Wednesday Night #1934

Written by  //  April 10, 2019  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

One might have hoped that the commemoration of the Rwandan Tutsi genocide that started on Sunday (Rwanda begins week of memorial events for genocide victims) and included in Canada, the searing interview with Roméo Dallaire, ‘My soul is still in Rwanda’: 25 years after the genocide, Roméo Dallaire still grapples with guilt and this deeply moving interview with Jeanne Sauvé Fellow Eloge Butera, Rwanda’s genocide against the Tutsi and the Holocaust: survivors teach one another how to go on, might have caused the world to pause, reflect and moderate its actions. But, no. It has been if anything, a more tumultuous week than usual,

Worst of all have been the developments in the US Department of Homeland Security (see Trump administration & Immigration 2018-19) which indicate that the situation of asylum seekers is becoming more grievous every day. With the unelected -and in our opinion, thoroughly evil, Stephen Miller directing policy from the backrooms of the White House (With Nielsen Out, Stephen Miller Is Poised to Remake D.H.S. in His Image — Miller has waged a covert war of influence to weed out administration officials he believes are too soft on immigration.), we can expect ever-harsher measures, but as the NYT’s Michelle Cottle points out, Stephen Miller Can’t Act Alone.

We have given up any pretense of predicting developments in Brexit
EU rejects Theresa May’s bid for short delay to Brexit The Guardian states that Britain’s membership could be extended to March 2020 after PM fails to sell her plan in dash to Paris and Berlin. However, John Keiger writes in The Spectator that The EU seems to have ruled out a long Brexit delay
Take refuge in this perceptive analysis —
At last, Brexit explained in two words: Basil Fawlty
It’s all there in the 70s sitcom Fawlty Towers – rage, insularity, status anxiety. If only we had heeded its terrible warning
John Keiger makes an intriguing case How Brexit could lead to Frexit “What then if Brexit led to Frexit? And what if the two exits led to a Franco-British Union with a combined GDP ranked 3rd in the world, military power arguably second – and a formidable rugby team.”

The outcome of the Israeli elections seems clear. Late Tuesday night, the NYT reported that After Tight Race, Netanyahu Appears Poised to Form Israel’s Next Government, adding that “Both Mr. Netanyahu and his chief rival, Benny Gantz, a centrist former military chief, declared victory after Tuesday’s parliamentary election, appearing to win the same number of seats in the Israeli parliament. But a count of the broader blocs needed to form a coalition government appeared to give Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party a clear advantage over Mr. Gantz’s Blue and White.” No doubt Donald Trump will take credit for Bibi’s victory.
J Street, meanwhile, has taken exception to Trump’s words at a recent megadonor event for the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), where he referred to Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu as ‘your prime minister.’ The remark comes only a few months after he referred to Israel as “your country” in his speech at the White House Hanukkah Party.
J Street’s reaction: We are Americans, and Netanyahu does not speak for us. He certainly is not our Prime Minister. But Trump shows again and again when speaking to Jewish audiences that he doesn’t seem to think he’s our president. So we say, let’s make it official. Today, we’re launching the J Street 2020 Fund to help defeat Trump in 2020 and replace him with a candidate who will represent all Americans.”

Once again, while most of us have been paying attention to matters closer to home, Libya is in the news for the wrong reasons. Although he has been a prominent figure since the 1960s, Khalifa Hifter has not been a household name, but for some time the West and its allies have been busy legitimizing him in the belief that he is the best option for stability (e.g. for advancing their respective interests) and now, once again, the country is engaged in a bitter and destructive civil war.

Sudan is also in a state of mounting crisis. Thousands of people held a sit-in outside Omar al-Bashir’s residence in central Khartoum on Sunday, having camped there overnight after the biggest demonstration in months of protests against his 30-year rule. There have been sustained protests against the Sudanese president (not incidentally, for years, the International Criminal Court has had a warrant out for his arrest) and his National Congress party since 19 December. Security forces have fired teargas, stun grenades and live bullets to disperse protesters and dozens have been killed during demonstrations. The emergence of a striking photo of “the woman in white” may well have the necessary effect of mobilizing world-wide support for the protestors.

And, there is that charming fellow, the Sultan of Brunei, who has introduced a new penal code based on some of the harshest interpretations of Shariah Law. As the NYT editorial board writes: “Besides the barbarity of the penalties, there is the danger that the law could nudge neighboring Islamic giants Malaysia and Indonesia toward tightening their own national or regional versions of Shariah laws targeting homosexuals. Conservative Muslim politicians in both countries were quick to voice their support for Brunei’s law. Beyond that, there is the fact that Sultan Hassanal enjoys his absolute dominion and his obscene treasure, including a gold-plated Rolls-Royce and a 1,788-room palace, because the world outside buys his oil. That gives his clients — including Britain, Brunei’s former colonial master — a measure of responsibility and leverage.” So far, it is human rights groups and celebrities led by George Clooney who are taking action.

Compared to these topics, Canada’s political travails are minimal, but cannot be dismissed. SNC-Lavalin is now focused on meeting business challenges including the termination of a mining contract with Chile’s Codelco and uncertain prospects in Saudi Arabia, while addressing the bribery and corruption charges for which it has been seeking resolution via the DPA (SNC-Lavalin revives court bid for special agreement to avoid criminal trial). The fight between Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott with the PM, Liberal Party et al. is now full-blown war (Philpott says Trudeau violated the law by expelling her, Wilson-Raybould from caucus). It is hard to imagine what anyone has to gain from prolonging the battle which is proving damaging to all parties, particularly to the Prime Minister.  Toxic fallout from SNC-Lavalin scandal causing ‘enduring’ damage to Trudeau’s brand,  “In recent public opinion polls, the Liberals have lost as much as 10 points in their support, including a significant drop in Prime Minister Trudeau’s personal approval ratings. The Nanos’ weekly tracking rolling poll released last week indicated that the Liberals were in a statistical dead heat with the Conservatives with 35 per cent support. The NDP had the support of 17 per cent of Canadians, and the Green Party was at eight per cent.As for the “preferred prime minister” category, Mr. Trudeau had the support of 31.1 per cent of Canadians, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.) support was at 26.7 per cent … Only three months ago, Mr. Trudeau was leading by a margin of about 16 per cent over the Conservative leader with 39.1 per cent to 23.7 per cent.”

Wednesday Night’s David duo write in the Epoch Times: David T. Jones dismisses the events as “Liberal Party Generates a Tempest in a Thimble,” while pointing out that “This [the power of the Executive/PM] is “to die for” authority in the eyes of a U.S. President.” David Kilgour continues his argument on behalf of Prosecutorial Independence and the Rule of Law in Canada and in defense of Jody W-R’s actions as Minister of Justice.

On Monday, the federal carbon tax took effect in Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, four provinces without their own carbon tax programs. The tax will likely take its political toll, but more immediately worrisome for many is the upcoming election in Alberta. Victory for Jason Kenney’s UCP is not yet a given, but is a matter of concern: The United Conservative Party Leader hopes dire warnings of economic and cultural war will topple the NDP. But some of his own past battles in Ottawa have come back to haunt him “He has tapped into – and done his part to inflame – a level of grievance and regional alienation that the province hasn’t seen in decades. And if he wins, a UCP government under Mr. Kenney could further alter how Albertans see their place in the country – and how the rest of the Canada sees Alberta – with a combative stand that would echo the energy wars of the 1980s and Ralph Klein’s bellicose premiership of the 1990s.”

E is for ethics in AI — and Montreal’s playing a leading role
Momentum is growing to make Montreal a centre for developing ground rules about artificial intelligence. Here’s a whole new glossary that puts words to those big ideas.
The ethical AI movement is being fuelled by both the private sector and people affiliated with universities — although in the world of AI, those two spheres tend to overlap.
It’s partially an effort to encourage the people developing AI systems, and the companies commercializing them, to start thinking about the ethical implications of their work. It’s also a way to get out ahead of government in an effort shape the regulatory framework that could eventually govern the use of AI.
One of the people behind the responsible AI push is Renjie Butalid, the co-founder of the Montreal AI Ethics Institute. “We know that the world is going to be increasingly driven by algorithms. And there’s an opportunity to bridge the gap between startups building AI products and policymakers, as well as organizations like the UN.” His co-founder, Abhishek Gupta, is a Machine Learning Engineer at Microsoft, where he sits on the AI Ethics Review Board for Commercial Software Engineering.

The strange saga continues: Controversial QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency exchange placed in bankruptcy
Less than three months after one of Canada’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges was shut down amid a swirl of controversy, a bid to restructure Vancouver-based QuadrigaCX has failed and the virtual company has officially entered bankruptcy proceedings. The move, approved Monday by a Nova Scotia judge, marks a turning point for the 115,000 users who are owed more than $260 million in cash and cryptocurrency, including Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Upcoming Canadian International Council event
America Where Art Thou? A discussion with US Senator Scott Strauss
Making sense of the impact of current US politics on US-Canadian relations and international relations
25 April 2019
1250 Rue Guy, FB804 (8th floor)
Montréal, QC H3H 2T4
Details and Registration

Good reads

Does Journalism Have a Future?
In an era of social media and fake news, journalists who have survived the print plunge have new foes to face.
By the what-doesn’t-kill-you line of argument, the more forcefully Trump attacks the press, the stronger the press becomes. Unfortunately, that’s not the full story. All kinds of editorial decisions are now outsourced to Facebook’s News Feed, Chartbeat, or other forms of editorial automation, while the hands of many flesh-and-blood editors are tied to so many algorithms. For one reason and another, including twenty-first-century journalism’s breakneck pace, stories now routinely appear that might not have been published a generation ago, prompting contention within the reportorial ranks.

6 Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation Into Rupert Murdoch and His Family
Using 150 interviews on three continents, The Times describes the Murdoch family’s role in destabilizing democracy in North America, Europe and Australia.

How Europe learned to fear China
Not too long ago, Europeans shrugged at Beijing’s rise.

Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of Homeland Security, out amidst national emergency Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation marks the 15th Cabinet-level departure in the Trump administration. Kathryn Dunn Tenpas analyzes the trend of record-high turnover and what it means for the president’s ability to fulfill campaign promises and policy goals.

Israeli elections primer: Final polls and what they mean
(Brookings) Israelis head to the polls on Tuesday to elect the 120 members of the 21st Knesset. The results will provide just the first major stop in a tumultuous political year ahead. Polling averages—see below—suggest a tight race, but one in which incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a consistent advantage over his main challenger, former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces Benny Gantz. The polls also suggest a great deal of uncertainty: Not only is the pro-Netanyahu advantage modest, but several small parties on both right and left have seen their vote totals hover around the electoral threshold for entrance into the Knesset. If they fail to clear 3.25 percent (nearly 4 seats), their votes would be discarded, potentially upending the equilibrium between the left- and right-wing blocs.

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