Wednesday, March 11, 2009

One flew over the cuckoo's nest

Alabama nutcase goes on shooting spree, kills multiple people. Most probably he was one of those people about which is often said in the aftermath of these things, "he has been crazy for years and nobody would do anything about it."

Of course, the problem is, nobody is allowed to do anything about him until he proves that he’s dangerous to himself and others. That’s the law. Irritated the $%@! out of me back when I had to deal with crazy street people on a regular basis, but the rights of crazy people apparently are more important than getting them the help they need. Nevermind that a crazy person is in no condition to make a judgement as to whether to accept help or not — I mean, he has a chemical imbalance in his brain, it’s not as if he’s operating in sound mind and body. The law says we can’t help the poor slob unless he wants the help. And of course because his brain is befogged, he can’t want the help, because, well, his brain can’t go there.

I blame Jack Nicholson and Ken Kesey, myself. They popularized the view that crazy people weren’t sick, they were just misunderstood, a view promptly embraced by brain-dead left-wing stupidity and by right-wingers eager to dump the crazies on the street so that they could lower their own taxes. Bah humbug,any of us who have ever dealt with crazy people know different, they're sick, not misunderstood, but the law doesn’t. Sigh.

- Badtux the Crazy-recognizin’ Penguin


  1. Now that he did something and he allegedly used something like an AK-47, expect the gun control nuts to come out in force.

  2. It is perhaps worth mentioning that, in many totalitarian states, dissidents are declared "insane" and locked in mental institutions. This avoids embarrassing criminal trials and allows the state to assert that they are acting for the good of the dissident. In short - as an occasional dissident myself - I'm happy to live in a country where the insane have rights, and where it is difficult to lock someone up against their will.

  3. Alan, you appear to believe that crazy people are just misunderstood, not sick. There is a difference between someone who is incapable of managing his illness to the point where he is living on the streets, and someone who simply thinks differently.

    Totalitarian dictatorships use all sorts of excuses to put people into internment camps, calling them "crazy" sometimes, and calling them "hoarders" or "capitalist thieves" other times. Saying that certifiably mentally ill people should not be treated because totalitarian dictatorships throw people into gulags as "crazy" is as ridiculous as saying that Bernie Madoff should not be thrown into jail because totalitarian dictatorships throw people into gulags as "capitalist thieves". It's complete nonsense. Sick people should be given the treatment they need to function, rather than allowed to wander the streets muttering to themselves to die of exposure because their muddled brains can't figure out how to seek and accept treatment. Mental illness is no different from any other brain disorder, we don't throw profoundly mentally retarded people out onto the streets to die if they don't answer "yes" if we ask them if they want food and shelter, why is it more acceptable to do that with other people who have brain disorders that prevent them from answering "yes"?

    Oh wait, I forget, the crazy people wandering around muttering to their invisible friends aren't really suffering from a brain disorder, they're just misunderstood. Riiiiiiight....

    - Badtux the Not-cuckoo Penguin

  4. Terrant, the dude was mentally ill. What was he doing with guns?

    - Badtux the Questioning Penguin

  5. Badtux, obviously there needs to be a process to treat crazy people. But you seem to be advocating a system where anyone that you personally deem crazy can be locked up for life. Of course I don't know in what capacity you dealt "with crazy street people on a regular basis", but obviously when you did that, you wanted the right to order people confined. You have some objections when a cop plays judge, jury and executioner -- but you'd sure like to be able to do that yourself. Power doesn't seem so bad when its yours, no?

  6. Uhm, dude, there is a process. The person who is behaving erratically is taken into custody for observation, and turned over to a mental health facility. The psychiatrist at the mental health facility interviews and observes the behavior of the person and determines whether he qualifies as ill or not. If the psychiatrist determines that the person is ill, then the person is given an attorney and a sanity hearing is set up before a judge. The attorney is allowed to call his own psychiatrist to interview the person and possibly come to a different conclusion. They all meet in front of the judge, the judge listens to all the evidence, and then makes a decision.

    It's just like any other criminal justice thing -- a judge and possibly a jury has to be involved before involuntary confinement. This is an already-existing process that has been in place for decades. The only difference I'm suggesting is that if the person's mental disability requires confinement for proper treatment, that the judge be given the power to order such confinement for as long as is needed to treat the person's illness to the point where the person can properly care for himself again. Right now a judge has no such power unless the person presents a clear and immediate danger to himself and others.

    Now, if you consider judges to be evil or something, I dunno what to say. You apparently believe we live in a totalitarian dictatorship where judges are our dictators, if that's the case, and while people believe bizarre things like that the WTC attacks were an inside job by the CIA and shit like that, we're into tin hattery at that point. In any event, I in no way advocate that people be involuntarily confined without the involvement of mental health professionals and the criminal justice system, including the right to an attorney and the right to introduce defense evidence contrary to the prosecution's evidence. You are tackling straw men again, and by your criteria, *nobody* should be in prison -- whether murderers, thieves, or whatever -- because courts are totalitarian. Or something.

    -- Badtux the Not-straw Penguin

  7. Good Lord.


    I read your sentence "Irritated the $%@! out of me back when I had to deal with crazy street people on a regular basis, but the rights of crazy people apparently are more important than getting them the help they need".

    And I interpreted that to mean "If I had my way, every time I saw someone on the street that looked like a nut to me, I'd have had that mo' fo' locked up for his own good."

    Apparently I interpreted it wrong. But I'm not alone there, since you've pretty much interpreted everything I said wrong, too. Par for the course all round.

  8. Tux when a facility works it is a good and necessary thing. But if you ever see Titicut Follies, a documentary of a failed state mental hospital you will see why the push for deinstitutionalizing was so strong. Bridgewater State Hospital, in Massachusetts, was a horror show and not the only one in this country. So the mentally ill were let loose, to take their meds on their own, if they had any. Somewhere in between is a solution, maybe. But to find that solution you have to find two psychiatrists who will agree on who is ill. You have to have facilities that some bastard won't turn into a personal profit center at the expense of the staff and patients. And you need low paid staff, often poorly trained, who can deal with and care about truly sick and often violent patients every working day and be happy to shop at Wal-Mart after work. And you have to do it on the state's dime because private insurance won't pay for it.

  9. "Terrant, the dude was mentally ill. What was he doing with guns?"

    Precisely my point. The guy had no business with a gun let alone an assault weapon (assuming that is what it was) especially with the laws we do have now. My prediction is that there is going to be people who can't tell the difference between semi-automatic and assault weapons spouting off about the need for more bans.

  10. Montag!!! You still around? You're the Montag who used to post reprints of my favourite NYT columnists when the Times was charging for that? Thanks again, mate!

    Tux, I was going to chime in with a point about the legalities of psychiatric committal procedures, but you covered that perfectly. How'd you get so smart? I watched those happen when I was a nurse in psych wards in Florida, and am also familiar with how the "5150" law works in California. There ARE protections, all you people who are even more paranoid than I am.

    That said, a totalitarian regime like the Bush Crime Family was capable of gulag-style psychimprisonment of inconvenient dissidents. Y'all heard of Susan Lindauer?

    And Terrant -- I'm one of the gun SAFETY nuts. RESTRICT ALL GUNS!!! It make take generations, but sweat them out of the hands of society!

    I can say this because I live in a society that's practically free of guns. Farmers can get them if they need to shoot rabbits and foxes. Hunters can get them if they show a need to shoot kangaroos and feral goats or pigs. But overall, nobody in the cities has gunpowder weapons.

    It makes me feel sooooo safe. Just like gun SLINGING nuts feel so safe because they have the fantasy of being able to protect themselves from a society that's bristling with instruments of sudden death. But whose country is REALLY safer, mate -- mine, or yours there in Mexico North?

  11. Alan, when I said "I dealt with mentally ill people", I meant on a professional basis, not in passing on the street.

    Bukko -- see above. I've probably forgotten a lot of details since it's been over 15 years now, but the general gist of things hasn't changed.

    Montag -- You definitely hit on a problem. But it's a problem that affects every group of people who cannot care for themselves, whether it is the profoundly mentally retarded, the frail elderly, or the severely mentally ill. There is a spectrum of care to cover the various permutations, from a caregiver dropping in once a week to take care of things the client cannot do for himself, to full-time institutional care for those incapable of basic tasks on their own, but the entire system is perpetually underfunded and overtasked.

    The stigmatization of the mentally ill as somehow choosing to be sick also hurts here. Nobody thinks that a drooling retard with head lolling in a wheelchair while his eyes roll is just a slacker. For some reason, the mentally ill, because their illness is not immediately visibly obvious, don't get that respect from the general public and thus don't get the resources to deal with their condition (not that the profoundly mentally retarded are exactly lavished with resources, but at least they're not generally just thrown out onto the streets to fend for themselves despite clearly being unable to care for themselves). That said, we've learned a lot about mental illness over the past thirty years, and the Bedlams of the past are not necessary for most of the mentally ill today -- they just need a secure place to stay and someone to help them keep track of their meds. And aren't getting it :-(.

    - Badtux the Mental Penguin

  12. There is a huge difference between a dissident locked up by the USSR and the guy who is nuts and wants to light his mom afire and shoot folks. Something like this is growing next door to us...a teen boy who routinely verbally assaults his mother and has occasionally physically assaulted her, too. The cops come, he is gone two weeks and sent home again. As far as I can tell he has no political dissident genes at all!

  13. Bukko, I've always felt that the argument that guns are needed for self-defense as being weak. If a gun is properly stored, it is going to be of little use when it is really needed.

    I advocate safe responsible ownership of guns which include keeping guns out of the hands of people who have been known to be violent and are not in their right mind. Plus, some weapons really should not even be allowed. As cool as a it is, why would someone need to own a metalstorm?

    The big difference between Oz and Mexico North is gun ownership is a right whereas in Oz it is a privilege. Any firearms there are those that the government chooses to allow. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages and I do not think one is better than the other.

    A gun is a tool, an inanimate object. It takes a person to aim the gun and pull the trigger. People will use whatever is handy be it guns, knives, crossbows, flamberge, or a board with a nail.

    From what I have read, there are handguns being smuggled into Oz. I guess the overused phrase about outlaws having guns is true.

    The real reason that Oz is safer is because of the differences in culture. From my limited knowledge, Oz does not glorify violence like it is here nor does it have a "war on drugs" with an underground economy.

    To me, banning guns is like trying to cure appendicitis with aspirin. It does not address the root cause of the problem.

  14. Terrant, I can guarantee you that Aussies can be as violent as Americans if they want to be. They are descended from revolutionaries and convicts, after all. Last Aussie I had the privilege of knowing personally was a big raw Paddy (descended from an Irish revolutionary sent over to Australia as a convict) with fists the size of small cars who knew how to use'em. But the deal is, if there's a bar fight in Aussie-land it gets settled with fists, not guns, and there's much less chance of the fight becoming deadly that way.

    As for the notion that guns are needed to keep government from getting out of hand or whatever rot you want, I hadn't noticed that Australia was a tyranny... and Saddam's Iraqi population was very well armed as we found out to our dismay where it seems every Iraqi has an AK-47 propped by his bedside and an RPG buried in his garden, and Saddam's government most definitely *was* a tyranny. In the end, the tyranny-not tyranny question is resolved by what the people will accept. If the people want safety more than they want freedom, they will get tyranny rather than freedom. That is just how it is.

    -- Badtux the Raw Penguin

  15. I am pretty sure in the states that the majority of bar fights are resolved with fists as well. It is just the ones where some gangsta wannabee (or Pacer player) starts shooting up the place gets reported by the media.

    You seem to be confusing me with my neighbors down the road. The argument that we need guns to prevent a tyranny is one that I consider as weak as well. With technology today, if Bush wanted to declare himself dictator for life, the guns we have now are going to be of little use against fighter jets and helicopters with cluster bombs.

    The NRA nuts do have a point. There have been many instances where taking the guns away from the people was followed by an even more oppressive government and even genocide (one example of which requires invoking Godwin's law).

    As I said, gun violence is a symptom of a larger problem. Taking the guns away is not going to solve it. Poverty and the war one drugs being a couple of them. When it comes to gun control, I'm middle of the road. There are some areas where it needs things needs to be better regulated (it is way too easy to get one) and that the current laws need to be enforced better.

    I see people go on and on about how Bush and Darth Cheney has violated the constitution, yet many of the same people advocate ignoring (or engaging in revisionism of) the same constitution on this particular issue. There are mechanisms to go about changing this. As we found out with prohibition, you don't even need to get congress involved.


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