Wrapping up the week

Earlier this week, I told you that prosecutors were seeking the death penalty for Nidal Hasan, the infamous Ft. Hood shooter.  Meanwhile, nine other Army officers reportedly will face varying degrees of military discipline for not taking actions that might’ve prevented the tragedy.  For example, colleagues of Hasan reportedly had expressed concerns about his mental status, and he reportedly had openly espoused radical jihadist views (e.g. that Islamic law took precedence over the U.S. Constitution and that suicide bombings were justifiable), yet he apparently still received favorable performance evaluations resulting in promotion, a top-secret security clearance, and ultimately a transfer to Ft. Hood, where he murdered 13 soldiers and wounded 32 others.  As a risk-assessment expert, I actually support the Army’s discipline of these nine officers because military managers, as well as managers in other types of organizations, put people in harm’s way unnecessarily when they ignore or respond in a lax manner to warning signs of potential workplace violence.

I also wrote this week about the psychology of health care supply.  In that post, I advocated the elimination or at least the minimization of the roles of “middlemen” in health care transactions.  Since then, the Washington Post reported on some entrepreneurial physicians who are attempting to implement a novel, “middleman”-free, model of general practice.  Here’s how it basically works:  Patients pay individual or family “membership” fees, as low as $65 per month, which buys them unlimited office visits throughout the month, in-office tests and treatment for the cost of the supplies used, and in some cases, prescription medicines at or near cost (patients still pay for any necessary third-party services, like sending blood or tissue samples off to a laboratory for analysis).  So far, this model reportedly is enabling physicians to actually earn more per patient than they were getting in cut-rate reimbursements from insurance companies, and, enabling patients to actually pay less in total for their health care by carrying only high-deductible insurance against “catastrophic” health events.  We don’t need more government in health care.  What we need are more free-market solutions like this.

In Cleveland, Texas, 45 miles outside of Houston, several men and teenage boys are in custody for the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl.  They’re innocent until proven guilty, of course, but there’s reportedly video of the rape.  If that’s not disgusting enough, a Houston activist who calls himself “Quannell X” has just held a “town hall” meeting wherein, true to form, he and his supporters reportedly made excuses for the suspects (e.g. Mr. X reportedly questioned why the girl had hesitated to report the crime, while others reportedly claimed that she had consented to the sex, as if that’s even legally-possible for an 11-year-old, and that she had lied about her age, as if an 11-year-old under any circumstances could reasonably be mistaken for an adult), raised money for the suspects’ legal defense, and accused law enforcement officers of racism for not arresting any white or Hispanic suspects, as if we’re living in the movie “Casablanca” in which the local cops would just “round up the usual suspects” when a crime was committed.  According to cops, the actual explanation of why no white or Hispanic suspect has been arrested is simple:  there’s no evidence that anyone white or Hispanic participated in the crime.  In the past, Mr. X has actually been invited on mainstream television news programs to express his radical — I would argue, racist — views on crime and law enforcement in this country, but as I see it, this most recent disgraceful display in Texas ought to erase any shred of media credibility that he and his followers had left.

Actor Charlie Sheen reportedly is suing the network that aired his canceled sitcom, as well as the sitcom’s producer, for allegedly cancelling the show (and Sheen’s income) without cause.  I doubt that a jury will ever hear this lawsuit.  First of all, even though Dr. Drew Pinsky and other experts constantly talk about addictions as “disabilities,” Sheen’s primary problem looks like illegal drug abuse, which means he’s not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  That’s because illegal drug use is…a crime (illegal drug use = crime, I know, it’s redundant), but even if his primary problem were just alcohol abuse, the employer would be required only to accommodate, for example, Sheen’s need to attend AA meetings, not to accommodate Sheen’s coming to work impaired.  That leads me to Sheen’s other ground for suing — alleged contract violations/interference by the network and the producer.  Sheen apparently wants to argue that he was still able to perform his end of his contract despite his substance-abuse problem(s).  I think the chances of that being true are probably virtually zero.  (I know, “But Dr. Brian, I saw Sheen in the show, and he looked ok to me” — maybe so, but you didn’t see how many times they had to shoot the same scene before it came off looking like it did when you watched it.)  I think there are probably mountains of evidence of Sheen’s substance abuse interfering with the show’s production.   After all, we’ve all seen news about him having to be hospitalized twice following apparent binges just in the past few months.  Sheen’s contract also probably has what’s called a “morals clause” in it, whereby Sheen can be fired if his conduct, even outside of the workplace, jeopardizes the network’s ability to sell advertising time during the show.  I think there were probably numerous sponsors who expressed concern about continuing to have their products associated with Sheen.  Also, the contract apparently contains an arbitration clause, whereby Sheen agreed to have any disputes resolved in arbitration rather than in court, so if the case goes forward, I think that’s probably going to be the venue.  Might there be a settlement?  Sure.  The network may calculate that it’d be better to pay Sheen a fraction of the $100 million that he’s demanding in order to make him, finally, go away.  If I had the evidence that I’ll bet the network has, I wouldn’t give Sheen another dime, but that’s me.

Quick updates:  In Arizona, the man who shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several other people back in January has been ordered to undergo psychological assessment to determine his competency to stand trial.  Also in Arizona, the “sweat lodge” trial that I’ve told you about previously continues, with testimony so far indicating that the “self-help” guru who marketed a “retreat” involving endurance of extremely-high temperatures was substantially non-responsive when participants showed heat-stroke symptoms from which they ultimately died (he’s being tried for manslaughter and is claiming that the deaths were accidental).  And Lindsay Lohan’s deadline to decide whether to accept a plea deal in her jewelry-theft case came and went…and got extended.  She now has a couple more weeks to decide whether to accept the deal, which supposedly involves mandatory jail time.

And finally, a couple of very sad child murder cases.  First, a Tennessee infanticide case hit close to home for me when a 34-year-old man and his 23-year-old wife were taken into custody here in Lawrence, Kansas — they stand accused of having murdered their infant daughter in Tennessee back in 2009.  Bail has been set at $1,000,000, and the two are expected to be extradited to Tennessee in short order.  Meanwhile, a Florida couple is in custody after allegedly beating the woman’s toddler son to death for…having a potty-training accident.  The “mother” reportedly is on suicide watch.  (I know, you’re wondering once again why we’d go out of our way as a society to prevent someone like her from self-administering the death penalty, and once again, I don’t have a great answer for you.)

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