Matt Deckarrd

@misterb

I think Mr. Levitt's joke was that it would be particularly ineffective in SF because falafels are so much more universally popular there than, say, Podunk, MO. Therefore the data taken from there would be all the more useless.

He wasn't ripping on the quality of your falafels, dude.

Charles

Is the government still going to trying to tell us that they don't stereotype with terrorism?

Adam S

Does stupid creativity count? This is an example of creating something that will give you so many false positives that it make the information worthless. We can all come up with something that might lead to information. The creativity is coming up with something that actually leads to information that is useful.

Patrix

Would they be staking out sushi joints if we had Japanese terrorists? Or did they already do this during WWII?

Falafel Enthusiast

So thats why I've been hearing clicks on my phone line

misterb

What do you have against San Francisco falafels? Here in the BA, we have falafels as good as any place outside Dearborn. In fact, we have good everything except bagels. Perhaps this would be a good place to track a Jewish conspiracy.

@Adam S,

exactly, as someone who analyzes large masses of data for a living, I can unequivocally confirm that absent a very strong discriminating signal, a wider sample results in worse accuracy as a matter of mathematics. If you want to select for certain data patterns with any computer algorithm, you will increase your accuracy by applying your filters in series rather than in parallel. And searching for people who buy falafel makings is a worthless filter.

luke

dirty hippies. always doing their unpatriotic bit to hurt the war on terror...

gjo

What does this have to do with vegans?

mjb

@Charles:

What's wrong with "stereotyping"? 100% of all the terrorist attacks we've experienced have been from Middle Eastern Muslim men. Of course, that doesn't preclude other demographics from attacking us but I think we'd be naive and foolish not to concentrate the majority of our efforts on the one demographic that has actually attacked us (and continues to threaten more).

Theo

@ gio 2:02pm:

Lots of vegans like falafel. duh ;) -- It's a yummy food that is generally vegan-friendly. Like Hummus. And veggie maki.

mmmmmm vegan food... ~drool~

Mango

@mjb: "What's wrong with 'stereotyping'?"

If you don't know what's wrong with stereotyping, you probably need to look up the definition of stereotype.

You could say "What's wrong with generalizing?" and have a better question. The answer is: Nothing, if done properly.

Generalizing terrorists as falafel eaters is terrible.

Even your suggested generalization of terrorists as Middle Eastern muslim men is risky. The subway attacks in London were committed mostly by people not fitting that profile. If you focus your screening efforts based on that profile, you end up making it easier for terrorists by reducing the average scrutiny experienced by, for instance, Sudanese women.

Generalization based on religion would be much stronger, but less useful because a person's religion is usually not east to determine (and is even easier to hide). Generalization based on food preference is ridiculous.

Read more...

mathking

Not to be pedantic about it, but 100% of the terrorist attacks we've experienced have not been from Middle Eastern Muslim men. Oklahoma City? Olympic Centennial Park? Abortion clinics?

During the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the U.K. authorities learned the hard way not too focus too much and too harshly on people who appeared (by name, dress, etc.) to be catholic. Both because it made those not inclined to armed resistance more likely to take up arms and as importantly because too much focus made it easier to get people past the security forces by using people who didn't seem like Provo supporters.

Jesus Houston

The FBI was trying to catch Iranian terrorists with the falafel tracking idea. Unfortunately, Iranians do not traditionally eat falafel.

peteg

I feel safer already with such innovative anti-terrorism techniques. With such creativity protecting us, we don't even need to surrender our rights.

luke

@mjb:

ted kaczynski and timothy mcveigh were muslim?

Nathaniel

All of our terrorist attacks have come from Middle-Eastern Muslim men? Wow, that's a newsflash to everyone who doesn't work for the RNC, mjb.

ShortWoman

What mathking and luke and mango said.

Blew the rest of my pithiness on the topic over at Krugman's blog, sorry. I'll try to save you some pith for next time.

mesnenor

Of course the great irony is unmentioned: that they were specifically looking for Iranian terrorists, and that falafels are not a component of Iranian cuisine.

I spent most of my childhood in Iran, and had never heard of, let alone seen, falafel until I moved to NY.

Of course, Iranian ex-pats could easily have acquired a taste for falafel in the US. But they could just as easily have acquired a taste for just about anything else. The notion that Iranians would be seeking out falafel as a form of comfort food is just further evidence of the complete and utter cluelessness of the FBI.

R

Glad someone knows Iranians don't eat Falafel! FALAFEL IS NOT AN IRANIAN FOOD! I think the logic fallacy is equating IRANIAN TERRORISM With that of HEZBALLAH and HAMAS. While a hezoballah operative in Lebanon might eat falafel, but NOT one operating in IRAN.

BTW, those who are still under the false impression that terrorists are middle eastern muslim men, I have a piece of advice: READ NON-AMERICAN papers, and stop watching US media news!
Food For Thought: How would you classify the ugly acts of the KKK?????

msp

A spike in falafel sales is consistent with two hypotheses:

1) Terrorists are in town.

2) Tyler Cowen is in town.