Sunday bloody sunday

by Jake Quinn

TV1’s Q&A, check; weekly visit to the farmer’s market, check; coffee, Sunday paper, myself positioned on couch with heater blaring as rain belts down outside, check. Could anything possibly go wrong? Um, yes. The Sunday Star Times was BS today. It has gone down hill kinda taking with it my Sunday happiness.

I am not surprised however, as the best ‘coverage’ of their successes at the latest media awards was “SST walked away from Friday night’s Qantas Media Awards clutching a swag of awards, winning plaudits across the board, including making Finalist for Weekly Newspaper of the Year”. Wow, you know you seriously bombed out when the first award you list isn’t even an award, but merely a place in a final for an award. Well done team. Everyone remembers those who made finalist. “Who won again?” “Oh I can’t remember, but I’m dead certain Sunday Star Times was second runner up”.

I am neither surprised that Saturday’s Weekend Herald won the actual award for Weekly Newspaper of the Year. That thing is a big unit with actually interesting and at times insightful coverage from the likes of John Armstrong (also winning his category for best political columnist which was much deserved). The Weekend Herald, because of its girth, is particularly useful for such household tasks as composting and fire-lighting, the SST less so.

It’s not all bad at the SST though. There is a shining light in the lackluster newspaper’s arsenal and that is the Sunday Magazine. Steve Braunias, who picked up a couple of awards himself, is always a charm, and the ‘going up, going down’ what’s hot and what’s not side bar always a laugh. Today’s ‘list of 4’ also worthy of repeat: Useful time-saving amalgamations: 1) Crouching Hero Flying Daggers, 2) Knotting Jone’s Weddings and a Funeral Actually, 3) Fat Trinity’s Black Seeds Roots, 4) Law and Criminal Mind-Scene Investigation Miami.

In a further effort to backtrack on today’s SST bagging, today’s editorial as an example of journalism well researched and informative. It explores the fall out from and subsequent survival of a number of political foibles and their owners. Starting, naturally, with Melissa ‘worst week in politics, ever’ Lee and going on to outline such famous brain explosions as John Key’s DPB mum’s “breeding for business”, Helen Clark’s “sometimes I wonder if I’m the victim of my own success as a popular and competent prime minister”, Obama’s “my gutter ball was like the Special Olympics” call in reference to his bowling skills, and Joe Biden’s slammer when he referred to newly nominated Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama as “the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking guy”. And all these people survived, this will be heartening for Ms Lee. Heh.

Back to Q&A. Simon Power was very strong. Simon Power spoke like a Minister who knows how to speak to the media, how odd. Simon Power also knows how to direct the attention of the nation’s political commentators away from the mind bending idiocy that has blemished National’s past week, and I’m taking the bait.

Simon Power tackled the justice system and he hit it front on; at process (jury trials) and at cause (booze). He thinks we have too many jury trials in the court system and he may well be right. He focused on how much money is generated by alcohol excise tax versus the cost on our health and justice systems and floated the idea of shifting some of the cost back to the bottle. Fran O’Sullivan wants booze taxes increased and her tax cuts back. She has a point – make it a zero sum game; $1 billion more taxes on booze for $1 billion of tax cuts. Shift the cost to the cause.

New Zealand has about the highest number of jury trials per disposed case in the western world. Why is this and is it necessary? Surely we can we trust our Judges and Magistrates to make sound judgments (the very nature of the word should entail it!). Many a rational being would rather a Judge decides the outcome, and not just the sentence, of a crime they were accused of.

‘A jury of your peers’ who are these peers anyway? You’d never have met these people. Who knows if they’re racist, sexist, fattist, or north-islandist. As Stephen Franks has described on Radio NZ lately (in reference to the issue of previous criminal histories of defendants being withheld from jury panels in sex offence cases), our jury system is based on one that was concocted many moons ago at a time when peers actually meant exactly that; these were people in your community who you knew and who knew you. They had a decent idea of your character and how likely it was that you committed the crime.

So juries have evolved to be something they weren’t intended to be; that of a random selection of your countrymen and women who are charged with ascertaining your guilt or lack thereof based on two mutually exclusive sets of interpretations of events presented by cunning storytellers. Show me the Judge who can cut through the BS please.

Even better, design a computer programme that works out the probability that you did it based on previous convictions and the available evidence and generates you a sentence using algorithms, perhaps you could even serve it online.