Casualties of war

We’ve launched a war against Islamic State, and it seems like we’re always at battle, but this chart is surprising (Click to enlarge, via Vox):

lesswargraph.0Fewer people are dying in war than ever before.

It’s amazing, but given all of the horrors we read about every day, current world conflicts are nowhere near as deadly as those of the past on a per capita basis. According to Harvard Professor Steven Pinker, writing in The Wall Street Journal:

Since 1946, several organizations have tracked the number of armed conflicts and their human toll world-wide. The bad news is that for several decades, the decline of interstate wars was accompanied by a bulge of civil wars, as newly independent countries were led by inept governments, challenged by insurgencies and armed by the cold war superpowers.

The less bad news is that civil wars tend to kill far fewer people than wars between states. And the best news is that, since the peak of the cold war in the 1970s and ’80s, organized conflicts of all kinds—civil wars, genocides, repression by autocratic governments, terrorist attacks—have declined throughout the world, and their death tolls have declined even more precipitously.

The rate of documented direct deaths from political violence (war, terrorism, genocide and warlord militias) in the past decade is an unprecedented few hundredths of a percentage point. Even if we multiplied that rate to account for unrecorded deaths and the victims of war-caused disease and famine, it would not exceed 1%.

Pinker’s explanation for the transition to piece is worth reading, but contrary to what we perceive, the world is a lot more peaceful.

That’s not to say there aren’t dangerous people out there who think the way to achieve their goals is to kill everyone in sight. But institutionally and on a global scale, we’re not the blood thirsty savages we think we are.

Hopefully, we can do better.

A never ending war

This happened 13 years ago today:

poem-response-to-september-11-2001-phoenixtools11And we’re still fighting the same war (from the Washington Post):

President Obama began outlining a sweeping and long-term strategy Wednesday night for combatting the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, launching what could be the biggest counterterrorism campaign of his presidency. …

According to prepared remarks, Obama said the offensive against the militant group will not involve combat troops but a “steady, relentless effort” through airstrikes in both countries and support for military partners on the ground.

Al-Qaeda was made up of a bunch of psychopaths. And ISIL is made up of guys who al-Qaeda says are too extreme (from the New York Times).

While Al Qaeda remains committed to using terrorist tactics against the West and Arab governments, it has criticized ISIS for killing civilians and for waging war on other Muslims. This rivalry has disrupted the jihadist landscape across the Middle East and spurred new debates about how to fight jihad and what, exactly, an Islamic state is supposed to look like.

This is what happens when you let a bunch of religious nuts loose with high tech weaponry. I hope this Obama announcement has some effect, but sadly, all I think is going to happen is a lot of innocent people are going to die.

How Ferguson, Mo., police got out of control

The Ferguson police have been reigned in, for now. The governor sent in the Missouri highway patrol.

But the Ferguson police aren’t finished riling up the populace (via DailyKos):

6:53 AM PT: Via CNN: According to sources, they say they believe Michael Brown is in a video of a convenience store robbery and that a “description of the suspect was given.” Presumably of a young black guy.

7:03 AM PT: A Ferguson police report, after Michael Brown had been shot, calling him a “primary suspect” in the convenience story robbery.

7:07 AM PT: So for six days Ferguson police have claimed that Darren Wilson simply told Michael Brown to “get on the sidewalk.” Is that the usual procedure for dealing with robbery suspects? (Deep sarcasm.)

Just a few thoughts:

1) If the police are saying Michael Brown was a suspect in a robbery, why did they wait more than a week after the shooting to say that. This is a diversion from the shooting. If he was stopped for a robbery, that is the first thing the police would have said.

2) Are more information dribbles out, the latest is that a guy was seen in a videotape shoplifting cigars. If that was Michael Brown, when did shoplifting tobacco become a capital offense.

The family cannot sue this police department enough. A major overhaul is needed. Especially after we see a police department (and I emphasize a police department) turn a community into a war zone.

Demonstrations in D.C.

A very busy day in the nation’s capital yesterday (From the Washington Post):

Demonstrations drew thousands of people from around the country to the White House and the streets of downtown Washington on Saturday afternoon in peaceful protests.

In one, participants called for an end to the continued violence between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. At the same time, advocates converged in the District to urge President Obama to take administrative action on issues involving undocumented immigrants. Both groups ended up at the White House in the afternoon, seeking a stage to voice their concerns.

The larger group, supporting the Palestinians, arrived by bus from big cities and many others drove hundreds of miles to participate, organizers said

“Free, free Palestine, killing children is a crime,” the crowd chanted. Several people held Palestinian flags, cardboard boxes representing coffins or posters with graphic images of the wounded. …

… At the same time, hundreds gathered — first at the Mall, and then at Freedom Plaza and at the White House — to push for ­immigration-policy reform..

I don’t usually go around the White House on Saturday, but I was biking to Northwest Washington to see a friend headed off to China, and just saw mobs of people everywhere and a huge police presence around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. For some reason, there were also a lot of people lined up to go on the White House grounds, and I didn’t think they had tours on the weekend.

And I will say that although this story gives the impression that both demonstrations drew equal attention. the reality is that the immigration gathering was nothing compared to the Gaza demonstration. I biked by Freedom Plaza and saw a very small group of people for the immigration rally. And to be honest, I’ve seen more people at the regular Sunday night tango sessions in Freedom Plaza than at the immigration rally.

For those of you who never pay attention to international news, you are aware, in the abstract, that people are getting killed as Israel and Gaza exchange rocket and missile fire. There are pretend cease-fires, but the minute one is announced, it’s broken. This is the death toll so far (click to enlarge):

Gaza-deathsThis is what the Gaza demonstration was about. The slaughter of children. No one would be demonstrating if it was just soldiers and militants killing each other.

This is your life, in a chart

If you are an average American, this is how your life is broken down into little boxes (of course, you can click to enlarge):

2014-07-22-4WeeksblockLIFE1The sad part is I’m more than halfway through it and not so slowly moving from red to blue. How did that happen?

I’m reminded of a Tom Lehrer line: When Mozart was my age, he had been dead for 24 years.

“Who’s Tom Lehrer?” you ask. Yes, this is a true sign of age, because not only do millennials not know who he is, A lot of baby boomers are in the dark. Here you go:

I think he’s one of the great songwriters of the 20th century. If you get a chance, check out “Werhner von Braun” and “The Vatican Rag.”

Here’s what surprises me. Tom Lehrer is still alive! He’s 86 and living in New York CIty (where else?!). Of course, that means he’s running out of chart space.