Wednesday Night #1814

Written by  //  December 14, 2016  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

2016 has been marked by some great losses of admirable (and seemingly irreplaceable)  public figures, as well as several great Wednesday Nighters. Last week, we were saddened by  the death of Warren Allmand,  a beloved public figure who was also a great friend of Wednesday Night. Tributes to Warren’s life-long battle for social justice have been pouring in. A man of probity and intellectual honesty, he will be sorely missed as an exemplary servant of the people – all people.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres  was sworn in on Monday/ He pledged to reposition development at the centre of the Organization’s work and ensure that the UN can change to effectively meet the myriad challenges facing the international community. However, the New York Times warns that the pervasive presence of Donald Trump offers a challenge to Senhor Guterres’ goals, especially with respect to Syria. “Mr. Trump has suggested he wants to join Russia in routing the Islamic State from Syria, even if that approach means keeping the country’s strongman, Bashar al-Assad, in power. If he goes along, Mr. Guterres, a canny, well-connected politician who has cast himself as a champion of human rights, will face the prospect of endorsing a leader widely accused of committing war crimes.”

After weeks of heavy fighting, government forces took full control of Aleppo on Tuesday, dealing the biggest blow to Syria’s uprising in more than five years of civil war.  Al Jazeera reports that the Syrian rebels have reached an evacuation deal with the government. But there are fears that while the fight for Aleppo is almost over, a new chapter of misery begins.
Assad and his allies show no sign that they will be merciful towards the vanquished, as the Damascus regime enters a tricky phase. If you don’t read anything else, we recommend this piece from The New Yorker The Battle for Aleppo, Syria’s Stalingrad, Ends  For more on this tragic story, see Syria 2016
Meanwhile, while everyone was focused on Aleppo, ISIS re-captured the ancient city of Palmyra from Syrian government forces

These developments pose challenges to the in-coming Trump Administration (Fall of Aleppo poses first major test of Trump’s Russia posture), especially given the recent nomination of the great friend of Russia, Rex Tillerson, despite the nice things president and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies John Hamre said about him on the PBS Newshour. The WSJ carries a couple of good pieces about Trump’s foreign policy ideas. Listen Closely: Donald Trump Proposes Big Mideast Strategy Shift — He signals a break from Obama and Bush: ‘We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments’ and the second, Trump’s Team Differs on Foreign Policy Issues — Key members of national-security team have conflicting views on Iran, climate change and trade
For more on Trump’s cabinet selections, see The Trump Transition (we cannot bear to write more on the subject) and U.S. post 2016 elections: Shock – not awe.

An intriguing idea proposed by Michael F. Cannon, resident scholar at the Cato Institute, though we doubt it will happen in the current madness.
Democrats can stop Trump via the electoral college. But not how you think
He argues that “If Clinton announced she is releasing “her” electors and asked them to vote for a credible Republican alternative, she could plausibly deliver all 232 Democratic electors. She might even secure similar pledges from House Democrats in the event the election went to the House. … Finding 38 Republican electors might then be easier than Democrats think. In 2012, Romney won a larger share of the popular vote (47.2 percent) than Mr. Trump did this year (46.2 percent). There are 35 Republican electors from states where Romney got more votes than Trump (Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Utah, Wisconsin), and at least 120 others from states where Romney won a larger share of the vote. That’s more than half of Republican electors. Texas has 38 electors all by itself. … If Democrats believe Trump poses a unique threat to the republic, and signal this is not okay by reaching across the aisle to marginalize and stop him, then win or lose, Democrats could legitimately claim they put partisanship aside for the good of the country.” His proposal is flushed out by historian Robert S. McElvaine in his article Hillary Can Be A Hero By Saving America From Trump, published on 7 December.
However, Tuesday’s news of the postponement of the press conference at which the president-elect was supposed to detail his exit from his business interests, has given rise to some suggestions that his failure to exit his business gives the Electoral College a legitimate reason to vote him down.

Let us turn to Canadian politics for a moment.
As might be expected, the Trudeau honeymoon has lost its glow and the critics are in full cry over issues such as a pipeline to the West Coast, a price on carbon, the vague possibility of a new electoral system (seemingly vaguer by the minute) and the ethical issues of [pay-to-play] pricey intimate fundraisers despite Mr. Trudeau’s claim that he goes to these events to talk up his plan to tax the rich and help the struggling middle class. Yes, really!
Last Friday’s historic climate-change accord did not meet with approval from all the premiers, though it is certainly a good start. Remember how Stephen Harper avoided meetings with the premiers about anything?
There is also the inherited problem of  government’s attempt to merge 1,500 departmental and agency websites into a single site which was launched in 2013.  Canada.ca, is a year behind schedule and almost 10 times over budget and 0.05 per cent of the content has been migrated. And experts warn it is on track to be another failed government IT project, like the Phoenix pay system.
The parlous state of the Conservative leadership race leaves even some of our Tory friends in despair (and that is without Canada’s answer to Donald Trump, the annoying Kevin O’Leary) and has prompted a thoughtful piece from Scott Gilmore on  “the contenders, the clones and the clowns in the Conservative leadership race” Conservative leadership candidates who shouldn’t be named

With so much depressing news, we were delighted by the 60 Minutes focus on How unconventional thinking transformed a war-torn Colombia, a look at how the Colombian military came up with one of the most unusual ideas in modern warfare: an advertising campaign. They hired a creative ad executive, Jose Miguel Sokoloff, to convince thousands of fighters to give up without firing a shot. And it worked!

Always trying to seek a lighter note:

Graeme Campbell‘s most recent project “Love You Like Christmas”  will air on December 18th on Bravo at 9 pm. Those who have seen it in the U.S. on the Hallmark channel say it’s great.

Another art form –  pretty sure that by now everyone has seen the video of the incredible pile-up on Beaver Hall Hill at Viger, but just in case you missed it, it’s on YouTube.

Mozart, the best new artist of 1782, outsold Drake and Beyoncé this year
Of course, as one might suspect, the world has not developed a sudden fervor for a classical era revival. As several music blogs have pointed out, the 1.25 million figure tallied by Billboard technically counts every individual CD sold—and because each of the Mozart box sets contains 200 discs, only about 6,000 people are responsible in total for the composer’s chart-topping success.
But those numbers are telling, nonetheless. Mozart 225 sells for more than $500 on Amazon, meaning there are 6,000 people out there who were willing to shell out half a thousand dollars for a classical compilation; they’re almost certainly niche enthusiasts, similar to the older rock music generation propping up vinyl’s resurgence—and let’s not forget, music artists today are still making more money from vinyl than YouTube.

Drinks company is looking for a gin taster who will get paid £20,000 a year and travel Europe – “We’re looking for an enthusiastic gin-loving intern – ‘Gintern’ as we like to call it – who will be happy to spend their days trying new gins, new mixers, finding new brands to work with, visiting distilleries, pairing gins and “ginspiring” us with their new-found knowledge.” Sorry, application period ended in September.

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