Posts by Rex Widerstrom

  • Hard News: Doing over the witness, in reply to Terry Baucher,

    Seriously though the police [are] too willing to be biddable.


    Not getting at you personally Terry, but I've had things said and done to me that leave me without a shadow of a doubt that the Police are entirely biddable by their political masters, and that a damaging and quite improper level of "we'll turn a blind eye if you do" goes on.

    It's all about, for the Police, more resources and more freedom (always at our expense) through increased statutory power and little or no proper oversight. When was the last time a Commissioner said "we've quite enough power under XY Act to deal with this, we don't need any more thanks"? Yet this is usually the case, even with terror-related activity.

    In return, Police enforce ridiculous laws without complaint (e.g. marijuana cultivation and possession) but which allow politicians to proselytise about being "tough on crime and the causes of crime", and those which they know to be ineffective but which add to the government's coffers (e.g. speed cameras). And most importantly, of course, find it's almost never "in the public interest" to prosecute wrongdoing by politicians unless, like Philip Field, they're too much of an embarrassment and a sacrificial scalp is needed.

    Perth, Western Australia • Since Nov 2006 • 157 posts Report

  • OnPoint: Sunlight Resistance, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    I think you're right, Andrew.

    Which is why I've always taken a very Reithian view of the media's role as being to "inform, educate and entertain". Unfortunately, to suggest that the public need educating is seen as elitist / snobbish / "beltway" (where did that come from, anyway? It's being bandied about now as if it provides irrefutable evidence of the fact that the manufacturing of sausages doesn't matter, only how good they taste and what they look like in the butcher's window).

    Whether our politicians are misusing the immense weight of state power to crush individuals is something everyone should be concerned about, because it's been shown that all one needs to do to warrant it is to question whether one's receiving the correct benefit entitlement, or being treated fairly by ACC, or even simply doing the job of a public servant. Those are circumstances in which thousands of people find themselves every day, and so are potentially victims.

    It's probably not a popular view, but I think the Gallery's major failing was in giving it's audience too much credit. "It can't happen to me / my family / anyone I care a fig about" is the first hurdle I encounter when trying to change minds on justice policy and redressing wrongful accusations or convictions.

    Often, pointing out it happened to me is enough to prompt a rethink. At other times I have to join the dots. "Do you have a son? Does he go out on the town with his mates? Well what if..."

    The Gallery did an excellent job of covering the facts, a good job of communicating the outrage of educated observers, but a poor job in driving home how that might affect the voter, or someone close to them. As I said, I don't think they saw that as their job, and for very good reason. But it can be done, apolitically, even by referring back to the blots on the record of the "other lot" if necessary. And it needs to be done.

    We can't cede the realm of decency and integrity in political life simply because too many of our fellow citizens have lost sight of why it matters.

    Perth, Western Australia • Since Nov 2006 • 157 posts Report

  • Hard News: How a thing happens, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    But there are frequencies and then there's frequencies. The ones that had coverage of a viable population catchment were bought by the existing operators who had either the cash needed or the assets against which to borrow. They bought not only the frequencies on which they were operating at the time but also any which a start-up might have been able to use to offer a viable alternative to the pap they were churning out.

    Hence the current dearth of choice in talk radio as is being bemoaned here. Anyone who wanted to start a station was forced to give it a go on a frequency which either power rating or geography confined to an unviable market. I know a few people who gave it a go, and produced more vibrant radio than the networked dross coming out of (mostly) Auckland, but failed because they would never have enough sets of ears to sell to advertisers even if they were the number one rated station within their relatively tiny coverage area.

    Most advertising buys are national, and why would you muck round buying time on the locally operated station, even if it had the most listeners in some backblocks town, when a national buy on Dross FM will get you on the second or third rated station, and the rest of the country?

    What intrigues me is that a truly free market would see, first, a show rating 2.8% canned, let alone when it halved its audience. And it would see a station which dropped 40% of its audience between surveys shut down and/or sold off at a bargain price to someone who hopefully had a clue how to manage it.

    Does Mediaworks really believe, after years of lacklustre ratings despite paying ridiculous amounts to "controversial" hosts with little or no experience of the medium, that a reversal of fortune will occur?

    Perth, Western Australia • Since Nov 2006 • 157 posts Report

  • Hard News: Cultures and violence, in reply to James W,

    I wonder what people make of this, from Season 5, Episode 1 of "Screenwipe", reviewing a British version of "High School Musical" called "Brittania High":

    "It's like a spawning point for enemies in a video game. It's the sort of place you'd be happy to circle with frag grenades for about six hours, sending limbs flying through the air, finishing off the survivors with a rail gun blast to the temple... The main characters, or 'targets' as I like to think of them..."

    About 9'24" in here. Before this latest tragedy, obviously, but made after several of the other school shootings.

    I can imagine a teenager who felt ostracised by the popular kids at their school projecting onto the saccharine characters in that show their anger at their classmates and then, if they happened to catch Brooker, being prompted to fantasise the frag grenade / rail gun scenario.

    Don't get me wrong, I like Charlie Brooker and spend many an hour watching his stuff. But I find it a little ironic that he advocates self-censorship by news media in the clip to which James links, but seems not to have considered whether this approach to the topic was the most appropriate - given I can think of many non-violent options he could have gone for (and indeed uses one earlier in the same piece, when he suggests the windows of Brittania High should be bricked up while the students are inside).

    Perth, Western Australia • Since Nov 2006 • 157 posts Report

  • Hard News: Like Minds, in reply to Sacha,

    That’s all you need.

    But do not get. Otherwise by now we’d have widespread acknowledgement amongst police that an indigenous youth’s refusal to make prolonged eye contact is a sign of respect in that culture, not defiance. (Or it’s wilful ignorance. Same difference).

    Otherwise you’re heading for unpleasant territory.

    I take your point. But given that “sensitivity” and “police” are rarely found in a sentence (other than one which accuses the latter of lacking the former) and given that, IMHO, that’s never going to change… which is more unpleasant: discreet labelling or being treated like Arie and having the perpetrators get away with it by saying “we didn’t notice anything unusual”?

    At least then we could impose an objective procedure which must be followed by an officer once a suspect identified as suffering a mental disability, just as when they discover the “drunk” they’re about to throw in the tank is wearing a Medic Alert bracelet identifying them as diabetic.

    I’m not sure of the position in NZ nowadays but over here the list of conditions you are obliged to report include ADD/ADHD, depression and “other mental health problems, like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, psychosis”.

    While the specific issue isn’t enumerated on the licence itself, confess to (or be reported as having) one of those conditions and your licence is endorsed “must take medication as prescribed by a medical practitioner” – which is of course just a tip-off to the officer who’s just pulled you over that he’s dealing with a “nutter”, because he certainly isn’t qualified to know whether or not you’re on your meds. So in effect the labelling, here at least, is already taking place; what’s lacking is the procedures to protect the vulnerable. And ownership of the labelling process by those affected.

    Perth, Western Australia • Since Nov 2006 • 157 posts Report

  • Hard News: Like Minds,

    (From the link provided earlier by Russell):

    For some people, it may be worth printing an autism handout...

    Before I'd read that, the idle thought had crossed my mind that perhaps people on the autism spectrum may benefit from some sort of "medic alert bracelet", but that made me uneasy round issues of attaching labels etc.

    But I wonder if it wouldn't be possible to have (optionally, so they could choose not to) an annotation on one's drivers licence? After all, I'm obliged to have noted on mine that I'm a danger to other road users without my glasses on and most sensible people* understand that a person with AS is as blameworthy for their condition as I am for mine.

    Or would that, too, be considered overly intrusive into the person's privacy? Personally I'd rather see a bit of privacy** traded for an appropriate and non-aggressive response from police, but that's just my perspective.

    * And one would hope cops would receive some training so they were sensible about this, at least.

    ** The persons to whom you'd show your licence are few in number, and generally in some official capacity.

    Perth, Western Australia • Since Nov 2006 • 157 posts Report

  • Hard News: Like Minds, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Have you a stat somewhere to back this up?

    Data on the prevalence of mental illness (and yes, as Russell says autism isn’t, but is likely to show up in any survey of offenders’ mental health) is hard enough to come by, let alone something that tries to break down the various disabilities.

    Remarkably (at least to those like myself, cynical of the US justice system on the basis that it allows people like “Sheriff Joe” to operate) America seems to be ahead of the NZ, Australia, the UK and other Western countries, offering 250 “mental health courts" to the estimated 17 percent of offenders presenting with a mental illness or disability. Hopefully as their prevalence increases, reliable data will emerge as to the nature of their particular difficulties.

    In the meantime, I would refer you (and Russell, as it might be useful for the show) to the National Longitudinal Transition Study, another US initiative. It studies a huge range of factors affecting young people. In this pdf of Chapter 6 of the second NTLS, on page 98, Table 36, you’ll find data on “Comparisons between 1990 and 2005 of the arrest rates of youth out of high school up to 4 years, by disability category”.

    The categories include “learning disability”, “speech / language impairment”, “emotional disturbance” and the like, which broadens the purely mental illness focus of the data collected to date by “mental health courts”.

    It doesn’t, alas, give data specifically correlated to persons diagnosed somewhere on the AS scale, but it’s the closest I’ve come to uncovering valid research into the connection between a range of what I’d term (for want of a better term) “thought disorders” and offending amongst youth.

    It’s about time – past time, in fact – that NZ funded research which dug this deep into the causes of the supposed “wave of youth crime” beloved of politicians and foaming “sensible” lobbyists. I fondly hope that sentiment might find it’s way into Russell’s program…

    Perth, Western Australia • Since Nov 2006 • 157 posts Report

  • Muse: That Book, The Ban That Isn't,…, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I’d be more comfortable if they’d just made a commercial decision and owned that. Shifting responsibility to the tiny proportion of their user base that bothers to vote is hardly a brave move.

    The indolence of the majority de facto validates the retention of power by an elite? Errrrr.... I think not (he says in his most harrumphing tone).

    If the dozy majority don't like the decisions made by those of their fellows who are engaged and involved, then they'd damn well better get off their asses, inform themselves and vote. If they're happy to leave the decision making to those of us who are already informed and involved well, that's not as good but it's still better than leaving it to a handful of people who think they know best.

    That applies as much to Trade Me as to Parliament. So good on a commercial enterprise putting a decision affecting a tiny bit of revenue into the hands of those it's meant to serve. Now if only some truly important decisions would be divested by other institutions who cling to their belief in their innate superiority.

    Perth, Western Australia • Since Nov 2006 • 157 posts Report

  • Muse: OFF TOPIC: This Is What Your Brain…,

    Tearing up here, too... though more out of frustration. Which is not to deny the simple power and honesty of Senator Grisanti's speech. But this is the second such example I've stumbled upon in the debate in a single State legislature in the US. The other was GoP Senator Roy McDonald who said:

    Am I comfortable with my vote? It's changed. I was raised in a conservative household. Would my parents be OK with my vote? Yes. The only thing they would require of me is do the right thing. Do what you think is appropriate. That's it.

    And more pointedly, in a series of statements (some via reporters' tweets) that choked me up because I've yearned to hear this form of words used by a NZ legislator:

    You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn't black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing.

    You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, f--- it, I don't care what you think. I'm trying to do the right thing.

    I think I'm doing the right thing, it's the appropriate thing, and if the public respects that, I'm grateful. If they don't... then I move on...

    I'm tired of blowhard radio people, blowhard television people, blowhard newspapers. They can take the job & shove it."

    Is it that hard to lift your nose from the trough (or, in the example cited in the post, the pants-wetting thrill of being "politics' glamour girls" or whatever the hell schtick the media is running) and just do the right thing?

    If you're elected in NZ the answer, it seems, is "Yes".

    Perth, Western Australia • Since Nov 2006 • 157 posts Report

  • Hard News: That's Entertainment!,

    Well in light of the topic of the previous post I can only recommend a song, the lyrics of which manage to include:

    All research on successful drug policy shows
    That treatment should be increased
    And law enforcement decreased
    While abolishing minimum mandatory sentences

    and yet is still eminently listenable. I give you System of a Down, "Prison Song".

    Perth, Western Australia • Since Nov 2006 • 157 posts Report

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