Wednesday Night #1904

Written by  //  September 5, 2018  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Fall term has begun! For us, September has always been the beginning of the new year, a reminder of happier, carefree days when it signaled a fresh academic start accompanied by a perceptible change in the air, the light and the tone of the blue in the skies.
Would that we were facing a similar clean slate in the world, but this year, the news seems either depressing or foreboding.

We are saddened and outraged by the decision of the Myanmar judge to jail the two Reuters reporters for seven years. While the defense can appeal the decision to a regional court and then the supreme court, it is not obvious that a judicial system that is so corrupt will overturn the judgement. Aung San Suu Kyi seems immune or incapable of reacting to widespread international condemnation.

Corruption takes many forms and has very different consequences. The fire that destroyed Brazil’s national museum was ‘a foretold tragedy’ – underfunded and neglected, the museum had no sprinkler system, and limited water was available from fire hydrants when firefighters arrived. Instead, authorities spent some $25 billion on ephemeral events like the FIFA World Cup and 2016 summer Olympics , awarding contracts to friends and, despite some beneficial projects, failing to develop coherent plans for long-term use of many facilities.

A new energy seems to have gripped many Americans as the country remembered and honoured John McCain‘s combative spirit, He was, of course, not without detractors of all political stripes; he was flawed, which was surely part of his appeal, but even the flaws served as a contrast to the White House incumbent and his enablers. Two of the best pieces we read captured the mood: John McCain’s Funeral Was the Biggest Resistance Meeting Yet and John McCain’s Funeral Was a Council of War—Just as He Meant It to Be.

It remains to be seen how long the energy will last. Will it be sapped by the constant assaults on the institutions and -dare we say- dignity of the nation? As our friend Uday Bhaskar writes ” will the memorial at the National Cathedral remain a “brief moment of brotherhood among those swimming in the Trump swamp? Or is it possible that this is the beginning of a national catharsis that will reclaim certain lost political spaces and ethical benchmarks in US politics? The outcome of the November 6 elections for the US Congress will provide an indicator of the transience or substantive influence that John McCain’s departure will have on the world’s oldest democracy.”

For the moment, the outlook for the Democrats to achieve majority in the House seems good. Politico reports that even the Wall Street Journal says “There is little debate House Democratic candidates are running with the wind at their backs.” However, we must be wary of future divisions between the old guard Democrats and the new breed of progressives.  Tuesday’s Massachusetts primary produced a major upset when Ayanna Pressley defeated 10-term Representative Michael Capuano and will become the first African-American woman to represent the state in Congress (there is no Republican opponent).

Meanwhile the raucous beginnings of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee
Brett Kavanaugh are likely to continue, but ” barring an astounding revelation, the path remains clear for Judge Kavanaugh’s ultimate confirmation.”

Adding to the general chaos, Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House” will be released on September 11th (curious choice of date, or maybe not?) From the media reviews, it would seem that everybody who is anybody has already read it and ‘bombshell’ is one of the milder descriptions. At almost 500 pages, it’s not likely that Trump or many of his base will read it, but that won’t stop the criticism. Will it change any minds? Doubtful.

As NAFTA negotiations resume on Wednesday in the wake of Donald Trump’s harsh comments about Canada and attack on the head of the AFL-CIO,  Bloomberg points out that “The problem for Trump is that U.S. business and farm groups as well as a broad bipartisan swath of legislators say they will oppose any deal that doesn’t include Canada. If the AFL-CIO’s opposition to a Nafta without Canada holds, it would leave Trump facing opposition by bosses, farmers, workers and politicians — every major constituency in American trade politics.”

Derek Burney’s thoughtful op-ed Canada must learn from our history and stand firm on NAFTA is a must-read. Please also read Guy Stanley‘s cogent comments on NAFTA Negotiations 2017-2018

In Aretha – A tribute to our favourite Lady of SoulWanda Potrykus writes: “I am still in mourning for a lady whose voice and songs form part of the soundtrack of my life; but while I grieve the loss of the musician and songstress, who provided and interpreted many of the words that helped me push onward … I also wonder, Aretha, if you truly knew how much you meant to so many? No matter our origin… you spoke to us all.”

We were sad to learn of the death of George MacLaren. Jim Duff’s delightful memoir, George Maclaren, my friend and mentor, is a very personal view of a quietly influential figure in Quebec and Canadian politics: “active Progressive Conservative, Montreal Daily News publisher, Jean Charest’s advisor and confidant, Quebec Delegate-General, philanthropist. What it doesn’t do is talk about what it was like to work with George Maclaren, gentleman adventurer, wise counsellor, hands-off publisher, colleague and friend.”

The Quebec election follies continue, as usual characterized by promises, promises, but  we don’t  feel much (if any) excitement. However, we must point out that there is a new party whose surreal goal is to become the 51st state.
On the bright side, congratulations to QCGN and Jennifer Crane for compiling a list of issues of importance to the English-speaking community of Quebec Yes, they point out Yes, we are concerned about broad issues – the economy, taxes, the environment – but there are many vital issues that are specific to English-speaking Quebecers as members of a minority community.

More positive news:

Billionaire [André] Desmarais Takes Page From Rockefeller in Farm Push
La Ferme des Quatre-Temps, a name evoking the four seasons as well as a native wild plant, is on track to sell C$700,000 ($540,000) worth of vegetables from about eight cultivated acres in its third year, a 40 percent jump from 2017. The numbers matter to the co-chief executive officer of financial empire Power Corp. of Canada, who considers the experimental farm a form of philanthropy, because they show small-scale organic agriculture can be lucrative and inspire careers.

Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers Were Stolen 13 Years Ago. Now They’ve Been Found.
We know you will be delighted to hear that the pair of the famed red-sequined pumps from “The Wizard of Oz” that was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn. 13 years ago, has been found. The story of their recovery is not yet public, but we sense a book, or at least a lengthy feature (New Yorker?), in the offing.

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