Catch-up rundown

Just back from wrapping up some filming in Montreal, so here’s a quick catch-up rundown:

Empire State Building Shooting — On the day I left for Montreal, there was a shooting outside of New York City’s Empire State Building.  At first, it looked like it might’ve been another Colorado or Wisconsin-style massacre, but it quickly became clear that it was something different, and thankfully, less lethal.  A disgruntled, unemployed jerk apparently decided to kill a former co-worker, stalked the victim on his way to work, walked up behind the victim like a coward (they’re always cowards), shot and killed the victim, then tried to blend back into the crowd and walk away, whereupon he was was confronted by cops, pulled his gun on the cops, then died in a shootout with the cops, which unfortunately resulted in several bystanders being hit (non-fatally fortunately) with ricocheting bullets and shrapnel (e.g. fragments of asphalt/concrete flying up when bullets hit the street/sidewalk).

Maryland High School Shooting — On Monday, Maryland high school student Robert Gladden (allegedly) posted on his Facebook page that it was to be the last day of his life and “F— the world,” then went to school with a shotgun and, again in utterly-cowardly fashion, proceeded to shoot a fellow student, with Down’s Syndrome by the way, in the back.  A brave, quick-thinking staff member tackled Gladden and held him until police arrived while others rushed to the aid of the victim, who’s expected, thankfully, to make a full recovery.  Charged as an adult with attempted murder, Gladden’s being held without bail and is reportedly undergoing a mental evaluation while his lawyer is already squawking to the media about how the shooting was supposedly an “accident” that occurred while Gladden was simply trying to “intimidate” bullies.  As you may know, I have zero tolerance for bullying (I’ve often said that if your kid’s a bully, you have a problem that’s just as big or bigger than a parent whose kid is bullied), and I also have zero tolerance for adults who allow bullying to go on under their noses (I think they ought to be sued for all they’re worth), however, bullying’s no excuse for attempted murder.  Now, Gladden’s mother (plenty of family chaos in this story by the way, multiple stepfathers with rap sheets — you know, the kind of “soil” in which bad things can easily grow) reportedly told the media shortly after the shooting that she “didn’t see this coming.”  Hmmm, now let’s see, in addition to the foreboding Facebook post referenced above, Gladden reportedly expressed admiration on his Facebook page for the Columbine High School shooters and for Charles Manson, and all you have to do is Google a photo of “Robert Wayne Gladden” to see that anticipating his involvement in some kind of serious trouble wouldn’t have been a real tough call.  Sounds like the woman wasn’t looking at her kid, let alone his Facebook page.

Gossip Facebook Page at Local High School — While I’m on the subjects of bullying, violence, clueless parents, etc., right before I left for Montreal, there was a story in the local newspaper here in Lawrence, Kansas about a “gossip” Facebook page created by a group of students at one of two local high schools.  The page reportedly features anonymously-posted “news” about students, their personal lives, relationships, etc., etc., etc. — you see where this is going, right?  Nowhere good.  And this sort of thing is going on all over the country.  I know, there have always been rumors and gossip in schools, but this takes the problem to a whole new, and more dangerous level.  I was glad to see a quote from a student who recognized that a psychologically-unstable/vulnerable student targeted for widely- and  instantly-disseminated, permanently-archived humiliation in this manner could become violent or commit suicide.  Parents and schools ought to have zero tolerance for their students’ participation in this kind of disgustingly-trashy and potentially-dangerous behavior, and when Facebook is alerted to the existence of such pages, it ought to decline to host them.

Holmes Case Update — As more evidence trickles out in the James Holmes case, we’re hearing now that he told a fellow student last spring that he wanted “to kill people,” and that he also threatened a professor in the graduate program from which he ultimately withdrew.  I expect pieces of this puzzle to be trickling out steadily for weeks and months until we eventually get the entire puzzle when the defense puts Holmes’ mental state at issue in the case.

Peterson Case Update — After the battle of the experts, which went just about as I predicted (accident, murder, accident, murder, etc.), the Drew Peterson defense has rested without putting Peterson on the witness stand.  Now there will be some rebuttal witnesses called by the prosecution, then closing arguments, then it’ll go to the jury.  I’ve always been worried about this prosecution’s ability to get a conviction, but in addition to getting the pastor’s hearsay admitted last week, something else broke their way when the defense put missing wife #4’s divorce lawyer on the witness stand (yes, inviting more hearsay testimony) in an effort to show that she had a financial motive to lie, both to the pastor and to the lawyer, about Peterson’s involvement in wife #3’s death.  Instead, it seemed like the lawyer’s testimony ended up supporting wife #4’s credibility, making me slightly more optimistic about a conviction at this point.

Zimmerman Case Update — A Florida appeals court has granted a request from George Zimmerman’s lawyer for a new judge to preside over the case, in which Zimmerman is charged with the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin.  You may recall that the defense had requested a new judge after the original judge berated Zimmerman for being deceptive with the court about his access to money during a bail hearing.  The defense argued that the judge’s rebuke was excessive and suggested the possibility that the judge had developed a personal bias against Zimmerman.

Lohan Update — As I predicted, actress Lindsay Lohan is back in legal trouble, accused of A) stealing several expensive items from a home during a party (but the owner of that home appears disinclined to press charges) and B) failing to pay an almost $50,000 hotel bill.  I know you heard it here first, but I’ll just quickly say it again — I predict that this woman will continue to get herself into trouble until she either dies or spends a significant period of time with steel bars between her and whatever substance(s) she likes to drink, inject, snort, etc. (to keep her clean and sober long enough to impress upon her that society’s done tolerating her behavior).

Hurricane Isaac Coverage — Hurricane Isaac (i.e. a really big Kansas prairie thunderstorm) pushed a lot of the above stories off to back burners in recent days.  Thankfully, it was no Katrina, but despite relatively fresh memories of Katrina, a week’s worth of warnings, evacuation orders, and free evacuation assistance, there were still some idiots who stayed in the path of predicted flooding and had to be rescued when the predictions came to pass.  I don’t know about you, but I find it nauseating to hear such idiots being asked on camera about their “traumatic” ordeals.  If they must be interviewed, then they ought to be asked, “Aren’t you a complete idiot?” “How lucky and grateful are you that these rescuers were good enough people to have risked their lives to save yours?” And, “Shouldn’t you have to reimburse the taxpayers for the full cost of your unnecessary rescue even if it takes you the rest of your life?”

Republican National Convention Coverage — The other big story that pushed law/psychology stories to back burners this week has been the Republican National Convention, and I have a few observations about coverage of that as well, so here goes:  1) Late-night talk host David Letterman had the audacity to call Mitt and Ann Romney liars — this from the same David Letterman who blatantly cheated on his wife with a female employee and then went crying to the police when the employee’s boyfriend demanded money from Letterman to keep quiet about it (no, I’m not condoning the boyfriend’s attempted blackmail of Letterman — I’m just pointing out that Letterman’s a shameless, seedy liar who has no business moralizing about anyone else’s honesty).  2) I came across an article Tuesday in which a Catholic columnist urged Catholics to oppose the Romney/Ryan presidential/vice-presidential ticket because Romney and Ryan don’t want to raise taxes on high-earning Americans and redistribute more wealth to lower-income Americans.  I’m puzzled by that view.  Catholics oppose being forced by the Obama Administration to purchase health insurance coverage including contraception for employees of Catholic owned/operated organizations in the name of religious freedom, and I think they’re exactly right about that (although I take it a step further — I don’t think anyone, Catholic, Jewish, or atheist, should be forced by the government to buy coverage of anything for their employees).  I think it’s glaringly inconsistent, however, to argue that the government shouldn’t require Catholics to adhere to others’ values about contraception but should require others to adhere to Catholics’ values about social justice (i.e. wealth redistribution).  Religiously speaking, I don’t claim to be an authority on Christianity, but as far as I know, Christ advocated voluntary charity, never forced charity.  And logically speaking, nobody’s ever been able to explain to me why a high-earning American supposedly owes a greater percentage of his/her income to the nation than a middle- or low-income American owes (I mean, the high-earning American gets the same highways, the same Post Office, the same military protection — if anything, the lower earner generally gets more from the government than the high-earner).  And practically speaking, I am an authority on psychology, and I can tell you that forced charity tends to A) diminish people’s inclinations to be charitable voluntarily, and B) result in both less effectiveness and less meaningfulness than voluntary charity.  While I’m not Catholic, I have tremendous respect for the Catholic Church, and I’d like to see it remain a credible counter to the cultural decay that I see happening across America, so I’d like to hear more intellectual consistency in opposing government imposition of values on people — i.e. let Catholics decide what benefits to offer their employees, and let non-Catholics decide how to distribute their wealth.

New Study About Older Dads and Autism — A study released last week attempted, once again, to explain why there supposedly are more kids with Autism (and some other genetically-linked mental disorders) these days, correlating the increased frequency of Autism diagnosis with the rising average age of American fathers.  The theory is that as men are fathering children later in life than in past generations, their genetic material has undergone more replications, which has created more opportunities for mutations, which has resulted in more actual mutations, which has resulted in more Autism.  Yeah, okay, but if you’re older than the average first-time father and you still want to become a father, I certainly wouldn’t change my mind because of this study.  I still bet that the rampant over-stretching of the diagnostic criteria for Autism explains a lot more of the rising frequency of that diagnosis than aging dads.  (And by the way, speaking of parenting and science, there’s a viral video going around the web by “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” who basically tells parents they’re idiots if they teach their kids that God created the universe — Wasn’t it just last week that I said how amazed I always am when people who think they’re all intellectual and “tolerant” seem to be some of the most intolerant people around?  As I’ve said many times, I can agree with Nye that a kid wouldn’t grow up to be a fully-educated American if he or she were never exposed to the science of evolution, however, I don’t see why science and God have to be mutually exclusive.  I think that science’s explanation of the process that resulted in our human existence will always begin from a point of uncertainty about what existed prior, so until Nye has a better explanation than, “In the beginning, there was this big bang,” I don’t think he ought to be belittling people who say, “In the beginning, there was God.”)

New Study About Pot Smoking and I.Q. — If you want to discuss a study with your teens, I think this one would be more productive:  Another new study released last week supports what I’ve said for years about adults needing to get more serious about the dangers posed by teens smoking marijuana.  The study found that pot smoking as a teenager can result in an appreciable and permanent reduction in I.Q.  It would also help, of course, if adults all across the country would quit embracing and endorsing the modern-day “snake oil” of “medical” marijuana, which conveys to teens that there’s not only nothing dangerous about it but that it might actually be beneficial.

Ok, that’s it for the rundown — I guess it wasn’t so quick, was it?  Thanks for reading — I’ll try to stay more on top of things for a while!

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