Many years ago, my insomniac recourse was an all-night radio show called Coast to Coast hosted by Art Bell. His stomping ground was the unlikely, the improbable, and even the impossible, all of which got a fair hearing from him. The Face on Mars. Remote Viewing of cataclysmic events like “killshots” from the sun. Backwards recordings that revealed the truth behind the forward lies of politicians and experts. Alien abductions. Underground alien bases. Recordings of hell. Ghosts, chupacabras, Hopi Indian prophecies, and conspiracies galore.
But Art Bell retired, I returned to a daytime schedule, and I hadn’t listened to Coast to Coast for years until last night when I simply could not sleep and lay dozing while Art Bell’s less charismatic replacement spent two hours talking with a blogger about the NSA and the Amash amendment, which failed in the house last night in its attempt to get the NSA out of our private lives.
Two choices. Coast to Coast is still as crazy as it used to be. Or it isn’t. Is paranoia about the NSA as paranoid and delusional as the infamous Doctor Doom of the old days or the now discredited three-name glunk who spent his life playing all speeches backwards and plucking from them sinister phrases you couldn’t quite hear?
I pondered it over coffee without much conviction, and then I encountered two things. A waiting comment from Helk. And a Hotair post by Mary Katharine Ham.
There was a time when I thought I knew something about the nature of reality. I gave that up. Reality is a moving target and as such you can never really know it for what it is instead you can only know it for the blur that it appears to be.
Numbers, on the other hand, do not change and remain inalterable throughout time. We orbit them and attempt to make sense of the apparent order that always seems just beyond description. I am of course speaking of the prime number distribution…
Mary Katharine Ham made this curious equivocation about the Amash Amendment:
As a limited-government conservative, I find it heartening to see this many House members questioning this policy. Though conventional wisdom suggests selling security at any price is the safer side of this issue with the American people, the closeness of the vote suggests that’s not necessarily still the case. Voters making cost-benefit analyses about any federal program is enough to make my heart sing… [emphasis added]
No, I’m not denouncing MKH. She did express calculated support for the amendment which failed to pass Congress. What I’m doing is remembering Helk’s comments on the nature of reality and NUMBERS, even if they’re not primes but lowly arithmetic.
Security at any price. The simplest numbers make a laughingstock of that position, objectively, indisputably, and even ludicrously.
I’m not going to do all the math for you. I’ll just share a few stats you can verify for yourselves. Maybe 35,000 deaths a year in U.S. auto accidents (lots more than gun deaths btw). 245 million passenger vehicles. Meaning you, in your car, have about a 1/100th of one percent chance of dying in a car crash every year.
Not so bad, right? We’d like it to be better, but people do stupid things, don’t they? And cars are a lot safer than they used to be.
Yet consider. If commercial air travel in the United States were only as safe as the daily auto commute and soccer-mom minivanning, we would lose 82,500 dead a year, about one large airliner every day, all 365 days a year. All by terrorist bombs? No worse than teenage sexters in their hormone-soaked Volvos. We could absorb that hit as a nation, even if not the 24/7 cable news glurge that would be now times ten. Would turning off the TV be worth the price of turning off the NSA and its omniscience of YOUR private lives? Guess that’s up to you.
But compare this with the actual record of commercial airliners in the United States. 153 deaths in 10 years. Who wants to do the math on that?
Now for terrorist deaths in the land of John Wayne and the home of the brave. 3087 in the years from 1985 to 2013. (Let’s see: 3,000 out of 300,000,000-plus. Casualties divided by, uh, 28 years. Christ. It’s long division with remainders and tons of decimal places! Can anybody count that low?) Feeling screechy and scared, are we? Speaking personally, we’ve lost people we love and will always remember. Speaking statistically, we are utterly unscathed.
Except, oh yeah. Security trumps freedom every time, doesn’t it? Let the NSA erase the Bill of Rights. Because we’ll be safer. From an increasingly monstrous political class that’s willing to use our life data to destroy us whenever we might pose a threat. From state and local bureaucracies who know how to tie in to the new databases and wipe out your credit, your medical privacy, your reputations and basic human dignity if you resist them or attract their baleful attention in any way.
Give up worrying about the chip implantation those silly Christians fretted about as the Mark of the Beast. You’re already carrying GPS-beaming cellphones everywhere you go, your cars can be tracked to within a block, and as everyone should have learned in the past few months, the IRS not only has access to your private lives, it is exercising uncorrected, perhaps unstoppable malice in making sure you’re the club-footed, ill-smelling ones in the great American Dream competition.
But good and loyal Republicans don’t see a danger. Not to you. Or should I say to them?
The Asham vote was a TRUE litmus test. The power of the political class against the timid ignorance of the ones who haven’t been paying attention.
Get out your little arithmetic blackboard. Do the sums. We don’t need a Soviet state to safeguard us. We can put up with a lot more casualties before it’s time to think about trading our freedom away.
Where’s Art Bell now that we need a mild maniac to instill credence in the unthinkable?
He’s in each and every one of us. That’s the true nature of reality.
And I’m one of the very few who has seen Raebert angry. Trust me. You don’t want to.