The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Sure Happy It's Thursday

So, what's going on today?

Finally, I meant to post this earlier: Cassie, plotzed, after getting home from boarding Sunday night.

Busy day = reading backlog

I will definitely make time this weekend to drool over the recent photos from the James Webb Space Telescope. It's kind of sad that no living human will ever see anything outside our solar system, but we can dream, right?

Closer to home than the edge of the visible universe:

Finally, an F/A-18 slid right off the deck of the USS Harry S Truman and into the Mediterranean, which will probably result in a short Navy career for at least one weather forecaster or helmsman.

Responses to taxing ammunition and magazines

On Tuesday, when my white-hot rage at right-wing gun nuts and the politicians that support them had cooled a little, I proposed taxing ammunition and magazines as one of a set of options available to states to reduce gun violence through economic friction. After sharing a link to the post on social media, I got a response from an experienced hunter I've known for years:

"Military style weapon?" The Henry lever action rifle, maybe the most popular deer rifle ever used, was designed as a "Military weapon". Almost every long gun in a hunter's safe was a Military style weapon at one point or another. The 30-06 that I use for deer hunting is a gas operated, semi automatic rifle with a muzzle brake and detachable box magazine. Just because it has a walnut stock and engraved receiver i guess it is not a "Military style weapon". If you are serious about banning guns, say you want to ban all semi automatic rifles. Otherwise what are you talking about?

In my opinion we should be focusing on the people not the firearms. How about enforcing laws that are already on the books, strengthening background checks laws, and keeping guns out of the hands of people with serious mental illness. Fund the FBI so they can actually do the background checks, and require it in all 50 states. Prohibit gun purchase or possession by anyone with a history of violence, in all 50 states. Implement red flag laws that take away firearms from people who threaten mass shootings, are a danger to themselves or a danger to others. Require purchasers of semi automatic rifles to be 21 or older.

There is no feasible way to ban a "style" of rifle. Manufacturers will just modify the firearm, just like they did in 90s after President Clinton signed the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act. Sales will go up, just like they did then.

He adds:

Sport shooting is more common among gun owners than hunting. Some people just own a firearm for self defense. As far as hunting goes, I have several magazines for all of my hunting rifles in various sizes. The size depends on the game I'm pursuing and where I'm pursuing it. Deer is the most common thing I hear people talk about, but is not the only thing we hunt in this country. If I was hunting coyote, wolf, feral hogs, and most small game I'd prefer a larger magazine. If I'm hunting in bear country, you can bet I'm putting a larger magazine in my rifle and pistol.

I agree with some of what he said, as I responded:

The experience in other countries with similar laws and histories (Australia, Canada, UK, NZ) shows that removing certain kinds of guns from the equation reduces gun violence. I'm happy to make a distinction between hunting and everything else.

The argument that your hunting rifle is "military-style" isn't helpful. Sure, your gas-powered semiautomatic .30-06 (7.62 mm) rifle is essentially an M1 from WWII. Along the same lines, at one point the weapons of choice for armies worldwide were big sticks and rocks.

Even conceding that you shoot deer with a hunting version of a 1940s M1, you still don't need a .50-caliber cannon for that purpose. Or a 50-round, 9mm Thompson submachine gun, which predates the M1 by a couple of years. I mean, since early Gatling guns in the 1860s, we have had firearms that have *no* conceivable use as hunting or sporting weapons, with more destructive power than is safe to permit in private hands. Just as there are reasonable civilian uses for most types of explosives, we still don't let private citizens own tactical nukes or plastics.

Of course we need to look at the people who want to own guns, the same way we need to look at the people who want to drive cars. But no one gets an AR-10, and no one gets a tank. Maybe we make an exception for licensed ranges where people can fire AR-10s and drive tanks, but they don't get to take them off the property.

Getting back to my original proposal, is a $1 per round tax on your 7.62 ammo going to hurt your hunting? Really? It'll cost you $2 more to bag a deer. But maybe if the little shit who shot up the parade on Monday had paid a $90 tax on his ammo along with a $400 tax on each magazine, the cost would have been just enough for him to forget about it.

Finally, I have to say, it's frustrating trying to argue for a moderate position on this or any other issue when no one will accept any compromises. You know firearms, N. You know the difference between an AR-15 and a Winchester Model 70. Could you shoot up a crowd with the Winchester? Sure. But you'd never do as much damage as you would with an off-the-shelf Armalite.

I don't want to ban guns or stop legitimate sportsmen from hunting. I just want to make it very, very difficult for people to get weapons like the one that made 2-year-old Aiden McCarthy an orphan on Monday.

We're going to keep having this argument, but the fact remains, we're the only country in the world where this keeps happening.

A suggestion to reduce gun violence that can pass the current Court

To absolutely no one's surprise, the little shit arrested for murdering six people in Highland Park, Ill., yesterday turned out to be a 22-year-old white kid with a violent social media history. And of course he bought the gun legally.

Every society has its psychopaths and angry young men. But most societies acknowledge this, and make it really hard for those assholes to buy guns. Here, we make it easier to buy a gun than to buy a car. That's just insane, but politically hard to change.

Right now, with the current right-wing Supreme Court and Senate, we can't pass meaningful gun safety laws. But I have an idea. Let's make it harder to get military-grade weapons through taxation.

What if Illinois added use taxes for ammunition and magazines? Any ammunition of magazines purchased in or brought into Illinois must have a tax stamp. Failure to show the proper stamp multiplies the tax by 10. Tax rifle ammunition at $1 per round, pistol ammunition at 25¢ per round, and shotgun ammunition at 10¢ per round, reflecting the social costs (externalities) of each. And tax magazines at $10 per round for the first 10 rounds and then $100 per round after.

So if you really want that Glock 9mm pistol with the 17-round magazine, filling it will cost you $800 in magazine tax and $4.25 in ammunition tax. But if you simply must have that AR-15 with its 20-round mag, then it's $1,100 for the magazine and $20 for the ammo.

This tax won't really bother legitimate hunters as hunting rifles tend to have 5-round magazines ($50 + $5), and a good hunter won't waste rounds on a deer. And, of course, there would be exemptions for law enforcement and Federal agencies. (Illinois has a huge Navy presence, for example, and the state can't tax them.)

Is this nibbling at the edges? Of course; obviously we need to ban these weapons entirely. But I think it would pass the current Court. And if it adds enough friction to purchasing military-style rifles to deter just one mass shooting a year, it will have saved lives.

Thoughts?

Thursday afternoon round-up

A lot has happened in the past day or so:

Finally, let's all congratulate Trumpet, the bloodhound who won the Westminster Kennel Club's dog show last night. Who's a good boy!

Around the world in a month?

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), currently locked in a cage match with Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-MS) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA) for "Dumbest Person in Congress," is under investigation for some pretty dumb shit:

Colorado officials are examining allegations that Representative Lauren Boebert, a Republican representing the state’s western half, inflated the mileage she logged on the campaign trail in 2020 and then used more than $20,000 in reimbursements from donors to pay off years of tax liens on her restaurant.

The allegations have bounced around liberal circles since The Denver Post first reported in February 2021 that Ms. Boebert had cashed two checks from her campaign totaling $22,259 for mileage reimbursement. The number equated to 38,712 miles — well more than the 24,901-mile circumference of the planet.

At the core of the inquiry are eight tax liens from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment totaling $20,000 and filed against Ms. Boebert from August 2016 to February 2020 for failure to pay unemployment premiums on her business, Shooters Grill.

In late 2020, Ms. Boebert reimbursed herself for mileage from the 2020 campaign and paid off the liens.

“As you are both fully aware, utilizing an illegal source of funds or ill-gotten funds to pay off a tax lien is illegal in Colorado and under federal law,” the Muckrakers complaint to the attorney general stated, adding, “That is the very definition of ill-gotten funds.”

This won't really go anywhere before the November election, of course, but it will eventually get there. It'll be fun to watch though.

My houseguest has departed

After four nights, five puddles, four solid gifts, and so much barking that the neighbors down the block left a note on my door, Sophie finally went home this afternoon. I also worked until 11:30 last night, but that had nothing to do with her. It did cause a backup in my reading, though:

Finally, army dude-bros in several countries have gotten into arguments over online tank games and, to win those arguments, have posted classified information about real tanks. The defense authorities in the US, UK, France, and China are investigating.

San Francisco voters oust district attorney

San Francisco voters recalled District Attorney Chesa Boudin 60%-40% yesterday (but with only 26% turnout), which suggests a growing backlash against progressive crime policies as crime rates inch up from their historic lows:

Boudin was an easy scapegoat. Decades of failed housing and mental-health policies have fed a homelessness crisis in a city that was never as liberal as it appeared. The pandemic appeared to fuel deep sociological challenges that no politician or prosecutor had easy answers for. Still, his rejection reflected visible grassroots anger at both these conditions and his policies, particularly Boudin’s unwillingness to bring heavier charges against shoplifters and other kinds of petty thieves that had come to define, in the popular imagination, 2020s San Francisco. Wealthy, older voters were eager to dump Boudin, as were middle-class non-white voters, particularly Asian Americans. Victimized by a surge in hate crimes, Asian voters felt Boudin had not responded properly to their plight. In 2021, Boudin drew sharp criticism for failing to describe the murder of Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man, as a racially motivated crime. While denouncing the crime, Boudin said the defendant was “in some sort of a temper tantrum” and said there was no evidence to charge him with a hate crime. His office would later charge him with murder and elder abuse, but it wasn’t enough to assuage anger in the community.

The outcome in Los Angeles, though, was not so decisive. [Rick] Caruso, a former Republican who developed the Grove and other popular malls in the city, unloaded almost $40 million to shoot to the top of the polls and discombobulate a sleepy race that was supposed to be Bass’s to lose. Caruso blanketed the city with TV and digital ads and secured the backing of several major celebrities, including Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow. His campaign, in many ways, represented conservative backlash: He promised to hire more cops and championed the broken-windows policing pioneered by Bill Bratton, the former police commissioner of L.A. and New York. Like Rudy Giuliani and other right-wing mayoral candidates of yore, he vowed to crack down on perceived disorder in the city.

Caruso was also able to exploit the blind spot of California’s left — the belief that it is progressive, and accepted by broad numbers of people, to allow the unhoused to sleep in tents on public property. But, borrowing from some on the left in the housing movement, he also promised to build 30,000 new shelter beds, convert more hotels and motels into shelters, as well as petition the federal government to triple the number of Section 8 vouchers.

Because we Americans have the maturity and attention spans of toddlers, the Right can always count on progressive policies (mental health care, education, anti-poverty measures) taking too long to solve the problems (crime, drugs, homelessness) that a lack of said policies cause. In other words, we know how to reduce crime, drug use, and homelessness, but it takes a lot of time and attention to do so. Right-wing "lock 'em up" policies appeal to the toddlers voters because they seem immediate and decisive, even though overwhelming evidence shows they fail in the long run. The lack of voter turnout in San Francisco yesterday contributed to Boudin's loss, by some accounts.

I suspect Boudin's problems went a lot deeper than just advocating progressive, long-range solutions to crime and homelessness. It seems a lot like he had a tin ear and a rigidity of thought (i.e., arrogance) that pissed off his natural allies. We have the same situation here in Chicago, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot—whom I supported—has done everything in her power to ensure she only serves a single term, mainly by crapping on her friends. For example, in Chicago, it's hard to lose both the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Public Schools, but Lightfoot achieved that elusive goal last year. It looks a lot like Boudin took a similar approach to office, with expected results.

About the Acme products on my street...

National Geographic examines the growing number of large carnivores moving to urban areas, including Chicago's coyotes, who have nearly doubled their numbers in the last 8 years:

While black bears have reclaimed about half their former range and now live in some 40 states, coyotes—native to the Great Plains—have taken the U.S. by storm in recent decades. They now can be found in every state except Hawaii and most major cities. The metropolis most synonymous with the urban coyote is Chicago, home to as many as 4,000 of the animals.

Stan Gehrt, a wildlife ecologist with Ohio State University and the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation, began studying Chicago’s coyotes in 2000, not long after the animals started showing up there. Back then, Gehrt thought his project would last a year. More than two decades later, he’s still at it. “We consistently underestimate this animal and its ability to adjust and adapt,” Gehrt says. “They push the boundaries of what we perceive to be constraints.”

At the beginning of Gehrt’s research, he thought coyotes would be restricted to parks and green spaces, but he was wrong. “Now we have coyotes everywhere—every neighborhood, every suburban city, and downtown.”

Indeed, coyotes have succeeded despite our best efforts to eradicate them. At least 400,000 are killed each year, about 80,000 by a federal predator control program primarily out West. Vehicle strikes are the main cause of death for Chicago’s coyotes, but the animals have learned to avoid cars and can even read stoplights. (Go inside the secret lives of Chicago’s predator.)

Meanwhile, Bloomberg runs the numbers that show how living in cities is significantly safer (from humans, anyway) than living in exurban or rural areas.

American Airlines brings the HEAT

The most interesting (to me) story this afternoon comes from Cranky Flier: American Airlines has a new software tool that can, under specific circumstances, reduce weather-related cancellations by 80% and missed connections by 60%. Nice.

In other news:

And finally, as Lake Michigan water levels decline from their record levels in 2020, the receding water has exposed all the work the city and state need to do to repair our beaches.