Log in

A Bit More Detail

> recent entries
> calendar
> friends

Site Meter
since 7 July 2005

Do you have any suggestions? Propose them here!

My Amazon.ca Wishlist

Where else am I online?
Demography Matters (group blog)

History and Futility (group blog)

Me on Flickr (randyfmcdonald)

Me on Twitter (@randyfmcdonald)

Me on YouTube

News and Information
Eye Weekly
Google News (Canada, English)
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Inter Press Service
National Post
NOW Toronto
The Toronto Star (Toronto)

Selected Blogs
3 Quarks Daily
80 Beats (Andrew Moseman, Brett Israel)
A BCer in Toronto (Jeff Jedras)
Acts of Minor Treason (Andrew Barton)
Andart (Anders Sandberg)
Alpha Sources (Claus Vistesen)
Apostrophen ('Nathan Smith)
Arnold Zwicky's Blog
Aufbau Ost (Melanie K.)
Bad Astronomy (Phil Plait)
Beyond the Beyond (Bruce Sterling)
Bonoboland (Edward Hugh)
Bow. James Bow.
Broadside Blog (Caitlin Kelly)
A (Budding) Sociologist's Commonplace Book (Dan Hirschman)
Gerry Canavan's blog
Castrovalva (Richard R.)
Centauri Dreams (Paul Gilster)
Charlie's Diary (Charlie Stross)
City of Brass (Aziz Poonawalla)
Crooked Timber
The Dragon's Gaze (William Baird)
The Dragon's Tales (William Baird)
Dangerous Minds
Everyday Sociology Blog
False Positives (Ian Irving)
Far Outliers (Joel)
The Fifteenth (Steve Roby)
A Fistful of Euros
GeoCurrents (Martin Lewis)
Global Sociology
The Great Grey Bridge, Honourary Canadian (Philip Turner)
Halfway Down the Danube (Douglas Muir et al.)
Hunting Monsters and inuit bikini scarlet carwash
In Media Res (Russell Arben Fox)
Inkless Wells (Paul Wells)
Intuitionistically Uncertain (Michel)
Itching for Eestimaa (Guistino)
Ivor Tossell on the Web
Jim's Occasional Journal of Sorts (Jim Rittenhouse)
Joe.My.God (Joe)
Johnny Pez's blog
Karl Schroeder's blog
Kieran Healy's Weblog
Language Hat
Language Log (Mark Liberman et al.)
Languages of the World (Asya Pereltsvaig)
Lawyers, Guns, and Money
LRB Blog (London Review of Books)
The Map Room (Jonathan Crowe)
Marginal Revolution (Tyler Cowen)
Marginalia (Peteris Cedrins)
Mark Simpson
Maximos' Blog (Russell Darnley)
More Words, Deeper Hole (James Nicoll)
The Naked Anthropologist (Laura Agustín)
New APPS blog (group blog)
No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded) (Peter Watts)
The Numerati (Stephen Baker)
NYRB Daily (New York Review of Books)
Open the Future (Jamais Cascio)
Otto's Random Thoughts (J. Otto Pohl)
The Pagan Prattle (Feòrag)
Passing Strangeness (Paul Drye)
patrickcain.ca (Patrick Cain)
Personal Reflections (Jim Belshaw)
Photosapience Daily (Jerrold)
Pollotencheg (Ukrainian demography blog)
The Power and the Money (Noel Maurer)
Progressive Download (John Farrell)
Registan (group blog)
Rev Rachel Rambles (Rachel Kessler)
The Rose and Phoenix Inn (Victoria Goddard)
Russian Demographic Live Journal (Ba-ldei Aga)
A Rusty Little Box (Rebecca)
Savage Minds
The Search (Douglas Todd)
Shadow, Light and Colour (Elizabeth Beattie)
Sharp Blue (Richard Baker)
The Signal
Some Ramblings from Mr. Gueguen
Steve Munro
Strange Maps
Sublime Oblivion (Anatoly Karlin)
Supernova Condensate
Tall Penguin
Technosociology (Zeynep Tufekci)
Towleroad (Andy Towle)
Understanding Society (Daniel Little)
Volokh Conspiracy
Wasatch Economics (Scott Peterson)
Wave Without A Shore (C.J. Cherryh)
The Way the Future Blogs (Frederik Pohl)
Whatever (John Scalzi)
Window on Eurasia (Paul Goble)
The Yorkshire Ranter (Alex Harrowell)
Zero Geography (Mark Graham)

Who links to me?

> profile
> previous 20 entries
> next 20 entries

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016
5:29 pm - [ISL] Bloomberg on progress toward sthe reunification of Cyprus
Bloomberg's "As Brexit Splits Europe, One Divided Island Edges Toward Unity" gives some hope for Cypriot reunification.

It looks like an ordinary summer’s evening on Ledra Street, the pedestrianized thoroughfare of stores and cafes that bisects Nicosia’s old town: Elderly Greek Cypriot men sip coffee as Turkish Cypriot teenagers rush through a border crossing at the end of the road to catch a local band.

This is the opposite side of the European map from the rift caused by the U.K.’s Brexit referendum, and the mood couldn’t be more different in the continent’s last divided capital city. The reunification of Cyprus -- split between north and south since Turkey’s invasion in 1974, a little more than a dozen years after independence from Britain -- is a tale of false dawns, but the feeling in Nicosia is that the stars in the eastern Mediterranean just might be aligning.

What’s changed is that the leaders of both parts of the island are pursuing talks on their own power-sharing arrangement rather than one imposed by the United Nations. While they have the traditional backing of the U.S. and European Union, Turkey now supports hammering out a deal in coming months.

"This time I feel we have a real chance as both leaders seem determined,” said Maria Sophocleous, a 60-year-old Greek-Cypriot pensioner whose home village now lies on the Turkish-speaking side. “They know that it’s the last opportunity for reunification."

(1 comment | comment on this)

5:28 pm - [ISL] "The Forgotten Jewish Pirates of Jamaica"
Smithsonian.com's Ross Kenneth Urken writes about the vestiges of a golden age of Jewish piracy, and also community, on Jamaica.

I was in Kingston’s spooky Hunts Bay Cemetery, located in a shantytown near the Red Stripe brewery, tramping through high grass with a dozen fellow travelers. We passed a herd of cattle that was being pecked by white egrets before finding what we were looking for: seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia.

Centuries ago, the coffins buried here were ferried across Cagway Bay from Port Royal, once known as “the wickedest city in the world” and an inspiration for the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise and amusement park ride. This was once the domain of the little-known Jewish pirates who once sailed the waters of Jamaica. Their history captures a somewhat different side of the island than its recently adopted tourism slogan: “Jamaica—Get All Right.”

Jews have been a recognized part of Jamaican cultural life since 1655, when Britain took power from Spain and welcomed Jewish immigration, though some date their presence here to Columbus’s second voyage to the Americas. Many were successful gold traders and sugar merchants. Some, like Moses Cohen Henriques, a crony of Captain Henry Morgan who once plundered the modern day equivalent of almost $1 billion from a Spanish galleon, were marauding buccaneers. Though today’s Jamaican Jewish population is fewer than 200, there are at least 21 Jewish burial grounds across the island.

Since 2007, Caribbean Volunteer Expeditions (CVE), a nonprofit focused on cultural preservation throughout the Caribbean, has been leading groups like mine in an effort to document this largly forgotten history by transcribing epitaphs and compiling an inventory of grave sites. With trips spearheaded by Rachel Frankel, a New York-based architect, it hopes to promote conservation of Jewish cemeteries and raise public awareness of them. In the 18th century, the French Enlightenment writer Guillaume-Thomas Raynal advocated that Jews adopt Jamaica as a homeland in the Caribbean, since it had already become a locus of Semitic commerce. With Kingston just a four-hour flight from New York, the island could still become a vital part of Jewish life, if this part of its history were better known.

(comment on this)

5:26 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "Are we killing Yonge Street?"
NOW Toronto's Robert Allsopp fears for the future eof Yonge Street as a dynamic urban streetscape.

Downtown Yonge Street isn't what it used to be.

The high energy of street life is fast disappearing. There are not many people around. We rarely walk far along the street because it lacks a sufficient variety of shops or range of sensory experiences to tempt us.

We do most of our specialty shopping and eating elsewhere. We do our chain-store shopping in the Eaton Centre and the many other interior malls linked by the underground PATH network that are vacuuming the life and the paying customers from Yonge.

The Bay and Saks Fifth Avenue (which occupy the old Simpson's store) are still in full-blooded conversation with the street. Yonge-Dundas Square and Ryerson U have made a big difference, but their energizing effects seem locally concentrated.

The condo invasion has hit Yonge, but oddly, the hyper-densities haven't added much public life to the street.

The key to Yonge Street's success has been the rows of independently operated, narrow-fronted shops and businesses that collectively support intense social and commercial activity. What sustains Toronto's main street are the many comings and goings from shops, cafés and bars at street level and the offices, showrooms and apartments on the upper floors. Entrances occur every few metres. There's an intense synergy between the repetitive building type and the street. But this synergy is disappearing as buildings are stuffed and preserved in a lifeless trend I call urban taxidermy.

(comment on this)

5:25 pm - [pURBAN NOTE

Toronto Public Library's new Wi-Fi hotspot program only scratches the surface of internet accessibility issues in the city.

By Anders Marshall

Google Canada's managing director Sam Sebastian spoke about Google's partnership with the Toronto Public Library to create the wifi hotspot rental program. Photo by Anders Marshall.
Google Canada’s managing director Sam Sebastian spoke about Google’s partnership with the Toronto Public Library to create the wifi hotspot rental program. Photo by Anders Marshall.

According to Mayor John Tory, Toronto has a culture of “haves” and “have nots”: those with privilege, with access to resources and services—and those without them. It’s our job, the mayor told a crowd at Thorncliffe Park’s Public Library branch last month, to bridge that divide.

“I believe the best thing to do is build people up, to allow them to be everything they can be,” Tory says.

Among the resources unavailable to many is access to internet. The city has a Wi-Fi problem: though it is a necessity when it comes to job searches, education, and employment, many Torontonians cannot afford home internet packages.

In an effort to improve access, the Toronto Public Library has begun a partnership with Google Canada to create a Wi-Fi hotspot rental program.

The program completed its pilot phase in June, beginning with 210 individual mobile units. Aside from Thorncliffe, branches participating in the program include Albion, Cedarbrae, Evelyn Gregory, Parliament Street, and York Woods. Users can rent hotspots from any participating branch for six months at a time, and are allocated 10 gigabytes of data to use each month.

(comment on this)

5:23 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "Creating Girls’ Spaces in Toronto Community Centres Isn’t That Simple"
Torontoist features a report by Viviane Fairbank on creating girls' spaces in Toronto community centres, complicated by the question of what such spaces should be.

Last year, a few dozen girls aged 13 to 18 sat in colourful, decorated rooms in four different community centres across Toronto and spoke to researchers from Social Planning Toronto. The centres, ranging in location from North Kipling to Scarborough, were host to Toronto’s newest youth spaces funded by the City. As similar establishments were being built across the GTA, researchers wanted to learn about the initiative’s successes and shortfalls.

But a previous report from that year, led in part by SPT, had omitted young women’s perspectives from its evaluation. The report’s leaders had done so inadvertently, as is so often the case: they had simply spoken to a majority of boys and taken their responses as universal.

Now, SPT returned to the community centres to determine whether, as suspected, researchers would gather “other information” by speaking to the girls who used the space. Let’s call it a well-meaning afterthought.

Two weeks ago, SPT published its results [PDF]. For the most part, they were unsurprising: young women had a lot to say. But the girls were also remarkably traditional in their understanding of femininity. For the most part, their suggestions for girl-friendly spaces did not allow for a richer, more inclusive future for Toronto’s young women. Instead, they painted a stark picture of today’s teenage girls, and prompted questions about just how to respond.

(comment on this)

5:21 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "Lower TTC ridership leaves $25 million budget gap"
Ben Spurr's report earlier this month in the Toronto Star is alarming. We need more funding, people.

Faced with declining ridership and a projected $25-million shortfall, the TTC intends to cancel planned service improvements and crack down on youngsters who ride for free by making kids as young as 10 get photo ID.

According to a ridership update released on Wednesday, the commission has carried 250.3 million passengers so far this year, which is slightly less than numbers posted at the same time last year and 7.4 million fewer than the amount the TTC was anticipating by this point in 2016.

Commission staff project that by the end of the year, the agency will fall short of its originally-projected 553 million rides by up to 13 million trips, leaving it with a $25-million hole in its budget.

In order to make up the shortfall, the commission has already identified about $10 million in savings that include lower-than-anticipated costs of fuel, hydro, and employee benefits. To save an additional $1.5 million, the TTC intends to abandon service improvements planned for the fall of this year. That leaves a gap of about $13 million that the commission needs to bridge.

(comment on this)

2:09 pm - [NEWS] Some Wednesday links

  • Bloomberg notes Ireland's huge unexpected recent reported growth, looks at the deindustrialization of Israel, observes Deutsche Bank's need to search for wealth abroad, looks at the demographic imperatives that may keep healthy Japanese working until they are 80, notes the slipping ANC grip on Pretoria and looks at the rise of anti-Muslim Pauline Hanson in Australia, and predicts Brexit could kill the London property boom.

  • Bloomberg View calls for calm in the South China Sea.

  • CBC notes some idiot YouTube adventurers who filmed themselves doing stupid, even criminal, things in different American national parks.

  • The Globe and Mail reports on the plans for a test tidal turbine in the Bat of Fundy by 2017.

  • MacLean's looks at the heckling of a gay musician in Halifax and reports on the civil war in South Sudan.

  • The New York Times looks at the new xenophobia in the east English town of Boston.

  • Open Democracy notes that talk of a working class revolt behind Brexit excludes non-whites, and reports on alienation on the streets of Wales.

  • Wired looks at how some cash-strapped American towns are tearing up roads they cannot afford to maintain.

(comment on this)

2:03 pm - [BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Centauri Dreams considers low-mass objects in Orion.

  • Crooked Timber engages with the racism among the Brexiteers.

  • The LRB Blog notes the huge complications of Brexit.

  • The NYRB Blog looks at controversies in the Clinton campaign.

  • Savage Minds visits Ukraine's new museum of corruption, and the refugees who live there.

  • Transit Toronto looks at the expansion of GO Transit's infrastructure northwards.

  • Torontoist notes a possible revival of public art at Yorkdale station.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at the controversies over Orthodox Christianity and nationality in Ukraine.

(comment on this)

10:32 am - [PHOTO] Looking out at Lake Ontario, from the Palais Royale
Out at the lake #toronto #lakeontario #palaisroyale

Monday afternoon I went on a walk along the waterfront in Sunnyside, from the Palais Royale east to Exhibition Place. This photo was taken looking out at Lake Ontario under the limbs of a tree on the shore, in the full afternoon heat.

(comment on this)

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016
4:00 pm - [ISL] "Buddhist-affiliated restaurant vandalized after P.E.I. monks set lobsters free"
MacLean's shares the Canadian Press report.

A Buddhist-affiliated restaurant in Prince Edward Island has been vandalized, hours after a group of local monks liberated 600 pounds of live lobsters.

Charlottetown police responded early Sunday to property damage at the Splendid Essence restaurant, including a damaged railing, uprooted flowers and smashed mailbox.

The previous day, monks from the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society in Little Sands had invited a CBC News crew to join them on a fishing boat as they released lobsters purchased on the island into the ocean off Wood Islands.

[. . .]

“Buddhist monks are motivated to practice compassion. All along they aspire to keep it low-profiled,” Venerable Dan, a monk at the institute, said in a statement. “They do not care for judging others, nor do they hope that any potential quarrel be triggered because of this.”

Geoffrey Yang, a spokesperson for the institute who had helped owner Keh-Jow Lu establish the vegetarian restaurant, did not want to speculate about whether the property damage was connected to the lobster release. He said Lu is a Buddhist follower, but is not directly associated with the monastery.

(1 comment | comment on this)

3:58 pm - [ISL] "Green Gay Bulls B&B doesn't leave guests guessing — it's LGBT-friendly"
CBC News' Sara Fraser reports.

Jim Culbert was a pioneer in gay tourism. He ran the Rainbow Lodge in Vernon Bridge, P.E.I., for 22 years, advertising it as gay-friendly and painting its exterior for several years in rainbow colours — an LGBTQ community symbol of pride.

And there's no mistaking Culbert's latest venture, Green Gay Bulls, as anything but in-your-face, I-don't-care-what-you think marketing.

"I get a lot of people saying, quite a play on words!" said Culbert from his property, which sits on three acres on the edge of the Vernon River, just a few doors up from his former business.

And the neighbours?

"They thought it was fine, had a good laugh!" he chuckles. "They've known me for years now."

(comment on this)

3:56 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "The Future of Food in Cities: Urban Agriculture"
The Inter Press Service's Aruna Dutt looks at urban agriculture in the world, starting from New York City.

Habitat III, the UN’s conference on cities this coming October will explore urban agriculture as a solution to food security, but here in New York City, it has shown potential for much more.

Record-high levels of inequality are being felt most prominently in the world’s cities. Even In New York City, the heart of the developed world, many urban communities have food security issues.

Since the year 2000, New York City food costs have increased by 59 percent, while the average income of working adults has only increased by 17 percent.

Forty two percent of households in the city lack the income needed to cover necessities like food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and healthcare but still earn too much to qualify for government assistance.

Last year, OneNYC was introduced, a plan specifically aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, aiming to lift 800,000 people out of poverty in a decade.

(comment on this)

3:54 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "Evaluating Toronto’s Tough Transit Decisions as a Network"
Torontoist features Steve Munro's analysis of two transit options for Toronto's future.

On July 12, Toronto City Council faces a mountain of transit reports. The Scarborough subway extension is the high-profile issue, but many more demand Council’s attention: The Crosstown East and West LRT extensions, the Waterfront LRT, congestion relief on the subway, SmartTrack and the role of GO Transit, and fare integration with transit systems beyond the 416.

The challenge is to move from debates about individual lines to a network view. More is involved than drawing lines on a map. Crayons and paper are cheap, but a transit network will cost billions. Does Council have the discipline to spend wisely, face the cost of its decisions, and raise the funds needed to build a network Torontonians can ride in their lifetimes?

(comment on this)

1:00 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "Whether subway or LRT, Scarborough has to be just the start"
Edward Keenan in the Toronto Star makes the obvious case that the development of mass transit networks has to be sustained throughout their development histories.

There are two certainties in Toronto political debate: the Scarborough subway and taxes.

What about death, you say? Ha! No such luck. No one who has closely watched city hall over the past decade believes fighting about these topics will ever die.

And so, we reported this week, a proposal for new taxes of some form is coming back to city hall in the fall. And Subway Bowl CXXXVIII will be contested at the city council meeting starting Tuesday. There, once again, councillors will be asked to vote to either move ahead with work on the new, more expensive, less expansive extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line to Scarborough Town Centre, or to revert to the twice-abandoned former plan for a new seven-stop LRT to the same destination.

I wrote recently about what I think is the most reasonable case to be made for the subway plan — an argument that depends on a series of other conditions for its logic. And in the end I remain unpersuaded — I think, as I have for years, that the LRT plan would probably accomplish most of the city-building and transit network goals as well or better. The case was put well in a recent op-ed by Councillors Paul Ainslie and Josh Matlow.

I won’t rehash all of those arguments on both sides here — if you care at all, it’s likely you are intimately familiar with them already, and it’s also likely you have already made your mind up which side you’re on. My opinion is that the subway option would be a mistake — and an expensive one — and that Scarborough commuters and the city’s goals would both be better served by the alternative proposal.

But my big fear about the debate Tuesday (and beyond) is not that the subway extension is approved and built. It is that nothing else that’s been proposed in addition to and alongside it will be built.

(comment on this)

12:57 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "How a Murder Fed Anxieties about Toronto Ravines"
On the weekend, Torontoist's Chris Bateman shared the story of Ruth Taylor, a young woman murdered in 1935. How her murder reflected on all manner of concerns including the role of women, the Great Depression, and neighbourhoods fears is a sad, interesting story.

20-year-old Ruth Taylor was a stenographer in the transfer department of the Toronto General Trusts, an insurance firm in the heart of downtown.

On November 4, 1935, she was working late into the night with a colleague, Mrs. Melville. A short distance away at Maple Leaf Gardens two teams of NHLers were playing a pre-season charity hockey match before a large crowd. Not a sellout, but close.

It was around 11 p.m. when Taylor left the office at Bay and Melinda streets, boarded a streetcar—either a Bay car north to College or a King car to Gerrard and Broadview—and began her regular journey home.

As usual, Taylor switched to a Carlton car that would bring her the rest of the way to her father’s home on Norwood Road, a short residential street a little west of Main and Gerrard Street East.

This night, however, the Carlton car that picked up the young office worker was a “hockey special,” one of several extra streetcars inserted into the regular schedule for the crowd leaving Maple Leaf Gardens.

(1 comment | comment on this)

12:46 pm - [BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Antipope hosts a guest blogger with an interesting vision for a new iteration of cyberpunk.

  • Beyond the Beyond's Bruce Sterling shares a link to a report on Saudi Arabian water resources.

  • Centauri Dreams shares a study of nearby brown dwarf WISE 0855.

  • Crooked Timber notes the amoral technocracy of the Speers.

  • Dangerous Minds shares vintage postcards from a century ago warning against the threat of feminism.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper examining the import of carbon to oxygen ratios in exoplanet formation.

  • ImaGeo notes the discovery of new dwarf planet RR245.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that Australians scientists have declared an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in that country, conditionally.

  • Language Hat links to a site for learning sign languages.

  • Language Log tests an alleged Finnish joke about Russian occupations for linguistic plausibility.

  • The LRB Blog notes that Prime Minister Theresa May is not a victory for feminism.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the depopulation of Japan and looks at Britain's low productivity.

  • Otto Pohl announces his impending move to academia in Kurdistan.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at Ukrainian emigration.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russian austerity will hurt Russia's regions.

(comment on this)

12:42 pm - [PHOTO] ExPlace Windmill, Exhibition Place
Windmill #toronto #exhibitionplace #windmill

Yesterday, I photographed WindShare's ExPlace wind power generator, 91 metres tall and built in 2002, dramatically against the sun. This was the closest I've ever been to it, but this tower is visible throughout the west end and far up Dufferin Street. For the curious, the Toronto Star has an article going into greater detail about ExPlace's history.</u></a>

(comment on this)

Monday, July 11th, 2016
2:10 pm - [PHOTO] An excerpt from 49 Flowers by Zachari Logan
On Nuit Rose earlier this month, I stopped by West Queen West's Paul Petro Contemporary Art where I ended up taking some small part in Zachari Logan's durational drawing performance 49 Flowers.

On June 25th 2016, Zachari Logan completed a durational drawing performance, in conjunction with NUIT ROSE, Toronto's Queer Arts Festival and his exhibition Forgotten Selves at PAUL PETRO CONTEMPORARY ART. Members of the public were invited to select a cut flower from a large floral arrangement and sit with the artist for a fifteen-minute portrait-drawing session. Logan drew the flower as a portrait of the bearer. Logan's goal to produce forty-nine drawings to commemorate the lives of those lost in the recent Orlando tragedy was realized by drawing continually from noon on the 25th of June to 2:30am June 26th, 2016.

These were the floral arrangements.

Raw material #toronto #nuitrose #flowers #westqueenwest

Raw material, 2 #toronto #nuitrose #flowers #westqueenwest

I ended up selecting the below flower, a rose--I think--dense with convolutions, and I sat for the sketching just after midnight. The process of Logan's sketching on mylar was impressive to watch.

Flower seen head on #toronto #nuitrose #pink #flowers #westqueenwest

Below is the drawing, #40 in the series, that was the result.

(comment on this)

Sunday, July 10th, 2016
4:41 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "A Welsh Steel Town Had a Lot to Lose. Why Did It Brexit?"
Bloomberg's Lisa Freisher looks at why one Welsh steel town dependent on EU funding counterintuitively voted for Brexit. Desperation, blind desperation, seems key.

On the eve of the Brexit vote, nearly all official voices were nudging residents of the steel town of Port Talbot, Wales, to vote to remain in the EU: A healthy chunk of the steel produced locally was shipped into Europe, and the EU sent millions of pounds to aid the local economy.

The message came from management at the giant mill, owned by Tata Steel. Union bosses. Local politicians. But those voices from above seemed to only repel residents fed up with the status quo.

Protesting decades of industrial decline while London thrived, 57% of the 75,652 people who voted in this once proud region of steel production decided to take a chance and leave.

“All I’ve ever seen was a decline in the steel works,” said Andrew Clarke, 30, who finally got a job at the plant two years ago as a crane driver, only to watch his father laid off from the plant this year. “People might maybe losing pensions, maybe losing bonuses, maybe losing holidays.”

The town was one of many places across England and Wales where people voted against what a host of experts and government officials said were their own self interests, in favor of an unknown alternative. In Sunderland, where Nissan employs 6,700 autoworkers on the northeast coast of England, Leave won 61% to 39%. In Cornwall, after its residents voted to leave, local officials asked for reassurance after the vote that £60 million ($80 million) in annual EU support would be replenished.

(5 comments | comment on this)

4:39 pm - [URBAN NOTE] Spacing Ottawa on commemorating William Stephenson
Spacing Ottawa's Dwight Williams notes an odd, and reparable, lacuna in the list of figures commemorated on Ottawa's streets.

If you’ll permit some historical stage-setting: around the time frame of 1990-‘91, the former city of Gloucester began the process of building City Park Drive, a side street looping southwards off of Ogilvie Road near the Gloucester Centre Mall. There would eventually be side streets branching off within that loop for condominiums to be built and called home by hundreds of our neighbours.

Around the same time frame, construction began on the north side of Ogilvie on the current headquarters of the first of its best-known – and perhaps least understood – neighbours: the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service. A decade or so later, their military-affiliated counterparts, the Communications Security Establishment, would set up their own shop right next door. Both buildings are striking in terms of design for different reasons, and not the kind of design that one might expect or prefer for the headquarters of intelligence services. That matter of architectural taste can be argued another time in other venues.

To the point: however misunderstood the work of those organizations may be, it can nonetheless be argued that their work – and those of their forebears in the structure of the Canadian government – has at times been vital to Canada…and particularly when it comes to discussing World War II. One Canadian citizen in particular has been honoured with some justification for his work in that field. I’ve checked and discovered that his name has yet to be commemorated anywhere within the current city limits, and perhaps it is time that was now remedied.

That person is Sir William Stephenson, better known even now in some circles as “the Man Called Intrepid” thanks to his autobiography of the same name.

(comment on this)

> previous 20 entries
> next 20 entries
> top of page