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Prioritizing Threats
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On the latest Real Time, Bill Maher ascribed the strength of the forest fires in California to global warming while simultaneously complaining about "the politics of fear" (no irony there) and downplaying the threat of Islamic terrorism. He went on to chide Americans for not correctly prioritizing the threats facing us.

So I wonder...what do the readers of this blog think is the greater threat facing America today: global warming or terrorism?

It's interesting that both are linked to fossil fuels, so there's something of a common way to relieve the symptoms of both, by decreasing our reliance on foreign oil (which is easier said than done).

It's a fair question to ask whether a particular fear is justified or not. I think it's incredibly stupid to criticize politicians for talking about particular threats. What matters is the extent to which the threat is legitimate. How irresponsible would it be after 9/11 to do nothing and tell people there was nothing to worry about?

At one point on the show Gen. Wesley Clark said there was no way that groups like Al Qaeda were a real threat to our way of life. Maher has dismissed them as a bunch of looneys in a cave. They were basically saying that Al Qaeda will never beat us on our terms, because we have a huge, modern army. I find it hard to believe the general hasn't heard of asymmetrical warfare. One of the lessons I took away from 9/11 was that a group of ragtag, fanatic, suicidal assholes living in caves can turn our own technology against us, crippling our biggest financial center and governmental center temporarily, halting all air travel, and dealing an uncertain blow to our national economy. In the wake of 9/11, it wasn't altogether clear how things would turn out. The economy recovered very well, but a necessary increase in security has had an impact on travel and shipping.

So is the great lesson of 9/11 that we should dismiss such "fake" threats in favor of the horrors of global warming? I watched the towers falling, and as bad as that day was, I think any thinking person can imagine how much worse it could be if a handful of these nuts gets ahold of nuclear material, even the fairly low-tech dirty bomb, much less a small-scale thermonuclear device.

I think the causal link is a bit clearer there than with spurious linkages between hurricanes, fires, and global warming.

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