Lessons — some learned, some not

Hey everybody, belated happy Easter and Passover!  This brief post is about lessons — some learned, some not.  Where do you think people seem to be getting wiser lately — here in the Midwest, or in Washington, D.C.?  Consider these illustrations…

First, lessons learned:

Over Easter/Passover weekend, police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in cooperation with state and federal law enforcement agencies/officers appear to have solved a terrifying shooting spree almost as quickly as it broke out.  Within hours, maybe minutes, of one another, three victims were killed and two more were wounded in a predominantly-black area of Tulsa.  The shootings appeared random, except for the race of the victims, all black.  A witness initially described one shooter, a white male in a white truck, who approached a victim requesting driving directions before opening fire in a cowardly ambush.  Within hours, authorities had not one but two men in custody, both white males, at least one of whom appears to have been motivated by racism (his father apparently was killed by a black man years ago).  A tip phoned in by a concerned citizen led officers to the suspects, but I think that the rapid law-enforcement response (which included soliciting the public’s assistance) and the coordination between law-enforcement agencies helped to both generate and capitalize on the tip.  Assuming that the two suspects in custody are in fact the shooters, I think that lessons learned from both 9/11 and the “Beltway Snipers” case led to the rapid closure of a case that otherwise could’ve terrorized the Tulsa area for weeks or months (as happened in the “Beltway Snipers” case).  Props to all of the law enforcement agencies and professionals involved!

Now, lessons not learned:

It’s been reported that the Obama Administration has told Iran behind the scenes that the U.S. is open to Iran continuing to develop nuclear technology so long as it’s used only for peaceful purposes (i.e. energy).  To this forensic psychologist, that sounds at best, naive, and at worst, like a resignation to further nuclear development by the rogue state.  It’s kind of like a parole officer telling a paroled shooting-spree killer that the state is open to him possessing assault weapons so long as they’re only used for hunting.  The Clinton Administration took the “We’ll-condone-it-as-long-as-you-don’t-build-a-bomb” route with North Korea, and guess what — the North Koreans built a bomb (multiple bombs in fact).  Looks like a lesson not learned.  Also, countries that deny having nuclear weapons programs scare me more than countries that are open about it.  Why?  Because I believe that surreptitious possessors of such weapons are generally more interested in actually launching attacks, while open possessors are generally more interested in deterring attacks (and I’m neither the first nor the most historically-astute commentator to make this observation).

And, as the Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the pending Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obama Care”), Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned the lawyers about what would happen to uninsured Americans if the Court were to invalidate the legislation.  You may recall that back when Justice Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings were underway, I said that she was a poor choice for the Court in my opinion because she didn’t seem to understand the job.  Well, she got confirmed, yet she still doesn’t seem, to this lawyer anyway, to understand the job.  Back during her confirmation hearings, she said that “empathy” should play a role in Supreme Court decisions.  No, it shouldn’t, and the arguments over the Affordable Care Act are a perfect case in point.  The legislation is either constitutional, or it’s not.  That determination is supposed to be made by reading the Constitution, reading the legislation, and discerning whether the former permits the latter.  If the legislation is unconstitutional, then it’s Justice Sotomayor’s job to say so, regardless of how she thinks it could’ve helped anyone.  We don’t keep unconstitutional laws on the books in this country, even if they’re supposedly helping some people.  Looks like another lesson not learned (although I still predict that a majority of the Supreme Court’s justices will find the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, at least with respect to the provision that requires everyone in America to either secure health insurance coverage or pay a fine — stay tuned, we should find out sometime in June).

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