Archives for: November 2017

The Alabama Shit Show

I knew things were going to be bad when twice-defrocked theocrat Roy Moore won the Republican nomination for the Senate. But I didn’t imagine it would be this bad. I’ve been tinkering with those post for days, but things keep happening. I’ll assume you’re mostly up to date, so I’ll just highlight a few thoughts.

First, while Moore is obviously innocent until proven guilty, I find the allegations against him both credible and disturbing. He has admitted to dating high school girls when he was in his 30’s. There are reports that his creepy behavior was well-known in the area. The original WaPo article interviewed at least 30 sources. And the two women who have accused of non-consensual acts both crossed me as truthful. Innocent until proven guilty is our standard for criminal proceedings. But for someone who is going to be a Senator, someone who is going to wield real political power, someone who could, at some point, hold the fate of the country in his hands, I think a higher standard is required. People should not vote for Moore. And if elected, he should step down.

Moore is still leading in the polls and I expect him to win. A lot of people are rallying to his side and some have said the allegations make them more likely to vote for him. I want to be clear: this is not because people approve of his behavior; it’s mostly because they think this a Democratic Party dirty trick. That hasn’t been helped by a slew of garbage fake stories about how the yearbook signature is both too good and not good enough, how the restaurant Beverly Young Nelson worked at didn’t exist, how the women were paid money. It’s included things like faking a letter of support from 53 pastors and an obviously robocall from a “Bernie Bernstein” claiming to be looking for dirt on Moore.

With that caveat, I have read people saying that a pedophile would be preferable to a Democrat. This is deeply deranged partisanship. It’s not like Doug Jones is a lunatic or something. He’s a law-and-order mainstream Democrat who supports gun rights and defense spending. His big claim to fame was prosecuting the Alabama church bombers. Yes, losing that seat will hurt the GOP’s agenda. On the other hand, holding it has done exactly zilch for their agenda. And if the GOP’s governing ability comes down to whether a deranged, creepy bible-thumping hypocrite like Moore is in power, the party is deeply lost.

Given the rash of sex abuse scandals that have erupted lately, I’ve seen a number of Democrats saying that they should have taken the allegations against Bill Clinton more seriously. I’m glad to hear that but their mea culpa is a decade late and a billion dollars short. It’s easy to be intellectually honest once you’ve got nothing to lose. If Hillary were President right now, they’d still defending Bill. Hell, they’ll probably go back to defending him again come, oh, December 13.

American politics is broken and our parties are broken. If our parties were functional, we would not have seen the Clinton-Trump fiasco of last year and we would not be seeing the Roy Moore fiasco of this year. All three disasters would have been nipped in the bud. But the leadership of both parties is now filled with people who think politics involves scoring points on Twitter and raising oodles of cash from special interests. The practical aspects of politics — building constituencies, recruiting good candidates, defusing opposition — has gone out the window.

I’d like to say the electing Moore is the apotheosis. But things can always get worse.

Bad Night for the GOP

I try not to read too much into off-year elections but last night’s was a debacle for the GOP. The Virginia governor’s race was a wipeout and, as of this morning, the state legislature may tip to the Democrats. At minimum, Virginia Democrats will now have veto power for the first time in over 25 years and had their biggest night in four decades. The New Jersey governorship and New York mayoral race went against the GOP. Other state legislative races and mayoral races went against the GOP. It was bad night for them, a clean sweep by the Democrats.

Trump’s popularity hasn’t changed that much since election day. He’s still got most of the GOP behind him and most of the Democrats against him. Moderates have shifted against him but he’s still polling in the high 30’s, lower than election day but not drastically so. I’ve noted before that Trump’s performance in 2016 was terrible. It was the worst performance in a post-incumbent election in American history (i.e., an election where a two-term incumbent President is retiring). Now we’re seeing what would have happened had his opponent not been almost equally despised. With a meh candidate, Virginia shifted almost five points to the Democrats, enough for the gubernatorial election to become a rout and the legislature to tip. The Democrats won young people by nearly 40 points, a huge shift from 2012 and even 2016. An advantage of even a tenth that size would have given Clinton the election.

Here’s another thing: the Democrats are not popular. Their approval rating is the lowest in their history. So this was not a stampede toward Democrats, much as they’d like it to be. This was a backlash against Trump without the tempering influence of Clinton hate.

The implications of this for the GOP have to be frightening. Without Clinton as a foil, Trump’s unpopularity could completely sink the party. Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen solid conservatives like McCain and Flake leave the party. Now we’re seeing decent Republicans run out of office because people hate Trump so much.

If this keeps up, the Republicans will be dead in the cities, dead in the suburbs and only alive because of rural support. We will see a shriveled husk of a party devoid of conservatives, devoid of moderates and comprised entirely of Trumpist populism. This would be a party unable to stop the Democrats from going Full Metal Socialist. Their only accomplishment would be ranting on raving on Sean Hannity’s show, which is apparently now the apotheosis of political achievement for Republicans these days.

Trump is not going to change course in response to this election. His response to the election was to immediately stab Gillespie in the back and I’m sure he’ll stab every Republican if he feels the need. He’s not a Republican. He only used them to vault into office. If the Democrats take Congress, he’ll claim credit then happily sign off on single payer healthcare as long as it had his name on it (as shown by his spineless deal on DACA).

Yeah, it’s just one election. We’ll see what happens next year. And, come 2020, the Democrats are going to need an actual Presidential candidate, who might be a fiasco in his or her own right. But you can’t help but be alarmed by where this is going. In 2016, Warren Meyer said the Republicans had chained themselves to a suicide bomber. It may turn out that it just took a bit longer for the bomb to go off.

An Apotheosis of Garbage

In the wake of two horrifying mass shootings, Nicholas Kristoff has published a supposed guide to reduce shootings. He says it is the result of tons of research and represents a new strategy. But what it really is is a rehash of every bad anti-gun argument and junk science claim made over the last decade with a a few fancy graphs. It has little original insight and no original solutions.

We’ll start at the beginning. The first graphic puts out two facts: that the United States has more guns than any other country and that the United States has more murders than other developed countries.

I have addressed this argument before but it is worth rehashing. This comparison only works if you limit your analysis to guns. If you include all murder, no matter how they are committed, the connection completely falls apart.

Look at the statistics he cites. He has Sweden and Switzerland (countries that, incidentally, have high rates of gun ownership) at gun murder rates of 0.3 and 0.2 per 100,000. But while guns are used for about 60% of murders in the United States, they are only used in about 25% of murders in those countries. Would those gun murders vanish if we didn’t have guns? Or would people just murder with other means? You can’t tell from that data.

Here’s a comparison of the “gun murder rate” with the total murder rate.

US – 3.0 (4.9)
Italy – 0.7 (0.8)
Canada – 0.5 (1.7)
Sweden – 0.3 (1.2)
Germany – 0.2 (0.9)
Switzerland – 0.2 (0.7)
Australia – 0.1 (0.9)
England, Wales – 0.1 (0.9)
France – 0.1 (1.6)
Spain – 0.1 (0.7)
Japan – 0.0 (0.3)

Limiting his analysis to gun murders allows him to conveniently ignore 90% of the murders in France, 80% of the murders in Australia and the UK, two-thirds of the murders in Canada. The clear meaning of that graphic is that we had Japan’s gun laws, we’d have zero murders. I don’t see any evidence of that in the data.

His second section looks at the big decline in automobile deaths, which have resulted, at least in part, from laws passed mandating safety technology and cracking down on drunk driving. We’ll put aside the egregious comparison of something that is a Constitutional Right — the Right to Bear Arms — against something that is a privilege — the ability to drive on public roads. Here, he actually does have a point except … that gun murders have declined too. They’ve declined massively from the early 90’s peak, by at least 50%. And that has happened with gun laws becoming less restrictive.

His third point is that the gun death rates track gun ownership in states. This point was addressed in the links above. But notice a two-step he’s done here. In the first graphic, he was comparing murder rates. In the second, it’s death rates, which include suicides. Why does he do this? Mainly because including suicides would have blown up his point since supposedly idyllic Japan has an astronomical suicide rate. But again, when you look at homicide or suicide by state regardless of method, they don’t track gun laws at all. Just like they don’t with countries. Guns change the method but not the madness.

His fourth section ranks states by how well their laws are rated by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and argues that states with good gun control have fewer gun deaths. But … again … Volokh looked at this and found no correlation between total violent death rate and gun laws. The connection only works if you limit it to deaths involving a gun. Moreover, if you restrict your analysis to just murder — remember in the fist graphic, when we were just concerned with murders? — the relation completely disintegrates. Maryland is rated A on their gun laws. They have 5th highest murder rate in the country. Illinois has a B. They rank #4. Maine has an F for gun laws and has one of the lowest murder rates in the country.

His next point is actually legitimate. He points out, correctly, that mass shooting are a tiny part of our nation’s problem of violence. But then he says America is “moving in the wrong direction” because our gun law are getting less restrictive. But if America is “moving in the wrong direction”, why has gun violence dropped so dramatically in that period of time? Why has the loosening of our gun laws overlapped with the most dramatic drop in violent crime in our history?

He then cites two studies from Bloomberg Center for Gun Policy and Research. One showed Connecticut’s gun registration law cut murders 40%. I’ve talked about this study before. The study is highly dubious, taking one law in one state and comparing the result to “synthetic Connecticut” to show … something. This synthetic state method, by the way, is gaining popularity in gun control circles, primarily because it allows you to prove whatever you want just by changing what states you use for your controls. The other study looks at gun laws in Missouri and says gun violence rose after the laws were eased. While that’s accurate, it elides the fact that gun violence was rising before the law was passed and other states did not see similar increases. These studies are why I call that group the Bloomberg Center for Cherry-Picking. And both of these carefully cultivated studies are undercut by the massive overwhelming national trend of looser gun laws and less violence.

His last few points are semi-reasonable. He hits Congress for banning federal funding for research and says that proper training might cut gun violence. And while he’s right that majorities agree on some gun control measures, there isn’t a huge wave of support for them.

In a way, I’m grateful for this article appearing. It’s a nice distillation of every BS talking point, every garbage data manipulation, every deceptive claim that has characterized the gun control movement. It’s one-stop shopping for nonsense. If he’d only included ABC’s ridiculous “If I Only Had A Gun” segment, it would be perfect.

Texas Massacre

A few thoughts on yesterday morning’s awfulness in Sutherland Springs.

  • It is hard to overstate how devastating this is to that community. About 1 in 14 people who live in the town are dead this morning, murdered because they were going to church. There are no words for this kind of devastation.
  • I can not comprehend the kind of evil that goes into this kind of act. Murdering for money or out of anger or something is vile enough. But how evil do you have to be to just go into a church and start shooting people, including children?
  • A lot has been made of the fact that three of the five deadliest shootings in American history have taken place in the last few years. A few points on that: first, that only applies to since the mid-20th century. Before then, you will find many shooting massacres that were deadlier. We just called them “race riots” because that was a more convenient term than “white people murdering a bunch of black people because reasons”.
  • That having been said, I do wonder if these mass shooters are refining their methods. We know the Sandy Hook shooter was fascinated by earlier shootings. We are seeing a pattern: multiple guns, rapid-fire guns, tightly-packed crowds, places where there will be little to no armed resistance.
  • I don’t know if we can do anything about that. But maybe not giving these shooters the post-mortem fame they crave would help.
  • This shooting appears to have been made less deadly by the intervention of an armed citizen. While this is the first time that’s applied to this level of massacre, we have seen many shooting stopped by armed citizens either before anyone was killed or after minimal loss of life.
  • The angry Left-Wing response to “thoughts and prayers” seems badly misguided. In the face of incomprehensible tragedy, many people pray. That’s the way religion works.
  • And frankly, given that the immediate response to this sort of thing is a demand for gun control, I would argue that the Left is praying too. They’re just praying to a different god: the tin-plated one of government power.

Events are still unfolding. We’ll hear a lot about the shooter. But my only interest in him is in what we can learn to prevent future incidents. What I really want to hear about is the victims. They’re the ones we should be talking about, not the dirtbag who killed them.

Brazile Spills

When it comes to the Russia collusion thing, I find myself thinking two related thoughts:

  • There was definitely an effort by the Russians to at least cause disruption in our election. It’s worth investigating. And anyone who worked with the Russians should be run out of politics.
  • I seriously doubta few facebook memes and a Wikileaks e-mail trove that no one outside of Washington cared about decided this election. Or even had a big impact.
  • I think the attention on Russia’s influence is, to a significant extent, driven by the Democrats’ need to distract from their own incompetence. Indeed, accounts of the election night indicate that Clinton decided quickly to blame the loss on the Russians, rather than her own mismanagement.

That latter point just got a big jolt of support:

The Saturday morning after the convention in July, I called Gary Gensler, the chief financial officer of Hillary’s campaign. He wasted no words. He told me the Democratic Party was broke and $2 million in debt.

“What?” I screamed. “I am an officer of the party and they’ve been telling us everything is fine and they were raising money with no problems.”

That wasn’t true, he said. Officials from Hillary’s campaign had taken a look at the DNC’s books. Obama left the party $24 million in debt—$15 million in bank debt and more than $8 million owed to vendors after the 2012 campaign—and had been paying that off very slowly. Obama’s campaign was not scheduled to pay it off until 2016. Hillary for America (the campaign) and the Hillary Victory Fund (its joint fundraising vehicle with the DNC) had taken care of 80 percent of the remaining debt in 2016, about $10 million, and had placed the party on an allowance.

In return for this bailout, the Clinton campaign basically took over the DNC’s finances and strategy. It’s normal for Presidential campaigns to joint fundraise with the Party to bypass campaign finance limits. And it’s normal for the Presidential nominee to fill the DNC with their own people. But this began in 2015, long before she was officially the nominee. And the Clinton campaign canted the DNC’s strategies to favor Clinton and, instead of sharing money with the state committed, funneled almost all the money the Democratic Party was raising into Clinton’s presidential campaign. In short, the Democratic Party spent over a year serving as nothing more than a vehicle to advance Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, the rest of the country be damned.

You should read the whole thing, which is from Donna Brazile, current interim DNC chair. Brazile, of course, has her own history here: she was fired by CNN for feeding primary debate questions to Clinton. And this crosses me an effort to throw Wasserman-Schulz and Clinton under the bus to conceal her own perfidy. Althouse wonders if campaign finance laws were broken, which is a very good question.

We periodically get these reminders that, as bad as Trump is, Hillary Clinton was no panacea. Right now, her cultish followers are screaming sexism and crying, “Well, the DNC didn’t actually force people to vote for Clinton so the election wasn’t rigged!” But the DNC canted the entire process toward her. And she deprived them of any resources they needed for the kind of national presence that might have sustained her momentum. And then she went out and, despite these advantages, lost to her hand-picked tangerine opponent.

I said at the very beginning of the 2016 election that Hillary Clinton was bad at politics and the Democrats were going to be reminded of this in the hardest way possible. This decision to route all the money to her campaign wasn’t just corrupt and unethical, it was stupid. The Republican Party has as national presence; the Democratic Party does not. And decisions like this are why that is so. Even if Clinton had won, her burning of the party to support her own ambitions would have deprived her of the coattails needed to get a compliant Congress. Instead of Trump rage-tweeting about Congress, we’d have Clinton throwing lamps in the Oval Office. I guess that’d be an improvement, but not much of one.

NYC Again

What’s amazing about yesterday’s truck attack in NYC is the lack of immediate panic over it. We used to be able to count on these things to dominate the news and call for legislation. But I’m not hearing a lot of that (other than Trump’s call to end visa lotteries). I don’t know if we’ve gotten used to it or smarter in our approach — probably the former. The latest reporting is that he was radicalized in the United States. It’s hard to imagine some set of laws that will prevent gullible idiots from fall the delusional rantings of maniacs.

In any case, it’s been a long time since New York got hit, partially from luck and partially because they’ve been smart and prepared. This is a horrifying tragedy but they are bearing it well, as they always have.