Wednesday Night #1822

Written by  //  February 8, 2017  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Before discussion of any of the events of the past week, we want first to pay tribute to David M. Culver who died on Monday at the age of 92. To our surprise the Gazette obituary is the only one we have seen, but we expect that over the next days international tributes will pour in. It was a true privilege to have known David. He was a great Canadian, Québécois and Montrealer. A visionary whose Maison Alcan was an outstanding project, he was always open to new ideas and ready to open his vast Rolodex to help push something along.  He was also a philanthropist whose friends could count on him to quietly support causes that were not in the public eye. We cannot think of anyone today who comes close to his stature. He will be greatly missed.

Canada
Ironically, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, along with several Cabinet colleagues including Marc Garneau, announced today that the Federal government will give $372.5M (over four years) in loans to Bombardier. We remark on the coincidence because David Culver was such an enthusiastic booster of Bombardier and we well remember his delight when Alcan acquired one of the first Challengers as the company plane.  Critics  of course say the amount is not enough and, from the other end of the spectrum, there are timely echoes of the dangers of corporate welfare
In other news, it was revealed that the PMO has set up a Canada-U.S. relations war room to “to help coordinate the Trudeau government’s quick response and strategy to U.S. President Donald Trump’s unpredictable new administration.” The 3-man (no gender parity?) team includes Adam Daifallah’s former Hatley Colleague, Simon Beauchemin, whom we had the pleasure of meeting at the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race dinner. The war room sounds like a good idea – the PM and ministers are going to need to be very nimble over the coming months/years. Let’s hope the PM handles the U.S. file better than the electoral reform one.
And the battle of the 101 candidates for the leadership continues with the focus on mini-Trump Kevin O’Leary. The Canadian Press (via Maclean’s) asks Will the factors that led to Trump add up in Canada? while HuffPost features Are O’Leary And Leitch The Soul Of The Conservative Party? – what a depressing thought.

We also sadly recognize the untimely (he was only 68) death of the wonderfully entertaining and convincing Dr. Hans Rosling. As Scott Gilmore says in his eloquent tribute to Dr. Rosling, “His loss will be felt as the world struggles with the sudden proliferation of fake news, and the popularity of “alternative facts”.

The U.S. – where to start?

The Immigration Ban: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on Tuesday whether to override a lower court on the executive order on refugees and immigration. The always lucid Marcia Coyle of The National Law Journal untangles the issues and arguments on PBS NewsHour. At first view, the judges appear skeptical.
The accusation that the U.S. media are playing down terror threats The White House has now released a list of 78 attacks over two years that did not receive “the media attention they deserve.” The list included attacks that got worldwide blanket coverage, though not the infamous Bowling Green Massacre. Right-wing news outlets have pushed the theory that the media is whitewashing terrorist attacks to protect Muslim migrants.
The unprecedented (unpresidented?) confirmation battle over the nominee for Secretary of Education. It was the first time a vice president has been summoned to the Capitol to break a tie on a cabinet nomination. Note that the two Republicans who voted against her were both women. Not a single male had the courage to join them, perhaps because the DeVos family funneled $200 million to Republicans including campaigns of 10 of the 12 Republican senators on the committee that vetted her, as the Editorial Board writes in The New York Times Opinion Section. The Atlantic manages a positive twist to the Betsy DeVos confirmation pointing out that the big controversy over her nomination has put education policy in the media spotlight—and that could be an unexpected boon for public schools.
Dave Leonhardt of the New York Times advises that “Tom Price, the nominee to run Health and Human Services, can likely have a bigger impact in that job than DeVos can have as education secretary. The highly localized nature of American education naturally limits DeVos’s ability to privatize schools, as Kevin Carey of the New America Foundation has noted. Price, on the other hand, would have the authority to weaken or undermine health insurance for millions of people if he’s confirmed. He’s sent strong signals that he would like to do so, too.”
There is so much more, but perhaps we should limit ourselves to this last item.
Steve Bannon’s war with Pope Francis. It seems that “Just as Mr. Bannon has connected with far-right parties threatening to topple governments throughout Western Europe, he has also made common cause with elements in the Roman Catholic Church who oppose the direction Francis is taking them. Many share Mr. Bannon’s suspicion of Pope Francis as a dangerously misguided, and probably socialist, pontiff.”
For a more sardonic take on the confrontation, we recommend this from Esquire:For His Next Trick, Steve Bannon Will Undermine the Pope
“If it wasn’t clear already, it should be now. Stephen Bannon, the last descendant of House Harkonnen, is not someone who wants to “disrupt the elites,” or whatever techie garbage he likes to toss around. He wants to establish himself at the head of a new, worldwide authoritarian elite that will reach into every institution and that will demolish any of those institutions that stand in the way of what he wants. The man is a political thug, and Burke is a theological thug. Marriage made somewhat lower than heaven.”
For the record, our money is on the Jesuit from Argentina.

And in other news.
The BBC reports that the Brexit bill aka The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill is set for final vote in House of Commons on Wednesday
Political turmoil in France continues as a day after he publicly apologized and vowed to stay in the presidential race, François Fillon reiterated in a letter published by Ouest-France that he had “nothing to hide” and that “everything is legal.”
Corruption in Romania: People v pilferers, Mass protests in Romania have forced the government to rescind a decree pardoning crooked officials. The move would have decriminalised misconduct involving less than $47,600. 500,000 people took to the streets to stop the government from backsliding even after the decree had been cancelled on Sunday. This shows how much Romanians care about fighting corruption. But it is unclear how effective the protests will be in the long term
Amnesty International has released a horrifying report, Human Slaughterhouse: Mass hanging and extermination at Saydnaya prison, that as many as 13,000 people were hanged in five years at a notorious Syrian prison near Damascus. Most of the victims were civilians believed to be opposed to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Amnesty accused the Syrian government of carrying out a “policy of extermination”, repeatedly torturing detainees and withholding food, water, and medical care.
[On Monday] the Israeli Knesset passed a law to allow the government retroactively to expropriate private Palestinian land on which Israeli settlements have been built. The move marks the first time since 1967 that Israel has acted to extend Israeli law to the occupied West Bank. It could alter the status of some 4,000 housing units built on Palestinian land. The prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, had previously opposed such a law. His government’s attorney-general has refused either to endorse it or to defend it if it is challenged in Israel’s High Court, as it is widely expected to be.
One of the more intriguing (literally!) reports this week is Amy Knight’s long piece in the New York Review of Books Putin’s Intelligence Crisis “Recent reports in the Russian press have connected the upheaval at the FSB to Kremlin-sponsored hacking of the US electoral process, and with the now infamous dossier about Donald Trump’s ties with Russian government officials compiled by former British MI6 operative Christopher Steele. It appears that the Kremlin has been conducting an intensive hunt for moles within its security apparatus who might have leaked information about Russian efforts to influence the US presidential election.”

Warnings from Wednesday Nighters about scams/phishing
‘Can you hear me?’: New phone scam tricks you into answering ‘yes’
‘If you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer,’ spokesman with Better Business Bureau warns
A new scam relies on your voice to answer a simple question: “Can you hear me now”? The scammers try to bait callers into answering “yes.”
Anti-fraud agencies say that simple acknowledgment can be used to make it sound as if you signed on for a purchase or service, and there’s a chance you could be on the hook for those charges.
An email purporting to come from American Express advises that “During your regulry (sic) scheduled accounts manintenance (sic) verification procedure,we have detected a slight error regarding your American Express Account. … Please verify your information by Downloading the Attachment file and open in a browser to Continue. ” DON’T! AND ALWAYS VERIFY THE SENDER’S EMAIL ADDRESS – IT’S USUALLY PRETTY EASY TO SPOT THE FAKE ONES. ALSO NOTE THE MISSPELLINGS IN THIS MESSAGE – that is often a signal that the message is fake.

Lighter moments
*In case you did not catch the Bowling Green Massacre reference above – and even if you did –  you will love The Actual Town Of Bowling Green Is Having A Field Day With “Bowling Green Massacre” Memes
FACT-CHECKER, FACT-CHECKER: Randy Rainbow Song Parody – delicious. 
Wild bison roam Banff National Park for 1st time in more than century
‘It’s one of the great days for wildlife conservation in the history of North America’

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