Wednesday Night #1809

Written by  //  November 2, 2016  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Just for a moment – or two – can we move away from the political melodrama to the south? Incredible as it may seem, there are other developments in the world, including Canada, to which we should turn – even fleetingly – our attention.
On Tuesday afternoon, Canada’s Minister of Finance delivered the Fall Economic Update, announcing that Ottawa will proceed with a new federal infrastructure bank, capitalized with $15-billion from already promised infrastructure funds and a further $20-billion in equity or debt tied to specific projects built with public and private partners. There is, of course, much more, all to be found in the full statement, cleverly titled A Plan for Middle Class Progress.
An interesting side-bar to the public announcement is the Maclean’s article Why McKinsey & Co. is helping Ottawa out, pro bono which points out that “the first set of recommendations from Barton’s council [that would be the advisory council on economic growth, chaired by Dominic Barton, global managing partner of McKinsey & Co.], released on Oct. 20, featured a call for Ottawa to put $40 billion into a new national infrastructure bank, with the hope of luring four times that amount in private capital.”
Also, since last Wednesday Night, CETA was signed, following Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland’s dramatic exit from the stalled talks a few days earlier (‘The tactic has paid off’: Freeland’s dramatic walk out may have saved CETA). In the wake of criticism by Gerry Ritz, we were delighted to have CBC remind us that legendary trade negotiator Simon Reisman had employed similar tactics (sans tears) with equally positive effects;  used sparingly and under the right circumstances, the drama queen act is often highly effective.
Meanwhile, the badly mismanaged efforts to clean up the tragic Petroleum disaster in the Great Bear Rainforest continue. The October 20 story in The Tyee pretty well sums it up: An Inevitable Disaster, a Failed Spill ResponseBella Bella spill shows politicians’ promise of ‘world class’ response empty – and always will be.Wednesday Nighter Pedro Gregorio advises that “there is a relatively simple, Canadian-invented oil spill cleaning technology (Extreme Spill Technology) that is easy to deploy and recovers up to 95% of spilled fuel without using any surfactants or other nasty additives. The system is a clever — purely mechanical — separation system that exploits natural buoyancy as a driving mechanism for separation of oil from water. It is scalable, can be retrofitted into a dedicated ship or deployed as a tow-behind barge. The technology has been in development for more than 20 years with excellent results including full-scale deployment in open waters. The system has yet to come to market for lack of investment. Meanwhile we pour tons of money into ineffective mitigation strategies that leave coastlines and ecosystems destroyed.”
Congratulations to Global News for better coverage of this sad story than any other national media.

As the battle for Mosul advances*, a new complicating factor has been introduced as Turkey deploys tanks and military vehicles to the Iraqi border.  At the same time, Turkish jets and armor, in support of Syrian rebels, have struck Kurdish fighters in recent days as both sides compete to capture land from Islamic State that Ankara wants as a buffer zone against militants near its border. “the focus on driving Islamic State from Raqqa is growing ever more urgent as Iraq’s army and Kurdish forces push toward Mosul, about 370 km (230 miles) to the east across the Iraqi border. This is encouraging the jihadist group to fall back on Raqqa as the seat of its brutal rule. The forces closest to Raqqa at present are those of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of militias in northeast Syria of which the strongest is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units or YPG, regarded by Ankara as anathema” (Turkey-Kurdish rivalry complicates push against Islamic State in Syria’s Raqqa. At home, President Erdogan has been busy firing more civil servants and most recently detaining executives and journalists of Cumhuriyet, the highly respected, independent newspaper.
*Rudaw is a Kurdish media network.

Meantime, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines continues on his rampage. In August, Stratfor believed that there was method to his madness (their headline, not ours).”To project power across the fragmented string of islands and address the numerous internal and external threats to the country, the president is moving quickly to dislodge what he sees as obstacles to his administration’s authority”, but in the next sentence acknowledges that “Nonetheless, Duterte’s willingness to make enemies is liable to spark major instability.” And so it has. By October, his bloody drug war had attracted condemnation by the UN , the Roman Catholic church, the European Union and the U.S.  as a violation of human rights. And since becoming president he has emphasized a move away from the US – Philippines’ military and economic partnership pivoting towards closer ties with China and Russia.”“I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to [president Vladimir] Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.” (Duterte: Philippines is separating from US and realigning with China)

Asia again, this time it’s about the  Use Of Water As A Strategic Weapon. While the border dispute between India and China remains unresolved, and political differences widen on bilateral as well as regional issues, water has emerged as yet another issue where differences are widening with the potential of conflict in the future. India is worried about China’s dam projects on the Brahmaputra river and both countries are asserting  their national interests and claims to controlling the water as it flows from the Tibetan plateau to the riparian states downstream in India and Bangladesh before joining the Bay of Bengal.

The situation in Venezuela has been going from bad to worse. As the NYT op-ed Chavismo Full Circle says, the country “is going through an acute economic crisis that is entirely unnecessary. This crisis is not caused by an imaginary economic war, or even the dramatic drop in oil prices — it already existed while oil was above $100 a barrel. It is caused by a set of obviously dysfunctional economic policies held in place by a government unwilling to change course.

With six days to go, we, like many others, are suffering from stress related to the U.S. presidential campaign. Fifty-two percent of Americans say the election is a significant source of stress, with high stakes, unpredictable outcomes, and a constant barrage of ugly attacks and revelations combining to create a national climate of anxiety. It is almost impossible to keep up with the tsunami of analyses, opinion pieces, hard news and social media items that range from simply misinformed to seriously irresponsible. We have tried to keep up with the most relevant and reliable stories on our two pages Election campaign 2016: Republicans and Election Campaign 2016: Democrats, but admit that the coverage is slanted by the fact that most of our sources are mainstream media, which is by definition anti-Trump.
We nervously click on Fivethirtyeight every few hours. The latest click yielded this:
Election Update: Yes, Donald Trump Has A Path To VictoryIf the race tightens any further, Clinton’s electoral edge is fragile. but it does contain lots of caveats.
The National on Tuesday evening had a depressing segment about Paul Hunter’s recent trip to Arizona. As we have feared for some time, the divide created by this election will not end the morning after, no matter who wins or by what margin.
As Gwynne Dyer said in his latest article  United States: The wells are poisoned
One way or another, it is going to be an ugly and frightening time in the United States.
Donald Trump may not win the election next week — although he is at least going to come close — but even if he loses, the wells are poisoned. Either “Crooked Hillary” becomes president and spends the next four years fighting off legal challenges and fearing assassination by some of Trump’s more deranged admirers. Or Trump becomes the 45th U.S. president, and the United States becomes the world’s biggest and most dangerous loose cannon.

Finally, these days, no round-up is complete without reference to pervasive social media. Twitter is a cultural success and a business failure “Twitter’s base of 313 million monthly active users has been little changed for about a year while social media peers like Facebook and Snapchat continue to grow.” We confess we would not be unhappy if all politicians were to be deprived of their Twitter accounts. Just think of how different the U.S. political campaign would be. CNN Money recently addressed the important issue of The plague of fake news is getting worse. Although the story purported to tell you how to distinguish the fake from the real, the only suggestion was to double and triple check the source – and use Snopes!

We are very sad to learn that Dave Broadfoot has died. He was a lovely man in person and a delightfully funny (most of the time) comedian who had no need to resort to bathroom humor, sexist or racist jokes. Speaking for many of us, his colleague from Royal Canadian Air Farce, Marc Critch wrote this: “Today we lost not only Dave Broadfoot but Sgt Renfrew, Big Bobby Clobber, the Member for Kicking Horse pass & countless others.”

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