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.

2 Responses to “Non-Isolated Incidents”

  1. Dave Schuler Says:

    In each of these issues I’m of mixed mind (if you knew me this wouldn’t surprise you). On “zero tolerance” drug and weapon policies in schools the idiocy is obvious and the sense may not be but it’s there nonetheless. Policies in public schools must be things that can actually be administered and things for which some justification (even a dopey one) can be found. Otherwise it’s just arbitrary (or perceived as arbitrary) and leads directly to your next point: frivolous lawsuit.

    Who doesn’t dislike frivolous lawsuits? But in quite a few cases distinguishing frivolous from non-frivolous is a judgement call. Fomenting litigation AKA barratry used to be considered unethical and grounds for disbarment. Those were the days.

    And, on the subject of firearms, I don’t own a firearm and don’t want to own one but I can completely understand those who do. I don’t know whether the idea that your firearm is more likely to be used against you than your successfully defending yourself with it is a bum wrap or not. But more than 1,000 firearms are stolen every day, half of them handguns. Every day. I like Clayton Cramer and think that he is a very smart guy. I don’t care how many examples of self-defense with firearms he finds. It’s far, far more likely that someone else is going to be injured with the handgun stolen from you than that you’ll ever use it to defend yourself.

  2. Clayton E. Cramer Says:

    No question about it–a lot of people are insufficiently careful in keepping their guns locked up. Buy a safe; even buy a locking gun case, and chain it to a pipe under the sink, if need be. You don’t want a burglar stealing your gun, and you certainly don’t want to walk in a burglar who has found your gun. But what’s the alternative? The hardest crowd to disarm are the motivated criminals.

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