Objective data and politics

As a scientist, I deal with objective measurements and evaluating significance of data every day. It strikes me that there is almost a necessary slanting of objective data in politics. This leads to a lot of IMHO dumb arguments and conclusions which are demonstratably wrong. The new liberal meme being pushed is that conservatives actively seek to slant this data and “distort the truth” when it doesn’t support their political agenda. As a left-leaning person, I do agree with this, but I am also worried my political bias blinds me to when those on the left do it. So here’s a thread.

I’ll start this thread with what I think is a good example: polling data. There is an endless discussion of the minutiae of polling and poll results, with breathless emphasis put on each new release. It is almost all absolute crap. There is a reason a pollster sets a margin of error – anything within that MOE is statistically insignificant. So if Bush/Kerry is 47/49 with a 4% MOE one day and 49/47 the next, it doesn’t mean that Bush is gaining ground or Kerry is losing it. It means that the poll is within the MOE and this is the only conclusion to be drawn. Invariably, this is not how it is presented – slight poll shifts within the MOE are headline news. A practical consequence of this is the flawed conclusions reached by the media in the 2000 election: they made flawed conclusions based on polls within the MOE and they were wrong.

This has happened elsewhere, but I have limited knowledge of these. I start this thread to raise these points, not because I can effectively argue them but because I want them discussed and I want to change how we evaluate data in this country. Here are some things that I would like to see discussed here.

  1. Economy: Jobs are seen as a lagging indicator, other metrics are used at other times. The R side of the debate claims the economy is recovering, the D side says it is still slumping. What are the standard metrics and what do these show? How correlative are the standard economic metrics with actual economic performance, as measured in GDP? Are some of these metrics politically biased, even ones from OMB and other bipartisan organizations?

  2. Global warming: There is a legitimate global warming debate, and the R and D sides of the aisle break onto each side. Most pro-warming scientists believe that global warming due to manmade input is incontrivertible. Does the other side have an effective counter, or are they selectively ignoring data?

  3. Other environmental policy: Mercury/arsenic/pollution levels also get this treatment. Gregg Easterbrook, a relatively liberal pundit with whom I often disagree, argues that air has gotten significantly cleaner under Bush, a fact that the liberal side of the debate tends to ignore while focusing on rollbacks of environmental protection. What’s the objective measurement of air, water, soil pollution and how has it been affected by changes in policies under this administration?

  4. Terrorism: There is some evidence that the world has gotten more dangerous as measured by terrorist attacks, since the invasion of Iraq. What is the poop here? Is there an objective measurement to world and/or American security? Is there any metric to measure our policies in such a short time space?

  5. Defense policy: We should really have objective review of how our weapon systems work and devote resources accordingly (this obviously doesn’t apply to research and development). For instance, it seems that limiting Army air forces to non-fixed wing aircraft is a Very Bad Thing, given how often helicopters were lost early in the Iraq campaign. Close fixed-wing air support should be available without inter-agency cooperation. Helicopters should be improved or scaled back. National Missile Defense seems to be a huge waste of money at the current level of development.

I know this is quite wide-ranging, but I think that we can focus this down to the acquisition and evaluation of objective evidence for each of these. Feel free to bring up other topics that you wish to discuss. I kindly ask from all participants to keep it as objective as possible.

Why is GDP the end-all be-all of economic performance?

What do you think?

Do they have a counter? Yes. Many reputable scientists dispute human causation of GW. Are they politically motivated? They say not. What do you think?

THE objective measurement? Like there’s only one? Do you want to count the national pollution average or the number of polluted places or the number of people living in polluted places or what? What do you think?

No. And Rumsfeld got in trouble for asking this question. What do you think?

There are agencies and boards and commissions to do this. Do they inevitably come under the influence of outside groups? What do you think?

Well, there’s the problem. The underlying premise of your OP is that objectivity in all of life is A) possible and B) desirable. Sorry, it’s not that way. But welcome to the world outside the lab, where it’s just us opinionated humans.

It’s true that some of the items mentioned in the OP either are not (yet) provable from the data (e.g., the extent and exact nature of human contribution to global climate change) or simply defy objective measurement (I can’t imagine any meaningful metric of national security), but there are folks out there who actually do a pretty good job of getting to the facts behind the spin.

For analysis of a variety of claims made by elected officials, political campaigns, etc., see the Annenberg Political Fact Check and Spinsanity. Right now it’s mostly Presidential campaign stuff (and in Spinsanity’s case, myriad plugs for their new book), of course. C-SPAN does some admirable work.

These are good starts, anyway, and you can find lots of references to original documents (sadly lacking in most mainstream press, although to be fair most writers don’t get the space to include them). The real tragedy is how reluctant most newsies are to call a lie a lie.

Seems to me, though, that the process of reducing messy data re terrorism, economic performance, and such into neat metrics is precisely where spin gets its greatest leverage. If you don’t want to go read all the source material and you’d rather have someone else wrap it up into a neat measurement, you’re going to lose information – can’t be helped.

Tangent: Another problem is falling into the trap of believing that there are indeed “two sides” to be heard from. It drives me crazy to see the press relinquish their responsibility to fact-find on an issue, and instead trot out representatives from the “right” and “left” camp of the politainment industry to hawk their wares.

(For the record, I don’t think you can really get inarguable criteria for 1,4, and 5. Sure, we all want to minimize unemployment to a reasonable degree, but how to get there is a matter of much debate, with no definitive answer. As for terrorism, other than ‘no attacks in America since 9/11’, I don’t know what other criteria you want to attach to that as far as American policy goes.)

But here are my two cents on #5:

Army helicopter losses in Iraq stand at about 25 helicopters so far, with perhaps another 30 added if you count heavily damaged units that may or may not be eventually repaired. It’s easy to say they should be improved, but isn’t a while heckuva lot that can be done at todays level of technology. When and if the V-22 Osprey enters service, it’ll be a different story. But for the present, the major types used by the US Army: UH-60L Blackhawk, AH-64D Apache Longbow, CH-47D Chinook, and OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, are all at or near the top of their respective categories. Furthermore, even though one could talk-up some of the newer Eurocopter or MiL designs, they are unproven.

While scaling back the number of helicopters we have would probably reduce helicopter losses in a future conflict, it also sorta reduces the number of helicopters we have to haul troops around in, so don’t look for the Army to recommend that anytime soon…

As for they heavy Apache losses early on, the Army was trying out some unproven doctrine. Generally, helicopter gunships would operate near their own troops, providing really fast and really accurate artillery fire. Sometimes they would get targetting data on their own (or from scout helicopters), sometimes from being called in by ground forces, but the doctrine was that your gunships operate at or behind the FEBA. (Forward Edge of Battle Area; fancy way of saying ‘frontline’) They Army had so many gunships that they came up with a new idea: Take a bunch of gunships, add on some scouts, and let 'em go behind enemy lines and cause some havoc. Great theory, but didn’t work out too good in practice, and our gunships are back to operating fairly near friendly forces. (Generally, of course. Always have exceptions…)

The balance of losses weren’t really unexpected or anything. It was known that enough badguys shooting in the air would eventually hit something, and given the large number of helicopters and badguys, losses were bound to occur. Changes can be (and were) made in the way helicopters are used (fly mostly at night and other measures), but not much more can really be done to the helicopters themselves. (Other than add-on IR jamming, which is being done, but that won’t do squat against the RPG’s and machinegun fire.)

The Army isn’t going to be getting a manned fixed-wing capability anytime soon, but they already field a bunch of UAVs, and will be getting more, and more capable models, soon. UAVs aren’t neccesarily just a camera in the sky anymore. The Predator has been modified to carry Hellfires and now light bombs. The UCAV will be a fully capable air-ground system, able to carry pretty much anything a manned aircraft can carry today. The Army already has some, and will only get more. The Army is pretty happy with Apaches for CAS, and isn’t pushing to get fixed-wing support. They know they will be getting better UAVs, and the Apaches are damned effective when used for CAS. Besides, Army/Airforce cooperation is actually pretty good these days.

I say leave things as they are, as far as the procurement system goes. The Pentagon, with congressional ‘oversight’, seems to get it right pretty damned often, so I don’t see the wisdom in shaking up a system that has churned out so many of the worlds top warfighting systems. Much is made of purported failings in our various systems (remember when the Abrams came out?), but everything has seemed to work pretty well in actual combat, so far.

As for NMD, I think it’s worth the cost, but I wouldn’t freak if it was cancelled. The thing is, we spent so much money on it throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and these last few years, that we may as well finish the job. We are slated to do 4 tests a year, and are in the process of deploying a battery to Alaska. I don’t see how learning how to shootdown a MRBM/ICBM is a bad thing, although it is an expensive thing.

I’ll accept that there aren’t neat metrics for most things. But things like the economy have been measured, pretty carefully, for years. I don’t know what the standard metrics are. ISTM that the left uses jobless claims and jobs created; the right uses productivity numbers and unemployment rate. Obviously there are other metrics but again I am no expert.

There must be precedent, though. Numbers are used to determine what our economy is doing. There are obviously standard definitions of things like “recession” and “recovery.” There is obviously data to determine how well things like jobless claims versus unemployment or productivity reflect how the economy is performing. What are these numbers and what do they look like. Again, this is not how I feel – it is what exists, what has historical precedent, and what has predictive value. If a certain metric has been used as a leading indicator since the 1950s, if it has high predictive value, and it shows the economy is not recovering, then that is not spinnable in my book.

For terrorism, the biggest problem I have is a narrow time frame. There is only the past 3 years to evaluate our new policies and the N is relatively small. But there are reasonably objective predictors of how we are doing – for instance opinion number on America, terrorists captured. Has increased port and airport security actually stopped any bomb or hijacking threats? Surely there must have been halted attempts somewhere in the world in the past 3 years, as there have been shoe and suicide bombers who have succeeded. I honestly don’t know.

For defense, again I am no expert which is why I started the thread. Brutus offers a very nice presentation of the details for which I am appreciative. FTR, I see the use of helicopters as troop transport but I was mostly talking about attack helicopters. The losses I am most worried about are while using helicopters in close air support, a role in which fixed wing aircraft may play a better role. For instance, giving A-10s to the Army instead of depending on Apaches to counter a line of tanks.

[Hijack] The idea of giving the A-10’s to the army has been bandied about occasionally for several years by both the Army and Air Force. Among the reasons for not making the change is the fact that A-10 pilots are officers while army pilots as a rule are not, which would cause structural problems. I think disentangling A-10 maintenance and support from the rest of the Air Force was another issue. These reasons are practical from the military’s point of view, though not neccesarily from an outsiders POV.

Why would objectivity not be desirable?

The economy is extremely complex. There is a lot of objective data, but the conclusions reached from that data vary widely. The lag time between cause and effect makes it very difficult to determine if a particular action really worked.

Are you trying to tell me that in this whole field of economics, there is no evaluation of which measurements reflect actual trends and which ones don’t? I’m sure economists out there scoff when they hear politicians wildly spinning some survey or measurement that has no predictive value.

Medicine and epidemiology are also very complex. But there are very carefully controlled studies of what works and what doesn’t work. Epidemiology, in fact, is probably pretty similar to economics – in neither field can one conduct real experiments, let alone controlled ones. But that doesn’t stop epidemiologists from using a lot of observation of historical trends to make generally accurate predictions.

I’ve certainly been left with the impression that the ‘science’ of economics is lagging behind the times as we move rapidly to a global economy. I, perhaps, have fallen prey to the spin, which has had the effect of making me believe there are no ‘real’ answers out there.

It is not in fact many; it is rather few. These scientists are no doubt generally sincere in their scientific doubts; however, they also seem almost to the person to have strong connections to groups with strong political motivations (Cato Institute, George C. Marshal Fund) or the fossil fuel industry that likely color and influence their scientific views.

At any rate, whether or not these scientists are politically motivated, what can be said (and has been said by the IPCC, the NAS, and others) is what the current state of the science is based on the entirety of the evidence. And, that is in a nutshell that most of the warming seen in the latter part of the 20th century is very likely human-caused and that human-caused warming will almost certainly be the overwhelming primary climate factor in the 21st century with such (globally-averaged) warming being in the range of 2.5 to 10 F.

Science always operates in uncertainty because it is inductive and not deductive. Nonetheless, this notion that has increasingly been used by conservatives, e.g., in this Administration or in the Senate, that this means any scientific view is as valid as any other as long as you can find some scientist to argue it, is very dangerous and anti-scientific. (On the positive side, the Administration seems to have been recently coming around a bit more on the science of climate change, even while failing to propose anything other than weak voluntary policies to address it.)

I agree that things get more complicated in social science fields like economics. But, still there are objective things that can be said. For example, it can be said definitively that when you look carefully at how tax revenues responded in the 1980s, it disproves supply-side economics at least in any strong form where increase in revenues from economic growth from tax cuts completely offset or even significantly partially offsetthe drop in revenues due to the lower tax rates. (Namely, the tax cuts resulted in a short-term drop of revenues in real terms and even over a decade-long time scale, real revenue growth was very anemic relative to other time periods.)

If you were in love, and someone asked you who the most beautiful person in the world was, I would feel immensely sad for you if you tried to be objective about it.

Yes; there is. But the evaluations disagree.

Sources of unbiased analysis of data are few and far between. The best thing to do is to read a variety of analyses, find the source data yourself and then throw out the bits of each analysis which seem too out of line with the data. One of the best sources of data I have seen is NationMaster(http://www.nationmaster.com). They have a compilation of data from generally unbiased sources like the CIA World Fact Book or the CDC and on a broad range of topics. Possibly most valuable is the data being presented along with the same statistic for other nations. I tend not to trust any individual analysis or analyst all that much. I form my own views from synthesis of the expert opinions combined with a review of source data to determine which ones are so far out as to be considered biased to the point of unusability.


I might quibble with your definition of Easterbrook as “relative liberal” at least based on what I’ve seen from him in regards to environmental issues. But, whatever. Yes, I think there are some objective measures here in terms of estimates of the amount of various pollutants that will be allowed under various policies, etc. As for Easterbrook’s claim, the fact is that air pollution in general (ignoring greenhouse gas emissions) has been decreasing over time because of the Clean Air Act. And, under Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative, the emissions of the the various pollutants covered in the initiative would continue to decrease over time; however, they would decrease considerably less fast than they would under a “business-as-usual” scenario of enforcing the Clean Air Act provisions that Clear Skies would replace.

This is in fact clear from a presentation that the EPA gave to the electric industry in the fall of 2001 when they unveiled a “straw man” Clear-Skies-like cap-and-trade proposal that they said would achieve similar results to business-as-usual under the Clean Air Act but would be less costly. The importance difference between that proposal and the final Clear Skies Initiative proposal is that the Clear Skies proposal had the caps in the cap-and-trade system significantly increased from the “straw man” proposal. Of course, the liars in the White House couldn’t admit that Clear Skies would be worse than “business as usual” so they changed the “business as usual scenario” to make the emissions under it higher too!!! How did they accomplish that trick? Well, the “business as usual” scenario under the Clean Air Act had previously been the EPA’s best guess of what would happen under the provisions of the Clean Air Act but what it became is what has been dubbed the “Ripple van Winkle” scenario where the EPA goes to sleep for the next 15 years or so and doesn’t tighten any of the current regs on the books thus simply ignoring the tightening provisions of the Clean Air Act over time. The problem with this scenario is that it is not realistic since it would result in being woefully out of compliance with the Clean Air Act (a situation that any environmental group could remedy by taking the EPA to court if necessary).

Anyway, the overarching moral of the story: I will re-iterate that science is uncertain and inductive and one can never really prove things about the real world using it. So, all scientific knowledge is necessarily tentative. However, one can look carefully at the evidence and arrive at a view that is the best agreement with the available evidence and I think this is good enough to be called “objective” even if it isn’t the sort of deductive certainty you can get in self-contained logical systems like mathematics.

And if the future of the country and (not to be dramatic here) the world depended on the accuracy of his answer, then I would feel very sad for him and all of us if he did not try to be objective about it.

Subjectivity is a luxury – for the things that we don’t need to be objective about. For everything else, there is objectivity.

I recited this story from memory of what I read, but since folks around here understandably like cites, here is a good one.

A-10s aren’t really used in the traditional CAS role anymore. Instead, they are used sort of how the Army tried using it’s Apaches, in a ‘Close Interdiction Role’, hitting the enemy forces before they are engaged with your own. They patrol ‘kill boxes’ (chunks of territory in which no friendly forces are [hopefully]), or are targetted directly by whatever recon assets.

Actual close air support these days generally comes from either helicopters or from GPS-guided weapons. Fixed wing aircraft have always have a problem in seeing the target, making sure it isn’t friendly, and accurately dropping ordnance, and the problem only got worse with the introduction of jet engines and faster aircraft. The Apaches move considerably slower than the A-10, and have a superior optics suite, and are more suited for picking friend from foe when the two are tangled together. As for GPS guided bombs, they are extremely accurate, rather cheap, and the delivering aircraft can stay safely out of reach of light AA.

This results in the sort of funny situation of troops calling in B-1Bs and B-52s for CAS (unimaginable with conventional bombs unless you hate your own troops). These big bombers are getting a new role, as they can efficiently cruise high over the battlefield, and drop a bomb or two when needed. (They can carry 24+, depending on configuration of the bombs).

Of course, fixed-wing aircraft are still used for CAS, especially by the USMC. But giving such a capability to the Army would be a massive expenditure with limited, if any, benefit. As MMI pointed out, the infrastructure just isn’t there, and neither is the doctrine.

The Apache is darned tough helicopter. It’s spike in losses were due to trying out unproven doctrine, not due to any flaw with the Apache itself. And for the missions the Apache can’t/shouldn’t handle, the USAF is just a call away.

Nice choices.

I’m not a scientist, but IIRC, the argument’s mainly about how much we can actually do about whether or not we can actually do something about the weather. As I heard tell, it’s not so much that GW is caused by Man as it is that Man’s living in a period that’s part of the upswing in normal fluctuations of temp and the question is how much impact are we having and can we have on the upswing. So, I don’t think it’s really about Man causing global warming. Maybe aggravating gw.

Here’re some thoughts paid for in part by my tax dollars:
The ultimate measure of success in the GWOT will be diminished incidence and scope of terrorist attacks–i.e., nonoccurring events. From an analytical standpoint, however, this is an unsatisfactory measure of success. As in the case of gauging the success of deterrence, which also rests on nonevents, there is no way to prove a cause and effect relationship. Moreover, even manifestly disruptive counterterrorist operations can have self-defeating unintended consequences. In the wake of the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, which the administration hailed as a great victory in the GWOT, the International Institute for Strategic Studies issued a report concluding that, notwithstanding al-Qaeda’s loss of its infrastructure in Afghanistan and the killing or capture of perhaps one-third of its leadership, al-Qaeda is “now reconstituted and doing business in a somewhat different manner, but more insidious and just as dangerous as in its pre-11 September incarnation.” More insidious because the West’s “counter-terrorism effort . . . perversely impelled an already highly decentralized and elusive transnational terrorist network to become even harder to identify and neutralize.” Among other things, the destruction of its camps in Afghanistan meant that al-Qaeda “no longer concentrated its forces in clusters discernible and targetable from the air,” which in turn meant that the “lion’s share of the counter-terrorism burden rested on law enforcement and intelligence agencies.”[sup]5[/sup]
from here

Consider the difficulty of determining an objective metric of an event when there’s little agreement on what is terrorism.
Even inside the U.S. Government, different departments and agencies use different definitions reflecting different professional perspectives on the subject.[sup]9[/sup] A 1988 study counted 109 definitions of terrorism that covered a total of 22 different definitional elements.[sup]10[/sup] Terrorism expert Walter Laqueur also has counted over 100 definitions and concludes that the “only general characteristic generally agreed upon is that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence.”[sup]11[/sup] Yet terrorism is hardly the only enterprise involving violence and the threat of violence.
from here

5. Strategic Survey 2002/2003, An Evaluation and Forecast of World Affairs, London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2003, pp. 9, 10.
**9.**Bruce Hoffman, “Defi ning Terrorism,” in Russell D. Howard and Reid L. Sawyer, eds., Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Understanding the New Security Environment, Guilford, CT: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin, 2003, p. 19-20.
10. Alex P. Schmid, Albert J. Jongman, et al., Political Terrorism: A New Guide to Actors, Authors, Concepts, Data Bases, Theories, and Literature, New Brunswick, NJ:Transaction Books, 1988, pp. 5-6.
11. Walter Laqueur, The New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 6.

furt, I don’t know what the problem is. Even though this is not the lab, data points exist and we can measure them. We can do this in a way that subtracts observer bias. I’m not asking for objective indications of a subjective feeling like love. I’m asking for objective measurements of things which can be quantified, and I’m asking that we discuss politics and the election based on these, not on how “in love” we are with a candidate. Winning a war on terrorism (or in Iraq) is not about feeling good about it; it is about how many attacks stopped and how many people caught, as well as more difficult-to-quantify but still valuable data points like the mentalities of people prone to recruitment into terrorist networks. Improving the economy is not about spinning private sector job losses or discrediting previously valuable nonpartisan OMB reports because they don’t have politically favorable findings. It is about finding the most predictive indicators, asking what they look like, and taking steps to improve them.

Brutus and MMI
I’m perfectly willing to take that argument. Again, I’m no expert so I will accept that our current system works, even with the well-known drawbacks. I guess things have changed pretty significantly even since the last Gulf War where inter-service cooperation left a bit to be desired IIRC.

Thanks for the environmental input, jshore – I remember the thread of a few months ago about Bush and Science, and I don’t want to rehash already discussed topics but I thought it all belonged together here. It seems at least in this area, the administration’s use of objective data is being overruled by research slanted by industry. This has long been my suspicion.

I do read Spinsanity about once a week, and it is such a different perspective that it is quite shocking. I have always wished that someone would start a TV or radio talk show which didn’t aim to cover 10 issues in 30 minutes, but rather 1 or 2 in an hour with a focus on objectivity. This could be done in a reasonably politically neutral setting, just like Spinsanity. You know, take one line of spin from each side and tear it apart. Which is one of the reasons I started this thread. I would hope that this would turn into a discussion of the issues and the race, with a focus on objective data.

The impetus came with the developing “media plotline” of John Kerry’s post-RNC demise, based on 2 poll results taken over the weekend. http://www.dailyhowler.com is too shrill for me but I do think that he is very correct in identifying and criticizing these “plotlines” by which the media get a preconceived notion and misreport events to make them conform to these notions – this is a prime example. These two polls, showing something like an 11 point Bush lead, were total aberrations, had widely criticized methodologies, and large margins of errors. Other polls showed small Bush leads, but again, in the MOE. So the media takes the results and interprets impending Bush landslide – Kerry in Crisis, etc. You saw the headlines. Well, new polls coming out this week show a very modest, if any Bush bounce from the RNC, and all polls (at least that I have seen) are in the MOE. But, I don’t see any “Kerry battles back” stories, because the polls show Bush ahead within the MOE, so to them this means that Bush is leading. It just irritates me more than anything.

I’m still a little credulous to the ideas that no correlation of economic indicators to future economic performance can be produced. We should be able to build a reasonably politically neutral metric predictive of economic performance if this has been done. Any economists want to help me and Hambil out?

I still maintain that NMD is a huge waste of money. Nobody argues for discontinuation of a missile defense system at an R&D level (with exceptions to those arguing the political ramifications of withdrawal from the ABM treaty). As I understand it, things like the Patriot and the Arrow missiles (in conjuction with Israel) are steps in those directions. By all means these should be pursued. But the rush to deploy a basically non-capable system, the enormous amounts of money set aside for defense against a fairly remote threat, and the stunning lack of success of the system all sniffs of political wrangling.

Two things. The first is that when terrorist attacks are thwarted, we hear about them. These are huge bragging points – consider the millenium LAX bombing plot foiled at the Canadian border. This one intelligence success is held up as a trophy by people like Dick Clarke to show that Clinton’s antiterrorism pursuits were better than Bush’s. ISTM that we don’t hear about these things this often. Again, I think we will know better in ten years, but beyond the SSI’s “nonoccuring events”, we should have plenty of occuring events in the form of leaders caught, plots foiled, networks disrupted, bank accounts seized, etc. I was just thinking that a reasonable, consistent metric could be built both out of numbers of actual events and events disrupted, and was wondering if anyone else was looking at it in that way.

Second, I don’t understand what the difficulty with defining terrorism is. I would define it as attacks, to this point violent ones, without direct military implications. So I wouldn’t call the insurgency in Iraq terrorism; I wouldn’t call a suicide bombing on a military checkpoint in the West Bank terrorism. But I would call an attack on a school or a bombing of a bus or attacks on Western non-military personnel in Saudi Arabia terrorism.