Wednesday Night #1906

Written by  //  September 19, 2018  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

A couple of days ago I ran into an old friend and neighbour whom I had not seen for some months. As we were both waiting  for service, we busily caught up with one another’s lives and news. He suddenly stopped in mid-sentence and said “do you realize we have been talking for 10 minutes and have never once mentioned Trump?” Of course that remark unleashed a torrent of comment on events in Washington and the U.S., but it brought home to both of us how pleasant it is to talk about other things even if the subject is Quebec politics, healthcare, or natural disasters.

Although it is impossible to avoid events in Washington, we will  start with other topics.

One that is coming increasingly to the fore is Education and some of what we are reading is both alarming and depressing (e.g. What Your Sons and Daughters Will Learn at University and The Coddling of the American Mind ‘Is Speeding Up’) On the other hand, we can all be inspired by Heather Won Tesoriero’s The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America, even if we know this is (to date) a unique experiment.

Education is one of the key topics in the current Quebec election campaign, which has finally come to life. The leaders’ debate in English was certainly more mannerly than the previous French one, though that is not saying much. There were some sharp exchanges, but not the constant interruptions and talking-over – maybe all debates should be in a second language? The CAQ’s odious immigration policies created the most reaction and François Legault looks more toad-like every time we see him. Manon Massé struggled valiantly with her English and came out just fine. J-F Lisée always sounds like the smartest man in the room and his near-perfect English helped. If you have not yet read it, federal Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser offers a great guide:   The Quebec Election: A Primer

We highly recommend two long reads about the rise of authoritarianism and the illiberal state in Europe:
It happened there: how democracy died in Hungary
A new kind of authoritarianism is taking root in Europe — and there are warning signs for America.
and
A Warning From Europe: The Worst Is Yet to Come
Polarization. Conspiracy theories. Attacks on the free press. An obsession with loyalty. … the illiberal one-party state, now found all over the world—think of China, Venezuela, Zimbabwe—was first developed by Lenin, in Russia, starting in 1917. …  It is the model that many of the world’s budding autocrats use today.
Unlike Marxism, the Leninist one-party state is not a philosophy. It is a mechanism for holding power

Cleo Paskal reminds us all that Climate disruptions are also about politics and economics, as about environment
Super Typhoon Mangkhut is thrashing the Philippines and Hurricane Florence is churning the East Coast of the United States. Pundit after pundit is declaring them predictors of an apocalyptic climate change future. These sorts of warnings have become numbingly frequent. And, in the US, blaming an event like Florence on climate change alone can be politically divisive.
Florence has moved on leaving water everywhere — flooding interstates, swamping homes and swelling rivers that keep climbing. The rain has stopped falling, but the water remains, endless water clogging up the highway, overwhelming gauges meant to measure rivers, stretching out in every direction. In the aftermath, climatologists, meteorologists and other scientists are asking Did ‘downgraded’ Florence contribute to a false sense of security? because water – whether storm surge from the ocean or flooding from heavy rain – often ends up being much more deadly and destructive than the wind of a hurricane. No doubt that was what Donald Trmp was thinking of when he pronounced Hurricane Florence ‘One of the Wettest We’ve Ever Seen From the Standpoint of Water’.
We had forgotten about this news item from 2012, but thanks to The Guardian we have the timely reminder of the arrogance and stupidity of climate/science deniers.
North Carolina didn’t like science on sea levels … so passed a law against it — In 2012, the state whose low-lying coast lies in the path of Hurricane Florence reacted to a prediction of catastrophically rising seas by banning policies based on such forecasts. Wondering how many of those state legislators are still around.

And so, inevitably, we turn to political events in the U.S. As usual, there is a note of incredulity in even the most solemn reports of the Kavanaugh confirmation circus. The only good development is renewed interest in the proposal to set term limits for the Supreme Court. In June, Lee Drutman wrote on Vox, It’s time for term limits for Supreme Court justices; more recently Dave Leonhardt of the New York Times has championed the suggestion

As the NAFTA negotiations drag on, Republican House Whip Steve Scalise released a statement expressing frustration with Canada’s hard-line negotiating position. The congressman from Louisiana does not, apparently, see any irony in accusing Canada of being unwilling to roll over and play dead as the U.S. continues to bully its trading partners. And by the way, what are the statistics on Louisiana/Canada trade? Poor Chrystia Freeland, on top of her other concerns, she will have Doug Ford with her in Washington (a political coals-to-Newcastle?). He has promised not to ‘mix words’. Has anyone told him that the notwithstanding clause does not apply to trade deals? Reuters reports that Canada’s Trudeau [is] under growing pressure from business and political leaders to get NAFTA deal done

Events to note
The Canadian International Council (Montreal Branch) is a co-sponsor of the September 27  book launch for Restraining Great Powers Soft Balancing from Empires to the Global Era by James McGill Professor of International Relations T.V. Paul. The impressive line-up of speakers includes Jennifer Welsh, Canada 150 Chair, McGill Department of Political Science.

On Wednesday, October 24, David Frum will be at the Jewish Public Library to discuss his latest book, Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic
Sadly, the event starts at 7:30, so I won’t be able to attend, but I do hope that some Wednesday Nighters will go and report back later in the evening. Here is the link to more information and tickets.

Ten days later, on November 2nd, the motion before the Munk Debate is “The Rise of Populism Be it resolved, the future of western politics is populist not liberal…”
Steve Bannon will argue pro and David Frum con. Should be an entertaining evening, although hard on the blood pressure!
But then, as this article from the Harvard Business Review (forwarded by Fiona Nicholson) says Too Much Team Harmony Can Kill Creativity

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