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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘politics

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • Bad Astronomy shares a picture of the astonishingly crowded center of the Milky Way galaxy.
  • blogTO recommends things to do in the Junction and Liberty Village.
  • Centauri Dreans notes an interesting new binary star discovery, one where a hot Jupiter orbits each star.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze reports on further research done of a close brown dwarf.
  • The Frailest Thing notes an interview with spaceflight proponent Elon Musk painting him as a messianic figure, a Moses or Noah.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a paper suggesting that western Europe experienced growign longevity from an early age.
  • The New APPS Blog notes the intersections of philosophy, religion, and euthanasia.
  • Registan notes the arrival of Islamic banking in the former Soviet Union.
  • Steve Munro notes the return of streetcar service to Queens Quay.
  • Torontoist is skeptical of Olivia Chow’s transit plan, not detailed enough.
  • Towleorad reports on a Russian exchange student in the United States who has claimed asylum and reports on civil unions’ new introduction in Chile.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the weaknesses of the Belarusian economy, observes the linguistic links between Crimean Tatars and various north Caucasian peoples, argues that 1600 Russian soldiers have died, observes Russian belief that China is an ally, and notes that older Muslim communities in Moscow separate themselves from the newer immigrant communities.

[URBAN NOTE] On bigotry and Ford in Toronto and with Olivia Chow

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NOW Toronto‘s Enzo DiMatteo writes about racism in Toronto, both that directed towards Olivia Chow and that evidenced by continuing support for the Ford brothers.

She has the best grasp of the inner workings of City Hall among the top contenders for mayor. She has the most political experience and the resumé to prove it. In the spring she was the overwhelmingly popular option to save the city from Rob Ford.

But for most Torontonians, Olivia Chow just doesn’t fit the bill, according to public opinion polls. Too stiff. Too scripted. Maybe too Chinese. I know you didn’t want me to go there, Toronto. But the racist attacks have been a little too overt to ignore, haven’t they?

The question of race has certainly dominated the campaign discourse of late.

Chow is reluctant to comment on what effect the fact that she is a visible minority is having on her electoral chances. As she told NOW’s editorial board Monday, October 6, she’ll leave that to the pundits. She always says that when she doesn’t want to answer a question directly.

But much like the anti-gay undercurrent that helped kill George Smitherman’s chances against Ford in 2010, disdain for Chow’s foreigner status may carry more weight than we’d like to admit.

It’s an uncomfortable reality to contemplate for a city whose motto is “diversity our strength.” Maybe we’re not so world-class. Just how did a guy like Rob Ford with a track record of racist and homophobic remarks get elected in the first place anyway?

In 2010, voters knew about his Air Canada Centre tirade. They knew about his AIDS comments. His bigotry was no secret. They knew exactly what they were getting.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 10, 2014 at 10:04 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • blogTO looks at what the Financial District was like in the 1970s and 1980s, recommends things to do in Little Italy, and has ten quirky facts about the Toronto Islands.
  • Centauri Dreams notes simulations of how solitary stars like our own Sun are formed.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper noting that evidence of a planetary system outside our own was first gathered in 1917, from a spectrum taken of Van Maanen’s Star. It was only a matter of no one recognizing what the spectrum meant.
  • Marginal Revolution notes a study of filesharing services suggesting that rich countries tend to see music downloads while poor ones download movies.
  • The Planetary Science Blog takes a look at the discoveries of Dawn at proto-planet Vesta.
  • pollotenchegg maps changes in industrial production in Ukraine, noting a collapse in rebel-held areas in the east.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer compares the proposed Home Rule that would have been granted to Ireland in 1914 with current proposals for Scotland.
  • Torontoist notes that despite population growth nearby, the Redpath Sugar Factory will be staying put.
  • Towleroad notes that Estonia has become the first post-Soviet nation to recognize same-sex partnerships.
  • Why I Love Toronto recommends Friday night events at the Royal Ontario Museum.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that the collapse of Russian civil society is a responsibility of Russian citizens as well as of their state.

[URBAN NOTE] “The Ford Family Subway Plan”

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Toronto transit expert Steve Munro is critical, at Torontoist, of the latest iteration of the Ford brothers’ plan for more subways as recently presented by Doug Ford. He makes the argument that it’s unworkable, being too expensive for the city as it is likely ever to exist and that cheaper and better alternatives exist.

Ford proposes subways on Eglinton East, Sheppard East, and Finch West. Building these would require Toronto to accept that transit and road networks should be completely separated—transit can’t even be next to traffic lanes, but only under them—regardless of the financial impact this would have on the City’s capital and operating budgets. That is an oddly profligate attitude for a family noted for its parsimony with public spending. Capital expenses may come out of thin air (more about that later), but operating a subway where ridership does not generate substantial revenue—and these subways would not—can only lead to higher costs for the municipal government, or operating cutbacks elsewhere. Toronto already faces an operating deficit with the Vaughan subway extension, and a much larger network of subways will only worsen the problem.

A common question for any transit proposal is, “Where will the riders come from?” Part of Ford’s funding scheme includes taxes from new development spurred by his subways. However, that development depends on new construction in the immediate vicinity of stations, not along whole routes; if the Scarborough subway is any indication, there will be long gaps where would-be riders would have to hop on infrequent surface buses. What Ford’s plan does not tell voters is the kind of city we’d need to build to support his plan—just how much we would need to increase development in order to produce that new tax income. And “higher density” is a phrase many voters dislike almost as much as “higher taxes.”

[. . .]

Overwhelmingly, Doug Ford’s transit platform is about subways and the benefits of moving people underground. In a clear case of subway envy, he compares maps of Toronto with New York, London, and Tokyo, but conveniently forgets that decades ago these were huge cities with a market for rapid transit, while Toronto was still operating horse-drawn streetcars serving a fraction of their population. Those networks arose from the scale and histories of older, denser, larger cities—something that would be very difficult and expensive to duplicate today. Toronto certainly should have a more extensive transit system, but a subway line under every main street is an unattainable, unreasonable goal whose pursuit only distracts us from what we can and should achieve.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 9, 2014 at 12:24 am

[URBAN NOTE] “Chow Channels De Blasio in Plans for Toronto Housing”

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Oh, Olivia Chow. If only you were more likely to be our mayor. Katia Dmitrieva of Bloomberg tells the story from an international perspective.

Olivia Chow plans to emulate the affordable housing policies of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the traffic-fighting strategies of Chicago if elected to run Canada’s largest city.

Chow said she’d seek to allocate 20 percent of each new residential tower to affordable housing in a push to add 15,000 low-income rental units in Toronto, reminiscent of De Blasio’s platform. She would also fight gridlock by raising the fee developers pay when blocking city streets during construction like Chicago does.

“I learned from New York,” Chow said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Toronto office yesterday. “We have similar challenges. We have a prosperous city, but we also have some neighborhoods where people are getting left behind. Bill de Blasio in New York said ‘No one should be left behind’ and a focus on investing in children is where I’m coming from.”

House prices in the city of 2.6 million residents soared 7.7 percent last month to a record and drivers face one of the longest rush-hour commutes in North America. Congestion costs the city and its surrounding area as much as C$11 billion ($9.9 billion) a year, according to the Toronto-based nonprofit research institute C.D. Howe Institute.

[. . .]

After a strong start at the beginning of the campaign Chow has fallen behind, garnering 22 percent of support in a Forum Research poll of 1,218 voters conducted yesterday. [Doug] Ford, who like his brother has emphasized tax cuts, surged to 37 percent support, according to the poll, which had a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points. [John] Tory is in the lead at 39 percent, the poll said.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 9, 2014 at 12:19 am

[PHOTO] Alex Mazer for Ward 18, Toronto

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@teammazer at work. This is one of several signs for Toronto city council candidate Alex Mazer I passed yesterday morning.

This is one of several signs for Alex Mazer, Toronto city council candidate for Ward 18 I passed yesterday morning.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm

[LINK] On the coded language and behaviour of Narendra Modi in the United States

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Meera Nair’s Washington Post article points out that despite appearances to the contrary, Narendra Modi’s choice of language, his rhetorical style, and even his clothes signalled his right-wing Hindutva ideology.

Narendra Modi’s first official visit to the United States, which ended on Sept. 30 was quite a spectacle. There was a campaign-style appearance before 18,000 adoring fans at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Jumbotrons in Times Square broadcast an extravaganza that featured Bollywood dancing, convention-style balloon-drops, and a receiving line of dozens of U.S. congressmen. Modi was working hard, it seemed, to introduce himself favorably to Americans and the Indian expatriates who live among them.

But he wasn’t just speaking to the people on this continent. In fact, the symbolism and rhetoric of this trip were carefully calibrated toward his Hindu nationalist base at home (and here, too). This was old-fashioned dog-whistle politics, and it was a master class. The message: I may nod to tolerance and openness, but I’m really still with you.

For starters, take the jacket Modi wore on stage in New York. It was in a color that his personal tailor, Bipin Chauhan, has called a “silent” variation of saffron. The color is a favorite of Modi’s. Many of his iconic calf-length shirts, now rebranded as #ModiKurtas (yes, they have a hash tag), and other accessories sport some shade of saffron. In India, saffron has deep connotations for Hindus, symbolizing sacred fire, sacrifice, asceticism and a quest for light and salvation. But the color has also been co-opted by Hindu fundamentalists. The armed Hindu mobs that roamed Gujarat in the 2002 riots that led to the death of over 1,000 people, three-quarters of them Muslim, wore saffron. Modi was Gujarat’s chief minister at the time. While evidence exists of state complicity in the riots, he personally has not been found guilty. Still, given the loaded iconography surrounding the color, Modi’s style choices seem awfully brazen.

In his speech on Sunday, the prime minister evoked yet another symbol of India — the river Ganges. In asking for help from affluent Indian Americans in the audience to clean up the polluted river, he referred to the river as Maa Ganga or Mother Ganga, an honorific routinely used by Hindus who revere the river as a Goddess and believe its water is holy. He exhorted the audience to watch a film that is a paean to Hindu rituals associated with the river. His reclamation project has been named NamamiGange; Namami is a term borrowed from Sanskrit prayers and means “obeisance.” Namami Gange translates as, “We bow to you, Ganga” — a sentiment that the hundreds of millions of Indians who depend on the arterial river may not share. In contrast, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s cleanup mission was simply called the Ganga Action Plan.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 7, 2014 at 11:30 pm

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