It still doesn’t seem to make sense: Thanks to Kevin Drum’s work on the topic, we often wonder if the nation’s improved test scores are in part a reflection of lead abatement.
Lead has been removed from the air. Lead paint has been removed from walls. This improvement in the environment would tend to make children smarter.
On the other hand: When we read the New York Times, we sometimes wonder if some unknown environmental factor is making our ruling elites much dumber. By now, we’ve returned, several times, to this July 15 editorial, “Trayvon Martin’s Legacy.”
It still doesn't seem to make sense.
We’re mainly puzzled by its claims about self-defense laws. But the editorial started like this:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (7/15/13): It may not be possible to consider the case of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted Saturday of all charges in the killing of Trayvon Martin, as anything but a sad commentary on the state of race relations and the battle over gun rights in America today.We find that odd in several ways. Can any black man, including Obama, tell us “at least a few stories that sound eerily like what happened that rainy winter night in Sanford?”
Certainly it is about race— ask any black man, up to and including President Obama, and he will tell you at least a few stories that sound eerily like what happened that rainy winter night in Sanford, Fla.
We’re not sure what that means. A young person was shot and killed on that rainy night, in circumstances that are hard to define. Could Obama really could tell several stories that are eerily like that?
Presumably, these stories wouldn’t have happened to him, since he is still alive. Or did the editors mean something else? For people who act like they care about race so much, they seem to jot off their editorials in ten seconds flat.
Who writes these editorials? We’ve kept returning to this piece because we’ve found this passage so puzzling:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: The jury reached its verdict after having been asked to consider Mr. Zimmerman’s actions in light of the now-notorious Stand Your Ground provision in Florida’s self-defense law. Under that law, versions of which are on the books in two dozen states, a person may use deadly force if he or she “reasonably believes” it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm—a low bar that the prosecutors in this case fought in vain to overcome.We were puzzled by that on the day it appeared. We still can’t figure it out.
These laws sound intuitive: who would argue that you may not protect yourself against great harm? But of course, the concept of “reasonable belief” is transformed into something deadly dangerous when firearms are involved. And when the Stand Your Ground laws intersect with lax concealed-carry laws, it works essentially to self-deputize anyone with a Kel-Tec 9 millimeter and a grudge.
Was the jury “asked to consider Zimmerman’s actions in light of the now-notorious Stand Your Ground provision in Florida’s self-defense law?” Sort of! Unless we’re missing something, there was one perfunctory paragraph in the (lengthy) jury instructions explaining that Zimmerman had no duty to retreat from an attack.
On the other hand, the defense never really discussed Zimmerman’s right to “stand his ground” since it claimed he was flat on his back, with Martin atop him, when he used deadly force.
We’re puzzled by that part of the editorial. We are completely confused by the highlighted passage.
It’s true—variants of the so-called Stand Your Ground provision are routinely said to be on the books in roughly two dozen states. But having made that observation, the editors go on to describe a provision which sounds to us like simple self-defense. Is there some state in the union where a citizen can’t “use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm?” That sounds to us like a standard precept, not like “a low bar” unique to states like Florida.
The editors says this precept “sounds intuitive.” We think that's true, and that's the problem with the editorial's reasoning. In our view, Stand Your Ground laws do not.
Do the editors know whereof they spoke? The leading authority on self-defense (United States) offers this brief overview:
WIKIPEDIA: In the United States, the defense of self-defense allows a person to use reasonable force in his or her own defense or the defense of others...According to that, it’s generally true that a person can use deadly force if he is in reasonable fear of serious injury or death.
While the definitions vary from state to state, the general rule makes an important distinction between the use of non-deadly and deadly force. A person may use non-deadly force to prevent imminent injury; however, a person may not use deadly force unless that person is in reasonable fear of serious injury or death. Some states also include a duty to retreat, when deadly force may only be used if the person is unable to safely retreat.
Is there something we’re missing here? We keep going back to this editorial; it just keeps seeming to make no sense. More generally, we’re often puzzled by the flyweight work, and the ethical blindness, found in the New York Times.
Lead abatement may have made children smarter, but what the heck has become of our adults?
Second question: Can a nation whose “intellectual elites” are thus afflicted really expect to survive? We're just asking, since nobody else seems to see anything wrong!