Wednesday Night #1867

Written by  //  December 19, 2017  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Note the symbolic WN number, coincidental with the winding down of [email protected] – did you know that there is something called Christmas Lights Across Canada 2017? Apparently it is in its 33rd iteration. We are doing our bit!

Welcome home Singapore family, just in time for the festive Wednesday-before-Christmas!

And welcome to the winter solstice which, for purists, occurs at exactly 11:28 am Eastern time on 21 December. We welcome the beginning of longer days, but are wary of the 2017 version, which, according to the Daily Mail (we read everything!), astrologers say is literally and figuratively going to be the darkest day of the year, and it’s all thanks to a rare cosmic incident that hasn’t occurred in over 350 years.

We are deeply saddened by the news of the death of one of the grande dames of Montreal’s music scene, Sandra Wilson. A dear friend, she brought much joy into our lives (who can forget her ‘orchestration’ of the Wednesday Night chorus?)  as well as those of many young artists whose careers she coached and fostered.  Peter Perkins’ delightful and extraordinary father-in-law, Charles Cogan, who joined us at a number of Wednesday Nights when visiting Peter and Abbie, has also died. We offer heartfelt condolences to the families of both these remarkable people.

We are so looking forward to a change of subject from the drip torture of news from the U.S., but meanwhile …

Seven days is a very long time in the era of Trump.

Since last Wednesday Night’s very entertaining and fact-packed gathering -thank you, Peter and Mario – we have seen the impending death of net neutrality and Ajit Pai has become a household term. While there is some  hope that the fight is not over as opponents are already lining up to sue the agency, while Democrats are pushing legislation that would prevent the repeal from going into effect. courts may intervene, there is cause  to worry and it is sure to affect consumers beyond the US borders.
A somewhat different, but parallel, concern was expressed on CBC Radio Ideas: Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon are manipulating our lives and threatening our democracy
” The internet began with great hope that it would strengthen democracy. Initially, social media movements seemed to be disrupting corrupt institutions. But the web no longer feels free and open, and the disenfranchised are feeling increasingly pessimistic. Dr. Taylor Owen argues that the reality of the internet is now largely one of control, by four platform companies Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple — worth a combined $2.7 trillion — and their impact on democracy is deeply troubling.”

The “tax reform” bill is about to be signed now that Bob Corker and Mario Rubio have been bought off (at least Rubio held out for a good cause). Among the commentators we frequent, we have not seen or heard a kind word about this piece of  legislation. Pretty typical is The New Yorker’s: John Cassidy: The G.O.P. Tax Bill Is Unworkable
“… no matter which party controls Congress after next year’s midterms, lawmakers will eventually be forced to revise this tax bill substantially. This legislation simply isn’t workable in the long run. Unless it is fixed, it could end up crippling the tax system.
At this stage, the unfairness and ideological bent of the proposal are widely recognized, as is its corrupt nature. … What isn’t yet fully appreciated is how porous and potentially unstable the rest of the tax code will be after the bill is passed.”
In case you had any doubts about his sentiments, he continues in another column The Final Version of the G.O.P. Tax Bill Is a Corrupt, Cruel, Budget-Busting Hairball.

And now we have been presented with the National Security Strategy that Roger Cohen deems a farce. One of numerous examples “effective pressure on North Korea has three components: China, China and China. Trump’s new national security strategy identifies China as “a strategic competitor.” It suggests the United States will get tough on Chinese “cheating or economic aggression.” Great timing there: Trump is asking President Xi Jinping to cut off crude oil exports to North Korea as his “strategy” lambasts China.” More on this

It has been revealed that the Trump administration instructed policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not to use the following words in official documents being prepared for the 2018 budget: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.” The Washington Post continues “In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or ­”evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,”- mocked as Orwellian, the deeply disturbing truth is that the directive isn’t just a war on words. It’s a war on science.
Dana Milbank ties the CDC story and the tax reform bill together neatly in his almost-too-true-to-be-funny Trump’s ticket to survival: Ban all the words

On the other hand, as our economists say, there have been some signs that Trump does not always get his way: three incredibly unqualified judicial appointees had the good sense to withdraw (under fire) their names and the rejection by the Senate panel of the proposed head of the Ex-Im Bank, another choice of someone dedicated to destroying the institution he was to lead. Pity that didn’t happen with others like Scott Pruitt

While you were watching the antics in Washington, you may not have fully absorbed the implications of the Disney and 21st Century Fox merger: Disney will acquire most of Fox’s assets and transform the media market in a way that could be dangerous for streaming companies, consumers, and even Disney itself. Check out  Everybody Should Be Very Afraid of the Disney Death Star

Fortunately in Canada we have no preoccupations with malicious governance of the country, but with the release of a report by Prof. Michael Byers, Canada’s shipbuilding/procurement policy is under fire. He recommends dumping the current process and relaunching an expedited procurement for icebreakers, supply ships and frigates that would save money by using only fixed-price competitions and off-the-shelf ship designs. We doubt that the government will endorse this sensible and fiscally responsible approach, but it would be nice. We guess that everyone’s too busy trying to fix the disastrous Phoenix pay system which they have to do as there is ‘no fall-back system’

But, be of good cheer: the latest episode of the Star Wars saga, The last Jedi, is out; the reviews are in and so far pretty universally favorable. David Sims’ analysis is intriguing and makes us wonder whether George Lucas had any current events parallels in mind.

And countering the numerous failures of humans recently, check out The Year in Animal Accomplishments

Let us count our blessings and join with Charlie Brown

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