Wednesday Night #1997

Written by  //  June 24, 2020  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Happy St-Jean or if you want to be politically correct, Fête nationale!

Amidst the past week’s tumult and shouting in U.S. politics and governance, the significant date of 21 June, the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788, passed pretty much unnoticed.
One of the best round-ups of the eventful week is historian Heather Cox Richardson‘s factual summary June 22 Letters from an American.
Meanwhile, the circus continues: after the Tulsa flop, Trump’s Phoenix speech brings thousands together indoors — in a virus hot spot. The venue was reportedly filled to capacity, with no social distancing inside and few people wearing masks. After his remarks at Tulsa, Trump now says he wasn’t kidding when he told officials to slow down coronavirus testing, it was announced that the administration is ending support for 7 Texas testing sites as coronavirus cases spike.

Note that unlike Trump (and many fundamentalist churches), Saudi authorities take the threat of capacity crowds seriously and have taken the unprecedented step of canceling the Hajj Pilgrimage.

Meanwhile, the Kentucky vote on Tuesday went smoothly despite reduced numbers of polling stations.
“But the uncertainty surrounding so many of the night’s races, as voters wait for their mailed-in ballots to be counted, could be a sign of things to come. The coronavirus pandemic is worsening in many regions, and if it doesn’t improve rapidly ahead of the fall, more states could shift toward absentee voting, meaning hundreds of millions of Americans could be facing a similar wait on election night in November.”
Expect increased attacks on mail-in voting by the administration,e.g. President Trump spent much of his Monday on Twitter decrying the supposed dangers of voting by mail.  Attorney General William P. Barr appearing on Fox News said twice that expanded voting by mail would open “the floodgates of potential fraud.” The hypocrisy is mindboggling; read the list of administration officials and staff who have recently voted (successfully & unsuccessfully) with absentee (mail-in) ballots, even Mike Pence and ‘Mother’.
Are We Headed for a Voter-Suppression Catastrophe in November?

Canada, China, the two Michaels and Meng
UPDATE  Former parliamentarians, diplomats pen letter [to Trudeau] calling on Canada to release Meng

Citing a legal opinion, parliamentarians and diplomats say Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou should be released
A group of high-profile Canadians, including former parliamentarians and senior diplomats, say Justice Minister David Lametti should end extradition proceedings for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou to give Canada a chance to “re-define its strategic approach to China.”
The 19 signatories say that releasing Meng could also free Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians who were detained in China shortly after Meng’s arrest.
“Removing the pressures of the extradition proceeding and the related imprisonment of the two Michaels will clear the way for Canada to freely decide and declare its position on all aspects of the Canada-China relationship.”
After seeking high-profile legal advice, Michael Kovrig’s wife and father went public this week, expressing dismay and frustration with the inaction of the Trudeau government on behalf of the two Michaels. Prominent Canadians, including Allan Rock and Louise Arbour, have argued Ottawa must consider intervening, claiming that the Canadian government has the legal authority to set Chinese telecommunications executive Meng Wanzhou free immediately, and is wrongly claiming otherwise after being embarrassed over revelations of political interference in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. last year.
If you only read one piece on this subject, it should be Ottawa has authority to free Meng Wanzhou now, former justice minister, Supreme Court justice say
In the first half of the 23 June CTV Diplomatic Community Jeremy Kinsman and Lawrence Haas discuss the enduring Canada/China hostage situation. Not encouraging, but refreshingly frank views. Jeremy deplores the public declarations of the Canadian government that reiterate that Canada is a country of law, thus closing the door on any behind-the scenes deal to free the two Michaels (memorable quote from Jean Chrétien: when you paint yourself into a corner, you have to walk across the paint to get out).
The Canadian government can intervene to end Meng’s extradition trial. Should it?
Former Supreme Court of Canada justice John Major is cautious: saying that while AG David Lametti can intervene at any time in the extradition process, it would be unusual — especially if after a prolonged court hearing, it concluded in favour of extradition. But Major noted there may be reasons to do it, especially as Kovrig and Spavor languish in Chinese detention. Others are justifiably fearful of retaliation by Trump.
Larry Haas has only contempt for Mike Pompeo as Sec. State and the unreliability of the U.S. as an intervener with China.
Gar Pardy points out in The Hill Times (paywall) that Politics isn’t as far from extradition cases as politicians say it is; The justice minister initiates an extradition process, can confirm a judicial decision to extradite, or can deny a judicial decision to extradite or can impose conditions while last week, Sheila Copps Only in Canada, it’s considered weakness to recruit a former PM to help solve the Huawei problem The best outcome would be to resolve the case, with Meng’s return to China before the summer. This would free Liberals to focus on electoral issues, not international irritants. If it takes a former prime minister to get us there, so be it.
A new twist to the story – not that it will do any good
Bolton book could factor into Huawei exec’s extradition case
Meng’s case has wedged middle-power Canada into the wider clash between two heavyweights: China and the U.S.
Passages from the book are likely to be explored as a way to boost arguments of political involvement in the case of the Chinese telecom giant’s chief financial officer, according to legal experts and a source familiar with her defense. Of particular interest are moments in which Bolton says Trump linked the case to a potential U.S. trade deal with China.

Sobering thoughts
In From India’s Himalayan Border to Our Local Cell Networks, It’s Time to Push Back Against China, Cleo builds on her theme adding: “The United States made a mistake during the Cold War by not fully backing India’s democracy against communist China. This time, things may be different. There is a general understanding that those experiencing Chinese economic and military aggression have to work together. In the short term, the US is backing India, at least on the level of diplomatic rhetoric. And Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi just held a virtual summit with his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, in which they concluded a defense logistics agreement. (India will also be buying agricultural products from Australia to compensate for the impact of Chinese trade restrictions.) The UK is calling for a “D10” (the seven democracies of the G7, plus Australia, India, and South Korea) to develop an alternative to Huawei’s 5G cellular-network technology. In policy circles, Indian, American, and Japanese strategists are calling for leaders to think about some kind of Indo-Pacific charter, along the lines of the 1941 Atlantic Charter.”
See also Tom Friedman’s China and America Are Heading Toward Divorce
Thucydides -a name some remember only dimly from long-ago history classes, however, if you have been paying attention, there have been recent recurring references to the Thucydides Trap (see The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War?
Read and listen
Lessons from an ancient Athenian in an era of ‘fake news’
Historian Thucydides set a standard for accurate, unbiased reporting
and
Part II ‘Civilization is a very thin veneer’: What the plague of Athens can teach us about dealing with COVID-19
Back in 430 BC, a plague gripped Athens, killing by some estimates up to half the Greek city’s population. The chronicler Thucydides meticulously recorded the physical symptoms of the gruesome disease in a few pages of his tome about the Peloponnesian War fought in ancient Greece between Athens and Sparta.

Experts say Canadians permanently working from home should expect salary changes
“Companies, for example, may be able to slash real estate costs because they don’t need as much — or any — office space, but may now have to cover higher taxes, pay for their workers to buy desks or supplies for their homes or offer a budget for them to use on renting spaces to meet clients.”
Not to mention ensuring efficient and secure communications networks. Employees will need dedicated systems. Who will purchase, replace and maintain computers at the home office?
Not as easy as it looks at first glance.

Thinking outside the box
As China threatens Hong Kong’s self-governance, millions are considering leaving – and one man plans to build a new city for them to move to
… the idea is entirely radical; this would be a brand new city, built from the ground up.
The idea is that it would be integrated with its host country, but its founders would essentially have a blank slate to build a new socio-economic and political system. It could act as a more refined special economic zone, with different tax systems and commercial policies to stimulate wealth creation.
Building an international charter city designed for mass migration from one country to another would also turn real estate development to almost a business of nation-making.
It has never been done before. The idea for international charter cities began more than a decade ago with the Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Romer, who tried to set up charter cities in Madagascar and Honduras. But these attempts failed.
Now, it is a concept that is gaining new momentum. Paypal founder Peter Thiel is among the investors who last year put $9million into Pronomos, a venture capital fund for building a charter city. Former Uber executive Ryan Rzepecki, who sold his bike company Jump to the ride hailing app for $200million, is also considering funding a new city.
Still, few have considered building one in a developed country – it is hard to see how the promise of economic stimulus could outweigh the costs and risks.
“We want to provide an option for Hong Kong people to leave Hong Kong, but to carry on with their lifestyles and continue to develop their careers and build their families in countries that are democratic and free.” Read on

Essential long read:
From 2017 and more true than ever.
How We Killed Expertise
… recently skepticism has curdled into something more toxic, even dangerous. Donald Trump explicitly campaigned against experts, calling them “terrible” and saying he didn’t need them. As president, he seems determined to prove that experts are unnecessary to the running of a superpower—winging important conversations with foreign leaders, issuing an executive order without advice from his own Cabinet and picking a radio talk-show host with no background in science or agriculture for the top science position in the Department of Agriculture.
In the far less grand homes of ordinary American families, knowledge of every kind is also under attack. Parents argue with their child’s doctor over the safety of vaccines. Famous athletes speculate that the world might actually be flat. College administrators ponder dropping algebra from the curriculum because students keep failing it. This is all immensely dangerous, not only to the well-being of individual citizens, but to the survival of the United States as a republic.

In case you overlooked it – a fascinating Solstice story
Neolithic Site Near Stonehenge Yields an ‘Astonishing Discovery
The finding of a circle of trenches at a nearby ancient village also makes the site the largest prehistoric structure in Britain and possibly in Europe, one archaeologist said. The study, published online on Sunday, outlines the discovery of a large circle of shafts surrounding the ancient village — known as the Durrington Walls henge monument — about two miles from Stonehenge. The trenches, each of which is around 30 feet wide and 15 feet deep, are thought to have been part of a ritual boundary area between the two sites.

From June 27th to 30th, Le Festival International de Jazz de Montréal will bring music to life all over the city and in the festivalgoer’s hearts from here and everywhere, in another way. Online -free- performances include Oscar Peterson & Oliver Jones (2004) on June 27.

So much more to ponder and debate, especially the question of defunding the police, to which Andrew Caddell devoted last week’s column in The Hill Times.
NB this week’s column ‘It’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good’: tourism in the time of COVID is in praise of this summer’s opportunities to explore Canada.
What about the wisdom of toppling statues and renaming anything bearing the name of individuals associated with any all traces of a colonialist/racist past? (Tearing Down Statues Doesn’t Erase History, It Makes Us See It More Clearly)
How far should political correctness be encouraged in Education matters? (Oxford is tying itself in knots over racismUniversity’s plans for trauma dispensation and to decolonise science degrees are misguided
Next week as the new NAFTA takes effect, we will look at various irritants in Canada-US relations, including the threatened aluminum tariffs, and America’s water crisis in the U.S. Also on the Agenda, the Russian referendum.

As we rejoice in the gradual opening of the Quebec economy, thank you, Catherine Gillbert for this:
Staycation
How to spend our staycation?  Well I was ecstatic
When Marion suggested two weeks in the attic.
Soon, laden with parcels and rucksacks and cases
We mounted the ladder with joy on our faces.
Some dusting was needed, but when that was done.
We both settled in for a fortnight of fun.
There were issues, it’s true, with the chemical loo,
And the primus-cooked porridge was meths-flavoured glue –
But, wow! The sheer joy of the night of the storm,
When we huddled up closely to try to keep warm
As rain hammered fiercely upon the cold slates
And the flash and the crash made us fear for our fates.
Oh what an adventure for us two old-timers!
Until the last day when I misjudged the primus
And much of the house was destroyed in the fire.
Otherwise these two weeks were all we could desire.

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