Big Brother is listening – on the bus

Government Explained 2: The Special Piece of Paper

Sometimes, it is good to think about our governance structures as if we were explaining them to an alien:  it goes a long way towards exposing our blind spots.

I am still convinced that coercive taxation ought not play part in any modern government….


The French got it right – and wrong – at the same time

Free speech is paramount to the continuation of our society.

Finally, even our elites are beginning to realize this, even if they are not willing to express it openly – yet.

Even a few in the media are begginning to acknowledge this, even though most are still confused about what ‘incitement to riot’ is.


Just for the record, saying   “Your Mama wears army boots!” is an insult, not incitement to riot, violence or murder.  Saying “Kill those who say My Mama wears army boots!” is incitement to murder.

Even if you replace ‘your Mama’ with ‘Your Prophet’ and ‘wears army boots’ with ‘rapes little girls’.

And offering money to anyone who kills ‘Steve X’, because ‘Steve X’ said or wrote or drew or filmed something, is conspiracy to murder…and a criminal act.

I’m only explaining this because so many policymakers in the USA and UK and media members everywhere seem to have trouble understanding this simple distinction.

Back to the French…

Last week, the satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ published some more ‘Mohammed cartoons’.  Good for them.

What is more, they announced ahead of time that they were going to do so.

The response of the French government:  send riot police to guard the magazine from rioters, because, as they quite correctly said, free speech must be protected.  And, they beefed up the security at their Embassies, in case there was a backlash there.

That is what the French got right.

It’s the next bit I have a problem with:  the French banned all protests against the cartoons!

I’m sorry, but that is just as wrong as banning the cartoons themselves!

Peaceful protests are a necessary expression of the freedom of speech and no government may ban them, on any grounds.


Sure, if the protests turn violent, the police are obligated to arrest those who break the law and riot.  That goes without saying.  But banning a protest just because it might – even if it is very likely that it might – turn violent is a violation of the very principles that were upheld by protecting the publication of the cartoons!

You cant’d punish pre-crime and you cannot limit someone’s rights because of what they might do.

Well, obviously, you can – the French just did it.

What I mean is that it is wrong to do so

Freedom of speech is for everyone.

It is especially important that we protect the freedom of speech of those who say things we don’t like.

Sure, the protests were likely to turn violent.  Pretending otherwise would be naive.

But the power of the government does not extend to limiting the freedoms of their citizens to commit crimes – only to arrest them and punish them in accordance with the laws after they break the law!

Yes, there is a problem in many places with protests turning violent:  but that is because in the past, the police have been negligent in apprehending and punishing those who break the laws during protests.  That is a problem which needs to be acknowledged and dealt with.

But past negligence in enforcing the laws sufficiently does not give any goverment the right to abrogate the rights of its citizens – especially a core right, like freedom of speech.

RIM lays down for the Indian government

Once upon a time, RIM, the maker of Blackberry, was known for excellent security in communications.

So much so that unscrupulous governments sought to ban it – lest they not be able to spy on their citizens.

Now, RIM seems to have rolled over and decided to let governments trample over its users’ civil liberties:

‘RIM recently demonstrated a solution developed by a firm called Verint that can intercept messages and emails exchanged between BlackBerry handsets, and make these encrypted communications available in a readable format to Indian security agencies, according to an exchange of communications between the Canadian company and the Indian government.’


RIM had originally built its reputation – and marketshare – based on the security the encryption it put all messages through provided.  Its encryption was so secure, governments that would like to monitor their citizens’ communication threatened to shut them out of their marketplace.

Hence the flop.

Without this enhanced security, however, there is little to elevate their product over cheaper or ‘sexier’ smart phones.

This, therefore, is a serious gamble on the part of RIM:  will access to the Indian market permit them to grow, or will this latest corruption of the security of its communications be the last nail in their coffin?

Ottawa Protocol on Combatting Anti-Semitism

A friend called my attention to this:  The Ottawa Protocol on Combatting Anti-Semitism, produced by the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combatting Anti-Semitism (ICCA) and just signed by the Harper Administration.  Perhaps it is important that I reproduce it in its entirety:

The Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism


We, Representatives of our respective Parliaments from across the world, convening in Ottawa for the second Conference and Summit of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, note and reaffirm the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism as a template document for the fight against antisemitism.

We are concerned that, since the London Conference in February 2009, there continues to be a dramatic increase in recorded antisemitic hate crimes and attacks targeting Jewish persons and property, and Jewish religious, educational and communal institutions.

We remain alarmed by ongoing state-sanctioned genocidal antisemitism and related extremist ideologies. If antisemitism is the most enduring of hatreds, and genocide is the most horrific of crimes, then the convergence of the genocidal intent embodied in antisemitic ideology is the most toxic of combinations.

We are appalled by the resurgence of the classic anti-Jewish libels, including:

–       The Blood Libel (that Jews use the blood of children for ritual sacrifice)

–       The Jews as “Poisoners of the Wells” – responsible for all evils in the world

–       The myth of the “new Protocols of the Elders of Zion” – the tsarist forgery that proclaimed an international Jewish conspiracy bent on world domination – and accuses the Jews of controlling government, the economy, media and public institutions.

–       The double entendre of denying the Holocaust – accusing the Jews of fabricating the Holocaust as a hoax – and the nazification of the Jew and the Jewish people.

We are alarmed by the explosion of antisemitism and hate on the Internet, a medium crucial for the promotion and protection of freedom of expression, freedom of information, and the participation of civil society.

We are concerned over the failure of most OSCE participating states to fully implement provisions of the 2004 Berlin Declaration, including the commitment to:

“Collect and maintain reliable information and statistics about antisemitic crimes, and other hate crimes, committed within their territory, report such information periodically to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), and make this information available to the public.”

We are concerned by the reported incidents of antisemitism on campuses, such as acts of violence, verbal abuse, rank intolerance, and assaults on those committed to free inquiry, while undermining fundamental academic values.

We renew our call for national Governments, Parliaments, international institutions, political and civic leaders, NGOs, and civil society to affirm democratic and human values, build societies based on respect and citizenship and combat any manifestations of antisemitism and all forms of discrimination.

We reaffirm the EUMC – now Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) – working definition of antisemitism, which sets forth that:

“Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective – such as, especially but not exclusively – the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy, or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.

However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.

Let it be clear: Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic, and saying so is wrong. But singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium – let alone denying its right to exist or seeking its destruction – is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest.

Members of Parliament meeting in Ottawa commit to:

  1. Calling on our Governments to uphold international commitments on combating antisemitism – such as the OSCE Berlin Principles – and to engage with the United Nations for that purpose. In the words of former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “It is […] rightly said that the United Nations emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust. And a Human Rights agenda that fails to address antisemitism denies its own history”;
  2. Calling on Parliaments and Governments to adopt the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism and anchor its enforcement in existing law;
  3. Encouraging countries throughout the world to establish mechanisms for reporting and monitoring on domestic and international antisemitism, along the lines of the “Combating Antisemitism Act of 2010” recently introduced in the United States Congress;
  4. Encouraging the leaders of all religious faiths – represented also at this Conference – to use all means possible to combat antisemitism and all forms of hatred and discrimination;
  5. Calling on the Parliamentary Forum of the Community of Democracies to make the combating of hatred and antisemitism a priority in their work;
  6. Calling on Governments and Parliamentarians to reaffirm and implement the Genocide Convention, recognising that where there is incitement to genocide, State parties have an obligation to act;
  7. Working with universities to encourage them to combat antisemitism with the same seriousness with which they confront other forms of hate.  Specifically, universities should be invited to define antisemitism clearly, provide specific examples, and enforce conduct codes firmly, while ensuring compliance with freedom of speech and the principle of academic freedom.  Universities should use the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism as a basis for education, training and orientation. Indeed, there should be zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind against anyone in the university community on the basis of race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or political position;
  8. We encourage the European Union to promote civic education and open society in its European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and to link funding to democratic development and respect for Human Rights in ENP partner countries;
  9. Establishing an International Task Force of Internet specialists comprised of parliamentarians and experts to create common indicators to identify and monitor antisemitism and other manifestations of hate online and to develop policy recommendations for Governments and international frameworks to address these problems;
  10. Building on the African representation at this Conference, to develop increased working relationships with parliamentarians in Africa for the combating of racism and antisemitism;
  11. We urge the incoming OSCE Chair, Lithuania, to make implementation of these commitments a priority during 2011 and call for the reappointment of the Special Representatives to assist in this work.


There is little to disagree with here – except, of course, the encroachment on the freedom of speech and the freedom of the internet, which must both remain above limitation, even in worthy causes such as this. 

We know perfectly well from history, from our own experience, that laws limiting freedom of speech specifically intended to stamp out anti-Semitism have, in the past, been used to stifle opposition to the genocide of the very Jews they were intended to protect.  So, let’s begin to learn from our mistakes!

H/T:  Andy

Government explained

My son is learning about ‘government’ in school these days…  Yes, frustrating!

I actually wrote an email to his teacher to explain that, when, on a recent assignment (and on any potential tests), he was asked to list all the positive attributes of a ‘command economy’, he said there were none, he was not displaying ignorance of the course material:  he was making a highly principled statement.  He even emailed her the Keynes vs. Hayek video – but she said she could not show it in class because it was too complicated…

Yes, our children are being brainwashed into Keynesian ideology from grade school.  (Just to underline my point:  even the spellchecker was familiar with ‘Keynes’ and ‘Keynesian’ – but not ‘Hayek’…)

Which is why I was glad to come across the following video, which explains rather well the problem with ‘government’:

Remember the old proverb:

What are the 10 most feared words in the English language?

‘We are from the government.  We are here to help!’

Warrants? We don’t need no stinking warrants!!!

This is beyond the pale!

Yes, Mr. Levant is correct to raise the spectre of Pavlik Morozov:  I was certainly taught in school to live up to his example.  But that was on the other side of the iron curtain!  There is no room for twisted crap like that in our schools now!

Let you be the first to read it!

I have a gun.

I even volunteered in a school, teaching children how to use a gun, just like mine.

A glue gun, that is.

I have a whole bunch of glue sticks in an ammo box I bought at an army surplus store – partly because I like puns and partly because it is efficient.

I also own a tape gun – it makes wrapping presents more efficient.

And I have two staple guns.  (OK, one is my hubby’s, but that makes at least half of it mine, no?)

My kids own guns, too!

From the air-zooka (which ‘shoots’ air, if you are not familiar with it) through a marshmallow gun to water guns…

But if I wanted to own a firearm – an actual gun for shooting bullets – I would not feel obligated to tell ‘the state’.  Why?  Because I believe, to the core of my being, that the Magna Carta gives me the right to carry whatever arms I think I need to protect my person, family and property.  Nothing – no law  – can, in my never-humble-opinion – abrogate this natural right to protect myself.

It is precisely because I have the right to carry weapons that police has the power to carry weapons:  they derive that right from me, and you, and all the other citizens. Since the government acts as our proxy, it cannot do what each and every one of us does not have the right to do, irrespective of the government.

This equation goes both ways:  since the state is acting on our behalf, it cannot do anything we are not free to do.  Therefore, if some agents of the state do carry firearms, it therefore follows that each and every citizen has that very same right.  If we did not have that right, then the government agents would have nowhere to get that right from.

I recognize I am not expressing this eloquently – following is a video that does a much better job of it:

When all the rhetoric is washed away, at its core, this is about self-ownership.