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Nate Orshan
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Not just your average, secular humanist song for the #Solstice. I hope it resonates with you. #WinterSolstice #FirstNightOfWinter

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Two new, must-hear stories from WNYC's On the Media:

- Putin expert Masha Gessen re not normalizing an autocrats' language and narrative
- Cognitive linguist George Lakoff re Trump's techniques -aided, unfortunately, by the journalists covering him- for effectively making people think what he wants them to think

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Letter to Politicians Who Talk About Keeping Guns Out of the Hands of “The Mentally Ill”
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Please don’t use the phrase "the mentally ill" under any circumstance. It’s just hugely stigmatizing language that does nothing more than work to bring shame to a person with a mental illness.

You and I probably have a shared desire for more rational and effective firearms regulation, but just saying that we want to keep guns out of the hands of “people with mental illness” essentially lumps every single person with any kind of mental illness (from, say, a person working full-time while managing depression to a person with a trauma disorder to a person with an extremely debilitating degree of schizophrenia) into the same, undifferentiated group.

And never mind the inaccuracy of grouping all those people together from a gun-policy perspective: Even when you do consider whether there’s any statistical propensity for violence from people with any kind of illness, the answer’s a resounding “No”. The truth is that people with serious mental illness are over an order of magnitude less likely to commit an act of violence than people without. Per the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:

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…Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. You probably know someone with a mental health problem and don't even realize it, because many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our communities.
https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/myths-facts/
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OK, but what type of descriptors should we use when we want to enact policy that attempts to keep firearms out of the hands of people most likely to murder? One easy descriptor is, “people with a documented history of violence”.

But people like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter or the Pulse nightclub shooter didn’t have police records for violence. How can we design background checks to keep guns out of such people’s hands? Simple: we can’t.

Healthcare providers are an ineffective means of flagging would-be violent offenders. In the American Journal of Public Health in 2015, two researchers from Vanderbilt University reviewed key academic literature, secondary sources, and primary source historical research, all to address a few firearms-related hypotheses including the hypothesis we’re considering right here: “Psychiatric diagnosis can predict gun crime before it happens”. What their research found was that, bottom line, “psychiatrists using clinical judgment are not much better than chance at predicting which individual patients will do something violent and which will not.” (http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdfplus/10.2105/AJPH.2014.302242, and see also http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2014/12/mental-illness-wrong-scapegoat-shootings/).

And this doesn’t even address the issue that, if we were to try to make healthcare providers mandated reporters for just the would-be likelihood of gun violence, that would drive a wedge between a lot of people with mental health issues and their therapists or psychiatrists. How many would just stop going altogether, taking away crucial healthcare support?

Where discussing background checks are concerned, we need to never use mental illness in and of itself as any sort of criterion.

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Why is a referendum so unintuitively yet profoundly anti-democratic? Why is voting for somebody who doesn't have real plans for governing so self-destructive? This instant classic from Felix Salmon explains beautifully.


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Stevie Wonder is 66 today. I'll be loving him always. 

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For my birthday (today), I've released a brand-new love song for Burlington. Please listen, comment, share, etc. Thank you!

#BTV #VT

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Must-read from the mighty primatologist Frans de Waal. (They coin the phrase "anthropodenialism", which I think you're going to be hearing a lot of in the future.)

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After listening to Eric Fair, I hope you'll agree that,
even if it ever saved a single American life, torture wasn't worth the death of American decency.

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What a video. So beautiful on just about every possible level. (Dammit, +Eva Sollberger, you're gonna make me cry again.)

#BTV #VT #NoStigma

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"Once their gender is validated, and once THEY feel validated in themselves, THEN they can move forward and present comfortably."

Aspirational on so many levels (for starters, you need money). And wow, I don't think my eyes kept dry for a single minute. 
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