Wednesday Night #1933

Written by  //  April 3, 2019  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

It is with delight that we welcome ‘home’ two exceptional Wednesday Nighters who have been long absent from the table.
Harriet Solloway left Montreal 23 years ago to work with The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, in the aftermath of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. Since then she has worked with the ICC and the UN in The Hague, the DRC and the CAR. She is now at UN HQ in New York as a Director in the Department of Safety and Security.
Simone Spiller, first introduced many years ago by her computer sciences professor Gerald Ratzer, worked more than 15 years at SAP, the German software leader in business transformation for companies around the world where she started as a consultant, then moved to managing international projects and finally, sales. She has recently completed courses with the McGill School of Continuing Studies in “Leading Change” and “Strategic Management” and is now a Senior Sales Executive at OpenText, a leader in information management with focus, among other solutions, on AI=Artificial Intelligence and IoT=Internet of Things.

Tumultuous times continue.
Each morning, the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary email a word of the day to their subscribers. It is often a little-known word with topical relevance. On Saturday, March 30—the day when the UK was scheduled to wake up for the first time to life outside the European Union—the word of the day was “kakistocracy.” It is a nineteenth-century noun, which the OED tells us means “government by the least suitable or competent citizens of a state.” It stems from the Greek kakistos, meaning “worst.”
This week, there seems to be an overabundance of kakistocracy.

We can start with Brexit
On Tuesday evening, Theresa May announced that she will seek a Brexit postponement until the House of Commons agrees on a deal to leave the EU. She also said that she will hold talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in order to reach a compromise deal which both the Conservatives and Labour can support.
On Monday, MPs rejected all remaining alternatives to Theresa May’s deal
The House of Commons on Monday took part in another series of “indicative votes” on Brexit alternatives after rejecting the Withdrawal Agreement the prime minister has negotiated with the EU for a third time last week.
MPs voted against remaining in the EU customs union, against remaining in the EU Single Market, against holding a second EU referendum and against cancelling Brexit So now what?

Elections galore
The results of Turkish municipal elections are heartening, but it remains to be seen how Erdogan will react. Autocrats don’t like to have their authority questioned by mere mortals aka voters. Already, the BBC reports, The AKP – or Justice and Development Party – alleges “invalid votes and irregularities in most of the 12,158 polling stations in Ankara.”
And in Ukraine, an extraordinary result that might well have been mistaken for an April Fool’s report:  Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian whose character on television is accidentally propelled to the Ukrainian presidency, won around 30% of the vote in real presidential elections yesterday, according to exit polls. Petro Poroshenko, the incumbent, trails far behind with 16%. Mr Zelensky looks likely to win a second-round run-off on April 21st, too. As the Economist notes, The result is a resounding slap in the face to the entire Ukrainian political class. Helen Fotopulos is there as an observer for the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and sends the link to this encouraging report: Ukraine Election: High Turnout and Run-off Election Attest to Strong Democratic Process and gives regular updates on her Facebook page.

A week ahead of Israel’s elections on 9 April, there was a surprise announcement that Israel’s Netanyahu to meet Putin in Moscow on Thursday. This would seem to deviate from the playbook, but otherwise NPR points out Netanyahu’s Tough Election Campaign Approach Appears To Channel Trump as he wages a mudslinging re-election campaign on social media, channeling his close ally President Trump in style and substance.
Jeanne Sauvé Fellow Tomer Avital, whom some will remember from past Wednesday Nights, is leading an anti-corruption campaign against Israeli politicians with his media organization, Shakuf (“Transparent”). We applaud his efforts.

Next week, marks the beginning of what may be considered India’s most important election in decades. With 900 million voters, polling unfolds in seven phases covering different regions and will end 19 May. There is concern that Misinformation Is Endangering India’s Election. Run by political parties,  misinformation campaigns target not only political opponents, but also religious minorities and dissenting individuals, with propaganda rooted in domestic divisions and prejudices.

With all these high-profile elections, little if any attention has been paid to Finland‘s parliamentary elections on 14 April with advance polls opening on 3 April. You may remember that the government resigned in early March over failed healthcare reforms. Wednesday Night’s favorite Finnish observer is unimpressed by any/all of  the candidates on offer. We have not asked him about the Pirate Party .

While Canada‘s federal election is not until October (and present circumstances dictate no snap election), in light of the on-going SNC-Lavalin/Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR) story, there continues to be much noise on all sides about public morality and political fallout. As there seem to be new ‘revelations’ every day, it is hard to say more than that everyone involved is at fault in some measure and it is impossible to determine motives. When a Party claims to be purer than the driven snow, we should all remember what that snow looks like a few days later. And now, JWR and her colleague have been ousted from the Liberal Party.  Still, as world-class scandals go,  this is pretty minor league. Andrew Cohen sums it up Canada’s SNC melodrama baffles a world facing real crisis – “To our allies, our debate is parochial and petty. Worse, in a world of unrest where Canada’s progressiveness matters, it is self-indulgent.”

More concerning is the CAQ’s Bill 21 which, despite protests to the contrary, focuses principally on the hijab and plays to all the worst instincts of fear of ‘the other’. Not everyone agrees with this view – Lise Ravary writing in The Gazette, cites chapter and verse of many instances in other countries of similar legislation, concluding “According to a Léger poll taken before the bill was tabled, 43 per cent of non-francophones are also in favour of laïcité, more than I thought. There’s a lot of common ground to build upon as long as we accept that removing all religious signs between 9 and 5 does not constitute undue discrimination or a crime against humanity.”

On to the U.S. and Trump’s ill-advised proposed closing of the border with Mexico, withdrawal of aid from three Central American countries and on-going inexplicable  treatment of Puerto Rico. Is all of this to deflect attention from his decision to abandon the attack on Obamacare until after the 2020 election? Or from the Mueller Report? On a somewhat lighter note: Avocado shortages, virgin margaritas: Border shutdown would hit American palates

Good reads
Brexit’s Endgame

The next ten days will bring to a head the Brexit drama. It has strained the UK’s constitution, threatened its social cohesion, terrified its businesses, appalled its friends, and delighted its
(Carnegie Europe) It would be unfair to damn all, or even a majority, of British MPs in this way. But collectively, they have managed to lead their country to the edge of disaster.

Taking a Breath to Avoid a New Cold War
Jeremy Kinsman writes in Policy Magazine “A communications war has prompted phobic narratives to take hold. Scholars and commentators who search for objective truth and understanding amid competing historical narratives, perceptions, and national purposes have been derided even in Canada, as agents of (Russian or Chinese) influence. We need to recover perspective through a more balanced understanding of respective histories and to develop strategic relationships that can advance the rules of the road, within which wrongdoing on human rights and intimidation of neighbours can be challenged without a megaphone.”

The New-Old Globalization
Harold James: The European Union is increasingly divided over how best to manage economic relations with an increasingly outward-looking China. On the whole, European governments are probably right to be wary of Chinese investment; but that doesn’t mean they should ignore China’s vision of cross-border development.

No Country for Palestinians
The Israeli general election should have given Israelis an opportunity to choose between war and peace. Instead, Israelis will have a choice between war and more war, between occupation and more occupation, even if the candidates avoid using those terms.

Trump the Punisher – In politics, as in life, there are Fixers and there are Punishers. No question which the president is.

And on a lighter note: People who talk to pets, plants, and cars are actually totally normal, according to science

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