Americans aren’t the only ones with blinkers

Have a look at this link: it is a record of the number of reported gun incidents and deaths in the USA in the last 72 hours. When this article was being prepared there had been in excess of 200 incidents. Frankly it’s a little scary.

Many Australians are familiar with the work of the US Tea Party, a conservative group that claims to be a ‘grassroots’ organisation that demonstrates the values of the USA. In September 2013, The Political Sword had a quick look at the actions of the Tea Party that led to the shutdown of the US Government that year.

We have also commented on luminaries of the LNP right wing such as Cory Bernardi attending events in the US where the Tea Party is certainly represented — if not the organiser. Amongst the immutable demands of the various conservative American groups (including the Tea Party and most of the Republican Presidential hopefuls) is the need to protect ‘the 2nd amendment’. The 2nd amendment to the US Constitution reads: ‘A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ This link from Cornell University’s Law School discusses the history of the amendment and the current discussion around the relevance of the first clause of the amendment. Regardless, in general, conservative America will happily quote the second clause ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed’ but are less forthcoming on the first clause.

So conservative America, backed by self-interest groups and the National Rifle Association (as is their right) have promoted that everyone in the US has a right and obligation to carry a gun at all times. There are even claims that a number of the gun massacres the US is becoming ‘famous’ for, such as the massacre of Year 1 children and their teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, never happened, or the entire event was apparently a ‘set up’ by the US Federal Government to drive a gun control agenda. For those who need their memory refreshed, this Wikipedia entry will give you the relevant detail.

According to Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, mental illness is the cause for shootings in the US — not guns. Another Republican Presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee, blames the media, while parts of the media are blaming violent video games. The ‘logical’ answer according to some in the US is for everyone to have a gun. Interestingly when I went to the webpage for the previous link, I was offered a chance to win a NATO-style tactical rifle if I signed up for their newsletter!

In another demonstration of nature abhorring a vacuum, in 2012 a group called Occupy Democrats was set up. They claim to be a political organization and information website that provides a new counterbalance to the Republican Tea Party. Occupy Democrats seem to have a predilection for making up Facebook memes such as the one at the top of this article. On the face of it, they should have plenty of ammunition (sorry). In another Occupy Democrats Facebook post a clip from the US television series The West Wing has one of mythical President Jeb Bartlett’s aides arguing for gun control, the comments to the meme on the Facebook post are mind blowing. One response doesn’t dispute that over 30,000 residents of the US were killed by guns in the past year but justifies it by suggesting the 20,000 or so suicides attributed to guns shouldn’t count! Another response (obviously from an Australian) details that Australia has not had a mass killing (apparently the definition is more than 5 people killed in a single incident) since 1997 when PM Howard instituted a gun buyback after the Port Arthur tragedy (follow this link for details if necessary), as well as a history and geo-economics lesson on why Australians are actually just as free and are in a better position than the residents of the US — despite not being able to carry an AK47 in our Ford Falcon ute. The attempt at rebuttal by the Australian is met by statements that can best be summed up by ‘when the UN brings in the new world order, you’ll be sorry’.

Australians just don’t understand the fixation US residents have with guns. While there may have been a need for a ‘well-regulated militia’ to be formed in 1776, in 2016, not only does the US have a well-equipped army, it also has an air force, navy, National Guard and in all probability various levels of secret services to defend the nation from attack. Will Jim Bob in his Ford F150 — replete with gun rack out the back — be able to make any difference in an attack by internal or external forces? In all probability the answer is no — regardless of our mythical Jim Bob actually knowing how to use the weapon he carries around to protect his country (which is the legal justification for having a gun in the USA).

It seems the rest of the world knows that the US has a blind spot in regard to the logic behind gun ownership leading to gun violence. So they’re all crazy and Australians wouldn’t carry on like that — right? Wrong — as a nation we apparently don’t give a damn for our environment.

The scientists will tell you that climate change is real — despite vested interests (some of whom also contribute to the US “Tea Party”). Australia was one of the first nations in the world to legislate an effective mechanism for the reduction of carbon emissions. The LNP Coalition cherry-picked some aspects of the Carbon Pollution Reductions Scheme (CPRS) and named it ‘the Carbon Tax’. The predicted $100 roast and destruction of Whyalla never eventuated.

You might remember during 2015 it came to light that Volkswagen had programmed the computer in the engine of some VW and subsidiary branded vehicles to act differently if it detected that emissions testing was being undertaken. Following the usual ‘he said, she said’ brouhaha, VW admitted there was a problem and undertook to find a solution. The Australian ACCC released this update last October regarding its investigation of a breach of consumer law (the engine didn’t perform as well as advertised) leading to a maximum penalty of slightly over $1million, while in the US, the ‘fix’ first proposed by VW was rejected and is more complicated than the Australian/European solution due to stricter environment laws. VW is also potentially liable for fines totalling over $1billion in the US because the vehicles emitted too many chemicals. See the difference?

In August last year, ‘The Political Sword’ touched on renewable energy in a discussion on then PM Abbott’s inability to understand the larger debate on climate change. The article is here and while Abbott is no longer the prime minister, the delightfully named (in the George Orwell 1984 sense) Direct Action policy has not been changed. One of the effects of the lack of any action (let alone Direct Action) is a refusal by the federal government to subsidise the purchase of electric vehicles. In 2015, Australians purchased a record breaking 1,155,408 cars, SUVs and commercial vehicles. Of note, the sales of passenger cars fell by 3.0% and the sale of SUVs (loosely described as vehicles that look like 4-wheel drive wagons, even if they don’t have the 4-wheel drive capability) increased by 15.9% of the total. As a side note, sales of ‘prestige’ vehicles increased across the board by significant amounts — which says something about the general perceptions of the economy.

Back in the good ole USA, vehicle manufacturers have been required to ensure the fuel consumption of the entire fleet of vehicles they sell in a particular year meets a certain miles per gallon threshold. This has occurred since 1978. While the requirement admittedly came in to redress to an extent the oil supply shocks of the early and mid-1970s, there is a flow on effect here to emissions of carbon into the atmosphere. What the system means is, for example, that for every vehicle with a rated fuel consumption over the threshold that is sold, one with a similar value under the threshold must be sold, or a fine paid.

It is possible to purchase a fully electric vehicle or ‘plug in hybrid’ (a vehicle that relies primarily on electric traction/recharging but has a small petrol generator to resupply the battery on the go) in Australia, although with around 1,000 sold to members of the public in the past 5 years, it’s not surprising if you didn’t know they exist. In the United Kingdom, the total number of vehicles sold was around 2.6 million (around 150% more than Australia). The UK purchased over 10,000 electric or plug in hybrid vehicles in 2015. The big difference is the UK Government, as a pollution reduction/climate change mechanism, has a subsidy for the purchase and operation of electric vehicles.
Since the Plug-in Car Grant scheme was launched with its promise of up to £5,000 off the cost of electric vehicles, 47,690 eligible cars have been registered.

Conventional hybrids enjoyed a similar strong performance last year with annual demand for petrol hybrids growing 18 per cent to 40,707 registrations and demand for diesel hybrids climbing 36 per cent to over 3,800.

Overall, the market for alternative fuelled vehicles rose 40 per cent to 72,775 units, increasing the sector’s market share from 2.1 per cent in 2014 to 2.8 per cent last year.

In contrast, demand for diesel vehicles rose just three per cent, as the fall-out from the VW scandal no doubt contributed to the technology’s market share slipping to 48.5 per cent.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘Motor vehicles registered in Australia travelled an average of 13,800 kilometres per vehicle in the 12 months ended 31 October 2014’. Oddly, the average distance travelled by Victorians (one of the smallest states geographically) was higher than the average for Queensland and Western Australia (both much larger geographically). The real point is that on average each car in Australia travels an average of 55km each of the 260 weekdays in a year.

Most if not all fully electric vehicles have a range exceeding the average distance driven by an Australian car each day: and driving electric vehicles around some of our larger cities would certainly improve the quality of the air that we breath. But seemingly we prefer to purchase faux 4-wheel drives, that usually are not the most efficient users of fuel or producers of minimal emissions from the exhaust pipe! We all like the feeling that we can jump in the car and, given enough time, drive from Melbourne to Cairns whenever we want. The reality is that it rarely happens. There is also a lack of infrastructure for the ‘refilling’ of electric vehicles as well as a significantly higher sunk cost in the purchase of the vehicle.

The Renault/Nissan alliance has reportedly sold 250,000 electric vehicles around the world and has a small number of electric delivery vans on trial with Australia Post. Interestingly the company claims that there are 4,000 similar vans in service with the French postal service which travel on average 70km per day — Australia Post primarily uses diesel powered vans.

Apart from recharging infrastructure and initial cost, the only other argument against electric vehicles is the ‘green quality’ of the power that is used to charge the batteries. This is rapidly changing. The number of solar installations on domestic premises in Western Australia is increasing at 20% per annum, causing a number of problems for the WA Government, and South Australia has generated its entire electrical requirements during daylight hours using renewable technologies on at least one occasion. Storage batteries to enable domestic premises to effectively ‘go off-grid’ have been available for a while. Tesla (of the electric car fame) is launching branded domestic battery units which further promote ‘off-grid’ power by storing the solar panel output during the day and releasing it literally when the sun isn’t shining. Other suppliers also have similar technology available.

As a final vehicle example, the Queensland Government has announced it will subsidise the installation of an electric vehicle recharging station — which they have decided to place in a suburb of Townsville. By contrast, the UK Government spent an additional £37 million across the country on recharging stations.

All of this is to be expected by a government that trashed one of the first emission trading schemes in the world. Various countries with various levels of ‘green credibility’ are successfully operating similar schemes as this Parliament of Australia report discusses. As the report is dated 2013, there are some additional schemes introduced since then such as China’s recent announcement. Others should question why an Australian prime minister can suggest that ‘coal is good for humanity’ and then when he is rolled by his own political colleagues, the policy is not immediately rescinded.

There is evidence that a considerable number of Australians haven’t ‘swallowed the Kool-aid’ dispensed by Abbott and co in relation to environmental protection — but what is being done to change personal consumption habits? While Australians probably have the right to question why those that live in the US seem to look the other way when their legislators allow the fatal shooting of 30,000 of their citizens per annum without attempting to ‘fix it’; surely other nations also have the right to ask why we as Australians seem to think it is acceptable to trash the environment, not only here but around the world. Why do we let our politicians get away with it?

What do you think?
Americans may have a problem with guns but 2353NM suggests Australians have a problem with the environment. Is he right? Which set of blinkers is the more dangerous? At least, the American gun problem is restricted to America but our approach to the environment may affect millions well beyond Australia.

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13/02/20162353NM Your piece is a timely follow up to Ken Wolff's [i]A smile is not enough[/i]. Americans are entitled to scratch their head about Australia's attitude to global warming, as we scratch our head about their attitude to guns. Having made an auspicious start with Kevin Rudd, and having almost reached a bipartisan position with Malcolm Turnbull to develop a carbon emissions trading scheme to mitigate carbon pollution, Rudd lost his nerve and Turnbull lost his leadership of the LNP. It has been downhill from there as we traversed the climate change denying years of Abbott and his co-deniers. Hunt and Co. devised the much deprecated Direct Action Plan, the results of which are invisible. Yet Turnbull took them to Paris, and now Hunt has been made 'World's Best Minister', presumably for his brilliance in environmental protection. What sick comedy this is. Who wouldn't laugh!


14/02/2016Like the your post 2353NM. I spent 2011 living and working in America, Houston to be exact. Houston is a scary place to live. Working in an engineering office you normally go to work reasonably well dressed, but you are then constantly being accosted by people on the street asking can you spare a dollar. If you gave them a $5 note they would stare at it for a long moment before thanking you profusely, apparently it didn't happen that often. I used to keep dollar notes handy in the car because every major intersection had beggars on each corner who would approach if you had to stop for a red light. You tend to keep a lot of dollar notes in the car. A taxi driver, a Swiss immigrant, once told me nobody honks their horn because if you do there is a good chance of being shot at. I was informed most drivers keep a pistol on the passenger seat within easy reach. Needless to say my driving manners were impeccable. I didn't have a gun on the passenger seat. The second amendment thing is crap it's just an excuse. People in Houston have multiple firearms, they keep them to protect themselves from their fellow citizens. (Which is probably true for most of America). This is the society they have created for themselves. As a guest in the country sometimes you politely point out, what to you, is the glaringly obvious. Perhaps if there were less extremely poor people you wouldn't need to have so many expensive guns. And don't destroy your middle class to make them the extremely poor in the first place. We have a very different society, a much better society in many ways, but why o why do our elected ones seem to be hell bent on taking us down the American path. I've seen where this path ends and it's ugly, very ugly. (Except for the 1% who own pretty much everything and who want to become the 0.1%) May I also put in a two bob rant, the Toorak tractor, the big petrol guzzling SUV, the ones who park next to you so you can't see what's coming when having to back out. People who buy these monstrosities should be strangled at birth or forced to drive very small electric cars. That should help the environment, either way. Further why not mandate new houses where the solar panel is the roof, same with the electric car? Could it be our pollies have been caught with their pants down by the speed of the renewable revolution? Having sold everything that's not nailed down the owners of the privatised power generators must have guaranteed solid return on investment. As do the coal miners, who incidentally now don't have to back fill the holes they dig. Handy when you have bought a political party that's in government. This is a fight the environment has to win, for our children's sake.


14/02/2016 Hi Ross and thanks for the comment. I also visited the USA in 2011(on the way to and from Canada for a holiday). While I didn't go to Houston, I don't envy your experience. The TSA at LAX and Pearson in Toronto (yes they are stationed in Canada as well) convinced me that those across the Pacific seem to live in fear from those external and internal to the country. The shame is that the US citizen you meet in shops, theme parks, hotels and so on are usually really nice down to earth people. It amazes me that SUV's are all the rage. I've driven a lot of different cars over the past few years (including a lot of SUVs). I can't see the sense in them for them on road use - they usually handle and ride badly in comparison to a traditional sedan/wagon/hatch. They also usually don't have more carrying capacity than a car based wagon. So much so that when replacing my smallish hatchback last year, I went for a medium sedan as the best compromise between load lugging, fuel consumption and 'niceness' to drive. It has to be fashion rather than logic. In the Millennium drought, Queensland mandated water tanks in new house construction, solar panels could be done if there was the will. 'Energy efficient' hot water (either heat pumps or solar) were also required until the Newman LNP government rescinded the requirement. There is an overwhelming case that humans have created climate change and our kids deserve better than we are currently destined to provide. In my opinion, Rudd would still be PM if he had introduced the ETS despite Abbott's protestations in the late noughties. By the time the election came, people would have found out that Abbott's claims were bollocks.


15/02/20162353NM It is interesting how governments and societies can have blind spots in relation to one thing or another, despite evidence that would seem to contradict their approach. I'm sure we could find more if we looked. I tend to agree that we could have had a very different political scene over the years since 2008 if Rudd had stuck with his ETS scheme. He lost credibility (and support in the polls) when he abandoned it. SUVs are interesting. As I understand the American car makers started making them for the general market because, at the time, they were considered 'farm vehicles' and not subject to the same safety, emission and fuel consumption rules as normal vehicles. Because of that they were, at least in America, initially cheaper. In Australia, people claim they are safer: it is true that a larger vehicle normally provides greater protection in an accident, but SUVs often have a higher centre of gravity than a normal vehicle and so can be more prone to rolling -- so perhaps the safety of being large is offset by the propensity to roll. In Australia, our blind spot in relation to climate change has been driven by government (by Abbott). Polls seem to show that climate change did drop down the list of concerns during Abbott's tenure but has been increasing again in recent times. So perhaps the people do not have the blinkers just the fools who were leading us. Ross You make a good point about the link between entrenched poverty and violence, at least in America. Perhaps we could also add racism into that link. Of course, the American gun culture just exacerbates those problems. As you say, the septics keep guns to protect them from 'themselves' and that just leads to more gun deaths.


17/02/2016Greetings Comrades 2353NM It took me a little while to see where you were coming from, I'm not real quick on the uptake I'm afraid, but I do get it. A nice parallel of blinkered attitudes, Yanks with guns, Aussies with gas guzzlers. It seems to me that this sort of contradictory thinking is to be found in many other ways too. Example, those that send their kids to expensive schools because they want them to have a great future, but have no thought to the future of the planet. Approve spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on rescuing a lone adventurous yachtsman but countenance turning back boatloads of desperate asylum seekers. Hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars on "Defence" hardware and personnel, but in Tasmania wildfires have been burning for MONTHS, not a soldier or a defence Department aircraft ever. Bombs dropped on our "enemies" in Syria or Iraq, every one costs as much as a suburban house, but there are thousands of homeless in Oz, and hundreds of thousands who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Everywhere I look I see outrageous contradictions, distortions, inversions of Truth. Religious people are seen as more trustworthy than atheists. Rich people are seen as nobler than poor. War funding is bottomless, so social programs must be shut own. 1% own so much, so many own so little. Hereditary wealth is untouchable. People still toady to Royalty. People still believe in God. I did think, in my younger days, that we could have done better before I shuffled off this mortal coil. * Ross I do like your style and your comments, do keep coming, TPS doesn't get too many commenters these days but it is still an oasis of sanity and humanity. * And concerning last week's general tone, I must say that Labor in the last week has made serious headway, both in attacking the government over inaction, indecision & corruption, and in proposing new policies to which the MSM has responded with astoninishing degree of approval. I don't know what's biting Gary Gray, because I think that we're starting to look quite good actually. Respected journos are starting to question Turdball and as from today especially, this creep Morriscum who plainly hasn't a clue and who is not even up to upgrading a la Peter Principle is under real scrutiny. When did the LNP EVER have real scrutiny? Not since before this very site was founded! But today Tingle, Sales & Karvelas, the Best of female Aussie journos, were quite abrasive to Turdy & 'Scum, and the whole MSM is quite approving of Labor's new policies. Bill Shorten is quite effective when he's fired up. He's performed well in the last few weeks, and even the 5th Estate, which has been 95% scathing of him hitherto, has begun to give him grudging credit. And that, Comrades, gives me heart. There's that word again. VENCEREMOS


18/02/2016TT, Thanks for the other odious comparisons - Australians are very good at not seeing the wood for the trees and in reality we should be fixing our own blinkered views before we start chucking insults at others. Gary Grey was I suspect calling it as he sees it. To be fair to him, mathematically he's probably right and the lesser reported part of the clip is also telling - (paraphrased) if anyone can get Labor up, Bill Shorten can. Turnbull is suffering from the same problem as Gillard did - as soon as they start getting some 'clear air' something else pops up. Given that Turnbull has his stamp of approval all over some of the bad decisions (such as the Cabinet members that have been forced to resign, tax changes and the sheer lack of anything different from Abbott), his days are probably numbered - either through a coup from the Abbott faction (who do exist Malcolm) or the ballot box. One thing Grey was wrong about - one term Governments are becoming common, thing Newman in Queensland, Ballieu/Napthine in Victoria or in fact Rudd, Gillard and Abbott.
T-w-o take away o-n-e equals?