Wednesday Night #1943 with Rick Barton

Written by  //  June 12, 2019  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Discussions are always better than arguments
These days it is often difficult to abide by the adage that An argument tries to prove who is right whereas a discussion tries to prove what is right. However, it’s human nature to hold one’s opinion so dear that when a person questions it, we tend to get emotional and defensive.

Unfortunately neither individuals, institutions, nor nations are paying any attention to the adage. And as summer temperatures rise, so, no doubt, will the tenor and level  of the arguments.
So let Wednesday Night be the exception to the rule as we welcome Rick Barton, former Assistant Secretary of State under the Obama Administration, who earlier will appear at a CIC event  to discuss his latest book Peace Works: America’s Unifying Role in a Turbulent World.

I think we will agree that Trumpland has not succeeded in advancing the unifying role of America. Quite the contrary. Gwynne Dyer‘s latest piece, Trump, tariffs and how to start a war, praises the manner in which Canada and Mexico have played on Trump’s weaknesses to obtain what they wanted, but then goes on to explain why China will not and cannot behave similarly.

Canada, meantime, could benefit from a unifying outside influence. While the Raptors have served that purpose for the last few weeks, prompting an incredible coming together of Canadians coast-to-coast cheering for the team, the naysayers are appalled that such an un-Canadian sport should be the topic du jour, but how many of them realize that the game was invented by a Canadian, McGill grad? But after Thursday’s game, who knows what squabbling may break out again?
Bill 69 and pipelines are the leading sources of dissension. The conservative premiers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, and the non-partisan premier of the Northwest Territories, wrote an “urgent” letter to Trudeau Monday telling him that he must accept every last one of the amendments or he will be threatening national unity, [Premiers warn PM of national unity crisis over pipelines] stating that Bill C-69 will make it virtually impossible to ever build another major pipeline in Canada and will drive away jobs and investment in the energy sector. The premiers also want him to scrap Bill C-48, which would put a permanent ban on oil tankers’ loading at ports in British Columbia north of Vancouver Island. [See Trudeau calls out Tory premiers for ‘playing games’ with national unity over C-69] On Wednesday afternoon, it was announced that the Federal government accepts dozens of amendments to environmental review bill, [but] rejects most of the Tory ones.
Meantime, Jason Kenney has launched an attractive proposal that is sure to continue the debate. One united Indigenous pipeline ownership would be ‘game changer’: Jason Kenney saying he hopes the growing number of First Nations-led proposals to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline come together under one banner, which he says would be a “game changer” for obstacles facing the expansion project. He met with First Nations leaders Monday to pitch his government’s proposal for a Crown corporation to facilitate Indigenous ownership of pipelines and other major energy projects, ahead of a coming deadline for the federal government to approve the Trans Mountain project.

In other words, a long hot summer ahead and we are not even taking into consideration all the nastiness of the Quebec [Decision time for Quebec government as it tries to pass 2 nationalist bills by week’s end] and Ontario [Everything Doug Ford Cut or Cancelled During His First Year as Premier] governments.

At least there has been one encouraging announcement from Ottawa: the plan to ban single-use plastics (which could include bags, straws and cutlery) starting in 2021 at the earliest also could include items like cotton swabs, drink stirrers, plates and balloon sticks. Fast-food containers and cups made of expanded polystyrene, which is similar to white Styrofoam
Why not the wretched plastic milk bags in Quebec?
Trudeau said the government will research the question of which items it should ban and follow the model chosen by the European Union, which voted in March to ban plastic items for which market alternatives exist — such as single-use plastic cutlery and plates — and items made of oxo-degradable plastics, such as bags. (Oxo-degradable plastics aren’t really biodegradable; they contain additives that cause the plastic to fragment without breaking down chemically.)
He also revealed plans to make companies that manufacture or sell plastic products to take responsibility for recycling their plastic waste.
“Whether we’re talking about plastic bottles or cellphones, it will be up to businesses to take responsibility for the plastics they’re manufacturing and putting out into the world,” said Trudeau.
Yes, there are lots of details to be worked out, but this is long overdue. The World Economic Forum estimates that 90 percent of the plastic ending up in the oceans comes from 10 major rivers, and that currently there are 50 million tons of plastic in the world’s oceans. Environmental experts say plastic bags can take centuries to degrade.
Although the Toronto Sun is not our usual source of reliable information, we de believe this report is accurate.
New poll puts Greens high, Conservatives in-line for win – The latest poll from Campaign Research shows support for Elizabeth May and the Green Party on the rise, helping split the progressive vote three ways. Campaign Research has conducted a national public opinion poll of 2,735 Canadians on their views of the upcoming federal election. The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) continued to hold a small lead (3%) over the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC), although this gap has narrowed since the start of this year. More significantly the Green Party of Canada (GPC) and New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) are now in a statistical tie as the Greens have gained support at the expense of the NDP.

To the surprise of nobody we know, Neil Bruce is departing from SNC-Lavalin. Opinion about his performance among Wednesday Nighters is divided.

Hong Kong
While worries over the escalation of the US-China trade war increase, it is Hong Kong that has dominated the headlines.
Demonstrations against the proposed extradition bill have been impressive. One in 7 people have shown up and as The Guardian reminds us that over the past four years since the umbrella protests ended, the Hong Kong government has jailed activists, disqualified elected pro-democracy lawmakers, and constructed expensive infrastructure physically linking Hong Kong more closely to the mainland, while Chinese security has abducted independent booksellers in the territory.
“This is basically an accumulation of pent-up anger now boiling over,” said Victoria Hui, an associate professor of political science at Notre Dame University in the US, who follows Hong Kong politics. “It’s not just about this [law]. It’s the combination of all the things Beijing has done to erode Hong Kong’s freedom.”
Yi-Zheng Lian, a former lead writer and chief editor of the Hong Kong Economic Journal, predicts that  Hong Kong’s Government May Cave In to China. Its People Will Not.
“The threat posed by the extradition law is real. The Chinese authorities have forcefully endorsed it. Ms. Lam’s arguments for the new bill are weak. Her motives are suspect. The Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, one of the laws now under scrutiny, was enacted in April 1997 (several months before the handover) and amended in 1999 (after the handover).” Ms. Lam’s position is “self-evidently untrue and absurd,” Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, commented recently. “Both Hong Kong and China knew very well that there had to be a firewall between our different legal systems,” he said.

Trump, Trade & Mexico
With the announcement on Friday evening that the U.S. (or Trump) and Mexico had reached, agreement everyone breathed a sigh of relief. But things are never that simple these days. Almost immediately, Trump’s ‘triumph’ was revealed to have been manufactured (not to say ‘fake’) news, as Mexico Agreed to Take Border Actions Months Before Trump Announced Tariff Deal. We understand that he is a narcissist, but why does he insist on making outlandish claims that are so easily debunked?

Too many candidates:
Twenty-three (or more – the number keeps rising) candidates is an absurd quantity. We hope some of them will heed the words of Eugene Robinson: We don’t need 23 presidential candidates. There’s another important role to fill.
“Dear Democratic presidential candidates: I know all 23 of you want to run against President Trump, but only one will get that opportunity. If you truly believe your own righteous rhetoric, some of you ought to be spending your time and energy in another vital pursuit — winning control of the Senate.”
It does appear that there is the beginning of a winnowing process as some candidates surge to the front.
On Tuesday, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg gave his first major foreign policy speech of the primary season. Jennifer Rubin gives him high marks for willingness to devote a full speech to the topic, speak for more than an hour, cover not simply major themes but hit issues affecting each continent and direct even-handed criticism at both Democrats and Republicans. “A candidate who can identify, not to mention analyze, the rise of illiberal regimes as a threat to our interests and can find Sudan and Algeria on the map, let alone speak intelligently about them, deserves praise. A candidate willing to explain that immigration is a national security issue because we want and need the talent of those seeking to come here to help innovate and contribute to the economy should get credit. A Democrat forcefully defending the good that the United States does in the world deserves encouragement. He set a high bar for other candidates.”
Beto O’Rourke is also coming out strong on foreign policy “instead of walls or putting kids in cages, the U.S. needs to invest in ‘solutions in Central America to ensure that no family has to make that 2,000 mile journey because they’re fleeing the deadliest countries on the face of the planet.’ This hints at the outlines of a better Democratic response to Trumpian nationalism in 2020. Trump’s trade war with China is dragging on and harming his own constituencies. This, combined with the chaos attending the threats against Mexico, gives Democrats a good argument: that in practice, Trump’s nationalism is reckless, often driven by impulse and rage, and out of sync with the complex realities of international diplomacy and the global economy.
As Neil Irwin argues, Democrats can pledge to move away from two-country tariff wars and instead toward mobilizing an international response with allies against China’s trade abuses. Similarly, Democrats can argue for renegotiated trade deals that raise wage, labor and environmental standards, with the goal of helping U.S. workers via a sensible internationalism in contrast to Trump’s erratic nationalism.

In Britain, the Conservative leadership election got under way in full on Monday as the deadline passed for candidates to put themselves forward. There is a large field this year with 10 Tory MPs running in total. However, Janet Daley of The Telegraph opines that After Boris’s pitch perfect performance, the leadership contest is over At least we won’t have to wait for more than a year to learn the outcome. The first ballot of MPs will take place on Thursday, 13 June, with exhaustive ballots of MPs reducing the candidates to two. The general membership of the party will elect the leader by postal ballot with the result to be announced on 22 July. George Monbiot argues that Anyone who wants to be prime minister should have a course of therapy first – worth reading!

Good reads
‘Write me and tell me your heart’ — Leonard Cohen’s letters to Marianne Ihlen
Christie’s brings to auction more than 50 letters from Leonard Cohen to his muse and lover, together with seven of Marianne Ihlen’s own letters. Together they offer fascinating glimpses of the young poet’s yearnings and artistic struggles. Bidding is on until Thursday, 13 June – the description of the correspondence is simply wonderful!

M.R. O’Connor argues in the Washington Post that you should Ditch the GPS. It’s ruining your brain
These gadgets are extremely powerful, allowing people to know their location at all times, to explore unknown places and to avoid getting lost.
But they also affect perception and judgment. When people are told which way to turn, it relieves them of the need to create their own routes and remember them. They pay less attention to their surroundings. And neuroscientists can now see that brain behavior changes when people rely on turn-by-turn directions. … Saturated with devices, children today might grow up to see navigation from memory or a paper map as anachronistic as rote memorization or typewriting. But for them especially, independent navigation and the freedom to explore are vital to acquiring spatial knowledge that may improve hippocampal function.

Not to be missed
COME FROM AWAY at Place des Arts 26 November to 1 December
COME FROM AWAY tells the remarkable true story of 7,000 stranded passengers and the small town in Newfoundland that welcomed them. Cultures clashed and nerves ran high, but uneasiness turned into trust, music soared into the night, and gratitude grew into enduring friendships. Ticket sales start Friday, 14 June.

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