Study This

     Why does anyone bother doing studies?
     I wondered this the other day after reading a Los Angeles Times story about a Rand Corporation study that seemed to show that medical marijuana dispensaries do not lead to increased crime in their neighborhoods.
     In fact, they seem to decrease crime.
     If this were a logical world – a pretty big if – someone concerned about crimefighting would be recommending that we put marijuana dispensaries in every neighborhood.
     I can see the slogan: “Take a potshot against urban blight!”
     Or: “It’s not the crime rate that should be high.”
     Or: “Save your ass with grass.”
     I’ve got to stop….
     Anyhow, this is not happening. Instead, law enforcement types are quoted as saying the study must have been done wrong and the conclusion couldn’t possibly be true.
     After all, how could people who do research for a living possibly know what’s going on?
     If you’re elderly like me, you might remember the reaction to studies showing pornography didn’t lead to epidemics of rape. And that was before the Internet.
     Of course, just because someone has demonstrated a statistical fact doesn’t mean they’ve figured out the reason for the result. There are many ways of looking at everything.
     According to the Times, the Rand researchers offered the guess that crime is reduced because the dispensaries use cameras and guards and they increase foot traffic in the area.
     I scoff at this (based on no evidence).
     The reason is much more obvious – you light up a joint and you don’t feel much like committing a crime.
     On the contrary, you want to boost the economy by purchasing snacks.
     Crime is reduced and the nation is on the road to recovery.
     And here’s another deficit-reduction tip: stop spending government money on studies. They’re worthless unless they reach the conclusion you’ve already got.
     ARRESTING DEVELOPMENT. One of the nice things about studies is that they offer a terrific opportunity for creativity. No matter what they report, you can have fun creating meanings.
     Here’s one you can spend hours with. It’s from a press release issued last week: “WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ The U.S. murder arrest rate dropped more than 50 percent over a 30-year period, from 8.8 arrests per 100,000 U.S. residents in 1980 to 4.0 per 100,000 in 2009, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today.”
     Sample explanations:
     Fewer murders.
     Smarter criminals.
     Dumber police.
     Unreliable counting.
     Just as many murders but they’re committed by fewer, more dedicated murderers.
     Costumed vigilantes are wreaking vengeance before authorities can get to criminals.
     I prefer the last explanation.
     LEGAL ANTITRUST? The best way to get what you want is to corner the market.
     Here’s an interesting concept from a Los Angeles Superior Court suit filed last week on behalf of the ex-wife of a multi-millionaire: “Duke gave Felice a list containing multiple high-profile family lawyers that he had already ‘retained’ by paying a nominal retainer to, all with the objective of ensuring that such individuals and firms would be ‘conflicted out’ of opposing him.”
     If every lawyer works for you, no lawyer can work against you.
     It’s brilliant, of course, but I don’t think it goes far enough. Where are the campaign contributions to all the judges in the state?

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