The nation’s pulse and other nonsense

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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22 Responses

  1. North says:

    I agree in general E.D.

    Having reviewed the particulars though I think Obama would be prescient to collect a scalp for this, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that he’s different from his “Heckuva Job” predecessor. Napoliano (spelling?) probably should either be fired or tender a resignation. Maybe someone at the CIA. I mean the Father of our trust fund underwear grenedier did kind of tip us off.

    Then again maybe we wrote him off as a kook. I mean if some man ran up to you and said “You have to stop my son, he’s going to blow up an airplane with his underwear!” you might give him some wierd looks too.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to North says:

      No. We can’t go fire the head of Homeland Security every time there is a problem. I mean, these events will happen. We simply can’t protect ourselves completely. If we fire people every time something goes wrong, we’ll never keep anyone around long enough for them to get good at their job. It’s just a scapegoat mentality, not really accountability.Report

      • RTod in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        I agree, E.D., and think that your point should go beyond homeland security. It seems like every time something bad happens, people want some government employee to lose their job as a result. What really drives me nuts is that the firing is often seen as the solution; like, if there had just been another guy in that chair everything would have worked out just fine.

        The firing solution seems to me like its getting in the way of finding real solutions, big and small. Years ago, before they went bat-shit crazy, the right used to constantly go on about how government should be run more like an efficient business… and they were right. Can you imagine what would happen if in your business whenever anything went wrong or didn’t work the way people thought it might at the outset, management just found some really visible guy (or gal), fired their ass in front of everyone, and then went on without any other substantial changes?

        Seems like that’s what we’re demanding government do, more and more.Report

      • Scott in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        People don’t want Janet Napolitano fired because there was a problem. People want her scalp for the inane statement that the system worked. I tend to agree with Doud, Obama needs to find his pulse. Despite how you spin her column, no one is asking Barry to panic, just that he look like he gives a rats ass about the attack. He took almost two days to say anything about the attack and then it seemed like he only addressed it to smooth over the furor over Napolitano’s stupidity.Report

        • RTod in reply to Scott says:

          I get your point, Scott. But, agree or not, isn’t there something to be said about the president not going down this road at all on a non-successful, Wiley Coyote-like attack? I doubt that he just doesn’t give a shit about terrorism, and outside of cable news and the blogosphere don’t hear anyone else thinking that either.

          I know that we’re used to having the executive branch stop whatever they’re doing and go on 24-hour cable news talking point mode whenever this kind of thing happens, and I understand that people find it comforting. Is it possible, though, that treating it less seriously might be in some way beneficial?Report

          • Jaybird in reply to RTod says:

            If the wiring in the dude’s undies was better and he had succeeded, could you see people wanting to fire her if she had said “the system worked”?

            Because the difference between this being something to shrug off and something to fire someone over seems to be the quality of the wiring.

            Are all future attacks likely to have equally cruddy wiring?Report

            • E.D. Kain in reply to Jaybird says:

              Meh. Wrong question. Are all future heads of the DHS likely to stop all future attacks?

              There, that’s a better question.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                Personally, I see the success/failure of future attacks as having *NOTHING* (as in DIDDLY FREAKING SQUAT NOTHING NO I AM NOT KIDDING ONE IOTA) to do with the DHS, let alone the head of it.

                I’m asking for those who think that the DHS is relevant to their own (and the childrens’, of course) safety whether they would think that “the system worked” would be an appropriate thing to fire her for had the wiring not been faulty.Report

            • Scott in reply to Jaybird says:

              Get your facts straight, there was no wiring involved. Let’s also get this straight, the device went off but because the acid in the syringe did not make proper contact with the PETN it only started a fire instead of detonating the explosive as intended.Report

            • richard in reply to Jaybird says:

              Best comments on the board jaybird.Report

          • Scott in reply to RTod says:

            If you equate how Barry treated the incident pre-Napolitano as “less serious”, I don’t think that is beneficial because to me he was ignoring the situation. To me, all he had to do was acknowledge the attack and admit there are flaws in the system that would be addressedReport

        • Andy Smith in reply to Scott says:

          And how many days after the shoe bomber was it before Bush responded? And when exactly did he say that it showed that the system was not working?Report

          • Plinko in reply to Andy Smith says:

            But in her way, Napolitano is right, the system did work. All of the adults in the room know that the system is not designed to offer perfect protection against any possible attack. If it was, we’d all be required to fly sans luggage, strip down and wear airline issued jumpsuits and fly under sedation.

            Let me make a hooribly inapt football analogy, if you’re coaching a football team and one of your CB’s is covering a guy who gets a bit past him, the QB makes a throw but it goes off the receiver’s fingertips – did your defense work? You can say they got lucky, and to an extent, that’s true. But mostly, if you don’t have any CB there, the guy can just stand there and catch the ball, forcing the QB to throw under pressure, to a guy running full bore and needing to lead him sufficiently means even with a beaten CB, that there is only a tiny margin of error available and just because they almost got in it doesn’t mean your defense sucks.
            Taking this back to the failed underpants bomber, the fact is if there was no screening, if there was no system in place, the dude would walk on with a pound of explosive and a simple detonator. But he can’t do that. They had to try and fit in the tiny margin afforded between a workable bomb and one that could be concealed from security sufficiently and they failed. Now it’s time to learn from the seam they exposed and move on with life.
            The only underpants that need be ruined were the bombers. The idea that Napolitano needs to resign or be fired only comes from those suffering from the delusion that somehow we can prevent all would-be attacks and all prevention must come at any price. That idea is insane and needs to be discredited, I am sick of politicians, journalists, pundits and blog commenters stridently acting as if admitting the system cannot be perfect is a punishable offense. That is for crazy world.Report

            • Scott in reply to Plinko says:

              “The idea that Napolitano needs to resign or be fired only comes from those suffering from the delusion that somehow we can prevent all would-be attacks and all prevention must come at any price.”

              You miss the point just like others, so let me repeat what I said earlier, “people don’t want Janet Napolitano fired because there was a problem. People want her scalp for the inane statement that the system worked.” The fact that she is so clueless is very scary because there were in fact several major intelligence breakdowns.Report

  2. Lev says:

    A semi-on-topic rant follows:

    It never ceases to amaze me that certain people–such as the media–seem to think that fear is the best way to respond to terrorism. Cause, you know, the thing isn’t given that name for any particular reason. Man, this thing feels a lot like Lewinskygate to me–the media and politicians are crazed, most people are a little alarmed and worried, but mostly calm. The disconnect between the media’s self-styled tribunes of the people and the actual people is always striking. That might be why they don’t have as much power as they used to.

    I recently watched Good Night, And Good Luck, and I was struck by how different Murrow’s news style was from the present day’s. The undercurrent of the film was that Murrow saw himself as an authority, not a power, and that he derived that authority by telling people the truth they needed to hear. Murrow went after McCarthy and got attacked by the predecessors of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, but nobody really remembers that and his reputation is sterling. He was right, and he was brave, and people understood that. I don’t think the modern media sees itself that way anymore–there’s a lot more cynicism and snobbery, an abject worship of power and an entitlement to authority that I think people can just sense. I think it’s telling that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are among the most popular sources of “news”–in fact, they are the real heirs to the Murrow-Cronkite tradition of news. That they are funny is entirely incidental to their popularity. I remember reading something by Joe Carter saying that Paul Harvey was an unsung hero of popularizing conservatism because he made it seem like everyday, common wisdom. I suspect that liberals will be saying the same thing about Stewart in particular in a few decades’ time.

    So, yeah, I basically agree with Erik here.Report

  3. JosephFM says:

    I have long since lost the ability to work up any kind of emotion over anything MoDo writes., and really think Cheney needs less attention.Report

  4. Michael Drew says:

    Thanks for the good sense on hair-trigger firings, E.D. Pretty counter the prevailing currents, and there;s no particular upside to defending an official who has misstepped once the sharks are circling.Report

  5. Kaleberg says:

    I thought eliminating air travel was the official strategy. I sure haven’t flown very often in the last ten years. It’s just too much of a pain. (Actually, I’ve flown a fair bit, but on puddle jumpers so I don’t have to deal with the TSA.)

    It’s actually a relief not to hear all that clucking that has dominated our discourse this century. I have nothing against chickens, but we don’t need them running our government. For a while I felt like the new Walt Whitman, “I hear America clucking.”Report