Thursday, September 12, 2013

Time to Get Myself on a Watch List, I Guess

This is not a popular opinion, but I really don't care: I think we overreacted to 9/11.

The 9/11 attacks were terrible, but we've let them define us as a country too much for too long. People have a tendency to consider probabilities according to emotional impact rather than statistical likelihood, and we've been treating terrorism like a much bigger threat than it actually is for more than a decade. In 2001, more than five times as many Americans were murdered by other Americans than were killed in the 9/11 attacks. Americans were 186 times as likely to die from cancer in that year, and 235 times as likely to die from heart attacks. We are not allocating our time, money, and attention in anything close to a rational way when it comes to the threats that face us.

Worse, I think that the fear inspired by 9/11 has been exploited for political purposes, with opportunistic politicians expanding the power of the federal government using terrorism as an excuse. The surveillance state that we're seeing today would never have happened without it. The response of the American public to the 9/11 attacks, which was to throw away our liberty in a desperate bid for security, was absolutely shameful.

Individuals did some brave things during that crisis. I'm not downplaying the firefighters and police officers who lost their lives trying to save others, or the passengers who died trying to take back a plane before it could be used as a weapon for terrorists. Those people showed the best in us and reacted the way that I hope we all would. The rest of us largely reacted like panic-stricken children, desperate to give the government whatever it wanted as long as they said it was necessary to keep us safe. The TSA, Guantanamo Bay, domestic spying
all of this has been justified by appeals to 9/11.

I'm sick of it. If America is so strong and proud, we need to stop letting politicians use 9/11 as an excuse to trample the freedoms that define our country in the first place. We need to stop being a bunch of cowards in the face of terrorism and recognize that a society that is so locked down as to be invulnerable to terrorist attacks is a society that's not worth living in. They killed less than 1/100,000 of our population, and everybody just went nuts like it was the end of the world. That's just pathetic.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Buckets Were Serious Business in Medieval Italy

One of the constants of Medieval Europe was the tension between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, which was not holy, Roman, or an empire. Sometimes this tension manifested itself in the form of excommunications going both ways, and other times it manifested as Italian cities who supported one side or the other going to war over ridiculous things.

I will now summarize this historical event after the manner of the Internet.

Bologna: "I has a bucket."
Modena: "I'm in ur base, takin' ur buckets."
Bologna: "No! They be stealin' mah bucket!"
*Warfare ensues. Thousands die.*
Modena: "All your bucket are belong to us."