Farewell to the slippery summer of 2023 — pointing in so many new directions at once, around the global village ??

Sep 4th, 2023 | By | Category: In Brief
Michael Seward, “2 People Talking 2023 acrylic on canvas 4 x 4 feet.”

NORTH AMERICAN NOTEBOOK. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO . LABOUR DAY, MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2023. This is the last day of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto — sibling of the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) in Vancouver, which also ends today.

In my personal Toronto history the last day at the Ex starts with the Labour Day Parade, which will finally burst through the CNE’s Dufferin Gate, after an extended stroll along Queen Street West, starting more or less at City Hall.

In fact I am not going to the Ex this Labour Day 2023. Or as is said south of the northern US border Labor Day 2023.

At the heart of the Bay Area : A view of the San Francisco skyline between the Golden Gate and Bay bridges. (David Hayashida).

For one thing both my wife and I long ago gave up going to the Ex every year, let alone every Labour Day, as we grow older and older. (And seriously younger people have largely vanished from the house — though this summer was happily enlivened by a visit from grandsons [10, 9, and 8] who currently live in the Bay area of northern California.)

For another thing, we have enjoyed afternoon cappuccinos on our front porch this summer. And we have studied people and cars (and bicycles, assorted baby carriages, and sometimes even canoes) going to the beach at the foot of our street, on the city’s Great Lakes shoreline.

Between cappuccinos and buttered croissants we have also been somewhat overwhelmed by the big events in the history of the world that 2023 seems to be advancing.

Toronto Labour Day Parade on Queen Street West, 1905 — 118 years ago.

Consider, eg, what is happening on just four historical fronts, in the air during this summer that is now about to end — culturally in North America at any rate, if not quite meteorologically (or is it astronomically?) north of the equator in the world at large.

(It’s the end of winter in Canada’s fellow former self-governing British dominion of Australia, and similar southern places right now, eg, just already followed by spring! And wherever you are, “2 People Talking” is one of the big things that the rest of 2023, in the serious fall and winter up here, ought to be all about!)

ONE : Wildfires and climate change in Canada and elsewhere

Gerald Kutney is a columnist with Canada’s National Observer and the author of Climate Denial in American Politics #ClimateBrawl, to be published in paperback by Routledge early this December. This past Friday, September 1 at 5 PM ET he tweeted (on the site now just called X) : “The summer of 2023 … the season that Canada burned … and burned … and burned.”

According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre as of September 3, 2023, there are 1,085 active wildfires in Canada — 713 Out of Control, 159 Being Held, and 213 Under Control. So far this year some 16.4 million hectares of land have burned to the ground, and this is the worst in the country’s recorded history. The largest number of fires in 2023 so far have been in BC, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest and Yukon territories.

For evidence that all this is a global issue linked to climate change and far from exclusive to Canada see Anna Fleck’s August 31, 2023 statista article, “Wildfires Ravage Southern Europe.”

My eye doctor was on holiday in Greece this summer. Like many others (including myself) he believes the wildfires of 2023 are incontrovertible evidence that the world is facing new climate change issues, which will finally have to be dealt with by constructive public policy. Now, if only …

TWO : Is the Biden administration actually making progress on a sensible long-term US China policy?

“Shanghai Party Secretary Chen Jining (right) gestures as he shakes hands with US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo before a meeting in Shanghai on August 30, 2023.”

US commerce secretary Gina Raimondo’s recent visit to China has at least raised the prospect in my mind that the Biden administration may be making more progress on an effective US China policy than it’s being given credit for — as with so much else that President Biden is doing.

For the essential data see David Shepardson’s August 30, 2023 Reuters’ report : “US Commerce chief leaves China on upbeat note after ‘uninvestible’ remark.”

Ana Swanson and Keith Bradsher, reporting from Shanghai for the New York Times, express some scepticism in their August 31 piece, “The U.S. and China Are Talking Again. Where It Will Lead Is Unclear. … Gina Raimondo, the U.S. commerce secretary, and her Chinese counterparts agreed to continue economic talks, but such dialogues have a disheartening record.”

For what it’s worth, I was nonetheless impressed by what I heard on TV of the initial Chinse reaction to the visit. And then I was impressed again by the sober report I also heard on TV from Ms Raimondo herself. My sense is that both the US and China have too much self-interest in some kind of benign relationship between the world’s current two biggest economic players, to give in to the voices that foolishly want some real political and economic conflict, on both sides.

THREE : India lands on the moon while its “ Top Court Suspends Rahul Gandhi’s Conviction”.

“People in Mumbai celebrate the successful lunar landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the south pole of the Moon on August 23.”

Two recent events have also raised my hopes for the future of the world’s largest democracy in India, despite continuing uncomfortable feelings about PM Narendra Modi’s current Hindu nationalist obsessions.

To start with, see Sammy Westfall’s Washington Post observations on “India’s moon landing sets the tone for a new type of space race … More than 200,000 miles from the ‘pale blue dot’ where human history has unfolded, the fates met by two small robots on the surface of the moon tell the stories of shifting international politics on their planet of origin.”

At the same time, just in case all this moon-landing success (cf recent Russian performance on this front!) goes a little too much to PM Modi’s troubling nationalist head, I had been reassured by Shruti Mahajan’s and Bibhudatta Pradhan’s Bloomberg News piece in early August 2023, “Top Court in India Suspends Rahul Gandhi’s Conviction.”

“Rahul Gandhi, a senior leader of India’s main opposition Congress party, arrives at the parliament after he was reinstated as a lawmaker, in New Delhi, India, August 7, 2023. REUTERS/Stringer.”

The first three paragraphs here nicely summarize the logic of what’s going on :

“India’s top court stayed Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in a high-stakes defamation case, enabling the opposition leader to seek his reinstatement as a lawmaker and to contest general elections due next year …

“In their judgment, a three-person Supreme Court bench said that Gandhi’s conviction impacts not only him, but also ‘the rights of the electorate who have elected him to represent their constituency’ …

“Gandhi, 53, the leader of the main opposition Congress party, was sentenced to two years in jail by a lower court for allegedly making defamatory remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname during an election rally in 2019.”

FOUR : Meanwhile Inside USA it’s been the Summer of Donald Trump and Fani Willis (and much else … and in Canada Justin Trudeau may or may not be in big trouble too)

In the most important sense the Supreme Court in India is on the opposite side of the current international struggle for democracy (from which China’s large economy is largely exempt!) than the Supreme Court in the United States. But an intelligent defence team for the Donald Trump now facing four criminal trials (as unlikely as that may be) might find the Indian justice’s ‘rights of the electorate who have elected him to represent their constituency’ intriguing.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who has used Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to charge former President Trump and 18 of his allies with conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia.

Closer to the real world, I first happily bumped into the continuing faith in democracy in America and the US Constitution currently shown by some Georgia Republicans in a tweet about a Huffington Post article : “‘Reckless’: Georgia Republican Knocks GOP Calls To Defund Fani Willis. Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns wrote that targeting the Fulton County district attorney flouts ‘the idea of separation of powers.’”

Then the Associated Press reported from Atlanta that “Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday offered his strongest denunciation to date of efforts by his fellow Republicans to go after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, dismissing the moves as ‘political theater that only inflames the emotions of the moment.’”

There is still no doubt all too much room for many a slip between cup and lip before Ms Willis gets her racketeering enterprise safely into court for trial. But the good free and democratic cause in US politics remains far from hopeless.

* * * *

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, centre, and Conservative Lader Pierre Poilievre prepare to march in the Lunar New Year parade, in Vancouver, on Jan. 22, 2023.”

CANADA, CANADA, CANADA : Meanwhile back at the ranch, more than a few are now saying that the Ottawa age of Justin Trudeau has all but ended — and the current polls only make this all too clear, as they have for some time. Despite a misleading headline, however, the latest Nanos poll may offer some food for divergent thought.

The headline on the CTV News report on the subject (by Spencer Van Dyk and published at 7 AM on August 31, 2023) is “Conservatives maintain months-long lead over Liberals, as Canadians’ economic anxiety rises: Nanos.”

But the fine print below the headline may be more revealing : “The latest Nanos numbers show the Conservatives ahead of the Liberals with 33.1 per cent and 29.7 per cent respectively. The NDP are at 21.7 per cent ,,, It’s a narrower gap than earlier in the month, when the Conservatives reached 36.6 per cent, compared to the Liberals with 27.2 per cent. But it continues a trend of the Liberals being ensconced in second place to the Conservatives since February.”

Or, it could signal a break in the trend since February. In round numbers the latest Nanos results are Cons 33%, Libs 30%, NDP 22%. The Libs are arguably governing until October 2025 based on a written confidence and supply agreement with the NDP. And the Libs and NDP together have 52% to the Cons 33%!

Michael Seward, “Joycean History of the Earth 2023 acrylic on canvas 4 x 4 feet.”

No wonder, some might say, that NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is feeling his oats lately. But is this really the end of PM Justin Trudeau and a fresh welcome mat for PM Poilievre? I agree that on TV and so forth PM Trudeau’s looking somewhat pensive lately. But that may even be a good thing.

Meanwhile again, I’m ending this meandering and excessively long report here (1725 words!) with the best literary fragment I’ve stumbled across over the past several weeks.

As an added attraction it also speaks to many key current issues, constitutional, legal, and political struggles, and much else, as the summer of 2023 fades into a glorious sunset over the lake. It is a short poem by the late Buffalo (and then Baltimore) poet Lucille Clifton (1936-2010), called “why some people be mad at me sometimes.” And it goes :

“they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and i keep on remembering

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