26 thoughts on “General debate, March 17, 2013

  1. Health care can be form of torture in certain cases

    An independent United Nations human rights expert today unveiled a new report in which he calls for an international debate on abuses of patients under medical supervision ranging from compulsory detention of drug users in rehabilitation centres to refusal of treatment for HIV-positive patients.

    “Medical care that causes severe suffering for no justifiable reason can be considered cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and if there is State involvement and specific intent, it is torture,” said Juan E. Méndez, the Special Rapporteur on torture.

    Full report (650K PDF).

    Unfortunately, the report focusses on extreme cases, minority communities and states which have bad policies.

    It is unortunate because even in first world countries, lack of pain control is endemic. Despite the 144 years elpasing between the death of Morton, claimed inventer of anesthesia and today, there are still painful procedures performed daily in hospitals in the civilised world with no more pain relief that would have been used prior to Morton. Appropriate scholarly journals all have research that shows how badly pain relief is managed, one recent article using the word “abysmal”.

    A reasonable person might call that “Medical care that causes severe suffering for no justifiable reason”, and the UN expert want to call that torture if the state is complicit.

    Morton’s tomstone reads: “William Thomas Green Morton, inventor and revealor of anaesthetic inhalation, before whom in all time surgery was agony, by whom pain in surgery was averted and annulled, since whom science has control of pain.”.

    We may have control in theory, but we in practice don’t have the inclination to exercise that control.

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  2. We can all agree that a democratic majority does not have the right to vote so as to turn a minority into their personal slaves. And we can all agree that a majority does not have the right to ban a minority from leaving its country – like they “own” them.

    My point is that democracy is not inherently “correct” – individual rights come first, no matter what a majority might want to vote on.

    So the question, now, is: Does Auckland have the right to vote the sprawl-market out of low-density living? Do they have the right to stop a minority of people from building their own new satellite towns on the Auckland fringes?

    Eugenie Sage seems to think so (needless to say, I don’t). What do you think?

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  3. Given that Andrew believes that every thread on frogblog needs to be about housing, I guess I’ll play:

    Your example fails because it isn’t logically consistant.

    In your first two examples (and by the way, slavery was acceptable not very long ago and could be again) you are talking about the personal treatment of individuals. A minority doesn’t become slaves, individuals become slaves, even though they may be part of some sector of the populatation.

    In the second case, you are talking about houses, or groups of houses. Houses don’t have rights. Houses are subject to the will of control, and there is an existing heirarchy of control in that space, in which a democratically elected body has a determining role.

    So the answer to your question, as put so eloquently in the courtroom scene in My Cousin Vinny, by actress Marisa Tomei (lifting the Oscar for best supporting actress in the process) in protrayal of character Mona Lisa Vito, is “it’s a bullshit question”.

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  4. dbuckley:

    As soon as you said “houses don’t have rights” as though you had a point of relevance, I laughed and went back to sleep. My silly sweet soul.

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  5. @Andrew, I agree that we’d benefit from a legally binding Bill of Rights (or similar), as long as it’s handled carefully and with a minimum of short-term political knee-jerk thinking.

    That said, I can’t see anything in the existing Bill of Rights that clearly has anything to do with ensuring individuals can build houses anywhere they like. I’m not a constitutional law expert, and happy to be corrected.

    People could agree or disagree on whether it’s a good thing for a government to do, but I don’t personally think that makes it a fundamental individual right.

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  6. Andrew –

    That could work IF the population did not vary so widely. The actual right has to be associated with “livable” parts of the planet and the number of people and thus the size of the bit you have a right to, both vary. Which leaves us with the question of whether the “individual” has a “right” to any at all or whether it is all collectively owned (the effective reality being that some individuals own the profits and all of us collectively own the consequences of their actions).

    Not saying you are wrong. Just that there are complications in the weeds.

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  7. @Andrew, do you refer to the ability to build a house (or at least have land to live on), or the ability to own land? Because land ownership is an artificial legal construct granted by the community which, in its traditional meaning, is about revoking the rights of use and passage which other individuals would otherwise have so that a single individual can have privacy and control of that land. It’s a useful thing to do for various reasons, but I wouldn’t personally equate it with a fundamental right of an individual. If anything, I see it as being some kind of attempted balance between revoking people’s fundamental rights in exchange for an intended greater good for society.

    I’d consider the ability to have a place and means to live, more generally, as being closer to a fundamental right than land ownership.

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  8. Mike: Good insight. I agree that property rights can largely mean “withholding from others” rights. Land is not man made.

    Ultimately perspective must rule. If people are not being unreasonably taxing on the natural or human world, nor unfairly, then we cannot justify depriving them of their “right” to a reasonable bit of earth to live on.

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  9. Rain today in Wellington. My garden is pulled back from the brink!

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  10. Russel – tremendous thrashing you gave to Joyce in the House today! When his head goes down and stays down during his answers evasions, you have him licked.

    Well done.

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  11. WTF?

    Hysterical, scaremongering nonsense. A surefooted Joyce put the errant schoolboy back in his place :)

    Downvote this-a-way >>>>

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  12. I got this from a Greenweek newsletter:

    The plight of our drought-stricken farmers throws into stark relief the reality of climate change; we can expect droughts to be more extreme and strike more often if we don’t take global action.

    I think we need some realism here. Yes, we need to take action to take at least some of the sting out of the climate change we’re headed for but let’s not fool ourselves. Even if we do take global action to mitigate some of the change, we can’t stop droughts getting worse or happening more frequently. The planet will continue to warm for at least the rest of this century, even if we stopped all emissions today. That (stopping all emissions) won’t happen because people would starve (apart from anything else to do with the economy). So we are definitely in both mitigation and adaptation mode. The Greens should be honest about that, though I don’t expect that from politicians.

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  13. IMPORTANT NEWS: Here is an important article by Wendell Cox, showing that rather than keeping up with “best practice” Auckland is in fact planning to (more specifically, continuing to) repeat catastrophic mistakes that other force-densification cities are now admitting to, and are now moving to reform.

    http://www.newgeography.com/content/003574-sydney-abandon-radical-urban-containment-policy

    What’s of the most interest is that *Sydney* is looking to reform urban containment. What will it mean to the Kiwi exodus when Sydney opens up good new homes on its fringes for $200,000 a pop? Go figure. I have long said that the only reason we have been able to get away with this “Smart Growth” nonsense is because Australia has been playing the same mad game. Times are changing – so had better we!

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  14. @main-concerns –

    Yes, it is a bit different. The discussion headlines, the main threads/entries of the blog are organized by the Greens, not freely entered by commenters here. We’re used to it but the general thread is basically the only place for open-slather topics. We generally see them every week give or take.

    Do we know what Hordur’s itinerary is?

    Not likely I’d get to see him (being in Cambridge) but he’s done something that needs doing here. Maybe not as completely as it needs doing but he’s made a helluva start.

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  15. <<>> that leads us to the notion that solutions maybe be more on a consciousness, small community level….

    …hmmm am I talking to any friends when making my blogs and videos?…..

    …slowly backs away from the PC.

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