Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I'm sure most of you have already seen this news, but 27 pilots including a brigadier general and two colonels, nine in active duty, signed a letter saying that the Israeli air strikes were "illegal and immoral" and that they refused to take part in such missions.

Israel Reels at Pilots' Refusal to Go on Mission

An F-15 pilot who signed the letter, identified only as Captain Alef, told Israel's Channel Two television: "If dropping a bomb on a seven-storey building only to find out 14 innocent civilians were killed, of them nine children and two women, if that is not an illegal order, then what is?" Israel drew international condemnation last year when 16 civilians died after an F-16 warplane dropped a one-ton bomb on a residential neighborhood in Gaza City to kill Salah Shehada, a top commander in the militant Islamic group Hamas.

This is truly a significant issue. If upstanding members the Israeli military feel that the justification of the attacks on the Palestinians is weak, it's clear that the extremists who are pushing for the continued attacks are on fairly weak moral ground.

This reminds me of the work that Peaceworks is doing to try to amplify the voice of the silent majority in Israel and Palestine who are against the continued conflict.

Just started reading Beyond Fear by Bruce Schneier. He write a lot about actual risks versus perceived risks.

Bruce Schneier - Beyond Fear
In America, automobiles cause 40,000 deaths every year; that's the equivalent of a full 727 crashing every day and a half -- 225 total in a year. As a society, we effectively say that the risk of dying in a car crash is worth the benefits of driving around town. But if those same 40,000 people died each year in fiery 727 crashes instead of automobile accidents, you can be sure there would be significant changes in the air passenger systems. (I don't mean to harp on automobile deaths, but riding a car is the riskiest discretionary activity the majority of Americans regularly undertake.) Similarly, studies have shown that both drivers and passengers in SUVs are more likely to die in accidents than those in compact cars, yet one of the major selling points of SUVs is that the owner feels safer in one.
This really illustrates how subjective people's feelings about risk are. Looking at and talking about risk statistically compared to how we mentally deal with risk is interesting. Media coverage of human rights issues based on the closeness of the culture to ours is similarly subjective. The fact is, mentally, the value of a life depends on the context. We are all very subjective. Acting like we aren't clouds the issues. Journalists who say they are impartial and politicians who represent "everyone" all run this risk. Bruce's book takes a very pragmatic approach to risk, trying to describe the actual quantifiable risks, but also describing all of the factors that are involved in the decisions about security methods to deal with those risk.

I'll post more about this book as I continue to read it. (I read slowly...)

PS It's interesting to note that traffic accidents account for about 10,000 deaths a year in Japan compared to 30,000+ deaths due to suicide. You're 3 times more likely to commit suicide than get in a deadly traffic accident in Japan.

Lisa's posted a funny clip of Nazi's on trampolines.

I'm off to Kyoto for the day to give a talk on Emergent Democracy. I think the audience is mostly professors and it's a 40 minute talk with 50 minutes of Q&A. Pretty long Q&A. It should be fun, but I'm sure I'm going to be ripped to shreds. ;-)

There are some other interesting speakers. If I have wireless access, I'll be on IRC and will try to post the interesting thoughts.

UPDATE: My wireless card works so I'm going to drop into IRC sometime between 0430 and 0510 GMT/UTC to give a demo...

Strong quake hits northern Japan

A strong earthquake has struck the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, according to reports.

The quake, which hit at about 0450 local time on Friday (1940GMT Thursday), was also felt in central Hidaka and eastern Tokatsu, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, according to Kyodo news agency..

I was blogging when this happened. The glass rattled a bit, but I guess we were pretty far away from the epicenter. I went up stairs just in case to wake up Mizuka.

Tokyo is widely acknowledged to be overdue for another "big one" soon. Recently an astronomer reported that a quake of magnitude 7 was going to hit Tokyo soon. The last big quake in the Kanto region was in 1923 and killed more than 120,000 people. This was also the quake where the Japanese army spread rumors that the Koreans had poisoned the wells and hundreds of Koreans were lynched. (I've visited their graves.)

I definitely don't want to be in Tokyo for the next big one and I'm glad I'm moving to Chiba where there are fewer earthquakes and will be living in a house surrounded by bamboo forests which make ground splits quite difficult.

The other interesting thing to note is that Jason D's comment on my blog was what got me to get my face out of my blogging and realize that it was actually a bigger earthquake up north and not a small one here. It's funny that someone in LA is feeding me news about Japan on my blog. ;-)