Wednesday Night #1870

Written by  //  January 10, 2018  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

In the absence of Gerald Ratzer, we offer a few historical tidbits about 1870. In January, Construction begins on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York; The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving the right to vote to black males, becomes law; Charles Dickens dies at the age of 58; Gustav Mahler (10) gives his 1st public piano concert; Wagner’s opera “Valkyrie” premieres in Munich and in a, we believe unrelated event, the Franco-Prussian War begins. In Italy, the Risorgimento is almost complete,  Rome & Papal States are annexed,
Also, the Donkey is first used as symbol of U.S. Democratic Party; Manitoba becomes a province of Canada and on the same day, Hudson’s Bay & Northwest Territories are transferred to Canada; E J DeSemdt patents asphalt pavement; Tower Subway, the world’s first underground tube railway, opens in London. Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch establish the germ theory of disease. A practical stock ticker is introduced by Thomas Edison. Vladimir Lenin and Maria Montessori were born.

We have survived the latest iteration of the Polar Vortex and are basking in almost tropical warmth (from a northerner’s perspective) with rain on the way. The political climate is not so balmy.

Of course the past week’s news was dominated by the release of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury and the reaction to it from absolutely everyone with something or nothing to say lit up the internet like Las Vegas.
Tony Deutsch points out one of the more interesting reactions is from The National Review, hardly a hotbed of liberal thought. A short excerpt:
“Trump deserves credit for some of the good things that have happened since January 2017, but his worst wounds are self-inflicted and he refuses to change his ways. Don’t buy into the ex post facto justifications that his angry tweets are some irreplaceable communications tool, that his mercurial nature is strategic unpredictability, that his ignorance is feigned, and that he’s playing some secret seven-level chess, with plans within plans, all building up to some ultimate victory that’s just around the corner.”
Judy Woodruff of PBS Newshour interviewed Michael Wolff on Monday evening. We were left with lingering doubts about his research and the authenticity of many of the statements in the book. He is certainly not an engaging personality.
Donald Trump’s initial reaction was as we have come to expect – lots of tweets – and that in turn gave rise to much comment ranging from sombre political and psychiatric analysis to dismissive reactions from his defenders on the Sunday news shows and gleeful skits and memes.

So far, our favorite in the latter category was posted to Facebook by Wynne McLaughlin, a friend of a friend:
“I am the very model of a stable genius president
On Pennsylvania Ave you’ll find I’m not a frequent resident
The Legislative Branch is something I can always circumvent
Colluding with the Russians was most certainly a non-event…

“I’m honored to reveal that I possess the greatest temperament
I didn’t drain the swamp I just replaced it with a circus tent
And as for gorgeous women I can grab them all with no consent
And still give lots of tax breaks to my cronies in the one percent…

“I’m very good with signing things no one will ever implement
I have the best and biggest words but no clue what they represent
I’m going to build the biggest wall and make Mexico pay the rent
I am the very model of a stable genius president.”

However, on Tuesday, Americans saw a very different Trump presiding over the unusual, on-camera immigration meeting where he volunteered that “what I approve is going to be very much reliant on what the people in this room come to me with. I have great confidence in the people. If they come to me with things that I’m not in love with, I’m going to do it because I respect them.” How long will this last? Could he adopt the same approach to foreign policy, or trade policy? Who knows.
The Atlantic is not so sanguine: DACA Dealmaking: At a public meeting with lawmakers of both parties, President Trump appeared to endorse several different plans for congressional action on the Obama-era program that protects people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The meeting provided a valuable window into the workings of government, but left the parties no closer to reaching a deal. Time is running out for DACA supporters; while the program will officially end in March if Congress doesn’t act to keep it, Democrats are under pressure to force a solution before the government’s deadline to pass a spending bill on January 19.

Meantime, Oprah Winfrey‘s moving speech of acceptance of a Golden Globe lifetime achievement Award has generated a wave of enthusiasm for her presidential candidacy in 2020. David A. Graham’s measured response What the Oprah Boomlet Means for Democrats should be a must-read.

Adding another twist is Steve Bannon’s forced departure from Breitbart at the behest of his principal financial backer, Rebekah Mercer. Wired‘s Steve Bannon’s #War Has Finally Run Out of Ammo concludes its story: “The first sign of Breitbart yielding to Trump may have come Tuesday, when the site published an uncritical report about the president’s plan to join the liberal technorati and international financiers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this year—an event that embodies so much of what Bannon despises.”

Trump at Davos will certainly be a story to watch and no doubt the subject of many compare-and-contrast pieces with last year’s appearance by Xi Jinping (In Davos, Xi makes case for Chinese leadership role). Not quite sure how The Donald will fit in with this year’s all-female Davos co-chairs who include: International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in Belgium; Fabiola Gianotti, director general of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva; Isabelle Kocher, CEO of ENGIE Group; and Chetna Sinha, founder and president of Mann Deshi Mahila Bank and Mann Deshi Foundation in India. We trust he’ll restrain his groping tendencies.

An interesting read: How Democracies Die review – the secret of Trump’s successSteven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have written a fascinating – and alarming – account of how the US shook off its democratic safeguards and gave the world Donald Trump
“History, the surprisingly fashionable Alexander Hamilton remarked in 1787, teaches that men who overthrow republics begin “by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues and ending tyrants”.”

We, along with most of the media, are holding our breath as South Korea holds talks with the Hermit Kingdom. (See North Korea 2018)

Reverting to China, two recently published articles are worthy of your attention:
Making China Great Again
As Donald Trump surrenders America’s global commitments, Xi Jinping is learning to pick up the pieces.
By Evan Osnos
and
A Chinese Empire Reborn
The Communist Party’s emerging empire is more the result of force than a gravitational pull of Chinese ideas.
By Edward Wong
There is also the heart-warming story of the Lifeline Express, a private Hong Kong-based foundation that deploys hospital trains around the country, on which medical professionals perform free cataract operations.
Note that a Lifeline Express hospital train with far more extensive services has been operating in India since 1991.
Which makes us wonder whether Canada could emulate these services in rural areas and the Far North with hospital planes.

In other news, following his New Year’s Message, Emanuel Macron is off to China bearing a gift horse. While one might be tempted to make references to Trojan horses or the last days of Pompeii, his choice of the gift is being praised as an elegant bit of diplomacy. (See Macron brings gift of horse called Vesuvius on visit to China)

Ending on a happy note:
We are thrilled to learn that Sauvé Fellow Kyle Hill whom some of you have met at Wednesday Night and his co-founders of Teach For Canada, Adam Goldenberg and Mark Podlasly, have been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by the Governor General of Canada – a richly deserved recognition of their efforts on behalf of education in northern communities.
They have rethought how to deliver appropriate, high quality education to those communities. At another level, we suggest Education is the kindling of a flame: How to reinvent the 21st-century university by Otto Scharmer of MIT. We predict this will generate much feedback, especially from our university professors.

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