Wednesday Night #1873

Written by  //  January 31, 2018  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

As we wrote, all eyes were turned to Donald Trump’s first State of the Union message on Tuesday evening. There were forecasts aplenty [LA Times: A State of the Union preview ; The Hill: Trump’s five goals for State of the Union address ; and from The New Yorker Trump’s State of the Union and the Consequences of Low Expectations]. The big question was whether he would be presidential (as at Davos), or presi-petulant, veering off script into his usual vilification of all matters not to his taste, while reminding the world that he has saved the United States from President Obama’s policies. However, the speech was obviously the work of a number of individuals, including some kinder, gentler, souls and he stuck to the teleprompter.

For a lighter take, Sarah Huckabee Sanders Proofreads State of the Union One Last Time to Remove Any Remaining Facts Perhaps not that funny in view of 2018 State of the Union Fact-Check

What we do object to is the exploitation of a number of citizens, invited to attend, and given embarrassing self-serving shout-outs. They are all good people and genuine heroes, but  should not be used as props (Note this custom did not start with Trump and we deplore it under any administration). Thank you, Kevin Baker for: “It was at its heart, though, a nasty little speech, one in which Mr. Trump brought the already odious State of the Union tradition of exploiting human props to a shameless new low. Again and again, he used actual people in the audience to turn real human tragedies and triumphs into taunting slaps at the opposition.” (Trump’s Besotted Republicans)

We watched ‘curated’ versions from Slate and PBS Newshour and refrained from throwing things, but it was hard!

The fact that Stephen Miller was the principal speech writer  gave us pause for thought and assurance that immigration  (DACA, the Border Wall et al.) would doubtless be top of the list.

Therefore, we are doubly pleased to welcome Sandy Wolofsky’s guest, Paule Robitaille (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUj8m5FlgDg)  – whose background ranges from journalist/war correspondent to (now) Refugee Board commissioner. As a journalist, while working in Moscow for the CBC and different media sources in Quebec, she reported on the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union and Afghanistan. We will be interested in her analysis of recent events in Afghanistan and the role of Pakistan in that quagmire. Equally topical, of course, is her experience at the Refugee Board and the impact of U.S. immigration policies on the influx of refugees and asylum seekers to Canada. [Increase in asylum seekers at border in December as 2017 sets record for claims]

It has been an eventful week. Davos has come and gone. We are not sure what the long-term effect of the all-female co-chairs may have been, but we suspect that their influence did not extend to the Davos bubble, which, according to Reuters, is “prone to emitting dubious conclusions.”
Among all the pontifications – and testimonials to enduring  (at least until the Forum’s conclusion) friendships among rivals – was George Soros’ attack on the unchecked power of Google and Facebook, which Soros feels now “have ‘monolithic power’ that they’re using to manipulate and deceive consumers.”

Election results albeit by a narrow margin in the Czech Republic, are a blow for those who had hoped that electoral setbacks for anti-EU forces in France and the Netherlands last year were evidence that the populist surge was waning (How (the European) Trump won a second term)
Happier news from Finland where President Niinisto was reelected for a new six-year term despite the absence of his gregarious Boston Terrier from the campaign trail.

Close to home, as the political fallout from harassment scandals continues, Michael Harris, citing the probability that Caroline Mulroney will run for the Ontario PC leadership, asks Aren’t political dynasties the death of real democracy? and this was before Doug Ford’s announcement!

The latest round of NAFTA negotiations has concluded “Trade ministers… agreeing some progress was made but acknowledging tough challenges still lie ahead to strike a new deal. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said while some progress was made, he hopes it will accelerate and achieve “major breakthroughs.” Writing in the Financial Post, Kevin Carmichael is less sanguine : Canada could pay a steep price for ‘progress’ in NAFTA talks
“Canada’s central bankers reckon the uncertainty over the future of NAFTA already is affecting investment decisions; companies either are holding off on deploying their cash, or deciding to go straight to the U.S in order to hedge the risk that Trump will upend the business case for investing in Canada or Mexico.”

As the world recognized International Holocaust Day on 27 January, we were particularly touched by the tribute to the incomparable mime Marcel Marceau and his story  “Silent Holocaust Hero“, proving once again, the Power of One.

In some cases corruption pays. Saudi Arabia has officially ended its anti-corruption blitz after extracting more than $130 billion from some of its richest citizens. CBC’s The National will feature a report on Tuesday’s program. The three-month investigation, launched with great fanfare by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had seen 325 prominent people — including a dozen members of the Royal family — “jailed” in oppressive luxury at Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton Hotel. (Note the delightful coincidence that the Ritz will return to its usual role on Valentine’s Day – 14 February.)

Attention early risers on the West Coast:  Wednesday morning features a blue moon’ lunar eclipse. For those of us who are east of Winnipeg, there will be only a partial eclipse, but still a worthwhile event given that it only happens once every 152 years.

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