A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for June 2009

[DM] Two Foreign Policy Links

Over at Demography Matters, I’ve a post up referring readers to two articles at Foreign Policy regarding gender roles and the demographic transition. Go, read.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 30, 2009 at 7:01 pm

[LINK] “Murdering journalists”

Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, highlights an article by Ralph Peters in which he suggests that killing journalists might well be okay in the nearish future.

Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media. Perceiving themselves as superior beings, journalists have positioned themselves as protected-species combatants. But freedom of the press stops when its abuse kills our soldiers and strengthens our enemies.

Long-time readers of this blog might remember my 2003 fisking of a foolish article that Peters wrote attacking Europe as decadent, et cetera, because the continent didn’t embrace the Iraq war.. More recent readers might remember the map of a Middle East with redrawn borders that helped trigger another wave of anti-Americanism across the region. Great guy, don’t you agree?

Written by Randy McDonald

June 30, 2009 at 3:33 pm

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[BRIEF NOTE] Forty years since Stonewall

Slap Upside the Head commemorates the fact that Sunday was the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City that helped galvanize the American, thus international, gay movement. There had been increasing militancy following the 1950 foundation of the Mattachine Society and the rise of 1960s student radicalism, but the protest of patrons of a gay bar in Greenwich Village against police harassment spectacularly accelerated this change.

Raymond Castro was a regular at The Stonewall Inn in 1969, finding it a haven from a world where gay men and women could be arrested for kissing or holding hands in public. Inside the bar, where plywood covered the windows, warning lights served as a signal for couples to stop dancing.

When police raided the bar in the past for selling liquor without a license, patrons normally submitted to arrest or dispersed quietly. But on June 28, Castro recalled, people fought back.

As officers tried to throw him in a police wagon, Castro used the vehicle as a spring to push back, knocking them to the ground.

“They literally carried me into the … wagon and threw me in there,” recalled Castro, now 67. “It must’ve been the motivation of the crowd that inspired me to resist. Or maybe at that point enough was enough.”

The several days of disturbances that followed the uprising at the bar in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village became one of the defining moments of the gay rights movement. Thousands of people are converging on the city for gay pride events to mark the riots’ 40th anniversary, while a bill is pending in the Legislature to make New York the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Castro said the demonstrations became a catalyst for years of progress allowing gays and lesbians to live more open lives — although he didn’t see it at the time.

“I never thought 40 years ago that it would turn out to be much of anything,” he said in a phone interview. “I had no clue of history being made.”

Written by Randy McDonald

June 30, 2009 at 3:17 pm

[LINK] “Yale Makes First Quantum Processor?”

Will Baird’s The Dragon’s Tales reports that a research team at Yale claims to have made the first solid-state quantum computer processor.

A team led by Yale University researchers has created the first rudimentary solid-state quantum processor, taking another step toward the ultimate dream of building a quantum computer.

They also used the two-qubit superconducting chip to successfully run elementary algorithms, such as a simple search, demonstrating quantum information processing with a solid-state device for the first time. Their findings will appear in Nature’s advanced online publication June 28.

“Our processor can perform only a few very simple quantum tasks, which have been demonstrated before with single nuclei, atoms and photons,” said Robert Schoelkopf, the William A. Norton Professor of Applied Physics & Physics at Yale. “But this is the first time they’ve been possible in an all-electronic device that looks and feels much more like a regular microprocessor.”

Working with a group of theoretical physicists led by Steven Girvin, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics & Applied Physics, the team manufactured two artificial atoms, or qubits (“quantum bits”). While each qubit is actually made up of a billion aluminum atoms, it acts like a single atom that can occupy two different energy states. These states are akin to the “1” and “0” or “on” and “off” states of regular bits employed by conventional computers. Because of the counterintuitive laws of quantum mechanics, however, scientists can effectively place qubits in a “superposition” of multiple states at the same time, allowing for greater information storage and processing power.

One reason that I read Will Baird’s very informative blog is because it lets its readers know about amazing innovations and discoveries like the above. Wow.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 30, 2009 at 10:52 am

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[LINK] “Tim Hortons makes move back to Canada”

This news will certainly pleased a very large number of Canadians.

Tim Hortons Inc. (THI-T28.62-0.13-0.45%) is returning to the land of hockey, where seemingly every street corner houses, well, a Tim Hortons.

Tims, the coffee and doughnuts icon, is currently incorporated in the United States, but it’s returning to its Canadian roots to take advantage of falling corporate tax rates.

Co-founded in Hamilton in 1964 by hockey legend Tim Horton, the company announced yesterday that it is proposing to reorganize itself as a Canadian public company.

“Will other corporations do this? Maybe, maybe not,” Brian Yarbrough, an analyst with Edward Jones in St. Louis, said in an interview.

Apart from the tax issue, there are compelling administrative reasons for Tims to restructure, given that the company derives more than 90 per cent of its revenue from its Canadian operations, Mr. Yarbrough said.

“However, the tax rate is the biggest thing they are going to see the most savings from.”

After the immediate costs of the reorganization are absorbed, Tim Hortons’ tax rate could initially be two or three percentage points lower than its current tax rate of 33 per cent in the U.S., he said. “And as tax rates continue to come down in Canada, obviously … that will benefit them even more.”

Up to this point, Tim Horton’s was run as a subsidiary of American-owned Wendy’s. No more.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 30, 2009 at 10:41 am

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[LINK] Maurer on Honduras

In two follow-up posts, Noel Maurer considers (1, 2) continues to consider the question of the coup’s legality, and seems to have come to the conclusion that it was legal.

[T]he Supreme Court has the power to remove officials from office when it determines that they have broken the law. President Zelaya pretty clearly broke the law when he refused to obey an order from the Supreme Court to call off the referendum, and as I pointed out earlier, the Honduran constitution clearly (if stupidly) bans any consultatory referenda touching on presidential term limits.

So my new version is: Zelaya broke the law, the Supreme Court called him on it, and the military took the initiative in enforcing the Court’s order. (Maybe too much initiative.) That interpretation will depend on how closely the armed forces and the Supreme Court cooperated in the ouster. (The more it looks like the Court got the ball rolling, the more legal the coup will seem.) Given the legal fog, the Obama Administration seems to be taking a pitch-perfect tone here.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 30, 2009 at 10:39 am

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[PHOTO] Rainbow Flags at the Bay

Rainbow Flags at the Bay
Originally uploaded by rfmcdpei

The Bloor Street East entrance to The Bay’s flagship store had the flags, too. Is there any more visible sign of Pride’s mainstreaming?

Written by Randy McDonald

June 30, 2009 at 10:35 am

[LINK] “Waiting for the penny to drop”

Over at Spacing Toronto, John Loring takes a look at the short- and long-term consequences of the federal government’s refusal to help fund the TTC’s purchase of new streetcars.

With the death of “the ask,” the Conservative world-view emerged triumphant: municipal transit expenditure is appropriately funded by local taxpayers under the patriarchal guidance of the province. If Ottawa wants to get involved, it can and will, but those are strictly political calls. As for the City of Toronto’s special relationship with the federal government (a fantasy encouraged by Paul Martin), well, don’t even go there.

There was also an element of three-card monte in council’s hasty attempt to make the best of John Baird’s proffered olive branch. The TTC shuffled back some of its capital spending projects to make room for the streetcar buy, while city officials scoured the 2009 capital budget for quick-turnover projects that might pass muster with guardians of the Harper government’s fiscal stimulus package. The fairly explicit message from the mayor and city bureaucrats on Friday was that it’s all going to be a wash.

[. . .]

Think about this story from Baird’s perspective: the City of Toronto, invoking its own exceptionalism, decides to flout federal funding guidelines, is then forced to back down, but gets a second chance. Outside Toronto, the Tories will receive no love for that magnanimous gesture. And inside Toronto, well, they still look and act like a party that has no traction with 416 voters.

Does anyone in the Harper inner sanctum think that giving Miller $400 million in infrastructure funding will buy them a riding or two in the next election? Of course not.

Go, read.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2009 at 11:12 pm

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[BRIEF NOTE] An unconstitutional democratic coup on Honduras?

The background to the ongoing Honduran coup sounds surprisingly well-managed.

The Honduran Congress late Sunday officially voted Mr. Zelaya out of office, replacing him with the president of Congress, Roberto Micheletti, who said Monday that he would resist pressure from other nations demanding the reinstatement of the ousted president, news agencies reported.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the last senior member of the administration to visit Honduras, just three weeks ago, said that the United States was working toward “full restoration of democratic order in Honduras.”

She said that the situation in Honduras “has evolved into a coup.” But when pressed by a reporter, she refused to say explicitly that the United States was demanding that Mr. Zelaya be returned to power, although senior administration officials pointed out that the United States had signed on to an Organization of American States statement on Sunday that included such a demand.

[. . . ]

Mr. Zelaya, 56, a rancher who often appears in cowboy boots and a western hat, has the support of labor unions and the poor. But he is a leftist aligned with President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, and the middle class and the wealthy business community fear he wants to introduce Mr. Chávez’s brand of socialist populism into the country, one of Latin America’s poorest. His term was to end in January.

The Honduran military offered no public explanation for its actions, but the country’s Supreme Court issued a statement saying that the military had acted to defend the law against “those who had publicly spoken out and acted against the Constitution’s provisions.”

Mr. Zelaya’s ouster capped a showdown with other branches of government over his efforts to lift presidential term limits in a referendum that was to have taken place Sunday. Critics said the vote was part of an illegal attempt by Mr. Zelaya to defy the Constitution’s limit of a single four-year term for the president.

Early this month, the Supreme Court declared the referendum unconstitutional, and Congress followed suit last week. In the last few weeks, supporters and opponents of the president have held competing demonstrations. The prosecutor’s office and the electoral tribunal issued orders for the referendum ballots to be confiscated, but on Thursday, Mr. Zelaya led a group of protesters to an air force base and seized the ballots.

Well-managed at first glance, though. As Noel Maurer notes, there doesn’t seem to be any constitutional basis for what happened.

Article 205, Section 12: [Congress has the power to] accept the constitutional oath of office of the elected President and Vice-president of the republic, and other appointees they select; grant them permissions and accept or reject thier resignations and fill vacancies in the case of the complete absence of one of them;

Article 205, Section 20: [Congress has the power to] approve or disapprove the admistrative conduct of the executive branch;

Article 242: In the case of a temporary absence of the the President of the Republic, the Vice-president will carry out the functions of the President. Should the Presidency be permanently vacant, the Vice-president will exercise the powers of the executive branch for the remainder of the constitutional term. Should the Vice-presidency also be vacant, the powers of the executive branch will be exercised by the president of the National Congress.

Thus, the need to declare that President Zelaya had “resigned” before giving the executive powers over to Roberto Micheletti. (The office of Vice-president is currently vacant, so having the power pass to Micheletti is kosher … it’s the whole removing of Zelaya what appears to be illegal.) Note that while Micheletti says that everything is constitutional, this article from the Honduran press cites no clauses or precedents.

Did I mention that Venezuela mobilized its military? Not that it can do anything, but still …

This will be interesting to watch.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2009 at 5:57 pm

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[LINK] “How gay is your neighbourhood?”

In the Sunday Star, Isabel Teotonio and Patrick Cain wrote about the ways in which Toronto’s GLBT community was diffusing beyond the urban core, as judged by the number of same-sex marriages.

Date, sex and partial postal code data for same-sex couples married in Toronto was released to the Star recently under access-to-information laws. The information goes back to June 2003, when same-sex marriage was legalized.

The data, current to last month, covers 11,128 individuals; a little fewer than half were American and a handful were British.

The postal code data sheds light on different neighbourhood patterns of Toronto’s own married lesbians and gay men.

Gay couples are most common in the Gay Village around Church and Wellesley Sts. and in east downtown, with clusters in Rosedale and the University of Toronto area.

Lesbians are also prominent downtown, with clusters in east-end neighbourhoods such as Riverdale, South Riverdale, Leslieville, the Beach and east Danforth. Rates are also high in the U of T area, Cabbagetown and Roncesvalles.

Generally, socioeconomic factors explain why lesbian and gay enclaves form in different areas, says sociologist Adam Green, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto. Because women typically earn less, lesbian enclaves appear in less wealthy areas and farther from main streets. Gay men, who are bigger earners, are traditionally more visible downtown, says Green.

Even when it comes to socializing, lesbians are less visible, he says, pointing out that gay men tend to mingle at bars and bathhouses, whereas women often gather at private parties and events.

While two women living together are likely to have lower incomes than a pair of men, professor David Rayside warns economics may not entirely explain the clustering.

The Toronto Star‘s Map of the Week blog has more statistics, chronicling the number of marriages over time.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2009 at 3:18 pm

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