Happy New Lawpsyc Year!

After a brief escape to warmer weather (that’s me on the U.S.S. Missouri, where Japan’s WWII surrender was signed — it’s now in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii — with the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in the background), I’m back in cold (actually not nearly as cold as it could be) Kansas, back on TV (on Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell Monday evening discussing the latest Casey Anthony News), and back here with rundowns of the final lawpsyc stories of 2011 and the first lawpsyc stories of 2012:

First, I have to comment on an excellent article that I read back around Christmas about one of my favorite stories of all time, “A Christmas Carol.”  I stumbled across it on a web site called “thefreemanonline.org” and the author, David Henderson, seems to share both my admiration of the story and my disagreement with those who label Scrooge as a “conservative” while labeling his charitable peers “progressives” in today’s political terminology.  Henderson points out that Scrooge, before his supernaturally-facilitated epiphany, doesn’t donate to the fundraising efforts of his charitable peers because, he says, he supports the largely ineffective government-run anti-poverty institutions of his nation and time (19th-century Great Britain).  When you look at it that way, Scrooge is actually the big-government “progressive” who believes that social problems are most effectively addressed by taxing people and redistributing their wealth, while the charitable peers are actually the “conservatives” who believe that social problems are more effectively addressed through voluntary efforts of individuals and groups.  You can find the entire article here:   http://www.thefreemanonline.org/columns/the-pursuit-of-happiness-the-lesson-of-ebenezer-scrooge/.

Speaking of politics, the outgoing governor of Mississippi reportedly has pardoned two cold-blooded murderers without articulating any coherent reason for doing so.  Until these guys’ victims are “pardoned” back to life, I see no reason for them to be pardoned back out onto the streets with the rest of us, and the governor’s a coward for not explaining himself to his constituents.  I’d suggest that the citizens of Mississippi probably ought to take a close look at what other questionable actions he took during his years in office.  I’ll bet they can find some, and if they do, I hope they’ve elected a successor who isn’t inclined to be pardoning people.

Before I left town, there were two more awful shootings got added to 2011’s sad list:  1) A guy wearing a Santa suit shot six people and then himself in Texas, and 2) A guy shot and paralyzed a wounded Army veteran who had been recovering in California from injuries suffered in the line of duty in Afghanistan.  The motive in 1) isn’t clear, but the motive in 2) apparently was a fight earlier that evening between the shooter and the victim’s brother over…football.  The suspect in 1) is dead, and the suspect in 2) is in custody.

Speaking of shootings, almost exactly a year later I continue to be amazed by the recovery of shooting victim Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.  Her story is truly a testament to the plasticity of the brain (it’s capacity to re-route signals and recover functionality even after substantial tissue damage), and I hope she continues to make progress throughout the coming year.

And speaking of football, there’s been a lot of attention paid lately to Denver Bronco’s quarterback Tim Tebow.  He seems to have an admirable message about the importance of faith and morals, especially amid the horrendous personal behavior of many of his professional sports peers, but I’ve wondered at times whether his invocation of God after football successes actually trivialized the role of faith in people’s lives.  In other words, I’ve wondered whether he was actually asserting that God cares about who wins football games and actively helps Tebow’s team defeat opponents.  So, I was extremely glad to hear Tebow, after the Bronco’s most recent victory, come right out and say that the victory on the field was not important compared to the victories of a young cancer patient with whom he had spent some time prior to the game (she has undergone over 70 surgeries so far and is still fighting the disease).  He seemed to acknowledge that football’s just football — who wins and loses games is really meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but what that little girl and her health care providers are doing is profoundly meaningful — so, I feel good about joining the Tebow fan club now.

A suspect has been arrested in a string of major arson fires in the Los Angeles area in the waning days of 2011.  Serial arson cases always generate questions for me about “pyromania” — a compulsive fascination with fire.  Generally, that’s not the explanation for arson, i.e. fascination with fire usually isn’t the primary motivation (it’s so rare that there’s debate about whether it even exists, and if it does, it probably applies more to kids setting minor fires that aren’t intended to do damage).  Arsonists usually have a goal — insurance money, damaging the property of people/institutions that they dislike, murder, even terrorism.  Sometimes fire’s just a relatively cheap methodology, and sometimes they think that it’s a safer method (for them) because they think that it’ll be difficult for law enforcement to connect them to it.  Sometimes they like the “spectacle” that it creates (e.g. seeing a big explosion, having people spot the smoke from miles away, watching hundreds of firefighters race to the scene, etc. might make them feel “powerful”).  And even if they get some psychotic pleasure out of burning things, the bottom line is that it absolutely does not force them to burn anything, i.e. it doesn’t take away any of their personal responsibility for the fires that they set (and as the brother of a firefighter, I think we ought to sentence arsonists like this L.A. guy, if convicted of course, as we would sentence an attempted murderer of all of the firefighters who had to respond to the fires and could’ve be killed fighting them).

Sadly, there’s yet another missing child in the news whose family doesn’t seem to be giving cops the full story about what happened prior to her disappearance.  This latest one’s a 20-month-old from Maine.  Before I left town, family members reportedly were saying that she might’ve just “sleepwalked” away, and I thought, ok, no, that didn’t happen.  Similar to the ongoing “Baby Lisa” case here in the Kansas City area, there aren’t many leads yet, but for those who follow along with me with the names of the kids involved in these cases, this one in Maine’s name is…Ayla.

Remember singers Chris Brown and “Rhianna”?  Brown was convicted of beating Rhianna up and was ordered to do some “community service” and stay away from her.  Well, guess what — there are reports that the two are romantically involved again.  If that’s true, then it’s really going to be tough for me to tell you who’s the bigger idiot in that case — Brown, Rhianna, or the judge who didn’t lock Brown up.

Meanwhile, Casey Anthony’s already back in the news here in 2012.  That’s me talking about her on HLN Monday night.  Casey and her lawyer supposedly have “no idea” how Anthony’s video “diary” made it onto the Internet.  Surprise — I don’t believe them.  I believe it’s a calculated “testing of the waters” to see if there’s a market for a major national TV interview.

And finally, an Australian woman is alive after bungee jumping off of a bridge in Africa, having the bungee cord break, and landing unconscious in a crocodile-infested river.  I’m glad she’s alive, but her story still illustrates why I don’t take unreasonable risks like that.  I mean, if she hadn’t survived, how would she have explained that during Heaven’s entrance interview?  When the gatekeeper asked, “What are you doing here so early?” she would have had to say, “Well, I tied myself to this big rubber band and jumped off of a bridge, and the rubber band broke, and here I am.”  Maybe it’s the lawyer in me, but I’d prefer to have a better case than that!

Ok, that’s it for this “catch-up” edition, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more lawpsyc news regularly in 2012!

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