Tag: Mike Brock

Toronto: The rising city

It has now come to pass that Toronto can lay claim to being the fourth largest city in North America, passing Chicago, with its city proper population now ringing in at an estimated 2,791,140. This is a significant climb in population for Toronto, rising about one-quarter of a million people in a decade.

Both for Canada’s largest city and most hated city, the statistical milestone is nothing more than that. And as a datapoint on its own, it really is nothing more than that.

I’ve been lucky enough in my life to have lived outside of Canada, and been lucky enough to have stamps in my passport from almost every continent in the world. And truth be told, there’s a lot of places I’ve been which I wouldn’t mind spending a great deal more time in.

That said, Toronto is “special” in the world today. It’s perhaps, in the developed world, the city most defined by immigration. A fact lamented by conservatives and embraced by liberals. In the year 2013, a majority of the people living in the City of Toronto, North America’s fourth largest city, were not even born on this continent. I think the liberals are on the right side of history, here.

Cities like New York and Chicago could once claim a similar statistic, in their heydays as destinations for masses of immigrants from Europe. But America has fallen out of love with the idea of immigration being a good thing. While immigrants still contribute to America in a big way, culturally America has grown distrustful of immigration and a majority of Americans would like to see the gates into America churning ever more slowly — and more discerningly.

Toronto stands out in the world, because its a place where hints of xenophobia are noticeably rare.  And people do notice.

A colleague of mine on a trip from Germany was sitting in Jack Astor’s restaurant on John Street in downtown Toronto a couple of years ago sipping beers and having a quick bite to eat when he suddenly changed the topic from work to an observation of the restaurant; looking around the restaurant he observed that at almost every table, sat persons of mixed ethnicities. Almost no all-white tables. No all-black tables. No all-Asian tables.

This stuck out to me. And I think back to that moment a lot when I’m abroad, or even in the United States. My German colleague’s observation really contrasts Toronto quite starkly when you pay attention.

It really begs the question: is Toronto the least racist city in the world? And if it is, why?

The standard conservative refrain in Canada, and even from within Toronto is that multiculturalism has failed. It has led to ethnic ghettos and inter-racial tension. But in Canada’s showcase metropolis, with a city dominated by a non-white, multi-ethnic majority, these supposed racial tensions are noticeably absent. They’re not gone. Toronto is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a city free of the repugnance that is racism. But is it the city which has come closest to extinguishing it? Perhaps.

Against this backdrop of Toronto’s rapidly shifting demographics, is also the very real sense that the city is growing. For Toronto, the city is faced not with what so many other North American cities are faced with — attracting people and businesses — but is faced with the challenges of figuring out with how to cope with the city’s attractiveness and the attendant population inflows.

It’s a problem a lot of cities would like to have.

Ironically, Toronto is despised for its growth by many. Growth is seen as an inconvenience. An unpleasant change.

Toronto’s condo market may be a bubble, riding on cheap money and over-extended credit. But one must also take heed of the fact that people are, in droves, eschewing suburban living and moving downtown.

The city has been called “boring” by many of its detractors for lacking the majesty of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge, a music venue with the prestige of New York’s Radio City Music Hall, or a waterfront as beautiful as Chicago’s.

But Toronto is a young city. It does not have the history, and thus, venues and places with the history of Empire State Building, or Chicago’s Board of Trade Building. Lacking these sorts of tick boxes in a tourist guide does not make Toronto boring. It actually, when put in perspective, makes Toronto all the more fascinating.

Half a century ago, Toronto was nothing more than a small provincial town. At that time, Chicago was the second biggest city in North America. Today, a half century later, Toronto is larger than Chicago. It has more skyscrapers under construction than any city outside of China. It has more office space under construction than Chicago, New York City and San Francisco combined.

No, Toronto is not a city of historical depth like Chicago or New York City. It’s a city where significant history is being written, by perhaps the most cosmopolitan population the world has ever seen — and that makes Toronto today, anything but boring. 

By admin March 15, 2013 Off

The neocon gambit

I’ve addressed this issue many times, with great expatiation in the past. But now I will give it a name. It is the neocon gambit, and it goes like this: if you care about a fiscally responsible government then the choice is between conservatives and everyone else.

The neocon gambit asks that, say libertarians and free market types suspend their other political convictions on gay rights, foreign policy, the war on drugs, abortion rights, and so on. In exchange, we get lower taxes and a “smaller government” with a much bigger military, more prisons, more police, and harsher sentencing for all crimes.

The neocon gambit is advanced by various people in various ways.

Stephen Taylor of the National Citizens Coalition advances it as a matter of practicality — the art of the possible, as he fondly puts it.

Then there is Lance over at Small Dead Animals. He takes issue with what he sees as the left demonizing the right over racism and other bigotries, when as he puts it, the real issue is “Fiscal Responsibility”. 

Nobody needs to convince me about the problems America faces. I’ve blogged, written and tweeted a lot about the coming American fiscal crisis. Anybody with a grade school understanding of math and the ability to work a spreadsheet can see the fiscal problem in the US — and indeed, much of the Western world. But my question to Lance is simply this: if the real issue is fiscal responsibilityand not the social and foreign policy issues I enumerated above, why don’t conservatives compromise on them, instead of asking socially progressive small government types to be the ones who do the compromising?

This is the nature of the neocon gambit; neocons own fiscal conservatism and everyone else, wherever they are on other issues should swallow their pride and embrace the criminalization of abortion, war with Iran, and a double-down on the war on drugs.

People learned in the art of argumentation have heard this one before.

Conservatives perhaps, instead of begrudging the fact that minority groups more and more do not want to vote for you, you should — oh, I don’t know — compromise with them instead of ask them to compromise with you. Spouting anti-immigrant rhetoric isn’t exactly doing wonders with this constituency.

After the Ron Paul “Revolution” such as it was called, many conservatives have come to the conclusion that libertarians should be excommunicated from the conservative movement. While they paradoxically hold that libertarians should vote conservative, for no other reason than, as Lance says, that they’re the fiscally responsible option.

The problem with the neocon gambit, of course, as Obama’s re-election demonstrated, is that its developed a bit of problem of late: it’s not working very well.

I have several American friends who voted Democrat. And quite frankly, they didn’t do it because they’re socialist. In particular, one of them lamented openly to me about having to choose between socially progressive policies and fiscal conservatism. He is, what you might call: a swing voter.

It may be impossible for people like Lance to imagine, but there are people who will vote for LGBT rights and/or against war, even it means their taxes will go up. I’m one of them. And I certainly don’t support my taxes going up. But if it’s between me parting with another $5000 a year, and having a guided bomb that my tax dollars paid for leave some kid in Iran lying on the ground with his intestines spilled out while his parents try to comfort him as he dies — an innocent casualty of war on my dime — you know what? I’m much happier giving that $5000 to some “moocher” or government-dependent.

That is in fact the nature of the neocon gambit. I am to make a selfish choice, based on completely financial grounds, regardless of the impact that choice will have on the rights and lives of others.

Moreover, the neocon gambit is entirely dishonest. If, like Lance says, the principle issue is fiscal responsibility, then how about shelving your support for the drug war, drone attacks overseas, and for “traditional marriage” codified in law? That will prove to me that fiscal responsibility is the most important issue to you. And maybe, just maybe I’ll consider voting for you.

But, for the record: I don’t vote. 

By admin November 11, 2012 Off

On neoconservatives and conspiracy theories

Ron Paul is driving the neoconservative right crazy. For them, a Ron Paul presidency signals the end of America. His foreign policy will be the final nail in the coffin of the United States.

They often lament that many of Ron Paul’s views are driven by wacky conspiracy theories. In particular, they focus on a one-time event in which Ron Paul refused to dismiss 9/11 “truthers” out of hand, saying that he just didn’t have time to follow the issue.

In the minds of neoconservatives, this is tantamount to Ron Paul being a truther himself. Which is unsurprising, since that’s simply how neoconservatives work. There is right and wrong. And no in between. If you’re not solidly on their side, then it goes without saying that you’re solidly on the other side.

That said, one should dig a little deeper into what exactly is behind the neoconservative thought process that leads them to the inescapable conclusion that a Ron Paul foreign policy would be the end of the United State.

Well, to understand that, you must consider that the right versus wrong dichotomous thinking that neoconservatives are so comfortable with. And then you must consider their worldview which is, to say the least, highly conspiratorial.

Pamela Gellar, a neoconservative anti-Islam blogger, and a stalwart of “protecting liberty” — at least in the minds of other neoconservatives — advances the conspiracy theory that Muslims all around the world are engaged in a highly organized and insidious plan to bring down Western civilization from within and replace it with a global Islamic Caliphate. And worse, even so-called moderate Muslims might be involved and are merely practicing Islamic lying to decieve us all.

Let us not forget the atheist and homosexual conspiracies to take away your right to practice religion and destroy your family.

Now, it turns out that I think 9/11 truthers are pretty crazy. But it’s pretty rich for your average neoconservative, I think, to dismiss these people purely on the basis of being conspiracy nuts since it’s pretty clear to anyone paying attention that much of what defines the current neoconservative worldview is itself, pretty damned conspiratorial in nature. That is, the belief that there’s all these ideological opponents of conservatives that are, in cloak and dagger fashion, plotting the downfall of our cherished Western way of life.

On Iran, the conspiracy theories fly unmolested by neoconservatives as well. For these right-wing hawks, it goes without saying that the first thing Iran will do if and when they develop a nuclear weapon and make it deliverable through a missile system is launch it at Israel. It’s clear as day. That’s what will happen. These neoconservatives know the minds of these Mullahs. And what they know is their primary motivation in developing a nuclear weapon is to reduce Tel Aviv to nuclear ashes as soon as possible.

Neoconservatives are also relatively sure that Tehran is so unshakably committed to this course of action, that the  Iranian government is not even cognizant of the consequences. Because their Muslims. So they’re all suicidal, you see.

Thus, it stands to reason, in the warped mind of neoconservatives, that what really needs to happen is to bomb Iran and bomb them right now. Before it’s too late. Every day that goes by brings us inextricably closer to the second Jewish holocaust.

Now, once again, it is Ron Paul who is the conspiracy nutcase. Because all of these neoconservative worldviews are apparently self-evident and reasonable.

But don’t take my word for it that this worldview might be a little detached from reality — what does Israel’s own Mossad have to say on the matter?

According to three ambassadors present at the briefing, the intelligence chief said that Israel was using various means to foil Iran’s nuclear program and would continue to do so, but if Iran actually obtained nuclear weapons, it would not mean the destruction of the State of Israel.

Wait a second. The non-naive neoconservatives in North America just finished explaining that the very opposite is true, giving us no choice but to go to war.

In fact, if I’m not mistaken from what I understand about neoconservative foreign policy doctrine, by the very virtue of being against war with Iran, it necessarily implies you’re for the destruction of Israel. This is how neocons like Newt Gingrich know that Ron Paul is an anti-Zionist extremist who counts down the days until he can celebrate the nuclear annihilation of five-million-plus Jews.

Remember, the number one thing you should always do as a neoconservative is take one position, and then pigeon hole every other position as manifestly the same as the extreme opposite position. This will provide you a reliable guide to taking various opinions on just about anything.

Practical example: Same-sex couples want to get married.

Same sex couples want to get married? Well, since you’re against that, and believe only in opposite sexed marriage, what it really tells you about these homosexuals is: they not only want to get married, but they want to destroy your opposite sex marriage. And not only that, they want to brainwash your kids into becoming homosexuals.

See? Pretty simple. Because they don’t agree with you. It stands to reason that they’re actually against you and have malicious intent against you.

Practical example #2: Atheists don’t want Christian symbols on public property.

Well, this is easy. Since atheists don’t want Christian symbols on taxpayer-funded property, it stands to reason that their intention is to wipe out Christianity. In fact, they will soon seek to make it illegal for you to go to church. The attribution of this extreme view to the atheists who seek to keep religious symbols of public property is pretty simple; you’re a Christian, and you’d like those symbols there. The fact these atheists don’t want them there proves — without question — that these atheists hate you, your religion and your way of life. They also hate freedom. And probably have a sweet spot in their heart for Stalin and Hitler.

Conclusion: There is no in between. Either America military engages it’s perceived villainous enemies now, or it is the end of America. As Newt Gingrich has said, “as goes Israel, so goes the United States”. That is to say, the rabid defense of these threats against Israel — ignore that Mossad guy — is the last line of defense against Iranian global domination. Or gays. Or liberals. Or gay atheist liberal Iranians. 

By admin January 8, 2012 Off

You should have stayed at home

CBC’s The Fifth Estate gives what is, in my estimation, one of the most balanced reports on what happened during the G20 in Toronto that I have seen in the mainstream media. And you can watch the whole thing here:

By admin February 26, 2011 Off

Now is the time when we juxtapose

Stephen Harper and his government are one of the few Western countries that have not formally commented on or condemned the violent suppression of pro-democracy protesters in Egypt.

After seeing disturbing scenes like this, one wonders when Canada will formally show some concern:

Oh, that’s right. I forgot. We condone this sort of thing in Canada:


By admin January 26, 2011 Off