Friday, April 10, 2009

Guilty until proven innocent, again

Since the election of the National government I increasingly find myself lining up with the Greens. Only they and the Maori Party opposed the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Bill. This is another 'guilty until proven innocent' adoption. Until now assets could only be confiscated on conviction of a crime. Now it will be possible to confiscate on suspicion.

From the Bill;

"Civil action will be able to target property that has been acquired as a result of unlawful activity even though it may not be possible to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the owner has committed a specific criminal offence."

Now law.

The powers of the state are quietly expanding under our noses. And I am devastated (not too strong a word) yet again, that the very party I thought would oppose this business strongly, voted yes. And it didn't even have to.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Appreciating Helen

I have been reflecting on Helen Clark's incumbency and how we should remember her.

In a nutshell Helen Clark re-grew the size and scope of government.

That's the same government that does a top job of running health, schools, the police, our defence force and ACC. The same government that unfailingly strengthens families with wonderful institutions like Working For Families, Paid Parental Leave, a non-work-tested DPB and laws that protect children. The same government that helped many more people onto sickness and invalid benefits. The same government that took a lot of our money, sometimes more than it needed, to make this the crime-free and prosperous country nobody wants to leave.

Some people just aren't trying hard enough to appreciate what Helen did.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Am I on another planet?

Yesterday I looked at conviction statistics and showed that violence has increased. Today I have sourced apprehension statistics to show the same. (Unfortunately these only go back to 1999.)

I then converted the apprehension numbers into rates per 1,000 of population and charted them against the unemployment rate.

One has been going up and one has been going down (until recently).

Revisiting what was posited yesterday in the New Zealand Herald about murder and violent crime;

Victoria University Institute of Criminology director Michael Rowe said the decline coincided with similar falls in violent crime in Australia, the United States and Britain since the early 1990s.

Unemployment has dropped since then in all three countries, until recently, as have the numbers in the most violence-prone group - males aged 15 to 29, who declined from 12.3 per cent of New Zealand's population in 1991 to 10 per cent in 2006.

Now there's a thing. We have more violent apprehensions per 1,000 while the most violence-prone age group is shrinking - relatively. Thank God we have an ageing population or that pink line would be even steeper.

No mystery

This is apparently "baffling";

Police figures recording domestic violence incidents over the past 10 years show a large dip every April.

"It's a significant drop, but it's still a high figure. From March it really takes a dive. Then it starts going rapidly up again in May and, by October, it's all on again."

Daylight saving.

District family violence co-ordinator Senior Sergeant Chris Bunyan said the April dip would be a great research subject. "If there was research that found what environmental factors caused it, maybe we could replicate this across other parts of the year.

Daylight saving. Just get rid of it.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Substance abuse - a growing reason for welfare dependence

Media Release

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The number of people on a sickness or invalid benefit, with a primary incapacity of substance abuse , has increased by 82 percent since 2002.

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell said that in June 2002 3,202 people relied on one of these benefits because of substance abuse. "Information just released to me from the Ministry of Social Development shows that number has risen to 5,838."

"During last year's election campaign people who work in this area told me that the problem was getting worse. These figures confirm that perception. Most of the increase has happened in the last two years."

"Sadly Maori are over-represented in the statistics once again. Of the 4,190 sickness beneficiaries with substance abuse as their primary incapacity, Maori account for 34 percent. "

"Geographically Canterbury has around ten percent of the country's total beneficiaries. But when it comes to reliance on an invalid's benefit for substance abuse it has 21 percent of the country's total."

The Ministry of Social Development says it works with these beneficiaries "...until all of the barriers to independence and employment are removed" but they cannot make clients undertake medical interventions.

Violence down?

According to Simon Collins at the New Zealand Herald;

New Zealand's murder rate appears to have almost halved in the past 20 years despite an overwhelming public belief that crime has got worse....The murder rate is regarded as one of the best measures of trends in actual violent crime, because it is least likely to be affected by changing police policies or public attitudes which are believed to have affected recent family violence statistics.

Collins is basing his observation on police statistics. He continues;

The rate leapt to an average of 21 murders per million people annually from 1985 to 1992, but has dropped steadily ever since.

However there are difficulties in using police stats as described in the article.

Based on conviction statistics using Statistics NZ table builder, from 1985 to 1992 the average annual number of convictions for murder was 27.9, with an average population of 3.375 million, provides a rate of 8.27 per 1 million.

Staying with convictions and the same source, the rate from 2000 - 2007 is 5.93.

Lower but hardly half.

As with car crashes, which I have argued more people are surviving, more people are probably surviving the trauma of assault. So rather than just murder, let's look at overall violence, which by the way, academics are convinced is an affect of unemployment.

Again, sticking with conviction statistics for violence, assuming the worst offending results in a custodial sentence, you can see that there are much lower numbers over the period of high unemployment with a steady rise from 2002.

And just for confirmation, let's look at Police statistics. Importantly these show the recorded rates of violent crime climbing from around 68 per 10,000 of population in 1988 to 140.4 in 2008.

So in summary, for whatever reason, the murder rate appears down. It isn't because there is less violence.

Three Strikes - the saga continues

The Three Strikes law leaves me feeling ambivalent. As mentioned before, my doubt hinges on the possibility it may do more harm than good.

However Kim Workman is trying very hard to run it out of town by any means. So what if the calculations ACT made differ from the one he is making? There is nothing hidden. ACT's calculations were based on different inputs.

Mr Workman said Act needed to put things right.

Just a minute...

Mr Hide said the different figures had come about because three strikes had been merged with National's sentencing measures in the Sentencing and Parole Bill.

There you go. As they say, it's the putting right that counts.

I suspect this is just another attempt to shut down the discussion before it can be had; to discredit opponents instead of the idea.

In any event, the implication of Workman's figures is, as the strike qualifications currently stand, they will not save as many lives as would be the case under ACT's original policy. That should be taken into account at the select committee deliberations.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Men are men aren't they?

In a mildly bizarre coincidence men in the West are enraged that women in Afghanistan should be obliged to fulfil their husband's sexual desire while women in the West are enraged by a writer suggesting that western women should fulfil their husband's sexual desire and 'just do it' regardless.

What I find funny is the implication Afghani men are insatiable, rapacious beasts, but Western men are misunderstood, disappointed objects of pity who just "want to connect" with their partners. When it comes to sex (outside of a small number of deviants) men are men aren't they?

(This isn't a prompt to discuss compulsion versus voluntarism or collectivist, moral relativism:-))