Every time a gun crime in the United States reaches the news networks we hear of renewed efforts to legislate greater control of firearms. Now, with the elections coming into full swing, the topic is once again a leading subject of political attentions as politicians use the subject as a rallying point. Will legislation targeting weapons have any appreciable effect on the number of innocent people killed with firearms every year? No. What we see every year from politicians is little more than political theater that has nothing to do with addressing the real issues underlying the problem of murder and gun crime in the United States. The evidence simply doesn’t support the premise of greater restrictions producing fewer crimes.
Australia: A Real World Example
A good example of this becomes clear when we examine homicide rates for Australia since they banned automatic and semi-automatic weapons in 1996. Are murder rates down? Yes. Are murder rates with firearms down? Yes. But, there is far more to it than simple lower numbers. Once looked at more closely, it becomes obvious that when you take away guns, it does nothing to stop criminals from breaking the law, and murderers from killing people. They will simply find other ways to do it.
In 1996 when the Australian gun buyback program was enacted, there were 354 murders country wide.
By 2007, that rate dropped to 282. Yes, after taking guns away from law abiding citizens there were 100 fewer murders, or a 20% reduction, however, that is total murders, not just murders with guns.
It is very important to note that prior to Australia’s gun ban, crime rates for guns were already on a steady downward trend, from 123 in 1988, to 67 in 1995. Now, in 1996 there were 123 gun homicides, due in large part to a single incident where 35 people died in a mass shooting, which in turn spurred the creation of Australia’s gun ban. Since that incident and the passing of the ban in 1996, Australia has kept to the same steady rate of decline in gun deaths which was taking place before the gun ban was enacted. In other words, Australia’s gun ban has had little to no effect on the rate of gun deaths. Spikes from year to year after the ban however, reach as high as 57 gun homicides, close to previous years’ numbers before the ban was enacted.
Effect on Crime
Here is where it gets interesting. Immediately following Australia’s gun ban, gun robberies soared from 1996 to 2000. However, by 2011 Australia’s gun robbery rate returned to right where it was at the time the ban was begun. In short, Australia’s gun ban has not reduced the number of robberies committed with firearms and thus criminals are still using firearms at the same rate as before. Worse, unarmed robbery rates increased after the gun ban, effectively suggesting that unarmed law abiding citizens are now easier targets. Robberies where the home occupant was present have also risen, known as a “Hot Robbery”, suggesting criminals no longer hold as great a fear of encountering an armed homeowner.
Next, total homicide numbers for Australia were at approximately 300 for 1990, and by 2007 the number was 253, a whopping 47 fewer deaths. Gun homicides however have stabilized at around 15% of total homicides during the same period. Again suggesting the Australian gun ban has had negligible effect if any, again considering that a steady downward trend in overall and gun homicides was taking place prior to the ban.
How Homicides are Rising in the Absence of Firearms
Since the Australian gun ban, deaths from knives and blunt instruments including hands and feet have risen. In the State of New South Wales, Australia, of 89 murders in 2006-2007, three were with firearms, the rest with knives and blunt instruments. From 1989 to 1998 there was a 20% increase in homicides involving knives and blunt instruments. From 2001 to 2012, knives and blunt instruments along with a small percentage of “unknown means” accounted for approximately 90% of homicides in Australia. Also, from 2009 to 2012 a slow but steady increase of non firearm related homicides has been noted. Strangely enough, despite such data, law makers in New South Wales are now calling for stricter controls of knives, even suggesting a knife buyback program similar to the prior gun buyback.
The Issue is the Intent to Kill. Not the Weapons.
Until we address the reasons why we have so many people living in the United States willing to kill others for no rational or justifiable reason, there will be far too many senseless killings regardless of whether law abiding citizens have firearms or not. Perhaps more disturbing, taking away firearms from law abiding citizens could very well increase the number of crimes committed both with and without firearms.
Statistics derived from the Australian Institute of Criminology
As I’ve alluded to in my yearly updates (AHEM), I’ve been rather busy. Servicing four websites and providing over 12,000 words of content per month has left me precious little time for my personal efforts. Unfortunately, my personal efforts include actually trying to stay current with SEO practices and search engine algorithms, so apparently I can write off actual PERSONAL personal time completely if my writing is to remain effective for my clients.
Regardless, I’ve been itching to get some of my startups off the ground, but in order to do that it’s necessary to also wake up my other outlets, including this blog. Hopefully this’ll turn out to resemble the awakening of a delicate spring flower into spectacular bloom more so than poking a hibernating and hungry bear with a stick. Although I truly enjoy writing in and of itself, and I’ve done fairly well income wise with it over the last few years, it’s beyond time that I began monetizing other online avenues.
So what does all this have to do with light bulbs and politics you ask? Well, not much really, beyond answering the other question I am routinely asked when I tell others I write for a living, which is, “what do you write”? Well, the following is a piece that exemplifies the type of content I churn out weekly. If you make it through the whole piece, either you have more time on your hands than I do, or you have a lighting fetish.
At any rate, this is what I do, and although it isn’t going to be on the bestseller lists any time soon, it does make it to print and digital publication, and I get paid. According to Stephen King, if you write something and someone pays you for it, and you pay bills with that check, you are a writer. I’ll take that rationalization thank you very much. So without further ado, it’s nice to be back, and follow along as I show you the wonder and excitement that is the lighting industry!
US Dominance in Alternative Energy and Energy Efficient Technologies
20 years ago there were very few people who would have thought that international competitiveness to be number one would involve much of anything outside military, aerospace or, computer technologies. The last thing anyone probably expected would be a race to be the top producer of the most efficient and environmentally safe technologies on earth. Yet that is precisely what is taking place right now among countries such as the United States, China, India, and Taiwan.
Global concerns about climate change, limited energy production, meeting the energy demands of growing populations in developing countries, and the fear engendered by the latest international economic slump have all coalesced into a concerted determination among competing nations to develop new sustainable energy technologies and improve the efficiency and practicality of existing technologies. This new focus on efficiency has at its core more than a simple desire to better the planet for future generations. National leaders and energy industry experts have rightly identified this push for energy efficient technology as one of the new, if not THE new dominant form of economic growth and international supremacy.
Underscoring the reality of this determination to be leaders in green technologies are the record levels of government involvements with funding such development. In the United States, the Department of Energy has been steadily speeding the funding of LED production in order to remain competitive with Asian countries which have been quickly grabbing the lion’s share of the LED market. Countries such as China and Korea have been aggressively increasing their investments in LED lighting technologies over the past few years and are now among the main suppliers for the international LED markets.
As of right now, the United States DOE is actively seeking applications for funding of research and development of LED lighting technologies, which it will be doing until December 15 of this year as part of its efforts to combat this and maintain US competitiveness. This is the third such round of funding efforts geared towards the US development of LEDs and improvements in production, and offers 10 million dollars for qualifying applicants to apply to research and production. Overall, funding of LED manufacturing, research, and development in the US has been spurred by millions in recovery act funding, 28 million in federal funding, and an additional 36 million in private sector funding as well over the past few years.
While this may seem a fairly positive direction for the US to take, countries such as China and South Korea have been pouring massive resources into LED development and instituting comprehensive lighting regulations geared towards spurring demand for efficient lighting under a clear determination to achieve full dominance in the field. China has already achieved a leading role in the production of LEDs and incandescent lighting and is aggressively developing its capability to corner the LED markets as well. With China already holding the majority of the rare earth metals critical to the development and production of LEDs, and leveraging this supply to increase its value and thus its cost, it has already been able to directly reduce the effectiveness of competing efforts in other countries.
In the last year, the prices of rare earth minerals from China have seen a wild upswing with increases of up to 1,000% percent having been noted. This has served to slow the improved affordability of LED lighting technology and keep domestic demand in competing countries low. The result has been slower growth in LED development outside of China, with some manufacturers actually cutting production by up to 50% in the hopes of a decrease in the costs of rare earth metals in the near future.
The problem for the US is that its goals for energy efficiency are more closely aligned with reducing dependence on foreign energy sources such as fossil fuels rather than becoming the dominant developer of energy efficient technologies. While the availability of cheap LED lighting from countries such as China would serve to accelerate the attainment of these goals, it is also a double edged sword. Although the US would stand to benefit from cheap energy efficient lighting technology without the initial costs of funding an all out development war, the losses from failing to achieve dominance would be staggering. The economic growth and potential trade strength associated with control of alternative energy and efficiency technologies represents the chance to not only free ourselves from the grip of dependence on foreign energy sources, but to reverse this role and become a supplier of energy and efficiency technologies instead.
This is an opportunity that the United States simply cannot ignore or allow to slip away. Despite this critical importance, current efforts in Congress appear to be geared towards allowing just that to happen. With the current Republican focus on cutting spending and their efforts to shift focus from alternative energy technologies to increasing development of fossil fuel technology, Congress is poised to deal a major setback to the US in this race for leadership in energy efficiency.
While reduced spending at this time is certainly a laudable goal, such reductions must take into account the future position of the US on the world stage and the consequences of allowing that position to become weakend. Other legislative problems include a push to repeal or delay new lighting standards which would serve to further suppress and delay development of LED technology, and attempts to attach amendments to spending bills that would directly shift funds already allocated for development of alternative energy technologies to fossil fuel production research.
If such efforts in Congress are successful, the US will cede its position as a world technology leader to countries such as China and once again find itself dependent on foreign supplies for meeting its energy demands. The potential losses from reduced economic growth and job creation alone should serve as ample warning, and the long term effects for the US could mean a sustained period of depressed expansion or even contraction as other countries continue to gain ground.
Although many may feel that the United States cannot afford to continue aggressively funding alternative energy and efficiency technology, the simple truth is that we cannot afford not to, and should in fact increase this funding many fold in order to ensure the future economic and diplomatic strength of the United States.
Warning. Political ranting ahead……
While the partisan credulous bask in the false security of their “safe” jobs and precarious health insurance plans decrying the evils of their chosen opposition, Americans spend another day looking for work that doesn’t exist and grapple with the reality of being denied healthcare for easily treated illnesses because their own health insurance was cancelled when they fell ill. While the partisan credulous lockstep with their political idols and hold the party line regardless of its irrationality or consequence, Americans worry for their children’s futures.
When politicians rally their faithful and the partisan credulous heed the call, they enjoin the mindless war of manufactured false ideologies, demonizing those who question or disagree. They attack and battle over ephemeral beliefs and impractical, nostalgic, obsolete and irrelevant values that should they win the war, hold no hope for repairing the damages caused by the battles. As this country continues to struggle with unemployment, recession, illegal immigration, and a changing world stage that threatens to thrust us into obscurity and irrelevancy if we cannot bring ourselves to face the facts of reality, the partisan credulous would claw each other like rats on a sinking ship; they will go down and drown like the rest, and all their clawing and biting will do nothing to stop the rush of the water.
We cannot continue to label and divide ourselves with ridiculous and asinine party affiliations. We cannot continue to judge the character and moral value of our fellow countrymen on their political leanings. This kind of internal division and strife is responsible for much of the senseless death and destruction that currently holds large portions of the globe in the grip of darkness. Do we really want to become like those nations divided by imaginary lines; where political murders are commonplace and no one trusts anyone? Where freedom is hollow and your neighbor may be your blood enemy simply because of his thoughts?
We are rushing headlong towards a future where our country’s biggest threat comes not from some outside aggressor, but from within, from ourselves. Our national identity, our sense of community and country is becoming lost in a sea of uncontrolled and undirected immigration, confused incomprehension of constitutional law, ludicrous political correctness, greed, and unrestrained abuse of bastardized capitalist ideals. We have no right to point to the left and scream, “It’s all your socialist programs fault!”. We have no right to point to the right and accuse, “Your irrational right wing lunacy is tearing this country apart!”. We have only ourselves to blame.
We can only look to ourselves and realize that it is our own gullibility, credulous natures, and irrational behaviors that have allowed politicians and corporate leaders to exploit this nation and ourselves in their quests for power and fortune. It’s our fault we are in this mess and rather than accept responsibility for the mess, like spoiled children we point the finger and blame Johnny next to us. We don’t need a third political party to balance things out. We don’t need political placating and promises to “find a way to reach across the aisle”. We need to remove the aisle. We need to do away with the division.
We need to tell our politicians to stop the ideological warring, and get back to doing the job of running this country, of addressing the problems that plague us. We need to retake our country from those who have made the war of political ideologies the be all end all of the game. I say outlaw the organized political party. From where I am standing, I can’t see a single thing to lose by doing so. In fact, it looks to me like we have nothing to lose but one hell of a lot of dead weight.
For background on this rant, visit The Other98% and their page on their open letter regarding the new law in Arizona. It bothered me mainly because they are an as yet untested group yet had an excellent platform that appeared to be based in a rational opposition to all the irrational rhetoric against our new presidential administration. With this letter, they have completely destroyed any credibility they may have had as a legit voice of the majority, and solidly placed themselves within the same framework of irrational partisan ideology as the Tea Party.
From the very opening, this letter makes clear that its authors are approaching from a political ideology, and not from a basis in reason or rationality. There is so much mischaracterization and disingenuous proselytizing in it that it is very hard to take it even a little bit seriously.
I’m disappointed more than anything, as my initial reasons for patronizing The Other98% involved the very worthwhile voice it gave to the reasonable among us who understand that running a country costs money, and that our current administration is in fact doing a pretty good job all things considered.
With these forays into the illegal alien debacle, (I refuse to even allow them to be called illegal immigrants, because they are not immigrants, but foreigners who are in this country in violation of its laws and nothing more) The Other98% obliterates any resemblance it had to a non partisan voice of reason that represents the majority.
This could have been avoided, by eschewing the usual PC rhetoric and partisan leanings in favor of an honest appraisal of the situation. Instead, 98% has chosen to stand firmly in the camp of those who simply refuse to accept that this country is a nation of duly enacted laws, and that no amount of pleading for special consideration changes the fact that illegal aliens do not have a right to be here. From its opening statement of Tyranny in America, to its claims that any attempt to enforce immigration law is defacto racial profiling, this letter is a poorly constructed exercise in irrationality.
The authors further demonstrate a complete naiveté in understanding how the law works, or how police officers enforce the law in the performance of their duties. In the very first paragraph, a fallacy is established and cemented as premise, which deconstructs the heart of the letters intent. It erroneously asserts that because of the law passed in Arizona regarding illegal aliens, native citizens will be required to produce “papers” on the whim of law enforcement officers.
Despite the fact that the writers assert that this law means we will all suddenly have to carry with us proof of citizenship, the reality is that this simply isn’t true. To begin with, in almost every state, we already have to carry our “papers” with us wherever we go, especially when driving or engaging in any activities that require us to establish our legally earned privileges such as driving a vehicle, or require us to prove our identity such as when cashing a check. These are not “papers” as the opponents of Arizona’s law like to assert, but necessary forms of identification that protect citizens and the government. Drivers licenses, state ID cards, SS cards, and the like all serve to provide us with a way to reasonably assure ourselves that someone is who they actually claim they are.
Unlike the term “papers” so commonly bandied about which originated from Nazi Germany and Hitler’s efforts to identify and purge Jews. Producing papers in Hitler’s Germany meant that you had to produce your government issued cards identifying not if you were a legal citizen or who you said you were, but that you were not part a government designated ethnic group.
The connotations reaching back to Nazi Germany and the atrocities facilitated by the use of government papers designating people for oppression and genocide is disgusting, and Arizona in no way deserves such comparisons. Far from “defacto” racial profiling such as “papers please”, just like in any other normal performance of his duties, a police officer merely asks for identification.
Whether he is stopping you for a broken taillight or questioning someone about shoplifting, he is perfectly well within the law to ask for it and few would argue that it is not necessary, nor that it is racially motivated. Neither is race involved when someone fails to produce identification, and failure to do so constitutes reasonable suspicion a person is possibly in violation of the law since the mere act of failing to produce it is alone often an offense.
With reason established to further investigation, it is entirely logical that an officer then make further efforts to identify the individual. Whether this is through requesting another form of identification, checking whatever name is proffered against official databases, or noting whether information supplied matches or contradicts other information such as a vehicle registration, an officer is again entirely within the law to do so.
This happens every day across the United States, and to date, no one has brought suit claiming this is some sort of racial profiling. Going further, assuming that an officer has conducted preliminary investigation and found an individual has not produced identification, cannot provide reasonable explanation as to why he has not, and further cannot provide any supporting evidence of his legal status, whether it be no outstanding warrants or pending legal actions or judgments he is under obligation to comply with, an officer is then even further justified in continuing his investigation. It is at this point, that circumstantial indicators come into play. Can the individual speak any English? Can they provide explanation of their activities?
It should be obvious by now, that racial considerations are not only unnecessary but irrelevant here. You could put a blindfold on an officer, and he could easily form suspicion that an individual is not who they claim to be, may have outstanding actions against him pending, and that further investigation is warranted. It is at this point, that an officer has the discretion to either take the person into custody for further investigation, or let them go, and none of it has anything to do with their ethnicity. Which again, happens all the time in the United States, and is neither tyrannical nor dictatorial in nature.
The only thing this law does, is encourage police officers to also include the possibility that an individual may be in this country illegally, and bases this possibility on the reasonable logic born of the fact that in Arizona, there is an above average statistical chance that they are. This is no different than law enforcement noting an upswing in drunken driving incidents and instituting a program of stopping and checking drivers at random. It is no different than officers noting an upswing in late night crime, and stopping more people on the street for random checks. It is no different at all.
The problem here is that we as a nation have forgotten our own history. Although we are a young country, we have established a rich and proud cultural heritage that was in large part born of the early twentieth century period of legal immigration. It used to mean something to people who saved, worked, fought, and earned their way to becoming an American. It was a source of pride to have learned English, passed the tests, and earned the right to call yourself an American. We have forgotten what being an American means, and just how important our identity as Americans is to our sense of national pride and cultural togetherness.
No longer do we have masses of immigrants doing everything they can to learn about our country, learn our constitution and history, and fighting for a chance to become a legal citizen and build a new life for themselves and their families through honest work and accepting the responsibilities of a legal citizen to this country.
Instead we have illegal aliens ignoring our laws and insisting on insulting our national identity by throwing theirs in our faces by ignoring our flag in favor of displaying their own. Exploiting and abusing the rights held by legal citizens by cheating their way onto our social roles, and demanding they be given the same rights and benefits as legal citizens in open defiance of our justice system. They cheat the system and force legal citizens to bear the burden of their presence through strained social programs, reduced wages, lost revenues, and unprosecutable crimes. They expect us to change our culture and our society so that they can survive in this country. They expect Americans to learn their language, support their cultural beliefs, and ignore our own if it is unacceptable to them.
They demand support and inclusion at the expense of our own citizen’s rights and needs which justly come far far before theirs.
That is the true wrong here. That is the real travesty. And the real Tyranny is not in asking someone to identify themselves. No. The real tyranny is in trying to force the legal and lawful citizens of this country to accept the burden of allowing millions of people to enter this country illegally, and forcing them to change their lives, their culture, and their national identity just so those who enter illegally will be happy here.
Truth is, if you are not interested in respecting our laws? If you are not interested in taking the time and trouble to learn what it means to be an American? If you cannot be bothered to put yourself out for something as piddling as becoming an American citizen in both heart and mind? Then perhaps, just maybe, we shouldn’t worry ourselves about accommodating you.
I sincerely wish Arizona good luck, and salute them in their efforts to enforce the laws that our Government under the obligations dictated to it by the United States Constitution has failed to uphold. I am sorry 98%. But you are just plain wrong on this one.