June 28th, 2010

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Andrew Barton shares in the general disgust with the utter pointlessness of the G20 riots here in Toronto.

  • At GNXP, Razib Khan doesn't like the sorts of public perceptions which make it impossible for journalists like Dave Weigel--i.e. all of us--to present different faces to different people in the Internet era.

  • At Centauri Dreams, Paul Gilster lets us know how preliminary surveys may well demonstrate that there are more brown dwarfs--basically, star-like objects lacking the mass necessary to sustain fusion--in our area of the galaxy than normal stars.

  • Eastern approaches points out that the Holocaust was rather discontinuous from post-war pogroms in Poland, not least because the Polish state didn't authorize them and tried to stop it.

  • The Global Sociology Blog reviews a book that takes a look at downwards social mobility, making the point that fears of decline often inspired dodgy politics.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen worries about Berlin's economy. Since the end of Communism, the end of subsidies to industry in west and east Berlin both has led to an industrial collapse, leaving the city without much of a tax base and forcing the state to take on the role of patron to the arts.

  • Torontoist has great pictures of all the free swag that accredited G20 journalists go.

  • At The Way the Future Blogs, Frederik Pohl writes about how Isaac Asimov really didn't like people saying that he was not Jewish enough.

  • Window on Eurasia reports that Uzbekistan's admittedly powerless opposition wants Kyrgyzstan's Uzbek population to receive territorial autonomy.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell takes a look at how the Taliban in Afghanistan is reshaping itself in Afghanistan in response to its need to acquire public support. The ideological dialogics continue, as they always do.

[LINK] "Sadness remains on Toronto's streets"

Peter Kuitenbrouwer's article sums up my feeling, and the feelings of my fellow Torontonians, about the G20: it was just a sad, expensive mess, overshadowing the good points of the city and the positive things many people tried to accomplish.

"I don't think the G20 should be here in the downtown core," [one Leslieville mother, Tara] said. "No one asked whether we wanted a prison on the end of our street."

This morning, as Toronto sweeps up the broken glass of shattered Yonge Street and hauls away the wreck of the burnt cop cars, and the courts begin the tedious job of processing those arrested, and workers begin dismantling the awful fences that criss-cross the financial core, Toronto will heave a collective sigh of relief.

All we can hope is that the leaders and visiting police are gone, and will not return soon.

"It's not like [all the rioting, arrests and property damage] was a surprise," said Tara. "Have you seen what happens at other G20s? My taxpayer dollars are going to this: a circus at the end of my street."

The playwrite Anton Chekhov famously remarked, "'If you bring a gun on-stage you better make sure it is shot," a fitting remark as wave upon wave of police arrived in Toronto last week and big fences went up downtown.

Add summery June weather with exams over for high school and university students, the presence of many controversial world leaders, and hundreds of journalists whom authorities forbade from attending the actual summit meetings, and you had the ingredients for trouble.

Most people at Saturday's mass protest, which snaked from Queen's Park south through the rain to Queen Street and then west, did not want violence. Ethiopian-Canadians denounced the presence in Toronto of their homeland's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, whom they say "has muzzled civic society." Vietnamese-Canadians protested that country's Prime Minister Dung Tan Nguyen, whom they called "corrupt." Tibetans protested for freedom in their ancestral home.

And when Jean-Francois Des Lauriers, a regional vice-president with the Public Service Alliance of Canada visiting from Yellowknife, stood in the mud under a huge chestnut tree at Queen's Park and shouted in French to a group of about 100 union members (each wrapped in a clear plastic bag) that: "It is time for the people to take back the power!" he meant it in the figurative sense.

Even so, a small group wanted violence, and smashed up Queen Street and Yonge Street Saturday afternoon. At about 4 p.m. Post cartoonist Gary Clement and I walked up Yonge past windows smashed at Pizza Pizza, American Apparel, Zanzibar strip club, Swiss Chalet, Money Mart, De Boer's, Quiznos Sub, the ironically-named Urban Brick, and the Bell store, Tim Hortons and Winners in College Park.

Yonge, closed to traffic, thronged with thousands of people, sort of riot tourists having their pictures taken in front of all the broken windows, as though it were a big joke. "I am in the smashed Tim Hortons!" one young man said into his cell phone. There were no police in sight; business owners wondered why no police had come to protect them.