Tag Archives: #AtoZChallenge

Gun Control in Australia

gun control

A recent news article in a Sydney newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, made the assertion that gun regulation had failed, leaving guns in the hands of only the criminals. 

By way of background, for those unfamiliar with Australia’s gun laws, guns are tightly regulated here. In the late 90s, following a gun massacre, stricter regulation was brought into effect. Semi-automatic weapons and pump-action shotguns were banned and a strict registration and licensing regime was introduced. Australians do not, and never did have, the right to bear arms, nor did they carry guns with the same frequency, as citizens of the United States do. 85% of the population supported the new gun control laws.

So at the time, the fear was the new gun laws would place guns in the hands of criminals and take them away from citizens (forgetting, for the most part, citizens didn’t have them to start with). And now some ass wanted to assert this was what had actually happened. 

I had a number of gut reactions to this, one being criminals with guns seem to more often shoot each other with them than citizens. While this might be undesirable it is, arguably, better than, say, bullied school students taking guns to school and randomly shooting students and teachers. For the most part, tight gun regulation has put guns beyond the reach of such people. 

But let’s take a more objective look at the statistics. This was prompted, in part, by a conversation with an American Tweep of mine, who was surprised by Australia’s homicide rate. I told him it was only a few hundred a year. 

‘That’s just your gun deaths?’ he asks. 

‘No, that’s the total homicide rate. Across the whole country.’

He was shocked. Not in a bad way, but it says something about America’s homicide rate that he found this number staggeringly low. Now I do, of course, realise Australia has a much smaller population than the US, so I did some research to do a proper comparison. 

In 2010, Australia had 190 attempted murders and 229 actual murders. Of these, 140 (73%) and 154 (67%) respectively involved a weapon (not necessarily a gun). For a comparison that takes into account population figures, the homicide rate in America is 5.5 people per 100,000. In Australia, it’s 1.34, or one quarter the rate. That’s significantly lower.

Funny… this doesn’t seem to be the actual outcome
In Australia, a knife was used in 33% of murders and 28% of attempted murders. It was the most common weapon, so it beat out guns. In fact, a gun was used in less than 20% of murders and less than 25% of attempted murders. 

So murders do occur without guns, and you might be tempted to say murder will happen with or without access to guns. Which it will. But accessibility to guns affects the ease of murder. Consider this – 84% of people shot to the heart will die, but only 30% of people stabbed in the heart. So if someone is going to try and kill me, I think I’d rather it was a knife than a gun. 

In America, 68% of homicides are gun deaths. So not only is their overall homicide rate much higher, but their gun deaths are higher. The gun homicide rate is 3.7, which is itself 3 times our total homicide rate. Our gun homicide rate is around 0.27. That’s a big difference. In America, you are 13 times more likely to be killed with a gun than in Australia. And someone is trying to tell me that has nothing whatsoever to do with the differences in gun laws?

Also in support of our gun laws, Australia’s homicide rate had a dip right after the gun buyback, and then has remained steady. However, armed robberies involving guns has been steadily falling, so even some criminals don’t have access to these weapons. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the criminal element involved in organised crime has better access to illegal weaponry than petty criminals.

Given that America’s gun death rate is 3.7, compared to our 0.27, you can see a large part of the difference (not all, but a large part) between Australia’s and America’s overall homicide rates is attributable to the increased gun death rate, which has to be at least partly attributable to the accessibility of guns. 
 
I’m sorry, which part of this tells you our gun laws have been a failure?

This is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge Series. If you missed the previous posts, you can find them here – A, B, C, D, E and F.

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or subscribe to my newsletter.

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Author’s Note: America has been used as a comparison only because of the discussion I had with a citizen of that country who expressed surprise at our statistics. 

Sources used:

Fidelity In Modern Life

Fidelity

I’ve been cheated on, and I’ve been asked to cheat on a partner, but I never have. And believe it or not, I’ve been criticised for that standpoint. I’ve been called boring and conservative. When, I ask you, did having some morals suddenly become an indicator of being boring and a staid conservative, rather than a good and decent person?

If you choose to have an open relationship, I respect that. I don’t pretend to understand it, but I respect it. I won’t preach to you about how wrong your lifestyle is, even if it makes no sense to me whatsoever, and I expect you won’t preach to me about mine.
 
But of course, by ‘open’, I mean a relationship in which you have actually informed your partner of your intention to have sex with other people, and he or she agrees; not a relationship in which you just choose to take such matters into your own hands and gloss over the details with your partner. Because that’s not an open relationship, it’s just cheating.

One of the arguments put to me by some brave soul, who weathered the first eruption of Mt Ciara when he inappropriately propositioned me, was ‘life is too short to only have sex with one person’. 

Is it? Is it really? Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that it is and examine the other problems with this statement and why it’s not a justification for cheating. 

Monogamous relationships are 100% voluntary. If you don’t want to enter into one, guess what? You don’t have to! If you want to live the single life forever and sleep with a different person every night, go for it! If you can find a girl (or guy) to agree to an open relationship, then I guess you can even have your cake and eat it too. 

But if you freely enter into a monogamous relationship, represent to your partner or otherwise lead them to believe it’s monogamous, and then you have sex with someone else, I’m sorry, that’s immoral. No argument you put to me is going to make me agree it’s not. Because one thing I’ve noticed is that, when you pin them down, even the people who argue to me that cheating is not immoral have to admit that lying is wrong. 

And what is cheating, when you boil it right down? Telling your partner one thing and doing another. That, ladies and gentleman, is lying. It’s dishonest, it’s hurtful and it destroys trust much faster than you can ever build it. The other funny thing is that most people who advocate cheating would still go after the bastard who did it to his sister or daughter (or son, or brother, for those women who are so violently inclined – want to borrow my sword?). Try not to be hypocritical either. 

And for those of you who want to tell me cheating is a victimless crime, I’m here to tell you it’s not. For someone on the receiving end, this not only destroys trust and hurts, because they’ve been lied to, it also destroys self-esteem and causes loss of confidence and self-doubt. When someone lies to your face and goes behind your back to have sex with someone else, even the strongest and most robust ego has to wonder ‘What’s wrong with me?’ And this is someone you’re supposed to care about? I hate to see what you do to your enemies. 

So, is the argument ‘life’s too short to only have one partner’ a valid argument against fidelity? 

Not if you voluntarily agreed to enter into a monogamous relationship! 

This is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge Series. If you missed the previous posts, you can find them here – A, B, C, D and E.

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or subscribe to my newsletter.

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Author’s Note: This argument does, of course, assume that you did freely enter into the relationship. Circumstances of forced marriage are a different situation and not dealt with in this post.

Daylight Robbery

Big bucks

I am the victim of daylight robbery. Daylight highway robbery, even! I am, literally, being robbed of daylight by my electricity company!
 
Say what?

Suffice to say, in December 2010 we contracted a builder to construct us a new house. The contract included the installation of solar panels. There has been a bit of back and forth on solar power, and what benefits people with solar panels get, here in my State of New South Wales. Last I heard, solar panel owners were to no longer receive 60c/kW for solar energy generated, but only 20c/kW. Now I didn’t consider that unreasonable so I had no issue. 60c was always far too much in my opinion. 

So construction was completed in December 2011 and we moved into the house just before Christmas. In January, we received our first electricity bill… and there appears to be no allowance for the solar power we have generated. So I call the electricity company and this woman says to me…

‘We don’t pay for solar energy.’

‘What, nothing?’

‘That’s right.’

‘You have got to be joking!’

Deadpan. ‘No I am not.’

So, basically, my electricity company is stealing my solar energy and selling it to other people! I was so pissed off, I even briefly considered if this was reportable under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). See that? See the way my brain works? See my Twitter profile – ‘Cross at own peril?’ Connect the dots?

I decided it probably wasn’t reportable, or even if it was, the police would find my complaint laughable, or just wouldn’t know what to do with it. Plus, I’m sure they have more important crimes to be worrying about.
So I find myself in a situation where I’m shopping around. The best deal I can get is $0.06/kW for the electricity I generate and it costs me something like $0.22/kW, so there’s a bit of a gap there. 

Apparently the house uses the electricity we generate first, but it can’t store the energy, so if we don’t use it as it’s generated, it goes back to the grid – at no benefit to me! And of course, the house generates energy during the day, and no one is home five days a week, so our day energy use is really low…

I am determined to use as much of my solar energy myself as I can. So I run the dishwasher now as I leave the house, instead of at night. I schedule my washing machine to come on in the afternoon so I can hang the laundry out when I get home. And of course, now that our ginormous spa is hooked up, it should be drawing our solar energy to heat the spa and power the filtration system. 

Hopefully this sucker will guzzle my solar energy before my electricity company can steal it!
But for now, I have to wait until next bill to find out how much daylight has been stolen from me this quarter….

This is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge Series. If you missed the previous posts, you can find them here – A, B, C.

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or subscribe to my newsletter.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!

B is for Big Business, Big Bucks

Big bucks

Recently, I posted about the imposition on consumers of ridiculous surcharges and administration fees (see here), my all-time pet-hate being the administration fee I pay to print my own concert tickets. 
 
After that post, I noticed a growing trend for companies to charge a credit card surcharge. Now, I do realise banks charge businesses a fee to accept payments by credit card, but I don’t believe this fee should be passed on to the consumer. 

Why not? Because the business that chooses to accept credit card payments gets custom from consumers they otherwise might not get if the consumer didn’t have access to credit. Both consumer and business get benefits to using credit cards and both pay for it (the consumer via annual fees and monthly interest charges). That’s fair. It’s not fair if all the costs of that transaction get shifted to one party, even though both parties benefit from the arrangement – especially if the party bearing all the costs is the smaller party i.e. powerless consumer. 

I know small businesses sometimes charge a credit card to off-set the cost of using credit cards, and I can live with that, because small businesses are usually small margin businesses. But I draw the line at big business charging a surcharge and here are my two favourites:
  • Telstra – This is Australia’s telecommunications giant. It provides home phones, internet, mobile phones and pay TV. It’s the most expensive provider of these services, although arguably a better service than other providers, though that’s not saying much – and I’m not saying it (see here for a snippet of my recent Telstra woes). And when I went to pay my bill the other day, I noticed there is a credit charge surcharge. Excuse me? Telstra can certainly afford the surcharge, so why am I paying it?

  • Virgin Australia – One of Australia’s three major airline players. For 2 return tickets to Brisbane, I paid $16 in credit card surcharges. Not only can a major airline afford to pay the costs of credit cards, but I’m sure this far exceeds the actual cost to Virgin. Pure profiteering!
My chiropractor doesn’t charge a credit card surcharge. It’s a small, three principal practice, but apparently they can afford to cover the cost to them of allowing me to use a credit card, but Telstra cannot…

It must be all the money Telstra wastes on excessive numbers of incompetent staff, who fill their hours making life hard for consumers, that does it!

This is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge Series. If you missed the previous posts, you can find them here – A.

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or subscribe to my newsletter.
Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this. 
Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!

The Alarming Appearance of an Absent Friend – Fiction


I have never posted fiction on my blog before, partly because I prefer to seek paid markets for my work, and more probably in large part due to my obsessive perfectionism that prevents me from ever finishing anything (discussed here). 

As part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, however, I have decided I will post two short stories, written specifically for the challenge, to be broken in to 2 – 4 posts to keep them short. The demanding timeline of the Challenge has forced me to leave off my perfectionism for once, so these stories are effectively in first draft format, with perhaps the benefit of one or two quick edits by myself only. 
 
To kick off the event, today I’ll be sharing the first quarter of the first story. The remainder of this piece of fiction will be shared on this blog on April 5, 8 and 11, so keep a sharp eye out if you want to know what happens next!
~

A siren screeched in the bowels of the prison. Colonel Drada furrowed his aching forehead against the sound. The prison guard escorting him looked to the steel door, a few yards ahead, and back towards the stairs spiralling down into the dungeon depths. 

‘You can find your way out, sir? I really should…’ The guard glanced towards the stairs again and shuffled his feet.

Drada flicked thick-knuckled fingers. ‘Go, man. The door’s right there and I’ve been this way dozens of times. I’m sure I’ll be fine.’

The guard snapped off a hasty salute and disappeared into the dank recesses of the dungeon. The flames of the sparse torches flickered in the breeze of his passing.

The siren screeched unabated in the distance. Drada combed fingers through greying black hair and stepped towards the door.

‘Psst!’ A hand beckoned from a door to his left, cracked barely wide enough to reveal a bloodshot blue eye. The crack widened, exposing a hooked nose and creased face.  

Drada hesitated. One finger flicked the gold braid on the opposite sleeve. Noticing, he forced both hands to his sides, jerking the jacket of his uniform straight and squaring his shoulders militantly. ‘Gan? Sergeant Gan?’

‘Shhh! Don’t be telling everyone I’m here.’

‘I haven’t seen you in months.’

‘We’re not allowed to see anyone.’ The eye rolled wildly in each direction.

Drada glanced up and down the hall; there was no one to see.  ‘Not allowed?’ Drawn on by fascination, he drifted closer to the door and its eye. ‘By whom? What’s the siren?’

Gan swung the door open wider. He wore chain mail over the prison guard uniform, but no weapon hung from his belt. ‘Keep your voice down. It’s the escaped prisoner alert.’ The sergeant waved his hands as Drada reached for his sword. ‘There’s no escaped prisoner. I set it off to get you alone.’  He pulled Drada through the door, ignoring the colonel’s raised eyebrows. Closing the door, he leaned against the wood, barrel chest rising and falling rapidly. In another man, Drada would have said it was panic, but Gan didn’t panic. Drada looked closer. Gan’s skin was grey with exhaustion, his hair lank and tangled; more white now than iron-grey. He had aged years in the months since Drada saw him last.

‘What’s going on?’ Drada’s voice firmed, the voice of a colonel expecting an answer and no longer that of a man talking to a long-absent friend. In the distance, the siren cut off mid-shriek. Drada shivered in the sudden, ominous silence. 

‘People are disappearing. Prisoners, mostly. Some guards. The ones who ask the wrong questions.’ Gan’s blue eyes flickered left, right, and left again. They were in a long, unlit service tunnel. Dust and debris littered the floor. It was dark, except for a solitary candle fixed in a puddle of melted wax on the floor. ‘Amlay. Sawsey. Randlin.’ He rattled off a list of prisoners, some Drada knew, some he didn’t.

‘Sawsey was transferred. I signed the papers myself.’

‘Of course, there has to be a legitimate reason for absent prisoners. But he didn’t get on the wagon; I was there. There’ll be an ‘accident’ en route to the new prison, a body provided, and he’ll be marked down as dead on arrival. He might be dead, but it weren’t en route.’

Drada’s mouth worked but no words came. Gan was a stalwart soldier, a man formerly of his own command, reliable to a fault, but this… If it was true, it must encompass a huge number of people, not only here, but on the transport wagons, in other cities… too many to tally. ‘This is a lot to take in.’

‘You have to believe me!’ Gan thrust his face into Drada’s, his breath hot on the colonel’s skin. ‘I can show you. I know where the prisoners go.  I know what they do with them.’ A shudder wracked his big frame, and a haunted look flashed through his eyes. ‘I wish to the gods I didn’t.’ 

~

You can find other A to Z participants here. Tomorrow is the letter ‘B’ post, and don’t miss the next installment in Drada’s story here.
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or subscribe to my newsletter.

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