Wednesday Night #1915

Written by  //  November 21, 2018  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

For all our friends who are celebrating American Thanksgiving on Thursday, we offer this judicious warning about table topics
Safe Topics to Discuss This Holiday Season
Stick to the weather. What could possibly go wrong?
The author concludes: that bringing up the weather is likely not a good idea “Actually, there’s no way this won’t immediately lead to a screaming match about climate change so whatever you do, do not comment on the weather.”
At least we are presumably safe in wishing one and all a Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels to all whose celebrations take them away.

It has certainly not escaped our eagle-eyed Wednesday Nighters that the number of current Wednesday Nights  is identical to the years of The Great War whose Armistice centenary the world leaders including (sort-of) Donald Trump  commemorated in Paris last week on 11 November. So much has been written in the past weeks about the War to end all wars, but we would recommend historian J.L. Granatstein’s After the fighting, a nation changed: “The Great War, lasting from August 1914 to November 1918, had a huge effect on Canada. In the hothouse atmosphere created by the conflict, attitudes changed faster, tensions festered more quickly and events forced governments and groups to take new positions at an unheard-of pace. The war changed everything.”
While there was much coverage of the Paris commemoration, we thank Kyle Matthews for his account of the less covered Paris Peace Forum, Five takeaways from the Paris Peace Forum “World leaders met in Paris this week to discuss the barriers to peace — here are five points many agreed on, from the lack of US leadership to the need for a way forward.”

Congratulations to Peter Trent who has been tapped to join the board of the Société de transport de Montréal (STM). Certainly, an excellent choice, however he no doubt deplores the inelegant handling by Mme Plante of the removal of Marvin Rotrand and Valérie Patreau from the same board. But then, Montrealers are getting used to the heavy hand of Projet Montréal.
Two worrisome transportation-related topics: the news that the City is considering eliminating up to 500 parking spots on Ste-Catherine. The article reminds us that Mme Plante is planning to reduce St Catherine to one lane, with expanded sidewalks which will no doubt be thoroughly enjoyed by all those pedestrians who love navigating the ice and slush of winter weather – and has anyone thought of what snow clearing will do to the traffic patterns? The other piece of dispiriting (if not enraging) news is Cyclists call for Sherbrooke St. bike path across Montreal. The coalition, which includes bike and pedestrian associations, Vélo Québec and the Conseil Régional de l’Environnement, argues that “Recent studies have shown that cyclists and pedestrians spend more money and stop into shops more frequently than drivers who are intent on going home and less inclined to stop and shop” – we might ask where those pedestrians spring from and suggest that without parking, there might be many less. Can’t imagine that hotels in the downtown core will be thrilled with this proposal. Pretty soon, the old saying, “you can’t get there from here” will apply to most of Montreal.

Since Donald Trump‘s return from his awkward trip to Paris, his behaviour has been increasingly bizarre. Jeffrey Sachs believes that “As US President Donald Trump’s political position weakens and the obstacles facing him grow, his mental instability will pose an ever-greater danger” and warns that “political position weakens and the obstacles facing him grow, his mental instability will pose an ever-greater danger.” (Trump’s Diminishing Power and Rising Rage) See also Frank Rich: Trump Is Starting to Panic   and if that does not convince you, read the reports of his visit to California to inspect the damage from what is recognized as the deadliest wildfire in the history of the state
[During Wildfire Tour, Trump Suggests Doing More Raking Like Finland Could Prevent California Wildfires].
Ever since the Finnish president denied ever discussing ‘raking’ with Trump, the Internet has had a field day. Finnish biologist explains why Trump’s plan to stop forest fires with rakes is utter nonsense … in fact, he says that if Finland does face the prospect of greater forest fires in the coming years, climate change will be a good reason why.
“Forest fires in Finland are much limited by the snowy winter (length varies acc. to year and region, but traditionally around 3 months, is shortening due to climate change),” he writes. “Snow and ice are solid water, forests cannot burn in wintertime.”
What’s more, the biologist says that raking the forests would do more harm than good when it comes to the overall health of the trees.

The Retrogressive Conservative government of Ontario’s version of DJT continues to divide if not conquer. Notable is the government’s decision to cancel plans for the province’s first francophone university – which Mr. Ford had promised to keep during the election campaign and again shortly after taking office. It is also cutting the French-language services commissioner’s office and rolling it into the ombudsman’s office. It’s worth reading the Toronto Sun’s Rick Gibbons who writes that the Ford government’s decision to axe French language commissioner may prove costly. We, along with countless others, cannot fathom how Caroline Mulroney can justify her role in this government. If you have not read it, please also see Patrick Lagacé’s column about the ‘radio silence’ of the national anglo press. As he notes, only Chantal Hébert has covered the topic thoroughly – but, we would expect nothing less of Mme Hébert. Note that Premier François Legault has not covered himself with glory while navigating this issue.

Some will remember the brilliant Emmanuelle Richez, who lived with us at 33 Rosemount. We are delighted to report that she has been appointed a part-time member of an expert panel of the Court Challenges Program (CCP) which has been instrumental in helping to clarify and assert official language and equality rights guaranteed under Canada’s Constitution.

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau presents the fiscal update. The Financial Post predicts that This week’s fiscal update will have Trudeau seeking redemption from a frustrated business community The update will likely include incentives for capital investment but not an across-the-board reduction in corporate taxes.
Bearing in mind that the Economy and the markets are not one and the same, there is worry that the US stock market’s slide is flashing a warning about the economy, Unemployment in the United States is near lows not seen in half a century. The US economy is set for its best year since 2005. Large corporations are producing giant profits. Even wages are starting to rise.
And the stock markets are a mess.
The losses extended on Tuesday, as the S&P 500 turned negative for the year, stoking fears that one of the longest bull markets in history could be at risk.
The stock-market struggles may seem incongruous with a US economy that by many measures looks strong. But stocks often act as an early warning system, picking up subtle changes before they appear in the economic data.
All in all, it seems Mr. Morneau has his work cut out for him.
Meanwhile, in anticipation of the Update, the Auditor General has issued the fall report – Highlights – not very cheer-worthy, starting with New planes, no pilots: Canada’s $500-million purchase of used CF-18 fighter jets from Australia will be hamstrung by the ongoing problem that the air force does not have enough pilots to fly them or technicians to keep them in the air. The military has warned the government about this for years.

Much to ponder, none of it cheerful and and we haven’t even touched on BrexitSaudi Arabia and the aftermath of the Khashoggi murder, Hungary and the CEU,  Interpol‘s likely new head, or the White House war with the media, or the important international meeting on Biodiversity and finally, thanks to Tony Deutsch, a fascinating read: Trump’s ties to the Russian mafia go back 3 decades
Journalist Craig Unger talks Russia, Trump, and “one of the greatest intelligence operations in history.”

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