Wednesday Night #1758

Written by  //  November 11, 2015  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Remembrance Day poppyIn Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields –John McCrae, May 1915

It has been hard to escape – if one wanted to – the national and international euphoria that broke out following the October 19 elections and culminated in the pageantry and genuine surprises of the swearing-in ceremony of last Wednesday. Despite our own enthusiasm for the election outcome, we admit to finding the fawning of the media a bit tiresome. Also dangerous, given that inevitably the public’s expectations are raised with each adulatory column. Thus we welcome the cautionary tone of the Globe & Mail piece by William A. Macdonald: “The Trudeau victory message – the return of Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s ‘sunny ways’ and Canada as the country where better is always possible – added to the historic, stunning scale of the win. It will also move him into new territory where expectations of what is possible could be too high. He needs to figure out quickly what economic expectations are reasonable and explain them to Canadians. This election was not about the economy. The next one almost certainly will be.”
Especially now that it is confirmed that Stephen Harper’s famously balanced budget wasn’t Liberals inherit deficit that could jeopardize budget goals: study
“A back-of-the-envelope calculation by Stephen Tapp, a former PBO economist who is now research director of the Institute for Research on Public Policy, said combining the PBO numbers and the Liberal fiscal plan would produce a deficit of more than $11-billion in 2019-20, the year a balanced budget is promised.
Mr. Tapp’s calculation did not attempt to estimate the positive impact on growth that could occur through infrastructure spending. Some private-sector economists have said Liberal policies could generate as much as half a percentage point in additional growth per year.”
In addition to the economy, there are a number of thorny issues that must be addressed immediately (along with some 11,000 job applications!) including the daunting challenge of fulfilling the promise to bring in 25,000 refugees before year-end. Although some may roll their eyes at the news that minister John McCallum has struck a committee to deal with the issue, the complexity of the arrangements and the overlapping jurisdictions nake such a coordinating body indispensable.
Stéphane Dion, minister of Global Affairs (many wish for a return to the traditional External) is already talking about reshaping foreign policy and what he says sounds promising.
The new minister of Environment & Climate Change is already in Paris for preparatory talks
The new minister of International Trade has the TPP to consider and since the full text was made public – by New Zealand – reaction has been vocal, mirroring some of the arguments presented almost six weeks ago by Joseph Sliglitz and Adam Hersh in The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade and supported by such voices as Jim Balsillie who has stated that he fears TPP could cost Canada billions and become the worst-ever policy move.
Meanwhile we are celebrating some of the early acts of the new government including the return of the long-form census and of the Alfred Pellan paintings to their (rightful) place in the main reception area of the Lester B. Pearson building.

Final notes on the topic. Remembering Mr. Trudeau’s injunction that [conservatives] are our neighbors and friends, we are pleased that interim leader Rona Ambrose is opting for more “constructive, effective” work as the Official Opposition. As a first sign, she not only endorses the renovation of 24 Sussex, but adds, “I always thought that when they do renovate it, they should make it the greenest home in Canada.”.
We also highly recommend this long, thoughtful and constructive analysis by Adam Daifallah and Tasha Kheiriddin. No matter what your political allegiance, it offers excellent insights.
Step Back to the Right
The conservative authors of Rescuing Canada’s Right update the blueprint for the party—and the movement.

For all our fascination with (and navel-gazing) the current renaissance in Canadian politics, it is time to remember that the world continues to revolve on its axis and Canada is not necessarily at the center of the universe. So we are grateful that Peter Berezin will be with us to discuss the recent BCA report titled Underestimating Sino-American Tensions, which speaks specifically of the tensions in the South China Sea – an area that we have been watching for some time with growing alarm.

OECD Trims Global Growth Forecast on Emerging-Market Slowdown
With Russia and Brazil in recession and China poised to deliver its weakest expansion in more than two decades, the economies that powered world growth in recent years are now slowing it down. Developed economies are feeling the brunt in the form of reduced demand for both commodities and manufactured goods.
China, Russia
The OECD barely changed its forecasts for Chinese output, pegging growth at 6.8 percent this year and 6.5 percent in 2016. Yet Brazil’s economy is now seen shrinking 3.1 percent this year and 1.2 percent next, compared with contractions of 2.8 percent and 0.7 percent predicted in September.
Russian gross domestic product is on track to drop 4 percent in 2015 and 0.4 percent next year, according to the report. Since the OECD didn’t give an estimate for Russia in September, that compares with a June prediction for a contraction of 3.1 percent in 2015 and expansion of 0.8 percent in 2016.

South of our border, the Republican circus continues. We did not watch Tuesday’s debate – we find it too painful to contemplate either Donald Trump or Dr. Ben Carson, and prefer to read the round-ups in the NYT, Atlantic, or WaPost. The latter reports, “differences over immigration laws, military spending and foreign policy brought into focus the rift between rigid conservatism and mainstream practicality.” It also supplies a handy fact checker.

Across the globe, elections were held in Myanmar/Burma and the ruling party conceded defeat as Suu Kyi headed for a landslide, but nothing is simple in that country as Mark Farmaner explains in Think Myanmar Is A Democracy Now? Think Again.

Good news from Africa – Sierra Leone has been declared Ebola-free, but as Al Jazeera cautions, a legacy of fear remains. — The deadly virus crippled the country’s healthcare system, with grave consequences for maternal and infant health.
The Guardian prefers to give more up-beat coverage ‘Bye bye Ebola’: Sierra Leone rapper’s video hits the right note
Bad news from Africa – Burundi is at an “extremely dangerous tipping point” according to UN. Bloomberg reports that Specter of Civil War Haunts Burundi as Fatal Violence Escalates ever since President Pierre Nkurunziza regained office in a disputed election. On Tuesday, the UN warned that the international organization is less well-equipped to deal with the situation than it was in Rwanda before the 1994 genocide.

Writing for Aljazeera, Hamid Dabashi gives a timely reminder of the politics of interpretation
What brought the Russian airliner down?
The battle for answers was launched on predictable political lines
Russian President Vladimir Putin had a vested interest in the cause of the crash being blamed on mechanical failure and not the work of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in order to exonerate his Syrian campaign having cost the lives of hundreds of innocent Russian lives.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had a similar vested interest in this crash being due to mechanical failure or pilot error, and not because of the failure of security at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport, in order to safeguard a major source of income for the Egyptian economy – and save himself from the embarrassment of the fact that his army is only good to crush the democratic aspirations of Egyptians and not to face a gang of murderers in Sinai.
Meanwhile, both UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama had a vested interest in the cause of this crash not being due to a mechanical failure or pilot error, but a work of deliberate murder by ISIL. That scenario would vindicate their opposition to the Russian involvement in the Syrian war and mark its human cost in part on innocent Russians.

There is so much more, but as it is November 11, Remembrance Day 2015, this story of an unsung 4-legged hero will have to suffice.
Rags, the WW I hero dog, featured in B.C. biographer’s new book
Stray terrier had a talent for finding wounded soldiers on the battlefield
And as we were thinking that the book might make an excellent Christmas present for a deserving dog lover, we were reminded that on Saturday November 21 and Sunday, November 22, from 10 am to 5 pm – The Friends of the Westmount Library are holding their pre-Christmas Book Sale. There are always treasures and the prices are more than reasonable (or should that be ‘less than reasonable’?).
Before that, on November 16, we suggest the stimulating Threats, risks, freedom: journalism and human rights in Turkey today: Concordia’s Thinking Out Loud series brings together veteran Turkish reporter and analyst Amberin Zaman and Wednesday Nighter Kyle Matthews. Very timely in light of Turkey’s recent elections.

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