Wednesday Night #1951

Written by  //  August 7, 2019  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Arguably summer’s excessive heat contributes to general irritability, irrational behavior, and, sadly, in some cases culminates in violence. As scientists officially pronounced July 2019 the warmest month the world has experienced since record-keeping began more than a century ago,  events of the past week provide ample support for this hypothesis.

It has been a terrible week.

Following the two nights of Democratic debates (The Democrats/progressives 2019 II), pundits settled in to analyse and criticize each candidate’s performance  and long-term chances. No firm consensus has emerged, however, David Brooks made an excellent point on PBS Newshour:  “My main takeaway was that Democrats don’t understand what this election is about. We just spent a few minutes talking about Donald Trump and racism. That’s what this election is about. This election is about Donald Trump and what kind of country we’re going to be, what the values of our country are going to be, what the atmosphere is in which we’re going to raise our kids.”

Two mass shootings (El Paso and Dayton) have left all sensible people horrified, outraged and deeply concerned about the vicious trends in American society. There was little comfort from the president whose formal response did not come until Monday (meanwhile he contented himself with tweets from the golf club).  With widespread calls for action on gun control, Donald Trump blames ‘mental illness’ for shootings, but rolled back Obama regulation on gun sales His trip to Dayton and El Paso on Wednesday was not anticipated with great enthusiasm.

The U.S.-China trade war continues to escalate as  China allowed its currency to fall, and the  U.S. Treasury Department formally accused China of manipulating its currency, echoing a complaint the president had made via Twitter. But experts say China’s actions do not amount to currency manipulation, and they warned that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is squandering credibility that the U.S. might need in the future. (See Thomas Friedman: How Trump and Xi Can Make America and China Poor Again )

China, meanwhile, must deal with the increasingly volatile situation in Hong Kong where, as The Guardian puts it: peace prospects recede amid teargas and smoke  and as protests intensify it is hard to see how deadlock can end without death or serious injury.

Narendra Modi abruptly revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution  and Kashmir has lost its autonomous status;  it must now follow all Indian law. In place of local leaders and an assembly, Kashmir will become a Union Territory – administered by a governor appointed by the authorities in Delhi. Highly recommend this Opinion piece In Kashmir, Modi’s India may have won the battle but lost trust by our friend, C. Uday Bhaskar, and related South China Morning Post coverage of most recent Kashmir-related developments. It is hard to imagine how this will end well.

Relations with Iran continue to deteriorate as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reiterated his stand that if Donald Trump wants to start negotiations with Tehran, he must lift all sanctions against his country “before everything else.”

The destruction of the Amazon rainforest has ‘exploded’ under Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro – who was elected with the support of powerful mining and agricultural sectors – and is defiant in the face of criticism.  One of the rare bits of good news this week is the counterbalance  that Ethiopia breaks world record by planting 350 million trees in one day

Thank you to Gerald Ratzer for  calling to our attention Tax is good, published in the Cambridge Alumni Magazine – “tax policy – who, when and why the state taxes – is at the heart of determining the character of a society.”  In this context, t is worthwhile to revisit The Truth About Undocumented Immigrants and Taxes – “They’re contributing billions of dollars a year to Social Security, but may never reap any retirement benefits from it.”

Hope for the future
Irish teenager wins global science award for removing microplastics from water
“The teenager works as a curator at the Schull Planetarium, has won 12 science fair awards, speaks three languages fluently, plays the trumpet at orchestra level, and had a minor planet named after him by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.”.  Apart from that – nothing special!

And this clever learning tool from the 10th year son of my former CBD colleague, Kirsty McLean The Evolution Song, 2019 University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize .

Summer read
Pierre-Esprit Radisson: ‘A wilderness hero for our time’

Historian Mark Bourrie tells the story of the explorer’s adventure-filled life in his book, ‘Bush Runner’
“At a time when most Europeans died within a day’s journey from where they were born, Radisson criss-crossed the Atlantic 10 times, was adopted into an Iroquois family, had audiences with kings, learned six languages, and was kidnapped by pirates.
“He’s the Forrest Gump of his time. He’s everywhere,” Bourrie writes in his book, Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson.”

Varia

As the SNC-Lavalin saga continues, (and shares plummet) , it seems that everyone is lecturing the company. Most recently, Michael Sabia of the Caisse (which owns about 20% of the company) took aim, while IJ Global acidly enquired SNC-Lavalin – what the hell are you up to…?

We are trying to avoid promulgating any and all coverage of the Jeffrey Epstein story, but in fairness to John Curtin, must direct you to  Defending Dershowitz 

Twitter Needs a Pause Button
Instantaneous communication can be destructive. We need to tweak our digital platforms to make time for extra eyes, cooler heads, and second thoughts. 

Greenland lost 11 billion tons of ice in one day. No part of the planet is free from the impacts of human-caused climate change. But Greenland, and the Arctic more generally, is experiencing the impacts particularly severely. Temperatures in the planet’s extreme north are rising twice as fast as the global average.

In the category of ‘no good deed goes unpunished Oka calls for moratorium on land transfer to Kanesatake 

Long reads
If you do not read anything else, this piece is  a must –great  insight and analysis that applies not only to the rhetoric of politicians,  but to much broader usage, as the excerpt indicates:
The Left Needs a Language Potent Enough to Counter Trump
The president’s rhetoric is dangerously populist in nature, and the left doesn’t know how to fight it.
By George Packer
(The Atlantic) The crudeness of Trump’s rhetoric makes it both dangerous and politically potent. By contrast, the language of the contemporary left is anti-populist. Its vocabulary, much of it taken from academia, is the opposite of accessible—it has to be decoded and learned. Terms such as centered, marginalized, intersectional, non-binary, and Eurocentric gender discipline separate outsiders from insiders—that’s part of their intent, as is the insistence on declaring one’s personal pronouns and showing an ability to use them accordingly. Even common words like ally and privilege acquire a resonance that takes them out of the realm of ordinary usage, because the point of this discourse is to create a sense of special virtue. The language of the left also demands continuous refreshing and can change literally overnight: A writer is told that the phrase born male is no longer okay to use and has to be replaced with assigned male at birth. Many of these changes happen by ambush—suddenly and irrevocably, with no visible trail of discussion and decision, and with quick condemnation of holdouts—which gives them a powerful mystique. … The abandonment of language that brings people in rather than shutting them out is one of the left’s many structural disadvantages in American politics today.

Artificial intelligence in America’s digital city
(Brookings) “This brief explores how AI and related applications can address some of the most pressing challenges facing cities and metropolitan areas. Like every form of technology to proceed it, society must be intentional with the exact challenges we want AI to solve and be considerate of the social groups and industries who stand to benefit from the applications we deliver. While AI is just in its early development, now is the ideal time to bring that intentionality to urban applications.”

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