Wrapping up a busy week

Here’s a wrap-up of a busy Lawpsyc news week:

The bodies of two children were found in a Florida canal, and their mother’s boyfriend is the prime suspect (it sounds like he may have confessed).  The big question is, “Where’s the mother?”  She didn’t report the kids missing, and no one’s talking about her as an alternate or co-suspect.  I won’t be surprised if she’s in the canal, too.  The suspect has the typical lengthy criminal history that I’ve written about many times, so once again, it looks like we’re seeing a tragedy that could’ve been prevented if a single parent had been more careful about whom she brought around children whose safety was her ultimate responsibility in life.  (And for those of you who’ve been keeping track of the names of child victims since my piece, “What’s in a Name?” dated 10/10/10…”Jermaine” and “Ju’tyra.”)

In Oklahoma, the parents of a 13-year-old girl who’s been bullied relentlessly, both at school and on the bus to and from school, for two years are suing the school district for willfully neglecting their daughter’s safety.  There’s plenty of evidence that school personnel ignored multiple complaints from the girl and her parents, and I hope the parents win millions.  As I’ve written and said in covering bullying story after bullying story, no child, not a single one in the entire United States of America, should have to fear for his/her physical safety at school or on the way to/from school, and if a child ever does, then the adults in whose care that child’s safety was entrusted — teachers, bus drivers, school district administrators, bus company executives, etc. — should be held accountable, criminally and civilly.  Every educator in every state has a legal duty to report to law enforcement when a child has been harmed physically, and it doesn’t matter whether the harm was inflicted by an adult or by a minor.  So, anytime a child is seriously physically bullied, and an educator becomes aware of it and doesn’t call police and/or child protective services, two crimes have been committed, the child’s battery and the adult’s failure to report the child’s battery.  The adult’s crime is generally a misdemeanor, though, so the best way to get educators and their employers to start protecting children is to hit them very hard financially whenever they neglect to do so.  I’m so sick of sitting on the sidelines talking and writing about these cases that I would actually love to take one on as an attorney, or I’d be happy to be an expert witness in one.  Just as in the cases in which kids are being harmed by unnecessary psych meds, the path to protection for the kids runs directly through the responsible parties’ pocketbooks!

Following up on my post about the Supreme Court recognizing the “right” of a vile Kansas hate group to disturb soldiers’ funerals, a bright side for the family victimized in the case:  O’Reilly Factor host Bill O’Reilly is personally covering costs awarded to the hate group by a lower court, so at least the family won’t be victimized again financially.

And following up on another Kansas case — after eight days of testimony, the hearing on ethics charges against former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline has been put on hold and will resume in July.  Kline is accused of violating professional ethics regulations in his investigations of crimes allegedly committed at two abortion clinics here in Kansas (e.g. failures to report potential child abuse when performing abortions on girls as young as 12 years old, and failures to establish the “medical necessity” required by law before performing late-term abortions).  The prosecutor in the ethics case against Kline seems like a heretofore fair-minded guy who’s come under intense political pressure from current and former state officials here in Kansas to find something wrong with Kline’s conduct.  Without rehashing eight days of complex, convoluted, mostly-unbelievably-boring details, here’s how I’d summarize the case for you at this juncture:  As someone who’s served as an expert for professional ethics panels across this country, I can tell you that when there are clear and egregious violations of professional ethics, it doesn’t take weeks or even days to explain them; hours or minutes are generally all it takes (and if you read published disbarment cases in Kansas specifically, you’ll find that they almost always involve both blatantly-unlawful conduct, like absconding with a client’s money, and a refusal to cooperate with the ethics panel, neither of which I’m hearing about in this case).  Is Kline the smartest or most ethical attorney I’ve ever seen?  I think probably not.  But does the case against him have more to do with abortion politics than with the protection of the public from a dangerously-unethical lawyer?  I think probably so.

And on the Kansas-Colorado border, a 12-year-old is in custody in Colorado after apparently shooting both of his parents to death and attempting to murder his two younger siblings.  Few additional details have yet been released, but if you’re interested in the issues that a case like this presents, see my previous posts “Three Murders,” 11/2/09, “Wrapping up the Week,” 5/1/09, and “Eight-Year-Old Charged with Double Murder,” 11/8/08.

Some people apparently didn’t like my calling Barbara Walters out for what I saw as hypocrisy in her questioning of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on The View, but like her or not (and I’m generally inclined to like her), I think it was worth noting.  Why?  Because it illustrates why a person who wants the public’s trust, whether it’s as a journalist like Walters or as a politician like Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich (who’s on the verge of running for President), and John Edwards (who’s on the verge of being indicted), needs to make sure that he/she maintains “moral authority” by keeping his/her own record clean.  What do I mean by “moral authority”?  I mean that if you’re doing a job that requires you to demand honesty, integrity, acceptance of personal responsibility for failings, etc., from others, and if you haven’t demonstrated those things yourself, I think it compromises your credibility, and therefore your effectiveness, in the job.

Shifting gears to the ongoing budget battles in Washington and across the country, I had to laugh when Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on Friday that if funding were cut for “Head Start” (early-childhood education), the children who didn’t get it would (not “could,” would) become criminals.  If I told you that menopausal Baby Boomers’ hot flashes were causing global warming, I’d be making about as much sense as the congresswoman (and probably more sense than the “experts” who really do argue that we human beings are warming up the world one way or another).

Speaking of the budget and things that make no sense, I recently wrote about “wishy-washy” Americans who support cutting non-essential budget items…until they see someone crying about the cuts…and then change their minds.  A perfect example here in Kansas, where the newly-elected governor is trying to close a huge budget gap:  First, the Governor proposed eliminating taxpayer funding for art projects, probably one of the most obviously-non-essential items in the State’s budget (remember, our nation’s founders revolted against Great Britain over taxation, so they understood what it meant to give a government the power to confiscate its citizens’ money, and I don’t think they meant for that power to be used for art projects — I think they meant for it to be used only for truly-essential government functions).  So then, some people cried; some kids went to the Capitol and read poems; and now, voila, looks like the Legislature’s bringing the funding back.  See what I mean about people refusing to take a stand?  Watching Kansas legislators be so easily swayed makes one wonder how far we’ve really come from the days when fast-talking “snake-oil” salesmen passed through here selling “cure-all” elixirs — suspiciously-alcoholic in aroma, taste, and effect — out of horse-drawn wagons.  These folks probably watch those infomercials for that ridiculous bracelet that’s supposed to improve your balance (you know, the ones that show people walking through a shopping mall one minute and then supposedly having a hard time staying on their feet the next minute) and actually buy the bracelet!  But our state’s budget really isn’t balanced, and I don’t think the bracelet’s going to help it either.  So what’s a governor to do?  I’d respond by proposing tax cuts.  That’s right, deep tax cuts (tax cuts often actually increase revenue to the government by stimulating taxable economic activity, so I’d propose deep-enough cuts to actually decrease revenue to the government).  If legislators are able to find money in the budget for art projects, then the budget’s obviously still not lean enough, i.e. there’s obviously still too much of our money floating around the Capitol.  I’d starve legislators of that money until I saw them really having to make tough choices, like whether to cut art projects or lay off cops, and then answer to the voters for those choices.  (And if you’re interested in what our nation’s founders actually said about the very budgetary issues that we’re currently facing, check out my WorldNetDaily column “What Are We Thinking?” dated 2/16/09, available here:  http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=88987.)

Now, while we have Congresswoman Schultz claiming that being deprived of Head Start makes kids into criminals, a University of Pennsylvania professor apparently thinks that genetics make kids into criminals.  If you’ve seen recent articles about his theory, here’s the Lawpsyc perspective:  There are professionals out there — relatively few, thankfully — who theorize that criminals have no choice but to hurt other people and therefore can’t be held accountable for their behavior.  That theory, not the criminals, is insane in my opinion.  Sure, there are all kinds of genetic and environmental conditions that probably make it harder for some people than it is for others to behave appropriately.  For example, it’s easier for those of us who aren’t pedophiles to refrain from touching kids inappropriately because we don’t have any desire to touch kids inappropriately in the first place.  BUT, everyone, regardless of their desires, and regardless of where their desires come from, must be expected to exercise self-control over their behavior.  People might not choose to have certain desires, but they certainly can and do choose whether to act on those desires.  How can you know that without getting a Ph.D. in psychology and becoming a forensic psychological expert?  Just look at the difference in how criminals behave when there are cops around and when there aren’t.  If a criminal can conform his conduct to the law when there’s a cop present, then the criminal can conform his conduct to the law all the time.  (In fact, that very analogy was once the test used in some jurisdictions to determine the validity of insanity defenses, but it’s been largely abandoned because there are times when criminals choose to commit crimes in the presence of cops, e.g. assaulting a cop, knowing full well what they’re doing and that it’s illegal.)  And in the incredibly-rare case of someone who’s genetically, i.e. irreversibly, so cognitively-dysfunctional that he really doesn’t know what he’s doing or when it’s illegal, I don’t think that advocates of “non-accountability” have fully considered the implications of their theory.  Seems to me that if they were right, the necessary fix would be substantially unchanged, and perhaps imposed even sooner in that individual’s life, i.e. the only way to protect society from that individual would be to separate him from society permanently.

And finally, remember a couple of years ago when an elderly gentleman was on the ground, badly injured, on a busy Connecticut thoroughfare, and rush-hour traffic just kept swerving around him?  I talked about that incident and what it said about our culture’s state of moral decay on the O’Reilly Factor with guest-host and now Ohio Governor John Kasich (pictured above).  Well, this week, I saw video of a similar incident that happened in Chile, only the injured party was a dog struck by a car in the middle of a busy highway.  As humans once again swerved around the injured party, another dog — that’s right, another dog — dodged oncoming highway traffic to come to the injured dog’s aid, dragging the injured dog to safety.  I haven’t independently authenticated the video, but I hope it’s legit, and assuming it is, I hope people watch it and learn from it.  These dogs apparently know more than a bunch of Americans in Connecticut about looking out for one another (instead of merely abdicating moral responsibilities to the government).  You can find the video here:  http://www.metacafe.com/watch/2151688/hero_dog_tries_to_help_wounded_dog/

Have a good weekend!


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