Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor Rally

Chase Whiteside (interviewer) and Erick Stoll (cameraman) of New Left Media talk to a handful of the tens of thousands of Americans that gathered at the Lincoln Memorial this past weekend for Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally.

I have mixed feelings about New Left Media's ongoing exposé of tea party events. While Whiteside excels at getting tea partiers, birthers, and Palin supporters, etc...to reveal the inherent contradictions within their philosophies, the interviews are just snapshots that really don't do the movement justice.

Some tea partiers subscribe to libertarianism, others to Bush-brand neo-conservatism, and many are just scared by the current economic climate. There is no monolithic tea party philosophy. These videos often portray partiers as a homogeneous group of racists, fear mongers, and idiots, which simply isn't true.

Video from New Left Media.

> Continue Reading: Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor Rally

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rob Ford's Tele-Town Hall Meeting = Rob Ford Love-in

Rob Ford Toronto
So, I got a call a few days ago from my good buddy Councillor Rob Ford, and he was all like "Steve, you should totally participate in my tele-town hall meeting. It's going to be bitchin'. We'll blast Mayor Miller for like an hour and then I'll promise to cut costs while somehow building a bajillion subway lines."

Frankly, it was an offer I couldn't refuse.

Ford's tele-town hall meetings are exactly what one would expect. Most of the people calling in just want to gush all over him and tell him how awesome he is for taking on Miller and the Toronto Star, and the rest ask vague questions about cutting taxes, ending government waste, and ummm...cutting taxes. Ford's answers are just as bad. Callers are cut off after they ask their questions, so there's no back and forth dialogue, which gives Ford a full license to just wander through his talking points on autopilot.

This led to some miscommunication in the session I was listening in on. When one woman called to complain about illegal ads, Ford flipped the topic around and spent most of the time talking about how he's going to clean up graffiti downtown. I guess Ford doesn't have any talking points about illegal ads. I wonder if he considers any advertising illegal?

While listening to Ford ramble on for more than an hour can be boring and repetitive, the session did provide an interesting glimpse into both the candidate and his supporters. If you get the chance—apparently Ford plans to contact everyone in the city—I'd listen in.

Photo by Shaun Merritt.

> Continue Reading: Rob Ford's Tele-Town Hall Meeting = Rob Ford Love-in

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Toronto Ranked 14th in Meaningless List

Toronto foggy night
August is a pretty lazy, hazy month with not much going on. So to fill space, news organizations start to turn to low brow content like lists and rankings. Just a few days ago, Newsweek compiled a list of the world's best countries. Not to be outdone, Foreign Policy has released a list of the world's top global cities. As lists go, this one is pretty lazy. Foreign Policy claims to have measured "how much sway a city has beyond its borders—its influence and integration with global markets, culture, and innovation," but its methodology is never revealed, and in the end, the piece really doesn't have all that much to say.

Here's FP's effortless entry on Toronto—overall we're ranked 14th.
About half of Toronto's citizens are foreign-born. As the city ages—about one-fifth of locals are 60 or older—Toronto is likely to become more dependent on its immigrant community to revitalize its workforce.

Photo by paul (dex).

> Continue Reading: Toronto Ranked 14th in Meaningless List

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How Toronto Earned the Moniker "The Big Smoke"

Toronto The Big SmokeToronto The Big SmokeToronto's shoreline. Top photo: ca. 1912. Bottom photo: March 2, 1904.

In his book, Naming Canada: Stories about Canadian Place Names, Alan Rayburn suggests that the name was bestowed on Toronto in 1975 by Maclean's writer Allan Fotheringham, after he'd heard Australian aboriginals apply the term to their cities. Fotheringham felt that the phrase suited Toronto, as it had a "big reputation, little to show for it."

Rayburn doesn't explain how it caught on though, and the photos above make it hard not to think about the nickname literally.

Both photos are from the City of Toronto Archives. Background information from Torontoist.

> Continue Reading: How Toronto Earned the Moniker "The Big Smoke"

Canada Better Than the US, But Not as Good as Australia, Says Newsweek

Newsweek Worlds Best Countries
In an attempt to prove that it's still relevant, Newsweek, which was recently purchased by audio tycoon Sidney Harman for a dollar (yes, you're reading that correctly), has just published a list ranking the world's best countries. Of course, since this is 2010, the list comes in the form of a neato infographic.

So, how does Canada fair? Okay, I guess. We're ranked 7th overall, which is better than the US (11th), but not as good as Australia (4th). The top prize went to Finland because it's Scandinavian, and Scandinavian countries always win these things.

Screenshot from Newsweek.com.

> Continue Reading: Canada Better Than the US, But Not as Good as Australia, Says Newsweek

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I'm an Obama Hatin' Right-Wing Deficit Hawk

Anti-Obama Tea Party
Or at least that's how some U.S. conservatives are interpreting my work.

In late 2008, on what must have been a particularly boring day, I decided to research the costs associated with operating the White House. My findings were mildly interesting, so I turned them into an article. The post proved popular, though I quickly discovered that most of the traffic was coming from people searching for the costs of Air Force One. So, to help these wayward internet travellers, I put together a post about the expenses associated with the President's tricked out Boeing 747-200B.

After Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009, the traffic coming to my site through these articles took a sharp turn to the right. All of a sudden, my posts were being used by conservative commenters on dozens of sites, as examples of Obama's deficit spending and general mismanagement.

So, why do deficit hawks, budget busters, and Obama haters love these posts so much? Well, without the full context, the numbers look like great examples of wasteful spending. Both the White House and Air Force One cost a lot of money, $1.5 billion and $280 million a year, respectively. To the average American making $47,000 a year, these figures probably look unreasonable. However, it's intellectually dishonest to cite them without context.

First of all, there's more to the White House expenditures than just Obama's living expenses. The White House assumes many of the other costs associated with the Executive Branch, including the NSC, Camp David, the Secret Service, and yes, even Air Force One. Second, most of the commenters using these figures seem to be conveniently ignoring the fact that the data comes from Bush's time in office, not Obama's.

The costs associated with the White House today are similar to what they were under Bush, so Obama shouldn't be singled out. In fact, most of the increased costs over the last decade are directly related to the security measures that Bush implemented. So, if you're going to bemoan the price tag of the White House, you should be looking to President 43, and not 44.

Photo by Steve Rhodes.

> Continue Reading: I'm an Obama Hatin' Right-Wing Deficit Hawk

Michaëlle Jean is the World's Hottest Head of State

michaelle jean
Yes, in a bizarre upset that seems to conveniently ignore the fact that Michaëlle Jean only represents Canada's head of state—Queen Elizabeth II—our Governor General has captured the top spot on the extremely scientific Hottest Heads of State blog. Feminists everywhere rejoice!

By comparison, Stephen Harper, who is also not Canada's head of state, but somehow on the list, now ranks 92nd, down thirty-one spots from last year. (He must be spending too much time with his cat, Scratches.)

Unfortunately, Jean won't be able to enjoy this honour long, as she'll be stepping down in October 2010 to be replaced by David Lloyd Johnston, some cranky looking old white guy.

The photo above is Michaëlle Jean's official government portrait.

> Continue Reading: Michaëlle Jean is the World's Hottest Head of State

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Homers at Hanlan's

Hanlans Point Toronto Baseball
Welcome to Hanlan's Point circa 1928, back before the western part of Toronto Island became home to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and a summertime sausage fest nude beach. The image above, which merges a 1928 photo of the Point's old baseball stadium (ca. 1928) with a modern view of Toronto's skyline, comes from Alden Cudanin's website, Toronto Before. Cudanin is a whiz at producing these kinds of historical mash-ups, and while I was impressed by his Armories remix, I think this one might be his best to date.

The stadium featured in the photo was built for the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball club in 1909, destroyed by a fire, rebuilt, destroyed again, and then, just for the hell of it, rebuilt again. In 1914, Babe Ruth, the sultan of swat, hit his first professional home run at the stadium—a fact that's repeated ad nauseam in almost every history of the island ever written. Finally, in the 1920s, the Leafs moved to a new stadium on the mainland, and in 1937 the diamond was demolished to make room for the new island airport.

Photo mash-up by Alden Cudanin.

> Continue Reading: Homers at Hanlan's