Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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How to Stop the Next Christchurch Massacre

An opinion piece written by Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister, has been published in the NYT and a number of other publications (I have included to content of the opinion piece after my “two cents worth”).

Already I see assertions that the U.N. has a hidden agenda to shut down free speech in order to bring in some new oppressive world order – that order depending on where on the political spectrum the “pundit” stands – and that Jacinda is a willing or inadvertent pawn in the conspiracy. It’s also amazing to see the number of people on various platforms who seem to believe that the Christchurch atrocity was staged by the government or the U.N (or some other boogieman) in order to make people more accepting of restrictions imposed by those in authority. But I digress.

The planned Christchurch Conference has already been criticised because it doesn’t propose any specific solution to the use of social media as a tool to promote terrorism. They miss the point. The whole purpose of the conference is to bring about a round table discussion involving all interested parties on what should be done and how it might be implemented to reduce or eliminate social media being a tool of the terrorists.

Our Prime Minister, along with the rest of the country have determined that “prayers and platitudes” are not the answer, and sitting on our hands will not make the threat of terrorism by social media go away. There’s a high chance that the conference will not achieve the desired outcome, but unless those with the “power” to affect an outcome sit down together and discuss it, “prayers and platitudes” will be all we have to look forward to.

Here is the opinion piece:

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — At 1:40 p.m. on Friday, March 15, a gunman entered a mosque in the city of Christchurch and shot dead 41 people as they worshiped.

He then drove for six minutes to another mosque where, at 1:52 p.m., he entered and took the lives of another seven worshipers in just three minutes. Three more people died of their injuries after the attack.

For New Zealand this was an unprecedented act of terror. It shattered our small country on what was otherwise an ordinary Friday afternoon. I was on my way to visit a new school, people were preparing for the weekend, and Kiwi Muslims were answering their call to prayer. Fifty men, women and children were killed that day. Thirty-nine others were injured; one died in the hospital weeks later, and some will never recover.

This attack was part of a horrifying new trend that seems to be spreading around the world: It was designed to be broadcast on the internet.

The entire event was live-streamed — for 16 minutes and 55 seconds — by the terrorist on social media. Original footage of the live stream was viewed some 4,000 times before being removed from Facebook. Within the first 24 hours, 1.5 million copies of the video had been taken down from the platform. There was one upload per second to YouTube in the first 24 hours.

The scale of this horrific video’s reach was staggering. Many people report seeing it autoplay on their social media feeds and not realizing what it was — after all, how could something so heinous be so available? I use and manage my social media just like anyone else. I know the reach of this video was vast, because I too inadvertently saw it.

We can quantify the reach of this act of terror online, but we cannot quantify its impact. What we do know is that in the first week and a half after the attack, 8,000 people who saw it called mental health support lines here in New Zealand.

My job in the immediate aftermath was to ensure the safety of all New Zealanders and to provide whatever assistance and comfort I could to those affected. The world grieved with us. The outpouring of sorrow and support from New Zealanders and from around the globe was immense. But we didn’t just want grief; we wanted action.

Our first move was to pass a law banning the military-style semiautomatic guns the terrorist used. That was the tangible weapon.

But the terrorist’s other weapon was live-streaming the attack on social media to spread his hateful vision and inspire fear. He wanted his chilling beliefs and actions to attract attention, and he chose social media as his tool.

We need to address this, too, to ensure that a terrorist attack like this never happens anywhere else. That is why I am leading, with President Emmanuel Macron of France, a gathering in Paris on Wednesday not just for politicians and heads of state but also the leaders of technology companies. We may have our differences, but none of us wants to see digital platforms used for terrorism.

Our aim may not be simple, but it is clearly focused: to end terrorist and violent extremist content online. This can succeed only if we collaborate.

Numerous world leaders have committed to going to Paris, and the tech industry says it is open to working more closely with us on this issue — and I hope they do. This is not about undermining or limiting freedom of speech. It is about these companies and how they operate.

I use Facebook, Instagram and occasionally Twitter. There’s no denying the power they have and the value they can provide. I’ll never forget a few days after the March 15 attack a group of high school students telling me how they had used social media to organize and gather in a public park in Christchurch to support their school friends who had been affected by the massacre.

Social media connects people. And so we must ensure that in our attempts to prevent harm that we do not compromise the integral pillar of society that is freedom of expression.

But that right does not include the freedom to broadcast mass murder.

And so, New Zealand will present a call to action in the name of Christchurch, asking both nations and private corporations to make changes to prevent the posting of terrorist content online, to ensure its efficient and fast removal and to prevent the use of live-streaming as a tool for broadcasting terrorist attacks. We also hope to see more investment in research into technology that can help address these issues.

The Christchurch call to action will build on work already being undertaken around the world by other international organizations. It will be a voluntary framework that commits signatories to counter the drivers of terrorism and put in place specific measures to prevent the uploading of terrorist content.

A terrorist attack like the one in Christchurch could happen again unless we change. New Zealand could reform its gun laws, and we did. We can tackle racism and discrimination, which we must. We can review our security and intelligence settings, and we are. But we can’t fix the proliferation of violent content online by ourselves. We need to ensure that an attack like this never happens again in our country or anywhere else.

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Ted Grimsrud asks whether the price of the American war was really “worth” more thyan half a million lives. I think it’s a question that should be asked when we think of any war. And it’s something we seriously need to contemplate in preparing for any war. Are there other alternatives that might result in a better long term outcome?

Ted Grimsrud—April 29, 2019 As I continue to read and think about the American Civil War, I am continually impressed with how little questioning of the legitimacy of warfare as the default way to resolve conflicts I have encountered. I have seen even less skepticism about the Civil War as a tool for the good […]

via What’s wrong with how we view the Civil War? — Thinking Pacifism


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We are not immune to the viruses of hate, of fear, of other, but we can be the nation that discovers the cure

Last Friday the commemoration of all those who died in the terrorist attack in Christchurch was broadcast live on radio and television nation wide. This video clip is of the speech made by our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the commemoration. My belief is that her comments represent the majority of my fellow Kiwis. This is so much in contrast to many other political leaders around the globe, starting with you Mr Trump.


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Christchurch shootings: We need an inquiry, not an inquisition

The  Prime Minister has announced that there will be a Royal Commission into the Christchurch terror attack

There are questions about how the accused gunman’s manifesto could be compiled – its length attesting to the time taken to distil and articulate it all in writing. How did the gunman effectively radicalise himself? Why did nobody notice anything sufficiently amiss with this individual to raise concerns? These are all valid questions that an inquiry needs to consider.

However, it needs to be an inquiry, not an inquisition. To be genuinely useful, it must create an environment in which those with the knowledge of current processes, decisions and resources are free to discuss it all. If there are gaps, they need to be found and addressed – not hidden by individuals trying to avoid liability.

Continue reading…


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The nuclear argument 34 years on

david_lange_1992

David Lange (Courtesy Archives New Zealand)

In March 1985 the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, David Lange, against all political advice at the time, took part in an Oxford Union debate. He was the key speaker for the affirmative side That all Nuclear Weapons are Morally Indefensible.

He had won the election in July 1984 when the previous National Party government called a snap election after it lost it’s majority over the issue of allowing nuclear powered or armed warships into New Zealand. David Lange and the Labour Party campaigned on prohibiting such ships, and won with a sweeping majority. In 1987 when the anti-nuclear weapons legislation became law, it had the support of 92% of the population.

After thirty-four years, how much of the arguments put forward on both sides are applicable today? One of the affirmative speakers before David Lange touched on the fact the the major powers continued to wage war by proxy rather than by direct confrontation, and in fact nuclear deterrence had made little or no difference to world peace. War by proxy still seems to be a significant factor in many conflicts today.

The following clip contains selected excerpts from David Lange’s speech.

For anyone wishing to watch the whole debate, it can it seen in the next clip. I’ve started the clip at 7:15 in, which is where the debate starts. David Lange’s speech starts at approximately 23:30 if you wish to skip directly to it. A transcript of his speech can be found here.


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I gave up my gun after the New Zealand mosque shootings. Why are Americans mad at me for it?

“I had always considered my weapon nothing more than a tool.”

“But no one sees gun ownership — much less semiautomatic rifle ownership — as an essential component of their identity.”

“Giving up some of our guns doesn’t mean giving up our liberty. The redcoats aren’t coming. The American idea — that it’s important to have the ability to kill someone on a whim – is just bizarre to us. In fact, when New Zealanders apply for gun licenses, we have to state our reasons for buying a firearm, and citing “home defense” is the fastest way to get denied — our laws explicitly state that self-defense is not sufficient reason to own a gun.”

The mindset of the American gun lobby is so entrenched, that they are incapable of understanding alternative points of view. That, in my mind, is what makes them so dangerous. The above quotes are taken from a guest commentary in The Denver Post. It’s the attitude that is similar to almost every gun owner in Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s worth reading to understand how people in two different English Speaking democracies view gun ownership.


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Freedom of speech

Sometimes I wonder what many people think is meant by free speech. This is particularly relevant in Aotearoa New Zealand because of comments, mostly by the American right, about free speech being restricted in this country.

First let’s discus the video of the attack. I don’t know of any country that allows the distribution of child pornography, and that includes the USA. As in America, we are free to discuss the subject, and advocate for the law to become more restrictive or more liberal. But for very good reason, it is not permissible to distribute videos or images depicting children taking part in sex acts. All decent societies place some restrictions on what can be be possessed and distributed, and that includes NZ and the USA.

How countries countries handle restrictions will vary, and in Aotearoa New Zealand material can be classified as objectionable, which makes the possession and distribution of it illegal, or restricted, which places some limits (usually age) on who can possess and distribute it. The Department of Internal Affairs Website on censorship in NZ  summarises objectionable material as follows:

In deciding whether a publication is objectionable, or should instead be given an unrestricted or restricted classification, consideration is given to the extent, degree and manner in which the publication describes, depicts, or deals with:

  • acts of torture, the infliction of serious physical harm or acts of significant cruelty
  • sexual violence or sexual coercion, or violence or coercion in association with sexual conduct
  • sexual or physical conduct of a degrading or dehumanising or demeaning nature
  • sexual conduct with or by children, or young persons, or both
  • physical conduct in which sexual satisfaction is derived from inflicting or suffering cruelty or pain
  • exploits the nudity of children, young persons, or both
  • degrades or dehumanises or demeans any person
  • promotes or encourages criminal acts or acts of terrorism
  • represents that members of any particular class of the public are inherently inferior to other members of the public by reason of any characteristic of members of that class being a characteristic that is a prohibited ground of discrimination specified in the Human Rights Act 1993.

I believe there is sufficient reason to classify the video as objectionable on the grounds of the last three points above. Personally I believe this video is very comparable to child porn in that it degrades, dehumanises and exploits persons. I’m more than happy that the video cannot be distributed in NZ.

Most of the criticisms of the banning claim that it was a political decision. It was not. It was classified as objectionable by the chief censor who is required to act in accordance with an act of parliament, namely the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, which was amended by the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Amendment Act 2005. It is erroneous to claim it is a clampdown by politicians or the police.

For those who are interested, you can read an abridged version of the classification decision on the Christchurch Mosque Attack Livestream. There’s a link to the full legal decision at the bottom of that document.

The terrorist’s “manifesto” has also been classified as objectionable, and here I’m a little more relaxed about whether or not it should be accessible. However the Chief Censor does give a valid reason why it should be banned. As he explains in the clip below, to most New Zealanders, it will not harm them, nor cause them to change their views, nor inspire then to commit crimes, but the document was written for a specific audience and for those people the document is likely to inspire them to carry out acts of terror. So I accept that for the time being, it is appropriate to prohibit its distribution.

There are claims that Kiwis do not have free speech. I would argue that freedom of expression is preserved in section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (BORA) which states “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the right to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form“. Please note the word “opinion“. I am free to express my opinion no matter how hateful it is. But I am not permitted to do harm or to incite others to do harm. That is a sign of a civilised society in my view. Others are free to disagree and say so. That is freedom

There are claims that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can be prosecuted for allowing objectionable material to pass through their networks. This claim has been made because several major ISPs blocked a small number of (hate) sites shortly after the shootings. The statement is false. The 2005 amendment specifically exempts ISPs from prosecution if objectionable material passes over their network. The original 1990 legislation was somewhat vague on this matter as the internet as we now know it didn’t exist then.

Several, but by no means all ISPs did block some sites, but that was a decision made by the ISPs themselves. There was no decree or request from the government to block specific sites. I understand most of those sites are now accessible again. May I ask how does the decision by some Internet providers to block some sites become “New Zealand authorities block free and open discussion“? If I don’t like the ethical or commercial practices of one ISP, I have more than a hundred others I can opt to use instead. Alternatively, I can simply change Name Servers or use a VPN. Neither are prohibited.

If I choose to use overseas Name Servers instead of those of my Internet provider, I am free to do so. In fact I do precisely that. I normally use OpenDNS as I like to use their filtering service – it provides more comprehensive filtering than that provided by my ISP, but this a personal choice on my part. If I so desired, I could instead use Google’s Name servers, which, I believe, have no filtering. Changing Name Servers in any web browser takes seconds, and if you don’t know how to do it, it takes only a moment of online searching to locate step by step instructions.

It is not illegal to use any Name Server of your choice, nor is it illegal to distribute instructions on how to set up your browser, or your entire home network as I have chosen to do. And claims that NZ is now some sort of authoritarian regime arresting people for expressing opinions are factually false.

If one cares to examine our freedoms and compare them to any other country, there are plenty of sources. Here’s just a few freedom indexes with the rankings of NZ and the USA for the benefit of the right wing “free speech” advocates:

Reporters Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index: NZ: 8th; US: 45th
RWB currently classifies 19 countries as Enemies of the Internet. The USA has been on the list since 2014.
Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index 2018: NZ: 4th; US: 25th
EUI defines NZ as a Full Democracy, and the US as a Flawed Democracy
Global Democracy Ranking 2016: NZ: 7th; US: 16th
The Human Freedom Index 2018: NZ: 1st; US: 17th
Freedom House Freedom in the World 2018: NZ: 6th; US: 51st
Polity data series (funded by the CIA): NZ: Full Democracy; US: Democracy

I’m not a Christian, but Matthew 7:3 comes to mind when dealing with these critics:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

 


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If your only tool is a hammer…

…everything looks like a nail.

If you’re not familiar with the phrase, then Wikipedia’s article Law of the instrument provides a good explanation.

Conversely, I would argue that if everything looks like a nail, the only tool you need is a hammer.

In the wake of the Christchurch shootings, the American pro gun lobby has waded into the gun control discussion currently underway in this country. Their arguments are largely irrelevant and unhelpful in the NZ context. They also tend to make claims that are either misleading or simply false.

Bearing arms is a God given right.

Perhaps in America, where 70% of the population are Christian and they have the right to bear arms written into their constitution. Here, Christians are a minority, a large minority, granted, but never the less, a minority. So God has little say in the matter. Most importantly, we have never had a “right” to bear arms. Any argument about the government taking away our rights rights is irrelevant. They can’t take away something we’ve never had.

In this country carrying any weapon in public is illegal. It doesn’t matter if it’s a gun, a knife, a toothpick crossbow, pepper spray, or even a screw driver. If you are carrying it as a weapon, regardless of whether you intend to use it defensively or offensively, you are breaking the law. If you get stopped by police while you’re driving, and they happen to see a baseball bat you keep for protection lying beside your car seat, expect to find yourself in trouble.

Controlling guns is a step on the road to totalitarianism and tyranny

Arguing that gun control diminishes or removes our right to own guns is akin to arguing that traffic regulations diminishes or removes our right to travel by motor vehicle. Some level of regulation and control is necessary to protect law abiding citizens from the idiots who either deliberately or accidentally endanger the lives of themselves and everyone else on the road.

In this country every car must undergo a mandatory safety inspection at regular intervals. The frequency depends on the age of the vehicle. If the car passes the inspection, it receives a WoF (Warrent of Fitness). It is illegal to drive or park a car on a public road unless there is a current WoF displayed on the top right corner of the windscreen (windshield). If everyone could be relied on to ensure their car was kept in a safe condition there would be no need for WoFs.

The same applies to driver licences. If everyone could be relied on to learn the road code and ensure they had the skills to drive safely, there would be no need to issue driver’s licences. Sadly the government must regulate to protect sensible car users.

How about piloting drones? In New Zealand, anyone can fly a drone. Neither drone pilot nor drone need to be licensed or registered subject to obeying a few simple safety rules. One rule is that drones must not be flown within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of an airport. There have been a number of near misses in recent years, one coming within metres of a passenger aircraft as it approached a airfield. Recently all flights in and out of the nation’s busiest airport were cancelled for hours because some idiot was incapable of learning and applying some simple safety rules.

It’s behaviour like that that may make licensing of drone pilots and registration of drones mandatory – licensing to ensure pilots understand the rules, and registration to be able to identify the owner of the drone. How is the licensing of gun owners and the registering of guns any different?

Even in the USA, weaponry is regulated. Are members of the public permitted to own machine guns, field guns, grenade launchers, or depleted uranium armour piercing projectiles and their launchers? How about rocket launchers, heat seeking anti-aircraft missiles? How about fully armed strike aircraft? As I understand it, the second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. Does the pro gun lobby advocate that all forms of arms should be unregulated? I’m also led to believe that when the second amendment was written, the federal government did not have a standing army. The circumstances under which the amendment was drafted, were very different to those existing today.

Let’s face it, if the citizens of America were driven to rise against the government, how effective would the weapons they are permitted to own fare against the might of the American armed forces – the most powerful and sophisticated military force the world has known? If a truly despotic government came to power, why would it stop at conventional weapons to control the civilian population. The threat or use of a nuclear weapon on a random city is likely to result in complete surrender of any opposition, as would the threat of using a biological weapon such as anthrax on a civilian population. After all, it has the means. All it needs is the will.

I am convinced that if Kiwis were ever driven to rebel, we’d have a better chance of defeating the NZ military machine armed with only pitch forks and traditional Māori weapons than an American militia, armed with what Americans are currently allowed to own, would have against the the American Armed forces. The New Zealand air force has no strike capability at all – no fighters, no bombers. The entire air force comprises of  6 maritime patrol aircraft, 7 transport aircraft, an assortment of 15 helicopters, an assortment of 15 twin and single engine unarmed trainers and one vintage Tiger Moth. The army has no tanks, although it does have around a hundred light armoured vehicles. The entire weaponry of the NZ army can be found on Wikipedia.

I, and a great many other Kiwis would consider the arming of front-line police a greater threat than the removal of a few semiautomatic guns from private ownership.

More guns less crime

According to this article, while the number of guns in the USA has continued to climb, the gun ownership rate is decreasing. In other words, the number of people owning one or more guns is declining and the number of people not owning any gun is increasing. As the article points out:

It is merely the fact that a person owns a gun, not how many, that matters with regard to the crime debate. As gun ownership has not increased in tandem with the number of guns, it is not possible for the increase in guns to have contributed to the decrease in violent crime. The only effects that can stem from this surge in guns are deleterious. With hundreds of thousands of guns stolen every year, the stockpiling of weapons only increases the likelihood that they end up in the wrong hands. 

Think about this: in less than half an hour, one person with 2 semiautomatic rifles killed more people than all the murders committed in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2018. Not one murder in 2018 was committed with a semiautomatic.

There were 48 murders in New Zealand in 2018 – 1 murder per 7.6 days or 182.5 hours. The terrorist killed 50 people in less than half an hour. To put it in perspective, there were 17,284 reported murders in the USA in 2017. Imagine if someone took out 18,000 Americans in one hit. It would make 9/11 pale in comparison. What do you think America’s response would be?

In almost every case where a gun has been presented in the execution of a crime in NZ, the gun was either purchased legally, purchased illegally from a legal gun owner, or stolen from a legal gun owner. Making guns more difficult to obtain by making licensing more stringent and reducing the number of guns in circulation seem to me to be very practical measures in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.

When everyone has a gun, people stop living in fear.

Fear of what? The last time I was in America was to attend a seminar.. I was the only Kiwi attendee. There were two Britons, one from Puerto Rico and around 12 from various American states. Early one evening, myself, one Brit and three Americans and the Puerto Rican  went into town for a meal. The street was quite busy and while were were looking for a suitable restaurant, three loud bangs were heard. I didn’t think anything of it, and nor did the Brit. Just as I realised that we were the only two standing, one of the Americans tugged on my trousers and yelled “Are you crazy? Get down unless you want to get shot!”

I have no idea what caused the noise. The cause is irrelevant. Clearly those on the street assumed it was gunfire and acted accordingly. It’s a reaction I’ve never seen in NZ. Will that be the reaction here now? I for one, hope not. In reality, not one loud unexpected bang that I’ve heard in the seventy years I’ve been on this planet has been caused by someone discharging a gun, let alone trying to shoot someone. There is no reason to assume the next loud bang with be from a gun either. Yet on that street, in America it was clear that a great many people were very afraid. Whether they were afraid of a gun or a person wielding a gun is of little relevance. They were afraid. I was not. One could argue that its America’s gun culture that creates an environment where a gun is the cause and solution to every problem.


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I find I’m sharing a lot of Michael’s posts. This is another I think is deserving of a wider circulation.

It’s just a number, one of a several which struck me over this last week. We have all, here in New Zealand and in the wider world, felt the impact one way or another, of the attack in Christchurch on a small segment of our society. Until that fateful Friday there were an estimated 50,000 […]

via 49,950 — Michael Bracey