Wednesday Night #1596

Written by  //  September 30, 2012  //  Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #1596

After Bibi presented his visual aid at the UN, the New Yorker ran a contest for best caption – we couldn’t resist sending along the results. Perhaps everyone needs to lighten up a trifle? More seriously, the point seized on by many commentators, as summarized by Foreign Policy , was “The red line in Netanyahu’s speech, which he predicted would come in “by next spring, at most by next summer,” seemed to indicate that Israel is not planning to attack Iran this year [emphasis added] — minimizing the chances of an “October surprise” before the U.S. election

Whither the Obama-Romney race? Will the presidential debates change anything dramatically?  Brooks & Shields say not likely
offers a good summary of what is at stake and what we might expect.
However, as Charles Blow wrote in the NYT: “Debates are largely stagecraft and tests of temperament as well as articulation: How does a candidate perform under pressure, and how do the candidates compare with each other… All the calibrating of expectations aside, something dramatic must happen in the debates, or over the next few weeks, to alter the course of the race, and it must satisfy three criteria: it must be major, new and digestible.  It can’t be subtle policy difference. It can’t be a rehash of a known negative. And it can’t be ambiguous.”
Despite the proverbial wisdom that foreign policy has little impact on presidential races, some pundits reflect the views expressed by Tom Engelhardt: in Obama against the world. He reminds his readers that “if you want a little horse-race entertainment for the next six weeks, skip the Ohio, Colorado, and Virginia polls, don’t worry about the results of the coming debates, or the court tests on restrictive new voting laws. After all, there’s going to be no better show in town than the acrobatic contortions of the Obama crew as they work to keep global disaster off the menu until November 7. …
But there’s another far less entertaining problem few are thinking about right now. Consider it our problem. The Obama people are understandably focused on the election. Being of a managerial frame of mind, their thoughts don’t tend to run to the long-term anyhow. I doubt they have, at this point, put a second’s consideration into what’s likely to happen, if they manage to keep everything under wraps, six weeks from now – and beyond. It’s not as if war with Iran, disaster in Afghanistan, chaos in the Middle East, a staggering eurozone, a stumbling Chinese economy (in the midst of seaborne saber rattling), rising oil and food prices, climate change, and so much else won’t be as threatening then. None of these are problems, however managed, that are going away anytime soon or are likely in the long run to prove particularly manageable from Washington.” True and scary!

Intriguing developments regarding the SuperPACs – It seems that Karl Rove, et al. are not altogether happy with their effect on the Romney campaign and, depending on the outcome of the debates, may switch their focus to senate and congressional candidates in swing races to ensure thwarting any attempt by Mr. Obama to accomplish anything in a second term. Howard Learner explains in  Watch Out for the Republican Super PACs Moving Away from Romney to Rain Even More Millions on Swing Senate Races . Sounding a note of optimism about future limits on campaign financing, Jonathan Alter writes on Bloomberg: How Small Money Can Matter Again in Politics “A funny thing’s happening on the way to Nov. 6. The billionaires trying to buy the U.S. election with contributions of $1 million, $10 million or even $100 million aren’t succeeding. If trends continue and the Democrats have a good year (still a big if), the notion that in order to win candidates need the indirect backing provided by gobs of money from super-political action committees will be discredited.”

With the ever-increasing impact of globalization on the world economy and employment in the  developed nations, it is hard to ignore the implications of developments in Europe and Asia particularly. We look forward to Kimon’s return from Europe and his comments on Greece, Spain and the general outlook for the eurozone. We would particularly like to hear his thoughts on Luigi Zingale’s thesis that the adoption of the euro by southern European economies may be compared to the action of Hernán Cortés when he ordered his troops to burn the ships that had brought them to Mexico in order to motivate them. Democracy’s Burning Ships
Kimon will also have thoughts regarding the initiative of Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski whose speech (given near Oxford) blasting British Euroscepticism follows the publication of a report jointly written with the foreign ministers of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, which demanded “more Europe” as a response to the crisis. Recommendations included European oversight over the national budgets, bank-supervisory powers for the European Central Bank, a European Monetary Fund for bail-outs and more powers for the European Parliament. (Thank you, Tony Deutsch for bringing this to our attention.)

Now that China has dealt with Bao Xilai (although he may not go quietly), expelling him from the Party and sending him to trial, the Party Congress will open on November 8th. As Xinhua reports, the change in leadership comes at a critical time for the country which is beset with internal problems:  the most pressing issue for the Chinese public is the uninhibited and widespread abuse of power and corruption among government officials and businessmen. A series of systematic and structural problems that have impeded the healthy development of the Chinese economy and society have yet to be resolved.

This week Justin Trudeau is expected to (finally) make the announcement that he is running for the Liberal leadership. Good or bad thing? Depends on which pundits you follow. Adam Daifallah believes that [Pierre] Trudeau’s policies of high deficits, an activist federal government and economic protectionism are finally fading out of fashion, and that who are coming of voting age now — those born after Trudeau left office — will never have the emotional connection to the Trudeau vision of Canada some of their parents do. Op-Ed: Is the Trudeau name still a strong brand? NO . Meanwhile, his colleague and friend Jonathan Kay, while far from endorsing Trudeau reminds his readers that anyone tempted to dismiss Justin should bear in mind that “As early as 2006, he was chairing the Liberals’ youth-renewal task force. In 2008, he became an MP — and he did so in the competitive, highly multicultural, hardscrabble east-end Montreal riding of Papineau. In the 2008 election, he fought a hard door-to-door ground war against former BQ vice-president Vivian Barbot, defeating the incumbent by fewer than 1,200 votes. In 2011, he survived the Orange Wave, defeating his NDP challenger by more than 4,000 votes.” (Jonathan Kay: Justin Trudeau’s path to PM (if it exists at all) goes straight through Quebec) Finally, the National Post informs us that “an exclusive poll conducted for the National Post, Forum found if Mr. Trudeau were leader of the Liberal Party and an election were held today, the Grits would win, handily, with 39% of the popular vote.” So let the Games begin!

Should you wish for even greater entertainment, there is always Québec – either the follies of Mme Marois’ gang, or the Charbonneau commission. We will not elaborate on the first -which changes daily if not hourly – more than to raise the closing of Gentilly 2, which appears to be a done deal since publication of the Hydro Quebec’s report that the revival of Gentilly-2 was not justified in its financial plan. The report states rebooting the plant would cost $2.4 billion more than the 2008 assessment. The price of electricity created would then cost 9.7 cents for every kilowatt per hour. This is in comparison to the 6.2 cents expected for the La Romaine central being built in northern Quebec. However, the CAQ and the Liberals could force legislative hearings to delay/thwart the closure.
Germain Bourgeois recommends Joanne Marcotte’s Pour en finir avec le Gouvernemamandescribing it as ‘perturbing and intelligent’. It has had many enthusiastic reviewers including Barbara Kay and Michel Kelly-Gagnon. Mme Marcotte’s blogue is also worth bookmarking.
As to the Charbonneau Commission, eventually the findings will make for a great téléroman. Martin Patriquin and the Maclean’s team are doing an excellent job of covering the Inquiry. In the meantime, is there anything more ludicrous that Mayor Tremblay’s expressions of astonishment that the RCMP would not share their findings with him and the City of Montreal?

Also at the local level but with sweeping international scope, do not miss the Globe & Mail’s long account of SNC-Lavalin’s Gadhafi disaster featuring arch-villain Riadh Ben Aïssa – it’s a compelling tale easily the subject of a docudrama. One aspect that caught our eye, in the wake of the Margaret Wente plagiarism scandal, is the collaboration of the writers with researchers from the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

After all the gloomy news, an uplifting story of Canadian know-how:
September 29th marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Alouette-1 when Canada became the third nation (after Russia and the United States) to design and build its own satellite. Originally designed to operate for one year, it is still orbiting and some think it would still switch back on if the right signals were sent.  It was in fact operational for ten years before being switched off. Read more

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