Wednesday Night #1298

Written by  //  January 17, 2007  //  Geopolitics, Herb Bercovitz, Middle East & Arab World, Politics, Reports, U.S., Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #1298

17 January 2007

Tonight we are in local mode: contemplating the two-month-late onslaught of winter and awaiting the results of the Toponomy Commission hearing on the Park Avenue du Parc name change. Marie Griffiths, Leader of the [opposition] Pack has promised to join us and will no doubt recount today’s events with her usual flair. We admit to some confusion over what the Toponomy Commission decision means, as apparently the City can do whatever it likes anyway. How many think the imperial Mayor will back down?
The Léger poll on racism gives pause, but we expect that it will be analysed every whichway and eventually we will find that we’re really no worse than we originally thought we were.
Good news: the Alcan announcement regarding the consolidation of its properties in Montreal, acquisition of The Citadel and expansion of the beautiful head office.
We have read with interest the reports of Stéphane Dion’s major speech in Toronto to the Economic Club and Board of Trade and particularly the comment from a vice dean and professor of leadership (!) at the Rotman School of Management who complained that Mr. Dion had not told business what government would do to help them succeed. We thought that Wednesday Night had pretty well decided that the less government interferes with business the better. Ah, but then, we are not professors of leadership in Toronto.
In the wake of President Bush’s unusual appearance at last Wednesday Night, there was a notable air of pessimism if not scepticism about the outcomes of the new surge strategy in Iraq which appear to have been confirmed by the week’s news including today’s bombing at Baghdad university a sad footnote to the UN report that 34,452 civilians have been killed in violence in Iraq over the past year (slightly less than the number of traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2005) and about 36,885 people have been wounded. Nor are we greatly encouraged that Saudi Arabia and Egypt support the new policy, for as long as Iran remains the major destabilizing actor, the mayhem is likely to continue and worsen. However, there are some questions about Iran’s ability to continue to exploit the current situation. For a thoughtful analysis, see Rhetoric and Reality: The View from Iran by George Friedman, published on the Stratfor Website.
In light of these developments, we are delighted that our good friend, Anne Coleman is back from her Christmas visit to Libya and Egypt and will be with us this week.
Striving to lighten our topics – and being avid followers of the French presidential race, – how can we resist the marvelous story about the proposed union of England and France in the 1950s ? Our favorite headline for the story has to be the Chicago Tribune’s “Would the flag be a Union Jacques?” Just think what the effect of such a union might have been on the Canada-Québec debate.
It seems that Anthony Eden wasn’t too keen on the merger, but was open to the idea of France joining the Commonwealth. Until recently, we had always believed that the Commonwealth was open only to countries with previous ties to the British Empire. however, it seems that Rwanda has applied and that Algeria, Yemen, Sudan, Israel and Palestine are expected to join. May we be excused for thinking that this is a bizarre set of bedfellows?
On the topic of presidential races, we trust you are watching the U.S. democratic candidates. A year away from the first caucuses, everyone is making tracks to Iowa and New Hampshire … John Edwards , Barack Obama We have a personal bias towards Christopher Dodd, although we’re not sure about his call to lower the Confederate flag from certain southern State Houses . After all, the U.S. Civil War has only been over for 140 years.
As it is reported that Fidel Castro is gravely ill and will not recover , we offer another Cuba-related medical story: the Quebec company, Services Santé International, that is offering to arrange speedy health-care services for a fee in Cuba to patients who book their own flights. This should be good news for M. Couillard, but then, if Quebecers are pouring out of the province, the lack of physicians here won’t be so noticeable (unless, of course, they are part of the exodus).
News of the identification of a new Alzheimer’s gene is being greeted with cautious optimism. We look forward to comments from our medical experts.
For the economists amongst us: the Bank of Canada has left interest rates unchanged, while the Bank of Japan is expected to raise the rate for the first time since July Meanwhile Mexico is suffering from lower prices for oil exports with a consequent impact on the 2007 budget
We offer these tidbits as milestones for the discussion, in full knowledge that it may take a totally different path as events unfold over the next hours.

The Report

May Polsky
, Director of AIM CROIT-IAM CARES , gave a brief description of this unique union-sponsored program that started in Seattle, backed by the aerospace workers and machinists unions . Its aim is to enable persons with physical and mental disabilities to find employment opportunities.

Park Avenue du Parc/Bleury
Faced with strong opposition to the plan, the mysterious Toponomy Commission remains undecided on the issue of renaming of Park Avenue and Bleury Street. It seems that the members, who are all volunteers and not used to the raucous dissent engendered by the Park/Parc name change, have received over 500 letters on this file and will be delaying the decision originally scheduled for Tuesday. According to a story in The Gazette, “a legal quagmire has appeared over whether the committee or the city has last say. …a section of the French Language Charter … gives the panel the authority to propose rules for writing place names, to attribute names to places that have no name, and to ‘approve all place-name changes’ “. However, “the committee’s website also cites Quebec’s Municipal Code and the Cities and Towns Act, which grant municipalities authority to ‘give names to streets and to roads and to change them’ and grant city councils the power to pass bylaws ‘to change the names of streets, alleys and public places”.
Mayor Tremblay could have graciously avoided the confrontation in the face of strong opposition from residents and merchants, by consulting with the Bourassa family and arriving at an acceptable alternative. The very existence of a Toponomy Commission should be an indication of the personal and historical importance placed on the name of a street by residents, or even that of their city, province or country. We were reminded that shortly after Robert Bourassa died, Pierre Bourque raised the possibility that Sherbrooke Street be renamed in his honour. That idea was quickly scotched. Changes in name should be carefully considered and not carried out unless supported of the residents of the affected area.

Candidates in the 2008 Presidential election
The campaign for the November 4, 2008 U.S. Presidential election appears to be in full swing. By virtue of not having been born in the United States, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a non-candidate, but has surprised many with the popular initiatives he has taken as Governor of California. Only his proposal on universal medical care remains controversial because of the cost.
Barack Hussein Obama, Democratic Senator from Illinois, born in Hawaii, with genuine African (Kenyan)-American roots, retains an unblemished political history and remains a very interesting possible presidential candidate capable of uniting the country. Despite his opposition to the Iraq campaign, he appears to be enjoying much support from people in areas of the country whose residents have also supported the military. He exhibits charisma not seen since Bill Clinton and, unlike his current main rival, Hillary Clinton, although steadfast in his views on the war in Iraq, he is not a polarizing force; even in a highly pro-military state like Vermont, he is popular. The one glitch in the personal history of this possible candidate is the fact that these lack of blemishes might derive from the relatively short time he has served in the Senate.

Although not a presidential candidate by virtue of having served two terms, President Bush in his recent proposal of sending more troops to Iraq in a sort of “double-or-nothing” attempt to bring peace to Iraq, gained little sympathy from Wednesday Nighters, who view the initiative as a means of shifting responsibility from the U.S. to the Iraqis in an attempt to facilitate an exit strategy. In truth, the President’s current apparent unpopularity seems to be more due to his appearance and presentation than substance. Certainly political disasters in the past century such as Gallipoli or Dieppe do not seem to have caused the same political uproar as the Iraq campaign has in the United States.
The recently announced surge strategy with the addition of 20,000 U.S. troops to the 130,000+ already in Iraq is in contrast to the close-to 850,000 ground troops of Operation Desert Storm . With a total population of some 26 million, most of whom appear to have easy access to assault weapons, the Iraqis would appear to be very capable of overwhelming the coalition forces, particularly in Baghdad and other cities where the biggest challenge is not to sweep areas, but to secure them with “troops and boots on the ground” in order that civilian populations may resume a semblance of normal life.
Inevitably, the question must be faced as to whether the region will become destabilized if the Coalition withdraws. While there can be no dispute over the unsavoury character of Saddam Hussein, his regime did act as a counterbalance to Iran, and Syria. The possible effect of the withdrawal of Coalition troops on the balance of power in the area is a strong consideration.
Although the current upheaval in the area appears to be generally characterized as struggle between Muslims and Christians, a closer look reveals the greater importance of culture rather than values. In Muslim countries not directly involved in the conflict, such customs as veiling or completely shielding women from view are not applied to non-Muslim visitors, who are, in fact, generally protected from harm while visiting the host country.
New York City has more police officers than Iraq has troops
If I were advising (President) Bush, I would first advise him to learn to look and appear sincere

Our military is not adapted to the new realities of war … you don’t know who the good guys are nor understand the language and culture. Maybe you have to rethink who the good guys are
We are trying to graft on instantaneous democracy … Everyone has an unrealistic idea of imposing Western democracy. It is like proselytizing Christianity
We have lost sight of the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend and the situation today is far worse than in the days when Saddam kept Iran in check

Intellectual Property Rights
Copyright legislation is undergoing a severe test with motion pictures screened on the Internet. You Tube is being taken to task by the Motion Picture Association of America. With ubiquitous international distribution of servers and the difficulty in assessing the extent of loss, or gain, the resolution of this entire area appears to be in evolution.
I would rather see free access to all our media than see our trees cut down (due to overuse of printed publications)

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