Wednesday Night #2036

Written by  //  March 24, 2021  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Quote of the week: Chris Patten referring to Britain’s European minister David Frost: who is to diplomacy what a chainsaw is to origami

Congratulations to our friend Peter Schiefke, MP for Vaudreuil—Soulanges on his appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship! (Prime Minister announces changes to parliamentary secretaries).

And to Cleo whose “Indo-Pacific report I’ve been bleating about for close to two years was just released” [along with  the six field reports and six podcasts] .  “In the meantime, if you are interested…” here is the link Indo-Pacific Strategies, Perceptions and Partnerships – The view from seven countries. Of course we are interested!

As we contemplate the news -or what we have gleaned for you- Terry Jones offers this sage advice: there is so much contentious news today and I am as much a bundle of biases as anyone with homo sapiens DNA – so I often play a game in which I replace the key antagonists in the stories with other names.  Would I react the same if the story was about Israel, China, Russia, Turkey, Syria, Myanmar…etc.  I am often surprised at my own ingrained biases.  It was a favorite game that my husband and I played to make sure our diplomatic reporting was more neutral than usual.
It may work for some situations, but will hardly change our stance on most this week.

Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig underwent their respective travesty trials on Friday and Monday.
David Kilgour, writing with Clive Ansley and Peter Lamont in the Toronto Sun Two Michaels and ‘trials’ in China: “The sordid prison experiences of Canada’s two Michaels during more than 800 days in custody illustrate well why the rule of law and independent judges and prosecutors are essential to good governance.”
Canada’s envoy to Beijing summoned home for high-level talks as Western sanctions hit China
We had been wondering why there had been no mention of Ambassador Dominic Barton in news of the trials until the Globe & Mail revealed that he was brought home from Beijing “for important strategic meetings” and is currently in post-travel quarantine. According to the same report, “Mr. Barton’s return to Canada was arranged before Ottawa learned that China had set trial dates for the two [Michaels]”. Whose wonderful idea was this? And why was the trip not cancelled when the trial dates were known?
Jeremy Kinsman‘s Sunday commentary on CTV Michael Kovrig on trial in China Monday – what does it mean for China/US relations? reminds us that the two Michaels will not be released until the case of Meng Wanzhou is resolved – and that has to be done by the U.S.
On Tuesday’s Diplomatic Community Jeremy addressed the realities of the rivalry between China and the U.S. including effectiveness of sanctions.
Add to the mix, Colin Robertson’s latest, Canada must sanction Chinese officials for their gross human-rights abuse of the Michaels “…We got into this mess because the U.S. requested the arrest and extradition of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou. …We acted, apparently without a careful evaluation of consequences. It’s too late now, but John Manley got it right when he said we might have shown some “creative incompetence.” It’s a reminder why we need a first-class diplomatic service possessing experience, expertise and a sense of realism so we avoid these traps.”

Andrew Caddell‘s Hill Times column Political appointments to diplomatic postings are mostly a bad idea argues that in larger missions, political appointees can be disastrous for foreign relations. (He makes exceptions for Raymond Chrétien and Bob Rae.) The choice of two Sinophiles, John McCallum and Dominic Barton, was the wrong move in an increasingly intolerant China.

Judy Roberts said it first at Wednesday Night. Judy’s contribution to last week’s discussion of the Shaw/Rogers merger was the background of the strong personal relationships between the two families as highlighted in the article subsequently published in the Globe & Mail
Long-distance connection: Regional rivals Rogers, Shaw brought together by family ties.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud has emerged as the largest party with the majority of the vote counted in Israel‘s unprecedented fourth election in two years. However, Netanyahu still does not have a clear path to a 61-seat majority needed to form a coalition. The vote count is expected to continue through Friday, according to Haaretz

Another follow-up to last Wednesday’s discussion is this profile of Ari Ben-Menashe and his role as lobbyist for the Myanmar junta  “Please don’t try to demonize the generals,”.
He has his work cut out for him, especially after the latest news Girl shot dead by security forces in Myanmar military crackdown and at least eight people, including a 15-year-old boy, were reportedly killed in Myanmar’s second city of Mandalay as the unrest continues.

We continue to worry about Joumane and John Buchanan and hope that John will check in with us (Facebook, email, whatever) soon as the situation in Lebanon is increasingly alarming, according to today’s opinion piece in the Globe & Mail by Bessma Momani Lebanon is in the final throes of collapse. The West must not look away

Australia is enduring days of torrential rain that have spawned massive flooding in eastern Australia, forcing the evacuation of some 40,000 people. In the country’s arid central section, it has sent waterfalls down the side of the country’s majestic Uluru rocks.
Barely a year after devastating bush fires burned through tens of millions of acres in Australia, the country is grappling with one of its worst floods after weather systems converged over Queensland and New South Wales, dumping more than 20 inches of rain in a single day in one area north of Brisbane. And now, Australians warned of deadly spider ‘plague’ after floods
PM Scott Morrison must also deal with ‘A scandalous swamp’: that has generated global headlines

In the U.S. the deadly shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, exactly one week apart, have given new impetus to demands that Congress pass a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The House has already passed two Democratic-backed gun control bills, but sadly, gun control is a distinctly partisan issue, complicated by the national checkerboard of state-by-state gun laws that align with the partisan tilt of each state. Meanwhile, in Canada, the Liberals’ proposed buy-back program and other gun control measures are attracting criticism from all sides.

While the vaccination program in Quebec is progressing well, with the eligible age now lowered to 60, other provinces are not doing so well and now a report in the New York Times says the EU is finalizing emergency legislation that would give it broad powers to curb exports of COVID-19 vaccines for the next six weeks, as part of its response to supply shortages at home. So far, the federal government says it does not believe COVID-19 vaccine shipments to Canada would be affected by export restrictions being considered by the European Union. However, Health Canada recommends the AstraZeneca vaccine as the flurry of doubt in the U.S. comes to an end

We are horrified by events in Miami. How can so many people be so stupid and politicians so amoral?
Spring break invasion of South Florida spurred by cheap fares and lax Covid-19 restrictions
…the state leads the nation in variants that are even more contagious, and the Covid-19 test positivity rate has been climbing of late, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who appears to be positioning himself as former President Donald Trump’s heir to the White House, has been harshly criticized for his pandemic performance and has been accused by Democratic rivals and others of using the vaccine distribution to score political points with key constituencies like senior citizens.

Fraught with symbolism on-ice battle between a Canada goose and a bald eagle, the emblem of the United States. Who will prevail?

Long reads
This one is for our economists and our political mavens. Is Mark Carney ‘positioning himself’? Who volunteers to read the tome and report back to WN?
Mark Carney takes a swipe at capitalism, for its own good
The publication of his new book, Value(s), … confirms Mr. Carney has had a lot on his chest and has been impatient for some time to unleash it. The 600-page tome amounts to a scathing critique of capitalism and its invasiveness into all aspects of our lives. It calls for nothing short of a reordering of society to ensure markets answer to citizens rather than the other way around.
If Mr. Carney is contemplating a political career, Value(s) serves as a distillation of his views on economic, social and environmental issues that most Liberals will love.
Massey Lectures 2020 Part 1 (originally aired on November 9, 2020)
We need to reclaim our lives from our phones and ‘reset,’ says CBC Massey lecturer Ron Deibert
‘Look at that device in your hand,’ says Ron Deibert in the first instalment of his 2020 CBC Massey Lectures. ‘You sleep with it, eat with it … depend on it.’ The renowned tech expert exposes deep systemic problems in our communication ecosystem and shares what we need to do about it
The Enduring Populist Threat
If anti-elitism is a pillar of modern populism, it should be no surprise that populists have come to power at a time of soaring income and wealth inequality. But the “them” versus “us” populist narrative does not capture merely a conflict between haves and have-nots.
Chris Patten: The UK’s Hard Brexit Choices Have Arrived
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government recently spelled out how Britain will use its supposed freedom outside the European Union. But the country faces a growing number of tough choices that Johnson will not be able to avoid for much longer.
Heather Cox Richardson‘s newsletter of March 22, 2021 sums up events of the past week including the most recent developments in U.S.-China relations, in the critical fight over voters’ rights, the passage of HR 1, and the debate over the filibuster.
Why There Is So Much Confusion About the AstraZeneca Vaccine
A lack of transparency seems to have caused unnecessary doubts—and damaged the effort to build public trust in vaccines.
Is the Pandemic Breaking Our Backs?
Test-driving a batch of posture-enhancing devices that are supposed to make you stand tall.

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