Adult Fears

People who feel safer with a gun than with guaranteed medical insurance don’t yet have a fully adult concept of scary.

William Gibson

This week’s featured post is “Repeating myself about guns“.

This week everybody was talking about gun violence

This week’s featured post is my confession that I’ve got no new ideas about America’s gun problem. Instead, I review what I’ve written on the topic since 2015. As far as I can see, nothing has changed in the last seven years, other than the list of mass shootings getting longer.

I also can’t report any ideas from others that struck me as new this week. The battle of ideas, such as it is, has been going around in circles for a very long time.

What did seem fresh, though, was the earnestness of emotion that I heard from many people, particularly from folks who aren’t politicians or news-show hosts. To me, the most moving comments came from people who have been successful enough to have people pay attention to them, but used that opportunity to channel what ordinary people are feeling.

One of them was NBA coach Steve Kerr, who on Tuesday couldn’t bring himself to focus on questions about his team’s progress in the playoffs. (They advanced to the finals on Thursday.) Violence is personal for Kerr. He was 18 when his father was gunned down by terrorists in Beirut. This is what he had to say.

The bill he’s talking about, HR-8, is summarized here. It’s hardly an attempt to seize people’s guns. Rather, it just makes it illegal to sell a gun to someone without a background check. Polls indicate that most Americans believe that’s already what the law demands, but it isn’t.

Jimmy Kimmel also had trouble keeping his voice steady. He recorded this statement without an audience.

Video can capture weaselly responses as well. In this clip, Ted Cruz has no answer for a British reporter who asks him why these kinds of shootings happen so much more often in America than anywhere else, and if our lax gun laws have something to do with it. Cruz can only pretend to be offended and storm off, because there’s nothing he can say.

Three years ago, the American Independent listed 13 absurd “causes” for mass shootings that Republicans offer to distract attention from guns. We heard just about the whole list this week as well. None of them answer the question the reporter asked Cruz: What’s special about the United States other than the ease with which people with violent intentions can lay their hands on weapons appropriate for fighting a war?

The lack of any link between shootings and video games, for example, was already clear nine years ago in this chart: If you’re having trouble reading it, the United States is the dot floating high above the field because of its per capita gun-related murders, while the Netherlands and South Korea spend far more per capita on video games.

The Texas Observer does a pretty thorough takedown of Governor Abbott and his finger-pointing at mental illness (which, of course, only exists in the US).

Abbott is simply changing the topic.

The Uvalde shooter did not kill those children with his purported mental health struggles. He did not shoot them with estrangement; he did not murder them with malaise; he did not ravage their little bodies with the inchoate rage of his misguided youth. He killed them with a goddamn assault rifle, and high-capacity magazines, designed for the precise purpose of human annihilation.

Abbott’s interest in mental health lasts just as long as it takes for voters’ attention to shift away from guns. (About four days, according to Princeton Professor Patrick Sharkey.) Just last month, he cut the state’s mental health budget.

Texas ranked last out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia for overall access to mental health care, according to the 2021 State of Mental Health in America report.

Texas could easily start reversing that sorry record by approving ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, which the Republican legislature still refuses to do.

But if you think pro-gun gaslighting can’t get any worse, I have bad news for you: The problem isn’t guns, says Derek Gilbert, it’s demons. Killing so many children with an AR-15 is so hard, Gilbert improbably claims, that the Uvalde shooter couldn’t have managed it unless he were possessed by a demon who has done this before. (Again, it’s not clear why this demon doesn’t possess people in the Netherlands or South Korea.)

The police in Uvalde arrived at the school within minutes. (It’s a small town. I saw someone on Twitter claim that nothing is more than five minutes from the school.) But they didn’t enter the room where the shooter was killing children until more than an hour later. Kids were calling 911 while police were just outside the door. The police changed their story many times in the first few days. Whether we have the true story now is anybody’s guess.

and Ukraine

Russia continues to advance slowly into eastern Ukraine. CNBC calls this “a subtle momentum shift in the war”. Some of the pro-Ukraine voices I’ve been following have stopped commenting, which worries me. The Week summarizes speculations in both directions.

As the war drags on, the likelihood of a global food shortage rises. It’s easy to sensationalize that possibility, but The Economist covers it pretty well.

Russia and Ukraine supply 28% of globally traded wheat, 29% of the barley, 15% of the maize and 75% of the sunflower oil. Russia and Ukraine contribute about half the cereals imported by Lebanon and Tunisia; for Libya and Egypt the figure is two-thirds. Ukraine’s food exports provide the calories to feed 400m people. The war is disrupting these supplies because Ukraine has mined its waters to deter an assault, and Russia is blockading the port of Odessa.

Even before the invasion the World Food Programme had warned that 2022 would be a terrible year. China, the largest wheat producer, has said that, after rains delayed planting last year, this crop may be its worst-ever. Now, in addition to the extreme temperatures in India, the world’s second-largest producer, a lack of rain threatens to sap yields in other breadbaskets, from America’s wheat belt to the Beauce region of France. The Horn of Africa is being ravaged by its worst drought in four decades.

If you’re a middle-class-or-higher American, this will be a nuisance but not a crisis. Food prices will increase, but the average American household spends only 10% of its income on food. We could afford to spend more, and we could eat more cheaply without starving. And if the rest of us choose to look out for Americans who are food insecure (always a dubious proposition), they could be fine too.

What will happen in poorer countries, though, is up in the air. The world still produces plenty of calories to feed everybody, if that were a priority. But much of that production goes into producing meat (which delivers calories much less efficiently) or fuel.

and the pandemic

Case numbers, which have been increasing since late March, seem to have leveled off nationally. In the Northeast, where the current surge started a little earlier, cases have started to drift downward. Hospitalizations, a lagging indicator, are still rising nationally, but are headed down in Maine, Vermont, and Rhode Island. Deaths never did take off during this surge, but are running at 374 per day, up somewhat from a low of around 300 a few weeks ago.

At this point, if you are in good health, have no special risk factors, and have gotten all the recommended vaccinations (including boosters), you don’t need to worry that much about dying from Covid. A number of people I know personally have had Covid in the last month or so, and none have been hospitalized for it.

My personal fear at this point centers around long Covid, in which symptoms unpredictably last for months or years.

and you also might be interested in …

The Georgia Republican primary showed the limits of Trump’s influence. Few Republicans have drawn more of the Great Orange One’s wrath than Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. But both won their primaries easily.

My reading of Republican primaries to date is that the GOP base fully supports Trump’s fascism, but is ambivalent about his personal vendettas. I lean towards believing that the party’s 2024 nominee will be a post-Trump fascist, like Ron DeSantis.

Georgia Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for nominating Herschel Walker to run against Senator Raphael Warnock. I don’t know whether to feel sorry for Walker as a victim of cerebral damage from his football career or to fault him for just being stupid. But he has trouble speaking in complete sentences, as his response to the Uvalde shooting demonstrated. He’s also dishonest and prone to violence. I know Republican standards have dropped sharply in the Trump Era. But this far? Really?

One of the themes of Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning was how racism in America has continuously evolved, from slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration and beyond. Well, I think I just saw the future of racism in America: anti-racialism, as promoted in the current Atlantic by Reihan Salam of the Koch-funded Manhattan Institute.

Anti-racialism, basically, is an updated version of color-blindness, the idea that if we just stop calling attention to race, everybody will forget about it.

If liberal anti-racism is grounded in the idea that raising the salience of race is essential to achieving racial justice, anti-racialism holds that heightened race consciousness, and the racialization of disparities and differences that would obtain in any culturally plural society, more often than not cuts against fostering integration, civic harmony, and social progress.

One true observation Salam makes is that what we currently have (and are evolving toward) is not white supremacy, strictly speaking, because an increasing number of Asians and Hispanics are finding their way into the formerly all-white “mainstream” of American society.

In The Great Demographic Illusion, Alba underscores that the American mainstream is not coterminous with whiteness. “Just as the white Protestant mainstream that prevailed from colonial times to the middle of the twentieth century evolved through the mass assimilation of Catholic and Jewish ethnics after World War II,” he writes, “the racially defined mainstream of today is changing, at least in some parts of the country, as a result of the inclusion of many nonwhite and mixed Americans.”

Salam recognizes that of course there’s still the problem of “black exceptionalism”, i.e., not even an expanded mainstream has space for Black people.

the intense racial isolation experienced by most Black descendants of enslaved African Americans remains an important social fact

But, well, it sucks to be them. The rest of us should form a broad (or at least broader) multi-racial coalition that pretends race isn’t an issue any more.

and let’s close with something from another universe

The Marvel Cinematic Universe, to be exact. There’s probably no easier piece of music to turn into a fun video than Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk”. But together with this collection of Marvel outtakes, it’s irresistible.

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  • nedhamson  On May 30, 2022 at 11:48 am

    Reblogged this on Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News.

  • thebhgg  On May 30, 2022 at 1:41 pm

    I strongly urge anyone worried about global food prices to read the tweets in this thread, including:

    >My personal favorite Misleading Wheat Stat is “Ukraine/Russia grow 25% of world wheat exports.” Why’s it misleading? It’s technically true, but doesn’t mean what people think! Missing wheat from the war is actually less than 1% of global wheat crop!

    Her writing was in Foreign Policy. The issue with food throughout history is almost always about distribution, not supply.

    • weeklysift  On June 4, 2022 at 6:51 am

      I’m sorry this comment took so long to appear. WordPress is suspicious of comments with links, so it asked me to moderate this one. I’m not always prompt in looking at my moderation page.

  • David Pollard  On May 30, 2022 at 3:55 pm

    A simple reason for this, and one that would probably make the conservatives squirm a bit. Americans are just that much more *evil* than the rest of the world. True, people die of gunfire in other countries, but that’s usually due to warfare, be it civil or between criminal gangs. It’s only in America where mass slaughter of children is instigated for the sheer joy or notoriety of it.

  • Lois Strand  On May 30, 2022 at 5:16 pm

    Re: Herschel Walker. The man obviously has brain damage from his football days. Obviously unqualified to be an United States Senator. It is absolutely shameful that the Republican Party has used him like this because of his “fame” in Georgia.

    • Anonymous  On May 30, 2022 at 6:39 pm

      Plus he’s Black. This is another case of Republicans believing their own propaganda. The propaganda says the left is totally focused on “identity politics.” If that’s the case, running a Black Republican candidate against a Black Democrat makes sense.

      They also ran a Republican Latina candidate against Alexandria Occasio Cortez

      • Lois Strand  On May 30, 2022 at 10:51 pm

        I don’t know this, but I have to believe Georgia has a more qualified black conservative that they could have pushed to run instead of Walker.

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