The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

UK sets all-time heat record

The Met Office has provisionally recorded the UK's first-ever above-40°C (104°F) temperature:

Heathrow's 12:50 BST report to ICAO put the temperature at 39°C, with a heat index of 37.1°C (98.9°F). Meanwhile, the city of Abadan, Iran, has hit 51°C (123.8°F), which I can scarcely imagine.

And yet, the forecast for my trip this week looks perfect: highs in the mid-20s, with possible sprinkles Friday morning.

The world Clarence Thomas wrought

Writing in The New Yorker last week, Corey Robin argues that the violent and authoritarian world-view of Justice Thomas (R) has much more internal consistency than we on the left usually ascribe to it, but that doesn't make it better:

Thomas’s argument against substantive due process is more than doctrinal. It’s political. In a speech before the Federalist Society and the Manhattan Institute which he gave in his second year on the Court, Thomas linked a broad reading of the due-process clause, with its ever-expanding list of “unenumerated” rights, to a liberal “rights revolution” that has undermined traditional authority and generated a culture of permissiveness and passivity. That revolution, which began with the New Deal and peaked in the nineteen-sixties, established the welfare state, weakened criminal law, and promulgated sexual freedom. The result has been personal dissipation and widespread disorder. Workers lose their incentive to labor. Men abandon wives and children. Criminals roam and rule the streets.

Liberals often claim that there is something hypocritical, if not perverse, about conservatives enshrining the right to bear arms without enshrining the right to abortion. Conservatives have an easy response: one right is found in the Constitution, both as tradition and text; the other is not. That’s what Justice Samuel Alito argues in Dobbs and in his concurrence, the day before, in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. Bruen, which struck down part of New York’s concealed-carry law.

Bodily autonomy is so foundational to contemporary understandings of freedom, however, that it’s hard to imagine a reason for denying it to women other than the fact that they are women. The fetish for guns, meanwhile, can seem like little more than a transposition of America’s white settler past onto its white suburban present....

Today’s felt absence of physical security is the culmination of a decades-long war against social welfare. In the face of a state that won’t do anything about climate change, economic inequality, personal debt, voting rights, and women’s rights, it’s no wonder that an increasing portion of the population, across all racesgenders, and beliefs, have determined that the best way to protect themselves, and their families, is by getting a gun. A society with no rights, no freedoms, except for those you claim yourself—this was always Thomas’s vision of the world. Now, for many Americans, it is the only one available.

To sum up our current state of affairs: it might have helped the United States if politicians on the left had taken seriously the worries that many of us expressed about the right's march to power. A minority dedicated to controlling the majority can succeed for a long, long time, until it wrecks the foundations of the society too much to survive. Just ask South Africa how that can go.

Northwest Ordinance, 235 years on

On this day in 1787, the Continental Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, dividing up all the land west of Pennsylvania, north of the Ohio River, and east of the Mississippi River, into those little boxes you see when you fly over Illinois:

In 1781, Virginia began by ceding its extensive land claims to Congress, a move that made other states more comfortable in doing the same. In 1784, Thomas Jefferson first proposed a method of incorporating these western territories into the United States. His plan effectively turned the territories into colonies of the existing states. Ten new northwestern territories would select the constitution of an existing state and then wait until its population reached 20,000 to join the confederation as a full member. Congress, however, feared that the new states—10 in the Northwest as well as KentuckyTennessee and Vermont—would quickly gain enough power to outvote the old ones and never passed the measure.

Three years later, the Northwest Ordinance proposed that three to five new states be created from the Northwest Territory. Instead of adopting the legal constructs of an existing state, each territory would have an appointed governor and council. When the population reached 5,000, the residents could elect their own assembly, although the governor would retain absolute veto power.

The cadastral bits of the law explain why Chicago's streets form a grid and why Detroit has streets with evocative names like "13 Mile Road."

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.

The weather is too nice to stay indoors

So I have queued up stuff to read later:

About the Rogers outage: the CBC published a chart showing that network usage hit 100% of its capacity immediately before it started to fall steadily before collapsing entirely around 4am ET. I wonder if the sequence will turn out to resemble the 1965 northeast blackout?

Meanwhile and elsewhere

In case you needed more things to read today:

There are others, but I've still got a lot to do today.

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.

Johnson resigns

In what The Economist calls "Clownfall," UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Cons) this morning resigned as Conservative Party leader and will leave Number 10 as soon as the party chooses his replacement. But the Tories have deeper issues—after all, they supported him through every scandal but this last one:

Boris Johnson’s government has collapsed at last. For months Britain’s prime minister wriggled out of one scandal after another. Now, irretrievably rejected by his own MPs, he has accepted that his premiership is over. He has asked to stay until the autumn, but he should go immediately.

Mr Johnson was brought down by his own dishonesty, so some may conclude that a simple change of leadership will be enough to get Britain back on course. If only. Although Mr Johnson’s fingerprints are all over today’s mess, the problems run deeper than one man. Unless the ruling Conservative Party musters the fortitude to face that fact, Britain’s many social and economic difficulties will only worsen.

Right up until the end Mr Johnson clung desperately to power, arguing that he had a direct mandate from the people. That was always nonsense: his legitimacy derived from Parliament. Like America’s former president, Donald Trump, the more he hung on the more he disqualified himself from office. In his departure, as in government, Mr Johnson demonstrated a wanton disregard for the interests of his party and the nation.

Despairing of yet another scandal, over 50 ministers, aides and envoys joined an executive exodus so overwhelming that the BBC featured a ticker with a running total to keep up. In the end the government had so many vacancies that it could no longer function—one reason Mr Johnson should not stay on as caretaker.

As for staying on as a caretaker PM, his party have other ideas:

[S]enior Conservative MPs are pushing back against the idea that Johnson should be allowed to stay in office for any longer and want to see an interim leader in place, such as Dominic Raab. Labour also said it would force a confidence vote on the prime minister unless he stepped down from No 10 in short order.

Support drained away from Johnson as more than 50 ministers and government aides resigned in a rolling walkout, while a slew of once supportive backbenchers declared no confidence in his leadership.

The revolt began on Tuesday evening with the resignations of Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak as health secretary and chancellor respectively.

On the news, Sterling immediately started climbing from post-pandemic low of $1.19, and the FTSE 100 index also rose a bit. (The Pound hasn't traded at these levels since the mid-1980s, in fact, so I may have to stock up when I'm there later this month.)

Under the UK Constitution, the Prime Minister remains in office until the Queen invites a successor to take over, which will happen in this case when the Conservative Party elects a new leader. An early election seems unlikely, so the Tories will likely remain in power for a while, possibly until the next mandated election in January 2025.