Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"You can't outsmart crazy"

With those words, Jon Stewart gave another eloquent speech at the beginning of Monday night's Daily Show, dispensing with humor to address Saturday's horrific events in Tucson.

With each passing hour and day since alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, critically injuring her, killing six and wounding 14 others, it becomes clearer that this 22-year-old man was not a political partisan but someone who was severely mentally ill. With Arizona government offices finally open Monday, The Washington Post finally was able to answer one simple question that's not open to debate: his voter registration. The answer turns out to be that he was a registered independent but was considered inactive because he hadn't bothered to vote in such a long time, including in November. Hardly indicative of a Tea Party participant.

I am guilty of jumping to conclusions. With the precursors without body counts such as smashed windows, threats, cut gas lines, it was an easy assumption to make. However, in my horror of the moment I forgot the old line about what happens when you assume: it makes an ass out of u and me. Subconsciously, there probably was part of me as there consciously was in many others who wanted this tragedy to turn out to be that way for political advantage. I may disagree with the Tea Party, believe them to be terribly misinformed and inflamed by the likes of Glenn Beck, but they aren't all homicidal lunatics.

When so many on the left criticized Jon Stewart's rally, claiming he was trying to make both sides equivalent, in the wake of Saturday's events, now he seems more right than ever. Keith Olbermann's Saturday special comment didn't say so explicitly, but if you read between the lines, it was a bit of a mea culpa for his own role. As Sarah Palin rushed to delete her graphic with the gunsight over Giffords' district, Daily Kos also had to delete a post where one of Giffords' constituents said that Giffords was "dead to me" because she voted against Nancy Pelosi for House minority leader.

Already, both sides are starting to revert to old habits. Because we on the left rushed to link the act of a madman to the politics of those we oppose, now those on the right revert to defensive mode and attack us. Hopefully, someone can stop this quickly. This is an opportunity for everyone to step back, take a breath and restore civility to the political process. I'm not saying compromise your principles, but it's long past time where both sides stop treating political opponents as the enemy. As it's been said many times, you can disagree without being disagreeable. The political climate probably didn't set Loughner off, but both parties need to look at themselves critically and seriously.

I hope that people take Pima County, Ariz., Sheriff Clarence Gupnik to heart and start rejecting the Becks and Limbaughs, but the only way that happens is when they get hit where it really hurts: the wallet. Beck has shown those signs with the loss of lots of sponsors, being taken off a big New York radio station and even dropping numbers on Fox News. I wish their listeners realized they were in it for the money, but oh well.

What really needs to be addressed seriously is the fact that this country has a gun problem and it's had a gun problem for a long time. A man rejected by the military, kicked out of college and who worried others around him was still allowed to legally purchase his Glock and, more importantly, his high-volume ammunition clips. He had three clips which had 33 rounds each. These sorts of clips were illegal under the assault weapons ban which was allowed to expire during the Bush Administration. If that law were still in place, he could only have purchased clips that held 10 rounds, meaning he would have to reload more frequently and the bloodshed would have been less. I hope the NRA and their friends in Congress are proud. Right now, Arizona is considering allowing faculty and college students to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

We also have to improve our ability to treat the mentally ill. In a rare moment of a television newsperson saying something profound, Lester Holt did the other day when he said that in the end, the motive doesn't matter. Six people are still dead, including a 9-year-old student council president born on 9/11.

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  • The only quibble I have is your assumption that a difference in magazines would have meant less carnage. That is an unsupported assumption. The ban did not outlaw any existing large capacity magazine. It only prohibited the manufacture of new ones except for law enforcement or military use. Any high capacity magazines manufactured during that period were marked "For law enforcement or export only," and possession any magazine so marked by a civilian was a Federal felony.

    "The U.S. Army confirmed that Loughner had been rejected as "unqualified" from the service in 2008 for failing a drug screening."

    I'd argue anyone showing up for pre-employment screening, knowing they are going to be tested, that still 'pisses hot' is too stupid to hire doing anything! Nothing there that disqualifies him under any present law.

    There was minor arrest, reportedly over graffiti. He had been busted once on a minor drug charge. An argument could be made that he probably perjured himself when buying the gun. His drug use appears to be anything BUT lawful.

    Form 4473, Question 11(e):
    Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?"

    Now that this miscreant had made himself notorious former class mates are saying he was odd. Professors are saying he clearly had mental problems. Apparently at the time none of these thing caused enough concern that any concrete steps were taken to either get him into treatment or off the street.

    You argue that the law failed because to those in daily contact with him did see his mental state as severe enough to lock him up, before he bought a gun. You see the law as a failure because his apparently low-level drug use didn't stop him. You don't see the irony of a loser stupid enough to fail a drug test he KNEW he was going to undergo, still being smart enough not to admit to being a drug user on the 4473.

    Anyway, back to reading all the punditry from those with the "crystal clear clairvoyance of hindsight" about all the clues this latest loser whack job left on his quest for notoriety that "someone" should have stopped him long before this...

    By Anonymous Old tank commander, at 4:37 PM  

  • Your thinking process here is lacking capacity. The dumbest conclusion of all possible that now Stewart is right on equivolance --now reasonable strong [not ever pushing killer buttons] talk from keith or maddow Lib commenters exposing
    what is extreme RW radical willfull ignorance = incitement to violent deadly acts. Your weak logic
    mental deficient.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:46 PM  

  • Stewart never said they were equivalent. Overly sensitive liberals read that into what he was talking about, which was the tone, treating each others as enemies and, most especially, the culpability of the media in perputating this atmosphere instead of encouraging thoughtful and factual discussion of the issues instead of just wars of words.

    By Blogger Edward Copeland, at 8:12 PM  

  • The ban of manufacturing high-capacity magazines had been in effect for years until it was allowed to expire and they were made again. Theoretically, he could have had access to really old magazines, but at 22, that seems unlikely if the ban was still in effect since he bought the gun and ammunition himself, so it probably wouldn't have been lying around. He still would have done damage, but he would have to reload after 10 shots and the heroes who tackled could have stopped him sooner. The question I want the answer to is why the first Wal-Mart he went to refused to sell him the ammunition.

    By Blogger Edward Copeland, at 8:21 PM  

  • "Dead to me" does not equal "2nd Amendment solutions," in any intellectually-honest reading.

    Shall I spell it out? The former is a declaration that the person has broken one's trust irreparably and will be ignored, treated as if they are gone, but one still respects the subject - or at least the memory of the relationship as it was before. Its most recent use was in the Sopranos, when Tony was finally so fed up with his sister that *instead of do something violent* he put her on his ignore list.

    The latter is a threat, saying that if one doesn't get one's way peacefully, there is a violent course of action they are willing to consider. In Soprano's terms, it's a shade more overt than "Nice family; shame if anything happened to it."

    To draw an equivalence between these is false, and an audience knows it, even if they can't identify it.

    By Anonymous bughunter, at 9:19 AM  

  • Daily Kos were the ones concerned enough to erase the comment, not I. The language of death, weapons, war, arms, etc., doesn't belong in the political debate on either side, just as Olbermann said in his special comment.

    By Blogger Edward Copeland, at 11:46 AM  

  • I agree with you, Edward, that such language really doesn't belong in any mature, meaningful debate, but I think we err in focusing on the rhetoric instead of on the right-wing ideology behind the rhetoric. People talk about "war" all the time, whether in sports or politics or relationships. It's when it's charged with ideology that it gets really dangerous.

    And while I don't think that Stewart -- in whom I have lost quite a bit of respect recently -- believes there true equivalency, he doesn't seem to understand that politics is serious business and that you have to take a stand. He did that with the 9/11 First Responders bill, but that was a pretty easy one. But let's not forget that he has been using the right's violent rhetoric for comedic purposes for a long time. When he gave that rambling speech the other night, it's like he'd never watched his own show before. The problem is the right, not the left, and while I'm all for being more civil, I'm more for fighting back against the right. Stewart, unfortunately, is a bit of a coward. He wants to be a major political commentator, with all the attention that comes with it, but he also doesn't want to engage politically in any real way -- and certainly not to take a firm stand other than to moan about civility.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 6:16 PM  

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