Agree with Dave. Found Hard News when I spent a year in Houston in 1995 and it was a valued link with NZ. Have been an avid follower ever since but largely a lurker. Please keep up the good work.
To my mind the unreported suggestion of vigilantism in the case of the young man with a fascination for electrical fittings is much more disturbing than the verbal running off at the mouth of an apparent nutter like Michael Laws. The whole incident brings up the dilemma of how society deals with those of its members who “don’t experience the world like I do” as Russell neatly puts it. He and his family cope with this by removing them from mainstream education and going to a lot of trouble and expense to provide suitable alternatives.
To my mind the present systems of justice as practiced in most of the western world are at best a form of codified and legalised vigilantism and take no cognisance of those who have views of society and view of their place in it which differs from a so called “norm”. Why is it that those convicted of a serious crime are given a fixed term sentence when there is no evidence that they will “learn their lesson” in prison and emerge as model citizens at the end. As I see it, they are more likely to emerge from the present system with an even greater “anti-social” view of the world and be just as great a danger as they were when they went in.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests that differences in our genetic make up can have significant effects on the ways in which the connections in our brains are formed. Even more importantly there is evidence that ones early experiences and influences in life can modify these connections as the brain develops following birth. If substantiated, these findings have rather far-reaching ramifications to the way the justice system deals with offenders against societal norms. Do we stick with the present rather retributive system we have at present or do we move to a system where ones “guilt” is restricted to the evidential aspects relating to whether the act in question was actually committed by the individual concerned? If the answer to this question is yes, then how is the “punishment” arrived at? One could envisage a system where “treatment” following conviction is recommended by a panel of appropriate people. In severe cases treatment could be confinement to a secure facility where the individual could be treated and their progress assessed periodically (not by a parole board). Release would be dependent on the basis of an expert opinion regarding their response to treatment.
My thoughts on this issue have been influenced to a large extent by reading a recent article in the scientific journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA” entitled “The Lucretian swerve: The biological basis of human behavior and the criminal justice system” which is available free online at: http://www.pnas.org/content/107/10/4499.full
Some comparison figures for a European city about the size of Auckland:
Prague (Czech Republic)
Population: 1.3 million
Pop. Density; 2500/km2
GDP (Czech Republic) $US18500
Prague public transport
Underground rail 50 km ( 3 lines. 50 stations)
Frequency: 2-3 min peak, 4-10 min off peak 5am to midnight
Trams: 500 km of track
Frequency: 8-10 mins 4.30 am to midnight, (10-15 mins weekends) 40 mins midnight to 4.30 am.
Population: 1.3 million
Pop. Density 1270/km2
GDP (NZ) $US28500
I suspect the difference in population density probably has something to do with the lack of public transport in Auckland