Monday, April 30, 2012
Not the most flattering pictures -- or descriptions.
Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:
The Astrophysicist, when he has time, will have something to say about his reading of the physics of the material Tom Whipple sums up.
This situation however seems to be changing following a lengthy interview with a fellow out in Berkeley, California by the name of Robert Godes of Brillouin Energy. He has been working in this field for the last ten years and says that he not only has a reliable heat-producing device, but also understands the physics behind it - which he calls the Quantum Fusion Hypothesis. He says that this theory of just how low-energy nuclear reactions work has allowed the development of a device which produces heat immediately and reliably. Most interestingly, Godes says he has shared his insights with scientists at the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratories and SRI International, one of the leading US laboratories investigating the phenomenon. He says that both have verified that his theory does indeed work and that they can now produce heat from hydrogen every time they try.
Godes' hypothesis is interesting for those with even a smattering of physics in their background. First of all, he holds that the heat which is coming from infusing hydrogen into nickel or palladium is not coming from "cold fusion" in the classic sense of the term. It is not a deuterium fusing with deuterium reaction as takes place in the sun or H-bombs and which requires extremely high energies.
What seems to be happening in this new kind of fusion is that when hydrogen is "loaded" into nickel or palladium and subjected to the proper kind of an electromagnetic pulse, the hydrogen nucleus which is a positively charged proton acquires an electron which turns it into a low energy free neutron. Now a low energy free neutron is something very nice to have for it quickly combines with other protons to form deuterium, tritium and finally quadrium. The quadrium only lasts for an instant before undergoing a process called beta decay turning it into helium. This is where Einstein and E = MC2 comes in. The beta decay of quadrium results in a loss of mass which is turned into heat. If all this pans out as claimed, it could be one of the most important secrets of nature that has ever been discovered, for our energy problems are over.
Without the flow caliormetry, it is pretty hard to say whether there's anything under the smoke and mirrors - and who knows, there may be. At this particular juncture, as I personally understand it (not that my understanding is worth much), atomic mass remains constant when the conditions for changing protons to neutrons exists and decay energy is always smaller, but I'm certainly not the person to evaluate these results.
That said I'm inclined to skepticism - hang around energy issues long enough and you find lots of people saying they can contravene the laws of physics, or invent new ones. What makes this even worthy of consideration is that it comes from Tom Whipple, who is incredibly smart and knows energy issues really well. Still, Whipple seems to be going out of his way to overstate things, perhaps anticipating skepticism.
Eric's rather dry comment in his first reaction to Whipple's mention that it is "not yet a theory" was "Ummm...yes, you could say it is definitely not yet a theory." In fact, it isn't even in the ballpark of a theory - it is one person's hypothesis with data that has not been released, no peer reviewed papers on the subject whatsoever, in an application where he is attempting to find commercial funding. No, definitely not a scientific theory, or even in that ballpark. Which doesn't mean it won't become one someday.
I admit, though, I find myself thinking of Richard Feynman's comments on perpetual motion machines. This is not the same thing, of course, but it is a useful cautionary tale to remember:
Mr. Papp talked about how the motor worked, using vague and complicated phrases about radiation, atoms, different levels of energy, quanta, and this and that, all of which made no sense whatsoever, and would never work.
But the rest of what he said was important, for every fraud has to have the right characteristics: Mr. Papp explained that he had tried to sell his engine to the big automobile companies, but they wouldn't buy it because they were afraid it would put all the big oil companies out of business.
So there was obviously a conspiracy working against Mr. Papp's marvelous new engine. Then there was a reference to the magazine articles, and an announcement that in a few days the engine was going to be sent to the Stanford Research Laboratory for validation. This proved, of course, that the engine was real. There was also an invitation to prospective investors to get in on this great opportunity to make large amounts of money, because it was very powerful. And there was a certain danger!
There were quite a few wires running from the engine down to where Mr. Papp and the spectators were standing, into a set of instruments used for measurement; these included a variac, a variable transformer with a dial which could put out different voltages. The instruments were, in turn, connected by a cord to an electrical outlet in the side of the building. So it was pretty obvious where the power supply was.
The engine started to go around, and there was a bit of disappointment: the propeller of the fan went around quietly without the noise of an ordinary engine with powerful explosions in the cylinders, and everything- it looked very much like an electric motor.
Mr. Papp pulled the plug from the wall, and the fan propeller continued to turn. 'You see, this cord has nothing to do with the engine; it's only supplying power to the instruments,' he said. Well, that was easy. He's got a storage battery inside the engine. 'Do you mind if I hold the plug?' I asked? 'Not at all,' replied Mr. Papp, and he handed it to me.
It wasn't very long before he asked me to give me back the plug. 'I'd like to hold it a little longer,' I said, figuring that if I stalled around enough, the damn thing would stop.
Pretty soon Mr. Papp was frantic, so I (Richard Feynman) gave him back the plug and he plugged it back into the wall. A few moments later there was a big explosion:
I'm not claiming this is a scam at all, or that if it is, it is an intentional scam like the one above. What I would say is that there is a reason why most devices that seem unlikely are, and skepticism is the appropriate human response. We have yet to see a high-EROEI device that didn't come with significant unintended consequences - if this was one, it would be the VERY FIRST in human history.
While I'm going to wait for the astrophysicist to comment on the physics, I do think I might add something is with the hyperbolic bits of this essay, such as when Whipple says "our energy problems are over!" Because even if this were true, the above statement represents a non-sequitur in its most literal sense - something that does not follow from the previous statement. I don't blame Whipple for going there, but because so many people do, I think it is worth unpacking why this is not necessarily true.
So let us imagine that in fact, such a limitless source of energy does exist. Does it actually solve all our energy problems? Because this is a real and interesting and important question - and one many people believe to be the case. In fact, I would argue that the reason we need to talk about this is that the assumption that something being possible solves the problem is incredibly pervasive even among well educated people who ought to know better.
Last year I had the pleasure of spending an hour talking with (some might say grilling ;-)) my Congressman, Paul Tonko, about energy and fuel issues. At one point in our rather lively discussion, Tonko talked about ethanol and its returns. I argued that he was overstating the returns - and realized shortly that he was conflating cellulosic and algae ethanol with corn ethanol production - and speaking about AS THOUGH those latter two things were already real and widely available. When I called him on that, Tonko agreed that neither one of those were ready for prime time, but rejected the idea we should speak only about the technology as it stands now, because, of course, the fact that we know we can make ethanol on a very small scale from these things means it will inevitably become a near-term factor. In fact, it is nothing of the sort - neither one is fully ready for prime time or at all cost competetive, so when we speak about ethanol as an energy source RIGHT NOW we are talking almost entirely about food (Corn, mostly in the US) going to produce gas, and that's so far neither scalable or without consequences.
I mention this not to pick on Paul Tonko who I think is awfully smart and an extremely congressman, but to point out how universally we believe that technology IN AND OF ITSELF is right there to save us simply by existing. That is, because things exist, we tend to assume that economic, social and technological barriers will magically be overcome. And yet, that's not true - we've known, for example, how to use hydrogen as an energy storage mechanism for a very, very long time, and yet the once much-touted "hydrogen economy" has never become even remotely real, because of technical and economic issues. Technical feasibility, despite our desires and assumptions, does not translate into "make it so." We often assume it does, but that isn't factually correct, as I wrote in this essay:
One of the hardest concepts for many Americans to absorb is this - that technical feasibility rests on a complex bed of other feasibilities and never stands alone. Thus, simply observing that it is technically possible to, say, create zero impact cities or to run our cars on corn waste does not usefully tell us whether we are going to do so or not. This historical reality stands in stark contrast to the perceptions that many of us have, which is that technology operates as a kind of vending machine into which one puts quarters and gets inevitable results.
For example, it has been technically possible to eliminate most causes of death in childhood for the world's poor for thirty to forty years, and periodically the UN and other agencies explain how this might technically come about. But without other base elements of feasibility - a real commitment to saving impoverished children worldwide - it turns out that it is technically infeasible.
The same, of course, is true of addressing climate change and peak energy - it was wholly technically feasible for us to begin transitioning to a renewable energy economy in the 1970s, and had we done so, both issues would be vastly more manageable and comparatively minor concerns. It is still technically feasible, although enormously difficult, that we could drop industrial emissions dramatically or reduce our fossil fuel consumption. It is not, however, economically or politically feasible that we do so, as evidenced by the fact that we're not, despite emergent consequences.
We are in the habit of forgetting the basis of will, energy and money that technical capacities rest on - we assume that because an outcome is desirable, it is therefore likely. But low infant mortality is eminently desirable, something I suspect most of us can agree on - and there are no major technical barriers.
I'm willing to concede that if this does work as described, we are probably looking at an incredibly high EROEI. If it turns out as claimed that heat and water are the only outputs (and not any of those neutrons or beta radiation), that the casing materials are not consumed and it turns out to be fairly easy to build them, the research gets published, verified and duplicated rapidly and production gets started on multiple fronts, and we have time and resources to get the kinks out, find the funding, run the demo plants, see how the long term unintended consequences if any shake out, the retrofit our entire society, I can totally hang up my hat on peak oil and turn to writing about other stuff - I'm assuming I'll write cute stories about my kids and post pictures of cats like most folks on the web. And hey, that'll give me loads more time for my garden.
By any chance did you notice the chain of things that are necessary to getting from an article about a hypothesis on which we have no data to "hey, I'm going to put some shrimp on the quantum fusion-powered barbie tonight!" There were quite a few of them, weren't there? Now it is taken as a given in our larger culture that those are trivialities can be erased by something we call "innovation" and "market forces" - which we really translate as "our ability to make all this stuff happen." Unfortunately, when we look back at the history of technology, what we find is that innovation alone, market forces alone don't work all that well in many cases. Sometimes they do - the amazing cases are pretty easy to spot. But neither is it that difficult to spot examples of things that we could technically do, that would have been an awesomely great idea, but that didn't happen, despite ingenuity and resources.
Even if all of the ducks that need to be in a row to make this happen are there, we need to remember two other things. The first one is that solving our energy problems may not solve our other fundamental problems. I know Tom Whipple understands the distinction, but it would be an easy mistake for a reader to translate "energy problems" to mean "problems." For example, if climate is as sensitive as some scientists suggest, the time frame for development of this technology may not be sufficient to have it come online before we've crossed critical climate tipping points.
Now having all the energy we want and no limits on its use would certainly help us mitigate an extreme climate disaster, but there's really no evidence that it would be ENOUGH.
It would be great if, for example, we could run air-conditioners 24/7 without worrying for billions of people as the planet heat up, or afford to medivac in people with free electric emergency vehicles, but a planet eating up 1/5 or more of its economic resources annually in disaster mitigation is still going to be a planet in crisis. The same is true with our agricultural and other ecological crises - more energy can help in some measure. But it would be a huge mistake to believe that energy alone is sufficient. Add in a considerable time frame to get from 0-60, and it behooves us to be cautious even if we think this would work. Collapsed societies historically have a hard time bringing major new technologies on line - this resource would have to come into play at the right moment - and the last possible moment to do so get closer all the time.
In fact, most collapsed societies have collapsed WITH the means to avoid collapse within their technical grasp, as Jared Diamond so eloquently describes in _Collapse_ - most of them could have planted more trees, or not drawn down their resources so rapidly. They had all the tools in place to prevent a disaster - and didn't. One can easily make a compelling case that we too have needed no technologies that we did not have at any point in this process - had we started shifting to renewable energies earlier in the game, as was proposed in the 1970s, we too could avoid crisis. Technologies themselves are not saviors. This is hard to remember, but critical - technology is great, but it always has unintended consequences, and in the end, usually doesn't make or break societies.
It would be wise to remember this bit from the 30 year Update of The Limits to Growth:
"The most common criticisms of the original World3 model were that it underestimated the power of technology and that it did not represent adequately the adaptive resilience of the free market. It is true that we did not include in the original World3 model technological progress at rates that would automatically solve all problems associated with exponential growth in the human ecological footprint....[But] in several scenarios we test accelerated technological advance and possible future technical leaps beyond these 'normal' improvements. What if materials are almost entirely recycled? What if land yield doubles again and yet again? What if emissions are reduced at 4% per year over the coming century?
Even with such assumptions, the model world tends to overshoot its limits. Even with the most effective technologies and the greatest economic resilience that we believe is possible, if these are the only changes, the model tends to generate scenarios of collapse." (TLTG:TTYU p. 204-5)
Whether this discovery turns out to be true or false, the question of whether it or anything else can "save" us in the sense most people would like to be saved - let us go on as we have been - is dependent on a number of variables that go beyond "can we build it." At a minimum, it seems wise not to put too many eggs in any basket, for it is perfectly possible to imagine us with a solution at our fingertips that is still out of our functional reach.
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Sunday, April 29, 2012
Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:
During this Congress, there have been at least 11 resolutions filed by Democrat lawmakers calling to amend the Constitution because of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission. All of these amendments will chill free speech and would make the Founders cringe. As President of Citizens United, I find it quite disappointing how none of these lawmakers have a clue what the United States Supreme Court actually decided in Citizens United.
Last week, you had Nancy Pelosi saying that with Citizens United, "the Supreme Court had unleashed a predator that was oozing slime into the political system, and that, indeed, is not an exaggeration." Oozing slime – really, Nancy? Having more speech, not less, in the political process is paramount to our democracy. Without robust free speech in political discourse, incumbents have an inherent advantage. That is why President Obama and Democrats in Congress tried so hard to pass an incumbent protection bill, aka the DISCLOSE Act, back in 2010. They failed, and Nancy Pelosi was fired as Speaker of the House.
Then you have former White House Chief of Staff and now Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel spouting off about the Citizens United case on MSNBC this week. Emanuel called the decision "one of the single worst decisions by a court" and said, "It will be a blemish on all of their records for allowing this decision." I'm not surprised to see Rahm Emanuel lash out against Citizens United. Quite frankly, I was a bit disappointed that in the days following our decision the ever-so-subtle Rahm did not send a dead fish or horse head to our offices.
While Rahm has singled out Citizens United, his liberal colleague Senator Charles Schumer took this assault on our decision and the Supreme Court a step further, declaring , "It is the worst decision since Plessy v. Ferguson – I believe that – of the United States Supreme Court."
The Court has made mistakes in the past. Plessy v. Ferguson and Dred Scott v. Sanford certainly stand out. But can one really argue with a straight face that Citizens United, which restored the First Amendment protection of political speech, is the modern equivalent of Plessy or Dred Scott? Bombastic statements like this are proof that liberals do not understand the fundamentals of the Citizens United case and are not interested in knowing the truth about the case.
In 2007, Citizens United sought to promote and broadcast via video-on-demand a film critical of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Under the speech-stifling provisions of McCain-Feingold, if Citizens United had broadcast "Hillary The Movie" or run advertisements promoting the film, its officers could have been subject to prosecution and potential imprisonment for up to five years. This means I could have gone to jail for doing the very same thing Michael Moore had done back in 2004 with "Fahrenheit 9/11." The Supreme Court struck down this piece of the McCain-Feingold law and stated in the opinion for the majority that it's "stranger than fiction for our Government to make... political speech a crime."
That is why it is so disturbing to see 11 constitutional amendments and counting trying to take away free speech. These amendments have been proposed to curtail the right to political speech that was restored by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC. These proposed amendments take one of two forms --amendments that would deny First Amendment protections to all except "natural persons" and amendments that explicitly grant Congress and the States the power to regulate, limit, or prohibit political contributions and expenditures.
Both forms of amendments, whether seeking to rewrite the First Amendment or seeking to expand the power of incumbents to regulate their challengers, are aimed at chilling political speech and reducing the number of speakers in the political arena. It is always a slippery slope when the government can decide what is free speech. When Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel, Chuck Schumer, and others of the crazed left make it their high mission to defeat Citizens United, I know I've struck a chord.
It's no surprise to see liberal incumbents fighting to silence voices of dissent. It's also no surprise that a chorus of liberal special interest groups have joined their fight. Robert Weissman of Public Citizen, Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, and even former Republican nominee to the FEC Trevor Potter have utilized their non-profit corporations to fight to overturn Citizens United. I personally don't agree with their crusades to silence the freedom of speech, but as a staunch defender of the First Amendment, I'll fight to my dying day for them to be able to use corporate assets to voice their opinions.
I am sure in the coming weeks and months you will hear a lot of falsehoods about the Citizens United decision. The left's war will only intensify if President Obama loses in the fall, because they will need a scapegoat for their failed liberal agenda. I will wear it as a badge of honor if the Citizens United case is used as a foil by the left. In the end, we won because Citizens United was on the right side of the First Amendment.
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Friday, April 27, 2012
Here are the opening paragraphs of her article, which I checked and which are quite correct:
"The facts are clear," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "Intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 15 to 45."
That's a horrifying statistic, and it would be a shocking reflection of the state of the black family, and American society generally, if it were true. But it isn't true.
For Holder's statement, see here; for the actual data from the Centers for Disease Control, run a query here, and you'll get these results (I used the 2007 data, but 1999–2007 gives the same ranking):
... Leading Causes of Death, United States
2007, Black, Females, ... Age ... 15–45 ...
(To figure out the percentage of homicides that were perpetrated by intimate partners, you'd have to go here; this will give results just based on the 16 reporting states, so the national percentages may differ in considerable measure, but the 16-state percentage is about 65% of all homicides, based on 2008 data, which would extrapolate to about 560 homicides nationwide.) Domestic violence — and especially domestic murder — is a horrible thing, but, as Sommers points out, "Victims of intimate violence are best served by the truth." Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.
UPDATE: Some readers suggest that the Attorney General may have misspoken, and was simply trying to say that "Intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of homicide for African-American women ages 15 to 45." But I'm skeptical about that, considering the context:
The National Violence Against Women Survey found that 18.8 percent of African American women reported surviving rape. Approximately 40 percent of black women report coercive sexual contact by age 18, and intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 15 to 45. [T]hese statistics are shocking and completely unacceptable.
It isn't particularly shocking and unacceptable, I think, that, of the homicides of black women age 15 to 45, most are domestic partner homicides. If somehow all of them became another kind of homicide, the result wouldn't be materially more acceptable: While domestic partner homicide may be somewhat morally worse than other homicide (since it involves a violation of trust as well as murder), the moral difference is modest.
But if it were indeed true that "intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of death," that would have been shocking and unacceptable: First, it would suggest a considerably higher number of homicides. Second, homicides are indeed morally much worse than cancer, heart disease, car accidents, and the like. While a person is still dead, the homicide is a much worse (and more shocking) reflection on the surrounding society.
So I doubt that the accurate statement ("intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of homicide") would have been included in the Attorney General's statement; perhaps it might have been, but it would have packed far less punch. I don't think, then, that the Attorney General misspoke, or that the difference between the statement and the accurate statement is minor. Rather, I think someone in the Justice Department erroneously included the statement in the speech — likely as a result of an honest mistake, but still a substantial one — precisely because it seemed to be saying that intimate partner homicide is the main cause of death for that group. No-one else checked it. And, as Sommers points out, no-one has since corrected it.
Linking the tea parties to Tucson is both calculation and genuine belief.
The divide between this strain of the American left and its conservative opponents is about more than politics and policy. It goes back a long way, it is deep, and it will never be bridged. It is cultural, and it explains more than anything the "intensity" that exists now between these two competing camps. (The independent laments: "Can't we all just get along?" Answer: No.)
The Rosetta Stone that explains this tribal divide is Columbia historian Richard Hofstadter's classic 1964 essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." Hofstadter's piece for Harper's may be unfamiliar to many now, but each writer at the opening of this column knows by rote what Hofstadter's essay taught generations of young, left-wing intellectuals about conservatism and the right.
After Hofstadter, the American right wasn't just wrong on policy. Its people were psychologically dangerous and undeserving of holding authority for any public purpose. By this mental geography, the John Birch Society and the tea party are cut from the same backwoods cloth.
"American politics has often been an arena for angry minds," Hofstadter wrote. "In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority."
Frank Rich, Oct 17: "Don't expect the extremism and violence in our politics to subside magically after Election Day—no matter what the results. If Tea Party candidates triumph, they'll be emboldened. If they lose, the anger and bitterness will grow."
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Tuesday in the Huffington Post: "Jack's death forced a national bout of self-examination. In 1964, Americans repudiated the forces of right-wing hatred and violence with an historic landslide in the presidential election between LBJ and Goldwater. For a while, the advocates of right-wing extremism receded from the public forum. Now they have returned with a vengeance—to the broadcast media and to prominent positions in the political landscape."
This isn't just political calculation. It is foundational belief.
So, yes, Tucson has indeed been revealing. On to 2012.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:
Liberals are unable to understand the moral universe of conservatives.
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Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:
Driving home from work tonight, I heard Frank Gaffney on Hugh Hewitt's radio show talking about a new ten-part course by the Center for Security Policy called The Muslim Brotherhood In America. It sounds like mandatory viewing. There has been a lot of confusion over the years as to who our enemy is in the War on Terror; or the War on Islamic Extremism; or the Skirmish Against al Qaida and No One Else; or various other formulations. In my view, if we had to identify a single enemy in the war, it would be the Muslim Brotherhood. Check it out.
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Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:
In reporting on an initiative to abolish the death penalty, the L.A. Times tells us about the "[g]rowing numbers" of people — conservatives, even! — who oppose capital punishment:
Growing numbers of conservatives in California have joined the effort to repeal the state's capital punishment law, expressing frustration with its price tag and the rarity of executions.
The numbers have grown so much, it's now a "chorus"!
The chorus of criticism has death penalty advocates worried, even though California voters have historically favored capital punishment, passing several measures over the last few decades to toughen criminal penalties and expand the number of crimes punishable by death.
Way back in 2004, I discussed the way this newspaper employs phrases like "growing chorus" to describe public opinions they agree with:
[W]hy another story on this topic? Blame the "growing chorus":
A growing chorus of Bush critics has emerged in recent weeks, saying his youthful conduct then is freshly relevant today.
I have warned you that such language is a signal that the paper agrees with the criticism. When the paper disagrees with criticism of a candidate, it is portrayed as an attack by political opponents. When the paper agrees with the criticism, the criticism becomes a mysterious and disembodied (but ever-growing) entity. Doubts grow. Criticism emerges.
This doesn't apply merely to criticism of candidates, but any public controversy that the paper's editors want to push. The fact is that the way an article is worded can skew the reader's perceptions markedly even if the facts are correct. Since we're revisiting old posts, let's look at another example, this time from 2007:
The article in question begins:
WASHINGTON — The growing controversy over White House recordkeeping and disclosure swirled around presidential adviser Karl Rove on Thursday, as congressional Democrats said they were told some e-mails that Rove sent from a Republican National Committee account are missing.
I have to take my hat off to the reporters for the skill in which they portray the controversy as a ghostly entity with a spirit all its own — rather than as attacks on the Administration by partisan Democrats.
And so it is with the article on the death penalty initiative. We are told about all the public officials who have changed their minds on the death penalty, and told that this represents a growing chorus that has death penalty supporters worried. But just how worried are they? When we hear the actual quote, it doesn't sound like they are as worried as they were portrayed:
"The people of California have regularly voted for the death penalty by wide margins, but of course it has to be a matter of concern," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which advocates for tough criminal penalties. He said fundraising to defeat the November measure would be difficult.
And indeed, when we look at the numbers, support for the death penalty is still strong even in reliably Democratic California. The last time the Field Poll surveyed Californians on this issue, 68% supported the death penalty (.pdf). Although the poll tries to claim that a growing number of people support life without parole for first degree murder, that is misleading, because we don't impose death in every first degree murder case — by a longshot. Death is reserved for the worst of the worst, and asking people what punishment they prefer for first degree murder in the abstract (as the Field Poll does) does not answer the question whether they want to reserve death as an option for serial murderers, child rapist-murderers, people who murder and continue to kill after being incarcerated, and so forth. Kent Scheidegger addressed this in 2010:
But Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports capital punishment, said the question on death and life without parole was misleading because respondents were asked to choose a uniform punishment for all first-degree murderers.
"The question really is, do you favor the death penalty for the worst murderers?" Scheidegger said. "Very few people want the death penalty for every first-degree murder case."
Overall, he said, the poll shows that "support for the death penalty is pretty stable."
As long as the California initiative is described in a fair and non-misleading manner on the ballot, I am not particularly concerned about it.
By the way? One of the big arguments in the article is that the death penalty costs too much. I will never stop being amazed by the gall of those who throw up roadblocks to the implementation of the death penalty, and then argue that we shouldn't have the death penalty because there are so many roadblocks. But this is what death penalty opponents do.
It's a "by any means" necessary point of view. And one of the "means" is to take strong public support for the death penalty and portray it as a growing, swelling, ever-increasing opposition. They will suggest, as the article does, that abolishing the death penalty is better for victims:
Most death row inmates would be returned to the general prison population and be expected to work. Their earnings would go to crime victims.
Don't you care about victims, Californians?
Seen this way, the editors aren't behaving as journalists here, but as partisans. In that vein, I will note that the article is by Maura Dolan, one of two reporters who screwed up a DNA story to make it sound more favorable to the defense, and refused to admit that she had gotten it wrong.
Nice to see she's on the death penalty beat. I have a feeling this article will be the first in a growing chorus of articles by her designed to sway Californians to vote for this initiative.
UPDATE: Here's another one I missed, from April 14: Fight against death penalty gains momentum in states.
The fight against the death penalty is gaining momentum, opponents of the practice say, with Connecticut's decision this month to abolish capital punishment making it the fifth state in five years to so do.
It's a growing chorus!
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Friday, April 20, 2012
via PrairiePundit by Merv on 7/13/10
Brian Riedl:There is much more.
President Obama and congressional Democrats are blaming their trillion-dollar budget deficits on the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. Letting these tax cuts expire is their answer. Yet the data flatly contradict this "tax cuts caused the deficits" narrative. Consider the three most persistent myths:
• The Bush tax cuts wiped out last decade's budget surpluses. Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), for example, has long blamed the tax cuts for having "taken a $5.6 trillion surplus and turned it into deficits as far as the eye can see." That $5.6 trillion surplus never existed. It was a projection by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in January 2001 to cover the next decade. It assumed that late-1990s economic growth and the stock-market bubble (which had already peaked) would continue forever and generate record-high tax revenues. It assumed no recessions, no terrorist attacks, no wars, no natural disasters, and that all discretionary spending would fall to 1930s levels.
The projected $5.6 trillion surplus between 2002 and 2011 will more likely be a $6.1 trillion deficit through September 2011. So what was the cause of this dizzying, $11.7 trillion swing? I've analyzed CBO's 28 subsequent budget baseline updates since January 2001. These updates reveal that the much-maligned Bush tax cuts, at $1.7 trillion, caused just 14% of the swing from projected surpluses to actual deficits (and that is according to a "static" analysis, excluding any revenues recovered from faster economic growth induced by the cuts).
The bulk of the swing resulted from economic and technical revisions (33%), other new spending (32%), net interest on the debt (12%), the 2009 stimulus (6%) and other tax cuts (3%). Specifically, the tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000 are responsible for just 4% of the swing. If there were no Bush tax cuts, runaway spending and economic factors would have guaranteed more than $4 trillion in deficits over the decade and kept the budget in deficit every year except 2007.
• The next decade's deficits are the result of the previous administration's profligacy. Mr. Obama asserted in his January State of the Union Address that by the time he took office, "we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program."
In short, it's all President Bush's fault. But Mr. Obama's assertion fails on three grounds.
First, the wars, tax cuts and the prescription drug program were implemented in the early 2000s, yet by 2007 the deficit stood at only $161 billion. How could these stable policies have suddenly caused trillion-dollar deficits beginning in 2009? (Obviously what happened was collapsing revenues from the recession along with stimulus spending.)
This is an overdue analysis of what really caused the deficits. It points out the fraud of the blame Bush mantra of this administration. I think the failed stimulus along with the health care monstrosity have really pushed up the deficit in the face of declining revenues caused by the recession which is a result of the Democrats disastrous housing policy hat required loans to people who could not afford them.
via Power Line by Scott on 2/3/11
Rush Limbaugh -- the great Maharushi -- presides as the proprietor, dean,and star faculty member of the Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies. Or so he says.
But how is Rush himself to be understood? For help in understanding Rush we can draw on the sympathetic study Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One, by Zev Chafets. Chafets "relished [Rush's] bravado, laughed at his outrageous satire, and admired his willingness to go against the intellectual grain."
David Frum was not amused. In his judgment, Rush's success as a spokesman of conservatism "was American conservatism's problem." (And Frum was American conservatism's savior.)
Now comes Wilfred McClay to the study of deep Rush. In one of the featured articles in the February Commentary, Professor McClay explains "How to understand Rush Limbaugh," now available online. Professor McClay holds the SunTrust Bank Chair of Excellence in Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He brings a scholar's temperament to the critique of pure Rush.
Professor McClay describes Rush's shtick: "Limbaugh's use of comedy and irony and showmanship are integral to his modus operandi, the judo by which he draws in his opponents and then uses their own force to up-end them. And unless you make an effort to hear voices outside the echo chamber of the mainstream media, you won't have any inkling of what Limbaugh is all about or of how widely his reach and appeal extend."
He expands on this point: "[Limbaugh] conducts his show in an air of high-spiritedness and relaxed good humor, clearly enjoying himself, always willing to be spontaneous and unpredictable, even though he is aware that every word he utters on the air is being recorded and tracked by his political enemies in the hope that he will slip up and say something career-destroying." Professor McClay adopts the case study approach to the critique of pure Rush:
There are countless examples of his judo skills at work, but perhaps the most spectacular was the one in the fall of 2007, in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sought to humiliate Limbaugh only to have the humiliation returned to him threefold. Limbaugh had a caller who complained that the mainstream media would not interview "real soldiers" in Iraq but instead sought out the disgruntled. Limbaugh, in agreement, cited the case of Jesse MacBeth, an Army enlistee who had failed to make it through boot camp but lied about his lack of real military service in order to speak credibly at anti-war rallies. Limbaugh called MacBeth, accurately, a "phony soldier." But his statement was quickly pulled out of context by Media Matters, one of the Democratic groups that monitors Limbaugh's every word, and was reframed as a swipe at all soldiers who had misgivings about the war. Limbaugh was denounced in the House for "sliming" the "brave men and women." Reid used the occasion to address the Senate and deplore Limbaugh's "unpatriotic comments" for going "beyond the pale of decency" and then wrote a letter to Limbaugh's syndicator demanding that the talk-show host be repudiated.
But Reid overplayed his hand. Far from running from the controversy, Limbaugh embraced it. He read Reid's letter on the air, revealing it for the dishonest and bullying document it was, and then, in a stroke of pure genius, announced that he would auction it on eBay and give the proceeds to a military charitable foundation. The letter was sold for $2.1 million, and Rush matched the contribution with his own $2.1 million. Reid could only express his pleasure that the letter had done so much good. He had been flipped onto his back.
Professor McClay recounts the birth of political talk radio with the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. It was Rush who seized on the opportunity presented by the new freedom. What did he have to offer:? Here Professor McClay explains:
[W]hat he gave talk radio was a sense of sheer fun, of lightness, humor, and wit, whether indulging in his self-parodying Muhammad Ali-like braggadocio, drawing on his vast array of American pop-cultural reference points, or, in moving impromptu mini-sermons, reminding his listeners of the need to stay hopeful, work hard, and count their blessings as Americans. In such moments, and in many other moments besides, he reminds one of the affirmative spirit of Ronald Reagan and, like Reagan, reminds his listeners of the better angels of their nature. He transmutes the anger and frustration of millions of Americans into something more constructive.
At the heart of the phenomenon McClay sees a revolt against the elites:
[A] problem of long-standing in our culture has reached a critical stage: the growing loss of confidence in our elite cultural institutions, including the media, universities, and the agencies of government. The posture and policies of the Obama presidency, using temporary majorities and legislative trickery to shove through massive unread bills that will likely damage the nation and may subvert the Constitution, have brought this distrust to a higher level. The medium of talk radio has played a critical role in giving articulate shape and force to the resistance. If it is at times a crude and bumptious medium, it sometimes has to be, to disarm the false pieties and self-righteous gravitas in which our current elites too often clothe themselves. Genuinely democratic speech tends to be just that way, in case we have forgotten.
Professor McClay's essay is the prolegomenon to any future study of Rush that will be able to present itself as a science.
Congressman Proposes Amendment to Strip Most Newspapers, Churches, Nonprofits, and Other Corporations of All Constitutional Rights
The effects of an attempt to undo Citizens United.
...Congress could therefore ban the speech of nonmedia business corporations, it could ban publications by corporate-run newspapers and magazines — which I think includes nearly all such newspapers and magazines in the country (and for good reason, since organizing a major publications as a partnership or sole proprietorship would make it much harder for it to get investors and to operate). Nor does this proposal leave room for the possibility, in my view dubious, that the Free Press Clause would protect newspapers organized by corporations but not other corporations that want to use mass communications technology. Section 3 makes clear that the preservation of the "freedom of the press" applies only to "the people," and section 2 expressly provides that corporations aren't protected as "the people."
Congress could also ban the speech and religious practice of most churches, which are generally organized as corporation. It could ban the speech of nonprofit organizations that are organized as corporations. (Congressman McGovern confirms this: "My 'People's Rights Amendment' is simple and straightforward. It would make clear that all corporate entities — for-profit and non-profit alike — are not people with constitutional rights. It treats all corporations, including incorporated unions and non-profits, in the same way: as artificial creatures of the state that we the people govern, not the other way around.") Congress could ban speech about elections and any other speech, whether about religion, politics, or anything else. It could also ban speech in viewpoint-based ways.
State legislatures and local governments could do the same. All of them could seize corporate property without providing compensation, and without providing due process. All corporate entities would be stripped of all constitutional rights. Quite a proposal; I blogged more generally about this issue here, but it seems to me that simply listing the consequences of Congressman McGovern's proposal largely suffices to explain its flaws.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
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The other day, Zombie put up a post that resonated with me on more levels than you can imagine. It turns out that Zombie deciding to drop in on a lecture at UC Berkeley (my alma mater) to hear a lecture by an English as a Second Language, or ESL, professor (my father's job), which was given in execrable English (my complaint about my children's English teachers), and had as its point the moral necessity of using education to advance Leftist causes (my bête noire as a parent, a Berkeley grad, and a conservative in America).
You have to read Zombie's post to believe it and, even after reading it, you might find it hard to believe. I'll just say that my father, who worshiped the beauty of the English language and who believed that his job was to have his students speaking English, is probably rolling in his grave right about now.
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The Martin-Zimmerman matter is a nightmare because of the way in which government officials, private citizens, and the media have made blunder after blunder in taking a sad situation and provoking it into a national and international catastrophe. Instead of acting as the leader of the nation and seeking to calm the situation, President Obama engaged in blatant racial pandering by saying the dead youngster would have looked like his son if he had one.
Attorney General Holder has been even worse and I assume that he is working with the active approval or indeed the encouragement of Mr. Obama and the White House staff. Of all the sins committed in recent months by the Obama-Holder Justice Department, one of the worst is the refusal to curb the blatant criminal activities of the New Black Panther Party. This hate group has taken to the Florida streets and has openly put a $10,000 bounty on the head of George Zimmerman, dead or alive. If the attorney general needs legal advice on what federal statutes have been violated by the Panthers, I will seek out some freshman law student in Washington and send him down the street to the Justice Department.
Such shameful racial pandering gets votes, lots of them. There is an important election coming in November. As a veteran of the original civil rights movement, I simply cannot believe that this is happening to the country that I love. I have the same angry, sad feeling that I had when I sat in a civil rights hearing in July 2010 and watched J. Christian Adams blow the whistle on in his former colleagues in the Civil Rights Division for their racist behavior in the performance of their official duties. The current disturbing actions of Messrs. Obama and Holder demonstrate that Adams' seminal book, Injustice, was sadly prophetic.
For many years in the distant past my specialty was investigating and reporting on police and mob brutality to blacks and other minorities. My investigations often were conducted in the hot sun of Mississippi or Alabama or in the cold of beautiful downtown Detroit as part of my duties as a federal civil rights official. Time after time I documented cases of such unlawful actions against innocent black citizens. (For what it is worth, I was helped in my Detroit investigations by a little known young black lawyer named John Conyers.) Moreover, on several occasions I confronted the brutal police and mob leaders and sought to convince them to curb their racist activities.
The available evidence in the Zimmerman-Martin case bears no resemblance to the actual cases of brutality that I documented. The evidence, to start with, reveals George Zimmerman to be a minority citizen who had black friends, including two young kids he mentored. Joe Oliver, a black friend with media experience, has felt impelled to come to his defense in the public forum, and continues to do so. No reliable evidence shows Zimmerman to be a violent bigot. No reliable evidence supports the notion, put forth by many black and white officials, that he hunted Martin down and shot him like a dog.
While other evidence may appear that will change my mind -- and it is evidence not wild hysterical charges that should rule here -- the current available evidence suggests that in his legal capacity as a neighborhood watch volunteer Zimmerman became concerned that Martin might have been one of the burglars who had been breaking into homes in that neighborhood. The two had some conversation and soon, according to Zimmerman, Martin hit him, knocked him down, and jumped on him. There was a struggle on the ground and Martin tried to get Zimmerman's pistol which was in a holster at his waist. Zimmerman somehow got his gun in his hand. One shot was fired and the young man died. That was indeed a tragedy but the evidence suggests that the shot was fired in self-defense.
Had George Zimmerman been intent on killing the young man, as many people have claimed, he could have taken his gun out and shot him several times from a safe distance. There is no evidence of that murderous intent. To the contrary, there is evidence that Zimmerman deeply regrets the shooting and is suffering from post-traumatic stress. He believes that his life has been ruined. Because of the massive number of threats on his life, including threats from the Black Panthers, he and some of his family members have been hiding and living in fear.
Think of that fact. An alleged assailant, a minority member who claimed he is innocent, has been hiding and living in fear of black mobs. In America. In the year 2012. Now, George Zimmerman has been charged by the special prosecutor, Angel Corey, with second degree murder and is in jail awaiting further proceedings.
WHILE THE FACTS OF THE CASE have been reviewed time and time again in the media, here and around the world, I have just gone back and looked at a few key pieces of objective fact that seem to have been forgotten in the racial hysteria.
Zimmerman claimed self-defense, a legal defense that has been in existence for centuries, long before the new stand-your-ground laws expanded on that defense. I have not found a single solid contrary fact that has been brought forth in all the emotional weeks since the sad death of Trayvon Martin. In her amateurish statement of probable cause for the second degree murder charge, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey did not cite a single such solid contrary fact. Her actions seem to be in response to the public protests and not to any new objective facts. It is just possible that Ms. Corey could be facing ethical charges like Mike Nifong, the ill-fated prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case.
In my experience the facts that come out soon after an incident occurs are usually the facts that tell the truth. Perry Mason moments are as rare as hen's teeth. Officer Timothy Smith arrived within minutes of the shooting. He wrote in his report: "Zimmerman stated that he had shot the subject [Martin] and he was still armed. Zimmerman complied with all of my verbal commands and was secured in handcuffs. Located on the inside of Zimmerman's waist band, I removed a black Kel Tek 9mm PF9 semi auto handgun and holster. While I was in such close contact with Zimmerman, I could observe that his back appeared to be wet and was covered in grass, as if he had been lying on his back on the ground. Zimmerman was also bleeding from the nose and back of his head."
That report also stated, "Zimmerman was placed in the rear of my police vehicle and was given first aid by the SFD [Sanford Fire Department]. While the SFD was attending to Zimmerman, I overheard him state, 'I was yelling for someone to help me, but no one would help me.'"
These objective facts are fully supportive of Zimmerman's version of the incident. They have not been rebutted except by mass hysteria and by charges of racial discrimination on the part of police and prosecutors.
Zimmerman agreed to talk to the police investigators and even took a voice stress test while in custody. This is a type of lie detector test used by hundreds of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. It was reported that Zimmerman's voice test came out clean.
Yet, there was a conflict in the opinions of the local law enforcement officials as to the proper course of action. Lead homicide investigator Chris Sereno said he did not believe Zimmerman's story and wanted to file an affidavit charging him with manslaughter. However, Police Chief Bill Lee and State Attorney Norman Wolfinger looked at the same set of facts and concluded that there was not enough evidence to support a conviction. Since Wolfinger was in the superior position, the case was dropped and Zimmerman was released. This action was consistent with centuries of Anglo-American legal traditions enshrining the presumption of innocence.
However, those centuries of traditions mean nothing in the current racial quagmire afflicting America and its legal system. Race hustlers Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and the New Black Panthers soon took the lead in demanding that Zimmerman be arrested and jailed. It seemed as if the nation's social fabric was being torn asunder by racial hate and mob hysteria.
And where are our president, our attorney general, and the entire federal law enforcement community in this nightmare? They seem to be on the side of the mobs. Instead, they -- starting with Messrs. Obama and Holder -- should be saying that they understand American history and American legal traditions and they know that even if Zimmerman appeared to be guilty, the forces of justice would stand solidly in favor of fair and peaceful judicial process. They should be shouting out from the Rose Garden of the White House that the era of lynching is long dead and we will not let mobs of any color revive it, that we will protect the judicial process and we will protect Mr. Zimmerman -- with federal troops if necessary.
IN THE RECENT PAST the mobs were white and the objects of their hate were black, as at many efforts to integrate schools in compliance with court orders. National and local police and military forces were ordered out to hold the white mobs back. Now one of the main inciters of violence is Al Sharpton, our president's designated leader of outreach to the black community. Moreover, there seems to be no attempt to curb the Black Panthers, who a few years ago were also given favorable treatment by Mr. Holder's Justice Department. I repeat: this is a nightmare for all of us, including the millions of decent black citizens who will take years to recover from this trauma.
Brooding over this entire situation is the obscene level of black crime in America. That subject is too often ignored. Normally, it receives little national attention unless the assailants are white and the victims are black. Black leaders and liberal politicians routinely deny that the high level of black crime even exists. Numerically, as is well known, black on black crime is the sad rule. However, black on white crime frequently occurs, which was the case in another recent murder case in Florida, one that has been largely overlooked by the national media. It has also been ignored by President Obama and his entire administration.
The evidence in this case is not in dispute and it is truly a horrible racial hate crime. Last April, Shawn Tyson, black and aged 16, confronted two white British tourists in a Sarasota public housing neighborhood where Tyson lived. The young man was raised by a single mother; no father was in the house. The Britons were James Kouzaris, 24, and James Cooper, 25. Both were well-educated young professionals on a carefree holiday in Florida. It was early in the morning and both were quite drunk when they wandered into Tyson's area, the Old Projects in Newtown, a section of Sarasota. Tyson confronted them with a pistol and demanded money. When the two said they did not have any money, Tyson replied that he had "something for your ass." The young murderer bragged to friends later that when he started shooting, the victims started crying and pleaded for their lives. Tyson was unaffected by the pleas of the "crackers" and continued shooting until both were dead. At the trial, which concluded recently, virtually no defense was offered by Shawn Tyson. He was convicted and was immediately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Paul Davies and Joe Hallett, friends of the murdered Britons, attended the trial and issued emotional statements about their dead friends and about the lack of compassion shown to their parents, particularly in light of the massive amount of compassion shown recently to the parents of Trayvon Martin. Davies said, "We would like to publicly express our dissatisfaction at the lack of any public or private message of support or condolence from any American governing body or, indeed, President Obama himself. Mr. Kouzaris [the father of one of the victims] has written to President Obama on three separate occasions and is yet to even receive the courtesy of a reply. It would perhaps appear that Mr. Obama sees no political value in facilitating such a request or that the lives of two British tourists are not worth ten minutes of his time."
Thus, there is tragedy and heartbreak all around us now. Our president should take the lead to defuse the mob mentality roiling our society. He should disarm and prosecute the Black Panthers. If nothing else, he must launch massive efforts to curb black crime, whether involving black victims or victims of other races. He must see to it that George Zimmerman and his family are provided with police or military protection. And of course it might be a nice idea if he called the parents of Cooper and Kouzaris and expressed his condolences for their tragic losses in our country. If our president cannot accomplish these civilized actions, he has finally and fully forfeited the trust of those who voted for him.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012
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How do you stand your ground if you are lying on your back getting pummeled in the face?
That one question alone shows that Stand Your Ground laws are not at issue in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin controversy. But the tragic death of young Trayvon is only seen by those on the left as a valuable media opportunity to further exploit the millions of gullible Americans to advance the left's political interests and agenda. Indeed, we have some people in positions of influence, both leading politicians and figures in the major media, who see their interest as exploiting the death to incite race unrest across America.
There is only one solution to this budding insurrection. Enforce the damn law!! That applies most directly in Florida now, where conservatives are in power, and they have to start acting like it.
The Perfect Resolution for Zimmerman
Enforcing the damn law is exactly what is happening now in the Zimmerman case, and it's the perfect resolution for all concerned.
This case needs to be resolved by a jury, and can only be resolved by a jury, which is the only way to satisfy the public interest in this matter. There are too many people in America today who will not listen to the evidence, and will follow only their own racial prejudice.
But the evidence needs to be laid out in a court of law, and resolved by a jury of Zimmerman's peers. That is the only way to satisfy the fair minded that justice has been done. I will discuss those who are not fair-minded below.
Despite what I say about the evidence below, this is not too much of a burden for Zimmerman. Even staunch advocates of gun rights and self-defense need to recognize that if someone is shot and killed even in self-defense, the ensuing investigation is not going to be easy for the shooter, in any event. Indeed, it should not be. Moreover, a jury trial gives Zimmerman the opportunity he needs to clear his name.
But based on what the established evidence on the public record indisputably shows, Zimmerman is going to be easily found innocent of the charges. That is more than well proven by eyewitness testimony and the physical evidence, despite what those who think they will benefit politically or socially from race turmoil want to believe.
Zimmerman himself is from a ethnically mixed family. He has a history of positive relations with African-Americans, even voluntarily tutoring black children at his own expense. He also has a distinguished history as a neighborhood watch captain, providing evidence leading to the capture, arrest, and conviction of criminals before.
On the night of the shooting, Zimmerman going to the store himself observed a black youth, 6 foot plus, high school football player walking alone in the rain and looking around, possibly for opportunity, in a gated community that had been robbed many times before. Zimmerman knew the community's residents, and correctly identified the youth Trayvon Martin as not one of those residents.
Zimmerman properly called 911 to report a suspicious person in the neighborhood. When Zimmerman indicated he was following the youth, the operator told him, "You don't need to do that." Zimmerman was not legally obligated to obey that suggestion. There is nothing illegal about following what you think is a suspicious person in your neighborhood. Based on these facts, this is not even a case of racial profiling.
But Zimmerman obeyed the suggestion anyway. The taped conversation with the operator showed he left the trail to go find an address so a cop could come by and pick up the investigation. While Zimmerman was walking back to his car after reporting the address to the 911 operator, as he later told police, Trayvon Martin came up behind Zimmerman and asked Zimmerman if he had a problem with him. Zimmerman whirled to say "No." Martin replied, "You do now," and proceeded to punch him in the nose, breaking the nose and knocking him down.
Martin then jumped on top of Zimmerman, grabbing his head and repeatedly slamming it into the ground. Zimmerman is recorded on a 911 call repeatedly screaming "help!"
Zimmerman was licensed with a conceal and carry permit to carry a handgun, which he had with him that night inside his waistbelt. One news report stated that Martin saw the gun and said, "Now you're dead," going for the weapon. But Zimmerman got there first, using it to shoot Martin in the chest once, killing him.
These facts are corroborated by the physical evidence as well as eyewitness testimony, medical and police records, and taped recordings, including Zimmerman's own uncontradicted testimony, which is part of the record. The police report recorded the broken nose and head injuries, which are apparent in a video tape of Zimmerman at the police station thereafter. The police report also records grass and grass stains on the back of Zimmerman's shirt. The coroner's report stated that the gunshot was at close range.
Regardless of the facts, we can say that it was a tragedy that the young Trayvon Williams died in any event. But the boy was not well served by a national social culture that led the cute kid we see in the photos celebrated in the national media to identify with gangsta culture as he matured into his later teens, which is also confirmed by photographic evidence.
We will see the full evidence at trial, but I don't know of any evidence that even contradicts the above statement of the facts. And if these are the facts, then what Zimmerman did was fully justified under the law of self-defense to save his life. That does not involve any stand your ground defense. As noted at the outset, Zimmerman at the time of the shooting was flat on his back struggling for his life, not standing his ground. So stand your ground is not even an issue in this case. What is involved is just standard, common law, self-defense.
Moreover, the legal standard for conviction is beyond a reasonable doubt. There is just no way that standard can be met with all of the evidence supporting the above facts. In addition, note that for a conviction the jury must be unanimous. It takes just one juror to insist that the evidence does not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for the defendant to go free. You can't stuff the jury box with votes from illegal aliens to win.
I predict the prosecutor will argue that in following Martin, Zimmerman lost his right to self-defense. Under the law, an attacker cannot claim the right to self-defense for what ensues thereafter. But a neighborhood watch patrol captain following a suspicious person in the neighborhood whom he reports to the police has not committed an attack that forfeits his right to self-defense under the law. That would amount to saying that when Zimmerman was attacked by Martin he had a duty to die. That is the position of Al Sharpton and Joy Reid, and the Washington Post and the New York Times. But that is not the law. Such a ruling would effectively hold that every neighborhood watch volunteer in America loses his or her right of self-defense just by monitoring the neighborhood.
Zimmerman has worthy defense counsel. They need to ensure that the case is decided by a multi-racial jury with each member of the highest intelligence possible. If the prosecutor tries to eliminate all Hispanics (Zimmerman's mother is South American) from the jury, such a discriminatory practice has already been found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The judge will instruct the jury that they must unanimously find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to convict, and on the legal standard for self-defense.
The Justice of Stand Your Ground
Over a century before the NRA began promoting Stand Your Ground laws in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court held in 1895 in Beard v. U.S. that an innocent person under attack was "not obliged to retreat, but was entitled to stand his ground, and meet any attack upon him with a deadly weapon, in such a way and with such force as… [he] honestly believed, and had reasonable grounds to believe, was necessary to save his own life, or to protect himself from great bodily injury."
Stand Your Ground laws only became necessary when states began to adopt laws, through either the legislature or the courts, imposing a duty to retreat whenever possible on victims of violent attacks in public. At least one state, Massachusetts, even adopted that duty to flee when attacked in your own home, which is the rule in England.
The point of Stand Your Ground laws is to eliminate the duty to retreat when you are attacked in public. That has now been adopted as the law in half the states. Almost every state I believe has adopted the Castle Doctrine, which says you do not have the duty to retreat from your own home when attacked there.
The duty to retreat would not apply to the Zimmerman case in any state, however, because the duty only applies when it is possible to retreat. For Zimmerman lying on his back with a 6 foot 3 high school football player sitting on top of him slamming his head into the sidewalk, there was no possibility of retreat. So Zimmerman would qualify for self-defense under the laws of every state, even Massachusetts.
Stand Your Ground laws only involve the simple logic of justice. The attacker does not have the legal or moral right to attack the victim. The victim has the moral and should have the legal right to remain where he is if he wants to do so. But the duty to retreat says the violent attacker has the legal authority to impose a legal obligation on the victim to flee the scene. That is not moral or just.
Liberals argue that if victims will just flee when possible then that will reduce deaths or injuries to violent attackers. But the violent attackers can eliminate any possibility of their injury or death from such incidents by simply choosing to stop attacking innocent victims.
Moreover, economist John Lott, an expert in applying regression analysis to use of guns and violent crime, rightly argues that the most important issue is, "Did the [Stand Your Ground] laws increase total deaths? More criminals might be killed in justifiable self-defense, but if the number of innocent lives lost falls by more than the deaths of criminals rises, is that really a bad thing?" The answer to that question is not only no, but Hell No!
Lott reports that the latest edition of his book, More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2010), includes the only published, refereed academic study of Stand Your Ground laws, which "found that states adopting Stand Your Ground/Castle doctrine laws reduced murder rates by 9 percent and overall violent crimes by 11 percent. That implies an annual drop in murders that is about 10 times more than the entire measured increase in civilian justifiable homicides from 2000 to 2010 -- and it isn't even clear that there was an actual increase."
Lott argues the supposed increase in civilian justifiable homicides since 2000 is due to increased reporting of that statistic from states and jurisdictions within states, not because of an actual increase. He notes as well that between 2000 and 2010 the much more numerous justifiable homicides by police increased by 25 percent, and that statistic does not suffer from any change in reporting practices during that time.
Lott further explains why the Duty to Retreat imposes an unreasonable burden on victims, saying, "There have been many cases where victims have been chased and knocked down a couple of times before firing in self-defense, but prosecutors thought that the victim still could have done more to retreat before firing their gun." He adds, "forcing victims to take time to retreat puts their lives in jeopardy," which is supported by the above statistics showing that replacing Duty to Retreat with Stand Your Ground actually reduces overall deaths sharply.
Enforce the Damn Law
Florida is governed by top notch conservatives, such as Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has tremendous future political potential, and Tea Party Governor Rick Scott. They are the ones with the clear duty now, to enforce the law and maintain public order.
What is on the horizon is that race hustlers like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the New Black Panther Party will attempt to intimidate judge and jury by agitating mob violence. Even more obvious is the threat of extreme mob violence when the jury acquits Zimmerman.
What Bondi or Scott or both need to do is to hold a press conference and announce that the public order will be maintained and mob violence will not be tolerated. They may think they are in a tough spot now, but their political futures will be obliterated if they stand by while Sharpton, who has incited mobs to kill before, and/or Jackson or the New Black Panther Party incite racial riots that result in the death of innocents.
Scott needs to announce that the integrity of the legal and jury process, and public order, will be enforced by the National Guard if necessary, which will be armed and on high alert until after the jury trial is completed. And Bondi needs to announce that if Sharpton or anyone else does incite racial violence, the agitators will be arrested and prosecuted under state laws.
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