Wednesday Night #1837

Written by  //  May 24, 2017  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

In 1837 there were uprisings in both Upper and Lower Canada against the conservative minority in power.  Change that to Conservative ‘majority’ and it sounds more relevant to today and the recent past.

So far, Donald Trump’s Trifecta: Saudi Arabia, Israel and The Vatican has proceeded without any major gaffes, although lots of fuel for his critics (e.g. the arms sale to the Saudis so they can pursue the war with Yemen ever more viciously).
In The Washington Post’s WorldView Newsletter, Ishaan Tharoor pointed out that the much acclaimed speech to the assembled Muslim leaders/despots was “A sop, soaked in platitudes, to the Saudi agenda in the Middle East”, placing the U.S. firmly in the Sunni camp. Gwynne Dyer adds “Donald Trump proclaimed a new doctrine in his speech to the assembled leaders of the Muslim world in Saudi Arabia on Sunday. It goes by the name of Principled Realism, although it didn’t offer much by way of either principles or realism. In practice, it mostly boiled down to a declaration of (proxy) war against Iran.”
Back to Ishaan Tharoor: “It was not lost on observers that Iran just concluded a presidential election that saw a huge turnout, with voters returning the moderate President Hassan Rouhani to power. Critics of the regime in Tehran say the exercise is hardly democratic, given the overweening power of the country’s theocratic supreme leader and its influential military institutions like the Revolutionary Guard. But it’s certainly an improvement on Saudi Arabia’s own system, a strict monarchy where women’s rights are still curtailed and where one large royal family controls the levers of power.”

Before heading off to Israel on the first direct flight between the two countries, Mr. Trump took part in the opening of the Saudi-run center for combating extremist ideology. Some pretty funny memes appeared on social media.

Wednesday Night has eyes and ears everywhere, so you will not be surprised to learn that our OWN Sam Stein was in Riyadh and has some observations that differ considerably from what we have seen reported.

The Israel leg of the trip passed without incident, despite some earlier frictions. As  Daniel Estrin of NPR reported: “He spoke a lot about peace, but he was very short on specifics. And that was very emblematic of his whole trip here. He didn’t want to wade into any thorny issues. He didn’t talk about a two-state solution. He didn’t talk about Israeli assessments in the West Bank, where Palestinians want to build a Palestinian state. He didn’t talk about the U.S. Embassy. This trip was much more about smiles. It was much more about relationship-building.” Nonetheless, there was a clear message:  If Israel really wants peace with its Arab neighbors, the cost will be resolving the generations-old standoff with the Palestinians. Commentators all highlighted the absence of any reference to the two-state solution.

The public opinion poll results published by Politico that finds the U.S. public at odds with much of the president’s strategy make for an instructive read. “If a two-state solution were no longer possible, two thirds of Americans would prefer a democratic Israel, where Arabs and Jews are fully equal — even if this meant Israel would cease to be a Jewish state.” But then, when did The Donald listen to any opinion other than his own?

As the second day of the visit was ending, the news of the terrorist attack in Manchester, UK took over the headlines. As the sad story was unfolding, there was no explanation of why US authorities leaked the name of the bomber against the wishes of British authorities and growing concern that allied intelligence agencies will become increasingly wary of sharing information with leak-prone Washington.

On Wednesday Pope Francis  received Mr. Trump. Pundits had predicted the meeting would “be brief and probably sculpted around points of convergence, such as their mutual interest in the defense of religious minorities in the Middle East. Francis, for his part, has said he would not “make a judgment” of Trump before hearing out the American president.” There is little information so far on the outcome of the private meeting Pope Francis and Donald Trump Meet at the Vatican, but Reuters reports that Pope Francis gave the president a small sculptured olive tree [actually it was a medallion] and told him through the interpreter that it symbolized peace.”It is my desire that you become an olive tree to construct peace.” The Pope also gave Trump a signed copy of his 2017 peace message whose title is “Nonviolence – A Style of Politics for Peace,” and a copy of his 2015 encyclical letter on the need to protect the environment from the effects of climate change. We hope these were the Power Point versions, given Mr. Trump’s notorious aversion to reading.

Wednesday Night’s Two Davids write on Iran this week. In Iranian Elections Pose Questions David Jones is unequivocal ” (Re)elected President Hassan Rouhani is a “moderate” only in Iran’s distorted political spectrum. … Iran will continue under Rouhani as a vicious abuser of human rights, a regional military threat, and provide flash points for confrontation with U.S. Persian Gulf forces.” David Kilgour (Rouhani Re-election Shows Preference for Moderation) reminds us that  “the world’s primary state sponsor of terrorism continues to be Iran. Its regime has committed more harm to innocents than any terrorist group, including ISIS.  Khamenei has diverted much of Iran’s wealth towards acquiring nuclear weapons. The “Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGG)” is behind many terrorist activities not only in the Middle East but in Europe, Africa and elsewhere.”  But, in the tangled web of Middle East alliances “Iran supports militarily the government of American ally prime minister Haider al-Abadi in Iraq. Reducing Iranian influence there and in Syria could negatively affect the retaking of the cities of Mosul and Raqqa from ISIS.”

As of last Wednesday, the protracted argument about the illumination of the Pont Jacques-Cartier came to a head. Amidst a profusion of fireworks and light show, the long-promised (threatened) $40 million display began. Opinions are sharply divided as to whether this is a good way to celebrate Montreal’s 375th or whether it belongs in the discard & delete pile with the concrete tree stumps. Whichever side you are on, we think you may be enchanted by this short video (filmed well before the J-C extravaganza) “Montreal through the Eyes of Tourists”.

And, as we all know, there are a lot of very worth-while activities connected to the 375th, including -as Kyle Matthews reminds us- The 2017 Next City Vanguard Conference will bring 45 young urban leaders to Montreal from May 31 to June 3.  One related event of particular interest is  “The walkable city: why access is the new mobility” a talk by leading urban thinker Jeff Speck at Concordia on June 1 , 7-9 pm.

This topic leads us to another, suggested by PA Sévigny: economist Tony Seba’s report, Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030, that predicts that virtually all fossil fuel vehicles will have vanished within eight years. “All new vehicles will be electric, all new buses, all new cars, all new tractors, all new vans, anything that moves on wheels will be electric, globally.” We are planning to address this topic, along with related disruptive technologies, e.g. AI, at a future Wednesday Night.

We would also remind you that Concordia’s Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) has joined forces with Amnesty International Canada, the United Committee of Armenian Organizations in Quebec and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights to organize Rights City/Montréal, ville des droits humains, a major event on May 26 and 27. Details

And, Cleo Paskal has updated the list of speakers at “Geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific”  the course that she is leading at CERIUM from 29 May to 3 June. She says “We have five guest speakers coming up from DC – some really interesting people. I would particularly recommend the ones on China (John Tkacik), India (Satu Limaye), the South China Sea (Zack Cooper) and Oceania (Ambassador McGann).” Wednesday Nighters who are interested in attending specific sessions should email Cleo.

Back to Trump (sorry!) – his budget has been tabled (see Trump administration: U.S. Economy) and the outcry is already loud, Perhaps the most interesting commentary is Trump Budget Based on $2 Trillion Math Error  –  and you also might like to take a look at Here are the 66 programs eliminated in Trump’s budget We look forward to our economists’ take, bearing in mind what  Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) wrote in a statement. “The President’s budget is a suggestion. We will take a close look at his budget, but Congress is mandated by the Constitution with key spending responsibilities and will ultimately decide what the nation’s fiscal priorities will be.”

The Saint aka Lord Brett Sinclair aka James Bond has left us.
Of all the tributes pouring in, we like this from The Guardian
Roger Moore: a modest, self-deprecating James Bond who brought some serious aplomb
Though Moore never considered himself much of an actor, he was an incredibly skilled performer who inspired adoration in the audience
“The Connery Bond was feared and admired, and the same went for the Brosnan Bond or the Craig Bond. But the Roger Moore Bond was loved. And Sir Roger Moore was loved too. It is desperately sad to see him go.”

 

 

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