Jewish World Review May 28, 2004 /8 Sivan, 5764

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Animal rites | If you think there is a limit to how much childishness there is among Californians, you may want to reconsider — especially for Californians in academic communities.

Recently a mountain lion was discovered up in a tree in Palo Alto, a residential community adjacent to Stanford University. This was at about the time of day when a nearby school was getting ready to let out. There had already been an incident of a horse being found mauled by some animal on Stanford land, and some thought it might have been a mountain lion that did it.

Fearing that the mountain lion might find one of the local school children a tempting target, the police shot and killed the animal. Outrage against the police erupted up and down the San Francisco peninsula and as far away as Marin County, on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, more than 30 miles away.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "The police agency has been flooded with outraged calls and e-mails from people inflamed by TV news videotape of the lion lolling peacefully in a tree just before an officer shot it to death with a high-powered rifle."

Yes, the mountain lion was sitting peacefully. That is what cats do before they pounce — usually very swiftly.

Second-guessers always have easy alternatives. One protester against "the murdering of such a beautiful creature" said that it "easily could have been removed from the premises and relocated" and that the "dirty blood-thirsty bastards" who killed it should be ashamed of themselves.

The protester offered no helpful hints on how you "easily" remove a mountain lion from a tree — and certainly did not volunteer to demonstrate how to do it in person the next time the police find a mountain lion up a tree in a residential neighborhood.

Animal rights advocates said the police could have given the mountain lion "a chance" by attempting to tranquilize it while it was up in the tree, and save shooting as a last resort if it turned aggressive.

A makeshift shrine has been erected on the spot where the mountain lion died. Flowers, cards and photos have been placed around it.

This is an academic community where indignation is a way of life. Those engaged in moral exhibitionism have no time for mundane realities.

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The police, of course, have to deal with mundane realities all the time. Not long before this episode, the police had tried to capture three mountain lion cubs by shooting them with tranquilizers. They missed on two out of three tries with one cub.

What if the police had shot a tranquilizer gun at the adult mountain lion in the tree and missed? Would they have had a chance to get off a second shot at a swiftly moving target before he pounced on one of the hundreds of children that were soon to be leaving school near him?

Moral exhibitionists never make allowance for the police missing, whether with tranquilizers shot at mountain lions or bullets fired at a criminal. The perpetually indignant are forever wondering why it took so many shots.

It would never occur to people with academic degrees and professorships that they are both ignorant and incompetent in vast areas of human life, much less that they should keep that in mind before they vent their emotions and wax self-righteous.

Degrees show that you have knowledge in some special area. Too often they embolden people to pontificate on a wide range of other subjects where they don't know what they are talking about.

The fact that academics are overwhelmingly of the political left is perfectly consistent with their assumption that third parties — especially third parties like themselves — should be controlling the decisions of other people who have first-hand knowledge and experience.

The cops probably haven't read Chaucer and don't know what existentialism is. But they may know what danger is.

Some Palo Alto parents of small children living near where the mountain lion was killed said that the police did the right thing. There are still some pockets of sanity, even in Palo Alto.

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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, "Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)


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