Thursday, March 29, 2007


Child, 11, brings gun to class, is arrested

Called a first at elementary school

By David Abel, Globe Staff March 28, 2007

The .44-caliber pistol was in the boy's backpack, officials said.

When his fifth-grade teacher asked him just before class ended for the day yesterday whether he had a gun, the 11-year-old at John P. Holland Elementary School said yes, authorities said.

Then, he took it out of his blue and gray bag and put it on his desk, while more than 20 students watched, school officials said.

The gun was loaded, police said.

School officials said it was the first time they have found a loaded handgun inside a city elementary school. The discovery shocked parents, some of whom said they would consider removing their children from the Dorchester school.

The boy, whose name was not released, allegedly told other students that he had the weapon. They told their teacher as they waited to be called to their buses shortly before 2:30 p.m., said Jonathan Palumbo, a spokesman for the Boston Public School Department.

"This is very disturbing," Palumbo said. "But we're glad that the students who found out about this had the presence of mind to inform their teacher."

He said the school had not had problems with the student and that he did not threaten anyone.
"There was also no indication that there was any reason why the student had the weapon with him," Palumbo said. "There was no threat of violence."

After the boy took out the gun, the teacher picked it up with a towel and brought it to the principal's office, Palumbo said. They called a school police officer, who had been outside helping students get on their buses. A few minutes later, the teacher, principal, and officer returned to the classroom, where the boy and other students remained, Palumbo said.

They took the boy to the principal's office, where he was arrested on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of a loaded firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm on school property, and unlawful possession of ammunition, police said. He is scheduled to be arraigned this morning in the juvenile session of Dorchester District Court.

Elaine Driscoll, spokeswoman for Boston police, said the boy told investigators he found the gun in a yard. The location is under investigation. "We want to remind youth that if you find a firearm, don't touch it; don't pick it up," Driscoll said. "Instead, alert police or an adult immediately."

Police informed his mother, and he was booked and questioned at the area C-11 police station late yesterday, police said.

This incident follows the report of a 14-year-old student who showed up at Dorchester's John W. McCormack Middle School on Friday with a .38-caliber bullet, two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case said yesterday. They said the student threatened other students' lives and bragged that he had a gun at home. The officials said police later executed a search warrant at the student's home and found no gun, but they found the bullet.

Michelle O'Connell, the principal of Holland Elementary School, declined to comment.

Parents and neighborhood officials were furious.

I make no apology. This leaves me nearly speechless. So I am not even going to start...

I guarantee that there will be people who will try to justify the boy's action, even if he did not have permission to have or to carry the weapon.

And yes, I do realise that the gun would probably have broken both his arms had he tried to fire the thing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Joy of... 4

OK, I am not going to back down on anything I have said in the past in the debate on the role of government in personal freedoms.

But this time around I am going to agree with TF, with Dave and Dana, and everyone else with whom I have crossed this sword.

The centrepoint is the debate on “the smacking bill”, a proposal to remove the following section from NZ law..
59 Domestic discipline

[(1) Every parent of a child and, subject to subsection (3) of this section, every person in the place of the parent of a child is justified in using force by way of correction towards the child, if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances.]

(2) The reasonableness of the force used is a question of fact.

[(3) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section justifies the use of force towards a child in contravention of section 139A of the Education Act 1989.]

First, this law change is a “Private Members Bill”. This process allows for the House to consider non-government sponsored legislation. The promoter is Sue Bradford, a member of the Green Party, and a long time activist for womens’ rights, for the needy and oppressed.

Second, for some reason the Speaker (our equivalent of Pelosi) has not announced the Bill as a conscience issue. Hence there is a measure of confusion as some parties have allowed their MPs to vote by conscience while the Labour Party have “whipped” their lot to a party vote supporting the Bill. More on this point later.

Third, there have been consistent pollings showing a majority of NZers oppose the change. The latest have something like 84% against.

This morning’s Herald includes the following op-ed, one of the more enlightened pieces of commentary I have read thus far.
Michele Wilkinson-Smith: Bradford's own people will lose most in smacking law
The Smacking Debate
One of the great ironies of the anti-smacking debate is Sue Bradford's touching faith in the police and the justice system - and even more ironic given her former life as a protester and champion of the powerless, during which she certainly clashed with police on occasions.

I have two perspectives on the debate. As a mother of pre-schoolers I have my personal views, which have changed since I had children.

But whether I choose to smack or not to smack - or whether anyone does - isn't the issue. I know that as a middle-class woman in a happy marriage my chances of being prosecuted for smacking are practically nil.

I have another perspective. As a criminal lawyer who has both prosecuted and defended people charged with assaulting a child I think the repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act will have disastrous and unnecessary consequences for a small group of people.

The people who will eventually suffer from the repeal of section 59 are the most vulnerable and powerless members of our community - and their children.

I say the repeal of section 59 is unnecessary because in my experience it is just that - unnecessary. I never lost a case which I prosecuted on the basis of section 59.

I drafted an indictment against a man who was convicted of smacking his 4-year-old son about five times on the backside with an open hand, leaving marks.

I think the jury convicted because the man smacked his boy too hard and because the boy was smacked not for a deliberate misdemeanour but because he soiled himself.

I prosecuted a man, a loving father, for using a belt on his mildly intellectually handicapped and very challenging teenage daughter after she damaged her bedroom.The jury were hugely sympathetic to the father but when I asked them in closing if they would not have intervened to stop the man had they been in the room at the time I knew they would find him guilty.

I saw the realisation dawn in their eyes. Not one of them would have stood by and let that happen "as a father's right", so they could not say it was reasonable discipline.

I've had far fewer cases as a defence lawyer, but I've never fancied my chances of going to a jury and saying: "Look, bashing that child with a jug cord was perfectly reasonable."

Of course there will be the occasional case where section 59 has excused parents who overstepped the mark, but these are not cases where a child has been thrashed or beaten or injured. I challenge anyone to find a case where section 59 has excused a real bashing that left a child injured.

In my experience of those sorts of cases, the section 59 defence simply isn't used. The accused denies the assault. New Zealand juries are not stupid.

Sue Bradford doesn't trust the New Zealand public so I find it amazing that she has so much faith in both the police and the justice system.

She is proposing to give a huge amount of discretion to individual police officers.

She expects them to wisely ignore the letter of the law. They won't. I know this and so does National MP Chester Borrows, with whom I worked and who was a superb, wise and compassionate detective sergeant.

The police may not, and I'm sure will not, prosecute every case of smacking, but they will be obliged to at least investigate - and therein is the harm. Picture this: a child at the centre of a custody battle comes back from an access visit. Mum questions the child: Did Daddy smack you? Has Daddy ever smacked you? The child says yes.

Mum takes the child to the police station. She is vocal and upset. "Investigate" sounds benign. It is not.

That child will be put through the evidential interview process. It's not a process you want your child involved in. Dad will be asked to go to the police station to make a statement.

All this will probably be good for lawyers. Probably no charges will be laid, but the child and the family will have been through a traumatic and damaging experience.

This scenario will happen without a doubt. It will happen over and over again and the children at the centre of Sue Bradford's concern will suffer it. The poor and powerless will be far more vulnerable.

Most police are honest and upstanding and we are lucky to have them.

Some are not. Some get caught up in a "means to an end" approach to criminal law. Some will use this legislation - and the discretion it gives them - for the wrong purpose.

It won't be me or people like me who suffer this. It will be the very people Sue Bradford has fought for in so many other ways.

The Government should forget party politics on this one. We are lucky to have an experienced former police officer, who also has a law degree, sitting in the House. He is saying, for many different reasons, don't give the police this much discretion. He's right, and we should listen to him.

* Michele Wilkinson-Smith is a lawyer

So, with no apology, I have made up my mind on this issue.

If I may, I want to accept the word of a senior Barrister. It seems that the present law is working, despite the persistent attempts to discredit it. I know that if my two kids were thirty years younger I would still discipline them in the same way - law change or not. That would include kicking my daughter from the middle of the street to the berm when she defied my instructions not to ride her tricycle on the road.

Now for the interesting and fun part.

Auntie Helen has been copping a huge amount of flak on this issue. She stated in the last election campaign that this legislation was unnecessary. Yet here we have the Labour Party under the Whips to support exactly that "unnecessary" legislation.

Who got to whom?

There were (strong) rumours that the Government was to promote urgency for the consideration of this Bill. That pleased Sue Bradford no end. It copped the Government more flak. Most particularly it added fuel to the "whipping" accusations and the rumours that a number of Labour members were going to defy the Party line and vote against the Bill.

So, there is something else in the background here; something with even more consequence than Bradford's "Smacking Bill". Why else would the Government team want to get this through the House in a matter of days?

This morning it was announced that the Government was dropping proposals to take urgency on the Smacking Bill.

Now that is a major backdown. Auntie Helen returns to the House today after sharing GWB's lobster in Washington.

What next? Will Helen order the Whips to be put away for an open conscience vote? I hope so. That would certainly see some sanity being brought to bear.

What is certain - this is going to fester for some time. Auntie Helen and her crew have made a monumental blunder. I suspect, with no direct knowledge, that there are other issues behind what has been happening within the government. If that is so, then Helen could do worse than to out the truth. One possibility is the prominence that the Greens have been giving to NZ's agreement to the Kyoto Agreement on global warming. There are certainly major political and financial consequences looming in that quarter. There are other home issues that Helen and the party have not handled at all well; individually not sufficient to cause a confidence vote but collectively there is that possibility and the Green's support for the government has been a bit flaky in the past few months.

Oh, the connect with the "The Joy of..." series?

For better or worse, this is what happens here when the government tries to change the rights of the individual without good cause, and without public support.

Look for Labour to crash in 18 months time at the next elections. I would guess there is a good chance the Greens will go as well. The Government will be led by the Jonkey, along with his jennyasses. And we might even see the Destiny Church in the House. Time to move...

Yeah, right.


News this afternoon tacks the Government's state of panic to Winnie the Pooh's NZ First Party. Seems (from what was said) that there is a potential split in their ranks. That could have serious repercussions for the Labour government given that W-t-P and his five are the mainstay of Auntie Helen's "confidence and supply" majority.

Hey! Aren't you Americans jealous that you live in a two party state? None of this kind of shenanigans in the background? :p

I see quite a lot of smoke there as well. I don't think that we can see the BBQ yet. Still more smoke to come. Then we might get to fry some sosses and steak.

I think that the Bill is going to fail. The sad thing is that it has gotten to the point where it has become a crisis for the government rather than a managed issue. Well, on their heads be it...


Interesting piece of news while driving to work. Sir Geoffrey Palmer interviewed about proposed law changes being promoted to "secure" the Government's Budget process. I know no more than that. You concentrate on traffic not radio reports in Auckland... Now this I will keep a very close ear on... Know here that "Budget" (actually named "Supply") and "Confidence" are the two pillars of NZ Government.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Joy of ... 3

TF Stern has written a fairly lengthy reply to Part 2 of this. I won't quote in detail here, and my reply that follows is lengthy enough as it stands...

There are a number of issues that come out of his piece. None of them pertain particularly to RKBA other than the indirect "defence against a rogue government" justification. He details at some length how he sees his God-given rights have been eroded by government. He gives a number of personal examples that I can relate to the frustration of having to work through.

In that particular vein, the first obvious question is, "How far would a government have to be 'rogue' (in terms of eroding the people's rights) before the well armed populace militia took up arms against it?" It seems that none of the examples he lists are sufficient for a general (or even individual) uprising. Nor am I yet convinced that the existence of that well armed militia is sufficient to prevent a government from passing those laws as Dave Justus has been suggesting.

I have the distinct impression that it would take something akin to the re-introduction of slavery for that to actually occur. Then would occur the question I have been putting along the lines of "take arms against who?"

As it stands, the impression I have of this as a justification of RKBA is rather like saying “I wanna gun. Now I gotta have a reason to have one”.

I hear what TF says about protecting the family and hearth from the bad guys because the police will not arrive until everything is over, and then they might try and find out whodunnit.

In NZ, there are instances where that has happened, and the Courts have generally been fairly generous in the consideration of what is "fair and reasonable" defence. At the same time I have to note that there are probably as many who have been shot (one particular farmer was shot by a person inknown, the police think at a distance of 500m or more), or robbed when absent from their property (having a beer in the pub or shopping with the missus). By far the worst is the "home invasion" crime. You answer the door and someone asks if they can use your phone. Next thing you are hogtied on the floor and being beaten up, your wife is being raped, and the house is being systematically ransacked for credit cards and cash. There might be one or two of these crimes in a year. Total time from answering the door to being incapacitated; perhaps 2 seconds. Or do you answer the door every time with shotgun in hand?

I doubt if, under NZ laws, I would be granted a permit to own a gun if I wrote on the application alongside reasons for wanting one, “So that I can take my rightful place in the people’s armed militia to protect my God-given rights from being eroded by corrupt and illegal government”. But then the thought occurs to me – has anyone tried that in the US in recent times? (Note here that it is me being registered, not the gun).

That leads to the second question which, in my mind, is equally obvious. “If your government is so unpopular, why is it still holding power other than because people are still electing them to hold that power?”

This is the direct application of my contention that “the Ballot Box is my most powerful weapon”.

It is also the first weakness in the democratic system it seems. It matters not who is elected, there will always be those who are dissatisfied with the outcome; usually those whose candidates were unsuccessful. To that extent, at least, I have good reason to be dissatisfied with the actions of virtually all of the governments since I qualified to become a voter. I console myself with the knowledge that one can not have everything in life just perfect. If I had of gotten my way every time, there may well have been a lot more people looking to take up arms against the government.

I have worked some thirtymumble years in a profession which itself (nothing to do with State or governmental requirements) has required me to attend each year a minimum number of “refresher and developmental courses” – annual cost about NZD2000. That requirement was dropped about ten years back for the “kind” of accountant that I am – Cost and Management, and my ticket is/was for “Associate” membership – primarily because there was little if anything that was “developing” in this arm of the profession. My boss on the other hand has a fairly heavy training schedule that has run the past five years and has come out of the recent changes in international agreements on financial reporting (IFRS). I am aware (because I have a cousin who is a GP) that medical practitioners are required to undertake minimum annual training and refresher courses. The value of that is suspect given that most of the courses seem to be promoted by drug companies… is that a governmental or professional requirement? I believe it is professional rather than statutory.

But that leads to the next obvious question – “Would the statutory/government requirement for the maintenance of professional standards be an imposition upon the freedoms of the members of a profession?” I think not.

A person is not required to join that profession (and here is a very big clue to the question I put on the end of “For the Joy of… 2”) but has the choice knowing what are the requirements of membership. TF was not “coerced” to take up work as a locksmith. He chose that line of business. That choice must surely have considered (as did mine to become an accountant) the possible disadvantages.

I believe (there is no NZ statute on locksmiths that I can find) that there is no registration and control of locksmiths in this country. The vast bulk of the key-cutting industry is the little kiosk in the mall or the local hardware store. The more specialised work for electronic car locks and things of that nature would fall into much the same category but more through the vehicle franchise holders.

For the safe-makers and really complex work there are perhaps three companies in Auckland. They live or die on their reputation.

It is a different matter when one starts to impinge upon the “security” industry. There is a national association of the security service industry (at one stage there were three of them) which governs professional standards and acts as a central contact point between the industry and government. The governmental control of security personnel is (as you might imagine) pretty strict given that they are in effect a privately owned and operated set of mini-police forces. They have no greater power to detain or to control than a member of the public. People working in this level of security are required to hold a license. They are required to renew that license every two years, and the requirements include disclosure of any and all criminal convictions, three “good character references”, and public notice of their intention to apply for renewal so that if you or I have good reason to believe an applicant is not of good character then we can object to the issue of a license. Applications are also vetted by the Police.

But then I come back to my last question – “Is it an imposition on a person in the security industry to require him to register every two years?” He enters the work knowing the rules, the rules are applied… There was, I have to admit, a considerable raruraru from the industry when the new law was made by the government. The leading security companies at the time at least knew that the days of the “cowboy industry” (with no regulation at all) had to end. Several instances of security personnel using their position to steal from clients (including the mysterious disappearance of a Chubb cash vehicle with about $600k on board) was sufficient to require gate closures before the horses got too far down the road and the industry knew that was the case.

To close, there are points where I can agree with TF's sentiment. There is a row going on at the moment with the city council wanting to control advertising signs and hoardings. It is an interesting debate of “God-given right” to advertise a business on one hand, and the aesthetics of a business or shopping centre on the other. While I might side with the "right to advertise argument", I just know that there are people who will abuse the privilege of being able to advertise. They are the ones who erect the biggest sign, out of all proportion to the need, "just because they can...".

Final note, regarding employer control over an employee when not on duty…

I must look back, because I think I made mention of this in my own blog. There was an instance in the last year or three of a rural sole-charge policeman who was at a party, had had a few, when reports came through of a fatal car accident about 10km up the road. The emergency services (volunteer fire, volunteer ambulance) left immediately. Then the policeman realised that he had one of the vital life-saving pieces of equipment in his car and that he was the only person in town trained in its use. He drove to the accident, did his duty (remember that he was off duty at the time) when the boys on duty turned up from town about 30 mins later. One of the first things they did was to breathalyse the policeman and he was over the legal limit. He was charged and put through the DIC processes. When it came to Court, the Judge expressed great sympathy with the policeman’s position (described it as totally untenable and the policeman as a hero) and issued an orbiter dicta that the incident should in no way affect the guy’s employment. There was considerable public debate about “unfair special treatment” but I know who I side with… He kept his job.

I hope that it is noted by the idle reader of these comments that I have at no point argued against TF’s position. I might disagree with him, in some instances quite considerably, but it is fair to point up difference without saying “this is right, that is wrong”. I think that the most fascinating part of all is that the “God-given” nation seems to be taking the freedoms from its people; the secular nation in which I live is well regulated (and in some instances well over-regulated) but in general there is little to which I have any objection other than good-intentioned Greenies wanting to change the law on smacking kids (and I am sitting firmly on the fence on THAT one).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Joy of... 2

The following are the last three comments in TF Stern’s post “Right To Bear Arms A God-Given Right?” As I have already intimated, I have no desire to do a total rehash on that tired old argument of RKBA. Adding God in the equation for me makes the debate an oxymoron.
There are two points that I want to take up though, that fell out of this series of comments quite unexpectedly. In their context they are the pieces bolded …
T F Stern | Homepage | 03.19.07 - 8:22 am | #
Probligo said:

"I suspect, from reading TF’s context, that he sees these two levels as interchangeable, perhaps even identical."

The individual is more important than the nation or country. I have been reading your point of view for quite some time and often as not the individual takes a back seat to the heard mentality of socialism. That is where we do not see eye to eye. The entire experience of being here in mortality rests on the individual; granted, the interaction that the individual has with everyone else is factored in.

The origins of thought, those letters of correspondence between the founding fathers of the US and those in Europe contain the essence of a government which would recognize that the individual is the most important factor, not the group and certainly not the nation. The purpose of our government was originally to protect individual rights from government's natural tendency to encroach on the individual's God given rights.

It has taken a little over 200 years for our government to encroach upon the individual’s God given rights to such a degree as to ignore them almost entirely; it’s called Creeping Socialism by some, in any case the heard mentality has swept aside the intent of our Constitution.

This most recent 2nd Amendment decision has reignited the hope for freedom, the slim chance that government can be put back in its place, that the individual’s God given rights are more important than the government’s quest to control all aspects of society.
probligo | Homepage | 03.19.07 - 3:48 pm | #

It is a frightening prospect, TF, when you speak thus.

To have the brave and valourous men and women of your own armed services branded as victims (I hesitate a very long while before suggesting willing participants) in a "socialist plot" is a shocking thought indeed.

Even worse in my mind is the idea that you see the Second Amendment as justifying the citizens right to bear arms solely for the overthrow of your own government and for defence against your fellow citizen. That your Founding Fathers apparently saw the need to provide thus shows that they had very little faith in their fellow man, or the State they were trying to create, or the religion that they intended should be its foundation; or all of those factors.

Well, I said I was not going to debate the RKBA and I am very close to, if not past, breaching that promise.

I leave it there.

T F Stern | Homepage | 03.19.07 - 4:14 pm | #

Actually, you nailed it better than I could have said it,

"Even worse in my mind is the idea that you see the Second Amendment as justifying the citizens right to bear arms solely for the overthrow of your own government and for defence against your fellow citizen. That your Founding Fathers apparently saw the need to provide thus shows that they had very little faith in their fellow man, or the State they were trying to create, or the religion that they intended should be its foundation; or all of those factors."

History has proven that governments are power hungry with limitless appetites and that an unarmed public becomes slaves to government if that government is not held in check by an armed citizenry. Our founding fathers knew this and built in the limited protection afforded by the 2nd Amendment.

The thread that runs through these highlights is the opposition of the individual with the heard (I think he really means “herd”, as in cows) mentality of socialism. Now I hope that I can follow this without breaching my word on RKBA, and without launching into the same faux-political labels…

First point, “…often as not the individual takes a back seat to the heard mentality of socialism. That is where we do not see eye to eye.”

No, TF, the difference is something more fundamental than that. As an NZer, as a small member of a small culture and a small nation I think that I can see just a little further than can you.

In this instance, I am referring to where and how I live in exactly the same way as you have.

You see the greatest threat to you and yours as being your own government. I would have thought that recent events (like the last 60 to 70 years, the last average lifetime) would have well put the lie to that as a debating point. Pearl Harbour could never happen again? Perhaps it did in New York?

I see the greatest threats to my lifestyle coming from two sources. First and most likely is the direct attack from an enemy country. I can imagine that the popgun under my pillow will be of great effect in warding off an Indonesian tank, or a Chinese gunboat. Second and less likely might come from a total breakdown in NZ social structure – the kind of situation where it becomes every man for himself. The causes of such a breakdown might be the radicalisation of the Maori, it could be the consequences of catastrophic events elsewhere on the planet, it might be the result of a meltdown in the international trade and finance systems. One of the more likely (if still remote) possibilities would be for a disease such as avian flu to become pandemic.

In any of those instances, having a means of defending my family and my means of survival would become a paramount.

So, I leave open the question of the individual being more important than the group. That is not really a part of this debate. I have individual and group responsibilities. More important is how I react to different threats.

Second point –
Even worse in my mind is the idea that you see the Second Amendment as justifying the citizens right to bear arms solely for the overthrow of your own government and for defence against your fellow citizen. That your Founding Fathers apparently saw the need to provide thus shows that they had very little faith in their fellow man, or the State they were trying to create, or the religion that they intended should be its foundation; or all of those factors.

I can not believe that you read my statement carefully before saying outright that you agreed with it. My mind though puts the stress heavily into the first two words. Take another look, TF, and particularly at that second sentence.

I guess that the NZ equivalent of the Second Amendment is called “The Ballot Box”. There are a number of governments who have suffered at the business end of that particular weapon; Muldoon, Lange, English all led their respective governments into the political wilderness through playing fast and loose with the electorate. Auntie Helen will be the next at the end of this term. It will not be the use of taxpayer funds for electioneering, or gay rights, or child smacking, or financial policies that will knock her government over. It will be attitude, and the lack of new workable ideas that will cost her the Treasury benches.

There is another aspect to this statement of mine which is clearly stated, and when I wrote the original I pondered long and hard on how best to address it. If you read up on South Pacific news at all over the past three months you will know that Fiji has once again become a “no-go area”. Once again it is because an individual, this time the Head of Defence Forces (Bainimarama), has unilaterally determined that the current Fijian government is corrupt and should be dismissed.

Is this likely to happen in NZ? No. Could it happen in NZ? Yes it most certainly could. The success of a military takeover would depend in very large degree upon the level of popular support for the military’s action.

Looking at a citizens uprising, there is again very direct and pertinent recent history available. One could use as examples the Tienanmen Square uprising, or the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, or the Velvet Revolution in Poland, even the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The interesting thing about all of those examples, apart from the fact that they were against (true) Socialist governments, is that only one can be considered to result from the actions of “individuals”. All the remainder were the consequence of large groups adopting a herd mentality and acting in concert – far from individual action. The one exception would be Tienanmen Square.

And there I invite you to recall the images that came out of Tienanmen Square to our tv news. Just how effective would an uprising of individuals be against the US Federal Government? I could equally ask that question with “could” in place of “would”. I guess that one could point to Baghdad as some kind of evidence for the possibilities and a direct parallel.

But then it would be unfair to leave this without putting such an uprising to the same test as I put NZ. Is such an uprising likely in the US? I very much doubt it. Evidence in support? The herd mentality of many Americans who have taken the past six years to work out the truth. Could such an uprising happen in the US? I can not rule it out, but if Mugabe can maintain his rule for twenty years and more just from bribery and corruption alone then the prospects for the US are poor indeed.

Final point –
History has proven that governments are power hungry with limitless appetites and that an unarmed public becomes slaves to government if that government is not held in check by an armed citizenry. Our founding fathers knew this and built in the limited protection afforded by the 2nd Amendment.

Piece by piece –

“History has proven that governments are power hungry with limitless appetites” – AGREED

“…an unarmed public becomes slaves to government…” – qualified agreement. Yes, I am a “slave” in that I am required (I have read the word “coerced” used in this context) to pay taxes on my income. In general I am reasonably happy with the amount that I pay, and the use to which the money is put. I am not a slave to the government in that I have free will and free choice in how I run my life, as has every other citizen of NZ except those who are criminals or are unable to take care of themselves. There is no life decision that I have ever made that has in any way been influenced directly or indirectly by the Government. The nearest would have been being balloted for National Service – our version of the draft. That was at the time of Vietnam, so NZ was not a unique instance then. The draft was cancelled – by the government – three days before I was required to report for medicals.

“…if that government is not held in check by an armed citizenry”. - As I have said before, the greatest weapon in that armoury is The Ballot Box.

Now, if I may, I want to return to the idea of “herd mentality” and the perceptions that you attach to it.

If you consider any electoral democracy – we could look at either NZ or US, or Britain as you wish – the first very fundamental feature is that the shape and form of a government is in large part due to the actions of individuals. When you accumulate individuals with common attributes into groups, you suddenly have herds of electors acting with a herd mentality. The “membership” of groups might change as the selection criteria change – lower taxes, more spending on health and education, fewer members of parliament… It has to be a political foundation stone that group can achieve far better and effective results than the same number of individuals. That is why political parties exist, the Republicans and the Democrats, National and Labour, are the result of that truth.

That may result in a “socialist” government (note the small “s”) as one which is operating within and for the benefit of a society. It may result in a Socialist government, which term could as easily and equally be applied to US and USSR in the sense that you might use it. Certainly the term can cover a multitude of sins.

Even in its purest form, democracy is far from perfect. I have seen it suggested that the only true modern democracy is Switzerland. I could accept that as a principle, but it would require minor tweaking to my thoughts on the political democratic process. I recall a considerable hooha coming out of Switzerland a few years back – something to do with citizenship and immigration. A proposal from the government was put to the popular vote and the row started when a very small number of voters (75 if I am right) were able to stymie the law change.

On this basis at least, one could accuse any agreed and common action taken by a group of people as being “following the herd mentality”.

Can I now turn to “action as a group” in relation to the process of democracy and governance.

I do not know of any government that exists today where there has not existed some form of political grouping. The rationale and justification equates with the structure of the military – even in its most modern form like alQaeda, IJ, or Hezbollah, Republicans or Democrats. The strength comes from combined effort, from constancy of purpose. But then I should be preaching to the converted here; this is surely the principle behind the organisation of a religion into “churches”?

“Action as a group” in the communities we live in does not (as a matter of course) require adherence, demand constant and unquestioning obedience, nor does it stifle the freedom of individual choice. I could point at some groups that do limit the individual to that extent; including specific religious sects and political systems. I am fortunate, as I believe that you are TF, to live with freedom to choose.

There is another aspect of “action as a group” that is both the heart of democracy and its potential death. It is the ability or power that a small number might have (with completely valid application of the law) to frustrate the wishes of the majority. We see it in NZ under our MMP system where the power wielded by a small group can be far in excess of their political backing. In the US it might take the form of a small group that succeed in “making law” through SCOTUS which does not have the backing of a majority of people – Roe v Wade might suffice as an example.

At this point I have used the word “freedom” several times, and I want to end on that note.

Which is the most important freedom? Speech? RKBA? Choice? If you were allowed only one freedom, which would it be?

I think I know my choice. And when I think about it, it lies at the heart of every other freedom, and at the very base of democracy.

Monday, March 19, 2007

In praise of heroism...

The deeds and the valour of the Maori Battalions during WW1 and WW2 are legendary. Among the more prominent is that of Lance Sergeant Haane Manahi.
Distinguished World War II hero Haane Manahi was born in Rotorua in 1913. In his pre-war years Haane was a champion swimmer, a skill he took with him when he joined the 28th Maori Battalion in 1939. In 1941 he was a member of the New Zealand team that performed with distinction at the Services Meeting in Egypt.

Haane Manahi is recalled with awe for his exploits on Takrouna, the rocky outcrop in Tunisia, where in April 1943 he led a platoon of men up the heavily fortified 300 metre citadel.

Fighting through heavy machine gun and mortar fire, he made the journey up the outcrop twice over three arduous days. The battle was won by Allied Forces on April 23rd, 1943, leaving one more task for Haane: the removal of the dead and wounded. So outstanding were his efforts that he was awarded an immediate Distinguished Conduct Medal - after recommendations that he be awarded a Victoria Cross were rejected. Haane Manahi was killed in a car accident in 1986. Efforts to redress the glaring injustice of the Takrouna award continue today.

Sergeant Haane Manahi, DCM, hero of Takrouna, Tunisia April 1943
Image courtesy Alexander Turnbull Library & Rotorua Museum

Those efforts came to fruition this past weekend.

This is the one photo I have been able to find that shows Takrouna Ridge at (about) the time of WW2.

From Phil Goff, Minister of Defence...
The Queen, however asked Sir Robin to convey Her personal wish that careful thought be given to alternative ways in which further due recognition could be given to Lance Sergeant Manahi's gallantry and the broader aspects of the actions of Lance Sergeant Manahi as a representative of Te Arawa.

The Queen also expressed her wish that any resulting initiative should follow from close consultation with Te Arawa and the Manahi VC Committee and that she might personally be associated with it.

That consultation has taken place, and the Government worked with Te Arawa, the Manahi VC Committee and the Palace on how we could best, honour Haane Manahi for his gallantry.

The form of that recognition, as agreed between all parties, has been inspired by the famous refrain 'for God!, for King! and for Country!' from the marching song of the 28th (Maori) Battalion.

"For God will be marked by the presentation through the Palace of an altar cloth destined for St Faith's Church, adjacent to the burial place of Haane Manahi and many of his fellow soldiers.

'For King' will take the form of a letter from The Queen, acknowledging the gallantry of Haane Manahi, to be framed and hung in the Tamatekapua Meeting House alongside photographs of Haane Manahi and The Queen.

'For Country' will be represented by a sword to be gifted on permanent loan to Te Arawa by the Queen.

Te Arawa will in turn present the sword to the Chief of Defence Force along with a patu in memory of Haane Manahi.

The sword will be displayed in the office of the Chief of Defence Force. The patu will be worn, on appropriate occasions as part of the dress of the Chief of Defence Force. These gifts will be a tangible link between Haane Manahi, The Queen, Te Arawa and all serving members of the Defence Force.

Friday, March 16, 2007

What IS "Blackwater USA"?

Read it. It is long. It is detailed. I needed at least two toilet stops along the way...
...during confirmation hearings for Gen. George Casey as Army chief of staff, Senator Jim Webb declared, "This is a rent-an-army out there." Webb asked Casey, "Wouldn't it be better for this country if those tasks, particularly the quasi-military gunfighting tasks, were being performed by active-duty military soldiers in terms of cost and accountability?" Casey defended the contracting system but said armed contractors "are the ones that we have to watch very carefully." Senator Joe Biden, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, has also indicated he will hold hearings on contractors. Parallel to the ongoing investigations, there are several bills gaining steam in Congress aimed at contractor oversight.

Occupying the hot seat through these deliberations is the shadowy mercenary company Blackwater USA. Unbeknownst to many Americans and largely off the Congressional radar, Blackwater has secured a position of remarkable power and protection within the US war apparatus. This company's success represents the realization of the life's work of the conservative officials who formed the core of the Bush Administration's war team, for whom radical privatization has long been a cherished ideological mission. Blackwater has repeatedly cited Rumsfeld's statement that contractors are part of the "Total Force" as evidence that it is a legitimate part of the nation's "warfighting capability and capacity." Invoking Rumsfeld's designation, the company has in effect declared its forces above the law--entitled to the immunity from civilian lawsuits enjoyed by the military, but also not bound by the military's court martial system....

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Joy of ...

Well it used to be "Sex" some years back, but I guess that things change.

Apparently there was a SCOTUS decision in the past week that held some significance to the US 2nd AMendment supporters and their ilk. I am not writing about that.

One of the blogs I came across had this photo as its header...

I won't identify the blog (I enjoy going there from time to time) but they sure as hell need to remember a couple things.

Like, first, I presume these are the people who have RKBA. They are the "responsible gun owners" of America.

Now, take a look at that photo again.

Quite apart from the fact that Dad and son are having a great time with dad's gun. What JOY on dad's face, what pride. Does he realise that son's left hand has at least one finger and likely two inside the trigger guard? Which side is the safety on? Not being a pistol guy I don't know. Is it on the left? Is it still on? Is that damned thing LOADED?

And is mum reaching out to smack his hand away from the pistol? Or to pat her darling son on the head?

America, these are the kind of people who have the right to keep and bear arms.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Freedom of the Press...

Came across this little piece quite by chance, as a result of following a series of statements through the usual series of blind alleys and new vistas.

Nice too, to see that the Reporters Sans Frontiers rank NZ as 19th equal along with Denmark and Trinidad and Tobago. Denmark actually cops its own little mention;

Denmark (19th) dropped from joint first place because of serious threats against the authors of the Mohammed cartoons published there in autumn 2005. For the first time in recent years in a country that is very observant of civil liberties, journalists had to have police protection due to threats against them because of their work.

Also noted;

"Each year new countries in less-developed parts of the world move up the Index to positions above some European countries or the United States. This is good news and shows once again that, even though very poor, countries can be very observant of freedom of expression. Meanwhile the steady erosion of press freedom in the United States, France and Japan is extremely alarming,” Reporters Without Borders said.

Those going "downhill";

The United States (53rd) has fallen nine places since last year, after being in 17th position in the first year of the Index, in 2002. Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism.” The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.

Freelance journalist and blogger Josh Wolf was imprisoned when he refused to hand over his video archives. Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Haj, who works for the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, has been held without trial since June 2002 at the US military base at Guantanamo, and Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein has been held by US authorities in Iraq since April this year.

France (35th) slipped five places during the past year, to make a loss of 24 places in five years. The increase in searches of media offices and journalists’ homes is very worrying for media organisations and trade unions. Autumn 2005 was an especially bad time for French journalists, several of whom were physically attacked or threatened during a trade union dispute involving privatisation of the Corsican firm SNCM and during violent demonstrations in French city suburbs in November.

Rising nationalism and the system of exclusive press clubs (kishas) threatened democratic gains in Japan, which fell 14 places to 51st. The newspaper Nihon Keizai was firebombed and several journalists phsyically attacked by far-right activists (uyoku).

I wish I had the time and patience to put the whole table in here... and a full table of the positions in the last table would help too.

I remain concerned, as I have for some time now, that the NZ media is largely in foreign hands. That is not something unusual - it is the case in many other contries. The concern remains because more and more of the global media is being controlled by a rapidly shrinking number of people.

Five books from childhood...

... in the order I remember having read them. Blame the Old Whig for this lot.

Janet and John School tract and reading lessons. Started reading them at about 3 1/2.

Christopher Robin and the Pooh books before Disney got hold of them.

The Just So Stories Rudyard Kipling, essential reading for every kid, along with the Mowgli books. Shoot me I cheated... so chuck Dad's BOP annuals in there as well. And if you know what BOP were you really are showing the years.

Swallows and Amazons - great!

Can't possibly leave out The Magic Pudding, Aussie classic.

So many, so many others... including the Bible, Al, and King Cotton.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Politics and the Press...

I have made this comment several times (usually when the right whinge or the left leg starts in about MSM "mis-representing the truth" or more particularly "distributing political propaganda") about the power of politicians to cut a specific news member or even reporter out of a press conference.

In some cases (witness the "selection" of reporters attending GWB's press conferences) the means of censorship can be quite blatent.

In others (and I give you this example) the censorship is less subtle and can get quite personal.

My main example til now has been that of Robert Muldoon who, in a fit of very nasty pique, refused to begin a press conference until "that man" had been removed from the room. "That man" was Tom Scott, a reporter and cartoonist who had the day or so previous published a particularly scathing and viscious caricature of Muldoon (if I remember it was one of his mad bulldog drawings).

The new example is none other than Auntie Helen...
New Zealand media?

Prime Minister Howard, do you have anything to say to Senator Barack Obama today? Did you discuss Iraq with the NZ Prime Minister, and...

Do I have anything to say to Senator Obama today?

Yes. Or is that finished now?

Sorry. Hmmm?

Is that finished now? The discussion with Senator Barack Obama…

Thank you. We've heard the question.

Yes, we did not discuss in substance, Iraq. There was a brief unilateral reference to it, but we did not discuss the issue, no. We certainly discussed at length, Afghanistan, and we have a joint commitment in Afghanistan. In relation to the matter involving the Senator, I don't really have anything to add to what I've previously said.

Prime Minister, do you have any...

Thank you.

No, one....

Australian media, please.


Do you think it's made it better or worse, though, since that invasion?

Well, I don't really want to go down that track today. Any other questions?


PM Howard, are you...

You're now on about the fifth question. We're not treating it like a student rally, and audience, thank you. Do we have any other questions? Mr Espiner.


Prime Minister, are you surprised about the antagonism your remarks about Barack Obama have caused, both here, and in Australia, and in the United States. Are you surprised at that level of feeling that has been generated by your remarks?

I think you're exaggerating it.

Is this a case of dog whistle politics---

Hang on, hang on. This is not a student rally where you heckle from the back row, I'm sorry.

I'm not heckling!

I'd like to take any other questions.


PM Clark,....

An Australian reporter...

Can I have one last question?

No, you can't. Last question here.

Is it your job to protect the Australian Prime Minister from answering questions from the New Zealand media?

I'm sorry. You continue to heckle from the back row of every news conference that I give and you're not going to do it to this one. So I think we will be taking our leave.

Sounds very familiar. Thank you. [Laughter]

.. outrageous.

So, there y'go. How to cut a news reporter out of a question/answer session... As they say RTWT.

Friday, March 02, 2007

A blast from the past...

This is not a photograph that I have taken...

It is, however, an image of a place with which I have a very close spiritual attachment.

My parents taught at the Te Whaiti Maori School in the mid/late 50's, when I was 8 or 9. I was taken, once, to the area at the bottom of the Te Whaiti gorge, about 200m downstream from where this photo was taken (at the top end).

The river is the Whirinaki, and the full name Te Whaiti Nui A Toi means (as I get it) "Where the narrow part widens out".

There are a number of other places in the district which (sad to say) are no more.

There was a stand of totara, some twelve or more mature trees perhaps clear to the first branches at 10 or 15 metres, in a ring. Standing on the edge of that clearing was like the entrance to the greatest of cathedrals. As I recall, the clearing

A small lake, perhaps no more than half an acre in extent, with no outlet stream. The open portion hidden from the edge by the stands of podocarp (rimu, miro and matai particularly) standing in the shallows. Walk out through the trees to the edge of the clearing to see the mist rising out into the hills and the early morning light.

Both of these are now exotic (mainly pinus radiata) plantations.

So sad...