Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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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

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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


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Friday prayers

I had intended to take part in a vigil outside the Feilding mosque today, but all its attenders participated in a regional call to prayer in Palmerston North. Feeling a call to participate in the vigil there, I left Feilding, and drove to Palmy (as we affectionately call the city) arriving shortly before 1 PM. I had to park about 800 m (half a mile) from the mosque due to the number of people attending. The wide street out side the mosque was closed to vehicular traffic and a crowd of several thousand congregated in the street and within the grounds of the Islamic Centre.

oznor

oznor

Call to prayer started at 1:30, and then at 2:32 (the time the attack started last week) there was 2 minutes of silence. I’m accustomed to up to an hour of silence at Quaker meeting, and for me the 2 minutes of silence was way to short. However it had a profound effect of many on the crowd, and at the end of the silence a great many there broke down in tears.

The imam’s sermon was core values of Islam and why it was necessary not to let anger or hate take over. He spoke of the huge support offered by the community and how he and his fellow worshipers were proud to be called Kiwis. Again and again he reiterated that Aroha (the Māori word for love) will defeat hate. After the imam had spoken, representative of other faiths and then dignitaries were invited to speak. The imam broke protocol to allow female speakers within the mosque.

Following the service, 50 butterflies (representing the 50 lives lost) were released. Then a group of predominantly Māori performed a haka. Although it’s late summer, standing on the road on full sun was exhausting. But just as I thought I’d have to seek some shade, the clouds would hide the sun and the breeze would pick up for just a moment, enough to take the edge off the heat.

I took my new phone with me, but that turned out to be a mistake. The camera on this Huawei is a very different beast from the one on my old Samsung. This new one has far too many modes, and the icon representing the various features of the phone are not as intuitive as the old one. I’ve also discovered that in very bright daylight the screen is not bright enough to see properly. Consequently most of my photography efforts were in vain.

One of the effects of the shooting has been that many Muslim women have been afraid to leave their homes, because unlike the men who typically dress like other Kiwi males, most Muslim women wear the hijab or a head scarf making them rather conspicuous. Kiwi women’s groups have solved this problem by offering to accompany Muslim women whenever they feel the need for support. To help the women to feel less conspicuous, a great many non-Muslim women have chosen to wear a headscarf this week as a symbol of solidarity with their Muslim sisters. At today’s vigil, I estimate 70% of the non-Muslim women wore a head covering of some sort, mostly scarves.

 


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A week after…

One of the search tags I have set up in WordPress is “New Zealand”. I like to keep abreast of what fellow bloggers write about this country. I have found most of the Kiwi bloggers I now follow this way.

Most blog posts about new Zealand fall into the “travelogue” realm where in almost diary form the authors write about their experiences andf encounters as they make there way around this island nation of ours. Generally I ignore these, but sometimes  there’s an interesting article about our traits as a people or nation, and these can be rather revealing in highlighting our flaws as well as our good points. Sometimes these observations are quite accurate, while others are perceived through the lenses of their own cultural bias.

As can be expected, in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque attacks, that has been the major subject in posts related to Aotearoa New Zealand. Few, if any, NZ based bloggers are playing the “blame game”. They are more concerned with helping the victims and families or acknowledging that there are prejudices here that lie somewhat hidden in this country, unless you happen to be a member of a minority, in which case they are more obvious.

On most Kiwi blogs there’s a lot of grief and soul searching, but it’s the character of many of many overseas blogs that concerns me, including one or two that I follow. In some cases bloggers comment on the assumption that social conditions prevailing in their own country also exist here. In many cases, those assumptions are just plain wrong. In contrast to Kiwi blogs, there’s often an attempt to lay blame.

One example is gun control. Some have blamed the shootings on too liberal gun laws, allowing anyone (with a firearms licence) to legally accumulate semiautomatic weapons and those weapons don’t require registration. Others say NZ laws are too restrictive because so few NZers hold a firearms licence. These people say that if more people carried guns, there’d be less violence, ignoring the fact that the carrying of any weapon for self-protection is illegal in this country. Mentioning that you’d feel safer if you had a gun is a guaranteed means of having a firearms licence application declined

For most Kiwis, guns are a device used for recreational hunting, or for pest control/management/eradication. The simple fact is that most of us don’t feel that we need to carry any form of protective weaponry, and hopefully the mosque attacks won’t change that.

While I understand some level of misunderstanding, the amount of false information and wild supposition and that is circulating  beggars belief. A common falsehood is that the government has clamped down on our supposedly limited freedoms (why do so many Americans believe the myth that they enjoy more freedom than anywhere else?) If we ignore the fact that by every freedom index available, New Zealand is typically at or near the top of the list, while the USA seldom gets into the top 10 or 20, what freedoms have we lost since the attack?

I’m not going to call out specific blogs, but many,  including one with a post titled “Censorship And Arrests In Wake Of Christchurch Attack” claim the government has  used the attack as an excuse to restrict our freedom, and in particular, free speech. They claim the government has clamped down on what can be viewed online, and that there have been mass arrests for watching the video of the attack. Some have provided a list of websites they claim the New Zealand government has blocked. I’ve got news for them: not one of those sites is blocked. How do I know? Some of the listed sites included a link, so it was a simple matter to click on the link to verify he was wrong. For others, I had to Google for the link, and for all those I tested, the websites came up in all their nasty “glory”.

Some ISPs may have chosen to block some domains, but if my ISP has, they didn’t include the ones listed by the bloggers. No, I didn’t attempt to locate the video, I have no desire to watch it. To knowingly possess or distribute it in any form is illegal, as is it with all objectionable material. That has been the case for decades.

What constitutes objectionable material in NZ? It is objectionable if it involves exploiting children or young people for sexual purposes, the use of violence or coercion to force people into sex, sexual conduct with a dead person, the use of urine or excrement in association with dehumanising conduct or sexual conduct, bestiality and acts of torture or extreme violence or extreme cruelty.  To suggest that these limitations restrict free speech is, in my view, utter nonsense.

They argue that everyone has the right to view anything “in the public domain”, and that any move by authorities to block either the viewing or distribution of such material is criminal and a sign of an authoritarian state. I wonder if they believe they have a right to view and distribute videos depicting child sexual exploitation? If they don’t, they’re being hypocritical. If they do, they really are sick.

There has been no clamp down. The statement by the police was simply to advise anyone who was ignorant of the law that it was illegal, and to remind those who wish to exploit the situation, of the likely consequences.

As to there being mass arrests, one person has been charged with possessing and distributing objectionable material. From what I have read, this particular video wasn’t the only objectionable material in his possession, nor the only one he’s distributed.

I for one feel no less free and no more afraid than a week ago, but for some Kiwis, the freedom to live without fear has been eroded. For that, I am really pissed off. How dare anyone brutally end the lives of of so many innocent men, women and children and damage the lives of so many more.

If you believe that some groups of people shouldn’t be in NZ, you’re still free to do so and express it (although in all likelihood you’ll have fewer supporters than before last Friday).  If you think guns should be more freely available, then you are free to advocate for more liberal gun laws (although you’ll have fewer supporters than you did before last Friday). If you wish to distribute objectionable material, go ahead arsehole, it’s no more difficult than last week. But don’t be surprised when you get a visit from law enforcement agencies (and that’s no different from before last Friday).