This has got to stop

Ironically or not, I meant to post this great Alexandra Petri column earlier this week.  Damn is it more relevant than ever:

Imagine being careless enough and cruel enough to allow someone to punch such holes in the world deliberately, repeatedly, in the name of a lie. The lie is that we have no choice in this matter. The lie is that any effort, however common-sense, to restrict firearms or lower the capacity of magazines, is part of a vicious scheme to strip you of your freedoms. The lie is that this imaginary, vast conspiracy is more to be feared than these deaths that occur so frequently that we are almost out of synonyms for “horror.” How do you tell someone he is a sacrifice worth making to preserve this lie? How do you tell a child?

How do you do that?  By being in total, intentional, willful, denial that there is any connection to our gun policies and all our gun deaths.  Of course, the evidence on that is really clear.  I summarized it here.

I’ve made repeated references to Gary Wills‘ “Our Moloch” but it’s been too long since I actually quoted from it.  Going to re-up on that (note: Moloch’s figures on shootings are from 2012):

Ancient Romans justified the destruction of Carthage by noting that children were sacrificed to Moloch there. Milton represented Moloch as the first pagan god who joined Satan’s war on humankind:

First Moloch, horrid king, besmear’d with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears,
Though for the noise of Drums and Timbrels loud
Their children’s cries unheard, that pass’d through fire
To his grim idol. (Paradise Lost 1.392-96)

Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains—“besmeared with blood” and “parents’ tears.” They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).

The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

Its power to do good is matched by its incapacity to do anything wrong. It cannot kill. Thwarting the god is what kills. If it seems to kill, that is only because the god’s bottomless appetite for death has not been adequately fed. The answer to problems caused by guns is more guns, millions of guns, guns everywhere, carried openly, carried secretly, in bars, in churches, in offices, in government buildings. Only the lack of guns can be a curse, not their beneficent omnipresence.

Adoration of Moloch permeates the country, imposing a hushed silence as he works his will. One cannot question his rites, even as the blood is gushing through the idol’s teeth. The White House spokesman invokes the silence of traditional in religious ceremony. “It is not the time” to question Moloch. No time is right for showing disrespect for Moloch.

Can a person not wear body armor only wielding a pistol with limited capacity of ammunition still kill a lot of people?  Certainly.  But we sure make it absurdly easy to allow pretty much any nutcase to get a gun and ammunition designed for maxiumum human lethality.  This has literally nothing to do with the 2nd amendment, even as expansively re-defined by Scalia and friends in DC vs. Heller.  We could literally pass completely Constitutional laws today to limit assault rifles, high-capacity ammunition, etc., if we had the political will.

Alas, we have the opposite.  I’ll close with this observation in the NYT:

From New Zealand to Pittsburgh to a synagogue in Poway, Calif., aggrieved white men over the last several months have turned to mass murder in service of hatred against immigrants, Jews and others they perceive as threats to the white race.

Once again on Saturday, America’s epidemic of mass shootings intersected with the divisive issues of race and immigration.

The words of the manifesto, in citing the “great replacement” theory, echo the slogan that was chanted during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017: “Jews will not replace us.”

The writer of the manifesto also suggested that Democrats in the United States have a strategy to gain a permanent majority by embracing the growing Hispanic population, a notion that has gained currency on right-wing radio shows for years.

Hmm, but it’s not like we have a political party and its tribune giving active support to the idea that immigrants are “vermin” coming to cause crime and take away white people’s jobs.  Ugh.

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Quick hits (part II)

1) David Leonhardt on Democrats the lessons of 2018:

In last year’s midterm elections, Democrats won 31 congressional districts that President Trump had carried in 2016 — including in the suburbs of Atlanta, Chicago, Des Moines, Detroit, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Richmond, Va., as well as in more rural parts of Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

How did the Democrats do it? By running a smart, populist campaign that focused above all on pocketbook issues like affordable health care and good jobs. The Democrats who won in these swing districts didn’t talk much about Trump, the Russia scandals, immigration or progressive dreams like single-payer health care. They focused on issues that affect most voters’ daily lives.

2) Farhad Manjoo ordered a lot of abortion pills on-line and had some really interesting thoughts on the matter:

But the pills aren’t just a way to evade today’s restrictions on abortion. Some activists argue that they can also remake tomorrow’s politics surrounding abortion — that the very presence of the underground market could force the authorities to loosen restrictions on abortion pills, eventually paving the way for an alternative vision for terminating a pregnancy in the United States: the inexpensive, safe, very early, private, at-home, picket-line-free, self-managed medical abortion…

Each time I got a pack of pills in the mail, I was increasingly bowled over: If this is so easy, how will they ever stop this? I’ve been watching digital markets for 20 years, and I’ve learned to spot a simple, powerful dynamic: When something that is difficult to get offline becomes easy to get online, big changes are afoot.

3) Krugman was good on Trump’s racism:

What I haven’t seen pointed out much, however, is that Trump’s racism rests on a vision of America that is decades out of date. In his mind it’s always 1989. And that’s not an accident: The ways America has changed over the past three decades, both good and bad, are utterly inconsistent with Trump-style racism.

Why 1989? That was the year he demanded bringing back the death penalty in response to the case of the Central Park Five, black and Latino teenagers convicted of raping a white jogger in Central Park. They were, in fact, innocent; their convictions were vacated in 2002. Trump, nevertheless, has refused to apologize or admit that he was wrong.

His behavior then and later was vicious, and it is no excuse to acknowledge that at the time America was suffering from a crime wave. Still, there was indeed such a wave, and it was fairly common to talk about social collapse in inner-city urban communities.

4) Arthur Brooks on how your professional decline is coming sooner than you think (like for those of us pushing 50) was really good.  Though, I love where it all ends up:

Here’s a practical lesson we can extract from all this: No matter what mix of intelligence your field requires, you can always endeavor to weight your career away from innovation and toward the strengths that persist, or even increase, later in life.

Like what? As Bach demonstrated, teaching is an ability that decays very late in life, a principal exception to the general pattern of professional decline over time. A study in The Journal of Higher Education showed that the oldest college professors in disciplines requiring a large store of fixed knowledge, specifically the humanities, tended to get evaluated most positively by students. This probably explains the professional longevity of college professors, three-quarters of whom plan to retire after age 65—more than half of them after 70, and some 15 percent of them after 80. (The average American retires at 61.) One day, during my first year as a professor, I asked a colleague in his late 60s whether he’d ever considered retiring. He laughed, and told me he was more likely to leave his office horizontally than vertically.

5) Drum is so right on the fact that we could pretty easily stop all these data hacks if we actually held corporate America responsible:

You know what would put a stop to this? Put in place statutory damages for every personal record hacked. No excuses, no safe harbors. If you lose the records, you pay. I’ll be nice and suggest $100 per record.

I’ll tell you this: if Capital One had to pay $10 billion because of this hack, they’d take security a helluva lot more seriously. What measures would they put in place? I don’t know, but I know that after an endless pity party about how this would be totally unfair and there was nothing they could do and it would put them out of business—well, then they’d magically figure something out. That’s always how it works.

6) Watching the new Lion King movie I couldn’t help but thinking… “no, this is all wrong, lion social groupings are completely matriarchal!”  Nice National Geographic piece on the matter.

7) It’s so depressing that, even know, so many people in positions of responsibility and power on the matter are just completely ignorant on how a rape victim “should act.”  And some damn disturbing implications in the Army.

8) Apparently solid research shows growth mindset training to be a total bust.  Not sure if I should tell the nice and well-meaning teachers at my son’s middle school devoting a lot of effort to this.

9) This is good from Jane Coaston, “A question for conservatives: what if the left was right on race?”  At least Max Boot is a former conservative who has figured this out.  Coaston:

I’ve been writing on conservatism and the right for several years. As part of that work, I spend most of my time reading right-leaning news outlets and opinion journals and talking to conservatives — fiscal conservatives and social conservatives, Trump-supportive, Trump-adjacent, and Trump-skeptical.

And in those travels, there’s an argument I hear a lot, particularly in the past week — that had liberals not been so quick to call some on the right, or some ideas on the right, racist, perhaps the right would not have resorted to uniting behind a racist like Donald Trump.

As former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer put it to the New Yorker, “I am also aware of the fact that Democrats accused my boss, George W. Bush, in 2000, and ran ads calling him a racist. … They called John McCain a racist. They called Mitt Romney a misogynist and a racist. They will call whoever comes after Donald Trump a racist. The issue is a lot less, to me, Donald Trump’s words and behavior, and a lot more of the Democrats’ eternal, ongoing tactics, which I reject.”

To them, I’d like to pose a question, and I pose it as someone who has worked hard to understand the conservative movement and conservatism more broadly, and do so in the most generous possible light:

What if, in truth, the conservative movement’s inability to self-police itself against racism and establish firm guardrails against racists in the movement has resulted in an American right increasingly beholden to racism and racist arguments?

And what if, in truth, it’s the left that has seen this most clearly and that has been pointing it out again and again? Perhaps, if your movement has ultimately rallied around a racist, allegedly in response to being called racist, that’s evidence that the people who saw the power racist arguments held in your movement, and the frequency with which those views were referenced, were onto something all along.

Viewed in this light, the popularity of this excuse — the idea that if the left hadn’t been pointing out racism on the right, the right never would have embraced a racist as its leader — is the same denial that got conservatives into this mess perpetuating itself.

10) I’ve got far better things to do with my time than watch primary debates (another post coming on that, soon).  For one, damn am I loving “Dark.”  Mostly, debates only matter insofar as journalists respond to what happens and I can get that on twitter without subjecting myself to the ridiculous displays.  Pretty much every media critic has called out CNN for being horrible.  Really like this Megan Garber take:

Debates are competitions, yes. They are spectacles, certainly. And the Democrats have noteworthy differences in their policy positions and their political orientations. But there is a revealing absurdity to CNN’s repeated attempts to reduce a 10-person event to a series of highly targeted duels. The moderators might have asked the candidates about health care, and immigration, and gun safety, and racial inequality, and climate change, but mostly they asked the candidates about one another. The result was cyclical, and cynical: Here were matters of life and death, framed as fodder for manufactured melees.

As the debate wore on, candidates’ individual discussions of policy proposals were often cut short (“Your time is up!” was a common refrain among the moderators); petty squabbles, however, proved less beholden to the rigid rules of the clock. “I want to bring in Governor Hickenlooper,” Tapper said at one point. “I’d like to hear what you say about Senator Warren’s suggestion that those onstage not in favor of Medicare for All lack the will to fight for it.”…

Today, as it becomes clear how few of the previous election’s lessons have been learned in time for the one that rapidly approaches, there is an aptness to the idea that CNN would, once again, take refuge in the easy symmetries of an athletic competition. And there is a thudding inevitability to the notion that the network would find new ways to insist that politics is, above all, a sporting event: high in drama, low in stakes.

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