Categories
rambling social commentary tech gripes

Rumor Mill Milk For Media

Warning: Kvetching ahead

It’s late July 2020 and as I wind down my ‘media’ engagement with my community I see in my Facebook Feed a solicitation to Register my ‘News Page’ with the Facebook Journalism Project.

5 years ago this would have been more attractive to me – I was still looking towards a brighter future for my site, gftv.ca, and still looking at news stories in addition to the city council meetings that became the staple, mostly the only, content of that site.

But even then I’d have had to hang my head and sigh – yet another thing to help budding entities in an area that’s relatively new and growing that I cannot take advantage of because I got into it so early that my way of doing it doesn’t conform, in some essential way, to what has become expected of other entities doing it too.

I refer you here to the Requirements list. At least two things on that list mean I do not qualify for registration.

  • First – I’m not a team and have no Editorial Board. Spending hundreds of hours and dollars to create and maintain my own website and gather my own content (I OWN the years of council meeting videos I shot) is not enough. I have to have a workforce to go along with that.
  • Second – since I have no staff I also have no directory. Which means there’s no list of bios and contact info which a ‘real‘ journalism outlet would have.

It’s okay – I’ve been trying to work my way out of this and on to other things and finding this little ironic kick in the butt kind of helps.

I have only ever served a small geographic area and almost everyone in town knows who  I am if they don’t know me personally. I’m not about to make it easier for the more angry of the idiots who disagree with me to find my house by posting personal contact information – not after I saw what happened to the Mayor last year. This was on the same issue I’ve taken a stand on (on the side of not harming the homeless) and, ultimately, the issue that convinced me to ‘retire’, after 14 years, out of this endeavor. Not the issue per-se but the behavior and attitudes of some of the other ‘citizens’ of our town.

For a while, a few years back, I was posting updates from the police (RCMP around here) but strangely I never ever got updates from the local detachment (neither did the local newspaper) so all the updates I got were from detachments in neighboring communities. I did post those for a while but the lack of local police news made it seem like a local might think it was weird. It was to me but not enough for me to go down to the local detachment and ask why – I guess my feelings of impostor syndrome kept me from acting like a real news outlet. I still get email updates from other detachments but never this one.

Along the way I’ve had a bit of a jaundiced view on the relationship Facebook has with the world, especially external websites.

In earlier days I kvetched multiple times about how Facebook would make it possible for someone to watch the video embedded inside the content in a post on my website without the Facebook user having to leave Facebook. Meaning any supporting textual content was completely missed because they didn’t visit my website – Facebook made that possible. That the website, and content, that I produced and paid for out of my own pocket could be ignored completely because Facebook gave them the the icing but left the cake behind.

They haven’t done this in a while and while I cannot swear I know this was intentional it went on for long enough that I’m confident in feeling that they only changed after enough griping by real organizations with real money behind them asked them to stop. I know they don’t even hear a little guy like me.

I can tell you that if you are a self supporting volunteer trying to be of help to your community the last thing you need is a multi-billion dollar enterprise ripping you off just because they can. Using your content to enhance their product offering – that’s so enraging. It’s hard to describe how angry that can make you but I can understand how some people are driven to their wits end and beyond when it’s affecting your livelihood and that of your employees.

My advice to others who might think of following a similar path:

  • Don’t be afraid or shy of letting the world know you’re a journalist if that’s what you’re trying to be. And let them know what kind of journalist you are – what you write and if you’re being neutral or coming from an angle.
  • Trailblazing? If you’re one of the first down whatever road it is don’t be afraid to point that out so people understand when you aren’t a clone of whatever has followed you. If you don’t then they’ll never know and you’ll pass through  their awareness like smoke disappearing in the breeze. 
  • Stay current – find out where your industry is going so you can at least look current to johnny-come-lately’s who never heard of you and think someone else paved the way ahead of you. If you don’t then their ignorance defines who you are, or are not, to anyone they talk to.
  • Don’t let it get you down when you don’t fit into their frame. It’s not that easy when the frame is used to shut you out from resources and support because they label you as somehow not what you are or deficient in being what you are. That’s life – there is no guarantee. And it’s their money or support so they get to decide who is ‘worthy’ of receiving it. Don’t let their ignorance of your intrinsic worth sap your energy or blunt your determination.
  • 5 – Unless you cannot work with others seriously consider bringing someone else into your efforts. If nothing else adversity is much easier to deal with if you’re not alone. And quite often two minds are better than one. My biggest problem was I wasn’t confident anyone who ‘volunteered’ to help wasn’t going to land me in hot water with their personal agenda leaking through into their words. And I was proved correct enough that I stayed alone for too long.

I find it rather ironic that Facebook is reaching out to an industry it has helped savage. That a Rumor Mill, the biggest the world has ever seen, is reaching out to lend some support to actual news gathering and dissemination.

More people fools than ever before are finding their ‘news’ from what others say and share on Facebook. And, unlike Twitter, Facebook doesn’t appear to have any compunction about allowing malicious, fake, skewed ‘reporting’ to take place on its site. And if the political machinery that uses it, and doesn’t want to be censored, gets its way that won’t change any time soon.

As journalistic operations get worn down in the grinding gears of change and reduced again and again by the ensuing economic factors their sizes get smaller and smaller. To the point that once employed news people have to go out on their own in the new Gig Economy to try and become independent stringers: on-screen-out-of-studio interviewers, copy writers and camera people who now subcontract to the organizations they were once employees of.

Does this new Facebook initiative have any room for supporting them now that they’re been forced out of the fold? Oh, wait – if they’re loners we already have that answer: No.

Categories
rambling social commentary

Freedom Of The City

I’ve always shied away from tooting my own horn but sometimes things happen and you should let the world know.

Yesterday the city of Grand Forks BC honored me with a presentation of Freedom Of The City which, apparently, is the highest honor a municipality can confer on an individual.

I guess you could say I’ve done a few things for the community since I came here 16 years ago and this is one of the ways they can show their appreciation.

The paper work mentions a section in the community charter that defines local government so I looked it up.

Freedom of the municipality

158   (1)A council may, by unanimous vote, confer freedom of the municipality on
(a)a distinguished person, or
(b)a distinguished unit of the armed forces of Canada or another nation.

(2)Unless the council revokes the honour, a person given freedom of the municipality or the commander of the armed forces unit, as applicable

(a)is deemed to be an elector of the municipality and is eligible to be registered as such and to vote in an election for mayor or councillor, and (b)despite any other enactment, if the person is a Canadian citizen, is deemed to be qualified to be nominated, be elected and hold office on the council.

In a previous time back in the old country, where this tradition comes from, I’d be called a Freed Man (Freeman) of the City and no Owner in that town could make me a Vassal ever again. At various times and places I might have been given a ceremonial Key to the City. In this day and age and locale it’s simpler: I get to vote and get to run and be elected to local council. That’s something I get to do by virtue of being a resident and taxpayer here but even if I didn’t live here the honor would mean I would still have those rights in this city. And I’d imagine the right would still be in effect even if I move to a different place.

Another aspect of this has to do with how you are regarded.

Nicknames are things that are bestowed upon you – you’re not supposed to give them to yourself (unless you are a raging narcissist like a certain President that will go unnamed here). There are other terms that are earned and given – I find that I am now a ‘distinguished person’. I must admit I’ve never thought of myself so though.

And I’ll admit this isn’t the first time something like this has been awarded to me – I was Volunteer Of The Year in 2018 and Community Volunteer (of the year) in 2013.

I mention this in my speech and I’ll repeat it here:

If you have a skill set, an aptitude, a talent or inclination to help out and you’re feeling lost in the crowd in the big city maybe you could give a thought to moving to a small town where the crowd isn’t so small and you and your contribution can be a real help to the community.
In that big city crowd many efforts by individuals get lost in the efforts of the many. Living and contributing in a small town you can see the results of your efforts and hence you can really feel like you are making a difference in your community. Plus there’s the added benefit that many rural places have a quality of life that’s missing in larger urban spaces. The lack of many choices for entertainment and amenities may not work for you but if you can live with that you may find that the benefits may far outweigh the downsides.

Some of the story of how I got to this place . . .

When I moved here, in 2004, the local community cable TV channel was still around but all the younger members had moved on leaving a couple of older guys to hold down the fort. I came out to volunteer because there’s no better way to get to know people, and get known, than to participate in something by volunteering. As a result I became that guy with the camera who showed up at all those community events and later on it appeared on Cable Channel 10.
I ended up being the last man standing at that channel and if the switch to digital hadn’t taken the ability to go live away I might still be doing it. I suspect that I was one of the last people going live on camera to talk to the viewers while changing content for them to watch – I had complete control of the channel for 2 hours at a time, 3 times a week.

When an election changed regimes at City Hall, in 2006, and they asked for the cables to be hooked up again and someone to come down to broadcast City Council meetings I was that guy. For the past 14 years, and over 400 meetings, even though the owners of the cable station changed and multiple councils came and went I kept on broadcasting council. In 2011 when the switch to digital cable happened and going live was no longer a possibility on cable I switched to recorded live for on-demand video from YouTube because the City was in no position to take it on. Eventually I worked out ways to live stream council as well as make a recording available on YouTube, Facebook and Cable TV.

Eventually I stepped out in front of the camera to take a position on certain things and it wasn’t always smooth sailing. That’s when I found out a bit of how it feels to be in politics because some people began to see me as taking a side and I began being a target. When I came out against the Mayor’s behaviour on a controversial topic I faced the first attempt to have me fired from my volunteer position. From inside council. Thankfully most of council was against that but I did have to out an attempt by one councilor to make me self censor and muzzle myself.

In a later administration when the topic became highly controversial within the city and I wasn’t going along with the crowd I began to feel the anger . . . that changed things for me. And now I no longer broadcast city council meetings.

That was my choice although it wasn’t my desire. Along the road with city council almost everything has been by my choice.

When the digital switch made it impossible to carry on live and the city wasn’t going to do that I had a choice to make: Carry on doing it myself with my own equipment and be a firebreak for any slander suits arising out of council meeting conversations. I carried on.

Mayor Taylor mentions, in the ceremony above, a switch from the cameras being zoomed in and showing councilors’ faces in close-up. His recollection, and words, could leave one with the impression that the decision to stop that was made by someone else but that was my choice and mine alone. He wasn’t on council at the time so he can be forgiven for thinking that.

What actually happened was I was so unhappy with the council of the day that I fired myself temporarily in disgust (one meeting afterward was missed because I had a shift at work that evening). You can watch that on YouTube here. When I returned to broadcasting council I resolved to limit the recording to a single camera at the back of the room and gave no one close-ups.

This was for two reasons: Certain members of council ‘played to the camera’ when they knew it was focused on them. I wanted to stop that and level the field for all. It also saved me an extra 45 minutes work in setup and take down because I had been carting in 4 cameras with tripods, a laptop, a video switcher, a recording device, A/V input devices and all the cabling for every meeting. Setting it all up and taking it all down had actually taken longer than some of the meetings around that time.

In a previous administration I chose to not make on meeting of council available to the public because of liability concerns. A certain councilor had made remarks that others said were libelous and slander. But in the rest of the conversation others made similar remarks and by the end I had to tell them no one would see this meeting unless the people slandered could get their lawyer to give me a quit claim. I was advised by one of them that their lawyer said no so no one has ever seen that meeting.

The only time I actually remember someone else making a decision on how the camera’s should be pointed was at the beginning of the introduction of the Committee Of The Whole to council meetings. In that first meeting the first person to present to council was asked if they wanted the cameras pointed at them or not. Thankfully for democracy they said yes the camera should show their face since they were at a public meeting and appearing before an elected public body. Thank you George L. for choosing democracy.

Along the way I also live streamed (as a volunteer) the Grand Forks International Baseball tournament 3 times. Even though those weeks were some of most grueling there’s a certain excitement to Live Production that makes up for all the anguish and hours or work.

For the past 3 (I think) seasons I’ve been the volunteer camera person for the live streaming of Border Bruins Hockey games.

For a short stint I found myself on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, back when GF had one of its own, and from that saw there was no real community events calendar. So I resolved to fix that and began Whats Up In Grand Forks. I put up a website with a calendar. My co-worker and friend Gregg Anderson suggested making podcasts so every week he and I would pick a different location and shoot a small show highlighting the events coming up in the week ahead. Since we had no studio I considered the whole valley our studio and we tried to shoot in many places, sometimes at the sites of events. Gregg started a Facebook group to go along with the website and for a few years we did this. The show would get shot and a copy made for YouTube, another for Facebook and another for showing on Cable 10. They are all dated now but still available to view on YouTube on the whatsupgf chanel.

Eventually I had a bit of a crisis of faith – people used the Facebook group and hardly visited the website.  I shut down the calendar and production of shows. I thought I wanted to be a news site and began gftv.ca. That’s been going for a while now but sometime before the end of the year it will likely be going away. It turns out there’s far more work involved in being a news site and I’ve got a blind spot when it comes to inveigling others into my plans apparently. Eventually it got reduced to being the place to catch up on city council and not much else. If I’d been the person my detractors wanted people to think I was I could have turned into much more of a bully pulpit . . . but that’s not my style.

Along the way I started a number of websites that went no where (like many web entrepreneurs) and an initiative called Show Off Grand Forks.

Ultimately I’m more of an ideas guy and a lousy business person 😊

I’ll stop this reminiscence now – I’m sure there’s things I’ve missed (like my involvement with local history and writers) but I wouldn’t want to bore you completely. And, as I mentioned at the start, I’m not one who toots his own horn often or much.

Categories
rambling social commentary

Words that come out of my mouth

Every now and then I hear something come out of my mouth and I’m struck by how surprised I am to hear them. (or embarrassed)
In our Writer’s Guild’s last Zoom get together this fell out. I don’t know if it’s original to me or I’d heard it somewhere before but I was struck by it’s simplicity.

It’s hard to change your mind when someone else is doing your thinking for you.

As one of my friends pointed out: Finally something both the Left and Right can agree on

Follow-up

Last night my friend, Lorraine, and I were discussing a number of things and I remarked that it’s an unending source of amazement to me that so many people rely on others to supply them with an opinion or point-of-view on so many things without bothering to learn enough about the subject to form their own opinions.

She countered with reminding me that most people, unlike me, seek out groups they can become part of and groups tend to develop shared ideas, outlooks and opinions.

It was a bit of a jarring moment for me . . . I’ve long felt apart from everyone else, in a way that’s not visible or obvious, but I do go through periods of forgetting that. It took her comment to bring that back into focus.

Some background might be needed here.

When I say ‘apart’ I mean that I don’t look at the world in the same ways that almost everyone in my cohort does. It’s not an easy thing to describe without resorting to a list of examples which I’m not going to try and trot out. But here’s a simple ‘objective’ indicator:

When the Nintendo Wii arrived we purchased one. In the free (built-in?) activities there was one that wasn’t a game or utility. It was the ‘Everbody Votes Channel‘ – a question and prediction channel.

People, Wii owners, around the world were solicited for questions which would then be short listed and then posed to all the other Wii owners.

Questions could be simple binary answer ones like When you put your socks on do you put the left or right on first? Or Boxers or Briefs? Or CDs or Vinyl? After a day which side of a sock is dirtier? (inside or outside) and the final (the service was shutdown) question: When you sleep, your room is . . . ‘completely dark’ or ‘not completely dark’

You would look at the questions and if you chose to ‘play’ give your own personal answer (vote) and then a guess as to which answer would garner the most votes.

After a few weeks the ‘game’ would be considered closed and poll results could be viewed. For the individual ‘questions’ you saw the results and how they compared to your answers.

Over time the system gathered enough data to give you statistics on how you have ‘performed’ over a host of questions.

They showed you how many times you were correct or not (meaning agreed with the popular-by-count vote). And how many times you correctly guessed how the group would vote.

One of the ways they graphically showed this I found to be a striking external verification and example of how I felt ‘apart’. It showed an avatar of you on screen with a small town graphic representing the total group’s Popular Opinion. And it showed you at some Distance From Popular Opinion with that distance calculated from how many times your answers coincided with the group’s. you can see all of this in the images below.

Lorraine was always close in, within ‘6 meters’.
My Mii was way out 404 meters from the group.

It was the first time I’d ever encountered an external metric that coincided with how I felt my relationship with everyone else worked. I don’t know why I was always the last man standing in group living situations – once everyone else had hit the sack I felt something inside switch on and almost heard a voice say “Now they’re gone we can get to work”. (coding happens best late when no one else is up) I still don’t.

When I imagine it in my head I see a picture of a child looking in a picture window at everyone else having a celebration of some sort. They all just fit in with each other and I . . . just don’t. It used to bother me some but with age I’ve found it’s just one of those things you can’t change. If I could I wouldn’t really be me anymore.

On the plus side I find I have to make up my own mind on a lot of things others don’t even give a second thought to. Another thing I’m not sure why about but in this case I’m feeling much better about having my own mind and opinions that are mostly my own (I won’t say I’m immune to others’ influence).

So when I find that reality differs from what is in my mind I can change my mind without waiting for everyone else to get around to some consensus. Same with my opinion about things. And I hope I’m a bit less susceptible to obsolete POVs being propped up by charismatic group members seeing as I’m not really in any particular group, party, club or boat.

If you were looking for a deeper analysis of what it means to be part of a group and how that might affect your POV and your sense of identity . . . I’d only be speculating. Guesstimating based on observation from without without the experience of having to live it. So, no – you won’t find that here.

Categories
social commentary

Arrested Development

Below this beginning is what I’d written last week. Before I got around to posting it I had my own experience that blatantly shows how screwed up the system still is . . . that’s what is stuck at the top of this post.

Bass Reeves is an example from the history of the USA that I did not hear about until I was in my 50s. The fact is that he was a heroic figure that really existed in the wild west of the US – the first Black Deputy Marshall west of the Mississippi, at a time when Blacks still faced a legal system and society heavily biased against them he roamed and lived in the most lawless places and still lived to the ripe old age of 72.

Most people my age, I’m 66, who grew up with John Wayne, Horse Opera and Cowboy movies never heard of him. That is an example of how the history has been retold in ways that eliminate Black heroes (and hide White atrocities against Blacks – see Tulsa Race Massacre)

The reason I include this is because we rented this movie that tells part of his origin story, how he got to be a deputy marshal, and after we’d watched it I noticed something. As I was putting the disc back into the sleeve I glanced at the art on the surface and was gobsmacked by what I saw.

Why is the Black guy not front and centre?

The movie is about his character not the villain. The white actor being given centre stage in the picture may be more well known than the black actor but that black actor has 50 film credits so he is not unknown.

WTF were they thinking doing this?

I do not know who was responsible for the art arranged on the disc but for this movie, in these times, this is a MASSIVE FAIL and an example of someone who is exhibiting MASSIVE CULTURAL IGNORANCE.

When I went to imdb.com to find out more about the black actor I found another example of implicit racism being explicitly displayed for my view. The actor who plays Bass Reeves is David Gyasi . . . his name doesn’t come first in the cast list. Or second. Or third . . it’s fifth. I’m not sure what goes into the algorithm that makes the pages at imdb but it’s perpetuating racial stereotypes and attitudes the way it works right now.

This is the link (hopefully they fix the list) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8652584/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

It would appear that some in Hollywood are still stuck in the 1950s. That’s where their cultural development got arrested.


I have, in the past, thought about the idea that cultures, national cultures, grow and evolve and go through changes and are multifaceted just like human beings are in their psychology.

Human beings have different parts of them that are involved in doing things – like there’s a part of you that has to do the work-a-day life to earn a living to pay the bills etc etc but there’s another part of you that has maybe a romantic side or another part of you that’s into recreation and then when you look at politics there’s a whole other set of value systems that come into play in your judgments of how things work and how you feel about things. 

When you look at cultures, the culture of nations, you see a similar set of things. There’s lots of facets that represent different parts of what the nation, and that peoples’ national identity, are and what they do.

There’s the economy, there’s the arts, there’s health, there’s politics, social considerations, and of course there’s entertainment and recreation.

Something occurred to me, watching a news piece about the UK having to deal with, still today, having to deal with racism. People holding protests. Black Lives Matter. And they’re talking about systemic racism within the UK and the system of government and policing . . . and at that point I just had this thought.

Both the UK and the United States, the nation where a lot of these protests began, both of them had slavery at one point within their history as nations. And then they stopped having it.

Step back and look at that.

They just ended slavery. But the parts of their culture which deal with the interrelationship between people of different colors and racial backgrounds and their relationship to other people and other groups within the national identity of different colors and how those individual groups relate to the government of the nation – that should have actually been allowed to evolve and mature. But it was not.

The UK ended slavery before America did. 

They already had a class system in place even for the whites of the society. When they ended slavery I’m pretty sure that most of the people in white society looked at the people of darker color who had previously been considered possibly property, slaves, as being still not equivalent in class stature or status to themselves.

Because really all they did was say NO, they’re not going to be slaves, but they really hadn’t gone into a whole re-education of the system. Back then we didn’t even talk about that, I’m sure. They didn’t really allow that to change that much.

And the in States the same sort of thing – they ended slavery and they had a big civil war and what happened?

Well they didn’t really resolve the differences between the races and in the south, where they wanted to hold on to a whole bunch of things ‘slavery’, definitely people there – even though they were legally no longer allowed to own others, black people were no longer going to be slaves  – it’s very very clear from the history that the attitudes of the white people didn’t really change much. They definitely regarded the people of color as lower, far lower, than them in the power structure in the world. And over time enacted laws (Jim Crow laws) to keep it that way.

So what I’m getting at here with all this background is there’s a phenomenon we have with human psychology called Arrested Development.

When we think of that we tend to think of adults, and usually adult males (at least in our western culture), who exhibit the behaviors of teenagers. We say that part of them is still stuck at fifteen. It’s arrested development, Like something happened in their life and that part of their personality did not mature, it didn’t grow, it kind of got stuck at some age between 13 and 19. 

So they still act like teenagers when it comes to whatever it is: entertainment, sex, partying, recreation, being daredevils or engaging in risky behavior or whatever.

So if Cultures are in many ways just like human psychologies and human psyches, then you could say that both the UK and the United States suffer from arrested development, And that’s why today all of these protests have to happen because they never resolved this whole issue.

Even though it’s said legally that people of color have the same rights as people who are white, it is really said with one side of our culture’s face. The people in power, whites, didn’t really let them have them. And in many places the white people in power went out of their way to enact things to make sure the people of color, who were at the bottom and trying to get a leg up, were stuck there.

That’s arrested development if I’ve ever heard of it. And that’s why people today are facing all these protests and because it never got fixed back then. 

They’ll fix it sooner or later.

Arrested Development

An aspect of cultural evolution and growth and maturity or cultural immaturity. 

The questions they should have asked way back then are

Why don’t black lives matter enough to us?
What’s wrong with us as a society, and as a people, that we can look at them that way. Maybe there’s something wrong with that.

It’s not their fault, the people of color. That’s a fucked-up problem with our own, white, psychology. The non-blacks Or the people who look upon it that way.

It’s not that this is any revelation or new discovery – I’m not so full of myself to think that. But things like this need to be brought out into the light of day so they can be dealt with so 10 generations on society isn’t having to deal with unresolved issues. So 10 more generations of people of color don’t have to face the same nasty world the previous generations have had to.

And with that I think I’ll stop around here before I begin making a fool of myself.

Categories
politics social commentary

Homelessness As A Product Of Prosperity

An Update:
I originally created this post back in June 2019 but for some reason it ended up in the drafts instead of being published. Since then my speaking out on this issue has resulted in so much aggravation on social media from those who disagree with that I’ve had to tender my resignation from broadcasting / streaming city council. Before it goes too far and people go after my partners business or engage in criminal mischief like they have with the Mayor of our town. (those links may stop working later in 2020 once the hosting runs out on my gftv.ca site and if I decide not to carry on with it)


I’ve been reading this HuffPost article Why America Can’t Solve Homelessness. Hobbes has brought some ideas to my awareness. One of them is the topic of the post.

As the economy has come out of the Great Recession, America’s unhoused population has exploded almost exclusively in its richest and fastest-growing cities. Between 2012 and 2018, the number of people living on the streets declinedby 11 percent nationwide — and surged by 26 percent in Seattle, 47 percent in New York City and 75 percent in Los Angeles. Even smaller cities, like Reno and Boise, have seen spikes in homelessness perfectly coincide with booming tech sectors and falling unemployment.  
In other words, homelessness is no longer a symbol of decline. It is a product of prosperity. And unlike Eric, the vast majority of people being pushed out onto the streets by America’s growing urban economies do not need dedicated social workers or intensive medication regimes. They simply need higher incomes and lower housing costs.

from the HuffPost article Why America Can’t Solve Homelessness

In my 13 years of covering local politics I’ve seen various topics become the major fire under council’s butts. Heavy handed dealing with volunteer organisations. The Deer Problem. Is Garbage Collection really a function of the City? The Universal Residential Water Meters. The Homeless.

Even though our town was hit by the worst flood in its history last year (2018) it’s really that last one, The Homeless, that is the major problem council is taking heat over at this time. This problem was inherited from the previous council in that it was already a hot topic before last fall’s election. And had been the major issue bugging the town and council in these first two years of its 4 year term.

The previous council’s way of dealing with the problem posed by the persistent homeless camps along the river and rising friction between the more scary homeless and the public was to evict the main support they had, soup kitchen / thrift store and bad weather shelter, from the city owned property they occupied. And then tear the building down leaving the non-profit society to fend for itself and find a new location. Simple solution to a complex problem. Except it didn’t solve anything – we still have the homeless. The druggies. The petty thievery.

And rising affluence isn’t just transforming the economic factors that cause homelessness. It is also changing the politics of the cities tasked with solving it. Across the country, as formerly poor neighborhoods have gentrified, politicians are facing increasingly strident calls to criminalize panhandling and bulldoze tent encampments. While city residents consistently tell pollsters that they support homeless services in principle, specific proposals to build shelters or expand services face vociferous local opposition.

Gee – let’s see: I was just reading about a nearby town, Penticton, bringing in stricter bylaws about hanging about and in the article they referred to a recent panhandling bylaw, Bulldozing tent encampments – we just take them down but bulldoze the soup kitchen and shelter. We have the last bit too – more on that coming up,

In our Canadian government system there are governmental entities called Crown Corporations. They are funded by taxpayers. They have mandates. Unlike other parts of the government, such as departments of the various government ministries, a Crown Corp. enjoys certain exemptions. They are on a mandated mission for the Crown and under our parliamentary system the Crown is the head of government. (we have a Queen even though she’s in another country on the other side of the ocean). So they can, and do, behave in a ‘my boss beats your boss’ way when it comes to other members of government.

In my province, British Columbia, there is a crown corporation called BC Housing. It’s mandate is housing for the people of BC. Shelters. Low-income housing. Supportive housing. Transition Houses. People who need it but cannot afford it.

Last year BC Housing responded to the needs of Grand Forks with two housing projects.

One was to provide a little over 50 low income housing spaces. A whole chunk of our town has been told that their properties are going to be bought out. And the land go back to being flood plane. A certain number of the people who lost almost everything last year are low or fixed income. The cost of buying a new house are beyond many. Two years ago they had a house. This year they’re living in trailers or rentals (if they can find them) or doshing down on a friend’s couch or squatting in a house that will eventually go away. The city would like to retain as many taxpayers and spenders as possible. But housing was a problem before and rentals very very scarce. They are there but all full up.

The other BC Housing project is Supportive Housing for the Homeless.

Both projects have gotten a lot of push back though the supportive housing has created the biggest waves. If you read the HuffPost article at the top you’ll remember that this push-back happens everywhere.

People have been offended by the way BC Housing went about the whole process. They employed a numbered company and used an out of town real estate agent to represent the buyer. So the seller had no knowledge of who they were selling to.

BC Housing says that this is because if they were open about their plans inevitably the prices for the properties they desire would get jacked up. That sounds like a valid reason. But I think there’s more to it than that . . . I think that they’d rather side step the onerous and interminable process of public consultation and angry recriminations that would ensue.

Some on City Council felt offended that BC Housing did not consult them. The public feels like they should have had a say as well.

Let’s see how that would go: BC Housing says they want to put in a Supportive Housing project that would house 40 homeless people. Almost immediately the rumours and predictions and scary scenarios would pervade social media. People would start to hammer local politicians with questions about the project. Where will it be? – not in our backyard. Who would be there? – druggies and criminals. Who would pay for all this? – and why all this money for losers? Won’t they bring in druggies from other towns if they can’t fill the beds with the ones from here?

As more and more people’s fears are stoked the more pressure city council will get. I’ve seen the way people treat council and it’s not pretty. They do not understand how it works. Or what council has power over and what it has no power over. If a government is doing something people don’t like then the closest government gets the treatment.

Unlike Provincial or Federal politicians city councillors live in the communities they govern. People can stop them on the street, in the checkout line or anywhere and start questioning. Or complaining. Or threatening – meaning no more votes for you. And most local politicians stand alone without the backup of a political party.

So local politicians are much more amenable to public opinion and petitions and town hall gripe sessions. Savvy civil servants know this. So if you were in the position of BC Housing with a mandate to get x number of housing projects / units done in a given time period then why would you engage with the local political process knowing it will likely bog down and get ugly?

I hear many of the arguments against it. One type in particular I find curious. It goes something like “we’re such a soft touch that they hear about it an come here. Other towns send their problem people here to our town.”

No matter how many times people who are in a position to know the real facts explain the fallacies in those statements the message does not get through. When they say most of the homeless are people who grew up here, that it’s a small cohort that are the real problem . . . either they are not believed or it doesn’t stick.

I’ve heard the local RCMP detachment head say twice that most of the homeless we have are from here and yet people keep ignoring that. Even politicians. When the Mayor mentioned that the bulk of those served by the soup kitchen were poor and elderly and not the thieving-drug-monkeys (not his term but one locals have coined) the gallery loudly scoffed. As if he was joking or telling a lie. When the BC Housing director for a big chunk of the interior of the province told the public that she hears the same fearful mistaken impressions in almost every city she serves it was clear that half the crowd did not believe her.

It’s a relatively easy thing to check on. And if you just watch the national news you’ll see homelessness is a serious problem very many places. But people insist on holding onto the mistaken idea that somehow we’re extra specially bad.

It is true that the homeless have become more of a visible problem in the past while.

I often encounter the idea that the druggies are leaving used needles in public spaces such as playgrounds and parks. Where the unwary can get jabbed.

Perversely many of the same people who pass that horror story on will also express shock and revulsion that the city has put sharps disposal containers in places downtown. It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money they say. It will somehow make the problem worse , , , maybe emboldening the needle users.

When I point out that there were sharps disposal containers posted in public spaces back in 2004 before this latest crush of homeless I get blank stares. Or “See!” as if it backs up their argument somehow.

Every needle places in a disposal container is one that isn’t laying in wait in the grass. (had to point that out to our previous Mayor) But logic doesn’t appear to apply.

This has been a long winded preamble to the topic of the post. Thanks for bearing with me so far. I’m getting to it.

I’ve been turning that idea over in my head. It’s caused me to reflect on some of the things I’ve seen in my life and heard about in history.

The first big Stock Market Crash of 1929 was caused by smart money speculators pumping the values of stocks up because they could. Because so many naive members of the public were putting their money into stocks. And then the smart money was dumping those stocks when they could reap the best profit. Doing this in such a way that the knock-on effect caused a run on the banks which couldn’t withstand that. Artificially valued stocks devalued over a few hours and millions lost everything.

Back in 2008 we had another event instigated by the financial services segment of the economy. Huge collections of crap mortgages were incorrectly valued as good mortgages and used as financial underpinnings for businesses and fortunes. When those mortgages began to fail, as was inevitable given the greedy way the whole thing was done, many people lost billions of dollars.

We’re now learning about how the pharmaceutical industry has been ruining the lives of millions with opiods because it’s profitable to do so. From the makers to the national distributors to the politicians it’s clear that laws will be broken if it means profits will be made. And if people are getting addicted and lives are being ruined in the process they are just roadkill on the path to more profits. CBS 60 minutes lays out how conniving by big pharma enabled a drug like Oxy to be relabelled into a category that helped to create the opiod crisis the USA is in now. You might not be able to view the video but the text is pretty explanatory.

Not long ago I watched a Fifth Estate piece, Kickbacks Caught On Camera, about how most pharmaceutical reps and pharmacies in the largest province in the country regularly break a law that says kickbacks are illegal. That drives the price of medicine up.

Recently I watched a 60 minutes piece on a price fixing scheme where the biggest Generic Drug makers conspired to drive the prices of some medicines up by hundreds of percent. The term I remember from that is that these companies had become “Too Big To Care” about the ultimate user.

I hear about how the USA doesn’t like that China has played a game where companies doing business there were obligated to share their expertise and tech with their Chinese counterparts. The companies complained to US embassy and government officials but didn’t want them to push the topic too much because they didn’t want to be shut out. This kind of technology theft by coercion is one of the problems the USA has with China. It could have been head off decades ago by forcing China to play fair but that wouldn’t work for Big Business so it was left alone.

Time and time again we learn about how Big Business is caught screwing the system. Engaging in criminal behaviour, damaging behaviour, hurtful behaviour – all in the name of profit.

Add to that the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us. The downward pressure on the middle class.

Real Estate prices are rising fast. Vancouver BC has become one of the most expensive cities to live in in the whole world. Families with both parents employed find it hard for afford property. Some families are living with other families as room mates just so they can have a house.

Vancouver and Toronto have been drivers of house pricing in Canada over the past few decades. Price rises in these cities eventually are followed by rises in smaller markets.

But now we learn that a significant driver of pricing in Vancouver has been money laundering. Not just in the real estate market but also in government regulated casinos. Apparently for a number of years people could show up with bags of cash – literal bags of cash – and the casino would take it in and later on pay money back. Clean money. And when regulatory agents reported and warned about this nothing happened. Action was stifled at a high, political, level. Because someone was making a profit somewhere.

So those who are really rich, and some who work for them, manipulate the system in ways that enrich them but impoverish everyone else. It’s a game that only the wealthy can play without suffering.

I can see how people have a problem with Capitalism. While it might rightfully be the Capitalists that are the problem the system is the way they want it to be. Because they can afford to make it that way.

So how do you fix that?

Well for homelessness you might look to Finland.

Categories
social commentary

Finally – Drug Execs Are Going To Prison

The Opiod crisis is an engineered, profitable, enterprise foisted on us by Drug Companies. That’s not a paranoid conspiracy theory anymore – it’s now a fact backed by investigations by journalists and government. Now the crisis is out of control with street Fentanyl flowing into the black market from China, but it began, and was majorly fueled, by US drug company executives with no moral compass, no scruples and a strong case of greed.

Finally the government is striking back and drug company executives are facing prison time. People have died in the thousands . . . too bad they couldn’t be facing homicide charges also.

Maker InSys had a Fentanyl-based spray it was marketing. The company has gone through the mill already and its founder is heading for a 5 year prison stay. Other execs are also donning the orange jumpsuit crowd.

seven Insys executives and employees were found guilty of racketeering conspiracy, an offense introduced in the 1970s to pursue organized crime, as well as charges of wire fraud conspiracy and mail fraud conspiracy. As well as Mr Kapoor, Mr Babich and Mr Burlakoff, they include Richard Simon, national director of sales, and Michael Gurry, who oversaw the unit responsible for getting reimbursements from insurers. Both received sentences of 33 months. Two regional sales managers were also convicted.

Their greed was so extreme they even made a rap video for themselves about how good business was.

“I realize how gross and disgusting and offensive it is now, but I was just so impressed with the work and the money and the detail that they put into it, I was like, emotional,” he said.

Mr Burlakoff said at first he admired the video but now views appearing in it as one of his biggest mistakes.

“I showed it to my wife and my kids and they enjoyed it. They didn’t know anything about Subsys or titration and that patients were actually dying as a result of it.”

Mr. Burlakoff was Head of Sales for InSys

Read more about in this article at PBS Frontline.

I can hardly wait to see who heads to the dock next. There’s a lot to choose from.

Categories
social commentary Uncategorized

Banksters Bag 60 Billion and EU Govs Going After Them

Apparently there’s been a huge heist going on for the last 15 years. We’re just starting to hear about it now after 60 billion dollars has been siphoned out of government treasuries by this little bit of banker trader magic they didn’t actually have a law preventing it because they figured it was so illegal or bad they didn’t really need a law.

Well as they know in China all too well if there is no law saying you can’t do it people will go ahead and do it.

This little trick essentially allowed investments to yield twice the tax write-off.

The scheme was built around “cum-ex trading” (from the Latin for “with-without”): a monetary maneuver to avoid double taxation of investment profits that plays out like high finance’s answer to a David Copperfield stage illusion. Through careful timing, and the coordination of a dozen different transactions, cum-ex trades produced two refunds for dividend tax paid on one basket of stocks.

https://nyti.ms/37mqfYT

It May Be the Biggest Tax Heist Ever. And Europe Wants Justice. https://nyti.ms/37mqfYT

From the article it would appear that once bankers and traders learned of cum ex it did not take them long to get on board and just start fleecing the EU for all the money they could get.

To me this is very reminiscent of the way the banking industry got into a mess with bad asset backed credit default swaps, you remember the little thing that dealt the world’s economy a body blow back in 2008. It turned out that almost a whole industry was engaging in the kind of wishful thinking that the balloon would never burst and the party would go on forever.

Well it looks like that’s what’s been going on for a while now with cum ex. Now the countries want their money back and they’re going after banksters and lawyers and anybody else involved. Germany itself had 56 investigations yielding 400 targets, individual banksters. Lawyers and Law firms involved are not immune from this. Could be very interesting.

American bankers didn’t try cum-ex at home because they feared domestic regulators. So they moved operations to London and treated the rest of Europe as an anything-goes frontier. Frank Tibo, a former chief tax officer at a bank where Mr. Shields and Mr. Mora worked, said American and British cum-ex traders regarded the Continent as a backwater of old economies ripe for swindling.
”There was this culture in London, and it really came from New York,” he said. “These guys were either from New York or trained in London at New York banks, and they looked at Europe as their playground. People at the highest levels were collaborating to rip off countries.

emphasis mine

So it’s a strategy developed in the USA but never used in the USA. I wonder if the US government will protect US financial workers who stashed their ill-gotten gains in the US banks. If Europe decides to go after that will Washington go along? Trump is oft quoted as seeing any money within his grasp as being his money, so if the banksters make nice with him maybe he’ll shield them. It wouldn’t be the first time he went to bat to shield some american from european justice. (I think he enjoys poking the EU in the eye any chance he gets)

And it won’t be easy going after them – you have to explain the illegality for jurists and that will prove to be quite difficult apparently.

Academics have struggled for years to explain the trade and say its impenetrability is part of what made it so successful — as though someone had found a way to weaponize string theory. At the Bonn trial, defendants spent days walking judges through cum-ex’s nuances, with one baffling slide after another.

Suffice it to say, the goal was to fool the financial system so that two investors could claim refunds for dividend taxes that were paid just once.

The trade was pure theater and required a huge cast: stock lenders, prime brokers, custodians, accounting firms, asset managers and inter-dealer brokers. It also required vast quantities of stock, most of which was sourced from American shareholders.

One of regulators, Dr. Hanno Berger, eventually was seduced, by the riches to be made, into joining the side he was tasked with regulating. His reported attitude leaves no question he saw the negative impacts of this way of fleecing the government – here is what he told underlings at one meeting:

“Whoever has a problem with the fact that because of our work there are fewer kindergartens being built,” Dr. Berger reportedly said, “here’s the door.”

Sounds like something Gordon Gekko, from the movies Wall Street and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, would say.

This should be an interesting couple of years. I predict the banksters won’t pay back as much as half of their ill gotten gains. Why? They have money and time on their side – the politicians could be gone with the next elections. Cynical I know but that’s the real world unfortunately.

Categories
social commentary

Speculation versus Society

As I was listening to a news broadcast regarding homeless issues in other cities in my province one of the things that was said, by a person who is currently homeless, was that availability of rental properties has gone down. In other words the number of available rental properties has gone down. So every time you go to apply to rent a place the owners of that place can pick and choose who they want. And of course they would rather not take a chance on somebody who is currently homeless – I get that. 

This triggered a train of thought. 

I have seen the argument put forward that the places where profitability has returned homelessness has soared in the United States. As the increasing profitability, and local economy heating up, drives up prices for goods and services making it more expensive to meet your ends – one of those being shelter.

I was struck by the idea that when you have something that people consider to be a basic requirement for human life such as shelter or food or medicine and someone comes along and shows how you could commodify that and turn a profit on it then it’s just a matter of time before Capitalistic urges and Societal needs clash.

Example: Fuel or Food?

A few years ago people were getting very concerned about the idea that Petroleum, from which we get Gasoline, was getting scarcer to find and more expensive to produce. When they get concerned about gasoline, the price goes up and the moment that the price goes up people look for other ways to make more profits off of it.

When they were thinking there might be a shortfall in actual petroleum, growing corn for ethanol became seen as a viable alternative. And a lot of talk happened about the competition between gas tanks and stomachs for that corn.

Farmers were looking at the possibility of producing corn for gas tanks rather than for stomachs because gas tanks pay more. What an idea!

People who produce food making a choice to produce it for commercial and industrial concerns as opposed to feeding people.

Example: Short Term Rentals

A while back somebody came up with the bright idea of short-term rentals instead of long-term rentals And Air B&B was born. 

When you look at how many rental units are available in a given local economy and how many people there are that need rental units you get a certain equation. When the owners of a lot of those rental units en mass decide to take them out of the long-term rental market and put them in the short term rental market that means that the actual available number of rentals for long-term rental goes down but the number of people looking for long-term rentals hasn’t.

So the competition for a rental property increases as more people think about turning rental properties into short-term rental commodities

This adds more action to the real estate market. With people looking to buy places that they can do this with and since they’re looking at these places as earners and not places where they want to live they are more inclined to pay more money for them than they would if they were buying them for their own, personal, use. That’s Speculation.

That helps heat up the real estate market which raises up prices. As property values rise so does taxes. When prices go up what happens is there’s pressure on people who are actually doing long-term rentals to increase what they charge in rent because their costs go up. So if you’re looking for a long-term rental, or you’re actually looking to buy a place for yourself to live in you’re facing increased prices and increased competition. 

Example: Healthcare

Here in Canada we have socialized medicine, but down south of border in the United States it’s not that at all – health costs are the number one cause of personal bankruptcy.

There are people here in Canada who would rather see us have a medical system like the US where if you have the money you can get treatment right away. You don’t have to wait.

I understand their frustrations with waiting, believe me I do, but here’s the thing: the way things have become in the United States everybody needs to get some sort of Health Care insurance. Unless you’re really really rich you really can’t afford to take your own healthcare costs on by yourself 

So most people are in some sort of plan that is part of some sort of Managed Health Care.

Now the Health Care Management organizations have doctors and hospitals and arrangements with drug suppliers on the one hand and and they have arrangements with patients on the other hand. They sit in between and they still make some profits. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EIKzjS8WsAE9Ges?format=jpg&name=large

Think about that.

You can’t go right to the doctor of your choice. You can’t go right to the hospital of your choice. You can’t go right to the pharmacies and get your stuff. You go through your Healthcare management organization.

That Healthcare management organization is supposedly there to make things easier on you. But they’re also there to make a profit off of you as a subscriber. And they’ll have to make a profit off of the services they provide which means that the doctors who work for them are basically employees. They have a proscribed list of things they cannot do. Drugs they cannot prescribe to people and a list of things they can actually do and that their Healthcare Management company will actually cover or pay for it.

The idea that some major corporation could get in between the customer and the provider of a service and somehow make the whole thing better and still make a profit and keep the costs under control is patently ridiculous. These companies are not in the business of being there for social good. They’re in the business of being there to bring profit to their shareholders.

If you don’t believe me then consider that people in the USA pay far more for the same services than others in other countries.

Example: Medicine

In the Healthcare sector which sub-industry makes the most money? So much that they have year after year profit increases above 20%?
Why it’s the companies that make the drugs and medicines!

In recent years we’ve seen multiple examples of businessmen buying drug companies that have needed drugs, which come from no other supplier, so they could then jack the prices of those drugs through the roof (1, 2) to increase profitability and milk them for all the profits that they could get. Patients who need these drugs just have to pay more. The health management companies will have to pay more.

At least one speculator like this, Martin Shkreli, has gone to prison and others have faced financial ruin but that does not stop others from trying to engage in the same profit-taking moves. Putting dollars ahead of people’s lives and health because they can.

Exaggerated profit-taking even gets to the generic drugs. These are the drugs which have gone off patent which means that anyone can produce them. You would think that drugs which have gone off patent, and can be produced by generic drug makers, would see competition and that would drive prices down but there is strong evidence that shows that generic drug companies have been colluding to elevate the prices and keep the prices high.

Example: Prisons

The USA incarcerates more of its own people than any other country. One of the consequences of the ‘war on drugs’ was a huge increase in the number of people imprisoned.

The increasing costs of the penal system became seen as a potential business opportunity and a case was made that this is something private businesses could do for less cost.

So now more people are in privately run prisons than government run facilities.

Do you think it’s harder to get out of a private prison than a government one?

The government doesn’t want to house you any longer than they have to – it costs the taxpayers money. So they have an incentive to create conditions and programs that help convicts work towards earlier release and find better opportunities and be less likely to re-offend after they leave.

The for-profit prisons budgets are ultimately tied to how many convicts they have to take care of in any given budget cycle. Their understood incentive is to house as many convicts as they can and keep them for as long as they can. They may claim there are other factors that work against this thinking but I would suggest those are window dressing on a deal that stinks.

There’s at least one instance, Kids for Cash, of judges engaged in deals with for-profit prisons to send more offenders there than into programs that see no incarceration. In that case the victims were juveniles. We have no way of knowing how many other similar case exist where those involved weren’t so stupid they got caught.

Corporations are not in the business of being good society members – no – they are in the business of making profits for their shareholders plain and simple.

At the turn of this century when scholars were looking at the future they predicted that the major cause of warfare in this coming century will be over Water. And as it becomes more scarce it becomes a valuable commodity.

When I was a child there was next to no sales of water to the individual unless your local water supply was problematic. Now we have a generation of people who have grown up with bottled water for sale almost everywhere. At some point fresh clean water, one of the most basic substance needed for humans to survive, will become something you can only get if you have the money . . .

So to come back to my original proposition: Anytime someone comes up with a new way to commodify, or make a profit, off of something that everyone else considers to be a basic human need it is just a matter of time before Capitalist urges and Societal Needs Clash.

Categories
astrophysics rambling social commentary

Stretching Conventional Wisdom Too Far

Today found me reading an article (https://phys.org/news/2019-10-giant-radio-galaxies-defies-conventional.html) about research into the far distant universe.

In this case the research was “New research on giant radio galaxies defies conventional wisdom”.

The article begins with this summation:

Conventional wisdom tells us that large objects appear smaller as they get farther from us, but this fundamental law of classical physics is reversed when we observe the distant universe.

https://phys.org/news/2019-10-giant-radio-galaxies-defies-conventional.html

Now I understand conventional wisdom (CW) and why it would tell us that: CW operates within the scope of human scale thinking that has obtained since time immemorial to us humans. And yes things that are further away do appear smaller.

But CW appears to have suffered arrested development sometime in the 19th century (the era of Classical Physics) – before we discovered:

  • that light takes time to cover distances.  So the further away something is from us the light we see from it comes from further back in time.
  • that almost everything in the universe is moving away from us at increasing rates of speed the further it is.
  • that this universe we live in was once a small thing that experienced a Big Bang and expanded enormously (and still appears to be expanding)

My own version of CW knows these things and takes them into account. So when I read that opening paragraph I was a bit perplexed – why would anyone with the same basic cosmology education I got think that the things we see very far out there, from very long ago, would not appear to be larger?

Confused?

Let’s see if my basic logic can help you follow this . . .

We think the universe is about 13.6 Billion Years old (13.6 GY) .
This also means that the edge of the visible universe is 13.6 GLY (Billion Light Years) from us.
That means when we see some object or structure 10 GLY from us the light was emitted 10 GY ago when the universe was just 3.6 GY old.

Good so far? (if not go back, reread and rethink about that – we’ll wait for you 🙂

Okay – this is where it gets interesting.

The universe is expanding.
Hubble was the first to discover that there was more universe our there than just what we saw in our galaxy. That the nebulae were actually other galaxies outside our own Milky Way.
He measured the spectra of their light and found that these were shifted towards the Red end of the spectrum.
He noticed that when he measured the red shifts of objects at inter galactic scales the further the object was from us the more red shift it had.
Meaning not only that these things are moving away from us (otherwise there would be no shift in the spectrum) BUT the ones further away are moving away faster than the closer ones.

Eventually we worked out that this is because the universe is expanding and has been since the beginning it apparently had.
One way to think about it is that measuring stick that once crossed the universe is still there but the gradations on its scaling are getting smaller in size and larger in number. (much the same as a dollar from 50 years ago is still a dollar today but due to inflation how much you can buy with it has shrunk – in both case we call this inflation)

At a very very early stage of the universe the structures formed occupied a certain fraction of the size of the actual universe.

At the age of 3.6 GY the universe was 3.6G LY in radius.
And let’s say that a large galaxy of 500,000 LY in size had formed and a monster black hole at its centre had been spewing and feeding the huge polar lobe structures we now know that they form.

These lobes are typically larger than the galaxy that spawned them. So let’s say these grow to 750K LY in size. Two of them plus the galactic bulge between could span 2 Million LY.

In a 7.2 GLY diameter universe 2 Million LY is a fraction of 2/7200 or 2.78×10^-10. That is the size and fraction of the size of the universe it was when if formed 10 GY ago.

Moving forward in time to Now.

The universe has expanded to 27.2 GLY diameter. This is approx. 3.778 times the size it used to be 10 GY ago.

All the structures that existed 10GY ago that do NOT have a strong gravity well to hold all their parts close in have also expanded in size.

So the galaxies themselves might have enough mass within them to keep most of their masses within their gravity wells . . . the ejected stuff further outside the well’s mouth will be subject to this universal expansion.

In the cases of Radio Galaxies the lobes of radio emitting gases and plasma may well fit in this category.

So lobes that were 750K LY in diameter would have grown to 2,833 LY in diameter after 10G years of expansion.

If you buy into the expanding universe you have to also buy that structures evolved Billions of years in the past cannot fail to appear larger now than old-style Conventional Wisdom would suggest.

When you look at the Wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_galaxy) on radio galaxies you will find this: “The largest radio galaxies have lobes or plumes extending to megaparsec scales”

A parsec is just over 3.262 LY. A mega parsec is 3.262 Million Light Years.

If we took our example radio galaxy and moved its birth back to 1 Billion Years in the life of the universe (12.6 GY ago) the expansion by now would have been 27.2 times instead of 3.7. So the 750LY lobes would appear to be 10.2LY across now.

Back when I was 12 years old (mid 60s) I learned about Hubble and the Red Shift and the expanding universe. Without benefit of a calculator I could still come up with a size and age of 12.5 GLY size and 12.5 GY age. Admittedly rough calculations by a child but this is how I’ve learned to think about the universe.


Why is that decades have passed – we’re even in a new millennium now – and that child has grown into a gray haired man but still our Conventional Wisdom is stuck somewhere before my grandparents were born?

Perhaps that is part of the problem our society appears to have in relating to science and technology. If you sound like you’re a scientist or know science you’re some kind of ‘elite’ and that’s a bad thing in the current political climate pervading society.

The idea that scientific fact and theory are being relegated to being ‘just another opinion with as much credence as the opinions of politicians and snake oil salesmen and charlatans’ scares the crap out of me.

Back when the Khmer Rouge emptied the cities they had a purge of \intellectuals’. Anyone who wore glasses was automatically branded an intellectual and sent to camps to be worked to death. Why? Because they could read . . .

When I see the wholesale discarding of science and scientists in favour of political expedience; denial of evidence based predictions because they prescribe hard-to-do solutions; I have to ask how did we come to this?

People want the world to make sense.

If the brightest brains tell them the world is so strange that they would not understand it even if they could understand the science all they hear is: you’re too stupid to understand this stuff – leave it to us. (which implies a classification-by-smarts system where the scientists are smarter and therefore in a higher class)

I know most scientists aren’t out to lord it over the normal people but that’s one possible take-away that non-science people get.

In better times they might get other, less negative, take-aways . . . but not now. Now there’s so many ‘alternative truths’ floating about being spouted by ‘truth tellers’ it would be very hard for the uneducated to filter out the crap from the facts. And most of those sources push some form of the negative take-away. Reinforce the idea that you cannot trust science and scientists. And most of those web denizens are engaged in reaching out to the non-science-people in the world. Like most media outlets they make money from the eyeballs and views and clicks they garner. So the more egregious and outlandish or scary the claims they make the more money they make. Truth is secondary.

A good education is pretty much free on the web as well . . . why most do not avail themselves of it is another issue.

I wasn’t trying to be preachy – just scratching an itch.

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social commentary

Veterans for Trump waited months for Facebook to help after their page was hijacked by a North Macedonian businessman

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/09/17/popular-facebook-page-vets-trump-seemed-be-place-former-military-months-macedonians-controlled-it/

In case there’s a pay wall in the way of the article: Essentially a Facebook page started by patriotic veterans in the USA was taken over by some business guy in Macedonia and it took months for the Americans to get Facebook, an American company, to hear their plea for help.

It’s interesting that even in this era of heightened awareness of foreign disinformation efforts to meddle with US politics it took months for these people to get Facebook’s attention – and that only really happened after they said they’d buy advertising.

I’ve read in other places about how hard it is to get the attention of a human being at Amazon or YouTube. Even after your Amazon marketplace business has been hijacked or scuppered by bad actors you have to spend thousands of dollars and months of time to ‘correct’ the situation with Amazon.

It appears that these digital Titans are loathe to employ real humans to do customer service and support because that would bite into their profits too much. So they appear to think they can get away with automation as much as possible. And there’s a never ending series of tales of woe that result from this no matter if it’s customer, vendor or employee relations involved.