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Beating a dead horse

An example of violent conservative imagery

 


Gallup:

Most Doubt Political Rhetoric a Major Factor in Ariz. Shootings

A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds Americans dubious that the heated language used in politics today was a major factor that influenced the alleged gunman in last week’s shootings in Tucson, Ariz. Twenty percent say such rhetoric was a major factor in the shootings, while 22% cite it as a minor factor; 42% say it was not a factor at all. Democrats are more likely than independents or Republicans to believe political debate played a role.

[…]

The poll was conducted Jan. 11, three days after Jared Loughner allegedly shot and killed six people in Tucson, Ariz., and seriously injured numerous others including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Some of the early news coverage of the shootings discussed whether the increasingly inflammatory language used in political debate today could have motivated the shooter to attack the Democratic member of Congress. That theory was put forth by the sheriff of Pima County, Ariz., who argued that conservative thought leaders like Sarah Palin use language that may encourage their supporters to commit acts of violence against their opponents.

Most Americans reject that theory, with 53% agreeing that commentators who allege conservative rhetoric was responsible were mostly attempting to use the tragedy to make conservatives look bad. Roughly one in three, 35%, say the commentators were making a legitimate point about how dangerous the language used by conservatives can be.

If the connection between violent rhetoric and violence is so obvious, why aren’t more people blaming Sarah Palin and other conservative leaders for what happened in Arizona?

One reason is the lack of a causal connection. Regardless of what one might think of right wing rhetoric, there is no evidence that Jared Loughner was familiar with it, let alone influenced by it.

But another reason might be that for at least fifty years we have been hearing that the high rates of violence in this country are caused by violent cartoons, television shows, Rock and Roll, Hip-Hop/Rap and video games.

Something Not Unlike Research

There are well-conducted studies — notably by the social psychologist Brad Bushman and his colleagues — that show that, for example, exposing a child to a violent videogame, leads to an increased likelihood of aggressive behaviors. Craig Anderson, Bushman, and their colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of this research and concluded that

The evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior.

Which suggests that if we had a large increase in the consumption of violent videogames, we’d see a large increase in violence, right? However, we don’t seem to see this. The Figure to the right (below) plots the rates of assaults in the US as reported in the Bureau of Justice Statistics Victimization Survey. When the survey started, there were no such things as violent videogames. But the rates of assaults have steadily decreased. Just for fun, I put in the date when the first version of Grand Theft Auto was released. If anything, the decline in assaults seems to have accelerated during the violent videogame era.



Sometimes you hear that “correlation is not causation.” But we have here is a “negative correlation.” The fact is that despite the rhetoric coming from the right wing in this country political violence is pretty rare in the United States. And despite all the violent imagery in our culture, murder and other violent crimes have been declining since 1993.

This is not to say that violent political rhetoric is a good thing or even harmless. But the problem in this most recent case is that the media and the progressive blogosphere jumped the gun and went off half-cocked. They assumed that they had found a smoking gun but when the evidence began to emerge it revealed that the shooting in Tucson was not a political assassination attempt but something that is unfortunately far more common – a mentally ill spree killer.

As a result, continuing to focus on the issue of violent political rhetoric comes across to the public as trying to politicize a tragedy.

It’s time to stop beating a dead horse.



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Thursday: Obama Calls For More Civility In Politics?

Or so the NYTimes says based on its coverage of the Tucson memorial service where he is reported to have said:

“Only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation.”

Ok, sounds good. Why don’t we let Obama and his lackeys go first and

STOP CALLING US RACISTS WHENEVER WE DISAGREE WITH HIM.

He might also try

CRACKING DOWN ON HIS MOUTHPIECES WHO USE MISOGYNY TO SCORE POLITICAL POINTS AGAINST OBAMA’S OPPONENTS

I mean, if he’s *serious* about civility in politics, he could publicly apologize to Hillary Clinton and to all of the other women, feminist, conservative, gay, straight, working or stay at home women, whose position in society he set back by 40 years during his Shermanesque march through the presidential primaries and general election campaigns in 2008.

And he could also tell his paid blog trolls to

STOP THE CLINTON DERANGEMENT SYNDROME WHENEVER HE STARTS DROPPING IN PUBLIC OPINION POLLS FOR HIS LACKLUSTER PERFORMANCE THAT MAKES THE PUBLIC NOSTALGIC FOR THE CLINTONS

seeing as how those two public servants, who are always being blamed for the focus group tested buzzwords of “corporatism” and “triangulation”, are constantly being called upon to either save his bacon or direct his foreign policy (which he copied and passed off as his own. Don’t think we haven’t noticed.)

If the president wants the caustic political environment to stop, he’s got to lead by example and he’s got a lot of penance to do. He can’t give me back my 2008 primary vote, which the DNC allowed him to steal and dump into the trash, and no amount of penance can make up for that or the fact that he was the wrong guy for the job in 2008. But we will be watching to see if he’s as good as his word when it comes to stopping his men (and they are almost all men) from punching the hippies and breaking the knees of the Clintonistas. Until then, I’ll just assume that his speeches are written by some professional jerk like Jon Favreau who has a degree in English and knows how to turn on the waterworks with a few well chosen phrases that Obama sees and says but doesn’t relate to in the slightest degree. Whoever thought Barack Obama had the moral authority to discuss political rhetoric at a memorial service was seriously mistaken.

More civility in politics from the Obama gang that is holding the Democratic party hostage and suppressing the votes and speech of 18000000 of us? I’ll believe it when I hear it.

Thursday wake-up and smell the coffee


There’s not a lot of news today unless you want to discuss events in Arizona. Let’s start with this not-cheerful news:

2010 home foreclosures top 1 million for first time

Banks seized more than a million U.S. homes in one year for the first time last year, despite a slowdown in the last few months as questions around foreclosure processing arose, a leading firm said on Thursday.

Banks foreclosed on 69,847 properties in December, bringing the year’s total to 1.05 million, topping the prior record of 918,000 homes seized in 2009, real estate data firm RealtyTrac said.

In 2008 we bailed out the banks. This is how they return the favor.


Pentagon chief huddles with allies about NKorea

South Korea would be within its rights to retaliate if North Korea mounts an attack, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday, but the United States wants Seoul and its neighbors to try to head off a North Korean provocation that could lead to war.

The United States fears that the risk of war is rising between U.S. ally South Korea and the heavily militarized and increasingly unpredictable regime in North Korea, which the Pentagon also considers a looming threat to the mainland United States.

Some problems don’t seem to have solutions.


Some cheerful news:

Haley takes oath as SC’s first female governor

Nikki Haley has taken the oath of office, becoming South Carolina’s 90th governor and the first woman to run the state.

Maybe one day we’ll even have a woman president.


These guys don’t watch FOX News:

NOAA: 2010 Tied For Warmest Year on Record

According to NOAA scientists, 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year of the global surface temperature record, beginning in 1880. This was the 34th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th century average. For the contiguous United States alone, the 2010 average annual temperature was above normal, resulting in the 23rd warmest year on record.

This preliminary analysis is prepared by scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., and is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions.

If we all watched Seah Hannity then global warming wouldn’t exist.


What were you doing 18 years ago?

S.F.: Man wrongfully convicted of 2 murders freed

To the cheers of family and friends, Caramad Conley took his first steps as a free man outside San Francisco County Jail on Wednesday after serving 18 years for a double-murder conviction that a judge ruled had been arrived at through perjured testimony.

Last month, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Marla Miller ruled that San Francisco police and prosecutors had failed to reveal to Conley’s defense team before his 1994 trial that the city had paid thousands of dollars and provided the use of a house to the star prosecution witness, police informant Clifford Polk.

Miller cited what she called “voluminous evidence” that Polk, who is now dead, had lied on the stand when he said he was not in a city witness protection program and therefore receiving benefits.

Polk testified that Conley had confessed to him about the April 8, 1989, drive-by shooting on Third Street that killed Roshawn Johnson and Charles Hughes and injured 13 others.

Miller also found that then-homicide investigator Earl Sanders, who would later become police chief, had stood by in court while Polk lied.

“I find that Sanders knew the testimony was false and did not correct it,” Miller wrote.

Now it could be argued that even though the informant committed perjury Conley could still be guilty but as far as I’m concerned police misconduct like that should be a Get Out of Jail Free card.


Do not click this link unless you have a strong stomach:

Paul Mason, World’s Fattest Man, Prepares to Sue Government for Letting Him Get Fat

Don’t look at me like that. I warned you.


Today in History:

1969 Beatles release “Yellow Submarine” album
1968 Beginning of Tet-offensive in Vietnam
1957 Wham-O Company produces the 1st Frisbee
1559 Elizabeth I crowned queen of England

Famous Birthdays:

1983 William Hung
1977 Orlando Bloom
1961 Julia Louis-Dreyfus
1931 Charles Nelson Reilly

Famous Deaths:

2009 Patrick McGoohan
1985 Carol Wayne
1978 Hubert Humphrey
1929 Wyatt Earp


I would tell you all to have a great day but you guys don’t every listen to me anyway. Besides, I hate cheerful people.

Here’s the birthday boy in action:


Football vs. Politics


I was ruminating on some of the comments we typically get when we don’t join in the latest Palinpalooza Wankfestivus. Then a football analogy occurred to me.

Both football and politics are popular spectator sports. The actual players make lots of money and have little in common with their loyal fans. They both use violent imagery, but football has far more actual violence.

Both football and politics are team sports, but football fans are allowed to be objective without having their loyalty questioned. If you say that the other team’s quarterback is a first-ballot lock for the Hall of Fame nobody accuses you of wanting the other team to win.

Now let’s say the other team has a great quarterback and two great wide receivers but no running game. But your team decides to commit to stopping the run, daring their quarterback to throw the ball. So you scream at your team’s coach, “Are you insane? You’re playing to their strength!

Do you think the other fans would consider you a traitor? Not likely.

Not only that, but if the instant replay clearly shows that the other team’s wide receiver caught the ball with both feet in bounds, nobody expects you to insist otherwise. When your team’s players screw up you’re allowed to curse and boo them.

Politics is different. You are expected to insist that your team’s players and strategies are better than the other team’s, whether they really are or not. You are required to claim the other team’s players are all talentless losers. You’re also obligated to protest every call that goes against your team, no matter what really happened. And you never, ever admit that your team deserved to lose.

Worst of all, you’re supposed to keep buying season tickets even if your team keeps losing, year after year.