Thomas Sowell

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.

 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.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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