Certain Habits

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Inspiring Confidence in Congress

Implicit premises: (1) Our highly trained intelligence agencies just take the public statements of terrorist groups at face value. What, that guy’s not a terrorist anymore? Whatever you say, Osama; guess we’ll shut down the microphones. (2) We have no laws that might permit us to track or wiretap people who are plotting murder and mayhem if they’re not considered an “agent of a foreign power” under FISA. Like, if you just want to commit mass murder, but it’s not international terrorism? We’re just stumped. Go ahead, I guess.

Julian Sanchez, “Dear FBI — Ahmed is not a terrorist. Pinky swear.” Read the whole thing.

I don’t think it’s (just?) that our elected officials are dumb. It’s that the misleading language of law, and the even more misleading language of politics have heaped so many generalizations and abstractions upon the concrete details of life that the systems we’ve constructed have become unintelligible to the vulgar (we who are supposed to be governing ourselves) and increasingly unintelligible to the high priests of government.

If they can’t figure out wiretapping, how are they supposed to regulate derivatives, fund health care, or foster new energy economies? Isn’t it about time that too big and complex to understand be recognized as too big and complex to govern?

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