Wednesday Night #1861

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

Thinking of Marc Nicholson whose 1880 club in Singapore has its soft launch on Wednesday night (Singapore time). GO MARC!

WOW – A Night to Remember in Montreal politics! Loved the Aislin take in Tuesday’s Gazette. Congratulations to Valérie Plante who waged an intelligent and appealing campaign against a far more experienced politician who, after many genuine accomplishments, should have known better than to foster a personality cult – not to mention taking on the dog owners and animal lovers of Greater Montreal. Delighted to have her as Mayor of our borough of Ville-Marie. She started off on the right foot on Monday, by all accounts, and her declaration that she “wants to focus on the economy, and “give oxygen” to business owners.” They need it. However, as Jonathan Monpetit writes: For Valérie Plante, pulling off the greatest political upset in 50 years was easy. Now comes the hard part

We had hoped that Doug Sweet would join us to give us his  brief overview of what happened in the east end – the demise of Réal Ménard, the solidification of the nascent Projet Montréal base out there, the continued independence of Anjou, etc. For many of us who tend to be west-endcentric, this would be an education! We also looked forward to his review of the Leonard Cohen tribute concert as he was one of the fortunate many to be in the audience. Alas, he has been felled by a bad cold and so we will postpone that pleasure.

Congratulations to the new mayor and Westmount City Council, with a particular shout-out to Wednesday Nighter Marina Brzeski in District 5. Very proud of her! Maybe now we will see synchronized traffic lights on Sherbrooke Street and long overdue repairs to the Conservatory?
Sadly, in the anti-Coderre wave, another Wednesday Nighter, Tracey Arial, was defeated in her bid for Verdun borough councillor. She would have been a wonderful new face in municipal politics and, while she is understandably sad and disappointed,  we hope this will not be her last venture.

Meanwhile, in what appears to have been a vote against old, white men, 7 of 18 borough mayors elected in Montreal are women, as are many city councillors and other Quebec mayors (Women elected to top municipal jobs across Quebec)

On the eve of the November 8th anniversary of Donald Trump’s election (we were thinking of black as the motif for part of Wednesday Night), there is much talk about whether he is the cause of the bull market. CNBC’s analysis attributes the rise to international and especially emerging markets. Meantime, on Tuesday, two important gubernatorial races  in the U.S. went to the Democrats. Phil Murphy’s win in New Jersey is especially important as it allows Democrats to maintain control of Sen. Bob Menendez’s seat if he’s convicted in his trial. If Menendez resigns from office, New Jersey’s governor will appoint his replacement. Virginia has also elected a Democrat after a campaign that was more about Trump than the Republican candidate. (See Fear and Loathing—and Trump—in the Virginia Governor’s Race )

Taxes are front and center for Americans and Canadians, although for somewhat  different reasons. In the U.S., it is all about the Republican tax bill which is inevitably contentious. “Mr. Trump often says  … that he wants to cut taxes for the middle class, not for high earners”.
‘The Democrats will say our tax bill is for the rich,’ Mr. Trump said last week, ‘but they know it’s not.’ Early analyses of the bill do not support that claim.” Republicans outlined significant changes on Monday to the sweeping tax bill unveiled by House lawmakers last week, moving to tighten restrictions on so-called carried interest, alter rules aimed at preventing American companies from stashing profits offshore and further restrict a tax credit claimed primarily by low- and middle-income individuals. For those who care more about the process, Brookings details America’s Dysfunctional Budget Process and, of course, Paul Krugman lends his voice to the disparagement of the bill as David Brooks comments: “Republicans think the whole country would be better off if we take money away from the Democrats’ rich people and give it to their own (more productive) rich people.”
In Canada, focus is on the Paradise Papers and revelations that wealthy private citizens as well as corporations have been socking away their money in tax havens. Technically, under Canadian law this constitutes tax avoidance, but Stephen Bronfman and Leo Kolber’s family may have transgressed. Although the Bronfman name makes the headlines because of his ties to the PM and the Liberal Party, most of the issues raised appear to be related to the Kolber Trust and family.Whether or not this proves to be a tempestuous teapot, the revelations cast an uncomfortable spotlight on Trudeau’s tax avoidance plans at a time when Bill Morneau‘s management of his wealth has created a lot of questions.

The Economist is not particularly exercised, however:
After the leak of over 13m documents, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its partners today released the first in a new batch of revelations about the world of offshore finance. The ICIJ was responsible for the Panama Papers leak of 2016, which contained details of serious money-laundering lapses. These “Paradise Papers” look like falling well short of their Panamanian predecessors

For those who have wondered where Joumane Chahine has disappeared to, she has been working on China’s Newest Film Festival in the ancient walled city of Pingyao. It sounds like quite s challenge and we eagerly await her return in December to hear all about it, and also her comments on the turmoil in Lebanon since the resignation of PM al Hariri Saudi Arabia accused Lebanon of declaring war against it because of aggression by the Iran-backed Lebanese Shi‘ite group Hezbollah, a dramatic escalation of a crisis threatening to destabilize the country.

Recent events in Saudi Arabia have attracted world-wide attention. We like the headline of the op-ed piece in the New York Times ‘Game of Thrones’ Comes to Saudi Arabia. Word play aside, there is reason for concern. In Thomas Friedman’s words, “I worry that those urging M.B.S. to be more aggressive in confronting Iran (whose malign regional influence does need counterbalancing) — like the U.A.E., Trump, Jared Kushner and Bibi Netanyahu — will push M.B.S. into a war abroad and at home at the same time, and we could see Saudi Arabia and the whole region spin out of control at the same time.” We’ll look to Sam Stein for comments.

While we have been engrossed in events in Spain and Catalonia (we recommend Catalonia: None of Europe’s businessIntervening in Spanish politics undermines foundations of European democracy), some of us may have missed the alarming outcome of the Sunday vote for a governor and regional assembly in Sicily – Silvio Berlusconi set for political comeback after Sicily vote. Just imagine the political stage inhabited by Berlusconi and DJT together. The mind boggles.

As to Donald Trump’s Asia trip, so far, so relatively good. But there are 5 more days to go. HuffPost’s senior White House correspondent Shirish Dáte notes that Trump Pulled Out Of The TPP. Now He’s Trying To Win TPP Provisions In Asia.
On his Asia trip, Trump is pitching the same trade benefits that were in the Trans-Pacific Partnership he professed to hate.

We have enjoyed a flurry of exchanges following Stephen Kinsman’s excellent and timely presentation last week on flood insurance and related matters including this from the New York Times: A Broke, and Broken, Flood Insurance ProgramNow, an unusual coalition of insurers, environmentalists and fiscal conservatives is seeking major changes in the federal plan as a deadline approaches
Stephen’s final comment on the matter: ” The reason we do not have and will not have up-to-date flood maps is because no one wants to tell anyone else that he or she lives on a flood plain and will forever suffer flood damage from time to time. On the other hand, that is what the Quebec government is for. In the U.S., that is what FEMA is for. The federal government seems to be stirring imperceptibly to a form of reality. But that will take a while… To those wishing to apply some idea of common sense to the situation, I suggest they stop being Don Quixote-ish, and adopt an Alice-in-Wonderland posture instead. That is the reality, after all. No one actually wants to keep being told the truth for fear they’ll be forced to do something about it.”
Timely, given that The UN’s climate conference began in Bonn on Monday. China is looking to take a lead role at the 23rd annual conference of the world’s nations, now that the US has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement. The Bonn meeting, which runs until Nov. 17, is about trying to set concrete goals to limit global warming—figuring out the nuts and bolts of the Paris deal.

You will notice that we have not commented on the opioid crisis. There is already so much written and talked about, however, we would draw to your attention to  The Family That Built an Empire of Pain The Sackler dynasty’s ruthless marketing of painkillers has generated billions of dollars—and millions of addicts.

November 9 to December 8 
Diana Bruno
calls to our attention yet another anniversary celebration: the Montreal Camera Club’s 125th. The exhibition Westmount in Images in The Gallery at Victoria Hall features 60 works by 31 member photographers including Diana. Images range from aerial views of Westmount neighbourhoods to intimate shots of lush blossoms in the city’s parks. See Westmount Magazine Westmount Here & There November 2, 2017

On 16 November
Foreign fighters after ISIS – a discussion with Phil Gurski
MIGS at Concordia University and the Canadian International Council  Free event, but you must reserve
With IS declining it is unlikely that foreign fighters, including Canadians, will try to join the group now. Unfortunately, there are several dozen current conflicts on three continents that may attract the next generation. Join Phil Gurski, former CSIS strategic analyst as he discusses this theme and his latest book “The Lesser Jihads: Bringing Islamist extremism to the world.”

IMPORTANT REMINDER: The CLSC flu vaccination clinic in Westmount will take place on Wednesday, November 8 from 10 am to 7 pm at Victoria Hall. You do not have to be a Westmount resident. Just bring a Medicare card.

Attention Gerald Ratzer: In honor of The Atlantic’s 160th anniversary, the magazine is sharing one article on their site every day to mark each year of the magazine’s history. Fore 1861, the entry is The Pickens-and-Stealin’s Rebellion a piece by James Russell Lowell
Read them all here.

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