Wednesday Night #1718

Written by  //  February 3, 2015  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

john-bairdWhatever other news and thoughts we may have considered headlining, the abrupt and so-far inexplicable resignation of Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird has taken over.
Amidst the numerous positive commentaries [particularly notable is Exit John Baird, stage right — Paul Wells on the departure of John Baird from the world stage], there is an undercurrent of puzzlement about the timing of the resignation as expressed by John Ibbitson’s column Harper loses Baird when he needs him most.

The barbaric murder of Jordanian pilot Mouath al-Kasaesbeh by ISIS has shocked a world that was becoming, dare we say, almost inured to beheadings of ISIS captives. Will this latest atrocity backfire? The experts are divided, but the PBS Newshour interview with Rod Nordland of The New York Times, reporting from Amman, and former Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher leaves little doubt that Jordanians are outraged.The Jordanian government moved swiftly to avenge the airman, executing two prisoners, including the female suicide bomber from al-Qaeda whose swap for al-Kasaesbeh had been the subject of negotiations. A couple of notes. First, it appears that the Jordanian captive was killed a month ago, so any negotiations were in bad faith; and, second, attention has been called to the high quality of the video of his murder. CBC showed clips on The National to illustrate this point, before featuring a Turning Point panel discussion on Who is winning the war on terror?

Wednesday Nighter Kyle Matthews is taking a novel approach to raising funds that will enable a team from the the Digital Mass Atrocity Prevention (DMAP) Lab to attend an important conference in Europe. Not busy enough with his duties as senior deputy director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia, Kyle is the founder of DMAP that aims to “ make Montreal a centre for combating people who are using technology and social media for evil purposes.”

The jury will be out for (possibly quite a long) while on the impact of the victory of Syriza in the Greek election, but one of the more interesting (because unexpected) takes is from Forbes: Greeks Vote Against Euro And European Union And For Home Rule And Democracy. Perhaps not so surprising as the new government seems to have launched a charm offensive and Prime Minister Tsipras has stated that Greece Will Repay the ECB and IMF, and expects to reach a deal With the EU. But now some analysts point to another set of  worries. Will Greece’s New Government Be a Western Mouthpiece for Putin?. Can Russia can be a bargaining chip in negotiations with Western creditors over the debt issue? What to make of the new finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, a self-described “erratic Marxist?” One credible and intelligible analysis of the highly confusing shifting alliances is offered by The European Council on Foreign Relations Greece, Europe, and the sovereignty axis. The author sums up the attraction of a Putin alliance thus:

Whether because of ideological prejudice, ignorance, or pure cynicism, Alexis Tsipras, Podemos’s Pablo Iglesias, and the rest of the left seem convinced that Putin too is a leftist – despite the fact that the Russian president is a nationalist who governs by means of one of the most corrupt oligarchies on the planet, presides over a country that suffers from brutal social inequalities, enjoys the support of the Orthodox Church, and persecutes journalists, members of the LGBT community, and feminists.

And yes, Mr. Putin is certainly making eyes at Greece, while continuing to indulge his fancy for fomenting trouble in Ukraine, including demanding repayment of a $3 billion loan because Russia needs the money for the government’s plan to fight an economic crisis. The loan in question was negotiated with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, part of a bailout that stopped when he was overthrown. What does Vladimir Putin really want in Ukraine? We always enjoy Nina Khrushcheva’s lucid and informed analyses and this is no exception. After reminding us that “Putin also skipped last month’s World Economic Forum. He sent his cabinet officials instead, whose job seemed to have been to stir up yet more confusion. One appeared to be granting concessions, while others defended the mighty Russian president”, she examines the different options, concluding that “having Russian officials speaking from the different sides of their leader’s mouth is a tactic to keep everyone confused. It only further enhances Putin’s image as a leader who holds all the answers.”

Spies, lies and death: Argentina is in the news and not for sovereign debt, but a much murkier story that dates back to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. The death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman the night before he was to present his claim that Argentina’s president tried to whitewash Iran’s alleged involvement in the bombing, and the subsequent contradictions in official pronouncements (suicide, murder by Argentina’s spy agency …) have introduced twists and turns that might make a crime writer blush. There’s bound to be more to this story in the coming days.

Returning to Canada, in the predictable Chickens-coming-home-to-roost category is the story Canadian cities to weigh loss of long-form census for community planning. Seems that mayors and local officials say the cancellation has hampered the ability to plan and support the needs of their communities. Well yes – what did they expect? It probably won’t go anywhere, but we applaud the effort of Liberal MP Ted Hsu whose private member’s bill proposes to reinstate the census and empower Statistics Canada’s chief statistician.
While on the topic of mayors, we are sure that it has not escaped your attention that Naheed Nenshi has been Named Best Mayor In The World, but you might have missed his fearless attack on two pieces of provincial legislation last December: Passing Bill 10 would bring ‘international attention toward what kinds of hillbillies we are’

We have all been exposed to one or another stupid, irritating tax, but this story forwarded by Sam Stein wins hands-down. Did you know that Caracas, Venezuela had an airport breathing fee of about $25 p/p? Seriously: Crackers in Caracas: Venezuela scraps airport air breathing fee

Finally, on a lighter note, three very different offerings.
The power of saying no
‘Every time we say yes to a request, we are also saying no to anything else we might accomplish with the time’
Every year I seem to have the same resolution: say “no” more often. Despite my black belt in economics-fu, it’s an endless challenge. But economics does tell us a little about why “no” is such a difficult word, why it’s so important — and how to become better at saying it.
Let’s start with why it’s hard to say “no”. One reason is something we economists, with our love of simple, intuitive language, call “hyperbolic discounting”. What this means is that the present moment is exaggerated in our thoughts. When somebody asks, “Will you volunteer to be school governor?” it is momentarily uncomfortable to refuse, even if it will save much more trouble later. To say “yes” is to warm ourselves in a brief glow of immediate gratitude, heedless of the later cost. Read on, it’s worth it.

We love this Owed to a Spell Chequer
I halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plane lee marques four my revue
Miss steaks aye ken knot sea ….

And for fans of novel architectural detail who really want to live with 15 cats – and have lots of available cash – this is how to do it.

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