Archive: March 2010

Empire State suicide 3/30/10

A 21-year-old man committed suicide on Tuesday by jumping from the top of the Empire State Building in New York City.  Research shows that jumping is a fairly-rare suicide method (less than 10% of cases) and that people who commit suicide by jumping tend to be more psychotic than people who commit suicide other ways (people who tend to be depressed but not as psychotic).  The last jumping suicide that got major media coverage in the U.S. was the suicide of entertainer Marie Osmond’s son in February.  Might this latest one have been influenced by that publicity (i.e. might there have been a “copycat” factor in play in the choice of methodology)?  It’s possible (there have been spikes in the frequencies of suicides by fairly rare means in the wake of past publicity).  It’s also possible that the mere abundance of tall buildings in New York City afforded this guy a convenient and highly-lethal alternative to the most common method of suicide in the U.S., shooting (as in with a gun, over 50% of cases — jumping is more common in major cities in countries where guns are less accessible than they are here in the U.S.).  But I think that a couple of other things are more clearly in play.  First, the Empire State jumper was clearly determined — he had to make it over a barrier designed to prevent just such occurrences, which illustrates the difficulty inherent in trying to stop people who are determined to kill themselves from doing so.  I wrote about this when the City of San Francisco announced that it would spend millions of dollars to erect additional barriers on the Golden Gate Bridge to make it more difficult for people to jump to their deaths from that structure.  It’s admirable that our culture — unlike the cultures of the suicide bombers about whom I wrote on Monday — values individual human life so greatly that we’re willing to go to such lengths to preserve even the lives of people who don’t want to live, and research shows that barricades like the ones on the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge likely do stop some people (probably people who aren’t necessarily determined but might otherwise have jumped opportunistically in moments of despair).  As we saw in New York on Tuesday, however, more determined individuals, particularly determined individuals who are also psychotic, will still try to find ways around the barricades or other tall structures without barricades or just other ways to effectuate their fatalistic fantasies.  Secondly, the Empire State jumper probably didn’t just want to die.  He probably wanted to go out in spectacular fashion (this may be why he didn’t choose to use a firearm, which would’ve been at least equally lethal and was probably fairly easily obtainable).  I won’t be surprised at all if we learn that this young man left some kind of statement for somebody — a statement that his spectacular feat of suicide was supposed to underscore.  It’s sad.  This guy’s leap on Tuesday sounds like it might’ve been more about a fantasy in which someone somewhere gets some message than about him just wanting to simply end his young life, and now he’s not around to know whether anybody got the message, if there was one, and what effect it may have had on the intended recipient(s) (suggesting, if accurate, that a psychotic, delusional, thought process was in play).  [And just in case you saw the movie Bounty Hunter recently like I did and are curious, no, I haven’t seen a study confirming that suicide jumpers always (or even mostly) hit the ground feet-first — in the movie, a cop says that “all cops know this.”  I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true due to an instinctive attempt to right oneself while falling toward a hard surface (even when falling intentionally) but I haven’t seen data to support that.]

Busy Lawpsyc Monday 3/29/10

It’s a busy Lawpsyc Monday already!  Here’s why:

Female suicide bombers in Russia:  The suicide bombers who attacked subway stations in Moscow, killing dozens and wounding dozens more on Monday apparently were…women.  Females, while still not nearly as common as males among suicide bombers, are showing up in that role with increasing frequency.  Interesting psychological and cultural factors go into this one, like 1) either finding or creating, through indoctrination, women who are willing to engage themselves directly in that kind of indiscriminate violence (recent research has confirmed that there’s an actual brain difference between men and women in this regard and that women’s brains, in general, on balance, most of the time, with exceptions, are built to be less violence-motivated/tolerant and more relationship-motivated/tolerant than are men, so the terror groups using women as suicide bombers must be finding/creating exceptions, probably by appealing to a “greater good” as they do when recruiting males), and 2) the low value placed not just on individual human life but female human life in particular within a culture wherein women are willingly “sacrificed” in this way (most cultures throughout human history have gone out of their ways to preserve and protect their women, valuing not just individual human life in general but recognizing a greater value on an individual female life than on an individual male life, which I think makes logical sense — think about it, women in the USA have had to fight politically/legally for the right to fight on the battlefield).

Terror on the home front today as well:  nine members (Americans) of what’s being called a “militia group” in Michigan are in custody after authorities uncovered what was apparently a plot to murder numerous law-enforcement officers and thereby start some kind of civil war that was then supposed to destroy the USA.  This is the same kind of craziness that we saw from the Charles Manon clan.  Manson thought he was going to start a civil war between blacks and whites in the USA by sending his followers on a murder spree.  (If you’re a regular reader, you know this, but since there are new readers every day, craziness, by the way, means nothing about whether these guys should be found guilty and punished accordingly — as long as they knew what they were doing and that it was illegal, they’re guilty, crazy or not).

Something finally being done about bullying in Boston:  Huge props to the Boston-area prosecutor who has charged nine high school students with crimes ranging from statutory rape to assault with a deadly weapon to deprivation of civil rights in the suicide death of a female student earlier this year which followed a period of relentless bullying at and outside of school!  Yes!  In a case like this, we may not be able to pin the actual death on these little pieces of crap who bullied the victim, but if they acted criminally in any other way — and they did according to the prosecutor after an in-depth investigation — then they should be charged and punished to the fullest extent of the law.  We cannot tolerate this kind of behavior in our schools, and I hope that this case helps send that message to kids and parents around the country.  But, there’s an important group of people left out here — school officials.  At least one serious incident of bullying (and probably more) reportedly occurred on school grounds in the presence of a school official who did nothing about it.  If that person’s not going to be charged criminally — and he/she reportedly is not — then I’d like to see the parents of the victim sue the school district, and if they need an expert to talk about how some action on that official’s part could’ve made a difference, I hope they call me.  The adults who work in our schools have a responsibility to make sure that the kids there are safe, period.

Another young criminal who’s getting some of what he deserves:  A 28-year-old computer hacker who stole people’s credit card information and used it to steal millions of dollars over several years has been sentenced to 20 years in prison, and some are wondering about the appropriateness of that sentence.  My take?  It’s not nearly long enough!  Identity theft is a crime of pure victimization of innocent people solely for the thief’s own gratification, which means that the person who would do it is more dangerous than one might think at first glance, which means that our society needs to punish that behavior more harshly and keep that person away from the rest of us for a longer period of time than it has in the past.

Playing catch-up 3/28/10

Hope everyone had a good weekend.  I’ve been swamped with expert witness and evaluation work lately plus a medical malpractice case that I may take on as the plaintiff’s attorney, so this is me playing catch-up:

OK, first, Sandra Bullock being cheated on by “Jesse James”:  Why is this such a big story?  The guy’s a dirtbag.  It’s that simple.  It’s nobody’s fault but his, but now there are kids whose lives will be adversely affected by it, so it’s worth noting that Bullock reportedly has a history of picking poorly when it comes to men.  Seriously Sandra, “Jesse James”?  Was this not foreseeable?  Again, I’m not blaming her, nobody’s responsible for cheating except the dirtbag who does it (generally not even the person or persons with whom the cheater cheated, but see the next story below).  But, when there are kids involved, or when there are likely to be kids involved down the road, this does underscore why it’s particularly important to put one’s emotions, lust, or whatever else aside and try to assess whether the other person is a decent human being.  I feel sorry for Bullock, but again, I don’t understand why her being cheated on is a bigger deal than all of the other famous and non-famous people who’ve been cheated on.  And if she has habitually picked losers like James, then I hope she’ll work on fixing that before she hooks up with a new guy so that she and the kids involved will have a better chance of being happy for the long haul.  I admit that I may be injecting some of my own personal feelings into my analysis of this story — I admit that it irks me to no end to see one smart, beautiful woman after another pass me on the street on the arm of a complete and total loser.  Yeah, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover.  OK.  It’s just tough to understand the attraction, particularly when the guys look like they’re out-of-shape idiot stoners who’d probably reek at least of cigarette smoke if not b.o. if you actually got close enough to smell them.  I usually chalk it up to insecurity (women thinking erroneously that being with a guy who should feel lucky to be with her will somehow translate into fidelity, good treatment, etc.), re-creating troubled relationships with their dads (trying to “fix” them or “win them over” at last), or just plain rebellion (an “exciting” “walk on the wild side” that asserts independence from her parents).  Whatever.  It’s all fine with me if all she’s risking is having her heart broken when he cheats on or otherwise mistreats her.  But when kids’ futures are put at risk, it’s not fine with me, and since so many guys admittedly and unfortunately are dirtbags, I wish women, fair or not, would demand better, for their sakes and the kids’.

Interestingly, on the subject of cheating, a North Carolina court awarded a cheated-on wife $9 million in a lawsuit based on a legal doctrine that most states have long-abandoned, “alienation of affection,” whereby the person with whom the cheating spouse cheated is held responsible financially for being a “home-wrecker.”  I actually like this.  We allow people who interfere with other kinds of contracts to be held liable.  It’s called “tortious interference with a contractual relationship.”  So why should the marriage contract be immune?  As I’ve said and written before, by enacting “no-fault” divorce laws, by not imposing any social consequences on people who break and assist in the breaking of marriage contracts in recent years, we’ve pretty much rendered those contracts meaningless, and I think it’s going to have profoundly-bad effects on the kids growing up in this environment.  We’re socializing them to expect vows to be broken and to expect not to be held accountable if they’re the ones doing the vow-breaking.  Bullock and James are a case in point.  Unless they have an enforceable pre-nup that says otherwise (funny how we enforce pre-nups but not the marriage contracts themselves, but I digress), James could end up getting “maintenance” (alimony) from Bullock even though he cheated on her because the law basically says that what happened in their case is nobody’s fault.  That’s INSANE, ladies and gentlemen.  And it’s not just famous people — far more often, it’s non-famous people who are the victims of this insanity.  I know of a non-famous, non-wealthy woman in my area who’s going through the same thing and might have to pay “maintenance” to the dirtbag who cheated on her.  When I’m in charge, we’re bringing back “fault” to divorce court.  Dirtbags beware!

On a related topic, I’m going to write a column on this next time I have column-writing time, but basically, as the country’s becoming less and less religious, I’m seeing more and more people turning to shrinks for what essentially is moral guidance — answers to questions that have nothing to do with the diagnosis/treatment of mental disorders.  If you’re a regular reader, you know that I articulate a secular reason why the “right” thing is the “right” thing in just about every case, but that’s something I’ve worked to develop all on my own.  They don’t teach you that in psychology graduate school.  I recently read an article in which a cheating female dirtbag who ended up divorcing her husband to be with the dirtbag with whom she was cheating wrote about seeking guidance from her “spiritual guide” who was actually…her psychotherapist (great “guidance” she got, too!).  OK, psychotherapists are not “spiritual guides.”  A lot of them aren’t even very “spiritual” themselves.  It’s easy to see the cloud here — Americans looking for moral guidance in places where they’re unlikely to find it.  There’s a silver lining though — at least they’re looking.  More on this in the near future.

In other news, a co-founder of KC and the Sunshine Band has been arrested for allegedly having sex with a young adolescent boy.  Cops say the guy admitted to them that the boy in question wasn’t the only one either and that they had been as young as 13 years old.  The guy’s web site, however, says that he’s innocent.  OK, he’s presumed innocent, bring on the evidence.  (And if you think that’s bad — which of course it is — a Cal. State professor and his girlfriend are in custody for the alleged rape of her 13-MONTH-old baby — yes, you read that right, 13 MONTHS, not years!)

You may have seen media coverage of the latest movement in obesity research — an effort to classify overeating as…you guessed it…yet another…”addiction.”  I’ll say it again, addiction is basically wanting something so much that the person is willing to do damage to him/herself and/or others to keep having access to whatever it is, food, drugs, gambling, sex.  Nobody’s compelled to do anything.  Nobody can’t stopdoing whatever it is.  Continuing to do it is a choice.  Yes, after abusing certain substances for a long enough time, people can have painful, even life-threatening, withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit “cold-turkey,” but even in those situations, they can quit with medical supervision.  I’m sick of every characterological weakness being chalked up to “addiction,” as if an “addict” is some sort of pitiful victim.  Just wait, people will now be saying that we should all be willing to kick in some dollars for the “treatment” of “food addicts.”  Here’s free treatment:  eat less and move more.  (And don’t tell me about thyroid disorders, etc. — once again, some people are built, genetically, dispositionally, etc., in such a way that they have a harder time than others regulating their appetites for certain things, alcohol, food, etc., than other people do, but everyone can regulate their appetites for everything.  If someone has to work harder than others to do it, I say too bad, life’s not always fair, now get to work.  That may sound harsh, but it’s more compassionate than leading someone to believe that he/she is some hapless victim.  That disempowers people.  I’m about empowerment, coupled with personal responsibility.)

There was a big media flap over the revelation that ABC News paid Casey Anthony $200K for access in the wake of her initial arrest, which looks bad for ABC but doesn’t really affect the case much.  Other than that, in the past week, there haven’t really been huge developments in the major cases that I’ve been following here.  Sure, I could go on for hours about the finer points, but the truth is that the big pictures really haven’t changed much lately, and when there really aren’t any “bombshell” developments to write/talk about, I admit it.  Some don’t, I do, just did (check back soon though!).

Turd in the punch bowl 3/22/10

If you missed the season premiere of South Park, you missed a great satirical depiction of “sex addiction.”  In the episode, anyone who says that “sex addiction” is bogus is called a “turd in the punch bowl” by the “scientific” establishment.  I guess I’m a “turd in the punch bowl” (and proud of it)!

A new study shows that record numbers of American children are morbidly obese.  As I’ve said many times, show me a morbidly-obese child, and I’ll show you an abusive parent!

And an Anna Nicole Smith update:  A federal appeals panel ruling on the litigation over the estate of Smith’s late husband (when she died, Smith had been battling her late husband’s son for the money, and even though all of the principals in the case are now deceased, their heirs — via a trustee in the case of Smith’s minor daughter — have continued the battle) awarded a whopping…nothing to Smith (i.e. Smith’s estate, i.e. Smith’s daughter).

It really WAS Col. Mustard! 3/11/10

…with the gun, in the office building (if you’ve ever played the board game “Clue,” you know this reference; if not, you’ll have to play it sometime).  OK, so he may not have been a Colonel, but a guy named Mustard went into a Dallas office building and shot a father and son at their family financial business before shooting himself.  Both victims survived.  Mustard’s dead.  The motive isn’t clear yet, may never be, but it looks like another financially-distressed person deciding to take out his frustration on people who he believed bore some responsibility for his circumstances.

Also, I’ve talked about marital problems caused by spouses committing “virtual” adultery on the Internet, but if that wasn’t enough to convince everyone that these “second lives,” these “alter egos,” these “avatars” on the Internet are consuming people’s real lives, THIS has to do it!  A Korean couple is in custody after their real baby starved while they apparently were out at Internet cafes playing an Internet game in which they were — guess — just guess — raising a virtual baby!!!  That’s right — the real baby starved while the stupid, selfish parents fed the stupid virtual baby.  If this happened in the U.S., the parents would probably plead not guilty by reason of insanity because “video-game addiction” made them do it.  OK Korean prosecutors, if that happens over there and you need an expert to rebut it, I’d be more than happy to fly over there!

(And finally, a study that brings good news for guys!  A new study found that guys are sexually active later into our lives than women are, well into what’s commonly considered “old age” (70’s) in fact.  Sure, it’s probably due in part to the fact that guys’ life expectancies are shorter, which means that many women are living their last years without their husbands, but hey, I just wrote about three studies in which women reportedly had advantages over guys, so let’s focus on the “good-news-for-guys” aspect of this one!)

Study, study, study 3/11/10

It’s been kind of a slow Lawpsyc week, which doesn’t happen that often, and whenever it does, I have mixed feelings about it.  I mean, I like writing and speaking to public audiences about the things that interest me, but when I don’t get to do that much for a week or two, two bright sides are easy to see — 1) I’m happy when we actually have a lull in murders, disappearances, mass shootings, etc., and 2) I get caught up on my expert witness work!  But I did come across three new studies this week that I think the ladies will particularly like, so instead of waiting and appending them to the next big crazy-crime or crazy-celebrity story, I thought I’d go ahead and give them to you now.  Here they are:

1) An upcoming study of long-lasting marriages will suggest that marriage works best when the wife is significantly smarter — 27% ideally — than the husband!  The full study’s due out in April in the European Journal of Operational Research, and I predict that the researchers are actually mathematician-types who’ve really just found some interesting correlations, rather than social-science types who really are making good sense of the correlations they’ve found.  I mean, there are a lot of smart women out there for sure, but I don’t think there really are a ton of marriages in which the woman’s IQ is 27% higher than the man’s or vice versa either.  I mean, IQ’s generally fall between about 60 and about 140, and until you get up above 120, a difference of 10 points represents a fairly-appreciable difference in intelligence.  So, in order to have a whole lot of wives with IQ’s 27% higher than their husbands’, there’d have to be a lot of female lawyers & doctors married to a lot of lifetime dish-washers, etc.  Maybe there are, and maybe marriages like that are super-happy marriages, but I’m thinking not.  I’m thinking it’s going to be tough to extrapolate any real causality out of whatever correlations they found in this study involving the happiness of marriages and the relative intelligence of the spouses.  We’ll have to look at what they used to measure the “happiness” of the marriages, what they used to measure the “intelligence” of the spouses, etc.  I mean, maybe “happiness” is going to be measured by longevity of the marriages, and maybe the marriages in which the wives are thatsuperior to their husbands in terms of intelligence have lasted, but less because of “happiness” and more because those wives are having to care for cognitively-impaired husbands!  I’m guessing that these are mathematicians trying to come up with an almost tongue-in-cheek, attention-grabbing, semi-humorous mathematical “formula” for “happy” marriage, using numerical variables like I.Q.  Nevertheless, it sounds like their findings are also going to include some other correlations that are interesting to think about, like that folks had to date 38 other people on average before they found long-lasting marriage partners.  Stay tuned!

2)  Another new study found that people who talk more with others seem to be happier.  Makes sense, less isolated, less happy, right?  And which sex seems — in general, on balance, most of the time, with exceptions — to be doing more conversing?  Yeah, looks like the ladies win this one, too.  BUT, there’s a caveat!  The kind of conversation that correlated with happiness was NOT idle “small talk” or gossip!  No, the kind of conversation that correlated with happiness was about deep, meaningful topics — the kind of conversation that actually strengthens relationship bonds between people.  So do the ladies still win?  Maybe so.  Sorry guys.

3)  Yet another new study found that moderate consumption of adult beverages may actually help people stay healthy in terms of weight — well, not all people.  Once again, it was the female cohort in this study who seemed to benefit from moderate — emphasis on moderate — adult-beverage consumption.  A similar effect was NOT observed in the male cohort.  Sorry again guys

In other Lawpsyc news:

“Jihad Jane”?  That’s what she apparently called herself online, a blonde, blue-eyed Philadelphia woman arrested for conspiring to assist Middle-Eastern terrorists in attacking the U.S.A.  Of course it’s unusual for an American to be a “jihadist,” and it’s even more unusual for an Americanwoman to be one.  So, it will be fascinating to learn more about this woman and what motivated her to want to help terrorists attack this country.  Did she really have some kind of religious “epiphany” whereby she changed religions and came to believe that she was doing the “right” thing by turning against her country and ultimately came to hate this country so much that she chose to abandon rationality and actually try to help kill innocent Americans based on that emotion?  Maybe, but I’ll bet there’s more to it.  I’ll bet she’s a psychologically messed-up attention-seeking outcast whose narcissistic cravings for excitement, self-importance, and “shock” value were fueled by true ideologues who played her for a fool (not that any of that would excuse any of her behavior in the least, nor make her necessarily any less dangerous than an ideologically-driven terrorist).  While it does go to show that we need to be vigilant against people of all backgrounds who may want to do us harm, I also wonder if she wasn’t set up to take this fall in part to focus our security concerns more broadly than is generally necessary, i.e. prevent us from focusing in on people whose backgrounds are generally more highly-correlated with past terror suspects.  Just a thought.

The Kansas City, Missouri School Board has voted to close essentially half of the schools in the district, which is on the verge of financial collapse.  I grew up across the state line in Kansas, but I remember that district being a chaotic shambles since I was a kid.  It could easily serve as the “poster” district for voucher programs (programs that allow parents to elect to use the public money allocated for their children’s public educations to send their children instead to private schools).

And while I’m on school-related news, there’s been much adieu about nothing in the media this week as Texas public school officials rewrite the standards for the textbooks used in that state.  Some activists are up in arms about the state apparently wanting — gasp — to include, among other things, information about our Founding Fathers’ religious affiliations in the curriculum.  There’s nothing wrong with that, legally or educationally.  Kids don’t have to practice the religions of the Founding Fathers, but in order to be educated Americans, which is supposed to be the goal, they need to know what influenced the Founding Fathers as they laid the foundations of our freedom, democracy, prosperity, etc.  It’s kind of like, in order to be an educated American, you don’t have to believe in “creationism,” but you have to know that there exists such a thing as “creationism.”  Think about it — if you don’t think that there should be any discussion of “creationism” in public schools, that’s fine, but you wouldn’t even know that that’s what you thought unless someone somewhere sometime taught you what “creationism” is.  Do we really want American high-school graduates to be unable to engage in a discussion about the extent to which religion influenced the way in which our country was set up, or a discussion about whether “creationism” should be mentioned in a public-school classroom?  Don’t think so.

Also, Corey Haim, who became famous as a child actor in the 80’s, has died of an apparent accidental drug overdose, and the drugs involved apparently were prescription drugs rather than street drugs.  Could it be yet another instance of “Hollywood health care”?  Bet on it.

Meanwhile, Congressman Patrick Kennedy went on a tirade on the floor of the House of Representatives that was so disjointed, psychologically “loose,” and downright bizarre, that I really — I’m serious here folks — think he may want to consider having a mental-health check-up.  I don’t know if he was manic or psychotic or intoxicated or sleep-deprived or just overwhelmed with passion (that could be all it was) or some combination of those at the time, but if you think I’m exaggerating, just go to YouTube and watch a few minutes of his speech.

And finally tonight, a heroic seven-year-old thwarted an armed robbery of his family’s CA home when he raced to the phone, called 911, and asked a dispatcher to send “cops” and “soldiers” to the house.  Way to go, kid!  Nice job, and a good illustration for parents across the U.S.A. of how important it is to teach your children when and how to call 911 — it could be your life that it saves!

Wrapping up the week 3/5/10

In addition to the totally-preventable shooting at the Pentagon (see my last post), here’s a rundown of other Lawpsyc stories that happened this week (I would’ve written about them as they happened, but I was slammed with other work this week, so this is my attempt to get caught up):

Jaycee Dugard, the California mom who was kidnapped and held captive for decades and had two children fathered by her captor before they all were freed last summer, released some recently-shot home video.  It’s interesting because her family life looks surprisingly normal given what she and her children have been through.  I’m a little hesitant about whether she really should add celebrity-spotlight pressure to her and their lives on top of everything else they’re having to deal with, but I understand that she probably needs to generate money somehow so she can stay with her kids full-time for a while (she sold ABC the right to air the footage).

Three L.A. teachers apparently thought that it would be a good idea to recognize Black History Month by teaching their students about such exemplary black Americans as RuPaul, O.J. Simpson, and Dennis Rodman.  I don’t know about RuPaul, but aren’t at least two out of those three criminals?  I don’t know if the teachers were joking, but if so, I don’t think it’s funny.  I think it’s insulting, makes a mockery of the occasion given all of the black Americans, not to mention our current President, who have made contributions to our country’s history that are worthy of being studied by school kids of all races.  The offending teachers have been suspended.

Seventeen-year-old Chelsea King was raped and killed in California, apparently by…guess…just guess…a registered sex offender who never should’ve been out of prison!!!  The (alleged) perpetrator’s DNA has been matched to “fluids” found on the victim’s clothing.  In 2000, he was convicted of molesting a 13-year-old, and an expert witness, a psychiatrist, testified that he should be given at least ten years in prison (which would’ve kept him in prison when he was allegedly raping and killing Chelsea King).  But was he given ten years?  No!!!  Why not?  Crazy judge?  Not even!  The prosecution only asked for six, going against the advice of its ownexpert.  Now after reading that and my last post about the Pentagon shooter, is there anyone who still disagrees with me that we need much stiffer mandatory minimum sentences for first offenses if we’re ever going to have fewer second, third, fourth…offenses?!?

And finally tonight, study this:  Have you seen those infomercials about the educational DVD’s that are supposed to turn your baby into a genius by the age of one?  Well, a new study found that one of the most popular ones — supposed to teach babies to read before they get out of their cribs — does not live up to its hype.  It’s b-o-g-u-s apparently.  S-h-o-c-k-i-n-g!

Have a good weekend!

I rest my case 3/5/10

So yesterday, Thursday, a man showed up at the Pentagon and opened fire on two police officers who, though wounded (non-fatally, thankfully), were able to return fire and kill the assailant.  Now you know what I’m going to say next if you read or watch me regularly:  there definitely were warning signs that this guy was dangerous that went unheeded by society.  Nobody simply “snapped.”  They never really do.  There was a long process leading up to these shootings that should’ve been arrested (literally) and wasn’t.  And voila, here’s what we already know:  The shooter had a history of bipolar disorder and had been taken into police custody on at least one occasion because it was feared that he was a danger to himself or others.  (Yeah, he was also reportedly a highly-intelligent engineering student, but that just shows, as we saw with astronaut Lisa Nowak and the University of Alabama professor who recently shot a group of her colleagues, that intelligence can co-exist with sociopathy and mental illness — in fact, when it does, it usually makes the individual particularly dangerous, because he/she is more likely than the average sociopath to be meticulous/disciplined at the “three p’s,” planning, preparation, and practice!)  The Pentagon shooter had a history of not only using marijuana heavily but of growing it.  He had a history of posting anti-government rants on the Internet.  He had a history of assaulting people and being arrested.  He had recently purchased a gun, and his mother warned police about it during California’s 14-day waiting period.  Yes, that’s right, she warned them before he got the gun, and he got it anyway.  He shouldn’t have come close to passing the required background check to purchase a gun, but he did pass it.  See what I mean?  These people always do lower-level things before they do their “big things,” and if we want fewer “big things” to happen, then we have got to get proactive and start taking these people off the streets — at least putting them on the no-gun list — way earlier in their lives, when they start doing those relatively low-level things.  I feel bad for the shooter’s parents, but I have to take issue with their public statement in which they said, “One thing is clear though — his actions were caused by an illness and not a defective character.”  Well, no offense, but it’s not clear to me, and when it comes to seeing perpetrators of crimes for what they truly are, I’m probably among the best-equipped people in the world.  What’s clear to me is that, like almost all people who commit these kinds of crimes, he had mental problems but he also absolutely had a defective character.  He was probably a complete kook (that’s my “diagnosis”), but he probably also knew exactly what he was doing and that it was against the law.  The kook part is the mental defect.  The willfully, criminally harming other people part is the character defect.  If he would have survived, I would’ve gladly served as the prosecution’s expert if he had tried an insanity defense.  I’ll bet he would’ve been in a category known as “guilty but insane,” which, for all practical and punishment purposes, really isn’t any different from just plain old guilty.

(And here’s an interesting, potentially-related “Study this”:  New research has found a significant connection between heavy marijuana use and psychosis.  People who use marijuana frequently are far more likely than normal people to develop psychotic disorders like Schizophrenia.  As is always the case with correlational research, there’s a causality question.  Does one cause the other, and if so, do people who have the beginnings of psychosis without marijuana then start using marijuana as a means of self-medicating, or do people who begin using marijuana without psychosis then mess up their brains in ways that make them susceptible to psychosis?  My bet?  The latter.  And who knows, maybe the Pentagon shooter falls into that category, which would of course then do absolutely nothing to reduce his responsibility for his actions — neither the marijuana use nor the shootings.)

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