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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘politics

[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

[LINK] “England should get what England wants – it’s time to find out what that is”

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Sunder Katwala’s Open Democracy essay makes the sensible argument that, in the context of political reform, English issues should be answered. First, though, the English have to figure out what they want.

If ‘more powers to Scotland’ is the right response to democratic pressure, it is incoherent to argue that some measure of English devolution must prove divisive.

The charge of party interest from Labour voices sounds very much like a case of pots challenging kettles. No doubt all politicians keep the party implications of political reforms in mind but Labour’s own partisan interests, particularly representing 41 of the 59 Scottish constituencies in the House of Commons, would appear to be playing a significant role in the party’s difficulty in articulating any coherent view about England’s place in the evolving constitution of the United Kingdom.

That core principle is simple: devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland makes the issue of a fair say for England important and unavoidable.

The answer has to be that England should get what England wants.

But what does England want? Nobody can yet be certain of the detail of that.

Here, the proposal of an open and inclusive process is valid – but it has a power only once the core principle has been accepted and agreed. Otherwise it will look, to most people, like an attempt to kick the question into the long grass and to hope it does bit return.

Some form of constitutional convention could usefully be contrasted with the limits of deciding on devolution to England in a Cabinet sub-committee in Whitehall – but only if it is deciding on how to represent England, rather than whether to do so. It should also offer a clear timescale for an outcome to be implemented, as is the case with the Scottish vow.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 7, 2014 at 11:22 pm

[LINK] “Macau Casino Stocks Rise as Monthly Sales Meet Estimate”

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Vinicy Chan and Billy Chan, writing for Bloomberg, note that casino-dependent Macau is seeing something of an economic slowdown between a crackdown on Chinese gambling and mass protests in Hong Kong.

Total casino revenue fell 12 percent to 25.6 billion patacas ($3.2 billion) in September, the fourth straight month it’s declined. The figure, the biggest drop since June 2009, was expected to drop by 12 percent to 13 percent from a year earlier, state-controlled Teledifusao de Macau reported last week, citing the city’s Secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam.

“You get the dynamic now whereas these gaming names have been so crushed that even a slight improvement is viewed positively,” Grant Govertsen at Union Gaming Group, said today. “You got a lot of investors who want to be in these names looking for an entry point.”

[. . .]

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption has dented spending by high-stakes gamblers in Macau, the only place in China where casinos are legal. Pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong may have caused mainland Chinese to defer their usual joint Hong Kong-Macau trips, Govertsen wrote in a note yesterday.

“Mass market casino foot traffic — especially at the big-box casinos on Cotai — and certain instances of table games minimums, was lower than we expected,” he said. Casino companies have been opening resorts on the Cotai Strip, Asia’s answer to the Las Vegas Strip.

About 20 percent to 25 percent of mainland travelers to Macau also go to Hong Kong on the same trip, said Karen Tang, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG.

High rollers account for more than 60 percent of the city’s gaming revenue. The number of Chinese tourists normally rises during China’s annual week-long National Day holidays that start on Oct. 1, one of the city’s busiest times of the year.

The political protests in Hong Kong “would put further pressure on VIP visitation,” said Govertsen, using the term that refers to high-stakes gamblers.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 7, 2014 at 11:20 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • blogTO shares photos of Nuit Blanche.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper suggesting that relatively recent presence of glaciers on some high Martian mountain slopes.
  • Eastern Approaches looks at the ethnically riven Latvian election.
  • Far Outliers looks at the grim situation for civil rights in early independent Romania and the problematic democracy of the interwar period.
  • Languages of the World’s Asya Perelstvaig maps the distribution of Ukrainians in modern Russia.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that Shenzhen is thriving on the basis of–among other things–mobile phones.
  • Otto Pohl looks at the history of Communism in colonial Ghana.
  • Savage Minds features an anthropologist talking about the specific issues of academic writing.
  • Torontoist and blogTO both talk about things that went well with Nuit Blanche and things that did not go so well.
  • Towleroad observes anti-gay persecution in Indonesia’s westernmost region of Aceh.
  • Transit Toronto notes the disruption to the TTC caused by the closing-off of Yonge-Dundas Square for a hockey festival there.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • blogTO notes that the TTC hopes to improve rush hour service by, among other things, shortening wait times on station platforms and adding new cars.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the complexities of an emergent planetary system, L1551 NE.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to an article arguing North American integration should push forward.
  • Eastern Approaches observes continuing political instability in Bulgaria.
  • Joe. My. God. notes a large demonstration in Taiwan in support of same-sex marriage.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that democratic progress has been made in Hong Kong under Chinese rule.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw writes about problems related to the niqab and its receiption in Australia.
  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on the Messenger probe’s continued exploration of Mercury.
  • Spacing Toronto’s John Lorinc argues that Doug Ford should prove that he has donated his salary to charity, as he has claimed.
  • Towleroad observes the continued progress of same-sex marriage before the courts, as the United States Supreme Court’s decision not to review cases on same-sex marriage in multiple states legalizes it there.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy observes an American court’s opening of two parents’ proceeding to cancel the adoption of Russian children.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Russian perspectives on the recent Latvian election and suggests that fascism is a real outcome in Russia if Russians feel threatened.

[FORUM] Do you think that human beings are too dumb for democracy?

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I heard the CBC Ideas documentary Too Dumb for Democracy on Thursday. Centered around the arguments of PhD student David Moscrop, the documentary’s thesis is that democracy isn’t perfectly compatible with the human being. Far from being perfectly rational individuals, human beings are actually substantially non-rational, and in politics we are prone to accepting claims and persons who aren’t good objectively simply because they or things they do appeal. (Rob Ford’s popularity was an example.) The argument was summarized at CBC.

“You would think that for high-involvement situations, like deciding on who to vote for, we should be creating spreadsheets of pros and cons and deliberately considering the pros and cons of candidates’ platforms,” says [neuroscientist Tanya] Chartrand.

But the truth is, most of us don’t.

Moscrop says that election campaigns are run on a presumption that voters’ political preferences are already formed.

A campaign, then, isn’t really about engaging citizens in a rigorous exchange of transformative ideas, but rather reaffirming people’s existing ideological biases and mobilizing citizens to vote for their respective camp.

If the goal of democracy is to engage in a rigorous exchange of ideas that results in a greater good for all citizens, one of the first things to do is downplay the role of television ads during election campaigns, says University of Toronto philosophy professor Joseph Heath.

“Reason resides in language and our ability to explicitly articulate how we get from point A to point B in an argument,” says Heath.

“If you’re trying to communicate through visual stimulation, it won’t encourage a rational appreciation of things, and that has a bunch of implications. Reason is very, very slow. Speed encourages gut reactions.”

What do you think?

Written by Randy McDonald

October 6, 2014 at 3:59 am

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