Archive: June 2009

Updates and a fatalistic “Study this” 6/30/09

Update #1:  Michael Jackson’s mother apparently has temporary guardianship of his three kids, and the Jackson parents also are apparently going to be the singer’s personal representatives in the disposition of his assets.  Jackson’s mother is near 80 years old, so there may yet be some legal wrangling over who’s in the best position to be the children’s permanent guardian.  The two older children’s mother normally would be the number-one candidate to raise her biological kids, but her claim is likely tainted by her apparent agreement to stay out of their lives up to now in exchange for money from Jackson.  Some sources have reported that the children have been heard asking for their nanny, who’s apparently the only real “mother figure” they’ve ever known, but at 11 and 12, even the older two are a little young to be given much of a say in the matter.  Stay tuned.

Update #2:  Super-swindler Bernie Madoff has been sentenced to 150 years in prison.  That’s effectively a life sentence, as it should be.

Update #3:  The U.S. Supreme Court, somewhat ironically, has disagreed with Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who’s nominated to be the Court’s newest member.  The Supremes’ ruling was in favor of a group of Caucasian and Hispanic firefighters whose case Sotomayor didn’t think had merit.  The firefighters took and passed a test for promotions within the New Haven, CT Fire Department over five years ago, but the City of New Haven threw out the results of the test when the pass rate for black examinees was deemed insufficient.  The Supreme Court found no evidence that the test had a “disparate impact” (unintentional discriminatory effect) on black examinees, and that those who passed did so not because they were Caucasian or Hispanic but because they prepared themselves well, for which they will now, finally, be rewarded with their promotions and back pay.  The whole thing reaffirms my concern about Sotomayor’s ability to evaluate legal questions involving race in an emotionless, purely intellectual, objective manner.

Study this:  A new study suggests that there’s more than one psychological explanation for risky behavior among teens.  The mainstream explanation is that teens under-estimate their risk of being seriously harmed by such behaviors as reckless driving, drug use, and sexual promiscuity.  The new study suggests, however, that some teens actually over-estimate their risk of dying young and may feel that they have little to lose by engaging in risky behaviors.

A little common sense and a moving “Study this” 6/29/09

As you know if you watch or read regularly, I’m big on logic — logical living, loving, and leading — which generally means using more intellect and less emotion in determining how to act in daily life, relationships, business, and politics.  In keeping with that theme, I’m about to make a couple of observations that I know may upset some people but that I think are both timely and necessary.

First, about the “cap and trade” legislation moving through Congress:  This is environmental legislation, whereby American (and not our major global competitors’) businesses would be forced to reduce carbon emissions drastically or pay exorbitant fees (which would of course be passed on to consumers) to purchase pollution “credits” from other businesses that emit less than their legal limits.  The ostensible purpose of this legislation is to reduce “global warming.”  Now my Ph.D. is in psychology, not environmental science, but fortunately, it’s a well-functioning mind, not a Ph.D. in environmental science, that’s required in order to understand why “cap and trade” is an unnecessary burden on Americans’ productivity.  The Earth has been warming up and cooling off since it’s been here.  Remember seeing graphics of “ice ages” back in elementary school science?  The world’s been a lot colder than this at various times, and it’s obviously warmed up a lot since the last ice age, right?  It’s also been a lot hotter than this at various times, not just a few degrees, but many degrees.  And all of that cooling off and warming up was happening long before humans were emitting any pollutants into the atmosphere. Even today, you could stand every single living human being on Earth in an area the collective size of the Hawaiian Islands!  Compared to the primordial forces that have shaped the Earth for eons, any effect that we might possibly, maybe, in theory have on its climate is insignificant.  The Earth will continue to warm up and cool off as long as it’s here, and anything we do to try to stop that will do nothing but make Americans’ lives unnecessarily more difficult.

Second, about the numerous Americans who were caught on camera sobbing about the death of Michael Jackson over the weekend:  I’ve already written about the man’s musical genius, which I think was rare in all of human history, but seriously, what’s with these people who never knew the man personally and are feeling — or acting like they’re feeling — profound personal loss upon his passing away?  I can certainly understand the man’s family, friends, and concert promoter being in tears (by the way, if the promoter tells people they have to return their tickets in order to get a refund, he/she will probably get to keep most of the money that people paid to attend this summer’s scheduled concerts in London).  But what about the woman who told one reporter that Jackson’s death “is the worst tragedy ever”?  Seriously?  What’s her excuse?  In my opinion, anyone who’s that distraught over the fact that a musical genius won’t be making any more music probably needs to examine his or her own life and priorities.  I’m thinking there may be some serious voids when it comes to meaningful activities and relationships of their own, almost like little kids with “imaginary friends” except that these are adults who should be well beyond that stage of life.  Either that or they’re just big phonies, like we saw after Princess Diana died — people who never even saw the woman in person crying like they had just lost a beloved family member.  I know, I know, I’m a heartless s.o.b. for not understanding these people’s grief over the deaths of complete strangers.  I just think it says something disturbing about our culture when celebrities are this important to people.

Finally tonight, study this:  A new study linked multiple relocations during childhood with an increased risk of suicide.  Kids whose families moved more three or more times between the ages of 11 and 17, while they were learning how to form social support bonds with peers, were twice as likely as kids with more geographically-stable families to have attempted suicide.  Of course relocation is sometimes necessary and/or desirable for families, especially for military families and when the economy is worse in certain areas of the country than in others, but when parents conclude that the pros of relocating their families outweigh the cons, they should be careful to monitor and not to underestimate the emotional effects on their children, who may need extra, even professional, support to make healthy readjustments.

The legacy of Michael Jackson 6/26/09

With the passing of Michael Jackson on Thursday, the world lost one of the greatest musical talents it has ever known.  Jackson epitomized what we’ve seen throughout centuries of humanity with artistic geniuses like Vincent van Gogh — an individual blessed with incredible talent in one area but burdened with deep deficits in other areas.  For tonight though, I’d just like to remember the gift that Jackson’s talent was to the world and let his deficits rest with him.  Many are speculating as to the cause of Jackson’s death, and it does sound to me like prescription painkillers may be part of that, but an autopsy will quickly sort that out.  Beyond that, as a child custody expert, I can only imagine the battle that may be brewing over custody of Jackson’s children, and I’m sure there will be plenty to say about that in the weeks ahead.  Jackson’s wishes will weigh heavily in that decision, but the court will still need to consider, independently of his wishes, what’s in the best interests of the children, which sets up a potential battle royal over who’s in the best position to look after the “princes and princess of pop” and of course their assets (assuming there are some — I’ll bet there will be — after Jackson’s creditors’ are paid).  I’ll be following the custody proceedings closely, but tonight, I’m most concerned about the fact that it’s difficult to lose a father even as an adult, and these kids are still quite young.  Not only that, but they’re also losing essentially the only parental figure they’ve ever had.  As in any case like this (whether the people involved are famous or not), the kids are foremost on my mind tonight, and I just hope that they have loving relatives around them who’ll put their (the kids’) needs first.

Wow! 6/25/09

Wow!  Lots to tell you about, so let’s get started with…

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, whose staff told the press that he was “hiking” over Father’s Day weekend when his wife, kids, and constituents didn’t know where he was.  Well, apparently he was in Argentina.  Hiking?  No.  Having an affair.  It’s an embarrassment to American politics that I’ve had to talk about so many of these philandering hypocrites in recent months that there’s no shock here and really not much more to say.  Suffice it to say, once again, that nobody, of either party, whose spouse can’t trust him/her should be trusted by voters to hold public office.  As I said here in the case of Sen. John Ensign just days ago, Gov. Sanford should resign immediately.

Then there are “Jon & Kate” and, far more importantly, their “plus eight” kids.  Jon & Kate are divorcing, but their reality show is set to continue with next season’s episodes featuring…Jon’s new “girlfriend.”  How nice for the eight.  They get to have their family split up, and then they get to have their ignorant, immature, celebritrash parents focus more on “moving on” than on their kids, and they get to do it all in front of the whole country, which, by the way, is partially to blame.  Millions of Americans, far more than the audience for a typical episode, tuned in to the episode in which the divorce plans were announced.  There should be no “audience” for this tele-trash, but there is, so it’s no wonder parents seem to think there’s nothing wrong with putting themselves first and their kids last.  That’s what happens when the members of a society suspend all judgments about one another’s behavior — it breaks down.  No one should watch this train wreck, and the network that airs it shouldn’t be able to sell a single commercial during it, but they do, and they can, and I think it’s both a sad commentary on our society and probably a significant detriment to the healthy psychological and emotional development of the kids involved.  The divorce judge should appoint me to evaluate whether continued participation in Jon & Kate Plus Eight is in the children’s best interests, and if I conclude that it’s not, then the show should be over, profitable or not!

While we’re on the cultural front, rap music has sunken to a new level of vile.  Some creep who goes by the name “Kool G” has a song out that brags about sexual violence and how he’ll leave a woman “looking like a rape victim.”  I heard it as I was perusing the channels on Sirius-XM this week, and it made me want to cancel my subscription to that service and just listen to CD’s and MP3’s from now on (which I admit I haven’t done, but only because I need to have access to the channels that stream network news live when I’m driving).  Earlier this very week, I wrote about the state of cultural chaos in South Africa, a country in which approximately 25% of men are estimated to have committed at least one rape.  When I wrote that, I was thinking that Americans would never tolerate mistreatment of women on anything close to that scale, but hearing that disgusting “song” prominently featured on the radio, knowing that there’s once again a market for such misogynistic filth here, has made me a little less sure.

Now, to the crime front.  A high school football coach was shot and killed in Iowa on Wednesday while conducting a summer workout in the school’s weight room.  The shooter, a former student at the school, is in custody…now…but guess what…just guess?  At age 24, not only does he (allegedly) have a history of drug and violent crime, but he (allegedly) led police on a high-speed chase after attempting to break into a residence, first with a baseball bat and then by driving through a closed garage door…JUST THIS PAST WEEKEND…WHILE ON PROBATION AFTER A FEBRUARY ASSAULT CONVICTION!!!  Yet, he was STILL allowed to be walking the streets on Wednesday, with a firearm, to shoot the coach in front of 20 high school football players (who of course are victims as well, considering the psychological trauma they suffered as witnesses).  WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS SOCIETY that we’re so tolerant of violence???  Honest to God ladies and gentlemen, why do states and municipalities across this country not have the gumption to lock people up for long periods of time the very first time they exhibit violent tendencies?  Whether you think that would’ve “fixed” this defendant or not, at least he wouldn’t have been available to kill the coach on Wednesday if he’d been sent to prison for five years for the February assault.  Anyone who doesn’t demand that his/her legislators get tougher earlier on these increasingly violent punks and then acts shocked when incidents like this happen is ignorant.  Sorry, it’s the truth, and I’m sick of telling it over and over again after someone’s raped or killed by a person who was given five, six, seven…chances to finally do it.

Finally tonight, to the bizarre front.  Right up the road from me in Kansas City, a drunken, naked man reportedly got out of bed in the middle of the night, went into his closet instead of his bathroom, and proceeded to urinate.  When his girlfriend realized what was happening and reportedly tried to stop it, the sleepwalking drunk allegedly…came at her in a threatening manner, prompting her to pick up…a knife, which the man…”walked into,” waking him up, finally, but sending him to the hospital with a non-life-threatening stab wound.  Wow.

Updates and a staggering “Study this” 6/23/09

Hip-hop singer Chris Brown plead guilty on Monday to a single felony charge in connection with last year’s battery of his then-girlfriend, singer Rhianna.  Under the plea deal, Brown will do 180 days of community service and be on probation for five years.  He’s also ordered to have no contact with Rhianna, so hopefully that means she wised up somewhere along the line and ended their relationship.  She’ll also need to be careful to pick her next boyfriend more wisely — if not, she could end up in a cycle of abuse as many battered women unfortunately do.  That’s not to say it’s their fault — it isn’t; only the people who throw the punches are to blame — just that some women tend to keep putting themselves in harm’s way by getting away from one creep and then giving the next creep a chance to treat them just as badly.  Hopefully that won’t be Rhianna.

On the celebritrash front, Jon and Kate of Jon & Kate Plus Eight fame (or infamy) are apparently getting divorced.  I couldn’t care less if there weren’t eight unfortunate kids involved.  These parents couldn’t seem to put the best interests of their kids first while they were married, so as a child custody evaluator, I’m not optimistic about their ability to do it post-divorce.

While I’m on that subject, I was appalled by a story that appeared on MSNBC on Father’s Day about a man who apparently was married with three minor children, had at least one and allegedly a series of homosexual affairs, was caught and divorced by his wife, initially got four hours per week of visitation time with the kids, was ordered not to bring any homosexual partners around the kids during the visits, sued claiming that the order was “discriminatory,” won, and couldn’t wait to spend his four hours on Father’s Day with the kids and his boyfriend.  Oh goody, how nice for the kids.  First they got to have their family blown up by their father’s infidelity.  Then they got to live without a father figure physically present in their lives except for four hours a week.  Now, they get to share those four hours a week, even on Father’s Day, with their father’s boyfriend.  Way to put the kids first.  And the problem as I see it is more with the father’s priorities and less with his sexual orientation.  Whether a divorced parent is gay or straight, I generally don’t like the idea of dividing a kid’s limited time with that parent between the kid and the parent’s love interest(s).  I’d be equally ticked if the situation were reversed and the mother objected to spending four hours a week with her kids without bringing her boyfriend along.

The alleged “Craigslist Killer” has pled not-guilty to the April murder of a woman whom he allegedly arranged to meet in a Boston hotel via the online marketplace’s “erotic services” listings.  (If you’re not familiar with this story yet, I wrote about it several times in late April, and you can find those posts in the archives.)

Finally, a staggering “Study this”:  In an anonymous survey of over 1,700 South African men, approximately 25% admitted that they had committed rape, and nearly half of those men admitted that they’d committed it more than once!  It gets even more disgustingly staggering when you add to that the fact that approximately 20% of the men who admitted to having committed rape also identified themselves as being HIV positive.  If this survey’s results are even remotely accurate, then South Africa is a nation in a state of absolute socio-cultural chaos in which women and girls are being victimized at a truly heartbreaking rate.  (This is the sort of thing, by the way, that makes me want to throw up whenever someone says we need to get the blessing of the U.N., made up of more chaotic countries like South Africa than true constitutional democracies like the U.S.A., before it’s OK for us to defend ourselves.  That’s like saying I ought to run over to the county jail and let the inmates vote on whether I should install an alarm system on my residence — you know, because they have such great track records of living successfully among others and because they really want me to be as safe as possible.  Right.)

Wrapping up the week 6/20/09

Voodoo?  In New York City, in 2009?  That’s supposedly what was going on when a mother (and I use that term loosely) allegedly poured rum on her daughter and set it on fire as part of some kind of “ritual.”  The little girl reportedly was burned over 25% of her body and is likely to recover in foster care, and the mother and grandmother (an alleged participant in the “ritual”) are in custody, hopefully forever.  I won’t be surprised if we get an insanity defense or two in this case, but “folie a deux” (psychosis shared by two people) so profound as to render both a mother and grandmother unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of setting fire to a six-year-old?  I don’t think so.  Drug-induced psychosis?  Maybe, but mental incapacity due to voluntary intoxication is not a viable defense (it has to be due to a mental disease or defect).  I just hope this little girl makes a full recovery and finds a good adoptive home before having to spend years in the foster system.

And here’s an update on another candidate for “Mother of the Year,” Casey Anthony:  The results of the autopsy performed on the remains of little Caylee Anthony were released on Friday.  Nothing you didn’t really already know — cause of death:  homicide, means of homicide:  indeterminate, no ascertainable fractures, no ascertainable drugs, etc.  It is apparent that the body was dumped in the location where it was found shortly after death, rather than being moved to that location shortly before it was found as some have theorized.  Casey Anthony’s parents strongly objected to the public disclosure of the autopsy results, stating that it would cause them further pain and suffering.  Having seen the results, I’m not sure what they thought would add to their pain and suffering because it’s all pretty much been out there for a while now.  Sounds to me like they were more worried that the public (i.e. the jury pool) will now be even more hostile toward their daughter.

Finally tonight, fathers.  As you know if you’re a regular reader or viewer, when I think the President is wrong, I don’t mind pointing that out, but when I think he’s right, I’m equally ready to give him credit. In this case, I applaud him for spending part of Friday talking about fatherhood and how fathers need to take responsibility for meeting the needs of their children from conception to adulthood.  We have far too many children growing up with absentee fathers in this country, and it’s contributing to big problems from poverty, to crime, to substance abuse, teenage sexual promiscuity, … .  So, on this Father’s Day weekend, I’m glad to see the President talking about the importance of fathers being actively involved in their children’s lives.  I’ve been an adult for a while now, and I still don’t like to think about my father not being here.  This will be a bittersweet Father’s Day for me because he’s gravely ill, and I’ve never been as cognizant as I am right now of everything he’s done for me.  If you have a father who’s done as much for you as mine’s done for me, I hope you’ll take time this weekend to make sure he knows how much you appreciate it.

Have a good weekend, and happy Father’s Day to all the dads including mine!

Psycho-politics 6/18/09

Here’s the latest on the psycho-political front:

1)  A day after I said that Sen. John Ensign’s political career should be over (the married father of three recently announced that he had an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer), he resigned…sort of.  He didn’t resign from the Senate, but he did resign his leadership post on the Senate Republicans’ Policy Committee.  Personally, I’d like to see Ensign continue to follow in the footsteps of former senator John Edwards…and get out of office entirely (and what’s up with these John’s in the U.S. Senate?).

2)  The Obama Administration has said that the 78-year-old former Inspector General of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a watchdog agency that oversees programs like AmeriCorps, was fired recently because he was “disoriented” and “confused” at a May meeting.  Critics of the firing have said that it was, at best, simple ageism and, at worst, a move to silence a vocal critic of irresponsible, wasteful spending by the Administration.  Although Fox News host Glenn Beck’s not a psychologist, he did a relatively good job on his program Wednesday evening of administering the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE) to the former Inspector General, who scored 100%, meaning that there was no sign of cognitive impairment.  The MMSE is ubiquitous in psychiatry and psychology for the assessment of gross cognitive functioning, i.e. general lucidity, and Dr. Paul McHugh (the world-renowned psychiatrist who was the other psych expert — in addition to me — on whom The O’Reilly Factor relied in exposing the questionable legality of the late Dr. George Tiller’s abortion practices) was one of its original authors.  It’s a good test, and the former Inspector General’s perfect score on it suggests to me that there’s more to the story of his firing.

Odds and ends 6/17/09

First the odds:

I’m not 100% sure I should call them oddities because there seem to be more and more like them in the public’s consciousness these days, but I’m referring to a couple named Spencer and Heidi Pratt, who, as far as I can tell, are famous (somewhat, I never heard of them before today) for no clear reason.  Apparently, they recently participated in the reality show “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” (the same show former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich wanted to participate in but was barred from traveling to the Costa Rican set pending his trial on corruption charges), which suggests that they were “celebrities” beforehand, but I have no idea why and no interest in researching it.  The point is, Al Roker interviewed these people on Monday’s “Today” show, and during the interview, he asked Heidi whether she was proud of her behavior on “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.”  When she wouldn’t answer, Roker persisted, three times, before she finally said that yes, she was proud.  The couple reportedly is upset now because instead of pretending like they really deserved the public’s respect and admiration, Roker basically called them out on national television for being the celebritrash that they are.  I say way to go Al!  It’s about time someone pointed out what a joke it is to expect Americans to take programs seriously when guest lists that once featured real luminaries, major newsmakers, and the occasional ordinary-person-doing-something-extraordinary now feature celebritrash.

How about this family for an oddity?  A father and his two teenaged children — a 12-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son — reportedly were taken into custody in Lawrence, Kansas on suspicion of conspiracy to kill the man’s ex-wife (who’s also the children’s mother).  The son allegedly tried to carry out the plot, attacking his mother with a baseball bat and chasing her running and screaming down a residential street after she escaped.  The former husband and wife reportedly have been embroiled in a bitter custody battle over the children in recent months , but it’s not clear whether they were fighting over who gets to take custody of these two little angels or who’s has to take custody of them!  If I were the mother, I don’t think I’d be begging the court to put them at my house, but ironically, that’s where the daughter could now end up, especially if the Department of Corrections gets custody of the dad and brother!

Now, the ends:

At least for now, the argument within psychology and psychiatry about whether a single gene determines who gets depressed and who doesn’t is at an end.  After six years, there’s been no corroboration of the theory, based on a single 2003 study, that there’s a “depression gene.”  The interaction between genetics and environment is complex (and if you’re interested in it, Nature Via Nurture by Matt Ridley is worth a look), but the basic idea is that some genes express themselves without environmental stimulation (like the gene for eye color) while others don’t express themselves unless a certain level of environmental stimulation is reached (kind of like a home air conditioner doesn’t kick on unless and until the temperature in the house reaches a certain level — if it never got that warm in the home, the air conditioner would still be there, but it would never do anything).  The failure of a series of follow-up studies to implicate the gene identified in 2003 as the pivotal factor that determines whether people become depressed under stress doesn’t mean that genetics play no role in depression.  Some people are more resilient emotionally than others, and genetics probably play into that somewhat, but what’s clear at this point is that relationship is more complex than whether a person has a single gene.

Here’s one more thing that should be over at this point:  the political career of John Ensign, a married U.S. Senator and father of three who reportedly has admitted to having an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer in 2007 and 2008.  My opinion of Ensign, a Republican, is no different than the opinion of John Edwards, a Democrat, whose extramarital affair I discussed repeatedly on television last summer.  Unfortunately, I’ve discussed a number of politicians like Ensign and Edwards in recent years, and their political affiliations are irrelevant.  They strike me as malignantly-narcissistic hypocrites whose stated policy positions are worth about as much as their marriage vows were.  The bottom line for me is this:  a person who cannot be trusted to keep his or her marital vows to his or her spouse cannot be trusted to keep his or her campaign promises to his or her constituents.

Another family murder-suicide and an alarming “Study this” 6/16/09

There’s been another family murder-suicide in which a Florida father apparently shot his wife and two children and then himself.  Not many details yet, but looks like the “escapist” (to a “better place”) type — there reportedly were serious financial problems (see my previous post dated 4/22/09 for my murder-suicide typology).

There’s more evidence that ADHD meds may be harmful, even fatal in some cases.  A new study corroborates my previous warnings that stimulants prescribed for ADHD may be deadly in kids with undiagnosed heart conditions (in addition to previous blog posts, see my column, “A Perfect Storm,” in the archives).  The frequency of such incidents is admittedly small, but when you consider that millions of American kids take these drugs, the risk becomes alarmingly larger in my opinion.  Add to that my firm belief that most of those kids have been misdiagnosed with ADHD by pediatricians poorly trained and equipped to diagnose mental illnesses in kids, and you have what I consider to be an unacceptably scary situation.  Unfortunately, millions of medicated kids means billions of dollars per year to the pharmaceutical companies that make ADHD drugs, so don’t expect it to change until those companies start paying, literally — I’m talking cigarette-suit-sized settlements to the parents of kids who are harmed by these drugs.  If you know parents in that terrible situation, tell them to call me, and I’ll see if I can help.

Weekend update 6/14/09

A few weekend happenings of note:

The F.D.A. announced on Friday that it will require the class of asthma drugs known as leuokotriene modifiers (including Singulair, Accolate, and Zyflo), to carry warnings about neuropsychiatric side effects (mood and behavior changes including suicidality).

If you’re a regular reader and/or viewer, you know that I’ve repeatedly accused pharmaceutical companies that make psychotropic drugs of rigging the studies designed to test the drugs’ efficacy and of engaging in marketing practices that are tantamount to bribing health care professionals to prescribe certain drugs over others.  Well, check this out:  There’s a lawsuit underway against the manufacturer of the antipsychotic Zyprexa for downplaying potentially-dangerous side effects and marketing it for off-label (unapproved) uses.  In that lawsuit, it was revealed on Friday that CVS (the drugstore chain), while under contract to negotiate price discounts with Zyprexa’s manufacturer on behalf of health insurers, allegedly was paid to push Zyprexa via direct mailings to its network of affiliated physicians.  See what I mean?  It’s just another indication to go along with the ghostwriting of supposedly “scientific” reports about the efficacy of certain drugs and the undisclosed payments to supposedly “objective” researchers who seem to always find certain drugs to be safe and effective…all of which suggest that you cannot trust these companies to level with you about the risks and benefits of their products.  Zyprexa, by the way, is among the antipsychotics that an F.D.A. advisory panel endorsed early last week for use in children — just what the kids of America need.

Amanda Knox, the American co-ed accused of participating in the murder of her British roommate while studying abroad in Italy, took the witness stand in an Italian courtroom this weekend.  She denied any involvement in the roommate’s murder and said that Italian cops were responsible for her series of conflicting stories about what really happened.  Knox said the cops pressured her, confused her, and smacked her during questioning and that she didn’t understand Italian well enough at the time to understand exactly what they were asking.  Testimony in the trial is scheduled to resume June 19.

A teenager has been arrested in connection with a string of gruesome cat mutilations in the Miami area.  Taking pleasure in the infliction of pain on animals is a hallmark of Antisocial Personality Disorder and a common thread in the backgrounds of psychopaths, who’ve routinely escalated from animals to people.  Because the penalties for these offenses likely will not be all that severe, I predict we’ll be hearing about the same perpetrator again in the future in connection with a violent offense against a person.

Also this weekend, a gay activist group reportedly held a “prom” at Boston’s City Hall to which people as young as 12 years old were invited.  The event reportedly featured extreme public displays of same-sex affection ranging from kissing and groping on the tame end to sadomasochistic behavior on the wild end of a particularly disturbing continuum given the presence of children.  I don’t much care who consenting adults love, in either the emotional sense or the physical sense, but I don’t understand why certain activist groups continually go beyond advocating the acceptance of homosexuality and push the acceptance of hypersexuality.  I don’t want to see anyone, of any age, homosexual or heterosexual, engaging in sadomasochistic behavior, and I’m an adult — there’s no way kids should be exposed to it!  Some gay activists say it’s a matter of “pride.”  I don’t understand that either.  I mean, they say that they had no choice in being homosexual.  If they really believe that, then why are they “proud” of it?  So should I be “proud” of being straight?  I’m glad I am, but I don’t really see it as a personal accomplishment.  If by “proud,” they mean “not-ashamed,” fine, but I think anyone who feels the need to demonstrate his/her lack of shame by engaging in public behavior that’s inappropriate for anyone of any sexual orientation has serious self-image and self-control issues, regardless of whether he/she is gay or straight.

Finally tonight, after that last story, here’s an actual positive story on the culture front.  When fans of both teams at an Iowa high school baseball game became unruly and vulgar, the umpire ejected the entire crowd from the stands.  After a 40-minute delay, fans were allowed to return under threat of instant ejection upon the first offensive or unruly behavior, and the game was finished.  I say good for the umpire, who actually enforced the expectation that people should behave respectfully and respectably toward and among others!  Score one for decency!

Wrapping up the week 6/13/09

Just a couple of updates as I wrap up the week:

1)  It kind of got lost in the coverage of the shooting at the Holocaust Museum, but on the same day, the identity of the child’s body found on a Michigan riverbank last week was confirmed — it is in fact the body of little Neveah Buchanan.  It’s another sad case of a precious little girl apparently paying the price for the irresponsible lifestyle of her parent(s).

2)  The con artist formerly known as “Clark Rockefeller,” a.k.a. “Crockefeller” courtesy of my friend Jane Velez-Mitchell, was found guilty of kidnapping his daughter.  The jury didn’t buy his insanity defense (because it was bogus, and you heard that here first!).  He’s been sentenced to 4-5 years in prison.

Have a good and safe weekend.

Another sentence and a “Study this” that you might lose sleep over 6/11/09

Here’s another unbelievable sentence, which will let an elderly child molester out of prison after…ONE YEAR!  That’s right, an older guy who molested two children in Oklahoma has been sentenced to one year in prison.  How could this have happened?  The children apparently were scared to testify in the courtroom with the defendant present, and the judge (who’s now facing possible removal from office by either the state attorney general or the state legislature) refused to allow them to testify by closed-circuit video.  So, the prosecutor accepted a guilty plea to a charge that will keep this creep in prison for just one year.  (See my last post for a discussion of how I think jurors and judges sometimes underestimate the future dangerousness of releasing older people from prison.)

Study this:  The F.D.A. has approved several antipsychotic drugs, formerly approved for prescription to adults only, for prescription to children despite a lack of evidence that they’re going to be safe and effective for children in the long term.  I believe that these things could end up hurting more kids than they help, but now that they’re being approved, I can only hope that when a kid does get harmed, I can help his/her parents hold the prescribing doctor and/or the drug maker responsible.  (See my column “A Perfect Storm” in WorldNetDaily’s online archives for more on the dangers of feeding psychotropic drugs to kids.)

And study this:  New research on depression in teens has found that teens who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be depressed.  A similar relationship between adult depression and sleep is discussed in a new book called The Depression Cure:  The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs by Dr. Stephen Ilardi, which I recommend.

Shooting at D.C. Holocaust Museum 6/11/09

On Wednesday, n lone gunman entered the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and opened fire.  Security guards returned fire, leaving one security guard dead and the shooter hospitalized.  Before I go any further, I want to recognize the heroism of the security guard who lost his life saving the lives of others and to express condolences to his family.  Now, if you haven’t heard about this, picture the gunman.  Are you picturing an 88-year-old American of European descent who supposedly served in the U.S. military in World War II?  Probably not, which goes to show, once again, how dangerous a lone ideologue, hell-bent on committing murder and willing to die trying, can be.  We saw it also in the recent shootings of abortionist Dr. George Tiller by an anti-abortion ideologue and of a soldier at an Arkansas military recruiting office by an anti-American ideologue.

And as usual, this never should’ve been able to happen.  The shooter served 6.5 years in prison in the 80’s for attempting to take the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank hostage.  Think about that.  How many times have you taken a gun into a public institution and threatened violence?  Zero?  That’s what I thought.  And it hasn’t been hard not to, has it?  No, it hasn’t.  People should have one chance in a lifetime to do something like that, and when they do, that’s it, game over, they should be out of society forever, period.  Right?  Well, this guy was released, and since he’s been back on the streets, he’s been blogging about how he thinks that Jews are source of his and the world’s problems and that Hitler was right to kill Jews.  In addition, he apparently acquired a least one gun somewhere along the line despite being a convicted felon.  Surprise, surprise, he was still dangerous, and his behavior escalated.  How many times have you heard me say that that’s the rule, not the exception with these people?

One of the potential issues that I think may be in play here is an outdated understanding of the relationship between the ages of criminals and their dangerousness.  I think that many Americans, jurors and even some judges, may still have the misconception that it’s safe to release older people from prison because their advanced age makes them harmless.  There may have been something to that 50 years ago, when average life spans were shorter, but today, most people in their 60’s and many people in their 70’s and 80’s have relatively few health problems.  That means there’s really no reason to think that because they’re older, they’re harmless.  In fact, they may be just as dangerous as they ever were.  After all, it doesn’t take that much physical ability to walk into a building and pull a trigger.

Some have opined that the economy pushed this shooter “over the edge.”  I don’t think so.  He may have blamed Jews for the bad economy, just as Hitler did 70+ years ago, and that may have been his “excuse of the day” today, but I think he’d been on this trajectory for a long time and could just as easily have found another “excuse” if the economy were thriving.  After all, economic conditions have actually been looking up, ever so slightly, in some respects lately.  It’ll be interesting, however, to see whether the same crowd that blamed the recent shooting of Tiller on media personalities who reported negatively about him will similarly blame Wednesday’s shooting on media personalities who reported negatively about Jewish financial figures like Bernie Madoff.  If so, that crowd will be just as misguided this week as last week (but consistent at least!).

Then there’s the security at the building.  I’m not “blaming the victim” here — nobody but the shooter attacked this institution and killed its security guard — but I want to understand how this guy got into the Holocaust Museum with a firearm.  I mean, the museum exists because the Nazis blamed Jews for the world’s problems and murdered millions, and we know that there are still people in the world whose psychology and intentions are dangerously similar.  Other Jewish institutions have in fact been targeted in recent years, both by American anti-Semitic ideologues and by Middle-Eastern anti-Israeli terrorists.  I would’ve expected visitors to the Holocaust Museum to at least have to pass through metal detectors to enter that facility.  Maybe they do and this guy got around the detectors somehow — after all, he has a history of getting guns into major public buildings — but clearly, the procedures that were in place today were inadequate (unfortunately, foreseeably inadequate in my estimation).

Prime Monday Issues 6/9/09

This week started off with another busy news and t.v. day.

On Prime News, we talked about the horrific case of a pregnant Oregon woman who was murdered by another woman in an attempt to steal her baby (by cutting the baby from its mother’s womb — the baby died too).  What’s even more unbelievable is that this is the third case like this in the U.S. in the past five years (in the past two cases, the pregnant women were killed, but their babies survived).  The alleged murderess is in custody, and the conversation centered on the mindset of a person who would attempt such a horrific crime.  I explained that the perpetrator in the murder/kidnapping that occurred five years ago raised the defense that she suffered from childhood head injuries that limited her ability to control her aggression and from something called pseudocynesis (the false belief that she was in fact pregnant).  It didn’t fly (the defendant, whom I dubbed the “Cesarean Murderess,” was sentenced to death in 2008).  The defendant in the other case, occurring in 2008, had actually attempted to steal babies twice before, once by kidnapping an infant after its birth and once by cutting a pregnant woman’s abdomen, yet was inexcusably back out on the street to try it again.  She has since claimed incompetence to stand trial (she claims to be haunted by the woman she allegedly murdered) and sits in a mental institution.  These cases illustrate how mental illnesses and psychopathic behavior can coexist and how mentally ill people are still responsible for their psychopathic behavior.  Women like these are by no means mentally healthy.  They want babies so badly that they usually lie to everyone around them about being pregnant.  As in the case of Clark “Crockefeller” (as Jane Velez-Mitchell calls him), I don’t think they really believe they’re pregnant, at least not for long, because they keep fabricating new lies to back up the lies they’ve already told (e.g. lies about doctors’ appointments that never happened, etc.).  On top of that, if they really thought they were pregnant, they’d be at their doctors’ offices asking why their babies weren’t coming out instead of looking for babies to steal.  That’s where the psychopathy comes in.  Like many criminals, they probably have disordered desires, but they choose to act on those disordered desires.  Look at the planning beforehand and coverup efforts after the fact in these cases; they’re extensive.  In this Oregon case, as in the Missouri case five years ago, the victims were contacted and relationships were established with them online for extended periods of time prior to the crimes (reportedly Craigslist exchanges about buying/trading baby clothes in the Oregon case).  Also in this Oregon case, the adult victim’s body was dragged to a crawl space under the alleged murderess’ home to conceal it.  See, when a woman wants to be pregnant, realizes that she’s not, and feels entitled then to kill another woman and steal her baby (simply to obtain a baby and/or to avoid having to admit the lies she’s told to others about being pregnant), that woman’s not just some pathetic, delusional mess — that woman’s a psychopath, not really that much different from someone like the “BTK” killer who felt entitled to kill people for sexual thrills or arsonists who feel entitled to kill people and destroy property for the “thrill” of watching fires burn.  I don’t doubt that they’re somewhat crazy, but I believe wholeheartedly that they know what they’re doing and that it’s wrong, which makes them legally responsible for their actions.

On Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, we talked about the case of little Neveah Buchanan in Michigan.  Still no official confirmation from Michigan authorities, but all indications are that the body located last week encased in “quick-dry” cement along a riverbank is Neveah.  When authorities don’t even feign cautioning the media against jumping to such a conclusion, as they’re not in this case (just like they weren’t when Caylee Anthony’s body was found), it’s a good sign that the conclusion is right.  Neveah’s mother has been talking to the media, emphasizing that she (according to her) did nothing wrong.  That could possibly indicate that she expects to be implicated at some point, but it could just indicate that she’s feeling guilty about having apparently exposed her daughter to at least two registered sex offenders (both now in custody) to satisfy her (the mother’s) own selfish desires for sex or companionship or whatever.

You won’t believe this one.  A husband in North Carolina is charged with rape after allegedly hiring a man online (Craigslist again!) to rape his wife!  It was apparently some bizarre sexual fantasy of the husband’s, which of course excuses nothing — he clearly knew what he was doing and that it was wrong.  An aggressive search is underway for the accomplice, the man who actually committed the rape after being allowed into the couple’s home by the husband while the wife was asleep.

In another illustration of how mental illness can coexist with knowing and willful violent behavior in the same individual, a Utah man has been arrested and charged with threatening the President of the United States after withdrawing tens of thousands of dollars from a bank and telling the teller that he was going on a mission to kill the President.  All of us in the media know that there are those out there who sit around in their elderly parents’ basements in dirty pajamas piling up fast food wrappers while playing “World of Witchcraft” (or whatever it’s called), watching Internet porn, and blogging all night long about how “wrong” the world and the people who run it and prosper in it are.  Most such people are harmless, but when they start acting on their disaffection, e.g. making overt threats, they must be taken seriously because they may perceive that they don’t have much to lose.  In this Utah case, the man apparently has histories of mental illness, crime, and violence, so we should all be glad he’s off the street, hopefully for the foreseeable future this time.

(This might be a good time to remind everyone of an example of a case when I actually might say that a person really didn’t know what he was doing or that it was wrong:  A Iraq war veteran, suffering from PTSD, comes back to the U.S. and enrolls in college.  He’s asleep in his college dorm room, tossing and turning, obviously having a nightmare, and his roommate is concerned.  The concerned roommate turns on a light and awakens the veteran from his nightmare.  Believing momentarily that he’s back in Iraq and that the roommate is a terrorist trying to kill him in his sleep, the veteran punches the roommate.  There you go, a case in which somebody apparently didn’t know what he was doing or that it was wrong.)

Now, study this:  A new study suggests that Tourette’s Syndrome, characterized by motor and verbal “tics” and exaggerated in t.v. shows over the years from L.A. Law to South Park, affects six in every 1000 American kids.  I’m skeptical.  The study’s authors say that the 6/1000 figure includes cases so mild that they might’ve gone undetected in the past and even now in some parts of the country where expert diagnosticians are scarce.  I guess it’s possible, but I worry about a trend in upward revisions of diagnostic frequency stats in the wake of press releases in the past couple of years claiming that one in every 150 American kids has autism, which I don’t believe.  Unfortunately, I think that people with vested interests in high figures (like activists for increased funding for research and treatment for certain disorders) are influencing those figures, by directly inflating the figures in some cases and in other cases by expanding the diagnostic criteria so that certain diagnoses become applicable to more people.  I want honest stats, and I think that the new Tourette’s stat is high, but I could be wrong.

And, study this:  I came across an interview over the weekend with Dr. Lawrence Diller, a pediatric behavioral expert.  He was asked about the overmedication of kids who carry “A.D.H.D.” diagnoses.  Believe it or not, he reportedly said that some kids with bad behavior actually might benefit more from…gasp…a well-timed, well-controlled smack on the rear than from a psychotropic pill!  How shocking!  Centuries of parenting wisdom might actually be right, and the pharmaceutical companies and the “unconditional self-esteem” crowd might actually be wrong?  Say it ain’t so!

Updates 6/5/09

Here are a couple of late-breaking updates on stories mentioned in my last post:

1)  Sadly, pending official identification, word is that the body found on a Michigan riverbank yesterday appears to be that of missing five-year-old Neveah Buchanan.

2)  I don’t think anybody saw this one coming — Thai authorities are now saying that actor David Carradine, first thought to have committed suicide yesterday, may actually have hung himself accidentally.  They think he may have intended to asphyxiate himself only partially during an…ahem…”auto-erotic” activity.  Believe it or not, there’s a history of this.  Apparently some people get heightened pleasure from participating in “erotic” activities while oxygen-deprived.  Not only is that behavior indicative of a “paraphilia” (a disordered sexual desire) — specifically, a form of sexual masochism known as “hypoxyphilia,” but it’s dangerous.  Carradine wouldn’t be the first person to have died doing it.  Research suggests that 300-600 people die that way each year in the U.S. alone!  Those numbers sound high to me, but maybe I’m being naive.  It’s important to note that nobody’s claiming to be sure at this point about how Carradine died, and whether it was this or intentional suicide, I feel very sorry for his family members who have to deal not only with the loss but also with the fact that it’s international news.

Busy news day 6/4/09

Thursday was a busy news day.  Here’s a rundown:

It’s not always fun to be right, and I still hope I’m not in this case, but a yet-to-be identified body had been found in a Michigan river not far from where little Neveah Buchanan went missing.

The husband who was accused in an Australian court of murdering his new wife on their honeymoon in that country by cutting off her air supply during a scuba dive (he’s an expert diver; she was a novice), after denying it for over a year, has plead guilty.

Authorities in Philadelphia have announced that no one will be charged in the beating of a rape suspect that I talked and wrote about yesterday.  Not only that, but two of the crowd members who beat the guy up will also split a $10,000 reward for leading police to him.  Since yesterday, I’ve received information about the rape that this guy’s accused of committing, and I can only tell you that it’s the most horrific attack on a female that I’ve heard of since last year’s attack on Arkansas newswoman Anne Pressly, and the victim in this case was a young girl on the way to school.  I’ve said twice this week that I don’t condone lynch-mob justice, but am I going to lose any sleep over this guy’s beating?  What do you think?

Actor David Carradine has been found dead in a Bankok hotel room.  He apparently hung himself while in Thailand to film a movie.  I’ve written before about why famous people who seem to have it all sometimes become suicidal nonetheless (the most recent time I think involved actor Owen Wilson), but it’s important to keep in mind that famous people are susceptible to all of the same mental trials and tribulations as non-famous people.

Four Florida teenage boys have been arrested for raping a male teammate with a broom handle in a locker room — not just on one occasion, but on multiple occasions.  The perpetrators have been charged as adults, as they should be, but once again, I wish the parents of the victim would call me because there’s a huge lawsuit that needs to be filed against the school where the alleged rapes occurred.  As I said just the other day, this kind of thing should not be able to happen in a school.  Every kid in America should be able to go through the school day without having to worry about being a victim of violence anywhere in or around the school building.  When violence like this happens at a school, the attacker(s) are responsible for their actions criminally but the adults in charge are responsible civilly for allowing an environment to exist in which such violence was possible.

A mother in Texas allegedly was caught on camera putting feces into her hospitalized daughter’s IV.  Hospital staff reportedly put a hidden camera in the room when they couldn’t figure out why the girl was chronically sick.  There is such a thing as Factitious Disorder by Proxy, aka Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, in which people, usually a parent, make other people, usually a kid, sick so that the perpetrators can play the “martyr” role, garnering attention and sympathy as ostensibly tireless “caregivers.”  Well, keep in mind that mental illness occurs in the mind, and it generally doesn’t make people do things.  In other words, I don’t care how much this mother wanted attention and sympathy from people; I’ll bet she knew it was wrong to do what she did, as evidenced by her efforts to do it surreptitiously.  If I’m right, mentally ill or not, the little girl would be long married with children of her own before I’d let the mother out of the slammer!

On the psycho-political front, every time I hear about Supreme Court nominee judge Sonia Sotomayor touting her ethnicity, it rubs me the wrong way, and here’s why.  People who seem to be preoccupied with their ethnicity, in my experience, are usually angry about perceived injustices, and I worry about such a person’s ability to be objective when addressing legal issues involving ethnicity.  Also, as I said in my recent WorldNetDaily column “The Truth About Interrogation,” I don’t think that soft, apologetic speeches by the President are going to inspire anti-American ideologues in the Middle East to eschew violence.  As another commentatory said today (I think it was Carl Rove), the best actions Obama has taken to counter terrorism were the shots that were fired to kill the pirates who held an American ship’s captain hostage off the coast of Africa (and I would add the few missile strikes that have happened in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region since Obama’s been in office).

On Thursday’s Prime News, we talked about the case of a nine-year-old boy whose mother took him to Brazil five years ago, never returned him to the United States, divorced his father in Brazil, married another man in Brazil, and then died recently in childbirth.  This whole time, the biological father has been fighting to get his son back to the U.S., and after one Brazilian court ruled that that’s what should happen now that the mother’s dead, the Brazilian Supreme Court has intervened and may reverse that ruling.  This is a travesty, and both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have gotten involved on the American father’s behalf.  In addition to the presumption that the other biological parent is most likely to care about a child after the death of one parent, there are also many advantages to consider in growing up here rather than in Brazil.  Sure, there will be some negatives about returning — the kid probably has developed some attachment to the stepfather after living in Brazil for five years; he’ll probably have trouble with English for a while, etc., but those are problems created by his dead criminal mother, and I doubt that they outweigh the advantages of returning to the U.S., especially when you consider that this Brazilian “stepfather” apparently was complicit in the kidnapping.  Hopefully the Brazilian Supreme Court will do the right thing.

Also on Thursday’s show, we discussed the disgusting case of a guy who showed streaming video of himself sexually violating an unconscious woman who apparently had been drinking at his house and passed out.  The guy was arrested after friends of the woman found the video online.  I think he’s dangerous and here’s why — not only did he engage in a sex act with someone who couldn’t consent (which is rape and indicates that he feels entitled to take sex from women who won’t give it to him willingly), but he also wanted other people to know about the power that he exercised over the woman against her will.  That reminds me of a certain “BTK” killer here in Kansas and makes me think they may have caught another one in the making.  I hope they throw the book at this guy.

Lastly, I like it when I get a chance to talk about a case on t.v. that doesn’t involve a death, sexual assault, etc., and we discussed such a case on Thursday’s show.  The story goes like this:  A man with a baseball bat entered a convenience store and demanded money.  The shopkeeper pulled a gun on the robber, and the robber then fell to his knees and pleaded for mercy, claiming that he was only robbing the store because his kids were hungry.  The shopkeeper gave the robber $40 and a loaf of bread, at which point the robber said that he wanted to become a better person and convert to the shopkeeper’s religion, Islam.  The shopkeeper administered an oath of affirmation of the Muslim faith, and then the robber ran away.  We had the shopkeeper on, and he was clearly a praiseworthy Good Samaritan.  As I said on the show, however, far be it from me to throw cold water on a heartwarming story of a criminal finding religion, but I don’t buy the robber’s “hungry kids” story.  Remember, he told that story and professed to have found religion at gunpoint.  I’d like to think that the guy was really a desperate father and that he really will turn his life around now, but I doubt it.  A real desperate father probably would’ve found a better way to go about helping his kids.  No, I’m sorry, but I’ll bet the robber hit up a couple more convenience stores with the baseball bat that night and went home with some drugs and his bread!

Prime Wednesday 6/4/09

On Wednesday’s Prime News, we discussed the sad case of missing Michigan five-year-old Neveah Buchanan, whose irresponsible mother apparently associated with two registered sex offenders who are now in custody as “persons of interest” in the little girl’s disappearance.  I wrote about this case last Thursday, and unfortunately, not much has really developed in it since then, which both Mike Brooks and I noted is a foreboding lack of progress in the search.

Also on Wednesday’s show, we discussed the case of “Clark Rockefeller,” or as Jane Velez-Mitchell calls him “Crockefeller,” who’s presenting an insanity defense in his kidnapping trial this week (he allegedly snatched his daughter during a supervised visit last year and took off with her).  A defense expert said on Wednesday that Crockefeller was delusional and narcissistic, believed his lies about being a “Rockefeller,” and couldn’t know therefore that his actions were wrong.  I explained why I don’t think that’s right, referring to a recent case in which I examined someone who told a similar series of lies.  These people don’t just tell one lie.  They’re constantly having to make up new lies to maintain old lies.  For example, if a guy lies to people and tells them he’s a doctor, he’s constantly getting questions like, “What kind of a doctor are you?” and “Where did you attend medical school?” to which he’s constantly having to make up answers to maintain the facade.  Therefore, it’s clear to me that they know they’re lying, which means they’re not delusional.  If they’re lying is not purely designed to help them meet people of means (as Crockefeller did — the little girl’s mother is quite successful) and con those people out of money, then it’s likely designed to garner respect and status to which they feel entitled (e.g. the prestige of being a doctor) but which they’re unwilling or unable to actually earn.  That’s the narcissism component, which I can believe is there in Crockefeller, but whether it is or isn’t, wouldn’t prevent him from knowing that his actions were wrong (remember, by “wrong” I mean wrong by society’s standards, i.e. illegal).  As I said on Tuesday’s show about Bonnie Sweeten, the Philadelphia woman who faked her and her daughter’s kidnapping and took off to Florida with her little girl, there’s lots of evidence of prior planning in Crockefeller’s case (i.e. he knew what he was doing), and there’s also lots of evidence of consciousness of guilt (trying to elude authorities, cover tracks, etc., i.e. he knew his actions were wrong).

Finally tonight, on Wednesday’s show we also discussed a case in which Philadelphia residents identified a “person of interest” in the brutal rape of a young girl there, surrounded the man, and beat him up (hit him with fists and sticks and kicked him) severely while waiting for police to arrive and take him into custody.  Ironically, open questions include not just whether to charge members of the crowd with assault and battery but also whether to give them the reward that had been offered for information leading to the arrest of the “person of interest.”  I referred back to last fall’s Wal-Mart “Christmas” shopping stampede to show how people will do things in emotionally-charged crowds that they wouldn’t do individually; then I referred to this week’s shootings of Tiller in Wichita (by an anti-abortion ideologue) and the shootings of two soldiers at an Arkansas military recruiting office (by an anti-American ideologue) to show how people who think their actions are righteous are particularly committed, and therefore, particularly tough to stop.  Put those two things together — mob mentality and sense of righteousness — and you’ve got a particularly dangerous combination.  I went on to say that as an attorney who believes in the rule of law, I can’t condone “lynch mob justice” (after all, the “person of interest” in this case hasn’t been proven guilty), but I can understand the righteous indignation of the crowd members, who were probably frustrated, as I am, by the revolving-door justice system that keeps putting the same people back on the streets to harm kids (the “person of interest” in this case has something like 20 priors, and he’s only 26 years old!).  That situation, however, is one that needs to be remedied by legislators (passing laws in every state requiring much longer, if not life, sentences for people who harm kids), not by lynch mobs.

You’ve just faked your own kidnapping — what are you gonna do now? 6/3/09

“I’m going to Disney World!” said Bonnie Sweeten — well, she might not have said it, but that’s what she did.  I wrote about it last week, and we talked about it again on Tuesday’s Prime News, so I’ll just add one thing here.  When I first discussed this on the air last week, I said that I thought it added insult to injury when Sweeten not only reported a bogus crime but also invented some bogus perpetrators — two “black men” — to go along with it.  It took other media outlets a few days, but by Monday, they too were discussing the story from that same angle, so once again, you heard it here first!

On tonight’s episode of a show called The Cougar, a 40-ish woman with kids is set to introduce those kids to the college-age guys who apparently are the “finalists” of a competition in which the mother, the “cougar,” is the prize.  It’s just one more example to go along with “Octomommy” and “Jon & Kate” of parental selfishness on parade.  I don’t know how anyone could possibly think it’s in the psychological and emotional best interests of the cougar’s kids to be part of a televised spectacle in which their mother is making a fool of herself, let alone to be introduced to a college-age “stepfather figure,” whom their mother barely knows, who’s highly unlikely to be psychologically-equipped for that role, and who’s even less likely to be a permanent fixture in their lives.  The only reality show I want to see with kids in it is “Adoption Idol,” in which parents would compete to determine who’s best equipped to adopt the kids of the parents on these existing shows!  Unfortunately, these “reality” shows are a little too real these days — they’re microcosms of our culture when it comes to parental selfishness.  I’m seeing far too many self-indulgant parents putting what they want ahead of what their kids need — married parents having affairs, single parents introducing their kids to endless parades of temporary “partners,” pretending to be highly-involved parents while they’re highly-involved (at most) in the “fun” aspects of parenting.

Study this:  New research on teen depression has found that teens whose parents have been depressed are more likely to become depressed themselves, so if you’re a parent who’s struggled with depression, be on the lookout for any signs that your teenager might be struggling with it as well.  The same research found that therapeutic groups in which teens learn healthy ways to cope with negative emotions are effective buffers against depression.  So again, if you’re not in the best position to teach your kids healthy coping skills, they might benefit from learning those skills in a group setting designed for that purpose.  Sure, it might take less parental time to wait and see if the kid becomes depressed and if so, resort solely to a “quick-fix” pill like the “reality” show parents would probably do, but the antidepressant effect of well-developed coping skills will last a lot longer than the effect of that pill.

Boyle, Tiller, terror, and a depressing “Study this” 6/2/09

British singing sensation Susan Boyle reportedly checked in to a mental health clinic to get some help coping with the stress that went along with her meteoric rise from relative obscurity as a contestant on the British version of American Idol.  If she was as overwhelmed as some first-hand observers have indicated, that was probably a good call.  I admire Ms. Boyle for stepping outside of her comfort zone to share her talent with the world, and I wish her the best.

The suspect in custody in Sunday’s shooting death of Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller appears to be, as I predicted, an anti-abortion zealot.  A family member reportedly said that he has long been fervent in his opposition to a number of things that he considered to be injustices, including but not limited to abortion.  He’s also apparently no stranger to violence, with a record including an explosives charge.  It’s been suggested that he may be “mentally ill,” which may be, but if so, presents an excellent illustration of how someone can be mentally ill and still be guilty of a crime.  A person generally is deemed not guilty by reason of insanity only if that person, due to mental illness, didn’t know what he/she was doing at the time of a crime or didn’t know that his/her actions were wrong.  By wrong, I mean wrong by society’s standards, i.e. illegal.  This guy may not have thought that it was wrong to kill Tiller, but he clearly knew that society considered it wrong because there’s plenty of evidence of pre-meditation beforehand and consciousness of guilt afterward.  Zealots on the other side of the abortion issue have tried to implicate media personalities who condemned Tiller’s practices in his death, displaying an ideological myopia akin to the shooter’s.  Bill O’Reilly has been a prime target of the blame game, and on Monday evening’s edition of the O’Reilly Factor, I explained how ideologically-driven killers generally aren’t swayed by much other than their ideologies.  Analogizing to my recent WorldNetDaily column on coercive interrogations (in which I explained why I don’t believe anyone who wouldn’t otherwise have become a terrorist ever became one after hearing about activities at Gitmo), I further explained how unlikely I believe it is that a person so ideologically opposed to abortion that he would feel justified in shooting an abortion doctor would be made more or less likely to act on his/her beliefs because of something a media commentator said on TV.  In addition, millions of people have listened to O’Reilly and me and others condemning Tiller’s practices for years, and one guy, this Sunday, attacked Tiller.  If TV commentators were inciting people to attack Tiller, you’d think it would’ve happened long before now.  In fact, the suspect in custody in the Tiller case reportedly was militantly anti-abortion before the O’Reilly Factor was even on the air.  On top of that, three other abortion doctors have been killed since the early 1990’s, and none of them got nearly the media attention before their deaths that Tiller got before his.  The media is not to blame here, but even if hearing news stories about abortion providers could turn a totally normal person into a vigilante killer (which I say it can’t), the news still would need to be reported, people still would be entitled to express their views on the news publicly, and the responsibility for any acts of vigilantism still would have to rest squarely and solely on the shoulders of the vigilante.

In another case of apparent ideologically-driven violence, an Arkansas man who reportedly had converted to Islam and become militantly anti-American allegedly fired several shots into a U.S. military recruiting office in Little Rock, killing one American soldier and wounding another.  The shooter is in custody, and before anyone says anything — no, he didn’t do it because he heard O’Reilly and me talking about Gitmo!

Study this:  The latest reported research found that antidepressants were not effective in treating kids with autism.  In related research news, another recent study found that the number of adult prescriptions for antidepressants has declined since the FDA started requiring manufacturers to warn about suicidal ideation among other potential side effects (I’ve written in the past about possible explanations for suicidal ideation among patients taking antidepressants).  Some have suggested that the decline in antidepressant prescriptions means that people who probably could benefit from taking them are foregoing them out of fear of becoming suicidal.  That may be happening in some cases, but in other cases, people whose “depression” symptoms are mild at most may be thinking twice about considering antidepressants as their coping strategy of first resort, and that might not be a bad thing.  (If you think you might be depressed, I recommend discussing the benefits and risks of various treatment options with a mental health professional.)


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