Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies

.

ministry-of-truth-update

 

.

In the last few years,  my writing has involved a wide range of topics affecting the social/economic/political aspects of our nation. The one common factor in my writing has been the ability to  research facts and figures and put them into some usable context, either for evidential, or high-lighting purposes.

Offering an opinion that the government is hollowing-out Child,Youth, and Family is one thing. Carrying out research; finding information through the ‘net; asking specific questions using the Official Information Act are the means by which hard facts can be mined; refined; and presented to the reader in a form that presents a credible case to the audience. Stories such as  “State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?” and “Ongoing jobless tally” are put together using information, quotes, financial and statistical data.

Two stories late last year illustrated how National – with silence or active co-operation by compliant state-sector bosses – has been able to manipulate statistics to present a favourable public perception of it’s management of the country.

.

Media stories of the Week - Police Commissioner Mike Bush on dubious police practices

 

.

Though occassionally, the truth slips out, as Greg O’Connor revealed on TVNZ’s Q+A on 25 October, last year;

.

Weekend Revelations 3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics

.

Fudging statistics, numbers, facts, and dollar-figures is not isolated when it comes to this government. Only a few days ago, English was sprung giving false financial information relating to Sue Moroney’s paid-parental leave bill;

.

English admits maths error in bill veto defence

.

The Radio NZ report went on to state;

Ms Moroney challenged him about the figures in Parliament.

“Does he stand by his statement to Radio New Zealand on 17 June 2016 that extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks would add when it’s fully in place about $280 million a year.”

Mr English admitted he was incorrect and should have used the figures written in the veto certificate he himself had tabled.

“The government currently spends about $280m a year on paid parental leave, Labour’s proposal once fully implemented would cost around $120m per year on top of that – or $100m per year net of tax. Net of tax the proposal would cost $280m over the next four years.”

Ms Moroney then asked how Mr English got it so wrong.

He replied that he did so because he confused the $280m over four years, with $280m a year.

This is our Finance Minister confusing $280 million per year with over a four-year period. No wonder we’re over $60 billion in debt.

National has been crowing for the last few years that “crime has been falling“;

.

Offences at 24-year low, crime down for third year running

.

Even the Police Commissioner got in on the ‘act’;

.

Crime rate falls to 29-year low

.

A huge amount of hard work from our Police has gone into achieving these fantastic results,” said Tolley in 2013. “Fantastic” is right – as in fantasy-fantastic.

Because it did not take long before people started realising that the Police stats were dodgy, and most likely bogus.

This was confirmed by  outgoing Police Association President, Greg O’Conner, on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 25 October, in a very candid  interview with Michael Parkin.

On statistics,  Parkin referred  to  National and Police  trumpeting a 30% drop in crime. O’Conner responded wryly;

@3.10

“Well, it’s uh, lies, damned lies, and statistics. If you look at the crime stats, um, which is those recorded stats, you’ll say the government and police administration are right. If you look at the stats around calls for service, they’re the phone calls that police receive in communications centes, etc, and just an example, family violence, domestic disputes; up by 10% a year pretty much, and across the board, 20% increase. So it’s the calls for service, to the extent that the communications centres couldn’t manage last summer. There’s a fear, and we’re obviously we’re trying to make sure it doesn’t happen this year. So the two are going in completely different directions.”

Parkin pointedly asked if the statistics are being manipulated. O’Conner’s response  was startling in it’s honesty;

@3.55

“Of course they are. Every government department – I mean, what happens is that, the stats themselves are fair, but I mean I see it as a debate [like] about health, y’know, medical – the waitings lists have going down, but people get kicked of waiting lists and so it’s, you achieve – Put it this way, with crime stats, what we’ve set out to do is the way to cut crime stats is to hit your bulk crime. So if you have any success there, of course, that’s going to be big numbers down. And what you ignore is your small  numbers. You ignore, in fact, interestingly enough you ignore drugs. You ignore a lot of your serious stuff that you only find if you go looking. And in the past that’s got us into real trouble. Got us into trouble with the child abuse files, in particular, and you remember, that they were put aside. Because they weren’t politically known. They were business as usual. All of a sudden we were concentrating on the crime and crash reduction, um, and we ignored that stuff. And so you’ve got to be careful. And this is where the politicisation of policing is really dangerous. It’s not done by the Minister saying ‘you gotta do this and you gotta do that’, it’s done by funding.”

O’Conner’s scorn is confirmed by an event last year where one police district was caught out, red-handed, falsifying crime statistics. Seven hundred burglary offences “disappeared”;

.

Police made burglaries vanish - greg o'conner - national - crime statistics

.

Herald journalist, Eugene Bingham, reported;

“ It transpired others knew about the allegations around the same time, including the local MP and then-Minister of Justice, Judith Collins.”

.

Two-year search for 'ghost crimes' truth - greg o'conner - national - crime statistics

.

A police report “raised questions over pressures to meet crime reduction targets”, but Police were quick to assure that the fudged stats were “isolated“;

.

Police deny being caught out by false review claims - greg o'conner - national - crime statistics

.

“Isolated”? As far back as 2012, Police were issuing warnings for petty-crime, instead of prosecuting;

.

Warnings to petty crims 'freeing up police time'

.

Then-Police Commissioner Peter Marshall said;

“ These are 19,000 people who would otherwise go to court, who would clutter up the system in terms of court time, let alone police officers preparing prosecution files and spending time in court.”

So the policy of issuing warnings “freed up police time” and “un-clogged the Court system”?

It also created a drop in crime statistics.

How convenient.

The above Herald story, “Warnings to petty crims ‘freeing up police time’ ” appeared in the Herald in January 2012. So by April 2013, Police Minister Anne Tolley was able to say with (almost) a straight face;

“ These statistics show that our Police are getting it right, and I want to congratulate the Commissioner and all Police staff for their efforts in preventing crime and making communities safer.”

It’s easy to reduce crime. Just “massage” the stats  away.

“Massaging” statistics does not work for long, as current Police Commissioner Bush recently discovered;

.

Police concerned at national crime spike

.

(Listen also to Radio NZ Checkpoint interview (2′ 39″))

Both Police Minister Judith Collins and Commissioner Bush resorted to old-fashioned “spin” (aka “bullshitry”) to explain away this embarrassing development;

Police Commissioner Mike Bush told MPs at today’s Law and Order Select Committee the jump in crime had to be kept in perspective.

“Burglary rates are some of the lowest rates in over a decade, in recent times there has been an increase – now that concerns me,” the commissioner said.

Police Minister Judith Collins tried to put a positive spin on the jump in crime when speaking to reporters later.

“Well there may have been a slight bump in crime and I think the commissioner said that was most likely so, but I think what we’re seeing is if police go after drug offenders, that’s always going to be counting as offences,” she said.

On this basis, if  Police  did not arrest anyone; nor prosecuted anyone, there would be zero crime in New Zealand. According to statistics, anyway.

So much for one one National’s vaunted, lynch-pin policies;

.

National hoarding staying strong on crime

.

National’s ministers have never liked statistics. They have a tendency to show up the failings of this inept government. Who can forget then-Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett in August 2012 giving an explanation (of sorts) why her government was not willing to undertake measuring the poverty line;

.

measuring-poverty-line-not-a-priority-bennett

.

“ There is no official measure of poverty in New Zealand. The actual work to address poverty is perhaps what is most important. Children move in and out of poverty on a daily basis.”

Though how Bennett proposed to “address poverty” when she was fearful of even measuring it has never been fully explained.

But as we know, since Bennett’s decision, poverty has increased and stories of people living in garages, cars, and families crammed into over-crowded houses have come to light. Despite not being measured, poverty refuses to go away.

What an inconvenient, annoying nuisance.

On 29 June 2016, Statistics NZ announced that it would be changing the manner in which it defined a jobseeker;

Change: Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible.

Improvement: Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.

The statement went on to explain;

Change in key labour market estimates:

  • Decreases in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate

  • Changes to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate range from 0.1 to 0.6 percentage points. In the most recent published quarter (March 2016), the unemployment rate is revised down from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent 

  • Increases in the number of people not in the labour force 

  • Decreases in the size of the labour force and the labour force participation rate

The result of this change? At the stroke of a pen, unemployment fell from 5.7% to 5.2%.

Simply because if a person was job-searching using the internet they were “not actively seeking work“.

Which beggars belief as the majority of jobseekers will be using the internet. It is the 21st century – what else would they be using?

In fact, a government website – careersnz – states categorically;

.

careersnz - use the internet

.

Work and Income’s (WINZ) website states similarly;

.

work and income - where to look

.

On-line job advertising company, Seek,  reported a sharp rise in job adverts on their websites.

For the government statistician to unilaterally declare that “looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work” beggars belief. One might as well say that if a person admitted to hospital shows no outward signs of serious illness, then that person is obviously not sick.

When most jobs are advertised online – as stated by government agencies!!! – where else would one look for a job? By studying tea-leaves perhaps?

The result of Statistics NZ’s “improvements” by removing online job-hunting as job-seeking is obvious; the rate of unemployment dropped.

How surprising.

Stats NZ actually seemed pleased with the consequence;

Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.

How can “the counts of people unemployed” be “more accurate” if large numbers of unemployed are culled from the count?!?! In what Universe is this an accurate count to include some unemployed, but not others, for the most specious reason?

This makes no sense in terms of accurate statistics. To any sober person, an unemployed jobseeker is one who is;

  1. Unemployment
  2. Job-seeking

There is no rationale for arbitrarily removing job seekers who use the internet to seek work. Especially as two government departments encourage on-line searching because “most jobs in NZ are advertised online“.

There can only be one rational explanation: the unemployment statistics are inconvenient. Therefore change the parameters of the statistics.

This change to Statistics NZ is of considerable benefit to the National government. Their policies have consistently failed to reduced unemployment in a meaningful way.

The perception is that “strings have been pulled”; “whispers made into certain ears”; and Ministers’ expectations made clear to certain senior civil servants.

If all this is true, this would have to be one of the most under-hand things that National has done these last eight years. This would have to be one of the worst.

Aside from the fact that it is another in a long list of lies, bendy-truths, omissions, etc, this one is a wilful attempt to hide the consequences of their failing policies.

It was bad enough when Stats NZ defined being “employed” as;

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

* worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment

* worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative

If working one hour, without pay, is the minimum measure of being “employed”, then what must our true rate of unemployment actually be?

As much as possible, I deal with facts in my writing. But when supposedly independent, non-partisan, ostensibly-accurate data-collection and presentation is no longer a true reflection of reality, then we have reached a point where I am dealing in assumptions, half-facts, and outright distortions.

This government has done what few other Western democracies have achieved; a state of Orwellianism that Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, and other dictatorships required unrelenting brute force to achieve.

When it comes to National, believe nothing; question everything. Misinformation is policy.

Welcome – to National’s “Brighter Future”.

.

National-Party-Holds-Conference-Wellington-sJ7OyG8uc6Yl

.

.

Note: Some parts of this story are an excerpt from a previous blogpost,  Weekend Revelations #3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics.

.

.

.

References

TVNZ: Q+A – Police Association president steps down

Radio NZ: English admits maths error in bill veto defence

Beehive.govt.nz: Offences at 24-year low, crime down for third year running

NZ Herald: Crime rate falls to 29-year low

NZ Herald:  Police made burglaries vanish

NZ Herald:  Two-year search for ‘ghost crimes’ truth

NZ Herald:  Police deny being caught out by false review claims

NZ Herald: Warnings to petty crims ‘freeing up police time’

Radio NZ: Police concerned at national crime spike

Radio NZ: Checkpoint – Police concerned at national crime spike (audio)

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Revisions to labour market estimates

Careersnz: Job hunting tips

Work and Income: Where to look

Fairfax media: Wellington jobs advertised on Seek up 11 per cent over past year

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Definitions

Other Blogposts

Polity: English canards

The Daily Blog: To make the unemployment stats drop, Government now claims anyone looking for jobs on the internet isn’t unemployed

The Standard: The great big list of John Key’s big fat lies (UPDATED)

The Standard: “Post-truth” politics (and false equivalences)

Previous related blogposts

John Key’s “pinch of salt” style of telling the truth

National – self-censoring embarrassing statements?

Weekend Revelations #3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics

Media stories of the Week: Police Commissioner Mike Bush on dubious police practices

The Mendacities of Mr English – Fibbing from Finance Minister confirmed

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: The sale of Kiwibank eight years in the planning?

That was Then, This is Now #28 – John Key on transparency

.

.

.

dilbert_made_up_numbers

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 July 2016.

.

.

= fs =

National – self-censoring embarrassing statements?

.

ministry of truth update

.

There is  disturbing activity taking place on National’s website.  The Party is self-censoring itself and quietly, without fuss, removing certain embarrassing information from it’s website.

In the last few weeks, this blogger has been referencing quotes from Dear Leader Key on various issues.

One such quote was from John Key, who admitted that Labour left the country in a positive economic state to weather the oncoming 2007/08 Global Financial crisis;

“The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008. It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016. Without selling minority shares in five companies, it would rise to $78 billion. Our total investment liabilities, which cover both public and private liabilities, are $150 billion – one of the worst in the world because of the high levels of private debt in New Zealand.”

The original URL – http://www.national.org.nz/mixed-ownership.aspx – no longer links to the original page  on National’s website, and instead automatically refers the User to a general page on the website;

.

website - our programme

 

.

An alternative URL – http://old.national.org.nz/mixed-ownership.aspx – leads to a page on the National website that is mostly blank;

.

website - government share offer

.

An empty page signifying empty promises? Appropriate.

Whilst this blogger has no screen-shot captured from the original article, entitled “Mixed Ownership”, Google’s webcache has retained a copy of the deleted page;

.

Selling shares in five companies so we can invest in areas of need.

Responsibly managing the Government’s finances is one of National’s four priorities for this term in office.

We plan to offer minority shares in four energy companies and Air New Zealand to New Zealander investors, while retaining at least 51 per cent Government ownership.  This will help ensure the Government can spend money in areas of need – such as upgrading our hospitals and schools – without loading more debt on to our economy.

What is the Government’s share offer?

We’re going to change the ownership structure of five companies over the next three to five years, by offering shares to Kiwi investors.

This ownership structure is called mixed ownership, and we’re going to apply it to:

– Mighty River Power
– Meridian Energy
– Genesis Energy
– Solid Energy
– Air New Zealand, which is already successfully operating under mixed ownership.

The Government will maintain majority control of each company – at least 51 per cent – and New Zealanders will be at the front of the queue for the remaining shares.  In fact, we’ve made it law that no shareholder other than the Government can own more than 10 per cent of each company.

We expect selling minority stakes in the five companies will return between $5 billion and $7 billion to the Government.  In addition, the Government will continue to receive dividends on at least 51 per cent of each company.

This will broaden the pool of investments for New Zealand savers and deepen capital markets, helping Kiwi companies access the funds they need to grow.

Listing on the stock exchange will also provide stronger commercial discipline, transparency, and greater external oversight for these companies.  And it will give each company access to an alternative pool of capital for growth, other than the Government.

Mixed ownership is a win-win for New Zealanders and for the companies involved.  Our decision not to pursue “shares plus” provides certainty to investors about the future of the share programme.

New Zealanders will be at the front of the queue
We’ve always said that Kiwis will be at the front of the queue for shares in each company.  The Government will make buying shares easier for New Zealanders, while encouraging long-term share ownership.

To find out more about how we will achieve this, visit: www.governmentshareoffers.govt.nz 

Why partial share sales are important

More assets
Government assets are forecast to grow over the next four years, from $244 billion to $258 billion.  By selling less than 3 per cent of the Government’s total assets, we can inject between $5 billion and $7 billion into priority assets like schools, hospitals and other critical infrastructure New Zealanders need.  And we’ll be able to do this without loading more debt on to our economy.

Selling shares in these companies is not about reducing assets, it’s about finding a solution to help pay for their growth in coming years, while getting on top of debt.

We’ve established the Future Investment Fund, which will allow us to invest every single dollar raised through partial asset sales, in new assets.

In Budget 2012, we allocated the first $558.8 million from the Future Investment Fund for:

• Modernising schools – $33.8 million (of $1 billion total)
• Health sector needs, including redeveloping hospitals – $88.1 million
• Helping KiwiRail become commercially viable – $250 million
• Creation of the Advanced Technology Institute, to help New Zealand’s high-tech firms grow • $76 million for capital costs.

Controlling debt
Getting on top of debt – by responsibly managing the Government’s finances – is one of our priorities for this term in office.  Our economy is growing, new jobs are being created, and our public finances are improving. 

The Government’s partial share offers will free up between $5 billion and $7 billion that we can reinvest in taxpayers’ large and growing asset base, while reducing our need to take on extra debt to provide the important services New Zealanders need.

The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008.  It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016.  Without selling minority shares in five companies, it would rise to $78 billion.  Our total investment liabilities, which cover both public and private liabilities, are $150 billion – one of the worst in the world because of the high levels of private debt in New Zealand.

Like every household in New Zealand, we know how important it is to live within our means by budgeting carefully and deciding on our priorities.

Our programme of minority share offers means more assets with less debt.

More information

What effect will this have on power prices?
In the nine years Labour was in government, power prices went up 72 per cent – or an average of 8 per cent a year – and the Government owned 100 per cent of the assets. 

We believe it’s not who owns the energy companies that influences prices, but the regulatory environment, which the National-led Government changed to increase competition.

In our last term of government, we reformed electricity industry regulation, removed inefficiencies and brought rising generation costs under control.  Prices only increased by 14 per cent in National’s first term.

In addition, the very effective “What’s my number” campaign by the Electricity Authority has made it easier for Kiwis to understand the choices they have, and the savings they can make by shopping around for electricity. 

As a result, in the 12 months from May 2011 to April 2012, 422,256 customers changed electricity retailers (or an average of 35,188 each month).

We’re helping keep pressure on the companies to retain customers by offering competitive pricing.

Labour would load our economy with more debt
The opposition has resisted this policy at every stage, yet when they were last in office, Labour applied a mixed ownership model to Air New Zealand.

In addition, between 1984 and 1990 they sold off 100 per cent of $9 billion worth of state assets, including Telecom and the Post Office Bank.

By opposing the partial sale of shares in these companies, Labour is opposing investment in much-needed infrastructure and assets.  Their plans would see the Government borrowing $5 billion to $7 billion more from overseas lenders at a time when the world is awash with debt and consequent risk.  This is just another example of their irresponsible big-spending ways.

New Zealanders let them know what they thought of this at the last election.  Support for National, which campaigned on selling minority shares in five companies, increased at the 2011 election, while Labour received the worst party vote in its history.

.

Was the “Mixed Ownership” article removed from National’s website because it contained an embarrassing, inconvenient truth? Namely, that Key had acknowledged Labour’s capable stewardship of the country’s economy when he said,

“The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008.  It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016.  Without selling minority shares in five companies, it would rise to $78 billion…” 

Which was probably not helped when Key basically shafted his own government’s track record in debt when he added;

“Like every household in New Zealand, we know how important it is to live within our means by budgeting carefully and deciding on our priorities…”

No wonder the page was removed from National’s website. It had inadvertently  become a de facto election advertisement for the Labour Party.

The statement regarding “the level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008″ was already ‘making the rounds’ on the internet, as blogger after blogger was picking up on the statement and republishing it, as this Google search showed;

.

google - The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008.  It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016

.

So whoever decided to removed the page is too late. The cyber horse has well and truly ‘bolted’ and John Key’s comments will remain for a very long time. And very useful comments they are, to disprove the misleading, deceitful rubbish that certain fanatic National/ACT supporters bandy about.

Other items have also been removed from National’s website.

The URL – https://www.national.org.nz/files/2008/ECONOMY/Kiwisaver_Policy_Paper.pdf – leads to;

.

Kiwisaver_Policy_Paper

.

The URL – https://www.national.org.nz/files/2008/ECONOMY/Tax_Policy_Paper.pdf – leads to;

.

tax_Policy_Paper

.

Curiously though, Key’s 2006 speech to the  Shore National Party luncheon was seemingly so historically worthy of preservation, that it remains intact on the National Party website;

.

Speech to North Shore National Party luncheon screencap

 

.

Finally (?) the URL – http://www.national.org.nz/OOF/flyer.pdf – is  also a dead link;

.

national org flyer 170000 new jobs

 

.

It was an election flyer  bearing the promise that “National’s Brighter Future Plan will help businesses create 170,000 new jobs over the next four years“.

Now why would the Nats delete that page, I wonder?

.


 

References

Google cache: Mixed Ownership

Google Search: The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008. It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016

National Party: Kiwisaver Policy Paper

National Party: Tax Policy Paper

National Party: Speech to North Shore National Party luncheon

National Party: 170,000 New Jobs flyer

 


 

.

Kirk

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 May 2014.

.

.

= fs =

Some pure wisdom from Facebook…

28 December 2013 1 comment

Amongst all the dross, BS, and outright hoaxes, occasionally one finds something on the ‘net that is a little nugget of wisdom…

.

 

Hoax stories on the internet

.

*

.

Hat tip

Duncan Lucas

.

.

= fs =

USA, Vietnam, Peter Dunne – Pot, Kettle.

.

US criticizes Vietnam new Internet control decree

Source: NZ Herald – US criticizes Vietnam new Internet control decree

.

The US Embassy in Vietnam goes on to state,

“Fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do offline,” the embassy said in a statement. “We are deeply concerned by the decree’s provisions that appear to limit the types of information individuals can share via personal social media accounts and on websites.”

Source: IBID

Yes, of course our American cuzzies want the Vietnamese people to allow ”  information individuals can share via personal social media accounts and on websites”.

Then their National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s GCHQ can mine that data via their PRISM,  XKeyscore, and god-only-knows what other systems are used to store data on citizens.

.

XKeyscore - NSA tool collects 'nearly everything a user does on the internet'

Source: The Guardian – XKeyscore: NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’

.

The government of Vietnam is right to be concerned with what it’s citizens may put online. With British and American spy agencies trawling the planet for information, it is now a matter of national security that nations protect themselves from this illegal spying.  The internet poses a real danger to victims of this rampant,  out-of-control spying.

The sheer hypocrisy of the US Embassy when it piously states that    “Fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do offline” is breath-taking in arrogance.

It’s like Big Brother throwing a tanty when someone refuses to share their personal information, thus thwarting the spooks who are patiently waiting to hoover up the data.

Meanwhile, the Opposition parties, led by the Greens, have succeeded in stalling the passing of the GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill for two weeks.

Their ‘filibustering’ has successfully stalled the passing of the Bill, as this Radio NZ report explains,

.

Legislation covering the Government Communications Security Bureau won’t pass all the way through Parliament this week as had been hoped by the Government.

The bill is now in its committee stages, where MPs debate it clause by clause.  The opposition has employed delaying tactics since Question Time on Tuesday afternoon.  An urgent debate on the Fonterra contamination scare delayed the debate further.

The Government will have to wait at least two weeks to pass the controversial legislation.

Source: Radio NZ – GCSB bill won’t pass this week

This gives opponants to the GCSB and Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Amendment Bills an opportunity to grow opposition and to educate the public what is at stake.

As for Peter Dunne, who is complaining about protesters targetting his home – my sympathy for him is zero.

.

Dunne lashes back at noisy protesters

Source: Dominion Post – Dunne lashes back at noisy protesters

.

Protester, Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati is 100% quite right when she says that their presence is to  “to give him a taste of what it feels like to have your privacy intruded on“.

Mr Dunn doesn’t like being surveilled?

Neither do we.

Do the right thing, Mr Dunne – vote the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Amendment Bill and GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill down.

It’s the decent thing to do.

You still have time.

Don’t be John Key’s errand boy.

.

314770_10150396588331397_707526396_10526548_1193185338_n

.

What would George Orwell – author of ‘1984’ – have made of all this, I wonder?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 August 2013.

 

.

.

= fs =

Not so sensible justice

.

internet_lynch_mobs_Cleverbot_said_Im_correct-s391x337-96144-535

.

By now we should all be aware of the influence and power of the internet. It has allowed the world into our homes, workplaces, and lives, in an intimate way.

It can facilitate relationships; be a powerful tool for popular causes; assist the democratic process; and it can be a vital tool for rapid acquisition of information – a boon for bloggers like me.  On occassion it has allowed us to “meld” into a single, focused ‘mind’, to exert a  coherent action to affect the physical world.

It also has it’s much darker side. The internet can reflect the most base of human emotions; hatred, anger, paranoia, fanaticism, xenophobia,  a thirst for revenge, and other irrationalities.

Those who maintain that the internet is somehow less “real” than the physical world underestimate it’s influence in our lives.

I foresee the growth of a potential great evil, which will place incredible  pressures on our judicial system and perhaps even undermine it.

We have already witnessed individuals using the net to circumvent name suppression, or to foment mass-hysteria targetting  prominent individuals.

Soon after David Bain was found not guilty on five counts of murder in June 2009, at least one website sprang up vociferously maintaining his guilt, and several on-line fora were filled with strident commentary expressing all manner of irrational accusations.

It has been suggested that the concerted force of this stridency had a degree of  influence on Judith Collins throwing out Justice Binnie’s report and recommendations for compensation.

There was  the case of  far right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater, who in September 2010, wilfully broke name suppression of convicted New Zealanders, and in the process  identified the victim of a sex-abuse case. He justified his actions as being some kind of (mis-guided) campaign against name suppression. (See:  Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater guilty)

And recently there was the chap who published the names and images of those alleged to have attacked  cricketer,  Jesse Ryder.

Jordan Mason felt he could take it upon himself to “name and shame” the two men charged with assaulting Jesse Ryder – even though the pair have not yet been tried or convicted. (see: Jesse Ryder attack: Accused felt he had to ‘name and shame’ men)

Garth McVicar’s latest proposal is another step further along the road toward a dystopian near-future. One where  Cyber Mob ‘Justice’ holds undue influence on our judicial system,

.

Trust to launch website to 'name and shame' judges

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ: Trust to launch website to ‘name and shame’ judges

.

Garth McVicar’s populist vigilantee organisation, the so-called “Sensible Sentencing Trust” is planning a website that has one core function; to be an instrument of punitive reaction against judges who do not measure up to the Trust’s vision of retributive  ‘justice’.

This “Naming & Shaming” has one agenda only – to encourage and foment an influence on our judiciary that is separate from the law, and puts power into the hands of a small clique (McVicar and his cronies). It would exploit the lowest common denominator in our society – ignorance, fear, hatred, and a hunger for violent revenge – and exploit Mob Mentality to achieve it’s ends.

Who amongst us is  not disgusted by the vileness of  certain criminals and their horrific misdeeds. Our primal urge is to exact a fitting revenge – usually involving copious amounts of pain, and a much-shortened life-span. It’s an urge that lurks in the deepest recesses of our reptilian brains.

As a consequence of the socialising aspects of civilisation, we’ve left those urges (mostly) behind us. Though it can be useful when  governments plan  resource-wars against other nations.

The ‘net – as we also know – allows that veneer of civilisation to be stripped away and our primal instincts for punitive  revenge to surface and expressed in emotive terms. The cloak of anonymity can embolden the meekest.

Have a look at the political messageboard forum on TradeMe, and you’ll understand what I mean.

McVicar’s group understand the power of the ‘net to further their agenda for a more punitive society – and they are going hard out to achieve it.

On this issue, I stand with Justice Minister Judith Collins and Attorney-General Chris Finlayson;  who oppose this  ill-disguised step toward mob-”justice”.

Little wonder that the  New Zealand Bar Association condemned this lunatic idea,

We join with the Minister of Justice and the Attorney-General in condemning this proposal. The Bar Association regards the step as being ill-considered, totally unnecessary and likely to give rise to illegality as contempt of court.

What is being proposed amounts to little more than on-line talk back radio – likely to attract debate and comment of similar quality but with the added disadvantage (or advantage, depending upon one’s perspective) of being permanently available and accessible in the blogosphere.

Judges have an extremely difficult job. They are constantly required to make hard decisions under the mounting pressure of increasing case loads, exacerbated by diminishing resources. Their decisions are rightly the subject of appeal processes which are open and transparent. The daily work of a Judge in court is done publicly and is scrutinised by the news media. If the conduct of a judge is questioned, that conduct can be the subject of complaint to the Judicial Conduct Commissioner.

Acknowledgement: Scoop – NZBA President on Sensible Sentencing Trust Website Proposal

The author of this statement, Stephen Mills QC, added – and I emphasise the point,

In our society the freedom to criticise is a valued and protected right, but as with most rights there is concomitant responsibility. The responsibility here is that criticism of the judicial arm of our democracy must be responsible, accurate and measured. These characteristics are frequently absent on talk back radio and they are unlikely to be a feature of the invited public comment on this website, given its stated objective.

Making critical comments via email to a website affords the critic a degree of anonymity that is likely to encourage a lack of responsibility in what is said. This is likely to improperly and unfairly undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.

Acknowledgement: IBID

Understandably, the Bar Association has labelled McVicar’s dangerous idea as “irresponsible”  – because that it precisely what it is. The gradual  under-mining of the judiciary would become the inevitable  reality. Ultimately, no one could possibly benefit from this.

It is worthwhile to consider that there are sufficient numbers of disturbed individuals who could take the existence  of  such a website as a license for vigilanteeism. Even those with less nefarious intentions, acting with collective thought and “righteous”  belief, could place pressure on individual judges who would have little means to resist.

Remember the fuss made over the proposed  “Wellywood” sign on Wellington’s hills? This was the online response,

.

wellywood

Source: Google

.

Which lead to physical-world protest action,

.

Poll shows majority opposed to Wellywood sign

Acknowledgement: Otago Daily Times – Poll shows majority opposed to Wellywood sign

.

Now extrapolate into others areas of human activity.

Law enforcement and members of the judiciary are vulnerable.  As happened recently in the United States (though no evidence yet exists of  internet-vigilanteeism being a factor),

.

Texas district attorney third law official killed in weeks

Acknowledgement: BBC – Texas district attorney third law official killed in weeks

.

On 18 April, on Radio NZ’s Nine To Noon programme, Kathryn Ryan interviewed “Sensible Sentencing Trust” spokesperson, Garth McVicar. He told Kathryn,

“… So ultimately the way it’ll work is some of  the judges that are brought to our attention, and we do our due diligence and think, you know,  by our research that we believe they are consistently getting it consistently getting it wrong, they will be named on that  site, as will some of the previous history and some of the decisions they’ve made that we believe earn them the right to be on the site.”

Acknowledgement: Nine to Noon – “Judge the Judges” website to be launched

In other words – we have the potential for a witch-hunt for judges who, by McVicar’s “research that we believe they are consistently getting it consistently getting it wrong, [and] they will be named on that  site “.

Some obvious questions are,

  • Who decides the criteria of  McVicar’s stated “due diligence“?
  • Who will be tasked with bringing “judges… to our attention“?
  • Who decides what constitutes “consistently getting it wrong”?
  • Who decides what aspects of “previous history”  will “ earn them the right to be on the site“?
  • What right of appeal or response will judges be given? The right of appeal is the most basic of rights for a person accused of a “mis-deed”?
  • How will the information be presented?
  • How will judges be identified?
  • Who will be accountable if information is incorrect, or presented out of context?

This Web Vigilanteeism is an unpredented and dangerous road that McVicar and his mates are taking.

Later that same day, on Radio NZ’s Jim Mora’s panel-programme,  to a question from the Host as to how such a website could be moderated, Garth McVicar was at pains to reassure listeners,

“… I’m not sure if many of your listeners know Ruth Money but she’s no fool. And some of the people that are behind her and putting this together are no fools. So it will be well monitored. It won’t become a rant, for,  you know,  a rave site for people to rave on like some of the other sites I believe are. I don’t bother even  looking into them. This is going to maintain the credibility of the organisation… “

Radio NZ – The Panel with Irene Gardiner and Michael Deaker (Part 1)

Sorry – no. That’s not reassuring at all.  McVicar cannot control the end-use of any information that his group publishes on the web. Ruth Money (a SST administrator/spokesperson) may be “no fool” – but who knows about the state of mind of people rreading it?

And if a judge comes to harm – can the SST be held to account?

After all, they are demanding that judges be held to account.

Earlier in this piece, I wrote of the “growth of a potential great evil”.

My fear is that taken to it’s end-conclusion, ‘net-based “Justice” could begin to influence the judicial process more and more.  The day when citizens go on-line to ‘vote’ on the Guilt or Innocence of a person charged with a crime is a far-fetched fantasy.

I would like to keep it that way.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 April 2013.

.

*

.

References

Otago Daily Times – Poll shows majority opposed to Wellywood sign (24 May 2011)

BBC – Texas district attorney third law official killed in weeks (1 April 2013)

Scoop – NZBA President on Sensible Sentencing Trust Website Proposal (18 April 2013)

Radio NZ – Trust to launch website to ‘name and shame’ judges (18 April 2013)

Radio NZ – Nine to Noon – “Judge the Judges” website to be launched (18 April 2013, audio)

Radio NZ – The Panel with Irene Gardiner and Michael Deaker (Part 1) (18 April 2013, audio)

.

.

= fs =