Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jarod Loughner IS A Schizophrenic With Paranoid Tendencies, And Sarah Palin? Fail.

I've been saying, since the horrific events of last Saturday, that it was too soon to characterize the shooter as having schizophrenia with paranoid tendencies. While I have also said it is likely that mental illness is involved, no one could actually diagnose without actually speaking with the shooter. I was in error, however, in stating that no reputable mental health professional would diagnose without more information and direct contact with the subject. Dr. E. Fuller Torrey has made that diagnosis and claims that he has sufficient information from the limited writings and YouTube videos available. He also noted the flattened affect displayed in the photo that we have all seen, which I thought was a pretty big signal of schizophrenia (one of the features that we look for is inappropriate affect - smiling at the wrong time for example). I am pleased that one of the leading experts on schizophrenia validates my opinion that it is only a tiny percentage of persons with that illness who exhibit violent tendencies, and his agreement that it is past behavior and substance abuse that are more likely indicators. What Dr. E. Fuller Torrey explains, is that it is the content of the delusions that is important in someone with schizophrenia, in this case, the paranoia. Dr. Torrey says that Saturday's shooter is a "textbook case" of paranoid schizophrenia (the formal diagnosis would be schizophrenia, paranoid type, and then what type of paranoia). This doctor knows far more than I ever will on the subject, so I defer to his judgment.

When interviewing someone who has delusions, and claims to hear voices, the first question I ask, is "what do the voices say?" Command hallucinations, as we call them, are those in which the 'voices' tell the individual to do something. Frequently, someone with hallucinations that involve hearing voices will describe conversations going on in their head that are 'about' them or 'to' them, usually in ways that diminish self-esteem, but a 'command' hallucination is dangerous in that the only way the individual has to make it stop, is to follow through with the commands given. Any mental health professional encountering someone with command hallucinations will immediately take notice and seek to determine what the commands say. One of the very few instances in which we can break confidentiality, is when the individual is a danger to themselves of to others whom we can identify. Someone with paranoid features to their schizophrenia and who is in an active phase, will have delusions that include the idea that others are trying to do something to them (insert thoughts into their brain, listen to their thoughts, or control them in some way). Evidently, Jarod Loughner believed that the government was trying to control his grammar--a quite unusual fear and definitely evidence of paranoia.

What is very sad about this whole incident, is that it shines a light on the lack of mental health care in this country. Several Republicans in the past couple of days have stated, quite strongly, that the problem is not political rhetoric, but rather the lack of mental health care. I am puzzled by these comments as they are in complete contrast to the Republican desire to repeal the current health care legislation, and mental health care is one of those dreaded social services that conservatives love to deride. Perhaps after this, they will re-think their derision of government-funded health care.


This morning, Sarah Palin released a video with her statement regarding the blame that seems to have attached to her since Saturday's shootings. She says that she has spent the past few days in reflection, and we are given to understand that she is releasing this statement in response to her puzzlement at the (unstated) left's desire to "apportion blame." Not wanting to accept any blame, she makes this video. You'll note that she has chosen to appear in a dark blazer, a flag pin that is not her usual crystal embellished pin, and in front of a fireplace (read "Fireside Chat"). Very presidential. It is clear that she has either read my posts on her body language or finally begun to listen to her advisors as her poll numbers drop as she rarely displayed her usual "tells" to give away her complete disdain for having to give this speech. Had not the intertubes and Twitter not been full of comments about her deafening silence, I am sure that she would remain silent still. What is remarkable about the following comments, is that, as said by many others, she missed an opportunity to appear bigger than she is, presidential even. If she has been watching the cable shows other than Fox, she would have taken note of the many pieces of advice about what she should do, what she should say, and what would immediately dilute all the negative reaction that she has been getting. Obviously, she did not.

I agree that Saturday's events are not directly her fault, but I do believe that she is one of those holding primary responsibility--the others being Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Glenn Beck--for the level of vitriol that passes for politics today in this country. Whether or not politics has anything to do with Saturday's events has not been determined, however, it has been determined that Loughner hated Congresswoman Giffords and that she was his primary target. How can the attempted assassination of a political figure not be political?

"Like millions of Americans I learned of the tragic events in Arizona on Saturday, and my heart broke for the innocent victims. No words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for the victims' families as we express our sympathy. 
I agree with the sentiments shared yesterday at the beautiful Catholic mass held in honor of the victims. The mass will hopefully help begin a healing process for the families touched by this tragedy and for our country.
Our exceptional nation, so vibrant with ideas and the passionate exchange and debate of ideas, is a light to the rest of the world. Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were exercising their right to exchange ideas that day, to celebrate our Republic's core values and peacefully assemble to petition our government. It's inexcusable and incomprehensible why a single evil man took the lives of peaceful citizens that day. 
There is a bittersweet irony that the strength of the American spirit shines brightest in times of tragedy. We saw that in Arizona. We saw the tenacity of those clinging to life, the compassion of those who kept the victims alive, and the heroism of those who overpowered a deranged gunman.
Like many, I've spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event. [And it took her three days for her scriptwriters to come up with something for her to say to undo her first, unscripted remarks and to counter the blow-back from Glenn Beck's reading of purported emails from her] President Reagan said, "We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions." [Unfortunately, while he did say these words, the context was that he was arguing against providing any social services to the inner cities] Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, [Although the left does not use maps with gun sights accompanied by her favorite slogan, "Don't retreat--reload"] not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election. [And just because something is legal means of course, that it is the right thing to do]
The last election was all about taking responsibility for our country's future. President Obama and I may not agree on everything, but I know he would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process. Two years ago his party was victorious. Last November, the other party won. [well, not exactly] In both elections the will of the American people was heard, and the peaceful transition of power [?!? transition of power? sorry hon, just the House, so not really a 'true' transition of power]  proved yet again the enduring strength of our Republic.
Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions.  [Which I have abused by telling lies] And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don't like a person's vision for the country, you're free to debate that vision. If you don't like their ideas, you're free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible. [What is reprehensible is using a term 'blood libel' that has a very specific history in Judaism and is offensive when the primary victim on Saturday, Congresswoman Giffords, is Jewish. And manufacture? Just the word is incendiary in itself, connoting as it does conspiracy on the part of (whom?) to stir things up] [And once again, she contradicts herself in the same paragraph. First, the crime stands on its own, then somehow, speech can 'incite blood libel?']
There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. [?] And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those "calm days" when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren't designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government. Our Founders' genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways. So, we must condemn violence if our Republic is to endure. [So you have no desire for an ideal world? If so, you would have stopped the hateful comments shouted out during your campaign rallies as John McCain did, or at least noted their inappropriateness in civil, albeit heated, political debate. And this level of rhetoric? It is unique as never before have we had a television station devoted 24/7 to promulgating lies in aid of a political party and ideology. You clearly do not believe your own words, that the crime stands on its own as you regularly claimed that then Senator Obama "palled around with terrorists" and tried (and still do) to claim guilt by association for all your opponents]
As I said while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, "We know violence isn't the answer. When we 'take up our arms', we're talking about our vote." [Funny, this was when your gunsight map generated controversy and Congresswoman Giffords went on MSNBC to tell you that words have consequences. Just sayin] Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box - as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next. That's who we are as Americans and how we were meant to be. Public discourse and debate isn't a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional. 
No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults. [Oh wow. This, from the Queen of Thin Skin! But I forgot, in Sarahworld, the 1st Amendment is about protecting her and political figures FROM the press, so muzzling the voices that call her to account is okay, but limiting hate speech is not?]
Just days before she was shot, Congresswoman Giffords read the First Amendment on the floor of the House. It was a beautiful moment and more than simply "symbolic," as some claim, to have the Constitution read by our Congress. I am confident she knew that reading our sacred [No Sarah. It is not 'sacred.' This is a secular country and our founding documents are not sacred.] charter of liberty was more than just "symbolic." But less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.
It is in the hour when our values are challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values. Recall how the events of 9-11 challenged our values and we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security. And so it is today. [Hmmm. Where were you when all the members of your party sat on their hands as Bush and Cheney raped the Constitution?]
Let us honor those precious lives cut short in Tucson by praying for them and their families and by cherishing their memories. Let us pray for the full recovery of the wounded. And let us pray for our country. In times like this we need God's guidance and the peace He provides. We need strength to not let the random acts of a criminal turn us against ourselves, or weaken our solid foundation, or provide a pretext to stifle debate.
America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week. We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. [Would that it were mindless] We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner, and to unite in the knowledge that, though our ideas may be different, we must all strive for a better future for our country. May God bless America.
- Sarah Palin"

My takeaway from all of this, is that once again, it is all about Sarah. Were she not vilified in the "liberal" press for her (granted, small) part in all of this, we know that she would have injected herself into the conversation anyway (and likely much sooner). She could have, as so many have said, taken the high road and apologized for the inappropriateness of her gunsight map (especially as Congresswoman Giffords herself commented on it at the time of its release and was concerned) and done so while still saying that she was not at fault. I don't think I have heard anyone blame Sarah Palin directly for Saturday's events and it is impossible to form direct cause-effect links, however, just the fact that she found it necessary to 1) have the website taken down immediately, 2) have her mouthpiece try to claim that the symbols on the map were surveying marks rather than gunsights (when she talked constantly about reloading and asked people to go see the map?), and 3) had the email exchange with Glenn Beck in which she complained about people using this as a reason to criticize her suggests that she knows she bears some responsibility for the level of hate present in this country today. The fact that politics has always been heated and that this was nothing new (although I disagree) does not mean that she shouldn't use her position to attempt to improve things.We will always have people on the extreme fringes of our society, people vulnerable to suggestion, whose locus of control is external so looking for someone to blame for their problems. Providing them the trigger to act is the height of irresponsibility and not in the least presidential.

No, as usual, Sarah Palin had to play the victim once again, make this about her, and try to turn it into a political opportunity. The one thing I am confident of, is that in this she has failed.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Violence Does Not Automatically Equate to Schizophrenia

It's likely that the shooter of Saturday has a mental illness. It is even possible that he has schizophrenia, possibly with paranoid features. But, there is no evidence that he has ever received that diagnosis and if he has, it would be illegal for any medical professional to say so.

Actually, the first medical professional to speak to the subject of the subject's mental health is Rand Paul, the self-certified ophthalmologist recently elected to the Senate. He stated on Sunday morning that he had seen the shooter's writings and determined that he was a paranoid schizophrenic. First, not likely, second, get real.

If the legal community in Tucson had possession of the shooter's writings, it is unlikely that a junior Senator from another state would have had access to them. Even a mental health professional would be unwilling and/or unlikely to make a formal diagnosis without assessing the individual (and at that point, the shooter was not talking to law enforcement), and if they were willing to make a guess, would not couch it in those terms. If they did guess, they would use the appropriate, current, terminology which is not paranoid schizophrenic. If anyone has had access to any writings, it is certain that no diagnosis would have been made by Sunday morning from them alone.

It is too bad that mental health is a subject that continues to carry such a huge stigma in this country. People who are experiencing a mental illness are often unwilling or unable to seek help because of this stigma. Often times, families are unwilling to recognize the need, or unable to afford treatment. In homes with high religiosity in particular, the need for intervention is often denied. Just pray it away, in other words.

During the recent economic downturns, local mental health facilities have seen their budgets decimated. I reached a point in which my clients could only be seen at the County Mental Health for medication if they had a formal diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Never mind that the most dangerous disorder (to my clients) was depression. At one time, I had six clients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Each had some tendencies towards paranoia, however, they were able to function, to a point. Not one was violent, and studies show that even at the height of a delusional phase, most persons with schizophrenia do not have violent tendencies. Our biggest risk for violence is for persons under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Of course, six clients is not enough to be representative of anything, however, there are numerous studies and meta-analyses that will bear this out.

I am sure that as the days unfold, that we will discover more and more about the young man who shot the Congresswoman and others. I just think we need to step back before we make statements of fact before we know them. What we do know, is that we can be certain that this was politically motivated (law enforcement has said that they have evidence that Congresswoman Giffords was the target) although we have no idea if the shooter was a member of any group or party. My bias is that he was probably a right-wing extremist or at least attracted to that rhetoric, mainly because I have yet to hear a progressive or a Democrat use gun imagery or language, or suggest that their opponents should die, or have their followers show up at events wearing guns. Just sayin.

What do you think?

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

UPDATED: Sarah Palin Can Now Check Off One Of The Gun Sights On Her Map

As of this time, Congresswoman Giffords of Arizona is out of surgery and doctors are "very optimistic" for her recovery as she was communicating with her medical team. A nine-year-old child has died, as well as a federal judge. According to the Sheriff's Department, a total of 18 people were injured in the shooting this morning at a constituent meeting event held by Congresswoman Giffords.

It should be noted, that Sarah Palin and others on Fox News should reserve their false condolences, particularly as this image and similar comments have been, immediately, removed from websites.

Image: Courtesy of SarahPAC
 Please note the 4th name on the left-hand column.

On her Facebook page, Sarah Palin said of the shooting, [emphasis added]

"My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona. On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice."

The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

This image may have been removed from her website, however, it should be distributed thoroughly around the web so that anyone who may have missed it, see it.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.


Congresswoman Giffords opponent placed this ad prior to the election:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Back to Work & Looking Forward

Image: 38minutes

I apologize for the absence of any new posts for a couple of weeks. I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday and managed to get where you wanted to go and survive any weather in the process.

I was traveling, by car, and my 3G network was more often 1G in remote areas where I spent most of my time. I found that often, high-speed wireless offered in hotels is more like dial-up, so my ability to access the net was severely limited.

So, we start a new year and a new Congress. I think we are in for some truly interesting times and I look forward to continued discussions of the antics of Sarah Palin, the Republicans, and the punditry and villagers who try to tell us what to think.

I was struck yesterday by a comment made by Michele Bachmann in which she said (and I paraphrase) that the classes that she was organizing for the House to teach them the Constitution would enhance their purpose, which was to learn and study the Constitution each week while in session. Funny. I would expect that my representatives already have a good understanding of the Constitution and quite frankly, their purpose is not to learn and study the Constitution, but rather to apply it. Their job is to legislate, which means write law. Period.

Justice Scalia is in the news today for his comments about the Constitution, particularly his thoughts on the equality of women (not in the Constitution in his opinion). He is noted for saying that being a justice is easy, because the Constitution is so easy to understand and apply. Makes me wonder why we need him.

Keith Olbermann noted on his show tonight that progressives are actually quite pleased that the Republicans have decided to read the Constitution into the Congressional Record. Perhaps by reading it out loud, they will discover those amendments that they try to ignore (or perhaps do not even know) and also discover where they are wrong.

Still trying to get caught up so may be a little light on the posts for a bit, but I'm sure there will be no shortage of topics to discuss.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.