Friday, January 28, 2011

Stressed out Judge?

Judge Tony Adeane, a district court judge who works in Hawke's Bay and Gisborne courts looks like he's reaching the end of his tether, and has been in the news a few times over the last couple of weeks.

Two weeks back the lawyers for 2 accused of aggravated assult on a policeman  scheduled a bail hearing then said they wanted a delay so they could apply later. Adeane is reported as saying he would not accept court proceedings "sitting in limbo"" and remanded the accused in custody the application.

Eight days ago he was reported  as jailing a man for contempt after he shouted abuse from the public gallery of the court.

Today there are two reports about him, presumably from yesterday. In the first, he is reported as saying "Taggers should expect to be sent to jail" while sentencing a tagger to community service while in the second he supposedly said "Home detention does not work as a deterrent in Hawkes Bay [...] It has not been the experience of the District Court in Hawkes Bay that home detention truly is an equivalent of prison - it doesn't have the same deterrent effect and most offenders realise that" while sentencing a recidivist shoplifting gang member to home detention.

The first two cases suggest the actions of a man who has been pushed to the point where he is starting to experience work place stress and is letting his more difficult "customers" know that he has had enough of their antics. You have to wonder why his words in the other two cases don't match his actions, ¿Que? presumes that sentencing guidelines are forcing him to issue sentences he recognises as futile and inadequate.

¿Que?'s position is that our society is at the mercy of career criminals because bad behaviour is permitted to ratchet up into criminal behaviour with no effective sanction until a person with dozens or hundreds of convictions finally cripples or kills an innocent person. It seems it isn't only the public who are victims of this process, Judge Adeanes' comments and actions makes ¿Que? think that even judges are victims of the New Zealand cirque d'justice .

The failure of community sentencing is nothing new, nor a particularly New Zealand issue; they have similar problems in England as this two year old report from the BBC shows
Community penalties 'laughed at': "One officer said: 'I know prisons are full, but they're full with the wrong people. We need to send out the message that if you've got a suspended sentence and you breach it, you go to prison.'"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The loss of history

Five thousand years ago the Sumerians started writing on clay tablets. Mostly it wasn't interesting stuff, commercial transactions, tax records, the occasional letter or decree. Today these give us an insight into their life that we would not have if we relied only on the official pronouncements and how they would want to be seen by posterity.

Not long after the Egyptians started recording their history, there's the official story in hieroglyphs and the real story in Hieratic script, including an incredibly advanced (for the time) medical text.

Fast forward 3000 years and we have Roman Britain, a time we until recently knew remarkably little about, to the Romans it was a fairly uninteresting provincial outpost and in any case the official histories of the time did not place the same value on objective truth as we do today. Then came the Vindolanda tablets, suddenly we had an insight into the day-to-day life of a Roman garrison in England.

Rome fell, and a lot of information was lost in the west, mostly by a quiet censorship. When books needed to be copied by hand, unpopular books (or unpopular ideas) simply weren't copied and after a few years vanished ... still examples did show up, just as the Vindolanda tablets did.

The twentieth century will probably turn out to be the best documented ever time for future archaeologists. In many countries there was near universal literacy, while from Djibouti to Papua New Guinea the educated elites had been joined by the educated middle classes and printing had become as cheap as it ever was. Electronic media developed during the century and at until the very end of the 20th most people got their news and information on paper.

Then electronic media took over. 24 hour news channels and Internet news took over. In the days of newspapers, yesterday's news wrapped today's fish and chips, but in the days of electronic news, yesterday's news is only a bunch of electrons or magnetic fields. Paper might be preserved, but electronic media only live as long as the publishers want to keep them. In the 1970s the BBC deleted thousands of television programs so they could recycle the magnetic tape they were stored on. They saw no purpose to keeping them. At the time very few people were concerned, television was ephemeral, home video didn't exist and if you missed a programme, you missed it. Today the BBC regrets this and is trying to replace those deleted episodes from third party libraries, old film copies an similar.

Blogger Martin Belam reports that the BBC website is deleting hundreds of sub-sites. To them these have passed their use-by date and are no longer needed. To the future this will probably be seen as cultural vandalism on a par with the deletion of series 1 and 2 of Dad's Army. The BBC deletion is, of course, only the tip of the iceberg. Huge amounts of information exist only on impermanent digital forms, often technically protected using technologies that didn't exist 10 years ago and may not exist in 10 years time.

There is the Internet Archive, but it's coverage is erratic and in the long term its future is far from certain. It's a small start, let's hope it is enough to allow our great-great-great-grandchildren to understand us.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Telecom's customer data open to former staff members

The Herald has an update of this story today. Sounds to me like Telecom were forgetting some pretty basic principles of information security.

Telecom's customer data open to ex staff - NZ Herald: "Former employees have questioned Telecom's security policies and one can still look up customer details despite having left his job two months ago.

Andrew Rozen, who worked in a customer service role from March to November last year, checked if he could access Telecom's Wireline database after accusations of a security breach this month."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

All Telecom customers details revealed

The Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff, has announced she will investigate how Slingshot's marketing company Power Marketing obtained and used a sign-on code that allowed access to account details for every Telecom customer.

The NZ Herald reports that they had access to a "legitimate account used by a Telecom dealer to carry out its business"

There are at least dozens and possibly hundreds of Telecom dealers in New Zealand, just think of those little stands in malls. They are mostly small businesses and probably kept hungry by the competitive state of telecommunications in this country, I can imagine they probably go out of business reasonably often, or at least need to let staff go, so why on earth is Telecom letting them have full access to our private details?

As well as the impact on our privacy, this just doesn't seem to be a good business practice for Telecom. In short it seems sloppy.

Update (6:15 PM) Telecom says it is investigating the use of the database "If our investigation confirms unauthorised access we will pursue all appropriate action."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Waived insurance, got sick, complained

"A family who reported their son's chicken pox to Air New Zealand three days before they were due to fly believe they have been 'punished' with the extra costs involved in rebooking their travel. [Father] told the airline about the medical condition and was told his son could not board the flight.
Staff told him the booking fee could be reimbursed with a medical certificate, but he was quoted a price of over $500 to exchange his family's tickets for new ones."

The Herald has been asking readers if the airline should have reinbursed the fare. Fortunately most of those who replied are far more sensible than the Herald and are firmly promoting the view that individual responsibility goes both ways.

As most of those I read have said, travel insurance is available for this type of event and the passengers chose not to buy insurance, thus deciding to carry the risk of illness / etc themselves.

When buying cheap fares for internal flights, I too usually decide that I'll carry the risk, for me it's a small risk and usually the cost of a replacement ticket is sufficiently small that I feel I'll come out ahead over time. When travelling internationally the potential charges are such that I see it as beneficial to have insurance so I buy it.

Although it's easy to say that Air New Zealand should refund the fare, if the airline decided to give them the benefits of having insurance without the customer having bought that insurance then others who also chose to carry the risk themselves could also request the same & eventually the costs of the insurance plus a profit margin for the airline would be loaded as an extra charge onto every ticket we bought.


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