Wednesday Night #1895

Written by  //  July 4, 2018  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

The Glorious Fourth aka Independence Day is to us a deeply tarnished celebration this year.  But then,  much of what is deemed to be the history of the Declaration of Independence  is  distorted, ‘misremembered‘, if not downright mythical. In fact, nobody signed the Declaration on the Fourth in 1776 – on that  date, the document we know as the Declaration of Independence was sent to the printer, which is why that date appears on it. What is incontestable is the elegance and dignity of the language of the document, thanks to Thomas Jefferson.
What a contrast with the Tweets of the present White House incumbent who boasted on Tuesday  “After having written many best selling books, and somewhat priding myself on my ability to write, it should be noted that the Fake News constantly likes to pour (sic) over my tweets looking for a mistake. I capitalize certain words only for emphasis, not b/c they should be capitalized!”

July Fourth should also be remembered for one of the curious twists of fate. “On July 4, 1826, at the age of 90, Adams lay on his deathbed while the country celebrated Independence Day. His last words were Thomas Jefferson still survives. He was mistaken: Jefferson had died five hours earlier at Monticello at the age of 82.” (Thomas Jefferson and John Adams die) The history of their stormy relationship and disagreement over the governance of the new nation, followed by a reconciliation in their later years is fascinating. It is good to see that the current past-presidents have taken their example to heart, treating one another with civility and respect if not friendship.

Appropriately, the news of the day is dominated by Donald Trump’s activities, but before we go there — the results of Sunday’s elections in Mexico are quite remarkable. Populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) has promised profound change, but so far, nothing alarming. He faces huge challenges. The victory of Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico City’s first elected female mayor, an environmental scientist and Jewish, has prompted headlines around the world (Claudia Sheinbaum is first woman elected Mexico City mayor, defying history of gender inequality), but it should also be noted that more than 3,000 women candidates ran in local and state elections across the country.

There is little if anything in the news to celebrate this week.

The EU is facing a major crisis in the wake of Angela Merkel’s deal on migration that ended a standoff that threatened to bring down her government (Merkel migration deal’s domino effect). Chris Patten writes that the “European Union must address a slew of challenges – from immigration to eurozone reform … [and] beginning with US President Donald Trump’s threats to the health and even survival of the transatlantic alliance, a key pillar of the post-World War II global order. … that risk causing systemic problems lethal to the bloc” (The Real Threats to the EU). Adding to Europe’s woes is the run-up to next week’s NATO summit. Vanity Fair’s headline sums it up: “Trump Preps for NATO Summit by Calling Allies Deadbeats

As Trump prepares for his July 16 meeting with the Russian leader, it was announced that he plans a one-on-one meeting with Putin. There is much concern that without official note-takers or other witnesses, one-on-one meetings lack any official record, making it difficult afterward to determine whether agreements have been reached. Putin is known as a shrewd negotiator who some officials worry could exploit such a session and extract concessions from Trump. In Reuters Commentary: former U.S. ambassadors William Courtney and Kenneth Yalowitz write that Trump and Putin should start small at their July 16 summit; while Moscow’s actions on crucial matters like Ukraine, Syria and election interference cannot be ignored, they “may find it easier to make concrete progress if they start with lower profile issues” like renewed cultural exchanges and diplomatic expulsions. Hardly Trump’s forte.
Commentators remind us that No One Knows What Kim Jong Un Promised Trump in their tête à tête in Singapore. North Korea is reportedly continuing nuclear work. But it’s not clear that’s a violation of what it agreed to. And that is the problem that Mike Pompeo is wading into as he heads to North Korea on Thursday.

Trump & Trade
Wednesday Night’s two Davids address U.S.-Canada trade disputes and the most recent/ongoing national contretemps.
In The United States, Canada, and the Tariff War David Jones concludes: “Thus far Trump is not for turning. The tariffs are designed to placate Trump’s base before November’s midterm elections (“promises kept”), and hypothetical “sky is falling” consequences (even if accurate) would not yet be evident. This contretemps is only the latest in historical struggles over what trade should be “free” and who should pay. The ongoing hissing/spitting will eventually be resolved leaving bad feeling on both sides.”
David Kilgour is also optimistic that American-Canadian Economic Interdependence will eventually win out: “Trade with Canada is vitally important to the U.S. economy. The Canadian-U.S. relationship is currently crossing a tough patch but ultimately will flourish again.”
Meanwhile, Donald Trump has announced that he won’t sign any NAFTA agreement until after the November mid-terms.
William Watson has a thoughtful, and as always, well-argued piece in the Financial Post If Trump’s tariffs stay, then we must let Canadian businesses die
And now this: Trump is single-handedly trying to blow up international trade

July 1 is over and we have survived – not Canada Day, but Montreal Moving Madness. Mireille Silcoff  explains the phenomenon in  Montreal Moving Day: what happens when a whole city moves house at once?

The oppressive heat [Red-hot planet: All-time heat records have been set all over the world during the past week] has made it hard for many to enthuse over Canada Day festivities, although thousands did.  Montreal’s inimitable Jazz Festival and its enticingly eclectic indoor and outdoor performances has not escaped the malaise that accompanies sky-high humidity. The target is Robert Lepage’s SLĀV,  described as “a theatrical odyssey based on slave songs,” but critics are calling it cultural appropriation. Although we are highly sensitive to the over-invoking of ‘cultural appropriation’, Quebec City hip-hop artist and historian Aly Ndiaye makes a convincing case in The problem with SLĀV: Why black people aren’t applauding a tribute to slave songs UPDATE: All SLĀV performances cancelled by Montreal Jazz Fest following controversy

On the always debatable topic of cultural appropriation, we recommend When respect for diversity is taken to crazy extremes with which we largely agree.

As the heatwave wanes next week, enthusiasts who have not yet fled the city, can take refuge in theatres for the Fantasia Film Festival. Or, head for the OSM concert in Jarry Park on Tuesday the 10th.

Summer reading

Our friend C Uday Bhaskar gives a generally glowing review of  Srinath Raghavan’s comprehensive tome “The Most Dangerous Place” in Presence of United States and role in south Asia since the 17th centuryA rich temporal tapestry of US presence and role in south Asia since the 17th century.

John Ralston Saul’s thoughts on America the failed state

And, to restore your good spirits, Canada does not do enough to recognize its role in high-flying history Andrew Caddell’s account of the first transatlantic flight by Alcock and Brown in the Vickers Vimy from St. John’s, N.L., to near Clifden on the west coast of Ireland in June of 1919.

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