Category Archives: SUBSTANCE ABUSE

No. 6 Bookworm Podcast : The multitude of reasons behind mass shootings

In my latest podcast and in this post, I examine the myriad reasons behind mass shootings today and — surprise! — none of them have to do with guns.

I know it’s been almost a week since the terrible shootings in El Paso and Dayton, but I’m still stuck on them — perhaps because the Leftists are still using them as a reason to gut the Second Amendment without bothering to to through the constitutional amendment process. I therefore used today’s podcast to discuss the multitude of reasons behind mass shootings, none of which is the availability of guns. Guns are merely a tool nor a motivation.

(You can listen to the podcast below, or find it at Apple Podcasts or at Libsyn podcasts. Or you can read this post which, while not a verbatim transcript of the podcast, covers much the same content. As always, if you like the podcast, please share it. I’d love to have an audience share one day that actually generates ad revenues.)

The primary thing to remember is that guns are not the only means to commit mass murder. Back in 1927, an angry man used bombs to blow up a school in Bath Township, Michigan, killing 38 kids and 6 adults, and injuring at least 58 others. We know from headlines around the world that those intent upon mass murder will use knives, cars, trucks, airplanes, and bombs to kill as many people as possible.

When it comes to murder, human ingenuity is endless. The reality is that man is hardwired for violence. It is the work of civilization that has shut that limited those violent impulses. I recommend two books on that point. The first is Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. The second is Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History Both books explain in great detail our violent past and our impressively less violent present.

So if guns are merely one avenue by which humans express their innate violence, what’s really going on now? Why are we seeing so many mass shootings? I think there are a multitude of reasons for current mass shootings some or most of which tend to be present in all the events we hear about lately. Here are my theories, in no particular order:

Violent Rhetoric. I think in this case, a picture and a movie promo are worth a thousand words:

Violent Rhetoric from the Left

Fatherlessness. Many (not all) but many mass shooters are fatherless. Indeed, if we expand our horizon outwards from the shooters who go after suburbanites (that is, the ones that get the media all excited) and look at the mass shooters who terrorize Democrat-run inner cities (about whom Leftists care not a whit because there are no votes to be grabbed there), I’d bet that most mass shooters are fatherless.

Fathers are absolutely necessary to a young man’s mental health. Mothers provide love; fathers provide discipline. “Wait until your father gets home” is a stereotype because it’s a phrase with real power.

Among poor people, the welfare state has supplanted fathers. Among inner city blacks, prison has become the default home for fathers, which is why I hope that Trump’s crime bill, even though it will release criminals back into society, will still prove to be a good thing by releasing fathers back into communities. Even among the middle class, women’s increased ability to provide an income has made fathers less important.

In pop culture, fathers are downplayed or erased. It’s ironic knowing now who Bill Crosby really was, but back in the 1980s, people celebrated his show because it showed a black family with a powerful father figure. Most TV shows then and now, whether for black or white audiences, had either done away with father figures entirely or played them for morons. The old idea of “father knows best” was replaced with “Dad is an idiot.” For example, Disney’s very popular Hannah Montana show, aimed squarely at young kids and tweens, had the father as a meaningless, foolish appendage. Also ironically, it turned out Bill Ray Cyrus was playing himself and look how well (NOT) that turned out for poor Miley Cyrus.

The data is pretty clear that boys without fathers are more likely to become criminals and girls without fathers are more likely to become promiscuous. Then these promiscuous girls hook up with those “alpha” criminal boys for a second generation and a third generation and, eventually, endless iterations of that terrible cycle. The bad boys pass through, leaving fatherless children in their wake. The children are then raised by single mothers or subject to the common terrors of violently inclined boyfriends. It’s a sure bet that some of those boys will grow up to kill. They’ll kill for petty crime or to make big statements or because their nihilists, but they’ll kill.

Hatred for men. We have become a culture that despises men — not just fathers, but all men. The current Leftist phrase “toxic masculinity” says it all. We tell our young men that they are violent, hate-filled, stupid, regressive beings that need to be sidelined and silenced. Instead, we should be telling boys that they have wonderful virtues — they’re brave, and loyal, and imaginative, and energetic. Then, we should work on harnessing those virtues.

The Leftist way creates violent, angry, nihilistic men who are completely disconnected from society. The smart, humanist way creates kind, brave people who protect the weak, rather than try to destroy everyone.

A cultural loss of respect for life. For all the Left’s hysterical cries about kids in concentration camps, the point of that protest is simply to open the borders to replace America’s existing voting population. It is not about life. If it were about life, the Left would stop enticing people, especially families, to make the dangerous trek across the deserts and rivers that separate Latin America from North America.

The Left’s real lack of respect for life is shown in other ways. It’s shown by the way abortion has become its central platform. I know from living in the suburbs for decades that the women in my world are pretty conservative — except that they will go to the mat for abortion. It is their central political/religious tenet. It is the one thing, more than any other thing, that activates their political neurons. To keep those neurons firing, the Left has shifted from “keep abortion safe, rare, and legal,” to “abortion should be legal up to, including, and after birth.” That’s not a life cult; that’s a death cult.

The attack on the death penalty is also a lack of respect for life. In my podcast, I bumbled through an explanation based upon my reading of Dennis Prager’s excellent The Rational Bible: Exodus, which I already read, and The Rational Bible: Genesis, which I am currently reading. Here, though, I’ll let Dennis Prager explain it himself:

We are also losing our anthropocentric world view, which diminishes the value of human life. The Bible is about man as the center of a God-created world. Every human life is a reflection of God, so every human life is infinitely precious. Western history has also been a human-centric history. Whether Biblical, Greek, Roman, or Western, we learn about great men (plus a few great women). Sure, most of history has been about slaves and other masses ruled by these great men, but our histories still imbue the men with personality. We’ve seen our world driven by their desires, angers, insanity, visions, etc.

Starting 150 years ago, though, with Marx, history stopped being driven by individuals — that is, individuals stopped mattering — and we were told that it is driven by mass movements of faceless groups and classes. No wonder, then, that Stalin said, or reputedly said, “One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” Once you start viewing death statistically, you’ve lost entirely any reverence for human life.

Within our own life times, we’ve seen the return of pagan Gaia — or Nature — worship. Leftists in thrall to this belief system openly yearn for a mass die-off of humans or demand that humans cease reproducing. They want to return the world to a presumably Edenic pre-human time. The fact that Nature, untempered by humanity, is red of tooth and claw, that it’s an endless, bloody, violent, painful fight for survival, seems to elude them entirely. All that the Gaia worships know (or think they know) is that humans are bad and Nature is good.

As I understand it, when it came to the El Paso shooter, this kind of Gaia-centric world view, or eco-fascism, was the driving force behind his murder spree. He didn’t want to kill Hispanics because they were inferior, which would be a racist, or white supremacist, view. He wanted to kill them because his environmentalist world view says Hispanics coming to America is putting unneeded, excess pressure on our environment. That’s pure Leftism.

De-institutionalizing the mentally ill. I’ve been grumbling about de-institutionalizing the mentally ill for decades. I remember as a child how San Francisco’s Summer of Love in 1967 morphed into the endless winter of mentally ill, drug-addicted people taking over San Francisco’s parks and streets. Once upon a time, Americans more humanely put people with severe mental illnesses or addiction problems into institutions, where they were safe, clean, fed, and cared for.

There is no doubt that some of those institutions were cruelly run places and needed reform. Thanks to the ACLU, though, we didn’t reform them, we destroyed them and put their residents onto the streets. People with intractable mental illnesses were suddenly left to fend for themselves. They ate out of garbage cans, slept in gutters and doorways, and literally rotted to death before the eyes of people hastening to and from work in downtown San Francisco. The scary ones ranted and raved to invisible demons and, occasionally, acted out by attacking passers-by.

As news reports about Leftist cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Sacramento show, there are more and more of these pathetic people now. It’s entirely possible that the prevalence of marijuana is worsening the situation. I strongly suspect that the young male shooters who pop up in the news on too regular a basis are regular pot users.

It is a cruel, stupid society that does not care for its mentally ill or for those rendered incompetent by substance abuse. Moreover, the more functional ones are periodically going to be very dangerous.

Psychotropic Drugs. In lieu of institutionalizing people, we drug them. We also drug them when they’re unhappy. And, when it comes to normal boy energy, we drug boys so that they’ll sit quietly in classrooms the way girls do and willingly talk about their emotions. The latter class of drugs — the amphetamines used to treat ADD and ADHD — have a paradoxical effect in children, which is to calm them down, rather than rev them up. As the boys get older, though, they find themselves addicted to drugs that rev them up, increase violent tendencies, and generally turn their brains to cottage cheese.

There’s also a growing body of evidence that the other meds so freely prescribed can make people violent and/or suicidally depressed. I believe that most of the young men who engage in mass shootings outside of inner-city ghettos have been on psychotropic drugs (although I know nothing about the past weekend’s shooters). We are medicating ourselves into murder.

The Media. Here’s a bonus idea that I forgot to include in the podcast. In a media age, whether the old media of television or the new media of the internet, everybody, especially young people, wants their 15 seconds of fame. How better to get it than going out in a blaze of glory? Keep in mind in this regard that young people consistently fail to understand that, when they’re dead, they’re not experience that blaze of glory. They always imagine a post-death future in which they are still actively participating — and the media promises them a celebrity they can only dream of in life.

Mass shootings are still extremely rare, no matter what the Left tells us. Nevertheless, it would be nicer if there were no mass shootings, rather than occasional shootings. Getting rid of guns is a meaningless exercise that erases one of our pivotal natural rights without addressing the myriad reasons young people, especially young men, today feel that killing people en masse is a good thing.

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Homelessness and drug addiction in Seattle: Message from a dying city

A locally-produced news story about Seattle’s homeless problem is a microcosm of what Leftist governance will do to a community.

You may already have heard about the hour-long special a local Seattle station did about the homeless crisis in that city. The video is very well done, although a bit heavy on the banal philosophical moralizing and curiously quiet about the immediate cause of this problem (which I won’t be quiet about in this post).

If you haven’t yet watched the video, I suggest that you do. It’s an hour well spent. I’ve embedded the video immediately below. I’ve followed the video with my observations:

The images are not new to me. As the video points out, San Francisco, my natal town and a mere 12 miles from my house, is in worse shape than Seattle. More than that, I was present at the genesis of this urban decline because I grew up in the City during the hippie area. Haight Ashbury, a former working class neighborhood that shaded into very poor inner city housing, was a microcosm of what whole cities have become: drug addled people using the streets and Golden Gate Parks as their home, with all the anti-civic behavior that entails, such as public filth (feces, urine, vomit, fleas, lice, etc.), car break-ins, robberies, muggings, and just a general degradation in the standard of living for those taxpayers still trying to live a traditional life.

I don’t know if San Francisco initially put up a fight against these behaviors, but I do know that, by the late 1960s and early 1970s, as the City took a hard Left turn, City Hall turned a blind eye to the lawless behavior driving this civic collapse. It helped that the problem was confined to a few specific neighborhoods: the Haight, the eastern end of Golden Gate Park and, of course, the usual suspects in the Tenderloin area south and west of downtown.

There’s no doubt that deinstitutionalization has a lot to do with the terrible problems we see today. In the years leading up to the de-institutionalization movement were pretty dreadful places. Two movies — The Snake Pit and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — capture some of the horrors of mental institutions.

They were dirty (in part because it’s hard to keep seriously mentally ill adults from soiling their environment and in part because there was no impetus to clean them), patients were subjected to awful “experimental” treatments, and there was simply a lot of brutality involved, both because of the aforesaid difficulty handling mentally ill people and because, sadly, sadistic people were attracted to working around made-to-order victims. These institutions were also a convenient way for families to rid themselves of difficult family members. Something had to change.

I found a great timeline here about deinstitutionalization and I’ve cherry-picked some of the (to me) more interesting facts:

1955 – The number of patients in public mental health hospitals reached a record of 558,000. They suffered from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression. Many had organic brain diseases such as dementia and brain damage from trauma. Others suffered from mental retardation combined with psychosis, autism, or brain damage from drug addiction. Most patients were not expected to get better given the treatments at the time. Congress passed the Mental Health Study Act of 1955. It established the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health to evaluate the nation’s mental health situation.

[snip]

1962 – Ken Kesey published “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It was a fictional story about abuses in a mental hospital. The author dramatized his experiences as a nurse’s aide in the psychiatric wing of a California veteran’s hospital. The book helped turn public opinion against electroshock therapy and lobotomies. These were procedures commonly used at the time.

1963 – President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act. It provided federal funding to create community-based mental health facilities. They would provide prevention, early treatment, and ongoing care. The goal was to build one for every 125,000 to 250,000 people. That many centers would allow patients to remain close to their families and be integrated into society. But it ignored statistics that showed 75 percent of those in hospitals had no families.

[snip]

1967 – California’s Governor Ronald Reagan signed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. It limited a family’s right to commit a mentally ill relative without the right to due process. It also reduced the state’s institutional expense. That doubled the number of mentally ill people in California’s criminal justice system the following year. It also increased the number treated by hospital emergency rooms. Medicaid covered those costs. Other states followed with similar involuntary commitment laws.

[snip]

1977 – Only 650 community health centers had been built. That was less than half of what was needed. They served 1.9 million patients. They were designed to help those with less severe mental health disorders. As states closed hospitals, the centers became overwhelmed with those patients with more serious challenges.

[snip]

1990 – The Food and Drug Administration approved clozapine to treat the symptoms of schizophrenia. That strengthened the prejudice against hospitalization of the mentally ill.

2004 – Studies suggest approximately 16 percent of prison and jail inmates or roughly 320,000 people were seriously mentally ill. That year, there were about 100,000 psychiatric beds in public and private hospitals. In other words, three times as many mentally ill people were in jail than in a hospital.

2009 – The Great Recession forced states to cut $4.35 billion in mental health spending in three years.

The material I snipped out mostly discusses various federal laws that tried to make mental health care a community issue while moving money hither and yon. Somehow mental health always got shortchanged.

Again, the Bay Area was a good early warning system of what was to come. I attended Cal from 1979 through 1983 and avoided Telegraph Avenue as much as possible. It was a haven for the homeless and many were manifestly mentally ill. Some just quietly muttered to themselves, but many had manic, violent arguments with invisible people, and would confuse passers-by with their invisible opponents. I saw the same thing in Austin, when I was at school there, for “the Drag” (Guadalupe Street) was a small scale Telegraph Avenue.

When I started working in downtown San Francisco, in the second half of the 1980s through the end of the 1990s, it was more of the same. Scattered throughout Market and Montgomery Streets were mentally ill people, sitting or lying in their own filth, begging and scrounging for food in garbage cans, and frequently covered with oozing sores. As long as they were not an immediate threat to themselves or others, they could not be taken off the streets on account of mental illness, and of course San Francisco had long since stopped enforcing its laws against loitering, begging, or public urination or defecation.

I remember having conversations with my friends (all of whom were Leftists in those days) and all of whom felt that these people, while pathetic and irritating, had a right to live as they wanted. I also remember having conversations with my parents (who were old-fashioned Democrats and sane) and we agreed that it is a cruel society that allows mentally ill people to live as these people did. There had to be a better way.

My parents and I were aware, of course, that drug and alcohol abuse played a large role in the problem. Some people behaved as they did because that was the effect active drug use had on them; some behaved as they did because drugs had literally driven them insane; and some people behaved as they did because they were mentally ill and they took street drugs as a form of self-medication — except that the drugs simply made their madness worse. We felt compassion for them, but we also felt compassion for those (such as me) who had to run the gauntlet of these people very day. It was disgusting and frightening.

Regarding drugs, back in the 1980s, law enforcement still took drug possession fairly seriously. However, thanks to a growing generation of young people for whom pot was a normative part of their college educations, the push to legalize drugs — and, in the meantime, to ignore laws making drugs illegal — meant that there was no push-back against the drugs driving the homeless problem in San Francisco. Moreover, as states have legalized drugs, the tacit approval has increased drug use and increased drug problems. Moreover, at least one author has done the research showing that legal marijuana doesn’t just drive up petty crime, and drives up the scary crazy violent crime.

(Incidentally, in the interest of full disclosure, while I strongly disapprove of recreational marijuana use, especially by young believe, I believe in exploring marijuana’s medicinal possibilities. Of late, I’ve used legal CBD to great effect to control both arthritis pain and migraines, without even touching the hallucinogenic aspects of the drug.)

Sometime after I stopped working in downtown San Francisco and moved to a nice clean suburb, governance in major urban areas became more and more left wing. It’s true, as the above quoted material shows, that money to treat mental illness and substance abuse started drying up with the recession. However, the reality is that, also beginning around 2008, with Obama’s election and the beginning of unbridled Leftist ascendance in America’s cities, the new approach was to make addicts and clinically insane people comfortable on the streets. We were told that it was morally imperative for us to give them safe places to shoot up and to ignore their petty crime.

We were also told why we should use this approach: It was the fault of stable middle class people (mostly white) that addicts and the mentally ill lived on the streets as they did. It was our systemic racism, classism, and economic inequality that was the real problem. The mental illness and substance abuse were symptoms that should be ignored or accommodated.

Thanks to this openly expressed hard-Left belief system, what you see in the above Seattle video is the pretty much the norm through Democrat-run cities. I fault the video because it assiduously avoids making that point. Many of those angry citizens you see in the town meeting were screaming at the government they elected:

Earlier this year, national media described Washington as “the epicenter of resistance to Trump’s agenda” after the state became the first to challenge Trump’s targeted travel ban and a federal judge in Seattle ordered a national halt to the ban’s enforcement. Seattle-area tech corporations vocalized support for the legal efforts.

“There’s a little bit of … reinforcing feedback that’s happening,” Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien says of the city’s population growth spurring progressive politics, while people around the country have been “flowing in the opposite direction.”

Political momentum among Seattle progressives reached a milestone in July, when the nine-member City Council – one member of which belongs to the Socialist Alternative Party – unanimously passed a proposal to impose a citywide income tax on wealthy residents to generate revenue to lower property taxes and provide affordable housing, among other funding goals. [That’s what the construction workers were yelling about in the video.]

[snip]

Voter statistics exemplify the phenomenon. In Seattle’s King County, for instance, Clinton won 72 percent of the vote, outperforming Barack Obama’s 69 percent in 2012, The Seattle Times reported.

Roughly 8 percent of voting Seattleites voted for Trump, one of the lowest percentages of any major U.S. city, an analysis by the newspaper found.

[snip]

During Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, he applauded Seattle for the minimum wage change and other progressive milestones, such as the election of U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who shares similar political priorities, including lowering student debt and reversing climate change.

Sanders won in a landslide victory in Washington Democratic caucuses last spring, taking more than 70 percent of the statewide delegate count compared to roughly 30 percent for Hillary Clinton.

The current approach to homelessness is 100% in line with the voter’s world view. Seattle did its virtue signaling, and the nation’s drug addicts and mentally ill people responded enthusiastically.

No wonder that, in hard Left coastal California, Oregon, and Washington, the citizens are not yet willing to acknowledge that their ideology spawned this catastrophe. Tent cities, medieval plagues, violence, filth, rats, drugs, crime, etc. — it’s all Democrat-caused.

Still, maybe the very real muggings these frustrated citizens are experiencing will be their political “mugged by reality” moment. Maybe they’ll figure out that the rule of law is a good thing, that societies survive best with norms that benefit the middle class taxpayers. Maybe they’ll recognize that pathological altruism is more pathological than it is altruistic. Maybe they’ll examine their closely held belief systems and cross the Rubicon into a new world of conservative beliefs.

Certainly those construction workers in the video had a moment of complete reality clarity. We need more of that if we want to survive as a society. The Rhode Island experiment that the video describes is a step in the right direction: don’t ignore the laws; enforce the laws, and then add in compassion and common sense to help at least the drug addicts walk the straight and narrow.

One more thing: As you can see in Venezuela, once Leftists gain full power, the downfall happens very fast. I was in Seattle in 2010 and there was nothing like this on the streets. The level of decay, chaos, crime, etc., has flowered in less than ten years. (The same is true, incidentally, for the Bay  Area. I go into the City infrequently, and it really seemed as if, from one visit to the next, the entire system had collapsed.)

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