Polanski free 7/12/10
Movie director Roman Polanski, who drugged and had sex with a 13-year-old girl before fleeing the U.S. for his native France, has been freed after being detained in Switzerland for several months pending extradition. The Swiss say that the U.S. failed to follow the procedure mandated in the extradition treaty between the two countries, but the bottom line is that the Swiss simply don’t think Polanski deserves criminal punishment for his behavior. I’ve been to Switzerland, and it’s a beautiful country, but this decision shows what you get when a culture values nonjudmentalism over personal responsibility/accountability — you get a country in which the government won’t even take a stand against adults drugging and raping 13-year-olds. If I were President of the United States right now, the Swiss wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting anything they wanted from the United States for the remainder of my term in office. But if you think the Swiss’ attitude could never become the dominant attitude in this country, think again. It dominates Hollywood already, and unless we make a concerted course correction, the rest of the country seems to be drifting in that same sad direction.
In other news, there was a multiple shooting in New Mexico on Monday in which a man stormed into the offices of his former employer, where his ex-girlfriend worked, and shot ten people before shooting (and killing) himself. Two of the victims died, and the other eight have wounds of varying severity. It’s not yet clear whether the ex-girlfriend is among the dead/wounded. Whether the shooter was psychotic or psychopathic or both, we’ll probably soon learn that there were plenty of sadly-unheeded warning signs that he was dangerous
And while I’m here, study this: If you have a big head (physically, not figuratively), take heart. A new study found that people with larger-than-average craniums seem less prone to dementia.
Weekend update 7/11/10
So, over the weekend, the “Barefoot Bandit” was caught in the Bahamas. Given the damage he’s done to people’s property and lives over the past two years, not to mention the cost of catching him (not just money, but law enforcement time and effort diverted from other cases), and the propensity he’s shown to blow off society’s rules, he should be in jail for the next few decades, but he won’t be. And yes, there’s already talk of a movie.
There’s also talk about the Oregon woman who supposedly dropped her stepson off at school and watched him walk down a hallway there, never to be seen again. It’s now being suggested that perhaps she did something to the child because she was suffering from post-partum depression after the birth of her youngest child. I say no, and if she ends up being charged, and if that ends up being her defense, I hope the prosecutor calls me to testify. Even if the woman did experience some post-partum depression, I can virtually guarantee you that she still would’ve known what she was doing and that it was wrong (wrong by society’s standards, i.e. illegal). For that not to have been true, she would have to have been suffering additionally from post-partum psychosis, in which case she wouldn’t have had the capacity afterwards to be as coy and cagey with law enforcement as she reportedly has been.
Finally, this is more of a straight-up law issue than a lawpsyc issue (and it’s really probably even more of a political issue than a legal issue), but people are doing such poor jobs of explaining it that I have to weigh in on the raging controversy over Arizona’s new immigration law, which makes it a state crime as well as a federal offense to be in Arizona if you entered the country illegally. All that the Arizona legislature is saying in the new statute is the following: If you’re not in the United States legally, then you’re not in Arizona legally. Makes perfectly-logical sense to me. Didn’t we all do venn diagrams in elementary school (e.g. If the United States and the State of Arizona are represented by circles, then Arizona’s circle is completely inside the United States’ circle, so if you can’t be inside the United States’ circle, then you also can’t be in Arizona’s circle; it’s so simple an elementary-school kid could get it)? The law makes no distinction between people who are present in the country and state illegally from Mexico, Canada, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Yemen…they’re all equally subject to being arrested by state authorities and turned over to federal authorities. Normally when people who’ve committed federal offenses are apprehended by state law enforcement, the federal government appreciates the assist, and so it should in this case. There should be no controversy about this law. There’s nothing wrong with it, Constitutionally or otherwise. So why might some people, including some people in very high places (ahem), be trying so hard to spin it as being something it’s not, hmmm? I’ve reported, now you can decide.
Where’d the week go? 7/8/10
Well, I’m not sure where the week since the 4th of July went, but here’s some lawpsyc stuff that happened during it:
Actress (actually, when was the last time she acted in anything?) Lindsay Lohan was sentenced to 90 days in the slammer for a probation violation. She and her parents think it’s unfair. Imagine that, parents who think it’s unfair to lock a criminal up produced a daughter who commits crimes and thinks it’s unfair when she gets locked up. Of course it’s totally fair, and all three of them are complete idiots. Now let’s just hope that this judge keeps her in there for the full 90 days instead of letting her out within a few days as happened in the case of Paris Hilton a couple of years ago.
Remember the little kid who “went missing” from his Oregon school after his stepmother supposedly dropped him off and watched him walk down a hallway never to be seen again? Remember how I said I wasn’t buying it? Well, the kid’s still missing, and the stepmother’s now under intense scrutiny, polygraphs and all. The kid’s father’s also divorcing her, and there’s even an investigation into whether she tried to eliminate him as well by soliciting a hit-man to kill him!
While it’s unlikely that the Oregon kid will be found alive at this point, another abduction case out of Missouri this week reminded us that it’s possible. A little girl who had been abducted in Louisiana was found alive in Missouri, and as cops closed in on the suspect, he killed himself. The abduction and the sexual assault that probably happened during it — sad. The suicide — not so sad. And before anyone says to me, “But what if he was innocent?” — he was a convicted sex offender already, yet another one who never should’ve been available on the streets to commit this most recent offense. Now the people of Missouri don’t have to pay for a trial and the cost of locking him up for a few years (before letting him out to do it yet again, which is probably what would’ve happened, and not just in Missouri but in just about every state, until I’m in charge), and most importantly, no one else will be abducted/molested by him…ever. Good riddance.
The “Barefoot Bandit,” a sociopathic teenage punk fugitive who ran away from a halfway house and has been stealing big things — like three airplanes, which he has taken off in, crashed in, and survived — ever since (often barefoot, hence the moniker), is believed to have flown to the Bahamas in his most-recently-stolen plane. His mother told Fox News’ Shepard Smith that her son’s a genius and that she’s proud of him for teaching himself how to fly an airplane. No, she’s not Lindsay Lohan’s mother also, but I can see how one might wonder that. It’s sad, but what’ll probably happen is the punk will be caught, and locked up for a ridiculously-short, Lohanesque, period of time, and then paid millions of dollars to turn his story into a “Catch Me If You Can”-type movie. And people wonder why criminals aren’t more afraid of American justice these days.
Now Iranian justice — that’s a different story. They were going to stone — that’s right, stone, to death — a woman over there this week for allegedly committing adultery until international outcry caused them to stay the sentence. But hey, no culture’s practices are superior to any other culture’s practices, right? There are no such things as objective “right and wrong,” right? As nutty as that is, if you have a son or daughter in college these days, he or she has probably heard something very similar from a number of professors by now. But, might we still learn from the Iranians here? Yes, I think so. On the continuum between letting convicted child molesters have second and third chances to molest kids on one end and stoning women who commit adultery on the other end, we don’t need to get anywhere close to the stoning end, but we have lots of room to move away from the weak, non-deterrent, everyone-gets-another-chance end and toward the tough, deterrent, fear-the-system end. I’m not talking stoning, but I am talking firm, lengthy, mandatory minimum sentences in facilities that nobody in his/her right mind would ever want to revisit.
Two big trials in Illinois, one underway and one delayed: Former governor Rod Blagojevich, about whom I’ve talked extensively on the air, has been on trial now for about five weeks for various alleged corrupt acts in office including an attempt to “sell” an appointment to fill President Obama’s former Senate seat. So far, I have to put this trial fairly low on the excitement scale, with lots of wire-tap recordings of cuss-word-laden phone calls that mostly just make Blagojevich look like a jerk. Sounds like we’ll get another day or two of tapes and testimony about such conversations before the prosecution rests its case next week. It might get more interesting when it’s the defense’s turn, but expect it to drag out for another couple of weeks. At the same time, former police officer Drew Peterson was supposed to go on trial this week for allegedly murdering his wife — not the one who’s currently missing, but the one before that, whose body was exhumed and re-examined years after her death was determined to have been accidental. The posthumous second opinion was rendered by a forensic pathologist who appears on Fox News frequently, and my friend and former Fox producer Steph Watts was on the scene for that, which pulled him into a pre-trial battle over whether to admit the findings of an expert “tainted” by media affiliation. Steph says the second autopsy was totally legit, which I absolutely believe, and so apparently does the judge because it’s been admitted into evidence. Nevertheless, I think it’ll take an unusually one-sided “battle-of-the-experts” in order to get a jury to unanimously concur that there’s no reasonable doubt it was murder, based largely on an examination of skeletal remains conducted years after the death. Add in some incriminating circumstantial evidence though, and it could happen. The start of the trial has been delayed due to an ongoing pre-trial battle over the admissibility of another type of evidence, hearsay (e.g. statements allegedly made by currently-missing wife Stacy, incriminating Drew, and heard by people whom the prosecution would like to have testify about them during the trial). Normally, hearsay statements aren’t admissible because the accused doesn’t have the opportunity to confront the alleged original speakers. There are exceptions, however, and one of them is the situation in which an original speaker is unavailable because of something that the defendant did (e.g. killed the speaker, which Peterson is also accused, but not convicted, of doing). So far, I’d say this one beats out the Blago trial on the excitement scale.
A notorious serial killer whose murders (believed to number at least 10) spanned three decades in California, dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” (he’s called that because he disappeared for 13 years in the middle of his killing spree), appears to have been caught, thanks to good old-fashioned police work and DNA (they found that the DNA of an inmate recently convicted of a weapons charge was a partial match to DNA from Grim Sleeper crime scenes, making it likely that a relative of his was the killer, and the man they then arrested, whose DNA apparently matches the crime-scene DNA fully, turned out to be the inmate’s father!). The suspect in custody is a black man who actually once worked the Los Angeles Police Department (as a janitor), which are notable details only because they point out the difficulty in “profiling” these guys. Serial killers are generally predicted to be white guys who are extreme loners. This is the third black serial killer in recent memory, the other two being the “Beltway Snipers,” who worked in tandem to carry out a multi-state murder spree several years ago. It’s definitely true that many more of the serial killers identified in the United States in the past century have been white than black, but it just goes to show that there are some very dangerous exceptions to the “rule” that have to be considered.
Speaking of sleep, there’s a new study that you’ll wish came out while you were in high school. It found that high school students might actually do better in their classes if classes started later each day so they could sleep later. I said that all through high school, and nobody listened!
Another new study that you might wish you’re parents had access to is about parental favoritism. It found that not being the “favorite” had negative effects on self-esteem persisting into adulthood.
Another new study found that teenage girls are more likely than boys to become addicted to drugs (not necessarily more likely to use, just more likely to get addicted). Hmmm, if this proves accurate, maybe we could call it the “Lohan Effect.”
Yet another new study pertains more to older girls — it’s about Botox, the injection that reduces the appearance of wrinkles by tightening the muscles in the forehead and face. The study suggests that there might be a causal relationship between Botox and depression because people who’ve received Botox injections reportedly express less positive emotion. Well, let’s see, it’s harder to smile when your face is partially frozen, so it may just be that. It’s possible that people who smile less (because it’s hard to smile) feel somewhat depressed (emotion can be brought on by behavior, or lack thereof, just as behavior can be brought on by emotion). It’s also possible that people who weren’t happy with their appearances were feeling a little depressed about it, which is why they got Botox in the first place. Bottom line, there may be a relationship, but I doubt that it’s causal.
And finally this 4th of July week, the VA announced that it’s making PTSD treatment more accessible to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, which is a good thing for our men and women in uniform.
Ok, I think that brings us up to date, but check back soon for the latest lawpsyc news, and thanks as always for reading and watching!
Happy 4th! 7/4/10
I wrote this last 4th of July, but in case you either missed it then or would enjoy it again today, it’s the explanation of why I believe that those of us who get to call ourselves citizens of the United States of America are so fortunate:
The True Greatness of the U.S.A.
(originally written 7/4/09)
On this Independence Day, I’d like to get back to basics – as basic as it gets actually: the reason why we’re here, and how this country serves that purpose better than any other in the history of the world. Personally, I believe there’s a God, and I believe there’s a plan in which we humans are all participants. To presume to understand the divine purpose and plan for our existence, the “grand scheme of things,” with human intellect is something akin to an infant on his/her first trip to the beach trying to comprehend the vastness and contents of the ocean, but like that infant, I try to make what sense of it I can. What makes sense to me is that everything in the universe emanates from a single creative force. Whatever you call it, it’s what existed before the point at which we think we can or ever will be able to comprehend, in physical and biological terms, what happened thereafter. Astrophysicists sometimes call it the “singularity” – I call it God, but whatever you call it, in my human understanding of time, it once was alone. It makes sense to me that a force that was benevolent and alone with the power to create anything and everything would want to create something that could relate to it, understand it on some rudimentary level, and appreciate it. It makes sense to me that human beings are one and perhaps the only such creation, brought about through a process initiated eons ago in our time, an instant ago relative to eternity, with a “big bang” perhaps, by which a suitable habitat was created, followed by another process, an “evolution” perhaps, through which a suitable “vessel” was created and ultimately imbued with a quality, I believe a divine quality, that set the human apart from the rest of creation – an intellect, the ability to reason, the ability to contemplate and ultimately to relate to, on a rudimentary level, its Creator. It makes sense to me that our purpose then is to do two things: to create, and to love, because in doing so, we’re able to get a glimpse, a rudimentary understanding, of what our Creator is, what it’s like to be God. We’re not forced to do them – if we were, we’d be no different from plants, and our actions would be meaningless – rather, we’re given the choice, the “free will” to do them or not, and it’s in choosing to do them that our actions gain meaning.
To create, I believe, means that we’re supposed to take stock of the skills, abilities, talents, “gifts,” that we’ve been given and to develop those to the fullness of their potentials. In so doing, I believe that we gain a rudimentary understanding of one aspect of our benevolent Creator (the creative aspect). I believe it gives us a sense of purpose to drive our lives (whether we can articulate that purpose or not), and simultaneously, supplies humankind with the goods and services that it needs. You’ll note that none of the above is rooted in any religion – its foundations are purely intellectual – but even if you don’t buy any of it, even if you believe that we exist simply to “be happy,” there’s plenty of psychological research, from Maslow’s concept of “self-actualization” as the pinnacle of his “hierarchy of needs” to Seligman’s findings on “authentic happiness” to corroborate the assertion that human beings are happiest when they feel that they’ve reached the fullness of their potentials by identifying and effectuating their abilities to contribute something unique to the human condition.
To love, I believe, means giving of ourselves to help others to reach the fullness of their potentials. In so doing, I believe that we gain a rudimentary understanding of a second aspect of our benevolent Creator (the benevolent aspect). I believe that when we help others to achieve the fullness of their potentials, we simultaneously move closer to achieving the fullness of our own potentials as human beings. In romantic relationships, it’s the idea, cheesy as Jerry Maguire made it sound, of two people “completing” one another, each becoming something more and making the other something more than they were before. There’s then perhaps no better opportunity in the human condition to relate to our Creator than when the two become parents – they first create new people and new potentials, and then, by loving those new people, help them move toward the fullness of their potentials. Marriage and parenting are, of course, just two of many ways in which we’re able to love and aid in the development of others’ potentials – teachers do it, clergy people do it, even (gasp) politicians do it, in their own ways.
On this Independence Day, I submit to you that the United States of America has afforded its citizens the best environment in the history of humankind in which to create and to love and thereby to achieve the fullness of their human potentials. For each citizen to do that requires a high degree of personal and economic freedom, and the U.S.A. provides both, through a democratic government with strong protections for individuals, and through capitalism, which promotes competition between individuals and rewards the development of unique potential. If you think about it, any country in human history that achieved power comparable to that of the U.S.A. in today’s world – a lone “superpower” – used that power to take freedom away from people, to conquer, and thereby to stifle the development of unique human potential. For most of human history in fact, most human beings have lived in what I call “Braveheart” conditions, wherein whoever was physically stronger (individually or collectively) largely determined how much of their potentials physically-weaker humans could develop. The U.S.A. has altered the course of human history, in a positive way, far more than would be expected considering the relatively short period of human history during which it has existed (it hasn’t had a perfect record, but at least it has literally torn itself apart and put itself back together again trying to right its own wrongs). The post-Civil War U.S.A. has used its power to secure more freedom for more people than ever in the history of the world, making it possible for them to pursue and achieve the fullness of their human potentials, to relate to their Creator, to fulfill the purpose of their lives, and thereby to pursue and achieve that elusive state we call “happiness.” Therefore, on this Independence Day, my hope is that we all realize the fundamental, transcendental greatness of this country and the responsibility to continue to protect and defend the principles that made it great from all enemies foreign and domestic.