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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Still one of the funniest videos on my phone[0]=AZW4tf9uBl6RuFQ6vx11bqJoR79ilbPoqjShlF0M2JXTSDA8D1WjRmN6s1rlW9riAqzMH_VrszZO_07pmGMf8R20CQtcsuEbwK_jDi6wwBcRaClaMUlj6Z8Ah8_z8hNYw3xj_NGodXcaeYMWneNWKahZ8sgX8TR4l0o2Oxa97xGMwKUeMgAF-YTk9m8O5bWaOrI&__tn__=H-R

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The day America lost its innocence 60 years ago today

       Every generation seems to have that one defining event that changed how we saw ourselves.  For the World War II generation, it was the bombing of Pearl Harbor and for the younger generation, it was 9/11.  For Baby Boomers, it was the JFK assassination in Dallas 60 years ago today.  We can remember small details of our life that day.  I can remember what I had for breakfast that day (cream of wheat) and every detail like the test that was canceled and the missed dental appointment.

     Ten days ago I was in Dallas and took a tour of the School Book Depository from where Oswald shot Kennedy.  The two top floors of the Depository are now a museum.  Below is the corner window from which Oswald shot. 

   They have tried to recreate what the space looked like that day behind a glass wall.  You can't get a 
look at Oswald's view from that window but you can get a similar view from the window next to it. The car on the road in the picture is going over the X on the road where the fatal shot hit Kennedy.  The trees in the picture are taller than they were in 1963 so Oswald's view wasn't blocked as much as it would have been today.

     After shooting President Kennedy, Oswald went back to his room at the boarding house where he rented this tiny room.  The room was kept just as it was the day he left.

From that day in Dallas in 1963, we knew that we could never have the same level of intimacy with a President that we had in Dallas that day.  Pictures like the one below with the crowds right up next to the open car would never happen again. 

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Taliban in the United States


Quote from the new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson:

God is the one who raises up those in authority.”

 My only question is "whose" God and can my God override your God? What if the two Gods conflict--is there a "Supreme God" to make the final ruling?

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Gun deaths impacted State laws

From the New York Times reporter German Lopez

American gun violence can feel like an unsolvable problem, with every mass shooting, like last week’s killings in Maine, affirming that the situation is getting worse. But the U.S. has in fact made some progress over the past few decades, enacting policies that have saved lives.

That is the conclusion of a new study by Patrick Sharkey and Megan Kang at Princeton. Stricter gun laws passed by 40 states from 1991 to 2016 reduced gun deaths by nearly 4,300 in 2016, or about 10 percent of the nationwide total. States with stricter laws, such as background checks and waiting periods, consistently had fewer gun deaths, as this chart by my colleague Ashley Wu shows:

Sharkey told me that the results had surprised him. He has studied violent crime for years, and did not believe that stricter gun laws had a major effect in reducing it. His new takeaway: “The challenge of gun violence is not intractable, and in fact we have just lived through a period of enormous progress that was driven by public policy.”

The country’s progress on guns may surprise you, too. It certainly surprised me. It’s worth reflecting on why. If the data is clear, why haven’t we heard more about these outcomes? To my mind, the lack of attention shows the narrow view that many of us often take toward gun policy.

The smaller things

The national conversation about gun violence focuses on big federal policy ideas. Activists and pundits often speak about the need for a federal law enacting universal background checks or banning assault weapons. Anything short of action at the national level will fail to make the U.S. as safe as Canada, Europe or Japan, the argument goes.

It’s true that guns kill many more people in the U.S. than in other rich countries, and America will likely remain an outlier for the foreseeable future. But the study by Sharkey and Kang shows that changes at the state level can have an effect. Even policies that seem limited, like safety-training requirements or age restrictions, add up.

“There’s no single policy that is going to eliminate the flow or circulation of guns within and across states,” Sharkey said. “But the idea is these kinds of regulations accumulate.”

After all, America’s gun problem is rooted in easy access to firearms. In every country, people get into arguments, hold racist views or suffer from mental health issues. But when these problems turn violent, quick access to guns makes that violence much more likely to become lethal.

Anything that adds barriers to picking up a firearm in such moments reduces deaths, whether it’s incremental state policies or broader federal laws. The new study is one part of a broader line of research demonstrating that point.

Among the many new laws put in place since 1991: California required background checks on private gun sales in 1991, Massachusetts tightened child-access laws in 1998 and Virginia restricted gun ownership by people with mental illnesses in 2008.

After 2016

There is a major caveat to the progress that Sharkey and Kang documented: It seems to have ended.

The new study cuts off in 2016 because later data was not available at the time of the research, Sharkey said. Since 2016, many states have loosened their gun laws, in some cases because Supreme Court rulings have forced them to do so. And firearms sales have surged, particularly during the Covid pandemic.

Congress did pass a narrow gun control law last year that extended background checks and funded anti-violence policies, and some states have continued tightening gun laws. On net, though, U.S. gun laws have become looser in the past seven years.

Gun deaths have increased over the same period, and mass shootings have become more common. These trends — a rise in deaths, looser laws and increased firearm purchases — are likely related, Sharkey said. He pointed out that the six states that had weakened their gun laws from 1991 to 2016 appeared to have experienced more gun deaths than other factors suggested they should have.

As more states have loosened their laws in recent years, they have set themselves up for more gun deaths. “If states take basic steps to regulate guns, it will save thousands and thousands of lives,” Sharkey said. The opposite is also true.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Annual tirade blog on leaf blowers

   This morning was started once again by the Columbia Association leaf blowers in the Tot Lot behind our house.  The need to remove leaves once a week from Tot Lots is probably minor noise pollution that we have to endure but is a reality of Fall that for the next month the whining of leaf blowers will need to be endured.   The drudgery of raking leaves has given way to the easier-on-the-body leaf blower.  Our need to bag up leaves rather than turn them into natural fertilizer is just another example of how obsessed we are with having a healthy grass lawn.  Lawns in our modern suburbs have turned nature's natural fertilizer into an enemy to be fought with every Fall.  Instead, nitrogen fertilizer is spread on our lawns to runoff into our streams and lakes to create oxygen-starved bodies of water that kill off fish.