Radio Freethinker

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Posts Tagged ‘inequality’

RFT Ep 257 – Sex Sells Redux Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on June 24, 2014

Download the episode here! 

<NOTE: Due to technical issues, CiTR's pod-casting server is down. The show can still be enjoyed via the link above...sorry for the inconvenience>

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This Week Whine – The Iraq Dilemma and Globalized Ethics

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This past couple of weeks has brought to light the very precarious nature of the idea of an Iraqi nation…and it does not look good. We provide a quick historical context for the civil war in all but name that has resurfaced in Iraq. We also look at the UN’s Responsibility to Protect…a high point for humanity where we no longer limit people to be citizens of a nation but citizens of the world with rights the global community is charged to protect. Alas, we discuss how Iraq shows the utter failure of the UN, NATO, The US and the global community in general to actualize these rights…to ACTUALLY protect people from military violence.

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The New Prostitution Bill…oy vey

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In the wake of the Supreme Court striking down Canada’s prostitution law, the Harper government has presented to parliament a replaced based on the so called “Nordic Model”.

We review the reason the previous law was struck down and how this new law makes matters worse for sex workers. We deconstruct Justice Minister Peter McKay’s regressive, paternalistic sexist misogynistic law and the real reasons Harper is introducing a law he knows will be struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Further Reading:

The Case to Legalize Brothels

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In the previous section, I asserted that prostitution and more specifically brothels were not innately harmful…well, to be a good skeptic…we take a moment to review the evidence out there and see if the proposition – legalizing brothels makes sex work and sex workers safer is justified or just dogmatic.

Further Reading:

How Class Works

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Based on a presentation given by Richard Wolff, an economist who has studied class issues for more than 40 years.

Wolff explains what class is all about and applies that understanding to the foreclosure crisis of 2007–2011. He argues that class concerns the “way our society splits up the output [and] leaves those who get the profits in the position of deciding and figuring out what to do with them… We all live with the results of what a really tiny minority in our society decides to do with the profits everybody produces.” As you watch and listen, consider what we know from research about disease and illness patterns among groups with lower income, more stress, and less control of their lives. Consider how investment decisions in neighborhoods, over transportation, school facilities, parks, location of grocery stores, quality of affordable housing, etc. influenced by powerful interests, affect the quality of life for large segments of the population.

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This was produced by the National Association of County and City Public Health Officials (NACCHO) as a part of their Roots of Health Inequality Project. The project is a web-based course for the public health workforce and “How Class Works” is one section of the course.

Further Reading:

 

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RFT Ep 252 – The GMO and You Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on May 10, 2014

Download the episode here! 

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Prairie report – The price of dignity?

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A special report from the Prairies on poverty – How kicking out a homeless man from a grocery store reflects on the deficiencies of our society.

Further Reading:

Non-English signs

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Recent debate about a Chinese only sign in Richmond leads to thought about what multiculturalism ultimately means.

Further Reading:

Temporary foreign workers

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A 40yr old program gone off the rails under Harper’s watch…how did it happen?

Further Reading:

Chernobyl at 28

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28yrs later, life has not only survived at Chernobyl but is flourishing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dK99dvJO5PY

Further Reading:

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After tens of thousands of years of modifying organisms, what does GMO mean now? And the most counter-intuitive argument for GMO labeling.

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RFT Ep 237 – World Federalist Movement Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on December 18, 2013

Download the episode here! 

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Don’s Rant:

I would like to start off with by introducing my readers with a new disease that maybe running rampant in the mansions of America. It is affluenza…the illness of having too much money and the power it grants people in an unequal society.

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It seem this term was invented when it was used as a defense in the trial of one 16 year old called Ethan Couch in Texas. Ethan one night got very drunk, 3 times the legal limit, took a truck from his dad’s business with some friends and ultimately plowed into a stranded vehicle killing 4 people and severely injuring several others.

The defendant’s lawyers came up with the defense that Ethan was not responsible because quote the teen’s parents should share part of the blame for the crash because they never set limits for the boy and gave him everything he wanted.

The psychologist who testified to this defense, later went on CNN to defend his diagnosis…He pointed out that the children of privilege suffer from improper moral education.

The term highlights the issue of parents, particularly upper-middle-class ones, who not only refuse to discipline their children but may protest the efforts of others — school officials, law enforcement and the courts — who attempt to do so.

Of course, if we take the parental supervision argument to its logical end, then children of the poor are also sufferers of…well if not affluenze and poverty-itus…parents working 3 or more jobs haven’t the time to morally instruct their children or properly punish them for transgressions.

Or let’s take it the other way, if the parents share in the responsibility, doesn’t that make them accessories to the crime and thus chargeable under the law?

What Ethan was sentenced to was 10 years probation to a “treatments” institution and become a ward of the state. First issue, is the place normally only deals with people for 45 to 90 days…10 years is a lot – A LOT longer and it is plausible that in a year or so, he will be returned to his parents custody.

What will he be doing there? Yoga, cooking lessons, equine therapy (riding horses), nutritional counselling, swimming, person therapy…and it costs $450,000 a year…which his parents are paying for.

Should there be a separate system of justice just because they have money…just because their family can pay for a 450,000 dollar a year rehab facility?

These parent have the money to send their son to a treatment facility…everything about this case has to do with wealth. From the team of lawyers they hired, the psychologist that invented affluenza to their ability to pay for the spa…er, treatment center he is being sent to.

Let’s compare it to the quote justice the rest of us live with. A 14 years old poor child who punched a guy who fell and hit their head and died from the fall, he was given a 10 years in juvie hall.

Now, here is the kicker folks…I kind of agree with this verdict. that another youth, who was convicted of murder was given a prison sentence…well, one thing the psychologist who invented affluenza said made perfect sense…if there is any way to prevent a child from entering prison, we should take it…I do not think that Ethan sentence was necessarily wrong, but that the poor child’s one was wrong.

That said, it is obvious that the justice system was not concerned with what was best for society but how much money it would cost the state…that it is not that Ethan avoided jail…that’s a good thing, it the innate inequality that this exemplifies.

This ties in nicely with another issue that has just occurred. Our own James Moore, Minister of Industry…while bragging about how wealthy Canadians are becoming…on must wonder what Canadians he palls around with, most of my friends are barely keeping afloat.

When asked about child poverty, he said it was a provincial issue and not a federal one…when pressed, he said “Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so”

He has apologized and said the comment was taken out of context…well, let’s listen to it in context…
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It’s the laugh at the end that brings us back home. The mindset that the idea of helping one’s neighbor…seeing society as more than just individuals…to think there is some shared community responsibility is SO out there that its laughable. Or so our current government seems to think.

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Affluenza may be a real disease but not of the individual but of society where a rich minority cannot even conceive the hardships of the poor majority.

Find out more:

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You first heard about the World Federalist Movement on the show when there events were mentioned in Skeptic Highlights. Then, you last heard about them when they sponsored an anti-vaccination event. Well, we finally invited them on the show to explain what they are all about.

I am joined by Vivian Davidson from the World Federalist Movement of Canada, Vancouver branch. We discuss what World Federalism is all about, what there goals are and why they sponsored THAT event.

A great discussion where we learn about a world parliament, a UN army (well, really peace-keeps taken to the next level), the importance of economic equality, and how the only way to solve global issues is with global democracy.

Find out more:

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Skepticism and gender inequality

Posted by Don McLenaghen on June 2, 2012

I tread lightly into this ‘issue’. And by issue I don’t mean sexism…the skeptic community is part of a larger society that IS sexist (although attempting to resolve that situation). We may have hoped to avoid the gender issues all social movements in history have faced but alas we are but flawed humans in that effort.

That said, we should use this as an exercise of our skeptic tool kit. To my thinking there are a few issues at play (I make to pretence to solve but to define).

Unlikely to men, feels real to women

First with regards to who feels offended or unsafe; that call can only be made by the ‘experiencer’. That they feel this way is irrefutable. As skeptics we often boast that our beliefs follow where the evidence leads. When we apply the scientific method to social and cultural issues it becomes harder, but not impossible, to find where evidence lies. With regards to ‘feelings’…like pain…it is impossible, logically impossible, to state that one does not feel what one feels.

Second, do the facts on the ground support an empirical support for such feelings? There are many factors that can be used:

a)    Number of reported incidences and ‘convicted’ offenders

  1. Do we have hard numbers?
  2. If not, why not? And when will we?

b)    Degree of anecdotal evidence

  1. Again, perceived threat is a real threat to the perceiver, so I don’t mean to shrug off this type of evidence as skeptics often do.
  2. That said, does the anecdotal evidence correlate with the empirical evidence?

c)    To what degree does awareness factor into perception?

  1. As our community becomes more aware there is a problem, people become both more willing to report incidences and more sensitive to others actions. What may have been seen as harmless 5 yrs ago is now perceived as inappropriate.
    (I suspect this accounts for the increased incidences of ‘innocent’ inappropriate behaviour)
  2. This works both ways, hostility (from men towards women) increases if they feel threatened or vilified. This can help reduce ‘inappropriate’ behaviour but at the expense of outright hostility. I am not defending this hostility but we must be aware of the issues before we can resolve them.
    (I also suspect this accounts for the increased severity of hostile acts towards those perceived as ‘leaders’ of the equality movement)

Where much debate arises is when we ask if these feelings expressed correlated with the evidence. Many will dismiss isolated acts of ‘anomalies’ and they may be, but to make that call we must accumulate independent evidence. Even if empirical evidence is lacking, that only points to another issue…that these feelings are symptoms of other ailments. I, however, will assume the evidence supports such feelings; where does that take us?

Third; do people have agendas? We ALL do to a degree. It is not wrong that some women wish to forward a ‘pro-feminist’ agenda…as already stated we do live in a society that is unequal.  There are a number (majority?) of men who support (genuinely or out of guilt) the cause of equality. I have always been a strong and ardent supporter of equality.

Some have the agenda to maintain the status quo, not necessarily to ensure male dominance but we are more comfortable (at least men in this situation) with what we know…it’s predictable. These people are not ‘evil’ or even ‘wrong’; mostly they are insecure. They have yet to understand or see the evidence that will allow them to accept change. Like those who complain about the ‘new atheist’ movement as “turning people off”; we need a full spectrum approach. We need the hard liners to ensure the issue is not swept under the rug. We need the moderates who will implement change and we even need the ‘soft sellers’ who will win over those ‘set in their ways.

Some and I suspect (hope?) a few are truly misogynistic and think women should be second class or “put on a pedestal”. These are the dogmatic; and I suspect there is dogma on both sides currently the male side has the upper hand. As good skeptics we have little patience for dogma. There is a cautionary tale to be learned from the atheists. There are a number of people who are ‘atheists’ who use this rational issue to promote racist dogma.

The real question, is not do people have or want to promote agendas, but

i.    What are they trying to promote?

ii.    Is that a good thing or bad?

iii.    How representative is it of their constituency? Of the community as a whole?

As good skeptics, we know how often ad hominem attacks, appeals to emotion, appeals to tradition have led to ‘bad thinking’…to irrational actions. What is needed is to be as unbiased as possible when attempting to identify the real question to be asked. Only when we have found the right question(s) can we begin to find a solution.

Fourth, given the issues now (?) identified, what is the best course of action?

With regards to ensure perception and actual senses of security and equality; what can be done to attain this state? I think there has been a lot said about this by the female skeptic community. Some of it is ‘loud’, some of it is accompanied by ‘venting’, and a lot is I suspect associated with frustration. However, there is at the heart of it genuine issues that need to be addressed; issues that should not be diverted to debates over personalities or style.

With regards to those who are insensitive or uneducated, how best do we raise awareness and educate without vilifying innocence? From the side of the less-equal, it is easy (and not necessarily unjustified) to say anyone who resists movements to equality are actively or passively part of the problem. Agreed but to vilify or ‘shout down’; to start a ‘witch-hunt’ or ‘blacklist’ of people requires a larger degree of guilt. I grew up in a time and a place where racial ‘jokes’ were common place. They were not (by my generation) meant to as “real” commentary; although I suspect those who were the subjects of such jokes did not think them funny. However, there was no intent (by most) to be racist…through education and enhanced sensitivity these became (largely) artifacts of the past.

The action was not to attack those who ‘innocently’ transgressed but to educate and ensure the community reinforced this new social meme. Skeptics believe the best way to shed light on darkness is not to beat it down but to enlighten it through education. That most people who are ‘bad thinkers’ are so out of ignorance and tradition…that given evidence and logic they will come around to reason.

With regards to those who do not care or are outright antithetical to the issues; what should we do as a community to ‘deal with them’? I suspect it a fuzzy grey gradient from uneducated to complacent to hostile. I have just counselled patience and reasonableness; however there are those in our community who are not ‘innocent’ but aggressive and hostile. We should not be quick to judge but once judgement has passed we should not hesitant to condemn and ‘deal with’.

With luck in this thought experiment we have made progress. Given the issues identified and some courses of action, who needs to do what?

Those who are attempting equality must also accept the inertia to change and not be overly hostile or ‘quick to judge’ others actions. Of course this does not mean relent, retreat or slow down but realize that some of those who will be run over are innocent. It is the sad fate of those who lack equality that they are often called upon to have more patience though they have the greater cause for haste.

I made reference to judgement, what would be the criteria of conviction so as to ensure the ‘innocent’ are not unjustly harmed while still ensuring the ‘safety’ of the community as a whole? Who stands in judgement? What should constitute a mechanism of appeal that would be fair to the accused while not re-victimizing the offended? What would constitute rehabilitation? How would one who professed rehabilitation be re-admitted into the community?

I understand that some of these questions are not simple, binary or (often) enforceable; but there is value in the exercise to try and define them. All involved would then have a better idea as to what ‘explicitly’ is expected and what are the possible repercussions. Far too often we assume that ‘any one should know what appropriate behaviour is’. That is obviously not the case. We all believe that the majority of the cases of inappropriate behaviour were not done maliciously. A man who wishes to curry favour with a possible ‘partner’ (however that is defined) does not start by ‘offending’ them. Re-education, especially in the light of an unenlightened cultural background, will be slow and a presumption of ignorance should be our default assumptions until actions prove otherwise. We are attempting to create a better world not wreak vengeance on the past.

Those in dominance are the ones who must be most willing to change. They must also accept that they are not the ones best to judge IF there is a problem; however no solution will be achieved without their cooperation. We must accept that in the cause of change innocents will fall victim to unjust condemnation. As I have counselled patience to those currently wanting, so must the dominant group be patient when accused. Far too long we have taken comfort in our position… insensitive when we have trodden on the rights of others…unconcerned to injustices wrought by our collective hand. When balancing scales, many tribulations will occur but patience and stalwartly forward we must persist.

It is hard for the dominate group to stand back and let others take the lead. Part of being dominate is being in control; however to attain equality there must be a willingness to give that up. It requires a leap of faith of sorts to accept that others may know better than we.

Much as “white people” have to accept ‘reverse discrimination” (i.e. affirmative action) to balance the social scales with ‘non-whites’, so must the male community accept that not only must we be willing to give up the status quo, but further we will be called upon to do more than ‘our fair share’ because we have not been doing our share for quite some time. You cannot say “Well, okay we will now all be treated equally” because that ignores both the systemic inequality as well as those inequalities that ‘seep in’ from the outside society.

What is the endgame?

It may be utopian but when we say ‘safe environment’, ‘equality’, and the ‘absence of a hostile environment’…what ultimately, does that mean? It may be easy to say that it’s obvious, but objective reality proves that wrong.

This is an educational process as well as a cultural one. We may not nor can ever achieve utopia but at least we will have a better idea the roads we all travel. Elsewise I fear a community that lacks insight will be split and diminished as a consequence.

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Radio Freethinker Episode 166 – SkyTrain Fare-ness Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on May 15, 2012

This week:

Apostate Norway,
A most atheist country ,
Religion and sports don’t mix,
The Vatican Bubble,
SkyTrain Fare-Gates.

Download the episode here!

Topics:
Apostate Norway

Norway this week moved to change its constitution by removing reference to Norway as a Christian nation and cutting links between the state and the Church of Norway. A vote to happen Monday is expected to pass easily because even the Christian Democrats and the Conservative party supports this move.

Find out more:

A most atheist country

We discuss the recent meta study that showed the strength of atheism and religion among nations with some surprising discoveries

Find out more:

Religion and sports don’t mix

We give a brief overview about a controversy in Arizona where a catholic charter school refused to play the championship game because there was a girl on the opposition team.

Find out more:

The Vatican Bubble

The Vatican has recently asked board members of its BioEthical committee to resign because the dared to ask scientific advice from non-catholics.

Find out more:

SkyTrain Fare-Gates

We discuss the controversy regarding the soon to be installed fare-gates at SkyTrain stations with the aim of reducing ‘fair evasion’. We discuss how cost effective this tactic is, who is its target and ultimately are there better solutions to the issue of funding public mass transit in the GVRD.

Find out more:

Skeptical Highlights:

Vancouver Earth Run

The 2012 Vancouver Earth Run will focus on the oceans. All proceeds will go to nonprofit organizations in the Vancouver area that work toward better understanding and management of our marine resources.

Where: Jericho Beach, Vancouver
When: Sunday, June 3, 2012
Cost:

$25 for the 5K run/walk
$35 for the 10K race

Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs
At Pacific Science Center in Seattle – May 24, 2012-January 6, 2013
The exhibition features more than 100 objects from King Tut’s tomb and ancient sites representing some of the most important rulers throughout 2,000 years of ancient Egyptian history. Tickets range from 24 to $27 depending on when you go.

Skeptics in the Pub – Down-town

Join us on Tuesday, May 15 at 7:30pm for another evening of skeptical fun, food, drinks, and conversation in the Railway Club’s back bar. Come out and discuss skepticism-related activities in Vancouver with your fellow science enthusiasts, rationalists, and critical thinkers, and maybe meet some new friends. As always, if you arrive late and they’re collecting a cover charge at the door, just tell them you’re with the skeptics’ group to get in for free.

Where: The Railway Club, 579 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver
When: Thursday, May 15, 2012, 7:30 pm
Cost: Free

Skeptics in the Pub Richmond

Skeptics in the Pub is a casual social event for local science enthusiasts who value critical thinking and skepticism.

Join us for drinks and food in a friendly atmosphere. It’s a great place to meet local skeptics, make new friends, and get involved and informed about new events and activities.

Where: Legends Pub in Richmond, 6511 Buswell Street, minutes from the Brighouse Skytrain station and Richmond Centre
When: Thursday, May 24, 2012, 7:30 pm
Cost: Free

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Science Sunday #5

Posted by Don McLenaghen on July 17, 2011

– and on the seventh day we learn.
Each week I hope to give a synopsis of the interesting science stories I have heard on my plethora of science podcasts I listen to each week plus anything I pick up scanning the inter-web. This week’s top stories:

Words of the Week:

Ichnology – the branch of geology that deals with traces of organismal behavior, such as burrows and footprints.

Paracancerous – (Could not find this outside medical journals, but from the context and prefix I reconstruct this defintion) – located near or adjacent to cancerous cells.

 

New Mexico ‘spaceport’ in the works –

Under the authority of the newly created New Mexico Spaceport Authority and Spaceport America, plans for the new space are set for a site outside Truth or Consequences, a tiny desert town.

The U.S.’s manned shuttle missions have been put to an end, and the hope is that the private sector will pick up, and a new tourism industry will be born. Virgin Galactic, the first space tourism company, has already been created, and Boeing also reportedly plans to get in on the action. The project has already cost the state of New Mexico $200 million.

NPR – Space Port

RawStory – Space Port

NASA spacecraft to enter orbit of large asteroid –
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is about to be captured into orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta. Meanwhile, a new paper argues that Vesta and Ceres, another huge asteroid set to be visited by Dawn, are the main stumbling blocks to predicting the long-term fate of the solar system.

At 530 kilometres across, Vesta is one of the biggest denizens of the asteroid belt, the junkyard of leftover planetary building blocks found between Mars and Jupiter. Vesta, thought to have finished growing long before Earth and the other planets, could reveal clues about the era of early planet formation. After a year in orbit, Dawn will head to Ceres, the solar system’s biggest asteroid.

New Scientist – Probe’s targets cloud ‘crystal ball’

RawStory – NASA orbits asteroid

 

Fossil Forensics: Wasps setup home in Dino eggs – 

The approximately 70 million year old eggs, from gigantic titanosaur sauropod dinosaurs were discovered in 1989 in the Patagonia region of Argentina, well known for yielding fossils of sauropod dinosaur eggs and even embryonic dinosaurs. Only recently it was discovered that one of the broken eggs contained tiny sausage-shaped structures, 2-3cm long and 1cm wide. The structures closely resembled fossilised insect cocoons, and were most similar in size and shape to the cocoons of some species of modern wasp.

There are many records of fossilised dinosaur eggs, and even several records of fossil cocoons, but, as author Dr Jorge Genise of the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales states “this is the first time that these cocoons are found closely associated with an egg.”

ScienceDaily – How Wasps Populated Rotting Dinosaur Eggs

 

Early Talking Doll Recording Discovered  –

Scientists managed to recover the sound from what is thought to be the earliest ever talking doll – 123 years old, singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. It was recorded by Thomas Edison himself, and probably has not been heard since his lifetime. We find out how this recording was made.

The artifact is a ring-shaped cylinder phonograph record made of solid metal. The metal record is significantly bent out of its original round, cylindrical shape.  At the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Senior Scientist Carl Haber and Computer Systems Engineer Earl Cornell used a three-dimensional optical scanning technology to create a digital model of the surface of the record. With this digital model, they used modern image analysis methods to reproduce the audio stored on the record, saving it as a WAV-format digital audio file.

NPS – Early Talking Doll Recording Discovered

Science in Action

 

Tough at the top – 

These days, the expression “it’s tough at the top” is usually used ironically. But it turns out that being a top ranking, or alpha male could be a lot more stressful than we realised, particularly if you are a monkey. Researchers have just published work involving a nine year study of baboon populations in Africa. They found that alpha males have higher levels of stress hormones and lower levels of testosterone than males ranked below them. So could the same hold true for humans?

In social hierarchies, dominant individuals experience reproductive and health benefits, but the costs of social dominance remain a topic of debate. Prevailing hypotheses predict that higher-ranking males experience higher testosterone and stress hormone levels than lower-ranking males when hierarchies are unstable but not otherwise. In this long-term study of rank-related stress in a natural population of savannah baboons, high-ranking males had higher testosterone and lower glucocorticoid levels than other males, regardless of hierarchy stability. The singular exception was for the highest-ranking (alpha) males, who exhibited both high testosterone and high glucocorticoid levels. In particular, alpha males exhibited much higher stress hormone levels than second-ranking (beta) males, suggesting that being at the very top may be more costly than previously thought.

Science – Life at the Top

Science in Action

 

CRYPTOZOOLOGY – 

The Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, giant sea serpents – these are all examples of creatures rumoured to exist but never proven. Dr Charles Paxten of St Andrews University discussed the science of cryptozoology at a meeting at the Zoological Society of London this week. But is it a valid science? Can anecdotal reports tell us about real monsters, rare species or just human psychology?

Speculation as to the nature of large unknown aquatic animals has generally occurred in the absence of quantitative data and relied almost solely on eyewitness testimonial. This need not be the case. I estimated the number of unknown large open water marine animals awaiting discovery by science based on an assumption that the scientific description rate for unknown large aquatic animals from 1830 could be extrapolated into the future. If this is true then the cumulative species description rate can be modelled as a rectangular hyperbola and an estimate of the number of large unknown open water marine animals could be made.

Material World
Predicting Aquatic Monsters

 

Piece of Mind: Is the Internet Replacing Our Ability to Remember – 

Has the Internet dumbed down society or simply become an external storage unit that enhances the human brain’s memory capacity? With Google, Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia at our beck and call via smart phones, tablets and laptops, the once essential function of committing facts to memory has become little more than a flashback to flash cards.

The results of four studies suggest that when faced with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it. The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.

Scientific American – Piece of Mind

Science – Google Effects on Memory

 

Funding For James Webb Space Telescope In Jeopardy – 

A bill approved by the House Committee on Appropriations cuts funding for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope in 2012. (The bill has not yet been approved by the full House and Senate). Ira Flatow and guests discuss the status of the telescope and what happens if funding is cut.

Science Friday

James Webb Space Telescope

 

Rise in Risk Inequality – 

A new study of political polarization in the United States suggests that changes in the labor market since the 1970s has helped create more Republican and Democratic partisans and fewer independents..

In a study published recently in the British Journal of Political Science, Philipp Rehm estimated that slightly more than half of Americans could be counted as natural partisans in 1968, based on their income and job security. But by 2008, the number of natural partisans had climbed to include nearly two-thirds of all Americans.

Rehm said that, traditionally, many political scientists have thought that Americans’ income played a large role in which political party they supported. Rehm argues that Americans’ political preferences are shaped not just by their current income, but also by the risk they perceive that they could lose their current income level.

ScienceDaily – Polarized US Voters

 

A field guide to bullshit – 

How do people defend their beliefs in bizarre conspiracy theories or the power of crystals? Philosopher Stephen Law has tips for spotting their strategies.

“Intellectual black holes are belief systems that draw people in and hold them captive so they become willing slaves of claptrap. Belief in homeopathy, psychic powers, alien abductions – these are examples of intellectual black holes. As you approach them, you need to be on your guard because if you get sucked in, it can be extremely difficult to think your way clear again.

You identify some strategies people use to defend black hole beliefs. Tell me about one of them – “playing the mystery card“?

This involves appealing to mystery to get out of intellectual hot water when someone is, say, propounding paranormal beliefs. They might say something like: “Ah, but this is beyond the ability of science and reason to decide. You, Mr Clever Dick Scientist, are guilty of scientism, of assuming science can answer every question.” This is often followed by that quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. When you hear that, alarm bells should go off.

How can science test these mysteries?

Psychologist Christopher French at Goldsmiths, University of London, ran an experiment into the effects of crystals to explore claims that holding “real” crystals from a New Age shop while meditating has a powerful effect on the psyche, more so than just holding “fake” ones. But French found no difference in participants using real and fake crystals. This was good evidence that the effect people report is down to the power of suggestion, not the crystals.

Of course, this study provoked comments such as: “Not being able to prove the existence of something does not disprove its existence. Much is yet to be discovered.” This is just a smokescreen. But because the mantra “it’s-beyond-the-ability-of-science-to-establish…” gets repeated so often, it is effective at lulling people back to sleep – even if they have been stung into entertaining a doubt for a moment or two.”

New Scientist

Stephen Law

 

Why the universe wasn’t fine-tuned for life – 

In recent years many such examples of how the laws of physics have been “fine-tuned” for us to be here have been reported. Some religious people claim these “cosmic coincidences” are evidence of a grand design by a Supreme Being. In The Fallacy of Fine-tuning, physicist Victor Stenger makes a devastating demolition of such arguments.

A general mistake made in search of fine-tuning, he points out, is to vary just one physical parameter while keeping all the others constant. Yet a “theory of everything” – which alas we do not yet have – is bound to reveal intimate links between physical parameters. A change in one may be compensated by a change in another, says Stenger.

In addition to general mistakes, Stenger deals with specifics. For instance, British astronomer Fred Hoyle discovered that vital heavy elements can be built inside stars only because a carbon-12 nucleus can be made from the fusion of three helium nuclei. For the reaction to proceed, carbon-12 must have an energy level equal to the combined energy of the three helium nuclei, at the typical temperature inside a red giant. This has been touted as an example of fine-tuning. But, as Stenger points out, in 1989, astrophysicist Mario Livio showed that the carbon-12 energy level could actually have been significantly different and still resulted in a universe with the heavy elements needed for life.

New Scientist

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A taxing issue

Posted by Don McLenaghen on November 17, 2010

In the shadow of the elections victories of the Tea Party in the US election and the recent announcement of our own Campbell government here in BC to both cut income taxes while implementing a user fee for hospital stays, I thought it would be educational to take a sceptical look at taxes and in particular tax breaks.

Taxes have been a widely used tool by governments to punish ‘sin’ (in the form of alcohol and tobacco taxes) and to promote investment (in the form of tax holidays or credits like the capital gains tax). I am not going to get too partisan here. There are valid arguments on all sides about what are appropriate taxes and at what level those taxes should be – that is a discussion for a different day and perhaps a different show. What I would like to investigate here are two things: first that cutting taxes increases tax revenue (this was called Voodoo economics by G. Bush Sr., trickle-down economics by others but economist refer to this broadly as supply-side economics) and second that tax cuts are always good.

I shall address the former first. For those of us who had access to an US media source (or those who can remember any recent political campaign) every politician was promising to cut taxes; when asked how they would pay for these tax cuts, they would either respond by saying tax cuts cost nothing or they said they will reduce spending…when asked what spending, they would say something like “that fat in the system” or “improved efficiencies” – IE they would not cut anything. For example they often say they will cut “ear-marks’, but this only accounts for $3 billion out of a budget of $3.6+ trillion (with a deficit of $1.7 trillion)…or 0.08% of budget (0.17%  of deficit).

It seems popular among voters across the political spectrum. However, the recent dual announcements of our local government show the reality of the situation. Campbell announces a popular across the board tax cut of 15%. This applies to rich and poor alike (although not equally, but again that’s a different show*). This equates to a loss of over half a billion dollars a year. That is money the government will not have to provide services…like hospital beds. The government also recently announced a user fee on hospital rooms amounting to over $200 a week. Who is going to make up for the loss in tax revenues? The sick.

Environics Poll 2007

Now don’t get me wrong, maybe we are all happy with that, but most people when asked the question do they want to cut public spending (especially healthcare), they say no…in fact it is one of the few areas people show an innate socialist tendency.

Just to put the two into perspective, the median family will save about $350 a year in taxes.  The average hospital stay for an individual is 3-10 days (depending largely on age)…that’s a fee cost of $87 to $290 (and for those of you who say “well most people will not be in hospital that long” just remember that makes the fee even more onerous because it WILL effect most those who are suffering most and likely least like to afford it).

Okay, my math may be a little dodgy (mainly due to the lack of accurate numbers for ‘average hospital’ stay or the myriad of different income/fee/taxes an individual will pay) but the point should still be obvious. The hospital fee was not to pay for the tax cut but add in the added cost of medical insurance premiums[1], camping fees[2], transit fees[3], licence fees[4], tuition[5] and so on you will get there. (for those of us old enough, we remember when ‘user fee’ was a dirty word and the fees that did exist were token…not any more).

Cost of Bush's tax cuts

The point I am getting at, is if we want social services we have to pay for them as a society. That means when someone yells “tax cuts” remember they are also saying “cut services”. Maybe something you are comfortable with…maybe not but that is the reality of it. I was going to go on to talk about the wisdom of providing robust social services but that would be straying perhaps outside the bound of a sceptic podcast so we shall stop here and address the second point.

Many have claimed, largely Republicans and Monetarists, that cutting taxes increases tax revenue. On the surface this sounds paradoxical; however there is a shred of logic to be found. The idea, goes that if you cut taxes, those who have more money will invest in the economy, the economy grows, from this larger tax base you collect more absolute dollars even though the rate is lower. The idea works in reverse as well; increasing the tax rate will cause a contraction of the economy and a reduction in absolute dollars.

Often the example of the Reagan Revolution is used to prove this point…i.e. that it works in practice. However this is a flawed claim. As many modern economists have shown[6], including noble prize winner Paul Klugmen, the Reagan tax cuts did not improve the US economy and actually made government finances worse.

It is true the US economy grew fast from 1983-89 however this is in contrast to the miasma of the severe recession of 81-2. Capitalist markets are cyclical, and this was not an unusual recovery. Private savings, something supply-side economics assumes from the masses to provide the capital for investment, continues to decline throughout the decade (7.8->4.8%). Meaning, the money for the recovery, as it was, came from spending savings and increasing personal debt. Finally, this trend is echoed in the US budget; when Reagan came to office the US debt as a % of GDP was 32.5%, when Bush Sr. left it was 66.1%. Clinton, who raised taxes, brought the rate down to 56.4%. The same happened in Canada, when we increased taxes in the 90’s and went from the ‘basket-case’ nation to arguably the country with the most stable finances.

Lastly, the multiplier effect. Not all tax cuts are equal. Tax cuts cost money; those who claim that it is not should ‘not’ collect their next pay-check and see if it costs them money. So, the current desire of governments everywhere is stimulus. When the government (or anyone really) spends money it has what is called, a multiplier effect on the economy; that is for every “Y” dollars spent it generates Y*x (or Y’) in the economy. So, if I give you a dollar and you burn it, which generates no activity in the economy, in fact it removes the dollar from circulation so has a negative multiplier effect. Now most people will spend it or ‘invest’ it (be it real investments or just in your bank account) and they have a positive effect; that is they generate more than a dollars worth of economic activity. The best way to think about this is if you spend the dollar, the merchant sells more, can now hire a new employee, and we will in turn make more dollars and spend them; the new employee generates the new value. An economist could spin a better story, but I think you get the gist of it – the one dollar generates more than a dollar of economic activity.

Relative stimulus effect

Having given the background, how do tax cuts fair as stimulus[7]? In general, every dollar of tax cuts generates $1.30 of economic activity compared to a dollar spent on increasing UI benefits would generate $1.62 or increasing food stamps generates $1.74. There is also the issue of WHO to give the cut to. Lower income people spend (out of necessity) every penny they make so a cut in their taxes (thanks to HST we ALL pay taxes even the poorest) will generate the most activity but they latterly also have the least money (the bottom 50% of household control about 3% of Canadian wealth). As you move to the other extreme, the very wealthy often ‘invest’ most of their tax cuts (earning more than they need), so less activity generated but because they make more money a big bang (the top 10% own around 58.2% of the nation’s wealth[8] in the USA its 1% owning 35%). However, in a global world, it is most likely their investments will be ‘trans-national’ or outside ‘our’ economy and thus lost completely to the system – complete fizzle.

Society, of course, is not only extremes but a lopsided slope of ‘everything-in-between’ (note percentages of wealth ownership mentioned earlier) otherwise it would be easy to define tax policy; the trick is to determine both purpose (stimulate consumption, promote manufacturing, decrease inflation) and effectiveness. History has given us lessons to learn from and one a sceptical economist should be able to apply.

<From Episode #88 of Radio Free Thinker>

[1]British Columbia Medical Services Plan Premium Increase Notice
[2]BC April fee increases
[3]Ibid
[4]BC Gov 2010 fee increase
[5]BC Gov tuition increases
[6]Supply-Side Economics Debunked – TYT
[7] Recovery Ac
[8] Inequality in Canada

* By this i mean 15% of $100k = $18k while 15% of roughly the median income, $50k = $7.5k. So, the tax applies the same but the benefit is very unequal.

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Whats up with the Census?

Posted by Don McLenaghen on July 30, 2010

Recently the Harper government has decided to scrap the long form census while maintain the short form…both are mandatoryalthough that fact is often missed in the media coverage. There are two main reasons to agree with Harper and two to oppose him. First is the issue of the census being mandatory, it is with a fine up to $5000. However that is never mentioned by Harper et all is that no one has EVER been fined (based upon my researcher and a meta-search of others research). So this seems a red-herring.
The other issue the Anti-LongFromers (those with a negative attitude to the long form) have is the “intrusive” nature of the questions. The modern form asks you less information that the mandatory income tax form, nor more than Employment Canada asks from its clients. In fact the big question quoted in the press is “the number of bedrooms in your residence” (something asked for property taxes). Not very intrusive and not any worse than any number of other forms in our modern society. Now a little history might put this into context and shed light on how truly ‘intrusive’ the modern form is.
History of Canadian Census(1)
Even enumerations back in the 1700s, prior to census-taking, asked highly personal questions regarding the amount of stock in a household, the number of swords and guns, race and religious beliefs. One must remember that at the time, when most of what were called Canadians were recently conquered French or English and the tension between these two groups was high.
The modern census started in 1871. That Census asked 211 questions on area, land holdings, vital statistics, education, administration, the military, justice, agriculture, commerce, industry and finance. The population field included the age, sex, religion, education, race and occupation of each person.
Number of questions grew from 216 in 1891 to 561 in 1901. The max questions were in 1921 with 565.By 1986 it was done to 55. The 2006 census had 53 plus depending on how you count questions.
Now some point that you can’t trust ‘faceless bureaucrats’ who spy on your private information and use it for mischievous or nefarious purposes. But this stereotypical portrayal of ‘mistrust of civil servants’ seems wrong. When on the 2006 Census, StatsCan provided an option where people could voluntarily allow StatsCan access to their Customs and Revenue Agency information (ie income tax forms) over 82% agreed. Trust does not seem to be an issue.
Okay, but some people just don’t want to give out any information, even if redundant. First, as mentioned earlier, you can get away with giving it a miss. The number of non-reporters was very small although some native bands boycotted en-mass. Secondly, it is import information for StatsCan to have. This information is used by government and other entities (I should note here all identifiable information is redacted and kept hidden for a period of 92 yrs(2). What is accessible is the correlated numbers, not actual forms).
Why the mandatory long form is important
It is a persistent long term data set allowing for longitudinally modelling and data-mining analysis. That is it is a consistent measure unlike any other source of information available. Because of its coverage of the population is almost complete and its very large sample size, it allowing researchers to conduct more detailed analysis of income inequality and socio-economic factors especially at the ‘tail ends’ of the curves where self-reporting often distorts.
Harper want to replace the mandatory form with a voluntarily survey(3). However this has major issues. Firstly, sample bias, if voluntary you will get self selection bias (among others). To make a sample statistically significant, efforts must be made to ensure the responders are representative. Secondly, inconsistency of data. Surveys change with time and as different departments/groups are responsible for them the quality of the questions change. StatsCan is the staffed by the best statistical and social scientist in the country, whose lives missions have been since 1871 to ensure the purity, quality and consistency of the data set. Once it becomes a survey, it is like to be transferred to other hands or more likely more dangerously divided up; making future accurate analysis impossible.
For example(4), in 2000, the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics reported average income in the bottom Percentile  of just under $8,000 , whereas the Census found incomes of $6,000 – 25% less than SLID. Average income in the top 10%  is also higher in the Census than the SLID, meaning “the ratio of the average income in the top 10%  to the average in the bottom 10%  was 16.4 according to the Census but only 11.7 according to SLID.” That is the level of poverty in the country was under reported by the survey and the degree of inequality in the nation was underestimate by almost 40%
So why the big push now, to change things?
There are sever things that could be at play. The first is meme-contagion; that is a cultural meme/virus that has spread from one society to another. There are conservative moments to get rid of the Census in the UK and the USA as well as here in Canada.
Conservative Cameron’s UK government announced recently that the UK was thinking of abolishing all its census taking and rely on other databases of information for governmental decision making(5). There is also a strong conservative movement south of the border which seems intent on dismantle the social state.
In doing my research, i noted that these critics were not so disturbed by the mandatory fine, for there no one could point to anyone actually charged (although some made reference to court challenged, but that seemed the individual suing the Census and not the Census sue the individual). Down south the issue is BIG GOVERNMENT(6). That the census is unconstitutional; great worry was made about the “spying” of census takers of people ‘private property’ and that this would somehow lead to a Gestapo state.
Another main them was that the census was a welfare scam. Many Anti-Census types complained that census takers either got paid for doing nothing (“just walking the park estimating age, race, gender”), scamming, or associated with Acorn(7).
Many Anti-Census types complain about ‘harassment’, but that is because they ‘refuse by ignoring’ to fill out form or talk to census taker. So Census workers kept asking them to fill in the form…a self created issue. None complained of legal action.
Of course there also a guilt by association. Many of the sites i visited hosted “Sarah Palin” ads, tea party support or were some libertarian/Ron-Paul forum. The “constitutional” rebels they pointed, those who said they would rather go to jain than fill out a census (remember here no one seems to have ever been charge/fines, not a risky stance to hold) are you usual right-wing nut jobs – Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh(8), Rep. Michele Bachmann  and Carl Rove(9).
Lastly, one argument i heard as to why they want to get rid of the best source of data on and of Canada is outsourcing. The UK conservatives explicitly state they want to find more ‘cost effective’ ways of getting information. This reliance on ‘third party’ or private companies for statistical data could be used as an ‘excuse’ for companies (like Visa, FaceBook) to hold large amounts of ‘personal’ data that is ‘unrelated’ to their core business.
Of course, you might be skeptical of that last one?
6) Just do a google search for unconstitutional census, you’ll get a crack full.

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What went wrong at the G20 meeting in Toronto? – Pt 2

Posted by Don McLenaghen on July 19, 2010

Part 2 – Intimidation is the new Freedom

Are we taking our rights and freedoms for granted here? Is the media being distracted by showing propaganda while missing the ‘important’ issues? As the second part of my look at the G20, let’s check out the role of the security forces and what they mean for us.

The once of the main reason for the expense was to protect the delegates from terrorists and the people of Toronto from ‘black bloc’ anarchist “Thugs”. To accomplish this there was the largest single mobilization of security forces in Canadian history outside of war time[1]. Anywhere from 10, 000 to 20, 000 security forces (the vast majority being state officers) where set upon what was at best 4,000 protests[2].

The Toronto event in saw the largest mass arrest, almost a thousand people, in the history of this country…including the FLQ crisis and the imposition of martial law in the 70s (around 500 were arrested then). The HIGHEST estimate of the dreaded ‘Black Bloc’ was 100. The Black Bloc are self-described (and often governmentally described) activist who exercise an aggressive civil disobedience of smashing in corporate windows and painting anarchist slogans.

Now, with that number of security forces did they at prevent the destruction of property or injury of people?

Well, there were a number of people who were injured (by all of them claim it was the security forces that caused their injuries). What about property damage? Well dozens of windows were broken (mostly for multinational chains) and some minor damage by way of political graffiti. However, from the way the government officials spun things, back up by an overly critical press, downtown was a war zone; an image that was supported by the mass number of imposing security forces and, perhaps the iconic image of the G20, the torched of police cars.

Before I go on the talk about the press images, I have to ask – what were the police doing while the ‘black bloc’ protested? They were there; they did apparently smash windows and plaster graffiti. They security forced did nothing! It was as though they wanted the bloc to have the chance to justify the security forces presence. This is why is you check the video/images of the G20, you never see the police clashing with the bloc. There is great talk about past clashed (in Genoa) but the security forces seem to have allowed the bloc free reign over the city. So, then why have so many security officers?

I shall now return to the Miami Model I mentioned last post. This is a set of tactics that were used by the Miami policy to prevent the ‘disruption’ of the meeting of those negotiating the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement. The participants did not want a repeat of past events where ‘their’ efforts of ‘codify’ the neo-liberal model (such as that attempted with the Multilateral Agreement on Investment) derailed by popular protest and activism.

Of importance to us is certain tactics used to ensure both a passive demonstrations as well as to ensure a favourable image for the security forces themselves. Amnesty international, among others, refer to them as brutal intimidation techniques. The techniques used that I know of:

Pre-emptive contextualizing: This means ensuring lots of news stories, mostly rooted in official news releases, warning about the potential danger of “rogue” protesters who will turn the peaceful demonstrations into orgies of violence. This often includes pre-arrest of people and the ‘discovery’ of a cache of weapons. A notable example was a camper who was ‘driving slowly’ days prior to the event. Upon a search of his car they discovered an axe, a chain-saw, gas (presumable for the chain-saw), hunting equipment and other things you would have to go out in the country[3]. Further, great press was made of the security expert Byron Sonne who was arrested for ‘terrorist activity’. The fact that he had publicly informed the security community that he was attempting to test and show the futility of the security planning for the G20 was never mentioned (in the popular press). That, although stung by his own activities, he was never a ‘real’ terrorist but was useful in creating the proper context the security forces wished to establish prior to the event.

Also in the lead up, and often mentioned in news stories without any commentary beyond the official government line, were the pre-arrest of people who the security forces though COULD be dangerous. Over 20 people were ‘pre-emptively’ arrested. SAY WHAT!!!! The vast majority of these were not charges and their only crime was to be involved in social (but not violent) activist groups. To repeat Amnesty international – brutal intimidation techniques. I know acquaintances of mine went ‘underground’ during the Olympics because of vocal communist they were afraid they would be ‘gitmo-ed’ or just plain arrested. Even if you are released hours or days later, the process can be traumatic and disturbing; especially if your under the preconception we live in ‘free society’. 

Let get back to the iconic image of the Toronto G20, the burning police car. The police car and the apparent (well apparent to anyone watching on TV) willingness of the security forces to allow THESE acts of violence to happen leads us to conspiracy theory of sorts. Now being a proponent of this idea, I have to preface this talk by stating that just because something is labeled a conspiracy does not automatically make it false. Those watching the video were left asking 1) why was the police car left on the street? 2) Why, once it was a fire was started, did not the security forces (which in video could be seen in great numbers of security forces less the 50 metres away) at least ATTEMPT to secure the area 3) where were the fire department? 4) Why were there not police or security forces ATTEMPTING to keep people away from the bringing car that was potential danger to civilians? And 5) What were they afraid of, CTV and CBC both were next to the car and the vast majority of people were ‘gawkers’ trying to grab photos/vids with their cellphones. The most I ever saw were 2 to 5 ‘actively’ violent individuals (and they looked more homeless than Black Bloc).

Okay, lets pull back a bit. I am NOT saying Harper is creating a massive security force that will be Jack-booting their way down main street Canada tomorrow…probably not net year either… What I am saying is that what we saw in Toronto was the effective use of scare tactics; intimidation and misdirection that show scare us all[4]. There is where a great number of peaceful protest, activist trying to get the word out that there are things happening or not happening at the G20[5] that should be of concern to us all.


[1] I could not find firm numbers for other events, but what I could find supports this point but be sceptical.

[2] Although the CBC reported estimates of 10,000. From the video is saw, the lower number I used seems more accurate.

[3] There is not a lot of ‘forests’ around Toronto but the ultimate destination of this traveler was farther afield. It is noteworthy that he was never actual charged with any crime. Also if his intent was nefarious, it seems incompetent to act as he did…unless his intent was innocent.

[4] http://lawiscool.com/2010/07/04/naomi-klein-on-g20/

[5] http://www.canadians.org/g20/event.html

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What went wrong at the G20 meeting in Toronto? Pt1

Posted by Don McLenaghen on July 19, 2010

Part 1, show me the money!

There were several issues that arose out the recent meeting of global leaders in southern Ontario at the end of June. The first issue is cost. The G20/G8 cost the Canadian people over a billion dollars for a 3 day event. This expense included a 10 km fenced enclosure costing almost 10 million, new crowd control equipment including the dreaded ‘sound cannon’ and of course security enforcement personal..

The security cost of last G20 was held in spooked Pittsburgh cost only 13 million, London’s in 2009 was priced (for the whole event) at 20 million. Now, the G8s have a record of costing more (although even by that standard we spent more than twice as much as the next most expensive G8, L’Aquila, which was a masked way for the Italian government to rebuild the town after a devastating earthquake) but in this case the vast amount of money was spent on the G20 in Toronto.

Let’s compare this to other past events. Security for the Olympics here in Vancouver cost around 1 billion, depending on your source. This was a 26 day event with some history of terrorist violence in the past (The Munich and Atlanta Games). At the opening ceremonies 10 heads of state as well as over 41 other high officials from over all over the world. This of course did not include the thousands of performers or the crowd of tens of thousands watching in person or the billion or so watching on TV; a very high profile event we paid over 40 million a day for security. If one was worried about ‘sending a message’ the Olympics (as those who tried to justify the expense of the games constantly reiterated) would be a prime target.

The G20/G8 events, although also ‘famous’ for their protest, these are low level (ie few people), low impact (minor property damage) and attack mainly social justice activist. However, they do get a disproportionate amount of press in the first instance because the activist are trying to point out social inequalities, access inequalities and other justice issues and for the second instance because the participants (especially those representing private interest) do not want the ‘masses’ to know what is going on (largely at private behind-closed-door events) and those who worry about a repeat of MAI.

MAI was the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) which was derailed by popular protest in the late 1990s. This victory of the ‘people’ followed by the resistance to ‘restart’ MAI at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999. Seattle was a break water point for both the activist and the ‘establishment’. When protesters came out again in Quebec in 2000 and Genoa, the ‘security’ forces were prepared to be more ‘aggressive’. Since then there have been a couple of deaths – all of them protesters.

The change the security forces have taken is the adoption of the ‘Miami’ model. This was an event where negotiations for the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement occurred in Miami, Florida. This model, seemed a win-win (-lose) for the security forces, the politicians/lobbies (and the activist/masses). There are several aspects of the psychology of the Miami model I will bring up in the next post, but the important aspect for now is the money. One reason the ‘local forces’ are willing to be so ‘active’ is large amounts of money are infused in the local security apparatus and forces. Often this is seen as new equipment but in Toronto’s case the vast amount of money was spent ‘paying’ for the personal (with its corresponding overtones of ‘mercenary’). One area of visible equipment increase was in the form of riot gear but enough to say a lot of money was spent, a lot of people detained, a lot of press on the ‘thugs’ and very very very little was broadcast of substance in spite of the fact the VAST majority of the activity of activist were peaceful, important and should have been heard; instead we got a burning car.

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