The Daily GRRR! Nov 20, 2014

The Daily GRRR! HEADLINES for November 20, 2014. 1. Waterloo Regional Police purcase 182 Tasers. 2. G20 focus: Australia tries to avoid dealing with climate change issues. 3. G20 focus: G20 snub Putin. 4. G20 focus: Old ideas, old results. 5. A new approach to the international regime: Thomas Piketty - Capital in the 21st Century.

Welcome, I am your host Trish Holmes and you are listening to The Daily GRRR! on 100.3fm, CKMS in Waterloo, Ontario, on the web, today is November 20, 2014. That was Hall and Oates from 1977 with Rich Girl which is all about the disconnect between wealth and responsibility.


The first piece I want to examine today harkens back to the topic a few weeks ago about policing strategies. Last week it was reported in the Waterloo Chronicle that Waterloo regional police are forking out $600 grand of tax payers money to purchase 182 tasers. Currently the local force has 81 stun guns and only half of the region’s police force is qualified to use the weapons. The ultimate goal of the force is to see all front-line police members armed with a taser. The taser of choice is the X2-model, which cost approximately $2,100.

The weapon holds two cartridges containing twin metal barbs that are propelled at more than 100mph. They discharge a 50,000-volt jolt of electricity, which causes the muscles of the poor sod who has been hit to spasm for up to five seconds. The device also comes with twin laser sights so with every pull of the trigger two shots come out, which the manufacturer says ‘helps take the guesswork out of aiming’. The weapon was created to give police a second chance if the first set of barbs do not pierce the skin. It could also enable a lone officer to shoot ‘multiple targets’.


Inspector Shaena Morris, who led the charge for weapons expansion said, “We need to have the X2, “This model have right now (which I haven’t been able to find) we is being discontinued. They’re no longer servicing it, they’re no longer providing parts. It’s out of date.”

According to the police in a recent community poll, sixty-two per cent supported expansion, while 79 per cent of those who participated in community focus groups backed the recommendation for equipping all police with stun guns.

 The police service’s philosophy is that Tasers are a desired alternative to guns in dangerous situations. And praise is due to the police for attempting to find alternatives to using their guns, but just because it’s not a gun does not mean it can’t cause damage 17 people have died in Canada since 2001 after stun-guns were used by police. That is a low percentage but as we discussed a few weeks ago the force is continues to rely on weapon use rather than de-escalation. The police force is becoming increasingly pugnacious and more conducive to the use of brute force. I’m not sure why every police officer needs a taser, but then I’m not sure every police officer needs a gun. Again, the policing strategy in the UK and Ireland, where gun-related crimes are much higher than in Canada have shown de-escalation and moving away from brute force works.

 I checked out the community survey they discuss here. It consists of two questions and says,

“1. Until recently, across the province of Ontario, only supervisors and members of the tactical team were authorized to carry a Conducted Energy Weapon (Taser) while on duty. Would you support the expansion of Conducted Energy Weapon (Taser) deployment to all officers within the Waterloo Regional Police Service? Yes or No.

 2. Please provide a brief explanation for your answer.”

This isn’t exactly a thorough questionnaire. An online survey is not sufficient to base policing decisions on. On line surveys are heavily biased as to who is drawn to them and completes them. I haven’t been able to find the survey metadata, as to how many people completed the survey and similarly I wasn’t able to find the focus group results. If this is how the police garner information to spend 600 grand, we need to reassess the spending process. Given the emphatic responses from the police, the amateur nature of this survey and the lack of transparency, or at least availability regarding the results, suggest the Police wanted these tasers and were going to obtain regardless.


G20 Focus

This past weekend in Brisbane Australia, finance ministers and leaders from 19 countries in addition to the EU, the IMF and the World Bank met at the ninth Group of Twenty (G20) summit. The G20 brings together the world's major advanced and emerging economies, represents 90 per cent of global GDP, 80 per cent of global trade and two-thirds of the world's population. It's a powerful group, and its efforts to boost growth and fix the global tax system are important and needed. Whether they can pull it off is another question.


The G20 was designed to encourage 'the formation of consensus" on international issues. Our former fearless leader Paul Martin said "There is virtually no major aspect of the global economy or international financial system that will be outside of the group's purview"

The group’s aims to concentrate on longer term rather than immediate policy issues. But prior to the opening of the summit the Australian hosts were determined to keep the climate off the agenda, a point which seems to contradict one of the main principles of the group and a point that many of the other leaders, including Barack Obama, refused to comply with.


The Australian PM, Tony Abbott and his government’s reason for avoiding the topic of climate change was because they wanted the conference to focus on "economic" issues, not the environment.


Dr. Tim Flannery former commissioner of Australia's Climate Commission, which was set up to provide information on climate change to the public and businesses, until last year when Abbot’s government abolished it told VICE magazine "Australia has been trying to run an agenda that is completely at odds with the rest of the G20 nations, except maybe Canada "Of course climate change is an economic issue," Flannery continued. "But the US-China deal last week (wherein the two countries agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to increase the non-fossil fuel share of all energy) makes it particularly unavoidable now. China is going to be increasing their green energy sector faster than their coal fired power plant energy for the first time in history.”

The Sydney Morning Herald also reported a clear majority of leaders argued for stronger language in the communique on climate change, to the apparent chagrin of Abbott, who argued in favor of the role of coal and fossil fuels in the future world economy, with support from only Saudi Arabia and Canada. In October, Abbott said coal is "good for humanity" and "essential for the prosperity of the world." So Stephen Harper is aligning himself with Abbot's flat earth society.

The debacle over climate change aside, the summit was also shadowed by some serious geopolitical drama arising from Russia's forceful annexation of Crimea, its subsequent military incursions into eastern Ukraine.

The presence of four warships off northeastern Australia was particularly unusual but the Russians insisted they were in the area to study climate change, which might be interpreted as a swipe at Abbott's attempt to keep the subject off the agenda. Despite their public appearances, world leaders essentially snubbed him with good aul Stephen Harper getting a jib in there that made international headlines. At any rate Putin left the summit early stating he needed to get a good night sleep for his day at work on Monday.

The way that the leaders dealt with Putin, through systemic exclusion, and by struggling with the climate change debate is indicative of the general milieu of the conference which essentially seemed to wheel out ideas and initiatives pertaining to infrastructure investment, jobs growth and other economic measures. But there are other ideas around the place. The one that springs to mind is the French economist Thomas Piketty`s ideas that he laid out in his book Capital in the 21st century. This is a clip from the British show Newsnight offering a brief overview of Piketty`s theory.


Clip from Newnight


But why won’t his policy suggestions be taken up? Because the rich are powerful, because the people in power are rich, because it is in their best interest to continue along Piketty’s plan? If we can’t tax the rich, why can’t we get tax from companies who profit off of sometimes specialised and often general labour? In 2013 despite analysts insisting that forcing companies to pay tax was going to be a long process that would involve “changing the rules of the game” because tax avoidance is completely legal, the G20 resolved to finish work on modernising international tax rules in 2015. The G20 say they are committed to this but yet they are allowing for ISDS mechanisms in the mega trade deals between Europe and the US and the US and Asia pacific. ISDS mechanisms allow companies to sue governments if they feel their profits are compromised. Now maybe there is some bizarre Faustian trade off happening or maybe the nations of the G20 are talking out the side of their mouths seeing as there is no real accountability within what happens at G20 summits.


Continuing on with Thomas Piketty is a 13 minute clip from a podcast called the Taxcast out of London which examines issues of Tax Justice, here they are examine ideas of inequity within Capital in the 21st century.


Podcast from Taxcast


That`s the first half of the show, between an increasingly pugnacious police force and a dawdling, possibly disinclined international regime we need as many people like Thomas Pikkety that we can get. This is the time not just for generalised communiques and vague declarations constructed to distance people but we need real and specific and concrete ideas. This was the The Daily GRRR! for November 20, 2014. We are on weekdays from 9-10am on 100.3fm CKMS in Waterloo region, and on the web. Check out all our past shows and other Grand River Media Collective work on our webpage


The Daily GRRR! is supported by the Community Radio Fund of Canada and CKMS.

Thanks for Listening.