June 15, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM


Confederate flag-toting man, son convicted in Capitol riot (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 06/15/2022)

A federal judge on Wednesday convicted a Confederate flag-toting man and his son of charges that they stormed the U.S. Capitol together to obstruct Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden delivered the verdict from the bench after hearing two days of testimony without a jury for the trial of Delaware residents Kevin Seefried and his adult son, Hunter.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Cause of America's Gun-Death Epidemic? It's GunsWhen comparing state to state, and nation to nation, more firearms usually means more firearms-related deaths (Michael Shermer, 15 Jun 2022, Quillette)

In a comprehensive 2011 study reported in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, researchers compared the United States to 25 other high-income countries in regard to homicide, suicide, and unintentional gun deaths among five- to 14-year-old children. The results were reported as a series of ratios, expressing the US rate as a multiple of the average for 25 other high-income countries.

For non-gun-related homicides, the ratio was 1.7 to one, indicating that per-capita homicide deaths among US five- to 14-year-old children were found to run about 70 percent higher than the average for other wealthy nations. But for gun-related homicides, the ratio was an astonishing 13.2 to one.

The pattern was similar for suicide. In the case of non-gun-related suicides, the ratio was found to be 1.3 to one, indicating that per-capita suicide deaths among US five- to 14-year-old children were found to run about 30 percent higher than the average for other comparable nations. Where the suicides are gun-related, on the other hand, the ratio is 7.8 to one. And in the category of unintentional gun deaths, the ratio was found to be 10.3 to one.

In other words, for rates of non-gun-related homicides and suicides, there's a significant but not startling difference between the United States and other Western nations. But the ratio shifts dramatically, almost by a full order of magnitude, once someone picks up a gun. And the reason isn't complicated: Guns are far less forgiving than other methods of attempted homicide and suicide. When a couple of drunken guys get into fisticuffs at a bar, it mostly results in bruised bodies and egos, but add a gun into the mix and someone is likely going to the morgue while the other is headed to prison.

When people attempt suicide, they don't always want to kill themselves. According to my friend and colleague Dr. Ralph Lewis, a psychiatrist who treats people in crisis, many say, "I don't know what came over me. I don't know what I was thinking." An overdose of medications or a botched attempt at slit wrists may grant someone a second chance at life. With guns, that is much less likely.

As well, consider the fact that, homicide excepted, crime rates in the United States are comparable to those in other Western countries that have few guns‚ including rates for car theft, burglary, robbery, sexual assault, aggravated assault, and adolescent fighting. It's US homicide rates that are a category of their own--because of guns.

If it isn't clear by now that the primary cause of gun violence is guns, and that curbing their availability and capacity can attenuate the resulting carnage (though such measures cannot eliminate it entirely), let me offer a few additional observations, starting with the popular meme among gun-rights activists that if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

This slogan simply isn't true. Gun-control legislation does not mean outlawing guns any more than the licensing and regulation of automobiles means that only outlaws will have cars. The 1934 National Firearms Act, regulating the manufacture and sale of machine guns (and backed by the National Rifle Association at time), did not result in only outlaws having machine guns. Where is today's George "Machine Gun" Kelly? He's not around, because machine guns are regulated and restricted. This is the kind of rational gun control that even today's more militant NRA can (or at least should) get behind.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Wind and solar power are 'bailing out' Texas amid record heat and energy demand (Ella Nilsen, June 14, 2022, CNN)

Texans are cranking on the air conditioning this week amid an unusually early heat wave, setting new records for electricity demand in the state, which surpassed 75 gigawatts on Sunday and smashed the 2019 record. Texas grid operator ERCOT projects it could approach that peak again on Tuesday.

But unlike previous extreme weather events in Texas which led to deadly blackouts, the grid is holding up remarkably well this week. Several experts told CNN that it's owed in large part to strong performances from wind and solar, which generated 27 gigawatts of electricity during Sunday's peak demand -- close to 40% of the total needed.

Pity the poor petrophiles. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The strange afterlife of New Atheism (Sebastian Milbank, 15 June, 2022, The Critic)

What do the terms "biological reality" and "objective truth" conjure for you? Or how about "freedom of speech", and complaints about "orthodoxy" suppressing "scientific inquiry"? In current political debates you're likely to think of the never-ending trans controversies, or rightwingers complaining about the lack of free speech in workplaces and university campuses. 

In other words they're now "conservative" coded terms, and if you hear someone using them you can make educated guesses about the rest of their beliefs. But not very long ago this sort of language was deployed not by the right, but the left, in arguments about climate change, and the reality of Darwinian evolution. In the early 2000s being progressive meant being pro-science, pro-objectivity and pro-materialism. 

The great battles, we were told, were between moderate, rational liberals who just wanted to agree on objectively observable facts -- we knew how old the earth was, and it wasn't created 8000 years ago; we knew the climate was changing, and that humans were causing it. It was wild-eyed religious conservatives who put ideology before observable reality. But insisting too hard on the importance of genetics today gets you drummed out of academic institutions by the left, not the right. 

It was never about anything more than liberating white men from morality.