Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Arbitrary Justice in New Zealand

An article on the Fairfax Media website yesterday reported that the New Zealand Police had seized over a million dollars of assets from a gang leader that were allegedly the proceeds of crimes for which the Police had not been able to gain a conviction. This struck me as an example of how far our legal system had departed from the principles on which our law was founded.

The Police investigated and prosecuted a gang leader for money laundering, presumably (although the article does not specifically say) in relation to the proceeds of illegal drug sales. They failed to gain a conviction in two trials - the first ended in a hung jury, the second a not guilty verdict - and yet obtained a court order under the so-called Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act to seize the offender's assets. They justified this on the grounds that the gang leader could not produce evidence of a legitimate source of income to account for having the assets. The Police claim to have seized $390 million in assets since 2009 in similar cases.

This law is wrong on so many levels. Firstly, it reverses the presumption of innocence, requiring the accused to prove his assets are not the proceeds of a criminal act. Secondly, it is double jeopardy - having been unable to prove their case against the accused, the Police get a second (or in this case, a third) bite of the apple in bringing criminal sanctions. Thirdly, it is a form of arbitrary justice in which the Police are hardly a neutral party in determining the penalty. These things are all contrary to the principles of natural justice and the rule of law that underlie our legal system and that derive from the English liberal traditions and hard-won constitutional protections dating back to the Magna Carta.

I don't have any personal sympathy for the gang leader in question, who belongs to the notoriously violent Mongrel Mob, but I believe we should judge all laws by the standard of whether they adhere to principles by which we ourselves would want to be judged. There is a very good reason why civilised societies have held to the principles of natural justice and the rule of law and in their absence we would be entirely at the mercy of the whims of politicians, bureaucrats, and their armed enforcers in the Police.

Those who support such powers should ask themselves if they would be able to prove that all their assets came from legitimate sources if the onus was on them to do so.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Olympic Tedium

What has happened to the Olympics? There was a time when I would be glued to the television screen for two weeks, hanging onto the words of the commentators as I watched New Zealand olympians in what seemed like titanic struggles for medal glory. But this time the Olympics are just tedious to me, and going by the number of similar comments I have had from others both in New Zealand and internationally, it seems that the ennui isn't confined to me. I think the culprits are the Olympics themselves and the mainstream media that covers them.

It all started with the opening ceremony. Almost as soon as I had turned on the television, I realised it was a mistake. The opening ceremonies have always been a little kitsch but they seem to be getting whackier and tackier with each successive olympiad. Worst of all, they are becoming a platform for political propaganda. The London Olympics were the nadir for this with their awful celebration of the appalling National Health Service (which produces far worse survival rates of all common forms of cancer compared with the US or Europe) and Rio followed suit by heavily laying on an environmental propaganda theme. I thought it was more than a little hypocritical for a country that is known as the biggest destroyer of rain forest on Earth, and a city that is so polluted that many athletes are worried for their health, to be lecturing us about protecting the environment.

The events themselves are part of the problem. The Olympic organisers, not happy with hosting the world's biggest sporting event, seem intent on becoming the pinnacle event of all sports. Thus we see sports that have their own major international championship events, such as tennis, golf and soccer, being incorporated into an already crowded programme. The number of withdrawals of prominent players prior to the Olympics, and the lacklustre performance of some of the leading names in these sports, indicates that the players themselves do not regard the Olympics as the premier competition in their sport. If an Olympic gold medal doesn't mean as much as winning a grand slam, major championship or World Cup, why would you have those sports in the Olympics?

Finally, there was the media coverage. Here in New Zealand, pay TV operator Sky Television has the exclusive rights to screen the Rio Olympics. Sky has provided a minimal amount of coverage on its free-to-air channel, Prime, but that coverage is so appalling I have given up trying to watch it. A typical segment of the Olympics on Prime is 30 seconds of the sporting event followed by five minutes of interviews with the athletes, followed by four minutes of advertisements. Athletes are not the most interesting people when interviewed (they are clearly not selected for their eloquence) and subjecting us to much more of them yabbering to the camera than doing their running or swimming or riding is, for a sports lover, a mild form of torture. I can only imagine that it is a cunning strategy by Sky to get more subscribers for their subscription-based coverage.

I have paid so little attention to these Olympics as a result of all of the above that I couldn't tell you how many gold medals New Zealand has at this time, or who won them. And sadly, I don't care. Roll on the US Open Tennis Championship, a sporting event I can get excited about.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Another Good Man Falls to the Feminazis

So, another good man has fallen to the Feminazis. Kevin Roberts, the chairman of advertising company Saatchi and Saatchi, has been forced to resign for the terrible sin of saying that gender diversity was not a problem in his company (which, incidentally, has a 50/50 gender split) and that not all creative types, men or women, aspire to be chief executives. For these supposedly horrible, discriminatory views, he has been hounded out of his job.

This incident parallels that of scientist Sir Tim Hunt, who committed the equally terrible crime of telling a conference audience in Korea that he had a problem with women in the laboratory because he tended to fall in love with them and vice versa. The fact that Sir Tim in fact met his own wife in the laboratory, where they fell in love with each other, is all the proof that anyone would need that it was a personal joke that he was sharing with the audience, not a commentary on women scientists in general. Unfortunately none of this mattered to the Feminazis and Hunt's spineless employers who destroyed his career while he was on a flight back to the United Kingdom.

The obsession with achieving complete gender equality in the workplace is unfair to both women and men. The reports of large gaps between what men and women earn are very misleading, as this report by Pew Research states. The reality is that women on average are paid less than men for some quite legitimate reasons - they may work less hours than men, take more holidays, take significant breaks from their careers to have children, and aspire less to the most senior (and most stressful) jobs in an organisation. In other words, many women (and men) make lifestyle choices that compromise their earning ability.

The issue is illustrated well in grand slam tennis competitions, which now have equal prize money for men and women. But is that really fair? Men play for the best of five sets in grand slams whereas women play for best of three sets. This actually means that on average men are on the court for twice as long as women during a tournament. Men's games also get more spectators and television viewing audiences, and therefore earn more revenue for the tournament, so in relation to hours played and tournament revenue earned, the men are actually paid much less than the women.

I am a father of daughters and I want to see them get the best opportunities in life, but I think knee-capping men, and pushing women into roles they may not aspire to, is not the way to achieve that. As someone who has worked in senior management for a large multi-national company, I know that such roles are not for everyone. There are many capable women at the top levels of private and public sector organisations, but that does not mean that every female candidate is as capable to fill every role as every male candidate. Individuals should be promoted on their merits, not according to some ill-conceived quota that does not take into account the multitude of personal factors that determine each candidates suitability for the role.