Tag Archives: Political Correctness

Political Correctness in Coroners’ Courts

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Filed under New Zealand, Random Grumps & Raves, Rights and Responsibility, The Demise of Democracy and Freedom
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The NZ Herald reports here that a coroner has recommended that a licence should be needed to hire nail guns – a move labeled an overreaction by DIYers.

William McLay, 56, was found dead in his Kapiti Coast home by police in March 2009.  He had hired a Ramset nail gun from Hire Equip two days before his death.

In July 2012, Coroner Ian Smith concluded that Mr McLay, who was unemployed and had a history of anxiety and depression, committed suicide.  The coroner has recommended to the Government that people who want to a hire nail guns be required to produce a licence to operate such equipment.

He noted that he had dealt with other cases involving the tools.

Now, Coroners inquests in New Zealand are inquisitorial; they are fact-finding exercises.  They establish cause of death, and if the coroner finds that there is something we could change that would significantly reduce the likelihood of similar occurrences without other undesirable consequences, he or she may make a recommendation.  In this case, Mr McLay killed himself with the nail gun.  A gun, eh?!  Guns are deadly, says Ian Smith. All guns should be licensed and heavily restricted.  After all, just look at what happened here.  Nail guns can be hired freely, and William McLay took advantage of that, hired a nail gun and committed suicide with it.  Obviously the only remedy is to introduce yet another restriction, yet another control, yet another compliance cost, to the nanny/school-marm state!  It is the only politically correct thing to do.  Right?

If we followed Ian Smith’s recommendation and  legislated to require licensing of all nail gun users, what consequences would we expect?

  • Well, it would inconvenience DIYers, who would either face the compliance cost of obtaining a licence, or would no longer have the option of hiring a nail gun for their larger projects.
  • For some, lacking the nail gun option might prevent them altogether from doing all but the smallest DIY projects.
  • It would increase the work-load of the licensing examiners and bureaucrats, thus increasing their numbers, inflating the compliance  costs and possibly forcing increases in taxes and rates.

What consequence should we not expect?

Any reduction in our suicide rates.  It might, just might, reduce the likelihood of the  choice  of a  nail gun as  a suicide method, but would  not prevent the seriously depressed from ending it all.  There  were other avenues open to McLay.

In fact, if the coroner  recommended restricting access to ropes, cutlery, power tools of all sorts, streams, rivers, oceans, all bridges more than one metre above the surface, gas heaters, razor  blades, rat poison, motor vehicles,  ladders, petrol, LPG, pool chlorine  and anything remotely capable of causing death, it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference to the suicide rate.

It would merely make our lives even more difficult and costly than the nanny and school-marm state zealots  have so far succeeded in achieving.

 

“Proportional Representation” is actually Disproportionate

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Filed under Politics, Random Grumps & Raves, Rights and Responsibility, The Demise of Democracy and Freedom
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In the traditional FPP (First-past-the-Post) system, the candidate receiving the most votes is elected.  And even though most electorate candidates are chosen by the party heirarchy, at least the voters in the electorate can chose between them.  Poorly performing MPs can be voted right out of parliament, and they face the vote every three years.

Unlike NZ, Britain retains the traditional system.  A recent referendum overwhelmingly rejected a form of proportional representation called the Alternative Vote, which is similar to the STV (Single Transferable Vote) system used in Australia.  Both systems require voters to rank candidates in order of preference, and if no candidate scores more than 50% of the vote, a formula is applied counting up all the preferential votes.  The result can be the election of candidate who was the first choice of very few voters, but the most popular second choice.  In other words, nobody gets what they wanted.

NZ’s MMP system at least does not have that drawback.  Each voter votes twice – one vote for the member for his or her electorate, and one party vote.  The elected members representing each constituency are still chosen by FPP according to the electorate votes, so the one with the most votes wins.  “Proportional” representation is supposedly achieved by having list MPs.  A party that wins no electorate seats must achieve at least 5% of the overall party vote before it has any MPs in parliament.  The total number of  MPs for each party in parliament (electoral plus list MPs) is proportional to the party’s share of the overall “party vote”.  So MMP has another advantage – it is not vulnerable to gerrymandering.

But it does have other drawbacks.

Any party with 5% or more of the overall party vote will have 5% or more of the MPs in parliament.  Thus, small parties that may possibly never gain an electoral seat in parliament can be represented there by one or more list MPs.  Gee, that sounds fair.  Bingo – proportional representation!

Except that it is not really proportional.  The result of MMP is a much higher likelihood of coalition government, in which no major party gains a clear majority and so must go into coalition with one or more other parties in order to form a government.  Because they wish to maintain public perception of their points of difference, the major mainstream parties do not form coalitions with each other.  Inevitably, the coalitions are formed with one main party and one or more minor ones.  And that is why the representation of the minor party is in fact disproportionate.  A minor party in coalition with a major one has a proportional share of the total seats, but much more that a proportional voice in parliament – it has real power.  Because the price it demands for of going into coalition is the promise of the major partner to promote and vote for an agreed set of its policies or private member’s bills.  It is, remember, a minor party.  If  only 5% of voters have given it their party vote, there is no assurance that the 95% of those who did not do so actually accept its policies.  Yet with this arrangement, some of them will become law.  The tail ends up wagging the dog – a recipe for bad law and bad government.

It has another major drawback.  List MPs are never directly elected by the voters – the public has no opportunity to chose who is in an who is out.  Each party creates its own list of potential list MPs, in order of party preference.  When all the party votes are counted and the numbers allocated to each successful party, the seats are allocated strictly in party list order.   And naturally the parties tend to stack the top order of the list with MPs they want to retain, even if the public rejects them.  The top of the order is usually occupied by senior electorate MPs, to keep their positions safe regardless of what the voters might prefer.  In effect, MPs at the top of the list can almost never be voted out.  That can hardly be called democracy.  MMP should be scrapped – it is neither truly proportional nor truly democratic.

The NZ Herald thinks otherwise.  After the British result, and in anticipation of the forthcoming NZ referendum on the future of MMP, the Herald has published an editorial (see Appendix) calling for the survival of MMP.  The Herald firmly believes it is a Good Thing, giving the voters of NZ the government they want.  The Herald article even says that “tails have not wagged dogs”.  I disagree, firmly.

Were it not for MMP, NZ First, the Greens, the Maori Party and ACT either would never have been represented in parliament or would have had only a couple of seats.  Under the cosy coalition arrangements with MMP, this is the reality:

  • In coalition with Labour, NZ First’s Winston Peters scored the plum role of Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Hardly the choice of the NZ voter!
  • In coalition with Labour, the Green’s Sue Bradford rammed through the most hated legislation in NZ history, the unnecessary and totally ineffective anti-smacking bill that has had zero effect on child abuse.
  • In coalition with National and against the wishes of almost everybody, the Maori Party has overturned the Foreshore and Seabed act

God knows what will happen if ACT under Brash forms a coalition with National after the forthcoming elections.

Appendix – the Herald Editorial:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10724716

A Judge who thinks NZ Murderers don’t really mean it

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Filed under Random Grumps & Raves
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On Tuesday 8 March 2011, Justice Joseph Williams sentenced Rikki Leigh Scott Ngatai-Check, 23, to life imprisonment, with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years, for kicking a two-year old toddler to death for wetting his pants.  Seventeen years before he can even apply for parole.  That’s pretty strong these days, when our penal systems are organised on the precept that all criminals are basically good guys, who need only TLC and rehabilitation to set them right, in spite of our appalling rate of criminal recidivism.

The sentence is deservedly strong.  Here is the shocking sequence of events, transcribed from the NZ Herald report:

The murderer was in charge of the little boy, who slept on the couch while Ngatai-Check spotted cannabis with a friend.  The boy woke up wet.

Ngatai-Check spun the child around, slamming him into a coffee table.  The impact broke the child’s ribs, causing internal bleeding.  The caring killer took the wounded boy to the toilet and left him there, while he went to the bedroom to play video games.

Five or ten minutes later, the boy came into the bedroom, trailing toilet paper.  Ngatai-Check sat up and planted a roundhouse style kick in the boy’s stomach, tearing internal tissue.  Then he kicked him again, ramming him against the wardrobe door.  This time the impact split the boy’s pancreas.

Ngatai-Check then took the boy to hospital, where he died.

One might expect the judge’s words to be at least as strong as the sentence.  One would be wrong.  This is what Justice Joseph Williams said:

“You did a monstrous thing, but I do not think you are a monster.  No one says you intended to kill Karl”.

Noting that Ngatai-Check had no previous history of violent behaviour, the judge said the stress of his hidden relationship was possibly made worse on the day because “you probably didn’t want baby Karl dumped on you again and just wanted to chill out”.  Moreover, Justice Williams said beatings from a stepfather when he was young had taught Ngatai-Check that children should “harden up”.  The judge noted further that in later years Ngatai-Check had been in the shadows of the Wanganui drug and gang scene, which normalised brutality. There, “violence is not just OK, it is downright cool”.

But the judge said there were “sadly too many cases like this”, in which adults abused the trust of vulnerable children – some much worse than Ngatai-Check’s.  He also stressed that the mandatory 17-year non-parole period was introduced by Parliament as a reminder that “these little people are at our mercy. We can so easily kill them”.

In NZ, murder means unlawful deliberate homicide.  Intent must be established to the satisfaction of the jury for a murder conviction to be obtained.  Yet here we have a sentencing judge who states that the killer, poor little Rikki Ngatai-Check, did not intend the killing, that he is a victim of his upbringing and gang lifestyle, wanted nothing more sinister than to chill out, and is receiving the heavy sentence only because an act of parliament made it mandatory!

What on earth is the judge thinking of?  All I can offer is a very astute quote from a Daily Telegraph blog posting by a British journalist, James Delingpole:

“We no longer understand or value our civilisation; indeed many of us feel rather embarrassed about it. We have been taught to view all our great historical achievements through a filter of post-colonial guilt; we have learned the weasel art of cultural relativism where, in their own special way, cultures that practise female circumcision and bury homosexuals under walls are just as vibrant, valid and meaningful as the one that gave us Michelangelo, penicillin and the splitting of the atom; we’ve been persuaded that elitism and authority are undesirable”.

Judges like Williams may be part of the reason that Parliament found it necessary to impose a seventeen-year minimum parole period for child-murderers.  I am sad that it was necessary, but glad they did so.  Frankly, I wish they would do so for all murders.