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  • Centauri Dreams looks at the complex prebiotic chemistry in the system of young triple IRAS 16293-2422.

  • Language Hat looks at the central role played by Kyrgzystan writer Chinghiz Aitmatov in shaping Kyrgyz identity.

  • The Map Room Blog shares Baltimore's new transit map.

  • Steve Munro examines the Ford family's various issues with TTC streetcars.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog reports on the latest UN Report on the Donbas and the conflict there.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that the number of ethnic Russians in the former Soviet Union fallen sharply through demographic change including assimilation.

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  • blogTO notes that the old HMV store in the Dufferin Mall is now a fidget spinner store. This has gone viral.
  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly talks about her week in Paris.

  • Centauri Dreams notes one paper examining the complex formation of the dense TRAPPIST-1 system.

  • Far Outliers reports from early 20th century Albania, about how tribal and language and ethnic identities overlap, and not.

  • Language Log notes efforts to promote Cantonese in the face of Mandarin.

  • The LRB Blog wonders if May's electoral defeat might lead to the United Kingdom changing its Brexit trajectory.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that cars have more complex computer programming these days than fighter jets.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that the counter-cyclical Brazilian fiscal cap still makes no sense.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that Russia is edging towards an acknowledgement of its involvement in the Ukrainian war.

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  • Anthony Easton at MacLean's writes in defense of Nickelback, one of Canada's most popular bands if not a critical darling.

  • Also in MacLean's, Stephanie Carvin notes that the new foreign and military policies announced by the Canadian government could still fall short.

  • Bloomberg View's Stephen L. Carter considers the idea of the just war through the lens of Wonder Woman.

  • Nuclear energy, it seems, will be India's answer to global warming in the era of Trump.

  • Qataris, Bloomberg notes, are trying to deal with their island country's state of siege.

  • Airbus may pull its production plants from the United Kingdom unless the country keeps single market access.

  • Refugees, Lynne Olson notes at National Geographic, helped save the United Kingdom during the Second World War.

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  • D-Brief considers if gas giant exoplanet Kelt-9b is actually evaporating.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper that considers where to find signs of prior indigenous civilizations in our solar system. (The Moon, Mars, and outer solar system look good.

  • Joe. My. God. reveals the Israeli nuclear option in the 1967 war.

  • Language Log shares a clip of a Nova Scotia Gaelic folktale about a man named Donald.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the ongoing deportations of Hispanic undocumented migrants from the United States.

  • The LRB Blog notes the brittle rhetoric of May and the Conservatives.

  • The NYRB Daily mourns the Trump Administration's plans for American education.

  • Savage Minds considers the world now in the context of the reign of the dangerous nonsense of Neil Postman.

  • Strange Maps shares a map documenting the spread of chess from India to Ireland in a millennium.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that the Russian government needs to do more to protect minority languages.

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Detail, The Death of General Wolfe (1770)


Early in January, before my trip to Montréal, I went to the Royal Ontario Museum where I saw--among other things--the museum's copy of Benjamin Wolfe's painting The Death of General Wolfe. This famous tableau's depiction of the death of James Wolfe, the commander of the victorious British forces in 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham that saw the fall of French Canada and the end of New France but who barely lived to see the end of the battle himself, is literally iconic. This moment marks the end of one empire and the expansion of another.

Was the end of New France inevitable? Quite a few fans of alternate history suggest that it was. In perhaps the classic few, the value of France to colonize its North American territories nearly as thoroughly as England (and later the United Kingdom) did theirs ensured that, ultimately, New France would be overwhelmed by the colonists. Some even go so far as to argue that New France was a failing colony, that the failure to expand French colonization much beyond the Saint Lawrence valley demonstrates a fundamental lack of French interest. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was irrelevant.

I'm not sure that I buy this. Conceivably there could have been more French settlement in New France, perhaps with a bigger push under Louis XIV, but it isn't clear to me that France in America was a failure. New France's economy was built substantially on trade with indigenous peoples and not on (for instance) the plantation colony of many British colonies, making increased French settlement irrelevant at best and potentially harmful at worst. As it was, French Canada was actually a dynamic society, the St. Lawrence valley becoming home of a colonial offshoot of France with outposts stretching far west into the basin of the Great Lakes and, not incidentally, managing to hold off conquest by the British for nearly a century and a half. New France was not nearly as populous as the Thirteen Colonies, but that no more proves that New France was a failure than (say) the fact that Spain's Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata was less populous than Portuguese Brazil means that the Spanish colony was a failure. At most, there was underexploited potential. If French Canada has since largely contracted to the frontiers of modern Québec, it is because successive British administrations have taken care to hem it in.

Had the Battle of the Plains of Abraham gone even slightly differently, there could have been a French victory. The end of the Seven Years War could have seen the French flag continue to fly in Canada. Even if Canada had fallen, that it would be kept by Britain was by no means preordained: Had Britain preferred to keep the valuable French sugar island of Guadeloupe, or had the French government different priorities, Canada might have been restored to France in the peace.

What would this surviving French Canada have been like?

It's certainly possible that a continued French presence in Canada would have helped discourage the Thirteen Colonies from rebelling against the British Empire, especially if it was perceived as a threat. It's not clear to me that this would automatically be the case, especially if New France had been weakened in the conflict, demilitarized and/or territorially diminished. Perhaps, in this timeline, the Americans might revolt against Britain in anger that their interests were neglected in the settlement of the final peace. We might not see a conflict like the War of American Independence, but then again we might. If this war, or another great power Anglo-French war does come about, then France will face the same cascade of dysfunctional public financies than in our history triggered the revolution.

What will become of Canada in all this? I can imagine that it might, or might not, receive more attention from France. I suppose that, if history runs along the lines we are familiar with up to the French Revolution, Canada might be in an interesting position versus the metropole. (A French kingdom in exile?) It is imaginable that a populous French Canada might stay French, especially if the Americans are allies and Britain has interest elsewhere. The case can be made that French Canada could survive, within borders not wildly different from that of modern Canada, into the 19th century.

Here, I'm stymied. It is not easy to imagine the development of French Canada as a French territory for the simple reason that France had no colonies of settlement like (for instance) Britain had Canada. French Algeria eventually became a destination for European immigration, but most of these immigrants came from elsewhere in the western Mediterranean (Spain and Italy particularly) and they arrived in a territory that never stopped being overwhelmingly Arab-Berber and Muslim in nature. New Caledonia, in the South Pacific, also received substantial numbers of settlers relative to the native population, but the absolute numbers were low. There is no close parallel, not in the second French colonial empire, to a colony like Canada, a vast semi-continent with a substantial population mostly descended from French colonists.

I do think France could certainly colonize Canada as thoroughly as Britain later did, especially if France enjoys stability and peace. Franco-Canadian relations were broken by the Conquest and only began to pick up again a century later, as the French became dimly aware that the Canadiens survived. In a timeline where the relationship between France and Canada was never disrupted, Franco-Canadian relations would be far more intense. Trade and investment flows aside, we might see well see substantial amounts of French immigration to a prosperous Canada, and more immigrants coming from outside France, just as in the case of Algeria. The details depend critically on the borders of this Canada and its relationship to its neighbours, but I see no reason why French Canada could not be successful.

Even if--a big if--French history remains largely unchanged up to the mid-19th century, the existence of a large, populous, and growing French Canada will eventually change the French polity rapidly. How will the millions of Canadiens be represented in French political life? A populous American branch of the French empire will have very substantial consequences.

What do you think?
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  • Centauri Dreams looks at the SPECULOOS red dwarf observation program.

  • The Crux examines VX nerve agent, the chemical apparently used to assassinate the half-brother of North Korea's ruler.

  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of the inhabitants of the Tokyo night, like gangsters and prostitutes and drag queens.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money examines Donald Trump's tepid and belated denunciation of anti-Semitism.

  • Language Log looks at the story of the Wenzhounese, a Chinese group notable for its diaspora in Italy.

  • The LRB Blog looks at the by-elections in the British ridings of Stoke and Copeland and notes the problems of labour.

  • The Map Room Blog shares a post-Brexit map of the European Union with an independent Scotland.

  • Marginal Revolution reports that a border tax would be a poor idea for the United States and Mexico.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at the art of the medieval Tibetan kingdom of Guge.

  • Otto Pohl notes the 73rd anniversary of Stalin's deportation of the Chechens and the Ingush.

  • Supernova Condensate points out that Venus is actually the most Earth-like planet we know of. Why do we not explore it more?

  • Towleroad notes Depeche Mode's denunciation of the alt-right and Richard Spencer.

  • Whatever's John Scalzi considers the question of feeling empathy for horrible people.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the thousands of Russian citizens involved with ISIS and examines the militarization of Kaliningrad.

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  • At Antipope, Charlie Stross wonders--among other things--what the Trump Administration is getting done behind its public scandals.

  • blogTO notes a protest in Toronto aiming to get the HBC to drop Ivanka Trump's line of fashion.

  • Dangerous Minds reflects on a Talking Heads video compilation from the 1980s.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reflects on a murderous attack against Indian immigrants in Kansas.

  • The LRB Blog looks at "post-Internet art".

  • Lovesick Cyborg notes an attack by a suicide robot against a Saudi warship.

  • Strange Maps links to a map of corruption reports in France.

  • Torontoist reports on Winter Stations.

  • Understanding Society engages in a sociological examination of American polarization, tracing it to divides in race and income.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the many good reasons behind the reluctance of cities around the world to host the Olympics.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that where the Ingush have mourned their deportation under Stalin the unfree Chechens have not, reports that Latvians report their willingness to fight for their country, looks at what the spouses of the presidents of post-Soviet states are doing, and notes the widespread opposition in Belarus to paying a tax on "vagrancy."

  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the linguistic markers of the British class system.

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  • blogTO notes that yesterday was a temperature record here in Toronto, reaching 12 degrees Celsius in the middle of February.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly writes about the pleasure of using old things.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the death of Roe v Wade plaintiff Norma McCorvey.

  • Language Hat notes that, apparently, dictionaries are hot again because their definitions are truthful.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money considers if the Trump Administration is but a mechanism for delivering Pence into power following an impeachment.

  • Steve Munro notes that Exhibition Loop has reopened for streetcars.

  • The NYRB Daily considers painter Elliott Green.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that North Carolina's slippage towards one-party state status is at least accompanied by less violence than the similar slippage following Reconstruction.

  • Window on Eurasia warns that Belarus is a prime candidate for Russian invasion if Lukashenko fails to keep control and notes the potential of the GUAM alliance to counter Russia.

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  • blogTO notes the amazing spike upwards in temperatures for this weekend.

  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of some stark war memorials of the former Communist world.

  • The Dragon's Gaze reports on brown dwarf HIP 67537b.

  • The LRB Blog looks at Donald Trump's interest in a Middle Eastern peace settlement that looks as if it will badly disadvantage the isolated Palestinians.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen reflects on his reading of Julius Evola and other hitherto-marginal writers.

  • The NYRB Daily notes the potential health catastrophe that could result from Donald Trump's anti-vax positions.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer suggests that the corruption marking the relationship of France and Gabon over that country's oil is finding an echo in the Trump organization's involvement in Filipino real estate.

  • Torontoist calls for regulation of road salt on grounds of its toxicity.

  • Transit Toronto looks at the various scenarios for King Street.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russia's economic growth will lag behind growth elsewhere for the foreseeable future, and looks at protest in St. Petersburg over the return of an old church to the Orthodox Church.

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  • Centauri Dreams looks at ongoing research into the sizes of Alpha Centauri A and B.

  • Dangerous Minds notes Finland's introduction of a new Tom of Finland emoji.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper speculating as to the fate of icy dwarf exoplanets in white dwarf systems.

  • The Dragon's Tales reports on the intensification of the war in Ukraine's Donbas.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog asks readers how they study.

  • Language Log looks at the structure of yes-no questions in Chinese.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at the consequences of the Trump travel ban.

  • The Planetary Society Blog considers impact craters as potential abodes for life.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer does not quite understand renters' fears about new developments in their neighbourhoods.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers the court ruling against Trump's refugee order.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests prospects for long-term economic growth in Russia have collapsed, and notes the sharp fall in real incomes in Asian Russia.

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  • Centauri Dreams notes the sad news that, because of the destructive way in which the stellar activity of young red dwarfs interacts with oxygen molecules in exoplanet atmospheres, Proxima Centauri b is likely not Earth-like.

  • Crooked Timber takes issue with the idea of Haidt that conservatives are uniquely interested in the idea of purity.

  • D-Brief notes the discovery of an intermediate-mass black hole in the heart of 47 Tucanae.

  • The Dragon's Tales reports on the search for Planet Nine.Far Outliers reports on the politics in 1868 of the first US Indian Bureau.

  • Imageo maps the depletion of sea ice in the Arctic.

  • Language Hat remembers the life of linguist Patricia Crampton.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes some of the potential pitfalls involved with Buy American campaigns (and like political programs in other countries), including broad-based xenophobia.

  • The LRB Blog looks at nationalism and identity in their intersections with anti-Muslim sentiment in Québec.

  • The Map Room Blog links to an essay on the last unmapped places.

  • Torontoist notes the 2017 Toronto budget is not going to support affordable housing.

  • Transit Toronto reports on TTC revisions to its schedules owing to shortfalls in equipment, like buses.

  • Window on Eurasia claims that Putin needs a successful war in Ukraine to legitimize his rule, just as Nicholas II needed a victory to save Tsarism.

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Meghan L O'Sullivan writes for Bloomberg View about how the ban on Iraqis' entry specifically, by demonstrating a lack of American trust, undermines the US-Iraqi relationship more generally.

There are many good reasons to object to the Trump administration's new ban on allowing people from seven predominantly Muslim Middle East countries to travel to the U.S. and halting the acceptance of Syrian refugees. I am among the many Americans ashamed that our great country could so easily push aside its history of caring for people with the most desperate needs in the world. I also am among the national security analysts who don't see how this helps deliver on the promise of protecting the U.S. from terrorism, and worry that they will inflame the resentment and anti-Americanism that fuel attacks against our citizens at home and abroad.

But, most tangibly and practically, I am among the millions of Americans who served as soldiers, diplomats or humanitarian workers in Iraq or Afghanistan, and therefore have insights into how the immigration ban has made Defense Secretary James Mattis's job of devising a plan to eradicate Islamic State a whole lot more difficult.

On Saturday, Trump issued a national security memo giving Mattis and the Pentagon 30 days to “develop a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS.” Yet the immigration ban seriously complicates that task by jeopardizing the cooperation of Iraqis. Iraqis are among the most important partners we have in fighting the Islamic State. While the U.S. and its allies are providing critical air, intelligence and logistical support in northern Iraq, it is Iraqi forces -- both Arab and Kurd -- that are pushing Islamic State out of Mosul, the nation's second-largest city.

As evidenced by Mattis’s efforts to get exceptions to the immigration ban for Iraqis who worked alongside American forces, we rely heavily on Iraqis willing to risk their lives, and those of their families, to work with us. Such cooperation has cost many Iraqi lives. Signaling that we may need them while we are operating in Iraq, but see them as a security threat in the U.S., will have an immediate chilling effect. This distrust will not be limited to those Iraqis who want to become U.S. residents or citizens, but will permeate all of our relationships there.
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  • blogTO notes the rapid expansion of A&Ws across Toronto's neighbourhoods.

  • Centauri Dreams reports that none of the exoplanets of nearby Wolf 1061 are likely to support Earth-like environments, owing to their eccentric and occasionally overclose orbits.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper looking at high-temperature condensate clouds in hot Jupiter atmospheres.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on Trump's unsecured Android phone.

  • Language Log reports on Caucasian words relating to tea.

  • The LRB Blog notes the emerging close links connecting May's United Kingdom with Trump's United States and Netanyahu's Israel.

  • Marginal Revolution shares an interview with chef and researcher Mark Miller and reports on the massive scale of Chinese investment in Cambodia.

  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at the idea of choosing between the Moon and Mars as particular targets of manned space exploration.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at the mechanics of imposing a 20% tax in the United States on Mexican imports. (It is doable.)

  • The Russian Demographics Blog reports Russian shortfalls in funding HIV/AIDS medication programs.

  • Supernova Condensate warns that Trump's hostility to the very idea of climate change threatens the world.

  • Towleroad shares the first gay kiss of (an) Iceman in Marvel's comics.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the constitutional problems with Trump's executive order against sanctuary cities.

  • Window on Eurasia argues Ukraine is willing to fight if need be, even if sold out by Trump.

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Je me souviens (2)


Montréal's Papineau subway station is named after the nearby avenue Papineau which in turn is named after Joseph Papineau, an early politician known for his advocacy of the interests of the Canadiens under British rule. The murals in the station, by Jean Cartier and George Juhasz, all deal with the 1837 rebellion against British rule led by his son Louis-Joseph Papineau.
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The other day, I came across an article by Samuel Osborne in the Independent, "CIA had secret plan to give Falkland Islands to Argentina and relocate islanders to Scotland." In it, Osborne describes American thinking on a settlement of the Falklands War assuming--as was entirely possible--an Argentine victory.

“For a period of three years the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands will be given a chance to consider whether they wish to remain on the Falkland Islands or whether they wish to relocate to an area of British jurisdiction, either in the UK or elsewhere under British sovereignty, with a relocation grant of $100,000 per person," Mr Rowen wrote.

“It is likely that many residents will find this sufficient inducement to relocate to some other area, perhaps in Scotland or elsewhere where conditions may be similar to the Falkland Islands.”

He adds: “Any residents who do not wish to relocate will be free to remain and become Argentinian citizens at the end of three years.

“The cost of the relocation grants to be paid to any residents of the Falkland Islands wishing to relocate elsewhere will be borne fifty/fifty by the Argentinian and British governments.”

The plans were addressed to Paul Wolfowitz, a Department of State advisor to President Ronald Reagan.

They also called for "some appropriate penalty upon the Argentinians for having used armed force to seek to settle an international dispute."


This sort of intermediate phase of British rule under Argentine sovereignty, followed by a complete reversion to Argentine sovereignty, seems like a plausible outcome assuming that the United Kingdom had decisively lost the contest to control the islands. Is it? What price would Argentina be forced to pay for its conquest of the Falklands? And how would this--the acquisition of the islands, also the cost of their acquisition imposed by the United States--complicate the democratic transition in Argentina of our timeline in the 1980s?
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Torontoist reposted Kevin Plummber's Historicist article describing the life of William McDougall, "Canadian witness to the Gettysburg Address."

It was only about 270 words long, but the Gettysburg Address has resounded for generations. Abraham Lincoln’s appearance on a podium in the small Pennsylvania farm town on November 19, 1863, has been reported upon, debated, studied by academics, memorized by school children, and mythologized in fiction and on film. Newspaper coverage of the day sometimes reflected a correspondent’s faithful observations, sometimes was tinted by an editor’s party affiliation. Conflicting and contradictory recollections of eyewitnesses, repeated—mistakes and all—in countless magazine articles and books, hardened into conventional wisdom. Certain persistent myths (that the president had hastily composed the speech on a scrap of paper aboard the train, for example) were long trusted as fact until debunked by another generation of scholars.

Among these layers of fact and legend is the tale of William McDougall. A Toronto lawyer, newspaperman, and politician, McDougall attended the Gettysburg Address by special invitation of President Lincoln. Like so many other versions of that day, McDougall’s account, recounted to and recorded by his descendants, contains a mix of both confirmed fact and unsubstantiated anecdote.

In the late 1840s, McDougall helped launch the Clear Grit movement and establish the movement’s newspaper, the North American. For the Clear Grits, Responsible Government (the principle of making Parliament accountable to the populace rather than the Crown) did not extend democracy far enough. They endorsed expanding the franchise, ballot voting, representation by population, and constraints on the political privileges of churches and the clergy, among other reform initiatives.

McDougall proved to be an eloquent orator and advocate of reform ideas. He was also an aloof eccentric, an outsider with a cynical view of politics. More interested in advancing his own political goals than solidarity with a consistent party line, McDougall shifted alliances freely depending on the issue. This, in addition to the wide number of constituencies he represented over his long political career, earned McDougall the moniker “Wandering Willie.” After McDougall’s death in 1905, obituaries noted quite euphemistically that the Father of Confederation was admired for his independence of character.
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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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  • Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait shares a video showing how tacos are made in space.

  • blogTO shares some classic photos of the TTC in the 1960s and 1970s.

  • The Crux goes into more detail about the mesentery.

  • D-Brief notes how the binary star KIC 9832227 is projected to experience a stellar merger in 2022.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to one paper suggesting that exoplanets and brown dwarfs are as common around A and F stars as around dimmer Sun-like stars, and links to another paper examining the potential of detecting transits of exoplanets orbiting brown dwarfs.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to an article wondering if China's seizure of a US navy drone could set a precedent for satellite seizures.

  • Language Log links to Yiyun Lee's article about abandoning Chinese for English.

  • The LRB Blog remembers philosopher Derek Parfit.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at the recent riots in Mexico, caused by rising gas prices.

  • Strange Maps shares informative maps exploring the Netherlands' internal distinctions.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at how the Russian language has multiple standards despite Russian official claims, and shares complaints about Kaliningrad's vulnerability.

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