Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The trouble with patsy questions...

...is that sometimes the opposition can provide a good answer. As happened in the House today (Question 6 about Civil Defense):
H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister tell the House what he is doing in order to help prepare New Zealanders to get through a disaster?

Hon Members: Resign!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Wailing about Whaling

So Japan has finally managed to pull off a pro-whaling vote at the IWC. What I find most tiresome is the allegations being thrown about bad-faith tactics by the Japanese. Here's why. The Herald has a list of countries that voted:
For: Antigua & Barbuda, Benin, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Denmark, Dominica, Gabon, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Kiribati, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco, Nauru, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Russian Federation, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Togo, and Tuvalu.

Against: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Oman, Panama, Portugal, San Marino, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and the USA.
Last time I looked, Austria, Switzerland, Cesko, Hungary, Luxembourg, San Marino, Slovakia and Switzerland were all land-locked countries. On the pro-whaling side, there's only two land-locked nations - Mongolia and Mali.

As for enticing new members, by my reckoning there have been eighteen new pro-whaling nations that have joined up over the past decade (this includes Guatamala which didn't vote and excludes Iceland because they rejoined shortly after quitting in a fit of pique) as opposed to only ten pro-whale nations. Seeing that the list of pro-whaling nations includes countries such as China and Korea, both of whom don't like the Japanese, it seems to me that whaling has a lot more support than just Japanese lucre and the old whaling nations (Denmark, Norway and Iceland).

Despite the doom and gloom, Japan's got a long way to go before it can get a resumption of commercial whaling. The BBC carries an interesting report that new members of the EU have had "a word in their ear" that it would be "a good idea" to join the IWC. The main avenue left for Japan that I can see is to point out to the uncommitted Arab countries that Israel now supports the whales.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A National Security Question

If our immigration service could not detect this man, a suspected accomplice to the 9/11 hijackers:

Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali
a.k.a. Raed Mohammed Adbullah Ali

from entering the country on the grounds that his passport spelt "Rayed" without the "y", then how confident are you that they will be able to prevent this man from doing the same?

a.k.a. Gadafi, Gadafy, Gaddafi, Gadaffi, Ghadaffy, Gadhafi, Ghaddafi, Ghaddafy, Gheddafi, Kadafi, Kaddafi, Kazzafi, Khaddafi, Khaddaffy, Qadafi, Qaddafi, Qadhdhafi, Qadhdhaafiy, Qathafi, Q'udafi and Qudhafi!

Friday, June 09, 2006

In Memoriam

So with this trusted escort we moved on
along the boiling crimson river's bank,
where piercing shrieks rose from the boiling souls.

There I saw people sunken to their eyelids,
and the huge centaur explained, "These are the tyrants
who dealt in bloodshed and plundered wealth.

Their tears are paying for their heartless crimes."

Inferno, Canto XII

Sedition conviction

A Jury has convicted Tim Selwyn of sedition. The conviction related to a pamphlet that Tim left at the scene of an axe attack on Helen Clark's electoral office. Tim was also accused of seditious conspiracy by emailing Black Power members seeking help in his campaign. His refusal to answer questions there may have hardened the Jury's hearts against him. The full text of the seditious pamphlet can be found here (he was convicted for the Ponsonby Road Pamphlet but acquitted of the Pamphlet left outside the electorate office because there he called for acts of civil disobediance) but the offending text is:
By attacking the electorate office [...] we signal that a threshold has been crossed.


We call upon all like-minded New Zealanders to take similar action of their own to send a clear message that such a gross, blatantly racist injustice to the Maori people will never be accepted.
By calling upon people to commit crimes similar to the axe attack on the electorate office windows, Tim was found guilty under s81(1c) of the Crimes Act 1961 which stipulates:
(1)A seditious intention is an intention—


(c)To incite, procure, or encourage violence, lawlessness, or disorder; [...]
People have been calling it an assault on free speech using archaic laws that, if enforced strictly, would criminalize blogs critical of the government and public protest. These views are nonsense. s81(2) of the Crimes Act states explicitly that a seditious intention does not exist if, among other things, the person is pointing out an error in government policy or the administration of justice and seeks their remedy by lawful means. Tim, by encouraging others to take similar action to the crime which he has committed, has crossed that line and his actions have become unlawful. Our Bill of Rights offers him no defense for s5 states:
Subject to section 4 of this Bill of Rights, the rights and freedoms contained in this Bill of Rights may be subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
For a concise statement of demonstrable justifications might exist, one can do no worse than turn to the European Convention on Human Rights, which after stipulating the Right to Free Speech then states(emphasis mine):
The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

Article 10(2), European Convention of Human Rights
Other reactions against Tim's conviction include:
Media commentator and Timothy Selwyn supporter Bomber Bradbury says the verdicts signal a sad day for freedom of speech in New Zealand.

He says Tim Selwyn's actions were a protest and there was no intent to overthrow the Government or burn down Parliament.
It is not necessary to seek the government's overthrow in order to be guilty of sedition. What the act criminalizes and what Tim was found guilty of was the inciting, procuring or encouraging "violence, lawlessness, or disorder". A more sober argument against Selwyn's conviction can be found here:
Criminal law expert Scott Optican says he has never heard of a prosecution for a seditious pamphlet being brought.

He believes it is free speech to call for lawless action and only becomes sedition when that call is for immediate action and is capable of producing results.
Scott's belief is wrong as the words "procure, or encourage" do not require an immediate response to be effective.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

New Green Co-Leader

Russell Norman has been chosen as the new co-leader of the Greens. He is competent (having been their campaign manager) but has two weaknesses - the first being that he's not in Parliament and the second being his hard left background. He can surmount them but he'll need plenty of luck. In my opinion, the Green Party had better candidates within their own caucus but they weren't eligible. Why? Because the Green Party has this stupid rule that the two co-leaders must be male and female. Since Jeanette Fitzsimmons wasn't stepping down and the male Green MPs were all dorks, the Green Party was absolutely shafted when it came to picking Rod Donald's replacement.