Archive for February, 2015

David Bain…. innocent or not innocent.

David Bain: guilty

David Bain: guilty

It all now comes down to money. David Bain has been freed, the case against him unable to satisfy the jurors who sat on his second trial that he was guilty beyond reasonable doubt and now he has made a claim for compensation for 13 years false imprisonment. The trials, appeals and compensation claim have gone on unresolved for years. It must be an enormous drain on the energy of whole Bain family.

The government is obviously dragging its heels on this one. I doubt that a few million dollars would hold the government back from settling if they saw a grave injustice and sensed that the reasonably fair-minded average voter recognised that the man deserved compensation.

So we can only presume that while David Bain has been found not guilty, a significant proportion of caucus are far from convinced about his innocence and his moral right to dip into the public purse for a few million dollars which could be perceived as a rewarding him for slaying his family and directing blame to his innocent father. It has to be noted that not many of the opposition are making much of a fuss about it either.

David Bain: Not guilty

David Bain: Not guilty

The original jurors said he was guilty beyond all reasonable doubt with the evidence they were presented. A second set of jurors with what evidence they were allowed to hear and what evidence was denied to them fifteen years after the event, said ‘not proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt’. I suppose it is always a bit of a lottery with juries. All people are different with different sets of values and opinions.

But what everyone does agree on, if David Bain is innocent, then Robin Bain is guilty. It has to be one or the other. And as far as compensation is concerned, the real question is: David Bain, innocent or not proven innocent beyond all reasonable doubt.

Robin Bain

Robin Bain: Not tried

So the believers in David’s innocence also believe that Robin woke up in the morning, bladder full and unrelieved, waited for David to leave on his newspaper round, put on a green jersey usually worn by daughter Arawa, (fragments of which were found under Stephen’s fingernail), a pair of socks and track pants, then put on David’s opera gloves when he collected the rifle and ammunition from David’s room; then Robin supposedly shot his wife and three of his four children during which process he, despite his age and frailty, overcame his teenage son Stephen who had woken and was struggling for his life. He supposedly managed to strangle Stephen with his own T-shirt and then shoot him in the head. Then it is claimed, Robin discarded the bloody gloves in Stephen’s room, and dropped one of David’s glasses lens in the same room, took off the green jersey and other blood stained clothes and left them all in the laundry.

Robin then, as David’s defence would argue, went back to the caravan, put on clean socks and shoes, an old pair of light-blue track suit pants, a T-shirt, an old business shirt, a brown woollen jersey, a thick hoodie and a green knitted beanie and went back into the house. On one of the two visits to the house he also collected the newspaper from the letterbox. There he supposedly sat down at the computer where he implied responsibility for the slaughter, without giving any reason for it, writing only that he considered David the only one who deserved to live.

Then, in what can be best described as an exceptionally awkward action, propped his temple against the rifle, reached down to the trigger and managed to push it while keeping the rifle straight enough with his other hand for a single lethal suicide shot which was described by the expert pathology witness, Alex Dempster as an extremely unusual angle; doing all this without leaving any fingerprints on teh rifle despite gripping the barrel to hold it straight.

David’s was the only fingerprint on the rifle. And in spite of the struggle with Stephen during the slaughter, Robin’s body showed no sign of scratching or bruising while David did retain an unexplained bruise on his head and scratching on his chest. No one explored the possibility that it was David who considered he was the only one in the family who deserved to live.

David claimed he arrived home from his paper round, saw clothes in the laundry, including the green jersey, track pants and socks worn by the killer, then sorted colours from whites without noticing all the blood on them, put them all in the washing machine and turned it on. After that he claims he came across the slaughter of two of his family, waited 20 minutes before phoning 111 saying ‘they are all dead’. It was only months later, after evidence of him being in other rooms was presented, did he remember that he had actually gone into all rooms and had seen all bodies not just two. A supporter would say he was in shock and did not know what he was doing, a non-supporter would say he was removing evidence of his involvement in the slaughter from his clothing and working to a script designed to exonerate himself.

So again we come back to the fact that if not David then it was Robin. But if we put them both on the stand together and asked a jury to point to the most likely guilty party, I wonder how many would truly be convinced of Robin’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt?

But Robin is not here to defend himself and, as so often the case, history is being written by the survivors. How David has built up a team of passionate believers I cannot imagine, but I have not met him and listened as he told his story. Mind you, nor did the second jury as David decided not to give evidence in his own defence, which is unusual for an innocent man who has successfully convinced Joe Karam and others of his innocence. Does David himself actually believe he is innocent? I have no idea, the mind is a mysterious thing. The choice of words of David’s lawyer, Michael Guest, at his first trial were: “David does not remember killing his family” which were scarcely comforting. David’s 2nd defence team, with what evidence was available and admissible, were able to convince the jurors in the second trial, if not of his innocence, then of the insufficiency of the presented evidence to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Those two jurors who congratulated David after giving him his ‘not guilty’ verdict, and then went to his celebration party that night did raise some serious concerns about whether that jury was entirely impartial. This was their one and only moment in the national spotlight; perhaps it deserved a spectacular rather than status quo decision to maintain their moment as long as possible. Perhaps they were twelve stupid and/ or gullible people. Perhaps they thought David had suffered enough?

But if there is a significant number of people who believe that Robin was the killer beyond any reasonable doubt they should simply do as Joe Karam has done; Karam says he believes in David’s innocence and Robin’s guilt and has put his time, energy and money up to back his belief. It is time for his other supporters to do the same. If you believe, put your hand in your pocket, vote with your wallet.

David’s supporters must do this on their own initiative for they simply do not have the right to demand that those who equally believe in Robin Bain’s innocence should be forced to pay compensation to David through a taxation charge; especially since they then believe that David murdered his family and set out to destroy his father’s name. It is not as if the general public has not heard all the arguments from both sides over fifteen years.

If just a quarter of our population believe David is innocent, and then they each sacrifice two cups of coffee in support of their convictions, David will have sufficient compensation to see him enjoy the lifestyle of a wealthy man, which is what his supporters want.

And those who believe in Robin’s innocence have not had their belief compromised by being taxed for what they consider to be David’s reward for fooling the 2nd jury.

Debate over, problem solved, win/win.

William Davies

Footnote: 2017. Having “cleared his name”, he has now changed it. Having been given just under a million dollars in ‘compensation’ he is off to Australia to spend it there. Whatever that all says about the person formerly known as David Bain.

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intergallatic airport needed for Queenstown?

Two fast moving objects captured on video in Queenstown, NZ, 2014

Two fast moving objects captured on video in Queenstown, NZ, 2014

Now I can roll my eyes with the best of them at fuzzy ‘ufo’ images that look suspiciously like a tin plate, or a video of a wavering light in the night sky, but there are occasional ufo reports that really have me wondering. The most recent image that furrowed my brow was film footage shot in nearby Queenstown last year, by an Australian tv production team who travel around Australia and New Zealand visiting local artists.

The images in the footage were claimed to have not been noticed by the crew, either visually or aurally, at the time of filming; only later in the editing studio. A few things that make this stand out from the usual suspects of ufo sightings are that it was filmed in the clarity of daylight on a stable platform, by a professional video camera operator. But also most importantly because of the other elements in the footage, the bike and road markings, which give me a real sense of the relativity of what I am viewing; also that I am familiar with, and can relate to, the geography of the area where it was filmed.

Exploring the phenomena of UFO sightings we note that they are  usually associated with the mid to late 20th century and early 21st century; the phrase ‘flying saucer’ was coined in 1947 following a publicised sighting of such an unidentified vehicle by a Kenneth Arnold. The experiences of ‘lost time’ and even physical evidence are the most common examples of abduction stories. They were largely dismissed as the figments of over-active imaginations stimulated by the sci-fi comics that also became common in that era.

But over the past 50 or 60 years more and more such reports have come from a more credible sources including pilots, policemen and military personnel. So much attention has been given to these reports because large numbers of sightings were reported at a time when media were developing into global rather than local communicator and with the emergence of the internet to feed the fire.

The sudden and extraordinary explosion of technological achievement in the second half of the 20th century in itself of course has been suggested to support the theory of the intervention of an advanced species in our human development. Technology jumped from radio and morse code to television, computers and the internet occurred within 50 years. This was an overnight leap relative to our 200,000 year history of quietly evolved development from nomadic wandering to domesticated agriculture; from pottery to paper, from the bronze age to the iron age; from caves to the city-dwelling civilisations of the Egyptians, Babylonians and Greeks.

But equally interesting is that reports of flying objects also occur back in the annals of history when humans had no sci-fi comics and did not even have man-made flying craft to stimulate their imaginations. And before the age of cameras, some of these were recorded in medieval artworks.

Painting of a being in strange craft

Painting of a being in strange craft

 “At sunrise on the 14th April 1561, the citizens of Nuremberg beheld ‘A very frightful spectacle.’ The sky appeared to fill with cylindrical objects from which red, black, orange and blue-white disks and globes emerged. Crosses and tubes resembling cannon barrels also appeared whereupon the objects promptly “began to fight one another.”

 

 

 

Medieval image with flying objects

Medieval image with flying objects

In France in 1338 there was a reported sighting of a huge spherical craft in the sky. An image of the event is present in the French book “Le Livre Des Bonnes Moeurs” by Jacques Legrand. Lychostene Conrad, in his book “Prodigiorum ac Ostentorum Chronicle”, printed in Basel in the year 1557, he describes sightings of strange objects flying in the skies in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.  This event is depicted in a famous 16th century woodcut by Hans Glaser.

 

Reported sightings at a medieval castle in Ciudad Rodrigo (credit: Miguel A. Monjas/Wikimedia Commons) “I shall not tire your lordship with this narration, since we had just arrived [to Ciudad Rodrigo] when, walking on Wednesday the 5th of this month of January [1433], we suddenly saw a great flame of yellow fire attached to the sky move from one end to the other; it had inside like a black root and all its borders were more whitish than the middle; and it left with a great roar, causing horses and mules to run in fear, and my own mule didn’t stop until it touched another mule. Great disputes about this arose between the learned ones and those with no degrees who, without having seen the words of Aristotle, talked about how this light was up there, and how its interior could be lit like a log. The dean of Burgos stated he believes it must be the matter from the first region [in the sky], viscous and condensed, lit by the Sun, and how its weight prevented its quick dispersal, and the nature of fire brought it from here to there while its viscous part was spent, and the roar was its end. I concur with his opinion, because it could not have been what Aristotle calls the nature of comets… because it would have not moved in such varied manner, nor any other, and it would have not ended with that roar.”

A number of ufo sightings were recorded in Japan in the early first millenia. A term equivalent to our “flying saucer” was actually used by the Japanese approximately 700 years before it came into use in the West. Ancient documents describe an unusual shining object seen the night of October 27, 1180, as a flying “earthenware vessel.” After a while the object, which had been heading northeast from a mountain in Kii province, changed its direction and vanished below the horizon, leaving a luminous trail. (Jacques Vallee, Passport to Magonia) What might be called the first official investigation of a UFO sighting occurred in Japan in 1235. During the night of September 24, while General Yoritsumo and his army were encamped, they observed mysterious lights in the heavens. The lights were seen in the southwest for many hours, winging, circling and moving in loops. The general ordered a “full-scale scientific investigation” of these strange events.”

The Roman author Julius Obsequens, believed to have lived in the fourth century A.D., drew on Livy as well as other sources of his time to compile his book Prodigorium liber, which describes many peculiar phenomena, some of which could be interpreted as UFO sightings. Here are just a few examples: 216 B.C. Things like ships were seen in the sky over Italy… At Arpi (180 Roman miles, east of Rome, in Apulia) a round shield was seen in the sky. At Capua, the sky was all on fire, and one saw figures like ships… 99 B.C. When C. Murius and L. Valerius were consuls, in Tarquinia, there fell in different places…. a thing like a flaming torch, and it came suddenly from the sky. Towards sunset, a round object like a globe, or round or circular shield took its path in the sky, from west to east. 90 B.C. In the territory of Spoletium (65 Roman miles north of Rome, in Umbria) a globe of fire, of golden colour, fell to the earth, gyrating. It then seemed to increase in size, rose from the earth, and ascended into the sky, where it obscured the disc of the sun, with its brilliance. It revolved towards the eastern quadrant of the sky. [Harold T. Wilkins, Flying Saucers on the Attack, pp.164-69] A later chronicler of inexplicable phenomena, one Conrad Wolffhart (a professor of grammar and dialectics who under the pen name of Lycosthenes wrote the compendium Prodigiorum ac Ostentorum Chronicon, published in 1567), mentions the following events: 393 A.D. Strange lights were seen in the sky in the days of the Emperor Theodosius. On a sudden, a bright globe appeared at midnight. It shone brilliantly near the day star (planet, Venus), about the circle of the Zodiac. This globe shone little less brilliantly than the planet, and little by little, a great number of other glowing orbs drew near the first globe. The spectacle was like a swarm of bees flying around the bee-keeper, and the light of these orbs was as if they were dashing violently against each other. Soon, they blended together into one awful flame, and bodied forth to the eye as a horrible two-edged sword. The strange globe which was first seen now appeared like the pommel to a handle, and all the little orbs, fused with the first, shone as brilliantly as the first globe. [Harold T. Wilkins, Flying Saucers on the Attack, pp.174, 177]

Possibly most interesting is the Book of Exodus 13: 21-22 which records an apparent flying craft in which Yahweh travelled and guided them through the desert: “Yahweh went before them, by day in the form of a pillar of cloud to show them the way, and by night in the form of a pillar of fire to give them light: thus they could travel by day and night. The pillar of cloud never failed to go before the people during the day, nor the pillar of fire during the night.

One of the first written accounts of a UFO sighting is the following excerpt from an Egyptian papyrus – part of the annals of Thutmose III, who reigned around 1504-1450 B.C.: “In the year 22, of the 3rd month of winter, sixth hour of the day… the scribes of the House of Life found it was a circle of fire that was coming in the sky…. It had no head, the breath of its mouth had a foul odor. Its body one rod long and one rod wide. It had no voice. Their hearts became confused through it; Now after some days had passed, these things became more numerous in the sky than ever. They shone more in the sky than the brightness of the sun, and extended to the limits of the four supports of the heavens…. Powerful was the position of the fire circles. The army of the Pharaoh looked on with him in their midst. It was after supper. Thereupon, these fire circles ascended higher in the sky towards the south… The Pharaoh caused incense to be brought to make peace on the hearth… And what happened was ordered by the Pharaoh to be written in the annals of the House of Life… so that it be remembered for ever.”

Whether these reports are real or imagined by medieval and ancient alien conspiracy theorists of course we do not know.  Even discussing the subject of ufo’s opens a person to the nervous mockery of the moral majority who find it far more comfortable to blanket themselves in traditional religious texts where belief is totally a question of faith rather than using our God-given powers of rational thought; even though the unchallenged religious stories are at least as fantastic as, if not almost identical to, the ancient and contemporary ufo/ alien stories. As Karl Marx observed, religion is the opiate of the masses.

As intriguing as all these reports are, most of us have never seen a ufo and we won’t really believe in what we don’t witness ourselves. I haven’t seen a ufo myself, I don’t think;  I did see a large bright light moving very fast westwards in the rural Canterbury sky back in 2013 that did put my senses on high alert. It wasn’t Air New Zealand, that was for sure. I did watch the papers looking for confirmation that a meteor or piece of space junk burned up in our atmosphere which usually happens when people sight a meteor crashing to earth; but there was not any such report. What I have seen filmed of meteors tend to show them lighting up the sky, which this did not. It was an object, it was flying, it was unidentified, it seemed relatively close in the sky, but I did not see any evidence that it was a piloted craft.

So my vote’s not cast, but my mind remains open. I wish I had actually seen those craft flying over Queenstown though, that might have made a true believer out of me.

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New Zealand Flag: do we still think we are a colony?

The NZ flag debate really boils down to the presence of the British union jack and the blue ensign design; should it be on the New Zealand flag, yes or no?

The ‘no’s’ have a simple rationale. The blue ensign design inclusion of the union jack is an historical appendage dating back to when we were a colony of Britain in 1840 and to the almost total dependence we had on Great Britain as our primary buyer of our primary produce. That ended over two stages, firstly when New Zealand was granted independence in 1853 and secondly when Great Britain joined the European Union in 1973 and changed suppliers on us. But you do not put the flags of nations of which you once were a colony, or with which you once had a very strong commercial relationship, onto your flag. Since 1949, the relationship with Britain as a nation is that we are both in the Commonwealth of Nations and that we share a Royal family. Our allegiance to the Royal House of Windsor, which we share with fifteen other members of the Commonwealth of Nations, is a completely separate situation from our relationship with Great Britain.

Much of the support for retaining the union jack on our flag comes from a concern that deleting it may be disrespectful to the soldiers who gave their lives fighting for the country whose flag, at the time, contained the union jack in the upper left corner. Obviously most of those soldiers who fought in various conflicts over the last 100+ years are not here to explain their personal position and so others have assumed the authority to represent them in the debate.

The need for a flag in the first instance arose in the early 1830’s, prior to becoming a colony of Britain, so that our ships were not in breach of British navigation laws. Without a flag we could not trade by ship. So the decision was purely a commercial one. Nothing to do with war.

Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand

Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand

In 1834 the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand was chosen in a vote of 25 Northern Maori chiefs and was gazetted as New Zealand’s first flag.

 

 

 

Boer war medal with United Tribes flag

Boer war medal with United Tribes flag

Interestingly, although the union jack was adopted after NZ became a colony in 1840, it was this United Tribes flag that appeared on the backs of medals presented to NZ soldiers during the 2nd Boer War in 1902. In our first external military conflict, NZ soldiers fought under their own flag of the united tribes, not under the union jack.

 

 

 

 

Flag of Great Britain

Flag of Great Britain

When NZ became a colony of Great Britain in 1840, the union jack, flag of Great Britain, then became our national flag onshore, denoting our status as a colony of Great Britain.

 

 

 

180px-Flag_of_New_Zealand_Government_Ships_1867.svgAt sea NZ was represented by British naval or maritime flags until the passing of the Imperial Colonial Naval Defence Act of 1865 when NZ had to design its own ensigns. This design was adopted in 1867. In 1869 it was replaced with a flag replacing the NZ with a southern cross of 4 red stars with white border. This is our current flag although it was officially only to be used at sea at this time.

 

Current NZ flag

Current NZ flag

 NZ was officially given independence of governance in 1853. But independence was a sort of evolution rather than revolution. It was in 1902, 50 years after independence, that the current design was gazetted as New Zealand’s legal flag replacing the union jack.

 

 

The Commonwealth of Nations was established in 1949 from the 53 former colonies of Great Britain, now governed independently of Great Britain. Queen Elizabeth is officially the Head of the Commonwealth of Nations but sixteen members of the Commonwealth of Nations, including New Zealand, also recognise the Queen as their official monarch in their own individual constitutions. Her title here is Queen of New Zealand. Independently she is also Queen of fifteen other countries in the Commonwealth.

Essentially New Zealanders were very comfortable being perceived as an outlying farm of the United Kingdom. Our population was dominated by people who either had been born in the United Kingdom, or whose parents or grandparents had been born there and bonds remained strong with ‘the old country’. Our flag reflected the close ties that we maintained, and in fact our economy depended on it. We were very vulnerable but we believed that with the union jack on our flag, Britain would always look after us.

So what a nasty shock we got when the mother country joined the European union in 1973 and told us it was high time we made our own way in the world. We had officially been given independence 120 years ago, in 1853, and Britain turned now to Europe for its farm produce.

Yet we still have the union jack, the flag of Great Britain on our national flag, on the flag our armed forces fight under  as though we are fighting for and representing Great Britain. The soldiers of the Boer war obviously related more to the United Tribes flag that appeared on their medals. But for soldiers since the first world war we need to clarify: did they fight for a flag? a uniform? for Britain? for New Zealand? for the Commonwealth? for a cause? for freedom?

The union jack itself did not appear on army uniforms. The badges on the NZ army uniforms represent what the soldiers were fighting under.

NZ Army crest

NZ Army crest

Officially NZ Army’s ultimate allegiance is to the Queen of New Zealand; the Crest of NZ Army recognises the allegiance to the Queen, but not in fact to Great Britain. They have a reference to the monarchy of New Zealand on their crest, but not a union jack.

 

 

Army cap badge

The general service cap badge worn during the first and second world wars has an unmistakable allegiance to New Zealand and the NZ monarch rather than to Great Britain.

 

 

Boer war

Boer war

Our armies also adopted the silver fern as a key design representation of who and what they were fighting for.

 

Our flag must accurately communicate who we are as a nation. We are a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and Queen Elizabeth 11 is the head of that body. In addition, the Queen is the Monarch of NZ under NZ constitutional law. Our constitutional link goes directly from our government to the Queen; it does not go via the government of Britain.

The union jack flag of Great Britain is not the flag of the Royal Family of Windsor. The union jack on our flag is constitutionally wrong; its presence can no longer be justified on economic grounds as it could for the first 120 years of our independence.

The union jack must go.

Redesigning our flag:

The first priority for a flag design must be that it is distinctive. When flags are lined up on a poster, we do not want to blend in like a piece of wallpaper.

The first and most distinguishing design factor of a flag is the colour. Like it or not, countless millions of dollars of investment, one way or another, have gone into identifying New Zealand with the colour black.

If we want instant recognition of our flag as uniquely ours, we must use black. That is a simple black and white decision.

Then we need to consider the elements on the flag.

1) The four stars of the Southern Cross were the single common feature which guided all seafaring people from distant lands to this land, Maori, Dutch, British and Asian. This common element of all the people of New Zealand must appear.

2) The silver fern: one feature must represent the land itself. The silver fern has been worn overseas in war and peace, by soldiers and sportspeople, to represent our land for 120 years. The silver fern must appear on our flag.

3) Our constitutional head of state. The Queen of New Zealand is Queen Elizabeth 11, head of the Royal House of Windsor. This must be recognised on our flag.

4) Aotearoa. We were the land of the long white cloud long before a passing Dutch explorer decided to name us after a region of the Netherlands. Of course we have too much invested in the recognition of the New Zealand name to ignore it, but Aotearoa should be alongside the name New Zealand. This is not a token exercise in political correctness, Aotearoa is at the root of the history of this country and must be on our flag. New Zealand is the land of the long white cloud. Aotearoa should sit alongside the name of New Zealand.

NZ Flag_B Then nothing more. Any more elements would detract from the focus of our national image to the world.

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