Saturday, May 05, 2007

"When you get outside of New York City, there is a whole other world out there.”

So says the publisher of a new magazine, Garden & Gun, when explaining that there are 40 million people outside of New York City who enjoy hunting and fishing. The magazine just came out in April right before the Virginia Tech shooting and the title has caused a bit of a stir, according to an article in The New York Times. I think this is true, given that I learned about the magazine from a local book club here in Knoxville whose members seemed perplexed about the title of the new magazine, but not in a negative way.

I guess people don't think that guns and gardens should go together or maybe those who like gardens are not supposed to like guns? That seems silly. The usage of the word gun in the title is a metaphor for the sporting life and once you get out of New York, there are many people who enjoy this lifestyle. Why shouldn't there be a magazine that reflects the hobbies of those who both hunt and enjoy gardening and nature? Afterall, the two are not mutually exclusive.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Dangerous Book for Boys is up to #2 on Amazon.

Is there a connection between violence and mental illness?

Forensic psychologist Steven Erickson posts on the nexus between violence and mental illness at The Crime & Consequences blog:

A common question posed to mental health researchers is whether people with mental illnesses are more violent than those in the general population. For years, the clarion call from advocacy groups was that the answer to this question was a flat "no". However, recent research [my emphasis] is beginning to challenge that rather dogmatic view, and in so doing, has enveloped into a controversy. In particular, a recent study from the landmark National Institute of Health CATIE study suggests that for some people with mental illness the answer is yes. Of course, when examining the complex phenomena of mental illness and violent behavior a lot of caveats are in order.....

The recent research that Dr. Erickson points to above is partly found here in a 2006 study entitled: "A National Study of Violent Behavior in Persons With Schizophrenia." The study results found the following:

The 6-month prevalence of any violence was 19.1%, with 3.6% of participants reporting serious violent behavior. Distinct, but overlapping, sets of risk factors were associated with minor and serious violence. "Positive" psychotic symptoms, such as persecutory ideation, increased the risk of minor and serious violence, while "negative" psychotic symptoms, such as social withdrawal, lowered the risk of serious violence. Minor violence was associated with co-occurring substance abuse and interpersonal and social factors. Serious violence was associated with psychotic and depressive symptoms, childhood conduct problems, and victimization.

Every year across the United States, roughly 1,000 homicides are committed by people with severe mental illness. Can we really afford to stick our heads in the sand and deny that some mentally ill people might be violent? Instead of a controversy over whether or not the mentally ill are being stigmatized, wouldn't it make more sense to continue serious research to find out what types of illness and symptoms could lead to violence and find better (and more humane) ways to treat them?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Do Women Commit Mass Murder?

I was doing some research for a paper I am writing on school violence and came across this Newsweek article on the Virginia Tech Shooting. A forensic psychologist from John Jay Criminal College is interviewed:

Still, psychologists can say a few things with certainly about who is more likely to commit the most serious of crimes. Over 90 percent of killers are male, and the same holds for mass murderers—“I can’t think of a single case where a woman has done this,” says Schlesinger—partly because men tend to have more access to guns, which are usually the weapons of choice.

Perhaps Dr. Schlesinger has a poor memory, because if she thought about it, she would know that the famous song by the BoomTown Rats entitled, "I Don't Like Mondays" was written about "non-existent" (at least to some experts) Brenda Spencer. Spencer was a seventeen-year-old high school senior in San Diego who in January of 1979 opened fire into a crowded elementary school across the street from her home. She killed the principal and a janitor and injured a police officer and eight children. Her reason? "I don't like Mondays. Mondays always get me down."

In the Lillelid mass murder that I have mentioned here numerous times, three of the perpetrators were women, but I guess women just don't do serious crimes like mass murder. Maybe someone should tell that to the victims of Jennifer San Marco who last year killed her neighbor and then six people at a mail processing plant. Do women kill less often than men? Of course, but to say that you can't think of any women who commit mass murder means that you must not be looking too hard.


Monday, April 30, 2007

Use Some Common Sense!

An Asian student was arrested for disorderly conduct for writing an essay (Hat Tip: Steven Erickson):

One violent, profanity-laced English essay later and Allen Lee's future with the Marine Corps appears to be over.

Because of pending criminal charges stemming from his essay, Lee's recruiter told him Friday evening that the Marine Corps has discharged him from his contract, said Sgt. Luis R. Agostini, spokesman for the Marine Corps Recruiting Station Chicago.

''Basically he is no longer an applicant to become a Marine,'' Agostini said.

Police Thursday released portions of an essay used to charge a Cary-Grove High School student with disorderly conduct, leaving several experts puzzled at an arrest based on such schoolwork.

Asked to write about whatever he wanted in a creative writing class, would-be Marine and honors student Lee, 18, described a violent dream in which he shot people and then "had sex with the dead bodies.'' ...

A second disorderly count accuses Lee of alarming first-year teacher Nora Capron by writing that "as a teacher, don't be surprised on [sic] inspiring the first CG shooting,'' an apparent reference to Cary-Grove High.

Many people seem up in arms about this arrest--it is, in my opinion, over the top, but was it such a good idea for this young man to write this so soon after the VT shooting? But while it might make one question his judgement, it certainly doesn't rise to the level of an arrest. Writing such stupid stuff is a sign that something is possibly wrong and a diagnostic tool that warrants a possible psychological, not jail time. How can we even begin to talk about sensible public policy issues surrounding violence intervention when the authority figures vascillate wildly between doing nothing to arresting people over what they write?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hillary: Bush-Lite?

I read the In These Times article on "Why Women Hate Hillary" that is circulating around the blogosphere--my link goes to the The Hillary Project blog since Drudge linked to the original source and seems to have shut it down. Anyway, after reading this article, I must say, I have a newfound respect for Hillary, particularly after reading the following:

All of this frames many women’s reactions to Hillary. If she’s a feminist, how could she continue to support this war for so long? If she’s such a passionate advocate for children, women and families, how could she countenance the ongoing killing of innocent Iraqi families, and of American soldiers who are also someone’s children? If it would be so revolutionary to have a female as president, why does she feel like the same old poll-driven opportunistic politician who seems to craft her positions accordingly?

Maybe women like me are being extra hard on Hillary because she’s a woman. After all, baby boomer women couldn’t be “as good” as men in school or the workplace; we had to be better, to prove that women deserved equal opportunities. And this is part of the problem too. We don’t want the first female president to be Joe Lieberman in drag, pushing Bush-lite politics. We expect something better.

Joe Lieberman in drag, pushing Bush-lite politics? Maybe I was wrong to dismiss Hillary as undeserving of my vote. She might be worth another look.

Update: For those who are newcomers to this blog or for those who just don't get my weird sense of humor, the above is sarcasm.

The Dangerous Book for Boys

I did a post recently on The Dangerous Book for Boys but the book had not come out yet in the US, until now (I saw that my copy just shipped). I see that it is up to number 14 on Amazon and I really think its popularity has to do with a dearth of good books that celebrate the wonder of boyhood. Here is a bit of an interview with one of the authors, Conn Iggulden, at, who feels the same way: It's difficult to describe what a phenomenon The Dangerous Book for Boys was in the UK last year. When I would check the bestseller list on our sister site,, there would be, along with your book, which spent much of the year at the top of the list, a half-dozen apparent knockoff books of similar boy knowledge. Clearly, you tapped into something big. What do you think it was?

Iggulden: In a word, fathers. I am one myself and I think we've become aware that the whole "health and safety" overprotective culture isn't doing our sons any favors. Boys need to learn about risk. They need to fall off things occasionally, or--and this is the important bit--they'll take worse risks on their own. If we do away with challenging playgrounds and cancel school trips for fear of being sued, we don't end up with safer boys--we end up with them walking on train tracks [my emphasis]. In the long run, it's not safe at all to keep our boys in the house with a Playstation. It's not good for their health or their safety.

You only have to push a boy on a swing to see how much enjoys the thrill of danger. It's hard-wired. Remove any opportunity to test his courage and they'll find ways to test themselves that will be seriously dangerous for everyone around them. I think of it like playing the lottery--someone has to say "Look, you won't win--and your children won't be hurt. Relax. It won't be you."

I think that's the core of the book's success. It isn't just a collection of things to do. The heroic stories alone are something we haven't had for too long. It isn't about climbing Everest, but it is an attitude, a philosophy for fathers and sons. Our institutions are too wrapped up in terror over being sued--so we have to do things with them ourselves. This book isn't a bad place to start.

I look forward to getting my copy.