Jingo Killah

I am not a pacifist. I am Jingo Killah.

About

We explore the eternal question: What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

My reticence in writing is mostly because I’ve been knocked off center.

It’s obviously not because there’s nothing to write about in politics; there’s a ton. So much of what is going on, though, just feels like trolling. I believe enough in myself to want to transcend this cycle’s hack pejorative terms and bland leading questions (“Is Obama a socialist? Who is responsible for our moral breakdown? Where is our country heading?”) I want to believe enough in myself to find real substance, like the bloggers I do admire.

I want to avoid bending to my knee-jerk responses to the right-wing cabal. The Fox News machine feels like it’s making traction, but I don’t know if they really are. Most of what they say is laughable, pure absurdity. I admire those who are shoring up resistance to the distortions and lies and hypocrises – Stewart, Colbert, Olbermann, Maddow, Media Matters, HuffPo, et al. I love to see Glenn Beck be exposed for the alarmist idiot that he is. I also think we’re shoring up some important resources for the ongoing debate about what ‘-ism’ Obama is engendering (is he fascist? no. Is he socialist? No. Well, what is he?) And I will continue to watch for those crystalline moments when a single line is thrown, like David’s rock at Goliath’s head, for the win. This week’s line, from John Stewart: “I think you’re confusing tyrrany with losing.”

Ultimately, though, it’s a travesty when politics is being played at the level of a Michelle Bachman. There’s two ways to look at political engagement: if we’re on a battlefield, all we can do is to continue to shoot until we’re completely out of ammo, and avoid being shot ourselves. This can continue ad infinitum, especially as both sides rarely score a kill. But, if we are on an Exodus, none of what the ‘enemy’ has to say has any consequence. We have to depend on our own observations and skills and perceptions to build a new political reality, and let it stand on its own merits.

I’m not a poly-sci major, or a journalist, or an economist. I’m just intellectually engaged by the political world we live in. But I don’t see the point in adding to the noise of polarized politics. This puts me in the tough position of aspiring to Hilzoy’s level, or the like, without the benefit of years of intellectual rigor and ongoing political immersion. Either that, or packing it in.

The best I can aspire to – I will keep this blog up for when I do have something substantive to say, or want to link to something that has real value.

Limbaugh is a troll

March 5th, 2009

I always get drawn to this kind of nonsense. I really want to expand on this old post of mine somehow, express it in a digestible mainstream kinda way. It discussed how politics is a game played in the middle, with the poles exerting force but not ultimately controlling discourse. I’ve been thinking about this stuff lately with all the Rush stuff in the news – I thought it was brilliant to make him the figurehead of all the noise on the right, cos he’s King Rightwing. He has no influence over the middle or left, of course. And ‘allowing’ him to be King makes it easy for the Democrats to control the substantive conversations in the middle. So, though some progressives are horrified at Limbaugh’s current positioning, it makes it very easy to dismiss large amounts of his ideology, and the proponents of it.

I was over on SodaHead doing research for a paper I’m working on. The whole site is just shit, but I couldn’t help but have fun rolling around in it for a little while, like a naughty labrador. There were two poll questions that were related to this issue: this and this. I made this observation in the comments of the former thread:

There is one major element missing from this challenge: What is at stake for Limbaugh?

When two candidates are debating, there are two goals both candidates have: to gain undecideds, and to not lose those persons already in their column. They are fighting for the middle 20% of the electorate.

Rush has absolutely nothing to lose from this. He has his polarized 30%, and no matter what stupid shit he says, he won’t lose any of his precious dittoheads. Obama has far more to lose. The perception of “winning” or “losing” this debate is immaterial; Obama probably would not gain any higher approval than he has now, as the rushbo 30% will not be converted. And Obama might lose a few points, just from a comment or two.

So what’s at stake, Rush? What are you willing to bet that you would win a debate against Obama? You’re not running for elected office, so you can be as incendiary and polarizing as you like. You have absolutely nothing to lose. On top of that, you offer your own (home-field advantage) radio studio as the venue. Wow, that’s real generous. Tell you what, Rush. If you can actually produce some stakes here – say, leaving the airwaves for a year if you lose the debate – then it might be worth Obama’s time to consider debating you. Otherwise, your throwdown isn’t worth shit.

So I entitled this post “Limbaugh is a troll” not to be all ad hominem and shit. He is, by proper definition, a troll. He has a tremendous sense of his own entitlement in the debate, yet brings nothing – no risk, nothing to contribute, no focus on anything but himself. I have to admit, it’s fun to troll, especially on a site like SodaHead, but it does not dignify the President to feed any trolls.

Work your own head out

February 23rd, 2009

Haven’t been posting. I’ve been watching politics and reading politics and talking politics, but haven’t found inspiration to write about politics. The minute-to-minute assessment of the first month of Obama has been at turns inspiring and entirely frustrating. It’s like he’s on a balance beam, working his first routine of the day, and the whole world thinks they’re Coach Bela Karolyi, bellowing “Look out! You’re losing your balance!” and “Oh, that’s gonna cost you.” I’m of the school “Fuck off and watch until he’s dismounted.” Many would disagree, and certainly the news cycle furor would chew this up. But I would like to preach just a little patience, folks. Let a man work.

Here’s a nifty thing I came across – I think the artist may have landed a recent American Express ad. This is much cooler than than. Ladies and Gentlemen, John Lennon, circa 1969.

Link to a discussion over at Ta-Nehisi Coates, about an essay entitled “Conservatism Is Dead.”   Essentially a link to a link, yes, but good discussion to be had at TNC.  Especially my comment, of course.  The essay in discussion describes the history of a conservative ideology that is oppositional by nature.  Tis worth the read.

Blegging the Questions

January 28th, 2009

I was at a party the other night, and a friend was discussing a type of disconnect that she has with certain types of entertainment.  I was happy to find that we shared the same aversion.  It’s that thing where a character is about to do something that you know is a bad idea, but cannot advise them from the couch.  It’s the prime reason I haven’t been able to get into Curb Your Enthusiasm, cos it just seems like it’s a continual “Aw, Larry, no, don’t do that, no, ewwwww.”  “Larry, don’t pursue this conversation.  It’s not worth it.  You’re going to embarrass yourself.  Larry, damnit, listen!”  Do you experience this?

I had the same feeling for Rod Blagojevich’s media tour.  I avoided every bit of it, cos I just didn’t want to see the guy dig himself a deeper hole.  Go home!  friggin idiot insane traitor (grumble).  I even extended this to Rachel Maddow’s show, who had an interview with the Governor last night.  Normally I watch Rachel regularly, but I couldn’t bring myself to dial it up last night.  This morning, I go to HuffPo, and there it was again, the entire interview beckoning, yet revulsing me.

Turns out it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might have been.  It was a very long interview, and first I must give Rachel props for having the most tolerable interview style in cable news.  She hit with tough questions, the sort of emperor-has-no-clothes type questions that certain journalists avoid in favor of touchy-feely stuff.  She did not ask him to do a Nixon impersonation.  She let Rod finish each of his answers.  And she did not yell, scoff, or otherwise dismiss him, other than reserving her right to be skeptical.  Wow, grown-up news style.  O’Reilly should take some notes.

I wasn’t convinced by his argument, but he does have his defense reasoned out.  It’s in line with all the outrageous stuff he’s said and done in recent weeks.  Consistency in no way equals innocence, but inconsistency would end the game.  If it is a delusion or an elaborately constructed lie, he seems brave enough to put his story’s feet to the fire.  That said, if he’s really pushing to have this tried in the media, it’s to us to find the holes in his story.

Better Know a Crisis

January 26th, 2009

My dad and I don’t get along politically; he’s on the other team, so to speak, and very knee-jerk when it comes to the political blame-game.  In regard to the financial crisis, he blames only Democrats in Congress, particularly Pelosi and Dodd.  He throws in a little hand-wringing about the failure to drill, how ANWR and offshore drilling would have saved us from this crisis.  I think he gets most of his talking points from Limbaugh, unfortunately.

I do my best to not be the Tweedledum to his Tweedledee, and reactively blame Repub fatcats.  I obviously know there is legitimacy to the claims of Democrat error in regard to mortgage profligacy.  Unqualified borrowers stepped up to the plate, due to programs set in place by various Democrats.  However, this is only one part of a very large picture.  It’s very difficult to get a perspective on how this colossal failure occurred, and it makes us wish for an uber-Madoff, some single person on which we can place all the blame.  Or a single party.  Or branch of government.  Or industry.  Or position.  Stop wishing, and please start studying.

This article is Britain-centric, being from the Guardian, but I think it does a good job assessing how many people failed concurrently.  I hope that media outlets continue to grok that people need as many introductory doorways to understanding this crisis as the media can provide.  This American Life has done several in-depth introductions, helping me to understand credit default swaps, for example.  Please post here if you have any other articles that can serve the non-economist.

In Awe of the Inauguration

January 23rd, 2009
I've got a silver ticket

Cordially Invited

Things move far too fast for me to ever be a real journalist. Well, yunno, if there was a real deadline I might move words a bit faster. The Inauguration, from a news cycle perspective, is so completely last year. It was covered. But wait, I was there! Hopefully, I have something unique to tell you about it.

I visited my old friend Lo in Arlington – drove there on Sunday night. Her brother had scored tickets thru his congressman up in New York, but then decided that the trip and the event would be too intense and too unrewarding for the six-year-old that was to be in tow. So, he FedEx’d the tix to my ex. Many many thanks to you, bro.

I was sick. A sort of sore-throat flu, achey and nasally raw. It had started on Friday. I did my best to slam it with fluids and pharma, and some additional rest on Monday. I managed to shore up enough energy to tackle the event, but I was disappointed that I was not going to be partying in DC after the inauguration. I made the best of it.

The city, as you know, was in full prep for the event, knowing that it was to expand by a few million people, population-wise. It was super-smart for the organizers to shut the city down at the border, closing bridges and tunnels to car traffic, and forcing people onto public transport. I have one shot in the video that I took where I’m on the metro, on a fully crowded car, heading over the train bridge next to the 14th Street bridge, where a caravan of 8 buses is heading into the city, parallel to us. The name of the game was “How to Move 1.5 Million People Into One Central Location in a Short Period of Time.” As far as I could tell, the planners were on their game.

My companion was fretting the whole way in – that’s what she does. “We should have gotten up earlier. We’re never getting in.” was her mantra. We stepped off the Metro into a massively crowded L’Enfant Station in DC, and shuffled slowly up stairs into morning sunlight, and attempted to figure out our path. We were Silver Ticket holders (more about that in a bit), and we were able to find our line fairly quickly, thanks to a friendly guide. Unfortunately, we found the middle of the line, and had to work our way down Independence Ave, directly away from the venue, to find the end of the line. Lo’s mantra became quicker and more insistent.

We found the end of the line in front of a beautiful old Smithsonian building. We got there at almost precisely 8 am, the same time that they were opening the gates on the mall. The line had not yet moved, obviously, but as soon as 8 am dinged, the line began to move. Quickly. We knew the line was at least 10 blocks long, but after we had moved a city block in under ten minutes, we knew we were going to be fine. I had to phrase it as a math problem to terminate Lo’s mantra.

We proceeded. Just past the Museum of the American Indian was a large cache area, a big pool of people, waiting to step up. After wading thru the pool we came to a long row of gates, probably 50 gates with four attendants at each, which is why they were able to process us thru so quickly. The Silver Ticket area was probably the lowest security ticketed area, as it was west of the Reflecting Pool, separating us from the interior arena. There were 240,000 total tickets, and I would have to guess that at least half were silver. So we were in a big general section with about 120,000 people. We were in before 9 am, so I would have to guess that they were able to process between 20,000 and 40,000 people per hour. I have to give them props for that.

A guide to the ticketed arena

A guide to the ticketed arena

Also, it seemed that our section provided a sort of security buffer. Our view of the Capitol building was still impossibly distant; there was no way to even make out individuals from that distance unless you had some sort of military grade binocs. My point is, theoretically, this section did not necessarily need to be ticketed, cos it didn’t necessarily improve one’s ability to see anything. But, as we were a secured crowd, we provided a human buffer in front of all unticketed, unsearched individuals that started in the section directly west of (behind) us. There was nothing short of a missile that would have reached the dais from that point.

I hope my interest in this part of the event is not unseemly; it’s a unique and terrifying moment from a national security standpoint. Beyond our fears for Barack, our entire Federal Government was on one stage at one time. All living Presidents and Vice-Presidents, all the top Senators and Congressmen, the whole Cabinet, Oprah… what sort of chaos would we be in if something had happened? I’m in awe of the assessments and wargaming that our National Security wonks had to suss out; DC was a giant theater with millions of audience members, thousands of performers and hundreds of leading roles. They must have considered some pretty awful scenarios in their planning.

I was taking mental notes for this blog post, and I was beginning to realize that I was witnessing a logistically successful event that I would probably write about in glowing terms. And so I have. But the next day, I got to read about these guys.

It’s also worth noting how weird it was that the lowest level ticket was Silver. Yunno, the old song about the Golden Ticket. Well, a Silver Ticket must be just below that, right? What’s worth more, silver or yellow? Keep your blue ticket, I’VE got a silver ticket.

So, yes. We were in. We had a Jumbotron in close proximity, the Capitol looming large but still a distance away. We chatted with our neighbors, watched the ‘tron as VIP attendees were videoed making their entrance. I chain-sucked zinc cough drops, and we enjoyed cookies and orange slices. It was cold, yes. Layers is the way to go. Occasionally I would do a little jumping dance to get new blood to flow to my feet again; this dance was apparently all the rage. Don’t call me a trendsetter, though.

Our view

Our view

I discovered quickly that the sound system was shit. Really. Take note, festivities-planners. Whoever was in charge of that debacle needs to be given a job in some other field. Either that, or the budget for the sound system was short by about half. There are ways to design a large-venue sound system to account for synchronization problems. There are also ways to determine how many speaker cabs you’re gonna need to fill a certain area. It was fortunate that there was closed captioning on the jumbotron, cos otherwise the speeches would have been unintelligible.

I’ll process the video for tomorrow, and you’ll get a sense of the festivities down on our part of the farm. People had no problem expressing their feelings for various members of the outgoing administration; it made me wonder, though, if the crowds up close had the same vocal attitude. Not that I think Cheney would have cared what we thought, but when he entered in the wheelchair, it was clear that there was no love lost. The wheelchair itself helped further caricaturize Cheney; it at once evoked Mr. Potter, Dr. Strangelove, and Dr. Scott, with a little unmasked Darth Vader thrown in. How unfortunate for him.

The crowd obviously went nuts whenever an Obama was on the screen. From 11:30 on, all official cameras were trained on the ritualistic passage of each of the players. There were lots of corridor shots, etc. Well, you saw this part. But it was fun to watch the crowd’s reactions to each icon as they took their places on the dais.

And so the ceremony started. One neighbor of mine was facing me during the Rick Warren invocation. I suddenly processed that he was in a posture of protest, facing away from the dais. For me, the Warren nod was unfortunate, but I took it as just a ‘politics as usual’ moment. This gentleman, however, was clearly deeply offended by Warren’s presence. I considered joining him, but chose to be Switzerland, for a number of reasons too personal to really get into here. I watched his facial expressions as he quietly noted the points of irony and hypocrisy in Rev. Warren’s invocation. This became one of the most moving parts of the whole event for me.

It’s been noted that Noon is the moment that the transfer of power occurs, and not at the conclusion of the oath. Biden was quickly sworn in at 11:57, and I was expecting Obama to follow. There was that musical interlude, though, which took us past the noon hour. Right at the moment when Itzhak and Yo-Yo struck up the band, which was pretty much noon, there was a sudden appearance of a flock of birds directly above the mall. It was a beautifully timed and surreal appearance, as if the Earth itself was expressing relief at the passage of administrations. Four dozen gulls swooped and circled in sync to the strings below. It was a very high moment.

Then, boom. The Oath was taken (such as it was), we saw the handshake, and the crowd went nuts again. It was a great feeling to actually see this effort thru to fruition. Right? It’s about that moment. Two million people standing for four hours in a cold crowded arena to be there for that exact moment. And boom, boom, boom. The 21 gun salute was fired from cannons – we could feel them in our feet, even from a half mile away.

I loved Obama’s speech, as much as I could follow it (the sound problems), but I cheered for the proclamations that I could understand. I spent some of this time listening to the unique audio effect of Obama-voice bouncing off buildings, echoing and reverbing. Barack knows how to work a PA, man. Even with shitty, echoey audio, he still sounds awesome.

When the speech was completed, many in the crowd immediately went to depart. Everything following Obama was anti-climactic, sadly. We weren’t really sure if we should start to head out, so we waited things out. Might have been an error. Then again, I don’t think we would have gotten ahead of the crowd in any case.

As with all things, the exit strategy was poor. To be fair, it’s much harder for event planners to plan for the mass disgorgement of the mall. One just has to hope that people will use their common sense as they stumble and shuffle their way out of the arena. However, nobody really had a sense of which exits (read: streets) would be best to use. More signage, please, next time! Or some sort of map, included on the website.

After climbing over a few barriers, we headed west on Independence Ave, seeking schools of fish to join up with as we swam upstream. The weird thing was, EVERYWHERE was upstream. Eventually, we came to the intersection of Independence and 12th, where we experienced Human Gridlock. An entire intersection filled with people, nobody moving cos everyone wanted to go in every direction. Amazing, and slightly frightening. In retrospect, it is a beautiful thing that there were no real incidents or arrests (so I’ve heard). So, though it was utter chaos, it was a peaceful chaos.

Independence and 12th

Independence and 12th

We eventually escaped to Arlington on foot via the 14th St bridge, and down thru a park on the Virginia side of the Potomac. I was sad that I was not attending some fabulous DC after-party (screw the balls, a bar or a house party would have filled the bill), but I was exhausted and numb and strung out on DayQuil. We ate Thai, then napped for three hours. Par-tay!

Still, I have confidence that I didn’t miss the best part of the day.

(photo credits to Lorraine Brasseur)

TNC is my hero

January 17th, 2009

According to the Huffington Post’s Complete Guide to Blogging, I should be posting more often, and making my posts briefer, and linking to things when I have nothing to say.  Yes, I should.  I love the essay form – I want to feel like I’m saying something substantial.  But a heavy meal is not always called for.  I should be serving more snacks.

Anyway, I really admire Ta-Nehesi Coates over at the Atlantic, he seems to have a way of inspiring a lot of great discussion.  And he often does it with only a paragraph or two.  Here’s an example – one simple question, 133 comments in reply.  My comment is dead last, cos I always get to the party too late.  But gosh, it’s insightful.

I also commented on this discussion on ‘post-racial’ times, and this discussion on modern creepiness.

And, end post!  How’d I do?  10:43.  I could probably do better.

rites of conscience

December 28th, 2008

Another ‘midnight regluation’ from Bush – the granting of “Rights of Conscience” to medical workers allowing personal beliefs to preside over established procedure. Wow. Thanks to Chris Weignant for the reference. This story may blow up, may not. It captured my imagination right away, and I hope that this will play on Maddow, but with everything happening everywhere all at once, and this being a bit of Friday page 10 news between Christmas and New Year’s, it might be safe to assume that it’s buried and needs some blogosphere magic to un-bury it.

My take on it is a little more abstract – we of course know we’re on the battlefield of choice, women’s rights, religious rights, etc. But I think that “Rights of Conscience” falls into a sort of unworkable abstraction that can be haphazardly applied to dozens of contentious issues, all the way across the political spectrum. Medical workers are potentially being given this right, presumably because of the exceptionalism we bestow upon them as medical professionals. Doctors can prescribe and administer drugs, they can cut people open, they can stick certain things in various anatomical places. All these things are illegal (and possibly immoral) on the street. Thus, medical professionals confront a great number of moral issues along the way, and become part of morality plays, played out in real life.

The mediasphere is gonna focus right in on the one area where the transparent Bush administration intends to grant a specific empowerment. But also see the big picture, please. It’s a Pandora’s Box. If medical workers have an individual “Right of Conscience”, who else can claim it? And in what ways?

An example. Cops? They’re ‘exceptional’, cos they openly carry guns, and can enter your home, arrest and detain people, etc. We regular citizens can’t. (I’m not presenting the pejorative of this, just a starting point.) There are a great many ways a cop can practice a Right of Conscience – an individual belief that takes precedence over the system that employs him and grants him his exceptionalism, based on a secular moral code already in place. Again, to avoid the pejorative anti-cop quagmire, I’ll use a supposition that swings libertarian – suppose a cop selectively refused to enforce laws, cos they didn’t jibe with his personal beliefs. Would he be subject to discipline? Yes. Could he mount a defense saying “these laws don’t pass my moral filter, therefore I claim my Right of Conscience.” Well, is Pandora out of the box? And then, could you do this in the military? Could you do this in the school system? Could you do this in a government office or in the court system?

When you enter any of these exceptional domains officially, you are read a battery of riot acts that indicate the personal rights of the people you interact with. These texts comprise the moral and procedural code already in place for that domain. If you entered such a path with your own realized beliefs, at some early point you might discover a moral conflict. For example, a Christian scientist who wants to practice western medicine will probably be knocked off the path long before the Hippocratic oath is taken. (If, of course, she’s being honest.) You can be a conscientious objector if there’s a draft and they try to send you somewhere to fight a war. You have to demonstrate that at the outset of your employment, though. You can’t become a conscientious objector in a foxhole.

Of course, small acts of conscience happen all the time, within the gray areas of these jobs. The cop clocked me doing 73, but let me off with a warning. The teacher subverts the lesson plan to better match her beliefs. The government bureaucrat lets a piece of paperwork slide. The soldier decides not to shoot. The doctor creates a plan that’s for the good of the patient, but doesn’t provide full disclosure, cos she knows the patient will make the bad choice. Each of these exceptional people must know that if the spotlight were suddenly over them, they’d have to answer for these decisions. Suddenly, there’s a new legal catchall that allows every exceptional person to say “My God wanted me to do it / didn’t want me to do it.”

The law is the law, and activism is activism. They lean against one another, challenge and build each other, balancing the rights of man. However, blend them, and you have neither.

Was watching It’s a Wonderful Life with my Dad the other night. Yunno, I don’t think I’ve seen the whole thing all the way thru, ever. It comes on, and I watch some of it, or I watch it to the end. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the opening credits. It’s ironic, even though it’s an American classic beloved by all, it really has a sort of ‘indie film’ feel to it – very abstract, non-linear, even a little conceptually challenging. I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie was a first step in Charlie Kaufman’s path to screenwriting.

Anyway, two ironies struck me as I was watching this.

One is simple, you’ve probably already guessed it, and I’m sure it’s hit a lot of other casual watchers this year. George Bailey’s idealism about community, real estate, money, trust, and true personal wealth, is dramatically contrasted with Potter’s… well, pure unrepentant evil. This story is presented year after year as a symbol of American values, an intersection where economy and humanity meet. It’s not a sub-plot, by any stretch… the penultimate scene where Bailey is running thru the streets shouting Merry Christmas to various bits of real estate, reveals that the town itself is as important to George as the people in it. Anyway, irony one – contrast with the rampant Potterism all around us at this time. Where is our George Bailey, our honest, passionate, people’s economist? The final scene, as the savings and loan gets its homespun bailout from the townspeople, was the bow on this perfectly packaged box of irony.

The second – Jimmy Stewart was a life-long Republican. I-rony! George Bailey is practically a socialist. Potter is a perfect caricature of a rapacious greedhead Repub. The film, of course, makes no political overtures, but if this movie ever inspired people to be more compassionate, or think about the welfare of all people, then George Bailey may have inspired more than a few proto-Democrats along the way. I wonder if Jimmy Stewart ever reflected on that?

Of course, the more cynical of us might reflect on the major ironic flaw of the movie – the fact that George Bailey lived an extraordinary good life before his moment of doubt. So, what of the people who didn’t? The parody’s been done before, of course (I think by Family Guy? amongst others), but what to say for the people who might be on the bridge, wishing they’d never been born, and a guardian angel comes down and says, “Yeah, the world would have been a better place without you.” If I had the dough, I would commision a short parody with Blagojevich as Bailey. “Look, a children’s hospital was built in this empty lot! Timmy got to see his sixth Christmas! He’s going to grow up to be President! But because you were born, and because you are a fucking asshole, Timmy died.” And then the guardian angel reveals himself to be the angel Lucifer, and gently guides Rod home. Isn’t that heartwarming?