Lots of Lawpsyc news this week, here’s a mid-week rundown:
It was almost exactly two years ago when I was on the air talking about Muzzammil Hassan, the Pakistani-born founder and operator of an Islamic television station based in New York. At that time, Hassan was accused of brutally murdering and beheading his wife after she asked for a divorce. Well, he was just convicted, and it only took the jury an hour, which means the evidence was overwhelming and incontrovertible. Hassan represented himself and apparently continues to believe that he had a right to punish his wife by death for defying his husbandly authority over her. OK, is there anyone in America who still thinks it might be a good idea to let domestic disputes between Muslims living in the United States be decided under “Sharia” (Muslim) law instead of our secular domestic law?
One of America’s most notorious serial killers, Gary Ridgway, a.k.a. the “Green River Killer,” is serving a life sentence for killing 48 women in the northwestern United States in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Make that 49. He’s just been charged with the previously-unsolved murder of an additional woman. Unbelievably, he still won’t face the death penalty because of a deal prosecutors made with him in 2003 to get him to cooperate in solving murders attributable to him. One prosecutor recently said of Ridgway, “Cognitively, he’s unlike anybody I’ve ever seen.” No kidding.
Almost exactly two years ago, a Philadephia “mother” and “father” (I use those terms in the biological sense only) stood by as their two-year-old son clung to life with bacterial pneumonia, denying the child the antibiotics that almost-certainly would have saved his life and opting instead to simply pray for his recovery. Well, the child died, and I’m pleased to report that the parents have been convicted of involuntary manslaughter — I think it should’ve been “voluntary,” but I’ll take it. What I’m not pleased to report is their sentence…probation. That’s right, probation. If a mentally-competent adult wants to pray instead of seeking medical treatment for a grave illness, and he/she dies, fine. But a gravely-ill minor child lacks mental capacity to decide whether he/she wants to forgo modern medicine and rely exclusively on faith healing, so until that minor’s a major, his/her guardians must do everything in their power to save the child’s life. These parents didn’t, and they belong in prison, despite the fact (perhaps all the more because of it) that they have…seven more children at home.
A newborn baby, just hours old, was found dumped in a toilet in a South Carolina arena during or shortly after a circus performance over the weekend. The infant is clinging to life at this hour, and local authorities are searching for the mother, who is believed to have given birth right there in the arena restroom. I think it’s safe to say that virtually everyone who hears about this story (except maybe the Planned Parenthood employees recently videotaped teaching a man whom they were told was a child sexual predator how to obtain abortions for his victims) is outraged by it and considers the mother a murderer if the child dies and an attempted murderer if the child lives. Good, me too. And I think most of us feel similarly about Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion doctor charged with murdering not just one but seven babies, after they were born, by cutting their spinal cords with scissors (he’s also charged with negligently killing an adult woman, but I’m focused on the babies here). I worry, though, that part of the reason we’re seeing these and similar cases is the laissez-faire stance that our culture has taken over the past few decades with respect to the value of infant life. When I look at the hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars that we (as a society) are giving to Planned Parenthood (I know, the money’s not supposed to be used for abortions, but that’s meaningless — money used to rent office space, for example, helps make everything that happens in that office possible), and when I recall how difficult we made it to prosecute the notorious late-term abortion doctor George Tiller here in Kansas, it doesn’t seem like we’re making a strong cultural statement in favor of infant life. As we’ve seen throughout history, in Nazi Germany, in the Middle-East, and elsewhere, individuals seem to find it easier to treat others inhumanely when their cultural milieu appears to support, condone, or at least tolerate the inhumane behavior.
Bill O’Reilly, who has interviewed me many times, interviewed President Obama before the Superbowl on Sunday, and during the interview, the two discussed health-care reform. President Obama stated that, in his view, no one in the United States should go bankrupt because of an illness, which is why he has championed sweeping new governmental regulations requiring, among other things, insurance companies to insure people with pre-existing conditions. The psychology of this debate is fascinating to me. Nobody likes to see someone who develops cancer bankrupted by the cost of treatment. But is it the government’s place to make sure that doesn’t happen? I say no. It’s our job, as citizens, voluntarily, individually and in groups, to look out for those who can’t look out for themselves. If someone capable of buying health insurance by sacrificing non-necessities chooses the non-necessities and waits until he/she has cancer to try to buy insurance, I don’t begrudge the person private assistance from his/her fellow Americans, but I also don’t mind if the person suffers financially first. Why should’t people who bet money that nothing would go wrong lose money if it does? They should, and others need to see that happen so they learn to hedge their bets (by purchasing insurance in advance). Forcing a health insurance company to insure a person against cancer after he/she has it is like forcing a homeowners’ insurance company to insure a person against fire after his/her home has already burned down. That’s not insurance. That’s redistribution of wealth from the insurance company to the person who bet that a bad thing wouldn’t happen and lost, which President Obama told O’Reilly that he flat-out opposes. See why the psychology of this fascinates me?
And finally, a couple of new studies: The first is just a confirmation of what I’ve said and written many times — that smoking marijuana increases people’s risk of developing psychosis later in life. The study confirmed not only that people who smoked marijuana developed psychotic symptoms more frequently than people who did not smoke marijuana but also that marijuana-smoking psychotics developed their symptoms an average of 2.7 years earlier in life than non-marijuana-smoking psychotics. The second study is also a confirmation, and an expansion, of something I said when I wrote last year about why I think some people are hateful and violent toward gays and lesbians (see my post, “What attacks on gays say about the attackers,” dated 10/10/10). The new study found that middle-school kids who were on the fringe of being considered popular — “almost-popular” kids — engaged in more bullying behaviors than both their high-popularity and low-popularity peers, which seems to support my contention that when people get emotionally upset by others’ benign personal idiosyncrasies and/or lash out at others who pose no threat, it usually reveals insecurities in the bullies about their own social status, self-worth, sexual orientation, etc.