Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Reality Check on the Trayvon Martin Case

    George Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Since everyone agrees that Zimmerman shot an unarmed seventeen-year-old dead, this seems like a pretty reasonable move. If you kill someone with a handgun, especially someone who didn't have a weapon, you should probably expect to be arrested and tried.

    Of course, Zimmerman may have a defense, and his lawyers will now have a chance to mount that defense. So it's good news all the way around. Those who complain that Zimmerman is "being tried in the media" should be happy that he will now be tried in court, and we can be done with all the hearsay and speculation. If Zimmerman was genuinely in reasonable fear for his life, he has a chance to establish the facts and end the argument. But I suspect that getting a day in court will not suffice for Zimmerman's supporters.

    Donal's picture

    Locked, Loaded and Guilt-Free

    We were driving past the new location of East Coast Gun Sales a few weeks ago, and I told my wife I had been planning to check out the new store. They had been advertising their move to a larger location, with added facilities like a gun range, for over a year. I was thinking it would be interesting to fire off a few rounds with different caliber weapons and see what it felt like. "They went out of business," she said. She didn't know why.

    According to the Altoona Mirror, back in 2007, East Coast's owner James Faith, and Michael Kurty, a police officer and firearms instructor, had been demonstrating a rebuilt mini-Gatling gun during a social event at a sportsmen's club. I'm not sure if this was before or after the chicken Kiev. The Gatling had an electrically-powered magazine, which soon jammed. So Faith unplugged the magazine, while Kurty, the firearms instructor, helpfully stood right in the path of the barrel. Because with no electricity, how could a weapon filled with bullets—which contain gunpowder—possibly fire?

    Donal's picture

    Clothes Make the Victim

    Among all the discussion of the Trayvon Martin case, at least two pundits felt compelled to remind us that how we dress does have an effect on how others perceive us. Chez Pazienza got hammered by his readers, while Scott Adams readers tended to agree with him. I'll leave you to guess between the two quotes below:

    Geraldo inadvertently created a controversy by stating the obvious: Our choice of clothes can influence how people treat us. That's a view that every living human agrees upon. Most of us act upon that belief once or twice a day. When I get dressed, the first two questions I ask myself are 1) "Who is going to see me?" and 2) "What do I want them to think of me?" You probably do the same thing.
    But the way you choose to dress or otherwise adorn yourself is exactly that -- a choice. Your choice. And while in a perfect world no one would draw immediate conclusions about you based on your personal style, news flash: We don't live in a perfect world, and ignoring or defiantly thumbing your nose at the fact that there may be certain unintended consequences to the image you choose to project is both irresponsible and thick-headed.
    Ramona's picture

    When Being Black is All it Is


    I don't think there is anyone who hasn't been affected in some way by Florida teenager Trayvon Martin's death in February at the hands of a neighborhood watch man who thought he saw a threat in the tall black teenager wearing a dark hooded jacket.  The story is almost too terrible for words. 

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Trayvon Martin and "Making It About Race"

    Whenever an unarmed black person gets shot to death, the way Trayvon Martin was, you'll hear some people defend the shooter by claiming that the shooting wasn't racist, and how dare you judge what's in the shooter's heart? The shooter would have killed any unarmed person for walking down the street in a sweatshirt, or walking down the street with a wallet, or performing whatever "suspicious" everyday activity prompted the homicide. The defense is that the killer is not a racist, but a universal menace to society. This is supposed to be reassuring somehow. It's a thoroughly illogical defense. It even suggests that no matter what the person making the argument says, and no matter what they tell themselves, they know in their hearts that racism was the motive for the violence. In fact, their own sense of safety is based on their rock-bottom belief that the killing was racist.

    Donal's picture

    A Thousand Hoodies + Video

    Baltimore's rally for Trayvon Martin started with a lot of energy and promise. An enthusiastic crowd on both sides of Pratt Street was cheering for passing drivers that honked in solidarity. I'm not sure who planned the march, but the Southern Christian Leadership Council, All Peoples Congress and Occupy 4 Jobs were present. I saw two serious looking people, one black man and one white woman, with small, grey bullhorns. They initiated a few call and respond chants - "No Justice! No Peace!" - "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" - "A people, united, will never be defeated."

    Donal's picture

    Losing Our Marbles

    During the week between the Indian Wells and Key Biscayne Masters tournaments, the Tennis Channel showed their Greatest 100 Players of all time show. Rankings seem to be partially based on stats and partially on perception. For example, #13 John McEnroe is ranked higher than #18 Ivan Lendl, who was more durable and has one more major title than Mac. I think Mac at his best was slightly better than Lendl, but I also think Serena Williams at her best was better than Steffi Graf or Martina Navratilova. Yet Graf and Navratilova were ranked #3 and #4, while Serena was far behind at #12.

    I already knew a little something about many of the players, but I learned that #51 Doris Hart won a career Grand Slam and six majors in singles, and twenty-nine major titles in doubles with a right leg that was impaired by childhood osteomyelitis. Even one side of her face looked impaired in the videos, though I don't see it in the still photo.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Why College Costs So Much, Part 2

    In my previous post about college prices, I focused on the massive state spending cuts that have driven up tuition at public school universities and also made it easier to raise private tuition, because private universities no longer face serious price competition from the public sector.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Why College Costs So Much, Part 1

    Mitt Romney recently told an aspiring college student that if he had trouble affording college, he should just shop around for the best price, which proves that Romney has no idea how college prices work:

    Ramona's picture

    It's Settled then: Women We're at War

    Don't expect me to be going over every single attack on women's rights, just because I'm writing about modern-day, 21st century, 2012, just-in-the-last-month attacks, which, as you might have noticed, are escalating at such a dizzying pace we can no longer ignore the rumblings of war.  

    Donal's picture

    Your ticket, sir

    For an example of profits trumping fair traffic policing, The Consumerist blog cited a Canadian Yahoo article, Cellphone ticket baffles senior with no phone:

    A Winnipeg couple is shaking their heads, wondering why they got a ticket for talking on a cellphone while driving — when they don't own a cellphone.

    Laszlo Piszker and his wife, Margaret, were pulled over by two city police officers in the 2500 block of Portage Avenue on Friday.

    Piszker was handed a $199.80 ticket, even after he urged the officers to search him and the car for any sign of a cellphone.

    "I told them, 'Do whatever it takes. There's no phone in here; never has been. I don't know anything about the phone.' But they won't have it," ...

    Immediately after getting the ticket, the couple went to a nearby police station to complain.

    Piszker said the officer there laughed and suggested the ticket was likely issued to fill a quota.

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Quietly Celebrating Death

    Several weeks ago, I met a man with a Jewish wife. Though he was not religious himself, they were raising their young daughter to be Jewish. A year ago, he went with his family to a children's service for the festival of Purim at an Orthodox synagogue in Mexico. The rabbi there spoke briefly to the children about the events that Purim celebrates. "Many years ago in Persia," he gruffly explained, "They tried to kill the Jews. But we killed all of them instead. Ha ha!"
    This is not exactly the Purim story that most Jewish children learn in the U.S. Most Sunday school teachers focus on the brave, beautiful Queen Esther and her clever cousin Mordechai as they outwit an evil official named Haman and foil his plot to slaughter the Jews of Persia.
    At the end of the story, the children do learn that Haman hangs for his crimes. Some teachers might mention that Haman's ten sons hang as well. Few relate the last part of the story--how the Jews take up arms and slaughter some 75,000 of their Persian enemies.
    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Teaching by the Numbers

    Last week, New York City released Teacher Data Reports for every teacher in its system. This week, I got my own teaching numbers: last semester's teaching evaluation scores. Getting my numbers was a good thing for me personally; they were very high, and my bosses tend to reward that.

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Confessions of a Valor Thief

    I am concerned that I may soon be arrested, for I am a shameless Valor-thief. In my defense, I did not realize that it was a crime. I thought Valor was an ethereal substance like Truth, Beauty, and Mitt Romney's political agenda. But our government feels differently. In 2006, Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act and made me a federal criminal.

    Accord the act, I may be imprisoned for up to six months for falsely claiming to have been awarded "any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the armed forces of the United States, or any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces, or the ribbon, button, or rosette of any such badge, decoration or medal, or any colorable imitation thereof."

    One of my partners in crime has already been arrested. Xavier Alvarez was an important man in his community, a member of the board of directors of Three Valleys Municipal Water District in California. At a public meeting, he told people that he had received the Congressional Medal of Honor as a Marine. It was all lies. He is a Valor-thief.

    But Alvarez is a petty criminal compared to me. I am the kingpin of a notorious Valor-theft ring based in midtown Manhattan. Over the past six years, I have claimed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of military honors that I have never received, and I fear that I may have to spend the rest of my life serving consecutive six-month sentences for Valor theft.

    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    A Straight White Man’s Burden

    Being a Straight White Male is great. It really is. I mean, the number of perks I get solely for being a Straight White Guy is just ridiculous. Did you know we Straight White Men get free ice cream on Tuesdays? Our choice of flavors. It’s fabulous.

    But life as a White Male is not all good jobs, unlimited rights and privileges and free ice cream on Tuesdays. It is mostly, mind you, but it’s not everything.

    Ramona's picture

    The Catholic Contraceptive Controversy: Where's the Health Care Part?


    Effective August 1, thanks to a provision in the Affordable Care Act, most working women will have their contraceptives fully paid for, without a co-pay. That's the good news. The bad news (you knew there had to be bad news, right?) is that the unenlightened among us see it as nothing more than an unconscionable threat against virile manhood.  Especially Catholic virile manhood.

    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Stop Animal Abuse in Brazil – Crueldade Nunca Mais – Sunday, Jan. 22

    On Sunday (Jan. 22), we’ll be attending the Crueldade Nunca Mais rally in Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, Brazil. This is not just a nation-wide rally, but an international one, dedicated to strengthen extremely weak laws in Brazil against animal cruelty.

    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Muhammad Ali & Martin Luther King Jr.: America is the better for them

    It is a wonderful coincidence that Muhammad Ali's 70th birthday comes the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While the two essentially ran in different circles, as it were, both were amazing parts of a time that saw America change dramatically for the better.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Why Tenure Exists, Part 1

    Zandar, at Balloon Juice, points out that Missouri's new Creationism-in-the-schools bill, HB 1227, applies not only to K-12 schools but to the state's public colleges and universities as well. According to the bill,

    Donal's picture

    Doom is Normal

    I don't know who dubbed me "dag's doomer" over the masthead last week, but I had to laugh because I think of doomers as those guys that are predicting an imminent meltdown of society (or its cheese) but will gladly sell gold, shotguns and freeze-dried food to all comers. We're in the time of year when radio stations replay the classic songs, tv stations replay the classic movies, newspapers tally celebrity deaths, and doomers tell us just how lucky we were this year but just how bad next year will be. I'm sure James Kunstler, Dr (Doom) Nouriel Roubini, et al, will not disappoint us in the doomsaying department, but let's face it, folks, things are already bad right now. As Joseph Stiglitz writes in Vanity Fair:

    It has now been almost five years since the bursting of the housing bubble, and four years since the onset of the recession. There are 6.6 million fewer jobs in the United States than there were four years ago. Some 23 million Americans who would like to work full-time cannot get a job. Almost half of those who are unemployed have been unemployed long-term. Wages are falling - the real income of a typical American household is now below the level it was in 1997.


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