Seth Godin: Is there a fear shortage?

If you see something, say something. Hmmm. Has that actually worked? Or x-raying shoes? When was the last time a bad guy was foiled because he couldn’t use a good camera to take a picture of a tourist attraction? Why do the authorities at Grand Central Station in New York wear desert camouflage?

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Terrorists vs. flying vs. driving vs. food

…a risk-free flight has never existed; nor has a risk-free car trip; nor a risk-free ocean liner voyage; nor a risk-free bike ride. To be alive is to face risks.

And don’t get me started on cars vs. terrorist bombings. Ugh. 30,000 to 40,000 people die every year in automotive crashes in the U.S. But there’s no TSA for driving. And should we talk about food terrorists? The companies that produce products known — proven — to be bad for us, but there’s no regulations to stop them or even slow them down.

I’m far more likely to die prematurely in a car or via diet than in any terrorist attack.

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David Brooks: The God That Fails

All this money and technology seems to have reduced the risk of future attack. But, of course, the system is bound to fail sometimes. Reality is unpredictable, and no amount of computer technology is going to change that. Bureaucracies are always blind because they convert the rich flow of personalities and events into crude notations that can be filed and collated. Human institutions are always going to miss crucial clues because the information in the universe is infinite and events do not conform to algorithmic regularity.

Resilient societies have a level-headed understanding of the risks inherent in this kind of warfare.

But, of course, this is not how the country has reacted over the past week.

2010 is only a few days old, but this may end up being the most important David Brooks column this year.

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Andrew Sullivan beats the drum against torture

If we were to become a fundamentalist police state that deployed torture at home and abroad against Muslim threats, the war would already be over, and al Qaeda would have won. We fight for certain profound and enduring principles – of freedom of religion and conscience and the inviolable dignity of the individual human being. We cannot defend those principles if we trash them at the same time.

I, like many Americans, largely ignored the discussion on torture in the so-called “war on terror.” I figured the election of Obama would lead to a significant policy and action change.

Sadly, that has not come to pass. We continue to use detention and are haunted by the neocons and neofascists that believe torture and suspension of habeus corpus are the right answers to the asymmetric threat of terrorism. More than haunted, they continue to drive the debate and have gotten Obama to compromise his way into a moral corner from which he seems unable to remove himself — or our nation.

Keep reading Andrew Sullivan. He reminds us of our best principles and admonishes those in Washington and beyond that would have us give up our freedoms in the name of a war that cannot be won by militaristic means.

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How to destroy a nation with asymmetric power

“Reducing the citizenry to a frightened puddle of passivity, hysteria and a child-like expectation of Absolute Safety is irrevocable and far more consequential than any specific new laws. Fear is always the enabling force of authoritarianism: the desire to vest unlimited power in political authority in exchange for promises of protection.” –a reader of Andrew Sullivan’s blog speaks about the dangers of our nanny state reaction to the threat of terrorism, as driven by neoconservatives and neofascists

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