Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Tipping Point

We all experience the accumulation of idiocy in various forms, affecting various aspects of our lives, many of them trivial, some of them less so. I decided a while back that the genus of idiocy relating to politics and worldviews was one I no longer wanted to significantly engage in this blog. The thoroughgoing blindness and pervasive dishonesty of the other side just saps my soul. Should somebody engage them? Sure, somebody should, but I'm mostly not going to, and in so deciding, I forgo the right to an opinion on who should.

Yesterday's little dustup in Boston, though, is not possible for me to ignore; it is the tipping point of my rage on this issue. The "war" on terrorism is unadulterated bullshit. If you are not a law enforcement or intelligence official and you go around worrying about terrorism, you are either a complete fucking idiot, you are seeking an excuse to impose your brand of fascism on our country, or you are psychologically disturbed and should seek some help. Multiple choice is plausible.

Let me be abundantly clear about this: if you see a small electronic sign, one with blinking lights in a pattern that appears to be flipping you off, and your first thought is that you are looking at an explosive device? You need competent medical help. Seriously. It is not possible for a sane and rational person to look at this:

and think, "I am looking at a terrorist bomb." It's just not possible.

It would be easy to write this off to the stick up Boston's ass. We are talking about the descendants of the folks who brought you the Salem Witch Trials. Today's news bears this out; the two poor bastards hired by Turner Broadcasting to carry out its nefarious plot of using art installations as advertising are facing arraignment in Boston-area courts this morning, and city officials are acting like the company--and its temporary starving-artist hires--are actual agents of Al Qaida.

Let's set the terrorism thing straight: you, personally, are not going to die of terrorism. It ain't gonna happen. Let's take a look at the things that will kill you.

The World Health Organization estimates (and by the way, I worked on the book pictured on the linked page, there) that, in 2002 (the most recent year for which WHO has published data), there were about 291 million people in the United States (please forgive my national chauvinism if you're one of Minions' 0.135 non-U.S. readers). A little over 24 million of them died. That's about .08 percent of Americans. Eight tenths of one percent, eight out of every one thousand Americans, died that year (the actual figure is 831.7 deaths per hundred thousand population--I'm even willing to put the worst possible face on it and call it a whole nine out of a thousand).

That's a slim chance of dying to begin with, on the low side of the middle of the spectrum, around 80th in the world (191 countries are listed), a death rate most similar to that of, oddly enough, France. Our national death rate in 2002 was not very far from the global death rate of 918.5 deaths per hundred thousand population.

Various countries in Africa approach or exceed a death rate that triples ours. Stop. Think. Triples. Around 2.7 percent of the denizens of Sierra Leone (not a particularly safe country for humans, I grant) died in 2002.

So, when it comes to dying (at all--we haven't even gotten to terrorism yet), you have a middling advantage in that you are an American. You would do a bit better in any of a number of countries--including, interestingly enough, Israel and Syria--and significantly better in a handful of countries, all of them (with the exception of Brunei) oil-rich countries that border Saudi Arabia.

Why did people die in 2002? WHO classifies deaths by cause. Globally, about 26 percent of deaths in 2002 owed to infectious diseases of various sorts, 12 percent to cancers, a whopping 29 percent to cardiovascular diseases, and smatterings of 4 and 5 percent attributable to various other causes; 58 percent of deaths owed to causes classified as noncommunicable diseases, which subsumes everything not infectious or injurious.

Only 9 percent of deaths in 2002 owed to injuries, and of those, two-thirds were accidental in nature--traffic accidents, falls, drownings, and the like. Another 17 percent of injury-caused deaths were from self-inflicted injuries, meaning suicide. Only 1 percent of deaths (and it's almost exactly 1 percent) resulted from violence or war.

As a citizen of the world, you had less than a 1-percent chance of dying in 2002. If you died, there was only a 1-percent chance that you died from any violent cause--including terrorism.

As an American, your advantage here really kicks in, unless you're me. 87.5 percent of U.S. deaths in 2002 were caused by noncommunicable diseases--23 percent by cancers, 38 percent by cardiovascular diseases, with smatterings attributable to other disease-based causes. In the U.S., only 6.3 percent of deaths were attributable to injury, and of those, around 70 percent were accidental.

Roughly 157,000 Americans died of violence-related causes in 2002, less than six-tenths of one percent of all deaths. In 2002, you were seven times more likely to die from an accidental cause--itself not all that likely--than from any violent cause, including terrorism. Even if we take a liberty with the numbers and add in 5,000 terrorism-related deaths from 2001 into the totals, the incidences don't change significantly.

Now let's talk about preventable deaths. Well over half of cancer and cardiovascular deaths can be prevented. Compare the amount spent on preventing deaths from noncommunicable diseases to the amount spent on the so-called war on terror. No rational person can look at these proportions and think them appropriate.

Like I said, if you're scared of terrorism, you're either stupid, lying, or deeply troubled. If you're deeply troubled, I truly hope you can get some help for that--it's not surprising that, given the government's propaganda campaign of the last five years, people's heads are twisted by this issue. But if you're stupid or lying--and if you have a fear of terrorism for any reason other than some psychological disorder, you're one or both--just shut the fucking fuck up and consider a fact or two.


Bitch, Demand, Rant said...

Welcome back to Angrystan!

"Now let's talk about preventable deaths."


P.S. The squigglies spell vfent, which is either an order or an allusion to the Mayor of DC.

Anonymous said...

The real puzzle are the people who are terrified of terrorism at home, and yet insist that the war in Iraq is not killing a lot of civilians.

Anonymous said...

I seem to have pointed folks here. As did BDR I see.

purplestate said...

Now, MY question, is out of the percentage of people who died of cardiovascular causes, how many had previous incidents, and were smokers, who had been warned to quit the weed -- the evil one, not MJ -- and didn't?

Cause if you're high risk and not taking steps to reduce your risk, it seems to me that you're probably either stupid, lying to yourself, or deeply troubled. Multiple choice does include all of the above.


J. D. T. Saul said...

Health Geek!