It was a busy news week.
The president was in Asia attempting to prevent both North Korea from going nuclear and a rigged trading system from destroying the American economy. Roy Moore was attempting to hang in there so he can turn Alabama blue and turn the Senate over to the Democrats. Congress was trying to pass a tax bill that will benefit big (but not small) business and repeal the mandate that undergirds health care for the old and the sick. With all of that going on, you might have missed the really important news. Here it is:
In Bonn the 25,000 delegates gathered to consider the next step in implementing the Paris agreement to reduce CO2 emissions didn’t have Donald Trump to kick around anymore—he was busy trying to avoid a nuclear clash with North Korea and anyhow doesn’t agree with Ivanka that the globe is heating up.
So a quartet of politicians became “Next in Line to Lead on Climate Change,” as the New York Times put it. China’s Xi Jinping declared his country had taken the “driving seat” in international cooperation to respond to climate change. Canada’s Justin Trudeau declared his country “unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change.” And the E.U. duo of Germany’s “climate chancellor” Angela Merkel, and French president Emmanuel Macron have pledged to fill the gap created by the absence of American leadership.
How? Trudeau hosted a meeting of the world’s major economies. Merkel put climate change on the agenda of last year’s Group of 20 meeting. Macron will host a celebration of the Paris deal at year-end—the United States is not invited, but France has invited American scientists working on the subject to take up residence in the City of Light. And Xi is travelling from meeting to meeting saying he really cares. So where’s the beef?
Well, the new leadership team has a problem. Or four.
China will not agree to stop the increase in its emissions until 2030, until then their emissions will continue to rise.
Germany’s emissions are also rising due to its increased reliance on coal-fired generating stations—because Merkel shut down its nuclear industry. And Germany gives away 45 percent of its permits to pollute at no charge to industries that threaten to pull up stakes.
Macron may be about to follow Germany’s path to increased pollution. He has promised to cut France’s reliance on nuclear power for its electricity from 70 percent to 50 percent, prompting the group Energy for Humanity to write, “Any reduction in France’s nuclear generation will increase fossil fuel generation and pollution, given the low capacity factors and intermittency of solar and wind. Germany is a case in point.”
And Trudeau has approved expansion of Canada’s fossil fuel infrastructure, to the consternation of his nation’s environmentalists.
There has been other news, too.
In Britain, while America slept, a major retailer has stopped distinguishing between girls’ and boys’ clothes, and no longer has separate departments for those items lest it “reinforce gender stereotypes” among children. And, adds the Week, Cambridge University is considering allowing undergraduates to use laptops during exams because students are so beholden to their computers that examiners can no longer read their handwriting. No estimate of how many students have the strength of character to resist getting a bit of help from Google search.
In France, a country that has been more or less resigned to double-digit unemployment for decades—or at least reluctant to make the changes that might alleviate that problem—a shortage of butter has resulted from a cross-border raid by German buyers willing to pay 72 percent more than last year while big retailers in France refuse to offer more than a 6 percent raise. Supermarket shelves are bare, and one baker told the Economist, “It’s a true catastrophe, monsieur.” So, you might believe, is the rise in the rat population of Paris. Not so, Josette Benchetrit tells Britain’s Daily Telegraph. She and 25,000 Parisians have signed a petition calling the approximately $15 million dollar program to cull Paris’ rats “genocide. Rat phobia is an unwarranted social phenomenon. The poor unfortunates are being mercilessly killed . . . scapegoats.”
In America, the National Football League, its television audiences shrinking, its millionaire players feeling discriminated against by the police, its commissioner seeking a raise from around $30 million per annum to $50 million (plus lifetime use of a private jet), the battle to contain on-field violence continues.
Jets linebacker Darron Lee was fined $36,464 (the league’s ability to mete out fines so precisely calibrated to the nature of the offense is a statistical wonder) for roughing the passer and $9,115 for grabbing a facemask in one game. That brought his four fines this year to a total of $72,925. A piker compared to Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict, whose ten fines have cost him $2.6 million. The answer to Peter, Paul & Mary’s long-ago question, “When will they ever learn?” seems to be “never,” or at least until the NFL shows it really means to stop the violence, which many observers say would hurt viewing and attendance.
In the United Kingdom and the United States, the march of the socialists, red in tooth and claw, continues. Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn is considered likely to be a prime-minister-in-waiting for the next general election. He plans to renationalize whatever commanding heights remain in the British economy, raise taxes on whatever rich people fail to leave in Britain after he is elected, and otherwise return the country to the condition in which it found itself before Margaret Thatcher decided that there was nothing genteel about the decline which her civil servants were resigned to accept.
In New York, recently re-elected Mayor Bill de Blasio shared his view of what the electorate wants: “I think people all over this city, of every background, would like to have the city government be able to determine which building goes where, how high it will be, who gets to live in it, what the rent will be. I think there’s a socialist impulse . . . that they would like things to be planned in accordance to their needs. And I would, too. . . . If I had my druthers, the city government would determine every single plot of land, how development would proceed.” Unfortunately, says the mayor, “Our legal system is structured to favor private property.” Which is no problem for Corbyn: if elected with a parliamentary majority, he is more or less free to end such favoritism.
Finally, you might have missed two seemingly unrelated stories: In Britain, the Guardian reports that the £50 million Holocaust Memorial and Education Center to be erected in the shadow of Parliament is to be “an internationally recognized symbol against hatred. Its learning center will use the stories of the Holocaust to explore anti semitism, extremism, Islamophobia, homophobia and other forms of hatred and prejudice in society today.”
I suppose we Jews can be thankful we were included on the long list of those somehow related to the Holocaust, which killed six million of us. We were not so lucky in Ottawa. The plaque planned for Canada’s new National Holocaust Monument memorializes the “millions of men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust, and the “survivors who persevered and were able to make their way to Canada after one of the darkest chapters in history.”
Canada’s minister of Canadian Heritage, Mélanie Joly, ordered the plaque removed after coming under blistering criticism from the press and the opposition Conservative party for the plaque’s omission.
Rumors that the White House wit who drafted President Trump’s first statement to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and who also failed to mention Jews, was a consultant to the Ottawa monument are believed to be untrue.