Wednesday Night #1685

Written by  //  June 18, 2014  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Wonderful surprise visitor – Bert Revenaz in town from Vancouver – stimulated not only discussion of Tuesday’s green light from the Feds for Northern Gateway (subject to 209 conditions), but also the news that, based on reviews submitted to the website TripAdvisor,   Vancouver’s Stanley Park was named ‘top park in the entire world’, beating out Central Park and the Luxembourg Gardens.
Northern Gateway
No matter how opposed in principle one may be to the project, the underlying reality is that one way or another, the oil in Alberta will be exported. In the view of some, the U.S. will refuse Keystone. Pipeline or trains? Trains would be far worse. The problem with the environmental groups is that they fail to see the big strategic picture. They should be concentrating on holding up the project as long as they can in order to wring maximum concessions to make it the safest possible pipeline.
Iraq & the Middle East
Starting from the saying that the U.S. has never lost a war or won a peace, Kimon draws a parallel with the theme of his book regarding “qwerties” – solutions that once were valid, but, with evolving times no longer are. In this instance, the root of the current problem lies in the Sykes-Picot Agreement that effectively divided the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside the Arabian peninsula into areas of future British and French control or influence. Today, it is unsustainable. [This hitherto little discussed agreement is increasingly being cited in news analysis, e.g. The fall of Mosul: Al-Qaeda erases a Sykes-Picot border and ISIS Removed Sykes-Picot Borders, Why Shouldn’t the Kurds?]
The most difficult decisions are between good and good, or bad and bad. In the Middle East today, there appears to be no ‘good’ and the U.S. historically has chosen the wrong road (backing the wrong horse, exacerbating situations …).

P R E L U D E
Hoping everyone enjoyed the beautiful Father’s Day weekend … Did you also successfully celebrate June 16th – the 50th  Bloomsday? Even non-Joycean enthusiasts should know the reference.
Perusing coverage of the past week’s events offers sad confirmation of the fickle news cycle.
Iraq is, of course,  the most worrisome topic today. Among all the commentary that has been written The People Who Broke Iraq Have A Lot of Ideas About Fixing It Now drove home a point that has been bothering us, particularly since we saw Paul Wolfowitz being somewhat fawningly interviewed by David Gregory on Meet The Press  – why are the architects of the disastrous U.S. invasion now being courted for their opinions on what should be done today? There is little evidence they have learned any lessons.  UPDATE:
FLASHBACK: Remember When Paul Wolfowitz Said Not to Worry About Sectarian Violence in Iraq?
The former Bush administration official is perhaps the worst person to give advice about the current crisis in Iraq—but that hasn’t stopped him from speaking out.
Meanwhile, the shifting alliances among the interested parties is the focus of many analysts with the possibility of  U.S. –Iran  support for Iraqi PM al-Maliki of particular interest, while the Saudis and Qatar – traditional U.S. allies –  line up on the other side. The UK has just announced that it  is reopening its embassy in Teheran  As Al Jazeera’s analysis Obama’s Iraq dilemma: Fighting the ISIL puts US and Iran on the same side points out,
“their strategic rivalry has prompted Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, among others, to back favored factions as proxies in their region-wide geopolitical contest.”One name to watch Qassim Suleimani.
Ukraine remains in the news, first because of the continuing clashes in the eastern region of the country and the shooting down of the army plane, and, most recently, Russia’s move to cut off gas to Ukraine that could disrupt supplies to the rest of Europe
The recent Al-Shabab attacks in Kenya are alarming. Although not of the same proportion as the situation in Iraq, the persistence of the Somali terrorist group should be of concern. Meanwhile, as  Boko Haram continues to wreak death and destruction in Nigeria, any quick search for Nigerian news yields a lengthy list of references to the Nigeria-Iran World Cup match and only as an afterthought mention that after 60 days, there is still no news of the nearly 300 abducted school girls. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo is quoted by Reuters as saying that he believes that some of them may never return home —  the world seems to have forgotten them.
Argentina vows to service debt despite new legal blow – while many of you will not have been following this issue, you should know that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an Argentine appeal aimed at staving off a default. Brett House explains everything you need to know  in Argentina’s Return to Default?
And in Canada
Two political events at home have provoked lots of reaction amongst the chattering classes – the generally unexpected outcome of the Ontario elections and the election of Mario Beaulieu to head the Bloc Québécois  (L’arrêt de mort du Bloc Québécois)– NOT that we put them in the same category, other than for timeline purposes. It is fun watching the pundits unravel over the Wynne-win. Is it good for the fed Libs, a timely wake-up call for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, or simply the electorate’s stubborn refusal to be predictable? Two good reads from Wednesday Nighters:  John Moore’s take in the National Post (Tim Hudak offered a vegan tasting menu when all Ontario wanted was the fish  points out “Canada is not in fact turning to the right so it’s up to the nation’s conservatives to change course if they want to woo rather than war against the electorate.” Céline Cooper’s Let’s commiserate with Ontario points out that Quebec and Ontario have much in common these days: “Canada’s two most-populous provinces — both debt- and deficit-ridden, and both reeling from political scandal — could find themselves in some very similar circumstances in the coming years.” So maybe it’s time to call a halt to the rivalries?
On another level and not to be missed is the riveting story of recently conscience-stricken Jean Yves Lortie – The Man with the briefcase political fixer par excellence.
The Northern Gateway decision was delivered Tuesday after the markets closed. This CBC headline sums up the situation Northern Gateway decision holds no easy political options for Harper … all answers come with a cost – the article is a very fair analysis of all the issues in play. We know that in the WN microcosm debate is passionate – a mild reflection of the one beyond our walls which will now become increasingly rancorous.
Finally, Sunday’s 3 To Watch offered an entertaining discussion of whether politicians should/not avoid the barbecue circuit this summer.
Finally we offer this fascinating look at a problem that affects all of us at one time or another:
Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?
No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html

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