Wednesday Night #1687

Written by  //  July 2, 2014  //  Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Tribalism is the strongest force at work in the world today.
Vine Victor Deloria jr.

The fleeting nature of power and influence is probably no more vividly demonstrated than the twentieth century rise and fall of the British Empire. The current generation is oblivious to the origin of the nineteenth and early twentieth century term, ¨posh¨ (portside out, starboard home) as Brits visited Colonial India, when the common phrase, ¨Britannia rules the waves¨ was euphemistically rephrased as Britannia waves the rules. Sic transit gloria mundi. Today despite the quality of its university graduates and banking system, the United States is viewed by some today as almost a third world country in terms of some points of reference, notably the U.S. health care system high on the list, despite a high regard for the quality for U.S. universities, graduates and banking system.
The perceived instability in the Middle East conjures images, possible, perhaps probable and disturbing to Europe and America, Saudi Arabia, at least in part, due to the state of disarray of the Iraqi army. ISIS, consisting of about ten thousand very well trained and funded troops in Iraq, has made many gains in Sunni areas in Iraq.
Economy
From time to time, the concept rises of a guaranteed minimum income, a laudable plan designed to eliminate poverty, but risking the possibility of disincentive to seek work, a phenomenon said to be apparent within the present employment insurance plan. Currently, it is said to be impossible for anyone to work their way out of poverty. Where implemented, the offset has been inflation. The idea is considered laudable, but the implementation problematic.
The experts have been bullish on the stock market for seven years but there are currently, some questions arising about the inexplicable continuing rate of growth in the face of increasing risk.
The European economy appears to be doing better. Italy may possibly have a government that might act more positively; the European Central Bank will do what is required.
Problems in the middle class have adversely affected the price of oil.
As it has been anticipated that fifty percent of the oil production would come from Iraq, the current situation in that country might have an adverse effect on the price of oil, translating into a positive result for Canada. OPEC oil capacity is not great; disruption could have an adverse effect.
There are signs of inflation in the U.S. without accompanying wage inflation, a situation not considered serious.

Quotes of the evening
“The United States is slowly becoming a Latin American country. The big picture is that the U.S. is not what it used to be.”
“The U.S. is on the bad side of Iraq because it is backing the wrong groups.”
“If you look at it statistically, the U.S. is almost a third world country … health, etc., but U.S. has the best universities, graduates, banking system.¸”
“Five years from now oil and gas will be flowing into Europe from Iran.”
“The world is once again in conflict. It is not that there is any dispute about the fact that we are on the right side of the conflict; the only problem is the identity of the “we”.”
“Democracy and hatred are incompatible.”
“Kurdistan has four borders. Underneath the economic grid is spacious, religious; tribal values.”
“Prevention of poverty is more productive than trying to cure it.”

12 Foreign Nationals behind stir against power
Senior officials reporting to the Ministry of Home Affairs have identified 12 individuals who are considered the prime movers in the ongoing all-India campaign by a few NGOs to “slow down and finally stop” thermal power generation in India. This is according to those investigating the activities of the dozen principal foreign activists (six from the US, four from the UK and one each from Canada and New Zealand) during their frequent visits to this country. According to a senior official, the game plan is to “force the closure of existing thermal power plants, while ensuring through agitations and litigation that new plants do not get set up”. Along with this, they have masterminded a drive against coal mining in India, despite the fact that in their countries of origin, mining (including coal) is among the most major of industries

P R E L U D E
HAPPY CANADA DAY!
maple-spangled bannerHow many remember the fierce debate over the new Canadian flag, officially adopted in 1965? And how many remember some of the really dreadful alternatives? The Maple Leaf Forever? Flag designs that we didn’t pick — The Canadian flag, unlike many things from the 1960s, has lasted for decades without ever seeming outdated, campy or controversial. Indeed, after 50 years of flag peace, it is hard to imagine that Canada was once torn apart by the hunt for a new national banner.
Maclean’s offers a very entertaining collection of 22 maps of Canada as you’ve never seen it before — Presenting a whole new way of looking at Canada and its people
A less joyful way of celebrating July 1st is the annual exercise in musical domiciles – Moving Day in Quebec, which it seems has its roots in colonial Quebec. It is exhausting for everyone involved – and exhausts the patience of many more who merely watch from the sidelines, as it is not legislated, isn’t it time to change this tradition to a more flexible system, spread out over a much longer time frame?

David Jones‘ long, thoughtful sitrep on Canada Canadian Summer 2014: Federal Picture Cloudy, Provinces Clear makes for appropriate reading and debate. (Note that he does not mention any of the above)

Jim Mylonas of BCA Geopolitical Strategy (GPS) will be with us to discuss their June Report.
As always, all of the GPS report is of interest. In light of current developments, these comments on ISIS/Iraq and the Middle East are of particular note and, as the situation evolves minute-by-minute, become more, or less, pertinent.
“The mainstream media finally took notice of Iraq, probably about two years too late. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has taken control of the second largest city, Mosul, … which is about an hour drive from the Syrian border (more on that below). Over 500,000 refugees streamed across the border to neighboring Kurdistan Regional Government territory.
We have been cautioning clients about the sectarian risks in Iraq for well over two years now. … We expected the conflict in Syria to eventually cross the border into Iraq for three main reasons:
* Saudi Arabia cannot idly stand by and allow Iran to dominate Iraq through its proxy, current Premier Nouri Al-Maliki and his Shia dominated government;
* Most Islamist militants fighting in Syria are originally from Iraq anyway and are itching to bring the conflict home;
* Iraq is easy prey for well-organized and well-funded militants after a decade of occupation and insurgency.
As the fight against Syrian leader Assad has stalled, many Sunni Islamic insurgents have understandably decided to cross back into Iraq, where the action is just starting. We also suspect that these militants have the tacit support of wealthy donors in Saudi Arabia ….
Cleo Paskal offers another view of Iraq/ISIS in her HuffPost piece Expert: Global Grand Alliance Needed Against Wahhabi Terror citing Indian Strategist Prof. M D Nalapat, UNESCO Peace Chair and Editorial Director of the Sunday Guardian, who she describes as having “an unusually spot-on record for predicting trends in the Middle East”.
A dark footnote to the Iraq story are the revelations concerning Blackwater operations in Iraq as guards are on trial for the murder of 17 Iraqi civilians in September 2007 – an event that is deemed to have been one of the reasons for the absence of the Status of Forces Agreement today.

With Cleo, Catherine Gillbert and Judith Patterson we also plan to carry on a conversation initiated (but not adequately pursued) last Wednesday on the relationship between strife,  population size and resource scarcity.

You thought July 1 was all about Canada, but Brett House reminds us that it is the 70th anniversary of the Bretton Woods conference and asks us to pause at the barbecue to contemplate one solution to the plight of the multilateral financial system: channeling central bank swaps through the IMF.
At the other end of the economy spectrum is the debate on the benefits – or not – of raising the minimum wage, whether in California, Ontario, Europe, or Turkey.
In Canada, a group of academics and activists is trying to drum up interest in an ambitious plan to provide every Canadian with a guaranteed minimum income of $20K income for all Canadians endorsed by academics — Advocates enjoy resurgence of plan to ease poverty.
Kimon comments: “Guaranteeing a floor for all citizens is an idea whose time has almost come. I am in the process of writing a policy brief showing the feasibility of this partial solution to the twin problems of inequality and unemployment. Any feedback on this topic will be very welcome”
A ‘zillionaire’ of whom most people have never heard, Nick Hanauer, chimes into the debate with this well argued contribution:

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats
The most insidious thing about trickle-down economics isn’t believing that if the rich get richer, it’s good for the economy. It’s believing that if the poor get richer, it’s bad for the economy.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress can’t shrink government with wishful thinking. The only way to slash government for real is to go back to basic economic principles: You have to reduce the demand for government. If people are getting $15 an hour or more, they don’t need food stamps. They don’t need rent assistance. They don’t need you and me to pay for their medical care. If the consumer middle class is back, buying and shopping, then it stands to reason you won’t need as large a welfare state. And at the same time, revenues from payroll and sales taxes would rise, reducing the deficit.” We look forward to your comments.

June 30 marks a very personal anniversary for the much-admired Joe Schlesinger of CBC, who was one of 669 Jewish children rescued from the encroaching Nazis. In Nicholas Winton: The man who saved children from Hitler, he writes: “Three quarters of a century ago today, on June 30, 1939, I travelled with my nine-year-old brother Ernie and more than 200 other kids under 17 through Nazi Germany in a train under armed guard as if we were a contagious cargo. I was 11.”

As all politics is local, the results of the four June 30 by-elections are important: Liberals win 2 in Toronto, Conservatives hold Alberta — Alberta ridings a lock for Tories as Liberals pick up Trinity-Spadina from NDP, hold Scarborough-Agincourt. A big disappointment for Tom Mulcair. “Voter turnout was very low, according to Elections Canada projections, making it difficult to draw valid conclusions from the data. Turnout was below 15 per cent in Fort McMurray-Athabasca, and about 18 per cent in Macleod. Scarborough-Agincourt had only about 27 per cent of registered voters show at the polls, and Trinity-Spadina only had a 21 per cent voter turnout.” So what does this tell us? Beyond general voter apathy? Or merely the un-wisdom of scheduling votes over what most regard as a long weekend? Kelly McParland at the Nationa Post seems to think it is important: If the Liberal byelection victories don’t worry Stephen Harper, he isn’t paying attention

The CBC continues its agonizing death by a thousand cuts. It was recently announced that the archivist in Vancouver is retiring and will not (at least for now) be replaced. We treasure the CBC archives and dread the moment that management decides to slash and burn that national treasure. After all, that would simply mean following the Harper government’s actions The Wrecking of Canada’s Library and Archives.

For our educators and their students – not to exclude parents and other people: a study that supports a theory we have had for some time and that applies equally to those of us who do a lot of cutting and pasting: To Remember a Lecture Better, Take Notes by Hand — Students do worse on quizzes when they use keyboards in class.

Our favorite energy story of the week has to be about the ‘Solar-powered donkeys’ who carry Internet for Turkish sheepherders. The British press have taken particular delight in reporting the development with the Daily Mail headlining Working their asses off! Turkish farmers charge laptops using solar-powered DONKEYS.

 

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