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Get A Grip! January 5, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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All the controversy over the “underpants bomber” and airport security is a good example of how a media narrative and posturing by a few politicians can generate massive overreaction.

As far as I know, since 9/11 there have been two attempted terrorists incidents on commercial airliners that landed or took off in the U.S.– the shoe bomber incident in December 2001, and the Christmas 2009 incident. So that is 6 incidents in the last decade.

As Nate Silver points out,

Over the past decade, according to BTS [Bureau of Transportation Statistics], there have been 99,320,309 commercial airline departures that either originated or landed within the United States. Dividing by six, we get one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 departures. These departures flew a collective 69,415,786,000 miles. That means there has been one terrorist incident per 11,569,297,667 miles flown. […]

Therefore, the odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.

This includes the 9/11 statistics—events that occurred before our current security precautions were put in place.

We should, of course, do what we can to minimize the possibility of a terrorist attack. But anything we do will come at a cost. It will make flying more expensive and bothersome. How much bother and expense is worth the additional safety, especially when proposed policies include trivial prohibitions such as not letting passengers read a book on their laps for the last hour of a flight or regulating the size of bottles that can be carried on a flight. These are easily flouted by a determined, competent terrorist—they are more about the TSA appearing to do something constructive rather than doing anything to prevent terrorism.

It is a terrible event when 300 people are killed; but we lose roughly 10 times that many people each month in automobile accidents. Yet we don’t make driving a car prohibitively expensive or annoying. Terrorists don’t threaten us by killing a few hundred people with a bomb. They harm us when they cause us to waste time and money through our over-reaction.

The goal of these attacks is to produce hysteria, and it’s a shame to see partisan politics helping Al Qaeda achieve their goal.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

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