Texas Kamikaze

From No Caption Needed:

Too often, it seems, we treat anger as an inherently irrational and inchoate expression of political engagement, typically representing it in the roar of an inarticulate mob.  But as Aristotle made clear, anger is not madness.  Indeed, it is and can be a legitimate and rational political emotion, quite necessary as a motivational resistance to the forces of injustice, and made effective in the careful and deliberate performance of the cultural norms of appropriate social and political recognition.  The problem is that in contemporary times we lack useful models for the effective expression and enactment of productive political anger. Either we get the silly rants of groups like the “tea-baggers,” which function as little more than a parody of anger, or we get the truly irrational futility of individuals flying planes into buildings or going on shooting rampages.  Neither serves the purposes of a robust democratic public culture.

What we need are exemplars of the performance of political anger that animate the demands for justice and restitution in pointed but measured ways.  Where we will find them, it is hard to say,  but in the meantime it is important to keep in mind that the political scenarios in which we frame enactments of anger carry a powerful normative force that should never go unmarked as transparent expressions of affect.

The Politics of Anger

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Definition of an Impossible, Unsustainable Task

… keeping any and all “weapons,” from hobby knives to hair gel, out of the hands and luggage of 2 million travelers every day of the year. I’ll remind you that tough-as-nails prison guards cannot keep drugs and knives out of maximum security cell blocks, never mind the folly of TSA guards trying to root out liquid-filled baby rattles at overcrowded airports.

WooHOooo more from the eminently sensible pilot and air travel journalist par excellence, Patrick Smith, at Salon

Celebrating What Cronkite Did

CronkiteCBS

From Glenn Greenwald:

Tellingly, his [Cronkite’s] most celebrated and significant moment — Greg Mitchell says “this broadcast would help save many thousands of lives, U.S. and Vietnamese, perhaps even a million” — was when he stood up and announced that Americans shouldn’t trust the statements being made about the war by the U.S. Government and military, and that the specific claims they were making were almost certainly false.  In other words, Cronkite’s best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists they must not ever do — directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed.  These days, our leading media outlets won’t even use words that are disapproved of by the Government.

Despite that, media stars will spend ample time flamboyantly commemorating Cronkite’s death as though he reflects well on what they do (though probably not nearly as much time as they spent dwelling on the death of Tim Russert, whose sycophantic servitude to Beltway power and “accommodating head waiter”-like, mindless stenography did indeed represent quite accurately what today’s media stars actually do).  In fact, within Cronkite’s most important moments one finds the essence of journalism that today’s modern media stars not only fail to exhibit, but explicitly disclaim as their responsibility.

[…]

In the hours and hours of preening, ponderous, self-serving media tributes to Walter Cronkite, here is a clip you won’t see, in which Cronkite — when asked what is his biggest regret — says (h/t sysprog):

What do I regret? Well, I regret that in our attempt to establish some standards, we didn’t make them stick.  We couldn’t find a way to pass them on to another generation.

It’s impossible even to imagine the likes of Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw and friends interrupting their pompously baritone, melodramatic, self-glorifying exploitation of Cronkite’s death to spend a second pondering what he meant by that.  [more]

There are no more Walter Cronkites in the mainstream media.  The mainstream media is dying and that just might be one of the reasons.

Obscuring Violence Against Women

[UPDATED below]

A man kills his ex-wife in her workplace, killing two of her colleagues as well and injuring several others.  This is called male violence against women, though you would never, ever know it from the reports.  Who knows, these men may have been targetted for some reason beyond the fact that they were in a group with George Zinkhan’s ex-wife.  Or they may be dead simply because they were there.  What is beyond doubt is that Marie Bruce, the ex-wife of Mr. Zinkhan, was the main attraction.  This is “domestic violence”.  Why do journalists not call it what it is?  [rhetorical question]:

Authorities were on a nationwide manhunt for a University of Georgia professor in the shooting deaths of three people, including his ex-wife, Saturday at a community theater near campus.

Athens-Clarke County Police Capt. Clarence Holeman said authorities were searching for a suspect, 57-year-old George Zinkhan, who has been a marketing professor at the university in Athens since the 1990s, and lived about seven miles from campus.

Killed were Zinkhan’s ex-wife, Marie Bruce, 47, Tom Tanner, 40, and Ben Teague, 63, Holeman said. Both men were involved with Town & Gown Players Inc., a local theater group in Athens, about 70 miles east of Atlanta.

The shooting happened outside the Athens Community Theater during a midday gathering of the theater group. Holeman said the shooter left his two young children in the car when he opened fire on the group. A neighbor of Zinkhan’s in nearby Bogart said the professor later dropped off the children with him next door and left after saying there was an emergency. The children were with police.

The rest is here but you’ll find not a word about male violence, violence against women or domestic violence.

UPDATE:  See the esteemed Historiann, here for “another sickening example of the news media doing the work of our culture in erasing or obscuring the deadly combination of modal American masculinity and gun violence!” and here

Get Tough On Crime

The reason AIG is in so much trouble is that it sold insurance against a global financial meltdown and then couldn’t pay up.  Felix Salmon says:

The scandal here is not the size of the losses from the global financial meltdown — those are losses which sooner or later, in one form or another, would have had to be borne by the government anyway. Rather, the scandal is that AIG could have earned billions of dollars by selling insurance against a meltdown, even as it was wholly incapable of paying out on those policies. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Hank Greenberg was still a billionaire, even as the policies his company wrote have cost the average American household some $1,600. It’s time for his wealth to be confiscated: it might be only a drop in the bucket compared to AIG’s total losses, but it would feel very right.

And baum at Ethel the Blog says “Confiscate, Imprison, Draw, Quarter, Etc.”,:

Where the hell are the psychotic “tuff on crime” fetishists now that we’re threatened by something slightly more dangerous than a pothead selling bongs?

UPDATE:  From Louise Story and Eric Dash at NYT

One Merrill Lynch trader apparently gambled away more than $120 million in the currency markets. Others seemingly lost hundreds of millions on tricky credit derivatives.

But somehow all this red ink did not spill into plain view until after Merrill earmarked billions for bonuses and staggered into the arms of Bank of America.

Inside Bank of America headquarters here, executives are asking why. The bank is investigating how Merrill accounted for wayward trades in the final, frantic months of 2008 — and why at least one big loss was slow to appear on Merrill’s books.

Of particular concern are the activities of a Merrill currency trader in London, Alexis Stenfors, whose trading has come under scrutiny by British regulators, according to people briefed on the investigation. The loss Mr. Stenfors is believed to have incurred so alarmed Bank of America that this week the bank examined the books of other traders who were on vacation.

Bank of America’s embattled chief executive, Kenneth D. Lewis, is trying to bridle Merrill’s traders, whose rush into risky investments nearly brought down the brokerage firm. But questions over the Merrill losses — in particular, who knew about them, and when — keep swirling. Merrill hemorrhaged $13.8 billion during the final three months of 2008 alone.

Bank of America’s shareholders did not learn of that gaping hole until after they approved the merger of the two companies on Dec. 5. Nor was the extent of the loss fully known when Merrill paid out $3.6 billion in bonuses, which were based on estimates of the firm’s performance as of Dec. 8. When the problems became clear, Bank of America was forced to seek a second, multibillion-dollar rescue from Washington.  [emphasis mine]

The epicenter of the trouble is Merrill’s markets operation, headed by Thomas K. Montag. Mr. Montag, a former Goldman Sachs trader who was brought in by John A. Thain, Merrill’s fallen chief executive, has become a divisive figure inside Bank of America. He is trying to retain his top producers amid the furor over Merrill’s bonuses. He flew to Charlotte this week to strategize with deputies from around the world.

“There is a massive cultural disconnect in the trading area,” said Brad Hintz, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Company. “You have Bank of America, where it would seem foreign to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet, and at Merrill, the legacy is still there, from the C.D.O.’s and the risks they took on.”

For Mr. Stenfors, 38, 2008 looked like a very good year. He recorded a trading profit of about $120 million, and his reward was a handsome bonus …