Photo of the day

For my surfing friends… surfing from back in the day from National Geographic Found:

Surfers overpopulate the waves off of Bondi Beach in Australia, 1963. Photograph by Robert B. Goodman, National Geographic Creative

Surfers overpopulate the waves off of Bondi Beach in Australia, 1963.PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT B. GOODMAN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

The lost war on guns

A friend shared this post on FB.  It was so good I decided to see who this Greg Howard is.  Damn good job for a guy who is a sports writer.  Anyway, here’s my favorite parts:

Because of the way bullets and human initiative work, there is little basis to the argument that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” The murders of Alison Parker and Adam Ward are instructive in that regard. Ward was approached from behind; just before Parker was shot to death, she screamed and attempted to run away, but she didn’t make it. If a hypothetical Good Gunman were in the area, this hypothetical Good Gunman would have either been killed by Vester Lee Flanagan, or killed Flanagan too late to keep him from killing Parker and Ward, or accidentally killed Parker or Ward or Gardner in the act of trying to save them. Alternately, if Flanagan attacked the trio with a sword, or a knife, or a baseball bat, or a pipe, or his hands, at least one of them would likely have escaped with their lives. Very possibly all three…

That’s because guns are tools conceived, built, and used for the primary purpose of killing living things very quickly and with very little effort. They are perfect, and whether men and women and children and babies use them correctly or incorrectly, people get maimed or killed. For this reason, it should be illegal, as it is in most of the world, for most citizens to own guns. [emphasis mine]

This is apparent to many people, even and especially to many people who sell guns. But it is even more apparent that nothing anyone says or writes about how it is an absolute f**king [modification mine] farce that it is legal for most citizens to own guns matters. Episodes like Roanoke, and Sandy Hook, and Aurora, and Blacksburg, and Charleston affirm that the fight is already lost.

American gun culture is unique, taking hundreds of years to grow and harden into the current disaster as it exists. It started with hazy national myths of the frontier and the horrors it housed; it was inscribed in our DNA when Americans were occupied by English forces; it was solidified, much more recently, following a concerted effort by capitalists to misread the Bill of Rights in service of selling people on fear of a future in which they become a hunted minority…

In its current form, this is a legacy of Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon, who didn’t just pander to a grievance-stricken right wing but in many ways created it, taking advantage of mass suburbanization and white flight to stoke fears of the Other that underwrite our politics today. One of those fears is that sometime soon, someone is going to storm over the border or out of the cities, kick doors in, and steal the America way, and that when that happens, you have to be ready to shoot those someones dead…

These synthetic, reactionary politics are so tied up in people’s notions of their own identity, so ingrained in what it means to be American, that guns can’t be cut out from our culture, and any radical plan to change our culture can only be spoken in certain circles, scarcely above a whisper. We can only play at saving lives through what amount to quarter-measures…

Alright, that was a lot of cut and paste (just read the whole thing), but damn was that good.

The secret to Trump’s success

Okay, not “the” secret, I think there’s a lot going on and that Trump’s sui generis, unfiltered, bluster is definitely a big part of his appeal for many.  But I also think, as both Jon Chait and Reihan Salam point out, a big part of the story is the populist ideological space that Trump occupies.  Chait:

By design or (more likely) by accident, Trump has inhabited a ripe ideological niche. Both parties contain ranges of opinions within them. And both are run by elites who have more socially liberal and economically conservative views than their own voters. (There are plenty of anti-abortion, anti-immigration, anti-same-sex-marriage Democrats not represented by their leaders.) But the tension between base and elite runs deeper in the Republican Party. Conservative leaders tend to care very little about conservative social policy, or even disagree with it altogether. Conservatives care a great deal about cutting the top tax rate, deregulating the financial industry, and, ideally, reducing spending on social insurance — proposals that have virtually no authentic following among the rank and file…

Trump has homed in on a bona fide weakness in the Republican Party structure, one that has fascinated liberal critics in particular. The Republican Party has harnessed one set of passions, and then channeled them into unrelated policy outcomes favored by the party elite. Historically, the passions they have harnessed have revolved around foreign policy — like anti-communism, or the surge in nationalism following 9/11. Some of those passions have revolved around culture — a love of guns, the Pledge of Allegiance, a disdain for politicians who look kind of French, and so on…

So the prospect of a Trump nomination justifiably terrifies Republicans. But unlike the prospect of nominating a Scott Walker — or a more extreme version, like Ted Cruz — the risk does not carry any proportionate reward. Bush, Walker, and Rubio all agree on the same basic domestic goals. If elected, they will try to enact the party’s agenda on taxes, regulation, and social spending.

Trump dissents from the field not just in his political strategy but in his overall orientation. While he shares the Republicans’ disdain for President Obama, he has not committed himself to a Republican program…

Trump poses a dire threat to the party: If elected, he could not be trusted to work for the Republican agenda. The party elite will oppose Trump with everything it has.

And similar points from Salam:

This week, pollster Frank Luntz conducted a focus group of current and former Trump supporters. For over two and a half hours, Luntz probed their reactions to Trump’s past support for abortion rights and stricter gun laws, among other heresies, and he found that none of them seemed to care…

In a recent interview with Chuck Todd of Meet the Press, Trump said that he was “fine with affirmative action,” having “lived with it for a long time.” Suffice it to say, conservative opponents of racial preferences were less than pleased. But have Trump’s diehard supporters been abandoning him in droves? They haven’t yet.

In that same Meet the Press interview, Trump warned against corporations that “have no loyalty to this country,” language that brought to mind John Kerry’s campaign against “Benedict Arnold CEOs.” Yes, Trump followed up by saying we ought to cut corporate taxes to keep these companies from fleeing our shores—a stance embraced by most mainstream Republicans—but it’s the vehemence with which Trump attacks CEOs that is noteworthy. It’s very hard to imagine a member of the Bush family using the same language—or a libertarian conservative like Rand Paul for that matter. And while several of Trump’s rivals for the GOP nomination have either embraced a flat tax outright or praised the idea in principle, the billionaire real estate developer offered a robust defense of progressive taxation on Fox & Friends. When asked about hedge-fund managers in particular, Trump said without hesitation that “they’re not paying enough tax.” He then implied that well-heeled hedge-funders have been shielded from higher taxes by politicians who depend on their campaign contributions. This is very much in keeping with the way Trump has ridiculed his opponents for being so dependent on wealthy donors.

Short version: there’s some pretty potent latent populism in the Republican Party and Trump has tapped in like hitting a major oil strike.

Oh, and we can’t forget good ol’ white enthocentrism (really surprised Chait didn’t bring that up).  Nice Evan Osnos article in the New Yorker (I’m halfway through in the magazine sitting next to me– you should read it before the New Yorker puts it behind the paywall) about how nutty white supremacists love Trump.  It’s almost return of the Know-Nothings.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Just a nice montage of typical Fox News sexism.

2) I have actually noticed that Kudzu isn’t really quite the invasive species everybody makes it out to be.

3) Our local minor league soccer teams makes the New York Times because it’s ownership is caught up in the FIFA scandal.  Personally, I really hope they can get new owners because it is a great way to see some reasonably high-level soccer in a fun environment at a great price.

4) NC Republicans not such big fans of a clean environment.

5) Sorry, but the too many law students thing never gets old for me.

6) Chait on Bernie Sanders, #blacklivesmatter, and the new PC:

The trouble with p.c. culture is not, as its defenders tend to sneer, that it oppresses white males. Many of its targets are not white males; anyway, oppression isn’t the main issue, per se. Political correctness is an elaborate series of norms and protocols of political discourse that go well beyond the reasonable mandate of treating all people with respect. Its extravagant imagination of mental trauma lurking in every page, its conception of “safety” as the absence of dissent, and its method of associating beliefs with favored or disfavored groups: They all create a political discourse that is fraught at best, and at worst, inimical to reason…

Of course, anti-rape activists are right to change the culture of male sexual entitlement, and anti-racism activists are right to challenge entrenched biases in the criminal-justice system and other structures. Black Lives Matter has had enormous success in driving police reform and raising awareness of racism, and has, on the whole, changed the country for the better. Liberals believe that social justice can be advanced without giving up democratic rights and norms. The ends of social justice do not justify any and all means. When we’re debating which candidates are progressive enough to be allowed to deliver public speeches, something has gone terribly wrong.

7) Apparently there were virtually no real women at all using Ashley Madison.  Thus, if you know someone in the Ashley Madison database, there’s a super small chance they actually used the site for a successful assignation.

8) The telling priorities of NC Republicans in the most recent budget compromise.  Not big fans of public education.

9) Just to be clear, “anchor babies” (like most consequences of immigration) are good for the economy.

10) Not a bad list of suggestions for students to be successful in college.

11) Vox’s German Lopez on the fact that there’s thousands and thousands of needless gun deaths we don’t talk about because there’s no video.

12) And Kristof on the Virginia shooting and how we need to take a public health approach on guns:

Gun proponents often say things to me like: What about cars? They kill, too, but we don’t try to ban them! [emphasis in original]

Cars are actually the best example of the public health approach that we should apply to guns. Over the decades, we have systematically taken steps to make cars safer: We adopted seatbelts and airbags, limited licenses for teenage drivers, cracked down on drunken driving and established roundabouts and better crosswalks, auto safety inspections and rules about texting while driving.

This approach has been stunningly successful. By my calculations, if we had the same auto fatality rate as in 1921, we would have 715,000 Americans dying annually from cars. We have reduced the fatality rate by more than 95 percent.

Yet in the case of firearms, the gun lobby (enabled by craven politicians) has for years tried to block even research on how to reduce gun deaths. The gun industry made a childproof gun back in the 19th century but today has ferociously resisted “smart guns.” If someone steals an iPhone, it requires a PIN; guns don’t.

We’re not going to eliminate gun deaths in America. But a serious effort might reduce gun deaths by, say, one-third, and that would be 11,000 lives saved a year.

The United States is an outlier, both in our lack of serious policies toward guns and in our mortality rates. Professor Hemenway calculates that the U.S. firearm homicide rate is seven times that of the next country in the rich world on the list, Canada, and 600 times higher than that of South Korea.

13) Home school parents go nuts and have been able to fend off all sorts of common-sense regulations that would help protect kids and their right to a decent education.

14) On the law and meaning of consent in rape cases.

15) Watched War Games with my oldest yesterday (currently streaming on Netflix).  Great for Cold War Nostalgia.  Not so great for plot holes you could drive an ocean liner through.  Didn’t seem to notice those so much when I was 11.

The scorecard

Sadly, this is from five years ago, but just discovered it today when a friend shared on FB.  Spot on.

Tom Toles

Photo of the day

Very cool Katrina +10 years gallery in In Focus:

Photographer Carlos Barria holds a print of a photograph he took in 2005, matching it up at the same location in New Orleans 10 years on, on August 16, 2015. The print shows Errol Morning sitting on his boat on a flooded street on September 5, 2005, after Hurricane Katrina struck.  

Quick hits

1) I feel like I wrote something on the stupidity of American lawns pretty recently.  But given drought conditions in much of the country, lawns are dumber than ever.  And this is a nice story on it (that also links to a great 99% episode on the matter).

2) Speaking of wasting water.  Stop drinking bottled water.  Seriously.

3) And stop trying to be so original with your baby names.  Today’s uncommon may well be tomorrow’s top 10.

3) Re-thinking addiction not as a disease after all.  Really interesting take.

The title of his manifesto lays out Lewis’s basic argument, which he insists upon throughout the book. “I’m convinced that calling addiction a disease is not only inaccurate, it’s often harmful,” he writes (repeatedly). “Harmful first of all to addicts themselves.” The alternative, he asserts, is to call addiction what it is: a really bad habit caused by a constellation of variables and a brain that is receptive to compulsively reinforcing really bad habits. Most important, that habit is possible to break, not by becoming a “patient” getting medical attention in order to “recover” but by becoming a responsible adult with a solid vision of the future who has at last decided to break a destructive habit.

4) Destroying mountains for coal removal?  All good for this Southwestern, Virginia community.  “Ruining” the view with windmill farms?  Not so much.  Oh, and wasting an absurd amount of money to build a modern “technology park” in basically the middle of nowhere?  Oh, yeah, on that.  Tech workers love locating to extremely rural areas.  Surely a great way to attract business development.

5) Bojack Horseman is my new TV obsession.  Season 1, down.  Starting season 2 tonight.  How can I not love comparing Bojack to Mad Men.

6) Donald Trump as the political equivalent of chaff.  Love it.

Donald Trump is the political equivalent of chaff, a billion shiny objects all floating through the sky at once, ephemeral, practically without substance, serving almost exclusively to distract from more important things — yet nonetheless completely impossible to ignore.

7) Speaking of Trump, nice take from Yglesias comparing him to the far right movements in Europe.

8a) So much wrong about college football (but I just keep watching it)

All of which makes Gilbert M. Gaul’s “Billion-Dollar Ball” a hard and challenging book, but one that I hope college football diehards will join me in reading. Gaul, a former reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post, forces us to confront what major college football has become. When we cheer for our schools and our teams, we’re also supporting a powerful and autonomous entertainment business that monetizes every aspect of the game, an operation that is not only divorced from the mission of higher education but that often undermines it.

8b) Much of which can be seen in Under Armour’s relationship with University of Maryland.

9) You’ve all read me brag about the great diversity in my kids’ schools, but sadly, Wake County is going in the wrong direction on this.

10) I hope some graphic designer was fired over this.

11) Nice essay on how we need to move past the idea that the ideal worker is one who sacrifices family life.

Mr. Groysberg and Ms. Abrahams found that “even the men who pride themselves on having achieved some degree of balance between work and the other realms of their lives measure themselves against a traditional male ideal.” They quoted one interviewee as saying, “The 10 minutes I give my kids at night is one million times greater than spending that 10 minutes at work.” Men who are counting their caregiving in terms of the last 10 minutes of a day are not playing a caregiving role on a day-to-day basis.

12) Time for the media to start treating the names of mass murderers like the names of rape victims?  There’s definitely something to be said for the idea.

13) Irony is when the guy wearing the “less government; more freedom” t-shirt has his butt saved by firefighters.

 

14) Love this metaphor in the case for teaching ignorance.

Michael Smithson, a social scientist at Australian National University who co-taught an online course on ignorance this summer, uses this analogy: The larger the island of knowledge grows, the longer the shoreline — where knowledge meets ignorance — extends. The more we know, the more we can ask. Questions don’t give way to answers so much as the two proliferate together. Answers breed questions. Curiosity isn’t merely a static disposition but rather a passion of the mind that is ceaselessly earned and nurtured.

Mapping the coast of the island of knowledge, to continue the metaphor, requires a grasp of the psychology of ambiguity. The ever-expanding shoreline, where questions are born of answers, is terrain characterized by vague and conflicting information. The resulting state of uncertainty, psychologists have shown, intensifies our emotions: not only exhilaration and surprise, but also confusion and frustration.

15) Not the least bit surprised that a documentary about the evils of sugar is chock full of pseudo-science (not to argue that sugar is all great shakes, but anytime something gets demonized like this, you should probably be skeptical).

16) The Duke freshmen who can’t read handle reading a book with lesbian sex(!!) in it need to get over themselves.  Local columnist Barry Saunders with a nice take.

17) I’ve been meaning to give this Ezra Klein piece on how conservative media helped the far right take over the Republican Party it’s own post for a long time.  I’ve failed long enough.  To quick hits it goes.  Read it.

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