Saturday, April 21, 2007

I'd rather be called a "ho"

So Hillary Clinton went to Rutgers to kiss up to--I mean support--the women's basketball team. She addressed 700 students and faculty (the actual women players were too busy to meet with her--good for them) and urged the crowd to take a "Rutgers pledge," to say, "Enough is enough, when women or minorities or the powerless are marginalized or degraded."

My thoughts: As a woman, I would rather be referred to as a "nappy-headed ho" by Don Imus than called "powerless" by Hillary Clinton.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Baldwin's Child Custody Woes Continue

If you keep up with the news at all, you will no doubt have heard the long saga of Alec Baldwin's child custody troubles. Then by now you may have also heard the tape of Alec Baldwin's angry ranting phonecall to his daughter that was put up by the website I will not link the TMZ site but you can read and listen to the audio here. This voicemail was supposed to be kept confidential under court order but it was leaked to TMZ who would not say who sent it in. However,

Baldwin's spokesman said in a statement Thursday that, "in the best interest of the child," the 49-year-old actor "will do what the mother is pathologically incapable of doing ... keeping his mouth shut and obeying the court order.

"The mother and her lawyer leaked this sealed material in violation of a court order," the statement continued. "Although Alec acknowledges that he should have used different language in parenting his child, everyone who knows him privately knows what he has been put through for the past six years."

"The voice mail speaks for itself," Basinger's spokeswoman said.

On the shows I have seen about the case, the hosts and others talk about Baldwin being punished for using harsh language with his daughter but if it is found that Bassinger allowed this voicemail to be leaked to the public, she is at least as culpable of psychological abuse of their daughter by pitting her against her father or maybe moreso.

Does the US Need Better Reporting Laws for the Mentally Ill?

The mentally ill (those determined to be so by the courts etc.) are supposed to be barred from buying handguns, but frequently the information is not given to the NCIS:

But Rand and others—including federal officials—say that enforcement of the provision in the law barring the mentally ill from buying handguns has been erratic at best. More than 20 states don’t report any mental health records—including court records of mental commitments—to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the central federal database for background checks on firearm purchases, according to Paul Bresson, a FBI spokesman. Other states, including Virginia, do report some records, but officials acknowledge that the state and federal databases are complete. Asked if Virginia should have submitted a record of the Temporary Detention Order on Cho to the bureau, Bresson responded: "We rely on the state to submit the data to us. We don't interpret the law. All we're doing is providing a database for them." Still, Bresson added, "based on what we now know, it would seem that it would have been a record that should have been in the NICS”...

Whatever the reason, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York, contends that every year thousands of gun purchases by mentally unstable and other unqualified people have been falling through the cracks. McCarthy has been sponsoring legislation that would offer incentives to states to report more records of mental illness and commitments to federal and state databases.

One person in the article mentions that the problem is with the medical community that has traditionally opposed making such records available on privacy grounds. Confidentiality in mental health is very important, but then, so is making sure that the mentally ill do not obtain guns illegally. Can we really rely on someone like Cho marking "yes" to form 4473 asking “Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective or … committed to a mental institution?” I think not.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I talked with a local news station about mental health issues and the Virginia Tech case. You can see it here--click on the camera icon on the right to see video.

Update in the Mary Winkler Case

The verdict is in for the Mary Winkler case: voluntary manslaughter:

Mary Winkler showed no emotion when it was announced Thursday she had been found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of her minister husband.

She was convicted in the death of Matthew Winkler, a popular Church of Christ preacher in the rural West Tennessee town of Selmer.

The prosecution had asked that Mary Winkler be convicted of first-degree murder. But the jury made up of a majority of women settled on the lesser charge after deliberating for eight hours Thursday.

Winkler faces between three and six years in prison when she's sentenced in May. She remains free on bond.

Well, it's about the right length for a woman who blows away her husband--around six years is typical. Apparently, men's lives have little worth in this society if they are taken by a female. How pathetic is that?

Preventing Violence in Higher Education

My readers may be interested in a draft article on preventing violence in higher education--I am one of the co-authors.

The Killer in the Lecture Hall

Professor Barbara Oakley in an op-ed in today's New York Times asks: Can administrators and deans really continue to leave professors and other college personnel to deal with deeply disturbed students on their own, with only pencils in their defense?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cho ruled mentally ill and released

Cho was ruled mentally ill by the courts and released. This is quite typical, given the degree of deinstitutionalization in our country, it is a wonder we don't have more violent people. In my documentary, Six, about six teens who commit mass murder, some of them were mentally ill and the ringleader, Natasha Cornett was released after only 11 days in a mental hospital even though there were documents stating she was a danger to herself and others. There is very little liability in this country when it comes to releasing the mentally ill back into the community or not taking dangerousness seriously. I once was doing an evaluation of a man who told me he was going to kill himself years ago. I called the local mental health center and they told me to "drive the guy over in my car." The level of stupidity and incompetence in the area of mental health is staggering.

"How on earth was this time bomb allowed to go on ticking for so long?"

So asks Allah Pundit over at Hot Air who has a round-up of "personality quirks" exhibited by the VT killer. The press and other sources at this point have painted Cho Seung-Hui as a text book case of a school shooter. We all know the characteristics--loner, mental health problems, possibly delusional, yada yada yada. And as always, the blame game begins. Mainly as I saw on the MSM last night with shows like Dateline or 48 Hours, the gun is blamed and Katie Couric's concerned face is flashing on the TV once again along with "experts" to describe the terrors of "death machines."

It would be so easy if the complexities that went into the making of a killer could be boiled down to "where did this guy get a gun?" It takes responsibility away from trying to understand what went into the making of the killer, and why we, as a society did nothing to stop him. I can only talk in generalities here, for this case is unfolding and I do not know all of the facts. But I do know some facts about young people who kill or threaten others in schools and universities.

The violence-prone individual is more likely to have enduring personality pathology, such as a paranoid, schizoid, narcissistic, or antisocial personality, and a long history of difficult interpersonal relationships. He may ruminate about perceived slights or injustices for months or even years. Because he is often a loner, he has no circle of friends to correct his misinterpretations of other people’s intentions and behaviors. Because he looks at the world from a very egocentric point of view, he is unable to correctly perceive the effect of his behavior on other people. The emotion he feels is not everyday anger but profound and intense hatred of those who have allegedly demeaned or wronged him. His thinking is so faulty that he can justify assaultive behavior on the basis that he is the innocent victim (Beck, 1999). This faulty thinking was evident in the 22- page letter sent by the University of Arizona shooter Robert Flores to a local newspaper, to be read after he succeeded in killing his teachers and himself.

Student violence is more likely to occur during times of high stress, such as final exam periods, or despair arising from suspension/expulsion from a program. Rampage killers, such as those at the Appalachian School of Law, University of Arizona, and Case Western Reserve, tend to be males with a history of work and relationship failures. They often have a preoccupation with weapons or war regalia, even those that serve no purpose, such as nunchucks or throwing stars. A common characteristic is aspiring to more than they can achieve; when their unrealistic ambitions are thwarted, they blame others for their failures. They are not acting on impulse, but rather enacting purposeful, predatory violence that they have been planning for a long time. However, there is often a final, precipitating event, involving an affront or rejection, within hours or days of the murders. This final affront destroys any remnants of hope.

What I am amazed by is that in many school shootings, especially in universities, school authorities and others were told that there were problems or in some cases, the eventual killer had already made threats but no one did anything. The schools deny any responsibility at all in most of these cases although, sometimes they end up being sued for it. But what is money when people's lives are at stake? It's often the case that when the killer finally lashes out, the people who knew him aren't surprised -- they'd been predicting something like this for weeks or months, but no action was taken.

In my opinion, if we have mentally unstable students who have made threats, have behavioral problems, etc. in universities and schools who do not hold themselves or the student accountable for their behavior, there is no other alternative than to extend the civil right to concealed carry to the potential innocent staff and students who may encounter the wrath of such a person. If universities and schools won't take responsibility -- and they won't -- then someone has to.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Neo-neocon has more on the shooter:

The shooter’s profile could have been written by almost anyone beforehand, so precisely does it fit what we’ve come to expect of people who end up as mass murderers. And if he did in fact go to counselors for some therapy sessions, I’d hate to be one of those counselors today. Evaluating potentially violent patients and deciding when to alert authorities about their dangerousness is one of the especially knotty and heavy responsibilities of therapists, and an almost impossible task.

It may seem like an impossible task but it is so very important to make the right call. One of the problems I have encountered in my career is that people often do not take potential dangerousness seriously enough when they are informed.

Shooter is Man from South Korea

The shooter in the VT massacre has been identified:

Police identified the classroom shooter as Cho Seung-Hui, 23, a senior from South Korea who was in the English department and lived in another dorm on campus. They said Cho committed suicide after the attacks, and there was no indication Tuesday of a possible motive.

"He was a loner, and we're having difficulty finding information about him," school spokesman Larry Hincker said.

It seems that everyone is blaming the "American gun culture" on what happened but perhaps Cho Seung-Hui took his cues from another infamous mass murderer, Woo Bum-Kon, also from Korea:

Bum-Kon had an argument with his live-in girlfriend in the afternoon of April 26, 1982. Enraged, he left the house and went to the police armory, where he began consuming large amounts of whiskey. He became moderately drunk, raided the police armory of its weapons and built a personal arsenal. Bum-Kon then stole a single high-powered rifle and some grenades and left the armory. It was by this point around dinner time. He walked from house to house, and abused his position as a police officer to make people feel safe and gain entry to the home. Then he shot the victims, or killed the entire family with a grenade. He continued this pattern for the next eight hours, and into the early morning hours of April 27.

Bum-Kon committed the worse mass murder in known history, killing 58 people--could the Virginia shooter have been trying to do the same?

Update: Commenter sophizo points out in the post below this article from the Washington Post which states that the killer was an "English major from Centreville" and that he was a native of South Korea and immigrated to the US as a child. The article also indicates that the woman killed in the first dormitory shooting had no link to the killer. Thanks to the commenter for pointing out this article.


More Questions than Answers

The coverage of the VT massacre continues and it seems that little information is being provided. The gunman was possibly a student, maybe even a teaching assistant, but this is not yet known.[Update: The shooter--at least in the second shooting is now known to be a VT student]. It would make sense, since he seemed to have good access to the buildings and knew how to quickly get around in the engineering building. The authorities are not saying if the two incidents in the dorm and later Norris building are connected, yet one would think they would be. My guess is that this was a student of some sort whose girlfriend was seeing another man and the killing was out of revenge--both at her, her new suitor and the school. Perhaps he was having a hard time at the school and had decided to kill himself. Suicide is often the accompaniment to mass murder now in our society.

In many of the news reports, students who saw the killer's face remark on how calm and unemotional his face appeared. People mistakenly believe that the killer would look angry and deranged in the act of mass murder--but that is a different kind of violence--affective violence in which a person feels an imminent threat from another person etc. By the time the killer gets to the stage of actually taking revenge on his targets, he is in a warrior-like state, on a mission, and in predatory mode. In predatory violence, the killer is generally calm and cool, there is minimal or no accelerated heart rate, breathing, or flushing of the skin. There is no conscious emotion and the killer may feel emotionally nothing at that point (for more on predatory violence, take a look at J.Reid Meloy's book, Violence Risk and Threat Assessment: A Practical Guide for Mental Health and Criminal Justice Professionals).

By the time, the killer walked into those classrooms, my guess is that he had rehearsed his mission a number of times, all in his head, while practicing private rituals to encourage him to take the steps necessary to overcome any fear or doubt he might have had. He is the hunter and they are the prey. At that point, nothing will stop this type of killer except the gun they put to their own head or the shot from an officer or private citizen's weapon.

I have many questions. What brought the killer to this point? Could someone have intervened before he went on his rampage? Could the school authorities have done a better job of warning students about the potential of a gunman on the loose? When you have a double murder in a dorm and a gunman who has not been caught, doesn't it make sense to let students know what is happening? For the killer has had the opportunity to think through his act a thousand times in private and has the element of surprise. The students and teachers who were wounded or killed had no warning at all. Would the warning have helped? I don't know, but it couldn't have hurt.

Update: The gunman was a jilted lover who apparently killed his girlfriend and her new lover. [Correction: The jilted lover theory may be false according to the media, the male student killed in the dorm was an RA coming to assist a female resident of that dorm].


Monday, April 16, 2007

"We're all locked in our dorms surfing the Internet trying to figure out what's going on."

A campus nightmare: At least 21 dead in Virginia Tech shooting (Hat Tip: Instapundit)--the story is still developing.

Update: Now news reports are saying that 30 are dead from the shooting. It is quite confusing that the news stories mention that there were rampages two hours apart (one at 7:15 AM) on different ends of the campus--one in a dorm and the other in an Engineering classroom: "Suspected Shooter Dead After Several Rampages On Campus; At Least 20 Others Injured"-- why weren't people at the Engineering school warned or were they? It seems like an early morning shooting would warrant a warning to all of the classes etc.

Podcast: Michael Malone on "Bill and Dave"

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard that is--of Hewlett and Packard fame. Today, Michael S. Malone, one of America’s most distinguished technology journalists and web columnist for ABC News talks to us about his new book, Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World's Greatest Company. He talks about HP as Silicon Valley's first big company that started in a garage, about the old-fashioned values that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard applied to the company's growth, and about what happened when the "HP Way" met the 1990's dot-com boom. It really is a fascinating story and there are some good lessons for today's corporate world.

You can listen directly -- no downloads needed -- by going here and clicking on the gray Flash player. You can download the file yourself by clicking on this link -- that's easy too! -- and you can get a lo-fi version suitable for dialup by going here and selecting "lo-fi." Our show archives with past and future episodes are at, and, of course, you can get a free subscription via iTunes.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

A 12-gauge Attention-Getter?

Bank Tellers testify in the Mary Winkler case: "Witnesses: wife was in financial trouble, deposited bad checks." It is not uncommon before someone kills, to have a "triggering event" that makes them feel that the only way to solve their problem is to bring it to a climactic conclusion--murder is sometimes the only way "out" in their mind. I wonder if Winkler really just meant to "get her husband's attention" with the gun as the defense reported in a previous news story. It seems implausible after reading this statement:

"I don't remember going to the closet or getting the gun," Winkler said, according to her statement to Carpenter. "The next thing I remember was hearing a loud boom, and I remember thinking it wasn't as loud as I thought it would be."

She thought about how loud it would be? Doesn't that mean that she had already decided to pull the trigger when she pointed the gun at her husband? Because, really when you are trying to get someone's attention, what loud boom is involved?