Thursday, January 13, 2011

You can't do rage every day and not be consumed

Rage, conspiracy fear-mongering, demonization, and extreme aggression, for hours on end, are staples of right-wing talk radio. You find nothing even remotely this severe on the left-wing of the political spectrum, especially now that Obama is in office and democrats remain in control of the Senate. The closest that liberals might get to this would be people like Keith Olbermann or Mike Malloy. But Keith and Mike have nothing on the ranting, raving lunacy of Michael Savage, or the maudlin fear mongering of Glenn Beck, or the in-your-face bullying of Bill O'Reilly.

I am suggesting that constant anger, fear, and aggression cannot be healthy, either physically and mentally, for people to consume (or to produce for that matter) for hours on end. It has to do something to your mind to constantly be in an agitated state. It is no surprise that most people turning to violence for political reasons in recent years also come, almost exclusively from the right-wing, where they are whipped into a frenzy nearly every day. Rage is all the rage today, with these folks. It is hard to think of an agenda item where they disagree with their opponents calmly. Instead, everything is about death panels, and gays, and immigrants coming here to kill and rob and take our jobs. If vote *for* health care for all you are not simply disagreeing with them. You are called a baby killer, and dark murmurings are made about how the government is planning to round people up and put them in concentration camps.

It may seem that I'm overly attacking the rightwing here, but that's because politics has shifted so far to the right of center in the last several decades that many people have noted that people like Nixon and Reagan would be derided, these days, as liberals by the modern neo-conservative and TEA party movement.

Therefore, a key to returning to centrism is reigning in ultra-extremism on the right. Extremists on the left have long been marginalized, ridiculed, and hold very little power. People like Kucinich or Wellstone or Bernie Sanders are never given the media attention of someone like Sarah Palin, for example. People like Pelosi or Reed, hyperbolic rhetoric to one side, cannot possibly be said to represent anything approaching the extreme fringe of the democratic party. They are firmly in the center.

Liberals do need to work on not allowing some of their vocal extremists, such as gay activists, from dominating the dialog, as they often end up doing on things like Don't Ask Don't Tell, which will probably still remain a liability in 2012 elections. Liberals have paid very little attention to the cost versus the benefits of various positions, like gay marriage, and have instead ended up martyring themselves over so-called principles at the ballot box. I would humbly suggest that, if you are going to choose a hill to die upon, that you choose causes where the payoff is worth the risks electorially, because otherwise, you will be voted out of office and your principles will be defeated anyway. I know that people love to jump all over this sort of thing, but I will share a little tidbit with you. As a real estate agent, you know the deal is over when one side starts arguing "over the principle of the thing". Some people will throw away hundreds of thousands of dollars over $40 curtains. One wonders if people can afford principles like that for long.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Palin Sure Is Full Of Herself

To say that Sarah Palin is self-absorbed is about like saying that water is wet or that Mama Grizzly's are furry. For Palin, it's always "all about me". Therefore, it is unsurprising that, in the aftermath of the massacre in Arizona, Palin would assume that all of this happened just to make her look bad and thus the need for her lame jeremiads and swipes at the "lame stream media".

Her asinine "blood libel" comment is just an example of her planet-sized ego. To anyone with a brain, a clue, or a conscience, it would not even occur to compare some minor kerfuffle to the suffering of millions over centuries, mainly at the hands of her christian brethren. However, in Palin's mind, her ridiculously mild brush with criticism is an earth-shattering affront to her unbridled ambitions. Her speech writers probably also saw it as an opportunity to inappropriately begin the rhetoric of violence anew, just by making reference to such events. One will note, if one listens at all to her comments, that she claimed that holding her responsible for putting crosshairs on Giffords picture could potentially lead to more violence.

I'm afraid that cosmic justice usually ain't that condign, sweetums, though you would certainly deserve to be paid back in kind for the beast that you helped to release.

Palin is certainly behaving like someone who has a guilty mind. Who else would go into full panic mode and hide out for four days, while sending out damage control teams to fight her battles by proxy.

I'm afraid that she takes Diva to a whole new level, at least politically speaking. That may be the only thing she has to contribute to American politics.

Why the violent rhetoric? DUH! Let's see....

This is an example of how far some people are from common sense. Particularly on the liberal side, some of the peace activists I talk to are asking questions like, "What purpose does all this violent rhetoric from people on the right serve?" Yeah, really, they are so far removed from reality that they don't understand the basic purpose of violence and threats of violence, which is POWER. Right-wingers derive power by threatening and attempting to intimidate their opponents. Instead playing the game by the rules, they win by cheating. Duh. It's pretty simple. I know that some people think there must be some more complicated reasoning than this, but THERE'S NOT!

By acting as bullies they put the lie to the fundamental premises of pacifism. You cannot shame a bully who has no shame. Gandhi and MLK Jr. succeeded because some of their opponents had a modicum of shame. But you will notice that both of them were murdered, and the kinds of people who would do that will not be deterred by pacifism. It is a dogma, bordering on religious superstition that there is always a non-violent answer to every problem. The fact is that when someone comes at you with a gun to take your life that you will have to defend yourself or die. Most liberals are in serious denial about this. When your opponents constantly announce their desire to kill you, you cannot afford to just dismiss this all as idle talk. Yes, it's true that most bullies are chicken s**t little cowards who threaten because they are too impotent to act. However, threats do give the threatener power, especially if you never properly answer them or prepare for the worst case scenario. The proper answer to a threat is not to passive-aggressively ignore it, or use some namby-pamby platitude like, "I won't dignify that comment with a response". Remember, you are trying to shame people who may well have no sense of shame. The only intelligent, appropriate response to a threat is to counter the threat with your own promise of all legitimate responses against it immediately. When someone says, "liberals deserve to die" you need to immediately have that person prosecuted for hate speech, while at the same time, taking maximum effort to insure that you are prepared to meet this person's threat with lethal deterrence.

Most liberals don't own guns because they are that deep in denial. They will usually justify it by citing some vague "study" that says having a gun in the house is dangerous and could be used against you. Yeah, if you don't secure the gun. IOWs, if you act like an idiot about owning a gun then it certainly will be dangerous to you. If you're a colossal wussie and know that you will wimp out on pulling the trigger instead of seeing that assailant as a tree stump to be used for target practice, then you will become a victim of your own firearm, and I can't say I feel too sorry for you. You had your chance right in your hand and you refused to take it.

This is the same thing that left-wingers do politically all the time. For a long time these guys refused to fight back against an onslaught of negative attack ads. They said "they wouldn't lower themselves" to campaign that way and they lost and they are footnotes in history that are lower than whale poo. So much for not lowering yourselves.

Now, it's true that people are sometimes turned off by negative ads. But there is a formula that is virtually guaranteed to defuse this. You first attack your opponent, and then at the end of the ad you deny that you attacked the person and say you just want to get along and have a civil debate. Perhaps even accuse your opponent of attacking you first, and THEN announce that you "won't stoop to that level", even when you already have. People will tend to remember the last thing you told them intellectually. But they will remember the first thing they saw emotionally. Republicans use variants of this technique again and again. Fox News claims to be "fair and balanced" at the end of mercilessly displaying their bias. Many people continue to buy it.

Now I know some people might say, "but that's being dishonest". Those kind of people are really not equipped to function in an actual democracy. They are functioning in a perfect fantasy world which has never and will never exist.

So, to recap, the purpose of violent rhetoric is POWER. Whether you are defending yourself personally or your campaign politically, by refusing to meet your opponents threat with adequate stopping power, you become the victim. The key is to disguise your own responses, claiming that you are not attacking your opponent and that you have been wronged, and that you just want to be civil. However, don't drink your own Koolaid. They will come at you with everything, and you have to come at them with everything. The time for being civil is when things are over. Civility is for your friends, not your mortal enemies.

Gun Liberals, Gun Conservatives and Crazy People

I know that current pro-gun fanatics, who are almost exclusively right-wingers, will hate to be called "gun liberals", but that is what they are advocating when they argue that there should be less restrictions on owning or carrying firearms. I know that, to them, liberal just means something derogatory, but to those who know the meaning of words, the term "liberalize" means to be make less restrictive, and this is what they are advocating. On the other hand, "gun conservatives" (gunservatives), who happen to be primarily left-wingers in the US, are those who want to tighten regulations on gun ownership and carrying. I'm sure that this kind of "semantic" argument would drive a person like Jared Loughner even crazier than he already must have been.

That brings me to the common sense, centrist issue of the day. Any person with common sense would agree that a crazy person should not be carrying around a gun with a high capacity magazine. Yet, according to gun fanatics, no regulations can be placed on gun ownership. Their argument that gun regulation is unconstitutional relies upon reading only the second half of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, and purposely omitting the part that says, "a well REGULATED militia being necessary to the security of a free State,". Instead they only cite, "... the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Therefore, it is an inescapable consequence of their pro-gun position that crazy people should be allowed to carry guns. One wonders how "pro-life" the "pro-gun" position is, in this case, since crazy people, by definition, are not going to make sane choices about the use of lethal force.

That is, even if everyone else is armed and is able to kill the crazy person after he or she starts shooting, then at least one person, but probably more than one, will be dead. Granted, it will be self-defense to shoot the crazy person, but allowing that crazy person to have the gun in the first place, knowing that they are mentally incapable of acting responsible, is the reason that multiple lives end up endangered or destroyed. Even if these people just use the gun to kill themselves, making this easy option available to them makes it easier than it has to be to carry out their reckless plans.

Now, I know that a favorite "argument" is that "criminals will break the law". However, in the case of people with diminished mental capacity, we should still be trying to make it as hard as possible for them to carry out their plans. If they are forced to turn to improvised weapons like knives, then the body count will likely be far diminished. Allowing them the convenience of purchasing an "off-the-shelf" professionally-designed "massacre machine" from Walmart should not be an option open to them.

Gun fanatics also like to play the "personal responsibility" card, but the fact is that crazy people are not capable of personal responsibility, by their nature. More importantly, craziness sometimes develops slowly, and can be hard to detect. Often times crazy people don't even know it, or are in denial about it. So I highly doubt that people who are beginning to experience episodes of mental instability are going to say, "Golly gee, I guess I should trot down to the police station and turn in my firearms so that I don't accidentally hurt someone with them".

Now the fact is that there are gun fanatics out there, but the real people who benefit from all this divisive rhetoric are the gun manufacturers. They want to sell as many guns as possible, and requiring a person to undergo a psychological evaluation before being able to buy a gun would reduce sales. Even having to put safety devices on guns makes them more expensive, which again can cut into sales. Gun manufacturers don't want to have any regulations, because it could hurt the bottom line, so they strongly sponsor the pro-gun activism and the abolition of regulations.

So what can common sense centrists do. For one thing, we have to break out of the traditional roles. Liberals have not fared well on the gun-control debate. All the money comes from the gun manufacturers and goes straight to the coffers of groups that advocate gun fanaticism. Money is life-blood in politics. Therefore, for a policy to be successful, it must not cut into sales. I believe that liberals could appeal to gun manufacturers with a policy that says, "we will encourage more liberals to purchase guns and safety locks and concealed permits". This represents a new revenue stream for gun makers, if political leaders on the left can convince their constituents that responsible gun ownership can help make themselves and their community safer.

On the right-wing, perhaps one can appeal to a need for security. We don't want terrorists, for example, many of whom are not always mentally stable either, to have easy access to firearms. Therefore, requiring customers to complete a mandatory psychological evaluation, and periodic evaluations, would probably weed out a few people who shouldn't have a firearm. I know that right-wingers are paranoid about people "trying to take my gun", but if police did come around occasionally confiscating guns from people with lapsed permits this would only create more sales, or at least encourage people to more diligent about keeping the permit current, and paying their fees.

It would also potentially win a new revenue stream from mental health practitioners. They would likely be glad for the extra business, and would throw contributions to whatever politician pushed this kind of agenda. The trick is to balance this with not pissing off the gun makers, by promising to help them get customers who from new demographics, like liberals, and middle-of-the-road people who aren't as paranoid as the average person to which they currently market.