Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Aug. 9, 2022

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Camden: Bug names can really sting

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Last week’s announcement that the state is urging residents of Western Washington to “adopt” a wasp nest as part of its efforts to stop the spread of a potentially devastating hornet prompted thoughts on that great Shakespearean question: What’s in a name?

If the state is looking at removing racially insensitive or offensive names from various locations and geographical landmarks, it might also object to the use of ethnic terms in naming of various insects or other pests, such as Asian giant hornet.

Recently, the Entomological Society of America — whose slogan is “sharing insect science globally” — announced that the gypsy moth will henceforth be called the spongy moth as part of its Better Common Names Project. The society is taking nominations for other insects to be renamed.

One might expect suggestions that they consider new names for the Japanese beetle and the European chafer, known for their devastating effects on lawns and forests, respectively.

But at the top of the list should be Asian giant hornet, which has also been known during its relatively brief time on or above U.S. soil as the “murder hornet.”

Murder is probably an apt description from the perspective of honey bees, who have their hives decimated by the rapacious predator. From the hornet’s perspective, however, it is arguably just doing what’s in its nature, doubtless without premeditation. But the involuntary manslaughter hornet is a bit cumbersome and wouldn’t fit well in headlines.

Although the hornet’s origin is in Asia, it seems unfair to tag an entire continent with the actions of a single species, especially one still connected to homicide in the public conscience.

But if giant hornet isn’t catchy enough or doesn’t strike the right chord in the public, it seems better to rename the insect after a person rather than a country. In this case, it would be a person exhibiting similar tendencies to go into other countries, devastate homes and kill their residents.

Clearly, it should be renamed the Putin hornet.

High capacity

In the wake of the Uvalde, Texas, school massacre, gun safety advocates are pushing for bans on high-capacity magazines as well as semi-automatic military-style rifles. The shooter responsible for the carnage at Robb Elementary School reportedly had seven 30-round magazines.

Washington will have such a law, limiting magazines to 10 rounds, starting July 1. But that was an uphill battle to pass, even with Democrats in control of the Legislature and the governor’s office.

Proposals to limit magazine capacity were introduced in the 2017-18 and 2019-20 sessions but didn’t pass. A bill introduced before the start of the 2021 session didn’t even get out of committee that year but did finally pass this March.

Of course, there’s no such ban across the border in Idaho, so the effectiveness of the law remains to be seen without a federal ban.

Under the 1994 Crime Bill, federal law limited the size of magazines to 10 rounds and put restrictions on many semi-automatic rifles. But that law expired after 10 years and hasn’t been renewed.

Follow-up on picketing

Several readers wrote, emailed or phoned to take issue with a column that noted picketing of judges’ homes in the abortion debate isn’t new. It happened in 1985 in Eastern Washington just as it happens now for some Supreme Court justices, although by different sides of the debate.

Some said there’s a difference in the current picketing because abortion-rights activists are reacting to a draft opinion and trying to sway the final decision. True, but in 1985, anti-abortion activists were reacting to a temporary restraining order, which was also not a final decision in a pending case.

Others said federal law makes it a felony to threaten a Supreme Court justice. True, but while that federal law doesn’t extend to state jurists, Washington law then and now makes it a felony to try intimidating a public official, which includes judges.

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