Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The David McNee case redux

In Question Time today, Winston let the cat out of the bag by speculating publicly about the circumstances of an earlier offense by Philip Edwards, David McNee's killer, which his colleague, Ron Mark, had raised last week. He did it in a rather odious fashion which meant George Hawkins had free reign by the Speaker to indulge in some baiting by referring to Winston's problems last year with a Taxi Driver.

While Winston Peters has clued up on what happened, which wasn't the case when Ron Mark tackled it, he still has no clue on the nature of the mistake and thus his actions only bring further unnecessary harm to the victim. The issue isn't that the victim's initial complaint misled the police because the circumstances of that are understandable and no jury would convict on wasting police time. The issue is what the police could have done once they had become aware of the real circumstances.

The police couldn't prosecute on a charge of burglary once they knew that Edwards had been invited to the house. But they still had evidence of an attack, DNA evidence and Edwards' own confession which was good enough to convict him on assault or worse. Or if they weren't prepared to do that, then they could have tipped off the parole board about Edwards' furtive activities. Instead they did nothing which allowed Edwards to leave prison earlier than warranted with much looser supervision to kill David McNee.

Fluffy attacks Cereal Maker

On today's news, Auckland Mayoralty wannabe Christine "Fluffy" Fletcher slagged off fellow candidate and cereal manufacturer Dick Hubbard (who's currently leading in the polls) by saying that when questioned on Auckland's complex issues, his answer is:
"I don't know."
This is rich considering that her own position on the same complex issues is:
"I can't decide."

Monday, August 30, 2004

ECan elections go Nuclear!

Just a few days ago I said:
The heat has gone out of the contest for ECan seats due to the death of Idiot Neil Cherry.

I was wrong, wrong, WRONG! The Press reported today that:
Environment Canterbury (ECan) will debate the merits of nuclear power after a controversial decision that has prompted outrage and astonishment.

ECan councillors voted eight to five in favour of holding a debate, public meetings and workshops on various questions about energy – including the potential of nuclear power.

I'm still bemused by the politics of this. The initial motion was moved by a Labour Councillor, Dr Ian Robertson, and cites unnamed Greenpeace experts (I think David Bellamy and Jack Lovelock are meant) that "green future is a nuclear future".

However looking at the ECan website turns up this news release by Richard Budd, who voted for the motion and is Chair of the Energy Committee:
Cr Budd said today "In the debate in Council about water use and energy last week the statements made by an outgoing councillor on nuclear energy and hydrogen may have been construed as the views of the Council. This is not the case. If we are to publicly debate and discuss the future of water use and energy in this region, we must acknowledge that people will have views about wind, solar, hydrogen and even nuclear forms of energy. We cannot have meaningful debate and discussion without at least hearing those views - whether they are for or against

The lack of a terminal full stop is in the original press release. The actual motion apparently was:
At the Council meeting last week, councillors voted that the Regional Council "actively seek a great deal of further knowledge on and actively debate the relative costs and values of water usage and of energy production in and for the East Coast of the South Island of New Zealand"(quote from the notice of motion).

"Those issues are extremely important for the residents of this region," said Cr Budd. "In debating those issues it is quite possible that the issue of nuclear energy will arise. But this council does not advocate nuclear energy, our stance on that is already enshrined in our Regional Policy Statement."

The Regional Policy Statement (operative from 1998) states ' The Regional Council believes the nuclear free issue is a national one which has been resolved at central government level by an Act of Parliament. However, in recognising the importance of this issue the Regional Council has passed a resolution: "that the Council expresses its strongest support for the terms of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act 1987" '.

Now I have to question Richard Budd's spin that this is a storm in a teacup for two councillors at the meeting (one for and one against) did speak about Nuclear Power and if the motion was so mild as he suggests, then it's strange that five councillors would be opposed to it. I suspect that a vigorous debate actually broke out over Dr Robertson's speech supporting the motion. Hence those that voted against it, voted against Dr Robertson's speech while some of the voters for it voted for the motion and not as an endorsement of the speech.

Now it may be that Dr Robertson was playing silly buggers to annoy the Greens. If so, he's succeeded brilliantly and many ECan Councillors are going to have a much more heated campaign than they anticipated.

Friday, August 27, 2004

The Preacher and the Overdue Library Books Gang

The story of the ring of theives that was stealing valuable books from the Canterbury Public Library has taken not just one, but two twists. In an article not on-line the Press today revealed that the identity of the dealer that allegedly bought the stolen books is one Barry Hancox of the well-known Smiths Bookshop. An even bigger shock for me was that Prosecuter is one Graeme Capill, the former leader of the Christian Heritage Party. It seems to be his first case as he was only appointed Police Prosecuter in late July and the NZ Herald said then that he would take up his position "in a few weeks".

Fortunately for those with deviant tendencies (you know who you are) the Dominion Post reported at the time of his appointment:

Despite his former party's hardline stance against violent crime, euthanasia and homosexuality, Mr Capill said there was no scope for personal feelings or bias to get in the way of doing his job.

He was bound as a lawyer to adhere to Law Society rules. "The moment I actually showed any bias at all in my comments, that would actually go against me."

If true, I daresay he will do well as a prosecuter for two reasons. The first is that is his oratory will shine in the courtroom. This isn't hard to do as on the basis of televised trials, the standard of declaimation in the court is dire. The lawyers speak in a droning monotone, they pause frequently in awkward places (i.e. "the other... day, my client...") and they seldom make eye contact with anybody else in the court. The second is he already has ample experience in arguing with passionate certainty dodgy cases built on dubious premises that many prosecution cases are.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Local Government Candidates, Part II

Environment Canterbury

The heat has gone out of the contest for ECan seats due to the death of Idiot Neil Cherry. Under his baleful influence, ECan was stooping to nonsense such as proposing a ban on all wood-burners and suggesting that in the future people dob in their neighbours who use such evil things. Things got so bad that I had to vote for a Green because he dared to suggest that clever technology could allow wood-burners to be used in Christchurch (he failed to get in and I have sadly repressed all knowledge of his name).

Now Kerry Burke has taken power and some sanity has prevailed. I suspect that having shared a room (and more) with Helen Paske makes it impossible for him to do Chicken-little Acts about Christchurch's smog.

Since I'm in Christchurch West, the candidates are Neil Andrews, Alec Neill (sitting), Karen Romayne and Nicky Wagner (sitting). Both sitting councillors are Nats and I'll probably vote for them although I suspect that Alec may go back to Parliament in the next election.

Canterbury District Health Board

Jesus. Twenty-nine candidates. I didn't vote for the health board the last time around because the sheer number of names made it impossible for me to seperate the wheat from the chaff. As it so happened, the whole thing was a lottery and a circus. Things have improved slightly and we also have the performance of the Health Board candidates over the last term to review. Except we don't as the council members are under a gag rule, which means that only the unelected head, Syd Bradley, can talk to the media. Now in his struggles with Ross Armstrong, Syd revealed himself as a competent and decent chappie but a democracy can hardly function if the performance of sitting health board members can't be reviewed. So either Annette should force the Canterbury DHB to open up or she should just abolish the bloody thing.

Looking at the names, only four health board members are standing again. Philip Bragshaw quit in a fit of pique for as a prominent surgeon with tussles galore with the management, he had to leave half the meetings due to conflict of interest. So a good rule of the thumb is not to vote for health professionals. David Morrell, the former City Missioner, is undoubtedly a worthy but the gag rule means I can't assess his performance. Robin Booth I know as a prat from his time in the Council while Alison Wilke is just useless. She ran twice against Gerry Brownlee in the Ilam electorate and showed herself as a completely ineffectual campaigner. Of the other names, I can recognize only Neville Bennett, a historian and media commentator, as someone worthy of a vote. One down, six to go...

Local Government Candidates, Part I

Well, the list of candidates for the local government bodies has been finalized. I'll just take the time to cast my cynical eye over the names and vent my spleen.

Banks Peninsula District Council

Bob Parker, the incumberant mayor, seems a shoo-in with the only other person standing against him, an obscure Jo Rolley which means that his predecessor, Noeline Allen, has apparently given up local body politics for good. The last election was unusual in that Noeline was aware of huge discontent with her leadersip and so enlisted the aid of her partner, Jim Hopkins, to run against her. Since very few people knew that Jim was her partner, she hoped to retain the mayoralty by splitting the anti-Noeline vote. The gambit failed and a furious Jim refused to write for the Press ever again and now sells himself to the NZ Herald.

Christchurch City Council

The usual names come forth: Blair Anderson for the pot smokers, Kyle Chapman for the skinheads who don't call themselves Nazis because they can't spell, Martin Hansen for economic euthenics (whatever that is) and Paul Telfer, another harmless crank. Annalucia Vermunt the communist will probably be condemning our imperialistic presence in Iraq and Afghanistan just as she condemned our imperialistic presence in Bosnia and East Timor in the last election. Aaron Keown is also returning but I find it difficult to describe him - he's hardly a nut or a crank but he's also hasn't got a hope in hell of winning the mayoralty.

More notable are the absence of any big names from the Citizens and fellow travellers. Derek Anderson, Gordon Freeman, George Balani or even Robin Booth. So it's a dead cert that Garry Moore will get back in (barring Acts of God and all that). I was ambivalent about his performance at the last election which made me vote for George Balani. He seemed sane when he took on Environment Canterbury but he also did strange things, such as denounce his brother-in-law for making a complaint about Helen Clark in Paintergate and the Live Tall stupidity.

But then again I voted for Morgan Fahey at the election before that (although I posted my vote before the scandal broke) so I'm hardly a good judge of mayoral candidates.

For the wider council, the whole thing is a dog-eat-dog race with half the council facing oblivion because the Local Government Commission slashed the council seats from 24 to 12. The abrasive Dennis O'Rouke, who barely got in last time, will surely be wailing and gnashing his teeth after this election.

The candidates for local ward (Fendalton-Waimairi) are: Sally Buck (sitting), Faimeh Burke, Michael Couch, Pat Harrow (sitting), Mark Kunnen, Mike Wall and Gina Williamson. Both Sally and Pat are useless but I can't decide who vote for. Faimeh is Kerry Burke's wife but beyond that I know nothing. Mark Kunnen, I know all too well having been at school with him but can't bring myself to vote for him. The others are non-entities to me. I'm surprised to note the absence of Yiyi Ki and wonder what happened.

Ron Mark in a China Shop

Ron Mark, M.P. seems to think he's got a possible hit against the government in the Philip Edwards case. However during Question Time in the House, it's become clear that he doesn't understand what he's talking about.

Edwards, a drifter fresh out on parole, killed David McNee, a gay TV personality. He was charged with murder and at his trial he told the following story. Edwards was picked up by McNee on the streets for a performance on the condition that no touching take place. Edwards insisted on this condition because, unknown to McNee, he was violently sensitive about his own sexuality. During the performance, McNee touched Edwards whereupon Edwards bludgeoned him to death with his fists and then stole his car. The jury believed his story and convicted him of manslaughter on the grounds that he was provoked. Edwards has yet to be sentenced but the sentence will be heavy due to the severity of the crime.

Quite a lot of people have become upset because of the sordid nature of the crime and many believe that Edwards should have gone down for murder. Ron Mark has taken to asking questions in the house about an earlier incident involving Edwards.

4. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Did the police respond to a call from [address deleted], Auckland on 18th September 2002; if so, what was the nature of the offence reported?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Yes. I am advised that the nature of the incident was burglary.

This incident has already been reported in TV3 and the NZ Herald. Philip Edwards was identified through DNA testing as the person responsible for this incident and confessed to burglary. But because the witness refused to testify due to trauma from the violent assault, the case did not proceed and Edwards was allowed to obtain parole as he was serving a short prison sentence for minor offenses at the time of his identification. Ron Mark then reveals that he doesn't understand what went on.

Ron Mark: Why did the prosecution not use the sure Edwards incident in the trial when it so clearly could have rebutted the defence case by establishing a modus operandi and clinched a murder conviction?

Why indeed? Hawkins refused to answer but looking back at the facts of the case, the police have three pieces of evidence - the victim's testimony, the DNA evidence and McNee's own confession. Even if the witness refused to testify, they had more than enough evidence for a conviction. So why didn't the case proceed?

Ron is almost certainly right in the modus operandi of the two cases being similar but he is almost as wrong about the m.o. itself. Far from being a simple case of burglary and assault that he thinks it is, the case may have been similar to that of the circumstances in which McNee was killed: the victim hires Edwards for a performance, touches him and is beaten and robbed. Given that the victim was married, his reluctance to testify and the curious readiness of the police to drop the case becomes all too understandable.

There is a valid criticism of the police actions in this case, namely that they failed to inform the Parole Board about a serious development in Edwards' offending. If they had been aware, more stringent parole conditions and enforcement could have been imposed and David McNee might still be alive. But Ron Mark, because he does not understand, is coming close to causing further damage to another Edwards victim who has surely suffered enough.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Waving the White Flag?

The once-prominent Alliance party prepares to commit electoral suicide by telling its supporters to give their party vote to the Greens and the Maoris. Even though I've disliked its policies from the beginning, it's a shame to see the Alliance come to an ignoble end. While I've wanted the reins of government to kept far away from them as possible, I still felt they deserved representation in parliament on basis of the support for their ideals.

The office of Alliance gravedigger surely belongs to Jim Anderton, who split the party before the 2002 election rather than accept defeat in a policy debate. Since he had the Syndenham seat sewn up, he could count on being re-elected without a sweat while the Alliance struggled in the face of Labour indifference and failed. At the time, I urged (or, to be more accurate, incited) Laila Harre to invoke the Electoral Integrity Act to dismiss Jim Anderton and his toadies on the grounds that this would make her appear strong and decisive, which in turn would give her a boost in the polls. She pointed that she couldn't because the only person who could write the letter of dismissal was either the MP himself or the parliamentary leader with the majority of caucus support (which she didn't have).

So who will represent in Parliament the people that the Alliance once stood for?

Jim Anderton's Progressive Coalition (or, more accurately, Personality Cult) only exists as a vessel to rubberstamp Jim's opinions. Since Jim is more interested in exercising power as a Cabinet Minister than articulating traditional labour policy concerns, nary a squeak is heard of it these days. His faithful dogsbody, Matt Robson, does put his head above the parapet once in a while before Jim slaps him down again.

The Maori Party looks promising and indeed the Alliance stalwart, Matt McCarten, has been energetic in helping set it up. However the Maori Party has only come about because of almost universal discontent from Maoridom about the proposed resolution of the Seabed and Foreshore (i.e. a 21st century government doing what their 19th century predecessors had done and what their apologetic 20th century counterparts had vowed never to repeat). As Tariana Turia recognizes (displaying political savvy that she lack when she was minister), focusing on Alliance concerns would alienate something half the support they now enjoy.

The Greens? True, there are a few like Sue Bradford or Rob Donald which the Alliance supporters will be happy with. But they not only have to rub shoulders with the tree-huggers but also the barking mad Keith Locke. Sometimes I have to wonder about the internal contradictions of the Greens but suspect that Nandor Tanczos may have a hand in damping them down.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Lest we forget

The Destiny Church on their recent march to Parliament and the 1922 Fascist March on Rome.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Short-sighted Iranians

Supposedly Arash Miresmaeili is disqualified because he refused to play against an Israeli out of sympathy for the Palestinians. Since he had a good chance at the medal, the best thing to do would have been to kick Israeli butt in the round and then dedicate his victory to the Palestinians.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Ethical use of torture evidence?

David Farrar picks a fight with No Right Turn about the following case about the British use of torture. However the Guardian appears to have sexed up its reporting of the case for both NRT and DPF seem to think that torture evidence can now be used in British Courts, which is not the case.

The case involves ten foreign nationals that have been detained under special post-9/11 legislation that have appealed against their confinement. They were confined because foreign intelligence services provided information about their links to international terrorism (read Al Qai'da). The lawyers for the detainees suggested that the evidence should be thrown out because it might have been obtained through torture.

However the lawyers have presented no evidence that any torture was used to obtain the information because they don't know even what the evidence is. The British government knows what the evidence is but has no reasonable way of knowing whether torture was used. Asking the foreign intelligence service whether torture was used satisfies nobody because the foreign intelligence service will always deny it. So to require the British government to only use non-torture evidence will make no difference to the use of torture. As such, it is a bad rule. That is why the Appeal Court ruled that any evidence can be used so long as British agents had not procured or connived at obtaining it through torture.

The rule is also far stronger than the Guardian depicts it. If the British sent a High Value Detainee to Central Asia knowing that he'll be beaten with rubber hoses or worse, then any evidence from that detainee is inadmissable. And because the British intelligence services are intensely bureacratic (as revealed by the Butler and Hutton enquiries), there will always be a paper-trial showing what was done to the proper authorities.

So what can be done about torture? Besides the obvious human rights consideration, there are practical objection to torture in that the quality of evidence is less reliable than that obtained through standard police methods or through stress methods. Pratically the best option is to send police officers and intelligence agents to train the intelligence services of dubious places in investigative methods and instilling a sense of professionalism. But this doesn't play well in the media.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Patea school closing

The good people of Patea made a protest today against the government-ordered termination of their two schools. The closing is unusual as it comes a few months after the government announced a moratorium on Trevor Mallard's crusade to close country schools in general because it was costing them votes in the provinces which they couldn't afford because of Brash's Orewa speech. So why is Patea being singled out for attention now? Has Mallard overpowered his minders or what?

The mystery is solved when one realizes Patea is a predominantly Maori town within the electorate of the apostate Tariana Turia. Since the government has been publicly bashing Maori civil servants with Clark's approval, it's no surprise that they try the stick approach at Patea with an eye for a carrot closer to the elections.

Interesting spin...

Parliament condemns the recent attacks on Jewish graves and the Fairfax papers (the Press and Dominion Post) depict it as a "Peace offer by government to Israelis". While I doubt that the government actually intended the motion as such, it certainly is a welcome balm in the Mossad scandal. Although I would have like to see Helen Clark leading the condemnations (she was away in the Tokelaus) as I daresay her initial rhetoric was an attempt to bash Israel for political gain the way that France had been bashed over nuking defenseless pacific islands. But then again, she did autocratically declare that Irving would be banned from visiting so she may legitimately feel that she's done enough.

Incidentally the Police have arrested one Nick Miller, a National Front thug, on a number of charges as he is a person they would like to speak to over the Graveyard attacks. Initially Kyle Chapman, the National Front head obsenity, wasn't returning calls to TVNZ's reporter although that may be because the reporter covering the story was one Ali Ikram. Kyle has now said that he isn't sure whether Nick belongs to the National Front, which confirms the public belief about his ignorance.

Friday, August 06, 2004

The Mossad Scandal

The impact of the Mossad case has flared again with a renewed attack on Jewish cemetaries. Hopefully the perps will soon be caught (and considering that there is only one untouched jewish cemetary left in the area, the odds are good) and helped down the stairs.

The government's reaction has been to condemn the attack. They've made very little actual comment on the spy case since the original fuss on the grounds that it is now sub judice because Eli and Uri are appealing against their convictions. I'm curious in hearing about proposed grounds for appeal because Eli and Uri pleaded guilty at the trial. The cynical in me suspects that the appeal is a good excuse for the government to shut up since it takes roughly six months for an appeal to be heard while Eli and Uri are only in for five months at the end of which they will be deported. Since the Israelis have indicated that they will be making a statement resolving the affair when Eli and Uri are deported, there's little point in beating up the issue further from the government's point of view in light of the grave attacks and the Hamas endorsement.

Judicial Scuttlebutt

Today's NBR (print edition only) has the story that the Chief Judge, Sian Elias, will soon retire because she doesn't get along with a number of people. Apart from the usual suspects (ie the government), the list of people she doesn't get along with reportedly include her fellow justices on the Supreme Court. However I'll believe the resignation rumours when it happens and not before.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

In Da House...

During Tuesday's Question Time, Helen Clark was taken to task for being harder on Kit Richards than she was on Haami Piripi as Kit Richards was forced out of his job in 1999 while Haami is still employed despite foretelling civil war. Her response brought back memories and I've emphasized one sentence in the following exchange:

Dr Don Brash: How does she reconcile her position in regard to Mr Kit Richards, whom she demanded be sacked over a personal email sent from his home computer, which he described at the time as “guerrilla warfare”, with her position in regard to Mr Haami Piripi, who made a public submission to a select committee of Parliament, threatening civil war, or is this another example of different rules for different categories of New Zealanders?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am surprised that anyone has accused me of being soft on Mr Piripi. Mr Richards attacked Government policy covering his own State organisation. Further, he made threatening comments about me, the Minister in charge of Timberlands, and about Marian Hobbs. There is all the difference in the world between a State employee who directly undermines the policy of the Government for the organisation for which he works, and Mr Piripi, who made comments about another part of Government policy. However, I want to tell the member that I would take exactly the same view as I have of Mr Piripi’s action if it were, say, the chief executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority pronouncing on education policy, or the chief executive of Transit pronouncing on transport policy. It is not appropriate, and that is why new legislation will see that the State Services Commissioner has a role in setting down guidelines in that area.

The threatening comments that Kit Richards made about Clark and Hobbs was about wanting "fingers to get burned". When this came out, Helen ballistically intepreted the expression as a literal desire by Kit to actually burn her fingers and from Tuesday's transcript, she still does. Yet at the same time as the Richards furore, Clark was also embroiled in a row with the TVNZ board about John Hawkesbury's sacking. When asked on television "whether heads should roll", Clark responded that "it was a question of whose to roll". Although the chairman of the TVNZ board resigned soon after, her neck was mysteriously still intact...