Our newest blessing.
January 23, 2023
[No recording tonight as explained below]
My wife and I were blessed with the birth of our third granddaughter on Saturday. Mom, daughter, and son-in-law are doing well. Jill and I are taking care of the new “big sister” on a full-time basis as our daughter recovers from a C-section, so the newsletter may be a bit shorter, less coherent, and more error-prone for the next few days. It is humbling to be reminded (again) that we are better suited to being grandparents than parents at this stage of our lives. But I am not complaining. It is a blessing, even with a twenty-month-old serving as a 4:45 AM alarm clock by standing in her crib calling, “Mommy, mommy!”
The mass shooting in Monterey Park, California.
In the thirty-third mass shooting of 2023 in the US, a gunman killed ten people and injured at least ten more. For clarity: the US is experiencing more than one mass shooting per day in the first three weeks of the new year. Although definitions of “mass shootings” vary, one widely used metric is an incident in which “four or more people, excluding the shooter, are killed or wounded.” (Gun Violence Archive.) On almost every measure, mass shootings in the US are becoming more frequent and deadlier. See generally, Mass shootings: America’s challenge for gun control explained in seven charts - BBC News
The deaths in Monterey Park are not statistics and should not be reduced to numbers. Every life lost is unique, irreplaceable, and beyond description. Summoning the words to capture the losses becomes harder as the death toll mounts. But we must make the effort; we owe it to victims and their families. Tonight, I can’t find the words, so I recommend two exceptional essays. The first is by Dan Rather in Steady, Awakening To Tragedy. Rather’s essay is poetic. It begins as follows:
Morning headlines of mourning.
A night of violence and loss.
A dawn that brings no comfort.
Our national map of tragedy has a new place in which we stick a pin of pain.
We see once more what happens when instruments of mass death are untethered from any semblance of logical restrictions.
As always, there are new names to learn of people who will never hear their names again.
All that life snuffed out in an instant.
There is more, and I recommend his essay in its entirety.
Joyce Vance paid homage to Monterey Park, a diverse community that welcomed her family when others would not. See Joyce Vance, Civil Discourse, The Week Ahead (substack.com)
I grew up in Monterey Park. My great uncle Aaron Rodman started a hardware store there in the 1900s. In an era when not every place welcomed Jews, he was able to prosper & my grandad joined him there during the depression so he could support his own family.
My family's hardware store was on Garvey, near where the shooting took place. It's painful to see those pictures because the city I grew up in was rich in multiculturalism, honoring all of the traditions, Asian, Hispanic, even a few Jews like my family.
In large part I am who I am because of the inclusivity of that community & my grandad's role in welcoming Asian immigrants into the community's civil organizations & local gov't. I'm so grateful to have had that example & my heart hurts so much for the community today.
Vance’s essay makes a point about mass shootings that we cannot forget: They scar communities, forever. Some communities will rise above the violence and rally to make themselves a safer, better place to raise families and build lives. But mass tragedy is a terrible price to pay for that redemption.
There are solutions, but we lack the will. After a mass shooting in Australia, the government prohibited the private ownership of assault rifles and required all residents to sell such weapons to the government. As described in a 2016 WaPo article, What happened when Australia actually did something to stop gun violence, the results were dramatic:
Authorities purchased and destroyed more than 650,000 newly outlawed guns by 2001 and collected nearly 70,000 handguns during a second buyback in 2003.
[T]here were 13 mass shootings in the 17 years prior to the passage of the National Firearms Agreement. Since then, there hasn't been a single one.
After the above article was published in 2016, there were two mass shootings in Australia. One in 2018 (four victims in a domestic violence incident) and one in 2019 (four victims).
The “natural experiment” in Australia teaches a powerful lesson: America does not have a “gun safety” problem. America has a gun problem. I understand the urge to use language that is less threatening to gun owners when discussing gun reform. But if we want to stop mass killings, we need to outlaw guns designed for mass killing.
Biden allows DOJ and FBI to search Delaware home
I am as sick of writing about this story as you are reading about it. So, I will keep it short and to the point.
Biden requested that the DOJ search his Delaware residence for classified documents.
His actions are consistent with innocence and transparency.
The FBI spent 13 hours searching his home and found six “items.”
Biden should have made the same request weeks ago.
The media is giving the Biden story the “Hillary’s emails” treatment.
Biden is plainly innocent. Trump is plainly guilty.
Treating the Trump / Biden document stories as equivalent is journalistic malpractice—even if that equivalency consists only of devoting equal airtime to stories that are markedly different.
Allegations regarding Santos that matter.
Many of the lies told by NY Rep. George Santos are appalling, creepy, or pathetic. (“My mom died in the WTC on 9/11.” “I was a star volleyball player and had two knee replacements.” “I graduated from college.”) But new reporting from the from multiple outlets relates to potential securities fraud and/or embezzlement that could explain how Santos funded his congressional campaign. See, e.g., NYTimes, How an Investor Lost $625,000 and His Faith in George Santos.
Per the Times, Santos misled investors about an investment firm he worked for shortly before his run for Congress:
Although Mr. Santos claimed to have raised $100 million for Harbor City, S.E.C. documents say the firm had only raised a total of $17 million. And while Mr. Santos said that he and his family had invested millions of dollars because of Harbor City, financial disclosures filed during his 2020 run for Congress show that he earned just $55,000 that year, and had no assets.
If Mr. Santos had lured investors through the use of false statements, he could face charges of securities fraud, legal experts said.
The evidence described in the Times seems compelling. It is difficult to believe that Santos will not be indicted soon. The pressure will mount for him to resign, which he will resist. But depending on how ugly the allegations in the indictment are, Kevin McCarthy may have not choice but to jettison him now to avoid sealing the GOP’s fate in the House in 2024. For that reason, this story matters—it could affect the balance of power in the House in the short term.
No newsletter on Tuesday evening / Wednesday day.
I will not publish a newsletter on Tuesday evening for Wednesday of this week. One of our dearest friends passed away. Her family will begin sitting shiva on Tuesday evening. Out of respect for our friend and her family, we will devote our time on Tuesday to mourning her loss. Thank you for your understanding.
I noticed a significant uptick over the weekend in premature reporting on GOP presidential hopefuls. Media outlets eager to fill airtime or generate clicks are willing to give a forum to anyone whose name has ever been mentioned in the same sentence with the words “candidate for president.” Most candidates register between 0 and 1% percent in opinion polls—the same rating a tub of cottage cheese would secure.
Although such candidates have no chance of success, they are enjoying their moment in the sun, pretending to be relevant until the first statewide caucus confirms their irrelevancy. In the meantime, we are subjected to painful bobbing and weaving as the candidates avoid taking positions on substance or offending Trump.
Don’t get sucked into the sideshow. It is too early to know who will emerge as a serious candidate, it is too early for polls to be meaningful (even among frontrunners), and it is too early to know how exogenous events will interfere with the best-laid plans of political consultants and pollsters.
Nor should we worry about what will happen in the Democratic primary for president—yet. Biden had a wonderful first two years as president but faces an entirely new set of challenges with a divided Congress. Existential threats over which he has no control could change his calculus in the blink of an eye.
None of this is meant to dissuade anyone from supporting their favored candidate in early organizing efforts. But we should recognize that we are in a moment of natural instability. The possibilities are limitless, and the future is open to us in ways it seldom is. We shouldn’t be in a rush to make judgments that may become clearer with the passage of time and the benefit of more information.
Despite Einstein’s famous theories demonstrating that time can flux between observers traveling at different speeds, each of us experiences time for ourselves at an unchanging rate: one second per second. There is nothing we can do to speed up or slow down time for ourselves—so let’s not try.
Talk to you tomorrow!