Wednesday Night #1938

Written by  //  May 8, 2019  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

The fraught prelude to the outbreak of World War II, 1938 was not a happy year although it did mark the first appearance of Superman whose dedication to righting wrongs would have been welcome in the real world then – and now.
Although not as fraught as its namesake, Wednesday Night 1938 features a number of issues of concern, including various forms of international sabre rattling.
But first, the good news.

Congratulations to Paul Manly, Elizabeth May and our good friend Daniel Green on the Green Party win in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith by-election. His victory shows the other parties that Canadians are serious about climate change, Manly said, adding he expects the Green wave of support to grow in the October election. So does Nik Nanos: Green Party win in Nanaimo by-election suggests trouble for Liberals, NDP, pollster Nik Nanos says

The Green victory comes on the heels of the release on Monday of the report by the IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (Highlights on UN IPBES report on species loss: Damage isn’t permanent, as long as we remedy it soon, dramatically) The report has received vast international coverage, temporarily eclipsing most of the news from Washington, however judging by the headlines from Washington (The day a million species are announced to be on brink of extinction, U.S. says melting ice creates ‘new opportunities for trade’) and the communiqué from the Arctic Council (U.S. Pressure Blocks Declaration on Climate Change at Arctic Talks), there’s much work to be done.

The second piece of good news is the release after 500+ days of the two Reuters journalists imprisoned in Myanmar on what most of the world deemed obviously trumped-up charges.

There seems to be no end to the round of elections across the globe.
Brookings offers a useful run-down of South Africa’s May 8 election [which] will decide the future of the ANC. “No fewer than 48 parties are contesting the election in which each voter will cast two ballots, one for the national legislature and the other for their provincial legislature. South Africa uses a closed list proportional representation system: Voters choose a party, not a candidate.” Aren’t we glad that isn’t our system? Parties are allocated seats in the national and nine provincial legislatures in proportion to their share of the vote.” As though that were not a sufficient recipe for chaos, the analysis helpfully points out that “The chief flaw in South Africa’s democracy is the survival of a sharp divide between economic insiders who benefit from the market economy and outsiders who do not. [Cyril] Ramaphosa and his allies represent the insiders. They have a stake in the health of the market economy and so oppose corruption and patronage politics that threaten it. Since Ramaphosa took over, he has embarked on a program to strengthen the rule of law and loosen the hold that political patronage has on the state. By contrast, among [Jacob] Zuma and his allies, economic exclusion represents an opportunity for patronage politics, since those economically excluded tend to attach themselves to politicians (and party factions) in the hope of gaining access to resources. If the Zuma camp regains control of the ANC, patronage politics is likely to return—at least until the electorate can remove its adherents from office.”
More simply, the Washington Post asks Most South Africans are unhappy with their democracy. Can Cyril Ramaphosa fix it?
“A quarter-century after Mandela’s African National Congress took over following decades of white-minority rule, the party is bitterly divided over major corruption allegations against former president Jacob Zuma. The ANC is still the party that most South Africans support, but according to polls from the Pew Research Center, almost two-thirds of the population is dissatisfied with the way democracy works here.”

Meanwhile in Turkey:  Outcry as Turkey orders rerun of Istanbul mayoral election Turkish authorities have scrapped the result of a vote for Istanbul mayor that was lost by the candidate backed by the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in response to calls by his AK party for a rerun. In a move that hit the lira and drew opposition accusations of “dictatorship“, the high election board (YSK) ruled that a fresh Istanbul mayoral contest must be held on 23 June. Members of Turkey’s main opposition party have claimed that a decision to rerun the vote for Istanbul mayor, which the ruling party lost in March for the first time in a generation, is linked to a government bid to safeguard billions of dollars in grants to foundations that form a key part of its political apparatus. (Istanbul election being rerun to save grants, say Erdoğan opponents)

The events of last week in Venezuela have generated a flurry of diplomatic activity. The most intriguing analysis comes from the Moscow Times Putin Is Ready to Give Up Venezuela for the Right Price which explains the Trump-Putin phone call.

Iran has announced partial withdrawal from nuclear deal. The Guardian points out that “Tehran has lost patience with Europe’s efforts to create a new viable financial mechanism that would allow European firms to continue trading items such as medicines and humanitarian goods with Iran and circumvent US secondary sanctions,”  while “European diplomats are left to manage an often contradictory Washington foreign policy, but broadly fear that the US national security adviser John Bolton is pursuing a strategy of regime change in Iran that will only backfire, ushering in a more hardline stance.”
Under its policy of “maximum pressure”, Washington has extended sweeping sanctions on Tehran and in recent weeks has hit even harder, moving to ban all countries from buying Iran’s oil, its top export, and declaring the Revolutionary Guards to be a terrorist group – the first such designation of a unit of a foreign government.
Pompeo Makes Unscheduled Trip to Iraq to Press U.S. Concerns About Iran
The diversion to Iraq by Mr. Pompeo, who was in the midst of a four-day European tour, added to what is an escalating American effort to ostracize Iran, which the Trump administration has sought to vilify as the chief destabilizing force in the Middle East.
None of this is good news.

It is almost impossible to keep up with developments in Washington between the fights over Trump’s taxes, his refusal to comply with all subpoenas, his suit to to stop sued banks from providing information to Congress, his statement that Robert Mueller should not testify and his attempt to  deny Congress access to the records of the former White House counsel, Don McGahn. At the same time, Attorney General William Barr is refusing to testify before the House Judiciary Committee if questioned by the panel’s lawyers, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he won’t give Congress the president’s tax returns despite a law giving the tax-writing committees access to any tax return. Speaking of tax returns, the New York Times has just published 10 years of tax information that reveals that from 1985 to 1994,  Trump’s businesses were in far bleaker condition than was previously known. These are, of course, not the tax returns Congress is seeking, but we can expect a Twitter  explosion with, no doubt, references to fake news.

Canadian news is always dull by comparison, however the news that Federal prosecutors are expected to abandon their criminal prosecution of Vice Admiral Mark Norman is causing a stir. It comes only days after Liberal MP and former army commander Andrew Leslie  said he would be  a witness for Admiral Norman at his upcoming trial. Coincidence?
For the next two weeks, Quebec will be consumed by 2 weeks of hearings into the controversial secularism bill. From all indications, Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette will not have an easy ride.
What to say about Ontario’s Doug Ford – Canada’s mini-Trump and his program cuts?  The Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume writes ” Forget about governing by disruption, Ford’s gleeful politics of destruction have wreaked havoc across the province, nowhere more so than in its largest city, which he is remaking as fast as the legislative process will allow. Last week alone he cleared the way for the province to “upload” Toronto’s subway system, undid Ontario Municipal Board reform and, to add insult to injury, brought back old developer-friendly rules, and then withdrew funding that supports more than 6,000 subsidized daycare spots in Toronto.” And that is just the beginning.
On the international scene, Canada-China relations are at an all-time low; China ignores overtures from Ottawa amid Huawei dispute  What, if anything, will develop from Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil’s  visit to Guangzhou this week? He is  leading the first high-level political delegation to China since the arrest of Meng Wanzhou plunged relations between the two countries into a deep freeze and cast a widening shadow over trade with the world’s second-largest economy. On Wednesday, Ms. Meng is expected to appear in B.C. Supreme Court ahead of her extradition hearing. The following day, Chinese authorities have scheduled an appeal trial in Dalian for Robert Schellenberg, a Canadian sentenced to death for drug trafficking.

Finally, we don’t “do” sports news often, but this week has to be an exception.
The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby was historic for all the wrong reasons, and, of course, Trump had to put his own spin on the results, blaming political correctness for Kentucky Derby chaos.
The decision of Manager Alex Cora to skip the Red Sox White House Ceremony would not normally be a major item for us, as a number of team members have shown displeasure with the incumbent by staying away, but what makes it newsworthy is his reason:”that he was uncomfortable celebrating the victory when his native Puerto Rico was still recovering in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.” The situation in Puerto Rico continues to be a disgrace.
And, of course, the Tiger Woods Medal of Freedom. CBC points out that “the president’s decision to award the nation’s highest civilian honor to Woods also raised scrutiny about whether the president should be boosting the profile of a business associate of The Trump Organization.”

Good reads:
Who Owns South Africa?– A fiercely debated program of land reform could address racial injustice—or cause chaos.A fascinating read!
The day a million species are announced to be on brink of extinction, U.S. says melting ice creates ‘new opportunities for trade
On one side, there’s science. In Paris, the United Nations released a report Monday saying that 1 million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction, with alarming implications for human survival. More species are now threatened than at any other period in human history, with climate change contributing to the decline in biodiversity.
On the other side, there’s either a denial of those facts or science with a spin. The latter was on display in Finland on Monday, where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo objected to climate change action references in a key Arctic policy statement, and instead preferred to highlight potential advantages of global warming for global trade.
How the news took over reality
Is engagement with current affairs key to being a good citizen? Or could an endless torrent of notifications be harming democracy as well as our wellbeing?
McKinsey Is Running Puerto Rico — and Getting Paid Millions to Do It
Trump has reached an inflection point in his presidency

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