A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘politics

[LINK] Transitions Online on Crimea one year after the Russian annexation

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Tatiana Kozak’s Transitions Online article suggests that, despite serious economic issues, Crimeans are happy with the results of the annexation.

A year after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, there appears to be nothing of Ukraine left in the peninsula’s capital city. Russian flags fly, Russian banks are open for business, and Russian police patrol the streets of Simferopol. The cash in people’s pockets is rubles, and a sign detailing renovations at the landmark Alexander Nevsky Cathedral notes the patronage of Vladimir Putin.

The local samooborona, or “self-defense” forces, meet within the walls of the State Council of Crimea. A year after they occupied the building – keeping armed watch as lawmakers elected Sergey Aksyonov, a pro-Russian businessman and politician with alleged ties to organized crime, as Crimea’s prime minister – the samooborona hold official status and patrol the streets alongside police.

[. . .]

Official figures seem to bear out the [pro-Russian] sentiment. Of Crimea’s population of more than 2 million, only 20,000 have left since the annexation. Just 3,500 have refused Russian citizenship.

[. . .]

The road to a Russian Crimea has not been without its potholes, especially for entrepreneurs like Anna. After the annexation, she had to re-register her company and adjust it to the new, Russian tax system, a process that overloaded tax offices.

“Once I got a consultation at 11:30 p.m.,” she recalled. “It was a government decision; if a customer entered the building before 7 p.m., they should be served. Tax workers did not leave for home until then.”

Western sanctions have caused inconveniences for Crimean companies, formerly integrated into Ukraine’s international trade agreements but now part of a Russian economy that’s partially frozen out of global business. Visa and MasterCard halted service here just after Christmas, and IT workers have left in droves. Russian banks offer only intra-national services and accept only Russian payment cards.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 20, 2015 at 9:58 pm

[LINK] “Passports for a Price: The Business Showing Poor Countries How to Sell Citizenship”

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Bloomberg’s Jason Clenfield has an engaging article about how citizenship, especially for many small countries, is not only a birthright: It’s also a source of income.

In 2006, the tiny Caribbean state of St. Kitts and Nevis was in deep trouble. Its sugar plantations had closed a year earlier, gang violence had given it the dubious distinction of having one of the world’s highest murder rates, and only two governments on Earth were more indebted. A three-hour flight south of Miami, the country of 48,000 people was more or less unknown. Certainly, the two specks of volcanic rock in the middle of the West Indies weren’t of much interest to the world’s rich. St. Kitts and Nevis had run a citizenship-by-investment program—had sold passports—since 1984, but it didn’t get much attention and was never a moneymaker.

Then a Swiss lawyer named Christian Kalin showed up.

Thanks to Kalin, St. Kitts has become the world’s most popular place to buy a passport, offering citizenship for $250,000 with no requirement that applicants ever set foot on the island’s sun-kissed shores. Buyers get visa-free travel to 132 countries, limited disclosure of financial information, and no taxes on income or capital gains. The program became so successful that St. Kitts emerged from the global financial crisis far ahead of its neighbors in the Caribbean. “It’s been a complete transformation,” says Judith Gold, head of an International Monetary Fund mission to the country.

Just as Kalin put St. Kitts on the map, Bloomberg Markets will report in its April 2015 issue, the reverse is also true. It made his reputation. Before St. Kitts, Kalin’s firm, Henley & Partners, was an obscure wealth management and immigration consultancy, and Kalin was working out of a small branch office in Zurich. Tall, with a runner’s build, Kalin was known as a researcher, he says, not the hard-nosed dealmaker he’s become. His claim to fame was having edited a 766-page guide to doing business in Switzerland, a tome found in every one of the country’s embassies.

Soon, prime ministers from around the world were seeking Kalin’s advice, in the hope he could reproduce the magic of St. Kitts, where he effectively created a resource out of thin air for a nation that had few. Many countries allow wealthy foreigners to buy residency cards through what are called immigrant investor programs, but before the financial crisis, St. Kitts and another Caribbean island called Dominica were the only ones selling citizenship outright. Since then, another five countries have gotten into the game. More are coming.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 20, 2015 at 9:52 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “‘Daddy smoked crack': Toronto’s former mayor Rob Ford, on cancer, drugs and his political future”

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Global News’ Laura Stone interviews Rob Ford at length.

This is so infuriating.

I ask him if he thinks he should have been punished, by the public, for what he did.

Yes and no, he says.

“Yes, because I didn’t get the help earlier on that I needed. And I was lying and conniving and just doing what an addict does,” he says.

“Then on the other side of it, I didn’t do it here. I wasn’t high here, I was doing my job, showing up every day, running a great city. That was in my private life.”

He stares straight ahead, and pauses for a few moments to reconsider.

“But then I look back on it and say, would I have wanted my mayor to do what Rob Ford was doing, regardless of if it was at his private time or not? No, I wouldn’t. And I don’t think anybody would want a mayor who was, you know, an alcoholic and a drug addict, and not recognizing that, and not getting help for it.”

Much much more at the link.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 18, 2015 at 7:18 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Historicist: Sir John A. Macdonald’s Last Hurrah”

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In his regular Historicist feature this weekend past, Torontoist’s Jamie Bradburn observes how Sir John A. Macdonald’s last political speech of note was given in Toronto in 1891.

Rally day was unseasonably warm. By 6 p.m. thousands had gathered on King Street outside the Academy of Music, a throng later estimated to be around 15,000. Pushing and shoving reigned. Sharp-dressed attendees were caked in mud and slush up to their knees. The hot rumour was that Macdonald had damaging goods proving an alleged conspiracy by the Globe to sell out the country.

This rumour worried one man in the crowd. John Willison feared that whatever the Prime Minister had on his paper might spark a riot leading back to the Globe’s office at Yonge and Melinda. He arranged for 50 police officers to protect the paper while he watched the rally unfold.

Police were overwhelmed at the Academy, where the crowd cut off carriage traffic. They barely held the throng back when Tories given advance tickets were admitted just after 6 p.m. When the main doors opened at 7 p.m., around 4,000 people squeezed in. “The standing ways and aisles were all blocked, and pyramids of men were piled up in the corners,” the News reported. Several women fainted during the surge. Seats were ripped out to make more room. A gas lamp outside was destroyed, causing a gas rupture which forced organizers to turn on the electricity inside.

Some people tried alternative methods to get in, creating money-making opportunities. One person charged a quarter to lead attendees one by one through a back staircase into the rafters. Another levied a toll (which rose from a nickel to a quarter) to scale a fence with a ladder. Among those who took the latter route was opening speaker Charles Tupper, who couldn’t enter via the front door when the crowd failed to give him space. The heavy-set, heavily dressed politician had a few antsy moments on the ladder and almost fell into a pile of bricks during his descent.

Macdonald arrived via carriage from the Queen’s Hotel (now the site of the Royal York) around 7:35 p.m. It took 10 minutes to enter the building, as the crowd outside demanded a speech. Rally chairman W.R. Brock finally formed a wedge to let the PM in. Inside, Macdonald saw a hall covered in mottos. There were the patriotic (“Canada for the Canadians”), the flattering (“Hail to Our Chieftain”), and a few cheap shots at annexationists.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 16, 2015 at 10:01 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • blogTO notes that the site of the former Linux Caffè on Harbord at Grace is set to become a retro-style malt shop.
  • Centauri Dreams reacts to the discovery of an exoplanet in the uadruple 30 Arietis system.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that the protoplanetary disk of T Chamaeleontis can be best explained by stationary structures.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes controversy over Gliese 581d’s existence.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog’s Sally Raskoff notes the complex relationship between sex and gender.
  • The Frailest Thing considers the possibility of being cruel towards artificial entities like robots.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money is critical of anarchism’s ability to organize workers.
  • The Map Room’s Jonathan Crowe shares a detailed image of Ceres’ surface.
  • Marginal Revolution debates David Shambaugh’s argument of impending political change in China.
  • The Planetary Society Blog describes when we should expect detailed images of Pluto and its moons to come in from New Horizons.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog charts falling fertility in the North Caucasus.
  • Torontoist notes mourning and anger at the police reaction to the death of Toronto transwoman Sumaya Dalmar.
  • Towleroad notes a Michigan gym’s defense of a transwoman client.
  • Why I Love Toronto celebrates the new Honest Ed’s development plans.
  • Window on Eurasia is skeptical about the prospects for Russian immigrants in Europe to constitute a political force and mourns Nemtsov’s death.

[ISL] Peter Rukavina on the Rise of the Cyberneticists on Prince Edward Island

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Peter Rukavina has a thoughtful essay about interesting new trends in Prince Edward Island politics, drawing from Norbert Weiner and the Island’s own history..

It was impossible not to think of cybernetics while watching Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s address to senior provincial public servants yesterday, The Premier as Public Servant Leader.

In his address, MacLauchlan clearly demonstrates that he is, at heart, a cyberneticist – a “steersman,” if you will – and that he views his role as Premier to manage a complex system of people, resources, and motivations to, as he references several times, “move the trend lines” of prosperity, demographics, revenue, and expenses.

The Premier’s construction of “ten lenses” through which policy will be regarded – collegial, people, prosperity, engagement, ethical, strategic, rural, frugality, entrepreneurial, small is big – surely equips his office, and his government, with a set of tuned “organs” that Weiner describes:

Much of this book concerns the limits of communication within and among individuals. Man is immersed in a world which he perceives through his sense organs. Information that he receives is co-ordinated through his brain and nervous system until, after the proper process of storage, collation, and selection, it emerges through effector organs, generally his muscles. These in turn act on the external world, and also react on the central nervous system through receptor organs such as the end organs of kinaesthesia; and the information received by the kinaesthetic organs is combined with his already accumulated store of information to influence future action.

This approach to Prince Edward Island as a cybernetically-governable system is echoed when MacLauchlan discusses his “strategic lens”[.]

Written by Randy McDonald

March 5, 2015 at 11:32 pm

[DM] “The Tragedy of Canada’s Census”

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At Demography Matters, I linked to Aarian Marshall’s CityLab article examining the consequences and the causes of Canada’s census mayhem. Reducing the amount of hard data reduces the ability of governent to deal with issues. That might have been the whole point.

Rosana Pellizzari, the medical officer of health of Peterborough, Ontario, knows a thing or two about bad data. The public health office she oversees is charged with running policy-driven health programs and services for the mid-size city and county, population 123,000, which makes it the 33rd largest metro in Canada, if that country’s most recent census is to be believed.

Trouble is, she’s not sure it can be. In 2010, with little fanfare or preparation, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s conservative government decided that the next long-form census, completed in Canada every five years, would not be mandatory. As officials told the story, without citing any specific polls, the public had expressed concerns about their privacy when filling out the long-form census, as well as the threat of jail time should they decline to fill it out.

“We were all shocked,” says Marni Cappe, who in 2010 was the president of the Canadian Institute of Planners. “It sent a ripple through the community … They did it on a [June] afternoon when they thought, ‘Who would be paying attention?’”

So in 2011, Statistics Canada, the governmental body responsible for collecting and analyzing all of Canada’s statistics, sent out two versions of the census. The first, a mandatory short-form questionnaire, asked Canadians about their about age, sex, marital status, mother tongue, and the languages spoken at home. The second was the National Household Survey (NHS), a 40-page voluntary survey sent to 30 percent of Canadians. Munir Sheikh, then the head of Statistics Canada, resigned over the change in policy. “I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion … the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census,” he wrote. “It can not.”

Today, four years after Canada’s first voluntary long-form census, and one year away from what looks to be its second, Rosana Pellizzari is still wondering how to deal with the dearth of data. Thirty-six percent of Peterborough residents sent the voluntary survey did not return it, which gave the metro the lowest NHS response rate of all Canadian cities.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 3, 2015 at 4:01 am

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