Wednesday Night #1555

Written by  //  December 21, 2011  //  Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #1555

Last week we issued a double-header invitation, in consideration for the many in the throes of packing, travelling, or preparing for incoming family and visitors.  We also wished for those who will be (or are already) away,  Godspeed, safe travels, joyous reunions with family and friends, and the happiest celebration of Christmas, or whatever religious or non-religious holiday you are celebrating. 

We also announced that our “Singapore family” would be joining us on the 21st, and are delighted that they have arrived safely after a week of celebrating with family and friends in Vancouver and Victoria.

Along with the unlamented (except for possible consequences) death of Kim Jong-il, the world has lost two exceptional voices in the past days – and such a contrast. First, Christopher Hitchens (we have rounded up some of the tributes that have poured in from his many colleagues and admirers)  and two days later, Vaclav Havel, father of the Velvet Revolution. We venture that Mr. Hitchens’ status as a media personality – Jonathan Kay even calls him the greatest columnist and essayist in the English-speaking world – will guarantee him a permanent pedestal, however, in our view Mr. Havel personified our friend Kimon’s ambitions for the New School of Athens — he was both a think and a do-tank. Plus having his own justifiable claim to literary accomplishment. But, he was by all accounts an exceedingly modest man.

A year ago, on the 17th of December, Tunisian vegetable seller Mohamed Bouaziz set himself on fire. Now a human rights activist is president, and an Islamist politician who was jailed by Ben Ali for 15 years is the prime minister at the head of a coalition of left, liberal and religious parties. Would that as  the Arab Spring spread, the outcomes had been as smooth – could a national Vaclav Havel  have solved the current problems in Egypt? Sadly, it would seem unlikely.

The outcome of the European Summit is still high on our list of topics and we have, thanks to Ron Robertson, added a couple of new voices (with deep divergence of opinions) for your reading pleasure. The first is Frederick Forsyth (“Day of the Jackal”)’s AN OPEN LETTER TO GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL; he is not a happy camper as indicated by this line “A direct and targeted attack on the City is an attack on my country. But that, although devised in Paris, is what you have chosen to support.” He predicts that the Tobin Tax “would simply lead to massive emigration from London to other havens. … In the days when deals can flash across the world in a nanosecond all a major brokerage needs is a suite of rooms, computers, telephones and the talent of the young people barking offers and agreements down the phone. Such a suite of rooms could be in Berne, Thun, Zurich or even Singapore.”
A much more reassuring view appeared in the Wall Street Journal’s Fiction of the EU Summit’s Accepted ‘Facts [Update: EU demands £25bn lifeline from the UK  – a case of can’t get along with or without the UK?]

The House of Commons is in recess and thus, the inevitable year-end political wrap-ups are coming thick and fast; a good place to start is with last Thursday’s  At Issue panel ; you may or may not agree with some or all of their takes, but there’s room for healthy debate.  We would also direct your attention to  Gerald Caplan — Be very afraid: Stephen Harper is inventing a new Canada
“It’s in the nature of true believers and ideologues to believe that any means to their sacred ends are justified. This makes them extremely dangerous people. It’s also typical of such people that they’re often motivated by unfathomable resentment and anger, a compulsion not just to better but to destroy their adversaries. These are good descriptions of Stephen Harper and those closest to him.”

Where exactly this next item fits, we are not sure, but in what appears to be a singularly small-minded gesture, we have heard that Canadian Retired Heads of Mission will no longer be granted the special passports for personal use – a privilege that they have enjoyed for over 50 years. One can only presume that our  distinguished retired diplomats are considered unrepresentative of the current policies of the Harper government. How sad.

Closely related to the Harper government’s support for the oil industry is, of course, the Keystone XL Pipeline which has found, not surprisingly, strong allies in the U.S. Republicans. As the Christian Science Monitor reports, “A congressional deal to preserve a payroll tax cut, approved by the Senate Saturday, contains a provision designed to force President Obama’s hand on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. However, the carefully crafted Senate Bill has met opposition in the House Majority Leader John Boehner Says House G.O.P. Opposes Deal on Payroll Tax and now that Senate has left town.

On the brighter side, Mother Jones reports that there are Financial Wizards Working With Occupy Wall Street — As unlikely as it may have seemed when protesters first descended on New York’s financial center this fall, an increasing number of Wall Street insiders are now returning the favor, you might say, by occupying Occupy Wall Street. Sympathetic to the movement’s critiques of the banking system, they’ve been quietly lending their expertise to Occupy efforts to develop real ideas for revamping the industry. The bankers, quants, and hedge fund gurus who want to reform our financial system—by helping OWS kick ass.

Don’t forget to track Santa with NORAD

Comments are closed.