Hurricane Joe Benson (#FreeHurricaneBenson) spent years on appeal before concluding he couldn't fight "City Hall."
"In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake." - Sayre's Law (Wallace S. Sayre)In a small pond, big fish are kings. And intellectuals talking about a rather obscure niche of world recycling policy have become empowered by the smaller audience. You learn that the proportionality of Sayre's principle cuts both ways... the big stakes questions about recycling policy go "whoosh" over the heads of local decision makers. And the small contracts, small business disputes, small business accusations, and "people from third world countries", can whip City Hall into a frenzy.
Game Theory is the study of strategic actions in multi-decision-maker scenarios. Game Theorists may use math - especially statistics - to predict how the number of actors involved in a decision affect the outcome. Or they may measure the wealth of the outcome, and how its control affects the behavior of stakeholders and decision makers. Look at it this way - the strategy and outcome of a game of RISK is affected by the number of players. If you have six players, a goal of controlling a continent is much more difficult to achieve than a game with three players. If you get to keep the cards of an eliminated player, timing that player's elimination (so you execute their final play and get their cards) becomes more important than the extra pieces you achieve by controlling a continent.
As players are eliminated, the sea of stakeholders gets smaller and smaller. The stakes in the economy, per player, get larger.
[Note: I'm on my way to New Orleans for the Recycling Innovators Forum... leaving in 20 minutes.]
A small set of stakeholders interested in an outcome starts to resemble a "small pond", as goals and perspectives become less diverse. This in turn defines the law, or the rules about behavior concocted by the remaining participants. But as the economy or stakes become greater, more people want to play at the table. This "game theory" analysis explains a lot about electronics recycling policy, perhaps so much that no one even notices the lack of actual data on the "risks" to be mitigated. Free and fair trade is almost presumed guilty, and in a rush to make rules, any rule may do. And the rules are being made by a small group of players: OEMs, Big Shred, Poverty Pornographers, and the contract managers at City Hall.
Take an online game of poker, with real cash stakes, with players on 5 continents. A vote comes up, which lettering to use on the playing cards, Chinese characters or western Arabic?
Australia, Europe, North America, and South America vote against the Asian card numbering... and like the JDowsett's Ferguson-themed Racism by Bike Blog, the game is subtly biased in a way that a Western observer won't even notice. Language is in many ways a better lens than color or bike-vs.-car for studying how majority behavior dictates systems. Debating use of language used at "City Hall" is a better study for "tyranny of the majority", perhaps, than calling darker skin a "minority" in a world geography, precisely because it takes us away from "You're not Trayvon" jingoism.
Apparently, I'm now defending JDowsett and the Racism by Bicycle Blog. But I'm also trying to demonstrate how finger-pointing do-gooders can create a carnage of collateral damage in a rush to make rules they haven't the time to vet. Primum non nocere ... first, do no harm.
In the emergency rush to make rules about e-waste, driven by the hoax emergency of brown children threatened by scary CRT display monsters, R2, E-Stewards, StEP, EPRA, and others got to choose the deck and make rules. Some of those rules were in conflict with existing rules in the Basel Convention, which explicitly recognizes Joe Benson's right to trade in CRTs for reuse. But they created "guidance documents" to explain those rules. And guidance documents, not laws, were presented in Benson's trial.
By Bullyboys... Somehow, despite the control of the rules by righteous do-gooders, by liberals out to save African children, the collateral damage falls on the wrong side of the track, again.
The irony is that many people who'd resent my questions last month about "checking privilege" are also the most privileged when it comes to owning electronics. IPhone 6 holders, who support Basel Action Network and CAER's proposed bans on overseas trade in used electronics, are the same college kids telling me to check my privilege, telling me I'm not Trayvon Martin. They want to simplify the #Game, and boil down the rules to make trade of used displays from London, listed on Alibaba, and sold to Cairo, a #wastecrime. A two player game - First World and Third World - licenses simpler strategy, like "bans" and "prohibitions".
The "ethical environmentalist" must broaden the common Western lessons of "racism" without losing the effectiveness of liberalism. We don't want to say "gotcha", and the blog may seem cynical when it exposes accidental racism by liberal environmentalists intent on helping. No, don't give up. But in trying to assist the patient's constipation with end of life electronics, don't let go of dialectic, scientific doubt, and extensive debate and review of the rules. Mercury worked wonders as a laxative, a century ago, but it failed in "do no harm".
This blog is not rejecting liberalism. Rather, in finding where it doesn't work, the blog is trying to repair it. Tinkering with liberalism, if you will, trying to make it work better. Studying racism and environmental injustice means one thing if you take a geographic boundary for granted. When liberals make assumptions about Africans, Indonesians, Brazilians based on their own experience, they get a mashup of their domestic racial history and whatever they learned about "the third world on youtube". They are playing poker with Chinese cards, and placing bets that affect players far outside their respective ponds.
Are Interpol and UK Environmental Agency prosecutors "racists"? It's a binary, ad hominem, insult and like "check your privilege", may generate more heat than enlightenment (see link to Cracked). But the concept of "accidental racism" (first coined here, before the song) applies when 4 English speaking players misread the playing cards. Spades are not "a minority". And the Chinese economy is not just larger, it's way more diverse in its "selfish interests" than 15 years ago. Not just raw material, labor, and government control, NYT diagram shows the GameTheory players changing, as China's economy more resembles Taiwans. The more different ways a game makes money, the more interest the players have in stable government. That's a huge difference between Pacific China and, say, the Arab World. And Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation, shows that religion and skin color have nothing to do with it.
I have now collected almost all the documentation on the notorious case of #freehurricanebenson, and it's dozens of pages. In the end, the UK prosecutor was using "guidance documents" from the EU, and applied a suggestion for assurance (PAT test) as a mandatory requirement under Basel Convention - i.e. interpreting Basel Convention to say export for repair is dumping. It's not, it is explicitly listed as allowed under Basel Convention Annex IX B1110. Keep in mind that the prosecutor did not show that any of the items required repair... he just shifted the burden of proof to Benson, saying that if there wasn't affirmative proof that they didn't require repair (e.g. a PAT test, which ironically Benson HAD done, but wasn't required - the prosecutor actually stated "PAT was not displayed on the container BOL")... Anyway it's clear from the documentation that Benson was tried because what he did walked and quacked like the E-Waste Hoax, and Lord Chris Smith's Environmental Agency was eager to have the first such prosecution ever.
Check your privilege, let them eat cake, unintended consequences... and environmental malpractice. I've done and made the case. Through psychology, game theory, parables, and statistics, we need to digest the mistakes of the "ewaste hoax" and adjust our prescriptions to "fix" the free market. Energy use releases carbon, and energy use costs money, and recycling and reuse save energy... That's a much simpler explanation than Emile Lindemiller's "missing link" to "organized crime". It's all in black and white.
In other words, Sir Lord Chris Smith is the biggest fish in the 2009-2013 #ewaste hoax pond. And Benson, who never went to school and cannot read and write, finally said he couldn't fight city hall. The record of the prosecution looks eerily, spookily, like racial profiling. Whether or not that's the case, #EnvironmentalMalpractice is the result. Independent testing of the goods in Nigeria showed 91% reuse, better than brand new product. I sent Benson's friends that info, but it was too late.
Benson viewed his position on the game board. He saw the dice, and the number of players - environmentalists, courts, journalists, and big shred SWEEP, rolling dice against his position. Financially and morally exhausted, Benson took 16 months in jail to avoid the risk of 60 months, and had to listen to a prosecutor compare him to a rapist. (Nice Willie Horton reference at ya.) Spending the last five years of your 50's in an English jail cell, in order to fight for the right to sell gently used electronics. He resigned.
Lord Chris Smith seemed very sincere during the presentation I attended at the Arlington VA Interpol meeting. He definitely believed his co-presenter, Jim Puckett, that 80% of the exports shipped by people like Joe Benson were burned by children in toxic dumps. But as importantly, there was no other large fish for UK's Environmental Agency to contend with in the court's pond. The was no large manufacturer, no large political figure, no NAACP, no ACLU. I contacted several attorneys seeking help for Benson, but taking a case in another country is not on anyone's pro bono wishlist.
The court documents show... It was a small pond. The handful of spurious evidence they gathered against Benson were not enough to prove habeus corpus (there was none of his "waste" at any dump), but enough to exhaust him morally. After spending on appeal after appeal, Benson gave a Tom Robinson shrug and gave up on the court system. England seemed no so different from the Nigerian legal system he grew up with.
Listen. Hear it? The deafening silence from Basel Action Network. Where is the "Applause" sign?
They know. I sent evidence of the E-Waste Hoax for years BEFORE posting it on this blog.
And yet this week, the Economist, repeated the mantra... that 80% of American electronics are shipped to Africa to be burned in villages. September 2014.
I'm trying to connect Game Theory, Accidental Racism, and Environmental Malpractice, and am not sure I've done so. But it has been almost 2 months trying to edit this blog, and I have 4 more parts to it I just have no time to edit. But in hopes that some Environmental Studies major is looking for a thesis or research paper, fighting City Hall convinced it's on the side of Environmental Justice seems to have little science, little evidence, little patience for knowledge.
Benson was prosecucted over Jim Puckett's use of Poverty Porn, and his conviction says more about racial injustice and LCS's political ambitions than it says about recycling policy. You could as easily have convicted Toyota for dumping junk Japanese cars in Agbogbloshie (which has far more auto scrap going on than electronics, btw).
Liberals, we have met the enemy, and he is us.