Radio Freethinker

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Posts Tagged ‘responsibility to protect’

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>


This Week Whine – The Iraq Dilemma and Globalized Ethics


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.


The New Prostitution Bill…oy vey


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


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


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.


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 237 – World Federalist Movement Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on December 18, 2013

Download the episode here! 


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.


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…
<Play Clip>

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.


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:


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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How Libya killed hundreds in Syria

Posted by Don McLenaghen on February 9, 2012

An UN Security Council proposal to invoke its charter for “responsibility to protect” was vetoed by China and Russia last week. Now many people have questioned why we, the West, intervened into Libya to ‘protect’ those civilians and yet we stand by and watch a government slaughter its own people in Syria?

Well, you can blame Libya or at least how we did the job there. One of the concerns by international governments (like Russia and China) was that the UN mission was not actually to protect the people instead, an opportunity to get rid of an internationally unpopular dictator…i.e. regime change was the real point.

As it turned out, they were right.

The role of NATO (the instrument of UN protection) seemed not to limit or prevent Gaddafi’s ability to punish his people but to act as an unofficial air force for the ‘liberation’ rebels. Now, it could be argued that getting rid of Gaddafi was a good; however the poor choice of mechanism for regime change has come home to roost and the people of Syria are paying the price.

Assad, Syria’s ruler, unlike Gaddafi has some strong supporters in the international community; Iran, Russia and China being the most notable and important. Even though I think (grant me a moment of sentimentality) that as much as the political leadership of these countries desperately want to see the end of the deaths in Syria; they do not want to get rid of Assad who is too important to their geo-political machinations. They fear, and Libya seems to have proven, that UN intervention will not be limited to protecting civilians but will be used as a means of regime change.

Sadly, they are probably right.

Of course some may argue that if NATO actually did the work in Libya and WE, the West, control NATO, why not have NATO unilaterally intervene?

Fears of western imperialism not new

First, intervene could risk war with Russia and China (okay not likely but tension would rise…never a good thing). Beyond that, without UN cover, it is likely…no for certain, that Arabs would will not see this as humanitarian help especially by Syrian allies Turkey, embattled Egypt and Iran (also paranoid with reason).

I have used the term ‘the West’ a few times because to those in the region this term means something…they do not see democracy or  philanthropy but they know two wars in Iraq, one still going in Afghanistan, drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan, Israeli settlements in Palestine, Gaza blockade, Libyan collateral damage, the constant threats to Iran, the habitual silence over Israel…they do not automatically assume our acts/intentions are noble but are instead another example of western (American/Israeli?) imperialism – right or wrong, this is how they feel.

These Arab nations could make operations in Syria difficult at best and at worst they may ‘defend Syria’s rightful government’ with military force. Because this operation would lack the legitimacy of an UN Security Council resolution, they would be right…technically (and really?) it would be an act of war for NATO to intervene militarily.

Better the devil I know

Secondly, Syria has a military. One of the facts that led to the defeat of Gaddafi was his relatively small aged and ineffective military. Libya had been on the arms embargo list for decades; Syria has large forces, well organized and equipped with modern and deadly weaponry. Libya’s forces were largely used to suppress its own people; Syrian forces are in constant preparation for a war with Israel…a major threat to Syria (let us not forget these countries are still technically at war and Israel bombed Syria in 2007). Syria’s military is, at least conventionally, able to deal with a major Israel threat; NATO would be minor compared to what Israel could do.

Arab spring or swapping jockeys

The only hope the people of Syria have is the Arab League of Nations…their local UN. The Arab league has sent in observes to judge the level of violence and quickly left because the levels of savagery they saw shocked even ‘professionals’ like them. They have condemned Syria and attempted to isolate it politically. However, the Arab League is composed of 21 Arab nations like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; these nations have had difficulty presenting a unified front in the past and there are few military that could take on Syria.

Of course another major issue is that after the “Arab Spring” most of the oppressive nations, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, do not want to promote ‘liberation movements’. The Saudi’s sent troops into Bahrain to stop uprisings there and the Egyptian military is trying to maintain its control over Egypt after the loss of Mubarak. Economically, Russia and China (and India, Brazil, South Africa) see Syria as valuable for economic, political or geo-strategic imperatives.

Short vs. Long term

I came out strongly in favor of the intervention in Libya to “protect innocent civilians” and at the time I mentioned my fears that western powers would use this noble (and necessary) principle for a more opportunistic agenda (regime change). Well, my trust in humanity (as principled and tentative as it was) was misplaced. That said, there is a lesson to be learnt.

One of the goals of Radio Free Thinker, is to expand the frontier of skeptical thinking; taking the tools of critical thinking and the scientific method beyond their traditional limited spheres of science. We have a learning opportunity here; one I hope political leaders will learn from. Libya and Syria are empirical data points about what happens then noble and just actions are hijacked for more cynical political gains. That if politicians hope to elevate the state of humanity and create a better world for themselves (and maybe by accident for us all) they need to learn from the lessons of the past…that when we are dogmatic, be it in religion, history or politics, we are condemned to death, destruction and failure.

{End note – As my loyal readers know, I like to have a good supply of images in my posts. Often I use cartoons. When I was looking for images for this post I was struck by the number I found in Arabic…most poignant ones were ‘local’. I have not found this for any other blog I have done to date; I think this is saying something and if I were Assad, I would be looking for a place to retire sooner than later.}

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