The Ant and the Grasshopper, Act II (ft. the Wasp)

This is stupid, slightly racist and reads as “welfare recipients are lazy”, but I’ll play along.

Old Version

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed.

The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.

Ants eating grasshopper

Modern Version

The ant works hard in the withering heat and the rain all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper admires the ant’s work ethic and would like to be like a hard-working ant, but unemployment is at 6.6% and at least three out of 50 people, including himself, can’t find jobs. If unemployment gets below 5%, the wasps who own the factories start to panic. If the wasps had to compete for employees, instead of the employees competing for jobs, the wasps would have to either raise their prices or keep less of the profits they earn from the labor.

There are more ants than grasshoppers, and ants are usually better qualified, because their parents got them access to better schools and healthcare. Some ants went to private schools and when they got sick outside of business hours, there was no hesitation in taking them to an after-hours surgery. Because their parents valued their education, they were encouraged to work hard at school and many ended up going to university. Because the ants have better qualifications, the grasshoppers are the last to get hired and the first to be fired.

Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.

One News, 3 News, PRIME News, and Campbell Live show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.

The country is stunned by the sharp contrast!

How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Sue Bradford appears on Campbell Live with the grasshopper–and everybody cries. The Green Party stages a demonstration in front of the ant’s house where the news stations film the group singing, “We Shall Overcome”. The Green Party leader Metiria Turei condemns the ant and blames John Key, Rob Muldoon, Roger Douglas, capitalism and global warming for the grasshopper’s plight.

Many people on radio, TV, in newspapers and on the internet complain that grasshoppers are lazy and should just get jobs. Michael Laws says something about sterilizing all of them so they can’t have kids. He also says something about taking a shotgun to Sue Bradford and members of the Green Party.

John Minto exclaims in an interview with TV News that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.

John further explains that the wasps are avoiding taxes by moving their money offshore, exploiting tax loopholes, and ensuring that the bureaucrats appointed to regulate their industries are their friends. He claims that last year the government found $1.7 billion to bail out the well-off shareholders of South Canterbury Finance, but didn’t want to spend $500 million to pay the minimum wage to caregivers staying the night looking after disabled people. He says that a social safety net pays dividends in the form of lower law enforcement and penal system expenses. He is immediately attacked as engaging in “class warfare”.

Finally, to gain votes to win the election, the government drafts the “Economic Equity and Anti-Ant Act”, retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government.

Eventually, the grasshopper does in fact manage to find a job, working in the same factory as the ant now does. In fact, the factory started to hire lots of grasshoppers, since they would work more cheaply than the ants, the low wage still being a huge improvement over the welfare cheque that had previously enabled his “carefree” life.

This had unexpected consequences for the ant. One day, the factory foreman came up to him. “I’m sorry, Mr. Ant,” he said, trying to avoid eye contact. “I’m going to have to let you go.” Not long after losing his job, the ant became ill, he’d contracted cancer through exposure at his job. Because of deregulation and tort reform, the ant had no legal recourse.

Unfortunately, his health insurance had lapsed after he lost his job. While on a waiting list, he was last seen hanging out in an alley, filthy and wearing a “will work for food” sign.

This was eventually the fate of the grasshopper as well. One day the wasp who owned the factory decided that he could make even more money by closing the factory and opening a new one overseas, in a developing country, where the grasshoppers will work for even less money and the government environmental and safety regulations are even less “burdensome”. And the wasp lived happily ever after.

The moral of this story? Not everything is as simple as it seems. Also, that analogies with ants and grasshoppers end up being a bit batshit.

Brought to you with the help of Bushknew.

Also, vote smarter this election.

Image credit: Jun-Dai Bates-Kobashigawa

Celebrity Justice and Name Suppression

“Well-known comedian”

In case you’re not familiar, here’s a recap:

A television “comedian” gets drunk and comes home, his partner declines his sexual advances and goes to sleep. Later, their four-year-old daughter joins them in bed. He pulls down her pyjama pants and her pull-up nappy and sexually assaults her by way of oral sex (described ambiguously in recent news reports as kissing).

His partner wakes up to him doing this and the police get involved. The charges get shaken around in court (a charge of unlawful sexual connection with a child aged under 12 is taken off the table, along with the possibility of jail) and he pleads guilty to performing an indecent act on a child.

Things that irritate me regarding this case:

  • He says that he thought his daughter was his partner, which implies that this non-consensual sexual act would have been fine if it was performed on an adult (his partner had already said no earlier in the night).
  • He says that he thought his daughter was his partner, which implies that a four-year-old and a fully grown woman don’t have extremely obviously differences in body shape and size or that fully grown women wear pull-ups.
  • That the judge treats him like a victim because people know what he did. “Despite suppression orders it was widely known in his industry who he was and that had taken a toll on his career. He must have significant strength of character to deal with all of that.” She says that he’d “paid an extremely high price already”.
  • Alcohol being used as an excuse.
  • The judge felt it worth mentioning that the assault happened in front of the mother which she says is very “unusual”, as if that means it wasn’t real abuse because it didn’t happen in secret.

PaparazziHe gets discharged without conviction by Judge Philippa Cunningham. The Auckland Now and Dominion Post articles conflict as to if voluntary community work was imposed as a condition (and my definition of voluntary conflicts with theirs).

To add insult to injury, here’s part of her reasoning:

“He’s a talented New Zealander. He makes people laugh, and laughter’s an incredible medicine that we all need a lot of” and that the effects of a conviction “outweighed the gravity of the offending”.

What exact context these comments are in, I’m not sure, but they seem extremely stupid.

Yes, he must feel, quite frankly, shitty for doing what he did to his daughter, but to comment on what a funny guy he is and how disastrous a conviction would be for, I assume, his career…?

Is prison the right place for this guy? No. However, is being discharged without conviction the best choice? No.

But, maybe the discharge won’t stick. The Crown has gone to the High Court to seek a judicial review of the case.

Automatic Name Suppression

Steven Price reminds complainers that the name suppression in this case is automatic and is to protect the identity of the child.

Though Graeme Edgeler points out in the comments that there is a way to name the offender while still protecting the identity of the victim, something that crossed my mind too: if the media don’t report on the relationship between offender and victim, naming the offender won’t out the victim.

Déjà vu

Spot the differences (or more like spot the similarities) between the comedian case and this musician’s case1 (name suppression wasn’t automatic here though, and was dubiously granted).

“The man admitted a charge of inducing an indecent act but was discharged without conviction and given permanent name suppression on the grounds that naming him would affect his record and concert ticket sales.”

Alcohol was involved with the musician too: “He said the man has also addressed his attitude to alcohol”. The comedian: “The entertainer had since sworn off alcohol completely”.

And of course being convicted would adversely affect the musician’s career:

“A conviction would have an adverse affect on his chances to break into international markets.” “It would also have a negative impact on musicians that he performs with.” “Naming the man could destroy the man’s chances of succeeding overseas and could have a negative affect on New Zealand music overseas.”

Preferential treatment of celebrities? Of course not.

Side note: Google is either pretty smart, or someone puts in a bit of effort to influence related search terms in order to out people with name suppression.

1. Stuff took that article down, so here it is:

Teen victim slams musician’s name suppression
By JONATHAN MARSHALL – Sunday News
http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/news/3085484/Teen-victim-slams-musicians-name-suppression

THE TEENAGE girl attacked by a prominent entertainer has broken her silence, describing the musician as a “disgusting, self-righteous pig”.

And Brittany Cancian’s mother has also spoken out, saying the musician’s permanent name suppression was “totally disgusting”.

Brittany, 17, was in central Wellington on March 5 when two of her friends were led away with the drunk man around 3.30am. Brittany’s mother Racheal, of Lower Hutt, said her daughter was attacked by the man while she was checking on her friends.

“I think he’s an animal, when I heard what he had done I thought it was animalistic. He wasn’t at all gentle about it,” Racheal said.

“What happened has absolutely been downplayed. She never followed him down the alleyway. She went to see that her friends, who had followed him, were OK. She has quite a caring heart and she wanted to check on her mates. When she went around the corner he grabbed her.”

Earlier this month the Auckland District Court heard how the famous entertainer asked Brittany and her friends to “kiss my balls” before he grabbed the teenager’s head and pulled it towards his crotch. His genitals brushed Brittany’s face.

The man admitted a charge of inducing an indecent act but was discharged without conviction and given permanent name suppression on the grounds that naming him would affect his record and concert ticket sales. The charge carried a maximum jail term of two years.

The musician was ordered to pay $5000 reparation to Brittany, who is yet to receive the money.

Racheal said police never asked her or Brittany if they wanted the man’s name suppression application opposed. Court documents reveal police maintained a “neutral” position on the matter.

“As a mother I am disgusted that he could get name suppression and I’m disgusted that he could do this to my daughter.”

Brittany said in a statement that the entertainer should have been named so other females could be “wary” of him.

Brittany and her mother’s comments come just days after the Law Commission released a report recommending an overhaul of New Zealand’s name suppression system to make it harder for offenders to keep their names secret.

Commission president Sir Geoffrey Palmer said if recommendations in the report had been adopted by the government prior to the musician’s court appearance, he “certainly would not” have received suppression.

“He would have to show extreme hardship and that is very difficult to do … that is hardship out of the ordinary, not ordinary hardship, and that is a much higher threshold than the law currently provides.”

“We all have to have equality before the law. The person who is a grave-digger has to be treated the same as a person who is an All Black.”

Asked whether families’ views on suppression should be taken into account, Justice Minister Simon Power said: “The issue of name suppression needs a very broad overhaul and I’m not closed to any suggestions.”

Racheal was reluctant to discuss why her daughter, aged 16 at the time, was out in central Wellington during the early morning.

“I don’t really want to go into that part but, yeah, she was quite naughty.”

The entertainer last week said he was “too busy” to be interviewed and had “no wish to discuss” the incident.
© 2009 Fairfax New Zealand Limited

Image credit: internets_dairy

New Zealand Driver Licence Age Changes

Update: My exemption was approved. Here’s what I wrote.

On August 1st changes were made to the graduated driver licensing system in New Zealand. The minimum age to apply for a driver licence changed from 15 to 16. That change and that the restricted age was going up with it was fairly well publicized, but what wasn’t was that the age to get a full licence also changed. This Nelson Mail/Stuff article [now offline] doesn’t mention changes to the full licence age at all. This Timaru Herald article stops at the restricted changes too. The latest AA magazine, the Winter 2011 edition of AA Directions, only talks about the changes to the learner age. Not surprisingly, people are confused. I’ve written about the NZTA being unclear before.

Exemptions

Modarres Highway, TehranHowever, if someone already paid for their licence test before August 1st, they get around the changes. If you missed out by ~10 days, you have to apply for an exemption to get your licence in the previous time frame, which seems simple at first. The NZTA says they “will grant you an exemption,” basically if you would have been able to get your licence under the guidelines before the changes and if you have a “clean driving record.”

You have to pay a non-refundable $27.20 fee, which covers the processing(???) of the application.

Not everyone is a lawyer

The exemption form (PDF) contains some complicated questions. It seems unfair to expect teenagers to be able to competently answer them.

What have you done to mitigate the risks to road safety? and

How has the legislative requirement been substantially complied with and why is further compliance unnecessary? or
What action have you taken or provision have you made that is as effective or more effective than actual compliance with the legislative requirement? or
How are the legislated requirements clearly unreasonable or inappropriate in your case? or
What events have occurred to make the legislated requirements unnecessary or inappropriate in your case?

Can someone just write “I have a clean driving record?”

Publicity

With the Zero alcohol limit Facebook adtexting ban there were advertisements in newspapers, plus it was covered well by the media. A couple of days ago I saw a Facebook ad about the new blood alcohol limit for young drivers. Excellent. But I had no idea that the changes to the driving age could affect people on their restricted licence from moving to their full licence until after the changes came into effect, and I’m in that target audience.

“The NZTA issued a media statement and launched a new web page with information when the changes were announced, followed up by reminder statements over the past couple of weeks – the changes were flagged as one of the main news stories on our website homepage for several weeks.”

“The info has been available from the homepage of the NZTA website – www.nzta.govt.nz, as well as from www.practice.co.nz (site for restricted [sic] drivers and their parents), and www.safeteendriver.co.nz

The media didn’t seem to pick up on the affect the changes have on restricted drivers until after the changes. I think the new web page meant is Safe Teen Driver, which is a site for the parents of restricted drivers. Unless that site has been modified since the changes, it doesn’t seem like, after a quick browse, there is any mention of the changes. Teenagers aren’t checking the NZTA website. The Practice website is for learner drivers and my issue is the with lack of communication to restricted drivers about changes that affect them.

RRFC

Now I understand why articles end up saying something along the lines of “there was no response after repeated requests for comment.”

Questions I asked via email on whether the NZTA thought the exemption questions were reasonable to be asking young people, whether having a clean driving record is a good enough reason for getting an exemption, whether information about changes was advertised in newspapers, on TV and through social media, and what the money from the fee for applying for an exemption actually goes towards remain unanswered. I was directed to the NZTA website for full information on applying for exemptions.

I did, however, get sent statistics that in July there were around 17,500 learner licence tests conducted compared to around 10,000 in “a normal month” and that there was a 15% increase in 15-year-olds applying to sit learner licences since May when the change was announced. I’m not sure if this takes into account the fact that there were school holidays in July. The pass rate was also up from “the recent average of around 60%” to 67%. I asked for statistics on restricted and full licenses because I think there was a lack of attention given to those age changes, not the learner licence age change. I am yet to have been sent those statistics.

I have to apply for an exemption to get my full licence. What should I write, and what second question should I choose?

Image credit: Hamed Saber

The National Interest of Foreign Espionage

A van was crushed by rubble following the February Canterbury earthquake, containing Israeli tourists. One of them, Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi, was killed instantly. Michal Friedman, Liron Sadeh and Guy Yurdan escaped. It’s been revealed that Israeli involvement after the quake has been investigated by the SIS and the police.

Fact checking

What appears to be the original Southland Times article that broke the investigation seems to have been poorly fact checked and shows a lack of editorial oversight. Shemi Tzur, Israeli’s ambassador in the South Pacific is said to have flown from Australia, where he is based, except a quick Google search shows that he is actually based in Wellington.

The same article talks about a piece of suspected Russian malware named “agent.btz” and says that “attempts to remove the malware have so far been unsuccessful”, which gives the impression that the computers of the United States Military are still infected. The next part of the sentence states that “new, more potent variations of agent.btz are still appearing”, so what is probably meant is that attempts to eliminate the malware out of existence have been unsuccessful, which isn’t surprising considering the nature of malware and software in general.

Red flags

9000 passports!James Bond cameras

The Southland Times article says that Ofer Mizrahi “was reportedly found to be carrying at least five passports.” John Key said “according to his information, Mizrahi was found with only one passport”, of European origin.

The group of three that left Christchurch gave Israeli representatives his Israeli passport. So that makes at least two passports.

Shemi Tzur says that he was handed Ofer’s effects and they contained “more than one passport.” Does that makes at least three passports or does this include the Israeli passport handed off at the airport?

He says it’s common for Israelis to have dual citizenship because Israeli passports aren’t welcome in some countries, which is understandable. However that doesn’t explain why Ofer was traveling with both/multiple passports—I am an expert thanks to watching Border Security on TV and conclude that less eyebrows would be raised at an airport if, when searched, someone wasn’t in the possession of more than one passport.

12 hours

Passport stamps

Within 12 hours of the quake the three remaining Israelis had evacuated Christchurch, driven to the airport by Shemi Tzur himself.

This raised eyebrows because they left Ofer behind in the van, but in their defense there was nothing they could have done and it wasn’t like they were leaving someone injured behind. Guy Yurdan, one of the three, said that Ofer was killed instantly.

The advice from many countries to citizens in Christchurch would have been to get out of there as soon as possible. The potential lack of accommodation, food, and water, plus the risk of further aftershocks would have supported their decision to leave as quickly as possible.

A mysterious seventh Israeli

Concerns were raised about a “mysterious seventh Israeli” who was in New Zealand illegally and was reported missing after the earthquake, but weeks later was reported to have left the country. Not sure whether there was anything suspicious about the person apart from their visa situation.

Five Facebook likes

A Facebook tribute page for Ofer came to the attention of investigators because it only had five likes over four months (now 32). Apparently many Israelis don’t have social network accounts. Perhaps those on Facebook who knew Ofer didn’t know of the page? It seems a stretch to say that this is suspicious.

Four phone calls

It’s been reported that Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu phoned John Key four times on the day of the earthquake. John Key says that they only actually spoke once in “those first days.” It seems reasonable that a Prime Minister is hard to get hold of, especially during a state of emergency. I’m not sure what the significance of prime ministers calling each other is, I assume representatives from many countries spoke to John Key as a result of the earthquake.

Two search and rescue teamsMission control

There was reportedly one Israeli search and rescue team but then there were two? Either way it seems at least one either wasn’t allowed access to the red zone or was removed from the red zone by armed personnel. According to Shemi Tzur, a team was sent by the parents of Ofer Levy (other Ofer?) and Gabi Ingel, two Israelis who died in the earthquake.

The article says “Israeli families reacted that way when their children needed help anywhere in the world, often because it was demanded by insurance companies.” Insurance companies often demand that families hire and fly to a foreign country private search and rescue teams when search and rescue is already underway by the country?

Strange.

Perhaps stranger is Hilik Magnus, who runs the search and rescue company in question, Magnus International Search & Rescue:

“He served in the Israel Defence Forces in an elite paratrooper battalion specializing in special operations. He fought in the Attrition War, first lebanon war and the Yom Kippur War, remained a reserve officer for twenty years and served also in the intelligence community.”

Stranger?

Their team entered the red zone “accompanied by police, only to retrieve the personal effects of two people who died.” “There was only one rescue team and it was allowed inside the red zone to accompany police to retrieve backpacks belonging to Mr Levy and Mr Ingel.”

One Israel Civil Defense Chief

The Southland Times article says “In the hours after the 6.3 quake struck: Israel’s civil defence chief left Israel for Christchurch.” The New Zealand Herald reports that Matan Vilnai did visit Christchurch, but nine days later. And not from Israel, but from Australia where he was for a visit.

This doesn’t seem suspicious.

A groups of forensic analysts

An Israeli forensic analysis team sent by the Israeli government worked on victim identification in the morgue. A security audit of the national police computer database was ordered after someone connected that the analysts could have accessed it. The police say that their system is secure. Someone from the SIS says that it could be compromised with a USB drive:

“An SIS officer said it would take only moments for a USB drive to be inserted in a police computer terminal and for a program allowing remote backdoor access to be loaded.”—Stuff

It’s questionable why USB access would even be enabled on computers that have access to such confidential material.

Why New Zealand?

Intelligence

Gordon Thomas, who has written about Mossad says that Mossad trainees, possibly picked during compulsory military service, were usually planted overseas in groups of four. He says that the CIA and MI6 have offices in Auckland and have “held high-level meetings with New Zealand spy bosses”. They want to know what sparked the SIS investigation, what investigations were carried out and what passports the group possessed. He thinks New Zealand is a credible Mossad target because al Qaeda cells could expand into the Pacific Rim. Israel would want to know what our intelligence agencies know, what they are sharing and how good they are at getting information.

He says that Mossad has a reputation for using students as agents and that using two couples is “standard Mossad operation style. The reason they have a man and a woman … it’s easy to pass unnoticed, unchallenged, and the woman acts as back-up.”Passport

Passports

New Zealand passports are readily accepted around the world. Anyone gaining one who had nefarious purposes would likely face no contest at a border. Paul Buchanan, who has worked at the Pentagon says that it’s unlikely the four were Mossad agents because of their age and the apparent low-level task of passport fraud they were undertaking, but they might have been recruits operating as sayanins, the Hebrew word for helper. He says that after the September earthquake, Christchurch may have been seen as a good target to get names of New Zealanders to use for false passports.

 

The three survivors from the van gave an interview to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, days after the earthquake. It would seem unlike spies to put themselves out in the public eye like that, but maybe that’s reverse psychology. Who knows.

Image credits: Ian Rutherford, Ludovic Bertron, J Aaron Farr, Tom Raftery

The Case of the Compulsory iPad

Decile-nine Orewa College has told parents the iPad 2 will be a compulsory stationery item for all year nine pupils next year.—Stuff

Except that’s not what they said. The letter (pdf) they sent out to parents says a one to one computing device will be required. They list the examples of laptops, netbooks, tablets or iPads.

The decision has been criticized because the college recommends the iPad over the other options and it costs a fair amount of money. The reasons for (pdf) favoring one device—the iPad are clear: teachers and students can support each other easily if they are all familiar with the device, the applications available are vast and battery life is long.

$799?!

One Laptop Per Child BhutanThe lowest priced netbook I could quickly find was one from Dick Smith at $375. Will a student be disadvantaged if they get a cheaper device instead, like a netbook?  I doubt it.

The content from most if not all educational applications in the Apple Application Store will be available somewhere on the Internet. Students will probably end up teaching the teacher how to use his or her iPad. Those without iPads be fine working out their device themselves and Googling solutions to issues as they come up—actually relevant problem solving? Devices with keyboards are arguably easier to type on compared to a device that only offers a touch screen. Issues with battery life won’t be a huge issue—I envision power boards to be plentiful.

iPad 3

How parents deal with updates to the iPad will be interesting to watch, but any update won’t damage the existing features of the iPad 2: strong battery life, large selection of applications and Wi-Fi access.

Usefulness

It has to be said that an iPad isn’t like other stationery. I don’t regularly pull out my compulsory $100 graphics calculator for fun-times around the dinner table. iPads are different. Sharing skills will be tested as everyone in the family wants to use it.

Controversy

What I find interesting is that the first letter is dated June 24th and discussion with parents was going on for 4+ weeks before then. The media are only reporting on this now. It seems like none of the parents involved have had a huge issue with it—no one went to the media straight away.

Orewa College is a decile-nine school, the second highest decile available to schools. It means students generally come from a high socio-economic background. The vast majority of parents won’t have a problem finding the money for a one to one device, and the school has provided options to spread the cost out—“We have enclosed information on purchasing options from Cyclone Computers, that are approximately $10 per week.”

There’s still time for parents to choose for their year eight students to attend a different high school. But it’s a slippery slope when that is the proposed solution to potential issues with a child’s local school and is reminiscent of Brown v. Board.

Congratulations Orewa College for moving forward. Let’s hope that future schools won’t have to go through this when they choose to make one to one devices compulsory.

Image credit: Laihiuyeung Ryanne

“So how do you feel about your light bulbs being stolen?”

Arie Smith-Voorkamp was the face of Christchurch earthquake looting because of the media attention he received. He made it onto at least one of the <insert bad thing here> the [email protected]@#%^## Facebook groups. Shame on the looters! There is no excuse. Who are they to pick on the poor people of Christchurch?

The loot

The story gets interesting when you find out what he is alleged to have stolen. Two light bulbs from an untenanted and vacant building. Police describe the nature of the offending as serious and say that there is a strong public interest in the case. Arie was in jail for 11 days.

Asperger’sEarthquake Damaged Building

Arie has Asperger’s syndrome which fuels his obsession for all things electrical, including old light fittings. “Sometimes I get that excited about it sometimes I can’t sleep.” He had walked past the building many times, and became fixated on a switch in the shop. Once inside he found that the switch was too modern, but found two light bulbs that he thought he could clean up and display in his house. He says he was not thinking about theft, or the danger he was placing himself in.

Sunday programme

The Sunday programme ran a story about Arie last week, which seemed to excite the Police. Canterbury Central Police Area Commander Inspector Derek Erasmus suggested to the building owners they call TVNZ to try to stop the story going to air.

“On Friday the Sunday programme received an email from Inspector Erasmus advising us that we were under criminal investigation in relation to our story. So we’ll keep you updated on that.”

The victims

Building owners Andrew and Irene Matsis didn’t even know about the “theft” until Sunday contacted them for the story. This seems to contradict the Police calling the offending serious. Surely in serious offending the victims would actually be notified.

“Well since Sunday interviewed the Matsis’ a fortnight ago, senior Police have visited the couple twice. The first time Thursday and again Friday. On Thursday in a press release Inspector Derek Erasmus, said the Matsis’ were now happy for the case to proceed to court, where the matter should be resolved. Sunday spoke to Andrew Matsis just hours ago, he’s happy for the case to go to court but hopes Arie’s name will be cleared.”

On the programme, Andrew says if he knew about the alleged looting he would’ve been angry at Arie for putting himself in danger, not for pinching anything.

Andrew and Irene say they would not have pressed charges if they were contacted by the Police. The interview resulted in the hilarious question: “So… how do you feel about your lightbulbs being stolen?” to which Irene replied: “We do not care about our lightbulbs, he’s welcome to them. And you can tell the Police, I mean we have more important things [to deal with, our] house is falling down and we’re going to worry about light bulbs? No.”

I know stealing is stealing (though is it in this case if the building owners say he is welcome to the light bulbs, abeit after the fact?), but common sense dictates there is a better use of court time and money than to make an example out of someone who offended as a result of a documented disability, who has an unblemished criminal record, and who has already served jail time just because he took a couple of lighting fixtures.

Andrew Matsis: You said you never had any other history of doing anything like that before?
Arie Smith-Voorkamp: No.
AM: First time with the Police?
ASV: Yes.
AM: And they make a court case. What a waste of money.

What do you think? Is there no excuse for looting, no matter the situation?

Image credit: Me

Judging a Book By Its Cover

A book on the deaths of the Kahui Twins, written by Ian Wishart in conjunction with Macsyna King, is going to be released soon. A bookshop advisory on new titles was leaked to TVNZ and publicity around the book started earlier than intended, unfortunately directly coinciding with the inquest into the death of the twins.

A Facebook group is calling for the boycott of the book, and apparently the boycott of shops who choose to sell the book, and a couple of bookstores listened. From reading some of the comments on the page, it is clear that some commenters are misinformed. Paper Plus and The Warehouse have both said that their stores won’t be stocking the book. Whitcoulls is still considering whether it will or not. Paper Plus chief executive Rob Smith said: “The health and wellbeing of children is always front of our mind when we are faced with decisions which might impact the stores and the communities in which they operate”. It’s not clear to me how stocking a book not intended for children, and which doesn’t encourage child abuse would impact the health and wellbeing of children. There actually isn’t a clear reason why the book is harmful at all, nor is there a clear reason why it shouldn’t be stocked, apart from “we don’t like it/Macsyna”. Like Steven Price says, no one has actually read the book, how can they make an informed decision that they don’t like it?

Censorship causes blindnessMacsyna King cooperated with the police and was a prosecution witness, she hasn’t just decided to speak now. She isn’t profiting from the book either, Ian says: “Apart from sharing a Domino’s pizza during lunch, Macsyna has never received anything nor will she.” Ian will earn money for the book, but points out that researching and publishing a book takes time and money and that media organizations get paid for their reporting too (apologies if there’s a country block on the video): “When I worked for TVNZ, I earned a six figure salary to do investigations into cases like this one. I had the luxury of expenses being covered, helicopters at my beck and call, and lots of lovely advertising to pay for all this.”

Books like Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler (Amazon, Book Depository) are stocked not because the sellers agree with the content, or approve of the author, but because as a society we value all viewpoints, although don’t necessarily agree with them.

Booksellers New Zealand, which represents Paper Plus and many others, says such a move is rare, and dangerous.

“It would be an attack on democracy if we started banning books that some people didn’t like,” said Booksellers. “It’s a matter of personal choice and it’s something we cherish in our democracy”.

Perhaps ironically, criticism was directed towards family members who didn’t want to speak out at the time of the death of the twins. Now someone is speaking out and people don’t want to listen to her. It’s great that companies are taking feedback into consideration, but maybe this a case of the loud minority being listened to. Boycotting a book by deciding not to buy it yourself is fine, but those people shouldn’t make a decision on behalf of everyone else. Macsyna King wants to shed some light on how her lifestyle was molded, maybe we should be listening.

Do you think the book should be stocked? Will you read it?

Image credit: Tracey R