Guns again

The NRA seems to have been struck dumb, at least for the moment, in response to the shooting in Louisana.  Let me help, because the event demands analysis, not to mention that it’s always correct to say that what we need is more guns.

The tragic events in the Lafayette movie theater could have been prevented if only Louisiana had not disarmed its citizens. If it had ‘shall-issue’ rules for concealed carry, and allowed anyone over, say, 16 open-carry permission, the theater would have been full of armed citizens who would surely have killed the shooter the minute he drew his own weapon…and, in the darkness and confusion, presumably several of each other, grateful for the chance to personally water the tree of liberty.  Instead, senseless tragedy ensued. Governor Jindal, when are you going to give your citizens their Second Amendment rights?

Another recent episode teaches us the importance of everyone, always, packing heat; in New York, this woman would never have suffered violence and robbery if she had only been carrying an appropriate weapon and had training to use it.

More on how museums [under]use their collections

Virginia Postrel (who has engaged the question, “shouldn’t museum holdings be where people can see them?” in the past)  riffs on my Democracy article in Bloomberg View; there was a podcast on Russ Roberts’ EconTalk last month. I’m not sure why this issue seems to ring bells in right-wing circles, but I like the idea that the sort of people likely to turn up at museum trustee meetings are coming upon it.  Maybe they will start to ask the kind of questions tough-minded captains of industry are supposed to be good at, like “how do you expect to run this operation properly if your balance sheet leaves out most of your assets?”

Water

Nestlé, for whom I have no brief regarding any of their businesses, is being attacked for bottling water in California during our historic drought; right perp, wrong charge.  I guess water conservation needs symbolic, inconsequential rituals, but I worry that doing silly things in the name of a good cause can be ill-advised. Restaurants are making a big show of not serving water unless requested; this isn’t completely off-base, considering the additional water used to wash the glass, but it’s totally de minimis.
Every drop of water that Nestlé doesn’t bottle in our thirsty state will be drunk.  It will either come from a faucet (the best place to get drinking water) or it will be bottled far away and hauled here in a truck burning diesel–or a ship burning bunker oil from Italy or Fiji, for Pete’s sake–and causing global warming.  The bottle will litter the landscape or the ocean, fill up a landfill, or be turned into a cheap suit, more bottles, or fuel.  The last three aren’t terrible, but they have their own carbon footprints.  Bottled water is a disgrace where tap water is safe and tastes OK, but not because of the water (especially when it’s just tap water, which it usually is).
Our local water agency just gave us a target of 35 gal/day per person for non-landscape water use (Debbie calculates that we are at 31, woo hoo!).  How much of that do you drink?  If you drink a quart a day, less than a percent, and if you are watering any garden, drinking water is, if I may say, literally a drop in the bucket.
If you don’t flush pee once a day, you’ve saved six times what you drink. Turn off the shower for a minute while you soap up  and it’s that much again.  Pass up three almonds and you’ve saved two whole flushes.  Skip a meat portion a week (not to mention a round of golf): now you’re really making a difference.
I’ve successfully driven bottled water out of events at my school in favor of a nice pitcher, and my students are much more likely to schlep a metal bottle that they refill from the tap than a bottle they bought full. That’s green.  But worrying about how much we’re drinking, local or otherwise, is a distraction.

Gunpowder and alcohol don’t mix

That was a bromide the NRA spammed around in its literature back when I was learning about firearms as a pre-teen.  Having no interest in or experience with booze, I found it confusing; now it makes a lot of sense, whether or not the slogan actually affects anyone’s behavior.  Gun violence is mostly just one form of alcohol violence.

Why is this relevant? Well, those carefree college years in Texas are about to get a lot more bracing and focused, as the state is ready to allow guns everywhere on campus, open and concealed.  I take my opinions about firearms and risk from Mark, pretty much as given, and I’m guessing this won’t produce an explosion of gun violence generally.  However, in Waco, there was just a rehearsal for what happens when drunk young men in cult-like exclusive organizations convene with lots of guns around.  I have pretty high odds that Texas will enthrall us with a fraternity party bloodbath in the not-too-distant future.

Everything old is new again

Several years ago I posted this maximally snarky rant about pod coffee machines, especially Nestlé’s. Soon after, Keurig’s patent apparently ran out, K-pod prices came down a lot,  and it became possible to use them with coffee bought by the bag as Keurig (and others) sold refillable pods to make it possible.  But greed hath no season, and Keurig has done a spectacular faceplant trying to force its customers back into obedience.

How nice to see.

Job Interview

–Thank you for applying to fill our open position as chief of cardiac surgery, Dr. Hahnemann.

–Well, Dr. Carson, I hope I can bring cardiac surgery here to the high level you’ve achieved in neurosurgery.

–So, Dr. Hahnemann, why do you think you’re qualified for this job?

–It’s Mr. Hahnemann, Dr. Carson.  I’m not a surgeon, or even a doctor. I’m probably never going to be professionally correct because I’m not a surgeon.  I don’t want to be a surgeon. Because surgeons do what is medically expedient — I want to do what’s right.

–Mr. Hahnemann, you’re a man after my own heart. I’m going to give you my strongest endorsement to the hiring committee.

Lead

Lead is a cruel joke of the creator.  It’s an extraordinarily useful metal: weatherproof, malleable, easy to solder and cast.  It’s soft enough not to mess up rifle barrels, and dense enough to make good fishing sinkers, bullets, and shot.  It’s abundant and easy to refine from ore. Lead oxide is extremely white and easy to mill into the powder that used to give the best paint its opacity (the premier brand, Dutch Boy, was produced by the National Lead Company until 1980).  Wrapped in four ethyl groups, it raises gasoline octane so engines can be more powerful.  It makes cheap and useful pottery glaze. There’s more, but you get the idea.

It’s also extremely poisonous, and cumulative in the body. It messes with brain function. Generations of birds are yet to die from eating the thousands of tons of shot we sprayed across marshes and fields.  It probably had something to do with the decline of Rome (storing wine in lead vessels), and we are only now coming out of five decades of mass poisoning from leaded gasoline.  We’re not putting leaded paint on any more, but it was so durable and useful that tons are still where it was put in the first place, which is why repainting your local bridge involves elaborate and expensive dust collection.

Freddie Gray was neurologically poisoned, irreversibly, as a child by paint in his house.  That happens to poor kids in old houses, and it’s still happening. He could have also been poisoned by lead sprayed all over his neighborhood in automobile exhaust, but we got the lead out of gasoline in the 80s by a national administrative action, and the effect on crime rates (for example) has been spectacular (I find Kevin Drum’s analysis persuasive). My kids also grew up up in an old house with lots of lead paint, but they’re fine because they were surrounded by a network of protection that included public health education, lead testing in schools, and parents who had time, money and education enough to (for example) replace the garden soil where we grew vegetables, full of lead from weathered exterior paint, and strip paint and replace hundreds of feet of woodwork inside the house.

Lead out of gas: easy, once we figured it out. Replace lead water pipes: harder, but tractable. Lead paint: an expensive, extensive program of retail enforcement and regulation, imposed on millions of low-information, low-income landlords and tenants for whom it is a daunting and expensive project.

The lead angle in Gray’s story should be more featured in the ongoing news coverage, along with the unemployment, social service denial, educational malpractice, and police abuses raining down on his neighborhood.  Let me say it again: irreversibly neurologically poisoned.

Another feather in the cap of big-time college sports

When the next college sports scandal breaks…shouldn’t be too long now…remember that the corruption of the higher education enterprise by the money sports, MBB and FB, is redeemed because those athletic scholarships are a path for poor kids, especially poor kids of color, to get a college education.

Three Duke basketball players (so far) are off to the NBA as freshmen.  Most of a single academic year, physically present on the actual Duke campus, shuttling from practice to training to practice, is pretty much the same thing as a Duke degree, right?