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INVESTIGATE June 2010:
TV’s Latta caught on smacking!
Latta Review • Chinese Dairy Deals • ETS Madness
The runaway child who became an intern, theLatta, intern whoboss became a How Nigel Police Howard Broad and CYF Peter Hughes timebomb, thehead timebomb who wants seriously botched PM’s a political career,the and hissmacking serious law review: THE FULL STORY... tell-all allegations
Crafar farms We unmask the real Chinese buyers
ETS madness National is going to make you pay
LOST – The Ending You Didn’t Expect Are you ready for it?
Daycare & Risk A surprising new study
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C ONTENTS Volume 10, Issue 113, ISSN 1175-1290
It was hailed as the end of the smacking debate, a Government review headed by politically incorrect psychologist Nigel Latta that declared it had found parents were lying when they claimed to have been unfairly hounded by police and CYF for smacking. But now the review’s credibility is in tatters, after the discovery it didn’t do a thorough investigation, and got its facts wrong. IAN WISHART has the exclusive story
Crafar’s China Crisis
The mystery over the Chinese investors trying to buy $1.5 billion worth of NZ farms may have been solved. IAN WISHART digs into the story behind the story of the big overseas investment
On July 1, National’s Emissions Trading Scheme is going to start hitting every household, even though we’re the only country in the world left supporting a major ETS. RODNEY HIDE calls it insane
Lost – The Unexpected End
One of TV’s most anticipated series endings is about to play out on screens across the world, including ours. CHRIS PHILPOTT says expectations may be running far too high for a satisfying send-off
Daycare & Risk-taking
A surprising new study shows children who attend daycare may indulge in riskier behaviour as teens and adults. MELISSA HEALY has the details
EDITORIAL & OPINION
Focal Point Editorial
Vox-Populi The roar of the crowd
Miranda Devine on the Pill
Times Square bomber
Global Warning Barry Brill on NIWA’s errors
Richard Prosser sees the UK election
Chris Carter on youth drinking
Matt Flannagan on secularism in public
L IFESTYLE Poetry
Amy Brooke’s poem of the month
Peter Hensley on diversification
Amy Brooke on Left and Right
Science Oil spills
Technology Google TV
Chris Forster on the All Blacks
Daycare and risk DNA self-test kits
Chris Philpott’s CD reviews
The Good Wife
Michael Morrissey’s winter reads
Chief Executive Officer Heidi Wishart | Group Managing Editor Ian Wishart | NZ EDITION Advertising 09 373-3676, email@example.com | Contributing Writers: Hal Colebatch, Amy Brooke, Chris Forster, Peter Hensley, Chris Carter, Mark Steyn, Chris Philpott, Michael Morrissey, Miranda Devine, Richard Prosser, Claire Morrow, James Morrow, Len Restall, Laura Wilson, and the worldwide resources of MCTribune Group, UPI and Newscom | Art Direction Heidi Wishart | Design & Layout Bozidar Jokanovic | Tel: +64 9 373 3676 | Fax: +64 9 373 3667 | Investigate Magazine, PO Box 188, Kaukapakapa, Auckland 0843, NEW ZEALAND | AUSTRALIAN EDITION Editor Ian Wishart | Advertising firstname.lastname@example.org | Tel/Fax: 1-800 123 983 | SUBSCRIPTIONS – Online: www.investigatemagazine.com By Phone: Australia – 1-800 123 983, NZ – 09 373 3676 By Post: To the PO Box NZ Edition: $85; AU Edition: A$96 EMAIL: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com All content in this magazine is copyright, and may not be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher. The opinions of advertisers or contributors are not necessarily those of the magazine, and no liability is accepted. We take no responsibility for unsolicited material sent to us. Please enclose a stamped, SAE envelope. Inquiries in the first instance should be made via email or fax. Investigate magazine Australasia is published by HATM Magazines Ltd
The smackdown of the Latta Review YOU’D THINK, WOULDN’T YOU, THAT WHEN A PRIME
Minister as popular and people-savvy as John Key announced an independent review of the controversial anti-smacking law, that National would not be stupid enough to follow in the footsteps of Helengrad. The previous regime was well known for stacking the deck, sweeping things under the carpet and using a corrupt police force to hide its misdemeanours behind. Key promised, in an interview with Investigate magazine on October 28, 2007, that “If good parents end up becoming criminals because of this legislation then we’ll change the law, it’s as simple as that.” But is it that simple? As you will read in this month’s Investigate, Police and CYF have found a way around the Prime Minister’s promise: collect or invent as much mud as you possibly can about the target parents, and ensure it is placed on the case files, so that the parents can no longer be defined as “good” for the purposes of the promise definition. Nigel Latta, a former critic of the antismacking law, was hired by the National Government as an ‘independent’ consultant to join Police Commissioner Howard Broad and CYF/MSD boss Peter Hughes in a special review of the smacking law. Their report was published amid much media fanfare just before Christmas, with the details announced in a joint John Key/ Nigel Latta news conference at the Beehive. The terms of reference seemed wide enough: “To review New Zealand Police and Child, Youth and Family policies and procedures...in order to identify any changes that are necessary or desirable in the interest of ensuring that: 1) good parents are treated as Parliament intended under the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007...” Any measure of how “good parents” were 4 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
treated under the Crimes Act would, of necessity, require a whole of case approach from initial report to subsequent conviction or acquittal. How else could you know whether “good parents” were ultimately treated fairly by the system? However, somewhere between being given those terms of reference and delivering his report, Nigel Latta appears to have done a stunningly good impersonation of Pinocchio being led down the garden path by “Honest John” and “Gideon”, in the form of Broad and Hughes. Why do I say that? Because the review team appear to have stitched up their own, entirely different definition of what they were going to investigate. As you’ll see from their excuses responses to our special investigation in this issue, both Latta and CYF now say it was never the intention to measure the severity of the initial police or CYF response against what finally happened in court. Heck no! That would be “outrageous” or “unfair” to CYF and police staff, argue Latta and CYF. No, instead, as far as Broad, Hughes and Latta were concerned, their investigation would look solely at the initial response of the agencies based on the nature of the allegations made to them. The outcome of the cases was deliberately disregarded. If it turned out the evidence didn’t stack up, well, too bad, the public would not find out because the report would say the police and CYF acted “appropriately and proportionately” in the face of serious criminal allegations. Latta went further at his Beehive news conference, and actually boasted to journalists that Family First’s sources were liars, and that he had reached a considered decision after reviewing all the facts on police and CYF files that none of the parents’ complaints stacked up.
Ah, the arrogance. Read the story and judge for yourself. Metaphorically, the noses of Broad, Hughes and Latta have now grown long enough to provide nesting space for the complete seagull population of the Wellington City Dump, with space for a few hangers on included. Latta has now told Investigate that minor inconvenient facts, such as parents actually being cleared of committing the serious crimes they were accused of, are “irrelevant” to the integrity of the review. Go back and look at your terms of reference Nigel, then enjoy a Homer Simpson smack to the forehead moment. In our view, the smooth talking bureaucrats who sat beside you took you for a ride. In doing so, the review has scored a massive own goal against its own credibility, and also a massive blow to the credibility of John Key who is now faced with incontrovertible evidence that the smacking law isn’t working, and the growing suspicion that Police and CYF skewered the review in order to cover this up.
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Communiques The roar of the crowd
Simmer some more
Excuse this long missive. I haven’t written for a while, and these issues have been simmering away in my mind. I like Richard Prosser’s blunt approach to fixing our broke country. But he has unusual ideas about the effectiveness of market protection for industry. Last time we had such a system of protection, the NZ consumer paid from twice to hundreds of times as much, for products 10 years or more out of date, compared to consumers in countries with populations that enabled economies of scale. Richard Prosser is right that we cannot just transplant the Hong Kong Mass Transit System onto NZ, because we do not have the population to make it pay; but neither can we transplant Samsung Electronics. THE “must-read” on this subject, is “From Wool to Weta” by Prof. Paul Callaghan, a Vic Uni nuclear physicist whose views on our anti-nuke laws, would be very agreeable to Richard Prosser. Richard Prosser and Paul Callaghan agree completely on the point that bulk commodities, unprocessed goods, and tourism, are no way to wealth. But you do not get Samsung Electronics by providing its founders with a protected market of 4 million people. What you need are conditions in which smart new internationally competitive businesses can start up and thrive. Richard Prosser identifies several things which would help here. We could easily have the world’s most efficient transport network if we just built the roads we need and stopped wasting our time and money with dead duck public transport schemes. Education, too, is important, and I would ask Richard Prosser whether he thinks it is worth paying 100,000 idealistic boys and girls to become environmental protection and urban planning graduates, when there are only 1,000 jobs available and even these are a positive curse to our economic future. 6 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
One of our biggest problems, I suggest, is the attitudes of our oncoming generations; it is doubtful whether we are going to get any NZ Bill Gates’s in the near future. The reasons that Silicon Valley got started are surprising when one looks into it. No such thing could happen today in California’s, or NZ’s, regulatory environment. Basically, young geeks could buy cheap plots of semi rural land and put up cheap tin buildings on them, and form loose agreements with other youngsters to work on their clever ideas together; and then big venture capital was easy to get once the ideas were taking shape. But now, you become a “class enemy” by daring to put a cheap and nasty building up, or put any building up beyond the urban fringe where land is cheap; or to use resources, to employ people, and especially, to do tricky science stuff that upsets our Green witchhunters. Now, Silicon Valley is flat out driving its business sector away, to India and Texas, and California is an economic basket case, with 12% unemployment. California has succeeded in halting all construction of roads, dams, and electricity generation plants; they have succeeded in conserving more and more land and species of fish, insects, and plants. They have also succeeded in driving land prices up, within their urban limits, by a factor of up to 60 times in places. What they have not succeeded in doing, is preserving existing successful industry, let alone allowing for continued new start-ups and jobs growth. It is also a fact that almost all economic growth comes from NEW businesses. A high proportion of the most successful businesses around, did not exist 10 years before. Any nation or region in which the rate of formation and growth of NEW businesses has plummeted, is truly headed for long term decline. Jim Rogers, one of the
world’s most successful inventors, has said in numerous interviews that the conditions for the next Silicon Valleys now exist mostly in India and other parts of Asia, and he advises smart youngsters to take their ideas over there if there is no future for them in their own countries. Tata Industries and other conglomerates in India are flat out building small apartment blocks of a modern standard, for slum dwellers to move up to; the cost per apartment is under $10,000. Apartments of comparable size and quality are actually hundreds of thousands of dollars here, entirely because of the land conservation racket. We are kidding ourselves if we think overpriced land is a sign of economic maturity and prosperity. We are also kidding ourselves if we think we could not solve the problem of housing affordability overnight if we simply gave people and businesses the freedom to do so. It is dangerous nonsense to blame all our ills on “untrammelled free markets” and “deregulation”. It is REGULATION, and too much bad regulation, that has given us some of the world’s most overpriced land and houses, WITHOUT actually preventing any ills like “leaky homes syndrome”. The pressures of accommodation expense on incomes will only add to our low international competitiveness. We could sustain far more “internationally competitive” pay rates if our land, and housing and accommodation costs, were down to what they should be, at a fraction of what they are. The irony here, is that while we are debating Emissions Trading Schemes, far bigger damage has already been done to our wallets and our economy by local body Urban Planners being (mis)guided by global warming mania long since. On the subject of the global warming con: I can relate completely to your correspondent Alan Blake’s comment:
we protect your digital worlds
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 7
“.....at some point along this journey the bulldust detectors kicked in and I started to question the increasingly shrill claims of the AGW lobby..... “.....more and more people are beginning to wake up to this giant delusion and call it by its correct name - a lie.....” The IPCC went “a bridge too far” with me personally when they published the hockey stick graph in 2001; and anyone who knew enough history and knew of the medieval warm period, should have likewise become sceptical at that point. So, too, should anyone with a basic understanding of air and water thermodynamics. The sun’s ability to heat the air, land, and oceans, is considerable; transference of heat from water (and land) to the air, is less so; and transference of heat from the air TO water, is scientific nonsense. Any fool should know that if the oceans are warming and cooling, that is far more important than anything that is going on in the air, and it cannot possibly be an end result of a process that began with ATMOSPHERIC warming. But as I investigated what had happened to the scientific understanding of the Medieval Warm Period, what I found was that honest scientists were already objecting in large numbers, to the IPCC’s deliberately ignoring literally hundreds of peer reviewed studies going back decades, in favour of just one study based on tree rings in Siberia. The authors and peer reviewers of this study were IPCC cronies, and refused to allow any further reviewing of their data. It has taken the Climategate leaks to confirm the suspicions of all of us who were sceptical. That Siberian tree ring study was a disgraceful fraud, pure and simple. Like Alan Blake, I believe that we are far too polite and naive to credit anyone involved in this, as having acted in good faith. I find it difficult to believe, even, that anyone claiming credentials as a scientist, could ever have honestly been anything other than sceptical, given that the whole hypothesis always was so contrary both to basic science and longstanding historical fact. I find it sickening that taxpayer funded scientists who are either terminally incompetent, or willing parties to politically instigated fraud, still retain their positions of public trust; while the “sceptics” have been marginalised and their careers ruined. The moral of this story is that it is easy to pull off mass fraud like this when most people are so poorly educated, unread, and ignorant that they are unaware of even the basics of knowledge that would have caused
them to be suspicious. The success of the AGW lie is not the only consequence of dumbed-down education, hedonism, and apathy. We get the governments we deserve; we deserve “Helen Lite”, and we have got it, complete with anti-smacking laws, grievance industry pandering, and an emissions trading scheme. As for the mainstream media, they are the most culpable of all in this. They are worse than the blind leading the blind. Enthusiasm for utopian one world socialist government, with which the journalism profession is infested, amounts in the end to traitorship to our society. Far from being “society’s watchdogs”, these people, and the politicians they anoint, would sell us out like Vidkun Quisling sold Norway to Adolf Hitler. And of all the underlying justifications for policy making, distinguished commentators like Winston Churchill, C. S. Lewis, and F. A. Hayek have all said that the one we should fear most, is “science”. Churchill referred to humanity “descend(ing) into a dark abyss lit only by the light of perverted science”. It is not “harmless”, to use faked science to achieve utopian political ends that you would not have been able to democratically sell to your public on their own merits. It is unlikely in the extreme that “science”, having been faked once to one political end, would not be faked again to other political ends. And it is doubtful that scientific method itself, and the progress we have enjoyed through it, would survive. Philip G Hayward, Lower Hutt
Heeding the past – securing our future
The public rewarding of a Victoria Cross to Willie Apiata was more about the opportunity for politicians, most particularly Helen Clark, to do a bit of grandstanding in the limelight than it was about a man simply doing his job and helping his mates. Now, as policy meant to protect these men is eroded away, how long until they fall foul of what is far more serious than any media circus? Our former Prime Minister, like her colleagues now in opposition, can now wash their collective hands of ill-considered Defence acquisitions. Now, those on the left claim the moral high ground for sending the NZSAS to Afghanistan in the first instance, while ridiculing the current administration for propping up a corrupt fledgling government in South Asia by keeping them there. How convenient. Lest We Forget. Oh we have already for-
8 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June February 20102010
gotten, and recent events and the increasingly remote Defence policies of today remind us constantly of that fact. We do our fallen no honour. New Zealand music has a month, any number of causes have weeks dedicated to them – a day for our veterans and those who serve now finishes shortly after noon. Without the abandonment of political correctness, it appears impossible to take an honest look at the state of the world. This includes any right and proper assessment of issues relating to Defence. That can only come with a critical adjustment to the popular consciousness of New Zealand. And so the ever-dwindling state of affairs will continue to deteriorate. One must prepare for war before hand if one is expected to survive it when it arrives. As it stands we simply open ourselves up to the mistakes of the past. More suffering is the result, not less, if we choose to ignore the signals. Evidently, the state of Britain and France alone, and the politics surrounding the world’s disastrous entry into World War Two is not enough. Anzac Day is not meant to be about politics, but where war and the circumstances surrounding it prevail, it most certainly is. Thankfully there are still enough people who understand that this day is not about glorification of war, or some form of celebration for an ill-gotten “victory”. There is hope. My humble opinion is that nobody won, indeed that everyone lost. It becomes increasingly hard to reflect and be honest about these things. After all, 1pm shopping and sales now dominates the landscape. My great uncle did not die in Italy so that I might get a bargain at The Warehouse. Just a few days prior to Anzac Day, a mate sent me “War: God’s way of teaching Americans geography”. That line has been around for many years. Sadly though, the reality is quite different. You can talk about isolationist policy and such like, but that’s somehow old hat. Personally I think that, if you consider U.S. history, those in its Armed Forces at least, need no such lessons. I would like to suggest it is New Zealand that needs those lessons, and very quickly. It becomes very clear that the war in the Pacific had no impact on our very naïve view of the world and that which governs it. Personally, while I see Kiwi kids eating McDonalds, listening to their iPods, obsessed with reality television shows and emulating American youth gang culture I
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just wonder who needs the geography lessons. Americans have been involved on every continent, militarily and otherwise, well before Iraq and Afghanistan, and to a far greater extent than we have. For some of us, the irony is not lost. And for the average Kiwi, The Pacific remains a television series, not a time in history we should reflect on and learn from. When my grandfather served in the Navy in World War Two, he wasn’t playing tiddlywinks. Perhaps I am the one who is naïve, in not understanding how, with further budget cuts for Defence imminent, those who serve our beloved country can do their jobs better. It simply begets the culture of New Zealand Defence Forces doing more with less. This appears startlingly contrary to the logical efforts in avoiding the dire and deadly mistakes of the past. But then, you get that when so many people equate a well-prepared Defence Force with aggravating and inciting conditions for war. Rather, the attitude continues to fog over a major contributor to our high casualties of the past – not to mention the practice of the sort of politicking, which, while claiming to be a bastion of peace, only serve to aggravate the conditions which lead to conflict. Ill advised policy and the lack of accountability of politicians who impose it perpetuates only because the population remains ignorant of the facts and sorely complacent of possible consequences. That is, they decide not to practice the very democracy which is responsible for electing those who make these decisions on their behalf. These policies include the purchase of over-priced equipment on one hand, and the delaying of essential equipments and upgrades on the other. In addition, as Project Protector has shown, the acquirement of non-military grade assets unable to safely preform in environments where Defence Forces are required to work. Political rhetoric of course denies this. Our Armed Forces are intended, first and foremost, to defend New Zealand, its territory and resources. The modern geopolitical environment would have you forget that and instead insist upon their duties being that of a policing agency for the world. The Skyhawks were disbanded under Helen Clark’s Labour government because they had not been used operationally. Yet, they had been an essential part of operations in East Timor, where the Indonesian Air Force threatened Anzac landings there, under United Nations mandate. The same
government saw to purchasing 105 Light Armoured Vehicles for the New Zealand Army, of which a handful have only recently been deployed to Afghanistan – under National. If debt is relative and Phil Goff likes to talk of its negation on The Nation, at a cost of $1 billion dollars for the NZLAV fleet, and our Skyhawks, and those who crew and service them, being left to rot, this logic is quite beyond comprehension. Vital upgrades to aircraft for the RNZAF, organised under the previous government, have been cancelled or otherwise delayed. Aircraft, which should have been out of the service over a decade ago, have now needlessly cost the lives of three servicemen, on Anzac Day of all days. Political rhetoric abounds on issues of safety as the RNZAF waits out for the introduction of two new rotary wing fleets. Professor Lance Beath of Victoria University has stated clearly that our part of the world, our strategic environment, this region, will look increasingly like any other region in the world. That says a lot if you’re willing to listen and understand the implications. There will be more demand on the military, not less. Wayne Mapp reiterates this, saying we need more wide ranging capacity across the board, which is contrary to policy and spending. Without proper practical focus we are opening ourselves up to more horror stories akin to the Anzac tradition. The roughshod afterthought that was the creation of 3rd New Zealand Division for action in the Pacific is particularly noteworthy. An isolated island nation, like New Zealand, and supposedly of first world status, without a dedicated marine-focused force is extraordinary. This impacts our security, economy and trade. The consequences upon this peace-loving nation will make the Rainbow Warrior bombing look like a schoolyard knee scrape. The little attention we pay to our Armed Forces and those who choose to serve does not aid our pursuit to secure a better future for our country or our children. New Zealand’s state of readiness for real war has been epitomised in recent years by peacekeeping operations in East Timor and the Balkans. Manpower and the loss of critical experience from the ranks as a result of personnel disillusionment, particularly in the form of non-commissioned officers, is only the first example that comes to mind. One can only ignore the reality of global affairs for so long
10 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June February 20102010
– then they come knocking on your own door. But fear not, I am sure the United Nations has it all sorted out. Anzac Day is not just another day. It most certainly is no holiday. The sooner people wake up to that fact, the better we will all be. Leon Harrison, Wellington Note to all our evolution correspondents. We haven’t forgotten you, another section will appear next month
Is it poetry? Then send submissions to Poetry Editor Amy Brooke: firstname.lastname@example.org
On the works of a modern atheist best-seller My faith is poor, perhaps. I’d like to test its mettle, find a worthy bravo for my small, lonely steel. It would be great to have a splendid enemy, to fight and know I’m fighting something real. I’ll even drop my standards: literacy would be nice, wit, even if misleading. Some learning, anyway. Is it too much for one in such a station to know, for example, what texts actually say? Could he not come with arguments or notions beyond the Golden Bough or Martyrdom of Man? Perhaps have read philosophers and historians apart from Simone Weil and Teilhard de Chardin? You improve your chess by playing with better players; fighting a master, it’s something to draw blood. But again I just find nursery-school tantrums, sump-intellectual sludge and verbal mud. Hal Colebatch
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TV’s Latta Helen’s caught on Happy smacking!
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Latta Review • Chinese Dairy Deals • ETS Madness
intern, theLatta, intern whoboss became a How Nigel Police Howard Broad and CYF Peter Hughes timebomb, thehead timebomb who wants seriously botched PM’s a political career,the and hissmacking serious law review: THE FULL STORY... tell-all allegations
Crafar farms We unmask the real Chinese buyers
ETS madness National is going to make you pay
LOST – The Ending You Didn’t Expect Are you ready for it?
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Daycare & Risk A surprising new study
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Miranda Devine Copulate to populate ... or perish TO MARK THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PILL THIS
month, 1960s sex symbol Raquel Welch blamed the oral contraceptive for the breakdown of marriage, decline in moral standards and rise of promiscuity. “One significant, and enduring, effect of the pill on female sexual attitudes during the ‘60s, was: ‘Now we can have sex any time we want, without the consequences. Hallelujah, let’s party!’ “ she wrote in an article for CNN. The 69-year-old actress said that she felt it was her duty to “speak up” and wave the “red flag of caution” because she used to be a sex symbol. But what she didn’t mention was the impact on birth rates and the associated demographic disaster the world is hurtling towards. As the tattered sexual revolution spawned by the pill hits middle age we can see the consequences of unmooring sex from the possibility of children, and the rejection of the age-old imperative to be “fruitful and multiply”. The result is a so-called contraceptive culture, societies which regard children and childbearing as a nuisance, a burden and an expense, rather than a blessing. We seem trapped in the mindset of past doomsayers, from Thomas Malthus to Paul Ehrlich who claimed in his 1968 book The Population Bomb that the greatest catastrophe facing mankind is too many people. Today, the pervasive misanthropism of the modern green movement holds that every new human is a burden to the planet, just another carbon footprint to be resented. There is even a green charity in the UK, PopOffsets, which has people offset their carbon footprint by funding projects to reduce the number of babies in places like Madagascar. But, as the US conservative writer Don 14 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
Feder told a group of young men from the University of NSW’s Warrane college this month, the precipitous decline of birth rates by more than 50 per cent worldwide since 1979 signals a looming “Demographic Winter”. Whereas in 1979 the average woman on the planet had six children, today she has 2.8, and declining, according to the United Nations World Population Prospects publication of 2006. There are 6 million fewer children aged under six today than in 1990. “It could be the greatest crisis to confront humanity in this century,” says Feder, my former Boston Herald colleague. The Demographic Winter will spark “wars and international conflict on a mas-
and Lebanon. The world’s most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, has a birth rate just above replacement, at 2.31, according to the 2009 CIA World Factbook. The birth rate for Muslim immigrants in Europe may be higher than the countries they come from, leading to the widely predicted Islamification of the continent in the next 50 years. But it is nonetheless declining. Despite recent small gains, Australia’s birth rate of 1.78 is still below replacement, below China’s 1.79. Britain is worse at 1.66, Canada at 1.58, while the US is at 2.05. Germany and Russia are at 1.41, above Italy and Spain at 1.31. Catholic Poland is languishing at 1.28. Japan, at 1.21, has lost 24 per cent of its
In the Anglosphere, New Zealand has the highest birth rate, at 2.10, and a tradition of cherishing babies in hundreds of tiny ways sive scale”. Nations without enough young people to man armies will fall prey “to those who have a cause to advance’’. In much of the developed world, birth rates today have sunk to below replacement levels of 2.13 children per woman. Contrary to popular opinion, these trends of the past 30 years are being mirrored in the developing world, in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. “Barren wombs and empty cradles” are a phenomenon of both the Christian and Muslim worlds. Even Iran has retreated from its baby boom of the 1980s, with the fertility rate of 6.5 collapsing to 1.7. The same trend can be seen in the once fruitful United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Bahrain, Kuwait
people in 20 years. By 2050 there will be two senior citizens for every child. The highest birth rate is in sub-Saharan Africa with Niger at 7.75, Uganda at 6.77. In the Anglosphere, New Zealand has the highest birth rate, at 2.10, and a tradition of cherishing babies in hundreds of tiny ways – from restaurants with high chairs to nosy questions of newlyweds to official street signs pointing to baby health clinics. By contrast, in Australia, children are regarded as nuisances, with complaints about monster prams and bitter competition for space in Sydney parks. Attitudes may make a difference. Feder attributes the Demographic Winter, at least in the West, to the “me generation”
selfishness of the ‘60s sexual revolution, and 43 million abortions worldwide each year. “Today for the first time in history just under half of the world’s population uses some form of contraception … We don’t ask if sex has an emotional or moral component, or if it serves a higher purpose, only if it’s safe.” Unlike Malthusian environmentalists, he insists “people are the ultimate resource”. The population explosion of the past 200 years – from 980 million to 6.7 billion – fuelled “every human advance from the Industrial Revolution to the computer age [and the] phenomenal growth of productivity, prosperity, scientific advance, health and general human well-being.”
Today’s children are the “workers, employers, producers, innovators, caregivers and taxpayers of tomorrow”. As fewer babies are born and people live longer, we face the perfect demographic storm, with the greying of the population stressing welfare and health systems, which are funded by less tax from a shrinking workforce. It’s a warning for Australia. If the shadow cabinet did put the kybosh on Tony Abbott’s suggestion of a $10,000 baby bonus for stayat-home mothers, it was a shortsighted victory for fiscal rectitude. Abbott’s proposal for a parental leave scheme guaranteeing working women wages so they can spend time with their newborns
Today’s children are the “workers, employers, producers, innovators, caregivers and taxpayers of tomorrow”
was similarly scorned earlier this year. But as we saw with the baby boomlet associated with the 2004 baby bonus, governments can influence family choice. Abbott seems to be rare among his colleagues as a politician who understands the dangers of the Demographic Winter. email@example.com INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 15
Times Square bomber not such a bad guy THE STORY OF THE TIMES SQUARE BOMBER READS
like some Urdu dinner-theatre production of Mel Brooks’ The Producers that got lost in translation between here and Peshawar: A man sets out to produce the biggest bomb on Broadway since Dance A Little Closer closed on its opening night in 1983. Everything goes right: He gets a parking space right next to Viacom, owners of the hated Comedy Central! But then he gets careless: He buys the wrong fertilizer. He fails to open the valve on the propane tank. And next thing you know his ingenious plot is the nonstop laugh riot of the Great White Way. Ha-ha! What a loser! Why, the whole thing’s totally – what’s the word? – “amateurish,” according to multiple officials. It “looked amateurish,” scoffed New York’s Mayor Bloomberg. “Amateurish,” agreed Janet Napolitano, the White House Amateurishness Czar. Ha-ha-ha! How many jihadists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Twentyseven. Twenty-six terrorist masterminds to supervise six months of rigorous training at a camp in Waziristan, after which the 27th flies back to Newark, goes to Home Depot and buys a quart of lamp oil and a wick. Is it so unreasonable to foresee that one day one of these guys will buy the wrong lamp oil and a defective wick and drop the Camp Osama book of matches in a puddle as he’s trying to light the bomb, and yet this time, amazingly, it actually goes off? Not really. Last year, not one but two “terrorism task forces” discovered that Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan was in regular e-mail contact with the American-born Yemeni-based cleric Ayman al-Awlaki but concluded that this was consistent with the major’s “research interests,” so there was nothing to worry about it. A few months later, Maj. Hasan gunned down dozens of his comrades while standing on a table shouting “Allahu Akbar!” That was also consistent with his “research 16 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
interests,” by the way. A policy of relying on stupid jihadists to screw it up every time will inevitably allow one or two to wiggle through. Hopefully not on a nuclear scale. Faisal Shahzad’s curriculum vitae rang a vague bell with me. A couple of years back, I read a bestselling novel by Mohsin Hamid called The Reluctant Fundamentalist. His protagonist, Changez, is not so very different from young Faisal: They’re both young, educated, Westernized Muslims from prominent Pakistani families. Changez went to Princeton; Faisal to the non-Ivy University of Bridgeport, but he nevertheless emerged with an MBA. Both men graduate to the high-flying sector of Wall Street analysts.
Guardian). If only life were like an elegantly playful novel rich in irony. Instead, the reallife counterpart to the elegant charmer holes up in a jihadist training camp for months, flies back “home” and parks a fully loaded SUV in Times Square. He’s not an exception, he’s the rule. The Pantybomber is a wealthy Nigerian who lived in a London flat worth two million pounds. Kafeel Ahmed, who died driving a flaming SUV into the concourse of Glasgow Airport, was president of the Islamic Society of Queen’s University, Belfast. Omar Sheikh, the man who beheaded Daniel Pearl, was a graduate of the London School of Economics. Mohammed Atta was a
A policy of relying on stupid jihadists to screw it up every time will inevitably allow one or two to wiggle through. Hopefully not on a nuclear scale On returning to New York from overseas, both men get singled out and questioned by Immigration officials. Both men sour on America and grow beards. Previously “moderate,” they are now “radicalized.” The difference is that Faisal tries to blow up midtown Manhattan while Changez becomes the amused detached narrator of a critically acclaimed novel genially mocking America’s parochialism and paranoia. Mohsin Hamed’s book was hailed as “elegant” (The Observer), “charming” (The Village Voice), “playful” (The Financial Times), “rich in irony” (The Sydney Morning Herald) and “finely tuned to the ironies of mutual – but especially American – prejudice” (The
Hamburg University engineering student. Osama bin Laden went to summer school at Oxford. Educated men. Westernized men. Men who could be pulling down big six-figure salaries anywhere on the planet – were it not that their Islamic identity trumps everything else: elite education, high-paying job, Western passport. As for the idea that America has become fanatically “Islamophobic” since 9/11, au contraire: Were America even mildly “Islamophobic,” it would have curtailed Muslim immigration, or at least subjected immigrants from Pakistan, Yemen and a handful of other hotbeds to an additional level of screening. Instead, Muslim immigra-
PAKISTAN, KARACHI: Activists of PASBAN chanselor slogan agianst the arrest of Pakistan-born American citizen Faisal Shahzad. / Majid Hussain /PAK IMAGES
tion to the West has accelerated in the past nine years, and, as the case of Faisal Shahzad demonstrates, being investigated by terrorism task forces is no obstacle to breezing through your U.S. citizenship application. An “Islamophobic” America might have pondered whether the more extreme elements of self-segregation were compatible with participation in a pluralist society: Instead, President Barack Obama makes fawning speeches boasting that he supports the rights of women to be “covered” – rather than the rights of the ever-lengthening numbers of European and North American Muslim women beaten, brutalized and murdered for not wanting to be covered. America is so un-Islamophobic that at Ground Zero they’re building a 13-story mosque – on the site of an old Burlington Coat Factory damaged by airplane debris that Tuesday morning. So, in the ruins of a building reduced to
rubble in the name of Islam, a temple to Islam will arise. And, whenever the marshmallow illusions are momentarily discombobulated, the entire political-media class rushes forward to tell us that the thwarted killer was a “lone wolf,” an “isolated extremist.” According to Mayor Bloomberg, a day or two before Shahzad’s arrest, the most likely culprit was “someone who doesn’t like the health care bill” (that would be me, if your SWAT team’s at a loose end this weekend). Even after Shahzad’s arrest, the Associated Press, CNN and The Washington Post attached huge significance to the problems the young jihadist had had keeping up his mortgage payments. Just as, after Maj. Hasan, the “experts” effortlessly redefined “post-traumatic stress disorder” to apply to a psychiatrist who’d never been anywhere near a war zone, so now the housing market is the root
cause of terrorism: Subprime terrorism is a far greater threat to America than anything to do with certain words beginning with Iand ending in –slam. Incidentally, one way of falling behind with your house payments is to take half a year off to go to Pakistan and train in a terrorist camp. Perhaps Congress could pass some sort of jihadist housing credit? Given the demographic advance of Islam in Europe and the de jure advance of Sharia in Europe (the Geert Wilders blasphemy trial) and de facto in America (Comedy Central’s and Yale University Press’ submission to Islamic proscriptions on representations of Mohammed), you wonder why excitable types like Faisal Shahzad are so eager to jump the gun. The Islamization of the West proceeds apace; why draw attention to it and risk a backlash? Because the reactions of Bloomberg & Co. are a useful glimpse into the decayed and corroded heart of a civilization. One day the bomb will explode. Dozens dead? Hundreds? Thousands? Would we then restrict immigration from certain parts of the world? Or at least subject them to extra roadblocks on the fast-track to citizenship? What do you think? I see, as part of the new culturally sensitive warmongering, that the NATO commander in Afghanistan is considering giving out awards to soldiers for “courageous restraint.” Maybe we could hand them out at home, too. Hopefully not posthumously. © 2010 Mark Steyn FOOTNOTE: It’s believed the Times Square bomber was affiliated to the terror organisation Lashkar e Ta’iba, whose members have also infiltrated the New Zealand Pakistani community as detailed in Investigate magazine and available online here: http://www.thebriefingroom.com/ archives/2008/11/heat_in_the_kit.html INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 17
NIWA scientists’ misconduct ‘absolutely clear’ NIWA HAS DENIED ALLEGATIONS THAT ITS SCIENtists misled Ministers regarding the warming
trend shown in New Zealand’s official historical temperature record. The accusations of misleading were made by Hon Rodney Hide in an address to Federated Farmers this month (reprinted in this issue of Investigate). Yet the evidence of misconduct by NIWA scientists is absolutely clear. It is exemplified by Dr David Wratt labelling the 1930 data from four selected stations as an ‘11-station Series’. The entire upwards trend in the last century was created by NIWA using ‘in-house’ adjustments to skew the pre-1950 figures downwards” said Mr Brill, “Anybody can check the Written Answer to Parliamentary Question #1201(2010) in Hansard, and see that 90% of the ‘adjusted’ years contributed to this artificial trend. In December 2009, by a press report in the New Zealand Herald, NIWA claimed that it had created a new Eleven-station Series from weather stations that had never been shifted – and ‘the analysis featured a guest appearance by former employee Jim Salinger.’ Thereafter, this Eleven-station Series was regularly relied upon by NIWA as offering independent evidence of a 1°C warming trend, which corroborated the Seven-station Series – the official national temperature record. This claim was also repeated in Parliament by the Minister for Science, Hon Dr Wayne Mapp on more than one occasion. But the Eleven-station Series does not commence until June 1948, when data from Invercargill was averaged with ten others. This is shown at [ www.niwa.co.nz/our-science/climate/news/all/nz-temp-record/temperature-trends-from-raw-data ] a document
which was also tabled in Parliament by the Climate Change Minister, Hon Dr Nick Smith. 18 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
The Coalition asserted in a letter of 26 April 2010 to the chairman of NIWA, Mr Chris Mace, that the 11 stations had been cherry-picked from a universe of 238 stations so as to fabricate the desired result. But worse, the entry dates had been manipulated, as set out in the following extract from our letter: “The warming trend of 1C relates to the period commencing in 1930. Yet the website discloses that data is available from only four stations in 1930 – Mount Ruapehu Chateau, Hamilton Ruakura, Palmerston North and Queenstown. Two of those four are mountain
at the outset but dwindle to only 18% over 18 years – so the average temperature must inevitably increase. Dr Wratt’s graph shows that the average temperature soared by about 2.0° C over this drip-feeding period A ‘trick’ is employed to ‘create an incline’. In his graph, Dr Wratt claims that the two series are almost identical during the 193050 period. How could this be? One curve represents New Zealand-wide temperatures while the other is a disparate and constantlychanging collection. The very fact that the two curves are massaged to coincide during this period is a damning indictment of
In the period prior to the Second World War, ships used wooden and canvas buckets, different thermometers, untrained readers and patchy telegraphs. Everything was variable – weather conditions, seasons, latitudes, time of day sites that constitute the coldest stations in the series and skew the starting point downwards. [The Coalition] believes the employment of this technique can only be seen as manipulation of the data. The remaining seven stations, which are dribbled in over a period of 18 years, are all coastal stations and reflect the relative warmth and stability of the Pacific Ocean. By this means, a significant warming trend has been artificially inserted into the initial 20-year period of the series.” The 11-station Series is thus revealed as a misleading statistical contrivance. The two cold stations comprise 50% of the group
NIWA’s statistical trickery. There are other serious problems with the 11-station Series. The two mountain weather stations are ‘Class 4’, carrying an error potential as high as 2°C, and are not normally used for climate research. Despite the claim that the selection was made because ‘these sites have never been shifted’ the Coalition has documented relocations in no fewer than six of the stations. For example, the Ruapehu thermometer was moved down the mountain to a more sheltered position – and showed warmer readings thereafter.
Lucy Lawless, left and Jim Salinger with the boarding pass they hoped to deliver to Prime Minister John Key along with a cheque to pay his airfare to Copenhagen for Climate talks./NZPA / Ross Setford
Passing Ships The Salinger paper attempts to discern a pattern from weather observations noted by thousands of different ships in various South Pacific locations over a 90-year period. The paper describes the data as ‘heavily homogenised’ by subjective means. The Coalition wrote NIWA on 29 January stating – ‘We understand that the margin of error for such informal records is approximately plus-or-minus 2.0°C, so that a century-long result of 0.7°C is essentially meaningless’ – unsurprisingly, this contention was not challenged in NIWA’s reply. In the period prior to the Second World War, ships used wooden and canvas buckets, different thermometers, untrained readers and patchy telegraphs. Everything was variable – weather conditions, seasons, latitudes, time of day, etc. Discerning any temperature patterns can be no more than guesswork, and to claim accuracy to a fraction of a degree is risible. It is notable that nearly all of the warming trend found in this paper occurred in the 1920-40 period, at a time when the land temperature record shows none. It shows no warming in the 1940-70 period when the Seven-station Series claims that New Zealand experienced its greatest-ever warming period. Previous Disclosure On NIWA’s claim that it provided explanations in 2006 to a Coalition scientist, this was before the Coalition came into existence. If there was any email (and NIWA steadfastly refuses to supply a copy), it certainly did not include the requested Schedule of Adjustments, as this was not compiled until February 2010. When the Coalition raised this matter with the chair of NIWA, the allegations were removed from the website within the week.
Conclusion Whilst at NIWA, Dr Salinger produced three documents which travel by different mendacious routes but arrive at broadly the same conclusion – viz, that New Zealand experienced warming of around 1°C during the 20th century. All three use highly subjective and unprofessional methods to support his 1975 hypothesis about glacier melt. None of the papers have been subject
to any approval process at NIWA, and nor have they been supported in the scientific literature anywhere. The correlation between the detail of Salinger’s documents is very poor and could not have withstood genuine scrutiny by any NIWA climate scientist who was acting in good faith. Barry Brill, a former National government cabinet minister, is the chairman of the NZ Climate Science Coalition INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 19
Richard Prosser Changing faces
BRITAIN HAD AN ELECTION LAST WEEK. I KNOW ALL
too well because I was there watching it, and naturally the news was full of little else. The Brits have been to the Polls for the first time in five years, which seems like quite a ridiculously long time from my New Zealand perspective. Even three years is too long for my liking. Maybe the Poms trust their politicians more than we do; or maybe not. There are noises in the British political jungle which are surreally reminiscent of New Zealand twenty and even thirty years ago. They have their first hung Parliament since 1974 and the first coalition Government since WWII. Proportional Representation is on the agenda for the new regime, albeit reluctantly on the part of the larger Party. The Liberal Democrats, long the bridesmaid to Labour and the Conservatives, emerged as a potential coalition partner for both major Parties but have ended up getting into bed with the Tories even though an alliance with Labour seemed the more likely (New Zealand First, anyone?) There are parallels between the UK of today and the New Zealand of the 1980s and 1990s which indicate that great changes are in store for Britain’s political system, just as there is a new face in Downing Street. Why is this important for us in New Zealand? Because it shows that although the wheels of progress grind uncommon slow, changes do happen, and certain advances which have been long touted for our own electoral system, dismissed as pipe dreams by many commentators even today, will one day become reality whether the nay-sayers like it or not. We will eventually get MMP to function properly and in a genuinely proportional and representative manner. We will, opposition from both major Parties aside, achieve the instigation of Binding Citizens’ Initiated Referenda, and probably sooner rather than later. Likewise we will 20 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
gain the right of Recall, and we will take control of the functions of Government, the passage of Law, and the direction of the nation, in every way which every Party currently in Parliament doesn’t want us to. This will happen. And it will happen because it is the desire of the people for it to happen, and eventually all politicians must bow down to that desire. Democracy, like life, will find a way, and the dinosaurs of the political past will find themselves out-evolved. The issues at stake in this British election were the same, of course, as the ones we debate in New Zealand; jobs, the economy, health and social welfare, defence (or the lack of it), roads and public transport, crime, the environment, immigration, pensions, for-
they lack the foresight and work ethic to build a better nation here; but for the Poms it’s a more pressing matter, because Europe is here already. Your favourite commentator toyed with the idea of registering as a voter, and only flagged it because my better judgement knows it’s rude to interfere in someone else’s politics, however entitled to it the accident of dual nationality makes one. If I had, I think it’s fair to say that there would have been one more vote for the UK Independence Party, but then you wouldn’t have expected anything less of me. Once upon a time I might have supported the BNP, but I’ve mellowed a little since then; that said, I don’t deny the right of the British National Party to exist, nor do I, unlike the
Democracy, like life, will find a way, and the dinosaurs of the political past will find themselves out-evolved eign affairs, and local Government. The big players have been cast from the same mould as well – politicians the world over are of a particular ilk, it would seem. There were the young and earnest, the old and measured, the bright and beautiful, the bold and brash, the rude and obnoxious, the smarmy and sickening, and many chameleonic combinations of the above; and all of them liars, some more convincing, some less so. Britain also had the added consideration of Europe, her membership thereof, and the growing reach and power of Brussels. If there is a parallel in New Zealand it is perhaps the irritating but perennial cage-rattling of those traitorous invertebrates who would happily sell out our sovereignty to Australia because
left-wing media, disregard the validity of the concerns of those people who do support them. It appears to be lost on the Left’s most vocal and vehement critics of right wing nationalism that democracy is about listening to everyone’s concerns and opinions, not just those with whom you happen to agree. I mean we have the Green Party, for God’s sake; why not a little bigoted fascism as well, in the interests of balance? And immigration is a concern in Britain, just as it is in New Zealand, though in the case of Pomgolia the single most pressing consideration is that their island is actually full. Seriously. There are sixty million people there, in a country with less land area than New Zealand, and the liberals really don’t
believe there’s some sort of problem brewing? In our case that problem hasn’t arisen yet, but neither, I would posit, do we want it to; and as a wise man once said, it is better to dig the well before you are thirsty. If we’re clever, we will plan our immigration to suit the size and shape of the New Zealand we want in the future, as well as the one which we have now. We are still in the unique position of being able to avoid the massive problems which currently beset Britain and Europe – the creeping evil of multiculturalism, the wholly undesirable and unnecessary stupidity of diversity, the insidious march of the cancer that is Islam, and the crime, stress, and pollution of sheer overcrowding. This year, for the first time ever, British voters enjoyed (if that is indeed the word for it) the spectacle of televised Leaders’ debates, and also for the first time they were able to follow the studio audience’s responses by way of a real-time on screen graphic called a Worm! Whether Britain’s media and politicians alike will come to hate the Worm as much as their New Zealand counterparts did remains to be seen, but given that the strength of the Worm is that it denies both the aforementioned camps the ability to manipulate the truth of public opinion with their respective lies and spin, the answer is probably yes. Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg was the golden boy of this election campaign; young, good-looking, the fresh face on the block and the beneficiary of a large and growing protest vote, he could perhaps be compared with Bruce Beetham, and the realities of the archaic, infantile, and fundamentally undemocratic and unjust First Past the Post voting system, have meant that even with a comparable degree of electoral success, he is struggling to have much more in the way of influence than Smiling Bruce ever did, 22% of the vote delivering him only 9% of the seats in the House of Commons. He has his coalition, and the Deputy Prime Minister’s job, but now finds himself every bit as hamstrung on policy as does Rodney Hide. In his favour, in this writer’s opinion, is that he’s putting a sharp thing up the cosy complacency of the two-horse establishment. Counting against him is his opposition to updating the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons capability, and his stated belief in man-made global warming, both of which put him squarely in the idiot camp. But no matter. The Worm liked him, and just like Peter Dunne, it has carried him to glory. But also like Peter Dunne, who for some odd
Queen Elizabeth II greets David Cameron at Buckingham Palace in an audience to invite him to be the next Prime Minister. / Pool/ Anwar Hussein Collection/ WENN.com
reason went into the 2008 election believing that New Zealand would deliver him the numbers necessary for him to become Prime Minister, Clegg harboured a desire for Number 10, and second prize can only count as a disappointment. Rattling the foundations of the two-Party club is probably the most important thing Clegg has done, and his desire for electoral reform is commendable. Thirty or forty percent support is not a majority, however mathematically challenged the proponents of FPP may be, and it should never have been allowed to justify the 100% power afforded to the winner under that system. Britain’s Conservative Party and its Leader David Cameron remain opposed to electoral reform, just as there are still a few die-hard pig-ignorant Neanderthals in New Zealand who proclaim the superiority of FPP; history will remember them as the disappointed rearguard of a twilight philosophy, fading into irrelevance as the face of the political landscape changes. In Scotland the election was about more than splitting the two Party club and electoral reform; it was about Nationalism itself, the expression of a separate identity, selfdetermination, self Government, and one day, complete independence. The only real race in Scotland was between Labour and the Scottish National Party, which dominates the Scottish Parliament, but which is hobbled in the Westminster one by the same inequitable failings of FPP that prevented the Values and Social Credit Parties from gaining fair representation relative to their electoral support in the bad old days of preMMP New Zealand. The successes of the
Scottish nationalists brings hope for those of us in New Zealand, this writer included, who would like nothing better than to see the South Island gain its own Parliament, as a step along the road to its ultimate inevitable independence as a separate nation. More imminent perhaps is the possibility of a Tuhoe Republic in the Ureweras, already flagged by John Key as being not beyond the bounds of the ridiculous. Your favourite commentator completely supports the idea, provided, of course, that the rest of us don’t have to pay for it. The face of the nation changes as time rolls on, and the face of politics must change to suit. Resting my jet-lagged bones in a hotel in Earl’s Court, having beaten the volcano to sneak into Heathrow just as the ash cloud opened, it became acutely apparent how much the face of England is changing as well. Even twenty years ago during this writer’s OE, the aforementioned suburb was Antipodean Central; now, like much of London, it is Little India. I’ve always liked Hindus. They’re gentle, tolerant, hard-working people, the very best face of enterprise capitalism, and the democratic West’s best hope for a bulwark against the extremism of expansionist China and radical Islam. Like New Zealand’s Chinese migrants of a century-and-a-half ago, they have adopted British culture and added to it, rather than seeking to replace it with their own. And as the shifts in New Zealand politics proved that the same thing could happen in Britain, so the evolution of Britain and her electoral structures demonstrate that the next chapter can indeed unfold for us, changing the face of Governance for good and for the better. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 21
Chris Carter Oscar-winning performances I REALLY THINK THAT IT’S TIME WE CONSIDERED A
bit of a name change for our otherwise neat little country, to something a little more in keeping with what it appears we have become. “Cloud Cookoo Land” could perhaps be a little more apt, having checked out local news over the last couple of weeks, in that true reality and even common sense being applied in our day to day lives appears to be as rare as the likelihood of ever finding a fresh Moa steak on sale at the local butchers! Consider, if you will, something that has had the Media all a twitter recently, and then the peculiar reactions of everyone from the Government right through to the ordinary Kiwi on the street. A young guy, 16 years old, intelligent, well educated, a budding all round sportsman etc, tells his parents he’s ripping off to a mate’s place to do some swat, when in fact he’s off to a party. He swipes a bottle of vodka from a grog cabinet apparently at his late Grandmother’s place and heads off to arrive at what turns out to be a very well-run party with adults in attendance to keep an eye on things. At the main door someone spots the firewater he’s carrying and more or less tells him to sod off. The young feller decides, instead, to join some of his mates in the car park whereupon he, apparently in short order, pours the vodka down the hatch and shortly thereafter passes out cold. Sadly, despite being taken by an adult to a nearby address and put to bed to sober up, one would think a reasonable thing to do, it appears that such was the quantity of alcohol imbibed by this young chap over such a short period of time that, during the night, he died. Our left wing media scribes, quickly realizing that the recently deceased was from a good middle class home and furthermore had attended a rather expensive private 22 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
school, namely Kings College, decided this was very newsworthy as opposed to him being say, an urchin from a seamy suburb. So within a single news-cycle this unfortunate, sad event became nationwide news complete with bearded and sandal- wearing “experts” to be interviewed endlessly as to the sins of drinking, only just stopping short in their ‘reporting’ of calling for general liquor prohibition for anyone under the age of retirement! The usual suspects, eager as always to follow the media over-blowing of a single tragic incident, crammed the talk-back lines for the next several days with a cacophony of
looked the fact that youthful misadventure has been killing our kids in bulk numbers from the beginning of time. We see kids drowning by the dozen each year simply because stupid regulations have seen most school pools filled in so children as a result are no longer taught to swim. When was the last time the so called media or for that matter the self obsessed law commissioners lost any sleep about these tragedies? For that matter, drownings by the dozen each year and the clear reasons it’s now so prevalent don’t exactly light up the talk back lines either. Mind you, matter like teaching youngsters to swim, how to drive properly
Because some things can’t be taxed or exploited for money or political capital, we simply ignore them, especially some of the most dangerous things that are killing our kids but don’t rate official or media attention ill-informed comment perhaps leavened by severely crippled memories of themselves doing exactly the same sort of thing when they were young. Naturally, that antediluvian bunch of old codgers who masquerade as being valid members of the Law Commission, eagerly sprang on this young man’s unfortunate demise as being a hall mark event to prove their recently published ramblings as being almost a biblical prediction. So thus, once again, instead of accepting a relatively isolated suburban tragedy as being what it was, our community eagerly embraced this event and essentially over-
or what to look out for if you suspect your young mate is about to become yet another statistic in our appalling youth suicide rate scarcely is ever likely to be seen as the lead item on the News at Six or a headline in the Herald either! So naturally, because some things can’t be taxed or exploited for money or political capital, we simply ignore them, especially some of the most dangerous things that are killing our kids but don’t rate official or media attention. We’re a strange lot when you come to think about it eh? We form groups and societies to overturn mad legislation from the Greens who were determined
to ban smacking, when anyone with a half a brain was well aware that dopey stuff like that would make absolutely no difference in the least to the psychopaths who would beat their own mothers to a pulp given half a chance, let alone having any qualms at all about beating a baby to death. Yet when it comes to reducing the enormous death rates amongst say the 10 to 20 year age group, and it appears that other than pursuing the poor old piss fairy with crippling taxation, and restrictions on sale etc etc, any other worthwhile ideas to make New Zealand a less dangerous place for youngsters to grow up in is beyond the ken of the nitwits we were silly enough to allow to call the shots. I remember clearly from my drunken youth being well aware that it was an offence to be drunk in a public place, verboten to drink on the street or in the vicinity of the local dance.
Does anyone remember who the government of the day was when all these offences were knocked on the head and youngsters were more or less given the green light to drink up large and wherever they liked with no fear of any repercussions I wonder? Similarly boneheaded decisions you can pretty well guarantee will shortly exit the Parliamentary debating chamber, no doubt formulated, argued about and finally put into legislation by people who, from their everyday actions, have long since proven
a complete inability to recognize the difference between the so called exercising of a ‘conscience’ vote as opposed to what is right and proper, what the people need and invariably want. We frequently accuse our lawmakers of playing politics when it appears from their recent actions it’s more likely that they tend to play stupid, in an Oscar-winning sort of way. Chris Carter appears in association with www.snitch.co.nz, a must-see site.
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 23
Matthew Flannagan Secularism and public life LEGAL SCHOLAR STEPHEN CARTER STATED,
“One good way to end a conversation – or start an argument – is to tell a group of well educated professionals that you hold a political position (preferably a controversial one such as being against abortion or pornography) because it is required by your understanding of God’s will. In the unlikely event that anyone hangs around to talk with you about it, chances are that you will be challenged on the ground that you are intent on imposing your religious beliefs on other people. And in contemporary political and legal culture, nothing is worse.” Carter puts his finger on an important perspective which is pervasive in contemporary liberal societies. This is the view that citizens of liberal democracies may justly support the implementation of a law only if they reasonably believe themselves to have a plausible secular justification for that law. Further, they must be willing to appeal to secular justifications alone in political discussion. The upshot of this perspective is that it is perceived to be unjust to support or advocate for laws for theological or religious reasons. I will refer to this position as secularism, the commitment to the position that the public square should be secular. The secularisation of political culture is, of course, an implication of accepting this position. Richard Rorty described it as, “The happy, Jeffersonian compromise that the Enlightenment reached with the religious. This compromise consists in privatizing religion – keeping it out of … “the public square,” making it seem bad taste to bring religion into discussions of public policy.” My experience as a New Zealand citizen is that secularism is widely held and taken for granted in our culture by media, politicians and popular culture. I also think, perhaps predictably, that secularism of this sort is questionable. 24 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
Let me begin by pointing out that several writers have observed that prima facie there is something unfair or discriminatory about secularism. Contemporary critics of secularism, Christopher Eberle and Terence Cuneo, note that it entails “There is an important asymmetry between religious and secular reasons in the following respect: some secular reasons can themselves justify state coercion but no religious reason can.” Another critic, Philip Quinn, observes that secularists impose “burdens on religious people” that they nowhere suggest “imposing on nonreligious people.” Secularists do “not propose that nonreligious people must
mention episodes such as the Inquisition and Crusades, which are said to be consequences of allowing religious reasons to influence public and political life. It is argued that the only way to keep social peace and prevent the kind of violence that Europe witnessed is to ensure religious reasons do not influence public life and that all political discussions take place on secular terms. This argument assumes that appeal to religious reasons is the cause of religious wars and appeals to secular reasons protect us against such wars. Writing in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Eberle and Cuneo note that the religious wars of the
My experience as a New Zealand citizen is that secularism is widely held and taken for granted in our culture by media, politicians and popular culture be sufficiently motivated by adequate religious reason for their advocacy or support of restrictive laws or policies. The lack of symmetry is striking.” This raises an obvious question, why the asymmetry? On the face of it secularism appears to privilege secular ideologies and doctrines in public debate whilst relegating religious or theological perspectives to the private sphere. What is the basis for this? Two reasons are typically offered and neither is terribly compelling. The first is that it is dangerous to allow theological or religious concerns into public debate. Defenders of secularism raise the specter of the wars of religion that tore Europe apart during the 17th century or they
17th century were caused not by the appeal to religious reasons per se but rather by the violation of religious freedom. Moreover, they note that even in the 17th century, religious persecution was typically justified on secular grounds. They go on to observe that religious freedom is not necessarily safeguarded by secularising public debate. They note that many “secularists have a long history of hostility to the right to religious freedom and, presumably, that hostility isn’t at all grounded in religious considerations” In addition, they note correctly that some of the most important defences of religious persecution and defences of religious tolerance, such as those proposed by John Locke and Pierre Bayle, appealed to explicitly theological grounds.
Yale philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff makes a similar point, he notes that much of “the slaughter, torture, and generalised brutality of our century has mainly been conducted in the name of one or another secular cause – nationalism of many sorts, communism, fascism, patriotisms of various kinds, economic hegemony.” He also stated that “many of the social movements in the modern world that have moved societies in the direction of liberal democracy have been deeply and explicitly religious in their orientation.” Wolterstorff cites examples such as the abolitionist, civil rights and various other resistance movements as examples. The assumption that secular reasoning is always tolerant and religious reasoning is always intolerant does not survive scrutiny. Particular types of religious reasons in particular political contexts can lead to wars and abuse, whereas appealing to other types of religious reasons in other contexts can be beneficent. The same is equally true of secular reasons. Certain types of secular reasons can be dangerous in particular contexts and other types of secular reasons are not. To single religious reasons out as being ‘too dangerous to be aired in public’ and insisting on a default to secular reasons seems ad hoc and unjustified. The fear of religious wars is not the only argument typically offered for the secular public square. The main reason offered for secularism is that religious reasons are not accessible to all people. Auckland Law Professor Paul Rishworth observes, “some have contended that the nature of religious belief is such that, while it may be integral to individual autonomy and development, it has no proper role in public policy debates and that these ought to be conducted exclusively in secular terms that are equally accessible to all.” [Emphasis added] Something like this is also evident in defences of secularism. Leading secular Philosopher Michael Tooley states, “For it is surely true that it is inappropriate, at least in a pluralistic society, to appeal to specific theological beliefs of a non moral sort… in support of legislation that will be binding upon everyone.” Robert Audi, one of the leading defenders of secularism, states “as advocates for laws and public policies, then, and especially for those that are coercive, virtuous citizens will seek grounds of a kind that any rational adult citizen can endorse as sufficient for the purpose.” [Emphasis added] In essence, because not everyone in society accepts the existence of God or some theo-
logical perspective on life then it is unjust to base laws governing their conduct on theological or religious grounds. This argument is deeply flawed. If taken consistently it would require not just the exclusion of religious reasons but the exclusion of any reasons that were controversial and not accepted by all people. The problem is that many secular justifications and ideologies are also controversial in the same way. Quinn makes the point, “If the fact that religious reasons cannot be shared by all in a religiously pluralistic society suffices to warrant any exclusion of religious reasons for advocating or supporting restrictive laws or policies, then much else ought in fairness also to be excluded on the same grounds.” He goes on to note, “Indeed, it would seem that the appeal to any comprehensive ethical theory, including all known secular ethical theories, should be disallowed on the grounds that every such theory can be reasonably rejected by some citizens of a pluralistic democracy. And if justification of restrictive laws or policies can be conducted only in terms of moral considerations no citizen of a pluralistic democracy can reasonably reject, then in a pluralistic democracy such as ours very few restrictive laws or policies can be morally justified, a conclusion that would, I suspect, be welcomed only by anarchists.” [Emphasis added] I agree with Quinn. There is special pleading going on whereby theological beliefs are rejected on certain grounds, while secular ones are not, even though the same grounds and reasons, consistently applied, should
lead to the rejection of secular beliefs. On examining secularism and the main arguments for it, it certainly is not evident that a just or fair society will have a secularised public square. To insist this is the case prima facie seems to favour secular views of the world for no adequate reason. Contrary to what some maintain, secular reasons, like religious reasons, can be used to justify atrocities and human rights abuses. Further, like religious reasons, secular reasons are frequently controversial and not shared by all intelligent people. Of course, secularists might consider religious views of the world to be false but then, of course, religious people consider secular views of the world to be false and given the diversity of secular moral theories on offer they cannot all be true (some are at odds with each other) so why single out religious views? The question remains as to why morality requires that public discussions privilege secular perspectives by requiring that all such discussions are engaged in on secular terms. I suspect we will be waiting a long time for an answer. [In this article I acknowledge being influenced by my wife Madeleine Flannagan’s supervised research paper “Religious Restraint and Public Policy” which she wrote under the supervision of Professor Rishworth, the Dean of the University of Auckland’s School of Law.] Dr Matthew Flannagan is an Auckland based philosopher/theologian who researches and publishes in the area of Philosophy of Religion, Theology and Ethics. He blogs at New Zealand’s most read Christian blog www.mandm.org.nz. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 25
A National SCANDAL SM AC K I N G R E V I E W T E A M ADMIT THEY DIDN’T INVESTIGATE 26 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
The Prime Minister’s “review” of the smacking laws led by Politically Incorrect Parenting Show’s Nigel Latta, Police Commissioner Howard Broad and CYF boss Peter Hughes has turned out to be a farce, after proof emerged that it did not fully investigate parents’ complaints despite calling parents “liars”. IAN WISHART has the exclusive, full story in this special report
mbarrassment for the government is looming after the release of new documents showing Nigel Latta’s high-profile review of the anti-smacking law was not a thorough investigation and resulted in factual errors that undermine the report’s main findings. The damaging revelations come in court documents released to Investigate magazine that show the Latta Review failed to check the facts of smacking prosecutions referred to it by lobby group Family First, and instead took claims written in police and social workers’ files at their word. Nigel Latta himself upped the credibility ante at his news conference with Prime Minister John Key last December to announce the findings of his review, when he told reporters: “The difficulty for Family First is that all they have is the account of the person that’s talking to them, and people aren’t always completely honest about the stuff that’s gone on,” said Latta at his Beehive appearance. “In all of the case studies that I reviewed, it was clear that there were other aggravating features involved. In fact if the police hadn’t turned up to those cases I’d be asking why they hadn’t!” The implication was that Nigel Latta had thoroughly reviewed claims made by Family First about specific cases of parents being unfairly prosecuted, got to the bottom of those claims and found that in all cases Family First’s protests about the smacking law didn’t stack up. The public, said Latta, could be utterly satisfied that the police and CYF were INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 27
LATTA REVIEW: “Mr Latta found that the New Zealand Police and Child, Youth and Family responded appropriately and proportionally to the child safety concerns that were raised.”
doing their job well and not hounding parents as alleged. Now, newly released court transcripts have turned the tables on the Latta review, showing the panel of Latta, Police Commissioner Howard Broad and CYF boss Peter Hughes got their own report factually wrong in fully one third of the parents’ cases they reviewed and that key documents were not shown to Latta. One example of how significant this discovery is can be shown from a Morning Report interview with referendum organiser Larry Baldock, in the lead up to the anti-smacking referendum last year: BALDOCK: “It is absolutely clear that if a parent uses any reasonable force right now to correct their child right now they are breaking the law…” PLUNKET: “Can you give us an example of that having happened?” BALDOCK: “There are examples that we’ll have available…” 28 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
PLUNKET: “Can you point to anyone who has been criminalised for smacking a child?” BALDOCK: “Yes we can.” PLUNKET: “Please, could you give me an example?” BALDOCK: “Well, I’ll have to go to my list of examples.” PLUNKET: “Can you give me a single example off the top of your head?” BALDOCK: “No, not off the top of my head, I can’t.” If it’s good enough for Sean Plunket to demand “a single example”, then presumably Morning Report will be following up this magazine story with gusto. The importance of the panel’s work in establishing the credibility of the government’s anti smacking policy was listed right at the front of the Latta review’s executive summary: “A key element of the review was the work carried out by Nigel Latta, who was
appointed as the independent member of the review group. Mr Latta examined a number of cases, including ones where it was reported that family members were inappropriately investigated or prosecuted. “In his review of cases,” says the report, “Mr Latta found that the New Zealand Police and Child, Youth and Family responded appropriately and proportionally to the child safety concerns that were raised.” Reporting on the review’s findings, Wellington’s Dominion Post noted: “Yesterday the host of The Politically Incorrect Parenting Show said none of the cases highlighted by the pro-smacking lobby to bolster their argument that good parents were being made into criminals for smacking stood up to scrutiny. “His finding, after the three-month review, has firmed the Government’s resolve that there is no need to change the law, despite a resounding referendum vote in favour of change earlier this year.”
In other words, the Latta review finding against Family First’s cases was seen as a crucial part of the review by the media and the government, as shown by Prime Minister John Key’s reliance on the credibility of Latta’s review. “Good parents are not being criminalised for a light smack. During the review, Nigel... was given full access to files,” said Key. Latta himself went so far as to say that the files were full of information not available to the public, which shows they shouldn’t believe Family First: “Whenever the public hear reports of a case, I think it’s really important to ask yourself, do we really know all the information? Whenever I hear cases that come up in the media, my first thought now is going to be, ‘yep, but I wonder what the background is that we can’t know, but the CYF and the Police do’? “I do trust Police and CYF, and I do trust that they make the right decision.” It appears that Latta’s central argument was along the lines, ‘I’ve seen the police and CYF files on the smacking cases, the people prosecuted were scumbags who went well beyond a smack or ordinary parental discipline, and they deserve everything coming to them’. Well, Key and Latta’s credibility hinges on that report and that interpretation, so now let’s see how well the Latta review actually did its job. Under the heading “What was reported” Latta details Family First’s complaint in each case, then under “Agency information” he gives his verdict based on the CYF and Police information that the public “can’t know”.
(all text in case reports is from Latta Review): Latta Review, page 24: What was reported
Daughter rude to police. Father charged for smack, North Island Oct 2008 “My daughter went through a difficult patch and became highly rebellious, including wagging school. She was picked up by the Police whilst wagging and taken to the Police Station and was highly belligerent towards them. I took her home in the car and attempted to communicate with her as we drove. She refused to talk and responded to everything with a ‘yeah right’. To get her attention I smacked her once on the leg with an open hand and said ‘listen to me – this
is serious’. The next day she again wagged school and went instead to CYF, encouraged by her friend, and told them I had ‘assaulted’ her. Despite my explanation to CYF, they asked the police to charge me. The officer who had charged me visited me at my home expressing concern about charging me but as I had admitted giving her a smack and the way the law was worded he had very little leeway. I was convicted of assault but discharged without further penalty. My daughter never thought it would go so far and has admitted to CYF that it was purely ‘I’ll get you’-based.” ‘I asked for help but instead got conviction’ NZ Herald, Jul 28, 2009 A Wellington solo father says he went to Child, Youth and Family Services for help – and ended up with a conviction for smacking his daughter. Agency information • A 13 year old girl alleged she was being physically abused by her father. The allegations included being struck with a telephone book a number of times and being punched in the side of the head. • The Police reported the allegations to Child, Youth and Family. The father denied all allegations and advised that his daughter was displaying challenging behaviours which he was struggling to deal with. • Child, Youth and Family were unable to substantiate any care or protection concerns and referred the father to a community agency for support. • The father was convicted of common assault.
At first blush, CASE ONE looks cut and dried. This wasn’t just a parent smacking their child, it was a middle-class Jake the Muss driving his fist into a 13 year old girl’s head, and also beating her repeatedly with a telephone book. Little wonder Nigel Latta told journalists he would have been asking questions if police hadn’t prosecuted! Now see what really happened. The Police Summary of Facts presented to the judge for sentencing makes no mention whatsoever of beatings with phone books or fists – far more serious allegations than a slap on the leg with an open hand. The only crime identified in the Summary of Facts is this: “The defendant was frustrated and upset that the victim wasn’t at school, he grabbed her by the arm and walked her to his car parked nearby. The victim complied and got into his car. “They left the car park a short time later, as they were driving home the defendant tried to get an explanation from the victim
about her behavior. She refused to say anything, the defendant then slapped her on the leg with an open hand to try and get her to respond.” That’s it. That’s the crime: taking his truant 13 year old daughter by the arm, and slapping her leg in the car. What was it John Key told reporters at the Latta Review news conference? “Good parents are not being criminalised for a light smack.” But the court records prove they are, and Nigel Latta’s review failed to see an example staring him in the face, possibly because police had not supplied him with court documents. And where did the fisticuffs and telephone book beatings claim come from? In her efforts to get her father in trouble with CYF, the 13 year old daughter had embellished the story. Although the Latta Review carefully notes that “Child, Youth and Family were unable to substantiate any care or protection concerns”, they don’t explicitly link that failure to “substantiate” with the punching and bashing with phone books – those very serious “aggravating factors” that Latta told reporters he’d found “in all cases” and which he mentioned just a few centimetres up the page as valid “agency information” for the public to consider. In fact, those aggravating factors never existed in this case – the father was convicted purely for giving his daughter one smack on the leg, and if the Latta Review had examined the complete files properly, he would have found that. For his part, the man at the centre of Case One describes how the case appeared driven by CYF: “The next evening the officer who had charged me visited me at my home and apologised (not in so many words) about charging me but I had admitted slapping my daughter and the way the law was worded he had very little lee way: A complaint had been laid, CYF insisted I be charged and I admitted slapping her. I would in all probability be discharged without conviction as it was at the very bottom of the scale. “I appeared in Court with my ‘lawyer’ (my own lawyer was unable to appear and sent his junior to represent me – junior being the operative word). I admitted guilt and then arguments started on what should happen to me. Both the Police Prosecutor and the Detective stated that they would have no objection to a discharge without conviction. The junior argued that a conINVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 29
SUE BRADFORD: “To think that police would arrest and prosecute someone for lightly smacking their kid or putting them into a room for timeout, I think that would be ridiculous.” /Herald/Presspix
shortly afterwards came out remorseful and apologetic. At the next meeting with the social workers, Sue mentioned that they did smack their children but only when their behaviour warranted such discipline, and that John had smacked their daughter the previous day. That Friday, Sue received a call from CYF to inform them that an allegation of abuse had been made and that they needed to find alternate accommodation for their two children over the full weekend until Monday morning. They were interviewed by the police for 5 hours and later found out that the report to CYF said that ‘they admitted to hitting their children’. CYF have since apologised and admitted they would learn from this! UPDATE: CYF says sorry to ‘traumatised’ family NZ Herald July 29, 2009 CYFS admit they “could have done a better job” in the way it handled an allegation that a couple had smacked their daughter Agency information viction could affect my employment but the Judge replied that while he was sympathetic to my position, I had admitted smacking a child and the present law while ambiguous was still law and was in the public eye. Many organisations were demanding that people were to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. “After more to-ing and fro-ing the Judge passed sentence. Convicted and discharged. I still had to pay the $1600 lawyer’s bill. “My daughter never thought it would go so far and her attitude has changed. She is now back at school and doing well. “The anti-smacking law was ill-thoughtout and I know of other parents who have been put in similar situations.” Again, with the serious allegations found to be unsubstantiated, this parent ultimately became a convicted criminal because of an open handed slap, with no marks, to his daughter’s leg. What was it Green MP Sue Bradford told Investigate magazine back in June 2006: “To think that police would arrest and 30 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
prosecute someone for lightly smacking their kid or putting them into a room for timeout, I think that would be ridiculous.” And yet, here we are.
CASE TWO Latta Review, page 27: What was reported
Parents seek help – CYF remove children South Island Nov 2008 John* and Sue* (names changed) sought help from a social service because of the behaviour of their daughter (9). The two case workers were very affirming of them as a family and seemed both positive and helpful. On a subsequent night, the daughter had a major tantrum which involved throwing toys, banging the bunks against the wall and verbal abuse of mum. Dad warned her that if the behaviour continued she would receive a smack on the bottom (she had already been sent to her room at this point). She continued and dad gave her a smack on the bottom. She stopped the bad behaviour, and
• Child, Youth and Family were notified of a 10 year old being smacked by her father, causing a bruise on her back. The smack, aimed at the child’s bottom, hit her on the back leaving what was reported as a ‘tennis ball size bruise”. The notification was received from a health professional, and there were also concerns expressed for the child’s safety in the home from a mental health social worker. • The parents had previously sought assistance from a health organisation in managing the daughter’s behaviour and had found the involvement helpful. • Child, Youth and Family acknowledged its response (which included the child staying elsewhere for a couple of days) following the smacking incident could have been better” however it had become involved following “being asked to ... see whether a family that appeared to be struggling needed help.” • Child, Youth and Family took no further action as the family remained working with other agencies.
So what are the key ingredients, the “aggravating features” that Latta claims justify the CYF approach here?
The obvious one is the claim that the smack left a bruise the size of a tennis ball on the child, and Latta invites readers to take this claim seriously because it was verified by “a health professional”. CYF further spin the story by continuing to imply the parents not only beat their daughter, but are also incompetent at parenting, “struggling” and perhaps to be looked down on. Hardly a tone conducive to getting families to trust government agencies, when they’re weighing up whether to pick up the phone and ask for help. CYF, we are told by Latta, only took no further action because “the family remained working with other agencies”. So, on all these points, did Latta get it right? Again, the answer is a resounding no. A letter from Police to the father accused of leaving this horrific, tennis-ball size
one and the same. “This matter is for filing and as I have stated no further Police action will follow.” Now, that letter should have been on the police file of the case examined by Nigel Latta. If Latta read it, there is no excuse for continuing the erroneous claim in his report that the smack caused the massive bruise. The “jump to conclusions” approach of CYF and the Public Health Nurse meant the couple’s two children were removed from their care immediately in a shoot first, ask questions later process. The parents were understandably furious that CYF regarded the smack as serious enough to seize children on a Friday afternoon, but not serious enough to actually investigate what happened until the following Monday. As the parents, Erik and Lisa Petersen, wrote to CYF later:
practical steps will be taken to prevent so great a misdiagnosis in future cases?” asked the Petersens. One of the reasons for the overreaction may have been the politically correct behaviour of public health nurse Kate Balfour, who instead of telling CYF that the parents “smacked” their children, reported the parents had “admitted to hitting” the children. It’s the same language twisting Sue Bradford indulged in, and it shows the inherent power of words when used as weapons. “I state for the record,” said Erik Petersen in a letter of complaint to authorities, “that we have never hit our children, nor have we ever stated that we did. We are deeply offended that such a statement has been made. It is a gross and misleading distortion which has already produced serious and far reaching consequences.”
“IF ‘CRITICAL’ IS THE MOST SERIOUS RATING – HOW IS IT THAT THE RATING IS BROAD ENOUGH TO COVER A CHILD WITH BROKEN BONES OR CIGARETTE BURNS OR REPEATED RAPES ON ONE END OF THE SPECTRUM, AND A LITTLE GIRL FROM A LOVING FAMILY WITH A BRUISE THE SIZE OF A 50 CENT PIECE (OBTAINED INNOCENTLY) ON THE OTHER?
bruise, tells a sorry tale of CYF and Public Health Nurse incompetence: “I write to you today to inform you of the Police decision not to continue with a prosecution of assault against you in that an allegation was made that you had physically disciplined your daughter...to excess. “In summary ...this was initiated by CYF’s after receiving information from the Public Health Nurse and CAPS [Child Abuse Prevention Service] after meetings/assessments which surrounded [your daughter’s] behaviour. “Police enquiries revealed that the information these agencies and ultimately CYF’s had based their judgements on were a misinterpretation of events that occurred separately. In particular the two events being firstly where [your daughter] had hurt herself by bumping her back causing bruising and secondly, some nine days later, a misguided but in the circumstances justified disciplinary action where an open handed smack struck her high on the buttock rising to her lower back. “Unfortunately the agencies referred to believe the two mentioned incidences were
“What allegations and information lead to our case being rated ‘critical’? “If ‘critical’ is the most serious rating – how is it that the rating is broad enough to cover a child with broken bones or cigarette burns or repeated rapes on one end of the spectrum, and a little girl from a loving family with a bruise the size of a 50 cent piece (obtained innocently) on the other? “Why did it take over 72 hours between the time that the case workers had met to discuss the alleged abuse of our children to the time that either they or a health professional actually sighted our children? Why was it necessary for us to push that such a sighting actually took place? Is it standard practice in a critical case to take more than 72 hours to sight the children involved? “Given that it took less than an hour for the social worker to determine that our children were completely safe and ain a very loving home, questions must be raised as to the validity of our case being assessed as ‘critical’ in the first place. What specifically lead to such a wrong assessment, and what
Those far reaching consequences included stress-related trauma for Petersen, who experienced “tightness of the chest, difficulty breathing and tingling, loss of appetite and feelings of both rage and helplessness....my daughters are both clingy and upset, one is being teased at school.” CYF maintained their stance initially that the tennis-ball bruise was the result of the smack, until that claim was shot down after police spoke to the child and reviewed health worker case notes where they discovered the bruise incident had been reported to authorities a week earlier than the smack. The police letter exonerating the parents was sent 11 months before the Latta Review completed its work. It should have been available. Investigate sought comment from Police Minister Judith Collins, the Ministry of Social Development and Nigel Latta. Our questions on this specific case were: • At page 27 of the report it is stated: “CYF were notified of a 10 year old being smacked by her father, causing a bruise on her back. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 31
The smack, aimed at the child’s bottom, hit her on the back leaving what was reported as a ‘tennis ball sized bruise’. The notification was received from a health professional etc”. Are CYF and Latta aware that this summary of facts, as reported in the Latta review, was wrong? • Are CYF and Latta aware that when police investigated they found the “tennis ball sized bruise” had been caused on a different occasion when the child had tripped while playing? • Given that the police file included a letter to this effect dated 7 February 2009, not32 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
CYF and Ministry of Social Development boss Peter Hughes. NZPA/Andrew Labett
ing that “CYF’s had based their judgements on a misinterpretation of events”, and that the smack to the child was, in the view of police a “justified disciplinary action”, why did the Latta review of December 2009 fail to pick up this crucial information from the review of the case files? • The Latta review records “CYF took no
further action as the family remained working with other agencies”. Is Latta or CYF aware that the family had no ongoing contact with other agencies? If not, why not? The answers to these questions will surprise you later in this article. You couldn’t make this stuff up! The Government’s much vaunted uber-review of the anti-smacking law is disintegrating as the report’s own credibility is torn to shreds by police documents they themselves should have read. The final irony is that the Latta Review included this case as proof that CYF acted “appropriately and proportionally”, despite CYF’s own file on the incident revealing it apologised to the family for mishandling the case. “We regret this did not happen in your case, and social workers did not meet with you or the girls until the following Monday,” wrote CYF’s acting regional director Theresa Perham to the family. “These practice gaps were not acceptable... Once again Mr Petersen, both Ross and I apologise that best practice standards were not followed in relation to our contact with your family and this caused both yourself, Mrs Petersen and the girls undue distress.” Again, this apology was on the CYF file and was only glancingly referred to by the Latta review. In fact, Ministry of Social Development’s CEO (also in charge of CYF) Peter Hughes attempted to spin his way out of the contradiction in a January 18 letter this year that gives a clue to the narrow focus of the Latta Review. Hughes told Petersen “The review team had access to all electronic case file information held by CYF. I consider that this information, focussing on the statutory investigation by CYF, was relevant and sufficient for the review team’s determination about the appropriateness and proportionality of the investigation.” Check out the portion in italics. From this letter, it appears the Latta Review was only given documentation in support of the initial police and CYF responses, not the outcomes. The Latta Review, if so, was merely rubber stamping police and CYF decisions to go in hard on the flimsiest of evidence and most outrageous allegations. One of the scandalous claims the Petersens were hit with was possible sexual abuse (see sidebar interview). A schoolteacher sees a gregarious and bubbly schoolgirl trying to give her little sister a kiss and a big squeeze hug as they pick her up after school, despite little sister’s protestations, and reports the
ONE FAMILY’S STORY Erik Petersen breaks his silence INVESTIGATE: Just can you clarify for me, you self-referred to the CAPS (Child Abuse Prevention Service) team, what happened there? PETERSEN: Well, our daughter has been a really strong-willed child. She’s really come right in the last six months or so but before that time she was just a major handful. She’d had a meltdown at school and the principal had strongly recommended that we get her to CAPS for an assessment. So we went to visit CAPS with the view of finding out whether her behaviour was the result of mental illness or just a strong-willed child. It was during that visit with CAPS that they noticed she had a bruise, and they asked her about the bruise and she explained that she had tripped over a vacuum cleaner and fallen against the thing the phone sits on, and had gotten the bruise. Around seven or nine days later they had a home visit and came and saw her at home. Then the day after that she threw a massive paddy and I smacked her bottom. She was wriggling during the smack and it left some fingermarks on her lower back, which we’d never done before. Of course I felt bad about it, in the same way as you’d feel bad about treading on your daughter’s foot. My wife mentioned it to the health nurse, and the health nurse said, ‘oh, I wouldn’t be that concerned about it’, but the next day the health nurse called CAPS and said ‘oh, the mother says they’ve smacked their child and it’s left a bruise’, and Lynda Jelley at CAPS has said ‘I’ve seen a bruise!’ and between the two of them they decided that the bruise that “A” had on her hip was the mark that I had made on her back. They decided that that bruise was not consistent with a smack, which of course it wasn’t – it was consistent with falling against a hard object. What they reported to CYF when they put in the referral was that we had admitted, they say ‘hitting’ the child, they never used ‘smack’, they say we had admitted hitting our children and that I had hit “A” causing a bruise, and they sent in the paperwork on the bruise that Lynda Jelley had sighted, with the very clear implication that this was the bruise that we had admitted to causing. So when CYF got the information, for them it wasn’t an investigation per se, for them it was
‘these are people who have already admitted abusing their children, we need to get the children out of the situation and get them some professional help’. Of course, we were absolutely blindsided because we’d done absolutely nothing wrong, and suddenly were told that we needed to find alternate accommodation for our children until they could investigate us. We went through the whole process, and when they finally agreed to meet with us – we pushed repeatedly for a meeting – when they finally came down and investigated our children and actually spoke to them, within half an hour they had cleared absolutely everything up. In spite of the fact that they found the children were in a perfectly safe and loving home situation, and caring environment, and that they had no concerns for their safety etc, and apologised in writing, the apologies have all been for the handling of our case, the fact that they did not come and investigate as soon as practicable, the fact that they caused the family undue stress – but in spite of all of that, according to Peter Hughes the summary of our case is accurate. INVESTIGATE: They’ve never admitted the bruises were not linked, despite the police investigation? PETERSEN: No, no. They have never admitted that. And the health nurse, I just had a letter from the health nurse’s lawyer, they do not admit that it was inappropriate to link the bruise and the smack in the way they did. But it’s a lie. What the health nurse has done is said, ‘they confessed causing that bruise’. And that bruise could only be the result of abuse if it was inflicted by a human being. There is no way it could be anything other than abuse if it was inflicted by me. So they’ve presented CAPS with a quick Q.E.D. that I have abused the children, and that record is still sitting there. INVESTIGATE: When CAPS originally interviewed “A” about that bruise, did that admission come spontaneously – PETERSEN: “A” had climbed onto my lap. She was very concerned and nervous about being there because she knew part of the assessment was for her mental health, and she was concerned she wasn’t normal. So she was scared stiff in the meeting and she sat on
my lap for most of the time. And at one point as I was hugging her she said ‘Ow, you’re hurting my bruise!’. They said, ‘Oh, have you got a bruise?’, and she said ‘Yep,’ and she hopped down and showed it to them. They asked how she got it and she explained. We thought that was that. They did put in a sheet on the bruise at the time, and they did put in an explanation of how the child obtained the bruise at the time. There was nothing further on that. In fact, during the home visit – we have all the notes from CYF, from CAPS and the health nurse, through the Privacy Act, we’ve gotten all of that – and in the home visit she specifically says there is no concern for “A’s” safety at all, and that was the day before the smack. So from the time they saw the bruise and made note of it through to the time of the home visit, for that stretch of eight or nine days, CAPS had voiced and expressed and reported absolutely no concerns for the safety of “A” or any fears or concerns of abuse. It was only when Kate Balfour called her, she says here, ‘4:15pm, phone call from Kate’ – this is 27 November 2008, ‘re mother disclosing they have hit their children. I mentioned the bruise sighted on “A” at AX [the initial assessment] and how the parents said she had banged into a table. Kate and I agreed to do a CYF notification.’ INVESTIGATE: Let’s get this right, so she says you said she had banged into a table, not that “A” had told them? PETERSEN: Yes, and probably both events in a sense are correct. “A” spoke very quietly during a lot of the interview so a lot of times we’d relay what she said. INVESTIGATE: Given your experiences with CAPS, what your recommendation be to people thinking about self-reporting to CAPS for assistance? PETERSEN: I would say just stay completely clear of the system all together, do not – we were told before we went to CAPS, when we were talking about the behavioural issues and the difficulties with “A” and talking to people about it – we have a good friend who’s a medical doctor and he said ‘Do not get into the system, do not do it.’ I thought he was probably being cynical. Most of the people who get into organisations like this are genuinely interested in doing some good and genuinely interested in helping out the community. And so despite the fact that a number of people had said ‘Don’t get involved with the system’, we looked and we thought ‘well, if this is going to be best for “A” let’s give it a try’. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 33
But having been through, I would say you are much better finding the money to do it privately, take out a second mortgage if you need to. I would steer well clear of the system. INVESTIGATE: Is it incompetence, or is it almost a recklessness? PETERSEN: My own feeling, and I’m willing to be 100% wrong on this, but there were a number of comments in the records looking through that, for instance, one of the allegations that was made against us was also sexual abuse. Now the initial note of our visit reflects nothing of that, they were very affirming of us as a couple both coming in, being involved in the assessment and “A’s” life. But after the allegation was made of abuse, shortly following thereafter was one of sexual abuse. Lynda Jelley talked about the fact that “A” was all over me and that she kissed me on the lips. INVESTIGATE: And that’s sexual abuse? PETERSEN: If she had done that with my wife, would that have raised any concern at all? But because it was me and I was male, you know? Later on, too, when we called the health nurse to put in an initial complaint my wife called her and I was saying in the background ‘ask her this...’ – which my wife sometimes does to me and I sometimes do to her when we’re on the phone – and the health nurse put in brackets, during the conversation, “controlling husband?” with a questionmark. So, I suspect, given that information and given our experiences, that probably a number of people who go into the field of working in an organisation such as CAPS or CYF do so because they have had an upbringing where they have had an abusive father or a dysfunctional family situation and they want to do something to set it right so it doesn’t happen to other people. And I would suspect that probably they bring some of those prejudices to work with them. That would be my guess. Now, as I say I’m completely ready to be 100% wrong on that, it’s an impression. I think there is certainly a degree of incompetence as well. CYF, when they were doing their investigation, they never established a timeline. They never put down the specifics of the allegations. They put about half of what was actually reported to them and they were so muddled on it that although I repeatedly asked for specific allegations and the sources of them, and although the people who made the allegations had signed disclosure statements, it was not until I actually got the information through the Privacy Commission that I was able to see the exact nature of the allegations. And the reason for that was the CYF recordkeeping was so poor. There were questions that 34 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
I brought up that they’ve gone back and talked through and looked at their records and they say, ‘we can’t tell anymore, we’re not sure’. I think there’s a degree of incompetence, yes. INVESTIGATE: I noticed in one of the CYF letters to you was an allegation of inappropriate sexual play between the two children, what was that? PETERSEN: Yeah, well what happened was we were very fortunate to be able to pinpoint that one immediately and know exactly what that one was. We were blindsided with that one as well. What happened was that our eldest daughter “B” is dyspraxic, which means that
When “B” went with Lisa to pick up “A” from school one day “B” was really excited to see her and said ‘Hi my sweetie’, and she went to hug her and give her a kiss, but “A” didn’t want to be hugged or kissed. So “B” was trying to hug and kiss her, and “A” was pushing her away, and a teacher then went and reported ‘sexualised behaviour’ she’s a little clumsier than your ordinary child. She inherited it from me and a little bit from her mum. They used to call it clumsy child syndrome. You tend to miss some of the social cues and tend to be a little slower to pick up what is appropriate and not appropriate. We’re an affectionate family, we cuddle, we often sit on the couch with an arm around a daughter, or I’ll have a daughter on my lap when I’m reading a story to her. When “B” went with Lisa to pick up “A” from school one day “B” was really excited to see her and said ‘Hi my sweetie’, and she went to hug her and give her a kiss, but “A” didn’t want to be
hugged or kissed. So “B” was trying to hug and kiss her, and “A” was pushing her away, and a teacher then went and reported ‘sexualised behaviour’. INVESTIGATE: What???! PETERSEN: Yep. Yep. That’s politically-correct madness. Our children are normal children. One of the things that bothers me, the same school where one of the teachers reported that, for one of the end of year things they had kids doing dances to different songs. And the year 6 class, I think it was, did one to [Christina Aguilera’s] Candyman, it’s got the words, ‘he’s my one stop shop, makes my panties drop’, and I thought, ‘hmmm, and you are wondering about sexualisation in kids!’ We lost our kids for 72 hours, we were put through the wringer, there were things blatantly wrong that break several Acts, that they had done, that CYF did not acknowledge for the longest time. If Howard Broad, Peter Hughes and Nigel Latta have any shred of self-respect, when all this breaks they will take whatever earnings they got from it and donate it to charity, because they didn’t earn it in my view. The Candyman lyrics (as performed by 11 year old girls at a New Zealand state primary school): He’s a one stop shop, makes my cherry pop He’s a sweet talkin’ sugar coated candyman A sweet talkin’ sugar coated candyman, ohh yeah Well, by now I’m getting all bothered and hot When he kissed my mouth it really hit the spot He had lips like sugarcane Good things come for boys who wait Tarzan and Jane were swingin’ on a vine Candyman, candyman Sippin’ from a bottle of vodka double wine Candyman, candyman Sweet sugar candyman He’s a one stop, gotcha hot, making all the panties drop Sweet sugar candyman He’s a one stop, got me hot, making my ugh pop Sweet sugar candyman He’s a one stop, get it while it’s hot, baby don’t stop Sweet sugar He’s got those lips like sugarcane Good things come for boys who wait He’s a one stop shop with a real big ugh He’s a sweet talkin’ sugar coated candyman
matter to CYF in what that agency has recorded on its database as “were observed playing in a sexually inappropriate manner”. If the nation’s school teachers and social workers are now trying to stamp out any displays of affection between young sisters by calling it “playing in a sexually inappropriate manner”, then every family with daughters in New Zealand is now at risk under John Key’s legislation. And CYF will justify their heavy-handed response as “appropriate and proportional” because of the serious nature of the allegations. There’s another area of danger for families around New Zealand that’s emerged in all this. A former CYF community panel board member has signed a statement confirming CYF is now maintaining a database on every single family it comes into contact with, based on its own notes and not necessarily including court outcomes or transcripts that reject CYF evidence as unsubstantiated. According to his statement, the database is a kind of Orwellian computer overview that notes down every suspicion, tip-off or supposition passed onto CYF by teachers, neighbours, community social workers, medical centres or estranged parents. “Any child who mentions to a school teacher that they have been smacked or touched in any physical way, is brought under investigation and their names are indelibly logged onto our database as a potential ‘abuser’.” As you can see, however, the game of Chinese Whispers that such tip-offs and suppositions rely on turned one smack in the Petersen case into “admitted to hitting” their children, to a belief that a massive bruise must have come from a parental bashing despite the child’s uncoached explanation that she tripped over a vacuum cleaner and hit a piece of furniture. The CYF computer database will, even now, still have the “playing in a sexually inappropriate manner” allegation listed against the parents. The danger for CYF, however, is that legally it is open to being sued for defamation by any family who find such unsubstantiated claims on their personal files – the act of allowing even one CYF staff member to read such reports could be interpreted by the courts as an act of ‘publication’ under the Defamation Act. Legal experts spoken to by Investigate suggest CYF reliance on a defence of privilege would be likely to fail unless CYF could prove it had made full efforts to substantiate or disprove the allegations kept on file.
CASE THREE Latta Review, page 23: What was reported
Father charged for smacks for ‘correction’ North Island 2008 “John* and Mary* had been having difficulties with their teenage daughter – especially her secretive behaviour with her boyfriend. When John attempted to confiscate a ring, she started to scratch and John had to physically restrain her from attacking him. Despite giving her a warning she continued to be defiant so he gave her three smacks on the bottom with an open hand. His daughter eventually calmed down and apologised. But the next morning rang a teacher from school and complained that she had been held in a headlock, had been tied up to a post using a dog lead, and hit with an electric fence pole. John was charged with assault. He was advised to plead guilty to the smacks on the bottom as they were not used to ‘restrain’ the child but to ‘correct’ the child. All other charges and claims were dropped. John will be discharged without conviction if there are no further problems.” Agency information • The Police received a report that a 14 year old girl alleged to her teacher that she had been beaten by her step-father. She alleged that he hit her, put her in a strangle hold and tried to tie her up using a dog lead. • The Police interviewed the stepfather who admitted aspects of the incident (including attempt-
ing to tie his step-daughter up) and to hitting her three times on the bottom. The step-father was charged with assault (male assaults female). • Child, Youth and Family involvement identified that there were significant concerns regarding the safety of this young person and she was removed from her mother and step-fathers care. • The concerns related to both the initial allegation and ongoing concerns regarding physical punishments and parenting. A family group conference was held and a plan put in place to address the ongoing concerns. • The stepfather was subsequently discharged without conviction.
Again, at first glance this appears to be another open and shut case where Family First must have backed a loser. The agency information clearly shows the stepfather has admitted various aspects of the attack, including attempting to tie the girl up with a dog lead. The agencies say there was clear evidence to justify removing the child from her mother and stepfather’s care and there were “ongoing concerns” about physical punishments and parenting sufficient to justify ongoing agency involvement. So, did it happen this way? The court documents released to Investigate by Family First include a summary of facts: “When discovering that the victim had been communicating with her boyfriend contrary to their instructions, the defendant has challenged her and tried to take some personal items from her as punishment. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 35
“A fight has ensued between both parties where they have wrestled and fallen to the ground. During the scuffle the victim’s MP4 player was partially broken.” We’ll stop there for a moment. Even the prosecutors admit the teenager physically assaulted her stepfather after he tried to confiscate the ring her “boyfriend” had given the 14 year old (remembering it is illegal for anyone to have sexual relations with a 14 year old girl). Under the Crimes Act, the daughter committed an assault on her stepfather, and legally, the stepfather had every right to defend himself, as section 48 of the Crimes Act shows: Section 48: Self-defence and defence of another Every one is justified in using, in the defence of himself or another, such force as, in the circumstances as he believes them to be, it is reasonable to use.
This piece of law trumps the anti-smacking legislation. It has always been permitted for people to use force to defend themselves 36 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
– even, in the case of dealing with home invaders, lethal force. A fight initiated by the daughter that did not end until she was smacked would fit the requirements of s48, ‘self defence’. So let’s return to the prosecution ‘summary of facts’ and see how the fight developed: “The defendant has removed a ring from around the victim’s neck by breaking the chain that it was attached to. The ring was a gift from the ex boy friend. “Another scuffle has ensued and the defendant has put the victim in a head lock in an attempt to restrain her. He has then entered the shed and tried to destroy her ring by smashing it with a hammer. “The victim has then entered the shed and attempted to reclaim her ring. The defendant has then tried to evict her from the garage and has ended up carrying her out. “Once out of the garage he has restrained the victim by tying her up to a post using a dog lease [sic]. The victim was yelling, screaming and trying to get away from the defendant. “Once this method of restraint had failed the victim went into the house where she
was confronted again by the defendant and her mother. The defendant then held her down of the ground and then he slapped her on the buttocks three times with an open hand,” said the prosecutor’s summary. So it’s clear this wasn’t a random, unprovoked slap on the backside. This was the culmination of a rolling maul. The stepfather’s own statement to police how the girl “chased after me again” when he took the ring to the garage, “and started wrestling with me in the garage. I tried to force her to get out of the garage and at one point I tried carrying her out...she was kicking the garage and stuff.” Reading the court ruling of Judge Walsh is informative. “They asked her to give them a ring with a cannabis emblem on it that the boyfriend had given to her. The defendant went to the victim’s wardrobe and took the ring, which was hanging with her school clothes and which also had her locker key and some personal items attached to it. “As he did so, and while his back was turned, the victim jumped on him from behind and reached around to try and take the ring off him. There was a scuffle. “During part of this incident, the defendant put the victim on the ground and slapped her on the buttocks as described in the police summary. He then stood up and went out to the garage. She kept following him, persisting in physically trying to remove the ring from his hand. The defendant asked his wife to intervene to try and stop the victim. She was unable to stop the victim. “It is said, out of sheer desperation and frustration the defendant grabbed a dog lead and wrapped it around the victim’s upper arm and a pole and held it there until she stopped arguing and struggling. At no stage was she tied with the lead. The restraint was momentary and ended as soon as the victim stopped struggling.” In his conclusion, Judge Walsh writes: “It does appear the victim may have been somewhat provocative in her conduct.” In the Judge’s eyes however, giving his stepdaughter a smack was “inappropriate” even despite her physical assault on him: “The defendant accepts it was inappropriate for him to strike the victim’s buttocks, despite her physical pursuit of him.” Except, had the father defended his smack on the grounds of the defence granted under s48 of the Crimes Act, the issue would not be whether the judge regarded a smack as
“appropriate” but whether a jury agreed that it was “such force as, in the circumstances as [the stepfather] believes them to be, it is reasonable to use”. Under section 48, the test of reasonableness is in the eyes of the person using the force, not the opinion of the judge. It is hard to believe a jury, in a country where 87% believe parents should not be criminalised for the occasional smack, would not agree that a smack in response to hitting and scratching is justified. Section 48 has been used by police officers to defend themselves. It is just as easily available to parents where their children have initiated an assault. Despite his disapproval of smacking, however, Judge Walsh nonetheless concludes, “I am satisfied, when I have regard to the gravity of the offending, it is at the lower end of the scale of seriousness...a conviction would be out of all proportion to the gravity of the offence. Therefore, a discharge under s106 of the Sentencing Act is granted.” Now, contrast that with the inflammatory language Nigel Latta evidently cut and pasted from the CYF file: Agency information • The Police received a report that a 14 year old girl alleged to her teacher that she had been beaten by her step-father. She alleged that he hit her, put her in a strangle hold and tried to tie her up using a dog lead. • The Police interviewed the stepfather who admitted aspects of the incident (including attempting to tie his step-daughter up) and to hitting her three times on the bottom. The step-father was charged with assault (male assaults female). • Child, Youth and Family involvement identified that there were significant concerns regarding the safety of this young person and she was removed from her mother and step-fathers care.
Spin, spin and more spin. No mention of the father being scratched and beaten by his stepdaughter, and again CYF changing the word “smack” to “hitting” and “beaten”. Nor is the “dog lead” incident given any context by Nigel Latta. Admittedly, the step-father seems to have also been the victim of bad legal advice, as his counsel should have considered a defence under s48 of the Crimes Act instead of pleading guilty. He wasn’t smacking the teenager as part of “you’ve been a bad girl, bend over and take your punishment”, instead he was trying to shock her out of her continued physical attacks on him. Interestingly, in a June 2006 interview
with Investigate, Green MP Sue Bradford claimed parents should be allowed to manhandle unruly children: “Well it depends on the situation, you just deal with it at the time. As a parent you’re much physically bigger than they are, so for example if they won’t put their sweater on and you want them to put their sweater on, well you can physically put it on them. And if they won’t go into their bedrooms you can physically put them into their bedrooms. Yeah, when they’re that age you can physically manage them better than when they’re 14, but stages of child-rearing and what you can do are so different depending on age.” Q: “Let’s say you’re taking little ones into their room, and they’re kicking and screaming while you’re dragging them in, were you comfortable with that?” A: “Yes, but, yes, but I mean, but when kids are little you do physically have to look after them and make sure they’re safe, and that’s part of a parent’s job. If safe means putting them in a cot or safe means putting them in their room, but that’s not hitting children, that’s just looking after them.” Q: “Obviously you are not looking to intentionally outlaw time out, or a parent who has to physically manhandle a child into a room, are you?” A: “No, or who physically removes or saves a child from some danger. And just on that, I’m not seeking to outlaw smacking either, which is a myth that’s being driven up by my opponents. All I’m doing with my bill is seeking to repeal one clause of an Act. “If s59 was repealed, and say some mean person dobbed in a mother for lightly smacking her child – say that happened, which is the fear that’s being driven up –” Q: “It’s happened overseas, yeah-” A: “Yeah, and so the police come and investigate the mother who smacked her five year old child (if they come at all, because we know they’re already overworked) but they’re going to look and say well, how severe was that? What damage was done? What’s happened here? Which is what they’re supposed to do in everything they investigate. “I think, during the process of select committee hearings which we’re about to go into on this Bill, the one thing I really hope that as a select committee, if we want to get this Bill through, is that we can make very clear that it is not the intention of me or Parliament to suddenly have all the parents who lightly smack their children subject to arrest or imprisonment or anything like that. It’s not my intention, it’s not the intention
HE WASN’T SMACKING THE TEENAGER AS PART OF “YOU’VE BEEN A BAD GIRL, BEND OVER AND TAKE YOUR PUNISHMENT”, INSTEAD HE WAS TRYING TO SHOCK HER OUT OF HER CONTINUED PHYSICAL ATTACKS ON HIM.
of anyone I know, it’s not the intention of any other MP. It’s a myth,” Bradford insisted to Investigate magazine in 2006. And yet, here we are. Even by Sue Bradford’s definition, critics would argue the law is not working.
CASE FOUR Latta Review, page 21 What was reported
Father charged for ‘shoulder shake’ of defiant daughter refusing to get out of bed North Island Sep 2007 Dad had been having major difficulties with his 15 year old daughter who was stealing money from home, sneaking out without permission, and coming home very late. One particular night she sneaked back into the house at 4am! When dad went to wake her at 6am a shouting match ensued. He pulled the blankets off her bed and shook her to hurry up and get out of bed. She alleges that dad punched her at least three times in the face and mouth, but the police statement says that ‘no medical attention was required’, and her sister in the top bunk did not witness the alleged punching. The daughter rang the police and the father was handcuffed and taken to the police cells for a couple of hours. He was convicted and discharged on condition of six counselling sessions – which he described as a ‘waste of time’. Agency information • Police responded to a call from a 15 year old female alleging that she had been assaulted by her father. It was alleged the 15 year old was punched INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 37
at least three times in the face and mouth. • The Police attended the home and the father was removed to the police station. The father was arrested and charged with assault. • Child, Youth and’ Family was informed of the allegation by the Police and spoke with the young person, her mother and father, and a staff member at her school. ‘It was identified that there was a breakdown in the relationships within the family and that the young person was significantly challenging her parents. The parents’ however were not willing to engage with any support/community services and determined that they would manage the situation by setting clear boundaries for their daughter. • Child, Youth and Family ensured that the young person knew what action to take if there was another incident and took no further action in relation to the allegations. • The father was subsequently convicted for assault and discharged on condition of counselling sessions.
Again, if you believe the Latta Review, this wasn’t actually a smack or shoulder shake
“At that hearing Police agreed that no punching had occurred. This concurs with [my client’s] consistent denial of punching and formed part of his affidavit. A s106 discharge without conviction was granted on 11 December 2007 by Ongley DCJ at the District Court in Upper Hutt. Police did not oppose the application.” It’s staggering that the Latta Review got its facts wrong on the outcome of the case. But it gets worse. As alluded to, the punching allegations were thrown out. All that the father pleaded guilty to was shaking his defiant daughter’s shoulder – an incident not even mentioned by Nigel Latta in his review of the case. So again, what actually happened? If you believe the daughter’s statement to police, now obtained by Investigate, she claims her parents refused permission for her to go out with her friends at 9.40pm, so “I stayed in the lounge to watch television. I fell asleep. I woke up before 6am and came down to my room.
presented to the court on 10 October 2007 (a month after the father’s arrest), still maintains the brutal punching claims: “The defendant entered the victim’s bedroom and began yelling and swearing at her. He punched the victim with a closed fist on at least three occasions, hitting her in the face and mouth. The victim did not require any medical attention as a result of the assault.” That last sentence should have been a red rag to investigators: a girl claims to have been beaten “five or more” times with a closed fist in the face and mouth by an angry adult male tradesman, yet no injuries. Little wonder that police were forced to concede at the 10 October hearing that no punching had taken place. Instead, the only thing they could salvage from their summary of facts was this: “When spoken to by Police the defendant admitted to shaking the victim a number of times by the bed clothes.” What had been a “Male Assaults Female”
THAT LAST SENTENCE SHOULD HAVE BEEN A RED RAG TO INVESTIGATORS: A GIRL CLAIMS TO HAVE BEEN BEATEN “FIVE OR MORE” TIMES WITH A CLOSED FIST IN THE FACE AND MOUTH BY AN ANGRY ADULT MALE TRADESMAN, YET NO INJURIES.
at all, but a sustained Clint Eastwood-style beating where big dominant male “punched” his 15 year old daughter “at least three times in the face and mouth”. In fact, according to Latta there was nothing else to this case except the beating. There’s no reference in his report to any other kind of alleged assault. Just the punches. According to the Latta Review the father was “convicted” for assault. So what really happened? What did Latta miss? Firstly, the father’s lawyer, Michael Bott, says there was no conviction – the review is factually wrong: “On 10/10/2007 Charge was amended from Crimes Act Common Assault to Summary Offences Act Assault. A plea of guilty was entered to the amended charge, but no conviction entered against his name [a s106 discharge without conviction]. This was done before Behrens DCJ,” says Bott in an email. 38 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
“My mum started yelling, saying I had been out. My dad woke up and started screaming…he came down and … hit me in the face. He hit me a few times more than three. It could have been five or more. He hit me around my cheeks and mouth. He used a fist.” That statement, in the handwriting of a police officer, initially has the teenager claiming to have been asleep in the lounge all night. Both her parents, however, told police their daughter had snuck out and arrived back around 4am. Faced with this, the girl’s statement was amended to read, “I went out at about 11:30pm for an hour and got back just after 12:30 – I was gone for about an hour, I was with [boyracer known to police].” So yes, we know the daughter initially lied to police about her whereabouts, making her allegations about the punching suspect as well. Yes, the original police summary of facts
charge under s194(b) of the Crimes Act, with a penalty of two years’ imprisonment, was dropped, in favour of the defendant pleading guilty to a much lesser common assault charge for shaking his daughter, under the Summary Proceedings Act. And, on 10 December 2007 when he appeared for sentencing, the father was discharged without conviction, not “convicted” as claimed by Latta. The entire Latta Review segment on this case, was inaccurate. The alleged “aggravating features” that Latta claimed justified police and CYF actions “in all cases” he reviewed, turn out to have been a fabrication. In his submissions for sentencing, lawyer Michael Bott told the court: “After stewing over her behavior [my client] confronted his daughter and during the course of an argument shook her for a few seconds as she lay in bed. This incident was…the culmination of several incidents where his daughter had been leaving
the house at odd hours to be with boys and other strangers. “Three months ago, during August, youth aid officers contacted [my client and his wife] at around 3-4 am in the morning, as their daughter was found intoxicated in Manners Mall. This was a complete surprise. Their daughter had told them that she was staying with a girlfriend at her parents’ house in Silverstream. “Recently, [my client] and his partner have discovered that over the last 6 months around $3,200 has been removed in small withdrawals from the family grocery money and [my client’s] business account. Both [my client and his wife] are fearful that their oldest daughter has been accessing these funds.” The child was 15. Increasingly out of control, lying not just to her parents but even to police in her statement of evidence. Her father shook her, and was prosecuted. “It is submitted,” concluded the lawyer, “that in essence [my client’s] family represent a normal New Zealand middle-class fam-
have indeed made vengeful/wrong allegations against their parents since John Key’s anti-smacking compromise came in, resulting not just in prosecution but with removal of all children from their care while the wheels of justice slowly grind through their case. Family First spokesman Bob McCoskrie says parental fears that such things would happen have been justified, and that it fundamentally undermines a family’s ability to keep behavioural control over their children and, ultimately, keep them safe. One bad sexual encounter can see a child raped or left with a potentially devastating sexually transmitted disease. Associating with other out of control teens can result in drug-taking, intoxication or even death. In a June 2006 interview, lawyer Nick Davidson QC was worried the anti-smacking law failed to recognize the need for force to prevent a child from doing something that could be dangerous: “So I think there must become a series of
but not to inflict force for the sake of that, is the distinction to be drawn as a matter of law,” Davidson told Investigate. Perhaps the courts should rapidly consider a more liberal interpretation of s48 of the Crimes Act, so that force when used “in defence of another” is taken to include preventing your child from accessing potentially dangerous things/people until such time as parents are no longer legally responsible for them. An example of precisely this dilemma emerged in January, when a Christchurch father was arrested and spent two nights in police cells, for pushing his four year old son forcefully at Hagley Park in Christchurch. The boy, with a history of behavioural problems, had begun throwing a tantrum and lunged for his mother who was carrying a three month old baby. Father intervened just as forcefully to prevent mother and newborn being injured, and police arrested him. The man had a clear defence under s48 of the Crimes Act, because he was acting in
SO WHAT ARE WE TO MAKE OF THE LATTA REVIEW THAT PRIME MINISTER JOHN KEY SAYS JUSTIFIES HIS CLAIM THAT GOOD PARENTS ARE NOT BEING PROSECUTED OR UNFAIRLY TREATED UNDER THE NEW LAW? CLEARLY THEY ARE BEING PROSECUTED FOR LIGHT SMACKS.
ily…and their goals, aspirations and fears associated with parenting and childrearing are essentially typical of the broad swathe of middle-class New Zealand. “They were having a problem coping with a dominating, demanding and disobedient adolescent child that, unfortunately, is not an uncommon phenomenon today. Like many other parents [and arguably teachers – Ed.] they are confused by the emergence of such behaviours and found them difficult to understand and cope with effectively.” How are parents supposed to protect their children from the consequences of stupid decisions if, every time they are challenged, teenagers can ring CYF and Police with exaggerated allegations and initiate prosecutions based on their word alone and without corroborating medical evidence? That’s the question that emerges from the failures of police and CYF in these cases. The evidence disclosed in the court files shows children or well-meaning outsiders
defences available where what is done is not for the purposes of inflicting force, but is a warrant to apply force for reasons which are for the good of the child. “Now we don’t really have that available to us in law, but if you take assault as an example: you step in to assault someone else to defend someone – that’s defence of another, and that’s a defence. You step in to save someone from committing suicide, that’s a defence. You step in to save someone from any act of self-harm, or the danger of walking across a road against traffic – that’s a defence. “The reason it’s a defence is that it’s not an intentional application of force except by the warrant that you have to do so for the good of that person. Now I think that will become the proper test in law – that where the force is applied for the good of that child, not as a discipline but in order to protect the child in some way, or deal with the child where the child is out of control,
defence of another. Yet CYF and police put him through the wringer. He was discharged without conviction at a hearing in April. So what are we to make of the Latta Review that Prime Minister John Key says justifies his claim that good parents are not being prosecuted or unfairly treated under the new law? Clearly, as the evidence here shows, they are being prosecuted for light smacks. You’ll recall the letter from CYF’s Peter Hughes which confirmed the review only focused on the initial “statutory investigation”, not the whole case and it’s outcome. We’ve already pointed out that such an approach was fatally flawed because it was really only asking the question: “Did we get serious allegations and was our initial response appropriate to that seriousness?” The CYF and police files in the cases listed above were full of baseless, unsubstantiated and often vengeful allegations from rebellious teenagers lashing out at their parents INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 39
as a result of clashes over boundaries (sleeping with older men, wagging school, being intoxicated in a public place etc). If CYF and the police had truly done their jobs appropriately and proportionately, the cases listed here would never have gone to prosecution, with all the costs to the taxpayer and families that this entailed. None of the serious allegations stacked up, and parents ended up being convicted for a light smack, a shake or self defence – almost because the Crown felt the need to justify its investigation. The parents, and other children in the families, were put through hell. As defence lawyer Michael Bott pointed out: “If it is the case that the psychologist’s review of the file in terms of appropriateness of charging amounted to a read through only of the Police Summary of Facts – that is worrying as that just amounts to allegations, the substance of which is routinely altered or disputed and amended as cases wind their way through the system. “Such a review is not a review and would amount to no more than a rubber stamping exercise of marginal or zero utility.” In other words, the Prime Minister’s Latta Review has failed to prove the smacking law is working, and the evidence collated here for the first time proves it is not. CHILD, YOUTH & FAMILY RESPONSE What follows is the CYF response to a series of questions sent in by Investigate. The magazine believes you will find them eye-opening, as they appear to confirm the Prime Minister’s Latta Review was indeed a ‘rubber stamping exercise’ – Latta’s involvement appears to have been an attempt by the Government to lend credibility to a noncredible review. Our questions to CYF, later and police were: 1. The case on page 24 of the Latta review – girl struck with phone book – why was Latta not told by CYF or Police that phone book and punching allegations were dropped at court hearing and do not appear in the court Summary of Facts? 2. Does CYF and Latta now agree that the father was actually only convicted for slapping his daughter’s leg with an open hand, not for assault with a phone book? 3. The case on page 21 of the Latta review – shoulder shake of daughter. Latta reports agency info as “punched at least three times in the face and mouth”...and Nigel concludes, “The father was subse40 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
quently convicted for assault”. Are CYF and Latta aware that the court determined no punching had taken place? Are CYF and Latta aware that the charge, “Male Assaults Female” laid under s194(b) of the Crimes Act was withdrawn by police on 10 October 2007? Are CYF and Latta aware that the father was given a Section 106 discharge WITHOUT conviction despite what the Latta review records “convicted for assault”? Why was the Latta report on this case wrong as well and who should take responsibility for all these errors: Latta, CYF or NZ Police? At page 27 of the report it is stated: “CYF were notified of a 10 year old being smacked by her father, causing a bruise on her back. The smack, aimed at the child’s bottom, hit her on the back leaving what was reported as a “tennis ball sized bruise”. The notification was received from a health professional etc”. Are CYF and Latta aware that this summary of facts, as reported in the Latta review, was wrong? Are CYF and Latta aware that when police investigated they found the “tennis ball sized bruise” had been caused on a different occasion when the child had tripped while playing? Given that the police file included a letter to this effect dated 7 February 2009, noting that “CYF’s had based their judgements on a misinterpretation of events”, and that the smack to the child was, in the view of police a “justified disciplinary action”, why did the Latta review of December 2009 fail to pick up this crucial information from the review of the case files? The Latta review records “CYF took no further action as the family remained working with other agencies”. Is Latta or CYF aware that the family had no ongoing contact with other agencies? If not, why not? Who should take responsibility for the fundamental errors the review made in this case: Latta, CYF or NZ Police? On page 23 of the Latta review it states that a 14 year old girl was beaten by her step father, put in a stranglehold and that he tried to tie her up with a dog lead, and it records the stepfather “admitted aspects of the incident including attempting to tie his stepdaughter up”. Why did the Latta review
12. 13. 14. 15.
let these comments stand, in the damaging context in which Latta couched them in his summary, when the presiding judge in the case records: “While his [stepfather’s] back was turned, the victim jumped on him from behind and reached around to try and take the ring off him. There was a scuffle and the MP4 player was accidentally broken... [stepfather] was unable to stop the victim. It is said, out of sheer desperation and frustration the defendant grabbed a dog lead and wrapped it around the victim’s upper arm and a pole and held it there until she stopped arguing and struggling. At no stage was she tied with the lead. The restraint was momentary and ended as soon as the victim stopped struggling...It does appear the victim may have been somewhat provocative in her conduct”. Why was the Latta review unaware that the “stranglehold” allegation was rejected by the court? Did CYF provide Latta with a copy of the judge’s ruling before Latta completed his review of this case? Who should take responsibility for the fundamental errors the review made in this case: Latta, CYF or NZ Police? Again, for the record, can the Ministry of Social Development please confirm that it failed to provide copies of court transcripts or judgements to the Latta Review? Why did CYF fail to identify the cases of ten named families referred to the Latta Review by Family First? Is this an indication of poor record keeping by CYF, if not, why not?
Response from Doug Craig, Deputy Chief Executive, Ministry Of Social Development “The purpose of the Review was not to judge Police and Social Worker decision making against facts as a Court of full investigation might determine. That’s simply unfair and wrong. People would be outraged if the attitude of social workers or Police was to be disbelieving of people who report abuse and assaults. “It would be wrong to judge a social worker or Policemen’s response based on what subsequently are found to be the facts. What people say happened and what actually happened can be different. But Social Workers and Police don’t have the luxury of hindsight to help them decide to respond or not.
“The Review by Police Commissioner Howard Broad, Peter Hughes of the Ministry of Social Development and Nigel Latta concluded that based on the nature of the allegations Police and Child, Youth and Family acted appropriately in responding to the allegations they had received. “Mr Latta took a full part in the Review. He was given access to Ministry and Police information about a number of cases where it was reported that family members were inappropriately investigated or prosecuted as a result of the Section 59 Amendment Act. This was based on information provided to Mr Latta by Family First New Zealand. “In all the cases Mr Latta concluded that Police and Child, Youth and Family were right to act. This included information obtained from the CYF, Police and Court documents. “The Review did identify that more could be done to assure and inform parents and other caregivers who may need to be spoken to by Police or a social worker in response to allegations of assault. “As a result Child, Youth and Family and Police have: • Established a new parent support helpline within CYF so that parents who have questions or concerns about how they are being treated can be dealt with more quickly. • Published guidelines for social workers dealing with child abuse reports that involve smacking, and a subsequent briefing for all CYF social workers. • Required Police officers and social workers to provide families with specific information on what to expect, what their rights are and what they can do to question what is happening when they have to deal with Police or CYF. • Collecting more specific information on the application of S59, so a clearer picture is available of how the law is operating in practice. • In addition, both CYF and Police have formal independent complaint systems. “More specific answers to some of your questions: 18.“Are CYF and Latta aware that the father was given a Section 106 discharge WITHOUT conviction despite what the Latta review records “convicted for assault”? Why was the Latta report on this case wrong as well and who should take responsibility for all these errors: Latta, CYF or NZ Police?” “This was an error in recording however we do not accept that this undermines the report’s findings for the reasons I’ve outlined
above. It is also worth noting that the person would have either pleaded guilty or been found guilty. Either way Police were clearly right to act on the complaint. 10 & 14 “Who should take responsibility for the fundamental errors the review made in this case: Latta, CYF or NZ Police?” “With the exception of the above issue re conviction or not, I cannot see that the report is wrong – it is reporting the information held by the agencies at the time. 15. “Again, for the record, can the Ministry of Social Development please confirm that it failed to provide copies of court transcripts or judgements to the Latta Review?”
Police Commissioner Howard Broad. NZPA/ Andrew Labett
“The information that was provided by CYF was the electronic case files relating to the families/children concerned. This was provided in order to consider whether the CYF response was appropriate based on the information received. 16. “Why did CYF fail to identify the cases of ten named families referred to the Latta Review by Family First?” “Some of the information provided by INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 41
Family First was somewhat vague and did not clearly identify children’s names or the names of parents. For a couple of cases the name of the child was not apparent. In five cases, they were either not referred to CYF and/or no record could be found. 17. Is this an indication of poor record keeping by CYF, if not, why not? “No. Our recording system records information against the child’s name, and the children’s names were not always available.” NIGEL LATTA’S RESPONSE “I stand by the review and the part I played in it. I worked with Peter Hughes and Howard Broad on the Review of Section 59 for the Prime Minister. It certainly was not the ‘Latta Review’. “Any suggestion that the findings of the Review were somehow compromised by court material being ‘kept’ from me is completely wrong. Summaries of facts and what material a Court may or may not have seen is frankly irrelevant and misses the point. “The terms of the review were very clear. We were asked to look into what happens when Child, Youth and Family and Police respond to reports of smacking. Is their response appropriate? Did they do the right thing? We were certainly not asked to say whether we thought a criminal conviction was warranted or fair. “I stand by what I said at the time the review was released. In each and every case I reviewed it was clear to me that CYF and the Police had to act to look further into the complaints they received. Had they not done so, the public should rightly be demanding to know why not. “These agencies need to act quickly when allegations are made to ensure children are safe. Just because at the completion of the investigation, they find the child wasn’t at risk or that the allegations weren’t as first appeared, doesn’t mean the case should not have been investigated. It is outrageous to suggest that because sometimes the facts turn out to be different than at first thought that the Police or Child Youth and Family should not follow up what on the face of complaints are serious assaults against children and young people. “What the Review clearly showed was that both agencies were committed to making the best decisions they can with the information they have to hand at the time.” RESPONSE FROM INVESTIGATE With respect to both Messrs Latta and Craig, in our view your mea culpa is rubbish. In 42 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
the great scheme of things, police have to attend to armed robberies, home invasions, road traffic accidents and frauds on little old ladies. They need to prioritise already stretched resources. I once laid an official complaint of fraud with the NZ Police over the Winebox case. I was supported by signed documents that nailed the offenders red-handed, and supporting rulings from the New Zealand Court of Appeal and the Privy Council stating that they had found a prima facie case for multi-
million dollar fraud against the taxpayer. The Police were “too busy” to investigate, at all. New Zealanders were told that police would use common sense (sadly, no one expects such from CYF) in deciding whether to arrest and prosecute a parent for smacking a child. It should have been blatantly obvious to investigating constables, for example, that a girl claiming to have been punched with a closed fist five times or more in the mouth an hour earlier, and without a mark on her, was probably suffering a serious cred-
ibility problem. It should have been obvious to you as reviewers. It should have been obvious that a complainant who lied in her initial statement to police about staying home and then later being forced to admit she had snuck out, probably had a credibility problem. It should have been obvious to you as reviewers that defences under s48 of the Crimes Act might have been appropriate and that therefore the police had failed to take into account all circumstances.
ANY SUGGESTION THAT THE FINDINGS OF THE REVIEW WERE SOMEHOW COMPROMISED BY COURT MATERIAL BEING ‘KEPT’ FROM ME IS COMPLETELY WRONG. SUMMARIES OF FACTS AND WHAT MATERIAL A COURT MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE SEEN IS FRANKLY IRRELEVANT AND MISSES THE POINT. – Nigel Latta INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 43
Instead, what this review showed is that despite all the other more serious crimes and bashings taking place, taxpayer resources are being wasted on petulant kids challenging boundaries and overly-politically-correct social workers and teachers who jump at every shadow. Are you really endorsing, Nigel, a schoolteacher who see two sisters hugging, reporting them for inappropriate sexual play? No one is saying there should not be an investigation. Parents’ primary concern was not that police would knock on the door, but what would happen after that. Your now self-admitted meaningless review tells the public nothing about whether parents 44 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
have been prosecuted for minor matters – all you’ve said is that police were justified in turning up on the doorstep in the first place. Newsflash, no one had a problem with that. We were all told that police were clever and would quickly sort out whether anything really needed to be followed up. Instead, we find police and CYF all over families like a rash for what we now know were non-events. What this magazine (which specialises in complex investigations to a criminal court standard) argues is that in the absence of clear injuries police need to look long and hard about the wisdom of taking it to prosecution. After all, isn’t that what Prime Minister Key has said – no parent should
be prosecuted for giving their kid a smack with no lasting consequences? It is ironic that, since the smacking law came in, serious attacks on babies and toddlers have leapt 65%. And while more babies are being attacked, police and CYF workers are going into red-alert mode over what turn out to be ordinary smacks with no injuries. Funny set of priorities that is. While Inspector Plod and Nanny CYF pounce on ordinary families with gusto, those guilty of real brutality are making hay while the sun shines, unmolested until it is too late. The attitude from CYF and Police, evidently supported by you, Nigel, is that not only should they shoot first and ask ques-
Once news of this spreads through the community, you are going to see an exponential rise in timewasting minor incidents being blown out of all proportion
tions later, but instead of objectively testing the evidence themselves they should simply throw everything at a judge and hope that some of the mud sticks in a taxpayer-funded prosecution-fest. How can parents trust the National Government to protect them from vengeful, unsubstantiated prosecutions if that is the policy? Are you all seriously suggesting it is equitable to force families into defending prosecutions and CYF child removals at up to $100,000 a time, ultimately just because they smacked a child? Remember what Sue Bradford told Investigate:
“I’m not seeking to outlaw smacking either, which is a myth that’s being driven up by my opponents. All I’m doing with my bill is seeking to repeal one clause of an Act. If s59 was repealed, and say some mean person dobbed in a mother for lightly smacking her child – say that happened, which is the fear that’s being driven up, and so the police come and investigate the mother who smacked her five year old child (if they come at all, because we know they’re already overworked) but they’re going to look and say well, how severe was that? What damage was done? What’s happened here? Which is what they’re supposed to do in everything they investigate. “I think, during the process of select committee hearings which we’re about to go into on this Bill, the one thing I really hope that as a select committee, if we want to get this Bill through, is that we can make very clear that it is not the intention of me or Parliament to suddenly have all the parents who lightly smack their children subject to arrest or imprisonment or anything like that. It’s not my intention, it’s not the intention of anyone I know, it’s not the intention of any other MP. It’s a myth.” Like Bradford says, there has to be a threshold where cases are judged worthy of prosecution or referral to CYF, and based on what you have now admitted your review was confined to, the public and the media can no longer trust that your report was correct. You see the prosecutions of parents in this article as valid, and if these cases passed muster with you as “valid” what hope do others have? In arguing that the purpose of the review was NOT to ultimately determine whether good parents had been wrongly prosecuted for smacking their children, you directly contradict what Prime Minister John Key said when he was standing beside you: “Good parents are not being criminalised for a light smack.” If you knew your review was not assessing the ultimately validity of prosecutions, why did you not immediately correct him? People get criminalised through the court process, not the initial response process. The media and public were effectively misled about the significance and extent of your review, in our opinion, and the damage to John Key’s credibility from this may be very serious. Did the Prime Minister know his review was not actually going to investigate the cases he claimed it had? Latta stated at the news conference: “The difficulty for Family First is that all they have
is the account of the person that’s talking to them, and people aren’t always completely honest about the stuff that’s gone on. “In all of the case studies that I reviewed, it was clear that there were other aggravating features involved. In fact if the police hadn’t turned up to those cases I’d be asking why they hadn’t!” The sheer chutzpah of Nigel Latta accusing Family First of paying too much attention to parents’ claims, when the police and court files suggest it was the children who were being dishonest, is staggering. How on earth can the review team now turn around, after accusing Family First of not having all the facts, and now confess that their review was confined only to the initial complaint and not the outcome? On what possible grounds could Key and Latta even make comments at their news conference like that? In our view, those comments are disingenuous, at best, and you should hang your heads in shame for this gross abuse of the public and the media’s trust. The message from your explanations here will shock most New Zealanders: Howard Broad, Peter Hughes and Nigel Latta believe the law is working well, even if it now encourages tipsters (children or teachers) to exaggerate or lie about what happened, because in your view that then validates the heavy-handed CYF and Police responses documented here. Once news of this spreads through the community, you are going to see an exponential rise in time-wasting minor incidents being blown out of all proportion just so as to guarantee a police/CYF response, which you would then rubber-stamp in a future review as being “appropriate” because of the seriousness of the allegations – the complete opposite of what the Prime Minister has promised. And if this is the standard being applied to all the annual “reviews” of the smacking law (and we can now pretty much guarantee it is), it’s pretty clear National, the Police and CYF have lied to voters. Lawyers are going to make fat fees, social workers will get a slice of the action, Peter Hughes will get more staff, families will be ripped apart by the tensions and children will increasingly run amok, untouchable, while police and teachers hand-wring about declining youth behaviour standards. Congratulations. (A response from New Zealand Police had not been received at press time) q INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 45
May Wang speaks to TV3’s John Campbell/TV3
46 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
CROUCHING TIGERS, HIDDEN MILLIONS
WHO’S REALLY BEHIND THE CHINESE DAIRY FARM DEALS?
Auckland company director May Wang is the public face of a planned $1.5 billion purchase of New Zealand farms by Chinese investors, but the real question isn’t “Who is May Wang?”. Instead, IAN WISHART finds out the real question is, “Who is Wang fronting for?”. The answer, it seems, is a Chinese investor with strong connections to New Zealand political leaders
abour Party leader Phil Goff says there is “absolutely no truth” to claims within the Chinese community that a businessman involved in the controversial buy-up of NZ dairy farms donated nearly $100,000 “in cash” to Labour with Goff’s knowledge. The businessman is Jack Chen, an entrepreneur who’s lived in New Zealand since 2002 and who founded the Chinese Business Roundtable Council in New Zealand. Chen, whose website listed the now arrested Yang “Bill” Liu as an advisor, until a TGIF investigation nearly two years ago revealed Liu was a criminal with strong ties to the Labour Party, is himself well-connected to Labour, National and even Act. Chen was prosecuted by Chinese authorities in 2004 and banned from running a company for three years for securities offences, but in that time since he’s been active in New Zealand. Surprisingly, given that he doesn’t speak English according to his staff, Chen managed to convince then Trade Minister Phil Goff to become the official patron of his Chinese Business Roundtable, whose new premises Goff even officially launched in 2008. In a letter sent to TGIF Edition, a Chinese community member writes: “Shareholders and investors in Hong Kong are praying New Zealand government [will] not approve the purchase of the Crafar farms and other similar farms by NZ Natural Dairy or companies behind it. “The company does not have money. It needs the media reports and the final [approval] to get more shares out and more $ coming in,” says the correspondent.
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 47
Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings Ltd – a Cayman Islands tax haven registered company with its operational headquarters in Hong Kong, is the owner of a New Zealand based subsidiary NZ Natural Dairy Limited. Jack Chen is a director of the NZ subsidiary. He was, until the start of the year, also an executive director of the parent company back in Hong Kong. It’s that parent company that appears to be short of cash – it made a substantial loss last year.
o what’s the story behind the mysterious dairy farms buy up, the businessmen involved and their ties to high-flying politicians? To understand what happened, first you need a little background. Up until May last year, the overseas company now known as Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings Ltd was, in fact, a Chinese mining company known as China Jin Hui Mining Corporation Ltd. It changed its name and hired 41 year old Jack Chen of Auckland as its new “joint chairman, chief executive officer and executive director of the company with effect from 7 May 2009”. An official notice from the company to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange says: “Mr Chen immigrated to New Zealand in 48 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
2002 and has been participating in community services in New Zealand since then. He later established the New Zealand Chinese Business Roundtable Council, which serves as a channel for the cooperation and communication between Chinese entrepreneurs, and the entrepreneurs and politicians in New Zealand. “Mr Chen’s national and social contributions to New Zealand were recognized by the ruling party and Phil Goff, the current leader of the ruling party, was invited to be the patron of the council,” says the stock exchange advisory of May 9, 2009. So far, so good. It is clear Chen has traded on his political clout, although the statement doesn’t elaborate on precisely how “Chen’s national and social contributions to New Zealand were recognised by the ruling party”. According to the letter to TGIF, Chen’s bad reputation in China for the securities offences meant he needed the credibility of political connections in New Zealand if he was going to attract investment. “The only reason people still believed him this time is NZ governing party Labour is fully behind them,” said our correspondent – arguably out of touch with the election result but perhaps not surprising given the
May 2009 press release above still referred to “Phil Goff, the current leader of the ruling party”. “Your trade minister Phillip Goff is the Patron of Mr Chen’s Business Roundtable. Mr Chen told many of our shareholders that he had the big brother backing up him.” Another quaint turn of phrase, but you get the idea. Indeed, Goff’s speech confirms he is definitely the Patron of the Chen entity: “Thank you also for your invitation to me... to be patron of the Council.” Likewise, there are a multitude of photos of Chen socialising with not only Goff but Labour’s wine and cheese inner circle, Helen Clark, Judith Tizard and Chris Carter. Chen is an equal opportunities celebrity snapper, however, with the Chinese Business Roundtable’s website also featuring photos of Chen with John Key, and Act leader Rodney Hide. However, it’s the next allegation in the letter that has Goff riled: “As a exchange, the Minister received a half million Hong Kong dollar donation by the Roundtable through its secretary general Steven Ching. The money was paid in cash. When the money changed hands, Mr Ching arranged the Minister’s name delisted from
the public record. To thank him, his partner was honoured.” “There is absolutely no truth to this allegation,” Goff told TGIF Edition through his media minders, although he did admit to meeting Chen but chose not to answer any further questions from us. Goff’s staff said they could not definitely say that money had not been given to the Labour Party – “which you’ll have to raise with the party” - but they could categorically state Goff had never received either a half million HK$ donation or its NZ equivalent of $100,000 in cash. Certainly no such donation appears in Labour’s official returns, but as blogger Cameron Slater has claimed on his website, there are still allegations that Yang Liu donated as much as $500,000, undisclosed in official records, to Labour, and our earlier stories on Yang Liu referred to above suggest Labour may have had a laundering mechanism in place. Naturally we asked Steven Ching if he could clarify the circumstances described in the allegation. Ching said he had never handed a donation to Goff on behalf of the Roundtable or Jack Chen. Ching is, however, a former Labour Party
list candidate who had to stand down in the 2005 campaign when false allegations were publicised that he promised to get Labour MPs to nominate someone as a JP if he could borrow $50,000 from them. The man allegedly being touched up for the loan soon issued a statement denying that the JP conversation and the loan request were linked, pointing out they happened many months apart. The Herald newspaper retracted its allegation, but the damage by then had been done – Ching was prevented from being elected to parliament. Ching’s partner, Ailian Su, was also a Labour list candidate in that election but didn’t make the cut. In 2007, however, Labour MP Ross Robertson did nominate Ailian Su as a Justice of the Peace. Steven Ching is at pains to point out her nomination was on its merits, not the family’s political connections or in return for political donations. He did however tell TGIF that he raised “about $30,000 for Labour” at the 2005 election, and “around $10,000” for the 2008 election campaign. So although members of the Chinese community are wrong in their claims that Labour leader Phil Goff was paid a cash
donation of up to $100,000 on Jack Chen’s behalf, there’s certainly no doubt that Chen and the Chinese company trying to buy New Zealand dairy farms have used their political connections with Labour to boost their credibility with investors overseas. So, to recap, Jack Chen is appointed CEO and joint chairman of the board of Natural Dairy in Hong Kong – a publicly listed company – on 7 May 2009. On 17 August 2009, Chen established the New Zealand registered company NZ Natural Dairy Limited, wholly owned by the Hong Kong parent company, and became a director. In September 2009, a declaration to the Hong Kong Exchange gave details of the parent company’s plans to buy the Crafar farm assets in New Zealand, through a New Zealand vendor, now known to be UBNZ Funds Management NZ Ltd, ostensibly owned by Auckland businesswoman May Wang, who’s just appeared in court on companies charges in relation to the multimillion dollar collapse of her previous companies, the Dynasty Group. Although the farm deal was announced in September, documents obtained by Investigate show it dated back to June 2009. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 49
Whether May Wang is the real owner of UBNZ is a matter for debate. Wang is listed as the only shareholder but holding four different share parcels, which is a dead giveaway that the shares are being held in her name on trust for other parties. Official company records show UBNZ’s registered office is Level 10, 175 Queen Street Auckland. Just coincidentally, that’s the precise same address of two companies owned by Jack Chen: Goldmate Group Limited, and a company called Chinese Business Roundtable Council Investments Limited. So what we now know is that Hong Kong based Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings has entered into an agreement in June 2009 to purchase the Crafar dairy farms off a little NZ company named UBNZ fronted by a woman named May Wang but based in the offices of Jack Chen, who just happened to also be the joint chairman and CEO of the Hong Kong based purchaser. At first blush, it appears Chen could be a middleman in a deal where his position as an office holder in a publicly listed Hong Kong company allows him to spend large 50 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
amounts of shareholder funds buying farms from a company that he might privately have an interest in. The declaration made to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange when he was appointed to the board of Natural Dairy simply says: “Mr Chen does not have any relationship with any other directors, senior management or substantial or controlling shareholder of the Company and does not have any interest or short position in the shares, underlying shares or debentures of the company or any of its associated corporations...There is no information which is discloseable nor is/ was involved in any of the matters required to be disclosed.” In other words, under Hong Kong securities law, Chen came to Natural Dairy with clean hands. Investigate has no evidence, beyond the fact that the companies are registered to Jack Chen’s office address, that he definitely has a beneficial interest in UBNZ Funds Management NZ Limited of Auckland. However, here’s where it gets extremely interesting. On 15 September 2009, for reasons undis-
closed, Jack Chen resigned as executive director and co chair of Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings Limited in Hong Kong. A new director named to replace him on 14 September was Graham Chin, of whom more shortly. For one day, however, both Chen and Chin were on the board together, and Chin’s appointment notice declared: “Mr Chin does not have any relationship with any other directors, senior management or substantial or controlling shareholder...” That declaration will soon become relevant. On 18 December 2009, the Hong Kongbased parent company issued a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in response to suggestions of major irregularities in the farm purchase deal. It listed what it said were “allegations” raised in official complaints to the Stock Exchange: “The Vendor [UBNZ] of the Acquisition acquired the dairy assets from the original owners of the farms at a consideration of NZ$240 million and then sold them to the Company [HK-based Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings] at NZ$500 million.” Stop right there. If true, that would mean
little old UBNZ, fronted by a woman named Wang May but registered to the office address of one Jack Chen, was making a $260 million mark up on the sale of the Crafar Dairy farms to the publicly listed Hong Kong company that needs ma and pa investors to stump up the cash to purchase. If true, whoever owned UBNZ Funds Management was about to catapult themselves onto the NBR Rich List. The purpose of the Natural Dairy Hong Kong news release to the Stock Exchange was to “clarify” the company’s position in the face of the allegations, so how exactly did they explain this away? “As disclosed in the Circular (page 43), the Company has requested the Vendor [UBNZ] to disclose the prior transaction price but due to commercial sensitivity the Vendor has declined such request. So the Company has not been informed about the price at which the Vendor agreed with the original owners for acquiring the Target Assets,” explained Natural Dairy’s Hong Kong board to the Exchange. Hiding behind a so-called ‘arms length’ transaction and “commercial sensitivity”? But how can that be when, as you are about to see that earlier statement from September 2009 says this: “Since the date of the Agreement, the aggregate market value of the Properties has dropped from approximately NZ$320 million...to NZ$206 million.” Odd that in September 2009 the Hong Kong based public company knew exactly what the value of the “Target Assets” it was buying through the Auckland intermediary UBNZ was, yet three months later it told the HK Stock Exchange it didn’t know the purchase prices because of “commercial sensitivity”. The September report goes further, and says that “despite the fall in aggregate market value” of the NZ farms, it was still planning for a “consideration to be paid to the Vendor [UBNZ] in the amount of NZ$500 million.” In September 2009, Jack Chen of Level 10, 175 Queen Street had still been the joint chair and CEO of the Hong Kong public company that was agreeing to pay NZ$500 million to an unrelated company called UBNZ also based at Level 10, 175 Queen Street. The 18th of December statement to the Stock Exchange regarding the allegations of irregularities changed all that. Jack Chen had stepped down as a director and CEO, mid September, as you will recall, in favour of new director Graham Chin.
Now, it seems investors in Natural Dairy were on the warpath in regard to the farm purchase deal, the various companies involved, and whether Chin was an undisclosed puppet of Chen’s. Investors certainly nursed suspicions that the relationship between the end purchaser and the middleman are closer than they thought, if one of the allegations reprinted in the Stock Exchange statement is any indication. “The Company obtained a loan of NZ$100 million from a bank in New Zealand while at the same time raising funds by issuing
IF TRUE, THAT WOULD MEAN LITTLE OLD UBNZ, FRONTED BY A WOMAN NAMED WANG MAY BUT REGISTERED TO THE OFFICE ADDRESS OF ONE JACK CHEN, WAS MAKING A $260 MILLION MARK UP ON THE SALE OF THE CRAFAR DAIRY FARMS TO THE PUBLICLY LISTED HONG KONG COMPANY THAT NEEDS MA AND PA INVESTORS TO STUMP UP THE CASH TO PURCHASE.
new shares to finance the Acquisition. The Company is suspected to lend the borrowed money to the Vendor to facilitate it to complete the acquisition from the original owners of the farms.” For their part, the Hong Kong company denied obtaining a $100 million loan in NZ, “and it follows that the Company has not lent, or has any intention to lend, any borrowed money to the Vendor.” Except, someone must have financed them. According to Fiona Rotherham, writing in The Independent on 22 April this year,
Natural Dairy Hong Kong took up a financial interest in Auckland-based UBNZ – specifically an affiliated company called UBNZ Assets Holdings Limited - soon after Chen’s appointment as ND’s CEO last May. “Natural Dairy bought a 20 percent stake in UBNZ in June last year – rumour has it the sum paid was HK$480 million.” That sum, incidentally, equates to NZ$100 million. However, the picture is murky in regard to June 2009 because no record of such a share transfer appears in the NZ Companies Office records until 10 February this year. But this brings us to another of the allegations officially released to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. “The Company’s New Zealand legal adviser is Knight Coldicutt, which is also the legal adviser of the Vendor [UBNZ]. As such there should be conflict of interests.” In response, Natural Dairy’s board advised the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that UBNZ “had not appointed Messrs Knight Coldicutt, the New Zealand lawfirm engaged by the Company [Natural Dairy]” either during UBNZ’s purchase of farm assets or “at any time thereafter”. Which raises an interesting question. If Knight Coldicutt was not acting for UBNZ, why was Knight Coldicutt’s name on documents filed with the NZ Companies Office on UBNZ Assets Holdings’ behalf on February 10? Then there’s another direct link between May Wang and Jack Chen: the address she’s listed as her place of residence in Cliff Road, St Heliers, Auckland is owned by a company whose director – named as “Chan, Ke en” - shares the same residential address as Jack Keen Chen in Howick. After further investigation through Companies Office records, Investigate has been able to confirm that “Chan, Ke en” is an alias for Jack Chen. A “Chen, Ke En” of the same address appears as a founding director of New Zealand Pure & Natural Limited in 2004, a company partowned by former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley and her husband Burton. The Companies Office records, incidentally, raise a number of questions of their own. “Chen Ke En” and “Chan Ke en”, both of the same address, were required to sign official forms consenting to become directors of companies. In both cases, Ke En Chen signed his name in Chinese, but a comparison of his signature in the Anfatex Global Financial Investments Holdings Limited file, against his signature in the INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 51
New Zealand Pure & Natural Limited File, appears to show two different people have signed Chen’s name. The Chinese characters are the same, but different in writing style. If true, that could be an offence under the Companies Act and possibly other statutes, as forms must be signed personally by the individual involved. In his new “Kiwi” identity as “Jack Chen”, the Companies Office documents are no longer signed in Mandarin but in handwritten block capitals as “Jack Chen”. In their complaint to the HKSE, investors expressed concern that Jack Chen still appeared to be in control of the farm purchases for Natural Dairy: “Mr. Jack Keen Chen, despite he has resigned as executive director of the Company, is still in control of the Acquisition through Mr. Graham Chin, a newly appointed executive director.”
he investors also made the point that, in the wake of the Crafar farms receivership, the properties were available cheaper directly from the receivers, rather than the higher priced option working through the UBNZ middleman company. “The receiver and the original owners of the farms are willing to sell the dairy business at a much lower price, but the Company still chose to acquire the dairy business from the Vendor at a higher price rather than buying from the receiver directly, which is unreasonable.” Unless, of course, there is some undisclosed reason as to why the middleman should still be kept in the loop selling the farms at a high price to Chinese investors in the publicly listed corporation. In response, the Natural Dairy board claimed the NZ$500 million price it was paying UBNZ for the farms was justified based on valuations of $320 million, plus the value of the Fonterra shareholding and taking into consideration “future prospects” – a suitably vague term. On the issue of Jack Chen still being in control, the board denied it: “The Board confirms that Mr Jack Keen Chen has not been in control of the Acquisition since his resignation as an executive director of the Company. Mr Graham Chin confirms that he is a business acquaintance of Mr Chen. However there is no evidence showing that Mr Chin has been in anyway controlled or influenced by Mr Chen in the performance of his duties as an executive director of the Company.” 52 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
So Graham Chin now “confirms that he is a business acquaintance of Mr Chen”? How does that stand with the Company’s earlier declaration to the Hong Kong Exchange that “Mr. Graham Chin...[does] not have any relationship with any other directors, senior management or substantial or controlling shareholder of the Company”? You’ll remember that Chin was appointed to the board before Chen resigned. However, the Board’s statement to the Hong Kong exchange about Jack Chen not controlling the purchase conflicts with a statement Jack Chen himself made to the New Zealand news media. Chen told the New Zealand Herald in an April 9 email that he was “the driving force” behind the Acquisition, and the Herald paraphrased him saying the idea for the dairy business was “hatched by his business partner May Wang but its execution had largely been his work.” Chen was further quoted as saying he’d become aware a Cayman Islands-registered Chinese mining company was “ripe for a takeover” and that after he invested in it he changed its name to Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings. As for Chin, he’s close enough to Chen to have held millions of dollars worth of shares in trust for Jack Chen’s wife, as another disclosure to the HKSE reveals: “[Global Food Holdings Limited] is an investment holding company and is owned as to approximately 83.92% by Graham Chin...through three companies in trust for Ms Ye Fang, wife of Mr Jack Chen, an ex-Director [of Natural Dairy].” Global Food Holdings was a Chen family business fronted by Graham Chin, and its business assets were sold to the shareholders of Natural Dairy for around NZ$9 million, plus a further NZ$6 million in royalties over three years (via a complex share issue) from the 26 trademarks owned by Global Food. The business was independently valued prior to sale, but the price seems high to Investigate given that Global Food was only expected to make a $600,000 profit each year for Natural Dairy. Chen’s private company, fronted by new Natural Dairy CEO Graham Chin, stands to earn more than three times as much in royalty fees paid by Natural Dairy each year, than Natural Dairy will actually make in forecast profits. Graham Chin and Jack Chen are joint directors of NZND Assets Holdings Limited (not to be confused with all the other companies named “Assetts Holdings Limited”), the Auckland based company owned by
another Auckland company, NZ Natural Dairy Limited which, in turn, is owned by Hong Kong based Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings Limited. Jack Chen has been a director of NZ Natural Dairy Limited since August 2009. There’s one other interesting timeline at play, as well. Jack Chen was appointed a director and CEO of Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings in Hong Kong, on May 7 2009. UBNZ Assets Holdings Limited in Auckland, ostensibly owned by May Wang at the time but based at Chen’s premises, was established on May 22 2009, two weeks after Chen took up senior positions at the Hong Kong public company. Intriguingly, the application to form this UBNZ entity was faxed from the offices of a Hong Kong lawfirm, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Eills. Why’s that intriguing? Because that’s the same lawfirm named in Natural Dairy’s annual report as their company solicitors. Acting for both purchaser and the apparently independent vendor. So where does all this leave us? In our view it’s clear that Labour, National and Act have all had political dealings with Jack Chen and that – like the Yang Liu case – Chen has likely donated money to all three political parties as a way of hedging his bets. It’s clear that Chen’s claim to be “the driving force” behind the farms buy-up contradicts Natural Dairy’s official statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that Chen is not controlling the deal. It’s clear that the company acting as a middleman in the deal, UBNZ, is registered to the office address of one Jack Chen, who also turns out to be the landlord of UBNZ “owner” May Wang. It’s clear that UBNZ Funds Management stands to make around NZ$260 million in profit, based on published statements, for effectively brokering the sale of the 29 Crafar farms (if approved by the Overseas Investment Office) to Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings Limited in Hong Kong for around $500 million when it has purchase contracts for somewhere around the $240 million mark. It’s clear that May Wang doesn’t really “own” UBNZ – she’s admitted she is acting in trust for a group of undisclosed businessmen. It’s clear that Natural Dairy in Hong Kong appears to be paying an inflated price for the Crafar farms, which makes it an unusual commercial transaction by any ordinary definition of “commercial”.
It’s clear that one of China’s richest men, Fashu Chen, is involved as an investor in Natural Dairy; and generally you don’t get to be worth US$3 billion in communist China without paying homage to the ruling party in some way. Some commentators have speculated on whether the dairy purchases are simply bait in what are known as “pump and dump” deals in Asia. These are transactions where the value of a stock is inflated by good publicity and the promise of high returns, and then early investors sell out and cash up. There’s no evidence that the Natural Dairy deal falls into this category, but it is a matter of record that the real immediate money to be made appears to be with whoever really owns the middleman, UBNZ. Investigate believes that middleman is really a front for Jack Chen and his partners. We managed to dig a little deeper, with historical files in the Companies Office that show UBNZ Funds Management NZ Limited was initially owned 60% by a company called Global Financial Investment Group Limited, of Level 10, 175 Queen Street – Jack Chen’s address. The official company records show Jack Chen signed the shareholder’s consent form for UBNZ Funds Management in the name of a company called Global Financial Investment Group Limited on 26 August 2008. The only problem? Global Financial Investment Group Limited did not exist on that date – official records show a company of that name was struck off two years earlier in 2006. Another company, named NZ Global Financial Investment Group Limited and registered to 45 McQuoids Road, Flat Bush, Auckland, had been established in March 2008. Jack Keen Chen was a 50% owner of that business, with the remaining 50% split between Auckland businessmen Ling Zhang, Xue Liu and Xiao Ye. Whilst it is probable Jack Chen intended to write NZ Global Financial Investment Group Limited on his official application, he didn’t. Instead, he filed a false declaration with the Companies Office naming a struck off company as the shareholder in UBNZ Funds Management. So we now have proof that Chen’s interests were a 60% owner (or supposed to be) of the little company acting as the middleman in the dairy farm buy up. The remaining 40% of UBNZ Funds Management was owned by UBNZ Trustee Limited, another little tinpot company registered to Jack Chen’s
address with May Wang as the nominee shareholder of four share parcels. On 8 May 2009, the day after Jack Chen was appointed to the Board and CEO positions of Natural Dairy in Hong Kong, Chen’s company Global Financial Investment sold its 60% stake in UBNZ Funds, the dairy farm purchaser, to UBNZ Trustee, giving UBNZ Trustee Limited total ownership, on the face of it, of UBNZ Funds Management. Trustee, you’ll recall, is still fronted by May Wang but in four separate shareholdings highly likely to include Jack Chen as a beneficiary. The woman handling most of the documentation filing for all these company changes was one Malia Pouhila, who had faxed the forms from the now-collapsed Dynasty Group but who had given her address as level 10, 175 Queen Street – Jack Chen’s address. This raises questions about whether Jack Chen was also financially involved with the Dynasty collapse behind the scenes. Malia Pouhila, incidentally, is now listed as working for Natural Dairy. The final link in this puzzle is this: after the farms have been purchased by UBNZ Funds Management cheaply, they are then flicked on for $500 million to Natural Dairy, not directly to its Hong Kong operation but
UBNZ Trustee Limited and its mystery shareholders will walk away with their loot, leaving Natural Dairy’s overseas investors with the burden of making a profit from the farms.
to a subsidiary set up in New Zealand called UBNZ Assets Holdings Limited. Currently this is owned 80% by UBNZ Trustee and the mystery businessmen behind it, and 20% by Natural Dairy in Hong Kong. That 20% stake cost Natural Dairy $100 million, which has more than covered the cost of the four farms already purchased. Natural Dairy’s Chinese shareholders will be asked to stump up the remaining $400 million (equating to the remaining 80% of the company they don’t yet own) once New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office approves the farm buy-up. At that point, UBNZ Trustee Limited and its mystery shareholders will walk away with their loot (the $260 million left over after the Crafar farms receivers have been paid the $240 million or so cost price of the farms), leaving Natural Dairy’s overseas investors with the burden of making a profit from the farms. POSTSCRIPT: After our first story appeared in TGIF Edition on the political donations angle, and featuring the website of his Chinese Business Roundtable Council, that website, cbrc.co.nz, has abruptly been taken down from the internet, presumably to prevent further public scrutiny. Fortunately, Investigate already had copies of its webpages, and photos. q INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 53
Smith’s SELF-INFLICTED ETS WOUNDS AND SLOPPY CLIMATE SCIENCE
In just a few weeks New Zealand will become the only country in the world to introduce a comprehensive Emissions Trading Scheme thanks to the relentless adherence by Climate Minister Nick Smith to a UN agenda. RODNEY HIDE argues Smith’s dream will do irreparable damage to the New Zealand economy and ordinary New Zealanders, and now is the time for the public to tell their MPs
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hould New Zealand lead the world? Of course, you say. We’ve done it before. First country to give women the vote. First country to sign a free trade agreement with China. First up Everest. Yes, we know what it is to be first. To be the one others want to follow. But do we know what it is to be out on a limb? To jump the starting gun and be running alone? Well, we are soon about to find out. New Zealand will be the only country in the world to enact a national all sectors, all gases ETS. Just us. The US won’t be, nor Japan, India, or China. And Australia has just pulled out as well. You have been told by our climate change Minister that 29 European countries already have an emissions trading scheme. So don’t worry, we are not alone. Not so. The Europeans are well known for their diplomatic skills. As somebody once said, a diplomat is one who can cut his neighbour’s throat without having his neighbour notice it. Sound familiar? The EU scheme is very far from an allgases all-sectors ETS. It doesn’t apply to methane, nitrous oxide, fluorocarbons, ozone, etc. It covers carbon
dioxide only. It doesn’t apply to emissions from the transport sector, households and small business. It doesn’t apply to agriculture, construction, waste, etc. So almost 60 per cent of EU emissions are omitted. It applies only to heavy industry and electricity generation – all other economic sectors are out. And in the electricity sector the allocations have become so complex, so riddled with exceptions and special cases that, for all practical purposes, the EU ETS has not built any carbon price into electricity during its first five years. So overall, the European ETS covers only 4 per cent of economic output. Within the European trading and ETS area, over 80 per cent of exports and imports by value are with the other countries under the same minimalist ETS regime. So those businesses are competing largely with other businesses facing the same costs and the same restrictions. But not us. Our government is imposing these NZ ETS costs on you. No other government is imposing such costs on their farming sectors. Your competitors get off scot free. Meat and Wool NZ has calculated that the cost for the average dairy farmer will be $10,200 per annum. Less than a quarter of this is animal methane and nitrous oxide
– which comes into the ETS in 2015. The overwhelming majority is electricity, petrol and the processing costs of dairy factories. This starts on July 1 this year. Meat and Wool NZ also confirms that the cost of the ETS to dairy farmers is 7.5 cents per kg of milk solids – the MAF estimate of 2.5 cents is just a fraction of the full true cost. On 1 July, the tentacles of New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme will reach across every sector of our economy. And into everybody’s pocket. The New Zealand government is about to go where no other government has gone, and where it is very likely that none will ever go. The ETS will make energy – both electricity and petrol – more expensive. Treasury forecasts its immediate impact to be a five per cent increase in the price of electricity and a four cents per litre increase in the price of petrol. And the plan is to double it again in 2013. New Zealand is to be the first and only country in the world to impose a comprehensive and costly ETS on its productive sectors. All our trading partners and all the major world economies are backing away. Most economies are in big trouble, and there is no way governments are going to further damage the prospects for jobs and growth with a comprehensive ETS. They
An ETS, or preferably some form of carbon tax and subsidy scheme, makes sense if two conditions are met. First, the science must be solid. Second, all or most countries must participate
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realise it makes no sense to damage their economies, export jobs and lower the income of their citizens by going it alone. An ETS, or preferably some form of carbon tax and subsidy scheme, makes sense if two conditions are met. First, the science must be solid. Second, all or most countries must participate. Well, we know that we don’t have international participation – there is just one small country at the bottom of the South Pacific going down this path. Let me expand on that second point a little before coming back to the science. The urge to participate in an international agreement has led us into a truly dreadful position. Why an ETS? Because that is what, for a time, it appeared the international cooperation was going to be based on. Economists have long tended to prefer a carbon tax to an ETS, because of the high compliance and administration costs, lack of transparency, massive lobbying for special treatment, corporate welfare, and market manipulation that an ETS encourages. Politicians, of course, are attracted to an ETS because it does not look or sound like a tax, although it is. And, for a politician, handing out the associated credits has an obvious appeal. All the theoretical problems with an ETS are here in spades. We already have the large and growing bureaucracy which will be needed to manage the ETS. Already the process of establishing the ETS is shot through with lobbying, unprincipled dealmaking and divergent treatment of different economic activities. The deal with the Maori Party to pass the legislation was a last minute one. We know they got agreement to include a Treaty of Waitangi clause, to look again at past Treaty settlements, and to allocate carbon credits to iwi fishing interests. The longer this ETS continues, the more likely it is that the costs and subsidies will get reflected in asset prices, the wealth transfers will become locked in, and over time become more difficult to change. Already the government is using this as an excuse, in respect of foresters, for not suspending the ETS. The Minister for Climate Change has argued that foresters have planted trees on the promise of securing carbon credits and it would therefore be unfair to change the rules. This is nonsense. Most of our forests
were planted long before an ETS was considered. The number of hectares planted in the years since the ETS was first considered is not large. And much of this planting was motivated by government afforestation programmes, not the prospective ETS. A temporary suspension would have limited consequences for most foresters since forests are planted on a 30-year plus rotation. The ACT Party strongly supports the principle of compensation, but claims that the Crown would incur large compensation costs are grossly overblown. To be consistent, the government should also apply the principle to the case of pre-1990 forest owners who are retrospectively penalised if they convert their forests to other land uses. The delayed entry and a gradual transition for various sectors does little to reduce the damage the ETS will cause. It is the direction of policy that is the crucial signal to investors. As far as jobs and investment are concerned, it is the destination that is the problem. As farmers you know that there are huge costs not that far down the line for you. And
The number of hectares planted in the years since the ETS was first considered is not large. And much of this planting was motivated by government afforestation programmes, not the prospective ETS
you know your international competitors will not face those costs. The signal to business is loud and clear. Invest elsewhere. That is why the ETS will export jobs. For a country producing only 0.2 per cent of global emissions to try to lead the world is absurd. We will damage our economy, our jobs, our incomes. This will have no detectable influence on the global climate, whether warmer or colder. To summarise, we have chosen a costly, bureaucratic mechanism to change the price of emissions in our economy. We are the only country to even contemplate an all-sectors, all-gases ETS, let alone actually implement it. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 57
We have inflicted upon ourselves the third most ambitious emissions reduction targets for 2020; and unlike most countries, we appear to be taking our targets seriously. So there we were, late last year, the deal done with the Maori Party, the legislation passed. We were off to Copenhagen, first up, best dressed, ready to go. Our Ministers turned up to the Copenhagen conference tarted up in the best, most comprehensive ETS they could imagine. But the conference was an abject, humiliating failure. A deep global recession and major scientific scandals surrounding the science of climate change have shifted the landscape. No legal treaty after 2012 is in sight. Kyoto obligations won’t be enforced, because this would deter countries from making future commitments. And there are no effective sanctions for non-compliance. The argument that if we do nothing the taxpayer will have to pay is bogus. And in any case there is no liability, on current projections New Zealand will meet its Kyoto obligations in the first commitment period. So, there is no good reason to be involved in all of this by virtue of doing our bit internationally. Nobody else is doing theirs.
hat then about the science? This is the other necessary condition for us staying fully involved in the Kyoto process. Is the science unassailable, is the matter settled? Well no, it never was. I am not suggesting that there is not a respectable body of science suggesting we should be concerned about the potential for global warming from the activities of mankind. Because there is. But there is also a respectable body of science suggesting that the risks have been greatly exaggerated, that our level of understanding of global climate is weak. What we have known for some time is that the institution of the IPCC has become driven by political agendas, rather than by science. We know of the notorious hockey stick graph, of data manipulation to eliminate the Medieval warm period and produce a sudden dramatic spike in temperatures in the past century. We have heard of the numerous projections of imminent disaster that had no basis in established science. In short, the credibility of IPCC process has been destroyed by the political agendas that have infiltrated it. Now Climategate has left the science 58 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
BONN, GERMANY, APRIL 2010: Environmental activists called on the delegates of the UN Climate Change Talks to act after the failing of UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen./ OLIVER BERG
looking even more suspect than it already was – and it was by no means secure before Climategate. The hacked emails, documents and computer codes from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) are now in the public domain. They reveal a systematic attempt to manipulate the historical time series data, together with arbitrary adjustments to the computer codes which produce the averaged and smoothed temperature data. CRU officials, from the top down, have conspired to block official information requests, influence and control the peer review process, and avoid accountability. They claim to have lost the original, unadjusted data, which means it cannot be cross-checked in the usual mode of scientific peer review. And independent reviews of their methods confirm that the CRU was disorganised and lacking in competence in statistical methods. Given that most of what they do is database management and statistical analysis, this is an astonishing revelation. Their data is the crucial input to the computer models on which projections of rising global temperatures are based. Those projections have led the global community to consider introducing globally binding ETS systems to reduce emissions.
You know the old saying about computer models: garbage in, garbage out. These global emission targets, if met, will have a substantial negative impact on world economic growth and incomes, and thus on global poverty. These are issues, therefore, of the utmost importance. Climategate has massively damaged confidence in the methods, processes, and basic data on which all the analysis is based. Well, you might say, at least it couldn’t happen here. Well here’s a curious thing. New Zealand’ National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) is responsible for maintaining our climate records, having taken over from the NZ Meteorological Service in 1992 when NIWA was established. In the early to mid 2000s NIWA produced a graph showing New Zealand was warming even faster than global averages. Around that time the government started exploring options for reducing emissions – carbon taxes and ETS arrangements. Helen Clark, then PM, later announced her Party’s intention that New Zealand should lead the world in fighting climate change. The NIWA graph was most helpful. This new official NZ temperature series – which was based on only seven measur-
ing sites – showed a warming trend of 0.9 degrees centigrade per century. The Climate Conversation Group (CCG) and the NZ Climate Science Coalition (CSC) combined to investigate the New Zealand temperature record. They started with the official graph and the raw temperature readings, both published on NIWA’s web site. There are big differences between them. The raw data shows basically no trend since the 1850s, whereas the adjusted series shows the 0.9 degree rising trend per century. But there was no explanation for the differences on the web site. Most of us know there are many good reasons to adjust a series of temperature readings: there may be gaps in the series, the site for the temperature readings may change, the environment around the site may change (eg trees or roads or parking lots), or what was once a rural area becomes urban over time. These can all be valid reasons for making adjustments. The technical term for the documentation of these adjustments to raw data is a Schedule of Adjustments (SOA). It’s quite normal to have an SOA. In fact it is essential – that’s how you keep track of the reasoning behind the adjust-
OUR MINISTERS TURNED UP TO THE COPENHAGEN CONFERENCE TARTED UP IN THE BEST, MOST COMPREHENSIVE ETS THEY COULD IMAGINE. BUT THE CONFERENCE WAS AN ABJECT, HUMILIATING FAILURE INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 59
ments, and this is what allows other scientists to cross-check the quality of the work. Replication of results is an essential part of good science. And here is where it gets interesting. NIWA started to get evasive when asked for the SOA. In answer to requests they talked about the standard reasons for making adjustments, and they referred to numerous papers which describe different methodologies for doing so. They said the information could be found in obscure papers from 20 and 30 years ago.
he one thing they did not do was simply hand over a schedule of adjustments. It wasn’t a state secret. The climate science coalition duly followed up the references. But there was no SOA in any of them. In frustration they contacted me, and we started asking questions of the Climate Change Minister, and then the Minister for Research, Science and Technology. We tried oral questions in Parliament. We got evasive answers. So we peppered them with written questions. Again, evasion. We got the usual references to academic papers scattered around the internet, and one on restricted access at a university library. We managed to get that one on interloan, electronic access only, but were only allowed access for a limited time. It was like trying to get information out of the Kremlin, but not as cooperative. Coming after the scandalous behaviour and sloppy processes revealed in the United Kingdom at the climate research unit, we started to think the unthinkable. Are they trying to hide something? Maybe we have our own CRU scandal? All we wanted was a schedule of adjustments for the official climate series, so that scientists – not politicians, not political parties – could check the analysis. All we wanted was some basic science. As scientists, NIWA should have been welcoming scrutiny of their data and methods. Instead they were blocking us at every step. It eventually became clear that NIWA simply did not have a well-organised database, with an accessible or up-to-date, or defensible schedule of adjustments. One of the reasons for the embarrassment and defensiveness apart from hiding sloppy and inadequate scientific procedures is probably that NIWA along the way realised that it actually has a statutory duty under the Public Records Act to maintain full and accurate records. 60 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
They are in breach of their statutory obligations. The Seven Station Series seems to have been introduced into NIWA’s records, without formality, on some date in the early 2000’s when James Salinger was Principal Scientist of the Climate Group. There does not seem to be any supporting documentation, it appears not to have been checked or assessed or peer-reviewed. Was it approved by the Chief Scientist, and on what basis? If so, show us the documentation. What we know is that the raw data show no rising or falling temperature trend. The rising trend in the official Seven Station Series is a result entirely of adjustments to the data. You might say the warming was manmade. Analysis of the data shows that 90 per cent of the adjustments favoured a rising temperature trend. A sceptic would naturally be getting suspicious at this point. Conceivably these adjustments might be entirely reasonable. But we won’t know, and can’t know, until NIWA is able to publish an authoritative schedule of adjustments, and until independent scientists are able to check that work. As the pressure was building from the Climate Science Coalition (CSC) on the
Seven Station Series (SSS), NIWA released in December last year a new Eleven Station Series (ESS) which showed a similar rising temperature trend to the Seven Station Series. The CSC analysed this data, and visited a number of the measurement sites. There have been site re-locations for these instruments; some have multiple and lengthy gaps in the data; some are “class 4” stations which have an error potential as high as 2 degrees. The CSC has grave doubts over the consistency of the series, as new stations are added from quite disparate locations. When the 7 and 11 series data are overlaid, the differences are more pronounced than the similarities. Warming periods do not coincide. There is a happy ending, or at least the prospect of one. After all the blocking, the defensiveness, the evasion, NIWA has – to its credit at last now announced that it will have a fresh start. Essentially NIWA has conceded it does not have a schedule of adjustments. It is conducting a full review of the temperature series, and has committed to publishing a complete set of data and documented adjustments – in short, a schedule of adjustments. At last. Why does all this matter? Well, it doesn’t much matter what New
NZPA / Ross Setford
WE THINK IT IS FOOLISH TO RUSH AHEAD OF OUR TRADING PARTNERS AT A TIME WHEN THE ECONOMY IS WEAK, MANY HOUSEHOLDS ARE STRUGGLING, GST AND ELECTRICITY PRICES MAY INCREASE, AND AUSTRALIA HAS DEFERRED ANY ACTION
Zealand’s temperature trend is in respect of whether or not global temperatures are rising or falling. Our data doesn’t strengthen or weaken the case for emissions control policies. But the science does matter in respect of the politics of global warming. The science is used to motivate political agendas, to scare people into accepting changes that they would otherwise resist.
And how come our climate scientists didn’t notice any of the problems with the IPCC reports? Were they asleep at the wheel or did they just decide to keep quiet about it? All of this matters greatly for the integrity of science in New Zealand. It matters whether or not our taxpayer funded scientific institutions behave with some integrity, as well as doing good scientific work.
It matters when they consider themselves some sort of secret society, not open, not accountable. And it matters if they disregard their statutory obligations to maintain adequate records. There are heads that should roll in NIWA. They have misled Ministers. They have performed with reckless disregard for basic scientific standards and for their statutory obligations. They have blocked perfectly reasonable requests for information. And they have covered up the inadequacies of their own performance. In conclusion, let me say this. ACT has neither an alarmist nor a denier position on climate change. But we are certainly sceptics. Nor is ACT opposed to New Zealand adopting responsible climate change policies. Our minority report to the ETS review committee concluded that New Zealand should be seen to be willing to play a part in any fully international agreement – but there is no such agreement. What ACT does oppose is premature action to proceed with the next phase of the ETS on the basis of flimsy arguments about liabilities to taxpayers and unfairness to foresters. We think it is foolish to rush ahead of our trading partners at a time when the economy is weak, many households are struggling, GST and electricity prices may increase, and Australia has deferred any action. A decision to suspend the ETS temporarily – say until Australia adopts a similar scheme – would not prejudice New Zealand’s diplomatic relations or its commercial interests. New Zealand should continue to participate as a responsible international citizen in climate change discussions. And we should promote our initiative on agricultural research. But we should not put our economy at a competitive disadvantage with Australia and the rest of the world at a time when the government’s top priority objective is to boost productivity and catch up to Australian income levels. We should suspend the ETS forthwith. From a speech delivered by Rodney Hide, ACT Leader, to the Waikato Federated Farmers AGM, at Hamilton Airport Conference Centre, May 2010 For more information on how to pressure the Government on climate change, visit www. climaterealists.org.nz q INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 61
LOST for Words
ARE WE READY FOR THE END?
62 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
Photo: ABC / Album
They’ve been lost on a remote island since 2004, and their fans around the world have been lost with them. But with the series about to conclude for all time, CHRIS PHILPOTT wonders whether the finale will leave viewers gnashing their teeth INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 63
’m just going to come right out and say it: TV series finales usually fail to satisfy fans and viewers. More often than not, fans end up walking away from the finale disappointed or angry at what they had just seen. Even worse, this seems to be a problem that affects only the most popular, the longest running, and most iconic shows. You might think this a trivial observation, given how rarely – if ever – one will sit through the finale of a show that they truly love, but it is a real concern for me. I’ve been watching desert island castaway show Lost since its debut in late 2004. I’m the guy who knows all the characters and how they’re connected. I’m the guy who knows why there was a polar bear on the island. I’m the guy who blogs about each episode as it happens. I’m the guy who has ‘Lost finale’ written on his wall calendar. And as the show counts down to its denouement – to be screened here in New Zealand in mid-June – I’m also the guy who has a nagging feeling that he is going to be disappointed. Lost is one of television’s most popular shows, with around 10 million viewers each week in the US alone and countless millions online and around the world. It managed to draw twice that audience at its peak in 2005, and its final episode, simply titled “The End”, is expected to be one of the most viewed series conclusions of all time. The show is often hailed as a creative success for creating a fictional world where every detail matters, and for embracing storylines that carry on for not just multiple episodes, but multiple years. The final season of Lost, currently airing around the globe, is drawing the highest critical acclaim the show has ever received. The problem is that – historically – when shows end during a peak in creativity and popularity, the chance that its audience will be disappointed by the end seems to go up exponentially. There are a number of examples that back this up. Fans of Denzel Washington’s 80s serial St Elsewhere criticised its infamous finale, where nearly 23 million US viewers found out the events told during the show’s run were actually the daydreams of an autistic child staring into a snow globe, for allowing its producers to escape creating a more satisfying ending. In the 2009 finale of hit sci-fi remake Battlestar Galactica the producers managed to rile up its 3 million US viewers (a record 64 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
high for the show) by presenting a preachy finale that avoided resolving the core conflict the show had focused on during its entire run and made one Blend Magazine contributor write an article titled “Why The Battlestar Galactica Finale Is A Huge Cop Out And It Doesn’t Matter”. Finales in which core characters simply say goodbye or part ways simultaneously – such as Cheers and Friends – are often criticised because the actions seem out-of-character, the events leading up to the end are often a little too convenient, and the final scenes can seem oddly self-serving, like we’re watching the actors say goodbye instead of the characters. Some shows even inspire pure vitriol from their viewers: the finales of Seinfeld and The
THE SHOW IS OFTEN HAILED AS A CREATIVE SUCCESS FOR CREATING A FICTIONAL WORLD WHERE EVERY DETAIL MATTERS, AND FOR EMBRACING STORYLINES THAT CARRY ON FOR NOT JUST MULTIPLE EPISODES, BUT MULTIPLE YEARS
X Files have both been heavily criticised for pointless, nonsensical storylines that are simply unsatisfying to viewers. However, in 2007 HBO aired the last of The Sopranos, which might be the most talked about series ending ever. Allow me to set the scene: James Gandolfini’s troubled mobster Tony Soprano, having earlier learned he was targeted for a hit, enters a diner, sits alone at a booth and selects Journey’s classic song “Don’t Stop Believin’” on a jukebox, before being joined by wife Carmela and son AJ, all while being watched by a man sitting at the counter. Shortly after this, the man at the counter heads to the toilets and we see Tony’s daughter Meadow parking a car outside. She crosses the road and enters the diner. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 65
PERHAPS THE MOST ACCURATE EXPLANATION IS THE SIMPLEST: AUDIENCES JUST DON’T WANT THE CHARACTERS AND STORIES THEY’VE GROWN TO LOVE TO GO AWAY
Tony Soprano looks up at the door for a brief second. The action on-screen suddenly cuts to black. A few seconds later the credits silently roll. So sudden was the ending that fans of the show initially feared that their TV reception had disappeared or that their video recorders had stopped recording at the worst possible moment. Stations reported that they received complaints from angry viewers who thought they had screwed up. The shows’ fans were immediately disappointed, and found their way to public internet message boards and discussion forums to express their anger and lament the show’s final scene. In hindsight we can see that the writers and the audience had different ideas for how it should end: audiences felt that Soprano should die on-screen, giving them closure on the series, while creator Chase felt that wasn’t necessary to telling his story, and even that audiences didn’t deserve to see that. 66 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
“[The audience] had gleefully watched him rob, kill, pillage, lie, and cheat. They had cheered him on. And then, all of a sudden, they wanted to see him punished for all that. They wanted ‘justice.’ They wanted to see his brains splattered on the wall. I thought that was disgusting, frankly,” Sopranos creator David Chase said later, in an interview with Brett Martin for The Sopranos: The Complete Book. “The pathetic thing – to me – was how much they wanted his blood, after cheering him on for eight years.” So, the question we have to ask ourselves is: why are audiences so often disappointed by season finales? My first thought was that the answer might be somehow linked to auteur theory – a French idea from the 1950s that basically stated any work of film would invariably reflect or express the director’s own philosophy on life, thoughts on love, or personal worldview.
In the case of shows like The Sopranos or Lost, I wondered if this theory could extend to creators, writers or producers, and if perhaps the problem was that one or two head honchos were expressing their own ideas on ‘the end’, and it was in fact them – rather than the shows or characters themselves – that we were disagreeing with. To find out more I approached Gavin Strawhan, one of the creators and producers of locally made shows Go Girls, Mercy Peak and the upcoming mystery drama This Is Not My Life, who explained that this probably isn’t the case. “TV requires a lot of money and other people’s hard work, so I don’t know if it’s fair to be too indulgent,” Strawhan says when asked about David Chase’s comments about The Sopranos’ audience. “Story telling is, by definition, for an audience, but that doesn’t mean the story tellers aren’t being visionary or writing what is entertaining and impor-
tant to them. So I guess I’m saying it’s about a balance.” “In fact, I think a lot of the craft of television writing boils down to giving the audience what they want – but not how they expected it.” So if auteur theory doesn’t explain things, what does? I asked Strawhan if maybe disappointment is unavoidable, since audiences have come to know and love the characters and simply don’t want them to go. “I just think it’s inevitable,” Strawhan says. “If they love a show, they won’t want it to end.” “Maybe it’s just a case of there being too many expectations that can’t all be met,” he continues. “Writing endings is hard enough in a film. By the time a series has been going for a while, there are often so many characters with so much baggage, it’s kind of daunting. Wrapping up often feels naff.” I ask what part audience response might play in deciding how to wrap things up. “We write stories that interest us [as writers], and they kind of take on a life of their own, through the characters, which in turn spring from the premise,” Strawhan replies. “But at the same time, when it comes to HOW we tell the story, we’re thinking of the audience and how they’ll feel about our story and characters.” “That’s the point of stories – how do they make the audience feel? You can’t anticipate every point of view, neither would you want to.” For executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, the creative force behind Lost, the problem of ‘the end’ is arguably more complicated than it would be for a great many other shows. While the two have always maintained their show is all about the characters, Lost is also infamous for its mythology –that is, the elements of the show that are explained by the supernatural (déjà vu, synchronicity and coincidence) or are science fiction story devices (time travel and paradox). “Our focus has always been on the characters and we spend 80% or 90% of the time talking [in the writer’s room] about characters and 10% talking about mythology,” says Cuse, talking in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in January. “So our main concern is to have satisfying resolutions to the characters. We can’t answer every last question about the show. If we did that, the show would be so pedantic that it would be uninteresting.” The problem is that viewers want the
mythology wrapped up as much as, if not more than, they want the character resolutions Cuse mentions, to see if it’s what they expected. Lindelof tries to explain that this is going to be unachievable, due to the wide variety of viewer theories. “How can you wrap it up not just for the characters but wrapping up a very intricate mythology which will essentially tell people their theories are wrong?” Lindelof asked rhetorically, in the Wall Street Journal interview. “People don’t want to hear that. We resigned that we won’t satisfy everybody so it became about satisfying ourselves.” In a Wired.com interview with the producers in April, Lindelof again commented on the end. “As much confidence as we have in the story we’re telling, we are also comfortable saying, ‘But what do we know?’” he explained. “This is our best version of the story of Lost, and it’s the definitive one. The worst thing we could ever do is not end it.” As a fan of Lost, I don’t feel at all relieved. But at the same time I do understand. The problem with audiences being disappointed in TV finales isn’t linked to auteur theory, as I earlier thought; one guy isn’t
making things up and demanding that we respect that and either like it or lump it. The truth is quite the opposite: creators, writers and producers – as Gavin Strawhan pointed out – are just trying to remain focused on the premise and characters they’ve created and come up with an ending that resolves the story and satisfies themselves as writers, and the audience, in equal measures. Perhaps the most accurate explanation is the simplest: audiences just don’t want the characters and stories they’ve grown to love to go away. Perhaps what seems like anger or disappointment or complaint is actually misplaced sadness. Whether Lost ends with the Smoke Monster being sucked into the trap of one of the Ghostbusters, or if Jack, Kate and Sawyer get a Three’s Company style spinoff, or if we find out the island only existed in the mind of that kid from the end of St Elsewhere, it really doesn’t matter. Whether I’m happy or sad, disappointed or satisfied, it really doesn’t matter. The show will still be over. Of course, there’s always re-runs ... q
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 67
n THINK LIFE
The coming winter Peter Hensley’s favourite couple feels the cold winds biting
he barometer was acting like it had just discovered gravity and they were going to be best friends forever. The wind was howling from the south east and Jim knew what to expect. The autumnal equinox, where the sun spent the same time above the horizon as it did below had long passed and the calendar indicated that the winter solstice was fast approaching. Jim always looked forward to the winter solstice as it marked the official middle of winter. From then on the days would lengthen ever so slightly towards spring, his favourite season. Jim was a trifle annoyed as the weather was upsetting his household chores routine. When he retired from full time work Moira was adamant that he would now contribute to the running of the house. Accordingly he had been allocated several duties such as the laundry, vacuuming and specific kitchen duties. His kitchen tasks were akin to scullery duties as Moira possessed superior cooking skills and Jim had been married long enough to know to never question Moira’s culinary ability. 68 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
Over the many years they had been together Jim had also learnt to value Moira’s talent with money. Ever since they had teamed up together, they had enjoyed a fiscal harmony that they soon discovered was to set them apart from their friends. Jim and Moira lived by a simple creed, they spent less than they earned. Moira’s budgeting skills were legendary in the community. They were renowned for their generosity, however it was rarely in the form of cash. They were gregarious by nature and this led to them hosting many dinner parties and barbeques over the years. Admittedly in the early years money was tight so Jim decided to grow their own vegetables. This provided some relief for the grocery allowance and as is normally the case the crops produced more than their family could easily consume and so Jim would share the produce with friends and neighbours. This in turn provided Jim and his family with an ever growing circle of acquaintances. Their generosity extended to sharing their fiscal secrets with their ever widening family of friends.
Moira never really understood how her budgeting skills could be considered a secret to wealth accumulation but the demand for her time over the years clearly suggested that not everyone understood the power of basic budgeting and the eighth wonder of the world, compound interest. For compound interest to work people first had to save money. For them to be in a position to save, they first had to be debt free and have the skill to spend less than they earned. For Jim and Moira it was simple science, definitely not rocket science. Jim could hear the roar of the south-easter above the sound of the vacuum cleaner, which worried him a little. For a second he thought that their lunch guests would cancel and he would miss out on sampling Moira’s awesome cooking. His thought was fleeting as he recalled that she had finishing preparing for their guests earlier that morning. It was a common occurrence for them to hosts guests, however he was aware that Moira had recently switched to only seeing people during the day and thus avoiding entertaining at night. George and Mildred had been friends since the early days. Their international postings and lifestyle meant that these visits were often infrequent with long intervals in between. Over the years they could not help but witness the improvement in Jim and Moira’s circumstances and obvious improving financial situation. They had recently visited to seek counsel in respect to their own predicament. Briefly they had lived the high life for so long, they had neglected to provide for their retirement years. They had enjoyed an above average income for most of their working life and spent a lifetime enjoying the rewards that came with having a senior position with a multinational conglomerate. The recent global financial crisis turned into a personal crisis for them and they were undergoing their own fiscal adjustments. Fortunately for them they were both NZ citizens who satisfied the residential requirements of NZ Superannuation. Roughly they had to have lived in New Zealand for a total of ten years since they turned 20 and 5 of those years had to be since they turned 50. There are specific exemptions of course, but they had heard of some bizarre rulings when it came to entitlement to NZ Super. Also fortunate for them was the fact they had not sold their Auckland property and that they had enough equity so that they could trade down, move to the provinces
and have enough cash left over to make sure they could have a comfortable retirement of sorts. They were due back to visit Jim and Moira in order to understand how they invested their money. As much as they enjoyed Moira’s cooking they were there for the financial knowledge and were not going to be put off by a howling south easterly gale. Jim and Moira had hosted many similar gatherings and had given up at being surprised by the lack of financial ability being displayed by their dinner guests. They had developed a simple system and were happy to share it with those who asked. Today’s lunch was Quiche Lorraine a la Moira. It came with extra bacon and a special style of Swiss cheese. As with most things to do with Jim and Moira, her cooking skills had improved with age. They did not normally drink wine with lunch and today’s serving was washed down with iced water. Jim had thought twice about the ice, but the log fire had been fired up so that the cool drink did not seem out of the ordinary. After catching up on the comings and goings of their respective children and grandchildren they finally arrived at the topic of the day. Moira drew a simple dia-
gram of boxes, similar to a company’s organisation chart. It had three sets of vertical boxes, with five or seven boxes in each line. From the outset they made sure they had some simple rules. Their maximum investment in any one institution was no more than 5% of their total. In order to keep ahead of inflation they made sure to include some growth investments and they had arrived at a figure of 15% of the total as being enough. This meant they would have a minimum of three investments in this sector. She said that their broker was a huge fan of gold and that they did have just over 5% allocated to the Australian Perth Mint products. Moira went on to explain that the balance of their cash went into investments that generated cash in the form of rent, interest and dividends. They had some rental properties in their portfolio and admitted that they never set out to become landlords, it just sort of happened when they upgraded their own property. They never sold the one that they had moved out of. Their properties always had a special appeal and were rarely without tenants. They avoided most managed funds as they had learnt over the years that the managers’
ability to skim fees tended to erode any value the fund manager added. Accordingly they preferred investments where they owned the investment themselves and received the income in their own account. Jim said that they utilised the services of an excellent investment adviser / broker. Jim added that it did take some time to find one they were comfortable with. Because of their need for income, they tended to utilise a lot of the bonds and capital notes. Moira added that they kept their costs down by buying them when they were first issued to the market. She stressed that they should only buy into investments they understood and to steer clear of those that sounded too good to be true. Jim also added that they could guarantee that some of them would fail and they would lose their money. This is why diversification into small parcels was so important. Jim sensed that their guests’ ability to absorb information had diminished and so he volunteered to put the kettle on for coffee and he had his eye on a piece of freshly iced banana cake. A copy of Peter Hensley’s disclosure statement is available on request and is free of charge. Copyright © Peter J Hensley May 2010.
THE DIVINITY CODE
“…the most politically incorrect book” in New Zealand. He is absolutely right…Prepare to be surprised and shocked. Wishart may ruﬀle a few feathers but his arguments are fair as his evidence proves. If you are looking for a stimulating mental challenge, or a cause to fight for, Eve’s Bite will definitely satisfy. – Wairarapa Times-Age
Wishart takes up the gauntlet laid down by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, and in fact, uses Dawkins own logic and methodology to launch a counter-attack against unbelief. Challenging…thought provoking…compelling – keepingstock.blogspot.com
Discover the truth for yourself. Get these two books today from Whitcoulls, Borders, PaperPlus, Dymocks, Take Note, and all good independent booksellers, or online at
I’m having a cracking good read of another cracking good read – The Divinity Code by Ian Wishart, his follow-up book to Eve’s Bite which was also a cracking good read – comment on “Being Frank”
www.evesbite.com INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 69
n THINK LIFE
Left – Right: both wrong Amy Brooke investigates the manipulation of New Zealanders
hen the great English columnist and historian Paul Johnson came to New Zealand in the mid-90s, his visit was largely wasted. As a former editor of the leftwing New Statesman, he had moved from Left to Right. His study of history undoubtedly prompted his recognition of the oppressive and murderous activities of totalitarian regimes of the Left throughout the 20th cen70 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
tury. However, his intellectual acuity would today no doubt support the view that these past decades’ ideology of a free market for individuals and small businesses, freely competing on a level playing field, can no longer be trusted. Those from the far Right, insisting on User Pays, accurately pointed out that there is no such thing as a free lunch. However,
they failed to appreciate that there is no such thing as a level playing field either. The concept of a free market of those equally wellplaced to offer the best has now been buried. People worldwide have registered the corruption equally as inherent among far Right apologists. Both these extreme ideologies have waged determined war on small businesses. Inferior products with economies of scale and the advantages of mass marketing, including from low-wage countries, can undercut and destroy a market of superior products. We’ve seen a steady increase in the closing down of so many New Zealand businesses, of wage earners with families and mortgages to support desperately scrabbling for new employment – while payment of the CEOs of even poorly performing companies is scandalously sky-high. That the main responsibility of corporations is to return maximum profits to shareholders – with little balanced consideration of the destroying of jobs, reducing of services and virtually forcing firms overseas – is a flawed mantra. The damage done to this country is from both Left and Right, essentially two sides of the same coin: theories, more theories, ideologies and viewpoints that become obsessional. They evoke G.K. Chesterton’s reminder of the essential sameness of the criminal and the madman – that their logic argues in a self-focused circle, complete and self-sufficient. Its flaw is that it admits no other, wider logic. Few doubt New Zealand is now in dire straits. Governments long ago stopped listening to the public – as we see from arrogantly dismissed referenda and a highhanded ignoring of the electorate views – as in that watershed of Prime Minister John Key’s I-know-best refusal to accommodate the overwhelming majority who recognised the infamous anti-smacking bill for what was, essentially, a further white-anting of ordinary families, demoralising parents and establishing an inappropriate surveillance system in schools. How does this relate to Paul Johnson’s largely wasted visit? – wasted because he was basically confined to a closed circle, a trophy for an organization claiming – what’s good for the country is good for business… but instead perceived at large as representing what’s good for business is good for the country… with the further complication that its pricey membership does not come from small businesses but from much larger companies and corporations which overshadow the latter – and can offer directorships to politicians anxious
for life after parliament. Genuine competition and family businesses inevitably suffer when elbowed out by the larger. E F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful. Economics as if People Mattered also invokes the principle of subsidiarity, that nothing should be endorsed by a larger central authority which cannot be managed by a smaller, less centralised competent body or authority, a principle which should apply to local governments’ self-aggrandizement and empire-building – as well as to the size of schools. One of the most useful education reforms we should embrace is the disestablishing of those schools with rolls of thousands. Small schools offer a far better prospect of parents, teachers and pupils alike more effectively controlling today’s epidemics of bullying, violence, drinking, promiscuity and drug taking. It was in relation to this question of accountability and the gradual takeover of New Zealand by the agenda-driven that I gained a useful insight from historian Johnson’s visit. In reply to my query from where and when the attack had been mounted on our universities, now so long themselves invaded (as are our schools) with that essentially neo-Marxist ideology which presents itself as right-thinking i.e. political correctness, his reply was that the attack hadn’t been mounted on the universities; rather, it was emanating from them. He was, and is, right, of course. The pernicious, essentially mad philosophies of relativism and post-modernism have led to the pretentious afflictions of “modern art” masquerading as the real thing; bleak, grey-black, ugly architecture; and the smartsmart, essentially tedious writing of literary in-groups, long divorced from the public but showing off to one another. The insidious promotion by educationists of group-think among children has even their book awards targeted towards issues of environmentalism, racism and “social realism”- all sheltering under the same umbrella. The nonsense continues. At Canterbury University the new Vice-Chancellor, former Deputy Reserve Bank Governor Rod Carr is attempting to replace experienced senior librarians with cheaper IT technocrats with no professional experience “to manage the spaces” – books apparently regarded as passé – with libraries now downgraded to “learning resources”. But as one outstanding academic sees it: “In one fell swoop he intends to destroy all the higher level institutional knowledge of the University library.”
Small schools offer a far better prospect of parents, teachers and pupils alike more effectively controlling today’s epidemics of bullying, violence, drinking, promiscuity and drug taking
Shocked staff understandably invoke “Joseph Vissarionovich smiling from beyond the grave”… We should be shocked that staff are not allowed to discuss these moves openly for fear of being sacked – this from an institution founded on critical enquiry! We need to face up to this fact: our universities have been taken over. Our schools have been taken over – infiltrated by a persistent, sly and slow invasion which has disheartened not only individuals who fight a rearguard action there, but New Zealanders at large. The preposterous political correctness is never put to shame, as with the advance notice of an Auckland University lecture on “Transnational education reform and ‘the progress of societies’ ” by Associate Professor Stavros Moutsios, University of Aarhus, with its awful prose. “The Seminar will discuss the increasing transnationalisation of education reforms,
which, over the last two decades, have purported to make national education systems more relevant to the devolving of the global economy. Progress, understood since the establishment of the nation state as the unlimited accumulation of scientific and technological knowledge and increase of production and consumption capacity continues, albeit its transformations, to be a guiding idea and thus a source of widespread consent for policy making across societies and education systems. What we see under globalisation, as I will develop, is that social progress, identified more than ever before with economic competitiveness, is becoming a global policy-making project, managing, coordinated and measured through/by transnational institutions.” What tedious verbiage – and what highly challengeable concepts – especially the pressure towards world government, adopted child of former Prime Minister Helen Clark. The professor’s equally challengeable concept of “social progress” would be very much at odds with those who far more realistically see the breakdown of Western societies’ cohesive traditions and fragmenting values as social regress. Big has turned out to be not at all beautiful. Matching this jargon, educationists at Canterbury University postulate “new” directions ahead as “holistic… the reconceptualising of knowledge… socially constructed…doesn’t develop to be stored,(sic) it develops to be replaced because it is context-dependent and is not passive….what you accumulate is your ability to generate knowledge.” All utter bunkum – and so very old hat. These are not “new” directions: they’re precisely the same old neo-Marxist gobbledygook, parroted for several decades, spearheading its attack on the real learning and accumulation of knowledge which our children very much need if they are to have the ability to be usefully and genuinely critical – and analytical. But as Orwell noted, the ideologists are always ready to do our thinking for us… The lesson from all this? Think twice about your child or grandchild attending a state school – where these theories are bedded in – or even a PC private one. Until next time… © Copyright Amy Brooke www.amybrooke.co.nz www.100days.co.nz www.summersounds..co.nz http://www.livejournal.com/users/brookeonline/ INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 71
n THINK LIFE
A delicate balance The quest for oil leaves a trail of damage across the globe, writes Tom Knudson
ike many of her neighbours, Celina Harpe is angry about the oil pollution at her doorstep. No longer can she eat the silvery fish that dart along the shore near her home. Even the wind that hurries over the water reeks of oil waste. “I get so mad,” she says. “I feel very sad.” Harpe, 70, isn’t a casualty of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She lives in a remote corner of Alberta, Canada, where another oil field that’s vital to the United States is damaging one of the world’s most important ecosystems: Canada’s northern forest. Across the globe, people such as Harpe in oil-producing regions are watching the catastrophe in the Gulf with a mixture of horror, hope and resignation. To some, the black tide is a global event that finally may awaken the world to the real cost of oil. “This is a call to attention for all humanity,” says Pablo Fajardo, a lawyer in Ecuador who’s suing Chevron over oil pollution in the Amazon on behalf of 30,000 plaintiffs. “Oil has a price,” he added, “but water, life and a clean environment are worth much more.” Others say previous oil disasters haven’t
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changed things much, and this one won’t, either. “We’re addicted to oil, so the beat will go on,” says Richard Thomas, an environmentalist in Newfoundland, Canada, where drilling rigs pepper the coast. “Oil companies will make absolutely sure we don’t check ourselves into hydrocarbon rehab anytime soon.” There’s no denying that the rust-red plumes of oil and tar balls in the Gulf of Mexico are a potential ecological calamity for American Southern shores. More than half the petroleum consumed in the US, however, is imported from other countries, where damage from exploration and drilling is more common but goes largely unnoticed. No one’s tallied the damage worldwide, but it includes at least 200 square miles of ruined wildlife habitat in Alberta, more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater spilled into the rainforests of Ecuador, and a parade of purple-black oil slicks that skim across Africa’s Niger Delta, where more than 2,000 polluted sites are estimated to need cleaning up. “The Gulf spill can be seen as a picture of what happens in the oil fields of Nigeria and other parts of Africa,” Nnimmo Bassey, a human
rights activist and the head of Environmental Rights Action, the Nigeria chapter of Friends of the Earth, says in an e-mail. “We see frantic efforts being made to stop the spill in the USA,” Bassey added. “In Nigeria, oil companies largely ignore their spills, cover them up and destroy people’s livelihood and environments.” Despite calls for more domestic drilling and new sources of energy, America’s reliance on foreign oil has climbed steadily over the years, from 44.5 percent of consumption in 1995 to 57 percent in 2008. “Spills, leaks and deliberate discharges are happening in oil fields all over the world, and very few people seem to care,” says Judith Kimerling, a professor of law and policy at the City University of New York and the author of “Amazon Crude,” a book about oil development in Ecuador. “No one is accepting responsibility,” Kimerling says. “Our fingerprint is on those disasters because we are such a major consumer of oil.” The United States burns through 19.5 million barrels of oil a day – one-quarter of the world’s consumption and more than China, Japan, India and Russia combined. That’s 2.7 gallons a day for every man, woman and child, one of highest rates in the world. In poor countries such as Ecuador, people don’t have a choice. “The impacts here have been enormous,” says Esperanza Martinez, Ecuador coordinator for the international environmental group Oilwatch. “We calculate 1 million hectares” – 2.5 million acres – “have been deforested.” Four decades of spills and leaks by oil companies there, including some from the United States, have fouled thousands of miles of jungle streams and wetland zones. “What does this all mean to the people? It means high levels of illness in the petroleum zones, where they have 30 percent more cancer,” Martinez says. “The worst indicators of poverty are right next to petroleum sites.” For its part, the Western States Petroleum Association, which represents U.S. oil companies, argues that tapping America’s offshore oil is more responsible, but the Gulf spill will only make that more difficult, says Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the group’s president. “We have to re-earn the confidence, relearn the lessons and move on to explore and access these resources domestically, so we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Reheis-Boyd says. The pollution-control efforts in the Gulf
are says to be unprecedented. They include the deployment of more than 100 miles of protective booms and the use of more than 400,000 gallons of chemical dispersant to break up the oil. Scores of state and federal agencies are helping, too, including the Army National Guard. That doesn’t happen in Nigeria, the fourthlargest source of foreign oil in the U.S., according to Bassey, the environmental leader. “Officially, there are over 2,000 oil spill sites that need environmental remediation,” he says. In Nigeria, oil firms “wield the big stick and work with state security to silence complaints,” Bassey charges. “Pollution impacts fisheries, agriculture and human health. Thanks to the industry, life expectancy is lowest in the oil communities.” Last year, Amnesty International published a report on the Niger Delta region, saying, “Oil spills, waste dumping and gas flaring are endemic.” Shell, one of the major operators in the Delta, acknowledges that conditions are difficult. On its website, however, it says that most pollution isn’t its fault. “Most oil spills – 98 percent by volume in 2009 – are the direct result of militancy and other crimi-
nal activity,” the company says. However, Omoyele Sowore, a Nigerian environmentalist in the U.S., called West Africa “the wild, wild west of pollution. It’s lawless.” Oil companies pollute “with impunity,” he says. “There are no consequences.” In northern Alberta, where oil companies are mining tarlike sands, converting them to crude and piping about 830,000 barrels a day south to the United States, indigenous people such as Harpe have complained for years about pollution, illness and the destruction of wildlife habitat. “It doesn’t matter what we say,” Harpe says by phone from her home along the Athabasca River in the booming “oil sands” region. “It seems to go in one ear and out the other. We are being ignored.” “What we’re seeing in the Gulf is very acute, whereas what’s unfolding in the oil sands is much more chronic,” says Dan Woynillowicz, the director of external relations for the Pembina Institute, a Calgary environmental group. “As a result, the scale and consequence are not catching the attention of the U.S. media, public and politicians, despite the fact that U.S. oil demand is driving the expansion of oil
sands development.” The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says the disturbance is manageable and the mined areas can be reclaimed. “We will mitigate our impact on the land while maintaining regional ecosystems and biodiversity,” the group says on its website. In the Third World, oil companies operate differently from the way they do in Canada or the United States, activists say. “When they go into a country like Ecuador or Peru, where there is no meaningful regulation, they take advantage of that,” charged Kimerling, the law professor. “They are more careless, and go in with an attitude that they can do whatever they want. “The U.S. government has not shown any interest in the environmental disasters that are being caused by our companies in other countries.” “I think they should,” she added. “When we have oil spills in this country we care, we respond, we do everything possible to try to minimize damage. “But when our companies spill oil in other countries – and those governments don’t respond – we don’t, either. It sends a chilling message that we don’t care.”
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INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 73
n THINK LIFE
Google, coming to a TV near you Google looks to make leap from PC to television report Jessica Guynn and Dawn C. Chmielewski
oogle Inc. is making an ambitious bid to extend its reach into the living room with the debut of its Internet television software this month. Through a joint initiative with other prominent technology and consumer electronics companies, the Web search giant is showcasing technology that TV viewers can use to flip seamlessly among familiar shows, YouTube videos and home videos on their sets. Called Smart TV, the software is expected to be built into Internet-connected TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes. It has not been disclosed when the first of these devices will be available to consumers. Google, with partners Sony Corp, Intel Corp. and Logitech International, unveiled the new television platform at a conference in San Francisco for 3,000 software programmers in hopes of generating a flurry of independent development. Before the product becomes available to consumers, Google will release development tools for it in hopes that third-party software creators will build applications for Smart TV the same way they did for smart phones. “The revolution we’re about to go through
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is the biggest single change in television since it went colour,” Intel CEO Paul Otellini told analysts. Google isn’t the first online company to make a grab for the TV. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year, manufacturers displayed a plethora of televisions, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes with Internet services, including online photo delivery, music streaming, news reports, weather forecasts and stock quotes. Yahoo Inc. was among the first technology companies to make Internet sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, accessible on the TV. And Netflix Inc. delivered movies to TVs online. But the idea hasn’t caught on widely, partly because of the limitations of the services. Apple Inc.’s set-top box, for example, enables users to buy and rent movies and TV shows, but not much more in the way of Internet-delivered features. “Apple TV has done well in the category of devices that bridge TVs to the Internet,” said Ross Rubin of NPD Group. “That has historically been a small category.” Analysts nonetheless think this Google venture has a shot at success because of the
power of the partnerships the company has built. “Google making an announcement on its own is one thing,” said James McQuivey, media analyst with Forrester Research. “Making it with Sony is considerably different. “It lends a lot of credibility that Google might power the TV of the future.” With more than 1 million sets with a builtin Internet connection already purchased, and an additional 10 million likely to be sold by 2011, McQuivey said, Google sees an opportunity to extend its operating system that now powers Android phones, inexpensive netbook laptops and tablet computers. “The potential impact of reaching people when they’re fully engaged by a 52-inch TV,” McQuivey said, “and having that sponsored by advertising, that’s very powerful.” McQuivey predicts Google will seek to control how viewers navigate the content that appears on their TVs, whether watching a quirky amateur video on Google’s YouTube site, an episode of the CBS show “CSI: Miami” or an on-demand movie provided by Amazon.com. Putting its software inside televisions and set-top boxes could open up a new world of opportunities for Google to extend its wildly profitable advertising and search businesses. Ultimately the idea is to use data from settop boxes to target relevant advertising much the same way the search giant does that on the Internet. TV advertising is a lucrative business, with brands spending US$60.4 billion last year to promote products and services, Kantar Media estimates. Google has already been testing a search service that helps consumers find the shows they want to watch. “No one else is in a position to do that at the scale Google is,” McQuivey said. “That’s why this matters. Eventually you will log in with that TV, it can target ads to you. That’s an interactive advertiser’s dream, and it’s the kind of thing the cable industry has been promising for years. Google is essentially trying to end-run them.” One of the companies involved in the Smart TV effort, Sony, has a lot to gain if the product is a success. Sony might be one of the most recognizable names in consumer electronics, but it ranks third in the television market, having lost share to Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. “Sony needs a differentiator,” said Richard Doherty, research director of Envisioneering Group.
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INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 75
FEEL LIFE SPORT
Let the mind games begin New Zealand’s national game is approaching a dangerous intersection 16 months out from the country’s hosting of the Rugby World Cup. The governing body’s finances are in freefall and player depth is under serious scrutiny. It’s a tricky landscape for head coach Graham Henry to negotiate as he prepares for testing campaigns at home and abroad. Chris Forster surveys the lay of the land
enry and his loyal lieutenants Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen returned from their lengthy summer hiatus to host a grizzly and familiar bunch of rugby scribes, six weeks out from the start of their test campaign. The gathering at the team’s inner-city Auckland hotel – the Heritage – attracted a motley and vastly experienced crew of 25 journalists and commentators, who shape public opinion on radio, print, the internet and television. There were plenty of familiar faces and voices stacked on three sides of a large rect-
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angular table facing the three wise men, in an ageing banquet room with thread-bare carpet to match the ages of the participants. It could’ve been a communist party meeting room in any small Chinese city. A glance around the table revealed the depth of journalistic experience and how little changes in the rugby media world. The likes of Phil Gifford, Wynne Gray and Jim Kayes mixed with in Martin Devlin and Andrew Saville. It was hard to spot a face under 40 or with less than 20 years experience of following the trials and tribulations of New Zealand
rugby, from the critical sidelines. Henry knows all the craggy faces and their reporting styles almost as well as he expertly analyses the form and characteristics of his top players. He was at ease as he launched into a frank and on-the-record “state of the rugby nation” address. The astute tactician ran through his take on the Springboks domination during the Tri Nations last year, the floundering form of the five New Zealand Super 14 franchises, a take on the tough tours looming from (hopefully) full strength sides from Ireland and Wales, injured front-liners like Mils
Muliaina and Ali Williams, the All Blacks’ brilliant season finale in France in November and adapting to the latest batch of the International Rugby Board’s rule changes. He even threw in a tasty little bombshell about another shift in coaching roles to prick up the ears of the hard-nosed journalists angling for their next deadline. It was as intelligent and honest as you’d expect from Henry – a man who’s earned plenty of respect from most of the media hounds gathered that day. Planning for the World Cup and redemption for their Cardiff calamity in 2007 was a relevant undertone rather than the prevailing mood. Smith and Hansen – who are back in charge of defence and the forwards respectively – chipped in with their take on the state of play, but it was Graham Henry’s show. Questions from the table were conciliatory rather than probing, as you’d expect at a shindig with a positively pre-season feel. It was a typically New Zealand sort of chat on matters of great importance, but the pressure’s about to mount on all four sides of that large four sided table that shapes public opinion. Super 14 form is not the ultimate yardstick for All Blacks selection. Dan Carter and Richie McCaw were short of their imperious best as the Crusaders lost their usual shape and precision in the run through to the semi-finals. But only a fool would suggest the two best players in world would be overlooked. The Chiefs embarrassing freefall seems more damaging for the likes of centre Richard Kahui, halfback Brendon Leonard, first five Stephen Donald and loose forward Liam Messam, who may have played them-
selves out of contention for the home test series at the very least. Injuries to first choice fullback Mils Muliaina and star winger Sitiveni Sivivatu, two frontliners in Henry’s World Cup plans, haven’t helped the Chiefs cause. The Blues seemed to be in the semi-final reckoning for a short time, but their second row injury crisis, including Ali Williams and Anthony Boric, proved critical. Joe Rokocoko bounced back to his scything best in a muddling campaign though, proving it is possible to shine in a losing cause, along with athletic number six Jerome Kaino. Halfback Alby Mathewson’s incisive running game may have vaulted him up the pecking order in his successful shift to the Blues from Wellington. The same applies to talented loose forward Adam Thompson who’s been an absolute stand-out with the Highlanders, along with versatile fullback Israel Dagg. There will be those calling for a running game behind the forward pack – and that may threaten Jimmy Cowan’s status of first choice of the black number nine jersey. The Hurricanes seemed dead and buried mid-season until exciting first five prospect Aaron Cruden started to fire behind a pack expertly marshalled by hooker and captain Andrew Hore. Centre Conrad Smith has been consistently good all season until troubled by concussion in the run through to the semi-finals. Fullback Cory Jane possesses the full skill set and street smarts the All Blacks coaches will need to get through their campaign of 12 test matches. Beating the Irish and the Welshmen on home soil, regaining the Tri Nations trophy and completing another slam of the UK will
be the immediate priorities. But Henry and his co-selectors will be weaving in the bigger goal of having enough talent and depth for the more critical, and now medium term goal of a World Cup triumph next year. The N.Z.R.U’s record-breaking loss of $15.9 million announced recently is not a good look in anyone’s books, let alone coach Graham Henry’s. Injuries to elite players provided a decent chunk of the blowout, the largest in the union’s history. Rugby World Cup costs made up a fair whack of the figure, but the operating loss featured $2.7 million for the injured players who are on the top tier payroll. Ali Williams, Mils Muliaina, Richie McCaw and Richard Kahui are among the players to cause the unpredictable budget over-run. You can’t blame players for getting hurt, or for the union wanting to keep invaluable talent on the payroll during their healing time. But the gamble is whether the players will recapture their best form, and be a factor for the All Blacks when it really matters. A winning team is one of the key strategic priorities in the rugby union’s annual financial plan. And it’s hard to put a price on success, especially long overdue success.
The ALL BLACKS
HOME AND ABROAD Tours 12 June v Ireland – New Plymouth 19 June v Wales – Dunedin 26 June v Wales – Hamilton
Tri Nations 10 July v Springboks – Eden Park 17 July v Wallabies – Wellington 17 Aug v Wallabies – Christchurch 21 Aug v Springboks – Johannesburg 11 Sept v Wallabies – Sydney
End of Year Tour 7 Nov v England – Twickenham 14 Nov v Scotland – Murrayfield 21 Nov v Ireland – Dublin 28 Nov v Wales – Millenium Stadium
Pool Matches at Rugby World Cup 2011 9 Sept v Tonga – Eden Park 16 Sept v Asian qualifier – Waikato Stadium 24 Sept v France – Eden Park 2 Oct v Canada – Wellington
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 77
FEEL LIFE HEALTH
Want a risky life? Day care increases risk taking in children, a new study finds. Melissa Healy reports
ince its inception in 1991, the largest and longest-running study of American child care has generated plenty of controversial – and to many working parents, infuriating – conclusions about the effects on kids of early care outside the family. The latest findings of the federally funded Early Child Care Research Network are certain to be no exception. At age 15, accord-
78 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
ing to a study just published in the journal Child Development, children who spent long hours in day care as preschoolers are more impulsive and more prone to take risks than are teens whose toddler years were spent largely at home. To be sure, the differences between kids who logged long hours in day care and those who did not were slight. Filling out invento-
ries that measured their impulsiveness, teens rated themselves about 16 percent more rash in their behaviour for every additional 10 hours they spent per week in day care as a preschooler. In terms of risk-taking, the link to time spent in day care was more marginal: 10 more hours a week in day care prompted the average teen to answer one out of 30 questions with an admission of more risky behaviour. But the study’s authors defended the findings as significant and, in some ways, surprising. For starters, the behavioural differences between experienced day care veterans and those who spent more time in the care of a parent appeared across the income and class spectrum. Those differences were evident even at 15 years of age – more than a decade after Mum or Dad had picked them up at day care for the last time. And the effects are spread across vast swaths of the American population: Some 2.3 million American kids under 5 are cared for at day care centres – about a quarter of preschoolers whose mothers are employed, according to the U.S. Census. Another 17 percent, roughly, are in the care of a nonrelative in family day care settings and other, less formal arrangements. That, says psychologist Jay Belsky, an author of the latest study, makes small behavioural shifts potentially far-reaching in their impact, especially as preschoolers mature into adolescence and as peers become the pre-eminent force in a child’s life. “You end up with contagion effects,” says Belsky, a professor of psychology at Birbeck University of London. In classrooms and peer groups populated by kids who may be just a little more impulsive or risk-taking, “these small effects end up being spread and bounce off each other,” Belsky says in an interview. “The dynamic becomes, ‘I dare you to take a risk, you dare me to take a risk.’ “Nobody knows what the threshold here is, when the little becomes a lot,” he adds. Earlier such warnings from Belsky and other child care researchers have stirred anxiety and guilt among parents – especially mothers, whose large-scale entry into the work force spurred an epochal shift in child care patterns starting in the 1970s. Belsky says he has been “crucified” for sounding the alarm about the Early Child Care Research Network’s earlier findings, which revealed a link between the amount of time a child spent in day care and an
increase in aggressive and disobedient behaviour throughout primary school. He acknowledged that delivering such unwelcome news “can be very politically incorrect,” but added that the research, carried out at 21 academic institutions across the U.S., has gleaned important insights. In doing so, it has helped shift researchers and policy makers from an exclusive focus on the quality of care to consider what Belsky called the “dosage effect” – or time spent in care. Deborah Lowe Vandell, the study’s lead author, acknowledged that the behavioural effects uncovered among kids with long hours in day care may worry some parents. At the same time, she says, those findings should help parents, as well as child care providers and policy makers, with some guideposts to ensuring better care for their kids. “We might be much more attentive to issues of helping children in navigating social settings and in teaching them more about behavioural regulation,” says Vandell, a professor of educational psychology at the University of California, Irvine. This and other research suggests that smaller group sizes in day care centres may make it easier for kids to learn important self-control skills, Vandell adds. The latest study results echoed and extended the network’s past findings on the importance of good-quality child care – of attentive, trained and well-compensated caregivers, clean facilities and stimulating activities. For teens who had had such care, the study found strong advantages in terms of academic performance, and some behavioural benefits too. But kids reaping those benefits were clearly the exception. Among the 1,364 children enrolled in the study, 60 percent were considered to have received child care of low- to moderately low quality, with only 16 percent getting care that was rated highly. As the children enrolled in the study approach high school graduation, says Vandell, researchers from the Early Childcare Research Network have been struck both by the persistence of child care’s effects and the power of other factors – not least a child’s family – to blunt them. “Children have lots of things happening in their lives, and these experiences they had early on are not determining their future,” says Vandell. “But they do carry some of those experiences with them.” Those experiences of day care may well, with time and a bit of mellowing, prove useful as yesterday’s day care denizens turn into tomorrow’s workers, says Ellen Galinsky, author of “Mind in the Making” and president of the
Families & Work Institute in New York. “Risk-taking, thinking creatively, taking on a challenge, trying something new – all these aspects of impulsiveness and risk taking can be a positive thing.” Beyond that, Galinsky adds that the debate surrounding day care has matured and changed over the years, paving the way for a more dispassionate reading of the latest findings. “The world has changed so much since 1991, when there was really a debate over whether women should or shouldn’t work.
Some 2.3 million American kids under 5 are cared for at day care centres – about a quarter of preschoolers whose mothers are employed
But that debate, particularly in a recession, isn’t very loud anymore. Women are bringing in 44 percent of their families’ income, and in recent years, that’s saved many from going under.”
HEALTHBRIEFS STUDY: ANNUAL MEGA-DOSE OF VITAMIN D DOESN’T REDUCE FRACTURES. Sufficient vitamin D is vital to bone health and preventing the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. But a new study shows an experimental therapy involving a once-a-year mega-dose of vitamin D did not prevent bone fractures and actually increased the risk of falls and fractures. Researchers in Australia gave a single, annual dose of 500,000 international units of vitamin D or a placebo to 2,256 women, ages 70 and older, at high risk for fracture. But after three to five years, the study showed that 74 percent of the women in the vitamin D group had at least one fall compared with 68 percent of the women in the placebo group. Women in the vitamin D group had 171 fractures compared with 135 in the placebo group. Vitamin D supplementation of 800 IU a day is known to be important for good bone health. It’s not clear why an annual mega-dose may backfire. It’s possible that vitamin D improved the women’s overall health and well-being to the extent that they were more active and mobile and had more opportunities to fall. But no matter, said the authors of a commentary accompanying the study, it’s safe and effective to take the vitamin at lower doses daily, weekly or monthly. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 79
FEEL LIFE ALT.HEALTH
DIY gene testing on hold Experts relieved over decision to delay offering DNA test kits over the counter, reports Sherry Jacobson
re you prone to developing breast cancer? Worried that obesity or diabetes may be in your genes? Likely to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis in the future? A California company says it can answer those troublesome medical questions and more with the first over-the-counter DNA test. But if genetics experts have their way, the test might carry a “Buyer Beware” label. The DNA test was supposed to be available at US Walgreens stores this month – until the Food and Drug Administration started asking questions. The agency challenged San Diego-based Pathway Genomics for failing to get its genetic-test kit reviewed by the federal agency before taking it to the marketplace. Walgreens decided to delay selling the kit at 6,000 of its stores across America. Experts in genetic testing were relieved that the test was pulled. Pathway said in a statement that it was working “very diligently to ensure that our business is compliant with all applicable regulations and guidelines.” “We have provided the same personal genetic report to customers for the past year and are continuing discussions with the FDA about the regulation of personal genomic information.” The main concern of medical experts was that a DNA screening test wouldn’t offer conclusive enough information about a person’s likelihood of developing a certain disease. Nonetheless, people still might make lifechanging decisions based on those results. For example, a test might suggest that a person carries a genetic mutation that could cause a disease in an offspring. Based on that, the person might decide not to have children. Or a woman who believes she’s at low risk for breast cancer might skip future mammograms. “We’re very concerned that this general information will be misinterpreted,” says Linda Robinson, a supervising genetics counselor at the Simmons Cancer Center at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. 80 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
“Not all genetic tests are equal,” she stresses. “And the public doesn’t realize that.” Several Walgreens customers gave the testing idea mixed reviews. “It sounds like it’s going to give you some worries you don’t need,” said Freddy Yates, a 60-year-old. Yates said he’d probably get better medical advice from talking to his doctor at his annual physical than undergoing a DNA test. Jane Hughes, an 86-year-old Dallas resident, said she’d have appreciated some advanced notice on her breast cancer, which was treated in the 1970s. “It might have been helpful when I was younger,” she said. “At my age, I wouldn’t do it, but it might be beneficial to my children.” Normally, when people have questions about their disease propensities, they would go to a doctor or other genetics expert who could advise them on the availability of such a test and then interpret the results. Until the FDA stepped in this month, Pathway Genomics was planning to sell its Insight DNA test for US$20 to $30. It contains instructions for mailing saliva to the company for DNA analysis. Depending on which test was being performed, the results would cost an additional $79 to $249. While the test says it can detect genetic markers for several dozen conditions, it would not be conclusive either way, experts say. The conditions range from late-onset Alzheimer’s to colorectal cancer to Parkinson’s disease to ulcerative colitis. “For Alzheimer’s disease, you can get a negative test, but it could involve only one change on one gene,” says Dr. David Euhus, a breast cancer surgeon at UT Southwestern. “We don’t even know what the rest are yet.” The DNA test also says it has the ability to trace a person’s genetic ancestry or screen for adverse reactions to certain drugs. Several other DNA screening tests are available on the Internet, although none has FDA approval. “Getting access to genetic testing is not the hurdle to be overcome,” says Sharon
Terry, president of Genetic Alliance, a Washington, D.C., group that supports open genetic testing. “Having access to genetic information in context that provides actionable data is the barrier to be surmounted.” In the past, the FDA has approved certain DNA tests used for diagnostic purposes by physicians. However, a store-bought test such as this one might be considered simple consumer information. Terry is surprised that a store-bought DNA test is getting so much attention. “The most powerful genetic test available today is free – your own family history” of diseases. The tools are available online, free of charge, and you can manage your own data,” she says.
GENETIC RISKS PATHWAY GENOMICS SAYS ITS NEW DNA TEST CAN DISCERN:
Age-related macular degeneration Asthma Breast cancer Chronic lymphocytic leukemia Colorectal cancer Coronary artery disease Cystic fibrosis Diabetes Glaucoma Hemoglobin C diseases Hypertension Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease Lung cancer Melanoma Multiple sclerosis Nonsyndromic hearing loss Obesity Parkinson’s disease Polycystic kidney disease Prostate cancer Psoriasis Rheumatoid arthritis Sick-sinus syndrome SOURCE: Pathway Genomics
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TASTE LIFE TRAVEL
World Cup 2010
South Africa is ramping up for its World Cup tourist boom, reports Jennifer Waters
outh Africa is putting massive amounts of money, manpower and marketing on the line to make a good impression on the world this winter when it hosts the planet’s most popular sporting event: the World Cup. It’s a huge challenge for South Africa, a country plagued by problems left over from its decades of racist rule, but also blessed by some of nature’s most spectacular gifts and a fascinating cultural history stretching back hundreds of years. Alongside a centuriesold winemaking tradition, spectacular game parks and scenery that’s breathtaking even to the most seasoned traveller stands an international reputation for violent crime, deep poverty and shocking inequality. South Africans, deeply aware of the contradictions that will be on vivid display, are eager to introduce the world to a transformed republic this month. They also
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understand they have a heavy responsibility to themselves – and all of Africa – to make a good first impression. Tourists and sports fans who plan to attend the tournament will be well placed to take advantage, travel industry experts said. Already, the country has spent billions of dollars building and renovating roads, bridges, rail lines and other infrastructure to prepare for an influx of hundreds of thousands of foreigners in addition to the millions who already visit the country on vacations each year. The spending will continue through the tournament, with extra police and security, additional airline service around the country, and a national mobilization to ensure visitors will leave wanting to come back. Calling 2010 South Africa’s “next critical moment,” President Jacob Zuma called on citizens to “renew our commitment to
national unity and nation building,” in his New Year’s message. “The year 2010 must be the year in which, for the first time, we all communicate positive messages about our country to the world – the successes and possibilities,” he said. “We have to put the culture of negativity behind us. “It must be the year in which we work together to make the Soccer World Cup the biggest turning point in the marketing of our country.” It’s looking as if South Africa has a good deal of work left to do. The country has pared expectations, saying now that 350,000 people – down from a previous forecast of 450,000 to 500,000 fans and tourists – will be on hand for the 64 matches. Between June 11 and July 11, 10 stadiums in nine cities scattered around nine provinces will play host. Football may course through the blood
A whopping 90 percent of the 2,000 customers von Guilleaume has sold tickets to have tacked on a three-night safari.
of Europeans and Africans, but more tickets to the World Cup games have been sold in the U.S. than anywhere else. FIFA, the sport’s governing body, had 2.95 million tickets on offer, and about 650,000 remain unsold. Of those sold, more than 107,000 have been purchased in the U.S., compared with 63,800 bought in the U.K., 29,700 in Germany and 26,500 purchased in Australia. It must be noted that ticket prices – not to mention travel expenses – are not for the faint of heart. Face values range from US$80 to US$900, and higher for the finals, and tickets must be bought through FIFA or an authorized vendor. FIFA hospitality tickets that include VIP accommodations start at $950 each. (Some tickets earmarked for domestic buyers are offered at less than $20.) And that doesn’t account for the cost of hanging around a city as expensive as London. “You need to be able to budget at
least US$4,750 per person for two people,” says Terry von Guilleaume, a South African native who owns the travel agency Destination South Africa. His company creates customized travel packages for tourists looking for 10 nights’ accommodation, international airfare and two tickets to two group-stage matches. For some Americans, the soccer, if not an afterthought, is only part of the appeal. A whopping 90 percent of the 2,000 customers von Guilleaume has sold tickets to have tacked on a three-night safari. “A lot of families are taking the World Cup as an opportunity to do their dream trip of a safari,” von Guilleaume says, hastening to recommend that those booking safaris get anti-malarial shots. “It’s like killing two birds with one stone. They want the bragging rights to say they were at the World Cup and on a safari.”
Don’t risk going, however, without official World Cup tickets, and don’t look to the Internet to buy them. Sales are highly controlled by FIFA, which held a phased lottery in recent months to sell them, and the tickets will bear the holder’s name. Von Guilleaume expects stadiums to be heavily policed, with proper identification a must. He says various extras could easily push travel costs to US$7,000 or even US$10,000 per person. The country has spent the better part of the past six years sprucing up cities, roads, transit, match venues and accommodations. It’s a massive undertaking for a nation whose infrastructure is spotty outside of the major cities. So far, the price tag stands at an estimated $4.6 billion. Frequent visitors and tourism experts talk of the contradictions that define the country but tout its hip factor and sophistication along with its customs and, above all, its beauty. “Nature has worked a special magic on the South African landscape,” von Guilleaume says. “Although culture and history are an integral part of the South African experience, it is nature that is the true jewel in the crown.” The country spans more than 471,000 square miles – about the size of Holland, Belgium, Italy, France and Germany combined, or just over four times the size of New Zealand. It sits, of course, at the southern tip of Africa, with nearly 1,500 miles of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans. South Africa is home to two of the world’s most celebrated wildlife reserves, the Kruger and the Kalahari Gemsbok national parks. Table Mountain forms a spectacular background for Cape Town, known locally as the Mother City, and the Drakensberg INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 83
Mountain Range is Africa’s highest range south of Kilimanjaro. Both are magnets for hiking, rock climbing and mountain biking. Of course, all of these adventures cost money, and it’s likely that the costs will be higher during the World Cup. “It’s not exactly the world’s cheapest destination, but there are ways to save money,” said Robert Reid, senior travel editor at Lonely Planet. Accommodations come in all sizes and shapes in South Africa. Luxurious hotels and spas are abundant, as are hostels, B&Bs, guesthouses and even bush camps in the game reserves. Yet the World Cup is pinching availability, making an acute shortage of beds likely. Reid recommends looking for rooms in homes for those counting their pennies, he said, pointing to Web sites such as CouchSurfing. com, Crashpadder.com, Roomarama.com and Istopover.com as resources. “I haven’t heard of any horror stories doing that, and it’s cheap,” he said. “You might be able to find rooms with local people for US$50 to $60 a night.” Anouk Zijlma, a native and African expert at About.com’s Go Africa site, said those who settle for “crash pads” are making a leap of faith. “It’s not really for everyone, but it could be great,” she said, noting that budget hotels and hostels also are smart ways to lodge cheaply because of the extensive bus system around the country. An outcry among many that South Africa’s merchants, from major hotels to the corner food stand, are jacking up prices has prompted the country’s tourism ministry to investigate. “The market dictates what prices people 84 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
Famous prison at Robben Island where Neslon Mandela stayed in South Africa/ NEWSCOM
charge,” Mmatsatsi Marobe, chief executive of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, said at a press conference last month. She recommended comparison shopping and issued a warning to hotel operators: “If you’re going to be overcharging, guess what, your room is going to be empty.” It’s best to use a credit card when possible, even though some retailers and hotel in the country’s biggest cities will accept U.S. dollars, Reid said. ATMs are plentiful. But be sure to have enough local currency on hand when leaving the big cities or going on safari. Apartheid officially ended in 1991, but its effects are still real. Poverty and racial inequality are rampant. The legacy of institutionalized racism also contributes to the 24 percent unemployment rate, experts said. Violent crime is a feature of daily life. Carjackings are fairly common, and some 50 killings are reported each day in South Africa. In the last month, a number of violent protests have included shootings, and arsons have been reported. The government has struggled to keep crime under control and has hired thousands of extra police for the World Cup. Lt. Gen. Solly Shoke, the head of the South African army, told reporters in Pretoria last month that the military would guard borders to free local police officers to combat crime. “We are ready to help where needed with
the World Cup,” he said. “All army leave has been cancelled over this period. We will be on high alert.” Zijlma urged people who travel to South Africa to do so with a tour company that is sanctioned by FIFA, such as Destination Southern Africa, and to be on guard. “This is a poor country,” she said. “You don’t want to walk around with your video camera at night. “The biggest thing is to take care of yourself when you’re in the main cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban,” she said. “If you’re going to be getting drunk in a bar, exercise caution.” One of the most-talked-about attractions is the prison on Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years under arrest before being released in 1990. The prison’s barracks behind the peeledpainted prison bars provide what Zijlma called a “moving and amazing experience.” HIV rages on in South Africa – considered the hardest-hit nation on Earth, with 5.7 million, or roughly one out of every 10 people, carrying the virus. The country’s multicultural legacy has given birth to what is known as “rainbow cuisine.” African, Indian and European cooking are popular in the country’s restaurants. But one also encounters McDonald’s and KFC outlets. South Africans have been making wine for more than 350 years and boast some 4,500 producers, mostly concentrated around Cape Town. “They have everything and some excellent, excellent restaurants,” Zijlma said. “Cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg are very much world cities.” Overwhelmingly, the country’s population sees a successful month of World Cup events as key to its economic growth and its position in the world. A recent survey of attitudes toward the World Cup found that 88 percent of South Africans expect the tournament to burnish the country’s image abroad, while 91 percent expect it to create more jobs and 95 percent think it will strengthen tourism, according to market research firm Sport+Markt. What’s more, 79 percent believe it will unite the country’s people. As Zuma told his country in January: “Working together, we must insure that the tournament enhances our country’s global competitiveness. It must contribute to long-term economic growth and creation of decent jobs.”
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TOUCH LIFE TOYBOX CANON P-150 Ultra-compact and portable, the P-150 is the industry’s fastest A4 duplex scanner, ideal in the office or on the road — offering speedy 15ppm batch scanning capabilities with a class-leading 20-sheet automatic feeder. With a light chassis and ultra-compact footprint, the P-150 is ideal for both the small office and home office where space is at a premium – and for mobile executives needing to scan documents while on the move. The P-150 saves users time and helps them do more: simultaneously scanning both sides of a document at up to 15ppm; and featuring a class-leading 20-sheet automatic document feeder for speedy batch scanning. No other scanner fits so neatly into a briefcase, or laptop bag, and USB-based power up means that users don’t have to carry an AC adapter either. Simply plug the P-150 into your laptop and start scanning. Built-in CaptureOnTouch lite software also lets mobile executives scan from other people’s PCs without installing an intrusive driver or new application. www.canon.co.uk
eBOOK LIGHT & CASES FOR KINDLE Belkin has introduced the new eBook Light to brighten your Kindle in any reading environment, and several new cases to protect it while you are on the go. The eBook Light provides a brilliant yet warm glow for comfortable reading. With three powerful LED lights that cast the same illumination as six regular LEDs, the Light offers two brightness settings to optimize your environment’s lighting. The Light’s adjustable arm allows it to be positioned in almost any angle. An ultra-wide clip provides a strong, secure grip and attaches directly to your Kindle, with or without a cover. The eBook Light features a slim and compact design to fold neatly for storage or travel. The Cap, Vue, Pleat, and Grip sleeves protect your Kindle from everyday scratches and scuffs. With slim designs, these sleeves conveniently fit into a larger bag. www.belkin.com
NOKIA N8 The Nokia N8 intuitively connects to the people, places and services that matter most. With the Nokia N8, people can create compelling content, connect to their favorite social networks and enjoy on-demand Web TV programs and Ovi Store apps. The Nokia N8 introduces a 12 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, Xenon flash and a large sensor that rivals those found in compact digital cameras. Additionally, the Nokia N8 offers the ability to make HD-quality videos and edit them with an intuitive built-in editing suite. Doubling as a portable entertainment center, people can enjoy HD-quality video with Dolby Digital Plus surround sound by plugging into their home theatre system. www.nokia.com
EeeKEYBOARD PC The EeeKeyboard PC is a fullyfunctional PC concealed within a svelte and stylish keyboard. The portable 1kg EeeKeyboard PC works with any HDTV, monitor, or projector to turn itself into a fullfledged PC. It provides users with a wireless computing platform, with Ultra-wideband (UWB) Wireless Display connectivity enabling it to stream HD 720p videos up to a 5-meter range (maximum 10-meter range for non-video transfers). Its built-in 5” multitouch panel provides users with an interactive and intuitive means of directing the onscreen cursor to launch programs, send instant messages, and control its media player. www.asus.com
LACIE RUGGED USB 3.0 LaCie announced the latest addition to its Rugged family of mobile hard drives – the LaCie Rugged USB 3.0, combining the super speeds of USB 3.0 and LaCie’s award–winning rugged design. The LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 is one the most power–efficient and fast–performing mobile hard drives offered by LaCie. The LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 provides speeds up to 110 MB/s – three times the speed of USB 2.0. The speed enhancement allows you to transfer one HD movie in less than 3 minutes (versus more than 8 minutes in USB 2.0). The LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 is backward compatible with USB 2.0. This means it will work with any computer or notebook that has a USB connection – offering instant usability no matter what version of USB. Housed in the award–winning Rugged casing designed by Neil Poulton, the LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 features a unique scratch–resistant aluminum shell, internal anti–shock absorbers, and a shock–resistant rubber bumper to better protect files against everyday blunders. The LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 will be available in 500GB capacity. www.lacie.com
SEE LIFE / PAGES
The reality of war Michael Morrissey buries himself in an ‘embedded’ journalist’s account War
By Sebastian Junger Fourth Estate, $34.99 War may be the most horrible thing on earth, yet it continues to fascinate not only the soldiers who have participated in it but those who only experience it vicariously through the media and books. For many young men, war must spell high excitement, patriotic duty, and the sense of being a part of history. The civilian victims of war presumably feel no such emotions. Junger’s searingly honest book focuses on the war in Afghanistan post 2000 up to the present, fought by an American platoon against the Taliban in the Korengal valley. The hard hit platoon sustained an 80 per cent casualty rate. Junger was an “embedded “ journalist which meant even though he was in the front line, he did not carry or shoot a gun, despite being offered the chance. These soldiers were professional volunteers, not draftees, and though it is easy to despise men who cheerily go off to war when they could be at home raising a family, this book shows a different side to the warrior spirit. Much of the conditions are predictable – 88 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
searing heat, cold food, physical discomfort (38 days without a shower), exhaustion, terrible wounds, physical pain, loss of friends in the front line, and the awful power of modern weaponry – the SAW that fires 900 rounds a minute, the A10’s gunship that spits “ninety rounds a second the size of beer cans unzipping the mountainside with a sound like the sky ripping”. Military detail abounds – the AK-47 is light, with savage recoil but seldom jams. The more accurate M-4 is more liable to jam. Curiously, Junger omits to describe the body armour that soldiers wear – except to note its weight. At times, these soldiers may carry up to 120 pounds of gear, armour and weaponry. Junger speculates on whether it is possible to dodge a bullet. Apparently it is – if the bullet starts from 1000 metres away and you manage to duck within one second. Hopefully, soon after, you will hear the bullet breaking the sound barrier as it passes by your head. According to Junger, soldiers cannot fire on unarmed people – people who appear to be civilians – so the Taliban walk to their posts then quickly pick up firearms purposely left at vantage points. They make children stand close to them when they use their radios which also creates a no fire sce-
nario. The Soviets decided to ignore these rules of war and wound up losing the fight because they alienated the population to an ultimately intolerable level. In Junger’s vocabulary, they lost the human terrain. Surprisingly, the best soldiers have been found to be intelligent, mature, extroverted, more interested in “classically masculine activities” and make more money (!) than their peers. The victims of psychological distress were more likely to be troubled emotionally or financially. And I assumed it was ignorant jar-headed grunts who were most suited for combat. I was not entirely wrong about ignorance because Junger also says the professional soldier is not inclined to be worried about the big picture and is more concerned about fighting as efficiently as possible. Some may resist the analysis but Junger says courage is a form of love. In contrast, here is yet a different aspect noted in this key passage: “As soldiers the thing you were most scared of was failing your brother when they needed you, and compared to that dying was easy. Dying was over with. Cowardice lingered forever”. The ferocious loyalty that is forged together in combat with the feeling that
every action is a matter of life or death plus the overpowering adrenalin rush of battle, makes for a potent drug that many young men become hooked on, no matter the rightness or wrongness of their cause. War, I fear, will always be with us.
Fathers Raisng Daughters By Nigel Latta HarperCollins, $29.99
I first encountered Nigel Lattta as a TV host authority on psychopathic killers. I was impressed by the decisive way he analysed the cold calculation of the psychopathic personality with its accompanying lack of empathy for the victims. Of late, Latta has enlarged his psychological repertoire to parenting – this is his third book on the topic. The back cover shows a shot of the boyish author impishly pointing at a red light bulb. If you look closely, you will see the word irony beneath. Ironically, there isn’t much irony in this book though a few attempts at heavy handed say-the-opposite-of-whatyou-mean humour. As a politically incorrect person myself, I sympathise with Latta’s overall aim of demystifying parenthood and whom they’re parenting (children) and trying to let common sense rather than a forced and often farcical ideology prevail. My reactions shifted from agreement to impatience with his adolescent style and back again. Whatever you make of all of his advice, his heart is in the
right place, for he returns again and again to the notion of love – this must be constant and accompanied by physical affection and acts of generosity. Sounds fine to me. Latta makes the point that the book contains what he thinks, and isn’t to be treated as an infallible document. Well, yes, but there’s no doubt Latta has become an authority – his show is popular and whoever heard of a popular show not being influential? On occasion, Latta’s advice borders on the simple-minded yet it often has the ring of truth. If fathers come across as distant when a small girl is growing up, they can’t expect to become an influential confidante in adolescence. The solution(s)? – hang around , build common interests, become her go-to guy. All rather obvious but often we need to be reminded of the obvious. Latta makes the important point that negative statistics don’t convey anything meaningful about your own particular daughter. In the crucial myth-busting sequence of bullet points (de rigueur for a book of this type), Latta reveals that, with only small variations, boys and girls come out even in mathematics (I find this hard to believe), reading comprehension, vocabulary, sciences – and the list goes on. Males only excel in physical strength and dexterity and (wait for it) masturbation. Women excel in tender-mindedness. As a writer, I found Latta’s style annoyingly repetitive and preciously simplistic.“Goshdidly darned”, and phrases of similar ilk are
bad enough but there is also his penchant for using “cool” and “pretty”(as a qualifier) on nearly every page, and that vague noun “stuff” – p 124 (3 stuffs); p 125 (2 stuffs); p 133 (3 stuffs). He is also fond of saying opinions he disagrees with, are “bollocks”. So much for the opposing view. There are also many wild metaphors involving sharks, napalm, Nazis and zombies. Despite his all but successful attempt to hide his academic background, Latta sneaks in some hard learning when he attacks the new sacred cow of fMRI or functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging which allegedly proves large differences between the sexes. He also dismisses the argument of single sex schools over co-ed schools and points out looking at the quality of the school might be more relevant. It needs to be said that many of the leading schools are single sex schools. At his best, Latta is direct and sensible but takes an unholy delight in provocation – adolescence is seen as more like a mental illness than a development phase. The examples of causeless rage are quite convincing. However, this line of thought tends to contradict his more extensively argued view that adolescence isn’t such a scary deal and no one (especially fathers) should panic. In the latter part of the book, Latta considers some of the heavy duty problems of girlescence (my neologism not Latta’s) such as eating disorders, depression, anxiety and self harm plus bitchiness and bad girls. Soon the bullet points are flying almost as fast as INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 89
those from an A-10 gunship and mostly they make sense. However, the book would have strengthened its assertions with more actual case examples – there are very few. Latta’s piece de la resistance is what he calls with cheery morbidity, “The Ladder of Certain Doom”, a chronological list of pm times. The theory is that if your teenage girl is naughty you put forward the go to bed time until – if she is really naughty – it gradually reaches 3 30pm (!). As our bold author rightly says at the end of his book, good luck.
By Trevor Bentley Penguin Books, $40.00 Cannibal Jack or Jackie Marmon was a wild Irishman of the most fierce and terrifying variety. He was a seller of muskets who sold not only firearms to Maori but (you could say) his soul as well. After jumping ship in 1817, he became a gun-trader but thereafter became more deeply embedded in Maori language, custom and their way of life so that along with a handful of others of similar ilk, he became known as a Pakeha-Maori. (By 1840, the number of trader Pakeha-Maori had risen to 150.) His colorful life was chronicled with prejudice in the Auckland Star by the famous Frederick Manning. Manning was himself considered a Pakeha-Maori but he didn’t commit to the degree of Marmon – who fought alongside Maori, had moko, and partook of human flesh during victorious cannibal feasts. Beside his readiness to provide muskets – they traded for 8 large pigs, 120 baskets of potatoes or a ton of dressed flax – Marmon had up his sleeve two other dramatic abilities to improve his mana – mesmerism and ventriloquism Time and time again, he was to prove his power by bending tohungas to his powerful will. The result was culturally inevitable – he became a white tohunga. He became a favorite of that most feared Maori leader, Hongi Hika, and was given a principal wife and several other lesser subsidiary wives. Marmon, let it be said, admired Maori and considered them “the finest of all native races”. However, more than most accounts, this book leaves no doubt about the savagery of Maori warfare. Tohungas were reputed to have prodigious powers – control of the elements, even raising the dead (!). But the most famously witnessed act was turning a withered leaf back into a green leaf. Some ascribed their alleged powers to the devil, others to trick90 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
ery. Marmon was a trickster also – he managed to hypnotise the young son of a rangatira who challenged his powers and humiliated him into stating the reversal of his sceptical views. When Hongi Hika launched his 4000-strong army against Ngati Paoa, he had some 1000 muskets. Despite the fact his adversary had only 100 muskets they fought fiercely and were difficult to overcome. The battle is related in epic detail by Bentley. Marmon was not in the forefront line but at the rear chanting spells. At other times, he was in the midst of action. Ever the gung-ho opportunist, Marmon abandoned warfare for a time after Hongi Hika’s death and became a hotelier, building the largest house in the district and also trading in timber. In the 1840s he fought on the British side against Hone Heke, famous for his cutting down of the flagstaff four times. Thereafter the main chancer faded into obscurity but nonetheless lived to a ripe old age. Over time, history makes intriguing shifts, even proves a fickle jade. Marmon was viewed as a traitor by missionaries (even so he managed to charm Marsden for a while), as a blackguard and indeed he was a murderer who shot one of his wives for being too fond of another man. While not playing down his savagery, bad temper and manipulative ruthlessness, Bentley concludes by describing him as performing a vital role in facilitating commercial exchanges for European settlers. In addition, Marmon is praised for his building skills and his ability as an interpreter for the leading figures of the day. From formerly despised villain, Marmon emerges as a kind of flawed antihero. While my feelings about him remain mixed to murky, there’s no doubt his life would make a fabulously colourful film.
36 Arguments For The Existence Of God By Rebecca Goldstein Atlantic Books, $35
When I first came across the title of this book I assumed it would be a theological text. And in a way it is, except that the 36 arguments are an appendix and they are all in turn philosophically rebutted in a truncated Aquinas-like format. Though, of course, it’s very possible the rebuttals are faulty and can in turn be rebutted. (For the reviewer, the Cosmological Argument is the most convincing and the least rebuttable.) However, this work is a novel and
the appendix of arguments are taken from a book entitled Varieties of Religious Illusion written by the novel’s main character, academic glamour boy Cass Seltzer, a kindly fellow, dubbed by Time magazine, “the atheist with a soul”. The title of Seltzer’s best selling book is a fusion of William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience and Freud’s The Future of an Illusion. There’s no doubt this is a dazzlingly intelligent work and therefore the author must be a very bright and scholarly cookie – she’s a philosopher as well as a novelist. How long is it since we had a novel of this type in prominent circulation – what used to be called a novel of ideas. Goldstein, bless her, is aware of the category and has compiled a short list of the top in the field. Her list includes heavyweight authors like Saul Bellow, Thomas Mann and Iris Murdock (also a philosopher-novelist). As part of background research, I came across a YouTube interview done with Goldstein by renown philosopher Steven Pinker which somewhat sneakily omitted to mention that the brainy pair were an item – married! Hence when Pinker asks who is Cass Seltzer what he is really asking is, is it based on me, your husband, because I am a psychologist like your main character Cass Seltzer. And expectedly, Goldstein says it is based on several people and swings the focus of the conversation onto her mathematical boy genius, Azarya, aged six. The young prodigy, however, doesn’t appear until nearly a third of the way into the novel and doesn’t reappear until near the end of the book. While his abilities with prime numbers and the nurturing of his gift is well drawn, he isn’t the main character. Apart from Seltzer himself, that supremely important position is occupied by a wonderfully ebullient creation called Jonas Elijah Klapper, Seltzer’s university mentor, a dogmatic yet engaging intellectual bully. You would have to dive into the pages of Philip Roth or Saul Bellow to find such a rich, cantankerous, idea-saturated creation. Whenever he is the room, he must intellectually dominate with lively learned monologues. Amusingly, he is upset when the seven year-old Azarya temporarily takes centre stage, added and abetted by Seltzer’s returning girlfriend Roslyn Margolis (an intrepid anthropologist who wants to fight the aging process through her Immortality Foundation). Their comic interaction is one of the best scenes in the novel. In the grand manner of eminent critic Harold Bloom, Klapper declares, “I remain unimpressed
with the mathematical arts in general. What are the so-called exact sciences but the failure of metaphor and metonymy? I’ve always experienced mathematics as a personal affront. It is a form of torture for the imaginatively gifted.” I’m sure more than one person in the arts must secretly agree with the learned Klapper but wouldn’t dare say so. Every character in this groves of academe book is either immensely learned, a professor or a prodigy. The climax of the book is a debate about the existence of God between Seltzer and Felix Fidley, a coldly confident professor of economics. Intellectually they seem well matched but the pro-God professor has an unattractive air of arrogance and the rationalist non believer Seltzer wins the popular vote. However, you feel this is perhaps Goldstein’s ambiguous intention – that the audience is more drawn to the modest earnestness of Seltzer rather than the more aggressive Fidley. In other words, the audience is reacting to their moral character and not necessarily to the logic of their arguments. Goldstein then, is presumably making the point that belief in the existence of God is not merely a matter of intellectual debate but turns on other less clinical factors – the ethical status of the person making the case, not to mention faith, religious experience or the long tradition of historical belief. In interviews, Goldstein maintains a rather anthropological of religion – that people affirm beliefs for reasons of self identity, loyalty to communities, group ideals and quelling doubt. Exactly what her own belief or disbelief may be, is not entirely clear. This is a complex, cerebrally stimulating novel saturated with ideas, theology, and includes rich details of the history of Hasidic Judaism and Jewish learning. A challenging book, well worth reading.
Norwich, and The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt, both highly recommended. Now it is time for a crime thriller starring Venetian Commissario Brunetti – this is the nineteenth such, so I’m making his acquaintance late in the day. The book begins with his colleague Ispettore Vianello being worried about his elderly Aunt’s lavish spending habits. Vianello seeks and is granted permission to tail his aunt and to see what she is up to before she squanders her fortune on superstition. A judge who may be dragging the chain with her cases, and a gay usher enter the plot and frisson only occurs when Fontana (the usher) is missing and somewhat later predictably turns up as a dead body. While Fontana holds the stage, Aunt Ziai Anita is forgotten. Like Venice itself, the novel has a leisurely pace which may reflect the torpor induced by a heat wave that has made the city so sluggish even the criminals are taking a siesta. The notion is playfully entertained by Brunetti in a train of thought to show off Leon’s knowledge of the Venetian and neighbouring mainland underworlds -” ... how to convince the Romanians to stop picking pockets, the Gypsies to stop sending their children to break into homes ...” Over on the mainland,
the problem is how to stop the Moldavians from selling thirteen-year-olds and stop the Albanians from selling drugs. The constant mention of the incessant heat and somewhat desultory references to food doesn’t raise the pulse overly. There are exquisitely observed descriptions of the human face, lots of civilised small talk, and wry observation about deception and corruption but this novel failed to make full purchase on my attention. Perhaps I have been over exposed to faster paced American novels with a higher body count, or the fevers of crime in exotic cities for this book had an almost genteel atmosphere. Perhaps that’s what crime is like in Venice – pickpocketing and burglaries and only occasional murder (plus corruption). After all, Venice has few inhabitants now and the relative containment of the city would make a major crime easier to trace than in a major metropolis. Leon has lived in Venice for over 20 years yet prudently her anti-corruption novels are not translated into Italian. She is not in danger of assassination. Despite my relative non engagement with this novel, the elegance of Leon’s style and her shrewd analysis of the human face and character would encourage a visit to future novels.
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A Question Of Belief By Donna Leon William Heinemann, $36.99
In the 80s I visited Venice, a city about which I knew little except that it was historical and water-logged. Like so many, I fell head over heels with its decaying splendour, its aristocratic canals and of course the complete absence of motor vehicle noise. Perhaps wisely, I have not returned – sometimes one visit is so good you get nervous of spoiling it with an encore. Instead, I read books about Venice and expand my knowledge. I have previously reviewed Paradise of Cities by John Julius
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INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 91
SEE LIFE / MUSIC
Hop away, Teddy Bear Chris Philpott finds Meat Loaf’s new album uninspiring, unlike Bobby Ray’s latest B.O.B.
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
It’s not very often that a hip-hop album can appeal across generation lines, to fans of a number of different genres. In fact, of all musical styles, hip-hop seems to be the one style that you either like or you don’t – if you aren’t a fan of some hiphop then chances are you won’t be a fan of any hip-hop. Bobby Ray Simmons, aka B.O.B., seems to have overcome this on his debut album by experimenting with different sounds and styles, and embracing the difference between his music and that of his peers. From opening track “Don’t Let Me Fall” you get the sense that The Adventures of Bobby Ray will be different from the kind of thumpy urban music we’re used to hearing on mainstream radio, and closer to some kind of indie rock/hip-hop cross that ends up firmly in the realm of pop. A gorgeous piano line transforms into electric guitar and a catchy hook, before giving way to the optimistic beats and soulful instrumentation of hit single “Nothin’ On You”. By the time Paramore’s Hayley Williams shows up on “Airplanes” and Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo guests on electronica-fused “Magic”, underlining the albums’ pop aspirations, you’ll find yourself nodding along with B.O.B’s infectious style.
In many ways the 1960s and 1970s seems to be the golden age of music. Along with the birth of rock, and the success of groups like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, it was also the peak of funk and soul music driven by the iconic Motown record label, home to the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and the Supremes. As part of a revivalist movement started by Daptone Records – where the Dap Kings are employed as the house band – Sharon Jones is one artist who has achieved commercial success with the group by embracing the sound of those earlier artists, while also utilising traditional analogue recording techniques and shunning modern technology. The result is an album packed with warm sounding, catchy tracks penned by Daptone co-founder Gabriel Roth, who also performs as part of the Dap Kings under the name Bosco Mann. Jones bellows out of the speakers with her raw vocal talent providing a focal point for the songs, which move from soulful opener “The Game Gets Old” to the funk of highlight “She Ain’t a Child No More”. While the album can sound a bit samey, and sounds instantly dated due to the style and recording technique, this is a strong effort for the singer.
Meat Loaf is one of those unique characters in pop culture that one finds hard to quantify. Born Marvin Lee Aday, in Dallas, Texas, circa 1947, the larger-than-life singer has been the voice behind some of the greatest rock songs of the last 30 years – second album Bat Out of Hell sold over 43 million copies worldwide in 1977, and spawned the hit single “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad”. In the wake of that success, Meat Loaf managed to appear in such films as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Fight Club. So do we call him a singer or an actor? Luckily Meat has managed to combine these 2 sides of himself on Hang Cool Teddy Bear, drawing on stars from both music and film to help him out. Songwriters include fellow musicianturned-actor Jon Bon Jovi, American Idol judge Kara Dioguardi and former The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins, while boasting guest performances from Jack Black and Hugh Laurie (House). The problem is, these guests seem to be covering up for the fact that the album is one-dimensional and structurally weak, never straying from the kind of driving opera-metal Meat Loaf is known for. This is simply not a great album, but could appeal to long-time fans.
The Adventures Of Bobby Ray 4 stars
92 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
I Learned The Hard Way 3 stars
Hang Cool Teddy Bear 2 stars
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SEE LIFE / MOVIES
Russell Hood Crowe’s reinterpretation of how Robin Hood began his career
Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Max von Sydow, Mark Strong, Matthew MacFadyen Directed by: Ridley Scott Rated: PG-13 (for violence, including intense sequences of warfare and some sexual content) Running time: 131 minutes 3 stars Here, at last, is Ridley Scott’s “Russell Hood: Prince of Prequels,” a dark and brawny version of the Robin Hood legend that anchors itself in English history and loses some of the merriment in the process. Scott, his screenwriter (Brian Helgeland of (Green Zone) and Russell Crowe take us back before men in tights to the leather, blood, bows and arrows of Crusader’s England for a film that presents Robin Hood as a working-class archer who becomes a freedomfighting nobleman. And for the most part, it’s a very entertaining history from the Third Crusade to the fight for the Magna Carta, which guaranteed civil liberties by limiting the power of the king. Robin Longstride is a weary warrior riding with reckless King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) home from that crusade. 94 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
When Richard is killed at a siege in France, the plainspoken Robin and a few “merry” men make their way back to England on their own, but not before interrupting the attempted theft of the English crown by the Norman doubleagent Godfrey (Mark Strong). Robin impersonates the fallen knight entrusted with escorting the crown, Robert Loxley, and promises to return the man’s sword to his father in Nottingham. When he does, he meets not only the blind old nobleman (Max von Sydow), but the “real” Robert Loxley’s wife, the feisty Marion (Cate Blanchett). They “meet cute” in the best Hollywood Robin Hood tradition. “Girl!” he calls to her as she fills a horse trough. “Girrrrrllll?” she mocks back, a grown woman every bit the match for this “yeoman.” Robin impersonates Robert, sees the injustice of the church and King John’s taxes, and starts to stir up trouble. The sacking, taxing and pillaging Godfrey stirs things up on the other side. Helgeland’s script is a grab-bag of history and earlier films, from The Lion in Winter (Richard and John’s smart and scheming mom, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is here) to The Return of Martin Guerre (a returning soldier
impersonates a dead man). The touchstones of the Robin Hood legend are here – Little John (Kevin Durand), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes), Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle) and Friar Tuck (the perfectly cast Mark Addy). “I’m not a churchy friar,” Tuck pleads as he shows off the bees that make the honey for his mead. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew MacFadyen) is a cruel fop. Godfrey, played by that villain’s villain, Strong, is the real heavy. Scott, who dabbled in Medieval history with Kingdom of Heaven, has given us Robin Hood as war film. And Crowe plays him as a gladiator, probably because Russell doesn’t do “jaunty.” So for all the glorious detail, the sprinkles of wit and the thrilling action, what we have here is two hours of war and intrigue and historical and character clutter (William Hurt is here, why?) leading up to Robin’s taking to the woods with a gang of “Lost Boys” and becoming “Robin of the Hood.” It’s fun and rousing entertainment, up to a point. But brush up on your Third Crusade, Magna Carta and the First Barons’ War if you want to follow this Robin all the way from Chalus-Chabrol to Sherwood. – By Roger Moore
After discovering a 50-year-old missive from a Londoner named Claire (Redgrave) who wonders if she was right to leave her Italian lover, Sophie sets about to pen the answer herself.
Letters To Juliet
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Marcia DeBonis, Gael García Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave Directed by: Gary Winick Rated: PG (for brief rude behavior, sensual images, some language and incidental smoking) Running time: 105 minutes 3 stars Letters to Juliet is an ode to romance of the most starry-eyed sort, a sugary paean to quixotic cliches and a film destined to be a guilty pleasure for some (me included, sigh) and the painful price of a relationship for others (so steel yourselves). The starry eyes here belong to Amanda Seyfried, one of Hollywood’s favorite ingenues now. But soon enough the movie morphs into a multigenerational romanceItalian road trip with Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Egan and Franco Nero, to say nothing of certain members of the audience, bitten by the bug. But love doesn’t guarantee happy endings, particularly when the tale is tied to Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and the Verona balcony wherefore the star-crossed lovers he conjured up once cooed. In the years since the Bard wrote, the broken-
hearted began making pilgrimages there, tucking lovelorn letters into the wall below with “Juliet’s secretaries,” a local cohort of sympathetic souls, answering each one. This is where Seyfried’s Sophie finds herself – a hopeless romantic under the spell of that balcony and moved by all those remnants of desire left behind. After discovering a 50-year-old missive from a Londoner named Claire (Redgrave) who wonders if she was right to leave her Italian lover, Sophie sets about to pen the answer herself. That Sophie is a fact-checker at the New Yorker with dreams of becoming a writer is beside the point (just as her fiance, Victor, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, is but a rock on the rocky road of love). But nevertheless the point is made many times over, this being a Gary Winick movie. The director, who staged last year’s wedding dress smackdown Bride Wars, is not shy about milking moments. In Letters, much of the milking takes place on balconies; I stopped counting at three. Screenwriters Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries) and Tim Sullivan don’t help things by piling on more saccharine than substance and some truly groan-inducing lines that severely test this appealing cast’s appeal. Because the film is operating on movie
time, not real time as anyone who has ever mailed a postcard from Italy knows, this is what happens in the same week that Sophie replies to Claire’s letter: It is delivered in London to Claire, who reads it and immediately comes to Verona with her handsome but grating grandson, Charlie (Egan), who tracks down, then dresses down Sophie, who follows him and meets Claire, who invites Sophie to dinner. Sophie asks if she can tag along as Claire and Charlie search Tuscany for the long-lost Lorenzo, who happens to have a very common name, and that’s far from the end of the story. Softening all the low blows is the presence of Redgrave and the warmth of the Tuscan sun. Between them, they should melt the most resistant heart as Claire, Sophie and Charlie meander through the lush, languid countryside with its rolling vineyards and rustic villages. Cinematographer Marco Pontecorvo (My One and Only) has bathed everything in a golden glow that Redgrave floats through, luminous still, limpid blue eyes, cheekbones ever at the ready, absorbing whatever the day hands her, which is usually a glass of wine and another Lorenzo. Just not the right Lorenzo. Seyfried and Egan are more charming when they are with her as they spar and deny the sparks that fly around them – she is engaged to Victor after all. But the time Redgrave spends on screen with Nero, her longtime partner in real life, is so infused with a slow-burning fire it could make a cynic, or a critic, waver, so I will. Besides, love means never having to say you’re sorry, so I won’t. – By Betsy Sharkey INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010 95
SEE LIFE / THE CUTTING ROOM
T for terrific A fan of The Good Wife? You should be, argues Mary McNamara Giving a television show a glowing review is, essentially, an act of hope. Unlike critics of other genres, those of us reviewing television see only a portion of what is a continually evolving work of art. Shows that have terrific pilots often stumble in second and third episodes, while shows with terrible pilots can right themselves. Either way, it isn’t until the fifth or sixth episode that you really know what you’re getting, though even then there is always room for miraculous improvement and terrible mistakes. So, it’s a leap of faith when a television critic reaches into the box marked “superlatives.” In many ways, Modern Family and The Good Wife are apples and oranges, but they both have many of the attributes that help shows take flight and soar. Eight Reasons Why The Good Wife and Modern Family Are Practically Perfect in Every Way: 1. Casting: Both shows started with a solid, recognizable, talented performer – Julianna Margulies as betrayed wife-lawyer Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife, Ed O’Neill as prickly paterfamilias Jay Pritchett in Modern Family – in roles that were similar but not identical to what they were known for. Then, and most important, the creators cast every other character with just as much care and attention to detail. Archie Panjabi, Chris Noth, Christine Baranski, Josh Charles – when Alan Cumming joined The Good Wife’s 96 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM June 2010
cast late in the season, there was a chance the end credits would simply go supernova. Likewise, Modern Family gives us Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet and the comedic revelation (to American audiences anyway) that is Sofia Vergara. When Fred Willard shows up as Phil’s dad and Shelley Long as Jay’s exwife, you know, for a fact, that God watches television. 2. Writing: Some will argue that comedy is harder to write than drama, but that’s just the kind of fire and ice debate that skirts the obvious. No matter the genre, a great television show is the most difficult thing in the world to write because there are so many moving parts and, with any luck, the story goes on for years. Modern Family’s Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd and The Good Wife’s Michelle and Robert King all began with character. Each show follows a group of complicated and fully realized human beings working through interesting immediate issues under a canopy of ubernarrative. In both cases, the big picture is the inevitable, but at times impossible, needs of – and need for – family. 3. Acting: (See Reason 1.) It is very unusual to have two casts this large and have no weak links. Not one weak link. Equally astonishing, no one appears to be learning on the job, which is almost never the case with new shows. Every single member of each cast deserves an Emmy for something.
4. Directing: The Directors Guild sometimes loses its patience with TV critics because it feels we don’t credit the directors enough. In our defence, while each show usually has one or two creators-show runners who oversee the writing staff, it can have a string of directors. The Good Wife had 18 this season, while Modern Family had eight – including Jason Winer, who directed 13 episodes – and here’s to them because you don’t get great shows without great direction. 5. Kids: Both shows are notable for featuring children who are recognizable as children, as opposed to vehicles for exposition, wisecracking robots or Skinnerian emotional cues. On The Good Wife, Zach and Grace Florrick (Makenzie Vega and Graham Phillips) are by turns sullen and insightful, showing both teenage narcissism and strength under pressure. Modern Family’s Dunphy brood – Haley (Sarah Hyland), Alex (Ariel Winter) and Luke (Nolan Gould) – and their young stepuncle, Manny Delgado (Rico Rodriguez), are a bit more archetypal – popular teen, brainy tween, dense but loveable kid and, well, the preternaturally mature Manny defies description – but they remain people you might know, and not just from TV. 6. Art direction: A good look can make or break a show. The Good Wife is more interior – it’s set in Chicago, but it could be any big city – and its sets are moody and soothing as needed. Modern Family, meanwhile, is bright and airy, and if everyone involved is upscale SoCal, at least they’re recognizably SoCal. 7. The judges: OK, this one applies only to The Good Wife, but honestly – Joanna Gleason, Peter Riegert, Denis O’Hare – in the entire history of the courtroom drama, has there ever been a better revolving cast of judges? No, there has not. 8. A reliance on story and character over plot device, quirkiness and gratuitous anything: Both shows are smart without being
snarky, realistic about the limitations of the human soul without being jaded, carefully plotted without being overly clever. Sex is present but not exploited, marriage is respected but not revered and love, though in the end binding, is never reduced to syrup. What violence there is in The Good Wife is mostly psychological and/or off-screen. So, not only are these shows artful and exciting, but they’re also family-friendly (though obviously, the nature and time slot of The Good Wife makes it PG-13). Which may just tip them into the “completely perfect” category.