Wednesday Night #2152

Written by  //  July 14, 2021  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Aux amis français et francophiles: Bonne Fête nationale !

Thanks to Cornelia Molson, we have just learned about this important new publication. We are sure we will not agree with everything, but it is good to see a space for civil presentation and discourse of perhaps unpopular -or misunderstood- events and ideas.
Journal of Controversial Ideas
Background
No stranger to controversy, Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values, has just launched the Journal of Controversial Ideas. Described as “the first open access, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal specifically created to promote free inquiry on controversial topics,” it creates a safe space for controversial views by giving authors the option to publish under a pseudonym. (See long reads below for link to one article that immediately attracted our attention.) A couple of topics follow that would benefit from exposure in the Journal.

In his weekly column, Andrew Caddell asks Could “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” survive today? Would there be space for its iconoclastic humour in an era of political correctness?
One of my favourite Python moments is the scene in Life of Brian in which the People’s Front of Judea leader, played by Cleese, asks “What have the Romans ever done for us?” In an ironic defence of colonialism, he acknowledges, “All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?!” … Today, we face a new authoritarianism, as we are repeatedly told not to “trigger” reactions in others through words or actions. But this self-censorship connotes an underlying anti-intellectualism, as free thought can be messy. Some of the great minds of history were, quite frankly, miserable human beings, and yet they managed to bring forth advances in art, science, literature, the economy and government.

If anyone is in doubt that a federal election is on the horizon, simply follow Mélanie Joly around virtually (just Google Mélanie Joly news) as she hands out money, and if that doesn’t convince you, note that Mary Simon is to be sworn in on July 26th.
Queries: the GG is usually sworn in by the Chief Justice, in this case, Richard Wagner who serves as the administrator of the Government of Canada since Julie Payette’s resignation. At what point does he resign the post of administrator (and give up his current title of His Excellency) in order to swear in the new GG?
There continues to be some unhappiness that the GG-designate does not speak French Should she take an oath in a language she does not comprehend? Should  she request that the oath be administered in Inuktitut?
Did the PMO think this through?
Stay tuned.

Billionaire Tax Cheat Travels to Space for a Few Minutes
“Fulfilling his desire to beat a fellow billionaire into the lowest verge of space, notorious tax cheat Richard Branson burned some of the money he owes his home country in order to fling himself past the troposphere so he could experience weightlessness for as much time as it takes to make a decent bowel movement. An achievement that will go down in corporate history, Branson now holds bragging rights over the guy whose monopolies are eating the economy alive.”
Billionaire Jeff Bezos is slated to blast off on his own tax-free ego project in nine days, and the corporate media will fawn over it as they did for Branson on Sunday. Corporate news treating a corporate space race like the Armstrong landing? Sounds like savvy marketing to me, but it leaves inspiration in ashes.”
There are plenty of counter arguments about all the benefits that have accrued and will continue to accrue from space exploration The billionaire space race could benefit regular people, too … investments in space have already led to innovations like high-efficiency solar panels, ear thermometers, and scratch-resistant eyeglasses. … Space flight has benefited everyday Americans for decades, spurring cutting edge medical technologies ranging from artificial limb technology and artificial hearts to insulin pumps.
Sir Richard addressed critics who say issues like economic inequality, climate change and the pandemic should come first. “I 100% agree that people who are in positions of wealth should spend most of their money, 90% or more of their money, trying to tackle these issues, but we should also create new industries that can create 800 engineers, and scientists who can create wonderful things that can make space accessible at a fraction of the environmental cost that it’s been in the past.”
Here’s why Richard Branson’s flight matters—and, yes, it really matters

A quick international tour d’horizon
Taliban surge in north Afghanistan sends thousands fleeing

Diplomatic Community: Jeremy Kinsman and Larry Haas discuss the disenchantment leading to violence in South Africa [Worst violence in years spreads in South Africa as grievances boil over]; protests in Cuba [Thousands march in Cuba in rare mass protests amid economic crisis] and events in Haiti [Assassination of Haitian president becomes complex international web] – but do Canadians care?
We would add to the list Ethiopia: Tigray forces push south as Amhara militias mobilise and South Sudan The light that failed: South Sudan’s ‘new dawn’ turns to utter nightmare to name but two.

Cleo Paskal writes about the case of Daniel Suidani, Premier of the most populous province in the Solomon Islands, Malaita, and the failure of the wealthy Pacific nations to come to his aid, leaving it to Taiwan [to do] what needs to be done for Daniel Suidani, and for us all.
Last Friday morning she participated in a Webinar “G7’s B3W versus China’s BRI: Development Funding or Debt Diplomacy?” In case the acronyms are unfamiliar:  B3W = Build Back Better World and BRI = Belt and Road Initiative. It wastoo early for us to attend on short notice, but we hope Cleo will give us a précis soon.

Western US and Canada is suffering from horrendous heat, devastating drought and out-of-control wildfires. One of the less reported consequences:
‘Heat dome’ probably killed 1bn marine animals on Canada coast, experts say
British Columbia scientist says heat essentially cooked mussels: ‘The shore doesn’t usually crunch when you walk’
More than 1 billion marine animals along Canada’s Pacific coast are likely to have died from last week’s record heatwave, experts warn, highlighting the vulnerability of ecosystems unaccustomed to extreme temperatures.
… The mass death of shellfish would temporarily affect water quality because mussels and clams help filter the sea, Harley said, keeping it clear enough that sunlight reaches the eelgrass beds while also creating habitats for other species.
Extreme heat boils Canada’s waters and shellfish (Reuters video)

We will leave US politics for another night, but this item caught our attention.
North Carolina Democratic voters yearn for a new type of Senate candidate after years of defeats. Now they have two – When Democratic Senate candidate Cheri Beasley paid an afternoon visit to an antipoverty nonprofit here, she didn’t give a stump speech or, really, say much about her campaign at all. … The next day, state Sen. Jeff Jackson — Beasley’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination — attracted hundreds to a park in rural Hickory, N.C., even as the remnants of Hurricane Elsa blew overhead.
We were honoured to welcome Jeff Jackson, Andrew Caddell’s cousin to Wednesday Night in April 2020 (Wednesday Night #1987 with North Carolina State Senator Jeff Jackson)

Varia
Pjila’si Unama’kik.
In recognition of Mi’kmaq people, language and the significant geographical location, motorists travelling across the Canso causeway will be welcomed by a new sign in Mi’kmaq, Pjila’si Unama’kik. This seems to be a happy development in the eyes of the Mi’kmaq people, but as far as we can ascertain this is a unilingual message, with no pictogram equivalent which may be somewhat confusing for tourists.

New University Pension Plan builds with veteran talent
On July 1, Ms. Zvan and more than 40 newly recruited colleagues and consultants began running pension plans for 35,000 employees at three schools – the University of Toronto, Queen’s University and the University of Guelph. Over time, the UPP aspires to join the ranks of Canada’s largest public-sector plans by signing up more schools, as Ontario’s 21 universities oversee more that $25-billion in retirement savings.

The absolute worst -most disgusting- product brought to market in recent memory: A gun covered in Legos to look like a toy. About a week ago, a company in Utah that makes custom modifications to firearms debuted what it described as a fun new product: a kit that encases Glock handguns in red, yellow and blue Lego blocks, refashioning lethal weapons to look exactly like children’s toys.
Today, Gun company Culper Precision has stopped selling a new pistol customized with brightly colored block pieces after toymaker Lego issued the company a cease-and-desist letter. Lego to gunmaker: Stop making a Glock that looks like our toys

A map of the online world in incredible detail
This map of the internet by Halcyon Maps offers a unique way to visualize the internet.
It highlights thousands of the world’s most popular websites by visualizing them as “countries.”
These “countries” are organized into clusters that are grouped by their content type, like news website, search engine or e-commerce platform.
And thanks to a poster on Facebook: if you really want to get a sense of the ever-changing online world, here’s the original XKCD online communities map, from 2007

Italy bans cruise ships from Venice lagoon after Unesco threat
…after Unesco threatened to put Venice on its endangered list unless Italy permanently banned cruise ships from docking in the world heritage site. Cruise companies will have to scrap Venice from their itineraries until the industrial port of Marghera is repurposed for passenger use.

‘I haven’t been paid a cent’: Jerusalema singer’s claim stirs row in South Africa
Nomcebo Zikode threatens legal action, claiming she was never paid for the song that … sparked a global dance craze when a group of friends in Angola shot a video dancing to the song.

Viral images of giant goldfish in U.S. lake spotlight dangers of invasive aquatic pets
Two words I never expected to use together: “feral goldfish”

Long reads
From the Journal of Controversial Ideas
Michael Veber: The Epistemology of No Platforming: Defending the Defense of Stupid Ideas on University Campuses
No platforming is the practice of preventing or prohibiting someone from contributing to public discussion because that person advances what are—or are thought to be—objectionable views. Some of the most newsworthy cases of no platforming occur on university campuses. Despite what others have claimed, there are no good epistemic reasons for no platforming in that context.

One by One, My Friends Were Sent to the Camps
The influential Uyghur poet, who’d watched his friends be arrested one by one, instead managed to escape detention, and China. Now living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., he offers a rare first-person account of the genocide in Xinjiang, where the Chinese state has been attempting to forcibly erase the Muslim minority group and its culture.

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