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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘politics

[URBAN NOTE] “Sister cities: Can Toronto and Montreal set aside their sibling rivalry?”

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Marcus Gee’s article in The Globe and Mail regarding the chances for a Toronto-Montréal alliance

Forget about the two solitudes. Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre says he wants Montreal and Toronto – leading centres of French and English Canada, and great rivals for generations – to become sister cities.

He says that the two need to work together on solutions to common urban problems. Together, he says, they may have more luck persuading Ottawa to take cities seriously.

“The two solitudes are over,” he told the media on Wednesday after meeting Toronto Mayor John Tory at City Hall. “Clearly, the time has come that the metropolis of Quebec talks to the metropolis of Canada,” he added later at a lunchtime talk to Bay Street heavyweights.

[. . .]

Sister-city deals are nothing new. Mayors make them all the time and they usually amount to little more than symbolism and platitudes.

But when Montreal and Toronto talk sisterhood, something more interesting is happening. The two cities are historic competitors in sports – Leafs versus Habs – and in many other things. It was a milestone in the life of the country when Toronto surpassed Montreal in population and became its main economic hub.

The divide between them has always seemed much wider than the six-hour drive would indicate. Many Torontonians never make the trip, many Montrealers wouldn’t think of it. Montreal’s French-speaking intellectual elite looks to Paris, Toronto’s elite to New York.

But times are changing. The separatist cause is faltering. Quebec has a new, pragmatic, federalist Premier in Phillipe Couillard. Mr. Coderre, a Liberal MP and cabinet minister for 16 years before Montrealers elected him mayor in 2013, seems cut from the same cloth. He is energetic, funny, open-minded and bursting with fresh ideas.

The Toronto-Montreal sisterhood is one of his freshest. Mr. Coderre notes that Canada’s two biggest cities have loads in common. Both have diverse populations fed by heavy immigration. Both are struggling to fix crumbling infrastructure. Both are trying to find the money to build out their transit networks.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 27, 2015 at 10:58 pm

[LINK] “Venezuelan doctors face tough choices as economic crisis worsens”

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MacLean’s hosts Hannah Dreier’s Associated Press article noting that one casualty of Venezuela’s ongoing economic collapse is modern medicine.

Oncologist Gabriel Romero performs hundreds of life-saving surgeries a year, but he no longer takes pleasure in his work.

That’s because he believes that many of the mastectomies he does on some of Venezuela’s poorest women wouldn’t be needed in a normally functioning country. Doctors say they are being forced to return to outdated treatments because the socialist country’s economic problems make it impossible to ensure the proper running of radiation machines in public hospitals, where patients receive free treatment under Venezuela’s universal health care.

“You don’t feel comfortable with it, because you’re making a decision that goes against your professional judgment,” Romero said recently after seeing patients in the grubby basement clinic at the Dr. Luis Razetti Oncology Center, at the foot of a Caracas slum. The hospital’s only linear accelerator machine, the more modern of the two kinds of radiotherapy devices used in Venezuela, has been broken since November.

“We’re practicing medicine from the 1940s here, and we know that’s not right,” Romero said.

The challenges facing doctors are just one reflection of an economy battered by widespread shortages. The recent crash in global oil prices, which account for 95 per cent of Venezuela’s exports, is creating a cash shortage that makes it difficult to buy imported goods, such as parts for medical machines. Also depressing economic activity is 68 per cent inflation and a currency crisis that has seen the value of the local Bolivar plunge 46 per cent this year on the closely-watched black market.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 26, 2015 at 10:29 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • Centauri Dreams examines different ways in which starships can decelerate.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the potential habitability of exomoons orbiting bright white main-sequence stars, between F5 and F9.5. Ultraviolet radiation is key.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a Chinese ASAT weapons test.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the Swedish language now has officially added the gender-neutral pronoun hen to its vocabulary.
  • Language Hat notes an ambitious new project to digitize ancient Irish-language documents.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer is critical of the Democratic Party’s stance on abortion when it gets in the way of necessary policy, likening it to the Republican Party’s ongoing satisfaction of its base.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes the final interesting weeks of Messenger‘s survey of Mercury, with photos.
  • Peter Rukavina remembers when in 1995 he was commissioned by the government of Prince Edward Island to set up a provincial website.
  • Torontoist reacts with humour to the impending merger of Postmedia and Sun Media.
  • Towleroad notes a lawsuit brought by a Michigan women against her former gym for being too trans-friendly.
  • Understanding Society examines the mechanisms connecting experiments with policies.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy argues against mandatory voting and mandatory jury service.
  • Window on Eurasia observes a controversial election among Moldova’s Gagauz and looks at the extent to which Islam in Russia is not under the government’s control.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell goes on at length about the ridiculous Biryani project, a failed dirty tricks effort to sabotage the English Defense League and radical Muslims. Wow.

[LINK] “Surveillance shouldn’t be the new normal”

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Mathew Ingram makes the case against the emergent panopticon state.

As the Globe and Mail has reported — based on classified documents obtained from an anonymous source — U.S. intelligence officials appear to be mapping the communications traffic of several large Canadian corporations, including Rogers Communications Inc., one of the country’s largest internet and telecom providers. Perhaps the most depressing aspects of this news is how completely unsurprising it is.

By now, we have all been subjected to a veritable tsunami of surveillance-related leaks, courtesy of documents obtained by former U.S. intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, a trove from which this latest piece of information is also drawn. These files suggest the National Security Agency uses every method at its disposal — both legal and otherwise — to track every speck of web and voice traffic, including tapping directly into the undersea cables that make up the backbone of the internet.

In that context, the idea that intelligence agencies are snooping on the networks of Canadian corporations like Rogers seems totally believable, despite the fact that a 66-year-old agreement between Canada and the U.S. supposedly prevents either country from spying on the residents of its partner. While the document in question doesn’t say that any snooping is occurring, it seems clear that the behaviour it describes is designed to create a map of those networks in order to facilitate future surveillance activity.

The U.S. has repeatedly argued that this kind of monitoring is necessary in order to detect the activities of potential threats to U.S. security. The problem with this approach, of course, is that no one knows where those threats will appear, or how they will manifest themselves — thanks to the diverse nature of modern international terrorism — and so the inevitable result is a kind of ubiquitous surveillance, in which every word and photo and voice-mail message is collected, just in case it might be important.

One of the risks inherent in the steady flow of leaks from Mr. Snowden and others is that the new reality they portray eventually becomes accepted, if not outright banal. Of course we are being surveilled all the time; of course our location is being tracked thanks to the GPS chips in our phones; of course the NSA is installing “back door” software on our internet devices before we even buy them. At this point, it’s hard to imagine a surveillance revelation that would actually surprise anyone, no matter how Orwellian it might be.

Much more is available if you follow the link. Go, read.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 25, 2015 at 11:07 pm

[LINK] “Topless woman removed from House of Commons after protesting anti-terror bill”

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FEMEN, the international women’s feminist group, is active in Canada. We learned this yesterday when, as described by the National Post‘s Jake Edmiston, a lone protester criticizing bill C-51 was thrown out of parliament.

A topless woman protesting the Conservative government’s anti-terror bill was ejected from the House of Commons on Monday during a discussion about honouring Vietnamese refugees.

The protester, Neda Topaloski with the Canadian wing of the international Femen movement, was in the sitting in public gallery, with two guards standing nearby on either side of her, she said. One of the security guards stepped out briefly, so seeing an opportunity, she took off her shirt. The officers gave chase and Ms. Topaloski ran about the gallery, screaming: “C-51 is war on freedom.”

[. . .]

As Ms. Topaloski was carried out, the in-house camera stayed fixed on the startled parliamentarians. So no footage of the incident surfaced Monday, making it largely a disappointment for Ms. Topaloski’s Femen — which thrives on photos of their trademark topless protests appearing in the media.

“It was a miscalculation,” she said. “I thought it would be better to do it in the morning because then it would be in the news all day … But there was no media.”

“It is really a shame that that image of a woman resisting and fighting the power and the order without shame didn’t make it.”

Written by Randy McDonald

March 24, 2015 at 10:39 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that a study of Epsilon Eridani’s debris disk hints at the existence of planets.
  • Inkfish notes that global warming is harming the nutritional value of rainforest leaves.
  • Joe. My. God. quotes Larry Kramer being an alarmist.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money examines the Ted Cruz candidacy.
  • Marginal Revolution reports on a study suggesting the continuing underrepresentation of women on television and in the movies.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog links to a report on the changing religious demographics of the United States.
  • Torontoist notes that the Scarborough rapid transit line is getting a makeover.
  • Window on Eurasia observes that irredentism is popular among Russians.

[DM] On the case of Open Borders

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I’ve a post up at Demography Matters noting how, last Monday at the American libertarian blog The Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin made a post announcing his support for the thesis of the Open Borders
NGO that migration should be as unhindered as possible. Linking to various authors’ arguments in favour of this thesis, Somin makes the argument that the tendency worldwide should be not to raise barriers to migration but to lower them.

As the Open Borders Manifesto notes, and as I have said in the past, most open borders advocates do not claim that the right to free migration is absolute and always trumps opposing considerations. Just as I reject absolute property rights or absolute freedom of speech, so too I reject absolute rights to free migration. But we do believe there should be a strong presumption in favor of free migration that can only be overcome by strong evidence that restriction is the only way to prevent a harm great enough to outweigh the vast benefits of freedom to natives and migrants alike.</blockquote

Many of the commenters at the Volokh Conspiracy are unconvinced, arguing that the author underestimates the costs involved. I myself am undecided about the thesis: There do seem to be great potential gains in GDP globally if there was a freer global market in labour alongside other global markets, but I'm also quite aware that there could be significant political costs if these associated migrations ever became problematic.

What do you think of the argument?

Written by Randy McDonald

March 24, 2015 at 1:24 am

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