The Politics of Security in a Democracy

Terrorism causes fear, and we overreact to that fear. Our brains aren't very good at probability and risk analysis. We tend to exaggerate spectacular, strange and rare events, and downplay ordinary, familiar and common ones. We think rare risks are more common than they are, and we fear them more than probability indicates we should.

Our leaders are just as prone to this overreaction as we are. But aside from basic psychology, there are other reasons that it's smart politics to exaggerate terrorist threats, and security threats in general.

The first is that we respond to a strong leader. Bill Clinton famously said: "When people feel uncertain, they'd rather have somebody that's strong and wrong than somebody who's weak and right." He's right.

The second is that doing something -- anything -- is good politics. A politician wants to be seen as taking charge, demanding answers, fixing things. It just doesn't look as good to sit back and claim that there's nothing to do. The logic is along the lines of: "Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, we must do it."

The third is that the "fear preacher" wins, regardless of the outcome. Imagine two politicians today. One of them preaches fear and draconian security measures. The other is someone like me, who tells people that terrorism is a negligible risk, that risk is part of life, and that while some security is necessary, we should mostly just refuse to be terrorized and get on with our lives.

Fast-forward 10 years. If I'm right and there have been no more terrorist attacks, the fear preacher takes credit for keeping us safe. But if a terrorist attack has occurred, my government career is over. Even if the incidence of terrorism is as ridiculously low as it is today, there's no benefit for a politician to take my side of that gamble.

The fourth and final reason is money. Every new security technology, from surveillance cameras to high-tech fusion centers to airport full-body scanners, has a for-profit corporation lobbying for its purchase and use. Given the three other reasons above, it's easy -- and probably profitable -- for a politician to make them happy and say yes.

For any given politician, the implications of these four reasons are straightforward. Overestimating the threat is better than underestimating it. Doing something about the threat is better than doing nothing. Doing something that is explicitly reactive is better than being proactive. (If you're proactive and you're wrong, you've wasted money. If you're proactive and you're right but no longer in power, whoever is in power is going to get the credit for what you did.) Visible is better than invisible. Creating something new is better than fixing something old.

Those last two maxims are why it's better for a politician to fund a terrorist fusion center than to pay for more Arabic translators for the National Security Agency. No one's going to see the additional appropriation in the NSA's secret budget. On the other hand, a high-tech computerized fusion center is going to make front page news, even if it doesn't actually do anything useful.

This leads to another phenomenon about security and government. Once a security system is in place, it can be very hard to dislodge it. Imagine a politician who objects to some aspect of airport security: the liquid ban, the shoe removal, something. If he pushes to relax security, he gets the blame if something bad happens as a result. No one wants to roll back a police power and have the lack of that power cause a well-publicized death, even if it's a one-in-a-billion fluke.

We're seeing this force at work in the bloated terrorist no-fly and watch lists; agents have lots of incentive to put someone on the list, but absolutely no incentive to take anyone off. We're also seeing this in the Transportation Security Administration's attempt to reverse the ban on small blades on airplanes. Twice it tried to make the change, and twice fearful politicians prevented it from going through with it.

Lots of unneeded and ineffective security measures are perpetrated by a government bureaucracy that is primarily concerned about the security of its members' careers. They know the voters are more likely to punish them more if they fail to secure against a repetition of the last attack, and less if they fail to anticipate the next one.

What can we do? Well, the first step toward solving a problem is recognizing that you have one. These are not iron-clad rules; they're tendencies. If we can keep these tendencies and their causes in mind, we're more likely to end up with sensible security measures that are commensurate with the threat, instead of a lot of security theater and draconian police powers that are not.

Our leaders' job is to resist these tendencies. Our job is to support politicians who do resist.

This essay originally appeared on CNN.com.


EDITED TO ADD (6/4): This essay has been translated into Swedish.

EDITED TO ADD (6/14): A similar essay, on the politics of terrorism defense.

Posted on May 28, 2013 at 5:09 AM • 39 Comments

Comments

ba ba booeyMay 28, 2013 6:14 AM

I see a combination of Dr. Peter Sandman (Risk = Hazard + Outrage) and Ron Paul in that essay and love it. Unfortunately the masses don't seem to accept this response.

KevinMay 28, 2013 6:40 AM

The media is as responsible as any other group for our fear level. It's been a gold mine for them.

You'd think true journalists would CONSTANTLY point out that the odds of dying from terrorism is lower than being hit by lightening or dying from a slip in the tub, yet we spend trillions on it.

That money would have been better spent on cancer or renewable fuels research.

SomeoneMay 28, 2013 6:40 AM

I'd imagine it also matters that many people who witness or hear of these high profile deaths are those who live in low-crime areas. To them, this crime is likely all that they see as far as violent criminal action goes.

If every U.S. citizen saw every crime that went on in the U.S., then perhaps it would be easier for our brains to not sensationalize the freakishly rare.

Kevin May 28, 2013 6:43 AM

our perceptions of danger is way too important for a for-profit industry to control.

Snarki, child of LokiMay 28, 2013 6:47 AM

What to do?

A high-profile exposure of an Al Qaida conspiracy among politicians, TSA/HSA bureaucrats and profiteering businessmen to terrorize America!

As Bruce points out, it doesn't *have* to be true. But it *could* be.

GweihirMay 28, 2013 7:20 AM

Neatly summarized. The depiction of politics bringing those to the top that that will do whatever voters want, not those with real skill or ethics is accurate. That the voters do not understand the mechanism at work is accurate as well.

I don't think this problem can be solved though, as long as the population does not wise up to this game. My prediction is that eventually enough people will grow tired of the immoral fear-mongering perpetrated by the "leaders" and starts to see what they really are. But that can take a few additional decades of applied stupidity.

JanosMay 28, 2013 7:35 AM

The mention of fusion centers vs. Arabic translators has another aspect: pork barrel projects in the politician's district.

The Arabic translators won't bring funding and jobs in the politico's district, but a local fusion center will. The translators won't be voting for the politician but the people working and serving the fusion center will and some of them will contribute campaign funds.

dkolearyMay 28, 2013 8:09 AM

I have to wonder if it really is the US masses that are afraid of terrorism. Granted, its completely subjective, but the people i talk to - and it's a fair number - are more irritated with the government and media overreaction. Could the problem be an inadvertent interaction between the media (if it bleeds, it leads) and the mentaility depicted in this article on the part of the gov't?

Very nice article. Thanks.

anonymousMay 28, 2013 9:14 AM

As an activist in the gun-owner rights movement, I see this all the time. Even though mass-shootings like Sandy Hook are rare, and the measures they propose won't stop them, politicians have to do something. Since this is an issue that affects me personally, in an immediate and concrete way, watching the dynamic you describe play out over the past 1/2 year has been an incredibly frustrating experience. We've obviously learned nothing about fear, over-reacting, and perception of risks since 2001.


On another note:

The fourth and final reason is money. Every new security technology, from surveillance cameras to high-tech fusion centers to airport full-body scanners, has a for-profit corporation lobbying for its purchase and use. Given the three other reasons above, it's easy -- and probably profitable -- for a politician to make them happy and say yes.

There's a fifth reason for politicians and other secureaucrats to "to exaggerate terrorist threats" and implement security-theater measures that is obvious to anyone who has ever seen The Lives Of Others.

MISSING THE PING: So Much For The Surveillance State. “The standard investigation clichés apply: It’s still early; there are many unanswered questions; it’s unwise to rush to judgment. But the emerging picture is one of systemic failure, human error, and willful ignorance of the threats facing the country.”

The surveillance state is part of the state. Where surveillance is a priority — say, when political enemies are concerned — it’ll be ruthlessly efficient. The rest of the time, like when it involves protecting Americans from terrorists, it’s just another government job.

- Instapundit.com on April 27, 2013 at 11:02 pm
(emphasis added)

mooMay 28, 2013 9:38 AM

Great essay. Everything in this essay should be blindingly obvious to a thinking person (especially anyone who has read some of Bruce's other writings). But most people don't ever think about it.

vas pupMay 28, 2013 9:41 AM

State of fear increases suggestabilty and decreases ability of logical thinking, and as result, is making person the object of manipulations very easy. It simply substitute autonomos reasonable behavior by following the crowd by imitation (which is rooted to following the leader-mainpulator). That is good follow the crowd when there is real danger, but countoproductive otherwise. Just opinion.

qkaMay 28, 2013 9:58 AM

The goal of terrorists is to disrupt our way of life.

Politicians react to terrorists by disrupting our way of life.

Those politicians are in league with the very terrorists they denounce.

misuMay 28, 2013 10:58 AM

Well written.

The CYA (cover your ass) approach works all the way from the bottom to the politicians: just as a front-line screener is better of writing up anything out of the ordinary (the effort of extra paperwork is a small price to pay against potentially losing their job if that one thing happened to be part of a real plot), so the politician serves their re-election prospects by engaging in Bruce's four points.

The primary motivation of CYA is fear: fear of losing your job or office. Only a person very secure in their position can afford to do the right thing.

But a widespread CYA attitude is anathema to those technically in public service: where the interests of the public should be placed ahead of the office-holders' own.

Meanwhile, the election structure (especially in a two-party incarnation) promotes uncertainty. The two parties will always hover close to an even share of the public (or else shift position or be replaced by a party that does).

As for the media, a culture of uncertainty or fear is the most effective way to shift their product: if things are fine today, and tomorrow, then you quickly lose the urge to find out "what's happening" on a daily basis.

David MossMay 28, 2013 11:02 AM

A propos, 4 days left to listen to http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01slm1l

It's Machiavelli's 18th appeal against his sentence to eternal damnation and explains amusingly enough along Clinton lines as above why the appeal has to be dismissed. You get Richard M. Nixon thrown in for free, not one but two Borgias and Plato. If you can find 60 minutes to listen.

Clive RobinsonMay 28, 2013 11:28 AM

Over in the England we have just had our first actual "faux Islam" terrorist incident since the BBQ gas canister attack on the airport departure side some years ago.

We have had a number of intel led arrests and prosecutions and one or two prosecutions that were absolutly rediculous (terrorist poet for instance). We also have a couple of days ago a flight diverted and two men detained and charged for "endangering an aircraft" for what appears to have been talking to --possibly even joking with-- each other (the authorities have clamped down on any further information so far, so we don't know).

The actual terrorist attack was against an "off duty" soldier "Drummer" Lee Rigby who was walking near Woolwich Barracks in East London wearing a "Help For Heros" shirt. He was run down by two men in a car who then got out and butchered him with kitchen knives etc in a failed attempt to cut off his head. They then draged his body into the middle of the road and stood around being photographed and spouting a diatribe of anti western nonsense untill the police armed response unit arived. The two men then charged at the police waving the knives and what one witness described as a gun. They were warned, failed to respond and the armed officers shot at them a number of times aiming downwards towards their legs. Both men were hit and were taken to hospital, where they are under armed guard but apparently not yet questioned. Since then atleast ten other people have been arrested and questioned some have been released.

It appear the two men are "home grown nuttters in it for the glory" driving around for a target of opportunity rather than trained terrorists on a planed and financed attack.

Now in no way wishing to diminish the death of Lee Rigby his death has been the first faux Islam terrorist death in England for some years. In the UK the population is approaching 70million and the average age of death around 70 so we have between 2.5 and 3 thousand people dying each day.

Because of this one death we have the UK Home Sec desperatly trying to revive a piece of very intrusive and ill founded surveillance legislation that many UK politicians and some Ministers have come out strongly against only a few weeks befor this attack.

It would be extreamly sad if Lee Rigby's death was used by a frankly usless politician in her attempts to get legislation that has been previously very publicly rejected onto the statute books.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsMay 28, 2013 12:45 PM

Two thoughts; this is not the land of the free or home of the brave, and they citizenry itself is the causal root of the problem. We do not have an informed citizenry. If you do the math, the Jefferson postulate--a informed citizenry is necessary for a free and democratic peoples (I'm paraphrasing). So, I give the U.S. citizenry a FAIL.

But, the intelligensia has participated in this exercise, and just as Bruce mentioned, out of fear and greed. There are not enough smart people talking down the ignorant. Thanks

acmMay 28, 2013 1:42 PM

Wow, well said and terrifying. Our voices in favor of sanity are so small and non-incentivized, it's hard not to see this as a forecast of the inevitable march toward a police state. Do you think it's already too late, or is there some line that the progression can cross that would ignite public push-back sufficiently to call a halt?

JoeMay 28, 2013 2:07 PM

In the wake of Sandy Hook, our school superintendent raced to install a new security system at the school. At best it is security theater; at worst its a financial hardship on an already constrained school budget. Policies to stop rash spending (it was supposed to be approved by the school board first) were actively ignored to fulfill what was perceived as an immediate need. A cost estimate of tens of thousands quickly escalated to almost three hundred thousand.
My children are no safer against a determined attacker than they were 6 months ago, a good superintendent nearly lost his job (and may be should have), and a security company is a bit richer.

DanielMay 28, 2013 4:06 PM

Well said. Perhaps the best op-ed written by you Bruce. It sums up everything that many people have been saying in bits and pieces for years.

The one thing I will add is that I am pessimistic. Things will not get better until two things happen (1) The security state gets out of control and (2) it fails. An object in motion tends to stay in motion and the momentum behind the security state is huge. It is going to take something big and powerful to knock it off its course.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsMay 28, 2013 6:31 PM

I may sound like a broken record here, but the issues are just too important not to leave under addressed. The book cited is the original work that formed the thinking for the neo-conservative thesis on U.S. power and also project 2020. The excerpt is an example of how and what militarism of internet technologies is not just a conspiracy theory.

This is a quote taken from the book Shock and Awe Achieving Rapid Dominance 1996 by Harlan K. Ullman, James P. Wade

"The requirement for Rapid Dominance to develop sophisticated capabilities to penetrate the Information Highway and create road blocks as well as control inputs/outputs to the highway both overtly and covertly is fundamental to the concept."

Dirk PraetMay 28, 2013 8:06 PM

I don't think I have read any oped anywhere that summarises the problem so eloquently and so concise. Permit me to say that I stand in awe.

On one hand, I see way too few independent politicians with a long-term vision that does not necessarily include themselves and their spawn remaining in office till Kingdom come. Just as in ancient Rome, public office is being bought with the support of corporate dollars. You don't get elected without having millions to do the work for you, and you don't get that sort of money unless you broker deals with entities and interest groups that will supply you therewith. Telling and/or enacting unpopular stuff will not get you there, especially when mass media side against you.

Which brings us to the second problem: a varied and independent press informing the general public in an objective way is a fundamental prerequisite for any democracy to function. One can ask himself the question to which extent in the US and many other countries this is still the case. The Murdoch empire with its own conservative agenda in my opinion is an aberration that has no place in a democratic society. Another example is Italy, with much of the media being owned by Silvio Berlusconi and his strawmen.

For the average citizen who has other and more pressing concerns on his mind than politics, it becomes quite difficult, not to say impossible to get an impartial opinion if what you see on TV, read in the papers and get fed by other mass media mostly originates from the same sources. And in the US even with little or no regulation in place as to the veracity of what is being told. The comparison between NewsCorp-Fox and Pravda-Izvestia in the former Soviet Union comes to mind.

Personally, I believe that the way in which politicians and political parties are being funded is one of the underlying causes of the current state of the political game. Ties between politics, corporations and special interest groups have become way too tight. And this is being amplified by the control over the majority of mass media residing in the hands of a small group of non-elected people exerting a disproportional influence on said game. To make things worse, current POTUS and administration are rapidly establishing an unprecedented track record in their "war on whistleblowers", and as usual under the "national security" argumentation.

@ anonymous

Even though mass-shootings like Sandy Hook are rare, and the measures they propose won't stop them, politicians have to do something.

I think the comparison with mass shootings and gun control is rather ill-chosen. Perhaps there are a number of similarities, but the bottomline is quite different. Mass shootings are just one aspect of the death-by-gun issue. Allow me to quote from the most recent CDC figures. In 2011, at least 31,940 people died from gun injuries in the US, of which

- 851 by accidental discharge
- 19,766 by suicide
- 11,101 by homicide
- 222 by undetermined intent

Add to that another 258 people killed during legal intervention, most of them by guns.

That's an entirely different number than those killed by terrorism. If politicians were to pursue this phenomenon with the same vigour and overreach as terrorism, surely by now no private citizen would have had a gun left. I also wish gun proponents would stop quoting all the wrong reasons for their stance, and just admit that this is the price they are willing to pay for the right to keep, bear and - not unimportantly - sell arms. It would take the debate to an entirely different level.

GweihirMay 28, 2013 10:12 PM

@Dirk Praet: Thats the beauty of it: So few people are interested in doing terrorism that they do not have any political clout. At the same time, almost nobody is affected, so there are no realistic stories about it. Hence creating huge fantasies of danger is very easy and you piss off nobody that would have their business model threatened, as long as you are careful not to include any gun violence in "terrorism".

On the other side, do something about gun violence, and you poke a hornet's nest: Not only are a lot of people earning a lot of money and are committing gun violence themselves or planning to for certain situations, you also have all the real victims that would come out and tell how horrible that thing is and would decry any ineffective measures. Better to let those dogs sleep.

With terrorism, on the other hand, nothing is effective against it, but that is not obvious and there are basically no victims that could point this out effectively, so fantasies can be shaped just as those in power desire and can then be used for a long, long time because terrorism is so rare. It may take creating a few "terrorists" now and then to keep the created fantasies alive, but the FBI has by now significant experience doing this and can be relied upon to supply.


WaelMay 29, 2013 1:23 AM

@Clive Robinson,

Two questions:

Over in the England we have just had our first actual "faux Islam"

Were they pretending to be Muslims?

In the UK the population is approaching 70million and the average age of death around 70 so we have between 2.5 and 3 thousand people dying each day.

How did you get 2.5k to 3k deaths/day out of 70 million population and an average age of 70. I am interested to know - what's the equation you used? Or are these two "loosely" dependent stats?

Clive RobinsonMay 29, 2013 2:57 AM

@ Wael,

Hmm your time of posting sugests you are some distance from your usual location (assuming of course you work/sleep normal hours ;-)

To answer your two questions,

Firstly I say "faux Islam" because it's fairly clear that the criminals actions which they claim in the name of Islam does not agree with most interpretations of the Qur'an (Koran) nor does it appear to agree with the feelings and wishes of most Muslims in and around the UK [1]

As to your second question with regards mortality rates in the UK the average daily death numbers are fairly well hidden behind statistics.

If you belive one set of ONS figures then the UK death rate has shown a steady decline over the past thirty to forty years due to an ageing population and better health care. However working the stats backwards as you are aware is somewhat difficult due to the way they are presented.

So as a rough rule of thumb for stable populations you can take the population size and divide by the average age at death to get the yearly figure that you then divide by 365. In the figure I worked out I slightly upped the population and reduced the supposed average life span, part of the reason for this is since Maggie Thatcher tried the poll tax the census information has been at best unreliable, further there is a considerable "hidden" imigrant population many of whom have life shortening illnesses and epigenetics (I'm told that those illegal immigrants who die here are not included in the national figures for various reasons all of which make the official figures more optomistic than they realy are).

Or you can take the equally distorted annual deaths per 100K of population found in the way the EU likes for comparison across the whole of Europe...

Which for the whole UK are given as 655men and 467women per 100K in 2010, then try and find the other ONS information to work it backwards (good luck on that ;-)

The last time I tried the figure came in at around 15% less than the rough rule of thumb.

[1] Interpretations of the Qur'an are many and varied and the definition of a Muslim is also subject to interpretation. If read that Muslims are "believers in the One God", then those of the
Christian Faith are also Muslims.

FigureitoutMay 29, 2013 3:11 AM

The Murdoch empire with its own conservative agenda
@Dirk Praet
--I honestly think our journalists & media is our [the U.S] biggest failure. Sounds and images penetrate more than text; text requires reading and imagination, which is too much work for some. I stopped watching CNN after the diarrhea scene from Dumb & Dumber popped up on their programming, as well as *BREAKING NEWS* a squirrel water-skiing; the other end of the stupid-spectrum. I don't even really like my sources of journalism now.

You know, Europeans talk about democracy; from my experiences they didn't really have many choices...

Solutions...there involve eliminating what we have and communications that can't be "monkey in the middled".

FigureitoutMay 29, 2013 3:18 AM

...*they involve. Methods of elimination and communicating in secret is an exercise in imagination; thus shouldn't be limited.

anonymousMay 29, 2013 3:32 AM

misu: "The primary motivation of CYA is fear: fear of losing your job or office. Only a person very secure in their position can afford to do the right thing."

And of course the fear that causes CYA attitude is due to the human tendency to punish mistakes and need to find scapegoats whenever something goes wrong. If we could just trust that the person making the decision to be well informed and act on his/her best judgement in every situation, we would more likely blame the circumstances, not the person, when something goes wrong. As a result, the person making the decision could more confidently do the right thing instead of CYA.

vas pupMay 29, 2013 8:39 AM

@misu:"Only a person very secure in their position can afford to do the right thing" and only person not dependent on employment at all (having substantial amout of money) can afford to say the right thing.
It was a joke in former Soviet Union:
what is the difference between freedom of speach in US and USSR? In US you are still free - have freedom (not in a prison) after your speach. I guess to be still employed after person utilized the 1st Amendment right saying something his/her employer (private or pablic) does not like (and not related to employment whatsoever, e.g. disclose of confidential information) should be part of free speach as well, otherwise you do have your 1st amendment, but
you have to be not only free (out of jail), but not fired therafter as well.

Dirk PraetMay 29, 2013 9:37 AM

OT

@ Wael, @Clive Robinson

Were they pretending to be Muslims?

At the risk of threading on very thin ice with you again, but unless you haven't been following the story I would say the background looks very clear. Both suspects are converts to Islam and seem to have gotten radicalised by Syrian born, AQ-linked hate preacher Omar Bakri Muhammad, founder of the outlawed Al Muhajiroun and godfather of other islamist groups such as Sharia4UK and Sharia4Belgium. Mr. Bakri Muhammad, banned from the UK in 2005 and now residing in Lebanon, in an interview openly praised the murder of Lee Rigby as a heroic act muslims all over the world are very proud of. One of the suspects, one Michael Adebolajo, can be seen on video footage of one of Mr. Muhammad's public appearances.

Mr. Muhammad and his extremist ilk such as Abu Hamza "Captain Hook" Al-Masri, Anjem Choudary and even local Belgian village idiot Fouad Belkacem (Abu Imran) are detrimental for the perception of Islam in Western Europe. Their radical interpretation of Islam and the undeserved media attention they are getting resonates very badly both with politicians and the general public.

The average non-muslim knows as little about the Sunni-Shia-Wahabi-Salafi divide as the average muslim knows about its Roman Catholic-Lutheran Protestant-Anglican counterpart, leading to an amplification of prejudice and exploitation thereof by the usual fear-mongering suspects. This can only be countered by moderate muslims and their spokesmen fiercely and unequivocally denouncing the hatred and violence preached by these extremist minority groups as having nothing to do with Islam.

It would appear that many muslim organisations in the UK have effectively done so in the wake of the Rigby murder. Unfortunately, I still see way too many individuals and organisations alike that prefer to remain in denial or take rather ambiguous positions on the issue, in the process shooting both themselves and their faith in the foot.

Bitter ClingerMay 29, 2013 10:39 AM

If politicians were to pursue this phenomenon with the same vigour and overreach as terrorism, surely by now no private citizen would have had a gun left. I also wish...

Why is it that all of the usual analysis and logic and critical thought regarding security-theater measures exhibited on this site is thrown out of the window for the subset of security-theater measures commonly known as "gun control" (aka "supply side crime control").?

Is it because guns and gun owners are icky?

I think the comparison with mass shootings and gun control is rather ill-chosen.

As usual, a mass shooting was the impetus for the latest wave of gun-owner control measures. Comparing the fear-peddling behind anti-terrorism measures to the fear-of-mass-shootings used to peddle the latest gun control measures is wholly appropriate for purposes of this discussion.

"OMG! If we don't Do Something ™, [ Americans | school children ] will be slaughtered by [ Muslim terrorists | NRA assault weapons ]."

Both tend to result in the introduction of measures to promote somebody's personal agenda, rather than solve a problem.

note: I've deleted the rest of this comment, because it got really long, and devolved into topics the moderator probably wants us to avoid.

onearmedspartanMay 29, 2013 11:26 AM

The same could be said about large media organizations. Since the rise of the internets, media has been on a steady decline. Their saving grace to stay in the mind's of the public has been sensationalizing (mostly bad) events. As they say: bad publicity is still publicity. Or something like that. This isn't going to end anytime soon as their efforts are working. People are shocked, amazed, and mezmerized by tragedy. And you can't blame them. Humans are attracted to 'racy' or 'juicy' stories. Sorry if I repeated myself. Bruce once again is right, the only way to stop this behavior is to denounce it. Stop buying their papers, stoping viewing their opinionated, sad excuse for journalism. Instead, follow news outlets that report the news in its entirety (and is truthful). It's not easy to find them in this day & age, but they have to be out there.

WaelMay 29, 2013 11:55 AM

@ Clive Robinson,

Hmm your time of posting sugests you are some distance from your usual location (assuming of course you work/sleep normal hours ;-)
Both statements are sometimes true. Thanks for the explanations...

@ Dirk Praet,

At the risk of threading on very thin ice with you again
No risk, so long as you "Tread". Threading is a different story... I have not been following the story and don't know the details.

Dirk PraetMay 29, 2013 6:07 PM

@ Bitter Clinger

I've deleted the rest of this comment, because it got really long, and devolved into topics the moderator probably wants us to avoid.

Gun control unfortunately over time has become a bit of a religious debate with a particularly deep rift between the two sides of the Atlantic. I think moderator wouldn't mind that either side refrains from bringing up the subject unless it is explicitly at the centre of the topic being discussed.

gena2xJune 1, 2013 10:29 PM

Guys, hi from Russia =) Main problem with terrorists on the planes on 9/11 is that they gain control over the plane and directed it to important objects. They were able to direct it to nuclear plant and even 1-to-billion chance of such accident actually must be taken into account. But solution is simple! Every USSR plane has a... just steel door between pilot room and rest of the plane. That's all.

Nate WhilkJune 28, 2013 10:01 PM

I've copied an excerpt from Bruce's essay below but changed a few words. I wonder if anybody agrees with them now.

*********************
... the "fear preacher" wins, regardless of the outcome. Imagine two politicians today. One of them preaches fear and draconian security measures. The other is someone like me, who tells people that school shootings are a negligible risk, that risk is part of life, and that while some security is necessary, we should mostly just refuse to fear school shootings and get on with our lives.

Fast-forward 10 years. If I'm right and there have been no more school shootings, the fear preacher takes credit for keeping us safe. But if a school shooting attack has occurred, my government career is over. Even if the incidence of school shootings is as ridiculously low as it is today, there's no benefit for a politician to take my side of that gamble.
**************************

And Bruce has linked to dailykos, proving that an expert outside of his field is no smarter than the average person.

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