How to Identify and Address Potential Mental Health Risks

In 2009, I supported Richard Aborn for District Attorney of Manhattan. I liked most of his stated policies (except the ones on gun control) and wrote about them often. Aborn lost to Richard Vance.

In the light of Jared Loughner, who while not a teenager, is still quite young, I started thinking about Richard's policies, which laid out concrete solutions that well could make a difference.

Again, I am not one of those calling for a gentler political discourse as I think the topic had little to do with Loughner's actions. I think his slide into mental impairment holds the key. The question becomes, since we know he's not the only unbalanced, unhinged, mentally impaired young person out there, how do we spot the next one and what do we do to turn him around?

This paper by Richard presents some excellent suggestions. I urge you to read it: BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE: A NEW STRATEGY FOR PREVENTING JUVENILE CRIME: [More...]

A snippet:

To make progress toward reducing crime and improving young people’s lives, the justice system must consider not only the mistakes young offenders have made in the past, but also what they are capable of achieving in the future – and how to help them succeed. If we do not shift course, we run the risk of continuing to push today’s young offenders into a cycle of crime that makes them tomorrow’s adult criminals. New Resources for Mental Health Care| Experts estimate that 70 percent of youths in the juvenile justice system have mental health issues. [National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice] According to the New York City Mayor’s Management Report, 83% of youths in Department of Juvenile Justice facilities required mental health services. To address the causes of many young offenders’ criminal behavior and stop them from committing further crimes, we must provide mental health treatment to those who need it. As District Attorney, Aborn will establish a pilot Youth Mental Health Clinic that will address the enormous unmet need for psychological and substance abuse treatment among young people prosecuted by the D.A, and will ensure that all youths who come through the system receive adequate and early assessment of mental health treatment needs. The clinic staff will include therapists and case managers who will treat youths with psychological needs, manage the youth’s case as it moves through the system, and make sentencing recommendations. A similar clinic in Chicago has proven to be effective at streamlining communication between courts and clinicians. [Circuit Court of Cook County]

More on this here.

As for what those of you with time to spare can do: Contact the similar agencies in your city and volunteer. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister. Ask what is needed. There are kids out there who are angry, depressed, isolated and feeling abandoned, alone and helpless. Guns don't cause these feelings, they are merely the occasional means by which they express them. Guns could be abolished, and it would be just as easy for them to make homemade bombs, grenades and whatever other weapons they can think of. Identify and treat the underlying disorder, and provide alternative and therapeutic activities and vocational skills that are geared to their interests.

Start with the premise that every child/teen/young adult deserves an equal chance to succeed, and elect local leaders who promise to provide them with the tools to make it a reality.

There is so much that could be done. And if we'd just stop throwing money down the never-ending abyss of international wars and the war on drugs, we could easily afford it.

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    Hmmm ... (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by Robot Porter on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 06:59:31 AM EST
    Guns could be abolished, and it would be just as easy for them to make homemade bombs, grenades and whatever other weapons they can think of.

    This isn't supported by evidence from countries with stricter gun control.  It just isn't.

    I'm all for better mental health care.  But sensible gun control, and Arizona gun laws aren't sensible, would be good too.

    And the notion ... (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Robot Porter on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 08:08:19 AM EST
    that it's "just as easy .. to make homemade bombs" as to buy a legal handgun is patently ludicrous.

    It is even easier. (none / 0) (#6)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 08:27:02 AM EST

    And much cheaper than the Glock and mags that ran in the $600 area.

    Eight pounds of smokeless powder delivered to your door for under $200.

    A threaded pipe and two pipe caps under $50 from your local friendly hardware store.

    The rest shall remain unnamed but is less than $20 and twenty minutes time.


    The evidence from other countries (none / 0) (#4)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 08:15:28 AM EST
    The evidence from other countries points to factors other than gun laws as being causative.

    A non-violent society will have lower homicide rates no matter what the gun laws are.  See the link.  In the US we have a higher homicide rate without firearms than much of western Europe has for firearm and non-firearm homicides combined.  As an historical reference New York had a homicide rate several times that of London before either city had any gun control laws.


    The other noteworthy aspect of the table is the how little relation there is between the percentage of households that have guns, and the overall homicide rate.


    I don't have the time to ... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Robot Porter on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 08:38:07 AM EST
    go through the problems with that article on "guncite.com" (a pro-gun rights website, not a peer reviewed journal), but it's a mish-mash of logical fallacies and stuff taken out of context.

    There are more variables... (none / 0) (#5)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 08:15:43 AM EST
    than just gun control laws.  Social services and mental health services are often more available and emphasized in those countries with strict gun control, maybe thats the reason they have less violent maniacs.  Plus cultural differences...the list of variables is vast.

    Jeralyn, honestly... (5.00 / 3) (#10)
    by Dadler on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 08:53:01 AM EST
    If you don't think environment played ANY role in his mental demise, then say so.  But acting as if the charged and dysfunctional and angry political tone in our utterly dying nation is somehow a peculiarly irrelevant aspect of environment makes zero rational sense. Zero.  No one is saying Sarah Palin's words or anyone's MADE him do anything. Again, however, to suggest environment played no factor just makes no sense.

    That said, I have no desire to censor anyone. They can say what they want, put pictures of gun sights up, I would never try to say they couldn't. But I would also never say that these things are somehow, ho hum, absolutely without effect on our society and citizens. That seems to me desperate in its attempt to say, no no, our country hasn't gotten that bad yet.

    Yes. It has.  

    What actually makes no sense at all (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Buckeye on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 09:30:47 AM EST
    is someone insisting that an environment created by political rhetoric played some role in this without any evidence to support it (and the evidence that is available shows the opposite).

    The "evidence available" shows ... (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Yman on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:00:23 AM EST
    ... that political rhetoric played no role in this?

    What evidence is that?


    For one thing, interviews with his friends... (none / 0) (#19)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:13:32 AM EST
    ....Who said, he watched no TV, didn't listen to talk radio, was a-political.   The kid was most likely schizo.  People like that don't process the outside world like the rest of us do.  I know it's hard for you to understand, being "normal," but it's true.

    Believe whatever you want to believe, but there's a disconnect between what you want to believe and the evidence on the ground.


    Listen to the entire interview (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by Yman on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:57:55 AM EST
    I assume you're talking about the interview with his high school friend Zach Osler on GMA?  True, Osler said that Laughner was not political and didn't watch TV or listen to talk radio.  Of course, this was before they broke contact with each other two years ago.

    In the same interview, Osler goes on to share his opinion that Laughner's rage was fueled by a web-based documentary called "Zeitgeist", which Osler says "poured gasoline on his fire" and "had a profound impact on Jared Loughner's mindset".  Zeitgeist is a documentary which asserts a number of conspiracy theory-based ideas, including the Christ myth theory, 9-11 Truther theories and claims that bankers manipulate the international monetary system and the media in order to consolidate power, hardly "theories" that are apolitical in nature.  Of course, there's also Loughner's fascination with David Wynn Miller's anti-government, brainwashing and control through grammar theory which Loughner himself makes several references to and which was the nexis of his question to Rep. Giffords in their first meeting, after which (according to his friend Bryce Tierney): "Ever since that, he thought she was fake, he had something against her."

    The fact that Laughner was deranged or "schizo" does not prove that political rhetoric played no role in this tragedy.  I don't think anyone would argue that he isn't mentally ill, but the two concepts are not mutually exclusive.  While one of his friends says he didn't watch TV or listen to talk radio two years ago and he "didn't take sides", Loughner's own words and the other statements of his friend suggest just the opposite.


    Agreed but How I.D. Potential Criminals (none / 0) (#60)
    by BackFromOhio on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 08:44:48 PM EST
    I agree with the substance of your post, and I applaud Jeralyn for writing about this subject.  One concern that also needs to be addressed is how to create a system where behavior reminiscent of paranoid schizophrenia can be brought to the attention of parents and mental health professionals.  Seems to me, a system of "mandatory reporting" by "mandated" reporters, similar to mandatory reporting of child abuse & neglect might be in order.  We all don't have to have PhD's to be able to make a firm diagnosis, but it would not hurt for schools/others to push for awareness amongst students and faculty of certain signals/symptoms.  This type of system is in use in public schools to alert authorities to students at risk of suicide.  Since schizophrenia often first appears in adolescents or early adulthood (20s), a public awareness campaign and programs to identify and assist those who suffer from schizophrenia (and thereby possibly prevent public violence) in high schools and colleges might be useful.  

    As this is a legal blog (5.00 / 0) (#62)
    by Towanda on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 09:39:56 PM EST
    there oughta be knowledge of the law.  

    Federal privacy law governs schools, colleges, universities since 1974 in an act to protect students after the wrongs of the government against them then: the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

    Even amendments since, owing to the rise in school shootings, do not allow schools to act as so many media and their "experts" this week claim.  The amendments still require that schools act to report students to off-campus authorities only with strong evidence of actual violence or actual threat of it.

    When did Loughner threaten violence on campus?

    Never.  Not based on all of the reports, records, evidence, etc., that have emerged.  Nada threats.

    Now, media blather much about Arizona's looser laws.  But those do not apply to educational institutions; last I checked, federal law supersedes state law.

    I would be very surprised if lawyers on this blog want schools to be able to report students to law enforcement authorities, courts, etc., upon suspension or expulsion for reasons such as disrupting class, scaring classmates, or even -- as those events did not cause Loughner's expulsion, but embarrassment to the campus did -- posting Youtubes denouncing community colleges as unconstitutional.

    Even if TL does support such a change in federal law, then who decides to suspend or expel students and report them for possible mental commitment?  Adjunct professors in math, such as the teacher who repeatedly raised concerns about Loughner disrupting class?  That prof was courageous to keep fighting for the sake of his other students, but I doubt that a parttime newbie math prof also has a Ph.D. in psychology, or criminal justice -- or a J.D. to know the law.


    I know I don't want institutions of learning.... (5.00 / 1) (#63)
    by kdog on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 06:03:21 AM EST
    to be the latest institution in our society to be further deputized into a law enforcement apparatus...anymore than the schools have already.

    Think about it...we've deputized banks, Visa, Paypal, the Emergency Room...do we really wanna convert the classroom into the precint too?  I sincerely hope the fear fades before we do something stupid with the law that we live to regret.

    Educate and make mental health services readily available?  Yes.  Require educators to drop dimes on their students with strange behavior?  Hell no...that's terrifying.



    Kdog gets it (5.00 / 0) (#66)
    by Towanda on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 12:06:46 PM EST
    as usual.

    Based on the evidence of many a comment on this blog, and not only by you, kdog, a lot of us could be committed by well-meaning do-gooders on campuses, I bet, if we turned in these comments as assignments.


    No Sh*t Towanda! (5.00 / 1) (#67)
    by kdog on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 01:28:43 PM EST
    If I had a nickel for everytime I got that "you're f*ckin' nuts!" look...and I can't even see the looks my comments get:)

    In all seriousness, there is a level of "danger", for lack of a better term, that we all must be willing to accept if we want to call this a free society...we've already gone too far in many ways in the name of "public safety"...no mas.


    Ben Franklin (5.00 / 1) (#68)
    by Zorba on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 01:52:51 PM EST
    said it all:
    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

    Just going about your daily life presents a risk.  We cannot make everyone totally safe, all the time.  Making it easier to lock people up against their will for being mentally ill is not only an unacceptable infringement of their rights, it won't make the rest of us any safer than the "security theater" we undergo at the airport.  And it leads to a slippery slope.  Who decides who and what behavior is "dangerous"?  Today, the potentially homicidal- tomorrow, who?  The merely strange or anti-social person?  The politically suspect person who holds unpopular views?    

    Exactly... (5.00 / 0) (#69)
    by kdog on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 02:27:50 PM EST
    it is a foregone comclusion that innocents will be snagged and caged under such a dystopian nightmare policy...the non-violent crazy people who, last I checked, have an inalienable right to be crazy.

    This one hits kinda close to home Z...a dear friend, my old partner in the rythym section bass player, was committed against his will for 30 days...don't know all the details but his parents were behind it.  He had some mental problems, but never displayed an inkling of violent tendencies, except maybe when he was rippin' a killer bass line:)  

    Long story short, he came out of the loony bin more f*cked up than when he went in...with a side-order of serious trauma from the whole ordeal.  


    Yes, finally, a college counselor (5.00 / 0) (#70)
    by Towanda on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 02:32:49 PM EST
    was part of the conversation on CNN last night.  He was not given needed time to clarify a lot for the public subjected to the media untruths and idiocy of their so-called "experts" who have spoken far beyond their areas of expertise for more than a week.

    But as the counselor said, do we really want campuses to go to courta for commitments of students based on their "bizarre behavior" -- the so-called expert's and CNN's term?  If so, he said, we will see a massive drop in college enrollments, because so many students will need to be locked up.  College is the time to be "bizarre," he said, by some people's definitions.

    I see a student up the street who heads out many days in pajama bottoms (and coat and backpack).  I understand that wearing pajama bottoms to school is seen in high schools now, too.  That's bizarre, isn't it?  Kick 'em out of school and call in the campus "behavioral intervention team" and incarcerate 'em all in mental institutions!


    We don't want campuses (5.00 / 1) (#71)
    by Zorba on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 02:53:38 PM EST
    or any place else, for that matter (workplaces, neighborhoods, the local diner, or even your parents) to have the power to commit adults any more easily than they can be committed now.  It certainly can be heartbreaking for the family, or friends, or teachers, of an adult who needs help and refuses it.  But, absent clear proof that this person is an "immediate danger" to himself/herself or others, it's very dangerous to go down this route.  Do I think that there should be more help, more readily available, in schools and communities, and more education for the general public about this help?  Yes, of course- there aren't enough resources out there for the mentally ill.  And my own heart breaks for anyone who sees a loved one going down the tubes, but cannot get that person to go for help.  But the alternative could wind up being far worse.  (As far as the pajama-bottom-clad student- I lived in San Francisco and took classes at U.C. Berkeley in the 70's.  Believe me, I've seen much stranger things than that.)    

    Agreed, and as for "bizarre"b (5.00 / 0) (#72)
    by Towanda on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 03:19:39 PM EST
    behavior, I talk with parents who consider their college students' choices of what to study to be bizarre.  "What is my kid going to do with a philosophy major?" or "an art history major?"  I think that those parents want to incarcerate their kids in accounting majors, or maybe in vocational schools.  I understand them, considering the job opportunities and underemployment of college graduates in this economy, but -- channeling my inner kdog -- the kids ain't crazy.

    I don't disagree about (none / 0) (#74)
    by BackFromOhio on Mon Jan 17, 2011 at 03:07:26 PM EST
    roles of universities and colleges in identifying mentally disturbed vis a vis an invasion of legal privacy rights.  There is always the tension between individual rights to privacy and potential benefits to society of invading that privacy.  The TV story I mentioned for identifying students at risk for suicide is a program in high school, not university.  That said, schizophrenia [and perhaps other mental illnesses] often does not appear for the first time until late teens/early 20s, i.e., college years.  

    The question I raise is whether there is a effective and lawful way to educate the public to identify those who might potentially harm others before the harm occurs. A program of public education on signs of serious mental illness might be appropriate at the university level for faculty and students alike -- not in order to turn these groups into a mental health police, but for purposes of either assisting students or giving students and faculty knowledge with which to distinguish quirky from potentially threatening behavior.  Students and faculty participating in a high school program on signs of suicide risk are better equipped to know when a friend is signaling for help; similarly, students and faculty given meaningful information identifying signs of potential serious mental illness or risk of physical harm would be better equipped to make decisions.  As indicated in last night's feature story on 60 minutes about Loughner, Loughner's closest friends noticed a marked change in his behavior at some point, and pulled away from him; and, there were one or two individuals to whom Loughner had expressed a desire to shoot Giffords, and several to whom he had indicated his disdain for her, since she did not answer a question he submitted at a gathering. I believe the friends who pulled away did not understand that the change in behavior signaled anything more than behavior that was too weird for them to want to be around on a regular basis.  Are you all saying that if these friends had been alarmed by the behavior, that they should not have reached out to Loughner's family? or discussed their concerns with faculty? or health providers?  Are you all saying that had Loughner's friends or others suspected his potential for harming others, that they would be wrong to try to do something or alert authorities?  If you are worried that the average college student or citizen is not equipped to make these types of distinctions, I would agree; but I do think well-designed, well-informed educational programs might save a lot of lives, just as the high school suicide risk programs have saved many from suicide.


    I agree that a reporting requirement ... (5.00 / 1) (#65)
    by Yman on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 07:00:37 AM EST
    ... from colleges/universities is something that should be looked at, particularly if a student has made statements or exhibited behavior indicating he may be a threat to himself or others.  It would, of course, have to be balanced against the student's privacy rights.

    That being said, the point of my post was that the evidence does not show that political rhetoric played no role in this incident.  In fact, it shows just the opposite.


    Yet we also (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 11:07:33 AM EST
    have evidence via the Youtube videos that he made that he was into far right language/grammar conspiracy theories.  

    It's not like anyone is trying to put Sarah Palin on trial.  It's an argument that if right wing extremism is on the rise at the same time that something violent happens to a Democratic politician, there might be some connection there.  No one (to my knowledge) thinks we're going to find a diary entry that attributes the murders to any one person like Palin.  Nonetheless, cultures that celebrate violence and anti-social behavior end up with more violent, anti-social behavior.  This is a reminder of that.


    Amazing, the millions that are spent (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by Towanda on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:08:06 AM EST
    by politicians to manage the media and the message, if the media and the message have no effects.

    Kos (none / 0) (#24)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:31:19 AM EST

    Kos was surprised to learn that about 80% of the population never heard of Ann Coulter.

    She has campaigned for office (none / 0) (#26)
    by Towanda on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:43:13 AM EST
    and spent millions advertising on media to do so?  No.

    Kos might be surprised to learn (none / 0) (#30)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:59:49 AM EST
    That most people do not watch political pundits, read blogs, or pay rapt attention to every Beltway move.

    I LIVE and work inside the Beltway - with lawyers. Guess what?  Most of them do not know the ins and outs about the daily shenanigans of the politicians working down the street.  They do not hang on every breath spoken, nor every little nuance of every every story.


    Your point? (none / 0) (#33)
    by Yman on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 11:21:48 AM EST
    Assuming (for the sake of argument) that it's true, that means that at least 60 million have heard of her.

    How many have heard of Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck?


    If it wasn't for the whining of the left (none / 0) (#53)
    by me only on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 04:22:10 PM EST
    I would never have heard of Glen Beck.  I still don't know a thing about any of his political positions, except that he really, really pisses off the progressives.

    Okay, ... so that's ONE person (none / 0) (#56)
    by Yman on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 05:32:20 PM EST
    Oh, wait ... I take that back.  You said you did hear of him.  Of course, he has six best-selling books and the third highest ratings of any radio show (behind Hannity and Limbaugh).  He also has one of the highest rated cable TV talk shows.  Limbaugh, of course, also has numerous best-selling books and the highest rated radio show in the country with over 15 million listeners per week.

    But, hey, ... if you say Beck, Limbaugh, et. al. have had no effect on you, I'm sure all those those advertisers that spend millions of dollars every week advertising on their shows do it because they enjoy wasting their money.


    Billions are spent on TV (none / 0) (#58)
    by me only on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 08:00:23 PM EST
    advertising.  I haven't turned the TV on since the Le Tour.  A friend at work doesn't even own a TV.

    My wife has never even heard of Glen Beck.


    So? (none / 0) (#59)
    by Yman on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 08:16:09 PM EST
    So you, your wife and "a friend at work" barely watch TV, don't know who Glenn Beck is, don't even own a TV, or some combination of the three.

    Is this supposed to be evidence of the (lack of) influence of the right-wing, hate machine, or just sharing a little, personal trivia?


    Her audience is (none / 0) (#61)
    by BackFromOhio on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 08:45:37 PM EST
    the MSNBC set and its demographic

    He was refering to ... (none / 0) (#64)
    by Yman on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 06:51:47 AM EST
    ... Ann Coulter.

    Why does the Today (none / 0) (#75)
    by BackFromOhio on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 08:09:24 PM EST
    show keep bringing her back on for interviews?

    I'd rather be on the Palin (none / 0) (#46)
    by MKS on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 03:09:21 PM EST
    side of this argument as a liberal.  Making Palin own up to her hateful rhetoric would be nice, but....

    The way it dawned on me was via a flippant post on TPM that if Palin is right, and only the actual criminals are to blame, then she is in favor of building the Park 51 Islamic Center, as it would be bad to scapegoat an entire religion for the acts of a few....

    Rep. King will hold hearings on how less than loyal many American Muslims are....because they do not denounce others' rhetoric, I suppose....

    The whole argument about the War on Terror is one where it's best to not blame entire civilizations for the acts of a few...

    Conservatives love to hang their hat on the idea that a general bad atmosphere causes all kinds of ills....Gay Marriage will create an atmosphere that devalues Straight Marriage...

    Anti-war protestors create a bad impression....and harm the troops....

    As a liberal, it is just better and more comfortable to stand on the side of not blaming political free speech for all kinds of ills....

    Even as offensive as Palin's gunsights are....


    Enviroment plays a role... (none / 0) (#13)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 09:49:31 AM EST
    in everything...this ain't no vacuum we reside in.  Nothing is ever totally in and of itself.

    That being said, I think the sickness runs much deeper than the political rhetoric of the last 2-3 years...the rhetoric is merely another symptom of the deeper sickness.

    And though some of what we're trying to put our finger on here is unique to our American society, some if not most of "it" has plagued mankind since civilization began.  "It" being the mental state leading to senseless savage violence...for lack of a better term.


    Our government is more violent ... (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Robot Porter on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:05:14 AM EST
    than any rhetoric or private citizen.  For last sixty years, it has been engaging in a series of undeclared wars with little or no provocation which have resulted in the death of millions of innocent people.  And that's just what we've done on foreign soil.

    Given these facts it's surprising the population is as peaceful as it is.  


    No argument here... (none / 0) (#21)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:22:51 AM EST
    and lets not forget the daily violence people suffer here at home at the hands of our authoritarian quasi-police state and oligarchical economic system...all pieces to a very complicated jigsaw puzzle.

    As the Dude once said...

    It's a complicated case, Maude. Lotta ins. Lotta outs. And a lotta strands to keep in my head, man. Lotta strands in old Duder's F*ckola, man.

    Yup, and I did say ... (none / 0) (#51)
    by Robot Porter on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 04:04:25 PM EST
    in my post:

    And that's just what we've done on foreign soil.

    Congresswoman Giffords (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by txpolitico67 on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 09:58:08 AM EST
    interview in March, and her taking a bullet in the head, is enough for me.  SHE herself, tragically called out the horrible consequences of the actions of Palin.

    Go ahead.  Someone go ask HER if that map didn't have anything to do with it.  I would hazard to guess she would beg to differ.


    Why is it so important that ... (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by davnee on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:30:48 AM EST
    ... Palin is to blame?  I honestly don't understand why we have to make this incident about the Tea Party and the violent rhetoric of the last election cycle.  I completely agree that the rhetoric Palin uses is irresponsible, but to willfully ignore the true motivations of this shooter strikes me as equally irresponsible.  It's no better than blaming Muslims for every bomb that goes off anywhere in the world and then stubbornly insisting that it's still their fault even when we find out that it was some random guy protesting global warming or getting rejected for a job at the defense department or something, because, well, Muslims are responsible for creating a climate of terrorism.

    I don't take issue with people pointing out that the recent violent rhetoric might have dire consequences, and that this incident is an opportunity to reflect on that and dial it back before it really does lead someone who is unbalanced to do something terrible.  But that seems to be an altogether different message from saying this is Palin's fault over and over again.

    Then again, as an attorney, I am trained to treat people as innocent until proven guilty and to avoid guilt by association where possible.


    Agreed. It does not seem likely to me (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by KeysDan on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 11:28:57 AM EST
    that Sarah Palin or any other single  voice is the issue. But, I do see this in the sense of a Greek Tragedy, where there is a chorus that influences the player.  While I agree with the use of motivations in the plural, I disagree that they have been determined with certitude.

    And, the assertion that these yet unknown motivation(s) of the shooter are being ignored is a curious one as is acceptance of reflection and corrective steps before it "really does lead someone who is unbalanced to do something terrible."  While I subscribe to the unfairness of singling out Governor Palin, it is the "shooter" that has been charged with a crime and he is the one whose actions need to be understood--and that innocent until proved guilty really applies to him.


    Greek Tragedy indeed (none / 0) (#41)
    by davnee on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 12:22:01 PM EST
    I fully agree with your post.  In fact, it may yet prove to be the case that Loughner was influenced by Tea Party rhetoric.  We have no way of knowing yet, and may never know the full panoply of influences.

    My own use of innocent until proven guilty was meant to be metaphoric.  It troubles me when people lock on to one truth and refuse to examine that truth even in light of other evidence.  

    And in the spirit of the original post, which was meant to focus discussion on untreated mental illness, that is where my concern really lies.  I'd hate to see the political program of destroying Sarah Palin's career be the only thing we talk about in light of this tragedy.  It's such a small point as to be almost beside the point.  Regardless of whatever influence her extremist rhetoric may have had, if any, I think we can all agree it was only one of so very many voices in the chorus of this young man's madness.  I want to talk about how to recognize such madness in others like him and treat it, before the sometimes harsh and chaotic tune we all hear in this modern world turns somehow to uncontrolled violence in their minds.  

    Most of all, I don't want to waste time wringing hands and silencing the chorus, when madness will likely hear what it wants to hear anyway.  How tragic it would be to surrender our freedoms only to discover we were still not safe.


    Great post. (none / 0) (#34)
    by Buckeye on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 11:26:15 AM EST
    Another problem I have had with many posters on this site is that you can actually disagree that political rhetoric (which is a constitutional right) had anything to do with this without having a right wing agenda, being pro-Palin, etc.  You can find Palin reprehensible, but not complicit in this murder.  If we cannot defend people being accused of something without any evidence to support it on Talkleft, then where can we?  For example, regarding the infamous "cross hairs" map with what appears to be a rifle scope over Giffords district, we have no idea if Loughner was even aware of its existence let alone if it had any influence on him.

    Well said, davnee (none / 0) (#47)
    by MKS on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 03:14:29 PM EST
    I don't like the precedent that pinning this on Sister Sarah would set....

    Let's look at the underlying principle and see if we would like it applied to American Muslims etc, or other situations....


    Your blatant appeal to authority (none / 0) (#22)
    by me only on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:30:15 AM EST
    is pathetic.  Only the clueless are nodding their heads.

    It has emotional appeal (none / 0) (#48)
    by MKS on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 03:19:26 PM EST
    And it is just plain creepy that Sister Sarah put a gunsight on Giffords....

    But, fortunately for Palin, the gunsight ad did not directly cause the actual crime...But an indirect cause by making violence against liberal women candidates acceptable, as part of the culture that the shooter absored via osmosis?....maybe, but I do not like that standard being applied in other situations.....


    I don't care what she thinks (none / 0) (#42)
    by canuck eh on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 12:50:58 PM EST
    Let me be very clear that I'm not trying to belittle her pain or suffering but the bottom line is this- being a victim does not afford you moral authority!

    If she wakes up and blames the Martians or the Catholic Church or the Mossad or the boogeyman is that somehow relevant?


    It isn't just any one thing. (none / 0) (#20)
    by Anne on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:13:46 AM EST
    Glenn has an excellent post on the extreme proposal of William Galston in response to the Tucson shootings; it's just so over-the-top I can't believe it.

    Listen to what he proposes:  "first, those who acquire credible evidence of an individual's mental disturbance should be required to report it to both law enforcement authorities and the courts, and the legal jeopardy for failing to do so should be tough enough to ensure compliance"; those reporting obligations should apply not only to family and friends, but extend to "school authorities and other involved parties."  And "second, the law should no longer require, as a condition of involuntary incarceration, that seriously disturbed individuals constitute a danger to themselves or others"; instead, involuntary commitment should be imposed whenever there is "delusional loss of contact with reality."  He concludes on this melodramatic note:  'How many more mass murders and assassinations do we need before we understand that the rights-based hyper-individualism of our laws governing mental illness is endangering the security of our community and the functioning of our democracy?"

    Glenn's response - offered in part, below - is one we all need to be reminded about:

    What Galston is doing here is what the American political class reflexively does in the wake of every tragedy:  it immediately seeks to exploit the resulting trauma and emotion to justify all-new restrictions on basic liberties (such as the right not to be locked away against one's will in the absence of a crime or a serious threat to others) and all-new government powers.  Every traumatic event -- in the immediate, emotionally consuming aftermath --  leads to these sorts of knee-jerk responses.  The 9/11 attack immediately gave rise to the Patriot Act, warrantless eavesdropping, a torture regime, due-process-free imprisonment, and ultimately an attack on Iraq.  High-profile, brutal criminal acts have led to repressive measures such as three-strikes-and-out laws and minimum sentencing guidelines, causing the U.S. to maintain the largest Prison State in the world.


    What lies at the core of this mindset is desperate pursuit of a total illusion:  Absolute Safety.  People like William Galston believe that every time there is a violent or tragic act, it means that the Government should have done something -- or should have had more powers -- in order to stop it.  But that is the reasoning process of a child.  Even if we were to create an absolute Police State -- the most extreme Police State we could conjure -- acts like the Arizona shooting would still happen.  There are more than 300 million people in the U.S. and, inevitably, some of them are going to do very bad and very violent things.  Thus has it always been and always will be.  The mere existence of bad events is not evidence that the Government needs to be more empowered and liberties further restricted.  Just as there are serious costs to things like the Arizona shootings, there are serious costs to enacting the kinds of repressive systems Galston envisions, yet people like him never weigh those costs.

    Having people do bad things is the price we pay for freedom.  There is a cost to all liberty.  Having to hear upsetting or toxic views is the price we pay for free speech; having propaganada spewed by large media outlets is the price we pay for a free press; and having some horrible, dangerous criminals go free is the price we pay for banning the Police from searching our homes without a warrant (the Fourth Amendment) and mandating due process before people can be imprisoned (the Fifth Amendment).  The whole American political system is predicated on the idea that we are unwilling to accept large-scale abridgments of freedom in the name of safety, and that Absolute Safety is a dangerous illusion.  There is a new report today that a police officer in Tuscon stopped Jared Loughner's car for speeding shortly before his rampage, but was unable to search his car because he lacked probable cause to do so.  Obviously, that's regrettable -- if you're a family member of one of his victims, it's horrifying -- but the alternative (allowing Police the power to search whomever they want without cause) is worse:  that's the judgment we made in the Bill of Rights.

    I think far more than the ugly rhetoric that has become acceptable in some quarters, or the widespread availability of guns, what is poisoning our country is the way we are addressing the country's social ills: too many people without health care, going to bed and to school hungry, living in sub-standard conditions or existing in shelters, unable to find work.  

    Quality of life in this country is declining for far too many people; when you are sick, hungry, jobless, homeless, and see no help or relief in sight, it tends to have a negative effect on one's mental health; anger ensues when people see, and believe, that it is, in large part, the action - or inaction - of the government that is hurting their ability to crawl out of this hole, and desperate people do desperate things.

    Turning this into a country where we can involuntarily commit anyone who is deemed to have lost touch with reality will not only not solve anything, it will just put us farther down the path that is already leading us away from democracy.


    A) Until about 50 years (none / 0) (#25)
    by me only on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:37:42 AM EST
    ago we did involuntarily commit people.

    B) Until about 45 years ago we didn't have even Medicaid and Medicare to help the poor.

    C) Until about 45 years ago we didn't have foodstamps or welfare.

    So either we were not a democracy (we really have never been a democracy, instead we are a constitutional republic) from 1789 until the advent of the Great Society, or the population was much better able to cope with life, or your ideas are not consistent with what is really going on.


    Bring back (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by the capstan on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 11:38:02 AM EST
    the draft and jail the conchies; re-institute Jim Crow laws; pass a literacy test to vote and then pay poll tax; sign a loyalty oath to get a university teaching position; price the majority of young people out of advanced education; idealize a world where woman did not leave home to work (except as black maids or teachers); allow police to harass (with dogs and fire hoses, for example) people who cannot defend themselves; refuse to educate the mentally retarded; allow popular vote for wet or dry counties and for Sunday blue laws; etc.  While we are about it, dump the interstates; the jetliners (and TSA); the web; CDs and DVDs; cable and satellite TV--enough!  I do not want those days back again; I lived through them, and America was no peaceful paradise.
    peaceful paradise

    Heh! Good post. (none / 0) (#40)
    by Buckeye on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 11:48:36 AM EST
    We have problems in our country, but some perspective is in order.

    Thank You (none / 0) (#54)
    by me only on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 04:23:51 PM EST
    you made my point far, far better than I could have.

    You did forget to mention rivers burning and the smog (which were fixed by government regulation).


    Oh, brother...are you arguing that (none / 0) (#31)
    by Anne on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 11:05:23 AM EST
    quality of life is not declining for many people?

    Are you arguing that we are not steadily moving away from entitlement programs that help the least among us?

    Are you arguing that there are not more people than ever who have no health insurance, who cannot afford care?

    Are you arguing that we have not seen a steady erosion of our rights and civil liberties, espectially in the decade following the 9/11 attacks?

    Are you arguing that we have upheld the tenets of our democracy around the world?

    Are you arguing that we are not subjecting American citizens traveling in and out of the country to practices that violate almost every right granted to us under the Bill of Rights?

    Are you arguing that we should expand the practice of involuntary commitment by expanding the parameters under which such a commitment could be undertaken so broadly that probably any one of us, on a bad day, could find ourselves under lock and key?



    The quality of life declining (none / 0) (#37)
    by me only on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 11:35:22 AM EST
    happens during recessions.  The economic cycle happens.  It is not a reflection of our form of government.

    More Americans are on food stamps today than at any time in the past.  There is a ton of talk, but the only recent actions on entitlement programs has been to increase them.  (Medicare part D and SChip.)

    People not having health insurance is due to the stupidity of health insurance than anything else.

    An erosion of our rights.  Well I guess that depends on your starting point.  There has been an erosion of our rights since the founding (unless your family was brought here in chains).  However, this is not contributing to some mass resistance or decline in our society.  Most people can't get worked up about walking through an airport scanner.

    As for "upheld the tenets of our democracy around the world".  WTF are you talking about?  Was invading Mexico in 1848 furthering our tenets of democracy?  How about Manifest Destiny?  The Shah?  Mobutu Sese Seku?  Soharto? (spelling) American foreign policy has rarely been kind to those who oppose us.

    I have made no argument for or against involuntary commitment, other than to point out it was common in the past.  Also to point out that Reagan saw this as an infringement on liberty and worked to stop this practice.  For this he is vilified by the left.

    I remember the 80's.  All the talk of decline from the left.  I listened.  Then I spoke to my grandmother, who pointed out that FDR was the greatest man ever and that all progressives since have been complaining about decline.  The one thing I'll give you is that you seem to agree with the lunatics on the right that there was a "better time in the past."  Guess it is not just conservatives that have some ideal notion of the past.


    Reagan tossed the mentally ill out on the streets (none / 0) (#49)
    by MKS on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 03:29:25 PM EST
    We should have more facilities for the mentally ill....

    But the mandatory informing on those who are mentally ill smacks of Orwellian totalitarianism...

    And involuntarily committing people like we used to....no, let's not go there, either.

    But having more mental health facilities, and they can be much better than the 1950s, would be helpful and humane....


    Reagan did exactly what the (none / 0) (#52)
    by me only on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 04:19:20 PM EST
    mental health professionals wanted.  He closed the institutions.  That the funding for other programs never materialized cannot be attributed solely to Reagan.  More than 40 years have past since then.  Jerry Browne has been governor for 86 of them.

    False. What the professionals wanted (5.00 / 1) (#57)
    by Peter G on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 05:41:26 PM EST
    was to close the hellish institutions and open community living facilities, at public expense (which would be no more than the cost of overincarcerating so many in maximum security), so as to place the mentally ill in the least restrictive environments where they could function.  The powers that be acquiesced in half the plan.  Guess which half?

    Re (C) (none / 0) (#35)
    by Towanda on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 11:28:30 AM EST
    Perhaps this is a math problem, not missing swaths of history, but -- did you miss the New Deal?  

    And even before then, the Sheppard-Towner Act (a predecessor of what became known as AFDC)?  And those were federal programs; previous welfare programs existed at local governmental levels.)


    And how to identify those risks... (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Dadler on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 08:58:12 AM EST
    Don't be a dying, ignorant, careless, mass murdering, war mongering, delusional nation.

    Actually care about your citizens.

    This nation is so phucked up it, essentially, cares about nothing, not even itself.

    The truth hurts, we're now finally feeling it. And it is not going to stop any time soon.

    I agree with Dadler (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Saul on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 09:58:45 AM EST
    As I posted two days ago we do not have the full FBI investigation on what might have influenced the shooter to do what he did.

    To say categorically that the right wing political rhetoric had absolutely nothing to do with his actions is premature. I would like to be a fly on the wall in the interrogation room of the FBI to hear what the shooter has told the FBI.  

    Many unstable people are on the edge.  Some will never move over the  edge.  However, too many in these mental states, it takes a very little catalyst to push them to go over the edge.  That catalyst can be things as simple as the extreme political rhetoric we have witnessed in the last two years.

    categorically (3.00 / 2) (#27)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:47:51 AM EST

    To say categorically that the Daily Kos political rhetoric targeting her or announcing that she was DEAD to him had absolutely nothing to do with his actions is premature.

    To say categorically that common place political metaphors like campaigning and battleground districts  had absolutely nothing to do with his actions is premature.


    False equivalency (5.00 / 2) (#43)
    by Yman on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 12:55:47 PM EST
    "Dead to me" is an expression which has nothing to do with attacking or killing someone.  It means that the speaker wants nothing more to do with the subject of the expression and that subject no longer has a place in the speaker's life - like when a parent disowns a child, or a friend is estranged from another friend.  It is not an expression of violence.

    Floating the idea of using "Second Amendment remedies" against a political opponent in a campaign, particularly to a constituency with a history of such attacks, is an expression of violence.

    But nice try ...


    So this boils down to (none / 0) (#44)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 01:27:10 PM EST

    one comment by Sharon Angle in Nevada?  

    Why do you always try such ... (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by Yman on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 01:53:03 PM EST
    ... futile leap of logic?  Do you really think they aren't completely transparent?  More examples:

    Michelle Bachman: "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us `having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,' and the people -- we the people -- are going to have to fight back hard if we're not going to lose our country."

    Ann Coulter: "My only regret with Tim McVeigh is that he did not go to the New York Times building"

    Glen Beck: "Hang on, let me just tell you what I'm thinking. I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could."

    Glenn Beck: Acting out a scene in which he poisons Nancy Pelosi.

    Glenn Beck: "When do we ever run those who are bankrupting our country and literally stealing our children's future out of town? Grab a torch."

    Rush Limbaugh: "I tell people don't kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus-living fossils-so we we'll never forget what these people stood for."

    Michael Savage: "I say round liberals up and hang em' high. When I hear someone's in the civil rights business, I oil up my AR-25."

    Do you need a few dozen more examples?  How about some examples of the wingers actually engaging in violence (including murder)?


    Selective quoting (none / 0) (#50)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 03:33:25 PM EST
    "I'm going to have materials for people when they leave. I want people armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back."

    Bachmann clearly wanted people armed with information not actual weapons.  Taking a metaphor out of context is nothing more that a cheap smear and certainly contributes to a toxic climate of hate.

    This link goes to a blog page with the complete audio.

    As to the Savage quote he appears to be highlighting the ignorance of those that quote him.

    The AR-25 series is publications.



    So Michelle Bachman ... (5.00 / 1) (#55)
    by Yman on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 05:16:14 PM EST
    ... was only referring to people arming themselves with information when she made that quote?  Really?  She didn't actually say that her desire to see them "armed and dangerous" was a reference to her prior statement about materials, or that she wanted them "armed with information" - she just said she wanted them "armed and dangerous", followed by a paraphrasing of Thomas Jefferson and speaking of the virtue of "revolution" and "fighting back".   But I guess we'll have to take your word for it ...

    Of course, you never did respond to the original issue, which was your transparent attempt to falsely equivocate political rhetoric on the right suggesting violence as a tactic vs. saying someone is "dead to me", which, of course, means no such thing.

    Gee, I wonder why that is ...

    BTW - Your Michael Savage "explanation" is even more laughable.  An AR-25 is a rifle made by Survival Arms, Inc.  It's possible he misspoke and meant an SR-25 (or a Remington R-25, etc.), but he was clearly referencing a weapon - unless, of course, Michael Savage is in the habit of "oiling up" his Army publications ...

    ... which makes as much sense as any of your other theories.


    Part of the problem (none / 0) (#1)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 06:50:25 AM EST

    Part of the problem, perhaps the largest part, is that we effectively no longer have involuntary commitment.  

    OTOH, this is really a trade off issue.  Do we really want to restrict the liberty of the many to reduce the frequency of horrible but extremely infrequent acts?

    Or mandatory outpatient treatment... (none / 0) (#73)
    by diogenes on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 09:54:24 PM EST
    It's really hard to get a law for mandatory, court-ordered outpatient treatment to be passed as well.  And it's not the right-wingers who complain about coercive psychiatrists, at least not in my town.

    The problem is (none / 0) (#8)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 08:39:28 AM EST
    what do they mean by "gun control?" I have a pump shotgun for hunting and home defense and an old single shot .22 caliber rifle.

    Shall we control them??

    Imaginary "problem" (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by Yman on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 08:48:41 AM EST
    Depends on who you mean by "they", but no one is suggesting a ban of your .22 or pump shotgun.

    I am all for this (none / 0) (#29)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:58:31 AM EST
    but it would cost a lot of money Jeralyn, and we aren't heading into a society in our near future where it will even be remotely considered.

    Someday we will realize what is truly important again...something we seem to have to learn over and over and over again, but someday is not next Sunday at this time.

    Most states are flat broke right now, we will not pay for any new programs and government infrastructures that would support our kids.  We will pay for the big banks to survive anything...but not our children.  And that is how phucked up we are right now.

    I agree (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 11:36:52 AM EST
    wholeheartedly. There seems to be no money in this country to anything other than millionaire welfare and wars.