Wednesday Night #1541

Written by  //  September 14, 2011  //  Canada, David Mitchell, Environment & Energy, Politics, The Salon, U.S.  //  No comments

We have now lived through the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and all have been touched in one way or another by the tributes, declarations and stories that have emerged. Despite the wave of columns, analyses and other public punditry, one’s reactions remain intensely personal. While we have posted some pieces that particularly affected us, Arianna Huffington’s reminder of the spirit of 9/12 is perhaps the most poignant – how distorted that spirit has become. A distortion that has led the U.S. – and much of the world – to the sadly cynical, suspicious, self-serving mindset that pervades our politics and policies, that contributed to an era of misrepresentation (remember the WMDs in Iraq), greed and corruption culminating in the economic crisis that has enveloped the world and a deterioration of government and governance that has weakened the United States in ways that were unthinkable ten years ago. Our friend Rodrigue Tremblay has much to say on A few Important Causes of the Decline of the United States of America

While effusive – and somewhat overdue – praise was lavished on Canada, particularly Gander, for the warm-hearted welcome given to air passengers stranded (we actually heard an NPR report that referred to them as “wayward passengers” – whoops!) in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, they do nothing to mitigate the severity, and sometimes ridiculous policies now in place to ‘secure’ the border.

We were reminded of the long-term effects of 9/11 by our friend David Mitchell, who recently recounted his New Brunswick adventure with border patrol: “Parker and I recently canoed down the St. Croix river [boundary between NB and Maine] and after going through a class 3 or 4 rapids which we wanted to repeat, we portaged up a path on the US side [shorter and wider than Canada].  Not more than 2 canoe lengths into the US a uniformed man appeared and asked what we were doing and if we knew we were on US territory.  [I might mention that I’ve done this often, as have many in the past; also we were wearing only bathing suits so not obviously smuggling or planning to immigrate.]  Bless him… he said he’d allow us to continue on the path this time but not again and warned us that his colleagues would have given us a much tougher time.  [I’ve heard that one camper –Canadian tenting on the US side– was hauled off to a town more than 100 km away and hours later was dropped at a border crossing many miles from shoes, canoe and tent.]    Happily we had camped on the Canadian side!  I seem to recall something about the longest undefended border but must be thinking of some other countries!”  The magnificent irony of this story is that Parker, with whom David was canoeing, is his son, the co-founder of Engineers Without Borders.

To drive the point home further, David cites the case of the twin Forest Cities of Maine and New Brunswick (total pop. 15 souls) Maine residents block massive border building plans

U.S. changes plans for a $16M building at a crossing that averages 6 vehicles daily. Meanwhile we hear Tom Ridge promote the “smart border” initiative that aimed to expedite cross border trade while providing secure frontiers. He never mentioned affordable, cost-effective, or common sense… the world – or at least Homeland Security has truly gone mad.

Since last Wednesday, we have heard President Obama’s address to Congress on Jobs. We thought it was a very good speech. Slate sums up the situation succinctly in Obama’s Jobs Gamble: He dares the Republicans to thwart his $447 billion proposal. Can he possibly win? It remains to be seen what the incredibly dysfunctional Congress will do about the Bill that he has submitted.

Europe continues in economic disarray and the Marseilles G7 meeting doesn’t seem to have helped much (Marseille lays bare G7 differences and lack of policy room) while according to some reports, Europe fears Greece is heading inexorably toward default – we look forward to comments from the Wednesday Night Economists Caucus.

It appears that the TNC in Libya is ever-closer to consolidating its power – even Niger is changing its stance with the announcement that it intends to detain Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saadi [and he was a relatively good guy’]. It remains to be seen whether the TNC will be able to bring effective government to the country and whether the western allies will soon be in an obscene race to consolidate their own positions within the oil-rich nation.

Meanwhile, the Independent conjectures that Turkey, having ruptured its previous ties to Israel over flotilla-related issues is now seeking to become the predominant power among Muslim states in the Middle East and North Africa. This appears to us to be a geopolitical development that should be examined a lot more closely.

There are many more issues that deserve our attention, including events in Egypt, Israel, Syria; the on-going debate over the Keystone pipeline and the Northern Gateway Project (see http://www.dianaswednesday.com/2011/09/canada-the-environment/ ); the forthcoming UN vote on Palestinian statehood, and the prospects of assorted GOP presidential contenders. As the latter topic will drag on for months, we will only note that Governor Rick Perry is beginning to feel the heat of being the principal rival to front-runner Romney, as the NYT notes  Leading the Pack Brings New Perils, Perry Discovers

Update: the CBC and BBC are hailing the news that the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre opens. It is an Australian venture and we learn that “Based on Canadian Pension Plan and Dutch asset manager APG buying a half share for about 872 million pounds late in 2010, its value would be about 1.7 billion.” Yes, the CPP has a 25% stake – how happy are we with that news?

As always, we try to conclude on a lighter note: this item from Reuters – Hungary has produced a provocative video advertisement to encourage more people to fill out its national census online next month.In a video posted on social networking sites Wednesday, a topless young woman in red underwear, lacy black stockings and holding a whip opens the door to a census taker, who, realizing he has arrived at an inopportune moment — offers her the option of completing the census online. One Wednesday Nighter wonders if our former Chief Statistician and former Hungarian, Ivan Fellegi, would approve?

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