Wednesday Night #1676

Written by  //  April 16, 2014  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Sorry, Snowden: Putin Lied to You About His Surveillance State—And Made You a Pawn of It
(Daily Beast via HuffPost) In a bizarre televised appearance the NSA whistleblower now resident in Russia asked Putin if he spied on his own citizens the way the Americans do on theirs. Putin, predictably, said no. Edward Snowden Asked Putin About Surveillance

This story has been updated to reflect comments from Edward Snowden’s American lawyer.
T H E P R O L O G U E
Among other historic events, the year 1676 was notable for the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish war.
Not a good omen as the situation in eastern Ukraine continues to escalate and deteriorate. The news comes thick and fast, however PBS offered good analysis on Monday night’s Newshour   Examining the campaign of pro-Russian fervor in Eastern Ukraine , while in a recent article in Project Syndicate,  Putin’s Calculus, Joseph Nye asks whether Russia’s-short-term gains in-Ukraine will be worth the long term loss of soft power. Several Wednesday Nighters have been debating the efficacy of trade sanctions (see last comment on Ukraine 2014), but everyone seems to agree that the sanctions now in effect are little more than an annoyance.
Update: Tanks roll as Ukraine troops retake airport amid casualties and growing fears of a civil war
Stephen Harper is making sombre statements  and sending John Baird off to visit allies in Eastern Europe next week, but there has been little indication that Ottawa is concerned that Russia might be eyeing Canada’s portion of Arctic riches.
But then, Mr. Harper has not been having a very enjoyable time lately. His support is reportedly crumbling;  despite having appointed the majority of the Supreme Court justices, he has been faced with a series of rulings against the government ; and his tame Senate is proving to be recalcitrant regarding the proposed Fair Elections Act (Senate panel to push for changes) despite – or maybe because of? – the interventions of Senator Linda Frum.; the dust-up over Dmitri Soudas and his lovely fiancée hasn’t helped either.  And Brian Mulroney has suddenly become the flavour of the month with his rousing speech on resource management , while the Northern Gateway pipeline suffered a setback  when Kitimat voted NO.
On top of these trials came the tragic death of Jim Flaherty which has inspired waves of genuine non-partisan praise that can only serve to remind the PM that his own reputation for good governance has been closely related to the efficiency and genuine popularity of his minister of finance.
Elections around the world
In last week’s invitation, we mentioned the important elections taking place this month around the world. A brief update:
Hungary’s results were already known. Writing in the New York Times (Legal but not Fair: Viktor Orbán’s New Supermajority),  Kim Lane Scheppele of Princeton explains that  while the governing party got 45% of the vote,  under the new “rules of the game” this plurality vote turned into two thirds of the seats in the parliament. A continuing two-thirds parliamentary majority allows Orbán to govern without constraint because he can change the constitution at will.
Afghanistan’s final results will take weeks more to be confirmed, however results based on 10 percent of votes from 26 out of 34 provinces showed Abdullah Abdullah with 41.9 percent and Western-leaning academic Ashraf Ghani second with 37.6 percent. A third candidate, Zalmay Rassoul, backed by two of Karzai’s brothers, trailed far behind with 9.8 percent. Looks like a runoff may be necessary.
The results of India’s general elections will not be known until May 16. Meantime, opinion polls (we all know how reliable they are) not surprisingly indicate different results and the media is filled with stories of misdeeds and corruption in both camps.
The results from Indonesia’s  legislative elections are mixed – or, as the Council on Foreign Relations would have it, “muddled’, but appear to be generally positive. These are the first step to the presidential elections this summer.
Quebec
If you have been wondering about the silence from the Quebec Liberals after the election triumph, it seems that they are not demanding a recount – they will be sworn in on Thursday.  We have been comforted by the fact that it is Daniel Johnson, Jr. who is directing the transition team – someone without a vested interest, with experience and who has had the time to reflect on what went right and wrong during his own tenure as premier. We look forward to learning the composition of the cabinet, and   suspect that the during the process of weeding,  anyone likely to have a skeleton that could leap out of the closet into the Charbonneau Commission’s waiting arms [Quebec Liberals already challenged by cloud of suspicion] has been crossed off the list of ‘ministrables’.
Going forward, Mr. Harper and M. Couillard would do well to read and absorb  this lucid and comprehensive history lesson followed by a solid assessment of the opportunities opening for an agreeable solution to Canada-Quebec Conrad Black: Quebec is ready to deal
Before we close the chapter of the Quebec election results, we would recommend two articles:
Martin Patriquin’s The epic collapse of Quebec separatism
Election night revealed that the real enemy of the sovereignty movement isn’t the Liberals, immigrants or any of the PQ’s bogeymen. It’s simply the march of time.
And
Celine Cooper: Quebec nationalism is changing
Quebec — long abstracted from large-scale, pan-Canadian initiatives and policy endeavours — must now resume its place and responsibilities in shaping the federation. For its part, Canada must reacquaint itself with a new Quebec nationalism; not because it is the divisive, intolerant or backwards force it is too often portrayed to be. But because, as last week’s election results demonstrate, it may be precisely the opposite.
Miscellaneous
Congratulations to our OWN intrepid Alexandra Greenhill – a great article in the Financial Post, The nanny connection:My Best Helper allows Canadian families to vet caretakers online  describes in glowing terms the progress of her start-up.
Congratulations also to Anita Nowak, who  has been named 2013-14 Professor of the Year by the Desautels Management Undergraduate Society.
The architecture of Moshe Safdie: A man of the world – wonderful profile of the man and his work from Habitat 67 to Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands
Stephen Colbert is to replace David Letterman, which means that he gives up the character of “Stephen Colbert”. We find this very sad. There’s an great piece in The New Yorker  The Late Stephen Colbert that sums up our logic.
The hunt for MH370 continues. In the absence of any further pings from the black box, it is now being carried out by  the Bluefin-21, a remote submersible, but the search is complicated by the fact that the ocean floor is apparently at a depth in excess of 4,500 feet.

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