The Weekly Arc: October 8, 2017
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“Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” wrote the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, imploring us to violently resist the encroachment of death. Thomas would publish this work in 1951, a year before his father, for whom the poem is written, succumbed to illness and entered into that good night.
A common literary motif is the attempt to outrun death. Thomas rejects this creed, insisting on fight over flight. Yet what does it look like, this fading defiance, this assault on our own mortality? There is a night that comes for us all — we can no sooner stop its arrival than we can stop the Earth from turning. Yet we must burn and rave against it.
If the United States backs out, while everyone believes Iran is honoring the deal, the world will blame America. Iran will be freed of its commitments, and get to restart its nuclear program. Given Trump’s belligerence, they will scramble for a bomb, trying to get a deterrent before the U.S. can attack.
Critics are right that Iran sponsors terrorist groups, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, along with Shia militias in Iraq and Houthi rebels in Yemen. They’re also right that Iran has been testing advanced ballistic missiles, in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. There’s no question Iran is an American adversary.
But ballistic missiles and sponsoring terrorism are not part of the nuclear deal. And it becomes much harder for the United States to counter Iran in those areas if Iran has a nuclear weapon, not easier.
It’s also true that parts of the deal sunset after one or two decades. Iran would remain in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-weapons state, and therefore be legally forbidden from building a bomb. But that didn’t stop them from cheating before. And once the JCPOA’s restrictions end, the Iranians could restart enrichment, acquiring all the components to build nuclear weapons, but stopping short of constructing them.
That’s a problem the United States and allies will have to deal with in the future. But, once again, withdrawing from the deal makes the problem worse, not better.
The impulse to confiscate weapons is natural, but comes up against difficult, practical questions. If gun owners are unwilling to surrender their firearms — in, say, a buy-back program — what would going door-to-door to confiscate them look like? Would this necessitate further militarization of police forces that are already purchasing surplus military equipment?
There is also the issue of whether rural communities — where the nearest police station might be an hour away — should be allowed to keep firearms to protect their lives and property. Any policy of gun confiscation would have to consider their needs and not impose laws designed to protect largely urban constituencies at the expense of rural ones.
Australia’s gun control program is often put forth as a hopeful model. But as research at FiveThirtyEight has shown, it wouldn’t be a sufficient model for the United States. Among the reasons: Australia is an island, with much less risk of cross-border smuggling. It had far fewer guns in circulation before beginning its buy-back program. And it doesn’t have an equivalent to the Second Amendment.
For 8 years, Republicans made disingenuous arguments about healthcare. For example, they denounced rising premiums and deductibles, even though market-based health reform increases premiums and deductibles to disincentivize over-consumption.
This year, that smacked into reality.
Republicans’ promises were always impossible — especially Trump’s — but as long as they were abstract, they were politically advantageous. Once Republicans had to turn those promises into law, they flopped, wasting a year of the legislative calendar and much of the political capital they won in the election.
That should be a lesson for Democrats. Unrealistic promises may help win elections, but that doesn’t mean they lead to policy changes. While it’s true that losing elections eliminates any possibility of changing policy, failure to enact promised changes demoralizes the base and galvanizes the opposition.
Do the Democrats think Obamacare is such a disaster that it must be ripped out root-and-branch and replaced by a new system? That’s the Republicans’ position, and it’s basically what Sanders argued during the primary.
by Caroline O.
Firearms are the most lethal method of suicide in the U.S. While guns are involved in just 5.6 percent of all suicide attempts, they account for 55 percent of suicide fatalities. More people in the U.S. kill themselves with guns than with all other intentional means combined, including hanging, poisoning or overdose, jumping, and cutting. These numbers stem from the shockingly high case fatality rate of suicide by firearm: about 85 percent of suicide attempts involving guns result in death, compared to about 2 percent of intentional overdoses/poisonings.
Suicides are often impulsive decisions, made without much planning or forethought. That’s especially true in gun suicides, where the majority of victims don’t have a documented serious mental illness. If someone in a crisis can’t access a gun quickly, they may not try suicide at all, or they may try a less lethal method — leaving a crucial opening to save their life. And 90 percent of people who survive a suicide attempt don’t go on to take their own lives at a later time.
Some of the worst publications in the world have millions of followers. Want to restore balance to the universe? Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
by Varad Mehta
At the height of the presidential campaign last year, Donald Trump made Republicans who had shown a pronounced reluctance, even distaste, at the prospect of casting their vote for him an offer they couldn’t refuse.
Vote for me, he told GOP voters, or the courts get it. …
This past Thursday the seed Trump planted in the summer of 2016 yielded arguably its most bounteous harvest yet. The president named his eighth slate of judicial nominees, including two superstars of the conservative legal firmament. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court announced it would hear a case whose likely outcome will be a sharp reduction in the power of unions, an enduring conservative objective.
That both occurred on the same day was a coincidence. But it was just such a coincidence Trump had in mind when he told recalcitrant Republicans they had no choice but to make a deal with the Devil. So far, at least on this score, the Devil is keeping the customer satisfied.
by Andrés Ruiz
It is morally repugnant and abhorrent for a nation that claims to value freedom and self-determination to deny an island of over 3 million people, with an added 4 million outside of the island that comprise the Puerto Rican diaspora, the right to proper representation in the Senate and House of Representatives.
This is literally the reason why American colonists saw rebellion against Britain as the only recourse to take to ensure future freedom. The animating cry of “no taxation without representation” was met by the British response of “virtual representation,” the idea that any member of Parliament is capable of looking out for the interests of British everywhere, not just for those within their regional space. The colonists did not accept this argument. A Virginian must participate in Parliament if Virginia is to be genuinely represented, they argued. It’s interesting that this early recognition of the surpassing importance of native representation is no longer valued as much. Or maybe it is, but not when it comes to extending that recognition to Puerto Ricans.
We cannot consistently claim to value freedom and liberty while turning a blind eye to the continued colonial dominance over an island whose struggles for independence have been met with brutal military response throughout its history. While the island reels from the catastrophic impact of hurricane Maria, let’s not forget the conditions Puerto Ricans have had to endure throughout history, as well as how those conditions have shaped the federal government’s response to this tragedy.
On November 8th, 2017, New Jersey voters won’t be the only ones deciding an open race for the statehouse. The commonwealth of Virginia, which does not allow its state executives to serve more than one term consecutively, will elect a new governor as well.
Virginia spent decades as a GOP stronghold, even rejecting Bill Clinton, who tried hard to win the state both times. But things started to change in the mid-2000s. Demographics shifted in the northern Virginia suburbs, and suddenly Democrats were winning more state-wide races. …
So who could the GOP nominate to take on the task of overcoming shifting trends and winning state-wide again? Enter Ed Gillespie, the former chairman of the RNC and adviser to George W. Bush.
by Ryan Huber
The realities black men face, on educational, economic, and criminal justice levels, are outrageous. These elements are absolutely linked, and if we don’t reform schools in black communities, if we don’t push for more educational and economic opportunities for young black people, then we will continue to silently affirm the racially unjust conditions that lead to their disproportionate experience of violence at the hands of criminals and police alike.
Yet education reform alone is not enough. We still, as a society, have to confront the reality that black people are more likely to be arrested, convicted (and wrongfully so), and serve (more) prison time than white people in similar circumstances. These are just some of the racial disparities in the criminal justice system (see capital punishment, for another outrageous disparity). This is why education reform and criminal justice reform must go hand-in-hand.
As the number of guns in America has increased, the number of gun owners has fallen 17 percent — from its peak of 53 percent ownership to a rate of 36 percent.
Fewer people, call them gun enthusiasts, are buying an increasing share of the weaponry in the United States. One further implication is that as the violent crime rate has fallen from its peak in the early 1990s of 760 incidents per 100,000 people to approximately 400 incidents per 100,000, the gun ownership rate has decreased. That is to say, one could just as easily make the argument that the decrease in gun ownership best explains the correlation with the decrease in violent crimes.
It’s possible that crime and gun ownership have a strong causal connection. As crime increases, people feel insecure and seek out weapons of their own for self-defense purposes. As crime decreases, that impetus is removed. What’s less likely to be true is that greater gun ownership is causally responsible for a lowered crime rate.
When a source of information cloaks itself as an objective news organization, when it hides behind a veneer of impartiality, yet all along has a committed agenda that largely disallows it from ever deviating from a particular ideological perspective, what that breeds is a populace unaware it has been propagandized. …
The past three years — 2015–2017 — have been eye-opening for many of us in the information space. The injection of political advertising and fake news into ubiquitous social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter has had disastrous consequences, and the revelation that this has been happening has led to all manner of soul searching. …
As we continue to learn about how easily the information industry can be gamed, it needs to dawn on us that achieving the truth, capturing an accurate picture of the world, is a process that all of us must actively participate in. Readers cannot passively assume their sources of knowledge are unproblematically objective. There is a vigilance we must show. Our new media moment requires this of us.