Friday, August 30, 2013

Reynolds’ Law

I haven't been blogging much lately, because I haven't had many thoughts that haven't been better expressed elsewhere. But I have to draw attention to a remark of Glenn Reynolds, which seems to me to express an important and little-noticed point:
The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we'll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren't causes of middle-class status, they're markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn't produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.
I dub this Reynolds' Law: "Subsidizing the markers of status doesn't produce the character traits that result in that status; it undermines them." It's easy to see why. If people don't need to defer gratification, work hard, etc., in order to achieve the status they desire, they'll be less inclined to do those things. The greater the government subsidy, the greater the effect, and the more net harm produced.

Link: (via

This applies to housing, college, and other material things.
It also applies to social institutions. 
I have to wonder what will happen to marriage when the law effectively subsidizes the status of married couple for people who previously couldn't qualify for it.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Massad Ayoob � Blog Archive � THE ZIMMERMAN VERDICT

Massad Ayoob (Boo-ya spelled backards.  Coincidence?) has written extensively on the Zimmerman verdict.  Here is a 14-part series on the trial and verdict.  (At least 14 parts so far.  The latest one was today.)

Several blog followers have asked me why I haven't written here (or spoken anywhere) on this, the most important armed citizen case of our time. The answer is this:
I did write on it once, on Friday, March 23, 2012.  The following day, I received a phone call from Craig Sonner, George Zimmerman's original legal counsel, to retain me on the case as an expert witness for the defense.
In the meantime, to get the commentary and analysis of the case that most of the mainstream media denied you, go to the excellent day by day writing of Andrew Branca, an attorney who specializes in this sort of case, at

"Unarmed?" Actually, NO.  The history of adjudicating deadly force actions shows that Trayvon Martin was "armed" two or three times over.
First, the haters (like the prosecution) assiduously ignored George Zimmerman's statement that while Martin was "ground-and-pounding" him, Martin saw Zimmerman's gun in its now exposed holster, told Zimmerman that he was going to die tonight, and reached for his victim's pistol.
If I'm your criminal attacker, you don't have to wait for me to shoot you before you can shoot me to defend your life, and you don't even need to wait until the gun is in my hand. If I announce my intent to murder you and reach for a gun, I'm bought and paid for right there.  And it doesn't matter whether the gun I'm reaching for is in my holster, or yours. That's why every year in America, when thugs try to grab a policeman's gun and are shot, the shootings are ruled justifiable.
The evidence indicates that Zimmerman didn't get out of his car until the operator asked where the suspicious person was, and where the police should meet Zimmerman, the complainant.  Taking that as a request for information, Zimmerman obligingly got out of the car to gather the intelligence that seemed to have been implicitly requested of him.  He was, after all, the elected (not self-appointed) captain of Neighborhood Watch, and his function as Eyes and Ears of the Police had been drilled into him and the other Watch members through the Police Department itself. When the call-taker asked if he was following the man, Zimmerman replied in the affirmative. He was then told, "You don't have to do that."
The evidence indicates that he stopped following Martin at that moment. His former rapid breathing returned to normal and wind noise from his phone stopped, consistent with his testimony that he stopped following and had lost sight of Martin. The dispatcher did not "order" him to stop following, and later admitted in court that he had no authority to do so. Nonetheless, it was clear that Zimmerman was simply following Martin to keep him in sight and report his whereabouts, not "pursuing" with any intent to "confront."
Who struck the first blow? Virtually all the evidence supports Zimmerman's account; no evidence contradicts it, and no evidence supports the theory that Zimmerman assaulted Martin first, in any way.  If as some conjecture Zimmerman had drawn the gun at the first, why did he wait until his scalp had been split open on the sidewalk and his nose smashed before he pulled the trigger? And if Martin really believed he was in danger from the man watching him, why didn't he simply call the police from the phone he was already speaking on?
Within the totality of the circumstances presented in court by the prosecution itself, it would seem that saying "Zimmerman started it" is like saying that a woman was raped "because she asked for it."
It's about evidence, not about "what-ifs." The simple fact is, no matter what some want to believe and no matter how much the brainwashers of the media have twisted the facts, there is no solid evidence to support any theory other than that Martin didn't like being watched, attacked Zimmerman violently, and was shot in self-defense by the man whose head he had been smashing against the sidewalk with potentially lethal effect.
The evidence showed incontrovertibly that Zimmerman, straddled by his attacker in the MMA mount and being savagely beaten while supine, could not possibly have retreated or otherwise escaped at the time he pulled the trigger.  His wise lawyers knew that from the beginning, Craig Sonner when I spoke with him in March of 2012, and Mark O'Mara and Don West when I discussed it with them a couple of months later.
The take-away is not to avoid such unmeritorious courtroom attacks by carrying a .25 auto with an empty chamber. The take-away is, be able to logically explain your choice of gun and method of carry.  The defense did exactly this, to their credit.
"What if Zimmerman hadn't gotten out of his car, and just driven on to his destination, the Target store?"  Well, certainly, the confrontation would not have occurred. But that pales in comparison to what if Trayvon Martin had not attacked him and smashed his head into the sidewalk? In following a strange man who was looking into windows in a community riven by burglaries and even a home invasion, Zimmerman never broke the law. Indeed, had it not ended in death, most would have appreciated him taking notice and calling the authorities…as people had done earlier, when the head of the homeowner's association in that community had chased down and captured a burglary suspect.
"What if" is not the standard of the law, nor the standard of logic. "WHAT IS" remains the standard for both.  The evidence, not a hypothetical "theory of the case," is what counts in every aspect of the real world…the real world of the courts, and the real world of the streets.
A duly empanelled jury determined the truth from the facts in evidence and the testimony presented.  Even the testimony of the prosecution's witnesses overwhelmingly favored the defense.
And that was only the evidence the jury was allowed to see.  There was much more evidence which was confirmatory to Zimmerman's account of a clear-cut self-defense shooting. We'll get to that soon in this space…and why the jury was not allowed to see it.

Professionals in the justice system knew that the prosecution was desperately scraping the bottom of the barrel when they tried to make it look as if George Zimmerman wasn't justified in shooting Trayvon Martin because Martin hadn't hurt him badly enough yet.
Anyone smart enough to pass a bar exam and research the laws of self-defense and use of force, would know that you don't have to sustain a gunshot wound before you shoot the criminal gunman pointing his weapon at you. Similarly, you don't have to let the guy fracture your skull or spill your brains onto the sidewalk before you are justified in stopping him with lethal force.

When Ms. Corey announced that she would bypass the grand jury, it was clear to any criminal justice professional that she was going to indict him on her own, via an offer of information. There is generally one reason why a chief prosecutor will take a case away from a grand jury: the prosecutor wants an indictment and doesn't think a grand jury that has heard the evidence will deliver one.
At this point, the die was cast. The show trial was inevitable, and America had experienced a triumph of propaganda that would have been worthy of Joseph Goebbels or Josef Stalin. Even today, after the opportunity to watch three weeks of intensive trial broadcast live minute by minute which brought much of the truth to light, a majority of Americans seem to be ignorant of the facts and still convinced that a self-appointed vigilante racially profiled a black child and murdered him.  Never mind that the facts in evidence clearly showed otherwise.
When that TV station in California realized they had been pranked on the "Sum Ting Wong" broadcast, they admitted it and apologized.  The mass media, sadly, has not done the same in the Zimmerman matter.

Anyone who has trained with me in the last few years has heard me talk about what I call "combat semantics." Smart debaters know that many words in our language have multiple shades of meaning, and they'll often try to tell people that one of those words meant "B" when you used it, when in fact you really meant "A". We saw this in more ways than one in the Zimmerman case.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Which Americans in denial about race? | Cogitating Duck

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Over the past week, conservative media have consistently hammered away at the issue Elspeth Reeve and her Atlantic Wire colleagues deny: African-Americans, particularly young men, commit violent crimes at a grossly disproportionate rate.  Blacks make up about 10 percent of the population, but are responsible for half of all violent crimes, including murders.  And about 90% of those murder victims are African-American.  It's simple math then that nearly half of people murdered in America are black.
The Wall Street Journal has run a number of excellent editorials on the problem.  Black conservative Jason Riley opened the salvo by reminding us how far back the problem goes.  Consider his quoting of a prominent black civil rights leader:
"Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58% of its crimes? We've got to face that. And we've got to do something about our moral standards," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told a congregation in 1961. "We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can't keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves."
And this week, Shelby Steele–another Black intellectual off of the liberal reservation–explicated on the concept of "poetic truth," a cudgel with which today's morally diminished civil rights leaders try to exercise influence.  Steele authored one of the more compelling books I've read.  It's full title says it all: White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Education Spending Soars, Test Scores Stagnate | National Review Online

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As this chart by the Cato Institute's Andrew J. Coulson irrefutably illustrates, the trouble with U.S. education is not a scarcity of tax dollars thrown in its general direction. The spending curve of government outlays on K–12 education from 1970–2010 is essentially an upward-sloping 45-degree angle. The curves representing reading, math, and science test scores are all 0-degree angles. These commonly are called flat lines.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Can GMO corn cause allergies? Don’t believe Elle’s scary story. - Slate Magazine


Shetterly's narrative is emotionally compelling, but only that; it just doesn't withstand the critical scrutiny of science. Let's start with her central premise: Genetically modified foods, or more specifically genetic modified corn, can cause allergic reactions. Is that even possible? Can the process of genetic modification create allergies?
"Not likely," said Pamela Ronald, an internationally respected plant geneticist at the University of California, Davis and a pioneer in developing sustainable agricultural solutions. "After 16 years of cultivation and a cumulative total of 2 billion acres planted, no documented adverse health or environmental effects have resulted from commercialization of genetically engineered crops."

But what about the undeniable fact that the rise in autoimmune disorders tracks GMO consumption? The rise in such problems, including allergies, started long before GMOs were introduced. Incidences of these same conditions across U.K., Europe and in other countries where there is no consumption of GM foods match U.S. trends. To put this claim in perspective, the upward slope also tracks with the cumulative wins of the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick, the GDP of China, and indeed the increased consumption of organic foods over a similar period of time. In other words, the alarming connection that Shetterly alludes to in her piece is completely random.

Then there's the question of whether Shetterly's quoted sources stand by their quotes. Let's put ourselves in her shoes as she set out to make sense of her illness and recovery. She could have presented a broad range of opinions. She could have carefully portrayed the measured views of physicians and scientists whose research in this field has been vetted by the medical community. But that's not what happened.
Shetterly quotes a few experts who assert that genetically modified foods are safe, but the majority of her sources seem sympathetic to her plight and Mansmann's GMO-corn allergy theory. I talked to or exchanged emails with almost all of them. The feedback was consistent: Her article was variously described as "ridiculous" and "absurd." To a person, the sources I reached complained that Shetterly had misused their statements.