Hard News by Russell Brown

The P Devil

I guess if I was Steve Williams' lawyer I'd have my client say "the P made me do it" too. It certainly makes for good headlines. But what's his excuse for the other 88 convictions?

In an editorial, the Waikato Times listed the familiar slate of P crimes, added poor little Coral Burrows and intoned that "given the increasing rise in the use of amphetamines, they are unlikely to be the last." The Dom Post offered a story headed P - Coral's real killer?

There is no doubt that Williams' P binges made a violent man more violent, and more capable of beating his stepdaughter to death in a blind rage. Heavy use of the drug must surely have altered his personality for ill. But it's not the root of the problem and if you think it is, you're missing the point. Darren McDonald, after all, was never likely to injure anyone but himself in the course of his celebrity methamphetamine addiction, and people will still kill children without the assistance of drugs.

An NZPA story this morning provides a fairly startling insight, however: Williams own father was shot dead by his partner as he tried to stab her adult son in, yes, a blind rage. No one appears to have addressed the possibility that the mental illness of Williams Snr was also visited on the son, either by heredity or environment. As touchy-feely-social-worker as it might sound, there was a cycle of violence.

Coral also, it has to be noted, grew up in a household where violence was not unknown, and where it was considered normal, even healthy, to hit kids for being naughty. In the family's own, chilling words to government do-gooders: "we don't need or want your help or interference with smacking our children - when they are obedient little angels all the time ... we will stop smacking them." I don't think a family that let this happen has a right to that kind of indignation.

I wonder if the-drugs-made-me-do-it has become an excuse for all kinds of behaviour - it certainly seemed that way in the Sturm case, with its unstupefied but apparently powerless complainants. There is, in the end, another P: Personal responsibility.

Speaking of losing the plot, don't expect to hear too much from Mike King for a while. Having had what was by all accounts a handsome bollocking from Tony Holden this week, King is under instructions to keep it zipped.

So it appears that talking about the weather is no longer a safe haven: it's just a bit too scary. Both tropical downpours and droughts will be the South Pacific's lot from global warming.

Salam Pax has a new Guardian column, about the pro-resistance DVD selling like the hot bread of Bab al-Agha in the markets of Baghdad.

Anyway, cheerier things: I caught the Phoenix Foundation last night. They were good - sort of Beta Band meets Bressa Creeting cake - for the first hour but sounded pretty much the same over the course of the next. Break out the vocoders, lads.

End-of-year exhausted as I am, I've been cancelling most engagements (I'll get around to answering your email, probably) but a bunch of us caught The Chills at the King's Arms last Saturday - a good, solid gig - and, having become somewhat excitable over the course of the evening, I headed downtown with Big Gay Paul, who got us into The Met and Code (not much different from the old Cardiac, but a younger crowd) and then took me to Flesh, where I haven't set foot since it was the more heterosexually-oriented Squid. It was actually the best club I've been to in a while: but why do they let in so many girls?