Thursday, September 09, 2004

The Politics Of Risk

AlterNet has a good article up called Politics of Risk. The gist of the article goes something like this:

We now live in a 'risk society,' where voters are looking to choose not the best leader, but the safest one.

This is an especially timely article given Cheney's recent declaration that a vote for Kerry would mean America would be hit by another terror attack. I'm not sure of his rationale, but it's definitely an effective scare tactic.

All of the terrorizing of the American people at the hands of the Bushies for the last four years - to maintain political power - has certainly been effective. Many voters are scared out of their minds, and could care less about real risks in their lives - like the risk of losing health insurance, etc. Expect lots more scare tactics coming down the pike, all the way until November 2. And don't count on the press to point it out.

On the topic of being afraid of the right things, I'm reminded of that book I always see in Barnes - The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things. I have a feeling it would be able to quantify for us the statistical chance of us getting hit by some type of terrorist attack. I suppose it might look something like this:

Table. Chances of dying from selected causes (USA)

        Cause of death                                                    Chances

Motor vehicle accident 1 in 100
Homicide 1 in 300
Fire 1 in 800
Firearms accident 1 in 2,500
Electrocution 1 in 5,000
Asteroid/comet impact 1 in 20,000
Passenger aircraft crash 1 in 20,000
Flood 1 in 30,000
Tornado 1 in 60,000
Terrorist Attack* 1 in 88,000
Venomous bite or sting 1 in 100,000
Fireworks accident 1 in 1 million
Food poisoning by botulism 1 in 3 million
Drinking water with EPA limit of tricholoethylene 1 in 10 million
(From C.R. Chapman & D. Morrison, 1994, Nature 367, 33-40.)
* The 'Terrorist Attack' info is not from Chapman's report. It is a figure quoted
around the Internet, and I haven't been able to confirm the source of it yet.

This table shows how there are many things we should be more concerned about than terrorism. The first two caught my eye as very real possibilities. So, while it may seem counter-intuitive at first, instead of pouring money into all these wars and international donation programs that supposedly fend off terrorism, we should be pouring money into any and every program that decreases the chances of us getting killed in a motor vehicle accident (e.g. safer car research) or murdered (e.g. more cops back on the street). Only when the statistical chances of all the things that threaten us more than terrorist attacks are diminished until they are equally as likely to cause us to be killed as terrorist attacks should we start putting money back into programs that prevent terrorist attacks. That's simple math, and that's what will keep us safest.

P.S. Bush has cut funding to the COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) program by 90%. The program, introduced under Clinton, literally put more cops on the beat. The murder rate has jumped up 1.5% in the last year. Is there a connection? Tough to tell, but I would have rather kept the COPS program, thank you very much. And that's only one significant effect from Bush's cuts. The reduction in COPS funds also prevents police from successfully solving murders - the money is just not there for long, expensive investigations. So, anyone who murdered and got away with it will probably feel like there's a good chance they'll get away with another. Feel safer?

The odd part is, Bush and Cheney have no real incentive to prevent further attacks against the U.S. - especially in the run-up to the election. As long as they can cover their tracks long enough to make sure the public doens't find out they were negligent and/or complicit in the attacks, they'll be re-elected. Nice.

(p.s. Half of New York City's population thinks that Bush/Cheney knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand, and purposely ignored warnings of the impending attack.)

The National Safety Council has a more comprehensive listing of risk of death due to various causes.

Found a diary over at DailyKos with same type of info.

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