Thursday, August 31, 2006

Out of Luck in Lexington

The FAA wasn't meeting it's own standards on the morning that Comair Flight 5191 crashed in Lexington, KY. The FAA requires two traffic controllers, one to monitor the radar and one check traffic on the ground. There was only one. The FAA requires controllers to have eight hours of sleep. That controller had only two hours of sleep.

There had been construction at the airport and the pilot ended up going to the wrong runway for his take-off. If the FAA had followed its own procedures, an air traffic controller would have corrected the pilot error.

But they did not and forty-nine people died as a result.

That's one corner the Bush administration shouldn't have cut in order to have lower taxes.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hook em Rummy

Once again today, Donald Rumsfeld trotted out the Munich analogy when talking about war opponents. In Rummyworld, Osama bin Laden is Hitler and war opponents are all Neville Chamberlains trying to take the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia and give it to Germany.

Of course, Rumsfeld isn't serious. But his comments raise the question of what is the best analogy for the American situation in Iraq.

Let's try sports.

What's happening to the United States in Iraq is the equivalent of the $200 million New York Yankees finishing in last place in a Class A league like the South Atlantic League. Or the Texas Longhorns being regularly beaten by lousy high school football teams. That's how bad the U. S. is doing in Iraq.

Of course, highly successful sports organizations like the Yankees and Texas Longhorns are subject to constant criticism and enormous pressures even if they're winning at the highest levels. If they were doing anywhere nearly as badly as the Bush administration is doing in Iraq, these elite sports organizations would have cleaned house several times, rethought their commitment of resources, and revamped all their strategies.

They certainly wouldn't have been dumb enough to "stay the course."

Signs of the GOP Apocalypse

In my home town in Kentucky, an Iraq veteran just moved next door to a local judge. The vet has "impeach Bush" bumper stickers on his car and a big Kerry/Edwards sign in his living room window.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The John Mark Karr Triangle

John Mark Karr did not develop his fixation with confessing JonBenet Ramsey's murder by himself. To the contrary, Karr's confessions seem to have deep roots in the sprawling culture of American media. In fact, Karr's confessions might be best thought of as emerging out of a triangle of licit and illicit cultural media. One point of the triangle was Karr's own involvement with child pornography and pedophelia which seemed to be both longstanding and intensifying. The child porn interests would have put Karr into contact with a system of sex stereotypes that Karr a different kind of guy than the weird uncles and step-fathers that girls used to be warned about. But Karr's interests were not as far out of the mainstream as Bill O'Reilly and other pedophilia crusaders think.

The media pornographying of JonBenet Ramsey's murder was a strong point of connection to the cultural mainstream for Karr and forms the second point of the Karr triangle. It is doubtful that Karr's sexual fantasies would have focused so intently on JonBenet Ramsey if tabloid magazines and reality tv had not transformed the little girl's murder into a ten-year peep show. Although most people did not go into the same child pornography detail as Karr, his obsessions with Jon Benet were shared by millions. If anything, the long-running JonBenet porn show was heightened by the blanket coverage of every detail of Karr's arrest, flight to LA, and the sexual detail of his phony confessions. Perhaps Karr's ultimate fantasy was to become the new star of the JonBenet sex/murder show in the role of JonBenet's murderer. And it worked for awhile. The coverage was blanket. The ratings were huge. If Karr received a nickel for everytime people peeped in on him as he was being processed in the legal system, he could afford all the child pornography he wanted.

But why was Karr's fantasy focused on "confession" as opposed to copy cat murders, enacting similar kinds of scenarios with girls in Thailand, going to peep shows, or something like that. The principal mainstream cultural reference point for confession in American society would be the vast world of police dramas, crime investigation programs, reality crime shows, local news reporting on crime, and action, police, and investigation movies. Of course, there's plenty of left-wing commentary on the importance of fear in American culture, for example in Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine. However, there is little emphasis on the importance of police images in American society--the pleasures that American audiences derive from entertainment based on the criminal investigations, interrogations, legal manuevering, and imprisonment that break the perpetrator. Perpetually afraid of crime and terrorism, we get a special kick out of the media destruction of the criminal and terrorist. I'm no exception here. I used to love cop shows like NYPD Blue and Homicide: Life on the Streets before I unhooked from television. One of my favorite movies is the incredibly righteous L.A. Confidential.

Just like John Mark Karr seemed eager to get himself inside the on-going JonBenet porn show, he also seemed eager to insert himself into the world of crime drama. Karr has been panting to get into the machinery of criminal investigation and justice--to be interrogated, arrested, and taken before judges and consult with defense lawyers, speak to the media, and finally be committed to prison. A big part of Karr's fantasy was to be punished by the judicial system for the crime of killing JonBenet Ramsey and he might still get his punishment wish from the child porn rap in California. For better or worse, the punishment fantasy is a big part of American culture in general.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Sobering Moment

An early Delta commuter flight to Atlanta went down in Lexington, KY this morning with reports of 49 dead and one critically injured.

My wife and kids have taken that flight several times.

Other people from my home town as well.

I'm going about my day, but I'm wondering in the back of my mind if anybody I knew was on the plane.

Stumbling Blocks for the Right

The right-wing keeps stumbling. One of their stumbling blocks has become the police. At least some national police organizations have come out in favor of gun control. Likewise, the local cops in Oklahoma think that gaining the cooperation of illegals is more important than enforcing immigration law. Consquently, the police resist efforts by right-wing activists to get them to round up illegal immigrants. Florida police have also made it clear that they aren't going to enforce immigration law as they seek to address "guat-bashing" robberies of Guatemalan immigrants.