Quick hits (part II)

1) Why does majority opinion keep losing on guns?  Because America is increasingly a non-majoritarian democracy.  EJ Dionne:

But something else is at work here. As we argue in our book, “One Nation After Trump,” the United States is now a non-majoritarian democracy. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, that’s because it is. Claims that our republic is democratic are undermined by a system that vastly overrepresents the interests of rural areas and small states. This leaves the large share of Americans in metropolitan areas with limited influence over national policy. Nowhere is the imbalance more dramatic or destructive than on the issue of gun control.

Our fellow citizens overwhelmingly reject the idea that we should do nothing and let the killings continue. Majorities in both parties favor universal background checks, a ban on assault-style weapons, and measures to prevent the mentally ill and those on no-fly lists from buying guns.

Yet nothing happens.

The non-majoritarian nature of our institutions was brought home in 2013. After the Sandy Hook slaughter, the Senate voted 54 to 46 in favor of a background-checks amendment crafted by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Those 54 votes were not enough to overcome a filibuster, which the GOP regularly abused during the Obama years. Worse, since most large-state senators voted for Manchin-Toomey, the 54 “yes” votes came from lawmakers representing 63 percent of the population. Their will was foiled by those who speak for just 37 percent of us.

2) I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sick to my stomach as I did reading this Atlantic article on the horrible, horrible death at a Penn State fraternity.  I don’t deny there’s real benefits from fraternities, but my personal reading of their reality is that the costs substantially outweigh the benefits.

3) Nice NYT article on the growth of quality podcasts for kids.  My daughter loves “Wow in the World” like nobody’s business.

4) I love Chris Molanphy’s explorations of Rock/Pop music history on The Gist.  His Slate article was my favorite take on Tom Petty.

5) Love this Upshot piece on how marriage became increasingly class-based:

Fewer Americans are marrying over all, and whether they do so is more tied to socioeconomic status than ever before. In recent years, marriage has sharply declined among people without college degrees, while staying steady among college graduates with higher incomes.

Currently, 26 percent of poor adults, 39 percent of working-class adults and 56 percent of middle- and upper-class adults ages 18 to 55 are married, according to a research brief published from two think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and Opportunity America.

In 1990, more than half of adults were married, with much less difference based on class and education: 51 percent of poor adults, 57 percent of working-class adults and 65 percent of middle- and upper-class adults were married.

A big reason for the decline: Unemployed men are less likely to be seen as marriage material.

“Women don’t want to take a risk on somebody who’s not going to be able to provide anything,” said Sharon Sassler, a sociologist at Cornell who published “Cohabitation Nation: Gender, Class, and the Remaking of Relationships” with Amanda Jayne Miller last month.

As marriage has declined, though, childbearing has not, which means that more children are living in families without two parents and the resources they bring…

Americans across the income spectrum still highly value marriage, sociologists have found. But while it used to be a marker of adulthood, now it is something more wait to do until the other pieces of adulthood are in place — especially financial stability. For people with less education and lower earnings, that might never happen.

College graduates are more likely to plot their lives methodically — vetting people they date until they’re sure they want to move in with them, and using birth control to delay childbirth until their careers are underway.

Less educated people are more likely to move in with boyfriends or girlfriends in a matter of months, and to get pregnant at a younger age and before marriage. This can make financial and family stability harder to achieve later on.

6) Clear evidence that government workers– even librarians– racially discriminate based on whether a name sounds Black or White.

7) I hate that even a Supreme Court justice can be just a plain old partisan hack.  Hard to see how Alito is anything but in his approach to the Wisconsin gerrymandering case.  Same goes for Roberts in his absurdly anti-intllectual reference to “sociological gobbledygook.”  Actually, it’s called math.

8) Amazing how low the bar is for Trump on speeches.  CNN couldn’t get enough of Trump being not horrible on Las Vegas.  David Frum, however, was not impressed.

9) Is there any hypocrisy as base as that from “pro-life” politicians:

There are a few, rare exceptions that abortion opponents tend to allow to their hard-line rules: rape, incest, life or health of the mother, and “I got my mistress pregnant.”

10) I did enjoy Ta-Nahesi Coates’ big anti-Trump essay and Coates almost always makes me think.  But, he really does have a bad habit of making everythingWilliams about race.  Some nice pushback from Thomas Chatterton .

11) Loved Thomas Friedman on the Las Vegas shooter:

If only Stephen Paddock had been a Muslim … If only he had shouted “Allahu akbar” before he opened fire on all those concertgoers in Las Vegas … If only he had been a member of ISIS … If only we had a picture of him posing with a Quran in one hand and his semiautomatic rifle in another …

If all of that had happened, no one would be telling us not to dishonor the victims and “politicize” Paddock’s mass murder by talking about preventive remedies.

No, no, no. Then we know what we’d be doing. We’d be scheduling immediate hearings in Congress about the worst domestic terrorism event since 9/11. Then Donald Trump would be tweeting every hour “I told you so,” as he does minutes after every terror attack in Europe, precisely to immediately politicize them. Then there would be immediate calls for a commission of inquiry to see what new laws we need to put in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Then we’d be “weighing all options” against the country of origin.

But what happens when the country of origin is us?

What happens when the killer was only a disturbed American armed to the teeth with military-style weapons that he bought legally or acquired easily because of us and our crazy lax gun laws?

Then we know what happens: The president and the Republican Party go into overdrive to ensure that nothing happens. Then they insist — unlike with every ISIS-related terror attack — that the event must not be “politicized” by asking anyone, particularly themselves, to look in the mirror and rethink their opposition to common-sense gun laws.

12) Few political authors are purchased by both sides of the political spectrum (in cool graphical form).

13) So, this is a real thing.

14) Came across this “do you have a generous marriage” quiz.  I only came out average.  I honestly suspect, though, that people are too likely to give themselves “always.” The response categories seem like bad social science to me.  Such as, “How often do you express respect or admiration to your partner?”  I think I’m pretty good at telling my wife I appreciate her, but “always”?!

15) Florida has a chance to undo it’s incredibly punitive and racism felon disenfranchisement:

This particular historical evil began after the Civil War, when white-supremacist legislatures were resisting efforts to treat blacks as fellow humans with equal rights and dignity.

Though attempts to block the 14th Amendment failed, and though the Reconstruction Act of 1867 forced Florida to add an article to its state constitution granting suffrage to all men, creative racists kept many blacks from the ballot box with educational requirements and a lifetime voting ban for convicted felons, knowing blacks had been and would be abused by the criminal-justice system.

16) Love this Kurt Andersen piece on the delusional anti-government fantasies of the gun nuts (and, alas, how our political system has given into them):

Let me put a finer point on what I’m saying. Very, very few of the guns in America are used for hunting. Americans who own guns today keep arsenals in a way people did not 40 years ago. It seems plain to me that that’s because they—not all, but many—have given themselves over to fantasies.

The way I did as a child and still do when I shoot, they imagine they’re militiamen, pioneers, Wild West cowboys, soldiers, characters they’ve watched all their lives in movies and on TV, heroes and antiheroes played by Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson and the Rock, like Davy Crockett or Butch or Sundance or Rambo or Neo (or Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor). They’re like children playing with lightsabers, except they believe they’re prepared to fight off real-life aliens (from the Middle East, from Mexico) and storm troopers, and their state-of-the-art weapons actually wound and kill. Why did gangsters and wannabe gangsters start holding and firing their handguns sideways, parallel to the ground, even though that compromises their aim and control? Because it looks cool, and it began looking cool after filmmakers started directing actors to do it, originally in the ’60s, constantly by the ’90s. (It also made it easier to frame the gun and the actor’s face in the same tight shot.) Why are Americans buying semi-automatic AR-15s and rifles like it more than any other style, 1.5 million each year? Because holding and shooting one makes them feel cooler, more like commandos. For the same reason, half the states now require no license for people to carry their guns openly in public places. It’s the same reason, really, that a third of the vehicles sold in America are pickups and four-wheel-drive Walter Mitty–mobiles, even though three-quarters of four-wheel-drive off-road vehicles never go off road. It’s even the reason blue jeans became the American uniform after the 1960s. We are actors in a 24/7 tableau vivant, schlubs playing the parts of heroic tough guys…

But beyond the prospect of protecting oneself against random attacks—and by the way, among the million-plus Americans interviewed in 10 years of Crime Victimization Surveys, exactly one sexual assault victim used a gun in self-defense—several outlandish scenarios and pure fantasies drive the politics of gun control. One newer fantasy has it that in the face of an attack by jihadi terrorists, armed random civilians will save the day. Another is the fantasy that patriots will be obliged to become terrorist rebels, like Americans did in 1776 and 1861, this time to defend liberty against the U.S. government before it fully reveals itself as a tyrannical fascist-socialist-globalist regime and tries to confiscate every private gun.

17) The Buzzfeed piece with much buzz about how Breitbart quite purposely tried to make racists and neo-nazis mainstream.

18) Brooks get this right about guns– they are part of our identity politics:

Four in 10 American households own guns. As Hahrie Han, a political science professor, noted in The Times Wednesday, there are more gun clubs and gun shops in this country than McDonald’s. For many people, the gun is a way to protect against crime. But it is also an identity marker. It stands for freedom, self-reliance and the ability to control your own destiny. Gun rights are about living in a country where families are tough enough and responsible enough to stand up for themselves in a dangerous world.

(Of course, this is also largely fantasy, as Andersen points out)

 

19) How computers turned gerrymandering into a science.

20) Is Maggie Haberman’s coverage of Trump changing the news culture of the NYT?

21) This Radley Balko piece is just so depressing.  Poorly trained police shoot an unarmed person in a no-knock drug raid, but, of course, it’s not actually their fault:

In a morning drug raid. As one of the officers took a battering ram to the door, Jesus Ferreira was sleeping on the couch. Ferreira wasn’t a suspect. He happened to be visiting. Within seconds, one officer shot him, claiming that Ferriera was “moving toward him” and had something in his hand. Ferreira suffered significant injuries, and doctors later had to remove his spleen.

No one disputes that Ferreira was unarmed. But the police claim he had a video-game controller in his hand, which the officer who shot him mistook for a gun. Ferreira and his lawyers say that he was sleeping at the time of the raid, that he raised his hands when the police entered and that they put the controller in his hand after the fact to retroactively justify the shooting.

Ferriera sued. The result of that lawsuit demonstrates yet again just how difficult it is for even completely innocent people shot by police to get any sort of justice…

One other thing: McAvoy notes in his ruling that the city argues that these raids are extremely volatile, and therefore officers should be granted a great deal of leeway when making mistakes such as shooting innocent people. The city is right. These raids are extremely volatile. But the police themselves  created that volatility. They didn’t have to go in with a SWAT team early in the morning. They chose to. And despite the fact that the police have the advantage of both training and of being the party that is aware of what’s happening, the police are given extraordinary leeway to make mistakes during these raids. The people on the receiving end of the raids are not. This case again is a perfect example. In the heat of the moment, the cop who shot Ferreira shot an innocent, unarmed man. He did this despite his training, and despite the fact that he knew what was happening as it was happening. The city of Binghamton argued in court that Ferreira bore the ultimate responsibility for his own injuries. Because he rose up and moved toward the officers with a video-game controller as the raid went down, he had no one to blame but himself. The cop who shot Ferreira can make mistakes that end lives. Ferreira was expected to react perfectly — to wake up, immediately realize that the armed men breaking into the home were police and immediately know how to surrender in a manner that could in no possible way be interpreted as a threat. [emphasis mine]

 

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