Just watching TV in early January can fill you with foreboding about the year ahead

Jan 7th, 2020 | By | Category: In Brief
“Patio Luncheon, Weimar Republic,” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, January 2020.

[UPDATED JANUARY 9, 11, 2020]. On the northwest shore of the smallest North American Great Lake just watching the TV news in the early days of January can fill you with foreboding about the year 2020.

There are the wildfires and extreme heat in Australia. There is flooding in Indonesia. Then “China removes top official in Hong Kong after eight months of anti-government protests.”

And then : “Trump Declares War … It is, of course, possible that Trump is unaware of this” ; “Rockets fired after day of mourning for slain Iranian leader” ; “Anxiety, anticipation in Canada’s largest Iranian diaspora as news of Soleimani’s killing stuns” ; and “Camp Simba: Three Americans killed in Kenya base.”

A kangaroo rushes past a burning house in Lake Conjola, Australia, on December 31, 2019. Matthew Abbott/The New York Times/Redux.

Oh and don’t forget South America. See, eg, Tony Wood in the London Review of Books on “What next for Bolivia?” His conclusion begins : “There can be no doubt that the right is willing to spill blood to get its way: since the October elections, at least thirty people have been killed and more than seven hundred injured by the Bolivian security forces.”

In Canada we have made a lot of noise about our concern for the increasingly unusual wildfire season in our fellow Commonwealth Land of Oz down under. This past Saturday Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne tweeted : “Disturbing developments in Australia. I have been in touch with my counterpart @MarisePayne. Canada stands ready to provide additional assistance as required,”

“Following the killing of Iranian top military officer, Qaseem Soleimani by a US air strike ordered by President Donald Trump … Iraq’s parliament has called for the removal of US troops from the country.”

Yesterday it was reported that “Canadian fire teams flock to Australia to help with wild fires.” More exactly (and down to earth), “86 Canadian personnel have been sent to Australia as of January 6 … The latest deployment will replace the first group of 21 people who left on December 3.”

Here in my local home town “Toronto business donating proceeds to help with Australian fires.” But there are domestic environmental issues as well : “Experts say TTC subway air quality is bad for human health.”

Inevitably, the somewhat strange juxtaposition in the USA just next door, between lingering questions about what may or may not be President Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate and his sudden provocative sabre rattling on Iran, is on many Canadian minds, especially when some wild and crazy people are actually talking about World War III! (Like certain American comic books of the 1950s in my cousin’s vast collection.)

Kerry Washington at 2020 Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, CA — showing that there has been at least some good news in the new year inside the giant bubble of the USA today.

See, eg, “Lawyer describes chaos at border as Iranian-Canadians report being detained.” (The official US explanation seems to be that this was just delays caused by too many people crossing the border at the end of the holiday season.)

Inside the USA itself it is no doubt also interesting that “John Bolton says he would testify in Senate impeachment trial if subpoenaed.” But it seems that Republicans loyal to Trump have enough votes in the Senate to prevent any such subpoena.

I have been especially struck myself by yesterday’s US “Poll: 43 percent approve of Trump strike on Soleimani.”

I am just a Citizen X of course and whadda I know about American foreign policy? But when it comes to serious prospects of World War III I don’t quite see how any successful war can be prosecuted by Democracy in America when only a little better than 40% of the American people will likely support such a thing.

You can say that’s naive and it may be. Look what happened with George W. Bush’s original Iraq War not so long ago.

The political news is at least more attractive still further north : “Meet the new Government of Finland. From left to right: Minister of Education Li Andersson (32), Minister of Finance Katri Kulmuni (32), Prime Minister Sanna Marin (34) and Minister of Internal Affairs Maria Ohisalo (34).”

On the other hand, even George W. Bush’s Iraq War was ultimately a response to terrorist attacks on actual American soil, that have no remotely comparable analogues in the “Soleimani’s killing” which has stunned Canada’s Iranian diaspora (concentrated in the Toronto region). And probably the somewhat larger group of the same sort in Los Angeles was stunned as well.

Thoughts of this sort are at any rate helping me get through the night right now.

(Along with the thought that Jean Chretien’s Liberal Party of Canada at least kept us out of the Iraq War back then. Surely Justin Trudeau’s stewardship of the same “natural governing party” would do the same if Donald Trump’s America ever did prove crazy enough to embark on yet another big-time war in the Middle East, if not exactly World War III. And besides President Trump himself is allegedly on record as an opponent of the Iraq War, just like Prime Minister Chretien — if that means anything at all in the wild and crazy USA today.)

PostScript : Here are two intriguing statista charts that I bumped into just after I finished my jottings above : “Australia is Warming Faster than Global Average” by Katharina Buchholz ; and Niall McCarthy on “Where US Troops Are Based In The Middle East.” A Belated Happy New Year as well. X.

UPDATE JANUARY 9, 2020 : Various plots continue to thicken in various directions. The following half-dozen reports on the CBC News site sketch probably the biggest still developing story, from the standpoint of the northwest shore of the smallest North American Great Lake :

US President Donald Trump says no US casualties, Iran appears to be standing down” ; “What we know about the Iran plane crash victims who were headed to Canada … 63 passengers on Flight PS752 were Canadian citizens; many others had ties to the country” ; “Trudeau is just the latest PM to keep his distance from an American act of war” ; “Trudeau says evidence indicates Iranian missile brought down Ukrainian flight” ; “Iran denies that missile brought down Ukrainian airliner despite Canadian, US assertions” ; “So far, Iran is offering Canada only limited access to its crash probe.”

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS’ NOTE : Our commiserations to all those who mourn one or more of the 176 fallen passengers on Flight PS752 out of Tehran — 138 of whom were en route to Canada, and 63 of whom were Canadian citizens. And see this BBC News report from January 9 as well : “Iran plane crash: Why were so many Canadians on board?” We also agree with Citizen X btw that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Government of Canada are handling this difficult issue as it should be handled.

UPDATE JANUARY 11, 2020 : See “Ukrainian plane was ‘unintentionally’ shot down, Iran says … Military blames human error for mistaking jetliner as ‘hostile target’” ; and “57 Canadians confirmed dead in Ukrainian plane crash: Foreign Affairs Minister”. Meanwhile : “Australia urges hundreds of thousands to flee as winds fan huge bushfires … 27 people have been killed and 103,000 square kilometres of land burned” ; and “You’re looking at Canberra, the national capital, from the top of Red Hill. It’s getting worse by the minute. This is not normal!” (And btw, we’re also expecting massive rainfall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada today, and are concerned about basement flooding in our houses. Welcome to 2020.)

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