Early Morning Open Thread: Don’t Fear the Reaper Undie-Bomber

Nate Silver puts the numbers in perspective for the Pantswetting Brigades:

Over the past decade, there have been, by my count, six attempted terrorist incidents on board a commercial airliner than landed in or departed from the United States: the four planes that were hijacked on 9/11, the shoe bomber incident in December 2001, and the NWA flight 253 incident on Christmas…

Over the past decade, according to BTS [the 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 mles flown. This distance is equivalent to 1,459,664 trips around the diameter of the Earth, 24,218 round trips to the Moon, or two round trips to Neptune…

There were a total of 674 passengers, not counting crew or the terrorists themselves, on the flights on which these incidents occurred. By contrast, there have been 7,015,630,000 passenger enplanements over the past decade. 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.

(h/t Balloon Juice commentor BR)

When will Bill Kristol and/or Jonah Goldberg demand that President Obama declare a War on Weather?

64 replies
  1. 1
    donovong says:

    I thought we had collectively elected “bloomer-boomer’ as our official nom de boom?

  2. 2
    rachel says:

    When will Bill Kristol and/or Jonah Goldberg demand that President Obama declare a War on Weather?

    By God, I wouldn’t put it past them.

  3. 3
    Dream On says:

    This actually sounds fun, if I had a free life. Hopefully no crotch-bombers in sight…


  4. 4
    Alex S. says:

    Well, if you’re a wealthy businessperson you can protect yourself from the weather. But you will still have to fly a lot. Remember that it is the first duty of the citizenry and the government to adjust the national agenda to the wishes of wealthy businesspeople.

  5. 5
    rachel says:

    @Dream On: When my husband and I finally come home to stay from Korea, that might be the way to go.

  6. 6
    Blue Raven says:

    I am giggling helplessly at “Undie-bomber.” Made of win.

  7. 7
    Invigilator says:

    But terrorism is much worse because the weather isn’t trying to bring down our civilization and subject us to to sharia law and make all the women wear burkas and ban shaving and music, you ninny! And let’s say they got back on their game and started bringing down 100 airplanes a day which they will be able to do soon because Obama won’t allow profiling and refuses to put everyone on the watch list on the no-fly list. So there! Gotta go change my underwear, be right back!

  8. 8
    Ash Can says:

    It figures that the RW stooges would be the ones actually afraid of a guy who set fire to his own dick.

  9. 9
    A Mom Anon says:

    I’m way more scared of selfish assholes in suits and ties than I am of any dumbass who aspires to be a terrorist.

    New Yorkers got back to work and back to their lives in a pretty short time frame after 9/11. They didn’t stay home and whine or hide under the bed. They got it together and helped their neighbors cope and got the mess cleaned up. Because this is what you do instead of curling up and wetting yourself when there’s a tragedy.

    Wingnuts have no idea wtf community is, no idea what it means to be a good citizen, no notion of what courage actually means. It means you feel the fear,sure,but you do what needs to be done anyway.It means you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty when there’s a mess to be cleaned up. It means you work even when you’re tired and don’t always feel like it. It means you do your part to make sure your community is FUNCTIONAL instead of judging others when it isn’t.

    Gah! If only we could harness all that stupid and do something good with it.

  10. 10
    Keith G says:

    I am quite certain that there will be successful, awful terrorist attacks on US soil – as soon as the bad guys over there give up their fixation with airplanes.

    Had Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab traveled to the US a bit earlier, flew into Atlanta, found a flea-market where guns are sold, and then visited a shopping mall near the Santa line, the War on Christmas could have been actual and transformative in a huge way.

    So while there is a certain group of folks who will feel so much better as the TSA pats down travelers crotches, as a total society we will not be any safer. I wonder if Nate can put any numbers on that.

  11. 11
    AkaDad says:

    That Nigerian guy was just trying to impress Jane Hamsher by becoming a true Firebagger.

  12. 12

    Since the subject has been raised, might I also point out the fact that many people are DEAD who would otherwise be ALIVE if some small part of the money spent on useless TSA crap were diverted to helping poor people (all of America) get decent health care.

    Perhaps Nate could examine how much money we spend keeping up the illusion of airport safety.

    All-in-all, I think the biggest laugh I get out of all the brouhaha is the idea that many people are considering switching to trains, as if they are somehow immune from the same kind of attacks.


  13. 13
    geg6 says:

    There are many frightening things in the world but the chances of being a victim of a terror attack is not one that scares me much. Nate is right, in that the chances of that happening to me are infinitesimal. The homegrown nuts here in America, whether simple criminals or right wing radicals/Christianists, who are armed to the teeth and enabled in that by our insane gun worshipping culture are much more frightening to me. As are all the religionists who seek to impose their theologies upon us through the corrupt legislators they have bought. Also the war worshippers who seek to take the rest of us into their insane world of war all the time and as a first reaction to all foreign policy issues. These are the people who give me nightmares and from whom we have no protection. We all have our boogeymen. Sadly, few are concerned about mine, who actually pose more danger to Americans and have killed more of our citizens than foreign terrorists could ever hope to dream.

  14. 14
    bcinaz says:

    And there is something like – more people are killed by drunk drivers in six months than in the entire history of commercial aviation – . How many pantswetting ‘fraidy cats’ toss back a few then get behind the wheel?

  15. 15
    zzyzx says:

    So I’m changing planes in the Houston airport right now and the fire alarm has been going off for an hour now and everyone is just ignoring it because going back through security is such a pain. I hope this is a false alarm, otherwise we’ll see a real cost to the security rules.

  16. 16
    calipygian says:

    TBogg puts it best with his usual tastefulness and tact:

    I remember when the National Review editorial board demanded the resignation of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice after they discovered an unread copy of Bin Laden Determined to Strike US under a stack of InStyles and Jimmy Choo catalogs in her office, and how Donald Rumsfeld had to wrestle the tantō away from Rice when she attempted seppuku. Only by promoting Condoleezza to Secretary of State was she able to reclaim her lost honor, hold her head up high, and go do a little shopping .

    Heh indeed.

  17. 17
    The Ace Tomato Company says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: On average 40,000 people die each year on US highways, yet we get on just fine.

    If terrorists wanted to match this number, they’d have to kill about 110 US airline passengers EACH DAY for the entire year

    Apparently, large groups of people in the US government and the general public find a 1 in 10,000,000 chance (for those who fly a lot) of dying from a terrorist a MUCH more serious threat than the 1 in 6500 chance of dying in a car accident.

    Perhaps, we can equip all new cars with automated warning systems which scream out “Allah Akbar” whenever we’re driving unsafely. We will then know to immediately pull off the road, call DHS for a ride home and then proceed to hide under our beds for 10 years.

    We have become a nation of complete and total pussies.

  18. 18
    Brick Oven Bill says:

    This terrorist had little or no Talent. Although his Virtue could be argued through scripture.

    33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21 *** 33:21

    It is a good thing for the people of that Delta-flight that this man’s ancestors did not evolve in the presence of gunpowder. Even in the case that Virtue could be established, it is just not cool to light your crotch on fire.

  19. 19
    SGEW says:

    From National Geographic‘s “Lightning Facts“:

    The Fourth of July is historically one of the most deadly times of the year for lightning in the U.S.. In summer, especially on a holiday, more people are outside, on the beach, golf course, mountains, or ball fields. Outdoor jobs such as construction and agriculture, and outdoor chores such as lawn mowing or house painting are at their peak, putting people involved in danger.


  20. 20
    Seanly says:

    @The Ace Tomato Company:

    Perhaps, we can equip all new cars with automated warning systems which scream out “Allah Akbar” whenever we’re driving unsafely.

    Full of win. However, for most of us the constant screaming will just become so much background noise as we speed along just inches from the next car.

    All those fact-based statistics are great, but airport security kabuki theater doesn’t give a damn.

    I was an advocate of forcing everyone to change into translucent paper gowns & booties. Since that idea does not seem to be catching on, I am now advocating that we all shuffle through the airport with our pants around our ankles and carry our shoes by holding the laces in our teeth.

  21. 21
    rob! says:

    My parents, who voted for Obama and even volunteered for him, were mad he didn’t come out and make a statement. I tried to reason with them, pointing out he’s not trying to panic everyone like Chimpy loved to, and waiting until he has all the facts before saying anything. What a novel concept!

    They agreed with me, but only partially. Unfortunately, the populace has become conditioned that WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE FROM THESE UNSTOPPABLE KILLING MACHINES and panicking is the only reasonable response.

  22. 22
    DZ says:

    @A Mom Anon:

    While I agree with the gist of your post, the little hint of gender and clothing bigotry is neither useful nor accurate. Ann Coulter, for example, does not wear suits whereas hundreds of thousands or more liberal/lefty men do. Something to think about.

  23. 23
    gypsy howell says:

    sigh. PHL was a fuckin’ nightmare to get through before this happened. I can’t wait for my next flight in a week or two.

    Thanks TSA for making life just a little bit more of a misery.

  24. 24
    PeakVT says:

    Doesn’t Nate understand that numbers have a well-known liberal bias?
    He’s proved nothing.

  25. 25
    HRA says:

    I understand why the president did not come right out and make any statement after the incident. Others should understand it as well.

    Janet Napolitano explained her remark of the “system worked” this morning and I understand it, too. Others should understand it, too.

    What I don’t understand is why this would be bomber was allowed to buy a one way ticket with cash and according to news I found in a blog last night was allowed to get on board without a passport. I thought there were safeguards in place to not allow anyone to buy one way tickets with cash and passports were needed to fly from one country to another.

  26. 26
    A Mom Anon says:

    I qualified that with the term “selfish assholes”. I know liberals own and wear suits,I’m married to someone who was in middle management and have the dry cleaning bills to prove it. Women wear suits too,there’s not anything related to gender bashing there. I meant that in reference to wealthy and powerful people who make choices that often mess up lives without a second thought. Give me a break.

  27. 27
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Anybody still interested in HCR? Good piece in The New Yorker from James Surowiecki. A snippet:

    …measuring risk, and setting prices accordingly, is the raison d’être of a health-insurance company…. This kind of risk evaluation—what’s called “medical underwriting”—is fundamental to the insurance business. But it is precisely what all the new reform plans will ban. Congress is effectively making private insurers unnecessary, yet continuing to insist that we can’t do without them.

    He says that health insurance is in the course of ultimate extinction, as Lincoln said of slavery.

  28. 28
    The Other Steve says:

    WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!


  29. 29
    Dr. I. F. Stone says:

    Arguing by analogy and crap like Nate’s nonsense just serve to show how completely in the tank most Obamshits really are.

  30. 30
    The Other Steve says:

    @zzyzx: I was at JFK a couple years back, and some alarm went off. I don’t know what it was. I think it might just have been someone opened the wrong door.

    Anyway it was just blaring for about half an hour, and nobody cared. The TSA people were just walking around casually and it didn’t appear anyone was trying to figure out how to even shut it off.

  31. 31
    El Cid says:

    @Dr. I. F. Stone: Wow, your writing sure has gone down since the Weekly.

  32. 32
    Punchy says:

    I’m waiting for Mary Matalin to tell us to lay off Obama this time, seeing as how he inherited this Dick Detonation Dumbass from the Bush Administration.

  33. 33
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Who is Dr. I.F. Stone? Why is he trading in on a famous name? And most importantly, why is he fixated on pie?

  34. 34
    SGEW says:

    OT: Hope everyone’s paying attention to the demi-crypto-revolution in Iran (link to the other Cole). This is important stuff!

    I’ve been given a lot of serious contemplation to the whole “Reform or Revolution?” question, recently, for some reason. The current scene in Iran is certainly giving me some food for thought (e.g., oh yeah; religion). Interesting.

    [Also: I know that a lot of people round these parts have a hate-on for Sully (re: Burkean Bells, et. al.), but the Daily Dish’s coverage has been simply amazing. He’s got a damned good operation going on in there.]

  35. 35
    GregB says:

    Imagine if 9/11 hit Texas, Kentucky and South Carolina.

    The nation would have been inundated with wet beds and loaded depends.

    Suck it up. Al Qaeda sucks.


  36. 36
    HRA says:

    Since I was privy to my husband’s ranting over the Colts game during, after and probably for day to come, I was interest in reading about it this am.

    I hope this link works.

    What really caught my attention is the name Bill Polian. OMG did I just discover why the Bills lost 4 Super bowls? It’s truly uncanny after all these years.

  37. 37
    Steeplejack says:

    @The Tim Channel:

    [. . .] the biggest laugh I get out of all the brouhaha is the idea that many people are considering switching to trains, as if they are somehow immune from the same kind of attacks.

    Not because people are under the delusion that trains are immune from attack, but because–at least so far–train passengers aren’t subject to the bullshit “security theater” rituals that airline passengers have to put up with.

  38. 38
    MikeJ says:

    Who is Dr. I.F. Stone? Why is he trading in on a famous name?

    I’d always just assumed it was Joe Klein since this troll didn’t appear until after aimai’s tête-à-tête.

  39. 39
    GregB says:

    The Dude (Jack Rice) on MSNBC is using Nate Silver’s statistics to place this into perspective.


    P.S. Has Abdulmutallab been described as The Peni-Bomber yet?

  40. 40
    Keith G says:

    @Steeplejack: Not to mention the notion that a small explosion or intense fire will not doom the entire passenger list.

    Now, a texting operator on the other hand….

  41. 41
    valdivia says:

    @Keith G:

    this is one of the things that I find so incredible that have not begun to happen. Public transportation would be the nexus for chaos and I thank the FSM everyday I get on the subway that we have not had that yet.

  42. 42
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Dr. I. F. Stone: I can think of two possible reasons for your comment.

    1. You don’t understand statistics, probability, and risk analysis.

    2. You are a third-rate troll.

    (I know that these are not mutually exclusive.)

    In any case, your intellect and analytical skills are on a par with Sarah Palin’s. I suppose you’ll take that as a compliment.

  43. 43
    R-Jud says:

    Everything I have seen about new TSA regulations in reaction to the Undiebomber only applies to inbound international flights. Also looks like the expiration date for these new regulations is 30 December.

    They’ll probably be renewed, though. We already have to certify on the visa waivers that our baby has never participated in acts of genocide, WWII war crimes, or “crimes of moral turpitude”. Now she gets to be patted down, too. Whee.

  44. 44
    DZ says:

    @A Mom Anon:

    As you wish. My humble apologies. Best wishes.

  45. 45
    Violet says:

    I hope the new measures will be reconsidered. They’re stupid and annoying. And they don’t help with any security issues.

    I can’t help but roll my eyes at how they’re saying over and over again that the guy bought a one-way ticket with cash and didn’t check any luggage and those are supposedly warning signs. I’m sure they are warning signs and the TSA or whoever should have paid more attention. But now that they’re being identified as Significant Warning Signs, the next terrorists will just buy their tickets with disposable credit cards and check a small bag. Stupid.

  46. 46
    Emma says:

    Dream On: that page just got bookmarked. Sounds fantastic!

  47. 47
    spudvol says:

    Can we add CtRF (Cue the Republican Feargasm) to the lexicon?

  48. 48
    The Republic of Stupidity says:

    This distance is equivalent to 1,459,664 trips around the diameter of the Earth, 24,218 round trips to the Moon, or two round trips to Neptune…

    Or one trip around Rush Limbaugh’s ego…

  49. 49
    burnspbesq says:

    NYT is reporting that the Amsterdam airport has a suite of state-of-the-art body scanners, but the operators have been told they can’t use them on passengers traveling to the US.


    Say what? Wouldn’t it be interesting to know who gave that instruction.

  50. 50
    David Hunt says:

    When will Bill Kristol and/or Jonah Goldberg demand that President Obama declare a War on Weather?

    They did that years ago. It’s called Global Climate Change Denial.

  51. 51
    Ella in NM says:

    The problem is, this is not just panty wetting, as much as I’d like it to be. It’s a disgusting implication of BushCo’s complete incompetence.

    What really makes me sick is that after 8 years being told that our “Great Leader” prevented another terrorist attack on US soil, through the total roll back of my daily civil rights and being treated like I am only one synapse away from committing a terrorist act on a plane every time I fly, the same exact flaw in our system that gave us 9/11 gave us the Undie-Bomber:

    no one who knew anything managed to talk to the ones who didn’t and get the God-damned terrorist yanked out of line at at the airport BEFORE he started lighting his balls up.

    And 200+ people came as close as you or I would ever want to a horrible, awful death by fire, trapped on an airplane in the sky.

    Kinda not funny.

  52. 52

    @Steeplejack: There’s also the fact that it’s pretty hard to take out a skyscraper with a hijacked train. Though now, of course, I’m sitting here trying to think of how it could be done….

    Sometimes I think the purpose of Security Kabuki is to make flying so miserable everybody says “Fuck it” and drives. Or, for trans-oceanic flights, swims. Not that I expect him to magically instantly fix everything that’s wrong with America, but didn’t we elect Obama to reign in this sort of nonsense?

  53. 53
    feebog says:

    We can make passengers jump through hoops of fire at the security gate at every airport in the U.S. It won’t make a bit of difference. Did anyone notice that this flight originated in NIGERIA? Via AMSTERDAM? A number of red flags should have been raised in Nigeria. Cash for the ticket, red flag. One-way ticket, red flag. No luggage, red flag.

    And in Amsterdam, this guy was supposedly subjected to a screening interview. Exactly what was he asked, who interviewed him, how much training did the interviewer have? These are all questions we should be asking, and I don’t hear them being voiced.

    Its painfully obvious that the big flaw in our system is incoming flights and our lack of control over same.

  54. 54
    hidflect says:

    I used to use lightning as an example. Now I use Bee Stings. Mostly because it IS possible to wipe out all bees if you really want to eradicate (insectivorous) terror.

    “According to government statistics, about 3.3 percent of adults will experience anaphylaxis after an insect sting and there are 40 to as many as 100 deaths annually from insect-sting-related anaphylaxis.”

  55. 55
    freelancer says:

    Caught this at Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

    NRO’s Mike Potemra:

    Coincidentally, I have over the past couple of months been watching DVDs of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show I missed completely in its run of 1987 to 1994; and I confess myself amazed that so many conservatives are fond of it. Its messages are unabashedly liberal ones of the early post-Cold War era – peace, tolerance, due process, progress (as opposed to skepticism about human perfectibility).

    due process, tolerance, human progress, and peace are liberal values. heh. hoocoodanode.

  56. 56
    hidflect says:

    Hey Dream On: Thanks for the Freighter link! I sent it to everyone. Especially a slightly snobbish friend who is currently undergoing hell jetting around the world on one of his bankster holidays…

  57. 57
    SamInMpls says:

    When did it become acceptable to mock the struggle that defined ourgreatestpresident General Ben Franklin?

    Come on people! Lightning is objectively anti-Obama.

  58. 58
    Makewi says:

    In 2008 in New York City their was 10.7 cases of forcible rape per 100,000 residents, making the chance that anyone would be raped .0107%. Fun with numbers, for assholes.

  59. 59
    pj says:

    In 2008 in New York City their was 10.7 cases of forcible rape per 100,000 residents…

    49.9 per capita in Fort Worth. 57.6 in Oklahoma City. 41.2 in Omaha. 65.8 in Tulsa. 88.5 in Colorado Springs. 76.7 in Wichita. 93.9 in Anchorage.

    I suppose you chose NYC because it is safer than those other cities, right?

  60. 60
    Makewi says:


    Here you went right ahead and missed the whole point. Good job.

  61. 61
    Mayken says:

    @The Tim Channel: I don’t know about you but the folks I hear talking about switching to trains (or boats, autos etc.) are doing so because of the irrational (in)security process at the airport rather than fear of terrorists.

  62. 62
    Peter Principle says:

    When will Bill Kristol and/or Jonah Goldberg demand that President Obama declare a War on Weather?

    I’m sure they understand that this so-called “weather” you speak of is just an elaborate hoax perpetrated by the environmental extremists and their allies in the “scientific” community.

    You’re just trying to divert attention from the Biblically ordained War Against the Children of Darkness.

  63. 63
  64. 64

    […] done, before someone gets on a plane. (Yes, I saw the post by Anne Laurie on the Balloon Juice site http://www.balloon-juice.com/?p=31834 that broke down the numbers on the odds of being on a plane that’s downed by a whack job […]

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