Wednesday Night 1767

Written by  //  January 13, 2016  //  Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night 1767

The death of David Bowie over the weekend has unleashed a world-wide torrent of eulogies absent only (unless we missed something) a statement from Buckingham or Kensington Palace.

It is already six years since the horrendous earthquake in Haiti on 12 January 2010 that killed about 300,000 people and displaced millions. Our cousin Fabiola Thébaud Kinder reminds us that “many are still living in tents that leak during the rainy season. Squatters are everywhere! The government surely owns land and should be able to provide!” She asks “In the meantime, what happened to the funds that came in? [We Are The World For Haiti Earthquake (2010)] What happened to the American Red Cross money? We still need to make sure the money gets in the right hands! Sean Penn had a fundraiser on Saturday in Hollywood. [Although often criticized for his high-handed approach Sean Penn has continued his relief efforts in Haiti to this day] Why weren’t many of the Haitian-Americans of California invited? We have gotten many to donate straight to where it is needed and it has worked!”

In the past few days, Sean Penn has become embroiled in the far more controversial issue of the recapture of El Chapo. The almost incredible story of Penn’s interview with the head of the drug cartel was published on the Rolling Stone website on Saturday. Did he lead the authorities to El Chapo? The noise will no doubt soon be overcome by some other celebrity escapade, but it is entertaining to observe the mainstream media tut-tutting over journalistic ethics and Salon’s scathing review is merciless. The fact remains that El Chapo’s Capture: [Is] A Distraction From The Disaster That Is The Drug War. “The cacophony of commentary and ridiculous coverage about the event miss the real point: El Chapo’s re-arrest is a distraction from the fact that the drug war, like the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto, is a devastating failure that’s destroying Mexico. First of all, the capture won’t change a damn thing when it comes to the drug trade or drug addiction. It certainly won’t impact the flow of drugs.”

On the eve of President Obama’s final State of the Union Address, the White House released a video with these reflections.
“I want us to be able when we walk out this door to say we couldn’t think of anything else that we didn’t try to do—that we didn’t shy away from a challenge because it was hard. That we weren’t timid, or got tired, or somehow were thinking about the next thing because there is no next thing. This is it. Never in our lives again will we have the chance to do as much good as we do right now. I want to make sure that we maximize it.”
There are many naysayers and even more haters out there, but we believe that Mr. Obama has indeed tried to do his best.
As Robert Reich says in his post: “given the times and the circumstances, he has done remarkably well.
It is not all roses. I won’t easily forgive the mass deportations, the early emphasis on deficit-reduction, the compromises on civil liberties, the absurd Trans Pacific Partnership, or the failure to put tough conditions on Wall Street banks that got bailed out. The Administration has been way too kind to big corporations and Wall Street.”

We agree, but would add that while we do not have any useful suggestions, we deplore the failure to take action to resolve the on-going crisis in the Middle East. How Obama Created a Mideast VacuumOver the course of the nearly five years of the war within Syria, Obama has faced choices on how the United States should respond and he consistently decided to do the minimum.
Wednesday Nighters are sharply divided over what actions to take and whether Bashar al-Assad. is the greater threat to any settlement than ISIS. One camp, led by John Buchanan, maintains that the Sunnis will not support any serious effort against ISIS unless Bashar has been stopped, while the other, led by Kimon, believes that Syria without him, or an acceptable replacement, would lead to disastrous consequences for the Kurds, Alawites, Shiites, Syrian Christians and any other minorities. Kimon adds “If Bashar were to disappear overnight then much worse will replace him. Just look at Libya. The evil Kaddafi was removed and the result has been pure chaos not just for Libya but for Mali and much of Western Africa.”

As the NYT said in its Tuesday morning First Draft on Politics: “Each year, analysts proclaim the State of the Union address, known universally in Washington as the S.O.T.U., to be outdated and irrelevant. But it remains one of the big set pieces of American political life and still serves at minimum to define the political boundaries between the parties, particularly in an election year.” This year’s Address did not disappoint. For those who did not watch it (and even those who did) Reuters offers a quick summary. Our favorite quote: Author and New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) tweeted: “After curing cancer, we should cure the problem that prevents Paul Ryan’s hands from joining even for things he agrees with. #SOTU.” We carefully watched Mr. Ryan throughout the speech – the only signs of life were occasional blinks or twitches of the jaw. John Boehner was a lot more fun to watch.

We love the pomp and ceremony of the Throne Speech, but would really prefer to see the Prime Minister of the day deliver it in his own words. Somehow, the government would seem more accountable. Is there some constitutional reason why this could not happen?

While we share Rick Mercer‘s dislike of Canada’s sale of LAVs to the Saudi Arabian National Guard and the government’s reaction to public dismay in light of Saudi Arabia’s miserable human rights record, we would point out the hypocrisy of Tony Clement’s new-found indignation given that the contract was first announced in 2014 when the Conservatives were in office. Also, please note that Mr. Clement acknowledges that the Conservatives are asking for information they refused to release while in office under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But he says the new leadership of the Conservative Party feels differently. That’s good to know.
The Tyee points out in We Need to Talk About Saudi Arabia that Canada is locked into alliance with them along with most other western nations. We may decry the 47 executions, but those armoured fighting vehicles mean 3,000 Canadian jobs. As well, we imported over $2.5 billion worth of oil from Saudi Arabia in 2014.
Meanwhile, the Saudis have arrested Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, for allegedly posting on the Twitter account of her brother’s lawyer, Waleed Abulkhair.

Our good friend Nick Rost van Tonningen, who publishes a weekly compilation of his ‘Gleanings’, sent a bonus piece containing  his thoughts on China, china2100116 , in which he argues that China is a “Potemkin village”, all front & little of any substance behind it, and a “giant with feet of clay”. We believe it is well worth sharing.
Fallout continues from the news that China’s client state, North Korea, exploded a device it claimed was a hydrogen bomb, although simultaneously doubts are being cast on claims that it has ballistic missile technology which would allow it to launch a nuclear warhead from a submarine.

Good news for Montreal and congratulations to Céline Cooper and Kyle Matthews who spearheaded the successful campaign for Montreal to host the 2017 Next City Vanguard Conference. The Next City Vanguard program brings together 40 urban professionals under the age of 40 working to improve cities. Solving urban problems means working across divides and breaking silos, so Vanguard convenes professionals across sectors, including architecture, art, civic technology, community development, entrepreneurship, government, transportation and urban planning.

Not to be missed
Wednesday, 20 January 2016 from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM (EST)
Covering Conflict: A Conversation with The New York Times war correspondent C.J. Chivers
The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (Concordia University), in collaboration with the Canadian International Council, will host The New York Times journalist and Pulitzer Prize winning author C.J. Chivers.
Chivers will speak about his recent assignments to conflict zones and will answer questions about Syria, Libya, Ukraine, and human rights.
Hall Building, Room H1220 (12th floor) – 1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. West Montreal, Québec H3G 1M8

News you really needed
Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall announced their engagement. The media mogul and Mick Jagger’s ex-partner placed an ad in the Births, Marriages, and Deaths section of the Times—a newspaper owned by Murdoch’s News Corp.
Is there any Canadian – with the exception of Ezra Levant – who is more obnoxious than Kevin O’Leary? His latest ploy: Kevin O’Leary promises $1M investment if Alberta premier resigns. Premier Notley is not taking the bait.

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