Wednesday Night #1648 – Westphalia

Written by  //  October 2, 2013  //  Wednesday Nights  //  2 Comments

Complete information about the October 22nd launch of Buffets And Breadlines, the first book of Kimon’s trilogy, is now available on the New School of Athens website.

The significance of 1648 cannot be stressed sufficiently. A somewhat light-hearted comparison was drawn to the sovereign City of Westmount whose benign dictator, Peter Trent understands and sees to the needs of the people, and governs according to the precept of Westphalia that “I won’t meddle in your affairs and you shouldn’t meddle in ours” (Note that Mayor Trent has announced that he will again run for the position of Mayor – and will, no doubt, be acclaimed). The problems currently facing the United States are, in the views of some, directly attributable to a failure to understand the fundamental principles of Westphalia.

The U.S. Government Shutdown
The declared intention of the Republicans to achieve the defunding of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is a non-starter. The Act is law, has withstood a challenge in the Supreme Court, and the opening of the exchanges Tuesday morning appears to have been a great success, despite some glitches likely caused by the number of people trying to access the websites (According to PBS, Officials say there were 4.7 million unique visitors to the federal Web site in the first 24 hours.) It is apparent that what the Tea Partiers most fear is that the Act will be a success especially among many of their constituency. While there is an undercurrent of racism in the virulent emotional reaction to President Obama, more important is the fear among this group of Americans that they are doomed to become a minority (parallels with Syria are obvious, and also Quebec).
Diana called attention to the story of the group of WWII veterans who ‘stormed’ (some in wheelchairs) their memorial in Washington and the appearance of several Republicans including Michele Bachman to ‘support’ them. Republicans Grandstand At World War II Memorial Instead Of Working To Reopen It

[Update Sam Stein followed up on this question referencing the Wikipedia entry for “Hastert Rule” or “Majority of the Majority” to clarify why Boehner won’t bring the “clean” Continuing Resolution for funding the government to a vote in the House. It’s not law, it’s just an informal practice that says that the Speaker (who gets to decide on what measures are put to a vote) should not call for a vote by House floor on any measure that does not have the support of the “majority of the majority”. Interestingly, it has been broken several times in the past by both Republican and Democrat speakers. So here’s the real question: has Mr. Boehner climbed the evolutionary ladder to the vertebrate order or is he down there with the coelenterates? He has the legal power to do the right (in one sense of the word) thing.]


T H E  P R O L O G U E

Before the inevitable gloom and doom message, we offer warmest congratulations to two Wednesday Nighters on their recent – very different – achievements.
To the amazing Dr. Alexandra Greenhill who writes to tell us that her start-up myBestHelper will be the newest company in residence at  product incubator Invoke Labs
And to the intrepid David & Laura Kilgour who walked the Camino de Saint Jacques (Santiago de Compostela) in France in September, doing 145 kms over nine days.
How ironic! 1648 – a date remembered fondly around the Wednesday Night table for the Treaties of Westphalia, whereby a new system of political order was established in central Europe, based upon the concept of a sovereign state and establishing a prejudice in international affairs against interference in another nation’s domestic business.
As we were writing, the deadline for the partial shutdown of the U.S. government loomed. It is now a fait accompli meaning that “800,000 federal workers will be furloughed Tuesday. National parks, monuments and museums, as well as most federal offices, will close. Tens of thousands of air-traffic controllers, prison guards and border-patrol agents will be required to serve without pay. And many congressional hearings — including one scheduled Tuesday into last month’s Navy Yard shootings — will be postponed.”
We have become lost in the charges and counter charges among Democrats, Republicans and Tea Partiers. The situation is incomprehensible given reports that Just 30 Out Of 233 House Republicans Actually Want The Shutdown Fight
Our favorite quotes on the Internet: tea parties are for little girls with imaginary friends and from Adam Goldenberg: The United States government has encountered a critical problem and will restart automatically in one minute. Please save your work now.
Like many others, we wonder when the unbelievable chaos surrounding the Capitol will evaporate (NEVER) or diminish (NOT IN OUR LIFETIME?). For a country that claims to have ‘invented’ – or at the very least tweaked – democracy, this is a mockery of vaunted democratic institutions and a dreadful example for those countries where the United States and (some of) its allies are attempting to implant at least rudimentary concepts of democracy. Not to mention the ramifications for the global economy.
As HuffPost UK points out US Government Shutdown Over Obamacare Has Serious Implications For Global Economic Recovery
Once again Europeans may be forgiven for looking on baffled at the bizarre maneuverings of Washington’s political class this week as the US government careers towards a shutdown. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, remains the President’s signature legislative achievement, having made its torturous journey through Congress in 2010, emerging with the promise of finally providing coverage for an additional 30 million people that had been cast adrift by the country’s failing health care system.
Yet despite being signed into law more than three years ago, the legislation, a major part of which is due to be finally implemented this week, threatens to derail not only the US government but provides an ominous portent for the US debt ceiling debate, with severe implications for Britain, the eurozone and beyond.
Just when we thought things were beginning to look a little brighter, given the promising overtures exchanged between the U.S. and Iran (see Iran in 2012-2013) which have given hope to many observers – although neither John Baird, nor, predictably, Mr. Netanyahu are to be counted among them.
Even the Syrian situation is slightly improved, although it is obvious that the world is stuck with Assad for some time to come and is leery of Russia’s intent. However as David Jones says in his analysis in the Metropolitain Puzzling Our Way Through Syria: Perhaps a “least worse” outcome can be orchestrated with Putin connivance.
Despite remarks by Prime Minister Singh calling Pakistan the ‘epicentre of terrorism’ in the region on the eve of his meeting in New York with Nawaz Sharif, there appears to be some hope for a solution to the enduring problems between Pakistan and India. However, Pakistan has a long road to travel in subduing the terrorists whose latest atrocity was the attack on Peshawar’s All Saints church  
In the aftermath of the Westgate Mall siege, Kenyan authorities are being blamed for much of the mayhem, including the possibility that the military were responsible for the collapse of three floors (by firing rocket-propelled grenades inside the mall), and security forces are accused of widespread looting following the attack.
Despite a crackdown by the Nigerian authorities, Boko Haram appears impervious as evidenced by Sunday’s attack and murder of dozens of agriculture college students.
Meanwhile, as predicted by Sam Stein last week, the hoped-for peace in Mali is still ephemeral as gun battles have erupted between Malian soldiers and suspected separatist rebels in the north.
The IPCC delivered its fifth report and to the certain dismay of some Wednesday Nighters, [Jeffrey Simpson: Climate deniers in their own universe  … in Canada, at any rate, about 30 per cent of the population remains convinced that climate change isn’t happening – or, if it is, that it’s caused by natural events, sunspots or just about anything other than human activity, notably burning fossil fuels.] maintains that human-caused emissions are causing global warming. Among the many intelligent analyses we recommend this from our favorite Project Syndicate.
Stefan Rahmstorf: The Known Knowns of Climate Change
An extraordinary, if underappreciated, feature of the IPCC’s reports is that, though many different scientists have worked on them over the past 23 years, the fundamental conclusions have not changed. This reflects an overwhelming consensus among scientists from around the world. Polls of climate researchers, as well as analysis of thousands of scientific publications, consistently show a 97-98% consensus that human-caused emissions are causing global warming.
Poor Stephen Harper, by proroguing Parliament, he had hoped to quash the stories about senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin. Not only has that not happened, but on Monday stories surfaced about Conservative Senator Leo Housakos’ possible involvement in questionable (we are being kind) fundraising activities in Quebec.
Wrangling over The Charter of Quebec Values continues. Sunday’s demonstration was not as well organized as it might have been, but Alan Hustak writes that “it was a fun turnout …  especially liked seeing Jews and Muslims walking arm in arm with Sikhs.. my kind of town — and the nicest touch of all was all of us singing gens du pays.

For your agenda:

THIS WEDNESDAY, from 5 to 7 pm, Frédéric Laurin, economist and oenophile is hosting an unusual and entertaining series of short videos Les Cavistes Plaisir Défendus at the Bistro Vices & Versa, 6631, boulevard St-Laurent.
TUESDAY, October 15, from 5:30 – 7 pm  The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), the Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID) at McGill University, and the Montreal branch of the Canadian International Council are pleased to invite you to attend a panel discussion and book launch reception for:
Canada-Africa Relations: Looking Back, Looking Ahead” at the McCord Museum. For details and to register
And  –- Drum roll, please – on TUESDAY October 22nd  Kimon Valaskakis’ much anticipated Buffets And Breadlines,Is the World Really Broke or Just Grossly Mismanaged? will be launched at a special 5 à 7 event at the University Club. Details to follow.

Last, but by no means least, a touching message from Mitch Joel on the 10th anniversary of his blog. He is raising money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada’s Light The Night Walk – He says: If over the years, any of my content (on the blog, in Huffington Post, Harvard Business Review or in either of my two books: Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete) has struck a chord with you, made you smile, made you see your business world in a different way, I hope that you will consider this ask as the “tip jar” for my thoughts. Please read his message all the way through and note his offer: Whoever gives the most money gets me for a one-hour get-together. It can be via video Skype, phone or in-person (meaning, if you’re in Montreal or if I happen to be travelling to wherever it is that you live). It will be a social meeting, but you can feel free to ask me anything. Lunch is on me. I’ll also include a signed copy of Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete. He has already generously shared his knowledge with Wednesday Night – so please, consider a donation.


2 Comments on "Wednesday Night #1648 – Westphalia"

  1. Stephen Kinsman October 3, 2013 at 2:13 pm ·

    … John Boehner must hold a vote in the House, to bring a resolution to end the shutdown – a resolution without reference to “Obamacare”, passed by Congress, signed by the President into law and supported by the Supreme Court. The resolution will be supported by the majority of the House, including Republicans. He is obviously concerned about proving a relatively small faction of his party to be recalcitrant malcontents. Mr Boehner is not a leader. This game of, “We have gone so far and have nothing to lose”, has got to stop. The country will eventually make the Tea Party pay, even if their constituents do not, and the Republican Party itself will also suffer. SK

  2. Sam Stein October 3, 2013 at 2:37 pm ·

    The sidebar to this question is that Mr. B might be out of a job if he does go ahead and do the right thing. The speaker is elected by the majority party in the House of Representatives – not by the whole House. So if he violates the (informal) Hastert rule there’s a good chance that the malcontents in his own party would try – and succeed – to remove him as Speaker and replace him with someone who would swear on the Norquist bible to always uphold the Hastert Rule. Unfortunately I don’t know the procedure for this, nor if it’s something that can be done on an ad-hoc basis in the middle of a term of Congress or whether it would have to wait until the new Congress is chosen in 2014. Food for thought. Sam

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