Saturday, July 21, 2012

Question: Our Civil Liberties vs. Our Protection

Let me start by saying that this is only tangentially about the shooting in Aurora Colorado because we do not have enough information to even speculate about the shooter's state of mental health.

That being said, I believe in protecting our civil liberties as much as the next guy, unless the "next guy" happens to be Eric Holder or Janet Napolitano, BUT... maybe we need to revisit how we deal with the rights of those with clinically diagnosed mental illnesses. Just this week, a young woman was stabbed just a few blocks from where I live by a homeless man who was "off his meds". The random stabbing happened at 10am as this woman was on her way to work. Fortunately, this young woman will recover physically, but what are we left with? By all accounts, this man was lost in a system that knew he needed to be medicated, but was unwilling or unable to administer his medication.

This scenario happens at an alarming rate in NYC - mentally ill homeless person commits a random act of sometimes fatal violence. Usually it is some innocent victim pushed into the path of a fast-moving subway train. Why? Because our mental healthcare system cannot help them or get them off the street until they ask for help or commit a crime. The state or the family must wait until someone has been grievously harmed and even then, they get sent to a jail rather than to a facility that can control their mental illness. The targets can be strangers, family, or friends, but the problem is almost always the same. Someone who needed help could not get it because they did not want it and/or could not be forced to get it. Once a person reaches the age of majority, society is helpless to protect themselves against the violently mentally ill because a person of legal age cannot be coerced to take prescribed medications or be institutionalize against their will for more than 72 hours in most cases.

What should we do? I do not have an answer, but we cannot hide from the problem either. I understand that we never want to go back to the "Snakepit" days where people were institutionalize or force-fed drugs for being "odd", or "uncooperative", or "gay", or "unwilling to bend to the will of the husband" but somehow we must, as a society, try to locate that bright line that protects society from unreasonable danger, but helps those get access to the medication or treatment they need to function and monitored them enough so that they actually TAKE their medication or even that their medication is effective.

Maybe there is no bright line that can satisfy our need for liberty and need for reasonable protection. Life and death can be random, so maybe the best we can do is just be a little bit more aware of those around us and encourage those who need help to seek it.

So, let me know what you think...


AndrewPrice said...

A couple thoughts... first, I think the idea of civil liberties verses safety is generally a false dichotomy.

It is RARE that I see any proposed violation of rights or liberties which will actually improve security. There are some, but most are nothing more than placebos. The TSA is the perfect example of this. They have stopped nothing, yet they've harassed millions of people at airports, they've changed the culture of travel, and they've become a moneymaking scheme all in the name of security they don't provide. Yet, no one wants to say the emperor has no clothes for fear of being seeing as weak on terror. That's ridiculous and it's how so many bad ideas and ideas which violate fundamental rights become laws.

We need to start screening out the BS ideas that do nothing but weaken civil rights or we need to reject the idea entirely that there can be a tradeoff. Right now we are trading rights for the appearance of safety, and that's a bad trade.

AndrewPrice said...

Also, let me add, that we need to get smarter in any event. Groups like al Qaeda are nothing more than fools. They are incompetent as terrorists go. And if someone smarter, like say the good people of this blog, decided to turn to terror, our government would be entirely incapable of stopping us or dealing with the carnage. We need to think ahead and find better solutions before the terrorists find a "mastermind" who actually has a mind.

AndrewPrice said...

My other thought (sorry for breaking this up, but it seemed necessary) is that our mental health system in this country is atrocious. It's very hard to find people who need help and even harder to get them help even when you know who they are.

This goes back to Carter and the Democrats, who decided in the 1970s that the mentally ill needed to be turned loose. We need to reform the system to make it easier to put these people into treatment for evaluation and then keep them in treatment when something is found to be wrong -- along with monitoring of dangerous ones.

You'll never catch them all, but right now we're catching almost none of them.

Unknown said...

Bev: It's that balancing test I mentioned this morning. In most states, it is fairly easy to get a "mental health hold" if someone is willing to sign an affidavit that the person to be held is likely a danger to himself or others. Most of the statutes are written to protect the affiant from civil and criminal prosecution for filing a false report if the affidavit was given without a malicious intent to harm and contained reasonable good faith but mistaken allegations. But at that point we run into the reality of too many lawyers, and too many shrinks who advocate rather than diagnose. Clearly, the system is subject to abuse from both directions.

I don't have a solution either, but I do believe that we need to be a little less touchy about hospitalizing or otherwise restricting those with clearly dangerous tendencies. One of the commonly-recurring problems is the released mental patient who has "gone off his meds." Well, there should be two alternatives. Back to the mental institution, or rigorous and mandatory administration of the medications by trained professionals in law enforcement.

I think we've reached a point in medical science and tolerance of eccentric behavior that we can distinguish between the highly-potentially dangerous mental patient and the guy who merely behaves differently from the rest of us. We can't catch every case (the current Colorado case may end up being a perfect example of that), but we could do a helluva lot better than we're doing now. The ACLU will, of course, disagree with me.

Patriot said...

Bev......I've come to accept in the late summer of my life, that like the poor, the mentally unstable will always be among us. I really don't think there is any dividing line between when we can deem someone mentally ill or unstable. Your definition will be diffent than mine and ours will be different from the next person down the street.

As a society, we can only "lock away" those that show life threatening behVior to themselves or others around them. What we can do (and this is still a scary thought due to where it can lead to) is make sure that those unstable people who can manage with medication, take their meds regularly. If not, then we have to ensure the safety of the rest of society by forceful means.

I always try to ask myself what would I do if that person were a family member or someone I cared deeply about. As I consider myself a compassionate, yet pragmatic thinker, I tend to set a high bar. But again, others will set the bar to their own specifications.

All we can do is be aware that the person next to us in a crowd, or on a train platform, could be a loon, looking for a reason to act out his insanity, and take measures to not put ourself in a untenable situation. Be aware of your surroundings and don't trust anyone or any situation until we are sure of our own, and the people closest to us, personal safety.

Heckuva way to go through life ain't it?! Sometimes you are put in situations where no matter what you do the crazies will win. Look at 9-11 and the other night in Aurora.

Repeat after me...."concealed carry"

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew & LawHawk - There are so many parents (and some who have been fatal victims) of mentally ill children\, who have no real solution to protect their adult child or themselves from catastophy. It becomes an endless loop - the patient gets the meds they need to stablize and functional, then they feel stable and decide to go off their meds because they feel stable and the cycle begins again. And no one but the adult patient can do anything about it. And compound that with the stigma of mental illness. The system is just as mentally ill as the patient...

K said...

Good points Andrew.

Two points: how much of the perceived threat to the average citizen from crime is in response to a real safety issue and how much is the creation of an infotainment medium that pushes alarm, violence and sensationalism for profit and ratings?

One study some years ago indicated that viewers believed themselves to be in 10 times more statistical danger than they actually were - all due to video news.

These false perceptions have additional societal ramifications in keeping kids in an iron cage away from other adults and always close to home in an atmosphere of fear.

Second, wrt TSA. The Israelis don't seem to have an issue with hijackings or bombings, as I understand it, and do not grope or high intensity x-ray their passengers. They do, however, "profile" those who ride their planes. So we are losing our humanity for the sake of political correctness, not for safety's sake.
It's truly amazing to me how far we have been trained to go to keep some tiny segment from being singled out - unless, that segment is conservative or pro-liberty, of course.

Tam said...

Patriot, not just concealed carry...people have to be allowed to actually carry their permitted weapons with them, especially into crowded arenas. I think CO is a CC state (right, Andrew?) but the theaters post "no weapons" signs. Law abiding citizens obey the law, criminals don't. Those institutions make themselves and their patrons targets.

As far as the mentally ill go, I just don't know. Pay attention, take care of your family, don't be a victim. That's the best I can do.

BevfromNYC said...

Of course, there will always be random acts of violence and that cannot be avoided. And of course I believe we live in a false sense of security. I mean, we strip search passengers for plane, but we do nothing for trains, subway, bus, ports and cars etc. We are just lucky so far. And it IS only to make us feel like we are doing something.

But what I am trying to get at is what do we do about the people who we KNOW are mentally ill? The homeless stabber was KNOWN to be a danger to himself or others, yet he was released without any supervision because they had no reason to hold him and he wouldn't submit willingly to supervision. These are situations we can control.

Patriot said...

Tam.....exactly. Don't be a victim and don't wait for some government entity to protect you from the crazies. Yours, and your families safety, has always been left up to the individual.

The problem comes when we are being forced, more and more it seems, to be relieved of our ability to protect ourselves under the guise of the State. I find myself going a little crazy myself when forced to rely on others for my well-being (TSA).

AndrewPrice said...

K, A ton of it is the result of the media. I see this locally all the time. I live in a town of about 600,000 people and we have around 12-20 murders a year (almost all drug deals or intra-family killings). But each one gets so sensationalized and so mixed with the idea of "home invasion" (which is only ever drug dealers stealing from each other, but is portrayed as "could happen to anyone") that all of my mother's friends think we're living in a world where they will be killed almost any minute.

They literally lock their door even when they are home for fear that they will be next. And if you ever speak to them about it, they will swear we are awash in home invasions and murders every single night in every part of town. None of that is true, but that's the media factor -- it paints such an unrealistic portrait that people are terrified of a fantasy reality that doesn't exist and they start clamoring for more and more security from a threat that is only in their minds.

That's the problem. We give people this idea that they're all about to die to create a crisis mentality and then everyone jumps on whatever idea the politicians come up with to stop it, even if it's utter nonsense on its face.

On TSA, the problem with profiling is liberalism, quite frankly. Profiling not only makes sense, but it's necessary. Bad guys do fit profiles. They aren't always the profiles we want to believe, but they do fit profiles. The problem is that liberals don't want anyone to feel bad, so they don't want innocent people who fit the profile "stigmatized." That bit of stupidity means that everyone needs to feel stigmatized and law enforcement needs to waste an incredible amount of time and manpower on searches they know won't work.

What we need is to recognize that law enforcement needs to be able to profile to do it's job with a minimum amount of disruption to society.

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, Colorado is a concealed carry state, but not every county allows it as easily. But in any event you're right, that law abiding people won't carry in places like this theater which forbids it.

That's why Roger Ebert's rant was particularly shameful in my opinion, because he attacked concealed carry as not helping. Well, hello. It's not a magic cure, and claiming it is creates a test that none of Ebert's ideas could ever pass, and secondly, it wasn't allowed in this theater.

Essentially, Assbert is arguing that because the law abiding didn't ignore the private property rights of the theater and the law, they failed. What kind of politicized idiocy is that?

Unknown said...

Andrew: I can't entirely agree with you that "the idea of civil liberties verses safety is generally a false dichotomy." I think that the common misquoting and misinterpretation of what Franklin said is the false dichotomy. Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety versus those who would preserve essential liberty by tolerating some small lack of safety is the true dichotomy. That is also why I totally agree with you about most of these so-called security measures being placebos--dangerous placebos.

I think our readers gave us some pretty good vetting of the issue yesterday on the article on TSA. We want real security, not phony security. And we want real liberty, not liberty to do what the government tells us to do.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, That's the problem. Most mentally ill are released within 24 with no controls whatsoever. And if they stop taking their meds, no one knows that until they go crazy again.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I'm not quoting Franklin. The fact is that the public is stupid and they will trade their rights and liberties for what they are told is security, whether it is or isn't. That's why scaring people is the number one trick politicians use to get votes. Once people are scared, all you need is a placebo to make them feel safer and keep handing over more power. And average people don't care about the difference between a liberty or a right, it's all the same to them when they are told that they need to be saved from terrorists or criminals.

Unknown said...

Bev: That is an endless loop, and a very sad one. In some cases, a very dangerous one. But we can only do just so much. I just think we aren't doing enough, and we have the capacity to do better. The question is, will we?

Unknown said...

Andrew: I know you didn't quote Franklin. We were talking about the dichotomy. You are absolutely right that people are too willing to give up their rights for phony security. I was addressing the true dichotomy that Franklin posed, not the one commonly being bandied about by too many people. Franklin's dichotomy is reasonable and logical, a fundamental part of the Bill of Rights. What is being exercised today has next-to-nothing to do with what Franklin was positing.

DUQ said...

I agree with Andrew, even conservatives are too ready to give up their rights just for the promise of security and they never really ask if they are actually getting more security.

DUQ said...

Bev, the other problem with the mentally ill is that people often don't notice them. They just see these people as creepy loners and ignore them. I don't know the solution to that though?

tryanmax said...

I had wanted to chime in more on the TSA article, so I'm glad the conversation has come back around. I can only imagine that our nation is a laughingstock due to the fact that our TSA shows its greatest competency in the confiscation of Kinder Eggs.

For those not in the know, these are an insanely popular candy in pretty much the whole rest of the world. They consist of an edible chocolate shell with a small inedible toy inside.

Barely educated children in the third world enjoy these regularly without incident. However, they apparently pose such a grave choking hazard to American children that they are confiscated by customs as illegal contraband.

In defense of the TSA, given our high child-obesity rate, one could suppose the risk lies in the American child's propensity to wolf down his Kinder Egg in a single bite. /sarc

tryanmax said...

On the topic at large, I would simply argue that there is no compassion in denying it to most in the name of providing it for a few--especially when that compassion is misguided.

Doc Whoa said...

tryanmax, They might as well confiscate those since they confiscate all kinds of other useless crap too. From what I've read, TSA and DHS have made tourists hesitant to come here.

BevfromNYC said...

Government does not solve problems most of the time, they just create new problems and new bureaucrats to go with the new problems that they create who create more problems...isn't that one of the definitions of "insanity"?

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I think you've mentioned the Kinder eggs issue before, or I'm having a flashback to something which never happened.

My sense from talking to relatives is that our airports have become a bit of an international joke. Other countries have advertised how tourists should go to them because it's become so hard and so unpleasant to get into the US.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Truer words were never spoken. Almost every time the government acts, it causes more problems than it solves.

BevfromNYC said...

To solve the Kinder Egg problem, just send them through the mail. Problem solved. I guess I could never actually work for the government now that I like to solve actual problems or a least create a "work-a-round". But then again, don't send it through NYC because Mayor Bloomberg will have the Post Office angle covered and have you arrested trying to import unauthorized snack items.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I hear "Attempted Obesity" is a huge crime in NYC now... you get the chair.

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew - No actually, you don't get the chair, you have to stand...burns more calories...{{rim-shot}}

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, NYC sounds like a cruel, cruel place. :(

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew - We've already started the countdown clock to end of the Bloomberg reign of food terror...I personally will be celebrating with salt-laden transfat-fried Freedom Fries, and a giant sugar-ladened 32 ounce Dr. Pepper and top it off with a pack of cigarettes (or maybe just one since I don't smoke) and NOT going to the gym! And he's taking his bicycle obsessed Dept of Transportation Commish Janette Sadik-Khan with him!! Freedom!!!!

DUQ said...

Bev, I'm imagining a scene like when the Berlin wall came down, only people are holding up snack foods. :)

BevfromNYC said...

DUQ - It all depends on who is elected to replace him, but I think you are getting the right idea! And it will New Year's Day, so it will be the best way to start 2014!!

tryanmax said...

Andrew, I think it was a dream, because I'd never heard of Kinder Eggs until a few days ago.

Bev, I'm surprised in NYC they don't sentence people to mandatory time on the treadmill. Honestly, if Nanny Bloomberg were serious about reducing obesity rates, he'd cancel all public transit and make cabs illegal. (Gee, I sure hope he doesn't read this.)

Hugo Chavbloomberg said...

Mr. Tryanmax, Those are excellent ideas! Thank you!

BevfromNYC said...

Tryanmax - I now see a "transit strike" in our future...thanks...

Hey, Hugo Benito Chavemussabloomberg, why don't you keep your eye on those 250 square foot "luxury" you are so keen on building...I dare you have one of your daughters move into one...

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I heard about that. 250 square feet?!!! That's smaller than some jail cells.

I've always thought 400 was the smallest they would try to cram people into. Amazing.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, You seem to have Kinder Egg block. ;)

BevfromNYC said...

Well, living space is at a premium in Manhattan, so he thinks motivated singles or "young couples" would be happy to live in a jail cell for the privilege of living in Manhattan. This from the man who told everyone that during the 2005 Transit strike they should just use a bicycle like he was going to do (riiiiight) and after he said that $2500 a month for rent was "affordable" for the middle class. Of course that could be the reason there is an ever shrinking "middle class" in NYC too...

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, The middle class is shrinking in NYC because they're all becoming rich selling contraband snack foods and sodas. ;)

BevfromNYC said...

Ssshhhhhhh Andrew! You-know-who will hear you!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Okay, we always lock our doors, even when we're home.
So go ahead, call me paranoid. I'll wait...finished?

Yes, the odds are most folks will never have anything bad happen irt intruders (unless you live in Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, DC, etc.) but it does happen.

And if it does happen (happened once before when we lived in town, but our door was locked. Intruder tried to break door down and screamed he would burn our house down. Long story short, it was a neighbor high on some kind of drug cocktail and booze and I came this close to shooting his stupid ass. Fortunately, I didn't have to and I got to enjoy our local police dog take the perp down, lol).

I guess being in the Navy, being a security guard in an ER, and being a cop made me paranoid, folks, but you never know if or when it may happen to you (might even be a family member. Oops, sorry, didn't mean to make you guys paranoid too, but a lot of violent crimes are committed by family members...and druggies).

Besides, if you're asleep you want that extra few seconds or minutes to grab your gat.

Like Andrew said, statistically it rarely happens, but why take the risk of being a statistic?

Might not even be a thief or murderer. Remember Tremors? I rest my case.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, My point isn't that it can't happen or you shouldn't be prepared to defend yourself. My point is that when you're talking about a 20 in 600,000 chance (and most of the 20 are actually related so it's more like a 1/600,000 chance), you shouldn't accept those odds as a basis to start surrendering your rights to the government, especially when the things the government is proposing obviously won't work to improve the odds.

That's what's been going on. People are freaking out over infinitesimally small risks and are allowing the government to become Big Brother out of fear.

Before we allow any reduction in rights, we need to be sure that the proposed change will actually lower the risk and that it's not disproportionate to the harm done by the problem they are trying to solve.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hmm, good conversation going on here.
Speraking of statistics, it's actually pretty rare for people with mental problems to get violent, even for bipolar and schizo's.

Sociopaths (which is simply a nice word for psychopaths) otoh, are likely to cause problems (although, not all do).

Besides not taking their meds (and their meds don't always work), some patients also like to mix their meds with booze and/or drugs. Yay.

Some of the most violent people I ever saw were ones that mixed their meds with meth.
They'll try to claw, punch, kick, bite, name it.

They wanna hurt anyone in the room with 'em, be it nurses, doctors, family members, security guards or cops.

They really hate guards and cops!

The weird thing is, after the drugs wear off, most of them would apologize profusely. Nearly all of the patients that apologized to me actually remembered everything, but couldn't control themselves.

A few said it was like "being possessed by a demon."
I've never been possessed (as far as I know) so I'll take their word for it.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Meth is a nightmare. And I recall getting into an argument with a drug legalizer who kept using the "pot isn't dangerous" argument and he was very unwilling to talk about other drugs. I kept pushing and finally he admitted that he really wanted everything legal, not just pot, and he thought meth should be legal too. That was the moment his support all but vanished.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I concur, Andrew.
I'm happy to take care of my own paranoia.
The govt. would just mess everything up or make it worse.

I'd rather deal with a criminal myself than deal with over-reaching, govt. bureaurats (who are protected criminals, for the most part...or imbeciles) taking our liberties away for "our own good."

Shoulda known that's what you meant. :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

BTW, Andrew, I wasn't being sarcastic. Just trying to add a bit of humor.

It doesn't always come across the way I meant it though. LOL.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I get your sense of humor. I was just clarifying my point.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Meth is indeed a nightmare! And virtually every meth user started with the devil's weed and never intended to do meth or other hard drugs.

I know some people are happy with only the wacky tobaccy, but there's no denying that it is a door for more dangerous drugs to many users.

I also get tired of the argument "we are losing the war on drugs so let's make it legal."

We are losing the war on drugs because our govt. doesn't take it serious enough, and they don't fight smartly.

I could go on and on but I won't, since you covered this well in an excellent post. :^)

As for preventing these massacres from happening, I think some are preventable (Ft. Hood- caused by PC gone mad) while others, like Aurora, no one saw coming.

I believe more, law-abiding folks packing heat should be encouraged.
I also believe private businesses probably have a right to ban guns in their businesses, but I won't patronize those businesses because they obviously aren't thinking about the safety of their customers.

The people who try to blame Batman films, video games, reality TV, or the Tea Party are idiots.
Evil exists, sometimes in conjunction with drugs, mental problems, or stress and sometimes just for the hell of it.

According to the police, this Aurora scumbag meticulously planned these craven murders.
That's evil. I don't really care how he got that evil because there's million of folks way worse off than he was and they ain't murdering six year old girls or innocent movie watchers.

Sorry, it really makes me angry when I see these retarded "journalists" trying to make excuses for monsters like this.

Sometimes I wish we were more like the Jews who refuse to mention the name of murderers and refuse to give them any recognition (or fame) at all.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

AndrewPrice said...
Ben, I get your sense of humor. I was just clarifying my point."

Well then, laugh dammit! Then clarify your point. Or vice versa. You're making me paranoid! LOL.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I'm laughing on the inside. :)

As for the war on drugs, we're losing the war on murder too, I guess we should make that legal?

I think you're right about the idiocy of trying to blame a film or political movement for people like this shooter. These people are deranged. They are going to do what they're going to do and they are just looking for a reason. If it wasn't "violent images in Batman" it would be Jodie Foster or Satan whispering in his ear. The only thing that caused this was the guy himself.

And for the record, banning guns wouldn't have stopped him. He would have just changed weapons to something like explosives. Europe basically bans guns and yet they have as many mass murders as we do.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

AndrewPrice said...
Ben, I'm laughing on the inside. :)

Well, it was sort of an inside joke. :^)

Good point about Europe. In fact, per capita it's probably worse. I know a lot of crimes are underreported, just as many of the social healthcare problems are underreported in European countries.

I read recently that over 1,400 patients died last year in England due to no one bringing them water, and that's just the ones they reported.
If no one with integrity knows that a patient died that way it's more likely reported as "died of natural causes" if the patient is elderly.

Yet another reason among thousands to not surrender our liberties for "free", govt. controlled healthcare.

Why n the world anyone wants more bureaucrats telling our doctors and nurses what they can and can't do, and how and when to treat us (for the cheapest possible price) is beyond me.
I think there's a lot of cognitive dissonance going on in leftyland.

I know liberals scoff at the idea that govt. employees could make those kind of horrendous mistakes (or don't care), but the more bloated a govt. becomes the more mistakes, corruption and criminal activity we see, and the less liberty and freedom we'll see.

Socio "justice" ain't justice. Truth be told, the more liberty we lose the less justice there will be. We have already seen that.

Anonymous said...

Ben, you bring up the most interesting point about Social Justice, as a matter of fact, it's one of those idealistic themes I commonly see.

At face value, it sounds great, however, in reality, my experience with business is that you have to have a degree of knowledge about your coworkers on an individual basis, and then even those groups are branches of the whole. Even from there, it's up to people to communicate, and share information, on a personal basis. While welfare sounds great at face value, the reality to me has always been that it doesn't carry the same organizational structure for success that plenty of organizations do. To summarize, there is no substitute for personal acquaintance and person-person communication, and yet still expect a system to work.

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