Matt Connolly

DC Senior Editorial Fellow

Before joining Mother Jones, Matt was a local reporter for the dearly departed Washington Examiner. He has also written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Chicago Public Radio, and the Times of Trenton.

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Are Cuts to Virginia's Mental Health Programs Implicated in Creigh Deeds' Son's Attempted Murder/Suicide?

| Wed Nov. 20, 2013 10:48 AM PST

Creigh Deeds concludes his 2009 run for governor while his son looks on.

Update (11/20/13): Despite initial reports that there were no hospital beds available for Austin Deeds, the Washington Post reported that at least three facilities did have room. This post has been updated to reflect this.

Austin "Gus" Deeds underwent a psychiatric evaluation Monday at the Rockbridge County Community Services Board in Virginia. While at least three hospitals had beds available, hospital officials told the Washington Post, Deeds was still turned away.

The next day he likely stabbed his father, Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Va.), in the face and chest before shooting himself, police said. The elder Deeds is currently listed in good condition.

Between April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011, about 200 people in Virginia met the criteria for a Temporary Detention Order—meaning a physician of clinical psychologist saw a substantial risk of them causing harm to themselves or to others, or that they was unable to defend themselves—but were put back on the streets, according to a report from the state Office of the Inspector General. The Commonwealth isn't the only state dealing with such problems.  States cut $1.8 billion from their mental health budgets from 2009-2011, according to a 2012 report from National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Mental health charts
Also see our state-by-state interactive map of cuts to services for the mentally ill.

In a Mother Jones cover story six months ago, Mac McClelland wrote the harrowing story of her cousin Houston, who murdered his father after "a classic onset of schizophrenia." When Houston's violent outbursts started, his parents were told that calling the police was their only option—even though the local cops had killed  two mentally ill men in the past six years.

It's also part of a pattern of exchanging one kind of institution—state mental hospitals—for another: jails. "In the 1950s, more than a half million people lived in US mental institutions—1 in 300 Americans. By the late '70s, only 160,000 did, due to a concerted effort on the part of psychiatrists, philanthropists, and politicians to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill. Today there's one psychiatric bed per 7,100 Americans," Mac writes. But there's been a corresponding rise of incarcerated inmates who are mentally ill. Between 1998 and 2006, the number of mentally ill people incarcerated in federal, state, and local prisons and jails more than quadrupled to 1,264,300. Those numbers have only gone up in the face of cuts to mental health programs due to the recession and austerity programs. See our timeline on the politics of deinstitutionalization here.


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Richard Cohen's 10 Worst Moments, Counted Down

| Tue Nov. 12, 2013 2:17 PM PST

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has come under fire again for making a bizarre claim in a column. His latest gaffe is bad—but is it the worst thing he's ever written? Let's count down Cohen's 10 worst moments from decades of column writing to see which one takes the crown.

1 (tied). From Tuesday morning: Richard Cohen thinks hating interracial marriage is normal.

Today's GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn't look like their country at all.

In the middle of an otherwise innocuous column about Chris Christie and the Republican presidential race for 2016, Cohen inexplicably seizes the opportunity to offend most Americans. If you're too busy cleaning vomit off your keyboard to finish the paragraph, he's saying that "people with conventional views" can't stomach the concept of interracial marriage. UPDATE: Cohen now claims that when he said "people with conventional views," he was "talking about tea party extremism. And it's clear." Right.

1 (tied). Richard Cohen goes to the movies, finds out slavery is wrong.

I sometimes think I have spent years unlearning what I learned earlier in my life…slavery was not a benign institution in which mostly benevolent whites owned innocent and grateful blacks. Slavery was a lifetime's condemnation to an often violent hell in which people were deprived of life, liberty and, too often, their own children.

About a week ago, Richard Cohen went to see 12 Years a Slave and came out surprised by the brutal depiction of slavery in America. He defended himself by saying that he learned slaves "were sort of content" and "slave owners were mostly nice people" in school. Cohen graduated high school in the class of '58. No, 1958.

1 (tied). Richard Cohen confronts rape culture (feat. Miley Cyrus).

So now back to Miley Cyrus and her twerking. I run the risk of old-fogeyness for suggesting the girl’s a tasteless twit — especially that bit with the foam finger. (Look it up, if you must.) But let me also suggest that acts such as hers not only objectify women but debase them. They encourage a teenage culture that has set the women's movement back on its heels.

Quick, who's to blame in the Steubenville rape scandal? (Take your time.) If you answered "Miley Cyrus," you're probably Richard Cohen. In a September column, Cohen expressed horror at the inhumanity of the Steubenville case, then bravely called out the biggest culprit of all: Miley, who exploited sex and deprived it "of all intimacy." He also calls her a "twerk" for some reason.

1 (tied). Richard Cohen defends Clarence Thomas because boys will be boys.

Thomas stands nearly alone on the court in his shallowness of his scholarship and the narrowness of his compassion. But when it comes to his alleged sexual boorishness, he stands condemned of being a man.

In a 2010 column, Cohen dismissed any allegations of sexual misconduct that occurred during the 1980s, since that was "a bit before the modern era," and argued that Thomas' alleged actions—including asking a woman at work for her bra size and making other sexual comments—were just typical guy stuff. Cohen claimed that Anita Hill couldn't have been harassed, because "why did she follow her abuser, Thomas, from one job to the next?" But maybe that's unfair to Cohen. After all, it's not like he was ever accused of sexual harassment in the workplace.

1 (tied). Richard Cohen is accused of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Stand up and turn around.

According to a Washington Post staffer, Cohen said the above to 23-year-old editorial aide Devon Spurgeon. Staffers said he also told her she "looks good in black" and engaged her in an offensive discussion about oral sex following the Monica Lewinsky scandal. (Cohen denies the first comment and says the others were made innocently.) Spurgeon took a leave of absence, and Washington Post management found that Cohen committed "inappropriate behavior," but Cohen maintained, "it was a personality dispute [that] had nothing to do with sexual harassment as the term applies today." For further reading, see Cohen's creepy screed on how terrible it is that women in movies don't fall for men decades their elder as much as they used to.

1 (tied). Richard Cohen is afraid of young black men.

I don't like what George Zimmerman did, and I hate that Trayvon Martin is dead. But I also can understand why Zimmerman was suspicious and why he thought Martin was wearing a uniform we all recognize…The result was a quintessentially American tragedy — the death of a young man understandably suspected because he was black and tragically dead for the same reason.

In July, Cohen took on Trayvon Martin's death with his usual gravitas. He lamented that no politicians will "acknowledge the widespread fear of crime committed by young black males" and compared protesting stop and frisk laws to racism itself. "If I were a young black male and were stopped just on account of my appearance, I would feel violated," he conceded.

1 (tied). Richard Cohen has never not been afraid of young black men.

As for me, I'm with the store owners.

In 1986, Cohen wrote a column defending New York City jewelry store owners who refused to let young black men into their establishments for fear of crime. Post executive editor Ben Bradlee had to apologize for running the piece after readers protested, though Cohen was unperturbed enough to write the same thing in his Trayvon Martin column decades later. Presumably his opinion won't change until he sees a good movie about racial profiling in 150 years or so.

1 (tied). Richard Cohen defends child rapist.

There is no doubt that Polanski did what he did, which is have sex with a 13-year-old after plying her with booze. There is no doubt also that after all these years there is something stale about the case, not to mention a "victim," Samantha Geimer, who has long ago forgiven her assailant and dearly wishes the whole thing would go away. So do I.

In this 2010 column, Cohen thanked Switzerland for refusing to extradite Roman Polanski and "salute[s] his genius." He also put scare quotes around "victim," as if to express doubt that a 13-year-old girl who was drugged and raped multiple times could be anything but.

1 (tied). Richard Cohen takes a stand against torture, which he says totally works.

But it is important to understand that abolishing torture will not make us safer. Terrorists do not give a damn about our morality, our moral authority or what one columnist called "our moral compass." George Bush was certainly disliked in much of the world, but the Sept. 11 attacks were planned while Bill Clinton was in office, and he offended no one with the possible exception of the Christian right. Indeed, he went around the world apologizing for America's misdeeds — slavery, in particular. No terrorist turned back as a result.

Although torture is morally repugnant, Cohen argued in this 2009 column, it definitely helps catch terrorists. "Of course it works," he wrote, before arguing against it. (He also noted that terrorists don't care if we apologize for slavery. Maybe they won't understand until they've seen 12 Years a Slave.) A few weeks later, Cohen wrote that he "[has] to wonder" whether or not torture works, meaning he either changed his mind or completely forgot about his previous column.

1 (tied). Richard Cohen is a Pulitzer finalist (four times).

…For his eloquent columns on social and political issues.

No, that wasn't Cohen writing in the third person. That was the Pulitzer committee nominating him for a prize in commentary in 1987. (They also did so in 1981, 1989, and 1990.) He has never won.

PHOTOS: Devastation in the Philippines After Haiyan Hits

| Mon Nov. 11, 2013 10:05 AM PST

Super Typhoon Haiyan, perhaps the strongest storm ever recorded on Earth, made landfall in the Philippines on Friday. The result was catastrophic, with 10,000 feared dead, according to the Associated Press. The storm made landfall again in Vietnam on Monday morning local time. Here are photos of the preparation for, and aftermath of, Haiyan's arrival.

A child wraps himself in a blanket inside a makeshift house along a fishing village in Bacoor, south of Manila. Ezra Acayan/ZUMA

Various government agencies monitor the path of Super Typhoon Haiyan inside the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) office in Quezon City, Philippines. Rouelle Umali/ZUMA
This NASA MODIS Aqua satellite image shows Super Typhoon Haiyan shortly before it smashed into the Philippines with 200 mph winds and 50-foot waves. Lightroom Photos/Nasa/ZUMA
Dark clouds from Super Typhoon Haiyan loom over the skyscrapers of metro Manila. Rouelle Umali/ZUMA


People reinforce dykes ahead of Super Typhoon Haiyan in Phu Yen province, central Vietnam. Vna/ZUMA


Local residents are evacuated to safe places before Super Typhoon Haiyan hit Vietnam in Da Nang city, central Vietnam. Vna/ZUMA


Aerial photo taken on November 10 shows the scene after Typhoon Haiyan hit Leyte Province, Philippines. Ryan Lim/ZUMA


Aerial photo shows the scene after Typhoon Haiyan hit Leyte Province. Ryan Lim/ZUMA


Filipino typhoon survivors from Tacloban City disembark from a C130 military plane in an airport in Cebu City, Philippines. Ritchie Tongo/ZUMA



These Places Really, Really Want to Secede From Their States

| Thu Nov. 7, 2013 4:00 AM PST

While most Americans went to the polls on Tuesday with nothing more than the fate of some politicians and a few ballot measures at stake, residents of 11 counties in Colorado got to decide whether or not they want to secede and form their own state. (Majorities in five counties said yes.)

Current Colorado residents aren't the only ones itching to add more stars to the American flag, even though the process is next to impossible—after obtaining local approval, a breakaway region must also get the okay from its home state's legislature, and then Congress.

While other parts of the country have their eyes on total independence from the United States, these four regions have a more modest goal: becoming the country's 51st state.

North Colorado
Tired of the liberal bent in Denver, officials in the state's rural (and redder) northern region got secession on the ballot. A recent state law that doubled renewable energy requirements for suppliers in rural areas was the "last straw," according to Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, who told ABC News, "I think [this is] just one more example of the disconnect happening in the state of Colorado…it isn't a Democrat or a Republican thing." If all 11 counties were to secede, the resulting state would have a population of a little more than 350,000—slightly more people than live in Tampa, Florida. Its largest city would be Greeley, whose mayor recently penned a column arguing that, despite widespread perceptions to the contrary, it no longer smells like cattle.

Another rural offshoot, Jefferson would combine some of the northernmost counties of California with some of the southernmost in Oregon to form a new state dedicated to free markets and limited government. Officials in two California counties recently voted in favor of the movement, whose website contains quotes from Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, and Mahatma Gandhi along with a link to The Jeffersons theme song. The effort isn't particularly new—Jefferson first tried declaring itself a new state back in 1941, though the attack on Pearl Harbor led activists to abandon the cause.

Western Maryland
Nearly 62 percent of Marylanders went for Obama last year, and the state has had only one Republican governor since Spiro Agnew left office in 1969. For residents of the state's more conservative counties, then, it's easy to feel disenfranchised from "the dominant ruling class," as statehood advocate Scott Strzelczyk puts it. And that's left him looking for a way out: "If you think you have a long list of grievances and it's been going on for decades, and you can't get it resolved, ultimately this is what you have to do," Strzelczyk told the Washington Post in September. "Otherwise you are trapped." The so-called Western Maryland Initiative has never been tested at the ballot, and is still in the honeymoon phase of secession planning, which includes designing T-shirts and voting on a state flag.

Baja Arizona
Not every potential breakaway state is a conservative redoubt in waiting. After the Republican-controlled Legislature passed bills allowing police to arrest and detain someone if there's a "reasonable suspicion" that the suspect is an illegal immigrant and eliminating organ transplant coverage for Medicaid recipients, liberals in southern Pima County circulated a petition for statehood. (With nearly 1 million residents, the county—home to Tucson—is still more populous than six existing US states.) Baja drew support from both sides of the aisle, too: The county Republican chair told the Arizona Daily Star that secession would make him a state GOP leader. "I'm all for a promotion," he said.

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