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Sunday, January 16, 2011

60 Minutes On Loughner

I just watched a 60 Minutes segment on Jared Loughner, which included interviews with some of his friends.

The segment confirmed that Loughner's grudge against Gabrielle Giffords dates back at least to the time he met her in 2007, when he posed a question to her at an event she did not answer.  The question was bizarre, having to do with the meaning of words.  A form letter from Giffords thanking Loughner for his attendance was saved by Loughner, who wrote on the envelope "die bitch."

Loughner's slow slide into a bizarre nihilist word of dreams was known to his friends, and appears to have worsened until he cut off most contact in March 2010.  Enrolled in school at the time, Loughner immediately started disrupting classes in a menacing manner.

The segment also included interviews with the authors of a Secret Service study which showed that political assassins, at least in the U.S., almost never are motivated by politics.  Loughner appears to fit the prototype of the mentally disturbed assassin focused on personal fame and a need to address fictional problems created by their diseased minds.

The segment left me with several emotions.  First, I was impressed with the professionalism of the Secret Service, which tracks people deemed potential threats to the President or Presidents for years.

Second, I wonderered whether our educational and medical privacy laws, and fear of lawsuits, may have contributed to the failure to alert appropriate authorities as to Loughner's menacing behavior.

But most of all, I was left with a disgust at how the left-wing blogosphere, the mainstream media, and Sheriff Dupnik tried to spin, and still try to spin, Loughner's crime as the fault of right-wing political rhetoric. 

Not only are such accusations against Sarah Palin, the Tea Parties and conservatives devoid of factual basis, such accusations also fly in the face of the history of political assassinations as documented by the Secret Service. 

A moment or two of reflection and research after the shooting would have revealed much of what we now know, but some people did not want to let facts and research get in the way of a political narrative.

Update:  Thanks to Trochilus (in the comments) for the video link of the program.  Like the child forced to write "I will not talk in class" one hundred times on the blackboard for bad behavior, Paul Krugman should be forced to watch this segment 100 times:

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  1. Professor, part of the problem is the bleating heart of liberals who say "Well, the mentally ill have rights too, you know." And this all started in the '70's.

    Let's take some of the homeless. Many of them suffer from mental illness of one sort or another. They don't fit in with the rest of society. They can't adjust to the routine of normal, everyday life. Yet, you will hear lots of people say that we can't lock them up until the pose a risk to themselves, or others. But they are ill, mentally ill. No one wants to live on the streets who is mentally sound. So instead of getting them help, perhaps by a 72 hour lockup with a mental evaluation, they are left to wander, and sometimes die, in the streets.

    The pendulum has swung to the far side as it always does. At one time, people could be committed for almost any reason. Now it is the hardest thing to do, and most mentally ill slip through the cracks.

    I have a friend whose brother is a magnificant artist, yet his art is dark, boding. He hears voices, says the Devil speaks to him in one ear but Jesus speaks to him in the other. He pretty much lives on the street, unless a family member takes him in for a couple of months and feeds him, cleans him up and makes sure he takes his meds. He has been like this for 40 years, yet his family can't get him committed because the authorities say that he is not a danger to himself or others, and it would be violating his rights to lock him up.

    Encounter after encounter with Loughner should have allowed the police to lock him up for 72 hours for a psych evaluation. It is my understand that Arizona law permits that. But he never got the help he needed (there is more to that picture than is meeting the eye, I think) and now six people are dead.

    And so many questions remain; where did Loughnter, unemployed, living with his parents, get the money to purchase a $600.00 gun with a larger clip? How did he pay for it? How did he get a credit card? The police reported they talked to him for over 1/2 hour at the campus. Why did they not remand him to examination? Was the college afraid of being sued? Were the police afraid of being sued?

    So many questions. So few answers.

  2. Bill,

    Having spent some time writing a comment on this precise topic, which I just posted as a comment on an earlier post of yours (Another Tucson Shooting False Narrative Goes Bad) I just now saw that you had written this post -- uncanny!

    Incidentally, I actually was able to obtain the precise quote from the Secret Service agent, Robert Fine, as I found the CBS story already posted on You Tube, here.

    The Scott Pelly question and Robert Fine's answer begin at about 6:50 on the clip.

    Fine said in response to Pelly's question:

    "I cannot think of a case," said Fine, "where politics pure and simple was the motivation. Sometimes people used a political language. But people are more complicated than attacking someone over, quote, a political motive."

    Looks to me like a whole series of apologies are owed to Sarah Palin, and several others who were subjected to this attack.

    But as we know, none of them will never be forthcoming.

    Attacking Sarah Palin means never having to say you're sorry!

  3. I realized with a guilty start that I had been too absorbed by the attendant politics to think about Giffords.

    Happily, the news is positive.

    Her condition has been upgraded from critical to serious. She is breathing on her own. The hospital is holding a news conference tomorrow.

  4. Saw the 60 Minutes episode as well. Also was one of the "crazy liberals" who jumped the gun and blamed Palin and the Tea Party for the tragedy before any facts came out about Loughner's motives. I was wrong. But that doesn't make violent rhetoric right. Nor does it even make violent rhetoric acceptable. If it wasn't Loughner, it was going to be the next convinced manic who goes on a rampage in the name of "Liberty" or "The Constitution". I've heard over and over from Tea Party crazies about "how it's time for a 2nd American Revolution" and so on...

    Again, none of this applies to Loughner--though his comments on worthless "currency" and "violating the Constitution" are somewhat suspect, and I wonder if they weren't somehow indirectly provoked by the Tea Party--but the point is, politics should not be a war. Healthy debate is fine, but when one party resorts to eliminationist rhetoric (as Krugman puts it), that party has clearly crossed the line, period.

  5. The media tends to use conventional wisdom (as in convenient) which is much faster to place in the public domain.

    The immediate sensationalism of the story combined with a need to explain (and a predisposed bias) makes for lazy journalism. Whenever a tragic event happens, the first question people want to know is "why?." It doesn't mean the viewer/listener should get an immediate answer, yet that seems to be the way news agencies fill their 24/7 time (repeatedly laboring over premature minutia and expanding on the early themes). Perhaps I would not steal unless I was hungry, but that doesn't mean everyone who steals is hungry. I sometimes think that many commentators project their own reasoning onto others.

  6. What I have found to be the most irrational part of this whole sad incident is that we are not really having the discussion about mental illness and how the laws that are protecting their civil liberties are actually making their lives harder. I am starting to see it today a bit, but not nearly enough. Arizona has laws that could have gotten him medical attention, why didn't anyone take advantage of them? Very sad.

  7. jds09210, I suggest you read Lincoln's Cooper Union address.

    And you seem to know little about the TEA Party. You also seem to equate "revolution" with only violence. Sorry. Was the "industrial" revolution violent? How about the "sexual" revolution? Seems it was built around peace and love.

    The vitriol we saw come from the left had nothing to do with the Tucson shootings, and everything to do with shutting down dissent in a forthcoming campaign. End of story. Want proof?

    It took Obama four days to tell everyone to cool down the rhetoric after the shooting. It took Obama ONE day to do the same after the Fort Hood shooting, when he said that we must not jump to conclusions about the motives of Nidal Hassan. He was pandering to one group, the Muslims, then. He was not pandering to the right this time. He allowed the hatred, yes, hatred, on the part of the left to continue for four days.

    Now the left wants civility. Well, your side can stuff it. After 8 years of Bushitler, Bush lied, men died, placards of a beheaded Bush, "He lied to us. He betrayed his country" coming from Al Gore, you on the just can just sit down and shut up. It is your turn in the back of the bus, to paraphrase Obama.

  8. Let's all remember that it was Ronald Reagan who dismantled mental health services in California and then worked to destroy mental health care across the country.

    Let's also remember that it was Jan Brewer, the mother of an mentally disturbed son, who cut millions from AZ's mental health programs.

    What I find disturbing is the inability of those on the right to acknowledge that the violent rhetoric from power players in their party (like the private citizen, ex-half-term Governor, ghost written 'author', and FB/Twitter poster, Sarah Palin), and the entire cast of Fox "News" daily push political speech that is violent in tone and and could, if heard by the right/wrong ears could lead to real violence. AND IT HAS. There have been cases of "lone wolf" crazy men heading out to kill based on the writings and ranting of Hannity, Weiner, Beck, O'Reilly, and who knows what other right-wing extremist talkers!




    Will the right ever acknowledge this?

    Sadly. No. You just write it off and as usual, take no responsibility.

    Meanwhile, I think I will being writing a book:
    [i]"Guilty: Right-wing "Victims" and Their Assault on America"[/i]

  9. Why are people who believe in Liberty and The Constitution called crazy?

  10. It's the Constitution's fault..

    "Loughner had lost his mind. Early reports have it that he had also posted on his MySpace page a photograph of a U.S. history textbook with a gun on top of it. In September police had to remove him from a classroom at Pima Community College, after he called the syllabus “unconstitutional” and delivered what his professor called “a rant about the Constitution.” In December he posted on YouTube a statement reading, “The majority of citizens in the United States of America have never read the United States of America’s Constitution.”


  11. @jds09201 and @Timothy

    While you strain and wheeze to pin scurrilous charges against groups and people that you disagree (and would like to squelch), one thing remains clear. The fish rots from the head down.

    Cue all the Obama quotes of violent rhetoric.

    Bring a gun to a knife fight. Terrorists (republicans, not muslim extremists). Whose ass to kick. Get in your neighbor's face. I don't want to quell anger, I'm angry. Get out of the way. Gearing up for a fight. Hit back twice as hard. Punish our enemies. Shake them (Michelle, referring to those who aren't 'on board' with the 'O' train). Itching for a fight. Hand-to-hand combat.

    These are all things uttered by your 'messiah', and leader of your party. At least the ones we know about! Deal with it.

  12. Again, none of this applies to Loughner--though his comments on worthless "currency" and "violating the Constitution" are somewhat suspect, and I wonder if they weren't somehow indirectly provoked by the Tea Party--but the point is, politics should not be a war. Healthy debate is fine, but when one party resorts to eliminationist rhetoric (as Krugman puts it), that party has clearly crossed the line, period.

    JDS, when have you Dems ever opted for "healthy debate"? As for violent rhetoric, you lefties are the champs. Compare any Tea Party rally to any liberal rally; the latter will have signs and posters calling for assassination and death to Republicans; or you have pundits calling for Sarah Palin to be murdered or raped. Then there was the GOP National Convention where leftists rioted in the streets and broke windows in shops and set cars on fire.

    The only revolution the Tea Parties have supported are those at the ballot box; but it is the left's advocacy of violence, constant voicing of hatred and slander that create the atmosphere for something more.

  13. Timothy, Reagan did no such thing. This false meme has been propagated by the left for years. Changes in California's mental health policies and procedures was changed due to your liberal ACLU's lawsuits and pressure to cease the involuntary commitment of the mentally ill. The Lanterman-Petris-Short act replaced the large state hospitals with county operated mental health care systems and provided a legal basis for institutionalizing patients.

    As for your claims of violent rhetoric by Hannity, Beck, O'Reilly and others, please provide at least one specific example, or we will simply write you off as ranting crank of no crebibility whatsoever. I'm betting that you can't.

  14. Stogie: the left doesn't have to provide any examples of the violent rhetoric they claim comes from Beck, Rush, Palin, etc. They don't have to because, once pressed into the corner, they realized they can't. There isn't any proof.

    A lack of proof hasn't stopped the left, though. Now it's "stochastic dog whistles" whipping us all into a frenzy. A few months ago it was "code language" which proved we were all racists hiding in plain sight.

    BTW, Beck has released a non-violence pledge, which he's asked all lawmakers and other leaders to sign. Gee... if the left is truly concerned about violent rhetoric leading to violent actions, you'd think they'd jump at the chance to denounce violence, wouldn't you? And yet... for some strange reason, they're utterly unwilling to support Beck's non-violence pledge.

    Huh... if one didn't know better, it might almost appear as if the left is just using this talk about how scary violent rhetoric is as some kind of smokescreen or something...

  15. Um... I posted links illustrating actual cases of nuts who followed the cast from Fox "news" and various members of the right-wing hate talk machine. If you want to "refudiate" them -- go right ahead.

    The ACLU fought for patient rights Reagan fought to cut funding for patient care. There is a big difference.

  16. Beck calling for non-violence? The same guy who dreamed of murdering Michael Moore and poisoning Speaker Pelosi?


  17. One of the things that struck me about that "60 Minutes" clip is that Loughner is not a loner. His fellow students seem to know him well. I would say that he has led a life that is more examined than most. These "friends" analyze him in great depth almost like they are reading a book. He wasn't "that strange guy" who kept to himself rarely speaking to anyone.

    Loughner was bizarre far beyond what would be considered just odd. His entire world was so dangerously warped that virtually everyone around him was afraid of him to the point that police action was necessary, not because of physical threats but because his ideas were scary.

    I find it comforting that I have never known anyone like Loughner. I don't have to worry if there is someone like him lurking nearby. There isn't. He was crazy, everyone knew it to the point that the authorities knew it. The Tucson massacre needn't have happened. It was stoppable.

    Another thing that strikes me is how all of these assassin-killers traveled down the same paths that all of us traveled while even saying or thinking things that all or most of us may have said or thought while in our adolescence when it seemed that life was one big conspiracy by adults to deny us happiness. It's the "Catcher in the Rye" problem, permanent adolescence. We all go through this phase until we get thrown out of the nest. Then reality forces us to grow up. Instead of rationalizing his way out of this phase, Loughner short-circuited straight to crazy. It may be disturbing to hear his "friends" describe him as someone who struggled with the same things we struggled with but he is not like us. He is crazy.

    More than ever, this Tuscon shooting has not left me with a sense of a world or of America falling apart. There will always be crazy people among us and if we just open our eyes, we can stop the Loughners. There just aren't many of them around and they aren't exactly sneaky.

  18. Regarding my hastily posted comment of last night, it is grammatical correction time:

    "But as we know, none of them will ever be forthcoming."


    * * * * *

    @jds09201 . . . what is it about progressives pretending to apologize? It's never: "I was wrong, and for that I apologize." It is always some version of, "Yes, BUT . . ."

    And, it is not an apology if, as above, you then immediately turn right around and insist on validating the absolute worst of the lies that were told about Palin and others on the right.

    Paul Krugman's ugly screed about "eliminationist" views, was execrable crap.

    In fact, it was only the latest of a recent series of outlandish uses of that particular phrase by Krugman that seek to conflate legitimate American political debate, with a rising Nazi-like propaganda tide on the part of the right.

    He knew it was wrong when he wrote it, as did the editorial staff at the NY Times when they printed it. And, you should have known it when you read it.

    * * * * *

    @Stogie is 100% correct. In the State of New Jersey, a very similar thing occurred. The "de-institutionalization" movement here resulted in the literal dumping of very large numbers of previously institutionalized mental patients, most of them in NJ from the Greystone and Marlboro facilities. It was primarily driven by lawsuits from the left, based on evidence deploring the living conditions in those facilities, and theoretically insisting on behalf of all those people that their individual liberty trumped prior standards of involuntary commitment.

    There indeed had been problems with living conditions in those facilities, as there had been on other jurisdictions, and many patients were no doubt civilly committed under questionable circumstances.

    But the consequence was court decisions "freeing" thousands under a narrow view of what constituted a "risk of harm to one's self or others." The upshot was that that generation of mental health "inmates" ended up as homeless folks on the streets of our cities, where there they encountered no livable conditions at all, and where as a consequence, very large percentages of them simply could not and did not survive.

    It was a sad chapter.