Mojo - April 2007

What Was Cho Seung-Hui On?

| Wed Apr. 18, 2007 3:14 AM EDT

The Times reported that Cho Seung-Hui was taking a psychoactive medication. Was it an antidepressant? No doubt antidepressants save many lives, but they also cause side effects. Psychiatrists know that in a percentage of patients, they trigger mania, exacerbate delusional thinking, and agitate suicidal ideation. [See NIH links for data]. In short, they sometimes push troubled people over the edge. Antidepressant manufacturers years ago actually teamed up with district attorneys to make sure the Zoloft defense didn't fly. As Rob Waters reported:

In the early 1990s, Eli Lilly, the maker of Prozac, started the practice of aiding district attorneys who were prosecuting defendants who blamed the drug for their acts of violence. Lawyers for Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company, later created a "prosecutor's manual" for the same purpose.
The Zoloft manual itself is a closely held secret -- and Pfizer has fought hard to keep it that way.
In 2001, a widow sued Pfizer because her husband shot and killed himself after six days on Zoloft. Her lawyers discovered in Pfizer's records a reference to a document called "prosecutor's manual," and requested a copy.
Pfizer fought the request, claiming it was privileged information between the company and its attorneys. The judge allowed the manual to be introduced -- noting it was designed to prevent "harm to Pfizer's reputation" if a defendant successfully raised "a Zoloft causation defense" -- but he agreed to thereafter seal the manual and keep it out of the public record.
James Hooper, an attorney for Pfizer, says that "in rare cases"" the company's attorneys have provided the manual to prosecutors if a defendant "is attempting to blame some sort of criminal behavior on the medicine." Read on.....

Let's be clear: Cho may not have not been on antidepressants. If the Times was right that he took a pill around 5 a.m. on Monday, it might have been something else. But it will be interesting to find out.

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Net Neutrality: The Dead Trees Version

| Wed Apr. 18, 2007 1:45 AM EDT

On the scale of giant social troubles, this one won't register, but as a breathtaking example of corporate influence and regulatory cronyism, it can't be beat.

After almost a year of hearings, last month the Bush-appointed US Postal Service Board of Governors tossed out their own staff recommendations and at the last minute approved a 758-page plan submitted by Time Warner that will increase mailing costs between 18 and 30 percent a year for small-circulation magazines like Mother Jones, while postal costs for the big guys - Time, Newsweek, People - will actually go down. The Board of Guvs opened up their decision to public comment for a grand total of 8 days, and then scheduled it to go into effect this coming July.

Consider this the print-side version of the fight over net neutrality.

America's founders understood that the First Amendment wasn't worth much without a postal system that encouraged broad public participation in the public debate. To ensure that a diversity of viewpoints were available to "the whole mass of the people," they created affordable postal rates that gave smaller political journals a voice. The Time Warner rate increase reverses this egalitarian ideal.

Our friends at Free Press have taken the lead in organizing a campaign to put the brakes on this deal. In the odd-bedfellows department, we've signed onto a publishers letter to the Postal Service Board of Governors along with many other independent magazines, both conservative and progressive, from The Nation and The New Republic to The Weekly Standard and American Spectator.

But it will take more than a letter. The Postal Service Board of Governors will be taking comments until Monday, April 23rd; you can learn more, or let your opinion be known, via a special site set up by Free Press. Or just click on the "Stop The Post Office" postage stamp over there on the right hand side of this page.

Disclosure: Mother Jones, along with Free Press, is involved in a project called The Media Consortium, a network of 36 independent journalism-based organizations that are working together to amplify our collective voice.

What If He Was North Korean?

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 8:44 PM EDT

Then would we start dropping bombs tomorrow on Kim Jong Il? Or Arab? That would have been convenient, because it would have immediately made it an act of terror. Which it was of course. An act of terror on the homefront, by a citizen of this country. The shooter came here when he was eight years old, so the mental instability and rage that manifested itself yesterday? Made in America.

Seriously folks, let's not make this about race. Already Korean-Americans (or Asians in general since the many races are often lumped into one category), are anticipating the backlash to come. When teenagers shot up Columbine and when Timothy McVeigh bombed babies in Oklahoma City did we blame white males?

Does race play a role in all that goes down in this country? Of course. Discrimination, cultural values and norms, race is one of many things that contributes to who we are, the good and the bad. But there are actual substantive issues to deal with here, issues that don't lead us to easy, bigoted conclusions.

Take mental health dollars. Did you know that last year the Bush Administration failed to fully fund the promised $300 million for mental health services for veterans? Talk about a vulnerable population.

In fact, the Bush Administration has tried to cut mental health funding across the board, year after year, budget after budget. These are dollars that go to health centers, schools, hospitals, where they can help us address serious illness before we get to this point.

In his latest budget proposal the president has proposed the following:

-a $159 million cut for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
-a $77 million cut for the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS)
-a $20.8 million cut for Mental Health Transformation Grants (planning grants for states)
-a $2.64 million cut for Youth Suicide Prevention

And, you knew this was coming:
-a $17.3 million cut for School Violence Prevention

Sen. Reid Finally Pulls Up His Civil Liberties Score

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 8:19 PM EDT

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, not that long ago, had a high ACLU score of 44%, and his score has been even as low as 40%, not very fitting for the supposedly liberal wing of the Senate. In the latest ACLU compilation, however, Reid scores 67%, a significant improvement, though nothing to brag about.

In the spring of 2006, Reid voted for the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. And last summer, he voted for the flag desecration amendment and for the Child Custody Protection Act, which would make it a crime for anyone other than a parent to accompany a minor across a state line to obtain an abortion. He scored better in the areas of judicial protection for detainees, the Military Commissions Act, voting rights reauthorization, the Federal Marriage Amendment, new worker database privacy protection, the Alito confirmation, and in the Patriot Act reauthorization cloture vote.

The highest current civil liberties scores in the Senate go to Sen. Tom Harkin, former Sen. Jon Corzine, Sen. Jeff Bingamin, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Russell Feingold, all of whom scored 100%.

The lowest scores go to Sen. Jeff Sessions, Sen. Wayne Allard, Sen. Pat Roberts, Sen. Thad Cochran, Sen. Tom Coburn, Sen. James Inhofe, and Sen. John Cornyn, all of whom scored 8%.

Scores of interest:

Sen. Hillary Clinton--83%
Sen. Barack Obama--83%
Sen. John McCain--33%
Sen. Sam Brownback--25%
Sen. Chuck Hagel--36%

NRA's New President: A Rough First Day on the Job

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 7:24 PM EDT

John Sigler, longtime NRA board member and retired police captain from Delaware replaced Sandra S. Froman as NRA president yesterday. Of course, you'd never know it from their website, where Froman's President's Column is still up. Or if you read the news. There were no news stories on Sigler's first day, nary a press release.

We heard about the changeover via NRA radio (they have a nightly show at 9pm EDT):

As you can imagine this is not the way I wanted my presidency to begin, but it is important for our members to understand that we will do everything we can. If there is any way we can assist with law enforcement or with the families- I have no idea what that would be, it's probably a hollow offer at best. We hope for an early resolution so the families can put this behind them.

The NRA too would surely like to see this incident behind them. But for now be sure that, yes, they will do everything they can to fight what will surely be a slew of new legislative proposals, on handgun purchases, background checks, concealed weapons, the gamut.

Froman, who was the second female president in the history of the NRA, gave a speech two weeks ago at Harvard Law School where she railed against New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's decision to confiscate guns from residents immediately following Hurricane Katrina. She said that the New Orleans government was "profoundly incompetent" and added that a person having a gun could have served as a safety net: "If the government isn't protecting you, then it's an insurance policy."

Vigilante justice anyone?

Poll: Obama Has Most Supporters of Anyone in Either Party

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 6:35 PM EDT

A new Rasmussen poll out today asked people if they would "definitely" vote for someone or "definitely not" vote for someone. Because it's early and few people have made their selections, it's really hard to get a high number in the "definitely vote for" category, and it's nearly impossible to have more "definitely fors" that "definitely againsts." Last month, Rudy Giuliani was the only person who had more people saying they would definitely vote for him than definitely vote against him, and this month no candidate can claim such a sweet seat. (By the way, someone will want to explain the definition of the word "definitely" to those ex-Rudy supporters.)

Obama's doing the best; Gingrich the worst. Here are the numbers:

Obama
Def FOR: 33%
Def AGAINST: 33%
Differential: Even

Giuliani
Def FOR: 29%
Def AGAINST: 34%
Differential: -5%

Fred Thompson
Def FOR: 19%
Def AGAINST: 29%
Differential: -10%

Edwards
Def FOR: 26%
Def AGAINST: 37%
Differential: -11%

McCain
Def FOR: 23%
Def AGAINST: 35%
Differential: -12%

Romney
Def FOR: 17%
Def AGAINST: 33%
Differential: -16%

Clinton
Def FOR: 30%
Def AGAINST: 48%
Differential: -18%

Richardson
Def FOR: 10%
Def AGAINST: 28%
Differential: -18%

Biden
Def FOR: 9%
Def AGAINST: 38%
Differential: -29%

Gingrich
Def FOR: 20%
Def AGAINST: 49%
Differential: -29%

Gainers include Obama, Edwards, and Fred Thompson. Discuss.

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Guns Out-Of-Control at the White House

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 6:14 PM EDT

Today, while the President was heading to Virginia Tech as mourner-in-chief two Secret Service officers were wounded by accidental gunfire at the White House.

One officer suffered a shrapnel wound to the face, and the other was wounded in the leg; neither's injuries are life-threatening. A spokesman said that the shots were fired by "accidental discharge."

Talk about gun control. Geez.

More on Wolfowitz at the World Bank

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 5:34 PM EDT

Via a Michael Hirsh column on Newsweek.com:

The plum State Department job that Paul Wolfowitz—of Iraq hawk fame, and now the president of the World Bank—secured for his "companion" (apparently, if you're over 40, you have "companions" not "girlfriends") not only represented a hefty raise over his previous position, but also meant that she earned $10,000 a year more than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Obviously, then, the salary was not in line with standard State Department pay scales—which, in turn, discredits Wolfie and his companion's remarks that they were simply trying to avoid working together in a superior-subordinate capacity.

Hirsh's overall argument is that Wolfowitz is a victim of his own bunker mentality: He has no allies at the Bank, because he didn't listen to any of the lifers. Hirsh also spotlights the irony that Wolfowitz's pet issue at the World Bank was eliminating corruption in the third world countries the Bank supports: "It's intolerable to be harrumphing about corruption in the developing world while appearing to be lackadaisical about it back at Washington headquarters."

What? McCain Hints His Iraq Plan is Roughly Same as Dems'

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 10:33 AM EDT

I'm sorry, I find this completely infuriating. Allow me to block quote heavily from this Slate article.

The moment of self-destruction came in a front-page interview for the Sunday, April 15, New York Times. Talking about the war in Iraq, McCain said, "I have no Plan B"—no alternative to winning.
But then, in the next paragraph, Times reporters Michael Gordon and Adam Nagourney write that he did talk about a Plan B, of sorts, after all:
He said that if the Bush administration's plan had not produced visible signs of progress by the time a McCain presidency began, he might be forced—if only by the will of public opinion—to end American involvement in Iraq.
"I do believe that history shows us Americans will not continue to support an overseas engagement involving the loss of American lives for an unlimited period unless they see some success," he said. "And then, when they run out of patience, they will demand that we get out."
Why is this so jaw-dropping? Keep in mind that, on April 11, McCain had delivered a high-profile speech at the Virginia Military Institute in which he denounced the Democrats' plan for a troop withdrawal as "reckless"—a game of "small politics" that "gives them an advantage in the next election" while denying "our soldiers the means to prevent an American defeat."
And yet, here was McCain, a few days later, telling the Times that, if elected president, he'd probably do pretty much the same thing.

I'm willing to concede that perhaps McCain was taken out of context or slipped up verbally. As unlikely as that sounds, how else do you explain McCain -- the hawkiest of war hawks in Washington -- conceding that his plan is nearly identical to the Democrats? Admittedly he's not saying that we should start redeploying troops now, as many Democrats are, but he is saying that if the surge doesn't work -- and it's looking that way -- Mr. "No Plan B" might start redeploying troops early in his terms. That's the Democratic platform. That's what every Democratic is running on. The Democrats -- you know, the people whose patriotism you're impugning? Hello?

I know McCain is a flip-flopper and a panderer, but this is completely banana balls crazy.

McCain Wants to Make Pro-Life Position Very, Very Clear

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 10:17 AM EDT

We've had a discussion here on MoJoBlog about whether John McCain's current embrace of pro-life positions and figures (and what a fervent embrace it is) is a reversal of previously moderate positions on abortion -- he once told the SF Chronicle "I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade" -- or if it is simply the tail end of a long record that has always been hostile to a woman's right to choose.

Well, John McCain would prefer we don't have that debate. In an email to supporters that I received (beginning, "Dear fellow Alabamans," which I found odd), McCain's campaign writes the following:

John McCain is pro-life and has always fought for the rights of unborn children.
John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned.
John McCain has repeatedly voted against abortion.
The pro-abortion groups NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood have given Sen. McCain a 0% rating for his strong and consistent pro-life voting record.
Sen. McCain voted at least eight times to ban partial birth abortions, including voting twice to overturn President Clinton's veto of the partial birth abortion ban.
Sen. McCain voted for the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
John McCain will continue to promote adoption.
Sen. McCain cosponsored legislation to prohibit discrimination against families with adopted children, to provide adoption education and to permit tax deductions for qualified adoption expenses.
John McCain will nominate judges who will strictly interpret the Constitution.
Sen. McCain strongly supported the nominations of Justices Roberts, Alito, Rehnquist, Thomas, and Scalia.
John McCain is noted for his long pro-life record.

Wow. No confusion there. No hint of moderation or maverick-ness. Sounds like a straight party-line GOP politician to me. (By the way, all clumsy emphasizing is native to the text. )

Defensive much, John?