Stand your ground-ification of America

A great essay by Dahlia Lithwick on how the whole concept of Stand your Ground laws have infected our approach to the law and gun violence.  Key parts:

Given all this, it’s not unreasonable to argue that, in America, you can be shot and killed, without consequences for the shooter, for playing loud musicwearing a hoodie, or shopping at a Walmart. The question is whether the wave of “stand your ground” legislation is to blame.

Let’s first define terms: “Stand your ground” laws are different from the Castle Doctrine, which has its roots in centuries-old British common law and allows you to use force to protect yourself in your home. “Stand your ground” essentially provides that you can bring your castle wherever you go. The rule allows you to shoot first, not just in your home, but anyplace you have a right to be and is a much newer, and more controversial, proposition…

I might go further. I might say that whether or not specific jurisdictions define self-defense to include a duty to retreat, and whether or not specific juries are charged to apply it, America is quickly becoming one big “stand your ground” state, as a matter of culture if not the letter of the law.

The fact that “stand your ground” defenses have been staggeringly successful in Florida in recent years (one study shows it’s been invoked more than 200 times since being enacted in 2005 and used successfully in 70 percent of the cases) suggests that it’s been embedded into more than just jury instructions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, aTampa Bay Times study from 2012 shows that “as ‘stand your ground’ claims have increased, so too has the number of Floridians with guns…

And it’s not just cultural expectations that are shifting. We’re also shifting what we ask of our jurors. Under “stand your ground,” we are asking jurors to impose a subjective test about whether the shooter was experiencing a profound moment of existential panic. We are asking them whether—in a country seemingly full of people who are both armed and terrified that everyone else is armed—shooting first makes sense. By redirecting jurors to contemplate whether people who are armed and ready to kill are thinking reasonably about others they believe to be armed and ready to kill, we have created a framework in which one’s subjective fears about the world are all that matters. [emphasis mine]

After Trayvon Martin was killed, for a long time it was fashionable to say, “I am Trayvon Martin,” in solidarity with him and his family. But a far more worrisome possibility has begun to creep into our culture. With each successful “stand your ground” claim, explicit or implicit, we are all in peril of becoming more frightened, more violent, and more apt to shoot first and justify it later. The only thing more terrifying than the prospect of becoming a nation of Trayvon Martins is the possibility that we are unconsciously morphing into a nation of George Zimmermans.

This is the America the NRA wants.  And sadly, it’s getting it.  Call me crazy for suggesting we’d all be better off if there were just a hell of a lot less guns out there.


Order the largest

Maybe I need to create a new blog category “pizza.”  Anyway, loved this Planet Money post on the economics of ordering pizza.  Through a systematic examination, they determined what I long ago figured out anecodtally.  The bigger size is almost always a better deal.  In fact, I’ve been known to do more than a few pi r squared calculations in my head when ordering pizza.  Planet Money:


(If you click on the graph, it’s interactive)

The math of why bigger pizzas are such a good deal is simple: A pizza is a circle, and the area of a circle increases with the square of the radius.

So, for example, a 16-inch pizza is actually four times as big as an 8-inch pizza.

And when you look at thousands of pizza prices from around the U.S., you see that you almost always get a much, much better deal when you buy a bigger pizza.

As I told my friend who sent me the link, the best part is that not only do you save money, but more pizza = more pizza.

Photo of the day

From the National Geographic Found tumblr:

A shielded dummy in a basement for atomic bomb testing in Nevada, March 1953.Photograph by Volkmar Wentzel, National Geographic

A shielded dummy in a basement for atomic bomb testing in Nevada, March 1953.PHOTOGRAPH BY VOLKMAR WENTZEL, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

I (don’t) want a new drug

Listened to a really interesting story on NPR yesterday about a new opioid drug that is super potent and just recieved FDA approval despite the FDA’s advisory panel overwhelmingly recommending against approval.  Most prescription opiates (e.g., vicodin, percocet) are actually denatured with acetaminophen (tylenol).  This is not really for more pain relief, but to keep you from taking too much as the tylenol will destroy your liver before you get too high from the opiate.  You might be interested to know, though, that acetaminophen and hydrocodone turn to solution in water at different temperatures, allowing the truly intrepid to get around this.  I don’t recommend it.  The reason Oxycontin is so abused is because it is pure oxycodone without being denatured.  (It is extended release).  On the positive side, since Oxycontin has been so abused, they have changed the delivery mechanism so that you cannot crush it and snort it for a quick high.  Okay, so there’s the background.

Into this, steps the FDA approving Zohydro, which is basically like Oxycontin, except from the synthetic opioid hydrocodone instead of oxycodone.   But here’s the kicker, the manufacturer says it may take up to three years to introduce an abuse-resistant version.  That’s nuts!  I’m not entirely clear why we even need this if we’ve already got Oxy for severe pain, but I do realize that some drugs work better for different patients, so an alternative to Oxy seems reasonable enough.  But why wouldn’t the FDA demand that this come in an abuse-resistant form.  Anyway, from NPR:

NPR’s Laura Sullivan reports.

LAURA SULLIVAN, BYLINE: When Zohydro is released next month, it will be one of the most powerful prescription painkillers on the market. It’s highest dosage will contain five to 10 times as much hydrocodone as the widely used Vicodin. The drug company’s literature says an adult could overdose on two capsules. A child could die from swallowing just one pill.

DR. MICHAEL CAROME: People are going to die from this drug.

SULLIVAN: Dr. Michael Carome is the director of Health Research for Public Citizen.

CAROME: We are in the midst of a public health crisis. There is an epidemic of opioid addiction resulting in thousands of deaths. And the last thing we need now is another high-potent, high-dose, long-acting opioid drug, Zohydro, that will simply feed the epidemic.

SULLIVAN: Overdose deaths and addiction rates from prescription painkillers similar to Zohydro have grown dramatically in recent years. Carome and 41 other healthcare advocates are asking the FDA to remove its approval of the drug. Zohydro is a crushable pill. That means it’s snortable and, some experts say, more prone to abuse than other drugs like the new versions of Oxycontin, which are no longer crushable…

DR. ANDREW KOLODNY: We have many opiate formulations on the market. There’s absolutely no need for a new opioid formulation.

SULLIVAN: FDA’s own advisory panels seem to agree. The panel voted 11-to-2 not to approve the drug. Then in November, top FDA officials overruled that panel. And that’s where things get complicated. Last fall, a series of emails were made public from a Freedom of Information Act request. They were emails between two professors who had, for a decade, organized private meetings between FDA officials and drug companies who make pain medicine. The drug companies pay the professors thousands of dollars to attend.

Corrupt or not, this just seems really hard to justify.

Keith Humphreys last Fall:

Yet 24 hours later, the FDA overruled its own expert panel and approved Zohydro, a pure hydrocodone pain medication that is 5 to 10 times more potent than Vicodin. In the process, FDA also overturned a precedent it had set only six months ago to not approve easily abused-opioids. After refusing in April to approve generic oxycontin because it lacked abuse-resistant properties, the FDA approved a drug whosefull potency can be instantly released merely by crushing it or dropping it into alcohol (Get ready for a rash of Zohydro-cocktail deaths).

What the country needs on prescription opioids is carefully designed, balanced and consistent policy. What we are getting is policy that contradicts itself month-to-month and even day-to-day.

And how can I not conclude with this:

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