The Spectre of Math

December 30, 2009

paranoia … tsa … health care? … crosswalks?

Filed under: Politics — jlebl @ 4:30 pm

So apparently the TSA has gone totally nuts after the christmas bomb incident.

One of the voices of reason is Nate Silver. Nate calculated the (astronomically low) odds of being on one of those flights affected by those 3 attempted terrorist acts over the past 8 years. Do note the word “attempted.” There has not be a single successful one since 2001. So over 8 years, 0 people died. Each year, approximately 45000 Americans die from lack of health insurance. Let me make that bold: Approximately 45000 Americans die from lack of health insurance. Hmm, that’s not enough, let’s make that red and bold and larger: Approximately 45000 Americans die from lack of health insurance.

That’s better. Now notice the difference. Even if we include 2001 in our statistics (and we can include all of recorded terrorism history in the US if we want to), that’s still less than one tenth of the deaths in 10 years (or a hundered years) by terrorism, than in one year by health insurance.

Now for the crosswalks. When my wife interviewed at one company in San Diego, she asked why there wasn’t a crosswalk across the busy street that was between the two buildings the company was renting. Apparently the city refused to put in a crosswalk if there wasn’t a deadly accident on the street.

And now thanks to someone who didn’t manage to blow up his crotch (or actually that’s the only thing he managed to blow up). We won’t be able to use blankets for the last hour of the flight? They will frisk babies (and take their blankets?). They are endangering the health of millions of passengers to protect us from 0 deaths in the past 8 years. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the lack of blankets would have prevented a single terrorism attempt in the entire history of terrorism. I think that’s bordering on criminal on the part of TSA.

But let’s reiterate the main numbers: 45,000 each year die from lack of health insurance, in the past 8 years, nobody died from airplane terror.



  1. The 45k figure is just a liberal lie, debunked many times.

    Comment by Author — January 4, 2010 @ 4:15 am | Reply

    • If it’s any more than 0 then it is more than died from airplane terrorism in the last 8 years, and if it’s any more than 100 a year then it is more than died from airplane terrorism in the last 30 years (if averaged over 30 years).

      I doubt 45k is an overestimate. With around 47 million uninsured in the US (2007 numbers), I’d be surprised if the number is not larger. So 45k means that about 1 in 1000 uninsured dies from lack of insurance each year. Let’s be completely generous here; given an average lifespan of 70 years, that’s 1 in 14 uninsured dies from lack of insurance. That doesn’t seem unreasonable at all. I would expect a percentage higher than 7% (1 in 14 for those mathematically challenged). Given that as an uninsured you are unlikely to get healthcare when you need it, you are very likely to die earlier if you are not insured.

      Death from lack of health insurance means = that the person would not have died had they had insurance and had gotten proper treatment earlier rather than simply at the last moment at the emergency room. Now have you gone to an emergency room in a larger city? It’s usually swamped with people with no health insurance.

      Do the math. 45k seems high, but it’s not that much. About same amount dies in car crashes each year. Plus even if it was 1/10 the number it would still be more each year than died in terrorism in the US in the entire history of the US.

      It is interesting how any sort of data or reasoning can simply be disregarded as “liberal lie.” Given that anything that conflicts with your point of view must be a “liberal lie.” It is telling that you provide no reference for those “debunkings.” Your comment falls under the first word of the title “paranoia.” And thanks to just that paranoia we’ll forgo all kinds of liberties, so that our tax payer money can be spent on infringing on just those liberties you gave up.

      Comment by jlebl — January 4, 2010 @ 5:21 am | Reply

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