Sunday, January 03, 2010

"The battle will go on for the rest of our lives" 1

Christopher Hitchens in Slate:

What nobody in authority thinks us grown-up enough to be told is this: We had better get used to being the civilians who are under a relentless and planned assault from the pledged supporters of a wicked theocratic ideology. These people will kill themselves to attack hotels, weddings, buses, subways, cinemas, and trains. They consider Jews, Christians, Hindus, women, homosexuals, and dissident Muslims (to give only the main instances) to be divinely mandated slaughter victims. 

Our civil aviation is only the most psychologically frightening symbol of a plethora of potential targets. The future murderers will generally not be from refugee camps or slums (though they are being indoctrinated every day in our prisons); they will frequently be from educated backgrounds, and they will often not be from overseas at all. They are already in our suburbs and even in our military. We can expect to take casualties. The battle will go on for the rest of our lives. 

Those who plan our destruction know what they want, and they are prepared to kill and die for it. Those who don't get the point prefer to whine about "endless war," accidentally speaking the truth about something of which the attempted Christmas bombing over Michigan was only a foretaste. While we fumble with bureaucracy and euphemism, they are flying high...

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At 12:35 AM, Blogger John G. Spragge said...

A bit of essential context: traffic crashes have killed about five times as many Americans, each year, than the total (American) casualties in the Salafist Jihad. Salafists pose a real danger to fellow Muslims, but not to most Americans.

All fatal motor vehicle accidents arise from an accident chain, and in at least 50% of crashes, at least one of the links in the chain includes some sort of culpable negligence, whether a decision to operate a vehicle impaired by drugs, lack of sleep, or alcohol, or to operate a badly maintained vehicle, or else a decision to give in to sudden "road rage". If bad drivers formed themselves into terrorist cells, they could take "credit" for the deaths of more Americans than al Qeada, the Communist Parties of the USSR, China, and Vietnam, the Japanese government of Hideki Tojo, and the National Socialist German Worker's Party put together.

That doesn't mean I oppose cars per se. It means I oppose our society's perverse tolerance for dangerously bad driving. Operating a vehicle with the power of a car involves an awesome responsibility, and the accident rate we tolerate shows an equally awesome lack of responsibility.

We need most of the restrictions on drivers you complain about, including bicycle lanes, only because of the bad driving habits of a minority of us. If you don't want bike lanes, then get drivers who won't or can't share the road out from behind the wheel. Make the penalties for homicide with a car similar to the penalties for homicide with an Uzi. Revoke the licenses of drivers who kill and drivers who indulge road rage, permanently.

At 8:42 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The context for Islamist terrorism is motor vehicle accidents and the bicycle movement? If we didn't have your previous comments to go on, John, I might think you were putting us on. True, the Islamic crackpots kill more Muslims than Americans, but that's only because they have a hard time reaching us, which means that bombing airliners is one way to kill Americans, all of which has nothing to do with traffic casualties in the US.

At 11:46 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

There isn't much difference between the Detroit bomber and Seung-Hui Cho except that Cho - the non-muslim - succeeeded in killing 32 people at Virginia Tech. Even with the backing and funding of Al-Qaeda, the plane bombing failed while Klebold and Harris succeeded at Columbine. The failure in Detroit was not a result of the untold billions (including lost productivity spend in TSA lines) spent trying to stop him, he was just incompetent. If the bomber had succeeded in getting a girlfriend, we'd probably have never heard about him.

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The difference is that the Moslem nuts kill as a matter of religious principle, while Cho, Klebold, and Harris were just nuts with guns. What's your point? That we shouldn't try to stop Moslem fanatics from blowing up airliners? If you have nothing to say, why say anything at all?

At 4:40 AM, Blogger John G. Spragge said...

When Christopher Hitchens describes the series of uncoordinated and mostly botched assaults on the Americans as an "assault" and a "battle", in which you can "expect to take casualties", it makes sense to put the number these casualties in context. 9/11 horrified and enraged a lot of people, including me, but if you count the deaths on that day as culpable homicides, then seven of the ten years leading to 9/11 had higher homicide rates than the year 2001.

If we want to wring your hands about terrorism while ignoring much more significant causes of premature deaths, causes you do virtually nothing about, then you have that right. You may, for all I know, even have it correct. But it makes sense to at least understand the facts of the matter. And in fact, bad, homicidally negligent driving kills about five times as many Americans as terrorism.

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Mostly botched"? All it takes is one successful attack to kill hundreds of people. Comparing negligent driving casualties to those inflicted deliberately by Islamic terrorists is ridiculous. No one defends reckless driving, but all Hitchens is saying is that these fanatics are going to be successful occasionally, which should be acknowledged by the government. But it's all about bikes versus cars (aka "death machines") with a zealot like you.

At 11:52 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"All it takes is one successful attack to kill hundreds of people."

The swine flu killed 10,000. The amount of money spent on the TSA and the Afghan War (I don't want to discuss Iraq, that's a rathole for this discussion) would have been able to get vaccines to every American who wanted it, for free, in days, and saved more than "hundreds of lives"

The return on investment doesn't add up numerically. There are plenty of other places we could spend money that would save more lives than dealing with terrorists - Food Safety, Police to patrol the punks with guns, etc...

This of course neglects the psychological benefit gained from reassuring people that flying is safe from terrorists - even when it actually isn't, as proved by our friend in Detroit.

At 12:24 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Your point is obscure. Obviously the government has to try to prevent deaths from both swine flu and terrorist attacks. If you calculate the odds, flying is relatively safe. That no means of transportation will ever be completely safe doesn't mean we should stop trying to make them safe. Should we stop trying to prevent terrorist attacks? Of course not. The reality is that progs like you seem to think that terrorism would just go away if we were nicer to the terrorists and, of course, allow them to destroy Israel.

At 1:07 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

My point is that in a time of scarcity, resources should be used where the value returned is the best. We are spending a lot of money and accomplishing very little. Should we stop trying to make it safe? What if the money to do so means class sizes of 70? No "Care (not cash)" for homeless people. Reducing the bike staff in SF to 10 from 11? The horror!

At 3:02 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

If we stopped trying to prevent terrorism on, for example, the airlines, it would destroy that industry, not to mention the death and destruction that would result. There's no indication that we can't afford to do that and other things.

At 3:41 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"If we stopped trying to prevent terrorism on, for example, the airlines, it would destroy that industry, not to mention the death and destruction that would result."

I didn't say we should stop trying, I said (or at least implied) we should spend our money appropriately. For example, we could immediately drop the "Shoes off, through the X-ray" and speed up security lines with no loss of security - X-rays would not spot explosives. Stop the pat downs of grandma, and actually use the TSA lists as primary screenings. Reduce security at secondary and tertiary airports in towns Al-Qaeda couldn't find with a map.

Your assertion of the destruction of the industry - I'd love to see a source other than the typical "Rob Anderson's Ass". I'll assert that by reducing the screening, security lines would be sped up substantially and this would make flying MORE attractive, not less. That would do the OPPOSITE of destroying the industry.

As for the indication that we can't spend what we do on TSA and afford other things - this is further proof that like any good troll you live in a dark hole shut off from the world. The good news? More MUNI lines will be cut due to budget deficits and thus no longer subject to delays from the new bike lanes.


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