Archive | June, 2010

Bikers of Montreal

14 Jun

Grabbez-vous un bike!

So elegant and practical they made me want to weep for joy on a recent trip: these are the public bicycles of Montreal.  Available to everyone, any time. You find one of the many stations around town where the bikes are kept, swipe a credit card and for less than the price of a bus ride you’re off on a merry two-wheeled ride. When you get to where you’re going, you just park the bike at another station and forget about it.

Bike-sharing is such an obviously good idea that even in carjacked America, more and more cities are starting similar programs. Minneapolis just launched theirs last week, and Washington DC is set to increase the size of theirs by a factor of nine. They’re not necessarily easy to do right, though. The New York Times reports that 80 per cent of the bikes in Paris’ fleet of 20,000 have been stolen. Montreal’s Bixi system seems to have figured out a better way, though. Minneapolis and DC are using the Canadian-designed bikes and parking apparatus. Because who knows more about bicycling than people who live in a country that’s 90 per cent frozen tundra?

And here's how you pay

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The Real Problem with the Gaza Blockade

9 Jun

Much more important than the back-and-forth about Israel’s (lethally bungled) raid on a boatload of (deliberately provocative) protesters trying to bring humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip is the bigger question it raises: what to do about the blockade? Without a doubt, its critics are right to say it inflicts terrible human suffering on civilian Palestinians. But it’s also a fact that without it, Hamas would smuggle in even more rockets to lob at Israeli civilians, not to mention whatever other weapons they could get their hands on to help further their goal of wiping Israel off the map.

But here’s another fact about the Gaza blockade: as a tactic, it just doesn’t work. This kind of attempt to pressure another nation into doing your will by squeezing them materially almost never does. It pretty much only ends up hurting innocent civilians. The economic sanctions imposed on  Serbian-controlled Yugoslavia during the Bosnian war didn’t make Belgrade stop supporting Bosnia’s genocidal Serbs. They just made life incredibly difficult for ordinary people, without changing the behavior of their leaders at all. Ditto the sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Ditto, for that matter, the bombing of civilian centers in World War Two. (There might be a case to make about sanctions having helped end  apartheid in South Africa, but to me that looks more like they at best hastened something that was inevitable anyway. Very different from these other situations.)

If anything, this kind of collective punishment tends to make the locals rally around their leaders, not seek their overthrow. There’s nothing to suggest Hamas is losing popular support in Gaza because of the blockade – probably the opposite. I don’t know what the solution is, but it’s pretty obvious the status quo just isn’t working, and never will.

One of the Gaza flotilla ships, impounded in Ashdod. Thanks, Guardian.co.uk.

LA Times Love for a Worthy Magazine

2 Jun

A nice bit of recognition for Miller-McCune magazine, for which I happen to be a contributing editor. Including a shout-out for one of my pieces therein:

Miller-McCune stakes out provocative ground. One piece looked at safe-injection drug sites in Vancouver. It suggested addicts could find better outcomes with government cooperation, not crackdowns. As a subhead declared, “Let Junkies be Junkies.”