Good Reading : August 2001
wordof mouth non-fiction Suspect Identities A history of fingerprinting and criminal identification Simon A. Cole Reviewed by Dave Warner Hardie Grant Books $19.95 D 5 Years to Financial Freedom Morris Kaplan As we ordinary Australians look on in horror at the collapse of the likes of HIH and One- Tel, it’s easy to understand why so many people are afraid of finance and afraid of risk. It’s a complex world to come to terms with. If the big boys can get it so terribly wrong, how could Joe Average do better? That fear of your finances can come in a lot of forms. There’s the fear of finding out in the first place how bad things might be. Then there’s the fear that this knowledge about your current situation might make your future and your retirement even scarier. And there’s the morbid fear of debt that is so often suggested as the best way to achieve financial freedom: using other people’s money, and the benefits of such things as negative gearing, to make money. With years of experience in stockbroking and financial advising, Morris Kaplan aims to cut through these sorts of fears. The author of Beating the Banks writes for everyone, in plain and direct English, about first understanding your financial situation and then making plans and setting goals to achieve freedom. In Kaplan’s view, that freedom means having enough money to not have to worry. Revealing, and perhaps alarming to a lot of people, is his advice that when you calculate your net worth, you should exclude the family home. It makes sense, but it won’t leave many of us with much net worth to worry about. This is not a crass guide to getting 38 rich. It’s a step by step primer on facing your fears and making you realise that, like most phobias, there probably was not much worth worrying about in the first place. Start planning now. Reviewed by Steven Alward In Suspect Identities Simon Cole tours us through the historical use of biological measures to archive and identify criminals and predict potential criminality. It’s an eye opening book. I was surprised to learn fingerprinting was a relatively recent tool of Western law enforcement which didn’t gain credibility until the 1910s. While fingerprinting had had its proponents since the 1850s, Bertillonage, a complex system of measurements of parts of the body, invented by the Frenchman, Bertillon, was the accepted method of criminal archiving. Bertillonage required a number of characteristics like the ear, and size of the left foot, to be measured with scientific exactness. Prior to Bertillonage, there was no scientific method for cataloguing serving criminals, nor for even establishing identity in the general population. Fingerprinting eventually won out over Bertillonage for practical rather than scientific reasons: it took less time to fingerprint people than to apply the complex measures of its rival, and those taking the measurements needed less training. But as Mark Twain foresaw in his work of fiction, Pudd’nhead Wilson, the real breakthrough came with the use of fingerprint matching to identify who had committed particular crimes. Police departments worldwide seized on this supposedly infallible tool and thousands of convictions have since been based on fingerprint evidence. Cole raises the question, should they have been? For while there is a wealth of evidence to support the notion that no two people have a matching set of all ten fingerprints, most criminal cases in which fingerprint evidence is used, rely on only Harvard University Press $US35.00* D one print – and that is often partial. Furthermore, there is no absolute science to the matching of fingerprints. Ultimately the decision is left to an expert and some of these are found wanting. A 1995 study of certified fingerprint examiners found 22 per cent made false positive matches on latent prints. And the problems don’t end there. It seems law enforcement officials have regularly and routinely falsified fingerprints over the years, and not just to convict a known criminal but for their own personal advancement and ego. All of this, Cole points out, should be kept in mind with the latest craze of DNA typing. While it has scientific advantages over fingerprinting, it still must be administered in a rigorously adhered to protocol. The OJ Simpson fiasco proved that those responsible for testing can be slack. Finally, just as palmistry, Bertillonage and fingerprinting, have all at some point been wrongly seized upon as being not just identification tools but predictive of criminal behaviour, one must be wary that the same doesn’t happen with DNA typing. Definitely a book for civil libertarians and defence lawyers. * Not available locally, but ask your bookseller to order it for you, or buy it via the internet. 11.30am bus from Central to Waverly, Sydney – Jennifer, 28, from Waverly What are you reading? The Testament by John Grisham Why that book? Because I love John Grisham. He’s a really good writer and I admire him. I’ve read nearly all of his books. Did you buy it or borrow it? I bought it. Has it lived up to your expectations? Yes, definitely. It’s as gripping and well- written as all his books. Would you recommend it? Oh, yes!