Wednesday Night #1610

Written by  //  January 9, 2013  //  Herb Bercovitz, Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

When good men die their goodness does not perish,
But lives though they are gone.  As for the bad,
All that was theirs dies and is buried with them. — Euripides

The memory of Raoul Wallenberg has been honored throughout the world  and now the Swedish government has established August 27 as a national holiday in his memory. Ron Meisels, who was one of the thousands of Hungarian Jews saved by Wallenberg, and Tony Deutsch, several of whose family members were also beneficiaries of the Swedish diplomat’s courageous and sometimes creative actions, reminded Wednesday Nighters of the story of his efforts.
During his lifetime, Raoul Wallenberg saved thousands of lives, while risking his own, by providing unauthorized documentation for potential victims who would otherwise have died in Nazi concentration camps.  He mysteriously disappeared from the scene while being held by the Soviets, where he is presumed to have died or have been murdered during his imprisonment.  Curiously, the Swedish government has not as yet opened up files that might throw some light on the fate of this true hero. [For much more on Wednesday Night's connections to Raoul Wallenberg see Wednesday Night #1577]

Nuclear energy
Douglas gave an update of the activities of the Lightfoot Institute and its search for funding for a film (he showed a trailer for the film) on the benefits of nuclear energy.
The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki clinched the immediate allied victory in World War II in the Pacific.  The terror resulting from those two bombs, well publicized in the press, has been reflected in the fear of nuclear energy ever since, reinforced by such events as Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and the recent Tsunami in Japan.  The fact is that Three Mile Island actually represents a demonstration of the safety of nuclear power. Chernobyl, on the other hand, resulted from flawed reactor design that was operated with inadequately trained personnel. And, in the case of Fukushima, the plants withstood the 9.0 earthquake, but lost power when flooded by the tsunami.
Douglas noted that there has been no talk of avoiding all tunnels since the unfortunate accidental cave-in at the entrance of the Ville Marie tunnel in Montreal.
We have been living, as it were, off the bones of our ancestors for many years as we rely on fossil fuels, which are becoming increasingly difficult and/or expensive to extract.  Wind and solar power, although useful, require backup power to provide constant, uninterrupted service. Nuclear energy, when viewed objectively, provides the safest, most reliable constant energy for the future.

Markets
The Wednesday Night resident investment guru predicts a strong January and February, not as strong, however, as previously predicted because of the constantly hanging Fiscal Cliff.  This prediction is strengthened by the result of the bellwether FTSE, the stock exchange, which has hit a new three year high.

P R O L O G U E

We are happy to remind you FOR YOUR CALENDAR: “Serving the Royals”, the latest documentary by John Curtin premieres on CBC Doc Zone at 9 pm, Thurs, Jan. 17th, 2013. See the Trailer

Meanwhile – a sign that it is a new year – the media in all its forms is urgently filling up our respective calendars with lists of meetings and events that we should be paying attention to. These would include everything from Mr. Harper’s meeting with the Assembly of First Nations on Friday, to the Second Inauguration of Barack Obama on January 21st , followed by the annual global love-fest for movers, shakers and wannabes at Davos (January 23-27), the State of the Union Address; and the Quebec post-secondary education Summit in mid-February [A propos the last, we are informed by one Wednesday Nighter that the heads of all of the Universities of Quebec have been asked to provide full reports on their activities and the state of their campuses to none other than Summit co-chair Léo Blouin Bureau]. Considering that he only has a CEGEP degree, this is a bit rich.
The G20 Leaders Summit in St. Petersburg doesn’t meet until September 5th, but you can keep busy simply monitoring G20 activities throughout the year.

Pundits are flagging the important elections, starting with Israel (Jan. 22 – need we point out one day after President Obama’s inauguration and one day before Davos opens?); then Italy (Feb 24) – Eric Reguly has a good piece on Italy’s wide-open election will determine intensity of euro crisis this year; Kenya in March;  Iran on June 14;  Germany (sometime between the end of August and the end of October). Not to mention the assorted potential geopolitical crises for which we should prepare (see Predictions for 2013 for a sampling).

The volatile situation in the Middle East continues – Assad’s speech on Sunday offered no solutions; Israel is bent on more settlements and now wants to build an electrified fence on the Golan Heights – understandable but will certainly cause unfavorable reactions; while Egypt is facing a currency crisis.

The AFN meeting is bound to be difficult as there are a number of indications that the Idle No More grassroots movement is not necessarily always in line with some of the priorities of the Assembly of First Nations and the Harper government, unyielding on some key issues in the past, is not likely to change course quickly – if at all – especially on those that relate to provisions contained in Bill C-45. Giving credence to some of the First Nations’ claims, Oilsands Pollution: Government Study Provides Conclusive Proof Development Damaging Alberta Lakes, Say Researchers
The release of the findings of the independent audit of Attawapiskat by Deloitte and Touche is also likely to colour the meeting. One of the best backgrounders we have read is the Ottawa Citizen op-ed The treaty relationship must evolve by Richard Van Loon (thank you, Ron Robertson). We would also commend the recent piece by Adam Goldenberg in the Ottawa Citizen which raises the question of how effective blockades are in rousing public opinion (rouse they do, but not always as we would wish).

The U.S. will continue to be the focus of much attention as the fiscal cliff crisis morphs into (another) debt ceiling crisis. According to reports, the 14th amendment option (which holds that Congress doesn’t have the power to use the debt ceiling as a hostage-taking device because the validity of the debt “shall not be questioned.”) is gaining popularity among Democrats on the Hill. But the White House is leery, saying it doesn’t believe the U.S. Constitution gives it authority to bypass Congress when it comes to issuing debt. Bloomberg gives good background here

Not everyone is happy with President Obama’s choice of Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, but we believe it to be a good one and precisely for the reasons, according to Slate, that the Republicans don’t, e.g. They fear that Hagel will cut the military budget. They fear that he’ll roll over if Iran builds a nuclear weapon. They fear that he’s too reluctant to use military force generally. And they fear he doesn’t much like Israel; the extremists on this point claim he’s anti-Semitic. On the latter point, we suggest careful reading of the article to ascertain the difference between anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.  The President has a number of other high-level appointments to make, but the one of greatest interest after Sec Defense and Sec State is likely the person who will replace Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury. It is rumored to be White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew. His qualifications are very strong and he has background [for eight years, he was a principal domestic policy advisor to the legendary House Speaker Tip O’Neill] that should enable him to deal effectively with Congress.

The Financial Times reports that the Transatlantic trade talks[are] near lift-off despite the numerous inherent problems, which reminds us that we haven’t heard anything about the Canada-EU agreement since Paul Wells reminded us that Stephen Harper had set the beginning of this year as the deadline for negotiations to be completed. Not much enlightenment on the CETA page of the government’s website.

In the how-quickly-we-forget category: remember General Stanley McChrystal? The former head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who was profiled in a Rolling Stone article that led to his firing. He is about to publish his memoirs in which, according to Foreign Policy, he states that he was shocked by the article. It’s hard to believe that the general did not understand that an embedded writer is likely to write about what he hears and sees. It’s also hard to believe that he would admit to being blindsided in such an elementary way. What is wrong with American generals these days?

For a moment of levity that gives a new meaning to ‘cat burglar’, Reuters reports that a cat carrying a saw and a mobile phone was “detained” as it entered a prison gate in northeast Brazil … A closer look showed the feline also carried drills, an earphone, a memory card, batteries and a phone charger. All 263 detainees in the prison … are considered suspect in the plot. We don’t suppose that authorities would believe that the cat was merely offering technical assistance?

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