Boston Marathon Bombing

Don't Be Terrorized: The Sad Boston Update


Boston Marathon Explosions
Credit: CBS News

First, condolences to those who have lost parents, friends, and children to the Boston marathon explosions and let us hope for the speedy and full recovery of those injured.

Second, don't be terrorized; do not surrender one iota more of liberty to the national security state. Keep in mind that your chances of being harmed by a terrorist attack are vanishingly small. I offer some calculations from my 2006 column, "Don't Be Terrorized":

But how afraid should Americans be of terrorist attacks? Not very, as some quick comparisons with other risks that we regularly run in our daily lives indicate. Your odds of dying of a specific cause in any year are calculated by dividing that year's population by the number of deaths by that cause in that year. Your lifetime odds of dying of a particular cause are calculated by dividing the one-year odds by the life expectancy of a person born in that year. For example, in 2003 about 45,000 Americans died in motor accidents out of population of 291,000,000. So, according to the National Safety Council this means your one-year odds of dying in a car accident is about one out of 6500. Therefore your lifetime probability (6500 ÷ 78 years life expectancy) of dying in a motor accident are about one in 83.

What about your chances of dying in an airplane crash? A one-year risk of one in 400,000 and one in 5,000 lifetime risk. What about walking across the street? A one-year risk of one in 48,500 and a lifetime risk of one in 625. Drowning? A one-year risk of one in 88,000 and a one in 1100 lifetime risk. In a fire? About the same risk as drowning. Murder? A one-year risk of one in 16,500 and a lifetime risk of one in 210. What about falling? Essentially the same as being murdered. And the proverbial being struck by lightning? A one-year risk of one in 6.2 million and a lifetime risk of one in 80,000. And what is the risk that you will die of a catastrophic asteroid strike? In 1994, astronomers calculated that the chance was one in 20,000. However, as they've gathered more data on the orbits of near earth objects, the lifetime risk has been reduced to one in 200,000 or more.

So how do these common risks compare to your risk of dying in a terrorist attack? To try to calculate those odds realistically, Michael Rothschild, a former business professor at the University of Wisconsin, worked out a couple of plausible scenarios. For example, he figured that if terrorists were to destroy entirely one of America's 40,000 shopping malls per week, your chances of being there at the wrong time would be about one in one million or more. Rothschild also estimated that if terrorists hijacked and crashed one of America's 18,000 commercial flights per week that your chance of being on the crashed plane would be one in 135,000.

Even if terrorists were able to pull off one attack per year on the scale of the 9/11 atrocity, that would mean your one-year risk would be one in 100,000 and your lifetime risk would be about one in 1300. (300,000,000 ÷ 3,000 = 100,000 ÷ 78 years = 1282) In other words, your risk of dying in a plausible terrorist attack is much lower than your risk of dying in a car accident, by walking across the street, by drowning, in a fire, by falling, or by being murdered.

Tragically, even with these low odds, two people have died in Boston. Nevertheless, we ultimately vanquish terrorism when we refuse to be terrorized. Catch the culprit(s) and punish them.

NEXT: Documentary Dissects False Arrests in High-Profile Crime

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  1. Right on, Ron. I wish this is what everyone said after something terrible like this.

    1. Amen.

  2. Dangerous Freedom Peaceful Slavery

  3. Second, don’t be terrorized; do not surrender one iota more of liberty to the national security state.

    Hard to think Boston residence have anymore liberty to surrender

    1. Edit: change residence to residents.

    2. I can still buy 32 oz of soda at once.

  4. Fuck me; should be a greater than sign between the two.

    1. squirrels don’t allow ‘greater-than’ of less-than’ symbols.

      1. squirrels < markup

        1. Less-than symbols are the only ones that don’t get erased.

            1. <<br / Yep

  5. We will not walk in fear of one another.

    1. I walk in fear of my government… does that count?



  6. Thank you, Ron.

  7. I think one thing that should be not only recognized but if anything actually accented and repeatedly mentioned is the phenomena that you see in the videos of people running towards the explosion after it goes off.

    The shitbags that set off these devices are a minority in the civilized world, and the folks who ran towards the smoke are the majority.

    This needs to be mentioned repeatedly and often.

  8. Nevertheless, we ultimately vanquish terrorism when we refuse to be terrorized. Catch the culprit(s) and punish them.

    And to catch the culprits, 360 million Americans need to stand over there and submit to a full cavity search, a phone tap and have all your email read continuously by a guy named Bob who works for Homeland security.

    Oh, and no moar gunz. For anyone. Except lore enforcement.

  9. “…do not surrender one iota more of liberty to the national security state.”

    As you wrote this Ron, the Nazgul were contemplating how to force us to do that very thing. No doubt this incident will be pounded and hammered into fitting into the whole ‘Newtown’ narrative by the left. The republicans will need knee patches on their pants in record time and end up compromising on some common sense measures. We are sliding ever faster into a police state nightmare.

    For what it is worth, which is nothing, I will say this. The Nazgul dont decide what the limits are on our right to defend ourselves. What they will decide on is how much and in what fashion government will be violating that right.

    1. Imagine the number of ‘survivors’ Obozo can drag in front of Congress!

      1. I can see it now….in a year or two some guy who lost his legs in this will be standing on crutches next to the podium while the shitweasel gives another speech on how we should please give up our civil liberties for our own good.

        By please he means “fuck you, just do it.”.

        1. Uggh, I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks like this.

        2. Well, but what civil liberty could hey plausibly call for the giving up of? Prohibit all assembly, so there are no large gatherings of people? Have all odd numbered people search all even numbered people, and then all even numbered people search all odd numbered people, on alternating days? No chemicals, no electricity allowed?

          1. If it turns out the suspect is (as reported at the moment) a Saudi national here on a student visa, does it restrict my civil liberty to not want to give student visas to Muslims?

          2. Robert| 4.15.13 @ 7:05PM |#
            Well, but what civil liberty could hey plausibly call for the giving up of?…”


          3. You left a few out there Robert.

  10. Yes, thank you Ron.

    We should all go a step further: don’t accept the state’s version of events or the events as described by the state’s stenographers at FOX, CBS, NBC, Time, Newsweek, the Washington Compost, the New York Slimes, PBS, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, the Boston Globe and the like.

    1. Back to the asylum with Alex Jones please.

      1. When did you become such a “big media” cheerleader?

  11. People are still talking “right-wing” extremists.

    Based upon my personal biases, pre-conceived notions, anecdotes and pure speculation, it seems that right-wingers tend to be loner dudes mostly working solo and detonate/leave one bomb in one place.

    This seems coordinated requiring a multitude of people given that they’re reporting they’re finding more devices.

    I know it really doesn’t matter who did it, it’s done and people are dead, but it matters to other people who did it, because legislation will be crafted differently depending on who did it. So in the end, it matters who did it. Pretty circular, but it’s how I see it.

    1. I think it matters “who did it” in the sense that most normal people would like to make sure that it is not repeated by the accomplices of those who did do it. That’s perfectly reasonable.

      That doesn’t mean we “round up all the towelheads” or “ban white people from forming militias” or “curtail normal civil liberties” but I don’t have a problem with the government doing its fucking job and attempting to stop future attacks from the same people.

    2. It matters who did it only in that the calls for taking even more liberties away will come from different sources.

      At least I heard from one of my cousins and he’s fine.

      1. Glad to hear it. I was on the phone to a Boston vendor when the bombs went off. He actually had to put me on hold for a few minutes. I was all, “What about my needs?”

        But seriously. All I know is, my freedoms can’t take any more explosions going off.

    3. you know im totally speculating here, but wouldn’t some kind of militia type have done a “better job”, think mcviegh and such

      1. Again, one bomb, one place, one incident, no cameras rolling, no high profile. Just “let’s hurt some people who are responsible for ‘murrica’s downfall”.

        The whole high profile thing is something an organized terror group guns for. Because publicity.

        1. Not to mention those types of people tend to hit government facilities, not random sporting events.

    4. “Devices”? Has it been determined that this explosion was from a device designed to do that, and not a malfunctioning piece of normal equipment?

      Even if various explosive devices are found, how do you know they haven’t been around for years, just that nobody was looking for them?

      1. I’m not sure how to even answer this. There’s a certain amount of Occam’s razor at work here.

        If two explosions go off, and immediately after, investigators find two or three more explosive devices, it’s probably doubtful that we just discovered two terrorist plots, one that was successful, and another that failed back in 2009, and just got found in a couple of backpacks on a park bench that no one noticed from years before.

        I mean, if BPD found these devices that quickly, they weren’t exactly cleverly hidden. In other words, I doubt they were found in the HVAC unit on the roof of a building across town, only to be discovered today by the maintenance guy who’s been meaning to get to that AC leak since 2007, but just hasn’t found the time.

        1. OK, I think I get it now. There were 2 explosions within a short distance of time & space. (I hadn’t known that detail before reading here.) That led to searching of the vicinity, and bombs were found. Right? Before that, I’d thought they’d been searching all of Boston.

  12. I know it’s wishful thinking, but wouldn’t it be ncie if the needle actually swung the other way because of this? How great would it be if people said “Hey, ya know we’ve been giving up freedoms and rights all over the place to try to prevent something like this. It still happened. Maybe NDAA and the patriot act aren’t really worth it?”

    I just dream of the day people wake up and realize people sometimes do bad things. The government can’t do anything about it, it’s human nature. I hope one day people will decide that the loss of liberty isn’t worth the illusion of prevention.

    1. “Hey, ya know we’ve been giving up freedoms and rights all over the place to try to prevent something like this. It still happened. Maybe NDAA and the patriot act aren’t really worth it?”


    2. Wise up Cowboy. If you hit something and get no result it is because you didnt hit it hard enough.

  13. Is this even known yet to have been deliberate, and not, say, a gas explosion under the sidewalk?

    1. BPD has confirmed there were bombs.

      1. How’d they figure that so fast?

        1. There are these things called explosives experts for whom it’s more than a hobby to glean these facts. While I do rest easy knowing my government is largely incompetent, it doesn’t take a lot for a trained investigator to tell the difference between a gas main explosion and a man-made device. Especially if they make one phone call to Boston Gas and Electric and say, “Is there a gas main running under [this] location?” and BPE says, “Uhh, yeah no. And no matter, gas is flowing fine on all systems”

          Don’t drown in your own wishful thinking.

          1. I’m fairly sure that if it were an underground gas line explosion there would be a noticeable crater. Or else, more damage to the facades of the building if it had been inside one of them.

            1. The reason it’d looked like an explosion along a line was that on the video, the explosion looked like it was stretched over a long bit of sidewalk. Maybe that’s just because it was confined by bodies on one side and bldgs. on the other.

            2. The reason it’d looked like an explosion along a line was that on the video, the explosion looked like it was stretched over a long bit of sidewalk. (It resembled a “mine front” in a fireworks display.) Maybe that’s just because it was confined by bodies on one side and bldgs. on the other.

    2. Yeah, they’re finding more devices. I mean, those reports could also be false at this point, but it’s looking more and more bomb-ey the longer this goes on.

    3. All the reporting agents I’ve seen are pretty certain it was a deliberate act. Given that, all those folks have blown it more than once, so I’m going 70-30 bombs.

  14. FOX just said one of the dead is an 8 y/o girl.

    1. Now saying 8 y/o boy.

    2. Shit. Fuck whoever did this. And fuck whatever cause they think can be advanced by killing random people.

      1. While I am in hearty agreement with you, I can easily see why some Pashtoon kid might see this as a justified response to the droning of his brothers and all sorts of assorted civilians back in dumbfuckistan.

        Consider the bullshit song and dance that shitweasel and his minions have been performing over who gets droned and how, and how targets are defined. Now put the shoe on the other foot. If some overseas warlord were doing the exact same thing to us, would you feel it justified to lay a little shrapnel on the civilian population that was supporting him?

        I wont be terribly surprised to find out that is exactly what this is all about.

  15. Anyone else ready for a Benny Hill marathon? This is all starting to get me down.

  16. R.B,
    You can easily extend this logic. I’ve done it several times, and it takes a calculator with big number capacity or someone comfortable kicking decimals back and forth.
    It is easy to show, given average life expectancy, and given the number of US air passengers per annum, figuring a one-hour delay per passenger, that TSA’s inspections result in more ‘deaths’ than the number of terrorist-deaths per annum.
    This ignores the number of people shunted into automobile travel (like me to LA) and the additional resultant deaths.

  17. If only Mayor Menuto had banned ban supersized drinks of acetone and peroxide

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