Category: Media

The Truth about Stand Your Ground

The conventional wisdom among those in the mainstream media is that Stand Your Ground laws lead to violent encounters and are unnecessary. Many assume that Stand Your Ground is a new concept in the law- it most certainly is not. Even though laws specifically codifying the concept are new- the idea has been grounded in English common law and therefore American common law for centuries. Even progressive states such as California and Maine have some form of codified Stand Your Ground. Stand Your Ground laws were meant to restate and protect the right of common law self defense. The idea that we have the right to defend our most basic right- the right to our lives is not a new idea.

Prosecutors in many self defense cases were arguing that the accused could have retreated, or that if they did retreat that they could have retreated even further. Legislators wanted to give specific protection within the law for the right to defend yourself without the need to run from a lawfully occupied space. This does not mean that a person should not retreat- a reasonable person knows that if retreat is possible they should retreat. The intent was to protect a person from being second guessed in a sterile courtroom by aggressive prosecutors. There are still overwhelming incentives for a person to use great discretion and avoid violent self defense. Even if found not guilty the person who kills or maims in self defense risks severe civil penalties and social penalties. In many self defense schools and books the concept is: “if it is not worth dying for- it is not worth killing for.”

The Stand Your Ground laws also do not change any of the underlying requirements accepted for lawful self defense. We still have a duty to be innocent, reasonable and proportional in our defense of self. The law does not protect someone who instigates a confrontation, nor does it protect someone who did not have a reasonable fear of death or grave bodily injury.

In the aftermath of the Zimmerman acquittal the professional grievance industry has seized on Stand Your Ground and argued that the law is racially biased and hurts minorities- nothing could be further from the truth. John Lott has delved into the Tampa Bay Time database of Stand Your Ground defense cases and found several striking things. Blacks are 16.6% of the Florida population but they account for 31% of the Stand Your Ground defense cases. When black defendants are compared to white defendants they are acquitted 8 percent more frequently. Unfortunately more blacks are victims of violent crimes so it makes sense that they would use the defense more often.

Lott has also looked at states that have passed Stand Your Ground and similar Castle Doctrine laws and found that murder rates dropped by 9% and overall violent crime by 11% even after accounting for a range of other variables. Other researchers have disagreed with Lott’s conclusions and it is always hard to isolate one variable. If we look at Florida where the most controversy lies we can make some very clear assertions. Florida has made it easier to carry a gun and broadened the ability of justifiable self defense through Stand Your Ground. Violent crime has plummeted in Florida since 1992 from 1200 per 100,000 to 492 per 100,000. In fact the two greatest year over year percentage drops, 2010 and 2009 have been after Stand Your Ground was passed in 2005 and after the great recession began. Criminals in Florida are aware that many Floridians can now lawfully carry a gun and defend themselves and this does have an affect.

Most of us have no desire to be in a violent confrontation. You can never leave a violent encounter with more than what was brought in. The best you can hope for is to keep your health and life. Society is very hard on those who use violent force even when justifiable. The law has a duty to protect individual rights, above all those rights is the right to life. Stand Your Ground laws protect all of us from wrongful prosecution and punishment.

Income Mobility and Inequality in America

There has been much hand wringing on the left about inequality. We are told by the media that the American dream is dead; that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. Is the American dream dead?

43% of American born into the bottom quintile of wealth stay there as adults. 40% of Americans born into the top quintile will stay in the top quintile as adults. This of course means that 57% of the bottom will rise out of the bottom, 4% of them reaching the top and conversely that 60% of the top will fall, 8% of them to the bottom. Is this really the full picture of inequality?

Consider that quality of life in absolute terms has continued to go up. Being poor in 1950, 1960 or even 1990 is not the same experience as it is today. Most of the poor today have things considered luxuries in the recent past such as cell phones, computers, and air conditioning. The median family today has nearly twice the purchasing power than they would have had in 1960. Therefore absolute income is only a part of the story. The same capitalistic system that rewards those with money with more money also leads to tremendous advancement in quality of life.

Even looking at income alone, 84% of individuals have family income greater than their parents, after adjusting for family size. In the bottom quintile, 75% greater than $10,000 more in income, 44% greater than $25,000 more.

Much of this information comes from reports from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. I did some research to see what the other side is saying about these numbers. Think Progress took on Heritage’s assertion of relative prices by pointing out that education and healthcare costs have risen in relative cost. So let’s analyze this fact for a moment. College costs have in fact risen dramatically faster than inflation. Is this because of greedy capitalists- no; it is precisely the opposite, cheap government money has allowed higher education costs to rise. Healthcare is more complex, costs are rising because we have much more healthcare choices and technological advancement allows us to live longer and better. Once again Government has also been deeply involved driving up costs with regulations and controls. Obamacare was sold as a way to provide healthcare for all; the president promised it would lower costs; but so far the opposite has occurred as choices do down and costs rise.

Meanwhile the greedy capitalists that the left so often points the finger at have brought us cheaper and better goods and services. The poor can afford cell phones- that make their lives easier. Most of them can access the internet, many even in their own homes. Information that was once costly to consume and learn is now cheap and easy. Henry Ford grew rich by bringing the average American worker a car he could afford. Steve Jobs by revolutionizing products that connect us and entertain us. Products that were once luxuries are now available to almost all.

Healthcare and education need not be exempt from this progress. Technology in healthcare can also bring costs down and increase wellness if we let markets work. Home schooling is thriving in America; parents today have the ability to bring world class instruction into their homes through the internet. If we decouple government money from higher education, we will see choices go up and costs go down as institutions are force to innovate and compete for students.

Much of the philosophical divide in this country comes down to a lack of understanding of economics and capitalism. Progressives fall into the zero sum fallacy- that there is a set amount of wealth in the world and it can be managed by governments to create more equality. The left uses fairness and inequality arguments to further their socialistic philosophies and grow their power.

The reality is that wealth isn’t fixed, capitalists create wealth by serving their fellow man. The more wealth they create the more potential relative prosperity for all.

All of us are born with different circumstances, some of us have advantages over others, and we will never have wealth equality in America. Free Market Capitalism remains the best system to foster income mobility and allow all of us to maximize our potential and live prosperous productive lives.

Media Distortion

One quick example of how the media distorts numbers:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2012/12/18/gun_deaths_in_america_gun_deaths_outpace_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_at_least.html

The writer distorts in the following ways:
1. Make no distinction between suicide and murder. I think we can agree it is pretty easy to off yourself without a gun and since few claim they want to totally outlaw guns it seems any current proposed law wouldn’t prevent someone from suicide with a gun anyway.
2. Don’t mention in the headline what the chart really shows: Car accident deaths are dropping- great!
3. Make zero distinction or mention of states with tougher laws (Illinois, CA, DC (not a state but they have separate laws) versus states with more permissive law.
4. Talk about deaths per 100K a more accurate measure since it takes into account population growth- but then change the measure artfully to the sum total to try to show growth even though the per 100K number would show retraction.
5. Pretend to be objective at the end by giving incredibly weak argument to the other side.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2012/12/18/gun_deaths_in_america_gun_deaths_outpace_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_at_least.html

Gabrielle Giffords

Gabby Giffords has announced she and husband Mark Kelly are forming a new advocacy group: Americans for Responsible Solutions:

Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources. Americans for Responsible Solutions, which we are launching today, will invite people from around the country to join a national conversation about gun violence prevention, will raise the funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby, and will line up squarely behind leaders who will stand up for what’s right.”

I am pulling for Ms. Giffords, her recovery against the odds is an inspiration. I read her editorial and she doesn’t say anything specifically that she wants other than a conversation and to balance the NRA. She says that we haven’t done anything as a country and gives the impression that gun advocates don’t have solutions. This is simply wrong headed. Gun rights advocates do have solutions and we have taken meaningful action. Advocates have fought to allow for responsible citizen to carry guns in states like Arizona and Florida. Shall issue, right to carry states now outnumber no carry states by a wide margin. In Florida where more carry concealed weapons than anywhere else; violent crime and even gun specific crime is down.

Here is what congress should do: introduce new legislation that affirms the legal right of non felons who undergo simple training and are free of mental health issues to carry in all 50 states. These permit holders should be allowed to legally carry everywhere that government cannot assure armed protection such as courthouses or government buildings. In that same legislation they could reassert the federal background check system and strengthen it to include psychiatric holds for all transactions including the small number of private party gun show transfers. This is a thumbnail sketch and the details are very meaningful of course. The philosophy is simply that all law abiding Americans should be able to carry a gun concealed no matter what state they live in and that this right protects liberty and life for all. Many gun advocates would argue that we already have this right and to codify it federally sets the wrong precedent. I agree in theory but out of pragmatism I can accept federal oversight provided it is simple and clearly reaffirms the right to carry for self defense.

Ms. Giffords mentions her household has two guns locked up in a safe. I cannot help but wonder if she had one of those guns on her that day if something might have been different- perhaps not- but it is hard to argue that someone with a gun other than the killer might have made a real difference that day.

Paradise Lost 3

I watched Paradise Lost 3 last night. When I first saw Paradise Lost (the first film of three) around the time it premiered in 1996; I was 100% sure the three teens were innocent and railroaded by over eager police. I am not as sure now, I am more wise (or jaded perhaps) and I know how easy it is to tell the story you want to tell in a documentary. As filmmakers we select information to present. It is a fallacy to believe that anyone is truly impartial- all of us form opinions quickly and tend to follow the evidence that supports our opinion. Documentaries are not scientific approaches seeking pure truth. A good filmaker will test their theory or ideas and present counter arguments. In this case  I have sought out alternative opinions and tried to read up on the case. I do believe the West Memphis Three (WM3) were wrongfully convicted as I do not think the circumstantial evidence rises to the level required to convict. I don’t believe we will ever know the truth of this horrific crime. One of the high points of the film for me was the commentary by John Douglas whom I respect deeply as a man who truly understands the criminal mind and motives. He innovated profiling in the 1970’s and 80’s.

I won’t rehash this case as many have done so and there is a wealth of information easily available online. There is also new theatrical film from Amy Berg and Peter Jackson that I have not seen. I urge everyone to view the documentary- if nothing else it demonstrates the power of film and media to change minds and influence movements and change. My hope is that in this case the movement was right and the WM3 are innocent of this crime.

Paradise Lost 3 is airing on HBO on demand. Warning: There are some graphic photos and video of the crime scene that might be tough for some to see.
http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/paradise-lost-3-purgatory/index.html

Entitled

Watch the exchange below between the young man and Judge Judy. What does it tell you about the state of entitlement and dependency in America? Was their any shame at all in the young man for the handouts he received? Was their any sense of humility or responsibility for the investment others have made in him? Do you think the young man would have had a different attitude if he received money from a local charity or relative? Do you think he would have managed to get so much aid over so long a period from a local charity or relative? When some get money from the federal government they feel entitled to it. This is the possible outcome of federal welfare programs.

Some Thoughts on the Re Election of President Obama

Republicans can and must make the moral case for free markets and limited government. Our ideas on balance are much better for all Americans including non whites and single women that vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.

Mitt,
You dodged a bullet- you and your family are better off. Thank-you for be willing to lead and take on the challenge. I think you ran a good campaign and you should ignore the Monday morning quarterbacks and hold your head high. You gave America a real choice and they chose the wrong path.

America,
You doubled down on Obama. Know that those of us who disagree will not compromise and not yield in our defense of liberty. We will continue to oppose on principle. If the President wants a legacy he must yield and work across the aisle. I will continue to make the case for free markets and free people.

Obama lost big among those of us who pay federal income tax, the vast majority of whom would not have had their income tax raised. They know that more taxes for wealthier Americans won’t make them better off. The numbers aren’t in but he will also surely lose among those who defend this country with their lives last time he lost he got 44%; this time it will probably be less.

Only 25% of the electorate identify with liberal. (35% conservative 40% independent/moderate)

Obama built his win on non whites who are much more socially conservative than Obama and in some ways more than Romney. Big city liberals are not enough to win the presidency- Obama won because minorities bought into his rhetoric and image and believe he empathizes more with them.