Wednesday Night #1783

Written by  //  May 4, 2016  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Terrible news from Fort McMurray has taken over the headlines across Canada on Wednesday morning.

Just when we thought we would be concentrating on the Indiana primary, Monday afternoon’s bombshell announcement from PKP that he is giving up the leadership and retiring from politics [PKP’s announcement he is quitting politics sends shockwaves throughout Quebec] had the chattering classes sounding like the annual gatherings of Snow Geese at Cap Tourmente. The timing was curious, immediately following Julie Snyder’s much-applauded [Stuck in the Middle avec moi: I have even more respect for Julie Snyder after Tout le monde en parle] appearance on Tout le monde en parle. There will, no doubt be endless parsing of every phrase for the next few days. And more analyses like this The PQ’s brush with Pierre Karl Péladeau cost the party dearly — The party lost 24 MNAs, it’s deep in debt and its brand is bruised. And now it needs a new leader. (For more see PQ post 2014 Quebec elections).

The Indiana primary we thought we would be focusing on? The Atlantic headline puts it succinctly: It’s Trump. So now, for the first time since 1952, we have a major-party nominee without prior experience in elected office. The story continues, somewhat gleefully, “Trump’s win set off an immediate spree of despair, garment-rending, and tooth-gnashing among Republican elites and conservative journalists.” At least, the good news is that Ted Cruz has suspended his campaign and that means that Carly Fiorina is toast too.

Stratfor felt obliged to issue a quasi apology, If We Covered the U.S. Election , that amounts to humble bragging, but also underlines the paucity of in-depth analysis surrounding the election. “It has been noted more than once that we largely steer clear of covering U.S. politics or even presidential elections. In the grand scheme of geopolitics, over time the role of individuals is largely washed out — to be overly simplistic, the individuals rarely matter. This is, of course, not true, but it is a way to look beyond the subjective desires of leaders and instead to examine the objective realities they face, the circumstances that shape and constrain their options, the structure of the system in which they work, and the upbringing and background that color the way they see and interpret information and make decisions.”

There’s another important election this week – one to which not many on this side of the Atlantic have paid much attention. London’s colorful mayor, Boris Johnson is headed out for other political pastures and the vote for a new mayor is on Thursday. The candidates could not be more different and one outcome could well herald huge change. See The Guardian’s Electing Sadiq Khan as mayor of London would be the terrorists’ worst nightmare for more about the race.
Mounting excitement over the June 23 Brexit vote continues. The Economist couldn’t resist being clever: If it ain’t broke, don’t Brexit opines that the British economy would be neither destroyed nor unleashed by leaving the EU. But, in How others see it , points out that the European Union would suffer from Brexit—which is why it could not be kind to Britain afterwards. [See more on U.K. in 2016]

Is Brazil experiencing a coup? Uri Friedman on why it’s hard to tell
There are several theories for why the number of coups has been declining since the 1990s. When the Cold War ended, the U.S. and U.S.S.R. stopped supporting coups in each other’s satellite states, and democracy came to be widely recognized as the sole form of legitimate government. In this new climate, those who interrupted the democratic process frequently found themselves pariahs. Globalization has also made illegal seizures of power costly, since those takeovers, and the instability and uncertainty surrounding them, tend to invite international sanctions, deter foreign investment, and inhibit domestic economic growth. (This may be, in part, why Brazil’s vice president wants to tamp down the president’s coup talk.)
One troubling byproduct of these trends is that they’ve produced profound confusion over how to classify political upheavals that appear to honor the letter of the law, but not the spirit—what you might call dubious democracy.

The 100th anniversary – variously reported as May 9, May 16 and May 17, 1916 –  of the (now infamous) Sykes-Picot Agreement  is fast approaching. Two good pieces are The Middle East’s fading frontiers/“The end of Sykes-Picot” (with a lovely map) and How the Curse of Sykes-Picot Still Haunts the Middle East

It’s the season of commencement speeches. Michael Bloomberg’s commencement address at University of Michigan reminds us why he would have been an outstanding presidential candidate.

President Obama’s speech to the White House Correspondents’ dinner dominated social and other media over the weekend. Canadian media went gaga over the reference to Justin Trudeau. We ask, is this the first time a Canadian PM (or any Canadian for that matter) has been referred to in a WHC dinner speech?

One last Canadian note in the who’d=have-thunk-it category: Canada’s ‘enthusiasm’ for census brings down StatsCan website — #Census2016 trends across the country one week before Census Day. Only in Canada? The new status symbol is the long form! Wednesday Nighters have some mixed reactions. Alexandra Greenhill is appalled by the time limit for completing the form: “The Census date mailed May 2nd – reply by May 10. Ridiculous. This is what I call abuse of power”, while Brett House is gleeful that Stephen Harper will have also received the envelope from StatsCan.

Can we avoid anthropogenic catastrophe?
May 4 to 6 Salle J.A. de Sève, 1400 de Maisonneuve
The Loyola Sustainability Research Centre (LSRC) is co-organizing the Avoiding Catastrophe: Linking Armed Conflict, Harm To Ecosystems and Public Health conference with partners including Doctors Without Borders, Future Earth, the Human Security Institute, and the UN Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity.
17 May
Céline Cooper IN CONVERSATION WITH BILL GRAHAM, author of “The Call of the World: A Political Memoir.”
The Call of the World takes us on an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes tour of defining moments in recent global history. Bill Graham — Canada’s minister of foreign affairs and then its minister of defence in the tumultuous years following 9/11 — is an insightful and wryly humorous guide.”
Organized by The Montreal Press Club, the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, and the Canadian International Council Details
30 May
The indefatigable Céline Cooper is organizing an evening with IRPP editor-in-chief of Policy Options and former parliamentary correspondent Jennifer Ditchburn. 5pm at the University Club of Montreal.
16 June
Heads-up for Wednesday Nighters, Marko Papic of BCA (and formerly of Stratfor) will give a CIC talk titled “BREXIT: Can We Work It Out?” on 16 June exactly one week before the vote. Details to follow.

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