Wednesday Night #1840

Written by  //  June 14, 2017  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

There are weeks when we are inundated with new news, events, facts, commentary and hypotheses, some of which reinforce prior information and others disabusing us of whatever we considered to be incontrovertible.

This has been one of those weeks.

Consider the results of last Thursday’s UK election. As former Canadian High Commissioner to the UK Jeremy Kinsman describes it,  Gambled and lost: Hope wins over fear in UK election. Riding to Theresa May’s (temporary?) rescue, is the DUP, bringing some very unwanted baggage notably direct impact on Britain’s relations with the Irish Republic.
George Monbiot faults the media for writing  off Jeremy Corbyn, creating “a hall of mirrors, in which like-minded people reflect and reproduce each other’s opinions.” Equally applicable in North America.
Do not miss The New Yorker’s delightful The Book of Jeremy Corbyn

France offers a refreshing counterpoint. Although turnout was low in the first round of parliamentary elections, Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche party is on track to win a staggering majority in the 2nd round on June 18. Politico Eu highlights that “The first round gave a flavor of the massive overhaul of France’s political lineup that this election will bring about. In result after result on Sunday night, new and unknown faces replaced characters who have occupied the political space for so long that their positions seemed unassailable.” As Macron continues to poke at Trump policy, France is offering US scientists 4-year grants to move to the country and do research – apparently, M. Macron believes that the Trump administration will not last through another election.

Almost ignored were the events in Finland where “The narrowly avoided collapse of [the] governing coalition shows why it’s almost impossible for a populist force to be successful in Western Europe. The unsuccessful government experience of the nationalist, anti-European Union, anti-immigrant Finns Party (also known as True Finns) is in line with the results of experiments elsewhere in trying to integrate such parties into mainstream politics.”

In the Middle East, all eyes are on Qatar. Robert Fisk’s  analysis of  the real story behind the economic crisis unfolding in Qatar is a must-read. Meanwhile, Doha-based Al Jazeera reports on the U.S. State Department statement that “efforts to resolve a major diplomatic crisis between a group of countries led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar are ‘trending in a positive direction’.” Before breathing any sighs of relief, we suggest you read carefully Saudi Arabia is Destabilizing the World a forceful reminder of just how pernicious the Saudi influence is. “It is an absolute monarchy supported by one of the world’s most reactionary religious sects. It gives clerics large sums to promote their anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic brand of religious militancy abroad. In exchange, the clerics refrain from criticizing the Saudi monarchy or its thousands of high-living princes. Saudis with close ties to the ruling family give crucial support to groups like Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS. This fact should be at the front of our minds whenever we consider our policy toward the Middle East — including when we decide whether to side with the Saudis in their new dispute with neighboring Qatar.”
With the return of John Buchanan and Joumane Chahine from Beirut, we hope to learn more.

And so, inevitably, back to Chaos Central aka Washington. Where to begin?
Perhaps with The Government Investigates, which will explain all of the various investigations under way (Thanks to Ron Meisels).
No, on second thought, with the fact that today, June 14, is Donald Trump’s 71st birthday, so here are 71 things he’s said that may keep you up at night

The Atlantic sums it all up:
Sessions’s Session: Attorney General Jeff Sessions reaffirmed that he did not collude with Russia to undermine the 2016 presidential election, dubbing the allegations an “appalling and detestable lie.” The attorney general’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee comes less than a week after former FBI Director James Comey testified that he was fired by President Trump because of his role in the Russia investigation—one which Sessions recused himself from due to his own meetings with Russian officials while he served as a foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Sessions’s testimony comes on the heels of ongoing speculation over whether Trump is planning to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel charged with leading the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Though the president can’t fire Mueller himself, he could order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to do it. But Rosenstein assured lawmakers that Mueller has full independence in his handling of the investigation, adding that he did not see any “good cause” to fire the special counsel.
Many comments about the Sessions session from both comedians and pundits emphasized the Attorney General’s astonishing lack of memory (“I don’t recall”)
the NYT piece Trump and the True Meaning of ‘Idiot’. It seems that respondents to a recent poll were asked what word immediately came to mind when they thought of Donald Trump: The No. 1 response was “idiot”.However, we may assume that they were not aware of the etymological roots of the word which makes it an even more accurate description.

On Monday, at a highly unusual meeting of the Cabinet, Trump Boasts of ‘Record-Setting’ Pace of Activity, the president went around the table asking for a statement from each cabinet member. One by one, they said their names and paid tribute to Mr. Trump, describing how honored they were to serve in his administration as he nodded approvingly. Can you imagine this happening anywhere outside North Korea? How did these people face themselves in the mirror after that performance?

Miscellaneous
The Lonely Drifting Oil Tanker That Signals OPEC’s Struggle
Across the world, the plight of the Saiq, now idling off the coast of Mauritania, reflects a broader trend in the physical oil market. After six months of oil-production cuts from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and 11 non-OPEC nations led by Russia, crude supply is surprisingly still plentiful, according to traders.

Our friend C Uday Bhaskar writes from India Two consummate dealmakers, Modi and Trump, will be engaging in end June, raising hopes for a new direction.

Céline Cooper casts her critical eye on the Trudeau-Obama dinner and wonders whether it was wise for the Trudeau team to play up the encounter: “Trump is an erratic, unpredictable, deeply insecure man obsessed with his public image. He demands loyalty, and punishes those who do not comply. The Canadian government should not and must not play his passive-aggressive games, but we still have to manage the relationship as best we can. Was circulating this photo in the best interest of Canada right now?”

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