Archive: March 2009

“Sexting” & “The Village” revisited and a confusing “Study this” 3/31/09

If you’re a regular reader, you already know what “sexting” is, but if you missed Prime News on Monday, you missed another spirited discussion about it.  There’s yet another case, this one in Pennsylvania, in which minors have been offered what essentially amounts to a simple diversion of criminal charges in exchange for their attending a course on safe, legal, and responsible creation and distribution of digital images.  And once again, guess who’s objecting…the parents of three of the girls involved!  What great parents!  What great teachers and role models of responsible behavior!  Is there any wonder why these particular girls were sexting?  And here’s another shocker, the A.C.L.U. (American Civil Lunacy — oops, Liberties, sorry — Union) is on the side of the shameless girls and their shameless parents.  Now I’m not a proponent of charging these girls with felonies (although I wish there were a felony with which I could charge their idiot parents!) or branding them “sex offenders,” but I think that this prosecutor’s offer is a totally reasonable and responsible way to address technically-criminal behavior resulting from a total failure of parenting.

Next up tonight, Monday’s edition of the Oprah Winfrey Show chronicled Oprah’s visit to the Yearning for Zion polygamist ranch in Texas, from which hundreds of children were removed last year under suspicion of sexual abuse only to be returned to the compound with just one exception — a 12-year-old girl believed to have been “married” to jailed sect leader Warren Jeffs, a man over 50 years old (I helped cover his trial on charges of “marrying” underage girls against their wills, making him an accessory to sexual abuse, and I put the words “married” and “marrying” in quotes because I think it’s an insult to the institution of marriage to use those words to describe what’s alleged to have happened between adult men and underage girls in that community).  Sadly, the community revealed by Oprah on Monday was nothing short of M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village,” just as I wrote at the time of last year’s raid.

Finally tonight, study this:  The “U.S. Preventive Services Task Force” (which I never heard of before Monday), whose recommendations are described by its parent organization, the “Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality” (which I never heard of before Monday either), as “the gold standard for clinical preventive services,” made a big public show on Monday of releasing its new (and confusing) recommendations about screening teens for depression.  First, the task force recommends screening teens ages 12-18 for clinical depression, but only if “appropriate systems are in place to ensure accurate diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care,” which suggests to me that a significant frequency of misdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment are concerns of the task force.  For children under the age of 12, the task force apparently didn’t find enough data to recommend depression screenings at all.  Ok, next, the task force notes the dangers of — mental and physical health risks associated with — teen depression and notes that antidepressants are effective in combating it, but then notes that antidepressants can increase the risk of suicide and therefore “should only be considered if careful clinical supervision is possible.”  Confused?  Me too.  If this task force’s recommendations are followed, I guess there won’t be any depression screenings, nor antidepressant prescriptions, for unhappily-married teens on the Yearning for Zion ranch, but I’m not sure what’s supposed to happen anywhere else in the country, nor am I getting the feeling that the task force’s recommendations are truly the “gold standard” of anything.  Depression is a serious problem, and it can be life-threatening if it gets bad enough, so if I had a child, I’d be involved in that child’s life on a daily basis, and I’d know the signs and symptoms of depression to look out for (such as:  apathy, loss of interest in things/activities/people, irritability/agitation, sadness, brooding, isolation, crying spells, hopeless/fatalistic/suicidal thinking or statements, any form of self-harm including substance-abuse, giving away possessions, difficulty thinking/concentrating, changes in sleep habits or appetite, unexplained physical symptoms, concerned friends/teachers, etc.).  If I thought the child might be clinically depressed, I’d consult an expert — a mental health doctor, not a general-practice pediatrician.  And if that mental health doctor recommended putting the child on a psychotropic drug, I’d get a second opinion and do my homework on exactly what the risks and benefits (as demonstrated in unbiased clinical trials) were.  Make better sense?  Hope so.

Two more preventable massacres and an optimistic “Study this” 3/29/09 There’s been another shooting rampage, this time at a North Carolina nursing home, leaving at least six people dead.  It just happened, so there aren’t many details yet about the shooter, motive, etc., but as always, there will have been signs, probably significant signs, that the shooter was dangerous and should’ve been off the streets well before this.  Until we get tough on the small stuff that these people do before their behavior escalates to this — really tough, really early — these things will sadly continue to happen.

Now you may not be able to change, at least not quickly, how your community or your state deals with people who’ve shown a propensity to behave violently, but you can make immediate change if there’s such a person in your own home.  In today’s second massacre, a man was shot and killed by police after fatally stabbing two of his sisters as he attempted to kill a third.  Now I hate to be tough on parents who just lost three of their children, but this guy had clearly shown a propensity to behave violently long before today and never should’ve been allowed to be in a house where he could put children at risk.  Just recently, I wrote about a woman who kept her kids in the family home with a violent husband, and the whole family ended up being massacred by him.  Remember that?  Think I’m being too harsh?  Do a little research on today’s massacre, as I just did, and you’ll already find that the murdering brother was involved in a “punching” incident at the home in 2004.  Don’t think that’s enough to kick a then-teenager out of the family home?  Well, more recently, he served prison time for a “firearms violation.”  See?  Unchecked violent behavior often escalates.  If the parents had gotten this guy out of the house permanently after the “punching” or after the “firearms violation,” the girls would probably be alive right now, celebrating the beheaded five-year-old’s birthday.  I know, it would be terrible to have a dangerous child, and it would be very hard to figure out where to place that child other than in your home, but look what happens when people don’t take the threat of violence seriously enough.  Who knows, maybe the solution would’ve been to get the girls out of the house and have them live with a relative while the parents figured out what to do with the son.  Bottom line:  you have to get yourself, and especially any kids for whom you’re responsible, away from a violent person, even if you love that violent person.

Study this:  Autism researchers think they’ve found a new way to diagnose that condition very early in children’s lives when the chances of treating it effectively are greatest.  The technique involves looking at the types of stimuli in which the children are interested.  In this latest study, Autistic children were more interested in videos that showed repetitive, rythmic patters of motions and sounds, while non-Autistic children were equally interested in those and other videos that showed random motions and sounds.

Wrapping up the week 3/27/09

First up tonight, it’s a sad day for kids in Kansas:  Late-term abortion doctor George Tiller was acquitted of failing to obtain independent second opinions before aborting viable babies.  As I see it, former Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison’s and Governor Sebelius’ strategy worked perfectly — charge Tiller with only the weakest possible charges to have some political cover and hope that he’s able to hire a good enough defense team to beat them, which he did.  If Morrison had had the intellectual honesty and the guts to file the really important and far more serious charges for which I believe there was (and still is) ample probably cause — trumping up mental health excuses to do late-term abortions on demand — it would actually have been easier to convict Tiller of those, and it would’ve shut down his practice, which of course they knew, which is probably why it didn’t happen.  Now Tiller’s likely to be in the baby-killing business until he decides to retire.  Like I said, it’s a sad day for kids in Kansas.  Far be it from me to say what God does to the truly, knowingly, willfully evil among us, but whatever it is, I think Tiller’s eventually going to find out.

But that’s not the only craziness going on in Kansas:  There was a drive-by shooting outside a popular Lawrence bar adjacent to the KU campus Wednesday night.  Three people were hit, but thankfully no one was killed and the injuries were not life-threatening.  The shooter, Joseph Abdulla Muhammad, is in custody and has been charged with three counts of aggravated battery.  And guess what?  Muhammad has a long criminal history!  How shocking!  Even more shocking, he was on…you guessed it…probation at the time of this week’s shootings for…you guessed it…previous aggravated assaults involving a firearm.  I so wish the victims of this most recent shooting could sue the State of Kansas for not having this piece of human debris in a cage instead of in a crowd with a gun on Wednesday night — I’d take their case in a heartbeat.  There’s potential for this story to get some national play next week from two other angles.  The first is the coverage of the incident by the Kansas City Star specifically — when Muhammad was still at large, the Star gave no description of him when other local and regional papers printed the widely-available description, that of a black male.  Then, when the arrest was made, the Star initially did not publish the Muhammad’s name, even though the name was widely available.  I think that the Star didn’t want to publish the race or name for political correctness reasons, and I think that stinks.  When there’s a mass shooter at large, the public needs every piece of available information in order to both avoid the fugitive and assist in his/her apprehension.  Then when the fugitive is arrested, the public should be told who got arrested, regardless of that person’s ethnicity, religion, etc., especially if there’s a possibility, as I think there may be in this case, that it was an act of terrorism, similar to what we saw last year at UNC when a man drove an SUV into a crowd of students and said afterward that it was an act of jihad (he’s in prison for 33 years now).  The second angle that I’m looking into is the charging decision here in Douglas County.  It seems to me that shooting into a crowd of people warrants attempted murder charges, whether or not the shooter was trying to kill any specific crowd member(s).  It’s also unusual for a prosecutor not to charge as much as possible initially so that he/she has more plea-bargaining power, so filing such lame charges from the jump indicates an inexplicably-bizarre decision to go soft on this guy, and I think that the people of Kansas and the USA are owed an explanation.

Stalking the Stars:  A man has been arrested in California for stalking Olympic Gold medalist Shawn Johnson, now a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”  Apparently the man had driven to California from Florida and attempted to break into the show’s studio in search of Johnson.  Cops reportedly found weapons, zip ties, and love notes to Johnson in the man’s car, and he apparently told them that she had been communicating with him through his television and through “E.S.P.”  I’ve written about stalking before, most recently in the case of “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul’s stalker who killed herself near Adbul’s home, but here’s a brief take on this latest case specifically.  Thinking that he’s getting messages through the t.v. or ESP from a celebrity with whom he’s obsessed suggests Delusional Disorder of the erotomanic type, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the dude didn’t know what he was doing.  He obviously engaged in lots of prior planning — driving from Florida to California, having zip ties, having weapons, etc. — which indicates a mind functioning well enough to know that what he was doing was wrong.  It looks like a case of being both insane and guilty.

A Cummings update:  The mother of missing Haleigh Cummings, who, in fairness, is neither a model citizen nor a model parent herself, reportedly said this, through her attorney, about the little girl’s father:  “The particular lifestyle that we believe is led by Misty and Ronald Cummings is one that essentially laid out the red carpet to something at some point happening to these children, and something did.”  Hmm…seems like I’ve heard someone else say something just like that about Cummings somewhere before…recently…someone on television…a shrink maybe…hmmm.

Finally tonight, a bombshell new “Study this”:  The latest findings on ADHD drugs, based on a large, national clinical study, suggest that those drugs ARE NOT EFFECTIVE at eliminating the symptoms of ADHD, at least not for an extended period of time.  And as we know, those drugs can have serious side effects, so as I said in my WorldNetDaily column “A perfect storm” several weeks ago, and as I’ve said here many times, it’s likely that there are many kids across the USA who’ve been on these things unnecessarily — because they were misdiagnosed and never really had the disorder in the first place and/or because the drugs were never likely to solve their problems anyway — and if you know one, tell his/her parents I want to hear their story.  (And in the “duh” file, another study showed that kids with ADHD diagnoses respond more inconsistently than kids without that diagnosis on a test that required sustained attention, which of course says nothing about whether the “ADHD” kids can’t sustain attention or whether they just don’t want to.  Interestingly, that same study found no significant difference between “ADHD” and non-ADHD kids in their overall performances on a series of addition problems.)

Have a good weekend, and don’t forget, Part 2 of my exclusive on entitlement in America will run on the WorldNetDaily web site tomorrow, Saturday, March 28, under “commentary.”

Octomommy, Casey, murder in NY, Tiller, and a big fat “Study this” 3/26/09 Octomommy:  She fired the pediatric nurses provided free-of-charge by the Angels in Waiting foundation to help her care for the two babies that she brought home from the hospital amid a sea of paparazzi last week.  Why?  She reportedly thought they were “spying” on her.  Can we all agree now, if we didn’t before, that the woman’s a loon?

Casey:  Anthony’s attorney Jose Baez was completely exonerated of unethical behavior, specifically creating a conflict of interest by acquiring the rights to sell Casey’s story in exchange for representing her.  The allegation was that he might be advising her in ways that advance his interests rather than hers, which could give her grounds to appeal a conviction and force there to be a whole second “trial of the century.”  Problem was, there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Baez was doing that.  Using the prosecutor’s logic (it was someone on his team who lodged the complaint apparently), if they’re worried that Baez is too inexperienced to handle the case and fear an appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel, they could go ahead and file an ethics complaint based on incompetent practice, even if there’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that he’s done anything incompetent.  It was crazy, and I’m no Baez booster as you know.  If I were the judge, I would’ve sanctioned the prosecution, or at the very least given him a scathing lecture with the media’s cameras rolling, for wasting everyone’s time with a completely baseless allegation.  Sure, we’d all like to know how Casey’s paying for her defense, if she’s paying for it at all, but there’s nothing in the law that requires her or Baez to explain it unless and until there’s evidence — which there isn’t at this point — that some unethical fee arrangement has been made.  We don’t do enough in this country to come down on people who make false, baseless allegations, and such allegations can do just as much harm as whatever’s being falsely alleged.

A male radio reporter was found murdered, stabbed some 50 times, in his New York apartment on Sunday.  As you know if you’re a regular reader and/or viewer, that manner of death is indicative of extreme rage, psychosis, or both.  Well, there’s been an arrest, a 16-year-old male who apparently had met the reporter online.  It’s looking like there was some sort of sexual relationship between the two men, but the details aren’t yet clear.  It’s also being reported that the 16-year-old was into sadomasochism and Satanism, so the initial feeling that I’m getting about this case is that there are going to be both conscious rage and some psychotic components, however, there’s apparently evidence of consciousness of guilt, which means he’s probably criminally responsible (i.e. an insanity defense probably won’t fly).  He, for example, reportedly changed into some of the victim’s clothes before leaving the scene, probably because his own clothes were soaked with the victim’s blood, and he also reportedly made up a lie to transit police en route from the scene about how he sustained a deep cut to one hand.

Tiller:  The late-term abortion doctor on trial here in Kansas made a major flub in court on Wednesday.  At issue is whether or not the physician who concurred with many of his opinions that late-term abortions were necessary to avoid “substantial and irreversible harm” to mothers was truly independent, as required by Kansas law, or was in fact financially and professionally dependent on Tiller.  When Tiller began to answer a question about the other doctor’s practice, he said, “When she was working for me,” and then stopped abruptly and said, “Correction, when she was providing consultations for the patient, …”  Oops!  I’m convinced that he’s guilty, and I hope the jury is too.

Study this:  Type-2 diabetes has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, just one more reason to maintain a healthy body weight.  Along those same lines, a new obesity study found that yes, excess calories become excess poundage.  Shocking!  I had heard that some of that “stimulus” money was going to be spent on research, but I hadn’t expected it to happen this soon or be this groundbreaking.

More sad I-told-you-so’s and a possible serial rapist here in KS 3/23/09

Here are a few more I-told-you-so’s that I’m certainly not happy came true:

Four cops are dead in southern California after a gunman opened fire on officers during a traffic stop, killing two, and later opened fire on officers who chased him to a nearby apartment, killing two more.  I’m sure some Americans who don’t read my blog and haven’t watched me on television are thinking this was a guy who suddenly went crazy with no warning.  NO!  This was a career criminal with a lengthy record who was out on…you guessed it…parole!  Apparently his family’s claiming that he “wasn’t a monster” — he just “snapped” because he couldn’t find a job.  NO!  He was a sociopathic, violent monster, who was angry and shot four cops who all had families of their own.  If you’d looked inside the shooter’s brain (he’s dead now, killed by the cops’ return fire, good riddance), I’ll bet you would’ve seen something similar to what’s in, or not in, all sociopaths’ brains — the absence of a conscience and, believe it or not, fear (deep down these guys are usually cowards who fear having done to them the very things that they do to others).  Now I don’t want to scare anybody, but I guarantee you that there are people just like him in your area whom your state has released due to budget cuts or the mistaken belief that they’re “rehabilitated” or whatever.  I don’t know what it’s going to take before state legislators start listening to me about keeping these guys locked up.

Anna Nicole Smith’s former boyfriend/attorney and two of her prescribing doctors stand accused of conspiring illegally to supply the late Ms. Smith with a veritable home pharmacy of psych meds.  I’ve written about this sort of thing before in my post “Hollywood healthcare” in which I discussed the Chris Benoit case and others, but the practice of prescribing psych-meds-on-demand has now spread far beyond Hollywood.  It’s killing people across the country, most of whom don’t have Ms. Smith’s name recognition or news coverage but all of whom are equally tragic.  Again, I don’t know what it’s going to take before legislators start listening to me about cracking down on “pushers with prescription privileges.”

In related news, another antipsychotic-antidepressant drug cocktail has been approved for intractable (treatment-resistant) depression.  This one involves the antipsychotic Zyprexa (I recently lampooned a commercial for a similar cocktail involving the antipsychotic Abilify), just as the manufacturer is being forced to pay a 10-figure settlement for previously marketing that drug for unapproved conditions.

Study this:  A new study found that the “deinstitutionalization” of severely mentally ill people across the U.S.A. (a movement to close inpatient facilities and rely on the patients to show up at outpatient facilities where psych meds are dispensed), which I’ve criticized here previously, has created a dangerous situation in which such patients are being “warehoused” in alarming numbers in nursing homes designed primarily for elderly patients and ill-equipped to handle younger, able-bodied, and often violent psych patients.

Ok, that’s all the I-told-you-so’s for tonight, but here’s one more story:  Now again, not to scare anybody, but state law-enforcement officials here in Kansas believe that there may be a connection between 13 rapes that have occurred near the campuses of the University of Kansas (where I teach a course) and Kansas State University (approx. 85 miles away) since the year 2000.  Authorities aren’t releasing the details behind why they think it’s been the same rapist.  Apparent similarities include the ages of the victims (college) and the timing of the attacks (breaks), but I’ll bet there are more as-yet-undisclosed commonalities.  Fortunately, as far as I’ve heard, no attacks occurred last week, which was both universities’ spring break.

See, I told you so 3/20/09 Federal prosecutors say that the maker of the antidepressants Celexa and Lexapro has been pushing those drugs on children illegally for years.  The government has accused Forest Laboratories of giving incentives/kickbacks to doctors who prescribed the drugs to kids “off-label.”  It’s also alleged that government health programs have paid thousands of false/fraudulent claims for prescriptions of those drugs that should never have been covered due to their “off-label” status.  In fairness, Lexapro has received FDA approval — today — for prescription to kids aged 12-17, but that doesn’t negate anything that Forest did before today, nor does it mean that the “studies” indicating that Lexapro’s effectiveness outweighs its risks in children are necessarily solid.  In my opinion, the data are quite weak, but the fact that the “studies” have included children as young as seven years old suggests an ongoing effort to win approval for the prescription of these drugs to younger and younger children.  If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’ve been hammering on this issue for a long time, but if you want a good synopsis of the pediatric psycho-pharmaceutical problem, check out my column “A Perfect Storm” on the WorldNetDaily web site (search their archives for columns by me).  And if you know parents whose child was harmed by an antidepressant that probably never should’ve been prescribed, I want to hear their story, so please tell them to contact me.   

Back! 3/20/09

Hi, I’m back from almost a week in Florida and Georgia.  After visiting friends in the Ft. Lauderdale area, including the Eiglarshes — Mark, an attorney, appears with me often on Prime News — I headed to Atlanta for Nancy Grace on Monday, Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell on Tuesday, and Prime News on Wednesday.  In addition to seeing some great friends for the first time in a long time, highlights of the trip included seeing the space shuttle launch in Florida and sharing a St. Patrick’s Day Guinness with CNN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks.  I have to thank everyone at CNN Atlanta and the Omni at CNN Center for their hospitality — they aren’t just top-notch professionals, they’re top-notch people as well.  Here’s a quick rundown on some things that have happened:

Cummings:

Ron Cummings and Misty Croslin got married.  You have to wonder about the timing on that one.  I’d guess that they either believed they’d be protected from testifying against one another in a future legal proceeding regarding Haleigh’s disappearance if they were married (which isn’t true — under Florida law, they wouldn’t have to testify against one another only about things that happened during their marriage, not before) or they believed they’d have a better chance of keeping custody of Ron’s son as a married couple.  Also, new abuse allegations against Ron Cummings were leveled by the mother of missing Haleigh, but you have to wonder about the timing on this one as well.  Meanwhile, Misty Cummings’ accounts of the night of Haleigh’s disappearance continue to seem somewhat inconsistent.  Here’s what I’d do:  If law enforcement took a tissue sample from her to rule her out if they found a suspicious hair, fluid, etc. in the home, I’d try to do toxicology on it.  She seems to me like she might be doing some confabulating (making things up to fill in gaps in her memory), and I wonder if that’s because she was abusing some substance that night and doesn’t want to admit it to the cops.  That would explain why she might’ve slept through a kidnapping and why she might not be 100% sure who was sleeping where, etc.  Finally, there’s now a Leonard Padilla wannabe in the Cummings case — a “private investigator” who calls himself (no, I’m not making this up)…”Cobra.”

Anthony:

Lee Anthony was ruled out as Caylee’s father.  No shocker there.  I never subscribed to that theory, and DNA proved it to be false (certain genes come only from one’s father, and some such genes that Caylee had could not have come from Lee).  Casey Anthony had a birthday on Thursday (I was actually back in the Kansas City studio for that one).  There’s also another wacky p.i. claiming to know all kinds of inside details about the Anthony case — Jim Hoover’s dropping bombshells such as Casey and attorney Jose Baez eating off of opposite ends of the same piece of licorice during a jail visit, which has been completely discredited by jail personnel.

Octomommy:

Two of the octuplets are now out of the hospital, and Octomommy apparently is getting some pro-bono in-home professional assistance with their care.  I still say adoption’s the way to go.  If Octomommy wants money, she could still have a reality show.  How about “Parenting Idol,” where parents from all over the country would demonstrate what they have to offer a child and compete to adopt the kids?

Rhianna & Chris Brown:

Rhianna and Chris Brown are supposedly “taking a break” in their relationship because Brown doesn’t want to fire the female employee whose text message to Brown reportedly prompted the incident in which Rhianna was beaten.  If true, it’s a move in the right direction for Rhianna, but for the wrong reason.  One hit and a woman should be gone in my opinion.  The chances that she’ll be hit again are far too great.  Unfortunately, women sometimes get so much of their identities invested in fantasies about fairy-tale relationships that it seems easier to rationalize and deal with being hit than to admit to themselves that the fantasy’s just that, a fantasy.  That admission is what needs to happen in virtually 100% of cases though, and it sounds like Rhianna still doesn’t quite get it.  Brown’s supposedly in therapy to work on his issues, so how about a little therapy for Rhianna as well (to help her pick better relationships from here on)?

Richardson:

Sadly, actress Natasha Richardson died after a fairly minor fall on a beginner ski slope.  While it’s rare, it is possible for a head injury to be much more serious in the brain than one can tell by examining the surface of the skin at the impact/trauma site.  For example, if the head accelerates forward and backward or side to side too quickly, blood vessels can be torn, leading to bleeding within the brain and tissue damage/death even if there’s not a huge bruise or lump detectable on the surface.  It’s also possible for the brain to be more injured by striking the inside of the skull than it was by whatever caused the skull to move in the first place.  In any case, what happened to Ms. Richardson is extremely sad, and even though it was probably a fluke, wearing a helmet might’ve afforded her the extra measure of protection that made the difference between life and death, so everyone who engages in such activities should think about that.

Chimp attack:

The family of the victim of that horrible chimpanzee attack in Connecticut is suing the chimp’s owner for $50 million.  I don’t know how much money the owner has, but whatever she has, I hope this victim gets it.

Dungeon guy:

The Austrian “dungeon guy,” who kept his daughter prisoner in his basement for years and fathered several children by raping her, pleaded guilty to all charges against him and was sentenced to life in prison in Austria.

Madoff:

The apparent biggest swindler in history, Bernie Madoff, pleaded guilty to swindling investors out of some $65 billion and has traded in his Manhattan penthouse for a jail cell while awaiting sentencing.

Tiller:

The doctor accused of performing late-term abortions basically “on-demand” here in Kansas (I’ve talked about him on the O’Reilly Factor and written about him here) is currently, finally, on trial.  Jury selection is over, and testimony is expected to begin Monday.

Study this #1:

The same Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index that I mentioned last week, when aggregated for the entire country, indicates that people’s senses of well-being dropped as the economy dropped.  That’s important because, as I’ve said many times, even if people usually don’t become suicidal over finances alone (in such cases, finances are more often an addition, sometimes an overwhelming addition, to pre-existing problems), it’s important for each individual to think about how large a role finances are playing in his/her identity and sense of well-being.  While it’s clear that people need to secure the basic necessities of life in order to survive, I think people often place an unhealthy level of emphasis on the financial and material aspects of life beyond those basic necessities, and those seem to me to be the people most susceptible to extremes of despair when their financial status changes.  That’s why it’s important to keep everything — finances, things, skills, relationships, etc. — in healthy perspective and to seek help in doing so if one’s finding it difficult to do on his/her own (e.g. if it’s hard to imagine life being worth living at a lower level of financial security, material wealth, income, etc.).

Study this #2:

Finally tonight, an Octomommy-related “Study this”:  a new study found that roughly half of all births in the U.S. are now occurring out of wedlock.  I find that statistic extremely alarming because I believe that pre-existing commitments of parents to one another increase the likelihood that those parents will be committed to co-parenting through their children’s formative years, which increases the likelihood that the children will grow up developmentally, cognitively, and emotionally healthy.

School shooting in Germany and a geographic “Study this” 3/11/09 There’s been yet another Columbine-style school shooting, though this one not in the United States.  This one occurred in Germany, where a 17-year-old killed 15 people, beginning at a high school where he killed students and teachers who he apparently believed had slighted him, then fled, killing three more people along the way, before finally turning the gun on himself.  I could say how likely it is that there were myriad warning signs that should’ve been heeded.  I could point out that Germany’s strict gun laws didn’t do anything other than keep law-abiding bystanders from being equipped to stop the creep.  I’ll definitely say that it’s a tragedy for the victims and families involved and that I feel terrible for them.  But I guess it’s an additional sad commentary to note that there’ve been so many of these things now that I’m almost out of original things to say about them

Study this:  The latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index lists Hawaii as the most emotionally-healthy state in the Union.  I guess that’s plausible given Hawaiians’ surroundings.  My home state of Kansas came in 13th, still respectable in a field of 50.  West Virginia came in last.  I wouldn’t relocate based on this study, but it’s kind of interesting.  You can Google it for the full rundown.  In related news, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) just issued report cards to the country and to each state on how they serve mentally-ill citizens.  The country got a D from NAMI as did my home state of Kansas.  No state got an A, and six states flunked.  I wouldn’t relocate based on this study either, but if you’re interested in how they computed these grades (I think there could be some “nanny state” proponents over there) or in how a certain state did, you can Google the map on this one as well.

Another horrific shooting spree and more questions about antidepressants 3/11/09 There’s been yet another horrific shooting spree, this time in Alabama, where a lone gunman killed nine people and then himself.  It looks like most, but not all, of the victims were either relatives or former coworkers of the shooter.  He reportedly burned down his mother’s home, shot several relatives including a child, shot a few bystanders apparently randomly, including a couple of cops who didn’t die and another cop’s wife and child who sadly did die, ending up at his former workplace where he fired some 30 shots, the last one at himself.  Looks like another profoundly disturbed individual who nonetheless knew exactly what he was doing — choosing to take his anger at life out on others before making a cowardly escape from responsibility.  I know I’m sounding like a broken record here, but I can virtually guarantee there were ample signs that he was dangerous long before this that he shouldn’t have been able to do it.  We’ll learn those details in the hours and days ahead.  (One other repeat observation:  I’ll be interested to learn whether the dude’s former workplace had a “no guns on the premises” policy — I’ll bet that it did, and that once again, it was highly effective at ensuring that only the madman was armed and that all of the law/rule-abiding people in the place were sitting ducks, but I could be wrong.)

Study this:  New research suggests that there is a higher incidence of fatal heart attacks among women taking antidepressants than among women in the general population.  Now you might think I’d be jumping up and down and waving my arms all over the place trying to call everyone’s attention to what looks like another instance of psych meds doing more harm than good, but in fairness, I have to acknowledge that the cause-and-effect relationship behind these fatal heart attacks isn’t crystal clear.  People who are depressed enough to be taking antidepressants are more likely to have fatal heart attacks than are people in the general population in the first place, so it’s not clear whether the fatal heart attacks in this latest study were brought on by depression or were, at least partly, “iatrogenic” (caused by treatment, antidepressants specifically).  It’s a complex problem, and it bears further study by unbiased (non-pharmaceutical-company-funded) researchers and the exercise of caution by prescribers, depressed patients, and those who are close to those patients.

Unwitting accomplice? 3/10/09 It’s been a while since we’ve had a Peterson update, so here you go:  The stepbrother of Drew Peterson (the ex-cop whose wives seem to die or disappear at an alarming rate) apparently thinks he may have been an unwitting accomplice to the disposal of the body of Peterson’s most recent wife.  He reportedly has told authorities that he helped Peterson dispose of a heavy blue barrel shortly after Stacy Peterson disappeared, and although he doesn’t know for sure what was in it, he’s convinced that it was the body — so convinced that he was overwhelmed by guilt and attempted suicide shortly thereafter.  It will be interesting now to see if/how Peterson responds:  by dismissing the stepbrother as having mental problems, by providing an alternative explanation of what was in the barrel, both, or neither. 

What a load! 3/9/09 This is truly one of the biggest loads of crap I’ve heard in recent memory:  The attorney for the creep who gunned down a pastor in an Illinois church yesterday says that Lyme Disease is to blame, not his client!  Lyme Disease?  What a crock!  Lyme Disease makes people lethargic; it doesn’t make them shoot people.  The dude was obviously “ticked off” by something, but it wasn’t tick-borne Lyme Disease (which is nonetheless a serious disease to be avoided by exercising caution during and after activity in tick-infested areas and by seeking medical treatment if bitten by a tick).  And by the way, it’s already sounding like I was right when I said there will inevitably have been signs that the guy was dangerous long before yesterday.  Believe it or not, this is the second time in as many weeks that we’ve heard this excuse — the first time was in the case of the chimp mauling its owner’s neighbor in Connecticut.  Immediately following the attack, there was an attempt to blame the chimp’s behavior either on Lyme Disease or on medication that it was taking for Lyme Disease (and it was a load of crap in that case too!  The chimp mauled the poor woman, who remains in critical condition, because it was a chimp; it was a wild animal; it was not a human being!  I don’t care if you’re Sigfried & Roy or this nutty chimp owner in Connecticut — if you think you can expect a wild animal to go its entire life and not revert to wild animal behavior at some point, you’re stupid, and if someone other than yourself gets hurt because of that kind of stupidity, you should have to pay huge damages and spend some time in a cage of your own.  I know some “animal lovers” might not like to hear that, but it’s the truth.).

In a loosely-related “Study this,” a new survey found that America is getting less religious, with fewer Americans than ever reporting that they practice any particular religion, not because they’re afraid of being shot in church but because they just don’t think it’s relevant to their lives.  This is bad folks, honest to God it is.  Why?  Because religion teaches people to think about right and wrong and that they’re not the center of the universe.  Now you don’t have to practice one specific religion to get that; the major religions of the world all emphasize morality and believing in things larger than yourself.  I even believe you can get it through intellect alone (although that takes more intellectual work than I think most people tend to do), but the bottom line is this:  the less people think in terms of right and wrong, and the more they think of themselves as the be-all/end-all, the more problems we’re going to have in just about every facet of society.

Church shooting and an optimistic “Study this” 3/8/09

A minister was shot while preaching in an Illinois church Sunday morning.  The shooter walked into the church, walked right up to the minister, shot him dead, then when the gun jammed, pulled out a knife and apparently tried to use it to commit suicide, at which point churchgoers took him down.  The shooter is hospitalized but is expected to live, so maybe this time we’ll get to find out what the hell he was thinking (there’s no apparent motive yet).  As usual though, I can virtually guarantee you that the shooter has a history of disturbed behavior that probably should’ve had him off the streets long before today or at the very least prevented him from (legally) owning a gun.

An uplifting “Study this” among all the bad news of late:  A new study has confirmed what conventional wisdom has long held, that positive-thinking, optimistic people are generally healthier and live longer than negative-thinking, pessimistic people.  So, look forward to a good week!

Attention Rhianna! 3/6/09

Hey Rhianna, listen up and wise up:  An Ohio man shot himself today as cops closed in on him for shooting his brand new wife, her sister, and three of her five children over a “domestic dispute.”  And, shocker of all shockers, he had a long history of violence.  Now no one but the shooter is to blame for the actual shootings, but I think there’s enough blame to go around here to mention the unbelievable stupidity of these children’s mother for putting them in the presence of this highly-volatile, highly-dangerous man.  You may think that’s harsh, but I don’t believe there’s any way in the world that she didn’t know of his violent past.  In fact, I don’t believe there’s any way in the world that he hadn’t been violent to her before the shootings.  As I’ve said many times, shooting up a place is never the first destructive thing a person does.  This guy’s violent behavior clearly escalated over time, which means that what we have here is yet another avoidable tragedy — like by the mother getting herself and her children away from the guy at the first sign of violence.  I feel terrible that three children and the aunt, apparently a totally-innocent bystander, are dead and that the surviving seven-year-old who narrowly escaped the massacre will have to live with this for the rest of his life.  Now some will think this is really harsh, but I actually see a bright side for the surviving two-month-old child.  That child won’t remember these parents or this tragic incident and may actually have a chance now of being adopted and raised by a decent mom and dad to be a productive American, which would’ve been almost a miracle if raised by the shooter and the idiot mother who married him.  Are you getting this Rhianna?  If you stay with a violent guy, chances are you will be hit again, or worse, and so will any children that you have with him.  Get a clue, and get away, now.

In a related “Study this,” a new study found that the stress brought on by bad marriages takes a greater toll on women’s physical health than on men’s.

And here’s another instance of violence against a female being tolerated:  Remember the case in which several Florida teen girls lured another girl to a home, beat her severely, and posted video of the attack on YouTube?  Well guess what?  The primary defendant, the “ring leader” of the bullies, was sentenced on Friday to a whopping 100 hours of community service, a written apology to the victim, and three years’ probation.  Anyone who thinks sentences like that are going to deter sociopaths from committing future violence is nuts.  In fact, I’ll predict right here, right now, that we’ll see this very defendant back in court for a future offense, probably inside the three years’ probation.

Mid-week check-in 3/4/09

Not much happening in the major cases so far this week, so the news has been dominated by the sad story of two NFL players and another man lost at sea in the Gulf of Mexico and by the economic “socialization” of America.  (Regarding the men missing at sea, it wouldn’t be unusual for a person suffering hypothermia, dehydration, etc. to become delusional and think he/she could actually swim to safety from miles out in the ocean, and from what the lone rescued survivor reportedly has said, it sounds like that may have happened with at least two of the missing men.

And regarding the “socialization” of America, that won’t help the ailing economy.  The generation and growth of wealth in a society requires that people produce more than they need, and socialism disincentivizes excess production.  Plus, you can’t sustain growth in an economy in which between 1/6 and 1/3 of the transactions that happen are for zero value, i.e. handovers of wealth from individuals to the government and from the government to unproductive individuals.  And that’s not only bad for the society, it’s not good for unproductive individuals either.  As I’ve said and written many times, the vast majority of adult human beings, like the vast majority of the adult members of any other species, are capable of sustaining themselves, and enabling capable individuals not to do so prevents those individuals from developing their full potentials as human beings.  Unfortunately, we’re headed in a very dangerous direction.  For now, our government can continue to spend more than it takes in because investors and governments around the world continue to buy our government-issued i.o.u.’s, bonds, not because they’re thrilled about the prospect of our continued prosperity and ability to pay the debt but because there’s no place else with a better track record, i.e. no safer place to put the money — yet.  When there is, which I think is 10-20 years away at the rate we’re going, our government will be unable to raise money as easily as it still can today, which will force it either to cut the federal budget drastically and do far less — that’s the right answer and should be implemented immediately — or to seize Communistic proportions of our citizens’ assets and income, which historically has required the drastic usurpation of civil as well as property rights — that’s the scary answer, and sadly, it’s the one that’s looking more likely at the moment.  But I digress.)

There have been a couple of interesting legal developments though.  The Supreme Court ruled that people who’ve been harmed by medications can sue the pharmaceutical companies for failure to adequately warn them about potential adverse effects even if the FDA approved the labels on the drugs.  In other words, a state court has the power to find that a label was inadequate to protect the citizens of its state even if the federal agency charged with regulating drug labeling considered it adequate for Americans in general.  I’m actually glad about this ruling because as I’ve said and written recently, I think big verdicts against the pharmaceutical companies are the only hope of beating back the tidal wave of psych meds that’s flooding America.  (And if you know someone who’s been hurt by psych meds, put that person in touch with me.)

Also, two former Pennsylvania judges pleaded guilty to taking millions in kickbacks from private juvenile detention facilities in exchange for sending juvenile defendants to those facilities for relatively minor offenses.  As you know, I’m all for getting tough on criminals early in life because I think it’s our best chance both of protecting society and of salvaging those individuals, but it’s stiffer laws, not corrupt judges, that I want to make that happen.  Corruption on the bench undermines people’s confidence in the judicial system, and it’s intolerable at all levels.

Also tonight, an update on Octomommy — apparently the police have been to her house on eight different occasions over the years, one of them as recently as last October, when she reportedly called 911 because she thought one of her then-six children was missing (it turned out that the kid was on a walk with the grandmother).  Think about that — eight times.  Have the police been to your house eight times?  Yeah, me neither.  I have serious, serious concerns about this woman’s fitness to care for the kids she already had, let alone the eight additional kids yet to be released from the hospital after receiving an estimated 2+ million dollars’ worth of medical care (and guess who’s paying for that — not Octomommy, but your mommy, and your daddy, and you, and your friends, and your neighbors, and your employer, and …).  A California psychiatrist has filed a complaint calling on that state’s child protective services to investigate the fitness of Octomommy and her home, but there’s no word on whether that investigation will actually be conducted.  It should be.

Lastly, I just want to say I understand that some viewers and readers may bristle when I call people like the chimpanzee owner whose pet chimp recently almost killed her neighbor a “loon” or Haleigh Cummings’ father a “low-life” or when I make fun of Octomommy, but here’s the thing about that:  Unlike a lot of psychological “experts,” I don’t pride myself on using big words when small ones will do or speaking psychobabble when plain English will do.  I’m not like the tailors in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” who got away with selling non-existent clothes to the Emperor by making everyone who couldn’t “see” the material feel stupid.  If my viewers and readers don’t understand what I’m saying, it’s I, not they, who should feel stupid, and I don’t like to feel stupid, so I tell it like it is, plain and simple.  Another reason I do that is because, sadly, as in the case of Haleigh Cummings, my chances of helping to prevent a future tragedy from happening are often greater than my chances of bringing about a happy ending to a tragedy that has happened already.  I hate to be tough on a guy like Cummings whose daughter is missing and probably deceased, but I think that both he and his girlfriend probably did things that put the little girl at unnecessary risk, like associating with people whom you wouldn’t want to know that a child was in an unlocked house, poorly supervised by a 17-year-old who looks like she’s generally either wasted or hung over, with the father gone all night.  Therefore, I don’t refrain, in the name of sensitivity, from pointing such things out in the hope that other parents will wise up and protect their children.  I also only have a minute or two, sometimes just seconds, to get my point across, so if it’s an important piece of advice or an important wake-up call, I have to make it pop.  Fortunately, here on my own blog, I have all the space and time I need to explain myself!

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