dealing with something actively exploring a solution space.
That's what makes the security theater so annoying--it's clear that there are a dozen ways to stage a successful attack were one so inclined, none of which would be stopped or even slowed by our current (or any forseeable) measure.
I think people need to realize that the number of Bad People in the world is really small, and that they shouldn't give up freedoms in hopes of somehow decreasing their exposure. Large state and private groups are much more harmful, especially because they turn Not Bad People into Annoyingly Inconvenient And Impersonally Malicious People.
Yes, but not a very large-scale one. You might like to consider that stuff like the NSA is also part of the security theater; the ambiguity over just what it is listening to, combined with the perception that it has a universal reach, primarily benefits the US in that it keeps antagonists awake at night worrying about the security of their own networks.
I think people need to realize that the number of Bad People in the world is really small, and that they shouldn't give up freedoms in hopes of somehow decreasing their exposure.
True, but it's also unrealistic to be indifferent to an obvious danger. I neither want nor intend to use the fire extinguisher in the corner of my kitchen, but I don't consider its purchase to be a waste of money.
Large state and private groups are much more harmful, especially because they turn Not Bad People into Annoyingly Inconvenient And Impersonally Malicious People.
I don't really agree with this - it's a retread of Rousseau's 'noble savage' theory. Of course, some people get radicalized is response to western actions, but some people are bigoted assholes to start with. Recall that one of Bin Laden's primary beefs was that the US had a military base on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia (by Islamic standards), and this was just intolerable. Disapproving of US military installations on your non-US soil is entirely reasonable, blowing people up over it is not. Although the US had hand tangles with AQ before 9-11 (eg the USS Cole bombing, among others), the western response had been quite restrained, indeed proportionate. I don't think it's the inherent fault of the west that AQ is built upon an a reactionary and quite absolutist religious viewpoint (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qutbism).
Now, I do think that when you consider Islam is ~1400 years old and look at where Christianity was at a similar stage in its history, it might well be that schisms, reformation, and sectarian violence are just stages that you would expect Islamic society to go through; but that doesn't impose any obligation on us to accept the role of punching bag.
I don't share your belief that scale is the problem, and if we just keep everything local and avoid the formation of large states or corporations we'd have peace.
Tell that to the 35 people who died in a bomb-blast at Russia's biggest airport.
It was Russia, not the US. If you aren't russian you are unlikely to have any idea how it went over.
But more generally, "small" terrorist attacks happen way more frequently than the big ones, I expect that is because they are easier to pull off. White power types kill a handful of people each year in the US but you don't hear about them if you aren't tuned in because (a) they aren't brown (b) they are small events.
Terrorism now is focused more on systems disruption. Buy a $300 bomb, go to any one of bazillions of miles of pipeline, blow it up, cost the USG/Shell Corporation millions. Buy a cheaper bomb, go to any power substation, blow it up, cost the economy however much it loses and as a bonus, cost the government a bit of legitimacy as its denied the opportunity to provide services to its citizens.
If you truly are that confident, I'll put some money on the table at good odds (for me, since you're almost certain of winning). But if you're not truly 100% confident and can still be convinced, I recommend reading Brave New War, by John Robb. It's a fantastic overview of the tactics, strategies, and organization of modern (post Iraq occupation) terrorists. It comes very highly reviewed from higher-ups in the MEND insurgency.
When "experts" talk about "risk", it's never "things are pretty good and getting better". (I.e., it's never the truth.) They always want us to fear more, and as a result pay more. It's not different now.
It's tempting to see 9/11 as some sort of watershed, especially if it had a personal impact. In fact, it was just a bit more of the same. What the "experts" are telling us now, is also that.
==What about the risk of <operating from the wrong premise>?
Agree and I wish we would have done exactly that instead of conquering Iraq.
1) is rarely addressed in education (nowhere in sciences nor humanitites)
2) is an extremely "scary" word
3) is difficult to visualize.
Is the solution more education? I think so, but in a different light: people need to accept that bad things happen, and that you can model the probabilities and work out for yourself what tradeoffs you're making. Rarely is it all good and bad, and by estimating the expected value, you get the opportunity to say "no, this costs too much" in response to all-out "safety" measures.
One of the main things that parents fail to realize is that most of the child abusers are actually not pedos in the park with slr cameras. "about 60% of perpetrators are non-relative acquaintances, such as a friend of the family, babysitter, or neighbor. About 30% of those who sexually abuse children are relatives of the child, such as fathers, uncles, or cousins. Strangers are perpetrators in only about 10% of child sexual abuse cases." -VA.gov http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/pages/child_sexual_abuse...
My guess why society at large has actively been ignoring the reality of child is abuse is that we as humans and families obviously want to be able to "do something" to protect their children. Saying that non-relative acquaintances are the most likely to be abusers is not going to go over well, but hell I could be wrong.
Kids today have no idea what a reasonable risk is because most of them have not be allowed to make any life choices (or for that matter, any choices at all), so when they hit adulthood, they have no real idea whats a reasonable risk or not. I think we will see this effect odd parts of our society more and more as time goes on.
I think that a good middle-ground is what happens with judges in most of EU. In most systems you cannot directly sue a single judge for some misconduct that happened during a process. What you have to do is to sue "the state". Another judge will then judge the matter but then it is you vs the state, not against a single person; it is the state that takes care of all the legal things and legal costs. This gives the judges the freedom they need to be severe but just. Without this protection they will always be afraid of being sued by the losing party, especially when the losing party is a big, rich corporation.
Obviously, to counterbalance this exceptionally high degree of defence enjoyed by the judges, the state usually punish the judge with a fine or a suspension. But the intermediation of the state is able to rebalance the risks: if you do something wrong you risk a big fine, but you will not be dragged personally in a 10-year process that will destroy your career and your finances.
No, we need to stop making a small group of people, namely, the government, responsible for very large failures, by making them responsible for things that have a very large scope. Instead, a much larger group of people--i.e., everyone--need to each be responsible for a much smaller scope, so that no one person, or small group of people, has to bear by themselves the consequences of a large failure.
Compared to early sailors, mountaineers, and polar explorers we seem to have lost the tolerance for dangerous exploration. Otherwise we should have by now sent a person on a (potentially) one-way trip to Mars.
I got half way through the article until I re-read the title...