Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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FC, RPM, and How Wikipedia Became Complicit in Silencing Non-speaking Autistics

This is one of a number of articles I am linking to in opposition to Wikipedia editorial policy that promotes “the complete erasure of living, breathing, autistic human beings and their experiences from the world’s largest encyclopedia”.

Over the past few months, I was involved in an editing dispute on Wikipedia involving the efficacy of facilitated communication (FC) and Rapid Prompting Method (RPM). What began with one contentious edit has now resulted in the deletion of the following biographical articles of autistic people from Wikipedia: Amy Sequenzia, a prominent non-speaking self-advocate who…

Source: FC, RPM, and How Wikipedia Became Complicit in Silencing Non-speaking Autistics


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Update Aotearoa – 11th April 2019

NZ’s environmental watchdog challenges climate policy on farm emissions and forestry offsets

The greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide, from burping and urinating livestock, account for about half of New Zealand’s total emissions. These agricultural emissions have been the elephant in the room of New Zealand climate policy for some time.

report released by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) this week suggests New Zealand should treat biological emissions differently from carbon dioxide emissions. It also says afforestation is a risky approach to combating climate change if planting trees is used to offset carbon emissions.

The report threatens to turn environmental policy and its principal policy tool, the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS), on its head.

Read more…

New Zealand’s Pacific reset: strategic anxieties about rising China

China’s expanding influence is complicating strategic calculations throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Small states, dependent on maintaining high levels of trade with China to secure their prosperity, are loathe to criticise or take actions that Beijing could find objectionable. This is creating a dilemma over how small states can protect their national interests at a time when China’s growing influence threatens the status quo.

New Zealand illustrates this dynamic. It watches China extend its influence into the microstates of the South Pacific, a region where New Zealand (and its ally Australia) have long enjoyed a position of prominent influence.

Read more…

New Zealand’s new gun law: What you need to know

Politicians have almost unanimously passed a ban on high-power guns in response to the Christchurch mosque attack.

So what will change, what won’t, and how did it happen?

ALMOST UNANIMOUSLY?

Of 120 members parliament, only one opposed the changes: the libertarian Act party’s sole MP, David Seymour. He argued the laws have been rushed through too quickly and without enough consultation.

By legislative standards, the process has moved at lightning speed. Lawmakers often mull bills for at least six months. Friday will mark four weeks since the March 15 terror attack that killed 50 people in Christchurch.

Read more…

Why A New Zealand Official Insists ‘Facebook Can’t Be Trusted’

Rachel Martin talks to New Zealand’s Privacy Commissioner John Edwards, who criticized Facebook after last month’s attacks on two mosques in Christchurch were live-streamed on Facebook.

Read more…

 


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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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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).