2007: the year of law and order. Those Saudis don't pamper their criminals. Never mind fourteen convictions for drink-driving before you go to jail, or three strikes and you're out. They just go for the doctor. You pinch someone's purse; you get your hand lopped off.
And guess what? They might be on to something.
Look at this story from last Sunday's paper:
Graeme Burton will be the first new amputee in the prison system in at least 30 years.
I hope I understand the report correctly: not one amputee has been sent to the Big House in this country in thirty years.
Thirty! That would make it 1977. I was still in High School. I couldn't count how many amputees I've met since then, but it seems to me there are plenty of them about. I can't think of even one I didn't like.
So what are we dealing with here? Nature or nurture? Do only well-behaved people encounter the misfortune of losing a limb, or - assuming it sometimes happens to an evil-doer, does the loss of the limb make them well-behaved?
There are the simple practical explanations, to be sure: You can't get caught with your fingers in the till if you don't have any.
Losing a leg is clearly going to slow Burton down. Again from the Sunday Star Times:
Above knee artificial limbs extended up to the person's hip and were almost impossible to run on because of discomfort.
"I think even the slowest cops would be able to catch him," said Mitchell.
Let us now dip our toes in a tributary of the great policy river known as Eugenics. Who's up for a little ambulance at the top of the cliff in our law and order policy? How about an ambulance at the top of the cliff that could lop off a limb or two?
Pre-emptive intervention is what I'm talking about. It could be just a trial, to begin with. You pick out a few really bad buggers, and lop off a hand or a foot or something, and then track them. See if they don't straighten up and fly right.
This could be huge. You could see the crime figures just plummet.
Perhaps I'm a little more permissive in this area of policy - I was considering an elective shortening of a body part of my own last year, after all - but I see an opportunity here and frankly, I have a dream. I see empty feather-bedded prisons in Ngawha, Paremoremo and Mt Crawford, prison doors all swinging in the gentle breeze, the occasional LCD TV tuned to the Sky Arts Channel. Not a crim in sight, just Simon Power and a TV crew traipsing forlornly around the site, rooting around for signs of departmental ineptitude and waste.
I have given this some careful study and by that I mean I have just spent five minutes on Google, and it has been most instructive. Amputees and prison really are like oil and water.
In Phoenix, my browser tells me, Deborah Lynn Quinn is the envy of 26,000 convicted criminals doing time in Arizona prisons.
She was sentenced to a year inside for violating probation on a charge of attempting to sell marijuana, but now the state's top corrections official wants to kick her out of prison and send her home.
Why? Because she is almost entirely disabled. She has no arms, no right leg and a partial left leg, and she needs a battery-powered wheelchair to get around. They can't afford to keep her in there.
The answer is there for a bold politician. And look: if you take it up as a platform, even God will be on your side. Click over to this site where you will find the answer to that question we must all surely have pondered at some point: Why won't God heal amputees?
It's a revelation.