How much drinking?

New Year’s Eve seems a good night for this post.  So, I’m reading a terrific book about drug policy by Mark Kleimann and, not surprisingly, there’s a lot of discussion about lessons from how we regulate (and don’t regulate) alcohol.  One factoid really struck me was the number of non-drinkers.   Guess what percent of Americans has less than 1 drink a month.   Okay.  What if I told you it’s over fifty percent.  Yep.  I was completely surprised by that.  To think my near tea-totaling ways are actually in a majority (at least according to the drinkyr variable in the 2004 GSS).  A full 1/5th of Americans basically don’t drink at all.   Also turns out that alcohol consumption is an almost perfect example of the Pareto principle– 20% of drinkers account for 80% of consumption.  Which, of course, means that all the advertising, as well as the policy-lobbying efforts of the alcohol industry is really focused on just a slim slice of the population.

Here’s a cool chart of alcohol consumption using the handy do-it-yourself GSS site:


Photo of the day

On this last day of the year, I’m going to link to a very handy post a while back from Kottke that links to a whole bunch of best-of-the-year photo sets.  The Wall Street Journal set he links to has lots of good ones.  They are sorted by rating, which is pretty cool.   This is their top-rated photo of the year.  And I love it, so it seems a good way to close out the year:


A solar flare erupted from the sun in this image released by NASA Jan. 23. The biggest solar storm in more than six years was bombarding Earth with radiation, mostly a concern for satellites and astronauts in space.   Delta Reroutes Flights as Solar Storm Hits Earth  NASA

NRA World re-dux

Great column by David Frum (originally pointed out by Mike from Canada in comments) that highlights the problems of NRA-world where we are supposedly safer when we all carry guns.  Frum [emphases mine]:

In the late 1990s, teams of researchers at the Harvard school of public health interviewed dozens of people who had wielded a gun for self-defense. (In many cases, the guns were not fired, but were simply brandished.) The researchers pressed for the fullest description of exactly what happened. They then presented the descriptions to five criminal court judges from three states.

“The judges were told to assume that the respondent had a permit to own and carry the gun and had described the event honestly from his/her own perspective. The judges were then asked to give their best guess whether, based on the respondent’s description of the incident, the respondent’s use of the gun was very likely legal, likely legal, as likely as not legal, unlikely legal, or very unlikely legal.”

Even on those two highly favorable (and not very realistic) assumptions, the judges rated the majority of the self-defensive gun uses as falling into one of the two illegal categories.

The researchers concluded:

“Guns are used to threaten and intimidate far more often than they are used in self-defense. Most self-reported self-defense gun uses may well be illegal and against the interests of society.”

That certainly describes the Keats shooting. With a little Google searching, you can pull up dozens of similar incidents.

Got that.  Some bozo thinking he needs to wield his gun every time he loses his temper is not self defense.  But that’s what we get in NRA-world where everybody is packing heat.  And that doesn’t even address at all the huge increase in suicides that the data are very clear on.  More guns a more violent world and a more deadly world.  Period.

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