A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for April 2011

[LINK] “Online debate more about ‘smear job’ than Layton”

If Andrea Gordon’s analysis at the Toronto Star is correct, and the leak by a former Toronto police officer of a 1996 encounter with Layton in a massage parlour of perhaps dubious repute (currently being investigated by the Ontario Provincial Police) is amounting to little, this says much about the strength of Layton, his campaign, and the NDP.

Jack Layton was calling it a “smear campaign” and by Saturday, so were many Canadians who used social media to weigh in on a controversial news report about the NDP leader in a massage parlour 15 years ago.

Hours after the Toronto Sun reported late Friday that police had found Layton in the establishment but not charged him with any offence, hundreds of readers jumped into the fray on websites that picked up the story. But the conversation quickly became more about the suspected source of the allegations than the target.

Words like “sleazy,” “ugly,” “mudslinging,” and “gutter politics” cropped up repeatedly on newspaper and television websites, Twitter and Facebook.

“This is a smear job pure and simple,” wrote commenter “Berny” on the Star’s website. That summed up the overwhelming sentiment among the more than 200 who commented on the story, posted late Friday.

[. . .]

Layton has said he was getting treatment from a massage therapist, unaware the location may have been used for illicit purposes, and was told by police he had done nothing wrong.

Some commenters said the allegations need to be addressed because they reflect character and judgment.

But even many who claimed to dislike the New Democrats said they would prefer to focus on challenging Layton’s policies and spending promises.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 30, 2011 at 10:32 pm

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[LINK] “More NDP gains, closing on Liberals”

Amazing. Save in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, the NDP is outpolling the Liberals, and even in those areas the NDP is coming close.

Four national polls (EKOS, Angus-Reid, Nanos, Ipsos-Reid) were added to the projection this morning. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the details of the newest Léger poll before I ran the numbers so it will have to be included in tomorrow’s final update, which should also include the latest numbers from at least three other new polls that will be released between now and then.

The Conservative slide in national support has stopped, and they are up 0.1 point to 36.8% in the projection. They are unchanged at 144 seats.

The New Democrats have gained 1.3 points nationally and have moved into second with 25.1% support. They are also up six seats to 59, which still places them in third.

The Liberals are down 0.9 points to 24.1% and five seats to 65, while the Bloc Québécois is down to 7.1% nationally. They are also down one seat to 40 in Quebec. Unless the final polls added to the projection are radically different, we can expect the Bloc to drop below 40 seats tomorrow.


Via james-nicoll.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 30, 2011 at 8:30 pm

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[FORUM] Are you monarchist, or republican?

You’ll have noticed that my coverage of the marriage of William and Kate has been distinguished by a lack of coverage, passing link to post at A Fistful of Euros aside. I wish the couple well, it’s nice that–as CBC’s Peter Mansbridge said–Kate looked much happier en route to her wedding than Diana did a generation ago, but the marriage doesn’t impact me.

I’m not a republican. Canada’s quasi-republicanism, the Governor-General being appointed by local authorities and the actual monarchs being located conveniently overseas–out of sight, out of mind–is fine by me, and the idea of the constitutional reform necessary to make Canada an actual republic is alarming. I think I reflect Canadian opinion on this: Canada certainly lacks the very active republicanism of Australia.

That’s my opinion, and my country. You and yours, what do you think? Is constitutional monarchy great, acceptable, horrible?


Written by Randy McDonald

April 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm

[LINK] “Majority out of reach, Tories say”

The future of Stephen Harper, if the claims in Robert Benzie’s Toronto Star article are true, might be dim. This would be the third federal election in a row in which the Conservative Party under his leadership has failed to win a majority of seats in Canada’s Parliament.

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives must win 23 more seats in Ontario to achieve their coveted majority, a task that senior party insiders now admit is almost impossible, the Star has learned.

High-ranking sources confide that even with the collapse of Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals — and NDP Leader Jack Layton’s surge, which helps split the vote in many Ontario ridings — it will be very difficult to make such immense gains in Canada’s most populous province.

At the dissolution of Parliament, the minority Tories held 51 of Ontario’s 106 federal seats.

Party sources say the possible loss of several British Columbia ridings to the New Democrats — and others in Quebec, where Layton is surfing an orange wave — has forced them to revise their projections.

As of Thursday, they said they needed to win at least 74 seats in Ontario to achieve a majority.

“It all comes down to Ontario and we’re just not there,” a source said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the party’s internal polling is closely guarded.

Another source confirmed the Tories’ data echoes publicly available polls, such as Wednesday’s Toronto Star-Angus Reid survey showing the Conservatives at 35 per cent, the New Democrats at 30 per cent and the Liberals at 22 per cent.

Nationwide, the governing party has 143 seats with two vacancies previously held by Conservatives. They must win 155 of Canada’s 308 ridings for the majority that Harper insists is vital for economic stability.

Go, read the whole article. If the New Democratic Party manages to take over seats and votes from the Liberals and Bloc Québécois …

Written by Randy McDonald

April 30, 2011 at 1:39 am

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[URBAN NOTE] “Street Stories: Bloor Street”

At Spacing Toronto, Eric Mutrie has a nice essay about the history and meaning of Toronto’s Bloor Street, its origins and its development.

Synonymous with both subways and shopping but most recently with streetscaping construction woes, Bloor Street has joined St. Clair as an example of the troubles tied to Toronto’s aspirations of greater beauty and efficiency. As cheeky new pylon ads proclaim that spring will bring “134 new condos” (ie: trees) to birds in the area, Bloor is finally nearing the end of its dramatic saga and settling into its much-hyped greener identity. However, while attractive couture, condos and now trees claim the street corner by corner, the man who had the most impact on Bloor Street’s identity – Joseph Bloor himself – is still awaiting proper acknowledgement.

[. . .]

Ranked the 20th most expensive shopping street in last year’s list by New York real estate company Cushman & Wakefield, “Bloor Street” has evolved to acquire the same sort of stylish reputation as the brand name flagships found along it. With Libeskind’s landmark ROM Crystal as an elaborate centrepiece and thousand-dollar scarves ripe for impulse purchase, Bloor from Yonge to St. George has become something of a high-class home base. The Cushman & Wakefield report found retail rent on Bloor Street in 2010 cost an average $313 per square foot – up from $300 in 2009. This is dwarfed by the $1,664 per square foot cost of setting up shop on Fifth Avenue, but it’s also significantly more than the next Canadian runner-up: Vancouver’s Robson street, which costs $220 per square foot.

Toronto travel guides allege that Bloor’s strip of retail stores has been dubbed the “Mink Mile,” but I’ve yet to hear anyone use this term aloud (journalists, for their part, also do a good job of making this seem like far more common a nickname than it actually is). The name seems to borrow as much from Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile” as Bloor’s new physical identity does – Chicago’s famous retail strip was oft-cited as inspiration in early development proposals. Indeed, although its boundaries stretch far beyond Chanel and Prada, “Bloor Street” as a name tends itself to be most strongly associated with this posh Bloor-Yorkville strip; neighbourhoods farther east and west have nicknames that play off of their North/South intersections (“Blansdowne”) or their own identities (“Koreatown”).

Regardless of its connotation today, there’s great debate over whether “Bloor Street” as a name is even accurate to its namesake – much debate has occurred over whether “Bloor” should actually be “Bloore.” Prominent Toronto historian Mike Filey, for one, contends that “Bloor” is a misnomer. Joseph Bloor, for his part, did a great job of encouraging such confusion: he signed his name on an early Upper Canada Land Petition without an “e,” but many of his later signatures include it. Presumably, the “e” came as he developed beyond just a brewer – possibly because he believed it paired better with his wealthy new status, which makes it ironic that Toronto’s most expensive street lives on today sans “e”. Bloor’s death did little to settle debates: his obituary refers to him without an “e,” while his gravestone includes one.

Go, read.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 29, 2011 at 10:41 pm

[LINK] “Deep Waters May Not Run Still”

The recent discovery that larvae can be swept along the ocean bottom from one deep-sea hydrothermal vent to another has implications for life on other worlds, like Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus, which are strongly suspected to be geothermally active and possessors of liquid water oceans. Life need not be isolated on these ocean floors; life can spread.

Deep-sea currents caused by large, swirling eddies at the ocean’s surface may carry the larvae (inset) of creatures from one hydrothermal vent (main image) to uninhabited vents hundreds of kilometers away, a new study suggests.

The currents caused by large, swirling eddies at the ocean’s surface may reach all the way to the sea floor, a new study suggests. The unexpected finding may help explain how the larvae of organisms living at isolated hydrothermal vents can be transported hundreds of kilometers to colonize new vents. And as climate change affects surface eddies, it may also reach the ocean’s depths.

[. . .]

In a field study, Diane Adams, a marine biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, and her colleagues measured the currents near the seafloor along the East Pacific Rise, a submarine ridge south-southwest of Acapulco, Mexico, that sports many hydrothermal vent systems. They suspended sensors 170 meters above the 2350-meter-deep ridge, high enough to remain unaffected by ridge-related turbulence. They also suspended traps just 4 meters above the sea floor to measure the amount of minerals spewed by the vent systems and settling back to the ocean floor, as well as to count the number of larvae produced by creatures living in the warm oasis. Because the vents usually maintain a steady flow and the creatures that live there reproduce continually, minerals and larvae fall into the traps from the cloudy waters above at fairly steady rates.

From November 2004 through April 2005, typical currents at the site flowed from the north at an average speed of about 5.5 centimeters per second, the researchers report online today in Science. Moreover, says Adams, the currents rarely rose above 10 centimeters per second. But in March 2005, currents shifted suddenly and flowed from the south at speeds that sometimes exceeded 15 centimeters per second. During the same interval, the amounts of sediment and vent-creature larvae that fell into the team’s traps dropped dramatically—indicating the cloud of minerals and larvae had been carried away, at least temporarily, as if a strong storm system had swept the stale air from a polluted valley.

[. . .]

The unusual changes in currents may help explain how the larvae of the heat-loving creatures living around hydrothermal vents are dispersed through long stretches of near-freezing waters to reach other warm havens, says Adams. Lab tests show that such larvae drop into a sort of suspended animation when immersed in cold water but can survive in that state for only 30 days or so. Although the occasional eddy-induced currents would likely sweep many larvae to a frigid doom, some of them would luck out and drift to distant oases that couldn’t be reached if currents had remained slow and steady.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 29, 2011 at 9:26 pm

[LINK] “In the House of Commons, partisanship rears its ugly head”

Anna Mehler Paperny, writing in yesterday’s Globe and Mail, picks up on a noteworthy point: the Canadian political party system is centralized, more so than in other Westminister-style parliamentary systems, with party whips bringing their MPs into strict conformity with the party line.

If you ask the people elected to represent you, they will say the biggest obstacles to political engagement are the organisms created to engage the average Canadian in the democratic process – political parties themselves.

“Exit interviews” with 65 former members of Parliament found astonishing accord on what’s wrong with Canada’s government: Almost to a person, they felt stymied by their parties’ machinations – from partisan gamesmanship to opaque candidate nomination processes to the seemingly arbitrary allocation of plum seats in the House of Commons, office space on Parliament Hill and positions on key committees.

“A lot of what we complain about in politics – from the way debates are structured to citizens being engaged to who gets to run and who’s selected as the leader … these are all things in the control of political parties,” said Alison Loat, executive director of Samara Canada, the research body that conducted the interviews.

“It might well be time to ask if we want to revitalize them.”

A report released last week based on the interviews found MPs from across the country and the political spectrum – government and opposition, cabinet members and backbenchers – are dissatisfied and, frankly, as embarrassed as the general public, by a political system hobbled by their own parties. Samara chair Michael Macmillan compared them to “hockey fans who go to watch the Maple Leafs with paper bags over their heads.”

Randy White remembers that feeling. As House leader for the Tories under a Liberal majority, “I saw it first-hand.

“I constantly had to try to find ways to get our people to believe that they were taken seriously … that the system worked.”

Written by Randy McDonald

April 29, 2011 at 8:00 pm

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[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • 80 Beats reports that Tycho’s famous supernova was caused not by a collision of two white dwarfs, but rather by the vacuuming up by a white dwarf of material from its partner normal star.
  • Derek Flack at blogTO is unimpressed by the City of Toronto’s decision not to build a pedestrian bridge near historic Fort York. False savings, there.
  • James Bow has posted another one of his Canadian alternate political histories, this one imagining a breakthrough of the Reform Party into Ontario in 2000 and a minority Liberal government under Jean Chrétien.
  • Daniel Drezner argues, again, that conspiracies remain popular and even resilient against facts because they explain reality for confused people.
  • Charlie Whitaker at A Fistful of Euros is decidedly not a fan of British monarchy.
  • The Global Sociology Blog reports on the contention that a major problem for feminism is the non-recognition by older and younger generations of women of their substantial differences.
  • Registan notes that many of the people and organizations who claim Kazakhstan’s elections were fair are also beholden to Kazakhstan.
  • Slap Upside the Head observes that the United States’ military has begun gay acceptance training. All that should be needed is the simple recognition that GLBT soldiers are normal, he argues.
  • Window on Eurasia’s Paul Goble summarizes a ridiculous article from a provincial newspaper in Russia that not only predicts the collapse of the Russian Federation but a Tatarstani-Kazakhstani conquest over their border regions.

[OBSCURA] squirrel brand, “Red Dawn”

Red Dawn by squirrel brand
Red Dawn, a photo by squirrel brand on Flickr.

Remarkable photo. What else can I say?

Written by Randy McDonald

April 29, 2011 at 2:15 pm

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[URBAN NOTE] “One Bloor East reveals T.O.’s unquenchable thirst for condos”

1 Bloor East, a planned massive condo tower at the very intersection of Yonge and Bloor in the middle of downtown Toronto that was threatened by the collapse of its Kazakhstani backer in 2009 but saw a promised relaunch last year, is back. John Daly, writing in the Globe and Mail, wonders if the real estate bubble that ended the original project is back.

It’s the sexiest vacant lot in Canada. What it lacks in amenities, it makes up for in location, location, location: the southeast corner of Yonge and Bloor Streets, Toronto’s crossroads, where the city’s most important subway lines meet underfoot. Just to the west is the snootiest row of shops in the country—Holt Renfrew, Cartier, Tiffany, Hugo Boss. A bit to the east soar the stately headquarters of corporate titans Manulife and Rogers.

This acre of dirt is rich in history, too—the post-millennial kind. It was the figurative summit of the city’s frenzied condominium boom of the 2000s, and ground zero for the bust stemming from the financial crisis in 2008. But most important, One Bloor East stands—or, rather, just lies there, for the moment—as an emblem of Toronto’s unkillable condo market. For that bust was quickly reversed by a stunning resurgence, despite a punishing recession.

[. . .]

[O]n March 24, 2010[, there i]s a low-key party for select real estate agents being held by Great Gulf to open its sales office for One Bloor East. “We aren’t opening to create lineups,” declares Bruce Freeman, Great Gulf’s executive vice-president of sales and marketing. The company doesn’t have to; it has already sold almost 85% of its 693 units, most of them by reclosing Gold’s clients.

A keenly interested bystander is Gold. He may have lost One Bloor East, but he’s now a comeback kid who will soon be able to point to his three other condo projects in Toronto.

There’s only one cinematic problem here: It’s a bogus journey for the only characters a young movie audience could identify with—first-time homebuyers. Vast numbers of them were priced out of the market for houses in Toronto and many other Canadian cities in the early 2000s. Condos are their only alternative. And, after all, new condo buildings have their attractions—One Bloor’s plans include a shopping mall, two pools, and a two-floor spa with a gym, yoga studio and “foot relax basins.” But the average new condo in Toronto now costs about $500 a square foot. That translates into about $250,000 for an entry-level one-bedroom of just over 500 square feet, and maybe twice that price or more in One Bloor or even ritzier downtown developments. Before monthly fees, that is.

Go, read the whole thing and wonder.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 28, 2011 at 11:58 pm