Wednesday Night #1931

Written by  //  March 20, 2019  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

On Tuesday afternoon, Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled his 460-page budget, titled Investing in the Middle Class, while hearings on the SNC-Lavalin affair were shut down.
For the next several days, the pundits will rush to judgement of Tuesday’s budget and we will see whether Tasha Kheiriddin’s view Liberals will hope Tuesday’s budget deflects from SNC-Lavalin scandal is accurate. The news on Monday that Michael Wernick has stepped down from his post as clerk of Privy Council and is retiring from the civil service did not exactly calm the troubled waters.
Mr. Morneau’s pre-election budget unveiled $23-billion in new spending across more than a hundred different areas – with a focus on new home buyers and training programs for workers –or, as one CBC report states “The Trudeau government’s new budget targets the first-time homebuyer who wants an electric car in the driveway, some job-training and a subscription to a digital news website.” Critics were quick to pounce with Andrew Coyne in the lead (Federal budget a testament to the pleasures of endless growth. Forget productivity, tax cuts or investmentIn the rush to get all that spending out the door, little thought appears to have been given to whether the money is being spent in the best way) On the other hand, Mayor Valérie Plante is happy because “the budget offers a one-shot $2.2-billion transfer of revenue from the federal gas tax to fund infrastructure in Canadian municipalities, which will provide Montreal with additional revenue for the Pink Line and other projects, particularly upgrades to the city’s water network.”

In the aftermath of the horrendous massacre in Christchurch, NZ, there are many questions about the role of social media and the Internet. It is indisputable that this perpetrator and others of his ilk seek fame (no matter how infamous) in an attempt to terrorize and demonstrate that they -and their twisted ideas- are important. While many have called on commentators and media to deny the perpetrators the publicity they seek, New Zealand’s PM has set an admirable example, announcing she would never speak the name of the 28-year-old Australian man. “He sought many things from his act of terror, but one is notoriety. And that is why you will never hear me mention his name. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless. And to others, I implore you: Speak the names of the lives who were lost, rather than the name of the man who took them.” See more from Jeremy Kinsman and Larry Haas (Islamaphobia and White Supremacy after Christchurch)   Jacinda Ardern has also been widely praised for her swift action on gun control. She has obviously impressed Ralph Goodale, who said cabinet colleague Bill Blair will deliver recommendations soon, having been asked last August by Trudeau to study the possibility of a full ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada. Of course, no such action in the U.S.

There will be much discussion (it has already started) about the role of social media in promoting hate speech, violence and terrorism (more on that and related topics next week). Donald Trump’s labeling of mainstream media reports as ‘fake news’ has muddied the waters and aggravated the situation. Now Vladimir Putin has cynically joined him (Russia has banned fake news, while also being one of the world’s prime exporters of fake news).
Note also that Trump wants to kill federal funding for PBS and NPR (again); it won’t happen, but it’s still damagingFraming public media as a partisan issue encourages people to think of it through a political lens instead of as users and consumers.

Brexit: The Economist sums the mess up neatly: “Yesterday [Monday] John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, ruled that Theresa May cannot put her Brexit deal to a third parliamentary vote unless it is changed in substance. Mrs May, who will seek an extension to the Brexit deadline at an EU summit this week, could try to use the Bercow ruling to persuade EU leaders to alter the deal. But they are unlikely to accede. So she will probably end up trying to bludgeon MPs into backing her deal— and will then look for a way round the Speaker ” Many  Wednesday Nighters loudly applaud the Speaker, with at least one suggesting  “he should be knighted “Sir John” if his interdiction torpedoes the leaky Brexit ship.” John Buchanan reminds us that “Where the UK really hurts itself is not in goods but services where there is a huge surplus with the EU. Imagine explaining your business to EU border authorities when you are trying to sell your services. Or assembling multinational teams to render consulting services where you need a visa for all the EU participants.”
UPDATE: Defiant EU chief Tusk sets up dramatic final showdown between May and MPs after insisting Brexit will only be delayed if she can get her deal through Parliament NEXT WEEK
Best commentary: France’s EU minister names her cat ‘Brexit’ because when she opens the door ‘he stays put’

As it was announced that Greta Thunberg has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, from Sweden to India, school climate strikes went global. An estimated 1.5 million school students worldwide turned their back on lessons to stage the biggest wave of climate strikes since the protests began. And Montreal had one of the largest turnouts. Meantime, Cyclone Idai, described as perhaps the southern hemisphere’s worst such disaster, struck Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe affected as houses and roads submerged.

When not following world events, it was impossible to avoid the deluge of information and opinions -learned and not- about the pay-to-play (or in some cases of athletic ‘scholarships’, to not play) Admissions scandal at major American universities. Bill Brownstein reveals that a former Montrealer was tipster in U.S. college bribery scandal — and has kids at Yale

Must read:
The strongmen strike back
Armed with unimaginable tools of social control and disruption, authoritarianism has returned as an ideological force at a time when the liberal world is suffering its greatest crisis of confidence since the 1930s, writes Robert Kagan in a new essay for the Washington Post.
Read the essay in the Washington Post
(If you are not able to access the WaPo essay, let me know, I have the full text)

The Rapid Decline Of The Natural World Is A Crisis Even Bigger Than Climate Change
A three-year UN-backed study from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has grim implications for the future of humanity. See also IPBES to Launch First Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Since 2005: A Primer

News you may have missed:
A new John le Carré book due in October
Jack the Ripper identified by DNA evidence, forensic scientists claim; turns out he was a Polish barber (not plumber).

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