Following last week's horrific massacre in Newtown, two enormous social problems have moved to the center of the public debate: lack of access to adequate mental health treatment, and the prevalence of guns in this country.
The focus on each is appropriate, given the toxic combination of the two that gave rise to the atrocity, the same deadly mixture that was at work in Aurora, at Virginia Tech, in Oak Creek, Tucson, Columbine and far too many other places in recent years.
Both are not equal, however, when it comes to the causes of gun violence in America. The lack of treatment for mental illness in this country is a serious problem and it belongs at the center of the discussion around this plague of mass shootings that seems nowhere near its end. But to the extent that some are presenting it as a more fundamental issue than the prevalence of firearms in the larger context of American gun violence, they're losing sight of the forest for the trees. To be sure, serial mass shootings by severely deranged individuals are almost certainly a symptom of untreated mental illness in America. But the much vaster epidemic of day-to-day gun-related homicides is not. Most people who deliberately kill other people with guns are not mentally disturbed; they're driven by murderous but nevertheless rational or at least sane motivations. There's more than guns at play in these crimes, of course: there's poverty, lack of opportunity, a culture of violence, our perverted sense of masculinity. But easy access to guns ranks far higher on the list of factors in most gun murders than the dearth of mental health treatment.
From Brave New Foundation, cross-posted from Alternet.
This year, the presidential election will not hinge on the emotionally divisive issue of immigration.
That's good news for everyone who believes that a moral society takes care of its most vulnerable members, forcing no one into the shadows. If the nativist wing of the Republican Party had seen its electoral goals realized, we would have witnessed a Republican primary dominated by a tragic debate about how best to expel the 12 million undocumented immigrants living in America, whether by deporting as many as possible, or by making legal conditions so inhospitable that they leave of their own volition. That debate would have trickled out into the general election, with Republican strategists trying to 'wedge' independent and Democratic-leaning voters with toxic appeals to national chauvinism and racial prejudice masquerading as distinctions of legitimate policy differences. Like the debate over what kinds of prisoner interrogation techniques legally constitute torture, these are the kinds of public discussions we engage in at the cost of our collective soul.
For all of Rudy Giuliani’s many, many, many faults, as Mayor of New York he came as close as any Republican officeholder is ever likely to come to a champion for immigrants’ rights. Even as a presidential candidate, as he flip-flops on abortion and backtracks on immigration, he has so far refused to apologize for New York City’s unofficial status under his mayoralty as a sanctuary city. "I didn't have the luxury of political rhetoric," Giuliani has explained of his administration’s policy to instruct law enforcement officers not to take account of the immigration status of victims and suspects in criminal investigations. "So I said, if you are an illegal immigrant in New York City and a crime is committed against you, I want you to report it."
Congressman Brian Bilbray of Solana Beach would rather you not.
Cross-posted from MyDD.com.
John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, has seen a lot of bad press this week. Since the Federal Trade Commission unearthed his spectacularly stupid internet hobby, his company's attempt to purchase its infant competitor, Wild Oats, has rapidly unfurled. In a footnote to a 45-page document filed as part of its lawsuit to block the merger, the FTC noted that under the handle "Rahodeb," Mackey shamelessly promoted his company for eight years on Yahoo stock message boards, and trashed the company it sought to acquire. A lot has been written about the CEO’s compulsive efforts to undermine the stock value of the OATS ticker code on Yahoo. Less has been written about Rahodeb's running commentaries on unions and the prospects of unionization at his alter ego's stores.
Just got home from vote count-observing in Orange County, California, which was an educational, if excruciatingly boring, experience.
Great news coming out of one of the bastions of the national conservative movement, the very place where Reagan Republicanism was spawned and incubated.
I wish I'd made it to this year's Yearly Kos convention. From what I've read of it here on dkos, it sounded like an unprecedented opportunity for rank-and-file progressive Democrats to participate in the kind of discussions of party vision and strategy that usually take place only in rarefied Beltway circles. We need a lot more of that kind of dialogue to bring about the Democratic Party we all dream of.
Yesterday I attended an event that brought to my attention a dimension of the work we have ahead of us that may not have been so extensively covered at the Yearly Kos convention, however, and that I believe deserves greater prominence in "netroots" conversations in general.
For a while there back in the 1980s and '90s, political semantics started to get pretty confusing, what with the simultaneous ascendancy of "neoconservativism" and "neoliberalism," each of which ideology, head-spinningly, tended to cluster in the same political party and, often, in the same political person.
There comes a time when the evidence of your self-destructive habits becomes so incontrovertible that it is harder to maintain the illusion that everything is under control than it is to face the hard, inflexible truth, which is that your habits are killing you. It's called hitting rock bottom, and it's what happened to a lot of Democrats on November 2nd, 2004.
The good news is that hitting rock bottom is the first step to recovery. The second step is doing something about it.
It was sometime during 2002 that the name "George Lakoff" started coming up from time to time on my local NPR station, in a handful of book reviews, and in other sources of political and academic chatter. I remember being heartened at the time to learn that some creative thinking was finally coming out of our side of the aisle. After all, by the time that "Moral Politics" was in its second printing, two years of Republican rule had been preceded by eight years of a Democratic presidency whose brand of progressive innovation followed the formula: Take one part Latest Republican Policy Initiative, add one part water. In spite of the fact that I was, and remain, seriously skeptical of the claim that political dispositions can be boiled down to whether your parents were nice to you or not, and slightly dubious of the notion that "frames" are literally built into the structure of your brain, it was quite a relief to hear that at least we were starting to move our party's conversation away from choosing which core Democratic value to butcher this week to pick up two percentage points in the Sunbelt suburbs.
[X-posted at MyDD]
From Leighton and Jesse, Director and Webmaster of Driving Votes:
Driving Votes has officially joined Democracy for America. What does that mean? It means that Driving Votes and DFA will be operating under a common leadership to work toward our common goals: rolling back the right-wing takeover of our country and putting socially progressive, fiscally responsible candidates in office at every level of government. With Howard Dean as DNC Chair, it's the grassroots' party now, and it's time for us to start reorganizing ourselves into a unified movement. This partnership is a strong and exemplary first step.
Driving Votes just launched a Ride Board to help you and your reality-based friends attend the DNC regional caucuses in St. Louis, Sacramento and New York City. If we want to put some credibility behind our message to the Party that the grassroots is all over this election, then we'd better be at the caucuses to represent.
Word on the streets is that the Sacramento meeting is open to the public, but the St. Louis and New York meetings are not (this in spite of the DNC's own charter, which mandates that they be open). But that's ok -- they're open to the press, and if you've ever blogged before or if you're willing to start now, that's you!
To get a press pass, send your contact information to email@example.com (that's me). Driving Votes volunteers will take care of the rest. Once you're on the inside, you'll be an official MyDD.com correspondent, and it'll be your duty and privilege to update the rest of us by blogging about your experience.