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December 28, 2009

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And he was wearing clothes, so we will have to strip to fly.

And he was conscious, so we will have to fly under sedation.

That should about cover it.

Okay, so a guy who tried to cause an explosion is on a plane. Would you rather have him blow up the plane in the first hour of flight, the middle of the flight, or the end of the flight? I'd choose (and I guess we're pretending we do get to choose) to have an explosion at the beginning or at the end, since that's when the plane is more likely to be under the actual physical control of the pilots and the air pressure outside the cabin is less likely to be such that a small explosion would rip the entire plane apart.

Jon, your problem is that you use things like logic, reason and foresight.

Please try harder next time.

A Baloon Juice commenter named Martin put it best:

"Since the guy was sitting in seat 19A, it seems all we need to do is eliminate seat 19A from all planes and this could never happen again."

A Baloon Juice commenter named Martin put it best

Most likely a relative ;)

Eric,

Sorry. I'm only a state employee. To get federal benefits, I'll have to go to more training.

I agree about the magical thinking etc, however telling everyone to stay seated is not an unprecentdented practice. The Irish staff on the Irish airliner that took my husband and me to Dublin three years ago tried to enforce that rule apparently because they just wanted everyone to be seated while they wrapped things up for landing. The Irish passengers flouted them: as soon as it was annouunced tha we should all stay seated the passengers were up grabbing their bags and lining up at the bathroom. The staff ran around getting shrill to no avail.

It was sort of fun to watch from an anthropological point of view. I stayed seated.

I'd choose (and I guess we're pretending we do get to choose) to have an explosion at the beginning or at the end

Im picking "at the gate".

Im listening to my local morning radio, and the call-in subject is "are you scared when you see a Muslim on a plane?" Of course, to be fair they did do a "are you scared when you see an old white guy at a museum?" show after the Holocaust Museum attack.

It has been obvious, essentially from the beginning, that virtually the whole TSA thing has only one purpose: to allow politicians to say "Steps have been taken."

The only really effective steps that were taken were:
a) reinforcing cockpit doors
b) putting armed marshals on some flights
Those, plus a new willingness of passengers to step up and act when a would-be terrorist tries something, actually do some good.

But they are not showy. So we have all this other nonsense -- including new measures every time someone visibly tries something. It's a hassle for anyone traveling, and does no real good. But then, the whole point is to be a hassle: something to remind people that the politicians have done something. The fact that anyone with two brain cells to rub together (which apparently does not include most politicians) can figure out obvious ways to circumvent the existing controls is simply irrelevant.

Reinforcing the cockpit doors is the one and only thing that stops 9/11-style events from happening again. It doesn't matter how many hostages there are if the hijackers can't actually hijack the plane. It just takes pilots who don't open the door just because they see their coworkers getting their throats cut.

That and the understanding among passengers that terrorists are likely to kill everyone on the plane and perhaps thousands of other people too. Hijackings didn't use to involve killing everyone on board, so going along with the hijackers was a reasonable course of action. It's not any more.

However, I have to rise to the defense of this particular move as a temporary measure. An Al Qaeda tactic they have used frequently in the past is simultaneous or near-simultaneous attacks using nearly the same method. Now this case looks a lot like "some dude on his own", but until it's investigated further, it's not possible to know that for sure. So, in the short term (a month, say) taking steps to interdict an identical attack is not crazy. Putting people off balance by changing their expectations is an effective security measure.

Actually I wish they changed them routinely, that the particular procedures for screening and security were randomly varied day to day, and that some of the effort made to have universal screening was applied to El Al-type interviewing and personal observation of selected passengers (both profiled and random selection). So on some days at some airports you have to take off your shoes, other days you don't; some flights they pat down every single passenger, others none; some flights have armed, uniformed air marshals, etc, etc.

I'm no fan of security theater and I think a lot of the post-9/11 measures have been just that. But: changing routines in the immediate period following an attack (and at other times) is sensible because it means that a rehearsed plan that assumes unchanged security precautions won't work, will have to be changed, and will be a little more likely to go wrong, be detected, or whatever.

There is also the question of, well, democracy. I am willing to get on a plane without security screening. But much of the population is not. Ascribing all of that to media-driven fear and hysteria isn't really fair: we're humans and we suck at risk assessment. We worry about child abduction and not car safety. And we worry about spectacular terrorist attacks and not, er, car safety. (I'm pretty obsessed with car safety myself, can you tell?) Work to educate people otherwise, by all means, but right now the TSA is the kind of response they want, and the amount of security it provides is certainly not zero. The procedures for bomb and weapon screening are somewhat effective, not 100%, but somewhat; they are almost certainly effective deterrents which you see in this case (the bomb he brought on really sucked because it had to pass screening), in Richard Reid's case, and in the liquid explosives plot. It's popular to say that they are worthless measures, but I don't think that's true, whatever Bruce Schneier says. (I like him and read him, but I don't think he's always right.)

They're a pain in the ass but I think they're what people want. I'll argue against ineffective measures, but I'm not going to argue that everyone is an idiot for being concerned about flight security.

However, I have to rise to the defense of this particular move as a temporary measure. An Al Qaeda tactic they have used frequently in the past is simultaneous or near-simultaneous attacks using nearly the same method.

Im skeptical that any government reaction is likely to be in the same time window as these near-simultaneous attacks- this was remarkably fast for the government, yet far too slow to react to a multiple attack like 9/11 or the 2005 London Underground bombings.
And, I dont see how a bomber would really be prevented from changing his plan and striking a little bit earlier- ie this doesn't actually prevent the strike at all unless the bomber is so flustered by the small change in plans that he messes up or aborts.

(I'm pretty obsessed with car safety myself, can you tell?)

Now Im curious- what do you drive (if you drive at all)?

They're a pain in the ass but I think they're what people want.

But, as you say, people suck at risk assessment. What we need is officials explaining why X is a good policy, not choosing policy Y because it's an easy sell to an uninformed public. Unless the real goal is making people feel safe rather than actual safety- which given the magnitude of the threat might be a reasonable goal in and of itself (but, I would argue, counterproductive bc after an ineffective method is revealed to be ineffective you're back at square one, or worse, as far as public perception of risk goes).

I'm with Carleton Jacob.

Again, why was the last hour of the flight important? Why couldn't one of the easiest countermeasures in the history of countermeasures be adopted (ie, moving up detonation by a few minutes?). And the simulataneous plots by AQ are close to just that: near simultaneous. A day later, and it's done.

That's all true, and yet, I think I would've done what the TSA did if I was in charge over there. It's not just the last hour of flight thing, but doing that as part of a set of changes that would interfere with an identical plot. AQ attacks have been simultaneous in the past, but other terrorist groups have gained publicity from near-identical attacks in rapid succession (e.g. IRA attacks).

Maintained as a permanent measure I think it would be silly, but similar restrictions imposed at random could be effective. The 9/11 attacks were carefully-rehearsed and relied on a fairly uniform type of security screening and fairly uniform onboard procedures. Variation makes rehearsal less effective.

And the cost of this measure - as a temporary measure - is fairly small. I don't think it's likely to make any difference right now, but I'd rate the change a little above zero, and the public is very risk-averse when it comes to flight, so like I say, I'd probably do the same.

People do suck at risk assessment but I think that it is a mistake to assume that everything that is done in response is pure political ass-covering and security theater. Some stuff is, some of that is a real intrusion on privacy, but this just isn't a great example. To me.

Now Im curious- what do you drive (if you drive at all)?

Yeah, I drive an average amount. We have a 05 Subaru Legacy wagon - AWD, excellent handling, good safety-testing results, medium weight, lots of airbags - and an 08 Tundra* which has stability control, lots of airbags, great brakes, decent safety-testing results, reasonable handling, and, well, it weighs 2.5 tons and physics is what it is...

So far as I can tell there are four major things you can do about car safety. You can drive less, you can drive a newer car which are enormously safer than older cars, you can drive very defensively, and you can avoid ever driving while impaired. I aim for all four. I'd rather get killed by terrorists than die in a preventable accident, which I guess is a minority opinion in this country, but there it is.

* We have a 26' Airstream trailer. Also, I buy carbon offsets. Not that I feel the need to apologize for this or anything...

I'd rather get killed by terrorists than die in a preventable accident

Is there an option "C"?

;)

That's all true, and yet, I think I would've done what the TSA did if I was in charge over there.

I might too, but for different reasons- virtually zero cost, boost to public confidence. And, actually, I admit that my confidence has been boosted a tiny bit by their rapid reaction, even if I think it was practically ineffective.
I don't think you've dealt with how this policy doesn't seem to be practically effective against a bomber though- I don't see how it could prevent an attack. It could have some effect (eg if AQ planned a series of simultaneous attacks it might disrupt the schedule as some bombers attacked before others, tipping their hand).

AQ attacks have been simultaneous in the past, but other terrorist groups have gained publicity from near-identical attacks in rapid succession (e.g. IRA attacks).

Also a good point; AQ tactics might change, and we'd be stupid to only counter what we've already experienced.
The worst part of a successful shoe-bomb attack now would be the loss of confidence- knowing the attack vector and not doing anything to stop it. So I guess that's another argument in favor of a temporary restriction.

Maintained as a permanent measure I think it would be silly, but similar restrictions imposed at random could be effective.

Im not sure- again, it depends on the extent to which we want these measures to make people feel safer v actually being safer. Random actions (screenings etc) might make people feel that there's a significant chance that eg their flight wasn't screened and is at higher risk. But random, very inconvenient actions (eg confining everyone to their seat without warning for the last hour of the flight) seem like they'd cause more harm than good- the odds of having to piss myself because of a random lockdown have to be pretty low before I want to step on a plane.

I do think that confidence is at least as important as practical effect; even one 9/11 a decade produces about as many fatalities in the US as:
-three times the combined scourges of bee stings and lightning strikes
-one tenth of the deaths by drowning
-slightly more than 1/1000th of the deaths due to smoking
And that's AQ at the peak of their game- if they can only bring down an airliner or two every decade, then they're barely keeping up with the bees.

As far as bang-for-the-buck goes, Id love to see more emphasis on screening technology- for a fraction of the cost of the Iraq War we could've had some pretty damn good scanners/sniffers I betcha.

I'm holding out for "eaten by zombies after the apocalypse".

Carleton slipped in there.

The other thing I meant to mention is that I have my own extreme aversion to terrorist attacks, not out of personal fear of death, or even because of direct effects of the 9/11 attacks, but because I really, really, really don't want the US to have a pretext to invade any more countries & the war fever that built the public support for doing so. That can be accomplished in part by an increased public acceptance of risk but that's hardly a rapid or certain process. So preventing more attacks carries far more weight than the loss of life or direct economic losses might indicate. Of course, completely ineffective security measures don't help with that, but when it comes to those that are trade-offs, I do lean toward thoroughness even if I hate the inconvenience and privacy violations.

"How long before we are back to bloodletting as standard medicine?"

Depends on whether the health care plan passes. The only way we're going to get something as stupid as bloodletting is if it's imposed by the government. Otherwise the patients won't go along with it.

The amazing brilliance of this response is that a passenger attacking the terrorist may have helped foil the plot, so we're going to order passengers to sit still and not interfere with terrorists. And passengers are going to be denied any outside communications, in order that there can be no warning anybody outside the plane if terrorists do manage to take it over.

I'd suspect this policy was designed by the terrorists themselves, if it looked like even that much thought had gone into it.

Depends on whether the health care plan passes. The only way we're going to get something as stupid as bloodletting is if it's imposed by the government. Otherwise the patients won't go along with it.

Yeah, only the government could come up with a plan where a condition treatable with a 30$ prescription is ignored until it costs tens of thousands to treat in an ER.
Or, wait- that's the status quo.

I'd suspect this policy was designed by the terrorists themselves, if it looked like even that much thought had gone into it.

No, just your bizarre interpretation of it. Do you really think that this policy is supposed to eg keep a doctor in their seat if another passenger is having a heart attack? I suppose you were an ardent opponent of the terrorist-enabling "fasten seat belt" sign as well, after all apparently all AQ had to do was wait until that pernicious light came on and they'd have the run of the aircraft. Right?
I do wonder why you're so enthusiastic to slant interpretation of the new regs for the benefit of the terrorists though- whole "enemy of my enemy is my friend" sort of thing I suppose.

It is a shame to watch the faux patriotism of the right die every time we elect a Democratic President.

"It is a shame to watch the faux patriotism of the right die every time we elect a Democratic President."

That is pretty uncalled for and, in fact, not on point.

I meant to reply as to how it might prevent an attack. Well, it won't prevent an attack because nothing can actually prevent an attack, but 1) it will prevent a completely identical attack, and 2) it will require an attacker to change his plan which makes it more likely that he'll screw something up. (Presumably blowing up a plane is the sort of high-stress exercise where careful rehearsal helps a lot.) Forcing a change in plan might also force communication between various parties, which may give an additional chance for interceptions. It's all pretty marginal stuff, but that's what security is like.

Has to suck to work at the TSA. Your job is to prevent all terrorist attacks on flights, which is impossible, without annoying customers, which is also impossible. If you succeed in deterring attacks, nobody notices, they just complain about your stupid security measures. If you fail, some politician will come and cut your head off and put it on a stick. With incentives like those, we pretty much get the security system we deserve, I think.

My pet irritation - other than the days of media hysteria in general that follows something like this - is the idea that Obama failed to reassure the nation, or something, because he didn't make a public statement. Uh, nobody died, the appropriate agency took action, hearings will commence when Congress returns. The President is not your mom. He doesn't have to tell you a little story about how everything's going to be okay anytime anything bad happens. This isn't Katrina.

That is pretty uncalled for and, in fact, not on point.

Brett seems to think that the new policy asks passengers not to interfere with obvious terrorist activities. That is brain-damaged thinking- nothing in any of the regs can be expected to supercede an actual emergency, so thinking that this is true is like thinking that the FAA is asking passengers to stay in their seats if the seatbelt light is on even if the plane is on fire.
So I ask myself: why would anyone think this?
The only answer I can come up with is a Limbaugh-like desire for America to be harmed while Democrats are running the show.

But hey, maybe there's some alternative explanation. Not that I care that much- I don't have much time for people who want to see America attacked.

If what was in my morning papers yesterday was correct then there is a 'new' method that can circumvent all reasonable security measures. According to that a recent suicide bomber in Saudia Arabia literally put the bomb up his [synonym for donkey] and exploded it by remote control (cellphone in that case).
I doubt that body cavity search (+ full body X-ray) for all passengers on all flights would be acceptable.
Another (old) idea would be less dependent on technology (though as unlikely to be adopted): All passengers have to go through a list of sacrileges for all religions that have produced suicide bombers and other terrorists. Desecrating a Quran and calling the prohet names, trampling an image of Mary and a crucifix and pledging allegiance to Satan, eating a piece of pork* and beef etc.etc. That should safely remove the heavenly reward for the terrorist act and thus the incentive. Only atheists would not be deterred.

*this was actually proposed in Austria, not for flight security but for residence permits, procedure to be mandatory for every resident annually (reasoning: If you don't eat Wiener Schnitzel, you have no place in Austria). No, it was not a 'fringe' proposal but made by a party in the ruling coalition.

why was the last hour of the flight important

I'd guess the bomb plot peeps are shooting for maximum damage by having the plane crash into a built-up area on final approach, not out in a cornfield.

Clowns. Our sensitivity over aircraft is somewhat amusing, yet one hopes the bad guys continue their focus on this low-return attack avenue -- I can think of dozens of attack vectors that are impossible to defend against and trivial to execute as a tourist with minimal equipment.

All passengers have to go through a list of sacrileges for all religions that have produced suicide bombers and other terrorists.

Probably permissable to deceive the infidel.

Rob, there were discussions about that. It seems that some things are considered to be beyond redemption even if used as ruse. Eating of pork is admittedly not among those though (the Quran explicitly allows some execptions under duress).

All passengers have to go through a list of sacrileges for all religions that have produced suicide bombers and other terrorists. Desecrating a Quran and calling the prohet names, trampling an image of Mary and a crucifix and pledging allegiance to Satan, eating a piece of pork* and beef etc.etc. That should safely remove the heavenly reward for the terrorist act and thus the incentive. Only atheists would not be deterred.

And vegetarians.

Well, according to some* vegetarians can't be trusted (Hitler was one, you know?).
And they can be ratted out easily by giving them the choice between real and soy meat at the checkpoint. ;-)

*seemingly enough to use the charge in negative campaign ads.

vegetarians can't be trusted

*nods firmly*

Anyone who has ever been fed my four-bean three-pepper chili stew with sundried and fresh tomatoes knows vegetarians can't be trusted.

And they can be ratted out easily by giving them the choice between real and soy meat at the checkpoint.

What if it was fresh rat or soy rat?

Don't get all Pratchetty on me!!!!!!*

*you know of course what multiple exclamation marks mean ;-)

Yes, you're the Opera Ghost. Written any good musicals recently?

Anyone who has ever been fed my four-bean three-pepper chili stew with sundried and fresh tomatoes knows vegetarians can't be trusted.

I am intrigued by your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Anyone who has ever been fed my four-bean three-pepper chili stew with sundried and fresh tomatoes knows vegetarians can't be trusted.

Yeah, thanks for making me hungry at 10:30am with lunch so far away.

Yes, you're the Opera Ghost. Written any good musicals recently?

Not recently. My most productive period in that regard was 2000. Also I do fugues not opera/musical. And I retext songs in honour of the Great Old Ones (look out for Swato's Choral Squids).
http://wiki.lspace.org/wiki/Multiple_exclamation_marks>Further on multiple exclamation marks;-) Btw, the issue came first up in Eric ;-);-);-).

There's some question regarding whether or not Hitler was a vegetarian. It may have been a story for propaganda purposes during wartime shortages and other reasons, but it doesn't seem vegetarian by modern standards.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler%27s_vegetarianism

With eggs included it would of course not meet strict standards. Hasn't stopped those that condemn vegetarianism because of Hitler.
The only thing that annoys me is the holier-than-thou attitude I find in (too) many adherents. In most cases the attitude is imo the cause of the lifestyle though, not the other way around.

I think the cause of the "holier than thou" attitude found in too many vegetarian converts is the bullying, we-eat-meat-and-we-don't-like-you-eating-differently attitude found in too many non-vegetarians.

It takes quite some provocation to get me to make a comment about what any of my fellow diners are eating. But the number of times someone has felt free to make some comment about my choice of the vegetarian option...

We seem to have different experiences there. I know only a few (long time*) vegetarians that simply made the choice and are otherwise 'normal'. I know, in theory, that there are intolerant anti-vegetarians but have yet to meet one (I haven't been in the US South yet ;-)). But I know quite a number of unpleasant persons that have vegetarianism as an added feature (they would be insufferable in any case). They tend to be fundies of one kind or the other (main subgroups: religiuos ascetic nuts, esoteric nuts and a certain kind of 'ecos'**).
I am not talking of practicing Buddhists here. I think it's like the difference between people that simply avoid alcohol (if possible) and radical teetotallers that work for the reintroduction of prohibition. The latter are far more visible and annoying.

*I get the impression that most children these days have a vegetarian period in the early teen age but few stay with it long term.
**the kind that takes environmentalism not as simply a rational and necessary pathway but turns it into a radical ideology with little regard for real-world consequences.

I know, in theory, that there are intolerant anti-vegetarians but have yet to meet one

Are you a vegetarian then?

I'm surprised - most long-term vegetarians (indeed, most short-term vegetarians) have encountered the intolerant anti-veggie who insists on snarking at / about your diet at least once.

I'm inclined to agree with Jes - I've known few "fundie" veg (actually can't think of any, despite knowing a lot of veg people over the years) but have known many, many, many condescending non-veg. Now, I grew up in the rural Midwestern US, so that is not entirely surprising, culturally speaking, but I've also lived in (Midwestern) metropolitan areas, and in Europe (having done stints as veg and non-veg in all three environs), and this equation didn't change (though the rural Midwest remains far and away the worst).

I was a vegetarian (ovo-lacto) for about 5 years. And yes, I'll corroborate Jes and NV's observation. It wasn't a *frequent* thing (I lived in NYC and Minneapolis during my veg period), but every couple of months you'd bump into someone for whom the words "I'm a vegetarian" were indistinguishable from "I think you're a bloodthirsty psychopath and you make me sick." More a case of narcissism than anything else -- I would try to defuse the situation by finding the nicest possible way of saying "I don't particularly give a shit what you eat, so you can chill on the self-defense."

The funniest reactions were in France -- on more than one occasion someone responded to me saying I was veg with "Oh...that's so sad..."

I have observed the same behavior as Jes, NV, and Uncle Kvetch. Some people fly into a rage when they see a plate of not-meat.

The only obnoxious vegetarians I've met have been the not-very-good-at-it ones. For the most part, these are college students who have taken up vegetarianism as their Cause. On many occasions, a little questioning shows that they still eat fish... and chicken... and turkey... and the occasional hamburger.

Looks like I am a tiny minority here. There are few full-vegs (I know of) in my personal acquaintances, most are simply very low on meat. The few 100%-ers tend to be 100-105% on other things too. I know people that cannot understand how one can live (healthily) without animal protein but that's not the same as being intolerant. And around here you will not find many restaurants/canteens without the veg option* (don't know about steak houses though). Btw, does anybody here know why most canteens have a fish option on Wednesday (in addition to the traditional Friday fish for Catholics)?
As far as I am concerned people can eat what they want unless it is leek (and some varieties of radish) in my presence, the smell of which I find retch-inducing.

*The canteen at my job unfortunately seems to employ the services of Mrs. Scorbic as far as vegetables are concerned (and also follows the 'ketchup is a vegetable' school of cooking):-(

Looks like I am a tiny minority here.

I think as a vegetarian who has never encountered the person who feels free to make snarky remarks about vegetarians, you are in a tiny minority anywhere. Except maybe countries where being vegetarian is part of a given religion.

I know people that cannot understand how one can live (healthily) without animal protein but that's not the same as being intolerant.

Well, no: that's ignorance about healthy diets/other lifestyles.

But a person who, during a meal shared with a vegetarian, makes a comment such as "they can't understand how NOT eating meat can be a healthy diet" is ... well, being rude in much the same way as it would be rude to make comments about how that person's choice of a burger and fries isn't a healthy option, or that people really ought to eat less saturated fat.

The normal pattern, in fact, seems to be that an ignorant/intolerant carnivore makes some judgemental comment to or about the vegetarian's diet. The vegetarian, unless they're a very calm person, reacts in kind with judgemental comments about the carnivore's choice of food.

But because eating meat is regarded as "normal", and deviations from it regarded as "not normal", the carnivore's provocation goes unnoticed by other carnivores, and the only thing they remember is the vegetarian's response - which they remember as an unprovoked attack on their food choices, not as a fair response to provocation.

"The normal pattern, in fact, seems to be that an ignorant/intolerant carnivore makes some judgemental comment to or about the vegetarian's diet. The vegetarian, unless they're a very calm person, reacts in kind with judgemental comments about the carnivore's choice of food."

Jes, My experience is the opposite of this, there are fairly radical vegans and aggressive vegetarians who seem to need to complain about my steak and potatos at any opportunity. I never judge anothers diet (I will admit to expressing concern over my vegetarian childrens significant weight loss) but often take criticism for my diet.

There's some question regarding whether or not Hitler was a vegetarian. It may have been a story for propaganda purposes during wartime shortages and other reasons, but it doesn't seem vegetarian by modern standards.

Interesting. That may explain the below lyrics from the band Tool. The "song" is read in the style of a speech from Hitler with industrial music and the sound of emphatic response from a large crowd. They have another track on another album involving "the Angel of the Lord" taking the speaker over the farmlands of the US Midwest to hear the "cries of the carrots" at harvest time, which is, of course, the carrots' holocaust. Seems vegetarianism and not-so-vague Nazi references go hand-in-hand for them. Knowing their odd sense of humor, I wouldn't be surprised if at least some of the band members were themselves vegetarians and this seeming mockery was actually mockery of mockery.

10 die eier von satan • GERMAN

Die Eier von Satan

Eine halbe Tasse Staubzucker
Ein Viertel Teelöffel Salz
Eine Messerspitze türkisches Haschisch
Ein halbes Pfund Butter
Ein Teelöffel Vanillenzucker
Ein halbes Pfund Mehl
Einhundertfünfzig Gramm gemahlene Nüsse
Ein wenig extra Staubzucker
... und keine Eier

In eine Schüssel geben
Butter einrühren
Gemahlene Nüsse zugeben und
Den Teig verkneten

Augenballgroße Stücke vom Teig formen
Im Staubzucker wälzen und
Sagt die Zauberwörter
Simsalbimbamba Saladu Saladim

Auf ein gefettetes Backblech legen und
Bei zweihundert Grad für fünfzehn Minuten backen und
KEINE EIER

Bei zweihundert Grad für fünfzehn Minuten backen und
Keine Eier ...

Jes, My experience is the opposite of this, there are fairly radical vegans and aggressive vegetarians who seem to need to complain about my steak and potatos at any opportunity.

Who are these people? Where are you encountering them? "There are" is pretty vague, after all. Are they friends of yours? Because if they are, they're not very good friends. Are they family? Are they strangers? If they are, you need to tell them to STFU and mind their own business.

Phil,

I find myself in a variety of social situations where business acquaintenances, people who work with me, family and friends are reasonably aggressive about it. Some more nicely than others. I am now good at laughing it off and in the nicest way telling them to STFU. But then I live in the center of all things activist, Massachusetts, where these types of things do become religion.

Cows are vegetarians; I find them tasty.

Soylent Green is vegans, is a concept that might bear considering.

Slartibartfast: Would you mind expanding on your comments? I would appreciate if you explained their purpose and what they mean to you.

Should a vegan or vegetarian who reads/hears those comments find them funny? Provocative? Offensive? Should it cause them to reconsider eating beef because you consider it tasty?

I've heard similar remarks from a number of people. I believe that some of them thought they were funny. Others used body language and a tone of voice that suggested a sort of defiance or attempt to provoke.

Jokes explained are unfunny. Jokes that need to be explained are unfunny. It's probably best if you just chalk this up to me being not funny, and move on.

But just to clear things up, I have absolutely no problem with vegetarians, and don't plan on eating any in the foreseeable future.

...and don't plan on eating any in the foreseeable future.

Not even the cow ones?

elm: Slartibartfast: Would you mind expanding on your comments?

Slarti can be cryptically incoherent, or incoherently cryptic. When he gets that way, it's a waste of everyone's time and threads to ask him to explain what he meant: he either won't or can't.

(That said: it was a fairly good guess this time around he was making a joke based on a Charlton Heston movie you may never have seen or heard of: Soylent Green. But you notice Slarti didn't, and wouldn't, provide that simple explanation: he'd rather berate you for not understanding him.)

well, he didn't exactly "berate" him as much as cop to not being funny.

Thank you for that explanation that it was a joke Slartibartfast. Without the side channels of body language, tone of voice, or personal history, it can be difficult to know how to interpret statements. I take no offense and consider it in the past.

Shifting gears slightly, though related to my prior post, I offer this set of anecdotes.

I've had approximately the following experience on a number of occasions:
1. I'm dining with a mix of people I know and people I don't know.
2. I order a vegetarian entree or take only not-meat items from a buffet. I don't call attention to myself in this.
3. A stranger notices the contents of my meal and decides to comment or inquire on it.
4. I respond with "I'm vegetarian" or "I don't eat meat" and change the subject.
5. Stranger decides that this is A Problem and either: insults me loudly, pesters me to justify my habits to them, comments that I must not understand how delicious meat is, or tries to gross me out with descriptions of meat, slaughter, blood, etc...
6. Stranger comments on how vegetarians and vegans are very pushy and judgmental.

In the past year, this has happened at a business dinner, a wedding reception, a funeral luncheon, and a gathering with family and friends of family. That unprovoked hostility ruins my meal and I'd really rather go hungry than to experience that.

On other occasions, steps 1-4 have lead to a brief sideline on cookbooks, cooking, alternative ingredients, and restaurant options followed by a new topic. While I'm pretty bored of this conversation, it's not hostile and doesn't bother me.

We need a map of areas that are vegetarian-friendly/neutral/hostile and overlay it with political leanings (and maybe population density for non-urban areas). I have a strong suspicion that there is a connection. My guess is that vegetarians tend to lean more left.
Btw, I just walked by the local steak house on my way to the doc and a board outside boasted about their huge salad bar ;-)
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I think we can at least find common ground that eating animals alive (a new fad in some parts of East Asia) is not something we should support..
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Vegan Zombie: Graaaaaaaains!

I will be thrilled when the day comes that the vegetarian/vegan/eating meat discussion is the most pressing one we have over the dinner table

And to all vegetarians I would like to apologize for all of us who may be overreacting to the possibility of someday losing meat to eat. In many places we are losing food cooked with trans fats (translate flavor). The more radical vegans certainly want that to happen, and we aren't sure over time they won't accomplish it.

We need a map of areas that are vegetarian-friendly/neutral/hostile and overlay it with political leanings

An outlier for ya, Hartmut...

In many places we are losing food cooked with trans fats (translate flavor). The more radical vegans certainly want that to happen, and we aren't sure over time they won't accomplish it.

What do trans fats have to do with vegans? Do you have a cite demonstrating that they "certainly want that to happen"? The below from Wikipedia seems to be at odds with that.

Animal-based fats were once the only trans fats consumed, but by far the largest amount of trans fat consumed today is created by the processed food industry as a side-effect of partially hydrogenating unsaturated plant fats (generally vegetable oils). These partially-hydrogenated fats have displaced natural solid fats and liquid oils in many areas, notably in the fast food, snack food, fried food and baked goods industries.

Why would a vegan prefer to eliminate that which displaced natural solid fats (i.e. animal fats) in baked goods? (Maybe they do, but it seems odd.)

Sorry lj, that sentence was horrible. The fact that the government can outlaw trans fats translates into the government being able to outlaw meat. Outlawing meat consumption was the radical vegan goal.

bad day, the last comment was for hsh, not lj.

Marty, you underestimate The Power of Beef. (Yet another Tool connection - it's looking more and more conspiratory at every turn.)

We have not yet discussed the potential of imitated meat. What if, in the not too far future, it will be possible to produce non-animal derived products (pleef, plork and plicken) that cannot easily be distinguished from the animal derived ones? Would that change the equation? It would imo at least drive a wedge between the 'ethical' vegans and the tastebudianic ones (assuming there are no health issues with the make-belief meat). The opposite case of veggie imitations made from animal products can probably be neglected.

Hartmut: My guess is that vegetarians tend to lean more left.

That's because we traditionally carry Mein Champ in the left pocket of our fascist-style jackets, and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World in the right pocket. The heavier book causes a pronounced tilt in all but the most well-balanced vegetarians.

Marty: The fact that the government can outlaw trans fats translates into the government being able to outlaw meat.

Because banning a food ingredient that is demonstrably bad for you is exactly the same as banning a food category. In a future ruled by vegan cupcakes, meat-eaters will have to go covertly to underground restaurants and pretend to be snacking on tofu when the police burst in. The Mafia will run slaughterhouses and beefcake, having a beef with someone, and beef sandwiches, will all become dangerous totems of outlaw freedom.

What if, in the not too far future, it will be possible to produce non-animal derived products (pleef, plork and plicken) that cannot easily be distinguished from the animal derived ones?

As a Jewish friend said in a Thai restaurant, looking through the menu of vegetarian pork, beef, and fish: "Ah: kosher traif!"

Hartmut, I was hoping to get your take on my comment Posted by: hairshirthedonist | January 04, 2010 at 10:04 AM. (Um, you know, 'cause it's, like, in German and stuff.)

Do you have an audio link for that? Unfortunately this PC lacks sound and I will not be at the office (where the net connected PC has) before Monday.
The number of language errors is surprisingly small though ;-)
Putting new texts on famous Nazis is nothing new, so I would not see veggie connections as special.
Try
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abD9nVXjUsg>this
(The fatal consequences of Hitler having only one ball)
or
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSrTiIhMDn4>this
(Hitler's bad leasing experiences)

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