Thankfully, my skepticism that there would be a terrorist attack on American soil over the weekend proved correct, but that doesn’t mean that Al Qaeda’s less dangerous than it was. Even if a terrorist organization is seeming more “inspirational than operational” at the moment, that kind of inspiration is dangerous. It can inspire attacks by difficult-to-detect individual loyalists already embedded in our society (like Nidal Hassan, the Ft. Hood shooter), and it can also inspire costly (psychologically and monetarily) fear among the American people — just look at how worried we collectively were and how much effort and money we expended in anticipation of a possible attack this weekend alone.
Some are arguing that this is the time to reap a “peace dividend,” that in these tough economic times, we should actually spend less money on the defense of our country. When I’m in charge, we won’t be letting our guard down like that. We can afford to make deep cuts in other areas, but not this one. Trust me, the psychology of our enemies is such that they’re not satisfied with a shooting rampage or a car-bombing here and there by a delusional individual loyalist who happens to own a gun or a car. No, they haven’t stopped dreaming of detonating a weapon of mass destruction on our soil, so we need to keep in mind the words of President Ronald Reagan: “We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.” (By the way, Reagan said that 17 years before 9/11/2001.)
So, as we get back to the work of vigilance today, 9/12/2011, maximum federal law enforcement pressure needs to be applied to ferreting out whoever hacked NBC News’ Twitter account on Friday and falsely reported that a terrorist attack had occurred at the site of the 9/11/2001 attacks in lower Manhattan, NY. We have enough to worry about from our foreign enemies (and their domestic loyalists) — so if this one turns out to be an “American,” we should have zero tolerance for a supposed fellow “citizen” who diverts our attention like that. When I’m in charge, a person who does something like that — inciting panic among his/her fellow Americans for amusement — will lose at least a decade of his/her life sitting in a very unpleasant prison, where he/she can reflect on the less-visible but no-less-excruciating psychological anguish caused by such callous, sociopathic acts.
On a less-critical yet continuously and annoyingly disrespectful note, after listening to singer Cyndi Lauper botch the lyrics to the National Anthem at the U.S. Open tennis tournament Saturday night (signer Christina Aguilera blew it even worse at the Super Bowl), I decided that when I’m in charge, we’re going to demand a “pre-test” before singers get to perform the Anthem on national TV — they’ll first have to prove: A) that they actually know the words, and B) that they’re 100% sober before going on stage.
Speaking of the “land of the free,” Federal appeals courts continue to be divided on the constitutionality of pending health care reforms including the mandate that individual Americans secure health insurance. Another court challenge to the health care reform legislation passed last year has been thrown out, but on technical grounds rather than on the merits. As I’ve reported here previously, it’s clear that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to have to resolve this because only its ruling will apply nationwide. When I’m in charge, we’re not going to have an individual mandate, and here’s why:
In addition to Constitutional grounds, I think there are psychological/behavioral grounds for opposition to an individual mandate. We don’t need the government to mandate that we buy toilet paper, do we? No, we don’t (including most low-income folks among us). Why? Because when you really need something, and it’s really hard to get your fellow Americans to buy it for you if you don’t buy it for yourself, the need is generally enough to motivate you to buy it for yourself if you possibly can. Yes, health insurance is more expensive than toilet paper, but the principle still applies — if we made it harder, rather than easier, for people to drop their uninsured medical bills in the laps of their fellow American taxpayers, then the need for insurance would be the mandate for many currently-uninsured people.
While I’m on the subject of public-policy incentives, the President’s jobs speech last Thursday had a lot of what I predicted in it. There were some tax cuts, but they came with tax-hike strings attached. I’ve been writing and speaking some lately about the psychology of debt and taxes, particularly what should be learned from behaviorism about how to incentivize behaviors that will strengthen our economy. In that vein, tying tax cuts to tax increases is like saying to an exhausted runner, “I’ll give you some water, but only if you let me tie a big brick around your neck.” If our economy’s the runner, then when I’m in charge, I’ll give it the water and spare it the brick.
You may recall that earlier this year, when rebels overthrew the leadership of Egypt, as others in the media were acting like it was 1776 all over again, I cautioned that the new regime there may not be any friendlier, and may be less friendly in fact, to the U.S. and to American interests than was the previous regime. Well, as we were remembering 9/11/2001 here at home this weekend, mobs overran the Israeli embassy in Cairo with effectively no intervention from Egypt’s current leadership (until after the fact — some of the marauders were arrested, big deal). Looks like I may have been right about the new regime, which is why, when I’m in charge, we’re not going to get too excited about supporting revolutionaries (in Egypt, Libya, …) unless/until we have reason to be firmly convinced that they’re committed to freedom, democracy, and the American way and not just replacement thugs for their predecessors.
And on another familiar Lawpsyc topic with an international twist, in Northern Ireland, a 12-year-old girl posted naked pictures of herself on Facebook, so her father has responded by…yes, suing Facebook. Instead of being angry at himself for not parenting the girl better, instead of being angry at the girl for behaving delinquently, the father apparently thinks that the folks from Facebook should’ve flown over to Northern Ireland and discovered that the girl had lied about her age when she established her Facebook account. If there were evidence that Facebook knew there were naked photos of the underage girl on its network and took no action, I could understand the lawsuit, but there’s apparently no such evidence. So, how about knowing where your kids are and what they’re doing — especially with computers, cell phones, cameras, etc. that you made available to them? When I’m in charge, a guy in a situation like this will need to be less worried about Facebook’s accountability and more worried about his accountability (as will the idiot American mother who recently dressed her toddler daughter up like Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” — the hooker wardrobe — for a creepy, JonBenet Ramsey-esque child “beauty” pageant).
As I often (jokingly) say to my friends, you’re going to love it when I’m in charge!