January 10, 2011

Jared Lee Lougher's "frightening, twisted shrine."

Reported by the Daily News:
Hidden within a camouflage tent behind Jared Lee Loughner's home sits an alarming altar with a skull sitting atop a pot filled with shriveled oranges.

A row of ceremonial candles and a bag of potting soil lay nearby, photos reveal....
It's a skull replica, according to the photo caption. I don't know how you can tell from a photo that a candle is "ceremonial" or if/why the potting soil is part of the still life. Would you have found this display frightening if you weren't told it was assembled by a murderer? I'll bet a million American kids have skulls and candles lined up on a shelf or table in their suburban bedrooms and their parents don't even mind.

What's more significant — also at the link — is the way Loughner behaved in his college class. The teacher and the other students believed he was dangerously abnormal. We're very tolerant in America, and we love individuality and freedom. We don't interfere with the usual misfits, loners, free spirits, jerks, and idiots that we encounter all the time. But we ought to be able to take action when we can figure out that someone is truly deranged. Loughner — like the Fort Hood shooter — should have been stopped.

I think the lesson from this recent shooting isn't that American need to tone down their rhetoric. (That's an old issue that politicos are inelegantly and often contemptibly grafting onto the tragedy.) It's that we need to see, understand, and do something about mentally ill persons.

113 comments:

Rialby said...

Amen.

Let's look at it from Mr. Loughner's perspective. Some will say it is wrong to take the mentally ill and lock them away so that they can do no harm to others. They will say this is inhumane.

Well, now he's taken the lives of innocents. He's ruined the lives of their families, friends and colleagues.

He may not get the death penalty but he will most certainly spend the rest of his life in a mental institution locked away so that he may cause no more harm to others. Couldn't we have just skipped the middle of that horrible story?

shoutingthomas said...

It's that we need to see, understand, and do something about mentally ill persons.

Maybe.

Two points.

Woodstock attracts the mentally ill and schizophrenic. Street people seem to want to live in my little home town. They receive plenty of attention. Most of them are on SSI and never have to work, which seems to only exacerbate their condition. And the hysterical, hateful left in Woodstock doesn't hesitate to engage in that awful "hate speech" that we are supposed to fear will launch the loonies into political violence.

My late wife was born in the shanty towns of Manila. She observed often that marginal mental cases in the Philippines did not descend into madness because there was no social safety net to protect them if they did. Poverty forces them to remain functional. In contract, the American system of a full safety net for the marginally mental ill encourages them to dive into the abyss.

tree hugging sister said...

Couldn't we have just skipped the middle of that horrible story?

Nope. Try having a paranoid schizophrenic in the family as they whirling dervish their way through their life and, if you haven't bolted the doors or left the state, yours.

Not a God damned thing you can do.

phx said...

We need to tone down our rhetoric - all sides. It gets in the way of thinking clearly, and it's off the chain. More thinking, less rhetoric.

We also need to see, understand and do something about mentally ill persons.

Triangle Man said...

Couldn't we have just skipped the middle of that horrible story?

If only we had the report from the Precrime Division.

bandmeeting said...

It's all still Palin's fault.

Hagar said...

As I remember it, lawyers were instrumental in liberating the mentally ill from being locked away in mental institutions and leaving them free to live under bridges, in the bosque, etc.

aronamos said...

Professor, what would you have us do? I'm not trying to be impertinent, just curious. Any time you infringe someone's liberties, you have to have a legally and morally defensible rationale.

My dad served on something called a "citizen human rights committee" at a state institution in his hometown for years during retirement. They had to pass on treatment plans and continuing commitments. One supposes they may have some kind of liability, too.

Most of these residents were dual-diagnosis with developmentally disabilities (what used to be called mental retardation) as well as severe psychiatric disturbances but even their own families had trouble keeping them inside because the entire goal was to get them out.

prairie wind said...

Skulls and candles, sure. No big deal. But shriveled oranges...

virgil xenophon said...

shoutingthomas/

And of course in earlier times such as at the founding of the nation--not to mention, say, the Middle Ages and before--such mentally deranged people were often simply killed outright by their irritated/fearful neighbors and townsmen. No institutional/medical costs there for sure..such people didn't stay dangers to themselves or others for long..."problem" solved.

Chef Mojo said...

Rialby, as in a previous thread, hits the nail on the head. It's inconceivable to me that a person acting this way in a college classroom wasn't a) summarily kicked out of the class after the first episode, b) wasn't arrested and held for a mental health evaluation and c) committed.

Western society has been way too lax concerning mental illness and violence. I'm not suggesting a return to Bedlam, but there's got to be a better way to keep violent, mentally ill people away from the rest of us.

woof said...

What about Jared's parents ? What was their responsibility? Did they seek care and treatment for their ill son ?

shoutingthomas said...

And of course in earlier times such as at the founding of the nation--not to mention, say, the Middle Ages and before--such mentally deranged people were often simply killed outright by their irritated/fearful neighbors and townsmen. No institutional/medical costs there for sure..such people didn't stay dangers to themselves or others for long..."problem" solved.

That argument is called reductio ad absurdum.

Certainly, I was calling for the murder of the mentally ill. It's all over my post.

traditionalguy said...

The worst murderers exhibit no conscience but do exhibit a high craftiness. They are usually not the members of political parties which would require interpersonal skills. Rather they are people given over to an evil spirit that empowers them and directs them. That is why altars often appear in their lifestyle along with an unusual mental ability to plan and coldly carry out murder. There is no "rage" or "sudden anger" in this pattern. They are cool and calculating monsters. Also atheism and a spiritual occult practice are easily combined in these people because their cold hate is a hatred of Jewish and Christian culture.

rhhardin said...

The mentally ill got let loose owing to a misreading of Goffman's Asylums (a great book by the way).

He was studying organizations and individuals coping with them, and mental hospitals were a fine model of a total organization to study.

He was studying society in general, though.

His observations that people were not doing what they said they were doing, most of the time, was taken as invalidating the institution rather than understanding it.

So they let everybody out.

Some snippets from the book.

PatCA said...

What are we to do though with such people tho before they act out? We can't even force them to take meds.

If a sane student says, "I better get an A or you will get hurt," that's easy. Call the cops and charge him. If someone acts like Loughner, yes, call the cops and the student health center but nothing will happen until he commits a crime. Poll the faculty--some will want to befriend him, some will insist on his finishing all his coursework--there is no unanimous opinion. Fortunately, most schizoid students/people don't kill. That's about all we have. So don't answer the phone calls and letters--stay out of their delusional structure.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

But we ought to be able to take action when we can figure out that someone is truly deranged. Loughner — like the Fort Hood shooter — should have been stopped.

How?

And what would stop the 'stopping' from extending conveniently to those that the government doesn't like, doesn't agree with? To those who could be expediently 'stopped'?

tim maguire said...

These things are extraordinarily rare--I believe it's been 35 years since the last time someone took a shot at a congressman.And has ANY politician been shot since Reagan almost 30 years ago?

There are no lessons to be learned, no behaviors to be examined. It's simply not common enough to give two thoughts about.

Life isn't safe, it never will be and the attempt to make it so leads directly to fascism. Attempts to draw some big nationwide lesson out of this are pure demagoguery.

shoutingthomas said...

Oh, and virgil xenophon, my observation of the situation in the Philippines during my limited time there was:

Families take care of their own in a sympathetic, but firm handed way. The mentally ill are cared for by the extended family and expected to work at something, no matter how menial, to contribute.

Filipino society does not have the disdain for menial labor so commonplace in America, so it is not unusual for the mentally ill to be expected to sweep floors, collect garbage, wash clothing by hand, scavenge for useful commodities, etc.

In the same way, Filipinos almost never dump their elders in nursing home, preferring to care for them within the extended family. Those who are not gainfully employed are expected to take part in elder care whenever necessary.

Richard Dolan said...

Isn't it remarkable how everything is clear in hindsight?

The trick, and the danger, lies in trying to connect the dots before the dots have connected themselves. The over/under inclusiveness problems are just overwhelming. There are lots of folks roaming around suffering from varying degrees of mental illness, yet these incidents of mass murder are still quite rare.

As for that "frightening, twisted shrine," it could just as easily be dismissed as goth-fantasy of a late-to-mature adolescent. The crazy behaviour in class (reported in the emails of a fellow student and the comments of the teacher) led to the shooter's suspension from the community college. But it's hard to see how weird behaviour in a classroom could have led to anything more than that.

If you can't predict with any accuracy whether particular instances of crazy behaviour will result in harm to self or others, there is little that can (or should) be done by public officials to restrain the individual or force the putative crazo to accept treatment. Family members may try to intervene (they are under fewer constraints) but may not be able to see the problem any clearer than others. If this is a 'teachable moment,' the teaching will have everything to do with the teacher's agenda and almost nothing to do with the particulars of the shooting in Tucson.

Marshal said...

"But we ought to be able to take action when we can figure out that someone is truly deranged. Loughner — like the Fort Hood shooter — should have been stopped."

It would be nice to think we could do this, but how? The rule allowing the potentially dangerous to be forcible committed is already an attempt to do this. The failure of this rule shows that our mental health professionals are not capable of distinguishing between the truly dangerous and the ill but harmless.

And what do you suppose is the accurate to inaccurate ratio? Will you accept committing 15 patients to ensure you include each of the truly dangerous? How about 15,000 to 1?

People around him are going to say they knew he was dangerous, but they aren't making the important distinction. People are highly suspicious of all the mentally ill. They aren't even trying to make the distinction we need to make. Mental health professionals will tell you they see tremendous numbers of people with behaviors no less alarming than Loughner's who will never act violently. We have no ability to identify the Loughner's of the world until they start to plan. So I don't see any policy you might support as an improvement over the current status.

Pogo said...

I guess we'll just lose a few people every so often, when the insane decide to act out their nuttiness.

Just one of the costs of a free society I guess.

Too bad, little girl born on 9/11/01. Thanks for taking one for the team.

James said...

There's little or nothing that can be done about someone acting as Lougher did prior to the shooting.

Try interesting a police department when no crime has been committed.

Gabriel Hanna said...

The reason that in the US we are so reluctant to treat the mentally ill against their will, is that for decades we were too quick to do it and sometimes we did it for personal or political reasons to people who WEREN'T mentally ill.

So the threshold is, a person who appears to be dangerous to himself or others. It's difficult in practice to meet that. "That guy creeps me out" is not and should not be the threshold, it would be abused.

Of the several creepy people I knew when I was in college, one was Crazy Chris. Our university had nearly 20,000 students and we all knew Crazy Chris, he rode the same bus most of us did and he would laugh loudly and inappropriately, and strike up bizarre conversations at full volume with people who didn't want to talk to him. He worked at one of the grocery stores, and he was fired because one of the female employees accused him of following her home. He wasn't, actually, he was going to his OWN home which was near hers. Now it was perfectly legal to fire him, but there were a few of us who thought it was unfair.

You are a lot safer from crazy people than you are from sane people. When crazy people do something, even something harmless, it gets a great deal of attention. Going from the crime statistics, a woman is in far more danger from her husband or her boyfriend than from a guy like Crazy Chris.

We don't think very well about risk.

bagoh20 said...

There is little that we can do to stop this kind of rare individual without stepping on a thousand other innocent and nonviolent people. We need to get used to that. It's nearly impossible for modern people to accept that some things are beyond our control. Consequently we will do things, and they will likely have bad consequences worse than the problem targeted. If not soon, then eventually. Such is the trajectory of tragedy and response in our modern era.

MadisonMan said...

Reacting to the shooting by locking away any potential threat who is mentally ill on the chance that something like might happen again has some of the same flavor as the reaction to the 9/11 attacks: Heightened security at airports that does very little.

Benjamin Franklin said it best: Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

edutcher said...

The problem here is that the ACLU fought for the right of severely mentally ill people to wander unsupervised in society.

The Blonde is doing a part time job in a nursing home and is scared to death of passing out medication to her patients, many of whom have mental, as well as physical, problems.

Why? No accurate pictures or wristbands - that would be an insult to their dignity, she was told when asked.

One problem in this country is that one sector of the body politic - you can pick - is forever looking for oppressed minorities whose cause they can champion. If the minority or oppression doesn't exist - no problem, invent one.

It's called community organizing (no, I'm not blaming him).

No one could call out a Loughner in this country and say, "If you want to continue in this class/job/military service, we need you to talk to a trained person". Granted there are people who are depressed, OCDC, etc., who function fairly well and don't ever need this kind of thing - and I concede how easily it could be abused - but someone is going to have to show some backbone politically and fight (there's another of those words) to see some reforms enacted because we've had too many incidents like this.

peter hoh said...

. . . we need to see, understand, and do something about dangerously mentally ill persons.

There are plenty of mentally ill persons who pose no threat. They need not be lumped in with the ones that pose a danger.

ironrailsironweights said...

Tim Maguire got it right. There's no sense engaging in all sorts of hysteria and if-only's and why-didn't-we's and never-again's over an isolated and extremely uncommon event.

Peter

Tibore said...

Before making my own point, as a Filipino myself I do want to say one thing: While those broad stroke descriptions aren't inaccurate, folks should take care to remember that they're not universal; rather, they're tendencies and starting points. For example, I do know of plenty of Filipino's who are utterly disdainful of menial labor. Plenty. It's just that many are forced to suppress their disdain, but my point is that the disdain is still there.

------

Back on topic: The professor's point about needing to "see, understand, and do something about mentally ill persons" is something I want to requote for emphasis. I too saw the hysteria building around the accusations that such a person was enabled by the supposedly dangerous current climate generated by supposed right-wingers and Tea Party members. But to me, that's a shbboleth of convenience. Having studied a few cases of delusion and seeing what Loughner has in common with other delusionists (anyone else out there realize he's stated sympathy for 9/11 conspiracy theory?) I don't see a person who's rage was enabled recently. Rather, I see the same sort of person who's reached for the same types of justifications that a Lee Harvey Oswald type would have in past decades. Reading about some of his "philosophies" (if that can reasonably be applied to the twisted mindset of a guy like this), he sounds like he's taken some stuff from the "Freeman on the Land" (second link) craziness more than anything else. Although he's admittedly not strictly a believer in that either. He's more a smorgasboard-of-delusions customer than anything else, but my point is that he's less a product of recent discourse and politics, and more a person symptomatic of delusions this culture has known about for decades now.

In other words, the point is that he's mentally ill. What's not the point is what the current Palin/Tea Party rhetoric is. A shibboleth of convenience may make for grand soapboxing, but it doesn't help the narrative's accuracy any.

Tibore said...
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Tibore said...
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The Crack Emcee said...

The only news here is I'm right again.

And when I'm wrong, I'll tell you.

Chip Ahoy said...

Loughner

Lem said...

Isn't Obama the president of the United States where this crime was committed?

If we are going to play the blame game, it was Obama (if I remember correctly) who swore an oath to protect the public.

Sarah Palin is not in charge of anything.

Calypso Facto said...

"We also need to see, understand and do something..."

The impulse to have government "do something" that might give politicians more power over dissenting voices (later to called "mentally ill") in response to the actions of a single crazy person is complete overreaction.

Pogo said...

There are miles between being locked up and free without help.

Current US society has nothing for these tortured souls until they assault or kill, then we give them prison or perpetual psych hospital.

I merely lament that we don't offer some help, in between doing nothing and throwing away the key.

Kirby Olson said...

Pima Communjity College took the extraordinary step of forcing Loughner through a mental evaluation to continue schooling. That's an extraordinary step. They probably saved their students by doing that. The guy who forced the issue was the algebra teacher. He's the hero for Pima. But he said the police could do nothing until Loughner opened fire.

But there should be a way to report people like Loughner as persons of interest so the police can keep tabs on them, and maybe make friendly visits to the home, to determione the level of craziness a person is feeling.

And we need places that people like Loughner or the Unabomber or others can turn themselves in, and say, please please please help me calm the heck down.

We need to work on this.

The president shoiuld make it a priority.

Pogo said...

"might give politicians more power over dissenting voices (later to called "mentally ill") "

True, and the 20th century left is famous for politicizing psychiatry.

But can nothing be done for them because of this fear? Nothing?

Shit, we give abandoned dogs more help.

peter hoh said...

There was a case in Washington state recently in which the mother of the disturbed man kept begging police and social workers and so forth to do something about her son. She knew he was violent and dangerous.

He had to kill first.

There should be some alternative to waiting for a tragedy.

Pogo said...

Althouse blogged about that; he killed her.

I'm not so thrilled about the collateral damage seen as acceptable in the name of freedom for the insane.

junyo said...

Freedom means the freedom to screw up, and sometimes badly. Unfortunately, some people aren't considerate enough to screw up alone in the woods and die with a muffled thud closely followed by a scream; they take other folks with them. Cold analysis says that locking up/depriving rights to every odd/strange young person seems a very high price to pay vs. the occasional tragic aberration.

Michael said...

If you can't predict with any accuracy whether particular instances of crazy behaviour will result in harm to self or others, there is little that can (or should) be done by public officials to restrain the individual or force the putative crazo to accept treatment.

One thing you can do is get them on the list of people who will not be able to buy guns. Had somebody reported him, he would not have been able to buy that Glock last November. A schizophrenic is probably not organized enough to find a way to buy illegally although paranoids are better organized than the undifferentiated kind.

Shanna said...

Reacting to the shooting by locking away any potential threat who is mentally ill on the chance that something like might happen again has some of the same flavor as the reaction to the 9/11 attacks: Heightened security at airports that does very little.

I don't think we should react to this shooting by locking up mentally ill, but this has been an issue for a long time and it's STILL an issue that we need to figure out a solution to. Putting someone on a temp hold for 72 hours is about all we can do medically in a lot of cases.

We complain about the homeless problem and people being on disability, but there are things we could chose to do differently, without going too far.

Calypso Facto said...

I'm not saying there might not be a better solution, Pogo, just that I don't have it yet and that we have to be very careful when advocating that "different" people be locked up (even in hospitals) based on a bureaucrat's determination.

I'm also a little surprised to hear what sounds like a call for socialized mental health care from you!

HT said...

Couple of thoughts. One, it's not like no one acted. The professor was appropriately freaked and did something. The community college was alarmed and did something. They effectively banned him. So something was done.

Now, if you're gonna talk about what Dr Torrey advocates (what a creep) well that's a whole other can of worms.

-Stuck in 'bama. If anyone has any tips for an absolute novice driving on ice, please feel free to contribute. I would very much appreciate it.

Pogo said...

Housing the insane is not socialized medicine, but I am as leery as you of psychiatry being abused.

Seems to me that our current approach, acting only after mass murder, seems just a bit insufficient.

Or if we stay there, then allow everyone to conceal carry, not just the lunatics.

HT said...

Oh, and before we talk about locking up the "mentally ill," can we at least establish the without-a-doubt link between "mental illness" and violence?

Stephen A. Meigs said...

I'm not so sure that Jared Loughner's problem was mental illness per se. Perhaps his behavior was caused mostly by his being a bad person with many innate tendencies to beat up on women and girls. His you tube videos indeed seem bizarre, but I think mostly just that is because he is dreadfully stupid. The 2012 prophecy, the importance of the gold standard, writing things to resemble Aristotle's syllogisms, fondness for heavy metal--nothing particularly bizarre about any of it which can't be explained by an envious copying.

The guy is so dumb that he can scarcely produce a grammatically coherent sentence. Stupidity is not a mental illness (or if it is, well, that's not what people mean when they blame his behavior on that). Why aren't people blaming his marijuana and alcohol use? (One of his friends said he once experienced alcohol poisoning (overdose) and that he was a pothead.) Take a person who naturally is into forcibly sodomizing and raping girls and women he can control by torture when he has the chance, and if he is an idiot with his brain further fried with drug use and his sensibilities corrupted by that, he will likely believe a good deal of the scary hype that violent controlling types like to surround themselves with to make themselves scary. He will quite possibly not interpret his rapacious desires as a desire to control but as to kill.

I get very annoyed at people excessively blaming mental illness or weirdness for violence. It's the normal streak that leads naturally bad people to superfluous evil--a tendency to believe the normal lies and hype that bad people surround themselves with to make themselves more scary. As Bertrand Russell used to say, bad people when deluded are typically worse than bad people who are not deluded.

Pogo said...

I don't believe that dead 11 year old girls are just the price we have to pay for avoiding our own gulags.

Or if it is, then the State should compensate them for their sacrifice.

Richard Dolan said...

Michael: "One thing you can do is get them on the list of people who will not be able to buy guns."

What list do you have in mind? Without a diagnosis and a requirement that it be made available, there is no data to compile a list of possibly crazy people, assuming that's what you had in mind. How is that supposed to work?

Or maybe the list is supposed to be of folks suspended from college. Again, how is the information supposed to make its why to whoever is compiling the lists, and who is supposed to sort out the disqualifying suspensions from those that are irrelevant?

Pogo said...

"can we at least establish the without-a-doubt link between "mental illness" and violence?"

Or let's not, deny what is obvious, and go on as we have. A few dead here and there are worth it.

Pogo said...

I can see the consensus here is to do nothing.

Yet there is no evidence that the State Mental Hospital system was in fact abused prior to their closure in the late 1970s. There were criteria at the time for prolonged hospitalization that avoided most concerns.

I am just shocked these dead are just the price we pay, and that we highly intelligent beings cannot possibly come up with any other way of addressing the insane until after they kill.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I don't believe that dead 11 year old girls are just the price we have to pay for avoiding our own gulags.



As I said: the choices are bad in all directions.

However, I'm afraid that it may be the price we have to pay for our freedom.

As horrible and tragic as it is that an innocent child should have been killed, the alternative of locking many many people into gulags, re-education camps at the whim of the government is worse.

If you think it can't happen in this country, you are delusional. It HAS happened and will happen again if we go down that slippery slope.

Also, as someone pointed out there is a sliding scale between doing nothing for the mentally ill and incarceration. However, once again....slippery slope. Who decides?

HT said...

But locking people up should not be the only proposal on the table! You act like it is. There are others. If I even dared to utter the words, I'd be snarked offa this list so fast your head would spin.

peter hoh said...

HT, if you are unfamiliar with driving on ice, don't.

You can get familiar by taking your car to an empty parking lot. One with no light standards. Drive around and learn to feel when your car is losing control, and how you can regain it.

Danger points: hitting the accelerator when in a turn, turning when in a skid. Do these things in a place where you can safely lose control of the car to get a feel for it.

Turning the steering wheel sharply usually compounds the problem. In order to control the car, the front wheels need to be rolling, not skidding.

Rear wheel drive cars are helped with a little extra weight in the back.

If you need to drive on ice, drive VERY slowly. Try to drive without hitting the accelerator. Start braking well in advance of the place you need to stop.

Avoid hills. You might not be able to stop going downhill. You might not be able to generate the traction needed to go uphill.

Hope that helps.

HT said...

"You" is Pogo in my last post.

peter hoh said...

Miegs: The guy is so dumb that he can scarcely produce a grammatically coherent sentence.

I haven't read the guy's stuff, but I suspect that writing incoherent sentences is more likely the mark of profound mental illness. The dumb don't spend a lot of time writing, do they?

(Blog commenters notwithstanding.)

john said...

Ann said "We're very tolerant in America... "

Coincidently, I was reading something by Karl Popper a couple days ago about the "paradox of tolerance":

Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

Popper's "solution" to this paradox? "We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant", treat intolerance as incitement to murder, and therefore supress, arrest, and kill the intolerant ones. (I haven't seen anywhere in his writing that afterwards, Popper must logically deal with this conundrum by plunging that knife into his own heart.)

HT said...

Thank you Peter. It does help. I even watched a video of how to put chains on your tires yesterday. (Though I don't have them.) I wish I had left the car up on the street, as there is a hill to the left and right of me. Darn.

The Crack Emcee said...

I think the lesson from this recent shooting isn't that American need to tone down their rhetoric. It's that we need to see, understand, and do something about mentally ill persons.

How can we when we accept so much of what they're tripping on as part of the culture? 2012? Hollywood makes movies about that - and not movies about how loony it is but that it might happen - and this guy ain't the first to respond violently to it.

I've been trying to tell you, but you don't listen. It's so much easier (which, like outsiders regarding a divorce, is all anyone really wants) to ignore this madness embedded in our culture, so calling it what it is will get the messenger portrayed as being over-the-top and condemned.

I've told you, in every way I know how, and always - always - telling you it ends in death.

peter hoh said...

We're not going to be able to simply prevent people like Loughner from buying guns.

I'm sure that Loughner's paranoia would have been reinforced had the clerk at the gun store told him that no, he couldn't buy a gun because he was on a government list of people who couldn't buy a gun.

Had he been prevented from a legal purchase, Loughner would have had all the more reason to pursue a gun from a non-legal source.

MayBee said...

Fox did report that Wal Mart recently prevented him from buying ammo because he was just too wild-eyed and erratic.

The Crack Emcee said...

Instead of locking people up, willy-nilly, could we try a massive national program devoted to critical thinking? So massive those on the line, mentally, can't help but doubt their own ideas? or they're made to stand out, because it's obvious to the rest of us that "Bob's got a problem"?

I say we encourage this behavior by not even trying to establish loose parameters for "normal".

Teach critical thinking, starting in school, and - viola! - no need to lock anyone up.

Until that happens, we're fucked.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

To those who want us to "do something" about the mentally ill and do it NOW, I have some serious questions.

What would you have us do?

Who is 'the us' that you want to do something. The family? The Government? Strangers who notice problems? Doctors who are paid by whom to decide?

How would you keep it (whatever it is you want us to do) under control so that we don't expand the 'doing' to the not mentally ill?

Think about the unintended consequences for a moment.

Paco Wové said...

PHoh: Good points, both on gun restrictions and on ice driving.

I don't know much about the former, and Peter addressed the latter well. I'll just add - drive as though you were driving across eggshells. Accelerate slowly, brake slowly, turn slowly. If you can't avoid hills, at least try not to stop on them (but keep your speed low).

peter hoh said...

Crack, the whole point of paranoid delusions is that the illness prevents one from doubting his ideas.

You are close to peddling a utopian vision: it would all be better if it could be done my way.

Timon said...

My first thought on seeing that shrine was that Macho was right. I watched the youtube videos and thought his grammar was clear and crisp, just like a man of action would write. His main problem, if we accept it as sincere, is the confusion of terminology, and a radical skepticism blended with something like paranoia.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

You're right, crack emcee, the whole 2012 apocalyptic streak is a pernicious thing. What is the belief that some date has preternatural significance good for except as an excuse to start an apocalypse or a taking over the world by killing without giving the impression that it will just be the start of continual killing? When 2000 started, I remember the only celebration I really felt moved by was the London one. It was reassuring and right to emphasize Big Ben turning just like it always does. I feel the same way about anything apocalyptic. The book of revelations, for instance, I take as a mostly villainous production tacked on to the end of the bible for some bad apocalyptic reason, and perhaps largely because, well, villainous people are fond of corrupting the ends of things. (I am fond of the penultimate book, Jude, though, compared with the other bible books.)

MadisonMan said...

One of my wards is in a locked facility here on the north side of town. I annually get a questionnaire from Milwaukee Co (they are paying for her care) on whether or not my ward is in the most appropriate (least restrictive) environment. My instincts, which could be wrong, are that the county would like it if I, her ward, placed her in a less restrictive environment that costs less. Her care there would not be as good as the care she gets at the State Home. There are always economic pressures on State Homes like this one.

(My ward is in no way a danger to anyone. She's victim to a lifetime of seizures and has the functioning intelligence, I'm told, of a 6-month old. Her parents are long dead).

So to people who want the Government to "do something": What programs will you cut so potential dangers can be locked away? Because it will cost money. The programs you suggest must be agreed upon by politicians across the Political Spectrum, btw, 'cause that's what's needed when programs are being axed: Consensus.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@John:

I notice your Popper quote trails off at the point where you attribute to him the idea that "treat intolerance as incitement to murder, and therefore supress, arrest, and kill the intolerant ones." The actual quote you used comes from "The Open Society and Its Enemies"--I'm assuming you invented the rest until you prove otherwise.

deborah said...

DBQ, for starters, each state should have a crackerjack follow-up program for those determined to be an endangerment to society and have been discharged from a psych ward, that ensures they continue to keep up with their anti-psychotic drugs. This will involve some sort of location device attached to the person. I'm hoping that in the wake of the Virgina Tech shooter, the current affair, etc., this will be acted upon, but it will probably be deemed economically unfeasible.

Belated happy birthday!

Pogo said...

The first duty of government is the safety of its citizens from threats both foreign and domestic.

And here the State is failing.

The unintended consequences of the liberal effort to free the insane are worse then the unintended consequences of the State Mental Hospitals they destroyed.

Homelessness. murder, crime, dehumanization, degradation, victimized and victimizers.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Pogo:

Most people are killed by people they know. Not by crazy people shooting into a crowd.

Your logic is the same that got Four Lokos banned and that has inspired the "zero tolerance" laws at schools that most of here find outrageous.

edutcher said...

peter hoh said...

. . . we need to see, understand, and do something about dangerously mentally ill persons.

There are plenty of mentally ill persons who pose no threat. They need not be lumped in with the ones that pose a danger.


Not sure where you got the quote, but the operative word is dangerous. No one's talking about people with Alzheimer's or depression, it's the ones where the reaction is fairly widespread that this person could prove a threat where we need some measure of an ability to at least have them evaluated.

holdfast said...

@Michael:

I would agree that there should be better ways to make sure that the truly disturbed can't buy firearms. I just want to be sure it isn't something that will be used to punish political or personal enemies.

holdfast said...

I can't believe I'm typing this, but this Mother Jones piece on the shooter is actually quite good:

http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/01/jared-lee-loughner-friend-voicemail-phone-message?page=1

I feel dirty.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@edutcher:No one's talking about people with Alzheimer's or depression, it's the ones where the reaction is fairly widespread that this person could prove a threat where we need some measure of an ability to at least have them evaluated.

In this case you had a guy with a creepy and inappropriate laugh. The vast majority of people who are crazy like that are not dangerous and never will be. Yet you want to restrict their rights in some way by having someone in authority check up on them all the time.

This is going to get abused. Gun enthusiasts "creep out" some people. Christians "creep out" some people. In places where Christians and gun enthusiasts are considered creepy by a lot of people, whose rights will get restricted? Likewise in places where dyed black hair and white makeup is considered "creepy".

peter hoh said...

edutcher, I got the quote from Althouse's post that started this thread.

peter hoh said...

HT, do you have front wheel, rear wheel or 4 wheel drive?

If you've got to get your car up the hill and you've got front wheel drive -- and it's not too steep, and there aren't other cars around -- you might have more luck drivving up the hill in reverse.

YMMV.

The biggest danger on ice is 4 wheel drive cars. Or rather, the drivers of 4 wheel drive cars who think that just because the 4 wheel drive helps move them forward, it will help them when it comes time to hit the brakes. It doesn't.

HT said...

Peter, I think I have FWD. It's a Honda Civic 5 spd. I'll have to go out and look at the manual. Everyone I see driving is in either a truck or SUV. The water is moving underneath the ice which means it must be slightly above freezing now, I'd say. I think I just might sit tight. If I'm not gone by 3, I'm not going.

john said...

Gabriel, thanks for calling that to my attention.

I got tired of just pasting his quotes, and paraphrased it instead. The remained of the quote is: "We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal."

True, I chose to interpret that statement in a draconian sense: Popper's apparent willingness to 1) make a subjective call as to what constitutes "intolerance", then 2) criminalize it, makes him appear to be a totalitarian. Furthermore, he seemed to be unaware that his prescription for intolerance invalidates the tolerant society concept he seems to value. Thus, my conclusion that if Popper was truely aware that his precription for intolerance was intolerance, then he himself was a criminal (and should pay the price for it).

I don't think Popper understood that part of the paradox; that, or he was willing to see a society become totalitarian in the name of tolerance.

Finally, as you can tell, I'm not an expert on Popper.

peter hoh said...

Water on top of ice -- even just a sheen -- makes it extra slippery. You are best to hang tight and let it melt.

HT said...

Pogo, which liberals closed the mental institutions?

Pogo said...

@Gabriel Hanna
"In this case you had a guy with a creepy and inappropriate laugh."

Then why did WalMart refuse to sell him ammo?

Why did the Army refuse to enlist him?

Why was the classmate so afraid that she wrote how this guy is the kind who would come to class and kill people?

Why did the school refuse to let him back in?

Were they all just biased and wrong?

"Your logic is the same that got Four Lokos banned and that has inspired the "zero tolerance" laws"

I disagree. I did not set any criteria or even suggest what exactly should be done. Not once. At most I argued that 'something' should be done for lunatics, other than what we are doing now (which is next to nothing at all.

Hardly akin to banning caffeine.

virgil xenophon said...

Shoutingthomas/

Sorry I didn't make myself clear. I wasn't slamming you at all. I was merely trying (obviously not well enough) to point out that many earlier societies/cultures took a much, much, harder line against such people. Life for the obviously insane in those times in many cultures was indeed "nasty, brutish, and short." I was just attempting to point out a historical fact, not to impugne you.

junyo said...

I don't believe that dead 11 year old girls are just the price we have to pay for avoiding our own gulags...I am just shocked these dead are just the price we pay, and that we highly intelligent beings cannot possibly come up with any other way of addressing the insane until after they kill.

Which is a lovely sentiment, but here's the problem. Dead 11 year old girls is the price we pay - willingly, and a thousand times over annually - to drive cars. An adolescent is 300% more likely to die in an automobile accident than as a result of an intentional murder according to NCHS figures, and I'd bet there's an even bigger disparity if you could break out 11 year olds specifically.

Driving a car is, at the end of the day, a convenience. Versus the massive civil rights crushing hammer that you'd have to hand to government to prevent a far rarer incident like this. Yes there is something you could "do about it"; streamline the process of declaring someone mentally incompetent, lower the bar for denying someone their RKBA rights or their freedom. However it's a non-trivial question as to the cost/benefit of doing that when the inevitable consequence is freedoms of people upon whom you didn't mean for this to fall. And if it's not worth doing for the thousands of innocents dead in car accidents why is this a special case?

Pogo said...

What we could do is expand community housing and revamp the current mental health system to better meet the needs of the chronically mentally ill.

Greater availability of services should make it possible to attract the homeless to more stable housing, a stable source of income, treatment, and rehabilitation services.

The need for monitoring and treating the chronically mentally ill by aggressive case management would minimize homelessness and permit detection of those in a downward spiral.

Pogo said...

"An adolescent is 300% more likely to die in an automobile accident "

Ask any parent.

Dying in a car accident ≠ being shot by a crazy man.

Pogo said...

You're like the folks that argued that the 3000 dead in the Twin Towers were no 'special case' because of a similar rate of traffic deaths.

HT said...

Pogo, it looks like you're conflating severe mental distress with a propensity to violence. I think if the homeless you are talking about were truly violent, something draconian WOULD have been done by now. But most people who live in cities kind of know that most homeless are not violent. Weird, annoying, and distracting, yes. Violent, no. Yes, it occasionally happens. But it is far from the norm.

But! I agree with you! We should have greater availability of housing. Most definitely. One of the most dynamic programs in DC, the Green Door, just closed because the gov't refused to fund it again.

Freeman Hunt said...

The court can declare someone mentally incompetent. Anyone who has been declared such cannot legally buy firearms. At least, that's how it is in Arkansas.

So perhaps if someone in your family is an untreated psychotic of some kind, it would be a good idea to have that person's insanity legally declared.

Pogo said...

"Pogo, it looks like you're conflating severe mental distress with a propensity to violence."

I don't mean to do so.

But a very small proportion of the mentally ill are violent. Right now, we do nothing until they kill, or they themselves are victims of rape, assault, etc.

I just find the whole neglect thing here terribly shameful.

Beth said...

It's extremely difficult to deal with unhinged students. I've seen two colleagues deal with threats from aggressive, sometimes incoherent students in the past few years, with little support from administration, from their own chair up through the dean and above.

As an undergrad, I shared a few classes with one guy who made a lot of the fact that he shared a name with an assassin ("that dirty little coward that shot Mr. Howard") and was verbally obnoxious and occasionally threatening. Finally, my favorite philosophy prof, a big, calm, quiet guy, grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and threw him out of the classroom. It was the right thing to do, and I'm glad the prof wasn't fired for it. But that was in the 80s.

SFC B said...

Honestly, I'm thinking that the Tucson and Pima County law enforcement agencies are going to have some serious explaining to do as this case moves forward.

There is no way that this kid has not had multiple run-ins with law enforcement.

I'll bet it will come out that Loughner should have been prohibited from owning a firearm, but the police either didn't act on a threat, or the local DA chose not to prosecute.

However it will be the fault of the gun store owner for not knowing that he shouldn't have been able to buy a pistol.

HT said...

As do I. Where were the parents? There's just so much we do not know.

But, this horrible young man did not lack for housing, no? He had housing. He had two parents, as far as I know. He even at one time had access to a college education. There's just so much we do not yet know (haven't read the MJ piece). Why he was not compelled by his parents to go into some form of counseling is one of those questions.

In the end, though, he is a violent person, and on his violence is what this hinges, to me. His mental illness complicates things, it does not explain them. The question of what we do with people we know will be violent is the question.

Pogo said...

"The question of what we do with people we know will be violent is the question."

What I keep being asked here is, "How do you know it, until they are violent? So we're back to square one.

He had housing, but no care. I have known parents like this, who got tired of asking for help for the kid they fear will "do something" and then everyone blames them when the kid does something.

edutcher said...

Gabriel Hanna said...

@edutcher:No one's talking about people with Alzheimer's or depression, it's the ones where the reaction is fairly widespread that this person could prove a threat where we need some measure of an ability to at least have them evaluated.

In this case you had a guy with a creepy and inappropriate laugh. The vast majority of people who are crazy like that are not dangerous and never will be. Yet you want to restrict their rights in some way by having someone in authority check up on them all the time.

This is going to get abused. Gun enthusiasts "creep out" some people. Christians "creep out" some people. In places where Christians and gun enthusiasts are considered creepy by a lot of people, whose rights will get restricted? Likewise in places where dyed black hair and white makeup is considered "creepy".


I see your point (well-taken, particularly in group-on-group dynamics), but there seem to be enough people who saw something that made them uneasy (and this is a fairly pronounced pattern in such shooters). Granted, a very slippery slope, but in terms of school, work, etc. where there's usually some sort of recourse to help, there ought to be a mechanism that, if enough people are concerned about possibly violent tendencies, there would be some way to steer someone to something that could at least alert authorities.

One of these days, some nut is going to find a way to jack up the body count by one or more powers of 10.

But, again, I see what you're saying.

peter hoh said...

edutcher, I got the quote from Althouse's post that started this thread.

My bad. I was looking in the link.

HT said...

At the risk of going out on a limb in the river of so much we don't know, I will say that on another entry, someone noted that another blogger reported (sorry) that indeed this horrible man had made telephone death threats, the threats were known by the police department but because the disgusting man's mother worked for the county, nothing was done.

Take that for what it's worth.

HT said...

And indeed it might not be that far-fetched - I just remembered that during his press conf, the sheriff said that the character was known to them.

Michael said...

The lefties saw One Flew Over the Cukoos Nest and determined that crazy people weren't really crazy at all, society was crazy for locking them up. So we let them go. Crazy people were cool. Ken Kesey said so.

junyo said...

Ask any parent.

Dying in a car accident ≠ being shot by a crazy man.


Are you saying that the grief of the parents, or the very lives of the kids, lost in an accident is worth less? Where's the objective grief/life value scale? Where do the lives of kids dead in house fires fall?

Dead is dead. The mechanism of death is only useful in determining blame and prevent-ability. Anything else is sentimental claptrap, that you're welcome to hold, but shouldn't be a basis for law.

ironrailsironweights said...

Why did the Army refuse to enlist him?

He flunked a drug test.

Peter

Pogo said...

"Are you saying that the grief of the parents, or the very lives of the kids, lost in an accident is worth less?"

Any other straw men you care to use?

Just Lurking said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HT said...

Just Lurking: The Very Best of NAMI!

junyo said...

Any other straw men you care to use?

A straw man is an argument against a statement you didn't make. However, I quoted you directly. Again:
"Ask any parent.

Dying in a car accident ≠ being shot by a crazy man."


So you made the argument that there was a difference between "Dying in a car accident" and "being shot by a crazy man" based on parental grief. I'm asking you to quantify that difference, and asserting that that no such objective difference exists. But nice try on the punt.

Tibore said...

How the hell did things post 3 times? I'm sorry, people. I thought I only posted it once.

Now if the dumb Blogger software would just give me the trash can so I can get some of those out of the way...

Youngblood said...

Stephen A. Meigs wrote:

"The guy is so dumb that he can scarcely produce a grammatically coherent sentence. Stupidity is not a mental illness (or if it is, well, that's not what people mean when they blame his behavior on that)."

Thought disorder is one of the symptoms of schizophrenia and psychosis more generally. In mild cases it may show up as idiosyncratic word choices, grammar, and syntax.

I have a cousin by marriage who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. When she is "functioning" she is highly intelligent and articulate -- and a brilliant storyteller. When her brain goes off the rails, it's like she speaks her own language that's only tangentially related to English.

There's still a lot we don't know about Loughner and I'm far from an expert on the subject. However, if he did suffer from schizophrenia (or some other psychosis) it's entirely possible that his inability to produce a grammatically correct sentence was a symptom of his mental illness.

Youngblood said...

Edutcher wrote:

"The problem here is that the ACLU fought for the right of severely mentally ill people to wander unsupervised in society."

Not really, no.

The "problem" here is that, by the middle of the 20th century, the nation's state hospital system had become a network of miserable dungeons. At the same time, advances in psychiatric medicine took the focus off of housing the mentally ill and put it on treating them.

After decades of changing attitudes, the death blow to involuntary commitment finally came in 1975, with the Supreme Court's decision in O'Connor v. Donaldson. I have no idea if the ACLU were involved in that, but if they were, they were on the side of the angels as far as I'm concerned. (Kenneth Donaldson was involuntarily committed on flimsy testimony and lived for 15 years in a ward with 1,000 patients, one nurse, and an obstetrician.)

Just Lurking said...

@HT
Just Lurking: The Very Best of NAMI!

I wasn't sure what to make of your comment. After looking up "NAMI", and thinking it over, I ultimately took it to mean that you felt my personal opinions and experiences were better suited to a support group than this forum. Point taken.

Lyle said...

He didn't do anything really crazy until the massacre though. What would have gotten him committed or help before that?

In free society, we've got to put up with the freedom to be weird, dark, and crazy.

mythusmage said...

Albert Einstein had one fatal flaw, he could not accept that his theories of Special and General Relativity led to consequences he found troubling. Though quantum physics was based in large part on his famous theories, he refused to accept that he work led in that direction.

It's a habit we have, of refusing to consider what we find as disagreeable as having any possible validity. I'm now looking for a new psychiatrist because my previous shrink refused to countenance the possibility I have Aspergers Syndrome. For years astronomers refused to consider the possibility that rocks were falling from the sky. Every day men and women suffering from some mental disorder roam the streets, unable to find the help they need because we can't bring ourselves to admit that some people simply can't help themselves.

It amounts to an intellectual cowardice. Einstein suffered from it, and he was not the only one.

We refuse to accept the possibility, because being wrong has costs we'd rather not face. And because there are people out there who will scream bloody murder about rights being violated. So we bend over backwards to avoid being accused of violating others rights.

The way the legal system is set up, the way it works, doesn't help matters any, for all too often the goal of either side is not to discover the facts of the matter, but to win. Not to learn who has the right of it, but to convince a jury or a judge that one side in particular has the more convincing story, and damn the facts.

There's a price to be paid for our attitudes. Sometimes it mean that an individual gets caught in a rut, a rut he is stuck in until the day he dies. And sometimes a person has to die for us to start taking the situation seriously, to stop letting the ardent and strident stop us from doing what is needed.

It's not just a matter of medical reform, it's also a matter of court reform. Of getting serious about punishing those lawyers using lies and misrepresentation to win cases.