Archive: October 2009

The psychology of Halloween (and why we like it so much) 10/30/09

I originally wrote this last year, but in case you missed or forgot it, here it is again on the eve of this “All Hallows’ Eve”:

It’s almost Halloween, the time of year for scary costumes, ghost stories, horror movies, haunted houses, and the like.  So, why do many people enjoy being scared (at least in controlled situations)?  Well, I think there are a couple of reasons.

First, mentally and physiologically, fear is similar to exhilaration and excitement.  The chemicals that go coursing through our brains and bodies when we’re scared are largely the same ones that are released when we get extremely excited about positive things, like winning a big prize.  It’s “thrilling” to be scared.  Interestingly, people generally seem to enjoy less-extreme thrill sensations as they get older, which probably explains why the lines outside of horror movies and haunted houses are populated predominantly with teenagers.

Another reason people like to be scared may be that “surviving” a scare gives us a powerful feeling.  Exposing ourselves to the things that scare us and living to tell about it gives us the sense that we’ve mastered or conquered our fears.  For some people, this requires a situation in which the threat is real, like skydiving, while for others, it can be achieved in a situation in which the threat is merely imagined, like a scary movie.

I think for some, playing flesh-eating zombies or blood-sucking vampires on Halloween is a form of exploring and exerting control over the “dark sides” of their personalities, what Carl Jung called our “shadows.”  (It’s kind of like the morbid fascination that many people have with trying to understand serial killers and how a human being can be consciously, deliberately evil.)

For most though, I think the costume element of Halloween just gives them a chance to “try on” different identities or show sides of themselves that they don’t usually show, and people generally enjoy that.  Think about it – haven’t you seen people get “crazier” at Halloween costume parties than they do on other occasions?  There’s something “freeing” about the opportunity to attribute one’s behavior to a character for an evening.  (It’s kind of like how some people drink a little, act ridiculous, and later blame their behavior on drunkenness when they weren’t even drunk, but I’ll go into that next time Spring Break rolls around!)

Personally, I’m not a big believer in the whole ghost thing, but as a kid, I always thought it would be fun to spend Halloween night in a place that’s “really haunted” (or at least purported to be).  So, Saturday night, I’ll be hosting a small party and spending the night in a hotel room famous for reports of ghostly phenomena.  This actually will be the third time I’ve done it, and even though nothing paranormal happened the first two times (surprise, surprise), my friends and I had fun with it, so Saturday night’s the latest sequel and if anything strange occurs, I’ll let you know.

Happy Halloween!

Blaming the school in CA, anther teen romance apparently turned violent, & Agassi’s example 10/29/09

If you watched me on Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell Thursday night, you saw us discussing the California gang-rape case (see my last two posts), and you heard some on the panel indicting the school for not having better security on school grounds.  I think it’s a little too early for that.  There was security in and around the building where students were supposed to be that night, the building where the dance was held, and nothing happened there.  So, I need more information about the geography of the school’s campus before I conclude that an assault of a student elsewhere on the grounds was reasonably foreseeable and that school officials therefore were negligent for not having security personnel and/or cameras in the area where the rape occurred.  Of course I join everyone on the panel in wishing that such measures had been taken and that the crime had been prevented, but just because something in hindsight could’ve been prevented doesn’t necessarily mean that someone was negligent for failing to prevent it.

Also tonight, it sounds like we have, here in the Kansas City area, yet another high school girl who’s missing and believed to have been abducted by an abusive ex-boyfriend who recently threatened to harm her.  Just a few weeks ago, there was a case like this in the Kansas City area in which the victim, sadly, was found dead, and her long-abusive ex-boyfriend and two of his friends are now in custody.  At that time, I wrote a post (dated 10/8/09) about the need for adults to do better jobs of helping young women to extricate themselves from abusive relationships before things escalate to life-threatening levels.  Domestic violence between teenagers is a bigger problem than I think many adults realize, not just in the Kansas City area, but all across the country.  I just hope that this current local incident has a happier ending than the last one.

Finally tonight, tennis star Andre Agassi reportedly has admitted to using crystal meth during his professional tennis career.  Great, yet another sports figure setting a horrible example for kids the world over.  This is why it’s imperative for parents to teach their children that they should generally strive to emulate a guy like Agassi, if at all, on the tennis court and nowhere else, a guy like Michael Phelps in the swimming pool and nowhere else, etc., etc., etc.

M.J., Chris Brown, an update on the CA gang-rape case, and a stressful “study this” 10/29/09

In a recent interview with a London tabloid, the late Michael Jackson’s sister La Toya reportedly expressed concern that Jackson’s two sons have not yet “accepted” their father’s death.  Now I don’t know how much to make of Ms. Jackson’s assessment, but research has shown that grief does come in stages, beginning with “resistance” thinking, like denial, anger, and bargaining (e.g. with God — Please bring him back, and I’ll…), then proceeding to deep sadness and despair, and finally culminating in acceptance of the loss.  Ms. Jackson stated that the children are in therapy, so if they are having trouble moving through the stages of grief, hopefully the therapist can help them with that process.

Surprise, surprise, rapper Chris Brown seems like he may be stepping on thin ice with the judge who allowed him to stay out of jail and perform community service while on probation for assaulting his ex-girlfriend, singer Rhianna.  The judge ordered him to stay away from Rhianna, which as far as I know, he has, but he’s apparently posted a picture montage of himself and Rhianna online, which, if I were the judge, would have me watching very closely for any indication that he’s trying to get close to her again, not just in cyberspace but in real life — if I saw that, he’d be in prison faster than he could say “kiss, kiss.”  Also, another shocker, Brown still doesn’t seem to get the seriousness of his violent actions toward Rhianna, referring to them as “mistakes” online.  No Chris, a mistake is an accident, and I don’t think you beat up your girlfriend accidentally.

Five males, two of them adults and three of them juveniles charged as adults, are now in custody in the California gang rape case that I wrote about in my previous post.  That’s great, but cops think there may be as many as five more perpetrators still at large.

Study this:  A study of workers at Boeing over a ten-year period found that, contrary to what you might expect, workers who lost their jobs in layoffs actually were often happier and less stressed-out than workers whose jobs were spared, the theory being that pervasive uncertainty about the future of one’s employment coupled with “survivor guilt” (feeling guilty for still having a job when one’s friends no longer do) can cause even more stress than having to make ends meet while looking for a new job.

Cultural chaos in action? 10/27/09

You may not have heard, but over the weekend, a 15-year-old California girl was brutally gang-raped after leaving a school dance alone.  She reportedly was met along the way home (or wherever she was headed) by a boy with whom she was acquainted who invited her to a secluded, poorly-lit courtyard where he and some of his friend were drinking.  She reportedly went with him, got extremely drunk, and then was victimized terribly by several young males (I can’t bring myself to call them “men”).  She survived the attack but remains hospitalized.  One suspect is in custody, but at least six other suspects remain at large

Now obviously, nobody’s to blame but the rapists, but the only possible way for any good to come out of this horrible attack is to point out to other girls and young women how dangerous it is, given that rapists are out there, to put yourself in a situation like the one in which this victim apparently put herself.  Had she refused to go along, she very well might’ve been forced, which also points out how dangerous it is for a young woman to be walking home alone at night, especially by poorly-lit and lightly-traveled routes.  But those are points I’ve made time and time again, in famous cases like Natalee Holloway’s and less-famous cases like this one.

My main point here is how I think this grotesquely-violent attack likely was influenced by the “cultural chaos” about which I wrote in my recent column “Cultural Chaos Compounding Crime.”  I predict that the young males involved have had very little time spent on their moral development (same goes for the multiple onlookers who reportedly watched but did nothing to stop or report the attack — and don’t give me “bystander effect” psychobabble based on the famous Kitty Genovese case; these onlookers reportedly were entertained by watching this attack).  I predict that most of them had at least one absentee parent and didn’t get much emphasis on right & wrong from their remaining parents, nor from spending time in church, nor from their schools.  I predict that they’re all highly self-focused, with a malignantly-narcissistic sense of entitlement to get what they want from people, including girls and women, even if it means they have to take it.  I predict that they all were raised by parents who modeled and/or fostered selfishness by being selfish themselves and/or by overindulging their children.  I predict that the rapists didn’t really think about the victim as a human being, just as an object for their amusement, which reflects two things:  1) a cultural desensitization to which I think certain kinds of media have contributed (see the column), and 2) the devaluation of women in our culture.

(I didn’t go into that second one in the column, so please give me a moment to do that here:  Violence against women used to be seen as more egregious than violence against men, but I think that formerly-elevated status of women has been eroded significantly, in part due to the fact that some feminists have considered the double standard an insult, i.e. perceived that women were considered to be weak and in need of male protection.  Personally, I don’t think that was it; I think there’s another reason why most societies in human history have been reluctant, for example, to send women into military combat.  If you just look at it logically, I think women are the more valuable half of the human race.  I mean, a man can father as many children in the space of a week as a woman can reasonably expect to ever have in her lifetime, so from a “propagation of the species” perspective, each woman is more important than each man, i.e. we could make it as a species with far fewer men, but with far fewer women, we’d be in trouble.  Sorry guys, it’s true.  OK, back to the point now).

I also predict that each and every one of the males involved in this disgusting gang rape has been in trouble with the law before and suffered few or no consequences, so once again, surprise, surprise, the society sends the message that bad behavior will be tolerated, and voila, bad behavior escalates into horrendous behavior.  And there you have it, sadly, “cultural chaos compounding crime.”

Might it have been avoided if the perpetrators’ parents had practiced the first three pieces of advice that I gave in my follow-up blog post (two posts ago)?  Quite possibly.  Might it have been avoided if the victim’s parents had practiced the fourth piece of advice that I gave in that follow-up post (basically, had they taught their daughter how to recognize the kinds of situations and especially the kinds of people to avoid)?  Maybe.  Who knows?  Maybe they did.  Maybe she didn’t listen, or maybe she just made a horrible error in judgment, or maybe she was in fact forced to the location of the rape.  Might it have been avoided had society come down harder on the perpetrators and gotten them off the streets for significant periods of time after previous offenses?  Almost certainly

Nobody in his/her right mind wants to tolerate crimes like this, but if we really want to prevent them, then we have to stop tolerating the precursors of them, the more minor offenses that escalate into crimes like this — unlike the appalling onlookers at this horrific gang rape, we won’t ignore a severe crime like this one, but too often, our society is standing by as a passive onlooker when the precursors of severe crimes happen.  There are definitely roles for parents, schools, and churches to play in combating cultural chaos, but the society at large could go a long way toward restoring some order out of the chaos by taking a much firmer stand against violence, much earlier in people’s lives, much earlier in the evolution of violence from low-grade offenses into what I’ve called “grotesque” violence — violence like what happened to this poor girl in California.  Wonder just how chaotic things will have to get before we do that.

Rapid rundown 10/26/09

Here’s a rapid rundown on cases in the news this week:

The body of a missing nine-year-old girl has been found in central Missouri, and a 15-year-old (boy, I predict, but authorities haven’t said yet) is in custody, charged with first-degree murder.  The judge in the case will decide next week whether to charge the suspect as an adult (multiple factors go into that determination — more on that in my blog post dated 5/1/09), but in any case, the death penalty will be off the table (the Supreme Court has ruled that it’s “cruel and unusual punishment” to execute convicts who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes — more on that in my blog posts dated 3/8/07 and 8/9/07).

America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh has stated his belief that the perpetrator in the kidnapping and murder of little Somer Thompson in Florida is a “retired” sexual predator who “came out of retirement” to commit this latest horrific crime.  I admire Walsh, but I think he’s jumping the gun and exceeding his expertise on this one.  I’ve seen nothing to suggest that the perpetrator in this case is some kind of experienced “expert,” nor have I seen anything to suggest that the same person committed similar crimes years ago and didn’t commit any in between then and now (even if the “m.o.” in this case is similar to the “m.o.” in some old, cold cases, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the same perpetrator, nor does it mean, if it is the same perpetrator, that other, perhaps yet-undiscovered crimes haven’t been committed in the intervening years).

What’s with these Ivy League labs?  Just weeks after Annie Le was murdered in a lab at Yale, we’re learning that six Harvard researchers were hospitalized when they developed symptoms like dizziness and rapid heart rate that were traced to the coffee in their lab having been laced with the chemical sodium azide.  I suspect that this was no accident and no joke — that someone in that lab, probably someone with narcissistic traits who felt “slighted” somehow by the people in that lab did it intentionally.  I’d say there’s a dangerous individual with access to dangerous chemicals, which makes this case a bigger deal than it might seem at first, given that no one died or was seriously/permanently injured.

Study this:  A new study revealed that 1/3 of parents still don’t have a clue what “sexting” is, let alone how it could harm their teens.  If you or someone you love are/is one of those “clueless” parents, check out or send them my column The “Sext” Generation.

Follow-up to “Cultural Chaos” column 10/24/09

I just received such a good question from a reader in response to my column “Cultural Chaos Compounding Crime” that I decided to answer it here.  The question is:

“I wonder what advice you have to parents to deal with this reality both in terms of raising their own kids as well as protecting their kids from others who could do them harm?”

In the way of advice, tracking with the column, I’d say that parents first need to counter the two trends by

1) making sure there’s an emphasis on right & wrong in their homes, and

2) making sure each kid sees him/herself not as the center of the universe but as part of something larger than him/herself — i.e. that the purpose and value of one’s life generally are realized through contributions made to the lives of others and that lasting “happiness” is generally attained as a byproduct of such endeavors rather than being something that one pursues directly, like those little plastic rabbits at dog racetracks (I wrote a more detailed blog post about this, about what I think we’re all supposed to be doing in life and why the U.S. is the best place in the world to be doing it, back on July 4, 2009), and then I think parents also need to be

3) making sure they’re not buying into the “disciplinary relativism” that’s going on in the society at large — i.e. not letting their kids get away with doing things that are against their long-term best interests because “other parents are OK with it,” or “other kids are doing a lot worse,” or “I want the kids to see me as a friend,” etc. (at home, just like in the broader society, ignoring or tolerating too many “tests” of the disciplinary system when attention-worthy misconduct is involved, even if it’s fairly minor misconduct relative to lots of other misconduct that is or could be going on, can send the message that we’re not serious about requiring the people who live here to behave healthily and respectfully and that unhealthy, disrespectful behavior can be an effective “shortcut” to what one wants), and lastly

4) making sure their kids recognize that there are or will be immoral, selfish, even dangerously-immoral/dangerously-selfish people around them, that it’s important to recognize such behavior for what it is, that there’s nothing wrong with passing negative judgment on it, and that it needn’t and shouldn’t be tolerated (e.g. when it occurs on an interpersonal level, rather than accept that it was just a “mistake,” see the perpetrator for who/what he/she is, generally expect the same in the future, and distance oneself from the person, and when it occurs on a criminal level, generally call official attention to it and take a stand for swift and severe punishment of it)

(And if you’d like to let me know what you think about my columns, blogs, and t.v. appearances, you can do that, too, via my Facebook page.  Hope to see you there soon!)

Cultural Chaos Compounding Crime 10/24/09

Have a great weekend, and check out my new column “Cultural Chaos Compounding Crime” in Saturday’s edition of WorldNetDaily.

I’m back! 10/22/09

Hey, sorry I haven’t checked in for a while.  Haven’t felt that good this past week.  Here are some catch-up quick takes

The “balloon boy” story is ridiculous on many fronts, but for a father to use his children in a criminal publicity stunt is abusive in my opinion.  I think child protective services should be all over him in addition to state and federal law enforcement.

You heard it here first — I’m withholding criticism here, but I predicted that Jaycee Dugard would end up on the media circuit, and it looks like that’s begun with the current edition of People magazine.

I went back on the air on Tuesday night’s Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, and we discussed the case of a college girl who disappeared from a Metallica concert in Virginia.  The weird thing about this story is that after entering the venue, she apparently called her friends from outside the venue to say that she had gone outside to use the restroom and couldn’t get back in (presumably because she didn’t have a ticket with her).  I don’t know about the major concert venues in your area, but in my area, there’s no way you’d end up outside a venue looking for the restroom, so I’m thinking she actually left the venue for some other purpose, perhaps under impairment (like someone spiked her drink) or duress, and/or she was forced by someone to make that call.

A mistrial has been declared in the Bahamian trial of two defendants accused of attempting to blackmail actor John Travolta in the wake of his special-needs child’s death (apparently by publicizing information to create the impression that Travolta hadn’t done everything reasonably possible to assist the child).  I recently wrote about how insidious the crime of blackmail really is, both in the contexts of the Travolta and David Letterman (whose behavior was also horrendous) cases.

Yet another little girl went missing in Florida this week in an apparent forcible abduction from a sidewalk in broad daylight as she walked home from school, but it looks like that story has already come to a sad ending — although authorities haven’t publicly i.d.’d the body yet, the body of a little girl has been found in a Florida landfill.  In any case, it’s certainly not case-closed until the person who did it is either in the same condition as the apparent victim or at the very least confined to a small cage until the apparent victim comes back to life unharmed.

People have been speculating that a male UCLA student who slashed a female student’s throat in a classroom (she survived, thankfully) must be mentally ill, citing a professor’s reported concern about the slasher’s mental stability (which, by the way, raises questions reminiscent of the Virginia Tech massacre about whether the university should have gotten him off campus back when that “red flag” reportedly was raised approximately a year ago).  As usual, I say the slasher probably has mental problems (sounds like maybe some paranoia about others being out to get him), but that doesn’t mean he’s insane for purposes of determining guilt or innocence of a crime.  If I had to bet, I’d bet he’s a nut who nevertheless knew exactly what he was doing, planned it in advance, and knew that it was wrong (illegal), which would mean that prosecutors are right on target charging him with attempted first-degree murder.

Finally, believe it or not, even terrorists appear to have standards.  Two men who’ve been indicted for conspiring to shoot up a shopping mall in Boston apparently had previously tried to get into a terrorist training camp somewhere in the Middle East but couldn’t find one that would accept them!

Ok, that’s it for tonight, and I’ll try to get back on top of things on a semi-daily basis now.  Thanks for reading as always.

Lessons in tragedy 10/8/09

This story didn’t get much national attention, and I never talked about it on the air because it started and ended relatively quickly.  An 18-year-old woman from here in Kansas (about 30 minutes from where I live in Lawrence) disappeared on September 29th and was found dead on October 5th.  Her ex-boyfriend and two other men, all three in their late teens or very early twenties, are in custody and charged with her kidnapping and murder.  Now, please remember this if/as you read on:  I’m not blaming anybody but the perpetrators — I’m simply trying to glean whatever lessons can be gleaned from this tragedy in the hope of preventing a future tragedy.  Friends of the victim have told the local media that there was a long history of physical abuse in the victim’s relationship with the ex-boyfriend now charged in her death.  Sadly, you’ve heard me say time and time again that women need to get themselves and their children, if any, away from men at the first indications of violent tendencies because they typically repeat and escalate.  Those past cases, however, have involved women who were adults for the duration of their abusive relationships.  This case is different.  This girl’s relationship with her allegedly-abusive ex-boyfriend reportedly began when she was 15 or 16 years old, a minor.  For better or worse, many minors don’t watch the shows that I’m on or read my blogs and columns.  This case, therefore, underscores the need for parents and schools to educate teens, especially young women, about the deadly cycle of domestic violence and how not to get sucked into it.  As I often do, one of the things I noted when reading about the victim’s family was that her last name and her father’s last name appeared to be different.  That made me wonder whether there had been some family upheaval somewhere along the line that might possibly have deprived this girl of some potentially-lifesaving parental attention.  Then I read that she was raised primarily by grandparents, leading me to conclude that there probably had in fact been some problems in the family.  Maybe the grandparents did a great job, and maybe they harped on domestic violence all day long, but I still think it’s worth noting that when parents are not actively involved in the day-to-day parenting of their kids, not monitoring their minor children’s choices of friends and social activities, the kids’ chances of encountering trouble go up in my experience.  Maybe the girl’s school did a great job, too.  Maybe school counselors took her aside and spoke individually with her about the dangers of domestic violence, but I still think it’s worth noting that this is one aspect of teens’ social lives in which schools generally could do more to impart or supplement an important message that may be absent or ignored at home.  In this case, from the admittedly-incomplete, still-developing picture that I have, it appears that the girl’s friends did more than anyone else to encourage her to leave the relationship.  There may not have been anything that adults at her home or school could’ve done that would’ve convinced her to actually leave the relationship, but then again, there might have been.  Once again, I’m not blaming anyone other than the perpetrators — not the victim, not the parents, not the grandparents, not school personnel, not the friends, nobody — but I know that there’s a sad number of young women, minors, out there in abusive relationships at this very moment.  So, what do I want?  I want schools educating teenagers, especially young women, about the need to get away from physical abuse at its first manifestation.  I want parents actively involved enough in their teens’ lives to hopefully spot when their daughters are in potentially-abusive relationships.  I want friends who learn that friends are being abused to not only encourage the victims to get away from their abusers but to also make sure that responsible adults are aware of these situations.  I want parents who suspect (either from seeing or hearing it first-hand or by hearing it from others) that their daughters have been abused to do everything (legally) possible to keep their daughters away from the abusers and to get law enforcement involved, whether their daughters like it or not.  And as always, I want law enforcement and judges to come down hard and immediately on perpetrators, whether they’re minors or majors (slaps on the wrist equal slaps in girls’ and women’s faces — literally…and worse — and justice delayed is justice denied).  What I want most is not to be talking on a future show or writing in a future piece about another young woman who got caught up in a similar cycle of violence ending in another preventable (yet nonetheless heartbreaking) tragedy.

Letterman, Anthony, Cummings, Jenkins, and a double dose of new research 10/7/09

It’s been a busy first half of the week, so here’s a mid-week catch-up post:

Letterman update:  On Tuesday night’s Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, we talked about the David Letterman blackmail case.  As you probably know, a CBS producer allegedly threatened to publicize an affair between Letterman and the producer’s live-in girlfriend, then an employee of Letterman, unless Letterman paid the producer two million dollars.  Another panelist, an attorney who’s usually a strong advocate for women, said that what the producer allegedly did was much worse than what Letterman allegedly did.  I disagree.  The producer may be the criminal, but I don’t think his behavior was “much worse” than Letterman’s.  Letterman’s reportedly been in a relationship with his wife for 20 years even though they’ve only been married for about a year, and they apparently have a five-year-old child together.  I believe that being unfaithful to one’s committed significant other is one of the most-disgusting, least-forgivable betrayals that one human being can inflict upon another.  I’m not saying it justifies blackmail — it doesn’t — but at least the blackmailer allegedly victimized a stranger.  Letterman allegedly victimized the person who’s supposed to be the most important person in the world to him, just as the producer’s girlfriend apparently did (maybe she and Letterman deserve each other).  And interestingly, I think that the producer may be the more aggrieved spouse/lover in this case.  Why?  I doubt that Mrs. Letterman has been with Letterman for 20 years and had no idea what he’s been like.  The producer, however, seems to have been taken completely by surprise when he read about the affair between his girlfriend and Letterman in the girlfriend’s diary, and he apparently lashed out at Letterman financially seeking revenge.  Again, it’s no excuse for the blackmail that allegedly occurred, but the whole thing illustrates the depths to which this infidelity stuff makes people sink.  Technically speaking, Letterman may be a crime “victim,” but neither my Facebook fans, nor the folks who follow me on Twitter, nor my students seem to feel sorry for him, nor do I.

Anthony update:  Casey Anthony’s defense team has moved to dismiss the charges against her, claiming that the prosecution has no evidence of aggravated child abuse leading to little Caylee’s death.  This motion’s no bombshell, in my opinion, because I think it has zero chance of succeeding.  By the way, the projected trial date is now June, 2010, but as I’ve opined repeatedly, I’ll still be a little surprised if there’s ever a trial — not because I expect the charges to be dismissed but because I think there’s a reasonable chance that a plea deal will be struck once both sides have a chance to review all of the evidence and to evaluate their chances of winning at trial.

Cummings update:  Also on Tuesday night’s Issues, we discussed reports that Ron and Misty Cummings are on the brink of divorce.  If that’s true, it’s no surprise to me.  Getting through tragedies like a child’s disappearance puts a strain on even the healthiest of relationships, and this certainly never appeared to be the healthiest of relationships, plus, I speculated back when they got married that it was a move erroneously intended to create a spousal privilege to prevent one of them from having to testify against the other.

Ryan Jenkins update:  Remember him, the Megan Wants to Marry a Millionaire guy, the one who apparently murdered his swimsuit-model wife, went on the run, then ultimately killed himself?  Well, apparently he had worked on a suicide note on his computer in which he didn’t confess to the murder but did apologize to his friends and family for pain that he was going to put them through and in which he apparently blamed the wife for his problems.

Study this #1:  A new study found a negative correlation between childhood trauma and lifespan, i.e. people who had experienced childhood trauma had somewhat shorter lifespans.  As in the recent study about spanking and IQ, I suspect that these findings, if accurate, reflect an indirect rather than a direct relationship.  In other words, I doubt, at least in most cases, that childhood trauma actually makes the body wear out earlier.  I think it’s more likely that people who experience childhood trauma have a higher-than-average tendency to do things and experience things throughout their lives (like turning to drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms, experiencing further traumas as adults, etc.) that, cumulatively, put life-shortening stress and strain on the mind and body.

Study this #2:  “Vaccines” for drug addiction?  Yes and no.  They’re not “vaccines” in the traditional sense, but chemicals are in development that are intended to eliminate the intoxicating effects of substances like nicotine, cocaine, and methamphetamine, thereby reducing an addict’s incentive to continue abusing such substances.  While I think it’s possible that such “vaccines” could work to help people kick drug habits, there’s also a potential legal problem for the developers of these “vaccines” — addicts may initially try increasing their dosages (of the drugs that they abuse), attempting to get high despite the effects of the “vaccines,” thereby creating overdose risks for which “vaccine” developers may be alleged to be liable.

Craziness in Kansas 10/3/09

The big news on the campus of the University of Kansas (where I teach my college course) in the past week or so has been fighting — I don’t mean arguing; I mean actual violence — between members of the University’s football and basketball teams.  If I were the University’s new chancellor, I’d kick every player who’s been directly involved off the teams and out of school, and I wouldn’t give a damn what it did to the teams’ performance, or what it did to athletic revenue, or what the alumni thought about it, or anything other than sending the message that the University is a LEARNING institution where there’s zero tolerance for violence.  Taking a stand like that would probably do more for the prestige of the University than a few points one way or the other on the football field or basketball court, but I don’t expect it to happen because of the overemphasis on sports in our culture that I’ve written about repeatedly this year.

OK, if you don’t think the violence amongst the athletes is that big of a deal, see what you think about this one:  Back in January, four University of Kansas students were robbed at gunpoint while waiting in the drive-through line at a fast-food place here in Lawrence, Kansas.  Both the robber and the getaway driver were apprehended.  Props to the cops for that!  But guess what’s happened now?  A judge has sentenced both perpetrators to…three years’ PROBATION!  That’s right, PROBATION!  One more time — PROBATION — for armed robbery!  How insulting, both to the four victims and to the cops who worked hard to catch these two creeps!

Do you see what I mean about how reluctant this society has become to make decisive judgments about behavior and how tolerant it’s become of horrendous behavior?  And this isn’t L.A. or New York — this is KANSAS, the heartland!  WHAT THE HELL, ladies and gentlemen?  How many times have you committed armed robbery in your life?  None?  That’s what I thought.  And it hasn’t been hard, has it?  No, it hasn’t.  It’s been easy.  Every one of us should be expected to go through our entire lives without ever robbing anyone else at gunpoint, period, and if one of us does, we should lose the privilege of living amongst our law-abiding fellow citizens for a significant portion of our lives.  How long?  I’d say these two convicts here in Kansas should’ve gone away for at least five years, and the only reason I could be OK with sentences that short is because no one got hurt!

Why am I so fired up about this craziness in Kansas?  Because I fully expect to be covering it on television when, sooner rather than later, these same two creeps who robbed the students in the drive-through rape or murder somebody!  With slaps on the wrist like PROBATION sentences, who in his/her right mind would expect these two pieces of crap to take society seriously when it says that they need to obey the law from now on?  I predict right now that their criminal behavior will only escalate and that they will victimize someone else, more severely next time, within the three-year probation period.

Just as kicking violent student athletes off their teams and out of school might make people take the University seriously when it says “no violence on campus,” lengthy, hard prison terms for the convicted robbers might’ve made people, especially the two robbers, think twice about breaking the law in the future, but even if not, at least for the next few years, we could rest assured that these two weren’t going to walk up to our cars or to our loved ones’ cars in a drive-through lane, or come up behind us or behind our loved ones at an ATM, or worse.  But no, thanks to their judge, that’s what we get to worry about, starting now.

Sadly, this tolerance of violence is going on all over the country, and it’s contributing to an escalation in violence nationwide (I have an upcoming column about how “cultural chaos” is compounding crime in this country, so be on the lookout for that).  It’s clear that we can’t rely on individual judges to drop the hammer of justice on those who refuse to live peacefully among us, so I encourage each and every one of you to contact your legislators and demand that they take matters out of judges’ hands and impose stiff mandatory minimum sentences for all crimes involving violence.

Have a good and safe weekend!

Still waiting on those tapes 10/2/10

Well, it’s the end of the week, and I’m still waiting for those “tapes” that the loud-mouthed lawyer on Tuesday night’s Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell supposedly was going to produce the very next day — let’s see, hmmm, that’d be two days ago now — that supposedly were going to prove that cops in Malibu, California released a woman from custody when she was a clear and present danger to herself or to others.  If you missed the background on this, see the post that I wrote after Tuesday night’s show (9/29/09).  I predicted that the lawyer wouldn’t be able to produce any “tapes,” and that if he were able to, they wouldn’t come close to proving that it was unreasonable for the cops to have released the woman who, sadly, has gone missing since her release.  Of course the most important thing here is finding the missing woman, hopefully unharmed, but as far as these supposed “tapes” go, I think it’s safe to say, “See, I told you so,” to anyone who doubted that the loud-mouthed lawyer’s claims were bogus.  My schedule’s been pretty booked up since Tuesday, so I haven’t watched every minute of the last two nights’ Issues, but I’m guessing that the reason why I haven’t been back on the show is that no one (i.e. no loud-mouthed lawyer) ever showed back up to prove me wrong.

Polanski, Smart, Jon & Kate, Letterman, and school kids singing the President’s praises 10/2/09

Polanski update:  As movie director Roman Polanski awaits extradition to the U.S. to finally face justice after skipping out on his sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old some 30 years ago, actress and talk show hostess Whoopi Goldberg doesn’t seem to be sure whether Polanski’s actions constituted rape.  Goldberg, apparently defending Polanski, as many in Hollywood have, unbelievably, been doing, said “it wasn’t rape rape,” implying that it wasn’t that bad if he didn’t force himself on the girl.  Never mind that he allegedly drugged her and that she was 13 years old at the time!  The fact that there seem to be so many apologists for Polanski in Hollywood really underscores the depths of depravity to which these people have sunken, even as many in the U.S. and around the world continue to idolize them.

Smart update:  Elizabeth Smart, testifying before a court that’s trying to determine whether her alleged abductor is competent to stand trial, has stated that he raped her repeatedly and daily while holding her captive.  What’s more, his “wife” allegedly was there the whole time, just like Phillip Garrido’s wife allegedly was there the whole time while Jaycee Dugard and her children were held captive (I recently wrote about such women in my blog post entitled “What’s with these wives?” back on 9/2/09 – I think they deserve every bit of the punishment that their husbands deserve because I think they aid and abet horrific crimes against children).  The creep’s competency to stand trial (basically, his ability to understand what’s going on and to assist in his own defense) is in question because of bizarre behaviors like singing “religious” songs (he claims to be a “prophet”) in courtrooms – behaviors that conveniently emerged right about the time he was arrested for kidnapping Smart.  I don’t buy it for a second, and I’d love to be the state’s expert on this one!  He may be a nut, probably is, but I’ve done plenty of competency evaluations, and a person has to be pretty darn out of it to be incompetent to stand trial.  I’ll bet it’s one big act, and I hope to God it doesn’t work.

Jon & Kate update:  Jon, of “Jon & Kate” fame, has reportedly been booted from Jon & Kate Plus Eight, and therefore, he’s reportedly refusing to allow t.v. cameras to film his children during the roughly half of the time that they’re in his custody, meaning that Kate Plus Eight will have to be filmed entirely when the children are with Kate.  There’s speculation that this will put an end to the show altogether.  Good!  I’ve said before that if I were the judge in Jon & Kate’s divorce case, I would’ve ended the show long before now – I would’ve told the parents that either the cameras get removed from their homes, or the kids do.  Sure, the show probably generated some cash that may or may not (depending on how the parents manage – or waste – it) help the kids out in the long run (like with college), but it seems to me that the damage it’s likely doing (e.g. having the breakup of their family play out on national t.v.) probably outweighed the advantages long ago.

Letterman extortion plot:  For the second time in as many weeks, a major celebrity – first it was John Travolta, now it’s David Letterman – is at the center of an alleged multimillion-dollar extortion plot.  In this latest case, a CBS news producer is accused of trying to shake Letterman down for two million dollars by threatening to publicize affairs that Letterman allegedly has had with multiple employees.  Personally, it’s a lot easier to sympathize with an innocent dad who was just trying to grieve the death of his teenage son privately when extortionists intervened than it is to sympathize with a guy who’d apparently been engaging in some pretty unscrupulous personal behavior over the years until an extortionist intervened.  Nevertheless, when the Travolta case went to trial, I wrote about why extortion and blackmail are more heinous crimes than many people might think at first glance.  If you missed it, that blog post is dated 9/23/09.

Finally tonight, speaking of “religious” songs (see “Smart update” above), did you hear about the songs that elementary school children were singing about President Obama in New Jersey?  If not, you should Google that topic and listen to the songs, with lyrics like:  “He said that all must lend a hand to make this country strong again, mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama.  He said we must be fair today; equal work means equal pay, mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama.  He said that we must take a stand to make sure everyone gets a chance, mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama.” Or how about, “Hooray, Mr. President we honor your great plans to make this country’s economy number one again!”  Now I don’t know about you, but those lyrics sound to me disturbingly close to something that school kids would be required to sing about their “dear leader” in some totalitarian dictatorship.  It sounds like idolatry and indoctrination to me, and I don’t want that in our schools with any president in office.  I’d give major props to Obama if he’d do the classy thing and say, “I’ve heard about these songs that school children have been singing about me, and while I’m sure that the kids and their teachers were well-intentioned, I’d really rather see the kids’ education be focused on America rather than on an individual American.”

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