Human rights – [dis]honoured in the breach

March 25, 2010

You’ve gotta love that  worm and cuddly, short and brutish Minister for Social Development, Paula Bennett. A “Westie”, a single mum and a battler, who through hard graft and sheer rat cunning, has made it to John Key’s illustrious front bench.

“Bruiser” Bennett has once again demonstrated  she’s made of sterner stuff than most with her “damn the torpedoes” approach to welfare reform. When informed by the Attorney General that sections of the Orwellian-themed Social Assistance (Future Focus) Bill breach the Bill of Rights Act, her Churchillian response was a two-fisted “Idongivafuck”

The Attorney-General is required to draw Parliament’s attention to breaches but Governments are not obliged to act on them and routinely ignore breaches. [Some welfare reforms breach rights]

Bennett believes (or so she’s obliged to say) that the discrimination on the grounds of gender, marital status and family status is fair enough and that plenty of Kiwis will support her:

“I think that is a discrimination that most New Zealanders will see as being fair and reasonable.”

Where does it stop? Some New Zealanders might think discrimination against Gays is “fair and reasonable”, or against Polynesians, Koreans, Indians or Chinese. Read the rest of this entry »


Join the cyber-revolt! Who owns your Facebook stuff?

February 19, 2009

I am well pleased with the current tide of resentment that’s building towards the way that Facebook is doing business.

We’ve had the amazing spectacle this week of the Facebook admins having to delete groups and personal accounts after public outrage over cyber-vigilantes baying for blood and revenge in the most obscene ways. [The witches of Facebook / Facebook vigilantes]

And, in an ironic twist of fateful timing, in the same week Facebook announced and then withdrew new terms of service because users kicked up a fuss.

The Facebook admins have been forced to create a group of their own Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, to allow users to address their concerns over who owns the rights to user-generated content on the site.

There’s certainly a fair smattering of dribblejaws on Facebook, but there’s also a large number of active citizens (netizens) who recognise the professional and social advantages of the networking site, but who are also savvy enough to argue points of law with the Facebook admins.

This could well be a watershed case about digital rights that rivals the Napster file-sharing case as a test of copyright and privacy law.

It’s a classic example of what I call the “techno-legal time-gap”. The law and the ethical regime do not keep pace with the technology. In this case it seems Facebook wants the right to sub-licence material (re-sell it) and to profit from what its members post.

Read the rest of this entry »


Four interesting items in the New York Times

September 12, 2008

I picked up the New York Times yesterday, it’s a thinsheet too, like the LA Times.I ripped out four pages from the newspaper, only one of them was a piece of journalism.

Columnist Bob Herbert wrote a great piece about the proud achievements of what Americans coyly call “liberals”. That is US citizens with a modicum of intelligence and a social conscience.  I put that last bit in there to distinguish them from intelligent conservatives-they’re the ones who know they’re f&8k9nG the rest of us over and get sadistic pleasure from it. They’re the ones who know it’s torture, think it’s OK and actually enjoy it being done to “terrrrists”.

Herbert’s column’s called “Hold your heads up” and it argues well that American liberals should be proud of who they are and not ashamed to be identified as liberals, even though it’s a swear word in the red states.

The other stuff I pulled was a series of interesting display ads.

[dribblejaws alert-you should go here]

Read the rest of this entry »


Geoffrey Robertson – Sky TV interview

September 3, 2007

I posted a few days ago about Geoffrey Robertson’s speech on freedom of speech and his call for a bill of rights in Australia. I’m still hunting a transcript. In the meantime you can watch a six minute interview with Robertson from Sky TV news.


Singing to police officers is not a crime

May 5, 2007

Radio New Zealand News : Police angered by protester’s quashed conviction

I heard this story briefly on Radio New Zealand last night on my way home from work.
A 37 year-old Greymouth man, Allistair Patrick Brooker, won a Supreme Court appeal against his earlier conviction for disorderly conduct. He had stood outside the home of a local police officer for 15 minutes playing his guitar and singing a little ditty about the officer’s conduct during a warranted raid on his home in the middle of the night.
The Supreme Court quashed the conviction on the grounds that Brooker was exercising his rights to protest, guaranteed under New Zealand’s Bill of Rights, even though it might cause annoyance to the cop concerned The Supreme Court issued a brief media release after the decision was handed down. Here’s a taste:

By majority, the Court has concluded that, taking into account Mr Brooker’s right to freedom of expression guaranteed by s 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, his behaviour had not in these circumstances been disruptive of public order and was therefore not disorderly in terms of s 4(1)(a) of the Summary Offences Act 1981.

You can read the full judgment via the Scoop website.
Of course, the police union (if we can call it that), the Police Association, is outraged. Association President Greg O’Connor said the decision undermines the authority of the police and denies them the protection they need to do their jobs.
Oh yeah, like this will stop the rozzers from using capsicum spray, or tasers. Do you think it will interfere with their ‘right’ to jack up suspects, or bash people?

Unfortunately for Mr Brooker, his troubles may not be over. He and his partner, Sheryl Ann Goodger, are currently on remand for allegedly trespassing at the home of Greymouth district superintendent Vern Morris. The couple’s recent appearance in Greymouth District Court was reported in The Press on 21 April 2007.
It seems that Mr Booker is a serial protestor, which is not a bad thing. During his appeal he told the Supreme Court that he had been on many protests, his first as a 10-year-old.

As an adult I’ve never lived in a nation with a bill of rights until coming to New Zealand. Here’s the important section about democratic rights:

2 Democratic and Civil Rights
You have the right to
• freedom of expression
• freedom of peaceful assembly
• freedom of association
• freedom of thought, conscience, religion and
belief.
As a New Zealand citizen over 18 you have the right
to vote and to be a Member of Parliament.
So long as you are lawfully in New Zealand you
have the right to freedom of movement and
residence in New Zealand.
You have the right to practise your own religion or
beliefs.

So my right to practice a religion of my choice is enshrined here, but there’s no mention of not having a religion. Is aetheism a belief, or a lack of beliefs. And what about my right to protest violently?
Maybe I should write a protest song and sing it badly (I don’t sing any other way) outside the home of the Supreme Court justices till I get my day in court.