Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

Quite the Photo

This is quite the photo. (Click the headline of this post to see full sized image.)

Dan Scavino (L), White House Director of Social Media, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (2nd L), Johnny DeStefano (2nd R), Director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, and Keith Kellogg (R), Chief of Staff of the National Security Council. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Numeracy, School Massacres and the Nature of Terrorism

A few months back I got into a minor public spat about the failings of so-called “data journalism.” I erred to the extent that I spoke loosely about data journalism in general as opposed to misuses of it or sloppy and lazy uses of it, which the example I noted clearly amounted to. One might generally describe this abuse of the form as clever people using numbers to lecture people about elements of human experience the clever lecturing people either don’t understand or think their cleverness gives them a pass on trying to understand. One element of that example was a study that showed that mass shootings account for only a very tiny subset of the total number of deaths in this country from firearms every year. This is true (probably obvious to almost all of us if we give it some thought) and also largely beside the point.

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Of Course the President Obstructed Justice

This isn’t new news, not a new revelation. But with more and more voluminous information coming in daily, it is worth revisiting the point. Whether or not the President obstructed justice recently isn’t a factual question. That one is 100% clear. It’s really a legal and constitutional one.

Here’s what I mean.

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Our Collective Impotence Feeds the Power of Guns

We’ve discussed it many times. Most of us realize it: one of the great ironies, and perhaps tragedies of the “gun control” debate is that it has been backed into such limited and incremental policy prescriptions that those prescriptions can be reasonably derided by “gun rights” advocates as barely worth the trouble or hardly of any use. We know that no one restriction would prevent every needless tragedy. But together, a number of them, interweaving and compounding each other, would prevent or limit many massacres and bloodbaths. More importantly, this whole logic is not one we apply to any other problem of criminality or public health. Our entire counter-terrorism policy is based on no silver bullets but a series of traversable but still consequential obstacles, the aim of which is to disrupt, make more complicated or reveal conspiracies. We have collectively made it mainly too difficult to hatch plots to commandeer airliners or even effectively communicate to plan major operations at all. So radicals are reduced to largely ineffectual (but still often deadly) DIY kitchenware based bombs and trucks. That’s a good thing.

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