Friday, October 26, 2012

Dinner With Five Voltec Engineers

On October 23, my wife and I had dinner with five Voltec engineers in Durango Colorado. We had received a call about a week ago saying they would be stopping in town and wanting to know if we would be interested in talking with them. We, of course, we’re delighted to meet them and share our experience with the car.

These five engineers are part of the propulsion team. They were making a loop through Colorado that started in Denver and would end in Colorado Springs. They told us that they were testing various new components, and otherwise testing the performance of the vehicle in mountainous terrain. They did not share what those the new components might be.

At the outset I should note that these men seemed to be very proud of what they had achieved. They took great pride in the Volt. I was very complimentary towards the car and they told me how much they appreciate not only what I said, but also the very positive responses the Volt has received. Several of these guys had also worked on the hybrid Silverado and they were very proud of their achievements with that truck as well. I should also note that came up in the discussion several times, primarily raised by me. There were many smiles around the table and they assured me that they were very familiar with the site and it was monitored closely every day.

Our discussion started with their question as to why I bought the Volt. Condensing a long discussion, I said that I fell in love with the car. The car and I made a connection. It just felt right. I had never bought a Chevy before, and have only owned one other American car out of the dozens of cars I’ve owned. I had not expected to feel a connection with the car when I got in and drove it, but boy was I surprised. I was impressed by the quality and the quietness, by the feel of the breaks, steering, and doors, and above all I was impressed by the quickness, responsiveness, and seamless operation of the car. Yes, the extremely low operating costs, environmental considerations and cutting our dependance on oil are all very important factors. But if most buyers are like me, the first and most important question is whether the car feels right. In the case of the Volt, the answer was a definite yes for me.

Since they were propulsion engineers they were primarily interested in how the engine/ battery/drivetrain system worked in mountainous terrain. I told them I was very happy with Mountain Mode. I had tried to navigate the mountains without it, and ultimately concluded that Mountain Mode was the best. I did ask them about a phenomenon I had experienced on several occasions. Usually when I run out of battery power driving on the flats it shows that I consumed around 10.4 kW. However, on several occasions, and it seems primarily when driving in the mountains, I would only show a consumption of approximately 9.6 to 9.8 kW before I would run out of battery power. They did not have an answer for why this would occur but they may get some information that could could sort out, since they downloaded a whole bunch of data from my car.

They asked me about my likes and dislikes and I told them Chevrolet had struck a very good balance between the competing interests of battery power, weight, cost and engine efficiency. I did make one comment about the gasoline engine to the effect that on occasion I could feel a slight vibration through the steering wheel and possibly the floor. I suggested that since a vibration is connected to your sense of what you hear, that I may have been feeling the engine more than actually hearing it when driving in the mountains. I said the noise was very low, and not the least bit obtrusive, but I did on occasion notice it and therefore thought that they might want to think about inserting a little more isolation between the engine and other components.

They asked me if I had any recommendations on the display screens in the car. I said that maybe it was a lack of imagination, but I really didn’t, with one exception. In the power mode you can see the number of kilowatts consumed, but I would like to have an initial notation of how many kilowatts were in the battery before I started the trip. When the car is unplugged, there is a notice that is fully charged, but there is no numerical indication of what that charge is. I felt it would be useful to have that information, which would enable one to monitor how the battery was performing.

They asked about charging. I told him there were no public charging stations around here and all charging was done in my garage. They asked what kind of charger I used. I told them I had decided on the SPX Power Express since, although it was more expensive, it appeared to be a much heavier duty device than some of the cheaper models. There were some knowing smiles around the table. I explained I was very happy but had experienced two charging interruptions, which I attributed to lightning or some other problem with the electrical current. In response to their question I confirmed that the check engine light came on in both instances. The first time it cleared fairly quickly but the second time stayed on for several days. It stayed on long enough that I ended up making an appointment with the dealer to have it checked out, even though I was certain, based on my conversation with OnStar, that there was no problem. As these things go of course the next day it turned off. They explained that it is specifically designed to stay on through four cycles, a requirement having to do with the emission control standards.

We discussed a few non-propulsion things, primarily little quibbles. I suggested that the back door trim on the inside could easily be of a higher quality, similar to that on the front doors, without costing too much. I mentioned the need for a bit of rubber trim on the outside of the rear doors, to keep the doorjamb from getting dirty. They smiled, and said they were fully aware of that problem based on their experience every time they wash the cars. We discussed power seats a little. They explained that they were not included for weight and cost reasons. I said that in most cars I’ve found power seats unnecessary since my wife and I drive separate cars and rarely adjust the seats. Oddly, the Volt is an exception. We both love it so much, and prefer to our Acura, that it is always the first car out the garage and the other car is only driven if both of us are driving at the same time or if we are hauling a large load. Lastly we said we really loved the black roof, that it gave the Volt a distinctive appearance. While it was discontinued in 2013 it should at least be an option.

When they brought up the subject of the coming winter, we had a lengthy discussion about heat pumps. They said a heat pump was not included because of the experience with heat pumps in the EV-1. I explained that they should look at the issue again since heat pump technology has changed dramatically since the late 80s and early 90s and based on my household experience with heat pumps it seems to me that the possibility of it meeting the Volt’s heating needs were very high. My heat pump still works well at 10°.

We discussed marketing a little bit. I expressed the view that Chevrolet was not focusing on the biggest attribute of the vote, that the combination of a gas generator with a battery was a marriage made in heaven. The single largest drawback that keeps people from enjoying the seamless quiet power and economy of an electric vehicle is the concern that it cannot on trips of any distance. The volt solves that problem. Any time it needs to be driven on a long trip, the driver can do so simply by filling it with gasoline just as in any other car. However, for 80 to 90% of the daily usage of the car, the driver can simply run it on battery power, never using gasoline.

After dinner we went out to the Volt and I gladly agreed to their request to download data from the car. I also received an in-depth explanation of the operation of the drivetrain. I did mention that one chintzy little thing I didn’t like was the hood release latch. I said I assumed it was taken out of the Chevy parts bin but was really a bush league device that was not consistent with the high-quality engineering in the car. I asked about the Cadillac ELR and specifically about the news that it might get a turbocharged engine. The response was a knowing smile but otherwise, “no comment.”

It was a wonderful evening. I am very impressed with the attitude and confidence of these men. I left thinking that with these men working on the Volt, it and the other vehicles that will be developed with the Voltec technology have a bright future ahead of them.

Friday, July 06, 2012

The End Of Range Anxiety-The Future Of The Electric Car Is Here

For over a hundred years people have been trying to design practical cars that did not rely on petroleum - cars that run on electricity. But they always hit a road block. Electric cars have had one major drawback. They afflicted their owners with a gut wrenching condition referred to as range anxiety. It didn't matter whether the car had the 70 mile range of a Leaf or the 250 mile range of a Tesla, range anxiety was always there. Few people want as their only vehicle a car that that they can only drive ten, fifty, two hundred miles, if they then have to wait hours to recharge. Even on short trips, the moment you get in such a car you start thinking about whether you have enough juice to get back. Every attempt at building a truly practical electric car that average drivers could use as their only car failed. Yes, as battery technology improved you could increase the distance that could be driven on a charge and even reduce somewhat charging times but range anxiety was always there.


Enter GM executives Bob Lutz and Jon Lauckner. Working together they conceived of an electric car that would solve the problem of range anxiety and use a revolutionary lithium-ion battery with a long life thermal management system. They designed a car that eighty percent of people would be able to drive in their daily commute using only electricity but, and here's the key, it would also have a gasoline powered generator that would give it the same range as any other gasoline powered car. In the process they also decided to make it sporty, practical and fun to drive.

The result is a marriage made in heaven. It's a car that you can charge up at home or work or wherever, and that you will usually drive without ever using a drop of gasoline. But this car is so much more. Unlike any other electric car you can drive it 100 miles, a thousand miles, across the country, or around the world (with a little help over the oceans) without having to wait hours to recharge the battery. You can do this because this electric car has its own on-board generator powered by a gasoline engine. When you deplete the battery, the generator starts up. And when the change happens, you don't hear or feel anything. You just see an icon change on the dashboard telling you that the "extended range" motor is now running, but that's about it. Like so many other aspects of the Volt, "seamless" is the best word to describe it.

The Volt is smooth, seamless and quiet but also very quick because of its electric motor with 273 lb.-ft. of torque that is immediately available the moment you step on the "gas." And make no mistake, it is always an electric car, even when the gas engine is running, because that engine is producing electricity that is powering the electric motor. It is a car that will accelerate with the best of them, with a top speed of 100 mph, but do it without a sound and with no herky jerky transmission shifts. Basically, it is more fun to drive than almost any car on the road.

The Car

So what does it all mean? The EPA says that you can expect to average 38 miles on a fully charged battery and that you will get 98 MPGe when running on that charge. MPGe is miles per gallon equivalent, which represents the number of electric miles that can driven on the amount of energy contained in a gallon of gasoline. EPA also says that when you run solely on the gasoline "extended range" motor your average should be 37 mpg. To make these numbers more meaningful the EPA then calculates the actual cost of driving by factoring in an average gasoline price of $3.70/gallon and an average electricity cost of 12 cents/KWH. According to the EPA, if you drive 12,000 miles per year you can expect to spend $601 when running solely on electricity and $1,302 when running solely on gasoline.

So what are the real life experiences of Volt drivers? Voltstats is a site that logs real time data on thousands of Volts. The fleet total mpg, which is miles driven divided by gasoline burned is 126.7 mpg. Since that does not count the cost of electricity they also computed the MPGe of the fleet, which is 64.3 MPGe. The fuel economy of the gasoline engine alone is 36.5 mpg. Volts are running on battery power for 71% of the miles driven and on gasoline the remaining 29% of the miles driven.

My experience is somewhat better. I drive about 90 percent of my miles on electricity and my off-peak electric rate is 4.6 cents/KWH, far lower that the 12 cent national average. I am currently driving about 47 electric miles on a full charge and my cost is about 1 cent per mile. In my first 1,000 miles I drove 950 miles on electricity and averaged 4.34 miles/KW. The total cost of the electricity consumed was $10.07. I also drove 50 miles on gasoline, using 1.4 gallons of gas. At a cost of $3.79 per gallon I spent $5.30 on gas. So it cost me $15.37 to drive 1,000 miles which works out to 1.5 cents per mile.

The car I traded got 20 mpg. Driving it 1,000 miles would have consumed 50 gallons at a cost of $189.50. My savings driving the Volt for that 1,000 miles was $174.13. Amazing.

Maybe more importantly we love driving the Volt. Except when we have to drive both cars or when hauling large loads, the Volt is the car of choice for both my wife and I. It is so smooth, so quiet, so well put together and so cool. Of all the 25 cars I've owned it is my favorite. Our other car is an Acura MDX. It is a really good car, but when I drive it now it feels positively clunky compared to the Volt.

Environment and the Nation

People ask whether electric cars are really better for the environment and the nation. The answer is clearly "yes." Based on EPA data the average internal combustion engine car produces 500 g/mile of greenhouse gasses. On average a Volt running on battery power will produce 260 g/mile, or roughly half that of a gasoline powered car. These are averages of course and the numbers vary widely depending on the fuel used to produce the electricity. Here is a really good article explaining the differences between fuels. In summary,

the average Coal burning power plant emits 2.17 pounds of CO2 for every kilowatt-hour it produces. (EIA) Now, coal makes up only 48% of our electrical generation. Natural Gas produces 20% and it also emits CO2 (1.4 pounds per kWh). But, 30% comes from nuclear and renewable sources. So, taken together, our national electrical supply generates, on the high side, 1.51 pounds of CO2 per kWh.

Similarly emissions of gasoline engines vary widely depending upon the efficiency of the engine. The best are 28% efficient while the worst are only 15% efficient. Consequently, the emission of CO2 of gasoline engines ranges between 1.9 lbs/kWh and 3.59 lbs/kWh. Thus the most efficient engines produce slightly less CO2 than coal plants but substantially more than gas, nuclear or renewable electricity. And the least efficient engines are far behind all sources of electricity.

But it's not all about CO2. It's also about reducing our dependance on oil and staying out of conflicts whose primary motivations seem to revolve around oil. In May GM noted that Volt drivers had travelled 40 million miles, saving 2.1 million gallons of gasoline and saving themselves $8 million in the process. That 2.1 million gallons would have filled an entire super-tanker. That is impressive. And this was achieved with fewer than 17,000 thousand Volts on the road. Imagine the impact if 10, 20, or 30 percent of us were driving extended range electric cars like the Volt.

A Chevy?

There's one more thing. Before the Volt I had only bought one other American car and it was a special purpose vehicle. Walking into a Chevrolet showroom and buying a Chevy was not part of my life experience. Guess what? This car is great. The engineering is second to none. The design and execution of the car is fantastic. Everything feels right, works right and looks right. The quality is as good and in some respects better than that of any comparable car.

My eyes have been opened. Chevy hit a home run and my whole attitude towards American cars and GM in particular has changed. On car forums people often ask how Volts drive and what are they comparable to. The frequent answer is that it feels like a BMW three series - every bit as tight, not quite as grippy, and a whole lot smoother and quieter. Remembering that, it was fascinating to read that BMW has hired away many Volt engineers and that the upcoming BMW i8 will be largely based on the Volt architecture. Chevrolet has over 200 patents on the Volt that they will work around but the signs are clear. The extended range electric vehicle pioneered by GM is here to stay and truly is a marriage made in heaven.

The Real Financial Cost

The Volt sells for between $39,000 and $44,000 depending on how well optioned it is. Even though the base Volt is pretty well loaded its price is more than the price of average new car which is now just shy of $31,000. But the Federal Government has a $7,500 tax credit that reduces the $39,000 cost to $31,500. And many states have additional incentives, such as Colorado, which has an additional $6,000 tax credit. When I also considered that the VOLT would save me $2,400 per year in energy costs the deal was too good to pass up.

All Things Considered

The Volt reduces our dependance on oil, saves money in operating costs, is an absolute blast to drive, is made in America, reduces greenhouse emissions, and is the smoothest, quietest, and quickest ride you can imagine. Also, it is way cool and has a UAW sticker on the door jam.

Anyone who is in the market for a mid-size sedan is doing themselves and our country a real disservice if they don't consider the Volt.

There is much detail about the Volt that is omitted for this post in order to keep it at a manageable length. For example, it has two electric motors, not one, but both are there to maximize efficiency. Under very rare circumstances the gas engine can drive the wheels directly, if it improves efficiency. Also, the battery is unique for several reasons. To maximize longevity it has a sophisticated heating and cooling system that keeps it at the optimal temperature. And to maximize longevity, it is never fully charged or discharged, generally using only about 65% of its total capacity.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Obama Administration Made The Exact Tax Argument That the Court Accepted

There is much confusion regarding the ACA tax issue. Contrary to what some think, this is the same argument the President made. He said the penalty was not a tax for purposes of the Anti-injunction Act. The Majority agreed. He said it was a tax for purpose of Congress' Article I taxing authority, thus giving Congress power to enact the ACA. The majority agreed with that.

Do you remember how much criticism the Solicitor General received from some after oral argument. Many said that not only was he stumbling and ineffective but his seemingly contradictory arguments on the tax issues were lame. Well, it appears that ineffective and lame won the day.

Here is the relevant language from the Roberts opinion. First, the Court sets up the issue,
Government’s tax power argument asks us to view the statute differently than we did in considering its com- merce power theory. In making its Commerce Clause argument, the Government defended the mandate as a regulation requiring individuals to purchase health insurance. The Government does not claim that the taxing power allows Congress to issue such a command. Instead, the Government asks us to read the mandate not as ordering individuals to buy insurance, but rather as imposing a tax on those who do not buy that product.
Then he explains that the Court must find any reasonable reading that allows a law to be sustained,
The text of a statute can sometimes have more than one possible meaning. To take a familiar example, a law that reads “no vehicles in the park” might, or might not, ban bicycles in the park. And it is well established that if a statute has two possible meanings, one of which violates the Constitution, courts should adopt the meaning that does not do so. Justice Story said that 180 years ago: “No court ought, unless the terms of an act rendered it unavoidable, to give a construction to it which should involve a violation, however unintentional, of the constitution.” Parsons v. Bedford, 3 Pet. 433, 448–449 (1830). Justice Holmes made the same point a century later: “[T]he rule is settled that as between two possible interpretations of a statute, by one of which it would be unconstitutional and by the other valid, our plain duty is to adopt that which will save the Act.” Blodgett v. Holden, 275 U. S. 142, 148 (1927) (concurring opinion). The most straightforward reading of the mandate is that it commands individuals to purchase insurance. After all, it states that individuals “shall” maintain health insurance. 26 U. S. C. §5000A(a). Congress thought it could enact such a command under the Commerce Clause, and the Government primarily defended the law on that basis. But, for the reasons explained above, the Commerce Clause does not give Congress that power. Under our precedent, it is therefore necessary to ask whether the Government’s alternative reading of the statute—that it only imposes a tax on those without insurance—is a reasonable one.
Then he analyses the law to discern its essence as a tax,
Under the mandate, if an individual does not maintain health insurance, the only consequence is that he must make an additional payment to the IRS when he pays his taxes. See §5000A(b). That, according to the Government, means the mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition—not owning health insurance—that triggers a tax—the required payment to the IRS. Under that theory, the mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income. And if the mandate is in effect just a tax hike on certain taxpayers who do not have health insurance, it may be within Congress’s constitutional power to tax. . . . . . The exaction the Affordable Care Act imposes on those without health insurance looks like a tax in many re- spects. The “[s]hared responsibility payment,” as the statute entitles it, is paid into the Treasury by “tax- payer[s]” when they file their tax returns. 26 U. S. C. §5000A(b). It does not apply to individuals who do not pay federal income taxes because their household income is less than the filing threshold in the Internal Revenue Code. §5000A(e)(2). For taxpayers who do owe the pay- ment, its amount is determined by such familiar factors as taxable income, number of dependents, and joint filing status. §§5000A(b)(3), (c)(2), (c)(4). The requirement to pay is found in the Internal Revenue Code and enforced by the IRS, which—as we previously explained—must assess and collect it “in the same manner as taxes.” Supra, at 13–14. This process yields the essential feature of any tax: it produces at least some revenue for the Government. United States v. Kahriger, 345 U. S. 22, 28, n. 4 (1953). Indeed, the payment is expected to raise about $4 billion per year by 2017. Congressional Budget Office, Payments of Penalties for Being Uninsured Under the Patient Pro- tection and Affordable Care Act (Apr. 30, 2010), in Selected CBO Publications Related to Health Care Legislation, 2009–2010, p. 71 (rev. 2010).
Finally, he explains that the fact it is labeled as a "penalty" does not mean it isn't a tax for this purpose
It is of course true that the Act describes the payment as a “penalty,” not a “tax.” But while that label is fatal to the application of the Anti-Injunction Act, supra, at 12–13, it does not determine whether the payment may be viewed as an exercise of Congress’s taxing power. It is up to Congress whether to apply the Anti-Injunction Act to any particular statute, so it makes sense to be guided by Con- gress’s choice of label on that question. That choice does not, however, control whether an exaction is within Congress’s constitutional power to tax.
Although many thought the Solicitor General's argument was bizarre and convoluted, it won the day.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Anti-Injunction Act - A Simple Explanation Of The Issues Being Argued Today

There are many long and detailed articles about the Anti-Injunction Act issues being discussed in the Supreme Court today such as this one. However, since most of them may be a little dense for many people, here is a simpler and shorter explanation of the issues.

For over one hundred and fifty years there has been a law that says a person cannot challenge a tax law until the tax has actually been assessed and they pay the tax or challenge an IRS collection action. That law is the Anti-Injunction Act. If the law applies to a suit then, almost uniformly, courts have ruled that they cannot even hear the case. It must be thrown out because the court lacks jurisdiction.

Today the Court is hearing arguments on whether the Anti-Injunction Act applies to the suits challenging the Affordable Care Act.

The two main issues are whether the ACA provision that requires people to pay a penalty if they don't have insurance constitutes a tax, and whether a suit challenging the mandate is really a suit challenging that tax.

(There are some minor issues which are excluded here but explained in the linked article.)

One case challenging the ACA was dismissed on this ground but it is not before the court today. In another suit that is before the Court today, there is a dissenting opinion by a Judge Kavanagh in which he says that the case should be dismissed because of the Anti-Injunction Act.

The hearing today on the Anti-Injunction Act is a fairly rare event. The government is not arguing for it and of course the plaintiffs don't think it applies. However the Supreme Court itself decided that it wanted to hear arguments on the issue. To get the issue presented the Court appointed an outside lawyer to argue the Anti-Injunction Act issue before the court.

What is the significance of this issue? If the court finds that the penalty is a tax, and that the challenge to the mandate is really a challenge to that tax, then the Court will dismiss these ACA challenges on the Anti-Injunction Act grounds.

Some people think that such a ruling would merely be punting the issue down the road. I don't share that view for the following reasons. Substantively, if the penalty is a tax then it will almost certainly be upheld in any later suit. Keep in mind that if it is a tax it can only be challenged based on Congress' taxing authority, not the Commerce Clause or the other things being used to challenge the law now. Congress' taxing authority is very broad and I don't think there has been a case since the thirties that has overturned a tax.

Secondly, if it is a tax, no suits can be filed until 2015. It would be until 2017 before they make it to the Supreme Court. By then the entire landscape will have changed. Obama will not be President. Since the idea of a mandate was invented by Republicans one doesn't have to be cynical to conclude that the challenges to the ACA are merely challenges to Obama. Once the law is implemented it will be clear to all that the hysteria about "socialized medicine" is nonsense.

Additionally, the ACA has budgetary savings provisions that even the Republicans like. Those savings and the additional revenues will be built into future budgets. All the hue and cry will be tamped down in light of that reality.

Lastly, the state exchanges will be facts on the ground, The insurance companies will have adjusted and will be participants. People will see all the benefits in their own lives. There will be little appetite to go back to 2009.

Do not be surprised if this case is dismissed on AIA grounds. For Justices like Scalia who have written very expansive opinions on the Commerce clause it would be a really convenient way to avoid eating his past words if he ruled against the ACA or disappointing his base if he ruled in favor of the ACA.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What Does The Florida "Stand Your Ground" Law Really Say

The Florida Justifiable Use Of Force Statute, often referred to as the "Stand Your Ground" law, is an overreaching and violence inducing law for many reasons. But in the case of the killing of Trayvon Martin the problem may be less about the law than about the way it was interpreted and applied by the police and prosecutors.

One central problem with this case is how little concrete information we have about that night. The reason is that after George Zimmerman killed Trayvon he was taken to police headquarters, apparently interviewed for a short period of time, and released. His weapon was not seized, forensics weren't taken and there was apparently very little investigating done at the scene.

Why would that be? The police say that they could not hold him, let alone arrest him, because he had asserted self defense and was therefore protected by the Florida self-defense statute. That is horsepuckey and here is why.

The Florida law covers justifiable force by police and civilians. There are three categories of justifiable force by non-police officers: self-defense, home protection and defense of others. The only one applicable here is the first. That section says that you can use deadly force if you reasonably think it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. You can't use deadly force if you are only trying to prevent the use of unlawful force against you. The distinction between fear of "death or great bodily harm" versus protecting your self from "unlawful force" can be critical. Here is the language of the statute:

A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:

(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or

(2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to (the section dealing with Home Protection)

As discussed below there is an exception to the "no duty to retreat" language for anyone who instigates an altercation. But before looking at this more closely it is important to understand the section of the law that the police asserted as the reason why they were prohibited from detaining or arresting Zimmerman and keeping his gun.

There is a section of the law that says the police can use "standard procedures" for investigating the use of force but any person whose actions are protected by this law is immune from detention, arrest or prosecution. These restrictions on detention and so on don't apply if the police have "probable cause" to think the self-defense claim is invalid. Taken together, this means Zimmermann had to be released, but not if the police had probable cause to believe his claim of self defense was not covered by the statute. Here is the actual text of the relevant portion of this section,

776.032  Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.—

(1) A person who uses force as permitted in (self-defense, home protection or defense of others) is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force . . . . As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.

. . . . . .

So the police could not detain or arrest Zimmermann unless they had probable cause to believe that his actions were not covered by the law. If they had probable cause they could proceed with their investigation as if the law didn't exist.

The facts clearly suggest probable cause to question Zimmermann's self-defense claim. His assertion that he feared fears death or imminent bodily harm requires an analysis of the relative size, age, weight and strength of Zimmermann and Trayvon. This was not a case of a 120 pound eighty year old being assaulted by a 220 pound weight lifter. Based on pictures and other information Zimmermann's physical presence appears to be at least equal to Trayvon's. Next, one looks to see if the individuals have weapons. The reasonableness of any fear on Zimmermann's part is seriously undercut by the fact that he had a 9 mm handgun and Trayvon had no weapon of any sort. Additionally, when analyzing the validity of Zimmermann's claims it would also be noteworthy that he had a history of making bogus 911 calls about imaginary wrong doing. Finally, and as discussed below probably most importantly, Zimmermann told the 911 dispatcher he was following Trayvon Martin and was told to cease his pursuit. These facts clearly suggest there was probable cause to believe that Zimmermann's self-defense claim was invalid.

As mentioned above, there is a section of the law that really blows a hole in Zimmermann's self-defense claim and put the lie to the police assertion that he could not be detained or arrested. The law specifically provides that the self-defense protection does not apply for anyone who "provokes the use of force" against himself. The fact that Zimmermann pursued Trayvon Martin clearly suggests that he provoked whatever subsequently transpired. And this section goes on to say that if you provoke the confrontation then you cannot use force unless you have retreated and the person is still attacking you with overwhelming force. Here is the relevant portion of that section,

776.041 Use of force by aggressor.—The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:

(1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or

(2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:

(a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or

(b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.

The evidence indicates that Zimmermann initiated and provoked this incident. There is no indication he retreated. There is no indication that he was faced with force that was likely to result in his death or great bodily harm.

Taken together Zimmermann's action do not appear to be covered by the self-defense law and, at the very least, the police had grounds to detain him and arrest him and conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether his actions were covered. Unfortunately, the failure to conduct a proper investigation at the time may make it hard to secure enough evidence to obtain a conviction now. Hopefully that will not be the case.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Beyond Believable. FOX Says Serial Philanderers, Like Newt, Make The Best Presidents

Fox's resident psych says that Newt's philandering, cheating and abuse of his prior wives will make him the perfect President.

No, this is not from the Onion, and yes, he is serious. According to "Dr." Keith Ablow the best evidence of Newt's qualifications are,

1) Three women have met Mr. Gingrich and been so moved by his emotional energy and intellect that they decided they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with him.

2) Two of these women felt this way even though Mr. Gingrich was already married.

3 ) One of them felt this way even though Mr. Gingrich was already married for the second time, was not exactly her equal in the looks department and had a wife (Marianne) who wanted to make his life without her as painful as possible.

Yes, you read that right. He goes on to say that
When three women want to sign on for life with a man who is now running for president, I worry more about whether we’ll be clamoring for a third Gingrich term, not whether we’ll want to let him go after one.

Now, if it's bad enough that this so called Doctor says that cheating on your wives numerous times and marrying three women who you conned into believing you loved them and wanted to spend the rest of their lives with you makes you an ideal President. But it gets worse. He also said that the manner in which he dumped his first two wives for new and improved younger versions is clear evidence of his strength. Our good Doctor has these precious insights to share,

Two women—Mr. Gingrich’s first two wives—have sat down with him while he delivered to them incredibly painful truths: that he no longer loved them as he did before, that he had fallen in love with other women and that he needed to follow his heart, despite the great price he would pay financially and the risk he would be taking with his reputation.

Conclusion: I can only hope Mr. Gingrich will be as direct and unsparing with the Congress, the American people and our allies. If this nation must now move with conviction in the direction of its heart, Newt Gingrich is obviously no stranger to that journey.

That's right. Cheating on your wives and then dumping them, one of whom was in the hospital with cancer, is a template for dealing with Congress.

And then our good Doctor concludes with his not very well concealed infatuation with Newt,

So, as far as I can tell, judging from the psychological data, we have only one real risk to America from his marital history if Newt Gingrich were to become president: We would need to worry that another nation, perhaps a little younger than ours, would be so taken by Mr. Gingrich that it would seduce him into marrying it and becoming its president.

Woah. If there's a Mrs. Ablow out there she has reason to be worried. And, whoever licensed this quack needs to review his status.