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Uvalde Will Happen Again
We have a system which provides leverage to one political party.
I don’t have anything of value to add about Uvalde and I’m as heartsick and angry as you are.
But I do want to try to impose some reality in our thinking about guns: This will happen again, and again. Because guns are a problem that cannot be fixed.
(1) The Second Amendment, like it or not, provides cover that makes reforming gun laws difficult to do and then more difficult to legally sustain.
(2) Guns are more popular than you probably realize and our political system gives so much leverage to one particular political party that if this party holds a position with roughly 45 percent support in the populace, it’s basically impossible to pull back.
This leverage which our system currently affords to the Republican party— which is a new, but so far durable feature of American politics—makes it so we have results like this: Gun reform is favored by a slim majority made up primarily of Democrats and independent voters, so it is impossible to enact.
But while 64 percent of the country is opposed to overturning Roe, overturning it and restricting the practice of abortion is favored by a minority made up primarily of Republicans.
Which is why Roe is likely to be overturned and gun control is unlikely to be achieved.
If you believe that this state of affairs is suboptimal for our republic, then maybe Democrats should have made the District of Columbia a state instead of spending their political capital on an infrastructure bill.
That wouldn’t have fixed the gun problem, but reducing the leverage that rural voters have over the rest of the country is a necessary precondition to any progress on this front.
(3) Even if we reformed gun laws, the sheer number of guns in circulation would continue to contribute to tragedies and shootings for years—probably decades—to come. Guns don’t expire and there are some 400 million of them circulating in our country. We are off the charts globally in terms of number of guns owned per resident.
I don’t want to give in to despair here. I’m just trying to be realistic about what would be required to meaningfully reduce gun violence.
And because these requirements are so large—breaking the Republican hold on the Senate and hence the Supreme Court; crafting laws that are aggressive but pass constitutional muster; then embarking on a generational task to remove guns from circulation—I don’t think it will happen.
I mean, for God’s sake: We had an actual insurrection in America 17 months ago and Democrats still haven’t passed Electoral Count Act reform.
So what can we do? Maybe in blue states there are incremental reforms that could help at the margins. But that’s about it. Even a measure as modest and full of compromises as the Manchin-Toomey bill is a dead letter in our political system.
Nothing will change until the system is rebalanced, either through the passing of laws or the shifting of demographics.
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We’re getting several revolutions in military affairs all at once in Ukraine.
The importance of real-time intelligence sharing and crowdsourced intel gathering.
The supremacy of man-portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.
In March 2020, the Marine commandant, General David Berger, published “Force Design 2030.” This controversial paper announced a significant restructuring based on the belief that “the Marine Corps is not organized, trained, equipped or postured to meet the demands of the rapidly evolving future operating environment.” That “future operating environment” is an imagined war with China in the South Pacific—but in many ways, that hypothetical conflict resembles the real war in Ukraine.
The military we have—an army built around tanks, a navy built around ships, and an air force built around planes, all of which are technologically advanced and astronomically expensive—is platform-centric. So far, in Ukraine, the signature land weapon hasn’t been a tank but an anti-tank missile: the Javelin. The signature air weapon hasn’t been an aircraft, but an anti-air missile: the Stinger. And as the sinking of the Moskva showed, the signature maritime weapon hasn’t been a ship but an anti-ship missile: the Neptune.
Berger believes a new age of war is upon us. In “Force Design 2030,” he puts the following sentence in bold: “We must acknowledge the impacts of proliferated precision long-range fires, mines, and other smart weapons, and seek innovative ways to overcome these threat capabilities.” The weapons General Berger refers to include the same family of anti-platform weapons Ukrainians are using to incinerate Russian tanks, shoot down Russian helicopters, and sink Russian warships. . . .
Like its Russian counterpart, the American military has long been built around platforms. To pivot away from a platform-centric view of warfare is both a cultural challenge—what does it mean to be a fighter pilot without a jet, a tanker without a tank, or a sailor without a ship?—and a resource challenge. It asks the U.S. military, as well as the U.S. defense industry, to divest itself of legacy capabilities like, for example, a $13 billion Ford-class aircraft carrier, in order to invest in new, potentially less profitable technologies like, say, $6,000 Switchblade drones that can kill tanks. . . .
Events in Ukraine seem to validate Berger’s anti-platform-centric view of warfare, in much the same way that World War I validated those who had argued that defense had become stronger than offense.
Not to keep ringing the same bell, but it seems that this anti-platform revolution is really a downstream effect of the revolution in intelligence.
When the history of this war is written, I suspect we will learn that the intelligence gathering, dissemination, and sharing in Ukraine leapfrogged anything we’ve seen before in war.
Here is a piece that was published yesterday in the Baffler. I don’t mean to suggest that it’s wrong to talk about small things in big times. It’s not. We can’t immerse ourselves in nothing but war, murder, and politics all the time.
It’s the content of the essay that strikes me as a particularly acute example of the kind of decadence which has led us to where we are as a society:
FOR FOUR MONTHS—four banal yet torrid months—I was a near-invisible custodian of the New York City micro-neighborhood known as Dimes Square. Chances are you either know exactly what I’m talking about, or you have literally no idea (in the case of the latter, enjoy your sanity). In material terms, Dimes Square is a relatively small triangle of asphalt sandwiched between the intersection of Canal and Division Streets in the eastern part of Chinatown. Initially named for the nearby health-food restaurant Dimes, it could have just as easily been named for the throngs of “dimes” who hang out there. It is both an in-between and an epicenter, having become, for a variety of reasons, one of contemporary New York’s liver spots or jungle gyms, depending on your view.
When I first moved to New York, chilling in this zone was indeed a thing. You went to gallery openings at Larrie or Reena Spaulings, you downed shots at Beverly’s, and afterwards you ate scallion pancakes at North Dumpling. But in these days of anti-woke film festivals and blackpilled Substacks, the proper noun “Dimes Square” signifies a bit more than it used to, looming larger in the city’s imagination, having become a concept, a chimera, a state of mind. . . .
These days we are all smooth-braining our way through life, my peers and I, by which I mean that we are losing it, we are spiraling as we find ourselves refracted and reflected by the many-sided mirror that is the internet. Indeed, “We are living through the dumbest time in human history,” according to Matthew Gasda, whose play Dimes Square has been showing to sold-out audiences since it debuted in mid-February, right around when I was laid off. But is this “the dumbest time” or are we just the dumbest, the most fried, we’ve ever been? Maybe I’m so cracked I can’t see straight, maybe I found Gasda’s play to be barely passable, but I do find community in feeling worn thin and am generally sympathetic to pessimistic declarations of any kind.
One thing is certain: we are living in a time of shibboleths, of passwords. Lately, language is being thrown about like confetti, like all those business cards for boutique weed delivery services scattered on the sidewalk; it is being stretched out and reshaped, made to mean everything and nothing all at once. We are quirked, we are goated, we are bruh, we are bestie. Those of us living in certain corners of New York are exposed to hyperspecific tweets and memes on a daily basis, ones that gesture toward the bars, clubs, restaurants, and even intersections that we frequent or are alleged to frequent. Do these memes make us feel good? Do they even make us laugh?
Don’t read this thing. It will probably depress you and make you angry.