Lawpsyc weekend update

Lots to tell you about since last time!  Here goes,

If you missed the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News Channel Friday night, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to explain to the country, in the context of Ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner’s resignation from Congress, why politicians’ personal behavior should matter to voters.  I gave four reasons that will be familiar to regular readers and viewers: 1) lack of trustworthiness (if they lie to their spouses, then their colleagues and constituents can’t trust them either), 2) narcissism (if they clearly put themselves first, then they shouldn’t be counted on to put their constituents first), 3) poor judgment (if they’re stupid enough to do something like “sext” messaging while in Congress, then they’re not wise enough to be solving the country’s problems), and last but not least, 4) the potential for undue influence (if they’re engaging in secret misconduct, then they could be blackmailed).  My counterpoint Friday night, radio talk-show host Leslie Marshall, completely missed the major point of (4), thinking the only risk was that another “participant” in something like Weiner’s sext messaging (i.e. one of the women involved) could try to get something from a politician, which she thought was a trivial risk.  I retorted that if Monica Lewinsky had threatened Bill Clinton to leak the story of their escapades to the press, she probably could’ve gotten him to appoint her U.S. Ambassador to Belize (i.e. a tropical country with a palatial U.S. embassy and not much diplomatic work to be done on a daily basis), but I didn’t get a chance to spell out the bigger threat:  What if, for example, the Chinese intelligence service had found out about Lewinsky before the rest of us did?  If someone from the Chinese diplomatic corps would’ve said to Clinton, “Hey, why don’t you back off of us on this offshore drilling thing, or we might have to leak what you’ve been doing with your intern,” is anyone seriously confident that Clinton would’ve said, “No way, go ahead and out me.”  I’m not confident of that at all.  In fact, I think Clinton very well might’ve said, “Let me see what I can do,” and that’s a major reason why we can’t have people with what Jane Velez-Mitchell aptly calls “toxic secrets” serving in public office — it pits their best interests against our best interests.  In Weiner’s case, does anyone really think that a guy as narcissistic as he seems to be wouldn’t have changed his position on a proposed bill to stay in Congress?  I bet he would’ve done it in a heartbeat.  And as I’ve said, on the Factor and elsewhere, with 300 million citizens living here, there’s no reason why we can’t insist on honest people to fill our public offices.  Ms. Marshall laughed that idea off, but if she really thinks we don’t have enough smart, honest people to solve the country’s problems, I don’t think that’s funny — I think it’s sad, especially to the extent that millions of Americans may think like she does.  If they do, they’re wrong.

And here’s more news about narcissism!  New research shows that incoming college students’ opinions of themselves are markedly higher than they were a generation ago, with no real increase in pre-college accomplishments (just the illusion of increased accomplishments due to grade inflation — teachers handing out higher grades for the same, or worse, performance).  Hmmm, now where have you heard something like that before?  Could it have been here:  Or maybe here:  Or maybe here:  In any case, as a part-time university faculty member, I can tell you first-hand that it’s absolutely true, and that it’s not going to serve the country well when young, overconfident Americans actually have to compete with, for example, the Chinese.  I’ve been to China, and I can report to you that while we’ve been (successfully) building self-esteem in our K-12 schools, they seem to have been focused on building actual skills.  Now, let’s see, who’s going to build the better high-tech products in 2050 — people who think they’re brilliant, or people who are brilliant?  We need to get worried about this folks, and then we need to get our educators out of the self-esteem-building business and back into the skill-building business (i.e. back to basics — reading, writing, and arithmetic) immediately, or this economy’s bad times are just beginning.  And if we do that, ironically, a byproduct of that skill-building will be…self-esteem — not bogus unconditional self-esteem, but valid self-esteem that’s actually rooted in some kind of excellence.  (And just to be clear, there’s an important difference between self-respect and self-esteem.  To “respect” someone means to recognize that person’s worth as a human being, but to “esteem” someone means to hold that person in high regard relative to others, like an “esteemed” professor.  We should want our kids to respect themselves unconditionally, but esteem, for the self and others, should have to be earned.)

Next up, an update on another long-lost Lawpsyc story back in the news this weekend:  Remember Amanda Knox, the American college student who Italian authorities say helped kill her British roommate while studying abroad in Italy?  Apparently, three Italian prison inmates are now saying that Knox didn’t have anything to do with the victim’s death.  How do they know?  They’ve reportedly heard it from other prisoners.  Hmmm, sounds like hearsay to me (I just wrote about hearsay back on 5/31/11 in the context of the Casey Anthony trial).  Before we jump to the conclusion that Knox is wrongfully imprisoned over in Italy, I say let’s hear first-hand from the mouths of these other prisoners, the ones who supposedly know she’s innocent, so they can explain first-hand exactly: 1) how they supposedly know that, and 2) why they’re just now saying it.  Believe it or not, I won’t be holding my breath on this one.

And the blasts from the past just keep coming this weekend:  Remember Joran van der Sloot, the Dutch creep who’s the prime suspect in the murders of both American Natalee Holloway and Peruvian Stephany Flores?  Get this, just in time for Father’s Day, reports out of Peru say that he has fathered a child while in a Peruvian prison awaiting trial for Flores’ murder.  What?  I’ve been to Peru, and when I heard that the Peruvians locked van der Sloot up, I thought he’d probably actually get back some of the treatment he’s allegedly dished out over the years.  Guess not.  Apparently, he’s actually had “conjugal visits” in the prison with at least one woman, the purported mother of the purported baby.  Even if the baby story isn’t true, conjugal visits?  What?  And after you get over the unbelievability of that, think about what kind of woman would possibly want to have a conjugal visit with van der Sloot?  Sadly, women that needy, that starved for attention and affection, that desperate for a relationship in which they can exert some control, are out there, not just in Peru, but even here in the U.S. (despite everything our school system did to try to build up their self-esteem).  Believe it or not, some of America’s most notorious murderers, including John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, both Menendez brothers, both “Hillside Stranglers,” and the “Night Stalker,” formed committed relationships and/or got married while in prison!

Finally, your semi-daily Casey:  On Friday, day 21, the defense’s rebuttal entomologist testified all day, and from my perspective, did little if anything to contradict the prosecution’s theory of what happened to Caylee (i.e. that she was placed in Casey’s trunk shortly after death, remained there for a few days, and was then placed at the scene where her remains were found).  Then on Saturday, day 22, questioning of the defense’s next witness, an anthropologist, was cut short by the judge when the prosecution objected to the defense’s solicitation of opinions outside the scope of the expert’s previous deposition testimony (i.e. during the “discovery” phase of the trial) without prior notice to the prosecution.  In a civil case, such testimony likely would’ve been barred altogether, but given that Casey’s life is at stake, the judge reprimanded her attorney Jose Baez and then ordered the witness to be deposed by the prosecution later that day and to be recalled to testify this week.  The balance of Saturday’s testimony came from a defense pathologist who performed a second autopsy on Caylee’s remains and called the prosecution’s autopsy, “shoddy,” because the previous pathologist, TV’s “Dr. G.” didn’t open up Caylee’s skull.  Essentially, the testimony was that the position of residue inside the skull suggests the skull was moved after substantial decomposition had occurred.  That didn’t really seem like that big of a deal to me, as we know that animals had moved and gnawed on other bones at the scene.  The more important testimony from the defense pathologist was his disagreement with Dr. G. as to the manner of Caylee’s death and as to the timing of the application of the duct tape to her skull.  The defense expert opined that there was not enough evidence to rule the death a homicide and that the duct tape was applied to the skull after decomposition (due to the absence of DNA from the sticky side, which the prosecution contends is attributable to months of exposure to the elements).  The same expert also opined that some of the photography from the scene looked staged to him, as if crime scene investigators had rearranged it prior to photographing it.  So, the big question is, are jurors starting to have reasonable doubt?  I’d bet that at least one is, with respect to whether or not Casey pre-meditated Caylee’s death, but I’d bet not with respect to whether Casey caused Caylee’s death, at least not yet.  Stay tuned!


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