Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

January 21, 2005

Non-Isolated Incidents

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:27 pm

Happy Birthday to Zero Intelligence!

Often, I’m talking (or e-mailing) with someone, trying to convince them there is a serious problem of some sort, or that some policy is misguided, and I’ll say, “Look what happened here,” and they respond, “Come on, that was just an isolated incident.” Now, fortunately, there are a number of blogs dedicated to chronicling some of the incidents I’ve been told were isolated, and showing — by sheer numbers — that these incidents are not, in fact, isolated. Here are three examples.

“Zero Tolerance” Stupidity in Public Schools

“Zero Tolerance” means, in the context of public schools, that there will be absolutely no tolerance of drugs or weapons in the schools. Sounds reasonable, right? Yes, until you find out that what they mean by “drugs” and “weapons.” By “drugs,” they often do not just mean things like marijuana and crack; they often include like aspirin, throat lozenges, and prescription drugs for which the students has a legal prescription from a licensed physician. By “weapons,” they don’t just mean guns and hunting knives, sometimes they mean table knives, and scissors like they use in the classroom.

The well-named blog Zero Intelligence has been tracking this sort of thing for a full year (as of today!) and has documented 281 ridiculous “zero tolerance” incidents in a single year. That’s more than three for every two school days. And of course, these are just the incidents caught by one blogger with a day job (and his readers), and they can mostly catch only those incidents that actually make the news; surely they can’t be catching them all. In other words, the truth is even worse than that. This should be enough to convince anybody that these incidents are not “isolated.”

Frivalous Lawsuits

Every try talking to a lawyer — not a criminal or family lawyer, but a lawsuit lawyer — about frivilous lawsuits? How about an idealistic law student? No matter how many examples you give, they are all “isolated incidents.”

Walter Olson has an entire blog tracking these incidents at Overlawyered.com. He’s been running this site since October 1999 (more than five years now!) and does not seem to have any shortage of material. Usually, there are several entries per day.

Also, Randy Cassingham tracks particularly egregious lawsuit abuses at TRUE Stella Awards, where he also runs a milaing list, and debunks “urban legend” lawsuit stories. Not all the crazy lawsuit stories you hear are true, but there are enough true ones to keep these projects going, and Randy is determined to stamp out the false stories, which only damage the cause.

Civilian Use of Guns for Self-Defense

This has got to be one of the biggest ones. If you talk to a gun-control advocate, you will inevitably hear that people “should not take the law into their own hands” and “if you try to use a gun in self-defense, it’s more likely to be taken away and used against you.” Every successful use of a gun in self-defense is termed an “isolated incident.”

This is not true — depending on which study you believe, there are between half a million and two and a half million defensive uses of guns in the U.S. every year. But statistics aren’t everything; sometimes it’s useful to see specific examples. Clayton Cramer and Pete Drum run the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog, with numerous, current examples, usually several per day. As with the zero tolerance stories, these are just the incidents caught by two bloggers with day jobs (and their readers), and they can mostly catch only those incidents that actually make the news; surely they can’t be catching them all.

Cut Class for Bush

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:33 am

I wonder what point these people were trying to make.

Several hundred students walked out of classes at several Seattle colleges and universities to protest the inauguration of President Bush.

They can’t really have believed that walking out of class would lead to cancelling the inauguration, could they have?

Perhaps it was a show of support — given Bush’s reputation for not studying (see below), perhaps they decided to do some not-studying of their own.


True Confessions: A Democrat Likes GWB

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:52 am

Lanny Davis was Special Counsel to President Clinton from 1996-1998, during the impeachment procedings. He is an unapologetic and enthusiastic liberal and Clinton supporter. He also seems, as far as I can tell, to be an honest guy, notwithstanding his spirited defense of some of Clinton’s whoppers. He even apologized to Ken Starr after it was all over.

Given his liberal credentials, it is not surprising that he waited until after Bush’s last campaign to come forward with this information. It turns out he knew George W. Bush in college and considers him a friend. He remembers two really interesting things about GWB as he writes in the Los Angeles Times:

I have known President Bush for 40 years — ever since we attended Yale College together in the 1960s. I’m a Democrat (and I was a Democrat then), but I liked him and I still like him, as a sincere and kind man and a good friend.

Because I’ve known him for so long, it was clear to me when he first began running for president that he could beat Al Gore, and I warned Gore of that early on. I knew it then (and again in 2004) because I knew, from my earliest memories of George W. Bush, that not only did people routinely underestimate him — but that he encouraged them to do so. Ask Ann Richards, who was 20 points ahead in the closing weeks of Bush’s first campaign for governor of Texas but lost to him after his last-minute surge.

The master of low expectations — that is my clearest, and fondest, memory of George Bush at Yale. We would hang out together in the wood-paneled common room at Davenport College, where we both lived. I’d be worried about studying for my history exam or outlining my outlines; he would be relaxing on the couches, observing people walking by, maybe chatting up a girl or talking sports with another guy. As far as I could tell, he never studied or worried much about his grades. He looked exactly the same then as today, without the gray hair. Same sardonic grin, always comfortable with himself, no sense of pressure, coasting intellectually. Yet when the term was over, he would get by — sometimes Bs, sometimes Cs. I could never figure how he did it without, apparently, ever opening a book. [Perhaps he was smart -- and/or studied in private? --DR]

But despite what you may have heard or read, George was not just frat-house party boy. One of my most vivid memories is this: A few of us were in the common room one night. It was 1965, I believe — my junior year, his sophomore. We were making our usual sarcastic commentaries on those who walked by us. A little nasty perhaps, but always with a touch of humor. On this occasion, however, someone we all believed to be gay walked by, although the word we used in those days was “queer.” Someone, I’m sorry to say, snidely used that word as he walked by.

George heard it and, most uncharacteristically, snapped: “Shut up.” Then he said, in words I can remember almost verbatim: “Why don’t you try walking in his shoes for a while and see how it feels before you make a comment like that?”

Remember, this was the 1960s — pre-Stonewall, before gay rights became a cause many of us (especially male college students) had thought much about. I remember thinking, “This guy is much deeper than I realized.”

(Boldface added.)

I’m not sure it’s a good thing that we live in a society where it’s considered “deep” to object to gratuitous insults. But if we only get to have a few people who object to gratuitous insults, we might as well elect one of them President.

Thanks to PowerLine for the link.

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