Wednesday Night #1937

Written by  //  May 1, 2019  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Tuesday’s news from Venezuela where a coup may – or may not – be about to happen.  Is Madero ready to quit? Can his exit be achieved peacefully?  Jeremy Kinsman and Larry Haas weigh in (video)   and are cautiously optimistic.
They then turn to the fractious Canada-China relations generated by the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou at the request of the U.S. government. On the same issue, see  interview with former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques China compiling list of Canadian targets for possible retaliation in ongoing diplomatic spat, who advocates a Canadian tough-love approach. “The Canadian government should announce that Canada will no longer pursue a free trade agreement with China because of this trust that has disappeared,” said Saint-Jacques. “I also think we should go to the WTO to file an official charge against China for what they are doing to our canola export.” (see also Trudeau government set to boost cash advances for farmers as canola crisis drags on)

Jason Kenney is now Premier of Alberta and we can expect Fed-Prov fireworks, especially as he has taken on the role of intergovernmental relations in what is sure to be a fierce battle with Ottawa over the carbon tax as well as proposed legislation that would ban heavy oil tankers and change how projects are environmentally assessed.
Conservative politicians, oil executives map out strategy for ousting federal Liberals in growing collaboration Top Conservative politicians met with oil-industry executives at a private conference to map out strategy for ousting Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in a sign of growing collaboration between the Alberta-based sector and its political backers ahead of the federal election this fall. (Subscribers only)
Since the election of Jason Kenney and his not-so-merry band, the carbon tax debate is heating up (sorry!) As gas prices climb, Tony Deutsch has several concerns: “your next car might be more fuel efficient than the present one. Meanwhile, you will spend more money on gas, and will have less money to spend on other things, many of which will become more expensive as the carbon tax gets shifted forward to things like milk and apples. Note that you will have lost part of your living standards. There is only one global climate, and Canada produces about 1.5% of the world’s GDP. If the US, China, India and Russia do little or nothing in this regard, we can do violence to our living standards without seriously affecting climate change. My other concern is that the Earth has gone through at least five major ice ages , and the intervening warmups in the last two billion years, obviously without human assistance. What would make these powerful forces stop if you and I bought more fuel efficient cars the next time?”
Some might find this useful, Alberta Election Fact Check: myths and misconceptions of the carbon tax

While we are deeply saddened by the plight of those in the path of the “once-in-a-century” floods in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick and deplore the tone of Plateau mayor Luc Ferrandez, we do believe that all levels of government must move towards relocating people living in high-risk areas instead of paying year after year to help them rebuild. River banks and flood plains need to be redesigned and planted as green areas which, for most of the year, will enhance community life.
Trudeau says country must talk about how and where to rebuild after floods
Since the Liberals took office in late 2015, the government has approved almost $1.27 billion in funding for 41 projects deemed “disaster mitigation,” according to federal figures. The numbers show that only a handful of projects have started and many will take years to complete.
In the meantime, Trudeau suggested, the federal government needed to make sure future infrastructure spending hit the “right” projects to “protect our communities and ensure their prosperity long-term.”
So, perhaps Ottawa should sign up for membership in the U.S. Infrastructure Week 13-20 May. We were unaware of its existence, although this is the seventh annual iteration. Adie Tomer and Lara Fishbane make the case for U.S. bipartisan investment in infrastructure, arguing that “while the president pushes a trade war to boost global competitiveness, our domestic infrastructure will be less prepared to power our economy once the war is over.” Canada would do well to heed this advice.

Stephen Poloz in conversation with Paul Wells: Maclean’s Live
The governor of the Bank of Canada (and former Wednesday Nighter) sits down for a candid chat. What a refreshing change from the current debacle in Washington over the nomination of “notoriously hackish economic analyst” Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve Board and the proposed nomination of Herman Cain who fortunately withdrew his name.

It has been fascinating to watch the very public fights at the NRA convention. Dare we hope that this is the beginning of its demise?
The N.R.A. Ousts Oliver North and Stifles Debate on Financial Wrongdoing
(The New Yorker) The National Rifle Association’s annual convention was consumed by infighting on Saturday, after its president, Oliver North, was ousted by its board and its longtime chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, a week after a joint investigation by The New Yorker and The Trace [see below 17 April]  exposed hundreds of millions of dollars in questionable payments to N.R.A. executives, contractors, and venders. Adding to the scrutiny on the gun-rights group, the Times reported on Saturday that the New York attorney general, Letitia James, has opened a formal investigation into the group’s financial practices, including whether it should retain its nonprofit status.
CNN reports that NRA has a huge mess on its hands

President Trump addressed the N.R.A. faithful at the convention on Friday and proclaimed himself a champion of gun rights. In a speech that was part political rally and part pep talk, he said his administration would not ratify an arms treaty designed to regulate the international sale of conventional weapons. There are widely differing opinions on this treaty. See Trump’s decision to leave a global arms treaty was built on an NRA lie versus Reflections On President Trump’s Unsigning Of The Arms Trade Treaty

With US-Russian arms control treaties on shaky ground, the future is worrying Today, the U.S.-Russian relationship has hit its lowest point since the end of the Cold War. Arms control, or the looming collapse of arms control, rather than helping, may contribute to a further deterioration of relations. The current course will lead to a less stable and secure world. The United States and Russia will be less able to predict future developments on the other side and thus will have to make expensive worst-case assumptions. It will make for a more complex and dangerous relationship. Perhaps then they will recall the lessons of the 1960s and 1980s that arms control, however imperfect, can offer a useful tool for managing great power competition.

Spain election: Socialists win amid far-right breakthrough
In Sunday’s eletions, PM Pedro Sánchez’s party polled 29% and will need the help of either left-wing Podemos and regional parties or the centre right to form a government.
For the first time since military rule ended in the 1970s, a far-right party is set to enter parliament. Vox opposes multiculturalism, feminism and unrestricted migration.
With almost all the results in, Vox won more than 10% of the vote, which would give it 24 seats in the 350-seat parliament.
According to El Pais, “The parliament that has emerged from these elections theoretically affords several alternatives for the PM’s investment into office, barring the aberrant possibility of a new election, which is what happened in 2016, or the option of a minority government. But it is to be expected that political groups will not take a stand on potential deals until the upcoming local, regional and European elections of May 26. This undeclared link between Sunday’s outcome and future elections is not the best way to achieve an effective management of central, regional and municipal powers, as these have unique and specific needs. But it is the only realistic scenario in light of the parliament’s new make-up. It is also the only prudent choice, given the political implications for dealing with the country’s main problems arising from the fact that the PSOE is now forced to choose between different majority options.”
When asked what this means, our Canadian expat expert replied “Probably more chaos. Spaniards do that very well. And gridlock as regards any serious issues of governance.
But, this is fiesta time, so no worries. No sooner is Easter over , but most towns turn their serious attention to their week long veneration of plaster effigies of Saints that may never have existed, then come the racist Moros y Cristianos, etc. until the summer break. If Peace , Order and Good Government are the watch words of the Canada act, the Spanish Constitution might reflect the popular will, i.e. Noise, chaos and incompetence.”

The Privacy Project
Companies and governments are gaining new powers to follow people across the internet and around the world, and even to peer into their genomes. The benefits of such advances have been apparent for years; the costs — in anonymity, even autonomy — are now becoming clearer. The boundaries of privacy are in dispute, and its future is in doubt. Citizens, politicians and business leaders are asking if societies are making the wisest tradeoffs. The New York Times is embarking on this months-long project to explore the technology and where it’s taking us, and to convene debate about how it can best help realize human potential.

Good (Must) reads:
It’s Infrastructure Week!

Mr. Trump, here’s a fight worth having.
(NYT editorial board) On Tuesday, a dozen Democratic lawmakers, including the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, headed to the White House for a frank talk with President Trump about the “I” word: infrastructure. … Ms. Pelosi proclaimed her team “very excited about the conversation” and cheered Mr. Trump for agreeing that a “big and bold” plan was needed. Mr. Schumer called the meeting “constructive” and noted approvingly that the president had been “eager” to push funding up to $2 trillion. “This was a very, very good start,” Mr. Schumer told reporters.

Jeremy Kinsman highly recommends It’s Time to Rethink Russia’s Foreign Policy Strategy
“I consider this a very compelling survey of Russia’s foreign policy choices and constraints. I find little here with which I could disagree. Is Trenin too balanced and rational to carry much weight in Moscow thinking? He is head of the most prestigious post-doctoral training institute in Russia. We should pay more attention to him and less to the sensationalist and negativist nationalist chest-thumpers feeding off the current antagonisms (which Trenin acknowledges are here to stay for a while, irrespective of who wins in the US in 2020). I don’t think many American scholars and practitioners are equipped with enough objectivity and real internationalist perspective to enable an appreciation of the balances in Trenin’s essay (or the implicit reduction in the US world role Trenin assumes), but Canadian counterparts should, assuming there is still interest among them in thinking about how others think as opposed to devising sound-bites of diaspora candy at election time.”

C Uday Bhaskar: Battling terrorism needs a collective approach in South Asia
This profile of the main actors rekindles an old debate: why do seemingly well educated young – in this case South Asian citizens – often equipped with promising technical and engineering backgrounds take the Islamic terror path? This pattern has been evidenced in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldives over the last decade and Sri Lanka which was considered to be the exception, has alas, joined the list.

How Are Various Countries Responding to China’s Belt and Road Initiative?
By Paul Haenle, Dmitri Trenin, Alexander Gabuev, Tomáš Valášek, Darshana M. Baruah, Feng Yujun, Ma Bin
(Carnegie) Pitched as a new Silk Road sweeping from Asia to Europe, China’s enormous Belt and Road Initiative is an ambitious, multinational infrastructure project. Experts from four Carnegie global centers explain other countries’ perspectives.

Secrecy, Self-Dealing, and Greed at the NRA
The organization’s leadership is focused on external threats, but the real crisis is of its own making.

The trouble with Greta Thunberg I don’t agree with Ross Clark of The Spectator on Brexit or Climate Change (his favorite topics), but I think he is right “If you are going to be given an international stage to call for a general strike, as Thunberg has done, you deserve to be challenged – whether you are 16 and wear pigtails or not. If the BBC, or anyone else, is going to offer a platform to Thunberg, these are the questions she needs to be asked.”

and in perhaps a less serious vein, depending on how committed you are to the Jordan Peterson cult

I tried to live according to Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life. Here’s what happened

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