Observations and updates

Let’s start with some timely observations:

I’ve written quite a bit about the psychology of people who’ve died in hurricanes and floods and the psychology of people who’ve survived hurricanes and floods.  Thankfully, it looked like most people in the Northeast last week had gotten the message, but sadly, not all.  Hurricane Irene didn’t live up to her hype, yet over 20 deaths have been attributed to her.  Some of those people died tragically but understandably, like the elderly who had heart attacks and the kid who thought he was safe inside his family’s home when a tree fell through the roof and landed on top of him.  Some of the remaining casualties of Irene, however, were idiots, like the people who tried to drive through raging flood waters and the people who went out walking around amid downed power lines.  It was basically just a big thunderstorm, and we knew it was coming for a week, and yet some people, unbelievably but predictably, went right out and put themselves in harm’s way, totally voluntarily, totally unnecessarily.  I’m sorry for their loved ones regardless, but in some cases, this was evolution in action.

Now, two other idiots survived Irene, but if I were in charge in New York, they wouldn’t be out of harm’s way (financially speaking) anytime soon.  I’m referring to two imbeciles who went kayaking in the ocean as Irene approached and had to be rescued by the NYPD, endangering the lives of the officers and distracting them from other important tasks.  Just like the idiots about whom I write every winter — the ones who climb mountains in the Rockies in extremely treacherous conditions, get stranded, and then expect others’ lives and equipment to be risked for days and days trying to rescue them — these idiots should have to pay back every penny of the cost of their rescues if it takes them the rest of their lives!

Irene sadly also served as a cover for murder.  Amid the chaos of the storm, a U.S. Army soldier from Virginia went and shot his ex-wife, her boyfriend, the ex-wife’s mother, and the boyfriend’s son before shooting himself.  A Wichita, Kansas newspaper over the weekend raised the question of whether murder-suicides such as this one were a “growing trend” (at least in that city) and whether economic hardship were to blame.  As I’ve explained after similar previous incidents, I think a key difference between now and in past decades is that we’re now giving people way too many second, third, fourth, fifth…chances to actually kill someone after they’ve shown propensities to become violent (when in the past, we might’ve locked them up for a good long time for sub-lethal crimes like aggravated assault on a spouse or ex-spouse).  I also think that it’s way too simplistic to blame these things on economic hardship — that could be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back in some of these cases, but there has to be a lot of instability and volatility there prior (e.g. in this soldier’s case, it sounds like it had a lot more to do with resentment of the ex-wife moving on with her life after their divorce).

Speaking of trends, though, a new study predicts that half of American adults will qualify as “obese” by the year 2030.  Even if that prediction’s only half right, i.e. if it’s only 25%, as I said on Fox News Channel’s “Happening Now” a couple of weeks ago, that doesn’t bode well for the country.  A nation in which that many people are lazy and irresponsible is not a nation that’s likely to out-produce its global competition.  I hope the study’s wrong, but a poll of the college students taking my course at K.U. this semester did reveal last week that fewer than half of them expect to do better than their parents financially.  While realism is certainly important, as I said on the show, I found it a little disconcerting that the students weren’t more optimistic about their futures as participants in the U.S. economy.

And here’s something else that doesn’t bode well for the nation:  A song by a group called “Foster the People” is racing up the popularity charts with lyrics like the following to really foster young people’s desires to head off to school in the morning and try to learn to be productive Americans instead of retreating to couches in front of televisions with soft drinks and cheese curls:

“Robert’s got a quick hand.  He’ll look around the room, he won’t tell you his plan.  He’s got a rolled cigarette hanging out his mouth.  He’s a cowboy kid.  Yeah, he found a six-shooter gun in his dad’s closet hidden in a box of fun things, and I don’t even know what, but he’s coming for you.  Yeah, he’s coming for you.  All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you better run, better run, outrun my gun.  All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you better run, better run, faster than my bullet.”

Ok, now for some updates:

Last year I told you about a Delaware pediatrician who was accused of molesting children in exam rooms in his office while their parents (still inexplicably) waited outside.  I was pleased to report in June that he was convicted, and I’m even more pleased to report now that he’s been sentenced to life in prison.

Also last year, I told you about a Utah mother of two who had disappeared after her husband supposedly took the two children “camping” overnight in freezing temperatures.  She remains missing, but as law enforcement pressure seems to be increasing on the husband, the husband’s father seems to be trying to deflect suspicion by claiming that he (the husband’s father) and the missing woman had engaged in sexual activity (the husband claims to believe that the woman ran off with another man, so it looks like maybe the husband’s father is trying to make that seem more plausible by alleging that she had a pattern of sexual involvement with men other than the husband).  Sounds bogus to me.

Earlier this summer, I told you about efforts to force medicate the accused rampage shooter who allegedly killed several people and wounded several others including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona back in January.  As I predicted, and for the reasons I predicted, a federal court has upheld the forced medication of Jared Loughner, who’s been deemed a danger to himself and/or others in the federal prison health facility where he’s being treated in an attempt to ameliorate his supposed incompetency to stand trial for the shootings.

Last week, I told you that a search was underway for the individual who threw a baby off of a California hospital parking garage.  I’m sad to report that the baby has died, but a suspect is in custody — the baby’s mother.  The father reportedly is pleading for sympathy for the woman, saying he doesn’t blame her because she’s mentally ill.  Hmmm.  Ok, maybe, but let’s also consider reports that the baby had birth defects that were going to require lots of special care and attention for years to come.  It sadly but certainly wouldn’t be the first time we’ve heard of a parent trying to eliminate a child for convenience reasons, now would it?

Speaking of that, a “mother” and “father” (I use those terms in the biological sense only) in Texas are in custody after allegedly killing their ten-year-old by depriving him of water for five days as punishment for wetting his bed.  They may not have intended to kill the boy, but assuming they’re not literally mentally retarded, they should’ve known that five days without water could’ve hurt the boy severely.  Therefore, even if they didn’t intend the boy’s death, if it occurred while they were engaged in felonious child abuse, that makes it equivalent to premeditated murder (“felony murder”), and at the very least, if it occurred while they were recklessly disregarding the boy’s safety, they’re guilty of manslaughter.  Hmmm, once again, it sadly but certainly wouldn’t be the first time we’ve heard of a situation like that, now would it?

The rebels who apparently are taking over from Gaddafi in Libya have said they won’t extradite the mastermind of the Lockerbie bombing to the U.S. (if you’re not familiar with this story, I wrote about it last week).  If you can believe the rebels, the terrorist is on his deathbed anyway, but we’ve heard that before — like a couple of years ago.  If I were in charge, U.S. personnel wouldn’t lift a finger, let alone supply intelligence, let alone drop a bomb or even take off in a plane in support of the rebels until they adjusted that attitude.  I mean, if that’s the level of cooperation we’re going to get from them in our efforts to stop terrorism, what do we really care whether it’s the rebels or Gaddafi running Libya?  (By the way, I don’t get the feeling that Gaddafi’s the suicide type — I could be wrong of course, but if/when he’s cornered by the rebels, I’ll bet that he at least tries to stick around for the spectacle of a trial, more like Saddam Hussein did, than to take himself out like Hitler did.)

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