The problem with ‘Stand Your Ground’

February 23, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Posted in Disinformation, Fairness, Judicial Misjudgment | 7 Comments
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2007 photo copyrighted by Jeff Dean, and uploaded by hime to Wikipedia, which describes it as a compact semi-automatic Smith & Wesson .45 ACP Chief's Special — Model CS45.

2007 photo copyrighted by Jeff Dean, and uploaded by hime to Wikipedia, which describes it as a compact semi-automatic Smith & Wesson .45 ACP Chief’s Special — Model CS45.

‘Stand your ground’ laws have figured in two recent cases in which young unarmed black men were shot and killed.
George Zimmerman killed Travon Martin, and Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis.

In both cases, the killer’s excuse was that he thought that the young black man had a gun.

The problem with ‘stand your ground’ laws is that it is too easy to claim that you feared that the person you shot had a weapon, and was about to use it on you.

You can claim this even if it wasn’t true.  You can make up your fear after the fact.

No one can ever disprove your claim, because it rests only on what you say you believed at the time.  Your claim need not depend upon on any externally confirmable matter of fact.

This is one of the most easily-abused legal ideas of all time.

One of the leading pushers of ‘stand your ground’ laws is ALEC.  Besides promoting ‘stand your ground’ laws, ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) acts as a mouthpiece for those who see short-term financial gains in delaying recognition of human-caused global warming.  According to the Sierra Club, Mark Zuckerberg recently had Facebook join ALEC, because he wants its support for some of his own agendas.  (The Sierra Club is urging everyone to sign a petition asking Mark Zuckerberg to withdraw Facebook from that unscrupulous organization.)

Although it is obvious, it bears repeating: neither of the unjustified killings that were cited above would have occurred if the killer hadn’t happened to have a gun handy.

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If There Were an NRA for Automobiles

May 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Posted in Dysfunctional Politics, Fairness | 3 Comments
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A Leclerc-IMG 1744 battle tank, photographed by Rana.

A Leclerc-IMG 1744 battle tank, photographed by Rana.

If there were an NRA for automobiles, what would it do?

Basing its statements on the freedom of travel that is implicit in the inter-state commerce clause of the Constitution, It would oppose any
– licensing of drivers,
– registration of cars,
– tests of driving skills and of the knowledge of traffic laws,  (Indeed, it would oppose the very existence of traffic laws.)
– requiring insurance,
– the legality of speed limits,
– the installation of traffic signals, and the requirement that they be obeyed,
– rules of the road.

It would insist that horse riding and carriage driving had no licensing and no restrictions, so automobiles should not, either.  After all, an automobile is to a horse-drawn carriage as a large-magazine assault rifle is to a 22 rifle.

On that basis, it would insist that anyone be able to buy – with no public record of the purchase – any car, any truck, any bus, any snow plow, and any battle tank.

Wayne LaPierre at a political conference in Orlando, Florida, on 23 September 2011.  Photo by Gage Skidmore, rotated for this blog posting.

Wayne LaPierre at a political conference in Orlando, Florida, on 23 September 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore, rotated for this blog posting.

At every possible opportunity, its leader, Weenie DaPebble, would gruffly repeat his slogan: “Cars don’t kill people, bad drivers kill people”.  He might add, “Cars don’t drive themselves, you know”, and “If cars with machine guns were illegal, only criminals would have cars with machine guns.”

To evaluate any assertion by the NRA, ask yourself whether it would be reasonable to apply the same assertion to cars.

Applying this test, it becomes obvious that hunters and other sportsmen are not the NRA’s real focus.  Although those communities are good sources of recruits, the NRA’s real priorities are self defense and preserving the ability to revolt, and the short-term economic interests of the gun manufacturers who fund the NRA.

Paranoia drives the NRA, not sport, and not patriotism.  In fact, the NRA’s underlying agenda is nearly the antithesis of patriotism.  It claims to base its positions on the Second Amendment to Constitution, but that is only because the NRA has tricked others into viewing the Second Amendment through a distorting lens.  The NRA really accepts only the Declaration of Independence, and not the Constitution.

To put into perspective the position of the NRA and the gun manufacturers, ask yourself: would it make sense to require auto dealers to keep records of car buyers, but never to share that information with the police, nor with any other government agency?

Two recent articles in the Washington Post provide encouragement that sensible, balanced laws on guns will eventually be enacted: an article by Philip Rucker and Paul Kane, and an article by E.J. Dionne Jr.

Too Frail a Reid

March 24, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Posted in Dysfunctional Politics | 1 Comment
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Harry Reid (D-NV), United States Senator from Nevada and Majority Leader of the United States Senate, official portrait, 2009, turned upside down.

Harry Reid (D-NV), United States Senator from Nevada and Majority Leader of the United States Senate, official portrait, 2009, turned upside down.

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Harry Reid is too frail a reed for the Senate to lean upon.

Harry Reid adheres to the principle, ‘don’t bring it to a vote unless you already know that it will pass’.

This led him to withdraw a ban on assault weapons from a recent bill on gun control.  Eugene Robinson’s insightfully described the issues, the calculations, and the trade-offs in a recent article in the Washington Post.

If losing the vote would have made it less likely for the legislation to be brought up again in the future, then Harry Reid’s principle would have been appropriate.
But the legislative histories of the battles for civil rights and for non-traditional pairings in marriage show the opposite.  Losing a vote now, and forcing your opponents to publically attach their names to their position, lays the groundwork for eventual victory.  But to win eventually, you have to bring your legislation up for a vote again and again, never being discouraged by the fluctuations in the political weather.  You never stop proposing your legislation.  You never give the impression that the pressure might fade away.

This is illustrated spectacularly by the imminent victory of efforts to reform the immigration laws – especially those that pertain to those who are here because they or their parents snuck in.  Advocates of immigration reform modeled their campaign on that for gay rights, as recounted in a recent article by Frank Sharry in the Washington Post.

Harry Reid is a good Senator.  But he is not a leader.  Seniority, by itself, is not a sufficient qualification for a leadership role.

Gutless and spineless, Harry Reid is anatomically deficient for the job.

Adult Moon Jelly (Aurelia labiata) photographed at Monterey Bay Aquarium. Photo by Dante Alighieri (really?)

Adult Moon Jelly (Aurelia labiata) photographed at Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Photo by Dante Alighieri (really?)

As urged in a previous post in this blog, at the very first opportunity, Senate Democrats should elect a new Majority Leader.

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