Like everyone, I’m sad and angry about Friday’s tragedy. But I keep hearing that now is the time to discuss gun control. So, fine, let’s discuss…
—It’s unfortunate that so many people now dismiss the idea that there should be a window of mourning, during which political discussions ought to be tabled, after a national tragedy like Friday’s shooting. I understand why that is: Calls to postpone talk of politics are so often themselves politically motivated, a way to put off a conversation one side never intends to have, that they seem cynical. But it should be obvious that the time for policy discussions is not when people are angry, sad, depressed, scared, emotional, and irrational. This is what leads to laws like the Patriot Act. It’s not that policy discussions should never flow from a national tragedy, and obviously knowing how long to wait is tricky, but I suspect the answer is at least a few hours, maybe even a day or two.
—Why do so many of the same people who (rightfully) laugh at the idea that drug prohibition decreases drug use, endorse the idea that gun control will solve the problem of gun violence? Gun control does not mean that bad or crazy people won’t get guns; it means the government will get to decide who gets to have guns. This is the same government, of course, that kills foreign Muslims almost indiscriminately, that imprisons blacks at six times the rate it imprisons whites, that systematically harasses young men based on their ethnic background. But for some reason people think new gun laws would be enforced fairly and equitably.
Last week, on Election Day, I found myself in a long Facebook comment thread about the virtues of voting. In it, someone said, “We have perhaps never had a president that has not committed…great acts of evil.” Of course, my first thought on reading that was That sounds like a fun game, and I decided to make a list of the worst* thing every president has done.
*The word “evil,” is of course loaded with all sorts of moral and metaphysical implications, so I’ve slightly reframed it into the “worst” acts every president has done. To be sure, many of these are clearly evil, but I wanted to include every president, and it’s hard to find something really “evil” that, say, William Henry Harrison did.
A quick note: First of all, I’m only including things they did as president. So the fact that Thomas Jefferson probably raped his slaves doesn’t count, though obviously that’s pretty bad. Secondly, I’m not a presidential historian, so my knowledge of some presidents is pretty limited. I welcome input on events I may have forgotten or never learned about in the first place. Lastly, this list is obviously subjective, based on my own moral judgment. As such, it’s weighted against things I find truly immoral, which usually involve the government killing or imprisoning people. Again, though, I welcome disagreement.
And now, the list: Continue reading
You seriously want to vote for one of these guys?
It’s time for my biennial plea for you to abstain from voting. I’ve got my work cut out for me: As election season (mercifully) draws to an end, we’ve reached the time of year when everyone and their mother takes time to urge you to vote, no matter who you vote for, as if the mere act of casting a vote is somehow worthwhile.
What goes conspicuously unmentioned in all these pleas to vote is the simple fact that your vote is extremely unlikely to make a difference. This is nothing but a statement of mathematical fact: The odds of an election in which millions of votes are cast being decided by one vote* are essentially zero. Even in smaller, more local races, or elections that are extremely close, the odds of your vote being decisive are still incredibly small. The only elections that have been decided by one vote were races in which fewer than 10,000 votes were cast. Continue reading
In general, I am against gun control laws. On most days, this is an easy position to take. When I’m not confronted with the threat of a gun, it’s easy to side with more liberty as opposed to less. I’m not a gun person—I’ve never fired or even held a gun—and I don’t think most people should own them, but I don’t want the government taking away a person’s ability to defend himself if he feels it’s necessary.
But then, of course, something like what happened Thursday night in an Aurora, CO movie theater happens. Then it becomes very hard to justify opposition to strict gun control. It is utterly sickening that this keeps happening and nothing changes. Two days before a gunman in Colorado shot 71 people—killing at least 12—at the movies, a gunman in Alabama shot 17 people outside a bar in Tuscaloosa. Six days before that, four kids in Chicago were shot in a park on the South Side. Two days before that, three people, including a 16-year-old kid, were killed in a shooting at a Delaware soccer tournament. One of the victims of the Aurora tragedy narrowly avoided a similar shooting in a Toronto mall only six weeks earlier. The quaint settings of these tragedies—parks, malls, movie theaters—only add to the horror. Continue reading
Two of a Kind
With Mitt Romney’s nomination by the Republican Party all but inevitable now, many pundits have started to point out how this year’s election bears an uncanny resemblance to the 2004 election. Most of them, though, focus on Romney’s resemblance to the ’04 Democratic nominee, John Kerry. And those resemblances are obvious: Kerry and Romney are both wealthy patricians from Massachusetts; both come with a reputation for flip-flopping and have a problem connecting with the common voter; both had a relatively easy primary season, despite not being particularly well-liked by their party’s base; both ascended largely by virtue of “electability”; Kerry was, just as Romney is, the least objectionable alternative to the incumbent president.
The similarities are eerie, but enough has been said about them that I won’t add more.* What’s more interesting to me is how the similarities hold true on the other side of the aisle. In other words, I expect President Obama’s reelection campaign to look a lot like George W. Bush’s.
*Although here’s one more: They each have weird middle names. “Mitt” and “Forbes”? Really? What the hell is that?
Imagine, for a second, that you are a political operative working for Obama, and that your main goal is to get Obama reelected. What would you do? Well, I’m not an expert (obviously), but it seems like you’d do three things. First, you’d desperately try to avoid talking about the economy. Second, you’d try to focus on foreign policy and social issues. And, lastly, you’d try to make your opponent look out of touch. Continue reading
I should start this off by saying that I like Matt Taibbi. His coverage of the financial crisis and other political corruption often delves into issues ignored by most media outlets, and his acerbic wit makes for fun reading. Nevertheless, he often fixates on the wrong aspect of the scandal he’s uncovering, and that usually involves focusing on campaign contributions.
In his blog post about the Iowa caucuses, Taibbi yammers on about how contributions corrupt the campaigning process:
“[T]he ugly reality, as Dylan Ratigan continually points out, is that the candidate who raises the most money wins an astonishing 94% of the time in America.
“That damning statistic just confirms what everyone who spends any time on the campaign trail knows, which is that the presidential race is not at all about ideas, but entirely about raising money.”
This is so logically porous that it hardly needs explaining (but that won’t stop me). Continue reading
If there’s one thing people love to talk about, it’s health insurance. Go to any coffee shop in America and you’re bound to find at least one person who has health insurance. But what the insurance companies don’t want you to know is that, in all likelihood, many more than one person there has health insurance. And while it’s true that people don’t really like talking about health insurance, you can bet that someone you know has it, and has it bad.
If you’re perfectly healthy like me, you obviously don’t want health insurance because what’s the point? Who wears a raincoat when the forecast says clear skies, other than actors like in The Perfect Storm? No one. Plus for most people, umbrellas would be way more useful—but not in that storm they wouldn’t! What a movie. But you know what? Everyone died at the end of that movie, so are we really supposed to believe that it’s a true story? But I’m not here to take The Perfect Storm to the drawing board, or even spoilers for that matter—sorry about that—because the truth is that, for most of us, health insurance poses a far greater danger than some type of perfect storm. Even the so-called perfect storm isn’t that dangerous—just stay inland. Same with Jaws. If you stay on land, the worse that can happen is Twister, but I’m not really scared because that movie was lame.