Wednesday Night #1724 with Pierre Bossé

Written by  //  March 18, 2015  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

A lively evening with wide-ranging discussion and the welcome return – after 15 years – of Pierre Bossé.
Kimon recapitulated the arguments presented in his most recent blog post for World Post Greece and Europe: The Real Choice Is Win-Win or Lose-Lose, and reiterated his “intellectual debt to a colleague and friend John Evdokias, for his perceptive insights.”

P R E L U D E
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all*. However, the world’s attention is focused not on Ireland, but on Israel’s vote.

Our favorite commentator, Uri Avnery described the dilemma faced by many Israeli voters: For Whom To Vote?
Don’t hold your breath. As Al Jazeera reminds us: No single party has ever won an outright majority in the Knesset, making coalitions the norm.
Israel’s president picks the political leader whom he believes has the best chance of forming a coalition to have a go first.

For more on the somewhat convoluted process, see Brookings: Israeli elections: Decision time (or not)
And, in any event if we are to believe the analysis Sobering up after the Israeli elections – The main challenges facing Israel are historical not political offered by Marwan Bishara, the outlook is pretty bleak, whatever the outcome.
By 8 pm (12.00 p.m. EDT), turnout was running at 66 percent, higher than the last election in 2013. Voting ended at 10 pm, with the first exit polls published immediately afterwards. And sure enough they indicated that Benjamin Netanyahu and Isaac Herzog were tied. And sure enough, they were wrong. Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party Wins Israeli Election

The hunt for Vlad is apparently over and the world is none the wiser about where he was, or why. The Economist draws a parallel with the withdrawal of Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible) from Moscow in 1564 and concludes: “it is useful to recall that when an autocrat disappears, it is not always a sign of weakness. As many analysts point out, Mr Putin’s vanishing act has Russians as keenly aware as ever of the government’s dependence upon him. Mr Putin, if healthy and unbothered, will not mind the reminder.” Mr. Putin has reappeared, but before he did so, in a pre-recorded documentary marking the March 18th first anniversary of the annexation of Crimea, he made the grim announcement that he had been ready to put Russia’s nuclear forces on alert to ensure the annexation. And what about the mysterious report of the death of Putin’s personal chief bodyguard, General Viktor Zolotov? As questions persist, Stratfor revisits Can Putin Survive?, first published in July 2014

The struggle with ISIS/ISIL continues amid reports that the Kurds are concerned that Iran-backed Shia militias in Iraq could create a bigger problem than IS itself by exacerbating tensions with Sunni Muslims. Iran’s ever-greater participation in the fight against ISIS in Iraq (according to Foreign Policy:  Iran has sent advanced rockets and missiles to Tikrit) is a signal of Iran’s growing influence in Iraq – of the 30,000 Iraqi troops marshaled for the operation in Tikrit, two thirds are reportedly from Iranian-backed Shiite militias- making the tangled web of alliances ever more tangled when considered in light of the nuclear negotiations. The latter appear to be advancing slowly despite the action of the 47 Republican Senators, which in our opinion was arguably treasonable. An entertaining sidebar to the story is A Handwriting Expert Analyzed Signatures on That Stupid Letter GOP Senators Sent to Iran

After years of ridiculing Democrats for not producing a congressional budget, Republicans got their chance on Tuesday as House Republicans disclosed the details of their proposed spending plan for 2016 to be followed later in the week by Senate Republicans. It is a major moment for the new congressional majority. Budgets require only a majority vote, are not subject to Senate filibuster and cannot be vetoed by the president, so Republicans will not be able to blame Democrats if they fail to reach agreement between the House and Senate.To no-one’s surprise, the Republican budget cuts social spending, boosts military and now the fun begins.

NASA under waterFor those who enjoy twisted humour, you may have missed the appointment of famed climate-change denier Sen. Ted Cruz as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. In this capacity, he gets to oversee NASA. Equally appalling, fellow denier Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida will chair the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, which oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Putting him in charge of the NOAA is like installing an atheist as Pope.”
If you need further convincing that the new Congress does not bode well for science, we suggest you look at/listen to These Congressmen Think They’re Smarter Than Scientists. Jon Stewart Disproves That Real Quick He is after all the most trusted news source in America.
Stephen Harper and his cabinet colleagues must feel right at home with their Republican counterparts.
If you are not comfortable with the deniers, we suggest that you listen to the excellent interview with Tim Flannery on CBC radio’s Ideas

The Niqab issue (thank heavens they haven’t started calling it Niquabgate) is not going away because, as Céline Cooper points out The niqab is devastatingly easy to manipulate for political gain and “an opportunistic wedge issue.” Whatever your opinion on the matter – and we confess to wavering several times – we urge you to read Why I intend to wear a niqab at my citizenship ceremony, the first we have heard from Zunera Ishaq, the woman at the center of the storm. Agree with her or not, she states her case in far more logical terms than those of the ranting politicians.

Wedge issue, yes, and also a distraction from governance issues such as the fact that MPs mistakenly gave up scrutiny over federal loans. Parliament used to annually review the billions of dollars the government borrowed until it unwittingly gave away that power in a clause buried in a budget bill that went unnoticed until it was too late.

Whatever the reasons for the about-face on veterans’ issues (perish the thought that there might be political considerations), we applaud the recent announcements from Minister O’Tooole. They have been coming thick and fast and none too soon.

Author! Author!
In addition to above-cited Céline Cooper, Brett House has an important featured article published in Global Brief Development Finance: Enter the Private Sector
David (Jones) Obama’s Israel-Iran nuclear problem: The United States has nothing but bad choices vs. David (Kilgour) Tough economic sanctions brought Tehran to the table.
Kimon Valaskakis‘ Greece and Europe: The Real Choice Is Win-Win or Lose-Lose published on The World Post
A new book, Losing the signal: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of BlackBerry by Friend of Wednesday Night Sean Silcoff and co-author Jacquie McNish is to be published in late May.

As we (and Mr. Putin) have seemingly survived the Ides of March, we thought it only appropriate to share with you this delightful reminder of why we loved Wayne & Shuster Rinse the Blood Off My Toga
*It’s said that everyone is Irish on St Patrick’s Day – according to one researcher, at least the French (or more accurately, the Bretons) have a valid claim St. Patrick was born and raised in France [Brittany] not Britain says new book – quite understandable confusion between Britain and Bretagne, n’est-ca pas?
Defitely neither Irish nor Breton, the Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey gets all the good lines, maybe because only Maggie Smith could deliver them to such devastating effect. Enjoy The Wit And Wisdom Of Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess

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