Second thoughts on boot camp: Yesterday I wrote about the government's new law and order policies targeting youth offending. Although I doubted that it would work, I did say that it couldn't be any worse than locking them up. However, I always reserve the right to change my mind at short notice, and now I think that the boot camp model is a terrible idea. Why? Well, any policy that gets this much support on "Your Views" must be a disaster waiting to happen.
Our 'waning' love affair with gambling: At the risk of seeming to have a personal vendetta, I must once again point your attention to an article on gambling rates by none other than Simon Collins, social affairs reporter. "New figures confirm that New Zealanders' love affair with gambling is running out of steam," he begins, lovingly turning two cliches into a wonderful mixed metaphor. Now that would be bad enough, but the rest of the article is full of what might charitably be called 'creative interpretations' of the actual statistics.
The average New Zealander lost $478.30 on gambling in the last year-to-June - I lost $0, which presumably means that one of you lost $956.60 - a massive $1.35 less than the previous year. So that's my first problem - I personally would say that the amounts stayed pretty much the same, rather than 'waned', but then I'm no social affairs reporter. It's not the only dodgy use of this statistic - a lot of the variation in per capita gambling losses since 2004 has apparently been due to the law banning smoking in public spaces, rather than people wanting to gamble any more or less for any other reason. I mean, you could tell everyone that when you sit at a pokie machine you will get an electric shock each time you push the 'play' button - but if gambling losses went down after that, it might tell you more about our aversion to electric shocks than our "waning love affair with gambling." What's more, although pokie losses were down a huge 1.3% in the last period, losses on sports and racing betting were up 1.4%, and Lotto and its ilk scammed an extra 4.7% from the gullible and the weak of will. So, to stay with Mr Collins's extended love affair analogy, it's all a bit like a guy who tells his girlfriend that he just doesn't want to be seeing anyone at the moment, and then immediately shacks up with another bird. Now that's journalism.
Pointing and laughing at the SST: This isn't really anything that happened today, but a letter to the editor reminded me to laugh at the Sensible Sentencing Trust - basically a group that complains publicly whenever a convicted criminal doesn't get the chair. There's a lot that's funny/annoying about them: their euphemistic name (sensible = long and in some kind of pit); their ubiquity in the media whenever a "controversial" sentence is handed down. OK, that's only two things. But the recent big news was that the SST's bluff was rather spectacularly called by the trial and sentencing of Bruce Emery, the middle-aged, middle-class white man who chased a 15-year-old boy with a knife after he had seen the youth tagging outside Emery's property. Emery chased the boy and his friend 300 metres down the road, until the boy fell over - at which point Emery fatally stabbed him, walked back home, cleaned the knife and failed to call either an ambulance or the police.
Enough has been said about whether or not the verdict (he was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter) and the sentence (4 years and 3 months, considerably below the median sentence for manslaughter) were just; what I found interesting was the SST's reaction. It was the ultimate dilemma for the group. Do they side with the victim of a violent crime, whose killer was given just over four years in prison, minus parole? Or do they side with the middle-class white man - no doubt the main demographic of the SST's members and supporters - who took the law into his own hands against a teenage Maori vandal? As it happened, they nailed their colours firmly to the mast by coming down on the side of the latter. Garth McVicar, the spokesman, claimed (possibly for the first time ever) that the violent killer should not have gone to prison at all. So let's all point and laugh at the Sensible Sentencing Trust, and hope that this is the beginning of the end of lazy journalists padding out their law and order articles by quoting this reprehensible hypocrite.
Reading comprehension: Robert Muldoon was known for three things: being Prime Minister of New Zealand; being a bit of a bastard; and a knack for the brilliant, withering putdown. And calling a snap election while drunk. OK, so that's four things. Anyway, one of his famous quotes was this, about the continued emigration of New Zealanders to Australia: "New Zealanders who move to Australia raise the intelligence [or IQ] of both countries." Australian readers may have to read that sentence a couple of times; unfortunately, the marketing staff at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia don't seem to have done so. Their ad in the Herald today starts with a large, bold reproduction of the above quote, before encouraging potential emigrants to open an Australian bank account with them before they leave - apparently this is what "the most intelligent Kiwis" do. Now, what I suspect is going on here is that the marketing people got a little tricky for their own good. In an attempt at a nudge-nudge-wink-wink joke at the expense of Australians (ie New Zealanders will be raising the intelligence there), they have missed Muldoon's main point: that only the stupidest New Zealanders would want to move to Australia in the first place. Ironically, the bank has gone on to prove the other part of Muldoon's conjecture.
Weekly Viva watch: And the award for most bizarre reference to the effects of the recession goes to.... Viva!: "If the recession is getting you down or just making you anxious, may we suggest buying this sculptured cactus water fountain by Danish designer Steffen Schmelling?" What the hell? Yes, take heed Fisher & Paykel employees and Telecom call centre staff: go and spend your severance money on a designer fountain - a snap at $344. Unfortunately, from the photo the fountain doesn't look big enough to drown yourself in.
On the next page, in the same 'advertorial', is this gem: "Environmental consciousness is an everyday thing for some people, but often it's hard to apply laudable principles right across our lives." It's lucky then that a company is now making hair brushes from sustainable wood - the ultimate in passionate commitment to saving the planet. Obviously I have nothing against using sustainable wood, but what are other brushes made out of? Tropical hardwoods, just for the hell of it? And just in case you thought you would be sacrificing brush quality for warm fuzzies, the bristles contain "crystal ions to recondition hair". Well that's a relief.
Wednesday is the worst day of the week: it means there is a whole week until the next Viva.