Thursday, August 20, 2015

Harmful Digital Communications Act indeed

Turn away for long enough and I find the NZ government does something outrageous to curtail freedom and to expand Nanny State, sure enough it has with the Orwellian sounding "Harmful Digital Communications Act".  Even if I supported it, if I was a Minister getting that title passed over my desk by a Ministry of Justice manager, I'd have tore a strip off of her or him for having had a complete lack of any education in either literature or history to give ANY legislation such a title.

The purpose of the Act as well has shades of Big Brother:

"to deter, prevent, and mitigate harm caused to individuals by digital communications; and
provide victims of harmful digital communications with a quick and efficient means of redress"

It's a curious post-modernist trend for laws to be created not to protect rights based on well worn principles of individual rights and freedoms, property rights, contracts and torts, but to "prevent harm" - to have laws to sanitise life so that "everyone" is protected.

However, the term "harm" doesn't mean physical harm.  There is no need for new laws covering an actual infringement of your body (although the digital dimension does justify ensuring laws protect your property and covers contracts and torts), for such laws exist - in abundance - including ones to protect you from yourself.  The harm being covered is, what "The Flight of the Conchords" would say are "hurt feelings".

Being offended, is to be harmed.  To be distressed by what someone else has said, is to harmed.  This goes beyond defamation, which is - indeed - damage to one's property in the form of your reputation. It's an almost childlike drive to make everything structured and inoffensive.  In the UK, it came out in its most absurd form a few months ago with the National Union of Students Women's Conference saying:

"Some delegates are requesting that we move to jazz hands rather than clapping, as it's triggering anxiety. Please be mindful"

I didn't make that up.  If someone is a little bit upset, then everyone else must conform to avoid upsetting that person.  It's the radical so-called "progressive" identity politics champions being manufactured by post-modernist university departments out of air headed students raised on this form of Newspeak. 

So the Harmful Digital Communications Act is about "serious emotional distress".  It is now a crime in New Zealand to make someone else upset, digitally (now now!).  I know I did that when I separated from my wife, thankfully I didn't do it by text message today, or I might be in trouble.

However, let's see how you might get into trouble, because Amy Adams, the National Party, the Labour Party, the Maori Party, NZ First and much of the Green Party thinks your freedom of speech should be curtailed, in case it distresses someone.  Kudos to ACT's David Seymour for standing up to it, and indeed Russel Norman, Gareth Hughes, Julie-Anne Genter and Steffan Browning for having thought about it.  

I know this legislation has had much coverage online for what's bad about it, but it deserves constant attention, and every single MP who voted for it needs to be exposed for their moronic endorsement of it.  It's a disgrace to all who voted for it, and if anything indicates clearly how utterly incompetent they are in being able to apply principle and concepts to problems and issues, it is this law.

I encourage all to push the boundaries of this law to expose this incompetence.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

70 years since VJ Day - a victory that was necessary and moral

I remember hearing the stories of the men who endured being POWs of Japan in World War 2. Growing up with TV series such as Tenko exposed me to a taste of the sadism and violence of imperial Japan.  So it is with some sadness to note that one of the primary narratives, from the so-called "liberal" left has been not remembering the brutality, fascism and racism of Japanese militarism, but demands for American apologies for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It's a small sign that culturally, the stories of the Burma Railway (which saw around 100,000 work as slave labour), the Nanking Massacre (at least 50,000 killed, 20,000 women and girls raped) and Japan's brutal occupation of almost all of east Asia from Korea to today's Indonesia, have such a low profile. You can be sure that China's modern tyrants and the two Koreas damn well make sure nobody forgets in their countries, as they don't need to exaggerate the genocidal approach Japan took to placing their lands under the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere".  Perhaps it is because Western leftwing academics aren't excited when it isn't Europeans doing the invading and killing, as it doesn't fit the banal "only white people can be racist" narrative.   The so-called "peace" movement has no answer as to how the world should have responded to imperialist Japan, is it because it is less concerned with "peace" than it is with opposing Western civilisation, liberal democracy, freedom and capitalism, with a distinctly anti-European bent?

The endurance of those who fought militarist Japan is difficult to calculate.  There were Americans, Koreans (not Kim Il Sung after 1940 despite the complete fictional account he based his legitimacy on), Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Australians, New Zealanders, Indians, Nepalese and many others, and they were rolling back a regime that had at its centre a philosophy of:

- Racial supremacy:  The Japanese were the master race, all others were inferior.  Indeed, Koreans  and Manchurians were so inferior that chemical and biological weapons were tested on them (and yes the Allies took the research conclusions for their own purposes after the war).  

- Militaristic fascism:  Japanese imperial rule was based on the entire militarisation of society, with no sense of consultation or input from the governed.  All were subjects, all were to do as they were told and to operate effectively as slaves, for the Empire of Japan.  It was a complete totalitarian regime, and given the superiority of Japanese rulers, its subjects were deemed to be grateful for the mercy of the Emperor.

- Religious authenticity:  The rule of the Empire was deemed to come from the Emperor, who was the living embodiment of god.  That was absolute and not able to be questioned.

One measure of the human cost of Japanese imperialism is over 6 million deaths due to murder, under its occupation from 1937 to 1945 alone, but Japan's imperialism started in 1910 (with Western consent) in Korea and its invasion of China commenced in the early 1930s.  100,000 were massacred in Manila alone in early 1945.  The "Three Alls" policy applied to China after 1940 was to "kill all, burn all, loot all" in retaliation to Chinese resistance to the occupation.  Women and girls throughout the occupied territories, particularly in Korea, were kept as sex slaves (so-called "comfort women") to please the military.   Japanese newspapers even celebrated the "contest" between army officers as to who could kill 100 with a sword first.

Japan's militarist regime was the aggressor, but it also had the compliant and enthusiastic support of a people who did what they were told, who worshipped their Emperor and basked in the propaganda that told them how superior and special they are, and how lucky they were to have been chosen to lead Asia.  What dissent there was in Japan was not organised and on a minor scale.  Japan's dictators had the effective consent of its population to conquer.

So the defeat of Japan, unconditionally, was wholly moral and justified.  The use of nuclear weapons to accelerate that defeat and contribute towards it was also moral and justified.   The reason Japan had nuclear weapons applied to it was because it had invaded the United States, it had conquered and placed much of Asia under its brutal sadistic jackboot.  The moral culpability for the deaths inflicted in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and indeed already by conventional bombing in Tokyo, Osaka and many other cities, was the Imperial Government of Japan, which was willing to continue murdering and killing innocents abroad and refusing to surrender in a war that it started.

No one can doubt the abject horror and suffering the two atomic bombs caused, the horror they inflicted undoubtedly contributed not only to them not being used in Korea by President Truman (against military advice), but also inadvertently creating the deterrent effect which remains to this day.  However, the justification for their use is not from those impacts, but because defeating a ruthless, sadistic and murderous tyranny justifies using weapons that minimise the casualties of your own population.   Better to use the atomic bombs than to suffer greater Allied casualties by ground invasion or not obtaining an unconditional defeat and complete withdrawal of Japan from Asia.

When a tyranny wages war against its neighbours, and brings death and destruction upon them, its victims cannot be constrained from inflicting defeat upon it, for fear of the inevitable deaths it causes upon the weakest who reside under that tyranny.  All tyrannies hope and expect that governments with less appetite for war than it, will weaken in the face of taking such unpalatable decisions.  These same tyrannies don't think twice of massacring others.  The children killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the responsibility of their parents - the same parents who remained in Japan, working and contributing towards a system that had been waging a sadistic expansionist war against its neighbours.

So yes, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, appallingly dreadful and unspeakably vile though they were, were a considered, reasonable military decision to seek to accelerate an end to a war that was the responsibility of the Empire of Japan.   The attacks on Japan were acts of self-defence, to remove a regime that until the last day of the war, insisted on retaining control over Japan, on taking responsibility for prosecuting war crimes itself, and essentially no change in government.   It took the evidence of the nuclear attacks to force Japan to surrender with only one condition - that the Emperor would be protected.  That was one condition that could, grudgingly, be accepted.  You don't need to imagine what the Empire of Japan would do when it defeated a country - for it did so many times - it enslaved the entire country under martial law, and engaged in forms of genocide.

Those who fought against Japan were heroes, they defeated one of the most malignantly evil regimes of the 20th century (albeit this has quite a long list), an expansionist racist tyranny that any "true" liberal would celebrate the defeat of, without question.

The hand-wringing about the atomic attacks may be understandable, given their historic significance. However, to talk of the suffering of those attacks outside the wider context of Japanese eliminationist racism and militarism, is disingenuous.  It smacks of cheap anti-Americanism.   There are questions that can be asked about how some Japanese war criminals were effectively excused and some Japanese atrocities were deliberately ignored after the war, and bigger questions about how Japan still hasn't effectively faced up to its history (but then neither has communist China).  

However there should be no questions about the victory over Japan.  Moreover, given the enormous assistance the West gave to Japan to rebuild, reject communism, become a friend and until recently become the second biggest economy in the world (with a standard of living to match),  and be a functioning, vibrant liberal democracy,  the picture painted of an evil USA engaging in mass murder of Japanese civilians unjustifiably, seems selective indeed.   Now if only Japan's leaders could start treating their wartime history like German leaders treat theirs.   


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Syriza's being exposed for its emptiness

Even some of those Greeks who voted for Syriza last year must have started to get a sense of reality emerging that for all of the bluster and bragging of Alexis Tsipras, he himself has capitulated to what he once thought of as "neo-liberal hegemony".  

Tsipras, and Varoufakis (the not so lamented "rockstar" Finance Minister, embraced by the airhead media) said they opposed "austerity" (a leftwing pejorative for balancing the budget), and were elected on the platform.  

However, now Tsipras (having removed Varoufakis) has gained parliamentary support for raising a lot of taxes, increasing the pension age, some modest spending cuts and privatisation of ports and airports to seek a third, yes third, bailout with Greece's Eurozone partners.  The problem for Tsipras is that other Eurozone countries are losing patience, and it is more the Finns, Slovaks and Baltic States that are fed up with Greece, than the Germans.  

Why?

Because many Eurozone countries don't trust the Greek Government.

The first bailout saw Greece granted loans between 2010 and 2012 of 107 billion yes billion, Euro on condition that Greece would get its budget deficit down to 3% of GDP by 2014.  Part of this deal was to end the practice of paying public servants two more months of pay a year every year.  Yes, public servants would get a bonus of an extra two months' salary every year.

The second bailout saw 50% of Greece's debts with private bondholders written off and the remaining debt on an interest rate of 3.5% (so much for the rhetoric about the evil foreign bankers profiteering), knocking 100 billion Euro off of Greece's debt.  Again, the Greek government was expected to cut its budget deficit, which it did, somewhat.

However, the extent of reforms of the Greek economy that were expected simply didn't happen. State pensions for "dangerous professions" such as hairdressing (yes really) were still paid out at age 50. Defence spending exceeded the 2% of GDP expected for being a member of NATO (and there was little scrutiny of where that money went).  In short, Greece maintained big government, corporatist for the centre-right, large public sector for the centre-left, but little welfare state besides pensions.   

Syriza got elected promising an end to "austerity" that was part of the deal for the two previous restructurings of public debt, but found no appetite at all to do this.  After all, why would other governments expect their taxpayers to pay for Greece to continue its corrupt, unreformed bloated inefficient state?

So Syriza embarked on two rather vile strategies to frighten the Eurozone.  One was to start talking about the war - World War Two that is - saying Germany hadn't compensated Greece "enough" for the war, and besides Greece wrote off some debt owed to it by Germany in the 1950s (as did most Western European states).   As a strategy to get the Germans on side, it was beyond parody and as a strategy to get European sympathy it was childish.  After all, was Greece truly saying that it, especially, should get some of that money back from Germans who were mostly not born at the time? Quite rightly, Eurozone member states that ended up on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain sniffed at this anti-German nonsense.  After all, they all spent 40 years under the yoke of the USSR and its local tyrants, and couldn't even consider demanding Moscow compensate them.

After German bashing backfired, Alexis Tsipras went to visit Vladimir Putin.  The implication was simple -  If the West doesn't support our unreformed bloated socialist/corporatist state, we'll turn to Russia.  The implication did cause a few ructions in Washington, as it could have meant Greece abandoning NATO, but even Putin didn't want Greece.  With global oil prices and EU sanctions hurting Russia, Putin smiled and knew not only that he couldn't afford Greece, but that such a move would be unnecessarily antagonistic.  So Tsipras ran back with his tail between his legs.

Now he has tried his latest trick.  He opposed a proposed bailout.  He held a referendum and convinced Greeks to oppose the bailout, then found out that the banks were running out of liquidity.

So the Greek government did the usual desperate move of any authoritarians.  It restricted the amount individuals could withdraw from their own bank accounts.  It effectively banned imports (within a customs' union and currency union!) by imposing exchange controls, and closed the banks for a week.  

Now he wants a new bailout, he is proposing tax increases to more than correspond with the deal he rejected, and other Eurozone countries (except the socialist sympathising French and Italians) are uninterested.  Countries with lower per capita GDP than Greece, with lower debt, and smaller states, that faced bigger economic challenges (with the collapse of their communist bloc economies) are uninterested in a government that lies, that blackmails and has no contrition that the main problem is past Greek governments overspending.

Having dug up the past, having flirted with Putin, having opposed budgetary responsibility and now apparently supporting higher taxes (which will hurt the economy much more comprehensively than cutting back the massively bloated public sector), and privatisation, but few are interested.

The right response of the Eurozone is to say no.  To tell Greece that if it wants to save its banks, it needs to live within its means, default on privately held bonds if it wishes and expect not to borrow any more.  The xenophobic socialists that are governing Greece are the philosophical descendants of those who fought on the Soviet side in the Greek civil war.  Had they won then, Greece's fate would have looked a lot like Bulgaria and Albania to its north.  It would be nice if some in Greece realised how much they are to be grateful for and face down the rent seekers of the state that are holding their country back.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Take responsibility for Iraq, it may be time for war sooner rather than later

Regardless of the position you might have taken over the Iraqi war, it happened and in essence, the "coalition of the willing" took upon itself the responsibility of governing Iraq.   It did so because Saddam Hussein controlled Iraq was seen as being a threat to its neighbours and more generally. Removing the regime was to enable Iraq to become a friendly and stable friend to Western interests.

However, although it essentially let the Kurds govern themselves, it failed - utterly miserably - to establish law and order in the rest of Iraq, with a government that represented and granted rights and rule of law across all Iraqis.  Over 90% of those killed since the original invasion were at the hands of sectarian militia groups.  The sectarian Shi'a administration now in Iraq, is relatively weak and is one reason why some Sunnis have embraced ISIS in resistance to that government.

Iraqi President at the time, Nouri al-Maliki, bears some responsibility for the disaster, but the overwhelming responsibility lies with the US State Department, British Foreign Office and those of the "coalition of the willing", for simply they were the coalition of the unwilling.

The overthrow of Saddam Hussein created a vacuum, that the "coalition of the willing" were unwilling to fill - that is of strict law and order, border control and to establish a government that would apply the rule of law, objectively, and defend the rights of all citizens.  It's hardly surprising, for the sheer volume of forces needed to do that were beyond the willingness of any governments to provide (or afford).  Unlike Japan, which culturally was in a sense of shock and fear after its defeat, and Germany which saw occupation by powers already spending vast proportions of their GDP (and were near neighbours), Iraq was flooded with weapons, full of thugs who lost their power after the fall of Hussein, and had porous borders with a neighbour that sought to make it compliant.  

Iraqi Kurdistan is the shining exception.

The United States and its allies let Iraq down.  After the success of the late surge, it let a bigoted corrupt sectarian leader take over the country, and as a result those who he was bigoted against, and excluded, turned on the regime, and found allies, and the genesis of ISIS was created.

It is very easy to be introspective, and say the original war was a mistake, and to blame Iran for its remarkable efforts at destabilising Iraq (notice how the anti-war movement in the West has absolutely no issue with Iranian imperialism, as the anti-war movement is, in fact, a movement against Western civilisation and capitalism).  That effort is for academics, what policy makers need to consider is what to do now, particularly as ISIS is spreading, virus like across Syria and Iraq.

Iraqi Kurdistan is far from perfect, but there is a reasonable degree of rule of law, peace and governance that is far from disagreeable in the region.  It effectively is part of a separate federal unit from the rest of Iraq, and deserves to be defended, particularly given the relative acquiescence of the world after Saddam Hussein's chemical weapon attacks upon them in the 1988. 

However, the case for Western military intervention is much greater than being "nice" to the Kurds, there is a case of self interest here.  A failure to take on ISIS and defeat it has the very real chance of being dangerous not only to those the West once called its allies, and many thousands (and millions) of innocent civilians, but a base for terrorist action in Europe.

If ISIS captures Baghdad, with no significant Western military effort, it presents the possibility that Iraq will see genocidal actions against Kurds and Iraqi Shi'a, that ISIS will turn on Kuwait and use the oil wealth of Iraq to fund further expansionism.  It presents the possibility of Iran invading Iraq to prevent this, and without a doubt, such a takeover would be a clear indication that the West not only has abandoned the Middle East, but is willing to let ISIS have virtually free reign in its holy mission to establish a totalitarian Islamist Caliphate in the Middle East.

Some will say so what?  They'll say so what until an ISIS bomb explodes in the Coliseum, or maybe St. Paul's Cathedral in London, or Notre Dame in Paris.

ISIS has clear intent to go beyond Iraq and Syria.  It has embraced eliminationism with its conquests, demanding that people convert and submit, or get killed.  It has murdered children, taken women and young girls to be sex slaves and beheaded and otherwise executed men for any form of dissent, including being gay.  It seeks to eliminate Israel, to eliminate all of the hereditary monarchies in the Middle East, to make every Muslim dominated country into a dictatorial caliphate, and to expand this wherever it can.

So this is a terrorist group, seeking to establish governments, as a death cult, that celebrates when it commits genocide, that seeks to wipe out liberal secular democracy and wipe out civilisation in favour of its misogynistic Islamist pre-enlightenment nightmare.  It has access to oil as a source of revenue and is unafraid of using the technology developed under civilisation to turn against it.   It is the Taliban, with oil, with the expansionist interest of Nazi Germany.

The question is not if, but when there is inevitable conflict and if there is to be conflict, whether it will be with Arab and non-Arab allies, or whether the continued near isolationism of the West means that the Kurds, Iraqis, Syrians and others are just to be left to be slaughtered.

So what should be done?

ISIS should be attacked, first in Iraq, with the Iraqi military, as part of a concerted effort to recapture all territory from ISIS, attack bases inside Syria and secure Iraq from ISIS - which must also include the borders and ensure Iraq's government is of Sunni and Shi'a Muslims.  However, once Iraq is secured, the decision must be made to go into Syria and eliminate ISIS.  Yes, it will help the Assad regime, but it is not for that regime - and indeed a no-fly zone should be established to stop the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs.  It is to remove the virus of ISIS, it is to lance this boil before it establishes itself with power to project itself more than across immediate borders.

The US should lead this, with NATO and the Arab League, and Iran - yes, Iran. For Iran is positively moderate in comparison. For ISIS is a common foe, including a foe for Russia and I suspect eventually, China.  Defence of Iraq does not need a UN Security Council resolution, just support from the Iraqi government, but beyond that attempts should be made to get multilateral endorsement. Yet that should not be considered a barrier to intervening by whatever means is necessary, to wipe out ISIS.

For if this is not done, there will be innocent victims, not just in Iraq or Syria, but in Europe and the United States and beyond.  The Western leaders who are in charge if or when that happens, can hardly have been surprised, but should it take such a loss for action to be taken?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Make me a cake or I'll call the Police

Before I start, for the avoidance of doubt, let's get three things clear:

1. I'm not a Christian, and I find some elements of Christianity to be not only irrational but also immoral.

2. I'm not gay.

3. I fully support two people of the same sex being able to get married, just like two of the opposite sex, and I find fear or hatred of people because they are homosexual/lesbian/bisexual to be both irrational and immoral.

So from a libertarian perspective, the Asher's Bakery case in Northern Ireland is an interesting one.

The long and the short of it is that a gay rights activist in Northern Ireland asked a bakery to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan on it, and the bakery objected because the owners oppose gay marriage, because of their religious beliefs.

The court has ruled that refusing to bake the cake is illegal "discrimination".  What this ruling represents is a fundamental infringement on two rights:

1. Freedom of trade;
2. Freedom of speech.