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Journal: Terrorism and Politics

Journal by bagsc

If it wasn't the difference between which party was in control of the government, no one would say anything about terrorism at all. Voting on politicians based on their terrorism policies is less likely to improve you lifespan than eating another vegetable every day. Because terrorists, by and large, do not exist in the US.

Why would I make such a claim? When we weren't looking, and al-Qaeda had its own country, they attacked US soil twice in 15 years (WTC I, WTC II). Now we are looking, and they are back to caves.

I know this is Slashdot, but if you've ever been to a club, (or a theater, or a lecture hall, or anyplace with more than 100 people in a room) you'd know that there are many, many ways a terrorist, if one existed, could easily kill a hundred Americans in a day. And that would terrify Americans. Hence, they could do what they wanted to if they had someone here.

Some places, like clubs or theaters, will check your bags to make sure you have no guns/food. Yet there are hundreds of thousands of other such venues in America open and full EVERY DAY. Over five years, this means millions if not billions of opportunities for mass casualty attacks in the US. Football stadiums, high school cafeterias, malls, restaurants, offices... but nothing since the second al-Qaeda attack.

The fact is you're more likely to be shot dead by your daughter, or a nun, or during an orgy.

User Journal

Journal: Cost of Terrorism

Journal by bagsc

On September 11th, 2001, several structures were destroyed in New York City, the nation stood stunned for a few days, and 3,000 people died. Worst terrorist attack in American history. There was a recession, and we spent a hell of a lot of money on security and wars.

So what? I hate to sound fatalistic, but these sorts of things happen. I mean, it would be nice if all the money we give to intelligence agencies to prevent this sort of thing had worked, but they are government employees. Doubling security at airports meant keeping people from having matches and toenail clippers. Instead of one idiot getting paid $5.15 to just stand there, they had two idiots just standing there. And the economy had been in a recession for the last six months, we just didn't have the data yet.

But 3,000 people died - that means something, doesn't it? How many people died from heart attacks because of the news coverage? 35% more in Brooklyn for the 60 days after 9/11 - how many nationally? Heart attacks are more common than terrorist attacks in the United States. Since 2000, we're averaging 500 terorist deaths per year out of 300,000,000 people. And with 1,500,000 heart attacks in the US per year, a 1% increase in extreme stress levels would likely produce an extra 15,000 heart attacks. 500 people dying per year give you a headache? Take acetominophen. Only 56,000 Americans get hospitalized for acetominophen overdoses per year. Depressing, isn't it? 30,500 suicides in the US per year. Slightly more deadly than shoe bombers and toenail clippers.

It's called "terrorism" for a reason. You're more likely to die of fear than from the actual thing. When Saddam Hussein rained his terror weapon SCUDs at Israel in 1991, seven people died. Two heart attacks, and five suffocations in gas masks.

Let's just brush aside the deaths of civilians in Afghanistan (they had it coming). 100,000 civilians dead in colateral damage in Iraq? That's what they get for the 1% chance someone there was involved in a terrorist plot! 3,000 dead Americans there... who actually knows how many. We just know more than 2,500 are combat fatalities. 15,000 US wounded or so? That's nothing. 300,000 troops deployed, 50% of US military are married, and 50% of marriages during a combat deployment result in divorce (who knew war was stressful?), so that's a mere 75,000 broken homes.

$300 billion spent on war in Iraq (that's $1000 out of your pocket), as much as $100 billion in damages to the economy from 9-11, $50 billion a year in increased defense and security spending... But what's $600 billion between friends?

But that's all in the past now. Today, we have the ability to just take a deep breath, and let it go... The stress and fear will kill you, or worse. Contemplate the most expensive thing we have, and knowing that while we still have it, we're gonna be OK. We still have our Constitution, and our rights. That's what we need to protect, because a few hundred thousand lives ruined and lost, and a few hundred billion dollars lost will pale in comparison to that loss. The costliest, most damaging, bloodiest war we've ever fought was with ourselves...

User Journal

Journal: Cost of Terrorism

Journal by bagsc

On September 11th, 2001, several structures were destroyed in New York City, the nation stood stunned for a few days, and 3,000 people died. Worst terrorist attack in American history. There was a recession, and we spent a hell of a lot of money on security and wars.

So what? I hate to sound fatalistic, but these sorts of things happen. I mean, it would be nice if all the money we give to intelligence agencies to prevent this sort of thing had worked, but they are government employees. Doubling security at airports meant keeping people from having matches and toenail clippers. Instead of one idiot getting paid $5.15 to just stand there, they had two idiots just standing there. And the economy had been in a recession for the last six months, we just didn't have the data yet.

But 3,000 people died - that means something, doesn't it? How many people died from heart attacks because of the news coverage? 35% more in Brooklyn for the 60 days after 9/11 - how many nationally? Heart attacks are more common than terrorist attacks in the United States. Since 2000, we're averaging 500 terorist deaths per year out of 300,000,000 people. And with 1,500,000 heart attacks in the US per year, a 1% increase in extreme stress levels would likely produce an extra 15,000 heart attacks. 500 people dying per year give you a headache? Take acetominophen. Only 56,000 Americans get hospitalized for acetominophen overdoses per year. Depressing, isn't it? 30,500 suicides in the US per year. Slightly more deadly than shoe bombers and toenail clippers.

It's called "terrorism" for a reason. You're more likely to die of fear than from the actual thing. When Saddam Hussein rained his terror weapon SCUDs at Israel in 1991, seven people died. Two heart attacks, and five suffocations in gas masks.

Let's just brush aside the deaths of civilians in Afghanistan (they had it coming). 100,000 civilians dead in colateral damage in Iraq? That's what they get for the 1% chance someone there was involved in a terrorist plot! 3,000 dead Americans there... who actually knows how many. We just know more than 2,500 are combat fatalities. 15,000 US wounded or so? That's nothing. 300,000 troops deployed, 50% of US military are married, and 50% of marriages during a combat deployment result in divorce (who knew war was stressful?), so that's a mere 75,000 broken homes.

$300 billion spent on war in Iraq (that's $1000 out of your pocket), as much as $100 billion in damages to the economy from 9-11, $50 billion a year in increased defense and security spending... But what's $600 billion between friends?

But that's all in the past now. Today, we have the ability to just take a deep breath, and let it go... The stress and fear will kill you, or worse. Contemplate the most expensive thing we have, and knowing that while we still have it, we're gonna be OK. We still have our Constitution, and our rights. That's what we need to protect, because a few hundred thousand lives ruined and lost, and a few hundred billion dollars lost will pale in comparison to that loss. The most damaging, bloodiest war we've ever fought was with ourselves...

User Journal

Journal: Debt and Religion

Journal by bagsc

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"

It's funny that you can spend years of you life studying something and always find a new angle on it. Especially when that new angle is several thousand years old. I've spent a lot of time thinking today about debt, a fundamental building block of finance, and religion.

Debt really isn't that complicated. Someone gives you something, and you oblige yourself on your honor (or some other social contract) to give them something back. If I give a relative some money when they're on hard times, and they're obliged to return it, is that moral? Why didn't I just give it to them with no obligation - that would be charity, and that would be moral. Is it less moral to let them suffer without that money? What if trying to repay that debt causes them even more suffering?

This isn't exactly groundbreaking philosophizing. Consider Matthew 6:9-15. I'm certain the phrase "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" will ring a bell. But why, of all the sins of flesh and soul should the Lord's Prayer choose only indebtedness to be spoken of? Isn't that a little weird?

I'm no Bible student, but it seems to be that its a perfect simplification of all social convenants. If I dishonor/shame/insult/hurt the society, I'd prefer that my mistake/misjudgement/stupidity be forgotten. The entire concept of a contract, a covenant probably originated in debt, as it's such a basic economic principle.

Validating this, consider the Arabic word for 'religion' - 'deen.' In Arabic, words are very important and enlightening in their relationships. 'Deen' is from the root word 'dayn' - meaning debt. Note the important fact from this relationship: Religion in Arabic is a outgrowth of the more fundamental concept of debt. Some Arabic philosophers describe the relationship as man's debt to God and doing good deeds to eventually repay the debt which will be accounted for when he dies. Yet I think in a more simplistic view, we can view worldviews as a framework for how your actions impact society positively or negatively, and how you should be rewarded or punished for it, and come to religion from there.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam forbid usuary, but some groups don't necessarily forbid interest. Islam allows no debts whatsoever in most interpretations, but usury today in most Christian-valued countries merely means excessive interest. In a related note, most credit card and "personal loan" companies in the US charges exactly the legal limit for many sub-prime borrowers. And many "pay-day loans" contracts are still working their way through the system to see if they are illegal.

Islamic Banking is incredibly complicated, as it requires just as many theologians as it does bankers. Riba, the Arabic word for usury, is forbidden while a great many other types of contracts are not. During the Christian days, insurance, investments sharing risk, and forward sales were legal. Yet any financial theorist could tell you that is identical to interest, a fact that forms the basis of many proofs in financial theory. Islam forbids even most insurance, as it considers it to be gambling.

Some blame the inability to accept debt risk in Islamic society for their economic backwardness. 'Inshahallah' is the Arabic phrase meaning 'if Allah wills it (then it will be)' - and the fact that this fatalistic phrase is one of the most common in Arabic is somewhat disenheartening for a developmental economist. Can Saudi Arabia, land of the Prophet, sell oil for dollars and buy American bonds with them? Is that ethical? How do you 'follow the money' if no one will use a bank?

Loan sharking is a Federal crime in America, and we have the right to enter bankruptcy if we can't fulfill our obligations (sometimes). But is it ethical to forgive debts to other counties? There's actually a law preventing the Federal government from lending below its cost of capital without an Act of Congress. If we lend money to a corrupt government in Africa, and they can't pay it back, do we set an example with strength by letting them suffer? Do we set an example for charity and being a pushover? How do our actions impact the worldviews of the world?

Anti-semitism tends to focus on the old religious contradiction, Jews cannot charge interest to Jews, Christians can't charge interest to anyone, but Jews can charge interest to Christians. The ever popular conspiracy theory on the Arab street 'Protocols of Zion' (before casting stones, remember Ann Coulter is a best seller in the US...) blames Jews for everything through banking. How many millions people have died because of differences of opinion on how debts may be repaid?

It's humbling to take something so simple, that you use everyday in work and in life, and consider the massive implications of it. When does debt benefit society? I don't have an answer.

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