Wednesday Night #1813

Written by  //  December 7, 2016  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Opinions around the table regarding the issues leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbour was unanimous and supported by the highly recommended Day of Deceit by Robert B. Stinnett which points out, among other facts that ” Japanese strategists shared a widely held belief that a nation’s navy could be destroyed or curtailed by sinking its battleships. Battleship Row was a mouth-watering target, but Stinnett says that the 360 Japanese carrier planes would have done better to concentrate on Pearl Harbor’s 5 million barrels of stored oil and destroyed the Navy’s dry docks, machine shops and repair facilities.” In fact, the damage to the battleships was not nearly as great as commonly understood (of the eight, two were lost and the six surviving battleships fought in decisive battles later in the war. The most valuable ships – the aircraft carriers – were safely at sea and would later sink two-thirds of the Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway.

P R O L O G U E

December 7 – a date that will be forever “Pearl Harbor Day” for many. Marking the 75th anniversary of the attack is the HBO film Pearl Harbor: The Accused about which Ron Robertson says, “an excellent and extremely informative 90+ mins. documentary film which answered all my queries about what happened, why and when.” It is apparently based on new investigations by journalists. Montreal-based Handel Productions along with London’s Arrow Media have used archival footage and dramatic recreations — filmmakers shot along the shores of the St. Lawrence near Montreal.
In a related item, it was announced on Monday that Japanese leader Shinzo Abe will visit Pearl Harbor with Obama later this month.

Like it or not, the news feeds continue to deluge us with Trump news, rumors, conjecture and commentary.
We read, watch, absorb (or not), sigh with despair and very occasionally, relief. Cases in point from the auditions for Cabinet posts. Michael Flynn, designated in-coming national security adviser is described by the New York Times as “A conspiracy-minded Islamophobe forced out as chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency in part for his lack of judgment”; while the proposal of General James Mattis as Sec. Defense is pretty universally praised by all sides; Secretary of the Treasury designate, Steven Mnuchin, is a question mark. As the Wall Street Journal notes: “53 years old, he has no experience in government or running a large organization and his political views are a secret even to some of his associates. If confirmed by the Senate, the defining traits he will bring as the 77th Treasury secretary include a Wall Street pedigree, long relationship with Mr. Trump, and a history of moving fast to seize opportunities that might terrify others.” Then there’s neurosurgeon Ben Carson at HUD; earlier, he took himself out of the running for a cabinet slot precisely because he didn’t have government experience. But it’s okay now because he grew up in public housing – except that he did not.  Meanwhile, we wait, fascinated, by the parade of likely and unlikely candidates for the all-important post of Secretary of State. So far, we like Jon Huntsman, or Admiral (ret’d) James Stavridis. but as The Guardian (Donald Trump’s secretary of state search expands to include new raft of hopefuls) points out: The public way Trump has gone about it and the risk of wounded pride …“is quite short-sighted, because the last thing you want is other Republicans or VIPs out there bad-mouthing you from the outside”.
Tuesday brought the tweeted announcement that Mr. Trump thinks the cost of the new Air Force One (which is actually 2 and could be 3 planes)  is excessive, though there’s no confirmation of the $4 bn figure he quotes. Boeing stock fell 1.6 percent on news of his tweet. The Atlantic Why Trump Wants to Ground the Next Air Force One sheds some light on the purpose of the announcement.
The BBC’s Katty Kay has a bemused take on all this news: Donald Trump presidency: Boeing and his chaos theory.
Writing for Project Syndicate, Trump, the Dragon, and the Minotaur, Yanis Varoufakis acknowledges that Mr. Trump knows all about success via strategic defaults, followed by massive debt write-offs and the creation of assets from liabilities and asks “does he grasp the profound difference between a developer’s debt and the debt of a large economy? And does he understand that China’s private debt bubble is a powder keg under the global economy? Much hinges on whether he does.”
Trump on Sunday doubled down on his threat against U.S. businesses that send jobs abroad, saying he would impose a 35% tariff on goods produced overseas as he encouraged businesses to consider looking for better deals by moving state to state.

While the dreadful battles for Aleppo and Mosul continue, there is increasing concern is for the long term. Robin Wright’s excellent account in the New Yorker After the Islamic StateAs the caliphate crumbles, rival movements struggle for the soul of Sunni jihadism is worth reading and keeping.
We remind you again of the timely event on Thursday evening at  Searching for Hope in SyriaIn conversation with Nobel Peace Prize nominees the White Helmets
British Consul General Nick Baker and Global Affairs Canada invite you to a special screening of the documentary the White Helmets, followed by a panel discussion with the Directors of the White Helmets and of Mayday Rescue – the primary implementing partner of the Syria Civil Defence. Please find  more information at: http://bit.ly/2gfR0mN

We are grateful for the ever-useful Quartz daily summaries. Monday’s included:  Italy rejected change, so Matteo Renzi resigned. Italy’s prime minister suffered a major defeat over the weekend in a constitutional-reform referendum he proposed. The measure began as a streamlining of government decision-making processes, and evolved into a vote of confidence in Renzi himself. Italy’s main bank index dropped around 3.5%  early Monday.
The far right lost in Austria. The Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer conceded defeat to left-leaning rival Alexander Van der Bellen in the presidential election. Austria is one of several EU countries facing growing far-right parties—France, the Netherlands, and Germany all have elections with similar stakes next year. Still, Hofer did get 47% of the vote.

Stratfor believes that after enduring three years of a foundering economy and feuds with the West, things may be looking up for Russia
“The Brexit vote in June exposed the deep discord in the European Union, giving Moscow a glimmer of hope that dissenting member states might break the bloc’s consensus on its sanctions against Russia in a future vote on their renewal. Though EU members decided unanimously in July to extend the measures, upcoming elections on the Continent could undermine the bloc’s unity. In the United States, meanwhile, Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election has opened a potential path to warmer relations between the United States and Russia, and perhaps even an end to Washington’s sanctions on Moscow. The turning political tides in Brussels and Washington could give the Kremlin the leeway to increase its influence in the former Soviet Union, leading the countries in Russia’s periphery to re-evaluate their foreign policy positions.” Russia’s Path to Another Resurgence

Last week’s approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion by the Federal government was certainly not greeted with enthusiasm by all parties. rabble  sums it up:  The Trans Mountain proposes a 700 per cent increase in ocean tanker traffic through the port of Vancouver and an expanded diluted bitumen (dilbit) storage facility (tank farm) in the city of Burnaby, both in Tsleil-Waututh territory at Burrard Inlet. The tank farm sits on a known earthquake zone, and poses a fire hazard that has the Burnaby fire department raising concerns about public safety. The menace of an oil spill from new Texas-bound tankers has nature-loving British Columbians rising up in opposition to expanded ocean traffic along the coast, that, amongst other environmental threats, endangers the killer whale population, the iconic Orcas.  Add in concern about the impact of increased pipeline capacity on climate change and the ability to meet Canadian targets under the Paris Accord, and the sun is going down on Liberal popularity on the West Coast.
The Globe & Mail also sounds a disapproving note: Justin Trudeau should reassess his scientific foundation
It seems reasonable to assume that many opponents of  Trans Mountain will derive encouragement from the success of the opposition at Standing Rock,
For all those who support pipelines as the safest form of transportation, we would suggest a careful reading of 30 Years of Oil and Gas Pipeline Accidents, Mapped.

On a happier note, China has shelved plans to dam the Nujiang ‘angry river’, making environmentalists very happy. The story in The Guardian features extensive quotes from Jeanne Sauvé Fellow and Wednesday Nighter, Stephanie Jensen Cormier, China programme director for International Rivers. While the South China Sea dispute has been the focus of much international concern, an equally contentious issue is the damming of Asia’s rivers that originate in China but suply irrigation, transport and life for millennia to much of South and Southeast Asia. [A Waterfight Like No Other May Be Brewing Over Asia’s Rivers]

With everything else that is going on, we don’t imagine many of you watched the debate among the fourteen candidates for the Conservative Party leadership. We found it to be refreshingly polite – even friendly and occasionally light-hearted – and several candidates (Michael Chong & Andrew Scheer) are very attractive. Chris Alexander will have trouble recovering from the “Lock her up” incident in Alberta and so far his defense has been unconvincing. As for Kelly Leitch, we can only agree with Heather Mallick that she gets it wrong every single time

Nor probably, were you paying attention to the 4 by-elections in Quebec. Fortunately, Adam Daifallah rescues us from our ignorance with succinct analysis:
• Four provincial by-elections were held Monday night
• No changes as Liberals keep 1 seat, PQ defends 2, and the CAQ holds onto 1
• By-elections were the first real test for the PQ’s new leader, who emerged strong
• Governing Liberals see their overall support fall

Bizarre story of the week:
Foreign, Ghana security authorities shut down fake US Embassy in Accra
A fake US Embassy which has been operating in Ghana for about 10 years has finally been discovered and shut down.
Members of an organized crime gang made up of Turkish and Ghanaian citizens operated the fake Embassy in Accra where they flew the American flag on the building every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday from 7:30am to 12 noon and issued fraudulently obtained, legitimate US visas, counterfeit visas, false identification documents (including bank records, education records, birth certificates, and others) for a cost of $6,000.

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