My occupation is a statistician. I tell people it is like "CSI without dead bodies" because analyzing a set of data that has been collected is like doing an autopsy on a deceased person in the sense that I'm trying to learn what I can from what statistics and information are available. Except in this case the information does not involve gross things. For me the research process can be humorous, scary, but always captivating.
On December 31, 2004 I was at a spiritual retreat for New Years Eve. We were having a discussion about moral dilemmas. An older woman wearing a mink coat was asking about how much money she should give to those who were killed in the Indian Ocean Tsunami which had just happened. She had said that she was saddened that 200,000 people were killed. I had pointed out to her that about that many people were killed in the Iraq War which began in 2003 according to a survey estimate which came out before the 2004 election. She responded "yes but that has made us safer."
At the start of the Iraq War according to a Washington Post Poll (Sept 2003) 69% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was linked to the 9/11 attacks when there was no evidence to support it, only rumors and fear. A few of those who disagreed with this belief had alternative theories that it was the Bush administration who was behind the attacks which can be taken apart with some logic. Fear is a powerful tool for overriding people's logic even about matters of life and death.
The Aspen Ideas Festival had an interesting discussion of a recent survey of changes in US attitudes in the last decades. The results can be summarized as the country has lost it's sense of optimism and it will be hard to turn around. Many do not believe the death of Osama bin Laden will have a positive effect for the safety of Americans. It aired on C-SPAN. I cannot embed the video here but I can link to it below: