Wednesday Night #1830

Written by  //  April 5, 2017  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

For Wednesday Nighters – and many others – the news that Wednesday Night’s OWN Peter Trent is resigning as mayor of Westmount has been front and center.
Our thoughts and warmest wishes are with him, as we dare to hope that he may now have more time to rejoin Wednesday Nights.
It is hard to imagine Westmount without Peter, but he leaves the City in good hands and deserves to pursue some of his many other interests. .

Certainly better hands than the SQ which, now that Andrew Potter has made his point – or not, is under a microscope for its handling of the blizzard crisis and what is emerging is not exactly a case study in crisis leadership. Where was the SQ brass during snowstorm? Partying and on vacation. Read and weep.

We have said it before and it bears repeating: when Andrew Coyne is at the top of his game, there are few better. His sarcastic take on the Bombardier executive compensation is priceless!
Andrew Coyne: Bombardier nabbed $3.7B in subsidies, yet the mob demands we punish its executives
As I have tried without success to impress upon readers, Bombardier is only notionally in the aerospace or urban transit industry. In reality, it is in the subsidy business. Company executives long ago spotted an unmet market opportunity as recipients of last resort for governments desperate to splash out funds “creating jobs” in “high-tech” or “value-added” sectors. The willingness of politicians to hand over the cash constitutes a demand for subsidy-seeking; Bombardier is only supplying the demand. Bombardier planes may not find many buyers, but that’s not what it’s selling. It is selling the making of planes, or more particularly conspicuous government support for the making of planes, or perhaps just the idea of making planes.

There were 5 federal byelections on Monday – were you paying attention? While both Liberal and Conservative parties managed to hold on to their seats, Eric Grenier notes that across the five ridings, the Liberals’ vote share dropped by an average of 4.7 points. That was a steeper loss than the NDP’s average 2.2-point decline. The Conservatives gained an average of 4.2 points compared to their support in the 2015 federal election.He speculates that “it is possible the Conservative leadership race has helped boost the party elsewhere” [outside the two communities with a significant francophone component], although it is hard for us to understand how or why … if you don’t follow our train of thought, read Scott Gilmore Confessions of a self-loathing Tory.

The media seem to have (momentarily?) turned the focus from evil genius Steve Bannon to Jared Kushner (How much is too much? Jared Kushner’s ever-expanding role in Trump administrationPresident Donald Trump’s son-in-law advising on everything from innovation to Middle East peace to China and China Learns How to Get Trump’s Ear: Through Jared Kushner. We’ll see how ‘the princeling’ survives the looming strategic disaster at Mar-a-Lago this week.
Trump’s chances of emerging triumphant from his meeting with Chinese premier Xi Jinping are being eyed with considerable skepticism.
Roger Cohen reflects: “The United States meets China this week in a position of weakness. Since taking office, Donald Trump has handed China a strategic gift by abandoning a trade pact designed to offset Chinese power in the region, been obliged to grovel after offending China over Taiwan, and turned President Xi Jinping of China into an unlikely poster boy for climate change concern and an open global trading system.”
Michael Fuchs, a former deputy assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs, has concerns that Trump’s Meeting with China’s Xi Is Risky with U.S. Asia Policy Up in the Air
Meanwhile, while nobody was paying attention:
Xi Jinping makes a stopover en route to the US. The Chinese president will visit Finland from Tuesday to Thursday. He’s guaranteed to get a warm welcome as the Nordic nation is keen on maintaining strong trade ties with China. Donald Trump’s protectionist policies have recently pushed Europe and China closer on trade and climate issues.

The Washington Post now has a new villain in its sights – Erik Prince, Blackwater founder, [who also happens to be the brother of Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary] who held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel. We see a Matt Damon movie in the offing.

The chemical attack in Syria is too dreadful to contemplate and there appears to be little doubt that it came from Assad’s forces.The United Nations said it would investigate the bombing raid as a possible war crime, and an emergency Security Council meeting was scheduled for Wednesday. And the U.S. has demanded that Russia and Iran bring their ally to heel. Of course, Doanld Trump could not resist laying some of the responsibility on Barack Obama, saying in a statement that the attack was “a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution.” But does anyone believe that anything will or can happen?

We expect to see many, many critiques of the Brexit process over the next months/years. The always reliable Project Syndicate devotes a section to Bulldozing Brexit
One of the more recent articles is Chris Patten’s gloomy Britain’s Messy Divorce “This divorce is not going well. And the proceedings have only just started. There is a long road ahead. Heaven knows what sort of country we will be at the end of it. But, as with any divorce, we can be fairly confident that it is the children who will suffer the most.”
Meanwhile, more fun is France’s Extraordinary Election On Tuesday,11 candidates for the French presidency faced off in a debate  that was more lively and more chaotic than previous encounters. Frontrunners Marine Le Pen, François Fillon and Emmanuel Macron took to the stage alongside wild-card candidates such as Jacques Cheminade, who wants to colonize Mars, and Jean Lassalle, a centrist who has campaigned around France on foot. Politico’s Europe edition gives 5 takeaways from France’s chaotic presidential debate
Less entertaining is Freedom House’s annual Nations in Transit report with its conclusion that ““Brexit and the new administration in the U.S. have emboldened anti-democratic populists in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans,” said Nate Schenkkan, project director of Nations in Transit. “A critical mass of leaders in the region openly reject the idea of liberal democracy. Populism increasingly is combining with crude ethnic nationalism in a way that threatens peace in Europe.”
One indicator is the latest battle declared by the right-wing Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, against liberalism. The target is the Central European University  (CEU)  and its founder, George Soros. Michael Ignatieff, rector and president of CEU wrote eloquently in the New York Times (Academic Freedom, Under Threat in Europe) that the proposed bill “would mark the first time that a member of the European Union dared to legislate an attack on the academic freedom of a university.  would also mark the first time that an American ally, a member of NATO, openly attacked an American institution on its soil.”
On Tuesday, Hungary passed [the] bill targeting Central European University.

Lurking behind/over almost all of these topics is Russia. Last month’s unprecedented (because they were so widespread) Anti-corruption demonstrations sweep across Russia created headlines along with sober second thought. Of the latter, we highly recommend Jeremy Kinsman: Meet Alexei Navalny, Russia’s political underdog with bite
The terrorist attack in the St. Petersburg metro appears to have been the work of  22-year-old Akbarzhon Jalilov, who was born in Kyrgyzstan. Russian investigators said they believed it was a suicide attack, based on body fragments found at the scene. It is not known whether Jalilov acted alone or with accomplices but there has been no word of any police operation to apprehend other suspects.

Don’t miss Aislin: 50 Years of Cartoons
at the McCord
7 April 2017 — 13 August 2017

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