Saturday, July 31, 2004

The problem with France...

The Guardian had an interesting article about the main problem of the French government today.

For the most sacred article in all France's grand republican and secular creed is the principle that everyone is equal and indistinguishable in the eyes of the state: no matter where they come from, all French citizens are identical in their Frenchness. In the much-vaunted "Republican model of integration", all immigrants go through the Gallic mill, shedding their ethnic and religious differences and emerging as shining new French citizens. In theory.

In practice, this explains why France cannot say, and does not know, how many citizens it has who are of north African origin, or who are Muslim, or who are Jewish. For the purposes of the Republic, it simply does not matter.

An interesting footnote is a paragraph on intellectual left-wing anti-semiticism which appears to evaded the Seamus Milne Brigade.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Personality Quiz

David Farrar had a link to the latest personality quiz.  Taking it gave me:

You are an SEDF--Sober Emotional Destructive Follower. This makes you an evil genius. You are extremely focused and difficult to distract from your tasks. With luck, you have learned to channel your energies into improving your intellect, rather than destroying the weak and unsuspecting.


Your friends may find you remote and a hard nut to crack. Few of your peers know you very well--even those you have known a long time--because you have expert control of the face you put forth to the world. You prefer to observe, calculate, discern and decide. Your decisions are final, and your desire to be right is impenetrable.


You are not to be messed with. You may explode.


I can't argue with that.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

OSH guidelines for the Sex Industry

OSH has recently issued its guidelines for occupational safety and health for the sex industry.  The resulting guidelines are a hundred pages in all and come with a warning that they contain sexually explicit material.  Reading through it, I picked up a new word ("neo-vagina") that I was hitherto unaware of and I still don't see the point for.  The report is mostly common-sensical precautions although there are some odd bits.

In particular, the guidelines contain two pages on smoking in the workplace, one page on occupational overuse syndrome which is all very commendable but when the only mention of certain implements is:

In order to avoid transmission of Hepatitis C, HIV and other
blood-borne infections, disposable razors and razor blades
must be disposed of in a sharps disposal container after being
used once. "Cutthroat" razors, scalpels and piercing tools
must be cleaned and sterilised after use with each client.

one wonders why OSH has not developed guidelines on how these implements should be used safely!  Likewise considering the unfortunate death of a Cricket Umpire, one would have thought that OSH could have given guidelines for safe beating of clients.  Another astonishing OSH lapse is that the expression "safe word" or similar simply does not appear in the guidelines! Given that several mental patients and arrested persons have been killed through the use of improper restraints, I simply cannot fathom why OSH has turned a blind eye on these topics.  Did the guideline developers have to have a lie-down or what?

Monday, July 26, 2004

More on our supreme court hijinks

The puzzle of the mysterious comments has been solved.  While Margaret Wilson, Sian Elias, Thomas Gault and Kenneth Keith spoke to the House of Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee (the uncorrected transcript which I was checking), the judges also spoke to the House of Lords Committee on the Constitutional Reform Bill!  I hate bicameral legislatures!!  Thanks to Rodney Hide for coming up with the goods.

Since there were two hearings and that most of the scandalous comments occur at the hearing before the Lords' committee, I can only assume that:

  • The House of Commons Select Committee came first
  • The Supreme Court Judges took a rather long lunch, after which
  • They testified before the House of Lords Select Committee while over the limit
These comments are grounds for serious concern.  During Question 168, Sian said:

I think in a way the Executive has beaten up the anti-democratic, unelected angle, in other words, inflamed legislative suspicions of judicial over-aggrandisement.  I do not believe that is a real constitutional risk, but I think-

The Executive was responding to a certain Chief Justice who had the temerity to publicly declare that the sovereignity of parliament has not been authoritatively determined.  It was in response to that that:

Dr Cullen lamented the "widely held view that Parliament is an institution in the grip of majoritarian forces, and that the best hope for protection of human rights is to be found with appointed judges".
The role of judicial officers was to interpret the law and give effect to the will of Parliament.
"Whenever judicial officers stray towards making the law we run into trouble, not because their views are wrong ... but because they are unelected officials and have no democratic mandate.
"Any perception that judges are pursuing a political agenda is injurious to the public good."

The consitutional risk is real whether Sian likes it or not.

During Question 190, Sian also said

I wish the press and others would stop portraying this and it is a terrible shame that we are trapped into supremacist language and I do not like the name "Supreme Court" because I think it encourages us to look for who is trumping, and I do not think constitutions work like that; I think they are about dialogue and information flows.

If she doesn't like supremacist language then what does she think of her own title as Chief Justice? 

Tom Gault also makes a rather silly claim during Question 192:
I can recall a very interesting situation not long ago where one of them chose to criticise a judgment of the Court which was not particularly popular with the Government and to my surprise and joy the editors throughout the country rose up and wrote strongly in favour of the independence of the judiciary and the importance of it.


He is referring to the already quoted comments that Dr Cullen made.  Contrary to the impression that he gives, many editors and commentators supported the independence of the judiciary not because they were defending it from mean Dr Cullen's nasty attacks but because they felt the behaviour of some Judges in challenging the Executive was threatening to undermine it.

Lastly an observation. During Question 163, Sian admitted that "I have a terrible head for figures".  She and her husband have a lot in common then... 

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Our injudious Chief Justice strikes again.

The Chief Justice, Sian Elias, recently gave evidence to the Consitutional Affairs Committee in the UK.  Some of the more salacious comments that have been quoted by the Dominion Post - namely that the name of the Supreme Court was "supremacist" and that Justice Minister's responsibilities were "a bit of a ragbag" do not appear in the transcript and so it is a mystery as to where they come from.  It's noteworthy that the NZ Herald does not repeat these comments.  Another mystery is the time lag between the time the comments were put up and when the Dominion Post spotted it.  I suspect that an informant tipped off the paper but until the providence of these comments are clarified, I'll hold my peace on them for now.  Of similar concern are comments by Thomas Gault who is cited as taking a swipe at Michael Cullen but they do not appear in the transcript nor the Herald report. 

Sian's chief error is then being more blunt to the British than she was here when the Supreme Court was being set up. She states that:

I would like to correct I am sure an inadvertent matter that the Attorney raised and that was that there had been judicial input throughout. In fact, there was no judicial membership of the Steering Committee. I declined an invitation to participate in it and one of the reasons is because of my view that communication between judiciary and the executive and Parliament needs to be formal and needs to be public and I was not prepared for the judiciary to participate in committee discussions in camera in a back room.

If she isn't prepared to tell our parliament about her concerns then she has no business in telling the British about them.  What she's done is to go outside the tent and piss on it.



Monday, July 19, 2004

Helen versus Israel

Helen's strong condemnation of Israel drawn unintended consequences. First there was the desecration of Jewish Graves and now Helen has been endorsed by Hamas. While allegations of official antisemitism are unwarranted, it's become clear that in trying to bash the Israelis as the French had been bashed in the 80s, Helen & co. have overplayed their hand. Helen's key demand for a formal and public apology - which the Israelis weren't giving because a) we aren't that important and b) Goff held hands with Yassir Arafat - now looks like it will be quietly put to sleep along with a marked reduction in rhetoric against Israel.
 
Speaking of which there's also some chatter in the local blogs and newsgroups that if Uri and Eli were Mossad Agents then they should have been tried for espionage. Since they weren't, they can't have been agents. However if Uri and Ali weren't Mossad agents, then Israel would have issued a strong denial and it has not done so. Moreover under New Zealand Law, espionage is strictly defined under section 78 of the Crimes Act 1961 (the legislation is here under statutes but because of the arsed nature of the pages, I can't make a direct link to it), which has two requirements - one that could be met and another that can't. The requirement that could be met is that the person pass on any information or object prejudicial to the security or defence of New Zealand to a foreign country or organization. Since passports are covered under the Passport Act 1991, one is going to have a hard time arguing that it is covered here. More importantly, the requirement that can't be met is that the person must be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, which Uri and Eli definitely aren't!


Friday, July 16, 2004

Court of Appeal goes bonkers

The Court of Appeal has ruled that Donna Awatere-Huata can remain in Parliament.  Her position was under threat because as a result of unethical and probably criminal behaviour, ACT had wanted to invoke the Electoral Integrity Act to deprive her of her seat.  Their stated grounds?  That her actions does not constitute a "defection", which the Act was passed in order to punish. 
 
Just who the hell do McGrath et al. think they are?  The legislation states the decision is a matter for the party leader, not unelected judges.  If they think the legislation is stupid, it's still not their job to be expanding the remit of judicial oversight to everything under the sun.
 
In my opinion, Rodney Hide, the ACT party leader now has two options if he wants to take the case any further.
 
The first is to go to the newly created Supreme Court.  However since the Chief Justice has been making wooky statements on political theory, such as questioning the sovereignity of parliament, which are only part and parcel of her wider lack of judicial wisdom (such as her re-instatement of the private prosecution of Constable A for murder), I have little hope that an appeal will be successful.
 
The second is the nuclear option.  Send the letter anyway saying that the matter is one of parliamentary privilege and not one for the courts.  Since the Nick Smith case has determined that an MP does not lose his seat if he is convicted of Contempt of Court, Rodney have little to lose if he attempts to dish out well-deserved black-eyes to would-be Judicial Commissars that should have known better. 

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Eli and Uri go to Jail!

The Israelis caught trying to obtain a NZ passport by false pretences have been sent down for six months and ordered to pay a fine of $50,000 each to the Cerebal Palsy society (as they were manipulating a cerebal palsy victim into applying for a passport with the intent to take it for their own purposes). The sentence is light - the passport act of 1992 allows for sentences of up to ten years and $250,000 fines in such circumstances.

More heavy-handed is the Government's response. Since we don't have much to do with Israel and their ambassador is based in Oz, there's sod all that the government can do to make them really sorry. Hence the government is imposing measures that border on petulance (suspension of diplomatic relations etc)and, if I recall correctly, are worse than the measures imposed when France bombed the Rainbow Warrior. But at that time, France could (and was starting to) make trouble with New Zealand butter access to the EEC.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Earth-shattering news?

The Te Tau Hauauru by-election results (Turia won by a predictable landslide) apparently aren't newsworthy. The Sunday Star Times had on the front page a massive story about Powncebury that was a rehash of an old story that tells us nothing new and a modest article about the results of the All-Blacks/Pacific rugby match. No mention of the by-election is made on the front page and it isn't until page 4 that it's detailed. To rub salt into the snub, on page 3 is a story about a policy proposal at the National Party Conference!

The NZ Herald website is no better (although the paper's Sunday non-appearance may be a reason). The Rugby match is mentioned with in a story date-stamped 9.25pm yet the final results from the by-election were available from the election website were available at 8.22pm (look at the date-stamp on the top left hand side)! When Winston "Iago" Peters ran in a similarly one-sided by-election, there was far stronger media interest so why the lack of interest?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Edwards for Veep?

The traditional theory that one choses one's running mate to shore up one's own deficiencies seems amply confirmed by Kerry's choice of Edwards as his running mate - Edwards, full of charm and geniality, makes up for Kerry having as much charm as a clean-shaven Abraham Lincoln. For me, there's only two minuses in Edwards a) that he lacks experience and b) that he's a personal injuries lawyer.

That said, I really don't think Edwards would have that much of an impact in the presidential race. They haven't historically. Lloyd Bentsen, for example, was much more convincing as a possible veep than Dan Quayle yet the Elder Bush still kicked Dukakis's butt in the 1988 elections.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Don Brash: Tough on Crime

DPF provides a summary of the points of Don Brash's crime speech (I'm linking to it rather than the actual article because I want some practice in linking to other people's blogs). Having watched the news article, it seems to me to be little more than a BAU (Business As Usual) policy.

One of the main planks - that everybody convicted shall have their DNA put on the Data Bank - doesn't faze me at all. It's just that for many low level crimes and for some serious crimes, the DNA ain't gonna be that much use. A shopkeeper notices that somebody has been pilfering his stock. Is DNA going to help? Would the police be likely to consider wasting resources on ordering a DNA test? Similar arguments can be made for most forms of white-collar crime.

The abolition of parole for violent and repeat offenders is, I feel, a bit of a con. Once a violent crim has done his time, plonking him back on the streets without any controls only creates disasters waiting to happen. It is far better have them put on the streets while they still have some of their sentence to serve so that can be used to ensure their good behaviour.

Even for those for whom the above argument does not apply, convicted murderers, making them eligible for Parole is still useful. Most murderers (and I exclude the evil cases here such as Malcolm Rewa, Ralph Stone etc) once paroled rarely reoffend. It makes little economic sense to keep them in confinement indefinitely.

To his credit, Don Brash recognized this by appending the words "as we know it" when he spoke of the abolition of parole for such people. This possible out eluded Paul Swain for some strange reason and as a result, having missed a golden opportunity to attack Brash on that, he was reduced to pointing out that National has a history of promising things and then doing nothing about it when they get into power. Let's see. Promise of a referendum on electoral reform as Lange did in 1987? Promise not to impose a super surcharge as was done in 1984? Promises not to sell either Air New Zealand or Postbank also in 1987? The injunction about throwing stones in glass houses applies especially to politicians.

The Eli and Uri show...

Sunday carried a story by Cameron Bennett about his attempts to find out more about the Israelis, Eli Cara and Uri Kelman, that were caught while trying to procure an NZ passport by false means. As a result, Cameron looked as bumbling and incompetent as the alleged Mossad agents that he was trying to find out more about.

The first sign of cluelessness came when he described Mossad as being feared in counter-intelligence. Wrong. Mossad does not do counter-intelligence work - that is the preserve of the Israeli Shin Bet.

The whole program was told us little new. The only difference was that what was already known was told to us by among others, Yvonne Ridley, described as a writer for the Observer. Come again? While Yvonne is famous for being caught by the Taliban, she did so as a Daily Express Reporter. Her journalistic career since then has been little more than being hired and fired by Al-Jazeera. A search on the Guardian site reveals that she wrote two articles for them in 2003, both binned in the Travel section, and nothing for them in 2004. If she's following the case for the Observer as was implied, then it's odd that she's done no articles on it when the scandal originally broke back in April. So why was she on? My impression is that Cameron owed her a favour or that he wanted some glamour.

The only interesting thing that was revealed was that one of the duo had visited NZ in 1999 on a C A N A D I A N passport. This strongly suggests they are Mossad as mere methapthetamine traffickers (as has been suggested that these people are) don't go to such lengths to procure false passports. But nothing was done with the information besides mentioning that Israel had promised to give up the use of Canadian passports in 1997 after a bungled assassination attempt in Jordan. Cameron didn't even bother to ring up somebody in the Canadian diplomatic corp to film them have an apoplexic fit on camera. That, at least, would have redeemed the program.

In the future, I think Mossad will be well-advised to get their fake NZ passports from another source. There's some forgers in South Thailand that Al Qai'da can recommend...

Saied Ghanbarri: the story continues

To provide some background, Saied Ghanbarri has been on the run from Immigration Authorities for six years in order to avoid being deported. The Immigration Service is especially keen to deport him for not only did he successfully elude them for six years, he also was easily findable by TVNZ within six hours and had also enlisted the aid of the IRD in running his business. Now he turned himself in after questions were raised in parliament and so it would seem that his deportation would quickly follow. Right?

Wrong.

But Mr Ghanbari's lawyer, Colin Amery, says there are new legal matters to consider in the case, based on recent case law in England. Mr Amery says a House of Lords decision prevents the deportation of a refugee to a country where they could be deprived of their human rights.

Now I happen to know something about this "recent case law" because my brother had been involved with it. The case is Regina v. Special Adjudicator (Respondent) ex parte Ullah (FC) (Appellant) and a news report covering the outcome is here. The Lords expanded the grounds for asylum from just the risk of physical persecution to include the risks of slavery, an unfair trial or religious persecution. However Ullah was still deported because he had failed to provide evidence for religious persecution. So the outcome of the case could be said in medical terms to be "the operation was a complete success but the patient died".

So unless Saied has a damn good reason, the likely outcome is deportation. His best hope is to have the Refugee Status Appeal Authority to hear the case and be sucked in as they were in the Zaoui case (in which Zaoui's lawyers spuriously convinced them that his French and Belgian convictions for supporting Algerian Terrorists were travesties of justice).

Friday, July 02, 2004

Watching 24...

...and so far, we're up to 10am in NZ. What I'm wondering is how on earth Palmer thinks he can get re-elected as Prez. So far he's:
- embezzled discretion funds to carry out a covert assassination in defiance of several executive orders forbidding such operations,
- had his national security adviser tortured,
- been deposed by his vice-president and cabinet on the grounds of ill-health,
- Covered up his wife's involvement in another man's death,
- Imprisoned a journalist without trial,
- Nearly went to war with three Middle Eastern Countries over faked intelligence and he didn't even bother find out their names,
- Allowed a nuclear bomb to be deployed in L.A.,
- Ordered the execution of an federal agent on a terrorist's instructions,
- Allowed extensive environmental damage to be caused via a nuclear explosion to areas of ecological value west of L.A.,
- Had an affair with his Doctor, and
- Failed to notice that his wife of twenty years was criminally insane.

and he expects people to vote for him?

The Perils of Journalism

From the Guardian (my emphasis) and this is something I've seen in other news sources:

According to Salem Chalabi, the head of the tribunal set up to try the leaders of the former regime, Saddam, 67, looked to be in good health and sat in a chair as Mr Chalabi explained his rights to him. He appeared to have lost weight and did not have the beard he was wearing when he was arrested.

Looking at the BBC pictures of his court appearance, Saddam's five o'clock shadow sure is bad.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

News Watch: Saddam and the Death Penalty

In a journo interview on the local news (One News in NZ), the Presenter asked a CNN reporter whether executing Saddam would cause any problems. If executing the Nuremburg and Tokyo war criminals didn't cause any problems for the Allies then I have to wonder why Saddam's execution given his comparable crimes should cause any. After all, the Romanians executed Nicholae Ceauses├žu after a summary (in all senses of the word) court-martial and what happens? Romania is being admitted to the EU in 2006 while Turkey is still waiting for a date!