Category Archives: Blogging

We need to stop terror, not just terrorism

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One of LA’s most intriguing corners symbolizes the nation’s fears and divisions over the War on Terror

This September 11, I feel compelled to write a few words about the War on Terror.  It is an important issue this year as Americans make big choices.  We all know that emotional thinking can cloud judgment – and the War on Terror is one of the most emotional issues of our time.  When you look at it objectively, though, you reach a striking conclusion.  Yes, terrorists are definitely evil.  But in the grand scheme of things, they are not very deadly to Americans.  When you compare the cost of this war to its benefits, it is very hard to justify on its present terms.

American conservatives describe the War on Terror as a “Clash of Cultures”.  This characterization is an ideological belief, not a fact, and it is not productive.  A look at worldwide terrorism deaths reminds us what the fight is really about:  instability within the Moslem world.  Of the roughly 20,000 terrorist deaths worldwide in 2013, a majority of them were in Iraq or Afghanistan.  90% of them occurred in 10 African / Asian countries that are home to terrorist groups.   1 These groups are militias aimed at local governments or other sects.  Most of these groups don’t target outsiders.  ISIS and al Qaeda are the main exceptions.  The US and other countries engage them directly in combat, and they strike back at our civilians.

From 2001 – 2013, the number of Americans killed by terrorist attacks was about 3,000.  Outside of 9/11/01 itself, that number is about 400, and of those only 50 were on US soil. 2 That was a whole decade’s worth of casualties.

By contrast, on a typical day, 90 Americans are killed by guns at home or in the streets – by angry acquaintances, accidents, or suicide. 3  Another 90 Americans are killed in car accidents.  4  The overwhelming majority of preventable deaths in the US – 2,000 per day – are caused by our own stupid decisions to smoke, drink, overeat, and abuse drugs. 5

Terrorism is not even close to our biggest problem.

Nevertheless, more than half of Americans are “very concerned about Islamic extremism.” 6  That’s a higher rate than in Pakistan!  This disconnect is not surprising.  People don’t think with statistics.  We think with emotions.  Lifestyle-related deaths are not as evil or terrifying as terrorist attacks.

The emotionally-driven political response has been vastly out of proportion.  This war has cost trillions of dollars 7 , killed perhaps a million people 8 (wow), and sacrificed 7,000 US soldiers in combat 9 to avenge our 3,000 dead.  Not only that, but ironically most of those 400 American civilian deaths since 2001 have resulted from counterattacks against our War on Terror.

This conflict means less to the US, but more to the world, than most Americans realize.  The US needs to downscale its response, make it more efficient, and share it more evenly with its allies.  Our trillions could be much better spent on intelligence, police, and security.  Better yet, the responsibility and the budget should be spread among many nations.  The global solution to the problem is a very interesting discussion, and beyond the scope of today’s post.

As for the upcoming election, the two presidential candidates, for all their mudslinging and difference in style, have roughly similar platforms on the War on Terror.  Some of the key differences include:

  • Trump has expressed his desire to remove the US from NATO.  This would be counter-productive, as the solution needs to be international.  Trying to shore up the entire Moslem world would stretch America far too thin.  Then again, he has also spoken in favor of coalition support.
  • HIllary Clinton wants to work with Moslem Americans as a “coalition at home”.  10
  • Clinton supports stricter gun control for people on FBI watch lists.
  • Trump wants the US military to grow even larger.  Clinton supports a sustainable military with enhanced cyber capabilities.
  • Trump opposes arming Syrian rebels, and I have to say I agree with him on this one.    Secretary Clinton supported arming them, but Obama tried that and it backfired.  She does not include arming rebels in her presidential platform.

The more serious difference between the candidates and their supporters is their outlook on the conflict.  Trump buys into the “Clash of Cultures” storyline.  He and his voters see ISIS as first and foremost out to get America.  That outlook doesn’t get us any closer to the real problems in West Asia and their solutions.  Trump is riding on the coat tails of American fear, perceiving the terrorist danger as so large that it threatens the entire nation.

FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Yoda was just as wise when he said, “Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”  For Americans right now, it is just as important to conquer our terror as to conquer the terrorists.

Bad English Habits of the Educated

© Pachai Leknettip | Dreamstime.com - Grade D Plus on NotebookIs English changing, or are people mangling it?  Am I just misinformed or worse – getting old and uptight?  I have noticed a few usages becoming extremely common, which strike me as odd or even rub me the wrong way.  I’m not talking about street slang, either.  I hear these every day among journalists and educated professionals on TV and radio.  Pardon my rant.  What do you think?

The “t” in “often” is silent.  When I was growing up, my teachers adamantly drilled this into our heads.  The word is pronounced “offen,” and there is no such word as “oftentimes!”  Now I routinely hear “off-ten”, “offen-times”, and even the doubly squirmy “off-ten-times.”

To read a quotation out loud, we say, “quote” at the beginning and “end quote” at the end.  “Quote: Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.  End quote.”  Please stop it with the “unquote”, especially at the beginning of the quote!  “Quote unquote that doesn’t make any sense!”

The “H” at the beginning of a “Hu” word is NOT silent!  It annoys me to no end to hear academics talk about umans and their uge civilizations.  When the ell did this become the trendy accent of the year?

The word “forward” has two “r’s” in it!  When did the word become “foe-ward” ?!  :\

It doesn’t make sense to begin an answer with “so”!  “So” is a conjunction.  You state a premise, you say “so”, and then you explain how the premise leads to a conclusion.  Over and over in interviews now, we hear,

Q:  “How does this policy affect blah blah blah … ?.”

A:  “So, there will be a big change in blah blah blah …”

It’s as odd as beginning an answer with “Therefore.”  You have to tell me something before you’ve earned your “so”!

Does anyone remember the lost technique of projecting your voice?  It is understandable to taper off at the end of a sentence.  Now I hear people dropping their voice in the middle of a sentence, and then continuing to rasp airily away for the rest of the whole paragraph.  I’ve heard entire interviews with people that sound like frogs!  The idea of projecting your voice seems not to have reached British schools of broadcast at all.  British speakers have a habit of letting their voice fall to a whisper while on the radio, as if they’re trying to keep a secret from someone across the room.  Speak up!  The worst is when a broadcaster’s voice is so subdued that you can hear her spitty mouth and smacky lips.  >Q

My grammar teachers told us to avoid clichés.  At least some clichés make sense.  “At the end of the day” does not.  I hear it morning, noon, and night, and I still don’t understand what is supposed to be so relevant about the “end” of this proverbial day.

“Ginormous.”  Ha ha, yeah, I get it.  😐  Whoever coined this word, it was clever the first time.  Copying it from someone who copied it from someone who copied that person – sorry, it doesn’t make you clever or funny.

People always refer metaphorically to the “least common denominator” among a broad swath of society, when the mathematical concept they have in mind is the “greatest common factor”.  Remember – a least common denominator is a multiple, a big number.  The least common denominator of a diverse group of people would encompass their full diversity.  The base instincts that are shared by everyone form the greatest common factor.

“Leverage” is a noun, not a verb!  The word “leverage” literally means a multiplication of force gained by using a machine.  It is akin to the word “strength.”  Nobody would ever say, “I am going to strength my advantages to maximize my profits.”

The funny thing is that, while contemplating this blog post, I came across articles from an older perspective.  Apparently, senior citizens wince when youngsters use the word “fun” as an adjective.  “Fun is a noun!” they say righteously.  “You can have fun.  You don’t play a ‘fun game’!”  This opened my eyes, because I had honestly never heard that.  To me, “fun” has always been an adjective.  I guess that it’s a 20th century usage that shifted shortly before my time.  It seems perfectly okay to me.

I am forced to admit, then, that the objective is subjective.

At the end of the day, maybe I should have a better sense of umor, embrace the lowest common denominator, and accept the fact that language moves foeward.