Current Affairs

"It’s already too late for gun control to work"

John Lott explains why:

There are already 300 million guns in circulation, and more than 12 million enter the market each year. With 3-D metal printers, more people will be able to make weapons that are indistinguishable from those purchased in stores. It would be almost impossible to remove those weapons from circulation. Getting rid of these weapons would require a door-to-door campaign by law enforcement officials, and even that would be of only limited effectiveness.

It’s also not clear that it would help. When countries like England, Wales, Ireland and Jamaica banned guns and handguns, they saw a subsequent increase in murder rates. Even these island nations, which have relatively easily monitored and defendable borders, have faced fivefold or sixfold increases in murder rates after guns were banned. Some of the biggest spikes in murder rates corresponded with increases in drug gang violence.


Man is a story-telling animal

This election was close. Maybe not close relative to expectations, but in absolute terms very close: "The Election Came Down to 107,330 Votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan".

Which reminds me of something that is often noted but I think still underappreciated: after an event like this--similarly, after sporting contests decided by a lucky bounce or two--volumes upon volumes of commentary are written about the Deep Meaning of it all. And yes, there is some meaning, some need to explain what happened. But the forming consensus on this election is that some voters Hillary and the Democrats counted on simply didn't vote. (And the consensus, as I read it, about 2012 is that some voters that Mitt and the Republicans counted on didn't vote. "Payback is a bitch.") Why that happened is certainly of interest. But much of the commentary is addressing the results of small, kinda random events, without much Deep Meaning at all.

Related: Scott Adams.

Earlier this week CNN.com listed 24 different theories that pundits have provided for why Trump won. And the list isn’t even complete. I’ve heard other explanations as well. What does it tell you when there are 24 different explanations for a thing?

And Barry Ritholtz make a similar point, with additional detail.


Election-a-Palooza, Part 1: Signs of sense on the Left?

One doesn't have to look long to see some signs of sweet reason breaking out on the Left. One could hope that this will last and will produce some important changes in thinking and behavior.

Based on history, I'm pessimistic. But one can hope.

Here's to Hope and Change!

Neo-Neocon, "Another rant from a liberal, plus some words of hope":

Get ready for an awful lot of the f-word in the following video, which is by a guy who detests Trump and would have preferred Sanders. But this rant is actually very good. I think he may just be learning what most of the left—of which he is a part—is all about. I’ve been seeing a fair amount of this sort of thing from unexpected sources ever since Tuesday, as the Trump win (and the larger GOP win to go with it) sinks in.

David Dayen, New Republic, "The 'Deplorables' Got the Last Laugh".

You can believe that half the country is racist if you want, and there’s no question that there’s an undercurrent of anger in Trump’s stunning rise. But that anger isn’t directed at any individual ethnic group. . . . 

And what did that produce? The daily filling of a basket of deplorables. I sometimes refer to it as “point-and-laugh” liberalism. Our relentless mockery of Trump and his followers helped fuel the backlash and make it spread.

 Bill Maher:

“The Democratic party . . . lost the white working man. That’s what they used to have. And they made the white working man feel like, ‘Your problems aren’t real.’ Democrats, to a lot of Americans, have become a boutique party of fake outrage and social engineering. And they’re not entirely wrong about that.”

Michael Moore:

“They’re not racist,” Moore said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “They twice voted for a man whose middle name is Hussein. . . ."

Frank Bruni, New York Times, "The Democrats Screwed Up".

We geniuses in the news media spent only the last month telling you how Donald Trump was losing this election. We spent the last year telling you how the Republican Party was unraveling.

And here we are, with the Democrats in tatters. You might want to think twice about our Oscar and Super Bowl predictions.

Despite all the discussion of demographic forces that doomed the G.O.P., it will soon control the presidency as well as both chambers of Congress and two of every three governor’s offices. And that’s not just a function of James Comey, Julian Assange and misogyny. Democrats who believe so are dangerously mistaken.

John B. Judis, "Why identity politics couldn’t clinch a Clinton win":

But Democrats can’t win elections simply by appealing to the identity groups of the rising American electorate. These groups don’t add up to a sure majority unless one assumes the Democrat wins near-unanimity among them and the Republican only bare majorities or less among Republican-trending groups. Besides such traditional GOP constituencies as farmers, small-business people and managers, three groups of voters have become increasingly Republican: the white working class, defined as whites without a four-year college degree; whites with a four-year college degree but not an advanced degree; and seniors. While the proportional numbers of the white working class have been shrinking over the past few decades, they remain formidable, particularly in battleground states, and the numbers of four-year-degree whites and seniors have not been declining.

John McWhorter: "The idea that America ‘doesn’t talk about’ racism is absurd".

Maureen Dowd, New York Times, "Obama Lobbies Against Obliteration by Trump":

Out of a hailstorm of unfathomable things during the week, one sticks out to me: How can it be that in the end, Barack Obama did not understand the Obama revolution? . . . 

Voters waited in line for hours at those early Obama rallies because they wanted thunderous change. They wanted a newcomer who didn’t look like the old dudes on our money, someone who would bust up the incestuous system and give us, as the poster said, hope.

But Obama lost touch with his revolutionary side and settled comfortably into being an Ivy League East Coast cerebral elitist who hung out with celebrities, lectured Congress and scorned the art of political persuasion.

 Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, "President Trump: How America Got It So Wrong":

Trump made idiots of us all. From the end of primary season onward, I felt sure Trump was en route to ruining, perhaps forever, the Republican Party as a force in modern American life. Now the Republicans are more dominant than ever, and it is the Democratic Party that is shattered and faces an uncertain future.

And they deserve it. The Democratic Party's failure to keep Donald Trump out of the White House in 2016 will go down as one of the all-time examples of insular arrogance. The party not only spent most of the past two years ignoring the warning signs of the Trump rebellion, but vilifying anyone who tried to point them out. It denounced all rumors of its creeping unpopularity as vulgar lies and bullied anyone who dared question its campaign strategy by calling them racists, sexists and agents of Vladimir Putin's Russia.

 Will Rahn, CBS News, "The unbearable smugness of the press":

This is all symptomatic of modern journalism’s great moral and intellectual failing: its unbearable smugness. Had Hillary Clinton won, there’d be a winking “we did it” feeling in the press, a sense that we were brave and called Trump a liar and saved the republic. . . .

We diagnose them as racists in the way Dark Age clerics confused medical problems with demonic possession. Journalists, at our worst, see ourselves as a priestly caste. We believe we not only have access to the indisputable facts, but also a greater truth, a system of beliefs divined from an advanced understanding of justice.

You’d think that Trump’s victory – the one we all discounted too far in advance – would lead to a certain newfound humility in the political press. But of course that’s not how it works. To us, speaking broadly, our diagnosis was still basically correct. The demons were just stronger than we realized.

Priscilla Alvarez, The Atlantic, "What Happened to Hillary Clinton's Support Among Latinos?"

Latinos’ background, too, has an effect on their political allegiances. There are 57 million Latinos in the United States, and their priorities can differ according to their heritage.

Todd S. Purdum, Vanity Fair, "The Fall of the House of Clinton: How a Political Dynasty Lost Its Way":

But the overriding problem was Clinton’s lack of any message as clear and disciplined as her husband’s was in 1992, when James Carville’s scrawled whiteboard mantra at campaign headquarters in Little Rock read, “Change vs. more or the same; The economy, stupid; Don’t forget health care.” When I asked a long-serving Clinton aide this week if there was anything she could have done to keep from losing, he replied without missing a beat, “Sure: give people a reason to vote for her.”

Of course, it's simply too much to expect everybody to be reasonable: "Hillary Clinton Blames F.B.I. Director for Election Loss".


Election-a-Palooza, Part 2: Trump's start

Of course, it's way too early to take any of this seriously. But that doesn't stop lots of people from speculating! From the sounds of these pieces, there could be some desirable changes coming.

First, I absolutely agree that among the first changes should be a new "Dear Colleague" letter pertaining to Title IX. Conceived by Joe Biden as a cynical attempt to win the votes of college-age women, revision of current policy would make the right people unhappy and it would also make the right people very happy: "Trump Administration Could Shake Up Campus Sex Wars".

Ditto for a big change to the EPA: "Trump Picks Top Climate Skeptic to Lead EPA Transition".

More generally: "What Trump could accomplish in his first days in office".

Finally, an interesting video clip (about 5.5 minutes) of Trump from 2013. Ignoring the anybody-who-says-nice-things-about-me-is-absolutely-great stuff, the rest offers some grounds for optimism.