Jan. 20th, 2017

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Blue-and-white STM subway train


Narrower than the cars I'm used to on the TTC, one clear advantage of the STM's subway cars lie in their ruber wheels. They can get loud, but they never screech.
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[PHOTO] 506 Main Street streetcar approaching on Carlton

506 Main Street streetcar approaching on Carlton (1)


506 Main Street streetcar approaching on Carlton (2)


506 Main Street streetcar approaching on Carlton (3)


Late in the fall of 2016, in November, I took these three photos of a streetcar assigned to the 506 Main Street route approaching me as it advanced east on Carlton Street.
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  • Bad Astronomy shares photos of the ripple made by moon Daphnis in the rings of Saturn, as does the Planetary Society Blog.

  • The Broadside Blog questions whether readers actually like their work.

  • Centauri Dreams notes evidence for the discovery of a Jupiter-mass planet in the protoplanetary disk of TW Hydrae.

  • Dangerous Minds links to the 1980s work of Lydia Lunch.

  • Far Outliers reports on how the Afghanistan war against the Soviets acted as a university for jihadists from around the world.

  • Kieran Healy looks at some failures of Google Scholar.

  • Language Hat reports on a fascinating crowdsourced program involving the transcription of manuscripts from Shakespeare's era, and what elements of pop history and language have been discovered.

  • The LRB Blog compares Trump's inauguration to those of Ronald Reagan.

  • The Map Room Blog links to an exhibition of the maps of Utah.

  • Understanding Society reports on a grand sociological research project in Europe that has found out interesting things about the factors contributing to young people's support for the far right.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on instability in the binational North Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, describes the spectre of pan-Mongolism, and looks at the politicization of biker gangs in Russia.

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Sammy Leonard's angry essay on Medium condemning the temptation of too many people on the American left to opt for purity instead of practical politics has been widely circulating on my Facebook friends list. This is a good thing, since Leonard's analysis is entirely correct. Condemning those politicians on the left who compromise as traitors and instead opting for politicians who cannot manage anything more than niche support is, far from a way to get people on the left elected, actually a very good way to get the right ensconced. Many of the fans of Bernie Sanders are particularly responsible for this, with their unfounded talk about the corruption of Hillary Clinton probably doing quite a lot to help this candidate lose in the Midwest and elsewhere. That the people who are immune from this criticism happen to be white men is, of course, not a coincidence.

For three months now I’ve been hearing people talk about resistance against Donald Trump. Time and again I’ve seen and heard people say that we should not normalize Trump or the putrid cabinet he’s assembling. I keep hearing that resistance would take bold and assertive action and I’ve heard people demand that the Democrats in Congress be at the forefront of the resistance.

Yet when Booker does just that in order to stop Sessions from having the power to set legal policy that will severely harm everyone who isn’t a white, heterosexual, Christian man he gets shat on for voting against a separate amendment that a) wasn’t going to pass b) was non-binding and c) would have undermined some of the drug provisions of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) that the Republicans are hell bent on destroying anyway. I’ve seen several people say that his vote on this one amendment completely invalidated his effort to stop Sessions and by extension resist Trump.

A lot of people have framed it as Booker rejecting Bernie Sanders (I-VT) amendment. Only the amendment was actually the work of Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) — Sanders was only a co-sponsor. Surprise, an old white man is taking all the credit for the work done by a woman. Not to mention that Booker and the other 12 Democratic Senators that voted against Klobuchar’s amendment voted in favor of a very similar amendment proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). Wyden’s amendment covered the same ground as Klobuchar’s, only there were greater safety provisions and fewer strings attached in his amendment than hers, and his amendment was also co-sponsored by Sanders (Wyden’s amendment was not passed either and the 51–47 vote was a direct partisan split). Speaking of Sanders, the man exposes himself as fraud and an absolute hypocrite every time he opens his mouth these days, and his large cult of rabid worshippers are the slimiest and most deceitful pieces of shit on this earth (and the ones most deserving of getting their heads bashed in). Notice that I wrote “cult of rabid worshippers” and NOT “supporters” because his supporters were at least willing to accept that Hillary Clinton won the Dem nomination, support her in the general election, and in many cases did the work necessary to make sure she would be elected.

But the large Bernie Bro/Zealot/Never Hillary cult made it clear that anyone who didn’t worship at the altar of Saint Bernie Sanders wasn’t a “real progressive” and therefore wasn’t worthy of their support unless they cleared an impossibly high bar. And they joined forces with an already established wing of far left purists for whom any Dem politician who rates less than 100% in their purity scale of select issues is a “neoliberal” and therefore justifies them to throw away their votes on crackpot third-party candidates so they can preen to everyone how “radical” or “revolutionary” they supposedly are and to try and shame people who consistently vote Democrat as ignorant and brainwashed sheeple. Yeah, I’m brainwashed for realizing that a system that often requires some level of compromise to move things forward renders 100% ideological purity useless and subsequently voting for whichever candidate in best positioned to effectively advance the issues I care about in a given election is the most prudent option. Yeah, I’m ignorant for realizing that this is a two-party system, no third party is going to magically rise overnight to save us, and the Democratic party is presently the only viable electoral vehicle for effective progressive action in America. Both parties ARE NOT THE SAME. Every politician takes corporate money because that’s the cost of doing business in American politics — even Bernie does — but only ONE Senator stood up to confront his colleague for the rights and safety of all Americans this week, and it WASN’T BERNIE SANDERS, IT WAS CORY BOOKER.
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This Bloomberg article, written by Henry Meyer, Ilya Arkhipov, and Irina Reznik, makes an excellent point. I have seen many people--even on the left!--prefer Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton on account of her alleged tendencies as a warmonger. If Trump's election actually was the culmination of a gambit by Putin to try to install a pro-Russian figure in Washington D.C., it seems that this will end as badly for Russia as Putin's other gambits. The man simply does a terrible job of predicting negative consequences and second-order effects of even victories. In the particular case of Trump, the appearance of a badly compromised president may be encouraging a bipartisan consensus against Russia, to say nothing of the dim prospects that a man known for petty vendettas and cheating his business partners may not be a good partner for Russia.

Russia is giving Donald Trump the kind of fawning television coverage usually reserved for Vladimir Putin, with its most popular propagandist hailing the president-elect this week as “a man of his word.”

But inside the Kremlin, the initial euphoria over having a Putin admirer in the White House is giving way to skepticism that any meaningful detente with the U.S. can be achieved, according to four senior officials in Moscow.

Swirling controversies over alleged Putin-ordered hacking to help Trump get elected and a leaked dossier claiming the Kremlin has blackmail material on him has transfixed Washington, where a bill to impose even harsher sanctions on Russia is gaining bipartisan support. The backlash appears to have forced many of Trump’s cabinet picks to take tougher lines on Russia in their confirmation hearings than the Kremlin anticipated, the people said.

The unprecedented firestorm is a double-edged sword for Putin, who’s spent the last 16 years trying to restore some semblance of his country’s lost superpower status -- while Russia is back at the center of U.S. attention, the uproar has energized Putin’s critics, according to Alexei Chesnakov, a former senior Kremlin staffer who continues to advise authorities.

“There is a sensible shift of expectations in the Kremlin,” Chesnakov said in an interview. “The leadership understands clearly now that restoring ties won’t be easy and that more scandals will worsen the chances.”
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That Donald Trump is set for a confrontation with China and that this was not a surprise is the dominant theme in Tom Phillips' article in The Guardian, which notes how the state media has muted criticism of Trump in an effort to prevent too bad a deterioration. Liu Zhen's South China Morning Post article looking at the reactions of netizens is also worth reading for a take on how ordinary Chinese once pro-Trump are changing their minds.

China has urged Donald Trump to be its friend not its enemy, amid fears the tycoon’s inauguration could set the world’s two largest economies on a calamitous collision course.

Since his shock election last November Trump has repeatedly put Beijing’s nose out of joint, challenging it over the militarisation of the South China Sea, alleged currency manipulation and North Korea and threatening to up-end relations by offering greater political recognition to Taiwan.

The billionaire has also handed jobs to several stridently anti-China voices including one academic who has described its rulers as a cabal of despicable, parasitic, brutal, brass-knuckled, crass, callous, amoral, ruthless totalitarians.

But on the eve of Trump’s swearing in, China’s government and state-run media struck a conciliatory tone with the man about to become the United States’ 45th president.

“Both sides should try to be friends and partners, rather than opponents or enemies,” Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, told reporters.
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Wired shares excerpts from a recent interview with Bruce Sterling on what science fiction can teach its readers about fascism, and about what science fiction has to learn about itself.

“There’s a kind of rhetorical trick that goes on in science fiction, and in fascism, that kind of says, ‘Don’t really worry about what this means for the guy next door,'” Sterling says. “That it’s so cool and amazing that you should just surrender yourself to the rapture of its fantastic-ness.”

As an example he cites the ending of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which astronaut David Bowman is transformed into a superhuman entity called the Star Child. Sterling says the image is so striking and awe-inspiring that few viewers ever think to ponder the potential downsides of the Star Child.

“It’s not like anybody voted on the space baby,” he says. “It’s not like an ethics commission wrote on the space baby. It’s not like anybody says, ‘What if the space baby turns out to be cruel to certain ethnic minorities?'”

Sterling believes that it’s important to retain your ability to be moved and inspired, but equally important to be selective about the images and ideas that you choose to invest in.

“If you don’t have a sense of wonder it’s like you’re dead inside,” he says. “But your sense of wonder can be used to trick you. You can have a sense of wonder over a thing that’s basically a conjurer’s trick, or a con job, or a rip-off.”
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CBC News' Don Pittis warns that in a scenario where Donald Trump is likely to turn on Canada, Canada in turn must look to various partners and allies outside of North America in order to defend its interests.

The new anti-free-trade administration of Donald Trump hasn't even taken over the White House and it appears incoming secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross is already preparing to send Canada a list of demands.

"NAFTA is logically the first thing for us to deal with," Ross said yesterday when asked about his trade warning. "We ought to solidify relationships in the best way we can in our own territory before we go off to other jurisdictions."

Besides the neo-imperialist reference to Canada and Mexico as "our own territory," there is another reason to be wary.

It sounds as if the U.S. plan is a variation on the classic strategy of divide and conquer.

Only after sticking it to their "own territory" — in other words our territory — will the U.S. go on to make demands of more distant trade partners in Asia and Europe.

That might require Canada to step up and defend itself, including by looking for support from its free trading allies.
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The National Post carried Mike Blanchfield's Canadian Press article reporting that, if Trump lived up to his rhetoric and did withdraw from NATO, Canada will have to increase its spending and its presence significantly. Canada's development into a larger military power would certainly be a major shift.

Canada will have to contribute more to NATO if the U.S. follows through on president-elect Donald Trump’s musings on withdrawing from the alliance, says the head of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee.

Liberal MP Bob Nault cautions that Canada and its NATO partners need to see how U.S. foreign policy formally takes shape after Trump’s Friday inauguration.

But he says Canada remains committed to the 28-country alliance and can’t let it become weakened if the U.S. — its largest financial and military contributor — scales back its involvement.

“That means countries like ours will have to step up to the plate,” Nault said in an interview Monday.

Nault said the upcoming defence policy review will help Canada decide where and how it should deploy its military resources. With a federal budget coming this winter that could mean an increase in defence spending, he added.
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Businessperson Arlene Dickinson's reaction at CBC to the idea of her Dragon's Den co-star being a politician, marked by incredulity and concern, has been widely shared on Facebook. It deserves to continue to be shared.

Since announcing his candidacy for the leader of the Conservative Party, I've been inundated with requests to comment on Kevin O'Leary. The question on everyone's mind is the same: "Is the cold, money-driven person we see on television what we will get as a potential political leader?"

It's the exact same question I've received from Canadians from coast to coast since we co-starred on Dragons' Den together.

And the answer is: Yes, he's exactly the same person privately as he is on camera.

For seven years, I sat shoulder to shoulder with Kevin. We'd spend long hours together, listening to hardworking Canadian entrepreneurs pitch their businesses, which, all too often, led to real-life stories of enormous struggle.

You get a window into somebody's character by the way they treat people, particularly those who are vulnerable and need help or guidance.

Kevin's total lack of empathy toward these Canadians who put their heart and soul on the line, I can assure you, was genuine.
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J. Maureen Henderson's argument at Forbes that Kevin O'Leary is not Canada's answer to Donald Trump, but rather that he's more flexible and personable, can be read as reassuring and cause for concern all at once.

When you think of an ego-driven business mogul turned reality TV star with designs on the highest office in the land, it used to be only a single name came to mind. Not anymore. Following in the footsteps of Donald Trump, Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary has decided to leverage his small screen fame for political gain, throwing his hat in the ring in the leadership contest of Canada’s Conservative Party earlier this week. In Canada’s parliamentary system, this means he’s competing to be the guy who acts as a thorn in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s side for the next several years. While this sounds like a thankless job, the self-proclaimed Mr. Wonderful has plenty of competition for the role.

It’s easy to draw parallels between O’Leary and Donald Trump. Both are tonsorially-challenged businessmen with a taste for self-aggrandizing who gained pop cultural prominence through star-making turns on reality TV hits (The Apprentice for Trump and Shark Tank for O’Leary) where they gleefully crush(ed) the dreams of ambitious contestants. While Trump is fond of calling perceived foes “haters” and “losers,” O’Leary has no qualms about dismissing entrepreneurs with untenable business ideas as “cockroaches” among other colorful terms. Both men claim to be killer deal-makers, but O’Leary, like Trump, has lowlights on his resume that are bound to come under renewed scrutiny now that he’s entering the political fray.

To dismiss Kevin O’Leary as Canada’s answer to Trump, however, is to do his carefully-cultivated persona a disservice. O’Leary knows he’s on Shark Tank to play the intimidating alpha with a cutting one-liner for every occasion and he relishes the role. He’ll claim to be a vampire. He’ll announce he’s wearing $900 underwear hand-sewn by Italian virgins. He’ll offer predatory deals that no one in their right mind would accept just to test the savviness of inexperienced entrepreneurs. The other Sharks defer to him and mock him in equal measure.

And while O’Leary isn’t shy about shouting down his fellow investors, he takes their ribbing of him in stride. Not an episode goes by where someone doesn’t call out his ego or bombast and he simply smiles or offers a chuckle. Unlike Trump and his Twitter tirades about critics, he doesn’t push back against shade, he embraces its ratings potential. It’s clear that O’Leary knows that his persona, however much it hews to or deviates from who he is off-screen, is good for business and you can see him frequently winking at this understanding.

Pro wrestling became one of the de facto metaphors for understanding the 2016 election season, with writers who likely hadn’t watched a match since childhood trying to paint Trump as a heel (wrestling parlance for the bad guy), without acknowledging that the era of pure heels and faces (the good guys) is largely over. The WWE roster is currently packed with characters who can’t easily be slotted into either camp, but who manage to blend a fairly complex (or complex for sports entertainment, anyway) combination of arrogance, athletic aptitude, sharp mic skills and occasional flashes of vulnerability to put themselves over with audiences -- think of Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, etc. WCW’s NWO faction of the mid-to-late 90s deserves a lion’s share of the credit for creating the archetype of these neo-heels and their ability to bring smirking self-awareness and wit to the idea of stock bad guys and treat the crowd’s boos as if they were oxygen. If we’re sticking to pro wrestling as a political metaphor, O’Leary with his obvious glee in manipulating his Mr. Wonderful persona is much more of a modern heel than Donald Trump. When he films a Facebook video in which he brandishes a spatula and talks about scraping the “crap” out of Ottawa, he might as well be cutting an in-ring promo.
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Global News' Tania Kohut notes Kevin O'Leary's argument that his lack of fluency in French won't hurt him. It's worth noting that the general consensus is that it will, badly.

Kevin O’Leary has no time for accusations he held off on launching his bid for the federal Conservative party leadership until after Tuesday’s French language debate.

The unapologetic O’Leary says his fluency in Canada’s third “official” language outshines all others — the language of jobs.

“There’s three official languages in Canada: There’s English, there’s French, and there’s the language of jobs,” O’Leary told Global News Wednesday.

“Now I’m sure I’m going to get better at French in the next two years, but I guarantee you when I do my first debate with Trudeau, he will remain illiterate in the language of jobs.”
O’Leary has no experience in politics, however, he is a self-made multi-millionaire businessman.

Some believe federal politicians should be able to speak both official languages; a Nielsen survey conducted last year for the Official Languages Commissioner found 86 per cent of Canadians agree the prime minister should be bilingual.

Although O’Leary was born in Montreal, he is not fluent in French. His lack of French skills didn’t stop O’Leary from stepping into the Tory leadership race on Wednesday, his sights set on being Canada’s next prime minister.
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CBC News' Rosemary Barton shares the basic concern of Canadians with the new Trump Administration.

Half a world away from the festivities and protests taking place in the United States of America, the former Canadian prime minister managed to hit the nail on the head.

"The U.S. under [Donald] Trump will focus squarely on America's vital interests, narrowly defined, especially its economic interests. This does not mean the U.S. will be unwilling to work with friends and allies, but only when such friends and allies are only ready to bring real assets to the table," Stephen Harper told a forum in New Delhi, India.

Don't take just Harper's word for it.

The supporters who have descended on Washington this week trumpet that view. A town that embodies the very establishment they fought against, they have now claimed as their own. Hundreds of them are walking proudly down Pennsylvania Avenue clad in red ball caps with the words "Make America Great Again."

Time and again Trump supporters talked about what they wanted for America: jobs, fewer regulations, more for the people who live here. The "already" was implied.

"We have to stop being a hotel for the world," one man said while pulling a last drag on his cigarette. His 17-year-old daughter, who didn't vote, but would have chosen Trump, stood by nodding in agreement.

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