Wednesday Night #1633

Written by  //  June 19, 2013  //  Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

The Scribe’s reflections
This week`s salon witnessed a sad discussion on the depth and breadth of emphasis on relatively minor differences in human beings when compared to their similarities.  Perhaps Darwin was right; if so, one must inevitably ask whether the differences between humans are so great that the survivors will be superior to their predecessors.  Your scribe believes otherwise.

It was curiously appropriate that on the eve of World Refugee Day the focus of the discussion was on events in Syria and the displacement  of so many in the Middle East.

            On reflection, perhaps the Biblical Tower of Babel was not vertical but horizontal, and perhaps, it is being re-enacted today; perhaps the modern version relates neither to language nor religion but to the human appetite for greed, power, influence and affluence.  The U.S. has learned the lesson of the consequences of intervention in internecine conflicts, but Russia and Iran are involved in the current attempt to undo this Gordian knot.

The government of Iran is said to be controlled by fifteen families; ethnic groups cannot be divided geographically as they share the same physical space.  There is no realistic option for the West but to observe and use any diplomatic means no matter how ineffective, in the light of the aftermath of its recent interventions in Libya and Iraq.  As for the United Nations, that body cannot possibly enforce the peaceful evolution of the cradle of civilization.  As the Earth revolves, endlessly, change is constant and the Planet is no longer dominated by the West, the pattern is no longer set by the orderly pattern established by the British and such aphorisms as `The sun never sets on the British Empire` but has given way to a contemporary version of the Biblical Babel, it is to be hoped, that a common language of peaceful cohabitation may still be restored.

If the country were geographically divided along ethnic and/or religious lines, as had been the case in Yugoslavia, the solution would have been much less difficult.

On reflecting on current world events, the question inevitably arises as to whether the current conflict in the Middle East portends the end of civilization or its phoenix-like rebirth from the ashes of its self-destruction.

The word from the Market Seers is that a correction is in the stars for the current major bull market, the correction anticipated in mid-2014, with a drop of twenty percent anticipated over nine months.  It is anticipated, however, that it will never return to its 2008 level.  In the intermediate term, it is expected that the end of July, the market will achieve a high, followed by a low, then rise once more towards the middle of 2014.

Reportedly, realistic unemployment figures have been historically as well as currently understated as they are reduced by those discouraged individuals who have given up seeking employment and/or have exhausted their Employment Insurance benefits.

 

International law is applied selectively.

There has been no consistently applied rule of law so we are now in a mess.

It has been reported that Assad took to the air and said
‘if you want to replace me, with whom are you going to replace me?’

Lebanon was a French attempt to have a French Christian country [in the Middle East].

Syria is more advanced and intervention will lead to a religious war –so will non-intervention.

A lot of the conflict in the Middle East is  over division of wealth between ethnic origins.

Population is growing more rapidly than employment.

P R O L O G U E

What a week – where to start? We will try alphabetically and promise not to include all 26 letters…  

A is for ApplebombMontreal mayor resigns amid corruption charges is there anyone in the world who doesn’t know by now that Montreal is seriously vying for the Canadian title of MP (Most Problematic) City in Canada? Why would anyone want to be Mayor? And yet, hidden among the oppressive number of news items about (interim) Mayor Applebaum’s arrest (just Google it) was the announcement that a courageous and attractive young woman has thrown her hat in the ring – we applaud Mélanie Joly and wish her well. Now, what about Beryl?

E for espionage – that includes whistleblowers when the NSA is involved – and Edward Snowden, hero or villain? Slate offers multiple opinions, all making valid points. Of interest also is Sunday’s Meet The Press which, as usual, included a wide range of views.

G for G8 – or as Stephen Harper described the rift over Syria, the G7 plus one. The summit was to have focused on trade liberalization, tax reform, and transparency in development, according to the Issues Guide from the Council on Foreign Relations, however it appears that Syria has become the dominant issue. Reuters reports that David Cameron will try to move the conversation to taxation and closing international loopholes, as well as agreement not to pay ransom to kidnappers.  Stay tuned.

H for history – and the teaching thereof. We don’t expect to examine the topic this week, but hope that over the next while, Wednesday Nighters will gather their thoughts (news items and references) on the Harper government’s intent to reshape the teaching of Canadian history. To get you started, we suggest Andrew Cohen: Politicizing Canadian history – you may not agree with him, but he raises excellent points.

J for Justin – what/who else? – and the controversy over his speaker’s fees. The story has grown murkier with Kady O’Malley’s The (Not So) Purloined Letter: Who tipped off PMO to the Grace Foundation complaint? [Update: not to mention the story from Barrie Ontario — PM’s office sends financial details of Trudeau speech to newspaper]
In our opinion, it was an error in judgement, if not ethics, to accept fees once he was elected, but it is obvious that he was not alone in charging for appearances and the debate will continue.

P for pipelines – the most diabolical of environmentalists could not have designed a more unfavourable scenario for the Northern Gateway hearings. We can only evoke the Scarlet Pimpernel: They’re leaking here; they’re leaking there; the pipelines’ leaking everywhere. As the Oil & Gas Journal puts it: Small pipeline leak makes big noise in Canadian politics

Q for la belle province of course – and the introduction of legislation enabling medically assisted death. Whatever one’s opinion regarding the issue, it is fair to say that the manner in which the legislation was introduced was commendably nonpartisan and respectful. Let us hope that the debate will be equally so.
Any other events of the past week dimmed in light of the soccer turban controversy which mercifully has been resolved. And as the National Assembly recesses for the summer, we can hope to be spared further follies.

R for Hasan Rouhani, victor in the Iranian election – some believe his election to be a poisoned chalice, but surely the alternatives were worse and let us try to work with him. The Guardian reminds us that Iran’s president does not have authority to set major policies such as the direction of the nuclear programme or relations with the west. All such decisions rest with the ruling clerics and the powerful Revolutionary Guard, which have so far appeared to embrace Rouhani.He can, however, use his margin of victory and his influential connections, including the former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to try to sway policies.

S is of course for Syria – the focus of much of the G8 off-the-menu discussion. We applaud Mr. Harper’s declaration in London – and calling out of the Russians –  as we, too, worry about in whose hands the arms supplied by western nations will fall. Former ambassador Paul Heinbecker advocates western intervention, but clearly defines the pitfalls. It is a fraught situation with repercussions for friends and foes in the region. Last Friday’s segment of PBS Newshour with Vali Nasr, former State Department official, and former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski offers on of the most lucid analyses of the options available to western governments.
But of course the final word belongs to Sarah Palin: Let Allah sort it out.

T for Turkey,  the unexpectedly fierce confrontations between protesters and authorities, and the public (international) surfacing of Prime Minister Erdogan’s autocratic regime. The New York Times reminds us that for all the praise that has been heaped on Turkey as an ally, her past is no model for a democratic future. Earlier leaders, including Ataturk, were just as authoritarian as Erdogan.  Although the situation was somewhat calmer on Monday, the divisions between urban and rural populations have become much clearer, and the Financial Times reports that Ankara is moving to introduce new measures against social media as it continues its crackdown, and has warned striking unions not to join the demonstrations. More trouble can be expected, along with delays in negotiation of Turkey’s entry into the EU.

W for Wendi Deng, about-to-be divorced 3rd wife of Rupert Murdoch. There are rumors that salacious details will come out involving some very public figures; whether or not that is true, there is sure to be a battle royal over alimony.

Z for Saulie Zajdel – whose arrest aroused more than average schadenfreude in some hearts. Another body for Stephen Harper (or his surrogate James Moore) to throw under the bus – seems the Conservatives were astonished that “He did not disclose this [presumably his questionable activities] to us through the screening process” – it must have been an oversight….

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