Happy Earth Day

Here is a little music from nature in honour of Earth Day.

You can watch more of Diego Stocco’s videos on his Vimo page, or visit his website Diegostocco.com


For valentine’s day, I thought I would post something about preventing spousal violence.

Earlier this year, a Justice Canada federal study was released, which details the incidents and costs of spousal violence. There are some interesting findings from the study. For one thing, the study estimates that the costs of spousal violence are very high: an estimated 7.4 billion per year in Canada (and this is said to be a deliberately conservative estimate). The costs include things like legal bills, emergency room visits, lost wages due to time off from injuries, the costs of personal safety measures such as paying for call display to identify stalking spouses, and possible moving expenses to escape the spouse.

Here is the findings on the incidence of spousal violence as reported by The Toronto Star:

Drawing on a Canada-wide police database, researchers found almost 50,000 cases of spousal violence reported to police that year, more than 80 per cent of them involving female victims. The cases included 65 homicides, 49 of them women. (Source: Beeby)

Here is the break-down of the costs associated with spousal violence by gender:

Altogether, total costs were conservatively estimated at $4.8 billion for female victims and $2.6 billion for male victims. (Source: Beeby)

I think that is interesting. Note that according to the study, 80% of the victims of spousal violence are women and 20% are men, but violence committed against men accounts for 35% of the costs associated with spousal violence. The Star article does not describe why the costs are higher for men than for women. If I had to guess I would say that the higher costs are likely associated with the wage gap, since men earn more than women on average, their time away from work would be more expensive. But that is just a guess. Perhaps the issue is that men have more disposable income on average than women do, and so men spend more on their own protection than women do. Beeby mentions that the study found that 80% of the costs of violence are born by the victim themselves (the remainder is born by public services and employers). I am not sure what else might account for the difference.

So this study shows that shelters save money. But they also save lives. It is interesting to note, however, that shelters tend to save men’s lives more than women’s lives:

Let us look at the statistics and see who is murdering whom. Going back to the 1970s we learn that the domestic homicide rates in the U.S. were about the same for men and for women, around 1,000 such killings per year.

Coming to today, the latest figures available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics provide a comparison of intimate homicide rates for 2005 compared with 1976. Here is the official breakdown for 2005: 329 males and 1,181 females were killed in that year by their intimate partners. Clearly men are much more likely to kill their partners than women are to kill theirs. We know from other research that same-sex homicide is predominantly male, a fact of some significance in the statistical breakdown because some of the male intimate homicide victims are not killed by women at all but by their male partners.

Returning to the discrepancy between the decline in the rates of female-on-male domestic homicide and the male-on-female rates, Statistics Canada (1998, 2005, 2010), and other Canadian sources reveal the same trend has occurred in Canada since the years that the women’s movement took shape. For the year 2009, for example, three times as many Canadian women were killed by spouses and ex-spouses as were men.

So what is the explanation for this striking decline in women killing their partners? Researchers including myself attribute the decline to the fact that women who often killed out of fear for their lives now had an alternative avenue of escape thanks to the availability of women’s hot lines and domestic violence services, including shelters. (Keep in mind that women who kill their partners are generally battered women, whereas men who kill are often striking out due to a break-up or threatened break-up.)

“Exposure reduction theory” is the term coined by Wells and DeLeon-Granados in a 2004 article to explain this phenomenon of the significant decline in male homicides by their partners. This theory holds that if a woman can escape from a dangerous battering situation, she will do so, and that if she resorts to using lethal partner violence, it is most likely a protective mechanism. In any case, it is a paradox, rarely realized that the proliferation of domestic violence prevention for which women and victims’ advocates have fought so hard is saving the lives of battering men more than of battered women. Many of the female victims who obtain help from domestic violence services are eventually stalked and killed. (Source: van Wormer)

Shelters provide women a way of escaping violent relationships, and this is more likely to save their male partner’s life than to save the woman’s own life. Clearly, we still need to be doing more for women, but what exactly? Would men’s shelters help reduce homicide of female partners? Van Wormer’s article is not as clear on that. She does suggest that stresses like job loss might increase the rate at which men kill their partners:

So we can conclude that socio-economic status is clearly a correlate of the male-on-female killings. In contrast, the economic factor is less striking in the female-on-male intimate homicide rates. We should also consider the fact that the recent rise in the numbers of murder-suicides and whole family slaughters is correlated with the high unemployment rates for men. (Source: van Wormer)

So shelters clearly help, and if job loss is correlated with spousal homicides by men, shelters should continue to be funded during times of recession. It is great that shelters save men’s lives, but we still have work to do thinking about how we can reduce the rate of women who die at the hands of their intimate partners.

Link Round-Up

Dean Beeby “Spousal violence costs Canadians billions, study findsThe Toronto Star. December 24, 2012.

Katherine van Wormer “Women’s Shelters and Domestic Violence Services Save the Lives of Men,” Psychology Today. December 11, 2010.

Katherine van Wormer “Reducing the Risk of Domestic Homicide” Social Work Today. Vol. 9 No. 1 P. 18. January/February 2009.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 15,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Against Liberty and Freedom

John Stuart Mill by John Watkins 1865

John Stuart Mill by John Watkins 1865

Note: This is not really a post. These were some notes that I was saving to work on a post later. I had scheduled this to automatically publish in order to encourage myself to work on it instead of just leaving it as I do most drafts that I write. Unfortunately, I got really ill and forgot about it. So here are some notes for a post that I was going to tidy up and write later.

The other day I wrote about a 2005 list of the top-ten most harmful books from a conservative perspective. I described one of the things that I found odd about the list, namely the stance against critical thinking skills. Today I want to comment on a second thing that I find odd about the list: It has a strong illiberal streak. When I say it is illiberal, I don’t mean ‘liberal’ in the way this is sometimes contrasted with conservatism; I mean ‘liberal’ in the sense of liberty and freedom, two values that many conservatives claim to uphold and hold dear.

I’ve written in the past about some of the different ways to understand the concept of liberty of freedom, and how the Tea Party seems to reduce freedom to not paying taxes. I find it difficult to understand what exactly Republicans have in mind when they invoke the concept of freedom, and this post continues my attempt to uncover how conservatives use the concept of liberty and freedom.

One of the books that does not make the top ten, but gets honourable mention on the list is John Stewart Mill‘s On Liberty. I find it very strange that this book should make the list at all since in this text Mill provides some of what are widely considered the best defences of the liberties many Republicans claim to hold dear. Mill writes in defence of freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion  and freedom of the individual.

Here again is a passage from Dewey’s Democracy and Education:

Dewey on the relationship between education and freedom

Dewey explains how without education workers don’t understand how their work contributes to the social good, and so their labour does not reflect their own ends, but instead the ends of their employers. This robs workers of their freedom. From Democracy and Education, page 249.

This also helps me understand, to an extent, the hostility to the Arts and Social Sciences (well, except for economics which is also a social science) that one sometimes finds in certain commenters on the right. For example, Margaret Wente is almost always deriding students who choose to take philosophy, English, sociology, or anthropology despite having an MA in English herself. (I wrote about Wente’s odd loathing of her own education in an earlier post).

Here is an interesting discussion about Melissa, a Republican who had to move to Canada and changed her mind about Universal Health Care after experiencing it. She also discusses abortion policy in Canada a little bit. In a separate post Melissa describes why she used to fear Universal Health Care.

The comments on the first piece are interesting, too. Many sound like they learned something. There are a number of Canadians showing up to gloat (we love talking about how great our health care is). But this is probably the saddest comment I read there:

I am not in favor of Universal Health Care on principle. it all sounds so good, but you are giving your freedom of choice completely away. The government becomes your provider, not God. You become dependent on the government and worship it instead of God.

I don’t think Obama care is the solution. Government taking away from some to give to others is not charity is stealing. you can’t force charity on people. God doesn’t do it, why should government or anyone do it??

on the surface, UHC looks good, but it’s a web of deceit.

PS I don’t have insurance and I pay cash for all my health care. I have 4 children.

This outlook is very unfamiliar to me.  I think this (anon) commenter is wrong about giving your freedom away: we have lots of choice in Canada. But the idea that the government replaces God? That is what seems unfamiliar to me. I don’t see how a company providing insurance doesn’t replace God in the exact same way.

Idle No More

This is not really a post, as much as a collection of links. Usually I try to write some thoughts, but today I am deep in marking. Nevertheless, I wanted to provide some links to help counter the media silence around the Idle No More movement. On December 10, 2012, a number of Canada’s First Nations came together around the country to protest the legislative changes Harper is making to the Indian Act and the erosion of environmental protections (among other things). The Indian Act has always been a racist and terrible piece of legislation (for example, this legislation served as the template for South African apartheid), but these changes are making things worse, not better.

Link Round-Up

Idle No More’s Website and Blog, which includes their manifesto describing the reason behind the protests.

Anishinaabewiziwin “Everyday Cry: Feeling Through Ogitchidaakwe’s Hunger Strike” by Waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy. December 27, 2012. This is a great piece. I think everyone should read it. It moved me to tears.

Zig Zag Warrior “Idle No More? Speak for Yourself…Warrior Publications December 12, 2012. A critical perspective on the protests.

âpihtawikosisân “The natives are restless. Wondering why?” âpihtawikosisân December 11, 2012.

Trevor Greyeyes “Keep up the Pressure with Idle No MoreThe First Perspective December 11, 2012.

Andrew Loewen “Idle No More & Settler-Colonial Canada” The Paltry Sapians December 11, 2012. (lots of pictures and videos of the Edmonton march at this link)

Nora Loreto “Idle No More: Non-Indigenous responsibility to actRabble.ca December 10, 2012.
IDLE NO MORE: CANADA’S FIRST PEOPLES ARE RISINGIndigenousRising December 10, 2012.

5TruthsYouCannotDisagreeWithSo there has been this photo going around Facebook that allegedly shows why certain Republican beliefs are “Truths” that no one can argue with. But in fact none of these are ‘truths’ (whatever that means), and none of them are ‘facts’ that could be empirically verified because most of them involve values that would first have to be unpacked before verification (or falsification) could take place.

Questioning Point #1

For example, with reference to point #1, to actually investigate whether this was ‘true’ one would have to specify what one means by “prosperity” and people can actually disagree about how to measure prosperity. Is prosperity achieved at some absolute threshold or is it relative to what others have? If it is an absolute threshold, then one might disagree with point #1 by pointing out that the levels of taxation that are being proposed are certainly not sufficient to bring people below that absolute level.

In contrast, if one believes that prosperity is relative to what others have, then one has to specify that class of “others.” Are we only talking about ‘others’ within one’s own country or are we talking about ‘others’ across the world? Sticking with others within one’s own society, point #1 would be plainly false. If what it took for me to be prosperous were measured relative to what others in my society have, then lowering what those at the very top have would indeed make those at the bottom relatively more prosperous.

Questioning Point #4

With respect to point #4 many have disagreed with this ‘truth’ including several famous capitalists.  For example, Henry Ford believed that the best way to multiply wealth was to divide it. Although Ford was anti-union, he thought that if he paid workers a wage that would provide them with a comfortable life, then this would provide them with the ability to buy the cars he was producing, and ultimately, this would lead to greater wealth for Ford himself.

Ford wasn’t exactly a socialist, yet he would argue (and could argue) with these alleged “truths.”

This argument seems similar to certain “truths” that have been repeated around American presidential campaigns lately.  But some people disagree, and they do so in a reasonable way. Here is a video of Nick Hanauer at TED, for those of you who don’t like to read. For those of you who do, many of the Hanauer’s arguments, and a link round-up are written out below the fold.

Continue Reading »

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