And in Fox News’ Virginia

I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about Virginia (hooray, hooray hooray!!) later, but at the moment, I am pretty damn amused by the “Fox News Analysis.”  The lead Foxnews.com story does report the results.  But up next is their analysis.  Here’s the lede of the story:

Virginia voters overwhelmingly say Confederate statues should stay up, according to the Fox News Voter Analysis.

The assessment put voters more in line with Republican nominee Ed Gillespie on the issue in Tuesday’s gubernatorial race, even though he was projected to lose to Democrat Ralph Northam. The voter analysis – a new polling technique Fox News is testing to improve coverage – shows the Democratic candidate ended up winning with support from federal government employees as well as non-white voters.

Got that?  Sure, a Democrat won, but it was based on votes of government employees and non-white people.  And, on the most important issue (other than MS-13 gangs) of confederate statues, voters supported Gillespie.  So, there you go, the Fox takeaway from Virginia.

The real American exceptionalism

Killing people with guns obviously.  Great Nicholas Kristoff piece yesterday.  It’s filled with all sort of cool charts, etc., that you should check out and this sadly true bit of explanation:

If you’re wondering how we managed to crank out all these charts and data in the immediate aftermath of the Texas shooting, here’s the secret: We didn’t. We spent weeks gathering the information and preparing the charts, because we knew that there would be a tragedy like this one to make it all relevant.

That’s the blunt, damning truth: Sunday’s horror was 100 percent predictable. After each such incident, we mourn the deaths and sympathize with the victims, but we do nothing fundamental to reduce our vulnerability.

I also like his argument that auto regulations provide a solid policy template:

Gun enthusiasts often protest: Cars kill about as many people as guns, and we don’t ban them! No, but automobiles are actually a model for the public health approach I’m suggesting.

We don’t ban cars, but we work hard to regulate them – and limit access to them – so as to reduce the death toll they cause. This has been spectacularly successful, reducing the death rate per 100 million miles driven by 95 percent since 1921.

And this was an excellent feature today on the prevalence of mass shootings in the U.S.:

The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns…

The top-line numbers suggest a correlation that, on further investigation, grows only clearer.

Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, according to a 2015 study by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama…

Adjusted for population, only Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings among countries with more than 10 million people — a distinction Mr. Lankford urged to avoid outliers. Yemen has the world’s second-highest rate of gun ownership after the United States…

Worldwide, Mr. Lankford found, a country’s rate of gun ownership correlated with the odds it would experience a mass shooting. This relationship held even when he excluded the United States, indicating that it could not be explained by some other factor particular to his home country. And it held when he controlled for homicide rates, suggesting that mass shootings were better explained by a society’s access to guns than by its baseline level of violence…

If mental health made the difference, then data would show that Americans have more mental health problems than do people in other countries with fewer mass shootings. But the mental health care spending rate in the United States, the number of mental health professionals per capita and the rate of severe mental disorders are all in line with those of other wealthy countries.

It’s also not our violent crime rate (similar, just way more lethal) or problems with race.  It’s all the damn guns.

Of course, all the damn guns, is, largely, cultural:

The United States is one of only three countries, along with Mexico and Guatemala, that begin with the opposite assumption: that people have an inherent right to own guns.

The main reason American regulation of gun ownership is so weak may be the fact that the trade-offs are simply given a different weight in the United States than they are anywhere else.

After Britain had a mass shooting in 1987, the country instituted strict gun control laws. So did Australia after a 1996 incident. But the United States has repeatedly faced the same calculus and determined that relatively unregulated gun ownership is worth the cost to society.

That choice, more than any statistic or regulation, is what most sets the United States apart.

“In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate,” Dan Hodges, a British journalist, wrote in a post on Twitter two years ago, referring to the 2012 attack that killed 20 young students at an elementary school in Connecticut. “Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.” [emphases mine]

Yep.  And that is what is ultimately so disheartening about all this.  Compared to changing culture, changing policies is easy.  Alas, we have a deeply pathological culture around guns in America.

Why you should major in political science!

Because you love the study of it.  And, you want to learn good critical thinking and writing skills that are broadly applicable.  Otherwise, don’t.  Especially if you are bored by politics.  Actually, I just wanted a catchier title to link to this interesting NYT story about myths of choosing a college major.  I’m fond of myth 4:

Myth 4: Liberal arts majors are unemployable.

The liberal arts is a favorite target of politicians, with the latest salvo coming from the governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin. “If you’re studying interpretive dance, God bless you, but there’s not a lot of jobs right now in America looking for people with that as a skill set,” Governor Bevin said in a speech in September.

Interpretive dance may not be in demand, but the competencies that liberal arts majors emphasize — writing, synthesis, problem solving — are sought after by employers. A 2017 study by David J. Deming, an associate professor of education and economics at Harvard, found jobs requiring both the so-called soft skills and thinking skills have seen the largest growth in employment and pay in the last three decades.

One knock on the liberal arts is that it’s difficult to find a first job. But a study by Burning Glass Technologies, a Boston-based company that analyzes job-market trends, concluded that if liberal arts graduates gain proficiency in one of eight technical skills, such as social media or data analysis, their prospects of landing entry-level jobs increase substantially.

The long-held belief by parents and students that liberal arts graduates are unemployable ignores the reality of the modern economy, where jobs require a mix of skills not easily packaged in a college major, said George Anders, author of “You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Education.” In his book, Mr. Anders profiles graduates with degrees in philosophy, sociology and linguistics in jobs as diverse as sales, finance and market research. [emphasis mine]

“Once C.E.O.s see liberal arts graduates in action,” Mr. Anders said, “they come aboard to the idea that they need more of them.”

 A lot of my students are not big fans of numbers, but I definitely emphasize the importance of being comfortable with data and, for really being employable, good with analyzing data.  Anyway, choose wisely.  But don’t sweat it too much.

Why you should care about the Virginia governor’s race today

I’m very much a believer that people tend to over-interpret the results of off-year elections, especially the Governor’s race in Virginia that always falls the year after a presidential election.  There’s nothing the political press likes more than an election (policy is so boring!) and this is typically the biggest game in town.  Thus, no matter what happens, it tends to be seriously over-interpreted.

That said, this is a big deal.  Not just reporters over-interpret elections, but politicians do, too.  And this election will send a big-time message.  If Ed Gillespie wins the election, it sends a signal to the whole country that the absolute worst xenophobic fearmongering and white ethno-nationalist pandering (i.e., Trumpism) is a successful Republican strategy in a purple state.  That’s bad.  This is not the Republican party we want.  This is not the country we want.  Of course, if Gillespie loses it will not mark the end of this time of campaigning, but it would certainly put a damper in it compared to a win.

EJ Dionne on the matter:

A Northam victory would send a signal to the country that President Trump is a severe drag on the GOP, especially if it were combined with Democratic pickups in the legislature. This would bolster the forces trying to contain Trump’s abuses and give heart to those doing the organizing work against him at the grass roots.

It would tell Republicans in Congress that coddling and imitating Trump carry a high cost while strengthening Democratic efforts to recruit strong candidates for the 2018 midterms.

A win by Gillespie would convey exactly the opposite message. It would ratify the Republican candidate’s vile and dishonest campaign tying Northam to felons and criminal gangs. This, in turn, would lead to more ugly racial and anti-immigrant appeals by GOP candidates next year. The party would decide that playing around with a few of Trump’s more hateful themes was the way to go. The race to the bottom would continue. [emphasis mine]

To torture a metaphor… clearly Trump has let a dangerous and toxic genie out of a bottle.  A Gillespie win means that genie only grows in strength.  And that’s not good for anybody who cares about this democracy.  If we can keep it.

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