The Occupational Hazard of Blowing Smoke for a Living

Certainly there are few election seasons in which candidates from either party don’t say or do something stupid or ill-advised. It’s an occupational hazard when you blow smoke for a living – doubly so if you relate to other humans about as effectively as a visitor on a boondoggle,”fact-finding” junket from Jupiter.

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Politicians vs. The Media

Hail the Angel of Newt

HE'S A SWEET, SWEET ANGEL - Newt likes to say stupid things and then blame the media for reporting on them. Click photo for more Newt Nudes >>

One by one, the Republican presidential field has come to ruination and they’ve blamed the media, or mainstream media (MSM), or Lamestream media in Palinspeak – at every turn.  They are apparently of the mistaken opinion, as was US Senate candidate Sharron Angle, that journalists should only ask questions candidates want to answer. As news consumers and master media manipulators themselves that belief alone should be a disqualification for lack of critical thinking skills.

When faced with proof of their objectionable behavior, they vigorously deny it. Even a world-class nimrod can see that is a surefire strategic loser. In taking that position politicians deny the existence of videotape, reporters’ notebooks, and public records. Oh, and any lick of common sense too. Without these contradictions in their truthy narratives, The Daily Show and Fox News would starve for a lack of comedy gold. And, Newt Gingrich would still be unstoppable and not a fast-sinking nitwit outfitted with concrete overshoes.

When repeated denials collapse under their own weight the fraidy-cat graftmeisters often blame the media for gotcha journalism. The Half-Term Schoolmarm was a master practitioner of this craft – even if it is the least successful strategy of all. When Katie Couric asked her which newspapers or magazines she regularly read she stammered, “All of them”. Unsurprisingly, Couric and the general public didn’t buy that. If you’re running for President of the Free World and you’re tripped up by a question you could have answered with Time, the Wasilla News Weasel, or Reader’s Digest your mind is as nimble as a saguaro cactus with one of its quills on the “noo-cu-ler” football.

She whined and stamped her sensible pumps and said something on the order of, “That was gotcha journalism, you betcha. They wouldn’t have asked Barack Hussein Obama that.”

In fact, they probably wouldn’t have, although he got plenty of equally dangerous questions too.  However in this case, she was rumored to be aggressively incurious, much like George the Lesser. Since escaping his Reign of Error was nigh, it’s a legitimate question to ask about that uncuriosity. After all, you could accuse The Messiah of many things, but being incurious or poorly spoken wasn’t one of them.

I don’t always buy the flip-flopper angle either. There are numerous legitimate reasons to change a position and if you can reasonably explain them you can minimize their damage. But, changed too often – Mitt Romney, I’m talking about you – you are either extremely hypocritical at best or a pander bear at worst.

The media – Hannity, Rush, O’Reilly, and Maddow you are the media too – makes its share of mistakes. But they share a kinship with all politicians and others they cover. When they make a mistake it’s in full view of the public just like when politicians act like stupid lunkheads. Both careers need a certain amount of aplomb that all too often is sorely missing.

And one other thing: perceptions of media bias are one of the few bipartisan things left in America. If the same story, with reasonably consistent facts, gets complaints from both left and right it’s a sign that the bias may be more between your ears than splashed across a screen or paper.

So quit yer bellyachin’ and act like rational adults.

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Jared Lee Loughner: A Gun Without a Trigger?

Now that Jared Lee Loughner’s bullets have stopped flying, the air is thick with new bullets in the form of accusations and denials, proposed legislative actions, and the pros and cons of the Second Amendment. But most of these rhetorical bullets are far off the mark.

There are many reasons to suspect that  Loughner is severely mentally ill. And I should know, I’ve spent most of my life in close proximity to the severely mentally ill. Both my mother and grandmother were schizophrenic and my sister is severely bipolar. I suffer from bouts of clinical depression myself.

One of the things I’ve learned is that the mentally ill, particularly likely schizophrenics like Loughner, don’t live in the same dimension as you and I. They live in a dark mash-up of reality and hallucination that the initiated often have trouble grasping.

They can seem normal and rational one minute and the next arguing with a disembodied voice. They can lapse in an out of psychotic episodes separated by months or years or they can stay psychotic, as my grandmother did, nearly all their lives.

There are as many different presentations of mental illness as there are people who suffer from it. But, there’s one constant – trying to deal with the irrational through rational means is a long shot at best, and more often than not, doomed to failure.

Triggers Without Guns
The air’s already heavy with accusations that right-wing politicos fanned the flames of insanity. The Palinator says, ‘Gosh oh golly gee, I had no idea people would see that as a gun target. And, how did people jump to the conclusion that my statement about not retreating, but reloading is in any way violent?’

Well Sarah, they said so at the time – loudly – and you didn’t “explain” yourself until people died. Ditto Sharron Angle’s entreaty to take “Second Amendment” solutions if not getting her way. Both of these “explanations” are toilet paper-thin and should be used for exactly the same purpose.

However, claiming violent suggestions trigger violence is as specious as claiming that being gay makes you a pedophile. It’s almost impossible to tell if there is a trigger and what effect it has at all. It’s equally true it might have. In the end, it doesn’t matter. When the evil voices tell you to kill, you do and there is no rational explanation why.

That’s not to say the Palinistas were guiltless to throw “misunderstood” gun sights out there. The First Amendment guarantees that right, but the First Amendment doesn’t say word one about free speech being intelligent speech. At the very least, their actions lowered the national discourse by several notches.

As is often the case, the knee-jerk response to tragedies like this is to become a dynamo cranking out proposed laws guaranteed to stop the violence.

Legislation: Responding Rationally to the Irrational
Increase gun control to keep loony fingers off the trigger? Well, if a person hasn’t been diagnosed there is no way to tell if their finger is competent to grasp the trigger. And if they have, there’s no way to tell if the person’s demons are under control, especially when they can seem completely normal even while in a deep psychotic episode.

Besides, there are many more ways, other than guns, to kill. Some of them are even more efficient. You can bomb, stab, set on fire, or bludgeon your victims with exceptionally large heads of cabbage. If the voices say kill, the mentally ill kill – by any means necessary. Besides, you can’t control the sale of cabbages.

And for the drive all decisions to the state level crowd, no control works if all states have different rules. Otherwise, a gun bought on one side of a lenient state boundary will kill the same on the other.

It’s a uniquely American trait to pay scant attention to violence until the right someone gets killed. If this hadn’t involved a sitting member of Congress, the national anguish wouldn’t be so deep nor last so long.

There are gang shootings that rival this one’s brutality and death toll, yet we don’t get in such a tizzy over them. How is this instance any different from a dangerously disgruntled right-to-lifer picking up a gun or bomb to carry out an assassination? What about Timothy McVey or a Kabul suicide bomber or the Va. Tech shooter? What about someone who carries a gun to a political event to “exercise their Second amendment rights” only to get into a one-sided duel with an overly agitated opponent in the crowd?

If the NRA is right about anything it really is that guns don’t kill people, people kill people…and there are a lot stupid, clumsy, and insane people out there. People I’d prefer not lug their guns everywhere for when they decide to “protect” themselves from an overly righteous Obama socialist.

There are dozens of rational responses we could take to keep this from happening again because most of us are sane and  rational – if not a little overheated. Unfortunately, most would have about as much effect as prostate and colorectal exams for airplane passengers or tapping every phone on the planet to chase down a nut who lives in a cave and makes bad videos. It behooves us to choose wisely because the cure may be worse than the disease.

You can only control those things that are within your control. A person who literally hears the voice of the devil isn’t going to bend to your control. That’s not because they are unwilling or inherently bad people. It’s because they can’t.

And there lies the problem.