Wednesday Night #2186

Written by  //  February 7, 2024  //  Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #2186

Enter the Year of the Dragon
Although the prelude to the Chinese lunar new year is less than promising (Blizzards disrupt lunar new year travel for millions in ChinaFlights and trains cancelled as heavy snow and freezing rain leave many stranded during busiest travel period), according to NBC The Year of the Dragon could be lucky — but only if we’re kind to one another
The year’s dragon sign is a wood dragon. The element of wood is seen in Daoist tradition as a return to the natural state of being, which in the dragon’s case, points to a return to kindness. And Confucian thought interprets wood as a symbol of unlimited potential.
“I’m seeing this wood Dragon year as a year of unlimited potential in terms of prosperity. Long-term, it could also be the year in which major conflict can be resolved, if people can focus on empathy,” said Jonathan H. X. Lee, a professor of Chinese folklore and religion at San Francisco State University. “If we continue our tribal thinking and selfish thinking, we’re not going to achieve it.”
With ongoing wars across the globe and with the United States in an election year, he said, it’s important to approach contentious discussions in good faith.

Sadly, the world does not give signs of any predisposition to approaching contentious discussions in good faith.
As we nervously eye Thursday’s (no doubt rigged) elections in Pakistan, hope for any agreement between Israel and Hamas has been dismissed by Netanyahu – Israeli PM Netanyahu says in a press conference that war in Gaza will continue until “victory” is achieved, one day after receiving Hamas response to truce deal.
Closer to home, but with international ramifications: Senate GOP blocks border deal; future of Ukraine, Israel aid unclear -National security spending for key U.S. allies will receive its own vote after the failure to pass border package.
The Economist nails the problem: …this week Republicans in the House of Representatives…sabotaged their own policy priorities to hurt President Joe Biden. Their cynicism makes America weaker, and gives comfort to its enemies.
For the past couple of years Republicans have made much of the chaos at the southern border, with good reason. There were 302,000 attempts by irregular migrants to cross in December alone. Knowing that Democrats wanted to pass a bill to supply Ukraine with fresh military aid, the House leadership paired the two issues, thinking that by doing so they could drive a harder bargain on immigration. A bipartisan group of senators went away and worked on a border compromise, the results of which are broadly in line with what Republicans had sought. The proposals would have helped reduce the flow of people coming across the southern border, which is a priority for voters.
An alarming sidebar concerns the continuing attack on the funding of UNRWA.
‘Reckless’: Proposed ban on US funding for UNRWA raises alarm
Advocates say growing bipartisan support for curbs to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees is ‘concerning’ and ‘reckless’.
A United States security bill that would curtail funding to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees is raising alarm, as rights advocates say a years-long effort to dismantle the agency is gaining steam amid Israel’s war on Gaza.
The proposed $118bn legislation, a draft of which (PDF) was blocked in the US Senate on Wednesday, includes a provision prohibiting Washington from allocating any funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
Did China meddle in Canada’s elections?
The subject is of acute interest to American lawmakers. Conservative Party foreign affairs critic, Michael Chong, was invited to appear before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China last fall to talk about a Chinese intimidation campaign against his relatives in Hong Kong. Chong said Western allies could work harder to translate intelligence into evidence to be used by judicial systems and could even go public with intelligence to counter disinformation.

Extreme weather bookends the continent as central Chile suffers the ravages of fierce forest fires
Storms lashed the Maritimes, and California as Grammys continued despite the dangerous storm outside.
Even as the mayor of Los Angeles urged people to stay home and avoid danger from the heavy rainfall that deluged Southern California on Sunday, the Grammy Awards ceremony continued at the downtown Arena in all of its usual grandeur. Two surprises: Joni Mitchell sings and Céline Dion appears

Nayib Bukele’s popularity steers him toward an unprecedented second term as president of El Salvador
In El Salvador, the official results of Sunday’s presidential elections are still not in, but that didn’t stop President Nayib Bukele from declaring victory on social media — and he looks slated to win. He was up for reelection, in a country that doesn’t allow reelection in its constitution. Bukele is extraordinarily popular. But many say the future is concerning.

Government & governance
Trump has no immunity from Jan. 6 prosecution, appeals court rules
A federal appeals court has unanimously ruled that Donald Trump can be put on trial for trying to stay in power after losing the 2020 election, rejecting Trump’s sweeping claim of presidential immunity as dangerous and unsupported by the Constitution.
The ruling is one of several expected this spring that could determine whether Trump will campaign for president this fall from behind bars — and whether he is able to compete for reelection at all. It comes days before the Supreme Court considers another untested question raised by Trump’s candidacy: whether the former president is an insurrectionist prohibited by the Constitution from returning to the White House because of his actions around Jan. 6, 2021.
Anthony Zurcher & Matt Murphy of the BBC believe Donald Trump’s failed immunity appeal is still a win for his delay strategy
The Rise of Techno-authoritarianism
Silicon Valley has its own ascendant political ideology. It’s past time we call it what it is.
The new technocrats claim to embrace Enlightenment values, but in fact they are leading an antidemocratic, illiberal movement.
To worship at the altar of mega-scale and to convince yourself that you should be the one making world-historic decisions on behalf of a global citizenry that did not elect you and may not share your values or lack thereof, you have to dispense with numerous inconveniences—humility and nuance among them.
Byron Haskins asks Why is being a criminal rogue state so in fashion globally these days?

This time, the far-right threat is real
In 2024, the right-wing surge in the polls seems bigger and bolder, with one predicting the nationalist right and far right could pick up nearly a quarter of seats in the European Parliament in June.
Even if the center right — currently tipped to come first in the election — refuses to form a governing coalition with ever more powerful firebrand fringe parties, there’s still a significant chance the far right will, for the first time, be able to influence Europe’s policy agenda.

And in Canada/Quebec The Legault government intends to renew the use of the controversial notwithstanding clause to override fundamental rights and shield its state secularism law, known as Bill 21, from court challenges.

Andrew Caddell devotes this week’s touching column to ‘Catherine’s Law’, the Bill introduced by Désirée McGraw marking Oct. 15 Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day in Quebec in honour of her daughter Catherine.
As Allison Hanes: (A law to honour the ‘little ones, lost forever’) points out: “It was a moment of deep political and personal significance for the rookie parliamentarian. Bill 595 is the first and only piece of legislation presented by an opposition member to be passed since the 2022 election — and unanimously at that. It was also the first law sanctioned by newly sworn-in lieutenant governor Manon Jeannotte, who entered her post just a week earlier.” Bravo Désirée, Andrew, and the media who covered the story with empathy and sensitivity.

While the stand-off between the CAQ government and Anglo Quebecers and their allies continues, the big story of the week is the CAQ government’s decision to spend $870M on a new roof for the Olympic Stadium. However, Allison Hanes opines that Fixing the Olympic Stadium is the least worst optionLike it or not, pouring even more money into Montreal’s Big Owe is the only way to recoup some of what has already been invested.
Tom Mulcair points to the disappointing performance of minister responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebecers Eric Girard For anglos, Girard’s silence is deafening. He also cites increasing unease among US officials regarding certain provisions of Bill 96.
Kyle Matthews notes: Will direct flights from Montreal to the US be cancelled? “By tinkering with the temporary stay provisions of Bill 101 and removing the ability to renew the three-year eligibility certificates for English school, Legault has put American customs agents at Trudeau airport in a bind.”

Kyle also appeared on CTV News to discuss the linked topics of concern digital authoritarianism and foreign interference.

An Optimist’s Guide to the Planet captures Nikolaj Coster Waldau’s search for people across the globe who are helping drive humanity toward a brighter, more sustainable future. (YouTube)

Chinese firm behind ‘news’ websites pushes pro-Beijing content globally, researchers find
(Reuters) – More than 100 websites disguised as local news outlets in Europe, Asia and Latin America are pushing pro-China content in a widespread influence campaign linked to a Beijing public relations firm, digital watchdog Citizen Lab has found.
The sites’ content sways between conspiracy theories, often about the United States or its allies – such as a piece blaming American scientists for “leaking” COVID-19 – to articles attacking Beijing’s critics.
Spread over websites in 30 countries, the propaganda material is interspersed with news aggregated from local news outlets and Chinese state media, according to a research report the Toronto-based group released on Wednesday.

The thoroughly dislikeable, serial liar masquerading as a journalist, Tucker Carlson, having ‘liberated Canada’ jetted off to Moscow to interview Putin. Is Tucker Carlson in Moscow for Putin? – An interview with the Russian president would be “an epochal event,” one Russian Telegram channel crows.
However, As Russian state television propagandists salivated over Tucker Carlson’s interview with President Vladimir Putin, the first of Carlson’s falsehoods about his visit to Moscow was punctured, fittingly enough, by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who presumably helped arrange the whole strange venture.
NB In his MSNBC days, Tucker Carlson was a Putin cynic

Turning Rideau Cottage into prime minister’s permanent home comes with cost: docs
The three options under consideration include “establishing Rideau Cottage as the permanent residence,” according to a heavily redacted briefing note prepared for Privy Council Office staff last May, labelled “secret.”

Long reads/listens
Netanyahu, the Palestinians, and the Price of Neglect
By Aluf Benn
(Foreign Affairs) October 7 was the worst calamity in Israel’s history. It is a national and personal turning point for anyone living in the country or associated with it. Having failed to stop the Hamas attack, the IDF has responded with overwhelming force, killing thousands of Palestinians and razing entire Gazan neighborhoods. But even as pilots drop bombs and commandos flush out Hamas’s tunnels, the Israeli government has not reckoned with the enmity that produced the attack—or what policies might prevent another. Its silence comes at the behest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has refused to lay out a postwar vision or order. Netanyahu has promised to “destroy Hamas,” but beyond military force, he has no strategy for eliminating the group and no clear plan for what would replace it as the de facto government of postwar Gaza.
His failure to strategize is no accident. Nor is it an act of political expediency designed to keep his right-wing coalition together. To live in peace, Israel will have to finally come to terms with the Palestinians, and that is something Netanyahu has opposed throughout his career.

Don’t Count on a Soft Landing for the Global Economy
Kenneth Rogoff
Despite analysts’ increasingly optimistic forecasts for the coming year, the risks to global growth are still tilted to the downside. In fact, recent developments in China, Europe, and the United States suggest that the world economy’s biggest challenges may lie ahead.

A critical moment between the US and Iran-backed proxies in the Middle East (podcast)
In the wake of a drone attack in Jordan by a militia in Iraq that killed three US soldiers, the US has conducted airstrikes across the region against armed groups backed by Iran. The retaliation follows a pattern of similar strikes that led to the deadly attack in Jordan, and now the US must figure out its strategy for retaliation — a search for tactics that are proportional but prevent further escalation. Host Carolyn Beeler talks with Matthew Tueller, a former US ambassador to Iraq between 2019 and 2022, about whether a perfect strategy even exists.

Joseph S. Nye, Jr.: American Greatness and Decline
If Donald Trump wins back the White House in November, this year could mark a turning point for American power. Finally, the fear of decline that has preoccupied Americans since the colonial era would be justified.

Uncancel Woodrow Wilson
Despised as a racist by today’s left and a tyrant by today’s right, the 28th president championed a set of values that our politics sorely lack.
By David Frum

Best and Worst Moments From the 2023 Emmys
Most of the awards on Monday night went to favored shows like “Succession” and “The Bear.” But the ceremony, delayed from September, still had a few surprises.

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