Wednesday Night #1826
It has been precisely 100 years since Nicholas II, czar of all the Russias, abdicated from the throne
One hundred years after the Russian Revolution, an emboldened Putin regime is embracing its czarist past. Could 1917 happen again?
(Maclean’s) Return of the Czar
It is International Women’s Day with the theme of Be Bold for Change, or in today’s parlance (what is the internet equivalent of ‘parlance’?) #BeBoldForChange. While we support its goals, we do wonder if this and many other worthy international days actually generate lasting, positive, results. Of course, awareness-raising is positive, but it is discouraging to read that the World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186.
Centipedes are dropping shoes all over the place.
It is hard to absorb the news as the torrent resembles Niagara Falls. Sorry about those mixed metaphors.
We will make a stab at the highlights, but forgive us if we miss some. We count on you to help us out.
The Donald made nice delivering his Message to Congress last Tuesday. He read from the teleprompter, hardly veered off course, and everyone hoped that he had become presidential. We admit, even we were encouraged.
But then came the Jeff Sessions controversy. Donald Trump was reportedly livid over the fact the scandal stole his thunder after his big address.
More than stole his thunder, actually created quite a storm.
So The Donald decided to create a diversion by accusing his predecessor on Saturday of having the Trump Tower phones wire tapped. He offered no evidence to support his claims, which appear to be based on commentary rising in conservative media circles — and, above all, the president’s own agitation over the metastasizing Russia controversy.
We have attempted to keep up with the story (while omitting more lurid details) in our post U.S. Government & governance 2017. But the new Wikileaks dump has everyone scrambling.
Following the admission by Mr. Trump that ‘Nobody Knew Health Care Could Be So Complicated’, there was a Keystone cops interlude when nobody could find the proposed legislation. Then, magically, House Republicans Unveiled the Plan to Replace Health Law setting the scene for a squabble that ensures that the optimistic deadline of signature within three weeks (It’s Do-or-Die for Repeal-and-Replace) is a pipe dream. Pick your own analyses, what is apparent that the replacement is not going to do any favors for many of those who need coverage the most. Tax credits don’t really help those who cannot or do not pay taxes. Meanwhile, Health insurance companies would get $1 billion or more windfall under GOP Obamacare replacement plan. Analysis of the new plan will be fodder for policy wonks for days, but in the meantime, please enjoy
Stephen Colbert and Patrick Stewart Wait for Godot (and an Obamacare Replacement)
The actor and the late-night host gave healthcare the theater-of-the-absurd treatment.
Beckett, in fact, might be the perfect arbiter of these times, between his ineffably pessimistic view of life and his determination to laugh at it. Hence the sequence Stephen Colbert presented last night on The Late Show: a riff on the Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, interpreted as theater of the absurd. Billed as Samuel Beckett’s never-before-seen masterpiece, Waiting for Godot’s Obamacare Replacement (video) the skit starred Patrick Stewart as Vladimir and Stephen Colbert as Estragon, two of theater’s most notorious fatalists.
There’s a new executive order attempting to rectify the ill-conceived earlier one Trump’s New Travel Ban Blocks Migrants From Six Nations, Sparing Iraq.
We have recently become admirers of the Baltimore Sun and recommend the editorial Trump’s new travel ban, just as damaging as the first that points out “Muslim Ban 3.0 is just as un-American as its predecessors and just as unlikely to make us safer.” The Atlantic comments: “Though Trump’s new revisions address some of the legal challenges to his first executive order, the basic character of the ban remains: It targets only Muslim-majority countries, and its national-security rationales are still skimpy enough that it resembles the “Muslim ban” of the Trump campaign. The revised order also includes a requirement to track “so-called ‘honor killings’” and “acts of gender-based violence … by foreign nationals”—a provision that’s apparently aimed at Muslim communities, and might hurt victims of domestic violence more than it helps.” Meanwhile, one of Wednesday Night’s Scandinavian friends rejoices: “Trump administration suspending H1B visas. Good news for [my country] which has been suffering from a brain drain for years.” Also possibly for Singapore which, according to some, is set to be the next global start-up capitol – at the expense of Silicon Valley, no doubt.
Canada should be a beneficiary as well, provided we can convince professional associations and provincial governments to abandon their traditional protectionism. In fact, there are many positive stories about Canada’s Syrian refugees. One of our favorites is the story of the Hadhad family of Antigonish.
While we are focused on events and antics in the U.S., we should also be concerned about developments in Europe and around the world.
As the New York Times points out, North Korea poses the first real foreign policy challenge to the new U.S. administration and one with possible repercussions throughout Asia. And this is further complicated by the dispute with Malaysia over the assassination of Kim Jong Nam. The Diplomat explains why China is upset that the U.S. has started delivery of THAAD anti-missile system to South Korea. There is also much debate about the efficacy of the cyber warfare conducted by the U.S. against North Korea’s missiles. As one expert pointed out, when the missiles sink in the sea without a trace, it’s impossible to ascertain what caused the failure. Meanwhile, the State Department is not only short-handed, but, unlike his predecessors, Rex Tillerson has been incommunicado and virtually invisible. That may be the way an Exxon CEO works, but it is baffling to journalists covering State.
In Europe, tension mounts over the March 15th election in The Netherlands, widely regarded as a bellwether for populist parties throughout Europe. In France, meanwhile, former French prime minister Alain Juppé said on Monday, “Our country is sick.” after deciding “once and for all” not to run in France’s presidential election. François Fillon is losing credibility by the minute, now being described by some as morphing into Donald Trump in “alternative facts” mode.
We have recently been treated to an exchange on Russia thanks to two former Canadian ambassadors, Jeremy Kinsman and Christopher Westdal, prompted by the latter’s piece for Ceasefire, Common wisdom on Russia is not wise Given that these days, Russia appears to be inextricably connected to the U.S. via Donald Trump, we should follow developments even more closely than usual. And at least one European friend suggests we should be monitoring developments in Belarus. There is a suggestion that this country might be the next Ukraine.
On the local scene, Beryl Wajsman leads a chorus of people who are justifiably enraged by the decision of Quebec’s Director-General of elections to eliminate the riding of Mont-Royal. He is also spearheading a crowdfunding campaign to launch a legal challenge against that decision. See his interview with CBC’s Ryan Hicks (the lead story). On top of this, the Hellenic community is “outraged” as another decision of the D-G elections dilutes Greek vote in Chomedey.
Random news items of a more cheerful nature.
Our favorite is the discovery of Kermit the Frog’s distant live-action cousin in the jungles of Costa Rica. The resemblance is uncanny!
A different discovery gave rise to this deliciously incongruous headline Stunning 700-year-old giant cave used by Knights Templar found behind a rabbit hole in the British countryside.
The Royal Vic is recycling some of its equipment by sending it to developing countries to boost medical aid. As part of its decommission, 70 per cent of aging equipment at the former hospital site was given or sold to other hospitals in Quebec. But staff had a different idea for the remaining goods. They liaised with consular officials to arrange shipments to Honduras and Cameroon, where a lack of access to care has contributed to a rise in the number of deaths of children under the age of five.
A delightful special message for International Women’s Day from Marc (Nicholson)’s soon-to-be-opened 1880 Club, features our lovely and talented daughter-in-law, Jean Low.
For those old enough to remember Leroy Anderson, an impressive rendering of the Typewriter Song, while a different musical offering features a Gilbert & Sullivan-esque explanation of why Donald Trump lies.