Photo of the day

Another from Atlantic’s News photos of the year:

A Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter carries a horse to Bowen Ranch in rural Apple Valley, California, on November 27, 2017. San Bernardino County firefighters, with assistance from the LAFD helicopter, rescued the horse from a 300-foot ravine. 

James Quigg / The Daily Press via AP

The hidden costs of America’s gun obsession

Adam Gopnik is about my favorite when it comes to writing forcefully and intelligently about guns in America.  I loved his post on the recent anniversary of the Newtown massacre.  When talking to pretty much all my classes, I try and emphasize that we need to think broadly about the costs and benefits of various policies and see them in well beyond their narrow financial terms, or even, the most obvious non-financial aspects.  Thus, I really like this take on the costs we all bear from our country’s pathological obsession with gun rights:

People will say on this anniversary —and this is the one rational riposte to those of us who are concerned about guns as a central American concern—that gun massacres, though they get the largest share of attention, are not the chief or even the major problem of guns in America. Gun violence involves suicide; gun violence involves gang violence; gun violence involves domestic violence. And, therefore, the single-minded obsession with gun control and mass shootings is in itself a sort of fetishistic folly. That’s not an unreasonable argument, if you just break down the numbers. What it ignores, however, is the climate of paranoia that is created nationwide by the persistence of gun massacres. We now live in a country and a culture in which grade-school children are routinely drilled about what to do in the presence of a psychotic gunman. Hospitals post notices on their walls outlining procedures; colleges have regular drills and rehearsals about what to do if a shooter suddenly appears on campus. We know about “lockdowns” the way an earlier generation knew about “duck and cover,” in case of a nuclear attack. Such rituals, now as then, speak to some deep neurosis set loose in the society, an attempt to use the marginal analgesics to deal with a major crisis. Atomic warfare can’t be cured by ducking and covering; gun violence can’t be alleviated by lone-shooter drills. In that sense, the prevalence of gun massacres is one that we pay a social cost for every day, even if we, or if anyone we know, is never the victim of them.

All these measures inevitably contribute to a climate of fear that harms our capacity to feel the confidence and the optimism in our daily interactions that is at the core of a liberal society. [emphasis mine] Adam Smith—to cite a hero of libertarians who are generally hostile to gun control—believed that the central point about liberal societies is that they rely on trust: they rely on the ability of people to interact with one another without fearing, for example, that the guy sitting across from you is carrying a concealed murder weapon. Making concealed carry a national “right” will help produce a permanently paranoid society. The bill isn’t just a pointless response to violence; it is, in itself, a psychological symptom of the breakdown of the open society. Meanwhile, we wait for the next gun massacre, which is coming as surely as Christmas, and the next wave of willful amnesia, after it.

Quick hits (part II)

1) The normally staid, reflexively centrist USA Today has had enough with Trump.  And with a line to remember, “unfit to clean toilets.”  Indeed.

2) Ezra on Republican lies and delusion on taxes:

It’s comforting to imagine this denialism as a particular affliction of the Trumpist factions of the modern GOP. It isn’t. It’s present even in the most sober, credible, and respected corners of the Republican Party. It predates Trump and Moore, and it arguably led to their rise.

The battle over tax reform has been a particularly stunning example. Republicans in the House and Senate have passed bills that will add a trillion dollars or more to the debt, and they simply pretend otherwise, despite mountains of evidence (and common sense) to the contrary. The debate shows that the most established of establishment Republicans are just as resistant to unpleasant information, just as happy to live in fantasy worlds of their own concoction, just as likely to wave away overwhelming evidence as partisan fabrication…

This, then, is the truth of the establishment Republican Party: It is Donald Trump without the caps lock, Alex Jones in a suit. Compared to the president, McConnell and Ryan are less alarming in their demeanor, less unhinged in their tone, but, when convenient, they are similarly willing to unmoor themselves from reality. [emphasis mine]

3) Can kindness be taught?  Seems like the answer is yes.  Well, then, let’s do more of it.

4) Bret Stephens on Trump and Russia:

Presented with this list, the president’s craven apologists insist he’s right to try to find common ground with Russia. These are the same people who until recently were in full throat against Barack Obama for his overtures to Putin. More measured apologists say he’s merely naïve, just as Obama and Bush were at the beginning of their terms. Yet the alleged naïveté never quits: Just this week, he asked for Putin’s help on North Korea.

The better explanations are: (a) the president is infatuated with authoritarians, at least those who flatter him; (b) he’s neurotically neuralgic when it comes to the subject of his election; (c) he’s ideologically sympathetic to Putinism, with its combination of economic corporatism, foreign-policy cynicism, and violent hostility to critics; (d) he’s stupid; or (e) he’s vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

Each explanation is compatible with all the others. For my part, I choose all of the above — the first four points being demonstrable while the last is logical.

5) Nice chart on the GOP tax plan from Wonkblog:

6) It really is cruel and inhumane to deport somebody because of failures of the post office.

7) David Ignatius is right, “The Russia facts are hiding in plain sight.”

As Republicans seek to discredit the investigation, it’s useful to remember just what we’ve learned so far about how the Trump campaign sought harmful information about Clinton from sources that, according to U.S. intelligence, were linked to Moscow. This isn’t a fuzzy narrative where the truth is obscured; in the Trump team’s obsessive pursuit of damaging Clinton emails and other negative information, the facts are hiding in plain sight.

8) Zephyr Teachout is not convinced Franken should resign:


9) While Emily Yoffe is worried about a #mettoo backlash:

Now, it’s not just an entire generation—it’s the entire nation. No matter whether an accusation is made about violations on campus, in the workplace or on the streets, it is essential that the accounts be taken seriously and the accusers be treated respectfully. But in the debate over campus sexual assault, believing accusers, especially female ones, has become a virtual article of faith. Many Democratic politicians have expressed an opinion similar to the one recently tweeted by California Senator Kamala Harris, regarding college campuses: “Survivors of sexual assault deserve to be believed, not blamed.” As Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen wrote in the New Yorker, wanting to examine the evidence before coming to a conclusion has come to mean being perceived on campus as being “biased in favor of perpetrators.”

In this national “just believe” the accuser moment, it’s important to remember that part of the power of the recent accusations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein and so many others is that they are backed up by meticulous reporting that has provided contemporaneous corroboration and other evidence. Presented with these revelations, the accused themselves in many cases have provided confirmation by acknowledging at least some of their violations. A failed attempt by the right-wing group Project Veritas to persuade the Washington Post to publish the account of a fake accuser of U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore demonstrated the power of verifying before believing…

In the past few weeks, a number of accused men have disappeared Soviet-style from public life, with the work of some—Louis C.K. and Garrison Keillor, for example—withdrawn from distribution. There has been discussion about whether everyone accused deserves a professional death penalty, or whether there should be a scale of punishment. After all, the violations run the gamut from multiple allegations of rape to unwanted touching. But in a statement on Facebook calling for Franken’s resignation, New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand came out against making such distinctions. “While it’s true that his behavior is not the same as the criminal conduct alleged against [Alabama Senate candidate] Roy Moore, or Harvey Weinstein, or President Trump, it is still unquestionably wrong,” she wrote. “We should not have to be explaining the gradations between sexual assault, harassment and unwelcome groping.” [emphasis mine]

With all the Gillibrand love lately, this statement really, really disturbs me.  It’s like saying at the trial of a shoplifter, “we should not be having gradations between shoplifting, grand theft auto, and, armed robbery.”  Life is full of gradations and we go down dangerous paths when we pretend otherwise.

10) NYPD elite Emergency Services Unit kills 69-year old man during middle-of-the-night, no-knock raid looking for that super-dangerous item– marijuana.  Since this is America, of course they didn’t do anything wrong.

11) Charles Sykes on Roy Moore and the GOP:

But in this act, the Republican Party learns the full weight of the choices it has made, and their moral and political consequences. There was a certain inevitability to all of this. Step by step, Republicans embraced a politics that was post-truth and post-ethics. Now, in defeat, the party — or at least its leadership — is officially post-shame.

Some will argue that Republicans actually a dodged a bullet in Alabama, because they will not have to deal with the nightmare of a Senator Moore. But Republicans now head into a fearsome storm of outrage, tightly lashed to both President Trump and memories of Roy Moore’s horrific candidacy.

Throughout this final act, the party’s leaders will desperately try to pretend that this is not a tragedy and that they were not the ones who brought this upon themselves. Some of them will know better, but I suspect that in the final scene they will be left with the question “What have we done?”

12) Chait on the non-scandal of FBI text messages.

13) More new interesting analysis on how schools perform over time (via Drum).  There’s a decent number of poor school districts that have really seemed to figure things out.  Now we need to figure out what exactly it is that they are doing, and take it national.  Or, maybe just look at Tennessee:

14) Russell Berman on the tax bill.  This point has been obvious for a long time, but it’s nice to see more and more journalists catching onto and openly writing about the fact:

What the debate over taxes has revealed is not just that the party is desperate to show they can have something to show for their majority, it’s that tax cuts remain a singular unifying force for the modern GOP. [emphasis mine] That was enough to overcome the many differences over the particulars of tax policy, as well as the polls warning Republican lawmakers that this legislation is not something the public seems to want. And it’s why, despite those many obstacles, Trump is likely to have a bill to sign into law next week.

15) David Epstein on the sad fact that physicians continue using medical treatments long after evidence indicates they don’t actually work.  Heart stents, for example:

In 2012, Brown had coauthored a paper that examined every randomized clinical trial that compared stent implantation with more conservative forms of treatment, and he found that stents for stable patients prevent zero heart attacks and extend the lives of patients a grand total of not at all. In general, Brown says, “nobody that’s not having a heart attack needs a stent.” (Brown added that stents may improve chest pain in some patients, albeit fleetingly.) Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands of stable patients receive stents annually, and one in 50will suffer a serious complication or die as a result of the implantation procedure.

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