Wednesday Night #2181

Written by  //  January 3, 2024  //  Special Wednesdays, Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #2181

Janus Night, The first Wednesday of 2024. We look back -with no affection- on 2023 and forward -with faint hope- to 2024.

In Singapore, 1880 framed the discussion:
How will you remember 2023?
At our last salon of the year, we had an invigorating discussion about the developments that shaped the world in 2023. It was a year of aftershocks and unpredictability, but also much resilience. The major concerns of our time—threats to global democracy, war, the climate crisis—only got bigger. Yet, we’re looking forward to 2024’s elections around the world, innovations in healthcare and clean energy, and more, as opportunities for a promising road ahead.

As I have complained that, thanks to seasonal sickness, I had no energy this year to write my usual end-of-the-year message, I yield to our friend Doug Sweet who expresses my sentiments so well.
“… I used to, along with everyone else, post bromidic Happy New Year’s wishes to all, filled with hopes of love, peace and happiness.
I couldn’t this year. While we’ve had some wonderful moments in our lives in 2023 (the arrival of our grandson Ethan tops that list) almost everything else felt bleaker and without much chance of improvement in 2024. Perhaps it was an unfair comparison.
Politically, everything everywhere seems to be in disaster mode. In Quebec, the population, having realized the error it made in conferring on François Legault a second, even larger majority in 2022, began to rapidly disassociate itself from him and his haphazard government. Legault’s tanking in the polls is only turning him into a cornered, wounded animal, which only prompts him to do things he shouldn’t, including nursing is long-held grudges against anyone who wasn’t born speaking French.
In Canada, a wretched choice of leaders seems to have us lurching toward a Conservative government whose only discernible policy objective is to take us backward in the fight against climate change by abolishing the carbon tax and replacing it with… well, who knows? And there is no sign in the world that our climate crisis will ease one whit.
In the U.S., another depressing duel between two unsuitable leaders – one well past his best-before date and the other who should never have been put on that exalted shelf in the first place – promises more chaos and concern, with gusts to violence and deeper fracturing of a powerful society.
Peace in the world? Both in Israel/Gaza and Ukraine, prospects are as bleak and seemingly hopeless as ever. Narrowing of the gap between rich and poor? Dream on.
Perhaps there will be unexpected breakthroughs in medical science – the apocryphal cure for cancer, a sudden effective treatment for Alzheimer’s or diabetes, or ADHD, or….
I guess as we enter this New Year, maybe the best we can hope for is to be pleasantly, unexpectedly surprised.”
Thanks to Pedro Gregorio for an alternative view 100 Positive News from 2023
(Gapminder) Many bad things happened in 2023. You already know them. Many tragic events were so terrible we will never forget them and we shouldn’t. You can easily find them all over the news. But…. it is easy to get the impression nothing good happened at all. In order to keep struggling to make the world better, we all need some hope. Therefore we have collected a list of 100 positive stories from 2023 that might make you feel differently about the 12 months that went by.
And this uplifting story from Japan
Miracle at Haneda: how cabin crew pulled off great escape from Japan plane fire
Pilot who halted blazing plane safely, crew who stuck to the drill and passengers who left their luggage behind delivered a textbook evacuation

2024 brings wave of elections with global democracy on the ballot
The Washington Post reminds us “More than 60 countries, with some 4 billion people, are set to stage national elections in 2024. That means roughly half the planet could go to the polls in what could be the greatest rolling spectacle of democracy in human history.
We might not see this number of elections matched until 2048, when the world’s political landscape could look considerably different. The “third wave” of democracy — the steady global expansion of democratic governments that surged through the end of the Cold War — has ebbed over the past decade. Elections are still staged, but the underlying political culture seems to be shifting worldwide.
The outcomes of pivotal elections in the United States — the world’s oldest democracy — and India — the world’s largest — may underscore a deepening public appetite for norm-bending strongman rule. In their shadow, elections from Mexico to the European Union to Bangladesh may each offer their own showcase of the growing traction of nationalist, authoritarian politics. “We’re electing illiberal leaders democratically,” Maria Ressa, a prominent journalist and Nobel laureate from the Philippines, said during an address to the National Press Club in Washington in September. “We will know whether democracy lives or dies by the end of 2024.”
In society after society, illiberal values and politicians who embrace them are gaining ground. Numerous elected governments seem bent on undermining core tenets of the democratic project, from the freedom of the press to the independence of institutions such as the judiciary to the ability of opposition parties to fairly compete against the ruling establishment.

As you know, we are great fans of Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson’s daily doses of common sense political analysis framed in historical context.
We also follow The Conversation, independent source of news and views, from the academic and research community, generally but not always, the Canadian version. The range of topics is impressive and the reasoned academic treatment provides authoritative footnote material. Plus, every now and the something quirky shows up, like Where do all of James Bond’s gadgets come from? A geologist tells the raw truth
Ian Bremmer and his team at GZERO also supply us with an endless stream of informed commentary and opinion.

Project Syndicate Commentators’ Predictions for 2024
Among the big issues and trends that will dominate attention in the year ahead are threats to democracy, major wars, and looming economic risks. If there is any cause for hope, it will lie in promising innovations and the possibility that the center may yet hold in the face of increasingly destructive political movements.
Among them, Nina L. Khrushcheva:
“There is little indication that we will see an end to the current wars between Russia and Ukraine and between Israel and Hamas; nor can we discount the risk of China moving against Taiwan. If Donald Trump or another Republican wins the US presidential election in November, that could radically change some global configurations. Yet, despite Trump’s promises to end the war in Ukraine quickly, Russian President Vladimir Putin – who will almost certainly assume another six-year term in March – would be unlikely to agree to any settlement without major concessions from the other side”.

Major economic developments of 2023 and how they’ll evolve in 2024
With 2023 winding down, we asked six Brookings experts to take a moment to look back on some of the biggest economic policy developments of 2023 and the ways they expect them to evolve in 2024. Explore their reflections on fiscal policy, the social safety net, climate economics, and more.
The politics of AI: ChatGPT and political bias
The release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in late 2022 made a splash in the tech world and beyond. A December 2022 Harvard Business Review article termed it a “tipping point for AI,” calling it “genuinely useful for a wide range of tasks, from creating software to generating business ideas to writing a wedding toast.” Within two months after its launch, ChatGPT had more than 100 million monthly active users—reaching that growth milestone much more quickly than TikTok and Instagram.
Governance Studies’ most read articles in 2023: AI, elections, SCOTUS cases, and more

As we enter 2024, turmoil abounds.
In Africa, Sudan is the Worst Crisis in the World That Receives The Least Amount of Attention – Nearly 7 million people have been displaced, hunger is widespread and a hallmark of this civil war has been ethnic cleansing that may have crossed the threshold to genocide.

No solution to the Israel, Palestine/Gaza/Hamas conflict as long as Netanyahu remains obdurate that the war will continue until Hamas is destroyed.
The danger of a regional war in the Middle East is growing thanks to recent developments including the assassination of senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut, and last week’s killing – which Tehran blames on Israel – of an Iranian military official who oversaw the shipping of arms to Hezbollah.
Recent ramifications extend to the Red Sea where Iranian allied Houthi rebels have said they attacked ships in response to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza

As GZERO media reports, Both Ukraine and Russia started the new year with big bangs in their ongoing war. (Ukraine-Russia: New Year’s fireworks)
The announcement that Ukraine and Russia carried out the largest exchange of prisoners since the start of the war does not signal any reduction of the violence of Putin’s War, nor any hope of a truce in any form.

Europe’s big political stories to watch in 2024
Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on European politics.

One encouraging development in Asia is in Myanmar where the resistance is gaining ground
And this just in: Singapore‘s clandestine cats can soon legally call the city-state home Singapore plans to scrap the ban on cats in the government-built apartments that house the vast majority of Singaporeans later this year.

Check out Ian Bremmer: Hold us accountable: Our biggest calls for 2023 and in particular take note of 3. Weapons of Mass Disruption
“… A year ago, very, very few political leaders were actively thinking about the disruptive power of artificial intelligence. Now, the hopes and fears are front and center in every region of the world – but especially for decision-makers in America, China, and Europe. The UN is on the case now too.
We learned this year that new AI tools represent a unique technological breakthrough with implications for every sector of the economy. They’re already driving a new phase of globalization. But they’re also creating serious risks because AI will enable disinformation on a massive scale, fuel public mistrust in governing institutions, and empower demagogues and autocrats in both politics and the private sector..”

Not much happening in Canada as Tasha Kheiriddin writes: New year, same problems with Justin Trudeau
Rather than addressing the cost of living, Canada’s moribund military and immigration, the prime minister is doubling down. Actually, the PM is in Jamaica with the family, while most everyone else is in their home constituencies trying to drum up enthusiasm for their respective parties. But you may want to consider New Canadian laws and rules coming in 2024, and how they’ll affect you
However, Donald Savoie has raised one issue we should be paying attention to in 2024 Ottawa, we have a problem: the federal public service. We the people need to keep the politicians’ feet to the fire on this.

2024 opens with major controversy in the U.S. political and academic communities over the departure of Harvard President Claudine Gay amidst accusations of plagiarism, though many doubt that is the root of the problem. As might be expected, Wednesday Nighters have widely differing views. We will quote one friend, who is a distinguished American academic: “Harvard has egg all over its face and the right -–above all the insufferable Elise Stefanik–is gloating. Harvard utterly forgot the old Jackie Robinson rule: if you want to break the color barrier, you’ve got to be better than the whites, or at the very least just as good. No white man or woman with Gay’s pathetically thin list of publications-even if wholly innocent of plagiarism—would ever have ascended to the presidency of Harvard, and its choice of her did a grave disservice to other Black academics (men and woman) who [would] really have been distinguished enough to deserve the job that went to her. It will take Harvard a long time to live this down.”
As always, there is much more, including the run-up to the first primaries in the U.S. and the never-ending debate over the relative (and relevant) ages of Biden and Trump. However, we choose to end on a somewhat lighter note:

The real Word of the Year. We need to look back on 2023’s Word of the Year. Merriam-Webster has chosen “authentic,” but we beg to differ.
The uncontested Word of 2023 has to be “enshittification.” All credit for this brilliant neologism goes to Cory Doctorow, who applied it to certain well-known social media sites:
“Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.
I call this enshittification. . .” (Is Disqualifying Trump Anti-Democratic?)

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