Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Rule of law

In the wake of yesterday’s terrorist attack in a supermarket in Auckland, I’m seeing a lot if ignorance being expressed in online comments. And while most of the criticism is from right leaning, pro gun, anti immigration, pro Trump, American exceptionalism groups, I see see plenty of misinformation from all quarters being thrown about with abandon, including some from within Aotearoa New Zealand.

The fact of the matter is, that even a day later, some information is sketchy, and will take some time for all the facts to emerge. While the government has successfully appealed a court ordered prohibition on some information regarding the terrorist, the court has required that his family have the opportunity to review that decision. So there is at least a 24 hour delay in some information becoming public. The government does not have the right to do as it pleases, hence the title of this post.

The government, as is every person and legal entity in this country is bound by the rule of law, and thankfully, in this nation there are no exceptions. This post is an opinion piece, and given my own biases and lack of the full facts, it should be treated that way. I have no intention that my interpretation of the facts based on the limited information available to me at this moment should be viewed as The Truth™.

We now know that the individual in question was on a terrorist watch list and was under close 24 hour close surveillance and had been for many months since being released from prison. He was surveillance averse, paranoid even, so it was necessary to ensure that the surveillance was as invisible as possible. At times that took the resources of up to thirty undercover agents at any time to avoid detection by that person. Enter covid. Given the current Level 4 lockdown in Auckland and lack of crowded environments, tailing an individual who is surveillance averse must present a number of problems if the intent is to hide the fact that surveillance is indeed being carried out.

The individual travelled by train from his home, then walked to the supermarket while being monitored all the while. Under level 4 lockdown, supermarkets strictly limit the number of shoppers allowed inside, so any “spy” nearby would be readily apparent to the individual. Therefore there were times when they were not in his immediate vicinity or in the same aisle as the individual. It was on such an occasion that the individual took a carving knife from a shelf display and he started his very short terror attack.

The most frequent question raised online has been why was the individual allowed to roam free. To this I say look at the title of this post. As it currently stands, there is no law that prohibits thinking about or planning terrorist attacks. An act of terrorism needs to have occurred or be under way. The current laws on terrorism suppression was enacted in 2002 in wake of the 9/11 attack in the USA, and due to the haste (by NZ standards) in which it was drafted has proved to be deficient. The 2007 New Zealand police raids in the Ureweras is ample evidence of this.

The terrorist had spent time in prison for the illegal possession of a knife and for possessing objectionable material (I presume extreme ISIS publications). The authorities had applied to the court for detention under existing terrorist suppression laws and/or alternatively GPS monitoring. These were declined by the court, which described the inability to detain those who were thinking about or planning an attack as the “Achilles’ heel” of the existing suppression laws.

And here is where I fail to understand the logic of some comments. On the one hand some say that the individual in question should have been locked up and the key thrown away, or deported, while on the other hand the claiming that the government has not got the right to limit their right to carry firearms while out and about in the community. Again I point to the title of this post.

Balancing the freedom of expression against the internal security of a nation is never going to be easy, and what puzzles me is why so many on the right and left demand their right to freedom of expression for themselves while demanding the suppression of those holding opposite views. Arbitrarily detaining someone or deporting them must never be allowed to happen. Never. Why can’t the critics understand this?

My point is that freedoms depend on those in authority acting only in accordance with the law. We saw a less dramatic case in the previous Labour led government when the minister in charge of granting oil exploration licences granted such a licence even though the Green Party, of which she was a member, strongly opposed oil exploration. She was strongly criticised by the environmentalists, some demanding her resignation. As was explained at the time, irrespective of her personal wishes, she was required to grant licences where all the requirements of such a licence had been met. They were. So her hands were tied. Her personal wishes or those of her political party were irrelevant. End of story.

Back to terrorism. Among the findings of the commission set up to investigate the Christchurch Mosque shootings was a recommendation that laws relating to the suppression of terrorism be strengthened, and of course many promoters of civil liberties, freedom of expression of all political persuasions expressed their concern about any move that might limit our freedoms. Even our Human Rights Commission had much to say on this. That is as it should be.

After considerable discussion, proposed changes were then drafted. If the authorities are to be prevented from acting from malice, over enthusiasm, or unintentionally restricting our freedoms, while the law being “fit for purpose” then proposed legislation will require careful consideration, with every T crossed and I dotted before it is presented to Parliament. I’m not surprised that that the drafting took more than six months.

Earlier this year, the bill was presented to Parliament, and as is standard practice here in Aotearoa New Zealand, after the first reading the bill was referred to a Parliamentary select committee. The select committee process can take considerable time – typically six to nine months. Any person who has an interest in the bill has the right to present a written and/or oral submission. After all submissions have been presented, the committee reports the bill, its findings and any recommended amendments back to Parliament for a second reading.

New Zealand Parliamentary Select Committees are somewhat unusual in that their decisions are generally by consensus. It is not a place for partisanship. Occasionally a consensus can not be reached in which case dissenting views are also presented to Parliament. I appreciate such a practice would be unworkable in some jurisdictions (I’m looking of you, America). It requires good faith discussion and accepting that compromise is a necessary part of politics.

The Prime Minister has had discussions with the leader of the Opposition who has agreed to cooperate in having the bill passed into law by the end of the month – considerably faster than the time such bills usually take. I’ll take this moment to remind readers that laws tightening gun ownership after the Christchurch Mosque shootings was not as a result of a dictatorial government. That government was in fact a minority coalition and could not pass legislation as it saw fit. That particular legislation passed through parliament only with the support of opposition parties. It was passed into law with every member of Parliament, except one, supporting the bill.

Personally, I think this single terrorist act is insufficient reason to hasten the passage of the bill. Any haste increases the chance that something might miss scrutiny – either to restrict our freedoms or to render aspects of the legislation ineffective under the law. I would not like to see this legislation to do either. Time will tell if my unease is justified.

Finally I’ll comment on the oh so many claims that confiscating guns does not make us any safer and this single terrorist act is proof of that. Gun confiscation is a myth and I wish the American gun lobby would give up on spreading this misinformation. Prior to the tightening of the gun laws there were an estimated 1.5 million guns in legal ownership. The 34,000 guns handed in as a result of the law change is but a drop in the bucket, but it does mean that access to military style weapons is more difficult for everyone including criminal elements.

No piece of legislation can remove every danger. But it can reduce harm. It reduces the opportunity for those who wish to do harm to obtain the resources needed to carry it out. No one in Aotearoa New Zealand is permitted to carry weapons of any type in public places. Even the police are not routinely armed. No, it doesn’t mean that nobody will ever carry a weapon, but knowing the sanctions the courts can impose on anyone convicted of carrying weapons in public means that most will think twice before arming themselves.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that the number of antisocial, violent elements in our midst would not be significantly different in either the US or NZ, yet if the argument that more guns makes for a safer environment, then this nation should be a very dangerous place indead. It is not. The statistics bear this out. Everything from police shootings (per 10 million, NZ: 2.10, US: 28.54), to murders (per 100,000, NZ: 0.99, US: 5.35). Crime rates in the two countries is, unfortunately, similar (per 100,000, NZ: 42.2, US: 47.7), so it would appear that lack of opportunity presented by restrictions of carrying weapons does indeed reduce physical harm.

This is apparent when we observe that burglary rates in NZ are twice those in the US, yet violence or deaths occurring during burglaries are almost unknown. Most are self inflicted by the burglar in their haste to escape apprehension.

No nation has a perfect set of laws covering every possible situation. Nor will any nation ever achieve such a goal. In the full knowledge that law makers and governments are just as fallible thas everyone else, our greatest protection is not a formal document in the form of a constitution (Aotearoa New Zealand doesn’t have one anyway) but the observance of the rule of law.


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Getting what one deserves

Over the last few hours I have read a number of blogs pertaining to the situation in Afghanistan. Many of those blogs are blaming the rapid fall of the nation to the Taliban on the inhabitants, often implying that it must be what they really want, otherwise they would have fought. What the bloggers seem to forget is that the West had already reached the conclusion that it was inevitable that the Taliban would eventually take control – perhaps in a few years. Long enough to appear that their withdrawal appeared “honourable”.

Think for a moment. If the West had reached that conclusion doesn’t it seem feasible that the Afghanis themselves, being so much closer to the ground, also reached the same conclusion. A sense of hopelessness coupled with a fear induced by the barbarity of the Taliban is more than enough for most people to become resigned to their inevitable fate. Few folk will fight, whether by way of arms, civil disobedience or the pen where there is absolutely no hope of a different outcome.

One writer suggested that as women are at least as numerous as men and have more to lose, they should take up arms, and if they don’t the implication was that they deserve (or want) what they get. History has proven time and again that a sense of powerlessness, hopelessness and fear can be used by the few to control the many. How is the situation in Afghanistan any different than the rise of fascism and naziism in Europe between the two world wars, the rise of Stalinism, Maoism, Pol Pot, Apartheid, and in the US, slavery, Jim Crow and McCarthyism? How many nations and communities fell to colonial rule/occupation for similar reasons? Military might was not the only tool used.

It’s not only minorities that can feel a sense of hopelessness, it can exist in significant majorities for exactly the same reason: loss of hope. A hope that they might escape Taliban authoritarianism has led to some people taking stupid risks such as attempting to cling to the undercarriage of departing aircraft. In their mind, the risk was worth the effort whereas the risk of remaining and opposing the incoming regime seemed futile.

The advantage with fanatical beliefs is that they are separated from reality. While they are often religious in nature they don’t have to be. Taliban fighters are confident in their belief that their efforts will be rewarded, if not in this life, then in the next. Their blind faith that their cause is just and will prevail just as surely as night follows day gives them all the will needed to continue fighting regardless of what the true situation is at any given moment.

Meanwhile back in reality, the typical, man, woman, father, mother, son, daughter, uncle, aunt has to weigh up the consequences of their action. Would opposing the Taliban pose greater risks of harm to themselves and to those they care about than doing nothing – especially if they perceive their opposition is doomed to failure? I don’t think I need to remind readers, that the inhabitants of Afghanistan will be only too well aware of the atrocities that the Taliban are capable of inflicting on not only those who oppose them, but on their families and communities as well.

To a large extent, the West has only themselves to blame for the current situation, and for this reason I was less than impressed with President Biden’s speech. He considers himself blameless. Instead much of the blame he places on Trump, the Afghan government and military. His own military advisers had predicted the inevitable outcome of a quick withdrawal, although not the speed at which it would occur. Biden, like so many others I have heard and read today imply that the Afghanis will get the government they deserve. They don’t.

With few exceptions, the occupation of Afghanistan was based on military and perhaps political objectives of the West. Humanitarian objectives have been mostly ignored except where they were an advantage to the military and political objectives. If the same effort had been put into targeting humanitarian outcomes for their own sake, I wonder whether the current situation would have eventuated. I’m enough of a realist to admit there would be no guarantee of a better outcome, but on the other hand there’s no guarantee that it wouldn’t. However, from a purely military and political perspective, I don’t think any outcome, other than the one that is currently playing out, was possible – especially in the way the allies handled the two decades of occupation.

I do not know what should be done to reduce the harm that will inevitably occur to many innocent people in the wake of the Taliban takeover, and for this I accept my share of the blame. I’ve had twenty years in which to argue for a more humanitarian approach to moderating the effects of fanaticism on populations but have remained relatively silent until now. In the words of Nanci Griffith “I am not at the wheel of control, I am guilty, I am war, I am the root of all evil“. Are any of us any different?

Feel free to substitute Belfast and Chicago with any other place of conflict of your choosing

It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go – Nanci Griffith

I am a backseat driver from America
They drive to the left on Falls Road
The man at the wheel's name is Seamus
We pass a child on the corner he knows
And Seamus says,"Now, what chance has that kid got?"
And I say from the back,"I don't know."
He says,"There's barbed wire at all of these exits
And there ain't no place in Belfast for that kid to go."

It's a hard life
It's a hard life
It's a very hard life
It's a hard life wherever you go
If we poison our children with hatred
Then, the hard life is all they'll ever know
And there ain't no place in Belfast for these kids to go

A cafeteria line in Chicage
The fat man in front of me
Is calling black people trash to his children
He's the only trash here I see
And I'm thinking this man wears a white hood
In the night when his children should sleep
But, they slip to their window and they see him
And they think that white hood's all they need

It's a hard life
It's a hard life
It's a very hard life
It's a hard life wherever you go
If we poison our children with hatred
Then, the hard life is all they'll ever know
And there ain't no place in Chicago for these kids to go

I was a child in the sixties
Dreams could be held through TV
With Disney and Cronkite and Martin Luther
Oh, I believed, I believed, I believed
Now, I am a backstreet driver from America
I am not at the wheel of control
I am guilty, I am war I am the root of all evil
Lord, and I can't drive on the left side of the road

It's a hard life
It's a hard life
It's a very hard life
It's a hard life wherever you go
If we poison our children with hatred
Then, the hard life is all they'll ever know
And there ain't no place in this world for these kids to go


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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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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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What the ????

Some people have a really warped sense of reality. I just stumbled upon a WordPress blog under the “New Zealand” tag claiming that the Christchurch terrorist attack is a hoax. To make it even more disgusting he’s included an animated GIF image of several seconds of shooting inside the Mosque, which is supposed to prove his claim. Unlike a video it plays the moment the article is opened – the image is near the top of the page and can’t be avoided. I’ve reported it to WordPress. My hope is that WordPress take down not only the article, but also the account.

Update (19:03 NZDT): I’ve just realised that you don’t need to open the article. The image plays in a search preview list. Everyone including kids can see the animation. As of this moment, it’s been up 12 hours.

Update (31/03/19 06:14 NZDT): The site has finally been taken down. Yay!


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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.

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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.