A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘globalization

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • blogTO shares pictures from last weekend’s Ukrainian Festival.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly started a discussion of the merits of small town life or vice versa, coming down decidedly against.
  • Centauri Dreams examines the concept of the Venus zone.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a study suggesting that the Moon’s gravity is not high enough for humans to orient themselves.
  • Eastern Approaches looks at the elections in Crimea.
  • Language Hat examines the story of the endangered language Ayapeneco, apparently misrepresented in an ad campaign.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that the American left is starting to win on cultural issues.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that the collapse of Scotland’s industrial sector has led to a certain deglobalization.
  • The Planetary Society Blog’s Emily Lakdawalla notes the discovery of a potential landing site for Rosetta.
  • Torontoist looks at a local model airplane club.
  • Towleroad notes the lead writer of Orange is the New Black has left her husband and begun dating one of her actors.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests many Westerners haven’t taken the shift in Russian politics fully into account.

[LINK] Charlie Stross on “The referendum question”

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In a post at his blog, science fiction writer Charlie Stross announces his support for Scottish separatism. This support, it turns out, is not only motivated by support for the independence of Scotland. Stross favours the more general breakdown of nation-states.

In the long term I favour a Europe—indeed, a world—of much smaller states. I don’t just favour breaking up the UK; I favour breaking up the United States, India, and China. Break up the Westphalian system. We live today in a world dominated by two types of group entity; the nation-states with defined borders and treaty obligations that emerged after the end of the 30 Years War, and the transnational corporate entities which thrive atop the free trade framework provided by the treaty organizations binding those Westphalian states together.

I believe the Westphalian nation-state system isn’t simply showing its age: it’s creaking at the seams and teetering on the edge of catastrophic breakdown. The world today is far smaller than the world of 1648; the entire planet, in travel terms, is shrunk to the size of the English home counties. In 1648 to travel from the south of Scotland (from, say, Berwick-upon-Tweed, the debatable walled border city) to the far north-west would take, at a minimum, a couple of weeks by sea; to travel that distance by land was a harsh journey of hundreds of miles across mountains and bogs and through still-forested glens, on foot or horseback. Today it’s a couple of noisy hours on board a turboprop airliner. Distance has collapsed under us. To some extent the definition of the Westphalian state as being able to control its own internal territory was a side-effect of distance: a foreign army couldn’t rapidly and easily penetrate the inner lands of a state without fear of retaliation. (Tell that to the residents of the tribal provinces in Pakistan.)

Moreover, our nations today have not only undergone a strange geographical implosion since the 17th century: they have exploded in population terms. The population of the American Colonies in 1790 is estimated at roughly 2.7 million; the United States today has over 300 million inhabitants. In 1780 England and Wales had around 7.5 million inhabitants; they’re now at 57 million. So we have a 1-2 order of magnitude increase in population and a 2-3 order of magnitude decrease in travel time … and possibly a 3-5 order of magnitude decrease in communications latency.

Today we’re seeing the fallout from this problem everywhere. Westphalian states can’t, for the most part, control their own territory to the extent of keeping intruders out; just look at the ghastly situation in Ukraine right now. Non-state actors play an increasingly huge role in dictating our economic conditions. And it seems to me that something goes badly wrong with representative democracy in polities that grow beyond somewhere in the range 5-15 million people; direct accountability vanishes and we end up with what I’ve termed the beige dictatorship. Beige isn’t the worst colour‐some of the non-beige contenders are distinctly alarming—but their popular appeal is a symptom of an institutional failure, a representational deficit: many voters feel so alienated by the beige that they’ll vote for the brownshirts.

My feeling is that we’d be better served by a group of much smaller nations working in a loose confederation or treaty structure. Their job should be to handle local issues(yes, this is localism) while compartmentalizing failure modes: the failure modes of a gigantic imperial power are almost always far worse than those of a smaller nation (compare the disintegration of the Soviet Union with that of Czecheslovakia). Rather than large monolithic states run by people at the top who are so remote from their constituents that they set policy to please lobbyists rather than their electors, I’d prefer to see treaty organizations like NATO and the EU emerging at consensus after discussions among numerous smaller stakeholder entities, where representatives are actually accountable to their electors. (Call me a utopian, if you will.)

Yes, this is also an argument for Wales, the North of England, and London itself all becoming independent nations. But they aren’t on the ballot. So Scottish independence is a starting point.

Thoughts? I’m rather more skeptical of this argument for a general breakdown than Stross, or many of the commenters at his blog. Isn’t the construction of larger federations with some degree of democratic responsibility preferable to more fragile and less legitimate coalitions of smaller states? There’s room for flexibility, but a general reconfiguration strikes me as a non-starter.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 16, 2014 at 3:59 am

[LINK] “$24B left Canada in 2012. Here’s what happened to it”

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This June Toronto Star article by the paper’s Jennifer Quinn about remittances from Canada, one of a series, does a nice job introducing the issue of remittances in Canada’s immigrant economy.

The money sent overseas each year by people living in Canada could buy about 70 jumbo jets, mountains of sparkling engagement rings, or more than a third of Starbucks Corporation, depending on the day: $24 billion goes a long way.

According to the World Bank , that’s how much ordinary people living and working here sent to their home countries in 2012: The money may go to a grandmother in Beijing, a niece in Kingston or a cousin in Jaipur.

It might be for groceries, the electric bill or school fees; or it could be meant to celebrate a birthday, an anniversary or a wedding. It may be earmarked to repay a debt or help start a business. Most aren’t sending much money at any one time: $200 is an average sum.

So Sheryl Jacosalem is both typical and extraordinary.

She came to Canada from the Philippines — via Hong Kong — in 2009 and worked for more than three years as a nanny in Thornhill. Every payday, she would send at least half of her earnings, sometimes more, home to her family.

It was about $500 on the 15th of every month; if she could, and it was needed, she would send a bit more at the end. That money put four sisters and a brother through school, and now — three of her sisters have joined her here in Canada — the family is putting the finishing touches on a house they have built for their parents in Iloilo.

“We grew up with nothing, and so we want them … we don’t want to worry,” Jacosalem, 36, says. “We just don’t want to worry that we’re here in Canada and we don’t know what’s going on with them there. We want them safe and we want to make sure they are always OK.”

Written by Randy McDonald

September 11, 2014 at 7:36 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • blogTO shares pictures and photos of Toronto overhead from 1879 on, noting the ever-rising skyline.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the fascinating results of an in-depth study of the emerging planetary system of HD100546.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper looking at causes for orbital eccentricty of planets in trinary systems.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the current state of eastern Ukraine and notes that Australia’s Lynch Crater apparently conserves records of forty-five thousand years of human influence on the global environment.
  • Joe. My. God. observes that Finland’s Tom of Finland-themed stamps are a huge hit.
  • The Planetary Society Blog charts patterns of growth of planetary exploration by probe over 1959-1989.
  • pollotenchegg examines ethnically-driven patterns of support in Belarus’ last free elections.
  • Spacing Toronto reviews the 2014 State of the World.
  • Supernova Condensate shares pictures of the Space Cats.
  • Towleorad notes that Toronto school trustee Sam Sotiropoulous shuts down when asked on television about his transphobic and homophobic statements.
  • Why I Love Toronto notes that Toronto’s new streetcars are great.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that on economic issues Putin is not Marxist but rather statist, and observes the long-term consequences of the utter breakdown in Russian-Ukrainian relations.

[URBAN NOTE] On the global trendiness of West Queen West

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West Queen West, the neighbourhood where I lived after first moving to Toronto stretching along Queen Street West from Bathurst almost to Dufferin, has been rated by Vogue magazine as the second-trendiest neighbourhood in the world. See The Globe and Mail‘s summary.

“Toronto is currently enjoying newfound prominence – and desirability – amongst globe-trotting tastemakers,” Vogue’s Nick Remsen writes on the magazine’s website.

“Queen Street West is a verifiable artery of indie patisseries, homegrown labels, and hidden-from-view galleries – hallmarks of hipness, if ever they existed,” he said, highlighting the publication’s September issue.

“It’s also the home of the Museum of Contemporary Canadian art, well-established ‘art’ hotels The Drake and the Gladstone, and the charming Bicyclette, a local clothing boutique and lifestyle brand whose owners love ‘glitter, DIY projects, treasure hunts and details,” it adds.

“Soho House Toronto is nearby, as is Grafitti Alley a block where street art is both 100-per-cent legal and lauded.”

[. . .]

The “West Queen West” area has its own website, and describes the two-kilometre region as the “creative heart” of the city, boasting more than 300 galleries, shops, eateries and other businesses.

Does this mean I’m cool, too?

Written by Randy McDonald

September 9, 2014 at 5:26 pm

[NEWS] Some Monday links

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  • Al Jazeera notes controversy over a proposed women-only beach in Turkey, suggests that Iraqi Sunnis are ready to fight against the Islamic State while observing Germany’s arming of the Kurds, notes the decision of France to halt its delivery of warships to Russia, warns of general concern in the Netherlands about Islamic State activism, notes the existential issues of a relatively declining American evangelical Christianity, and notes African immigration to Brazil.
  • Bloomberg suggests Russia wants to prevent Ukraine from integrating with the West, notes the strengthening of European Union sanctions against Russia, observes that Berlin has outstripped Rome as a tourist destination, examines Filipino insecurity vis-a-vis China, and looks at the booming Tokyo property market.
  • Bloomberg View, meanwhile argues that there is a job shortage not a “stagnation vacation” in developed countries, warns that right now closer links with NATO would harm Ukraine, and favours the strengthening of the European Union’s eastern perimeter.
  • MacLean’s notes NATO’s reorientation away from Afghanistan towards containing Russia.
  • National Geographic and Universe Today about both skeptical about reports of a meteorite impact in Nicaragua.
  • PBS notes a very unusual triple–possibly quadruple–star system.
  • Reuters notes Thailand’s efforts to encourage Chinese tourism.
  • Universe Today notes that planets in binary systems are more common than once thought and looks at the difficulties of landing Philae on its target comet.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • blogTO notes that a new Toronto condo building will have separate entrances for the rich and the poor.
  • Centauri Dreams has more about our galactic supercluster Laniakea.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the atmosphere of very nearby sub-brown dwarf J085510.83-071442.5.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the deterioration of the Ukrainian military situation in the east.
  • Far Outliers notes how, in 1854, the French army was generally better than the British.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh notes the critical role of expectations in driving economic growth and change.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the recent death of Joan Rivers.
  • Marginal Revolution considers whether or not basic minimum incomes will continue to rise in democracies.
  • pollotenchegg maps the very sharp population declines across Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
  • The Financial Times‘ Gideon Rachman notes France’s problems as seen from the perspective of a southwestern French village.
  • Torontoist and blogTO both note Ontario’s sale of the lucrative site of the Queen’s Quay LCBO store.
  • Towelroad notes protests over the partial and grudging inclusion of LGBT groups at New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that Russian agriculture simply isn’t capable of feeding Russia in the sanctions era.
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