I'm sure there are terms in the literature of various disciplines for these things, but I don't know them, and need to nail down the ideas a bit.
1. How we conflate the potential harm of a threat with the probability that it will come to pass. Catastrophic scenarios that are quite improbable are treated as if they're likely threats, while more probable but less dramatic scenarios are ignored. This isn't always irrational, but sure can be. I'll call this the "catastrophe multiplier."
2. The thing we mean when we talk about how Europeans live more civilized lives, don't get hysterical after a terror attack, generally seem more sane. Some way to group together what a nation expects, accepts, tries to change, control, destroy, create. I think this will be the "That's How It Is Index." The U.S., has a low THIS Index, and you can see it in annoying things like frivolous lawsuits, but also in fantastic things like the moon mission, or the remarkable record of air safety. Near the other extreme, you have a place like Iran, where planes crash regularly, the roads are deathtraps, and people basically shrug. And the Europeans are somewhere in the middle. I've heard them described as "knowing what's important," but I wonder if they're just less motivated to keep making things "better" and so are able to do the things that people generally enjoy, like eating, drinking, and talking with friends (that is to say, no special knowledge of what's important required).
I'm going to need reams of evidence before I start setting an alarm even on weekends, and I don't know what you're supposed to do if you have kids or other distractions, but this post on how to become an early riser makes sense, and might be worth trying if you're having trouble with your sleep.
via cameron barrett
The bus bombing is also considered by investigators to be another clue of an amateurish attack. They say they are almost certain that the blast was a mistimed explosion caused when the bomber accidentally detonated the device as it was being taken to its intended target.
Two wounded survivors have told a hospital doctor of a young man, possibly in his 20's, boarding the bus, but then frantically rummaging through a bag before it exploded.
Another passenger, Richard Jones, a 61-year-old computer consultant, told The Daily Mail that he had seen a man in his mid-20's become "extremely agitated" shortly after sitting down.
"This chap started digging down into his bag and getting back up," said Mr. Jones, who reported leaving the bus moments before it exploded. "He did it about a dozen times in two or three minutes and looked extremely agitated."
Did he look Middle-Eastern?? Is that not what everyone wants to know? Is it forbidden to ask? Or just to tell us?
Hey, good luck to Mitch Mills and the future Mrs. Mills. Mitch says,
it looks like I and the missus-to-be will soon be decamping from NYC to Brussels for about the next four years.
Since the Unfogged readership seems to be a pretty cosmopolitan bunch, does anyone have any info or recommendations about Brussels, or Belgium and surrounding environs in general, that they'd like to share? Guidebook or other reading recommendations? Also, my French is pretty good, but how important do you think learning some Dutch (other than for the sheer fun of it) would be?
Via Wonkette, here's Judith Miller's address in the pen:
c/o Alexandria Detention Center
2001 Mill Road
Alexandria, VA 22314
No files in cakes, please.
Via Yglesias, I see that Rich Lowry passes on, apparently with endorsement, this thought:
There should be retaliation. Find a terror camp somewhere and hit it. Terrorists should, for these purposes, be treated as one nation, and all should be held responsible for any one attack.
Sonny Corleone at the toll booths, time and time again.
The PA legislature has voted to create a committee that is
charged with investigating — at public colleges in the state — how faculty members are hired and promoted, whether students are fairly evaluated, and whether students have the right to express their views without fear of being punished for them.
This smells to me like "tremendous waste of money" rather than "prelude to heavy-handed censorship" but then again I'm wrong about pretty much everything.
Oh, look, yet again someone forgets that there are a whole lot of disciplines represented on campus:
A good professor, Armstrong said, "is going to help his student understand various relevant perspectives and help the student come to his or her own conclusion rather than try to direct them to a pre-established point of view."
If I were in the sciences this would make my head explode.
In one sense, the Idealist is just right.
It really is not surprising that they have adopted the tactics they have—from their point of view, they have no realistic alternative. It is terror or no fight at all, for them. If you thought that your survival and the survival of your way of live—a way of life mandated by Allah—were threatened and that your only choices were terror or defeat, what would you choose? Thus, they are not crazy, most are not cowards and I do not have an opinion regarding whether most are evil.
Now, does that mean that it is OK to attack civilians in the way that the terrorists did today? I think that, in a way, the question is beside the point. I don't particularly care if it is "OK" to do what they did; the people responsible for the attacks in London (and Madrid and Bali and in New York on 9/11/01 etc.) are attacking us and we must defeat them. We must defeat them not because they are evil or cowardly or crazy, but because they are our enemies. It is not necessary for me to hate them or think they are bad to kill them. I do not know or care whether they are evil or cowards or anything else. What I know is that they are attacking us and that our options (in at least one sense) are simple: they can stop, they can surrender and be imprisoned until we have reason to think that it is safe to release them, or we can kill them.
Understanding the "why are they?" and "how could they?" can be a distraction. But, in another sense, this is totally unhelpful. Who are "the terrorists?" Everything depends on the answer. If every Muslim is a terrorist, then "kill them all" is the simple solution. But if some people are terrorists, some are sympathetic to them, some are undecided, and others wholly opposed, we really need to know who and how many are in each of those groups.
Let's just stipulate that all posts about Judith Miller are composed somewhere between personal distaste for her, and support for someone willing to go to jail for a principle. Ok, now maybe I don't have to feel guilty about pointing you to pictures like this.
Thomas Airmiles Friedman:
The Al Qaeda threat has metastasized and become franchised. It is no longer vertical, something that we can punch in the face. It is now horizontal, flat and widely distributed, operating through the Internet and tiny cells.
A specter is haunting the Times: the specter of metaphor.
In all seriousness, I did have a question about al-Qaeda. Recently baa linked to this article in Policy Review arguing that it's a mistake to think of al Qaeda as having clear political goals and using terrorist tactics as instruments to achieve them:
This common identification of 9-11 as an act of war arises from a deeper unquestioned assumption — an assumption made both by Chomsky and his followers on one hand and Hanson and National Review on the other — and, indeed, by almost everyone in between. The assumption is this: An act of violence on the magnitude of 9-11 can only have been intended to further some kind of political objective. What this political objective might be, or whether it is worthwhile — these are all secondary considerations; but surely people do not commit such acts unless they are trying to achieve some kind of recognizably political purpose...
But is this the right model for understanding 9-11? Or have we, like Montezuma, imposed our own inadequate categories on an event that simply does not fit them? Yet, if 9-11 was not an act of war, then what was it? In what follows, I would like to pursue a line suggested by a remark by the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen in reference to 9-11: his much-quoted comment that it was "the greatest work of art of all time."
On the other hand, some commenters here think that al Qaeda is engaged in conventional strategic maneuvering with some unconventional objectives. What is shocking--and rather shameful-- is that I have absolutely no serious idea about what the truth of the matter is. (Shocking not because I offer therapy and understanding, but you knew that.) Is there any good literature on this? Like a beginner's guide to al Qaeda and related Islamic terrorism? Is there a consensus among the relevant experts? Am I the only one who's confused?
In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.
They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don't want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.
I can't be the only one with a great urge to go now to London, and take all my friends with me, and organize everyone I know to go. There is something special about the place, and I think it was Ted Barlow at Crooked Timber who said he felt like he was in the center of the world when he was there. Yeah. Of course, they're probably not so keen to have every sentimental American show up at once.
Fortunately, Powerline plays fair in assessing reaction to the London bombings:
The posters at Democratic Underground represent the heart and soul of the left, and, arguably, of the Democratic Party.
But don't you already know how to swim?
The father of an acquaintance who was a history major:
But what is there to do after you learn all the dates?
Ogged, what do you know about English poetry? [Ask me a question, says I.] What are the punctuation rules?
London was struck by a series of apparently coordinated terrorist explosions in subways and buses during the morning rush hour today. The explosions ripped apart at least one double-decker bus and caused officials to close and evacuate the entire subway system.
Preliminary numbers are 40 dead, as many as 1000 injured. God damn.
Have I linked to this before? Some of these t-shirts are seriously funny. I can't decide if I prefer the kids saying "Everyone will die alone," or "Tap that ass."
...the more it sucks for me. Looking back at the comments to this post, I see that not only did we have Bob commenting, but that I--a mere two months away from being dumped on my ass--was making fun of Unf for being single.
It gives me hives just to write this, but this article is probably the best thing written on the Kelo decision that I've seen. It gets the facts and the law right (unlike some other smelly, ugly commenters whose names need not be mentioned) and it maintains a proper sense of perspective on the whole issue. No doubt cats and dogs will be declaring a truce any day.
Requesting that Judith "I was proved ... right" Miller serve her time in a DC metro jail, rather than at home or in Connecticut, Patrick Fitzgerald displays his comic touch:
"Forced vacation at a comfortable home is not a compelling form of coercion," he wrote. "Certainly one who can handle the desert in wartime," he added, referring to Ms. Miller's coverage of the war in Iraq, "is far better equipped than the average person jailed in a federal facility."
I'm trying to focus on highminded principles, but it's quite difficult.
I just got a Lexar jumpdrive, which astounds me...but also leaves me wondering why we couldn't make a device that accepts folder names with a slash or ampersand in them.
Yes, it is humbling to fit several years' work into a device smaller than a bottle opener.
Admiral James Stockdale died yesterday at 81: obituary here. Sad that such a person should be remembered for his low public moment. Oddly, I had just started Anthony Long's Epictetus when I heard this; Stockdale wrote a bit about Epictetus' influence on his experience as a POW in Vietnam.*
Once the neophyte political prisoner realizes that experiencing pain is not as bad as its anticipation, a kind of equanimity and pride comes over him. He knows that it is the unpunished complicity, not the tortured compliance, that tears a man apart. He casts aside the error of involving himself with externals, of depending on "what is not up to him," on another's sympathy, gullibility, or price for making a "deal." He uses both the rational and irrational elements of his soul--both part of the same to the Stoic--to see his proper role in the unfolding drama. He accommodates himself to fate. He makes a declaration to himself and to the prison regime that, regarding his choices, he is "free." He has arrived at the point where the "strategic" side of Stoicism, the accommodation to fate and mind over matter, can bring him peace.
*Also of passing interest is the fact that one of our fine co-bloggers is thanked in the introduction to Long's book.
Via the funny smelling Jim Henley, I see that Valerie Plame is seriously hot. I'll bet she had no trouble at all finding out people's secrets. But Henley (because he smells funny, and is a scifi fan), goes on to say,
...the picture demonstrates something important - the TV sitcom phenomenon of the hot wife coupled with the frumpy husband has a basis in reality.
Are you fucking kidding me, Jim Henley? Joe Wilson was the guy responsible for sheltering 800 foreigners in Iraq when Saddam invaded Kuwait. He's been ambassador to two African countries and on the National Security Council. More to the point, the man wears powder blue and even some other fancy colored ties (with a handkerchief!). He's well-spoken and well-coiffed. If Jim looks at Joe Wilson and sees Raymond, then "Jim Henley" must be the double-deep-cover code name for 007.
My God, what have I done? First, I get called offensive and asinine for a post that didn't seem that controversial. Then my post stirs up (albeit indirectly) some sort of dispute about comics books and science fiction the details of which, frankly, I'm not entirely grasping. Where's the love, people? Unf is all about the love, not the hate. Except for Jim Henley, who smells and looks funny.
I've heard some Steve Jobs horror stories, but even if you're so cynical as to think that this is about PR, it still must have been a very difficult call to make, and big ups to Jobs for making it.
As Errol Rose made preparations on Monday to bury his 15-year-old son, Christopher, who was killed last week in Brooklyn during a fight over an iPod, he received a telephone call from a stranger. The man spoke in tones that the grieving father said had momentarily quieted his anguish.
The stranger, Mr. Rose soon learned, was Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple Computer, the company that makes the iPod.
Mr. Jobs asked how Mr. Rose was doing, he said, and conveyed his sympathies. "He told me that he understood my pain," Mr. Rose said. "He told me if there is anything - anything - anything he could do, to not be afraid to call him. It really lightened me a bit."
I'm not asking for any personal reason, just curious: do "missed connections" ever work? We've all at least heard anecdotes of personal ads, online matchmaking sites, old-fashioned matchmakers, etc. working, but I've never heard of a "missed connection" resulting in a re-connection. (And I wonder how often someone thinks "That's me!" when it's not.)
What's your impression of this? Seriously. I'm not sure what it makes me think.
You know, it's not the couch-jumping, it's pictures like this that make me question the man's sanity.
He's like, fake on the inside.
(Note: I have no doubt that Tom Cruise is completely sane. I reiterate that he is as sane as he is straight. Very straight and very sane.)
I guess Jim Henley doesn't realize that it's everyone's job to encourage Unf to post more often. This doesn't help.
Finally, a particularly asinine critique of my earlier Kelo posts just falls inside the sweet spot of "offensive but managing to provide fruitful fodder."
Unf, I think "asinine" is some kind of libertarian compliment.
A little while ago, when I passed on the Times's recommendation of Nic Harcourts show, our own b-dub demurred.
It's relentlessly polite, bland, and toothless, just the thing for an upper- or upper-middle- class 44-year-old who still wants to think of him or herself as with it. Consider: "he was the first in America to play Norah Jones and Coldplay on the radio.". Chris Martin (of Coldplay) thinks he has "impeccable taste". That is not a ringing endorsement.
Greatest Blogger In The History of Ever, Mickey Kaus, today:
Has the New York Times Magazine now written enough puff pieces about L.A. public radio d.j. Nic Harcourt? To Rob Walker's 760 words in January they've now added Jaime Wolf's 4,271--this for a man with barely enough on-air personality to sustain a prepositional phrase. Like the L.A. Times, Harcourt's KCRW empire of the "semipopular" is a Southern California institution that seems terrific to gullible East Coasters who don't have to live with it every day. He's scared to rock. His interviews are painful and formulaic. He doesn't provide "a subtle connective tissue, contextualizing the listening experience byond just a handful of songs." He puts you to sleep. He's a menace to highway safety! ... I was going to call Harcourt's dreary parade of breathy, self-absorbed, suffocating pop "yuppie shopping music," except that if stores actually played Harcourt's synapse-numbing choices the economy would grind to a halt! ... Three consistent motifs of L.A. stand-up comedy are plastic surgery, traffic, and how lame KCRW's music is. ... Yes, Harcourt "was the first in America to play Norah Jones." I like Norah Jones. But do you want to listen to the kind of DJ who'd be the first to play Norah Jones? I don't think so. . ... P.S.: Wolf finally flicks at some of these criticisms in a to-be-sure graf about 3,700 words into his piece, but he glosses over one obvious potential explanation for the poverty of the Harcourt experience: "Harcourt rarely pays attention to lyrics." After all, nobody who listens to singer-songwriters cares about lyrics! ... P.P.S.: Wolf portrays Harcourt as not corrupt. Better he should be. That would at least provide an explanation. ... Listening to his show, it sure sounds like he's wearily paying off a series of polite social obligations to various artists and promoters. Maybe if he were getting a suitcase of cash under the table he could work up some enthusiasm. ... P.P.P.S.: Have I mentioned that I don't like this guy's taste in music?
I'm sorry if folks are getting code 500 Internal Server errors when posting comments here or to the reading group. It's a problem affecting a whole bunch of people, and I hope Movable Type has it fixed soon. From what I'm able to tell, when you try to post a comment and get that error, your comment has still gone through. Sometimes I need to rebuild to get it to show up, but it's not lost for ever.
Ah, holidays are for sports talk. The question is the most memorable sports moments you've seen live (either in person or on TV). I grew up in Chicago, so most of my moments are Jordan moments. Jordan's "flu" game in the Finals against Utah, Jordan scoring 69 against Cleveland, Jordan's "last shot" as a Bull, Steve Kerr's winning shot (Jordan with the assist!) in the Finals.
And not quite a "moment," but the Cubs in the Division Finals against San Diego, with Mark Grace and Will Clark having the week of their careers.
But, the most memorable, most electrifying sports moment I've ever seen remains Michael Johnson's 19.32 second 200 meter run in the 1996 Olympics. There had been so much hype about Johnson, and he not only lived up to it, but ran faster than anyone imagined he could. I was literally agape when he crossed the line, and I'll never forget the look on his face when he saw the clock.
Oh, oh: Another one: Bo Jackson's unbelievable Monday Night game, the one where he kept running into the tunnel, the one where it seemed like his shortest run was ten yards.
We've finally captured the "Butcher of Baghdad." The down side: he turns out to be Matthew Yglesias.
Larger image here. We kid because we love, Matt.
Look at this picture of George Bush as the world's most patriotic drag queen. You cannot convince me that this wasn't intentional-- it's no coincidence that "MSM" stands for both "mainstream media" and "men who have sex with men."
UPDATE: link fixed. Thanks, ogged.
Every so often I like to stop by Powerline just to see what those crazy kids are up to. Sometimes I'm rewarded by gems like these:
In that speech Lincoln had famously asserted that the nation could not exist "half slave and half free." According to Douglas, Lincoln's assertion was inconsistent with the "diversity" in domestic institutions that was "the great safeguard of our liberties." Then as now, "diversity" was a platitude hiding an evil institution that could not be defended on its own terms.
Affirmative action: just like slavery!
I'm spending at least part of the day reading Theory of the Leisure Class, which seems appropriate. Later I will grill meat, then return to the office. May God continue to bless America.
Spam inspired poetry takes over a comment thread. If you're into that sort of thing.