Law and Order in the Fallen World, The Economy, The Election, God in the Tsunami, The Fed’s Big Policy Change, Pablo Escobar’s Banker, The Wise Men, Walker Percy
The Transom: News and Notes From Around the Web
It is a natural tendency on the part of most human beings, when confronted with great evil, to want to do something about it. We want to stop the horror of death and violence and disease. It speaks to what is good within us that we desire this—it speaks to a recognition on our part, innate and abiding, that there is something terribly broken in this world—a great mistake which has been made along the way, a gear missed in the works, a gaping hole where something should be. The feeling is all the stronger when we face the destruction of innocent life—the life of a child. The Mishnah tells us that the act of murder destroys a whole world—the world as it would’ve been with that person in it. When the worlds wiped out are so young, the shock of it all echoes and rebounds throughout the lives of others for generations. And the only part that can be played by those left behind is one of charity.
This is a frustrating limitation, and so those who are more naturally given to see problems of law or culture as the reason for evil look at the horror of Newtown as something that can be prevented, if only we do this or that thing, pass this or that law. Something must be done, they say. But their somethings all have this in common: none of their proposals, on guns or mental health or any other factor, would have prevented this awful crime. In the real world, there is no law that can make the murderously insane sane, or remove all weapons from their grasp. The tweaks that have been attempted in the past in our nation and others have proven insufficient time and again. And no step which disarms the law-abiding will help.
We are in the midst of an historic and statistically impossible decline in violence in America. The economic downturn, which would be a reasonable reason for a rebound in violent crime, has produced nothing of the sort on a nationwide scale. The experts are flabbergasted as to why, and the assumptions of criminologists are being tested to a great degree.  High imprisonment, high tech tools, more disciplined police forces, and cultural factors are all potential reasons. But it is clear that even as guns are available as ever, this has done nothing to drive up crime rates nationwide. And beyond: Steven Pinker has argued, convincingly, that we are at the most peaceful point in human history.  In the midst of such declines, spikes of mass violence and murder are all the more jarring.
Yet the sad fact is that in Connecticut, where the gun laws are some of the most restrictive in the country, it appears the Brady campaign accomplished as much as it could’ve.  Newtown had one homicide in the past ten years.  The guns used by the madman were purchased legally by his mother and kept safely in her home – as with most guns used in criminal acts, they were stolen. His own attempt to purchase a weapon ran into the legally required waiting period.  There are just only so many steps you can take to prevent evil of this nature and still have a free society. After all, what really happens when you pass gun bans is that effectively, they work as permanent authorizations for police to stop and frisk urban minorities.  Consider the case of Chicago, where Rahm Emanuel is talking about more restrictions in the wake of Newtown.  What does he have in mind? There were 192 shootings in Chicago last month.  On Friday alone there were 10 people shot in his city.  Whatever Emanuel’s new law is, it would not prevent these crimes. In Mexico, there is one legal gun store to serve the entire nation. It is, according to the Washington Post, “not very busy.”  In America, there are roughly 300 million privately owned firearms – and while some may dream of putting these firearms in a pile and melting them down, most Americans understand that the result of giving the government a monopoly on force would be awful for the very innocents such policies are intended to protect.
In Germany, laws were passed and additional gun control steps taken in the wake of a 2002 school shooting which left 16 dead and horrified the nation.  Seven years later, a gunman killed 15 in Stuttgart. These mass murders have a long history, longer than the media has reported—nor are they tied to the advent of modern weapons.  “Guns aren’t even the most lethal mass murder weapon. According to data compiled by Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections, guns killed an average of 4.92 victims per mass murder in the United States during the 20th century, just edging out knives, blunt objects, and bare hands, which killed 4.52 people per incident. Fire killed 6.82 people per mass murder, while explosives far outpaced the other options at 20.82. Of the 25 deadliest mass murders in the 20th century, only 52 percent involved guns. The U.S. mass murder rate does not seem to rise or fall with the availability of automatic weapons. It reached its highest level in 1929, when fully automatic firearms were expensive and mostly limited to soldiers and organized criminals.”
Duwe’s research is worth reading in greater detail, considering how much it runs against the reports seen in the media about the historical record of mass murders.  “I suggest that the news media have figured prominently in the social construction of mass murder by heavily influencing which cases claimsmakers have selected as landmark narratives and, more generally, as typifying examples. Because claimsmakers have relied almost exclusively on national news coverage as a source of data, they have made a number of questionable claims about the prevalence and nature of mass murder since the high-profile cases represent the most sensational and least representative mass killings. And the news media have completed the circle of distortion by disseminating the bulk of the claims that have been made, leading to policies that have targeted the rarest aspects about mass murder.” (@seanmdav notes that according to Lexis, exactly 2 articles have referenced Duwe or his research since the Newtown shooting. The phrase "gun control" shows up in thousands.) But you’ll keep seeing reports like this today.
As for the mental health aspect of this case, I doubt anyone would propose a solution to the current problems which would enable parents to lock away people with Asperger’s.  Several of the mass murderers over the past decade or so were already in treatment or being prescribed drugs—but as a practical matter, no one could force them to assent to therapy or to take those pills. Instant checks could help, but again, that only effects legal purchases.  The madman’s mother had even reportedly retired from teaching to take care of her disturbed son.  The facilities we have which offer true hope to people—such as DePaul Psychiatric Hospital in New Orleans—are expensive exceptions. We don’t want to create a Shutter Island solution which results in putting away young disturbed men who refuse to assent to therapy.  Nor do we want to stigmatize those whose conditions are simply not threatening.  That said, we do indeed have mental health challenges in the nation which deserve more consideration. This sort of tale is horrendous to hear about—here’s a particularly sad story—but again, there are few solutions to offer. 
Robert Tracinski writes: “So all of the blather you are already hearing about how this can be blamed on the lack of gun control, or on violent movies, or first-person-shooter video games, or on some kind of general cultural malaise is based on a cheap emotional appeal rather than on evidence. On the basis of the evidence, we can look back over decades in which such killings have occurred at a fairly constant rate and in which the cause has usually been the same. We can conclude that in a nation of 300 million people, there will be a certain number of people who become insane. Of those people, there will always be a small number—usually young men, because young men have a natural tendency toward aggression and a fascination with violence—whose insanity drives them to kill, whether to take revenge on society in general, or because of paranoid delusions, or because the voices in their heads tell them to. This is a basic, predictable fact of life in human society, with no particular political implications and—this is the part that's hard to accept—no particular solution. The least ridiculous reaction to this shooting will start from a recognition that its cause is insanity, and some commentators will suggest improved screening for mental illness and faster intervention. There may be some basis for this. (Seung Hui-Cho, for example, was known to be dangerously unstable, but no one seemed to think they had the authority to do anything about it.) But I also fear that a mania for prevention will cause more damage than it prevents—that we risk unnecessarily committing thousands of disturbed or merely eccentric young men on the basis of a hysterical fear that they will become killers.”
In the end, the options for what the law can do or society can do are largely limited. They will not prevent this sort of evil from happening again. This is infuriating, of course. All we can do, on an individual level, is prepare ourselves to do whatever it takes if we are put in the position of those who stand between the marauder and the innocent.  We can take this time to understand that in that situation, there is always something you can do.  And for those of us who believe the broken nature of this fallen world is something that will be healed, we can take solace in the knowledge David Bentley Hart describes in today’s feature—that “our faith is in a God who has come to rescue His creation from the absurdity of sin and the emptiness of death, and so we are permitted to hate these things with a perfect hatred… As for comfort, when we seek it, I can imagine none greater than the happy knowledge that when I see the death of a child I do not see the face of God, but the face of His enemy. It is not a faith that would necessarily satisfy Ivan Karamazov, but neither is it one that his arguments can defeat: for it has set us free from optimism, and taught us hope instead. We can rejoice that we are saved not through the immanent mechanisms of history and nature, but by grace; that God will not unite all of history’s many strands in one great synthesis, but will judge much of history false and damnable; that He will not simply reveal the sublime logic of fallen nature, but will strike off the fetters in which creation languishes; and that, rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, He will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes – and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain, for the former things will have passed away, and He that sits upon the throne will say, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”
RELATED: Ron Fournier: what if there’s no one to blame?  Other academic research has highlighted the negative ramifications of gun control proposals informed by mass shootings.  Note to Piers Morgan: the Founders didn't envision an out of touch British snob being able to invade our homes and look down his nose at the country, but we still have a First Amendment. The media at its worst part I.  Part II.   I’m sure that will work, David Brooks.  Australia and the U.S.  China’s problem.  All time high gun sales in November.  Newt on gun rights.  Bill Bennett: arm teachers.  Gun crime in the UK.   A former Romney adviser “break ranks” on guns.  Former Obama official and The Daily Show writer has Connecticut jokes.  Former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett’s political commentary is as intelligent as his new show, 1600 Penn.  Douthat on Newtown. 
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John Boehner goes to President Obama with the most realistic deal yet on the fiscal cliff. But why did he take it to him? He should’ve just passed it and left town.  “Speaker John Boehner has proposed allowing tax rates to rise for the wealthiest Americans if President Barack Obama agrees to major entitlement cuts, according to several sources close to the talks. It is the first time Boehner has offered any boost in marginal tax rates for any income group, and it would represent a major concession for the Ohio Republican. Boehner suggested hiking the Bush-era tax rates for top wage earners, including those with annual incomes of $1 million or more annually, beginning Jan. 1, two sources said. Boehner also wants to use a new method of calculating benefits for entitlement programs known as “chained CPI,” which would slow the growth of Medicare and other federal health programs and save hundreds of billions over the next decade. The speaker’s offer would not include extending federal unemployment benefits, and it is unclear how it would address sequestration — the tens of billions in spending cuts scheduled to go into effect for the Pentagon and other federal agencies starting Jan. 2.” He also reportedly yielded on the debt limit.  If that deal isn’t good enough for the White House, here comes the pain. 
The Fed has tried its new policy before.  “What was missing from commentary was caution based on history: the Fed has tried this before and failed - with disastrous consequences. By "this," I mean a twin targeting of unemployment and inflation. In the 1970s, that's what the Fed did. Targets weren't announced but were implicit. The Fed pursed the then-popular goal of "full employment," defined as a 4 percent unemployment rate; annual inflation of 3 percent to 4 percent was deemed acceptable. The result was economic schizophrenia. Episodes of easy credit to cut unemployment spurred inflation, which inspired tighter credit that boosted joblessness. By 1980, inflation was 13 percent and unemployment, 7 percent. The Fed was in over its head. It didn't know enough to do what it (and many others) thought it could do. Today's problem is similar.”
When will states impose taxes on fleeing citizens?  “While it's customary to say that each of the 210,000 residents of Stockton, California, are on the hook for their share of the bankrupt municipality's estimated $700 million in unpaid bills, the day one of them picks up and moves, personal responsibility for that debt drops to zero. Imagine if that type of tax "evasion" were eliminated. How would it change America?”
RELATED: Congratulations, you’ve been ZIRPed.  Fisher: Fed risks Hotel California fiscal policy.  Toyota set for auto sales crown.  UBS may face $1.6 Billion Libor penalty.  AIG to raise $6.5 billion through AIA sale.  Consumer prices decline.  Industrial production rebounds.   Get ready for more public toll bridges and roads.  John Harwood, of course, is a man without bias.  Virginia is the second best state for business.  How do we reform the US financial system without returning to the 19th century?  The blue tax.
The problem with single women for the GOP—social issue hot points, no exposure to tax pain.  “There was just no way I could have supported any Republican this year," said Stevenson, 31. “They skew so much to the religious right. ... They focused so much on taxes. It's not something that women in my demographic really care about. I've never heard my friends lament their taxes.” ... Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who wrote a book with Conway on the women's vote, said unmarried women are a tough group for the GOP to crack. "Any way you cut it, this demographic is much more on their own and much more precarious and much more interested in a safety net," Lake said. "If you're married, you're much more likely to be a churchgoer and have your church as a community. If you're married, you're much more likely to have owned your home for a while and have that community to rely on. If you're married, you're more likely to have your spouse to depend on.”
In advance of the first Obama-Romney debate, the president had dismissed Romney’s chances.  “President Barack Obama’s stunningly bad performance at the first debate was no surprise to his closest advisers — Obama had stormed out of a debate prep session just days before the disaster in Denver. Before he flopped, Obama’s team pressured their distracted boss to take Mitt Romney more seriously and bear down during debate practice — and he shot back, accusing them of sending him into battle with a mushy, ill-defined plan of attack.”
RELATED: ICYMI, the main Ricochet podcast with Peter Robinson, Rob Long, and James Lileks has sparked some reax.  The GOP’s electoral college scheme.  25 years ago, would Obama have been considered a moderate Republican?’s interview with Jim DeMint.  Wow – Peggy Noonan is already tired of Ryan and Rubio’s soaring rhetoric? 
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Where is God in the tsunami?
Adorable kitten. 
Chief Economist, Pew Center on the States.
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Assad’s arsenals raided. 
Egypt’s opposition calls for protests. 
Kerry for SecState. 
Chuck Hagel’s SecDef nod might raise some issues.
Live forever happily on the Greek island of Ikaria.
Brave new war.
An NYU student has tweeted every reported U.S. drone strike.
Enormous challenges for Obamacare.  Particularly among governors.
Follow the yellow brick road to health care facts.
Obamacare’s tooth tax takes effect on January 1.
Premiums double? That's unpossible! What does an Aetna CEO know, though.
Most governors refuse to set up health exchanges.
Domino’s founder sues over health care law.
The puzzle that is Don Berwick.
Caregivers bloodied patients as complaints drew laughter.
House Democrats say Obama's Medicare board should be put on the table.
A Scott Brown comeback? Not so fast.
Senators Colbert and Judd? Gotta live in the state first, guys.
Nanny Bloomberg’s sleazy pals.
Prosecutor: SEIU organizer committed voter fraud in 2011 Wisconsin Supreme Court election.
New subpoenas in voter fraud investigation of SEIU organizer.
Your permanent record is now available on demand.
Liberal, educated “experts” run American colleges into the ground.
The future of marriage.
Marine double-amputee’s treatment on Delta flight angers other vets.
Federal employee tricks co-workers into donating 300 hours off.
Laura Ingraham will return with a more “culture-driven” show.
Do Facebook interns make more money than you?
How disorder makes us stronger.
Walmart slashes prices on iPhone and iPad.
TLC ends civilization.
Overheard in D.C.: the holidays.
Interactive map of the London Blitz.
Top 5 beer moments – number five is the best.
Fox dreams of taking on ESPN. 
What does your team’s quarterback say about race?
Kid dances with Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders.
Man of Steel trailer deep dive: Rebuilding Superman with fear and trembling.
Did all that amazing tech ruin The Hobbit?
Forever Alone meets that Aussie track girl.
Billy Joel and Jimmy Fallon sing doo-wop.
How to make any TV theme sound like a love song.
Ikea monkey.
God’s blog.
Reconsidering whether we should build a Death Star.
The Fed’s Big Policy Change. 
“He bites his own accursed tail, and calls himself Eternity.”
The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar's Medellín Cartel, Robert Mazur, $17.
“I am perfectly willing to believe Flannery O’Connor when she said, and she wasn’t kidding, that the modern world is a territory largely occupied by the devil. No one doubts the malevolence abroad in the world. But the world is also deranged. What interests me is not the malevolence of man — so what else is new? — but his looniness. The looniness, that is to say, of the “normal” denizen of the Western world who, I think it fair to say, doesn’t know who he is, what he believes, or what he is doing.” – Walker Percy

This collection of news and notes from around the web is edited by Benjamin Domenech, research fellow at The Heartland Institute, co-host of Coffee & Markets, and editor in chief of The City. The views expressed within are his alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of his employers.
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