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You can look at my home page for more information, but the short answer is that I'm a dilettante who likes thinking about a variety of subjects. I like to think of myself as a systems-level thinker, more concerned with the big picture than with the details. Current interests include politics, community formation, and social interface design. Plus books, of course.

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Thu, 21 Oct 2004

The danger to ourselves
A flame war erupted on an email list I'm on when somebody decided to endorse Bush over Kerry, because Kerry wasn't going to stand up to the terrorists. He went on to mention Kerry's comment about 9/11 attacks being a "nuisance" (which is a mis-quote but never mind), and how awful an idea it was that we could treat such an attack as a nuisance. I wrote a response and posted it, and figured I'd post it here for the 4 of you that might not be on that list.

I'm going to ask a stupid question, for which I fully expect to get flamed, because I know I haven't thought through all the implications to the level necessary for discussions on eit. But it's one I always have when people bring up 9/11 as a "nuisance" as if it's unthinkable that we could allow that.

How many people died in 9/11? 3000 or so?

How many people are murdered in a year in America? 16,000 or so (using the FBI's Uniform Crime Report). Even when you break it down and only count crimes committed against strangers (not counting family arguments and stuff), it's up in the 8,000 range. Are those lost lives less of a tragedy than 9/11? Did those victims deserve their fate?

Approximately 42 thousand are killed in car crashes each year. Yes, many of those are due to people being idiots. But those idiots take out others, just as effectively and randomly as the terrorists.

650,000 die each year from heart disease. 150,000 die from lung cancer. (statistics from Admittedly, this is a choice issue - I think the consequences of smoking and poor eating habits have been made abundantly clear, so it's up to people to run their own lives appropriately.

Are these "nuisances"? I think that each of these cases demonstrates that we as American citizens are way more of a menace to ourselves than anybody else could ever be.

I know from a personal standpoint, I feel much more in danger of losing my life from a dumb-ass California driver talking on their cell phone while their SUV drifts into my car than I do from a terrorist. Or from the possibility of getting mugged as I walk home from BART late at night past a corner where there are several assaults and a murder a year.

If we took the $140 billion or whatever we're spending in Iraq (see Cost of War), and spent some of it (say, $40 billion or so) on security for our borders and better counter-intelligence, and then the rest of it on improving the lives of our citizens, giving them a better education, etc., thus hopefully decreasing the likelihood of us killing ourselves or each other, wouldn't it be worth putting up with the "nuisance" of the possibility of some crazy people in Afghanistan maybe (given the increased security) killing as many of us as are killed in car crashes in a typical month?

So somebody tell me why I'm crazy.

posted at: 20:51 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /rants/politics | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal