Saturday, December 14, 2013

Followup to failure

Today is the 1-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings in which 20 children and six teachers were killed by a presumably insane person who also killed his mother and himself.

On that day I wrote a post about the failure of our society to perform its most basic function of creating a safe environment for the reproduction of the species. I was pretty pissed off. The threat of insane people with guns is not all that big a threat, statistically, but we have failed to deal with other risks that are not as splashy but are certain to cause greater and more universal harm to future generations, such as climate change.

Well, since then, the US political process has failed even more dismally than I would have predicted. I really did think that an incident of this magnitude might actually penetrate the thick miasma of dysfunction that chokes our politics. Whatever else you might say about Americans, we are good at making a fuss over dead children. But no – in fact, it is now easier than ever for the violently insane to obtain the tools they need to realize their fantasies:
Of more than 1,000 gun-related bills introduced in the states since Sandy Hook, thirty-nine laws were passed, the majority of them in California, that make it more difficult to obtain a gun or certain kinds of magazines, while 73 laws were passed that make it easier to obtain or wield a gun, mostly in already gun-friendly states, according to a New York Times review.
So, I was wrong, twenty dead elementary-school children barely register in our political discourse; they are nothing compared to the 10:1 spending advantage the NRA has over gun control advocates. Could there be a clearer signal that our ability as a society to regulate ourselves has basically been eliminated?And if we can't act on such dramatic events, the chances for doing something about the larger risks we face are basically nil.


Dain said...

According to the CDC, two thirds of all gun deaths are from suicide:

note: self promotion at work

mtraven said...

interesting factoid, although I'm not sure it affects the point of the post.

scw said...

A detailed breakdown of the homicides committed with firearms would be interesting - as to locations of the crimes, the socioeconomic status and the race or ethnicity of the culprit and of the victim, etc.

It might tell us where efforts should be concentrated. "Gun control" as promoted to reduce homicide with firearms by its usual advocates has many aspects in common with the "noble experiment" of liquor prohibition as a remedy for drunkenness. Both measures share the characteristics of being or having been too broadly focused and affecting too many people not really involved in the problem.

Rigorous enforcement of drunk driving laws has markedly reduced traffic deaths in recent years. Similarly, concentrated law enforcement efforts in high-crime areas of New York during the Giuliani and Bllomberg administrations did much to reduce the frequency of murder in that city, as compared (for example) to Chicago, which did not make such efforts and which still has scandalously high numbers of murders.

It may be ideologically satisfying for liberals to stick their thumb in the eyes of the NRA, which represents a constituency so out of tune with left-wing ideals - but the reality is that taking guns away from white middle class males, slightly better educated and slightly more affluent than average, living in suburban or exurban neighborhoods (the typical NRA demographic), is not going to do a thing to reduce violent crime. The rate of violent crime among such people is almost nil.

By contrast, the high crime rates occur in poor urban neighborhoods largely populated by blacks and Latinos, and are driven largely by drug-related and gang activities. Perhaps acknowledging this is too difficult politically for liberals, and it many even be that the gangs are too critical in Democrats' get-out-the-vote effort in minority districts to offend by serious law-enforcement efforts - so liberals persist in advocating gun-control legislation that is ineffectual in combatting crime, serves only to arouse fierce opposition everywhere outside a few big cities, and is a proven avenue to loss of seats in Congress and state legislatures.

Hal Morris said...

There is something I have called the "Great American Liberal Hating and Baiting Cult" (GALHBC), and something else I've lately called the Think-tank-ocracy, which have done much to lay the groundwork for this. The former is the largely self-organizing part, while the latter is the result of focused effort of people with tons of money - Von Mises Foundation and Murray Rothbard may distil the core ideology with their "Anarcho-Capitalist" ideology.
To be part of the GALHBC you can be obsessed with any of a number of often contradictory ideas, united somehow by the idea that Liberalism=Fascism.
You might do well to look at a recent posting to Judith Curry's "Climate, Etc." blog on "Pathological Altruism" (, and more importantly, skim the 459 comments that have accrued in 6 days (from 12/9 to today, 12/15).
The Think-tank-ocracy (TTO) is always coming up with neologisms and invented phrases that make it seem as if something new has been discovered (that, of course, the MSM is repressing). Someone writes a semi-respectable article, which serves as raw meat to incite a feeding frenzy by the (GALHBC). I strongly suggest taking a look at this. The TTO yearly gives thousands of young people some level of free training at "interns" or paid attendees at conferences. It makes sure people like Rick Santorum aren't without a (well-paying) job, it finances party discipline in the form, e.g., of "primarying" traitors to the Tea Party, besides think tanks it endows chairs in prestigious universities, and whole parallel departments within the university system like the Mercatus Center of George Washington University. When you read in the National Review "A GWU professor writes...", be skeptical.

Hal Morris said...

I have an anecdote (personally observed) to share about what may have been the grand launch of the ongoing preemptive strike against reasonable reactions to Newtown and the like (long before it happened).
The weekend of the Gabby Giffords shooting, I was observing a dear friend but also member of the GALHBC following the news in great distress via social media. Within an hour of the shooting. First it was "they thing maybe the shooter was a liberal or pro-immigration activist -- because Giffords was supposedly kind of moderate on some issue, and the liberals are such total fanatics. Then it settled on "the liberals are going to make politics out of this tragedy", and within an hour of the shooting were rounding up Exhibit A, B, etc. such as "so and so said it's all Sarah Palin's fault" (some liberal blogger who nobody would ever have heard about if the TTO wasn't on the constant lookout for examples of liberal "fanaticism" to amplify and spread far and wide).
For another example, you might see
and for an account of how the social media minutemen of the right gave the world the unforgettable "Climategate" label.
A couple of other examples of my own attempts to make sense of our general loss of common sense are: (about some of the under-the-radar "information" flows),
and (about how third-tier blogs and anonymous emails fit hand in glove with the stars of the Fox airways, who must maintain some level of subtlety about their dishonesty, so no photo-shopped pictures or "repurposed" anti-Bush articles with the names changed.
And some clues to how all of this got going can *maybe* be found in
And gives a hint about how the <> meme grew so strong.

Hal Morris said...

Umm, that "<>" was supposed to be "They're coming to grab our guns, which are the last hope of democracy" meme.

Crawfurdmuir said...

"To be part of the GALHBC you can be obsessed with any of a number of often contradictory ideas, united somehow by the idea that Liberalism=Fascism."

I wouldn't necessarily use the = sign, but there is a lot in common in terms of economic policy between American liberalism (which is not "liberal" in the European sense) and Fascism.

Look up the "Mosley memorandum" of 1930, and you'll find a description of Keynesianism avant la letttre (Keynes didn't publish his "General Theory" until 1936). At the time it was signed, in December of 1930, Mosley was a Labour MP - sixteen of his fellow Labourites signed it with him. Its rejection led him to resign from the Labour Party to found, first, the New Party in 1931, then the British Union of Fascists in 1932.

Franklin Roosevelt was acquainted with Sir Oswald and Lady Mosley. They shared a holiday in Florida; here's a photo of Mosley and Roosevelt disporting themselves at the beach:

The early New Deal, in particular the National Recovery Act, was straighforwardly patterned after the Italian Fascist model. It was Frances Perkins, FDR's secretary of labor, who gushed that Mussolini had "made the trains run on time."

Wolfgang Schivelbusch has written a fascinating book entitled "Three New Deals," comparing FDR's, Mussolini's, and Hitler's policies during the 1930s. It is well worth reading, with much original source material quoted in extenso.

jlredford said...

Garry Wills expresses this more forcefully than I ever could: - Our Moloch, our continual sacrifice of children to a demonic god. Mother Jones notes that 194 children have died by gunfire since Sandy Hook, about half by accident and half by murder. Wills agrees with our host that it's a sign of a deeply failing culture.

Crawfurdmuir said...

194 - in a nation of 300+ million. It's really a rather small number, considering the population in which they occurred.

If half of these deaths are accidental, we must ask how many others drowned in their bathtubs, or killed themselves falling down stairs or in playground accidents? Could any of those deaths have been prevented by registering bathtubs, licensing staircases, or outlawing playgrounds? Sometimes accidents just happen, and the bereaved are left wishing they had 20-20 hindsight.

As for those that were murdered - how many were murdered by their own parent(s)? And how many of the "children" were adolescent gangbangers already deeply involved in lives of crime and violence? These latter two sets of victims are indeed, signs of a deeply failing culture, but nothing that superficial "gun control" proposals can possibly do anything to repair.

Just to begin to attack the problem would require reversing the moral decline of the past 50 years, which has led to "defining deviancy down," and the disastrous consequences of the welfare state for the lower-class family, which sociologists ever since Daniel Patrick Moynihan have pointed out, but about which the dominant elite has never had an inclination to do anything.

Hal Morris said...

Crawfordmuir: "Could any of those (various accidental) deaths have been prevented by registering bathtubs, licensing staircases, or outlawing playgrounds?"

Those are of course ridiculously inappropriate responses. "registering bathtubs" vs "register devices designed for killing people". Yeah, a very appropriate comparison. Then find a way to segue into another favorite talking point.

Hal Morris said...

Then there is the mythology that the firearms are an effective protection against tyranny, to which I argue "No, (would be) dictators don't prefer unarmed citizens." in

Crawfurdmuir said...

"register devices designed for killing people".

A firearm is nothing more than a tool. It may be used to kill people, but is no more necessarily "designed for killing people" than a knife, or an automobile, or any number of other tools. I defy you to show that my pair of Woodwards, my several Alex Henry and Farquharson rifles, and the other firearms I own, were "designed for killing people."

I am in my seventh decade of life, and have owned many firearms ever since I was a mere schoolboy, without ever killing a person. I furthermore have no inclination at this point to beg the permission of some petty bureaucrat in order to continue owning them.

Let us rather concentrate law enforcement efforts on the types of people who commit violent crimes and punish them with exemplary severity.

I have elsewhere commented on the admirable qualities of the Swiss. Their example gives the lie to your claim that "dictators don't prefer unarmed citizens." Neither Buonaparte nor Hitler dared confront the Swiss. Both Machiavelli and "The Federalist" comment on the independence of the Swiss as maintained "virtute et armis."