Thursday, June 29, 2017


Then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s meeting with representatives of the Brady Campaign on the fifth anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings exposed his double-dealing.

According to one of the meeting’s participants, Cantor expressed his “full support” for keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people. However, the Majority Leader, who had just returned from speaking at an NRA convention, refused to sign a Statement of Principle capturing the ideas he had just agreed to. The statement calls for keeping guns out of the hands of those who are convicted felons, convicted domestic abusers, terrorists, or people who are dangerously mentally ill.

The Statement of Principle is not a pledge, and Cantor could not say he was opposed to signing such documents when they advance his career. He willingly signed Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes. Apparently when it comes to the lives of students, staff, and faculty the then-Majority Leader said no dice—there is nothing in it for me. What a shame. Voters are crying out for politicians with backbone and principle, and Cantor took a pass. He apparently prefers to gamble with people’s lives rather than act responsibly.

According to one of the attendees at Cantor’s volunteered to those gathered that you have to set standards low around here (Congress), and then proved it. He told them he would not allow a vote on a bill strengthening background checks in order to buy a gun because a Democrat sponsors the bill.

Cantor lost his bid for re-election in 2014. He lost not because he lied to the victims of school shootings, but because he was out of touch with his electorate. Cantor was smug, arrogant, and condescending; he epitomized the worst of the type of our politicians. (To be continued)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


Interest groups, such as the National Rifle Association, have conducted a scare campaign that plays to the basest of human emotions—fear and paranoia. The most blatant lie was the one the NRA promoted during the Obama administration—the government is coming to get your guns; closely followed by Washington is going to limit your right to own firearms and when that happens we will be one step away from a totalitarian government that subjugates Americans to the worst forms of repression. The net result? Politicians are spooked. Even in the wake of Sandy Hook, politicians discussed measures to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others, but did nothing. But it appears the only measures likely to pass Congress was not willing to mandate universal background checks for gun purchases and measures limiting high capacity ammunition clips. Neither the federal nor state governments appear to have the will to put their money where their mouth is and to keep mental health care in the hands of government. Neither federal nor state politicians appear willing to vote the money needed to improve mental health.

The result is that we live in a society that over analyzes and limits some of our freedoms and completely ignores life-threatening aspects of others. The bottom line, however, should be that no one has the right to take away another’s inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When you are murdered on the grounds of the Appalachian School of Law, Virginia Tech, or Sandy Hook Elementary School, some one has taken away those rights. If people’s actions or inactions played a role in the killings, they should be held accountable. (To be continued)

Saturday, June 24, 2017


Increased spending on mental health is critical to preventing these shootings. The shooters at the Appalachian School of Law, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, and Sandy Hook were all mentally ill. Yet we see what has happened in Virginia—the state cut funds for mental health programs and then-Governor McDonnell made the situation worse by privatizing mental health care. Privatization will, over the long run, cost more than if it is in the hands of the state. The quality of care will go down, not up. Privatization will however, probably make some people in Virginia wealthy.

Governor McDonnell’s privatization of Virginia’s mental health system is a betrayal of the electorate and an insult to the victims of the Virginia school shootings. The governor apparently based his proposal on the system implemented by the former Republican governor of New Jersey, Christie Todd Whitman. The New Jersey system apparently has not saved money, it has led to more vagrancy (and probably crime), and has drastically undercut the quality of mental health.

I personally witnessed an example of the New Jersey program, after spending an evening with a professor and her students from a New Jersey state university. We made over 100 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and put them in bags along with fruit and water. We then went to the train station in Newark, which was packed with homeless, the vast majority of whom appeared to suffer from some form of mental illness. There were police everywhere (an added taxpayer expense) in an effort to prevent crime and assure commuters they were safe. Based on this experience, New Jersey’s mental health care system apparently has not improved and appears to be costing more money than it has saved.

If accurate, then New Jersey’s privatization of mental health care is not a program to emulate—it is a program to be avoided.

Virginians should reject any move to cut funds for mental health or to privatize the program. Mass shooters such as those at the Appalachian School of Law, Virginia Tech, and elsewhere were unstable and in need of mental health care. Following the Virginia Tech massacre, President George W. Bush called for greater government spending on mental health.

McDonnell’s argument for privatization of mental health care was specious; it is an insult to the Virginia Tech families and victims. McDonnell has tried to conceal from the electorate that he is doing little that is meaningful about mental health care and school safety. For example, in 2011 he launched the “College Campus Safety and Violence Prevention Public Service Challenge”—a jingle contest. (Really? A jingle contest is going to help stop school shootings?)

Students were asked to create 30-second videos; something like soap commercials. The Office of Substance Abuse Prevention would narrow entries for online voting. (Neither of the two Virginia school shooters were substance abusers.)

Why the contest? First, to draw attention away from, and perhaps to undercut, the litigation against high ranking Virginia Tech officials; second, to appear to be doing something meaningful, when in fact that is not the case; third, to avoid tackling continuing weaknesses in the law regarding campus safety; and fourth, to cover up the governor’s abysmal record as Attorney General during the Tech tragedy.

Governor McDonnell’s foolish, shortsighted policy on mental health took a tragic turn on November 19, 2013 when Austin (Gus) Deeds, the son of prominent Virginia State Senator Creigh Deed, stabbed his father repeatedly and then took his own life. Press reports indicated that an emergency custody order was issued for Gus Deeds the day before the attack and he was taken to the Rockridge Area Community Service Center, which treats mental illness and substance abuse. Young Deeds was released because a psychiatric bed could not be found for him. Unconfirmed media reports have indicated that beds were available, but that communication between medical facilities dealing in psychiatric care was so poor that the Rockridge facility was unaware of that fact. No matter what the reason for the young man’s release, the Deeds family paid a horrific price for McDonnell’s budget cuts. Gus Deeds shot and killed himself after stabbing his father.

McDonnell’s budget cuts for mental health are particularly galling when you stop to think that Virginia taxpayers have had to shell out over $570,000 in legal expenses as a result of a federal criminal investigation against the governor. That money would have bought quite a few beds in the state’s psychiatric wards.

When Is The Right Time?

The deceit is not just at the state level; it includes those elected to federal office.

Following the Tucson shooting that killed six and seriously wounded 12 others including Rep. Gabriele Giffords, members of the Brady Campaign asked to meet with House Speaker John Boehner to discuss ways to curb gun violence. Boehner declined. According to the Huffington Post (April 15, 2012), he said now is not the time. We would ask, “What better time to discuss ways to curb gun violence than in the aftermath of a member of Congress being shot?”

On the fifth anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting, Brady Campaign officials asked to meet with Louisiana Senator Vitter to discuss a bill he had introduced making it easier for the mentally ill to buy guns.

According to a Brady Campaign worker, Vitter was too busy.

Boehner isn’t too busy to visit tanning booths and Vitter found time to frequent New Orleans prostitutes. (In July 2007, Vitter was identified by the media as a client of a prostitution service during the DC Madam scandal.)

More recently we have 12 dead and some 50 wounded in a movie theatre in suburban Denver, then two killed and one wounded at a shopping mall outside Portland, Oregon, and now the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. So when is the right time to discuss keeping guns out of the hands of convicted felons, convicted domestic abusers, and mentally ill people who are a threat to themselves and others? (To be continued)

Thursday, June 22, 2017


LOCAL AUTHOR EXPO 2017 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. June 24, 2017
Portsmouth Public Library 4934 High Street West Portsmouth, Virginia 23703
THE WRITERS GUILD OF VIRGINIA will be represented at the Local Author Expo 2017 by David Cariens. Cariens will be happy to meet and talk with anyone about the GUILD, including membership, workshops, classes, and the GUILD's literary publication, THE JOURNAL. Cariens books will also be available, including his three books on gun violence and school shootings.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Following the mass murders at Virginia Tech the one issue that nearly everyone agreed upon was the need to do more in the field of mental health—to identify and get treatment for those who are a threat to themselves and others. There seemed to be a moment when something might be done. And indeed, Virginia did allocate more money for mental health, but that was 2008; it is now more than five years later and Virginia has backtracked. The state now spends less on mental health than it did on the eve of April 16, 2007.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), between FY 2009 and FY 2011, Virginia’s expenditures on mental health dropped 9.1% from $424.3 million to $385.8 million. (“State Mental Health Cuts: A National Crisis," a report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2011) NAMI also points out “the risks of violence among a small subset of individuals may increase when appropriate treatment and support are not available. The use of alcohol or drugs as a form of self-medication can also increase these risks.” Virginia made these cuts at a time when it was one of the few states running a budget surplus.

In his first three years after taking office, Governor McDonnell delivered budget surpluses each year. Virginia’s fiscal policy gained national attention. On July 31, 2012, Fox News lauded Virginia’s three years of budget surpluses under McDonnell, citing surplus of $220 million in 2010—the first year of McDonnell’s four-year term. Fox also said that the Virginia General Assembly had a surplus of $311 million in 2011 and that in 2012 the state had $129 million more in its General Fund than had been predicted. No one mentioned that part of this surplus came on the backs of one of the most vulnerable segments of society, the mentally ill. Fox News did not mention that cuts to mental health services have a potential impact on public safety: the risk of violence among a small number of mentally ill individuals increases when appropriate treatment and support are not available.

Virginia then, has not been starved for cash and its politicians at the highest levels in order to score points with right-wing pundits appear to have intentionally broken promises to the electorate to spend more for mental health. (To be continued)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Let’s take a closer look at the efforts in Virginia General Assembly by Delegates Bill Janis (R-Goochland County) and Charles Poindexter (R-Franklin County) to delay or kill the reappointment of Franklin County Circuit Judge William Alexander. Alexander was the presiding judge appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court to oversee the Pryde and Peterson trial because all the local judges recused themselves. Judge Alexander initially ruled there was enough evidence of gross negligence that the suit against several current and former Virginia Tech officials, including school president, Charles Steger, could go forward. That ruling may not have gone over well with the right wing glitterati of Virginia’s body politic, some of whom argue no one can be held responsible for someone else’s actions. Therefore, Seung Hui Cho, and only Seung Hui Cho, is responsible for the mass killings at Virginia Tech. The fact that school and police officials turned a blind eye to Cho’s mental illness and threatening behavior is, to them, immaterial. (It should be noted that the gross negligence claim was removed by Alexander just before the trial began in 2012.)

The problem with those who argue that no one can be held responsible for what someone else does, is the failure to take into account the concept of “foreseeability,” a legal principle that says if the warning signs are readily apparent, and individuals who are aware of those signs do nothing, then those individuals can be held responsible for their inaction. If you look at the number of warning signs at Virginia Tech they are overwhelming—I have spelled them out in detail in previous posts. What more of a warning do you want than a professor threatening to resign unless a student (Cho) is removed from her class because she fears for her safety and the safety of her students? Subsequently, Judge Alexander’s ruling may have been viewed as a serious blow to the state and the school.

The Roanoke Times reported on the grilling Judge Alexander received during the re-appointment hearings and his opponents may have seized another issue to delay or stop the judge’s reappointment in order to mask their real motive. It appears the issue they chose was Alexander’s decision to release a grand jury report after the indictment of Franklin County Sheriff Ewell Hunt. The sheriff was indicted on charges of keeping improper records about the employment of his daughter.

Delegate Janis has publicly acknowledged that the judge had the authority to release the report, which the judge did in response to a motion filed by the special prosecutor in the case, Pittsylvania County Commonwealth’s Attorney, David Grimes. If Judge Alexander had the right to grant the motion, then what is Delegate Janis doing other than playing politics?

Ultimately, Judge Alexander was reappointed and the lawsuit filed by the Pryde and Peterson families went forward. (To be continued)