Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Insanity of the Gun "Debate"

It seems to me that the American Constitution has bumped into the Law of Unintended Consequences when it comes to gun violence. It seems that school shootings are an American tradition, going back to the 1700's. According to the Wikipedia article,
Prior to 1989, there were only a handful of incidents in which two or more victims were killed by firearms at a school, including the 1966 University of Texas massacre, the 1974 Olean High School shooting, the 1976 California State University, Fullerton massacre, and the 1979 Cleveland Elementary School shooting.
In the article "Gun violence in the United States" it states
In 2010 there were 358 murders involving rifles. Murders involving the use of handguns in the US that same year totaled 6,009, with another 1,939 murders with the firearm type unreported. There were 19,392 firearm-related suicide deaths, and 11,078 firearm-related homicide deaths in the United States.
It seems that Americans are more intent on killing themselves than their enemies are. Weird.
Of course, South Africa is riddled with firearms of both the licensed and unlicensed variety. The high-profile shooting involving Oscar Pistorius springs to mind. And most hijackings and burglaries are committed by armed criminals. Then there is taxi violence.
What I find so incomprehensible is the way American politicians "debate" the issue. The NRA comes up with non-sequiturs like "The only person who can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun". Seriously?
My solution for the gun problem is much simpler: impose a gun tax of say $1200 per year per firearm. It could work on a sliding scale, based on the number of rounds that can be fired per minute. Since an AK-47 can fire 600 rounds per minute, while a Colt 45 has only 6 bullets in its chamber, this would make the tax on the AK-47 100 times higher, effectively making it too expensive for a private citizen to own.
The next step would be to impose a tax of $10 per bullet sold, which would make the cost of using a firearm more expensive, even it it was unlicensed. All of the money raised could be used to fund the emergency rooms at hospitals, where most gun injuries are treated.
If you haven't guessed by now, the aim of the exercise is to enable "sensible gun owners" to continue with their lunacy, but pay more for it. Illegal gun owners would face massive fines (and back-taxes) when caught with unlicensed weapons, and the general availability of guns and bullets would decline. It would also force gun owners to be more careful about not losing their weapons or leave them lying around where they could be stolen.
See also: "Darwin Award goes to all NRA "life" members"

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Politics of the Movie Industry

This movie exposes the lies and corruption that took place in the Swedish trial of the Pirate Bay founders. You can watch the full movie here, or purchase a copy at I bought a copy, because it takes money to make good documentaries. The greed and malice of the Hollywood Copyright lobby seems to know no bounds, and certainly has no morals or scruples. Just look at the propaganda they put out in the name of "entertainment".

Monday, February 11, 2013

An Open Letter to Nedbank

Dear Nedbank
This is just a quick note to thank you for sending me unsolicited snail mail. I'm glad it was only snail mail and not email, because otherwise you would have been violating the ECT Act as well as the other laws and ethics you just broke.
You see, it's not only unethical to buy names and addresses of random people and then run a credit check on them without their knowledge, it's bad business. However, Nedbank is also a member of the Direct Marketing Association, and as such has publicly agreed to abide by their code of conduct. Sending me such a letter, signed by Graeme Holmes, the Head of Consumer Cards, is thus a breach of their code of conduct, and tells me that you were really sloppy and didn't check my name against their "Do Not Contact List". Either that, or you just really don't care about my privacy.
Now credit card companies are notoriously bad about "leaking" names to direct marketers, but in South Africa that's a criminal offence. By sending me this letter you have identified yourselves as a "dodgy bank" (aren't they all?) who is incapable of keeping my contact details private, as you are required by law. Alternatively, you are happy to ignore the privacy of any future clients by buying my name from a dodgy marketer, with no morals and no scruples. I guess that makes you guys a perfect fit.
So since you have identified yourselves to me as a company who keeps company with criminals (or are criminals yourselves by violating the law), I have decided, as a public service, to identify your unethical behaviour to the public at large. I'm also going to warn them, courtesy of this article, that your credit card fees are, to put it bluntly, greedy and excessive. They are double what I am paying. Small wonder you are willing to go to the expense of sending me snail mail, and paying for my name and address. Shame on you!
And before your self-satisfied smug sense of outrage kicks in, I did personally warn your organisation that I do not take kindly to unsolicited marketing campaigns. The date: 9th January 2007. I guess you didn't get or read the memo. Ag, shame!
Yours sincerely
Donn Edwards
Update Monday 5pm: Nedbank's chief twit wants me to send my ID number to them via Twitter. Funny, I supplied this information many years ago, and it is also in the DMA's Do Not Contact list. They would have to have it when the bought the marketing list in order to comply with the DMA's Code of Conduct. Clearly they haven't complied with the code of conduct, which is why are now looking stupid with egg on their faces.
Update Tuesday 12: In reading through the Nedbank Code of Ethics I find no mention of the word "privacy", even though Nedbank ascribes to the DMA's Code of Conduct, but it does mention the word "confidentiality" several times. Clearly Nedbank doesn't think my contact details are confidential enough to worry about. I guess they aren't really serious about their Code of Ethics, and write it off as public relations double-speak.
Update Thursday 14: I finally heard from Graeme Holmes, after I guessed his email address (first name, plus first letter of surname, followed by Nedbank domain name) since I wasn't getting anywhere with the HelloPeter complaint drones. Graeme is convinced that I must have been an account holder with Nedbank at some point, because they don't buy lists of names. I corrected this false assumption, and await the results of an internal investigation. Yeah, right.
Update Wednesday 20 Feb: It's a welcome change to have to eat my own words. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a personal letter of explanation from Graeme Holmes today. They used the wrong database (an old one) and didn't check it correctly against the DMA's database. I was a signatory on an account for the Body Corporate where I live, which is why I appeared on the "old" database and not on the current one. So we were both right. Thanks for the extra effort, Graeme. You are a credit to your organisation. (Bad pun not intended)