Wednesday Night #1719

Written by  //  February 11, 2015  //  Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #1719

Kyle Matthews by RJGKyle Matthews‘s return after a too-long hiatus ensured that the evening would include a serious discussion of Terrorism and in particular ISIS. Kyle and MIGS have created a new organization, the Digital Mass Atrocity Prevention Lab (DMAP Lab) is a policy hub working to combat genocidal ideologies online and work as a counter force against extremists and their ideas. He and two associates are seeking crowd funding to enable them to attend and present at the 2015 Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn
The initiative has been receiving good coverage, but funding is crucial as university budget cuts preclude participation in such fora.
Taking a stand against terrorism at the 2015 Global Media Forum in Bonn
At this year’s GMF, Kyle Matthews, senior deputy director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University, will share innovative ideas on combatting extremist propaganda.


The situation in Ukraine continues to escalate and so, apparently, have the differences of opinion on how to react. To arm or not to arm the Ukrainians? How far to go in pushing the Russian Bear? The Guardian headline sums up the situation: Ukraine crisis will not be solved by military means, says Angela Merkel — German chancellor admits, however, that she is unsure whether the current diplomatic push to end the conflict in the east of the country will succeed. President Obama is still weighing the options, and while he’s not keen on arming Kiev, if the Wednesday talks in Minsk fail, something has to be done. The BBC wonders if the public statements by Obama and Merkel may be a good-cop-bad-cop tactic Meanwhile, the EU announced it will temporarily hold off slapping sanctions on more Ukrainian separatists and Russians “pending the outcome of possible peace talks this week”. Not only does it seem polyanna-ish to think anything will come of the peace talks, but as one European friend observes, being forewarned, those on the list now will have enough time to transfer their funds to other venues.

As though the EU didn’t have enough to worry about, Greece and Germany are in a face-off with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras insisting his country would not extend its reform-linked bailout and Germany saying it would get no more money without such a program. Brett House believes that The world should listen to Greece’s big idea about debt, arguing in Quartz that “The austerity and reform program imposed by Greece’s “troika” of lenders—the European Central Bank (ECB), European Commission (EC) and International Monetary Fund—obviously hasn’t been an unalloyed success. It has kept Greece current on its debts, but it hasn’t revived its economic growth. Varoufakis proposes that Greece’s future debt payments be tied to the country’s economic growth.
It’s a simple idea: if Greece grows quickly, its debt payments go up; if Greece doesn’t grow, its debt service falls, even as low as zero. There’s no incentive for the government in Athens to game the economy to avoid triggering debt payments: even a heterodox left-winger like Varoufakis knows that Greece needs to grow if he’s to hold on to his job.”
An impressive list of Scholars have added their names to a plea to Europe’s leaders “to reject and condemn all efforts to coerce the government and people of Greece.” But is anyone listening? Certainly not European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker – at least not publicly.

Kimon Valaskakis introduces Paul Krugman’s recent column with these observations. Paul Krugman in his, as usual, brilliant fashion exposed the absurdity of an obsession with global debt in Nobody understands Debt. I myself, in my recent book Buffets and Breadlines have a chapter with the exact same title. In it I outline five parameters to determine whether debt is good or bad: (1) Who are the debtors (2) Who are the creditors (3) What is the maturity of the debt (4) What is the rate of interest and (5) what is the debt for. Bear in mind, that economic growth and capitalism itself are rooted in intelligent borrowing for investment.
Because of this blind obsession with debt, without looking at the five parameters, untold suffering has been visited on innocent populations under the name of austerity. It may be time to be more nuanced and perceptive in our public policies. The debate in Europe sparked by the recent Greek election may lead to such a reexamination.

In the wake of the murder of the Jordanian pilot by ISIS, Jordan has reacted with a vengeance. Our good friend Jim Heffernan has written a very thoughtful piece (Why We Should All Watch the Video of the Pilot’s Fiery Death) in which he  traces the history of immolation as a punishment, but also a shock tactic, used by numerous ‘civilizations’, and condemns “the folly of thinking that we can ever defeat ISIS by strapping ourselves to the nonstop wheel of revenge.” He concludes on an intriguing note “But in Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq, Arabs themselves have already launched a fascinating alternative to such revenge, which is the subject of my next post.”
The hacker group Anonymous is continuing its uniquely disruptive alternative to the violence of drones and bombs; it has announced a fresh round of attacks on the Twitter and Facebook accounts of Islamic State members in Operation Isis, dealing a blow to the extremist groups recruiting portals and exposing members’ identities. A final note on ISIS – thank you to John Buchanan for pointing us to the two fine long articles by Alastair Crooke: You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia and Middle East Time Bomb: The Real Aim of ISIS Is to Replace the Saud Family as the New Emirs of Arabia  – must-reads for anyone attempting to understand the relationship between Saudi Arabia and ISIS.

We have been dismayed by the reaction from the usual suspects to President Obama’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast (Critics pounce after Obama talks Crusades, slavery at prayer breakfast). The Atlantic counters the reaction in the reasonable well-argued The Foolish, Historically Illiterate, Incredible Response to Obama’s Prayer Breakfast Speech while David Brooks surprised many by his strongly supportive comments on Meet the Press (making his fellow panelists including Andrea Mitchell look particularly unreasonable). The Daily Kos piece Wow! David Brooks passionately defends President Obama’s National Prayer Breakfast statements offers a great critique of the show including the unbearably smug Jon Meacham.

Still on the topic of Washington: the controversy over John Boehner’s invitation to Bibi to speak to Congress on Wednesday has continued unabated. Last week, some of his allies claimed that Netanyahu Was “Misled” By Boehner. As Slate headlined this news, Oh, Please. Boehner is way out of line on this and we hope it will come back to bite him.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark decision last Friday to strike down the ban on assisted suicide was greeted by the full range of emotions from elation to dismay.  It also leaves many questions for politicians and doctors The politicians have one year to bring out legislation that will conform to the guidelines given in the Court’s decision, e.g.  limiting physician-assisted suicide to “a competent adult” who “clearly consents” to end their life, and has an incurable medical condition — an “illness, disease or disability” — that causes “intolerable” suffering. The court said the suffering could be either physical or psychological pain and that the person’s medical condition need not be terminal for them to be permitted to make the decision. The fact that this is an election year could either spur Parliament to act soon and thus avoid it becoming an election issue, or discourage parliamentarians from action with the result that like abortion, it will be in a legal limbo. Two people to watch on this file are Conservative MP Steven Fletcher and Senator Nancy Ruth, both of whom have prepared enabling legislation. We are sickened by the headline in the National Catholic Register Canada’s Supreme Court Instructs Doctors: Thou Shalt Kill. The article also quotes our OWN Margaret Somerville, one of Canada’s leading medical ethicists and the recipient of an honorary doctorate from our own St. Mark’s College, has said the ruling is “a disaster for Canada. … Canada has fallen over the edge of the abyss in legalizing the intentional infliction of death on our most vulnerable citizens — those who are old, frail, disabled, depressed, mentally, physically or terminally ill.”

In the light of all the important world events, we couldn’t lead with the stunning (as in it stunned us) news of the ‘defection of Eve’ – and maybe Dmitri – to the Liberal Party. Whatever possessed Justin and his merry minions to accept this bad apple? Andrew Coyne is a must-read on the topic: “it was not Adams who was called upon to deliver the day’s most crawlingly demeaning performance. That honour was reserved for Justin Trudeau. Adams, after all, was desperate. Trudeau had a choice. That he chose to receive her, not with a shrug of “hey, a seat’s a seat,” but in the same spirit of feigned high-mindedness, proves beyond a doubt his fitness for the rigours of high office.” It’s hard to believe that any thoughtful Liberal will find this development palatable especially when viewed through the lend of the much-abused ‘open nominations’ policy   Eve Adams’ Move Reveals the Hypocrisy of Trudeau’s ‘Open Nominations’

This was followed almost immediately by the less-than-thrilling news of Mr. Harper’s cabinet shuffle complete with that jolly fellow Pierre Poilievre becoming Minister of Employment in addition to his current role of Minister for Democratic Reform. For a rather cruel take on PP, see Press Progress 6 surprising skills Canada’s new jobs minister Pierre Poilievre brings to the table. It’s going to be a long and painful run-up to the election.

In Quebec, the PLQ has brought in Bill 10 after a marathon session of the Assembly. The good news is that according to Eric Maldoff, “If in terms of explicit recognition of the need for the health and social service system to be sensitive and responsive to the needs of the English-speaking community, I think we have a net gain here.” We all owe a huge debt to Eric and to the Quebec Community Groups Network who fought tenaciously for every concession from the minister.

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