Electronic bracelets for wrong sort of prisoners

A criminal has cut his tracking bracelet and done a bolter.

How many times have you heard that in the last month?  I have heard it several times, and it appears that the company responsible for them was dropped by American authorities as their preferred supplier of the tracking tags for the same reasons that the devices are coming under scrutiny for in New Zealand. More interestingly – and worrying – is that the Corrections Department was told about the tags being a problem, but went ahead and purchased some anyway.

A list of the more recent known breaches include:

The Department of Corrections claims that of the 3000+ prisoners who have the tags, the few that have cut them off, amount to less than 0.5%. Whilst this seems like and probably is a quite good record, all of the offenders who cut them off appear to be recidivists who have committed multiple offences that are worthy of jail time. However, there were 15,000 instances between 2008 and the start of August 2015 in which the bracelets were cut or otherwise interfered with by the wearer. Given some of the prisoners who have done this have been convicted of things such as assault, aggravated robbery and illegal possession of weapons, should they have been able to use the tracking devices in the first place?

In the case of Blessie Gottingco’s murderer, the answer is an absolute no. People like Tony Robertson are good for one place only: Jail. That he was out on parole, that Corrections had a GPS tracker placed on him, is all meaningless to the victims family – they lost a mother, a wife, aunty in what by all accounts was a shocking offence.

Perhaps a better use for the tag would be to use them on lower risk offenders who are allowed into the community for rehabilitative purposes, as a way of granting them more autonomy, in return for the understanding that if they cut them off, their liberties will be curtailed.


New Orleans 10 years after Katrina; Christchurch 5 years since 04 September

On this day Hurricane Katrina came ashore from the Gulf of Mexico as a Category 3 (nearly Category 4)storm. It is the day this storm whacked into New Orleans and caused the costliest natural disaster in American history. With hurricanes being an annual issue, the Gulf of Mexico nations and the coastal states of the U.S. are well versed in hurricanes. Several days before Hurricane Katrina hit, it was being tracked in the Caribbean. The city of New Orleans had sufficient warning and most people left the city after a mandatory evacuation order was imposed, due the track of the hurricane having a 29% probability of crossing the city and its low lying geography. The Louisiana Super Dome was opened up  as a refuge of last resort for those who had no means of leaving or nowhere to go.  It was hit by a huge storm surge of about 8.5 metres. The failure of the levee system and the associated pumps as the storm surge rose, caused 80% of the city to flood. Around 2/3 of the lives lost are attributable to the levee and pump failure, which works out at around 1200 of the known 1800+ deaths. The cost of Hurricane Katrina financially stands at about U.S.$108 billion.

04 September 2010 is the fifth anniversary of the start of an earthquake sequence in Canterbury, New Zealand that lasted over a year and culminated on 22 February 2011 with the financially most costly disaster in New Zealand history and one of the deadliest. Like the Gulf of Mexico nations and coastal U.S. states with their hurricanes, New Zealand and Christchurch had had previous experience with earthquakes, though certainly not with the same frequency or severity. It was expected that a magnitude 6.0+ aftershock might eventually hit the city and that it could cause significant damage and possibly deaths. What was not expected was a very shallow (5km), closely centred (10km SE from Christchurch)aftershock hitting in the middle of the day with ground shaking that to this day is the highest recorded from an earthquake so close to an urban area (2.2x gravity), which damaged many older buildings beyond repair, induced very severe liquefaction throughout the city and significant lateral spreading.

How America responded to Katrina and how New Zealand responded to the Christchurch earthquakes showed markedly different styles. The scale of the damage from Katrina and the fact that multiple states were affected meant that U.S. relief efforts had to be prioritized. U.S. authorities issued evacuation orders days in advance. Poor decision making at all Government levels contributed to the delays and slowed the significant offers of international relief. For several days following Katrina, there was limited access to the city, and supplies of food, water, medical equipment and other assistance were critically short. The emergency services were caught out by the breaking levees. Some looting broke out.

Christchurch was quite different. The brief emergency period following the earthquake on 04 September 2010 had given the city a vital chance to test its Civil Defence. Perhaps the biggest criticisms were levelled at the Christchurch City Council, which was caught on the hop shifting between its old and new headquarters. It was implicated in the failure to address building safety, by not being sufficiently proactive marking certain buildings as unsafe, which failed on 22 February 2011. Another criticism was levelled at the rapid passage through Parliament of legislation relating to the reconstruction, without an opportunity for it to be scrutinized. The relief effort in Christchurch began immediately with a State of Emergency being declared by the Government, and an appeal for international assistance going out the same day. Singaporean, American, Australian, Japanese and Chinese rescue teams and Australian police were sent to assist. Following the 22 February earthquake, the Central Business District of Christchurch was cordoned off, whilst buildings were made safe. This continued until about July 2013, when the remaining cordons were lifted. Isolated buildings whose future are still uncertain remain.

Fundamentally both cities suffered significant population drops immediately following their respective disasters. Christchurch’s population initially dropped by about 30,000 people, but now appears to have suffered a total long term loss of about 10,000 residents. New Orleans’ population dropped about a quarter following Hurricane Katrina.

Today, both cities have large tracts of abandoned land. In Christchurch 10,000 homes had to be demolished because they were too badly damaged or the land underneath was not suitable for building on.  Major reconstruction of Christchurch’s sewerage, water and roading has had to take place as all suffered heavy damage in the quakes. The insurance companies have been subject to much criticism over their handling of insurance claims that is ongoing. Five years later, some are still trying to get damage from the first earthquake repaired. In New Orleans the damage will take significantly longer to repair, and some parts will never be rebuilt. A social diaspora emerged because some people wanted to go back, but when they approached their social services case manager, they were told their parts of the city would not be rebuilt, and there was a perceived reluctance to rebuild the housing for lower income earners that had existed prior to Hurricane Katrina.

Which waiting list are you on?

We all think we know the meaning of hospital waiting list. It is the list of people who have been deemed in need of an operation for the sake of their immediate and/or long term well being. We understand it is a list that gets manipulated by politicians for the purpose of point scoring. We know it is a list that the District Health Boards that govern health care at regional levels is responsible for keeping as short as possible. This, they most certainly try to do. But are they actually shortening the list through operations

There are two lists that I think a hospital keeps regarding patients waiting for operations. One is the official one that is known to the Ministry of Health, known to the District Health Boards and known to the surgeons in the operating theatre, which for the purposes of this article I will call the white list. The other is the unofficial list of people who at some point or another were on the white list, but whom have been told that they do not qualify for surgery or that they need further testing done, or that A.C.C. will not cough up – you get the drift. I will call this list the grey list.

If you are on the white list, you have hope. You are shortlisted for an operation and have somehow managed to navigate the bureaucratic maze and the A.C.C. paperwork. You might have a few months to wait, but at least you have a timeline in which you can somewhat reasonably expect to be operated on. Well done. For those of you needing things like hip or knee replacements, that are the difference between whether or not you can get on with your life or hold down a paying job, the future is looking sunny – well sunnier than it was.

This list is one that does not get longer for some strange reason, despite many people needing surgery. So where do those people who do not appear on this list go? And that is where the grey list comes in.

If you are unlucky to be one of the unknown number that have gone onto the grey list, I sympathize with you. I really do. You are the poor people who have the right to grumble and grouch as I hope you will in the media – sometimes a good grumble in public is unfortunately the only way to get a satisfactory outcome. Your need for a grumble might be because A.C.C. have lost your claim for the umpteenth time or view you as a nuisance because your case has fallen through cracks in their system that they knew about and did nothing to fix. It could be because you need a procedure that is not funded in New Zealand and it is prohibitively expensive to go overseas – lobbying your Member of Parliament may or may not have yet been tried.

It really should not be like this, but as you, the waiting patient who has no idea when the good Doctor will ring and say “Hello. I would like to talk to you about having surgery next week…” will have figured out, sometimes there is simply no other way. Your life might be on ice effectively until you have the procedure. Your ability to contribute to the economic well being and social development of this nation is on ice because you cannot hold down a job. If you are a senior citizen who has retired, your ability to enjoy your well earned retirement and be a good grand parent to your son/daughter’s off spring is crippled.

So, when politicians claim that they are making inroads into the waiting list. Are you sure that they are just not ending up on the grey list?

Defence of Trans Pacific Partnership a joke

For years now the Government of Prime Minister John Key has been trying to defend the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. The massive so called Free Trade Agreement that he and his colleagues argue will bring major benefits to the New Zealand economy and consumers, is a 12 nation deal that when complete will encompass the worlds two biggest economies and a host of other G-20 nations.

The longer that the Government tries to defend the Trans Pacific Pàrtnership, the sillier it looks. It is quite plain that the public are losing confidence in the Governments assurances that the T.P.P. is in New Zealand’s interests. Leaked information suggests that none of the gains often parroted by Government ministers are actually going to occur and that costs for medication will increase. There is also substantial concern about the Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses that are allegedly in the text.

The Minister of Trade, who has been privy to the details all along insists that the preferred method of negotiation is to  keep the details secret until the draft has been agreed upon by the nations involved. Then, Mr Groser says, it would be open for discussion. But recently it has become clear that none of this is true. It has become clear that New Zealanders and Parliament will only be able to see the text, not after it has been agreed to, but after it has been signed off.

Thus it is all the more incredible that Mr Groser believes New Zealanders are misinformed. Mr Groser and his National Party colleagues however refuse to attend the public meetings that are being organized to air concerns. I understand that in Christchurch on 10 August 2015 a public meeting with all political parties in Parliament invited to attend was organized to discuss the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. Every Opposition party turned up. Not one Minister of the Crown or National caucus Member of Parliament showed up. Nor did A.C.T. or United Future, both of whom believe it is somehow a good deal for New Zealand. Quite how we are supposed to be informed when those in the know do not want to tell us is beyond me.

And it was dear old John Key who famously said that if we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear. So, Mr Prime Minister, may I ask what you and Mr Groser are hiding?

Chinese economic crisis harms New Zealand

Long before China became a by word for foreign takeover, I had what I considered valid reasons for not trusting the economic relations between New Zealand and China. As the depth of the relations have grown my distrust and sense of unease has followed a largely linear climb.

I will be clear. I am not anti-Chinese. China is a proud and just sovereign nation that has contributed immensely to the world. It has challenges no other country in the world has in terms of sustainable population growth and managing its economy. It is an environmentally, socially and economically diverse nation. I have the pleasure of working with a nice temp from Coverstaff at the moment from Beijing.

However, it has a form of Government, that aside from being quite corrupt and about as transparent as mud, is in some respects waging economic imperialism on nations that it tries to befriend. It matters not what the nations name is – America, Nigeria, New Zealand, Iran – as the Chinese Government investment in these nations is all to support a pro-Beijing agenda. More problematically for these nations, the Chinse Government hoodwinks the governments of the individual nations into believing that they want to develop friendly ties. Political Beijing is only friendly when it suits them: the moment when N.G.O.’s raise questions about human rights abuses, or other questionable activity that is occurring, the Chinese Government gets grumpy.

But at the same time, I feel really sorry for the New Zealand investors in China and the Chinese investors here who came with honest intentions. Many of them just wanted somewhere that they thought was a relatively safe place to invest their monies and hope for a gain of some sort when they wanted their money back. They probably could not, despite contributing to it, have foreseen the massive wipe outs that have been wracking the sharemarkets both here and in China. The failure of corrective actions by banks in China and the Chinese Government to stem the outflow of capital. For a trader in the stock markets, the last few days watching a sea of red on their screens and a plunging red line like a barometer before a hurricane, must have been harrowing.

There are no worth winners in this economic wipe out. Whether by poor Government management over the last decade or so, or by virtue of the post-Global Financial Crisis world economy being in a worse state than we thought this is hurting both New Zealand and China. The latter will probably be subject to further abrupt readjustments as the effects of mitigatory measures take effect and the markets react.  New Zealand, drugged as it is on Christchurch rebuild insurance and dairy farming, however might watching the onset of some seriously stormy economic weather. That barometer might have setting up for another plunge.

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