Sunday, March 1, 2009

Limbaugh @ CPAC

I believe the first rule of a good speech is to give one that others do not have to explain for you. If you give a speech full of crazy rants that can be clipped into, ahem, "interesting" soundbites, you have not given a good speech. If you give a speech that is easily misunderstood, you have not given a good speech. If you give a speech intended for a certain crowd that will be played ad naseum for a different one, and that different crowd is confused and insulted, you have not given a good speech.

When Rush Limbaugh addressed CPAC this Saturday, the crowd was nothing less than orgasmic. In down times, it's easy to get a crowd to love you: just tell them they're better than the other side. Limbaugh has drawn a line with this speech, in two ways. First, he doubled down on his assertion that he wants Obama to fail by not only repeating his criticism, but criticizing those who think his assertion is too harsh. Second, as the pro tempore leader of the Republican Party (anyone who thinks Michael Steele is in charge should note that he accepted Colbert's rap battle challenge this Thursday), Limbaugh put a face on the Republican party that they desperately need to get away from: That the Republicans are just a bunch of sweaty, angry white men.

I listened to all of Rush's hour-and-a-half speech, and if he thinks he got Democrats/Liberals angry, he's wrong. I don't know if he's watched Obama so far, but he's not likely to listen to someone who's bitter and screaming. Of course, the CPAC conference is decidedly reactionary, but not everyone knows that. Mr. Limbaugh, your audience was not Obama: he has far more important things to do, and he has lots of lackeys to watch you for him (to use in political ads). Your audience was the independent and undecided voter who will see the craziest parts of your speech played over and over in the news.

In order to earn the "psychology" label, I should examine not just what words Rush used, but his overall tone. Limbaugh, when on mute, played out a script similar to if you had watched his speech at full volume, namely, "AAAAHHHHH!! I HATE THEM SO MUCH!!". Waving his arms wildly, flapping his jowls, Limbaugh's anger was almost overbearing. When he did smile or show affection, you could tell it was in sarcasm. The fake smiles combined with the "bear hug" gesticulation and the shirt that was unbuttoned a little too far paints a picture of someone who is likely to die of heart complications. If Obama does see this speech, he won't be angry. Obama (and lots of undecided voters) will likely look at his loved ones in a confused way, stroke his chin and say, "hmmm..."

Obama on mute is entirely a different story. Even Republicans would agree he exudes peace. On those rare occasions when he cracks a joke at the expense of the other side, his smile is genuine: the smile pushing the skin under his eyes upward. His gestures are slow and inclusive as opposed to the fast, dominating hand motions of Rush. Palms held upward to us by Obama... Palms thrust down at us by Rush.

If the Republicans think this strategy will work, they are sadly mistaken... I think.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Fantasy theme, ch. 6

May 2nd, 1050.

May this journal some day be read by someone wiser than I. Hopefully an old wizard such as myself still has the strength of will to find Vecna's relics. Arek betrayed me: I saw his letter in the Crystal ball. I feel sad and disappointed in him for revealing my dreams to his friends in Wasden, and yesterday I left Woodsden for the Eastern coasts, where I believe Vecna has hidden his tools. If I'm being followed, this journal is sealed with a curse and cannot be read by those with hate or maliciousness in their hearts.

I've lived a long life. Perhaps this can be my final quest, journal. I can only assume that Vecna trusted me with his secrets because he wants me to find the relics. Maybe he has healed in his frozen tomb in Hell...

My first dream was of the waves on some forgotten beach, moving slowly- ever so slowly. To someone who does not understand Vecna, it would have been frightening to hear his whisper. I know him well, as do you, journal. I saw flashes of him, his face. He was twisted in despair, frozen deep beneath the ice of Cocytus, the final layer of Hell, and the land of traitors. This first dream must have taken much energy to bring to my consciousness, for the second dream is even more vague than the first.

The second dream. I see him again, this time his whole body beneath the ice. His remaining eye struggles to open, and I can hear the ice cracking under the pressure of his eyelid. It's like I'm trapped in there with him. His eye fully opened, I can see it no longer burns with magic fire: I can see his small blue pupil, and it reminds me of when he was a child; when I found him alone and frightened in that forest. The color around his pupil churns and I hear his voice again, but even softer and more defeated.

Arek is cleverer than most: He will follow me to the Eastern shore. My crystal ball is hazy, but it shows me Narez the Homeless has left the Council in search of the same relics as me. If Vecna is trying to trick me, and I run into these two fellows somewhere on the beach, it will have been my mistake for being so trusting, and I will have to pay for my naiveté.


Fantasy theme, ch. 5


Please tell me you did not relate my vision regarding that wizard to your friends? That was told in strictest confidence, and it is very dangerous to interpret visions that you have not seen yourself! These... these people are not to be trusted, whether they are looking to destroy all the world or not!

I grow weary, Arek. I cannot stand to see you anymore. I remember when you were young: certainly you were a rough-and-tumble little boy, but you didn't seem to be heading down a road to insanity! I see now what you are, you conniving bastard.

You've used my visions haven't you? For the past ten years, I thought you were just the young man down the street! Then I see you standing shoulder to shoulder with that thing at the battle of the Red Crossroads, that horrible wizard's last stand? I am NOT a doddering old fool, Karath. I saw you in the Crystal Ball of the Lake, and it does not lie.

My visions grow louder as my hearing grows dimmer. The clues become more obvious as my senses fail. I have moved far away now, and I hope to never see you again. My second vision will never be related to you, you fiend, and the Crystal shall never be yours either.


Fantasy theme, ch. 4

To His Royal Highness, Arold: King of the North,

Your majesty, you and I have a special bond that goes back for years. I am glad to have been your friend these past seven or so years, but now I am in an official position to keep you abreast of certain machinations made against the kingdom.

As Chief of Spies for our capital city, I am obligated to update you on a regular basis. You have been newly crowned, and although this is a time for celebrating, it is also a time for worry. This will be our first official communication, and as such I feel I should update you regarding the recent movements of the Whispered Council.

Be forewarned: The council is not a myth, they were not all killed when their leader died (or vanished), and they are not powerless. It is true that they are not as influential as they have been in the past, but they post a threat to the heart of the kingdom. Imagine a cult of insane wizards operating somewhere in the capital? Maybe even near the Castle District?

We have reason to believe that your economic advisor, Keldaf Res, was a member of the Council, and still uses them in taciturn economic maneuvering. The Council uses brute force and manipulation to keep city guards and others from doing their business, and probably has most of our guards on their payroll. These monsters operate clandestinely, without oversight, and still praise the name, "Vecna." They beat down store owners for protection money, and they are a huge contributing factor to our current economic crisis. The citizens are getting restless, sire, and they look to the Castle for a way out. Defeating the Council, and giving adequate funding for this mission, may be that way.

Do not forget how close Vecna came to conquering the kingdom three years ago. Remember how suddenly his name became known? It was due to the dark influence of these cults. The Whispered Council may do some good for the country now, but they will expect benefits. You saw the face of Vecna: you know what they are capable of. Please rid your halls of this cult, your majesty, and say goodbye to Keldaf.

Tess Seliw
Chief of Spies for Wasden

Monday, February 2, 2009

Fantasy theme, ch. 3

Dear Arek,

Your dream is intriguing. Of course, since Vecna was "destroyed," nearly everyone has seen him in dreams or visions of some kind: His pain and anger has touched us all. Whether yours is a vision is debatable.

The council has changed since the last time you have dropped us a word. About a month ago, Narez the Homeless spawned a mostly peaceful revolution within the Council and formed his own cult to revive Vecna and accomplish his dream of destroying the world. He said we were too interested in material things, and took about a tenth of our members with him... Unfortunately, they were some of our most experienced, including Herg and Ilussa. We let them go without much of a fight, for the Council is still draining the economy of the North and is living quite comfortably and it is doubtful we would have been able to stop them in any case.

We, the level headed remainder, are very interested in Vecna's relics. Not only for simple blackmailing power do we seek them though, especially since our spies have indicated that Narez's cult has infiltrated the capital city of the South. We're certain that Narez has had visions the same as, or perhaps even clearer than, yours. The relics must be in the South, Arek, based on what Narez has been doing, but thank you anyway for the invitation.

You are welcome to join us if you wish. After conquering Narez, we plan to use the amulets and the Wand to send a clear message to the Four Kingdoms and their various treasuries. We trust you with all of this very sensitive information and hope that, upon receiving it, you will join us.

Isn't it odd? In a way, we're trying to save the world after all that we've done to crush it.

In short, do not expect any resources from us. Do not stand in our way, either, Arek: You were right in saying that we know you well. We will not allow the world to be destroyed for nothing, and if you join that lunatic we will sacrifice everything we have to stop you.

Ceulon the Tainted

Fantasy theme, ch. 2

A letter in confidence to The Whispered Council from Arek Karath:

You all know that it has been a year since Vecna's defeat. We have thought our old master, now dead, left nothing behind. I now have reason to believe that the Wand of Power, perhaps even Vecna's hand, still lingers in the world along with some of Vecna's most powerful amulets and relics.

Visions of Vecna the Maimed Wizard-God have usually proven to be false, and the ones that were seen have been difficult to interpret at best... perhaps because they have been so frightening.

The visions I relate to you may possibly be dreams: I hope that is not the case. If my visions are correct, it means that not only has Vecna has broken through the boundary of Hell, but that the Wand of Power is awake. It beckons to us, gentlemen. It beckons to us.

I see waves, slowly crashing against a shore. Torrents, walls of froth slowly blasting a forgotten beach. I hear a voice, in concert with the waves: it whispers to me. I have only heard Vecna's true voice once since he lost his hand, but I will remember it forever. This voice was his, unmistakably.

I could not really understand what he was trying to communicate in this first dream. The whisper was tantalizingly close... I saw flashes of The Wand and Vecna himself trapped in ice for some reason, a look of terror frozen on his face. The ocean though: it was calling to me. The secrets of the location of the wand are mine, however. You have known me long enough, and although I publicly forsaked the Council, I ask you to take heed.

Send some of your more experienced wizards and enough gold for the trek, in which case I will describe my second vision to you. If you don't believe me, I have resources enough, and the spoils will not be shared.

Arek Karath
Former Lieutenant of The Whispered Hand

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Depravity -- Criminality

I know I usually write stories, but this article in PsychologyToday caught my attention. Usually, we in psychology try to edge away from ethics. Even the most criminally-associated personality disorder, "antisocial," is not "bad" in the classical sense. No where in the DSM-IV TR is there a requirement for a person to be a "bad guy" to have a mental disorder, although some people may lack an understanding of what society considers good and bad. I got my bachelor's studying ethics in philosophy, and I see why psychology cannot believe in an inflexible morality: it would be too high a standard. If psychologists had to sign on to the Christian 10 commandments, for example, on determining whether someone was morally confused, everyone would have some kind of personality disorder (especially Christians).

This doctor, of whom I have just heard about, discusses "depravity" in ethical terms, mostly as it relates to antisocial personality disorder- the classic sociopath. On the Michael Welner's website, he presents us with about 30 different elaborations on crimes which we are asked to define as "especially, somewhat, or not at all depraved."

Forensic psychologists are commonly called to cases in which a suspect's insanity is in question. If the APA had its way, anyone with a mental disorder who committed a crime would be sent to the mental hospital. And, in the early 1980's, this was actually the case until district attorneys had to take pay cuts for not sending more poor people to jail. The M'Naghten rules for criminal insanity mean that the suspect has to (1) not know what they were doing at the time of the commission of the crime and (2) have had no intention to commit that crime to get the insanity defense. The person had to be not only delusional but hallucinatory as well, which leaves out nearly all mental disorders except for the most acute cases of schizophrenia. As a result, of 1,000 felony charges only four try the insanity defense, and of those only two get it.

"Depravity," a tentative step in the direction of forensic ethics, tries to measure a criminal's "guilti-ness" so to speak. In the article linked to, Dr. Werner queries whether Bin Laden is a true psychopath or whether he is driven by religious devotion. I, myself, would prefer that we go back to the APA rules for the insanity defense so that criminals might get the correct treatment. Instead of measuring a criminal's depravity, which might indicate that person's stress levels and delusional beliefs instead of actual "evil-itude," we should strive to give these poor people the correct treatment.