Wednesday Night #1752

Written by  //  September 30, 2015  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Terry & David Jones comment:
enjoyed your wed night write-up and totally agree with you Fiorina
She showed a genius for self promotion which is how she got to Lucent Technologies and H-P. I don’t hold mistakes against her, I hold her rewriting history so that she need not learn from her mistakes. She doesn’t even know what she doesn’t know. I think, like Trump, it’s always about them and everyone else in the universe is a bit player.
As for German-gov-industry collusion. I had years of that in the nonproliferation area where they and some French and Italian companies colluded merrily to help Pakistanis, Iraqis and the Iranian Shah obtain what was banned. The were also perfectly willing to sell the Warsaw Pact countries the bullets – so long as their companies made money. Worse than that was the hypocritical (monkey see no evil) attitude.
We are just so glad The Pope is safe and sound away from our shores. Our daughter in Philadelphia (who had hospital duty the whole time because she could walk to work) said there were national guards men on practically every corner. She was stunned at how many showed up and waited hours just to see the Pope. Fortunately, it seemed to dampen demand for hospital services and lower crime rates as well.
Give our best the Wed night group.
Love, Terry/Dave

What a week!

Mohammed Fahmy was pardoned by Egyptian President al-Sisi.and released from prison. Now that he is safe, writer and activist Aurangzeb Qureshi wonders Was Mohamed Fahmy a Victim of Stephen Harper’s Ideology, linking the inaction of the government to the philosophy underlying Bill C-24 aka the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act:
“What is clear, however is that the Canadian government had little to do with Fahmy’s release. Although “sheepish whimpers” — as lawyer Amal Clooney characterized the Canadian government’s response — were made to secure his freedom, the government’s lack of action was evident from the start showcasing the flawed precedence of ideology over humanity. Given that Fahmy held dual Egyptian-Canadian citizenship (now renounced as a condition for release), the case is a potential precursor of how such negligence may become reality for Canadians not worthy of a concerted diplomatic effort, primarily those considered to be second-tier Canadians under Bill C-24 or failing to qualify, in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s lexicon, under the “old stock” variety.”

Pope Francis’ conquest of the Americans – or at least most of them. Despite the media frenzy and the touching comments from many who do not share the Pope’s faith, a few high-profile figures skipped his address to Congress, notably Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas who were all conspicuously absent  – the interesting thing about this story is that we had not realized (or thought about it) that six of the 9 justices are Catholic.

John Boehner’s departure from a thankless job – we believe he genuinely tried, but was thwarted by the ever-squabbling Republicans. At least he went out on a high note – the Papal Visit, which was a triumph for him. What next?
To our astonishment, Donald Trump continues to be treated as a credible candidate, but Salon is of the opinion that Carly Fiorina is more dangerous than Donald Trump: Her brazen demagoguery puts his to shame — The surging contender’s breathtaking facility with lying makes Trump look like an amateur

Robert Fisk ’s brilliant lecture “Goodbye Mr. Sykes, Adieu M. Picot: How the ISIS ‘caliphate’ frightens the Middle East — and us” on Saturday. Much of what he said was an elaboration on already-published pieces, and interviews – including one published recently in Tyee in which he elaborates on the irreparable damage of Sykes-Picot – but he wove the content together over 45 minutes in a conversational tone that, despite the large audience, made it seem like an almost-private discussion and his articulate delivery with injections of humour, made the eye-witness accounts more vivid than when they appear on the printed page.
His chilling comment on ISIS – that he views it as a weapon, rather than a religious movement:
”It’s the lack of emotion. They are absolutely cold.”
“Groups of people became totally desensitized. Normally you associate religion with emotion. And yet ISIL has never shown any emotion. The execution of the Jordanian pilot was filmed with seven different camera angles. Hollywood uses four. These people showed no anger. Nothing.”Last year I went to Yabroud after the Syrian government army had managed to retake it. I went to the church — the oldest Christian church in Syria — to see if (it) had been destroyed. Around the church someone had specifically drilled out all the eyes of the Saints in the Orthodox mosaics, including St. George and the dragon. They even drilled out the eyes of the dragon! In one corner there were piles and piles of ripped up oil paintings. Beautiful, gold paintings. But they didn’t use a knife to cut them. They brought a machine — the paintings were mathematically, precisely cut by a machine.”
He held up one of the pieces for the audience to see and it was, in fact, perfectly evenly cut.

The UN General Assembly & Russia’s active intervention in Syria.
The plenary session of the UN General Assembly with the full cast of players: Obama, Putin, Rouhani, and a great speech by King Abdullah of Jordan. Canada, as usual in the Harper years, is MIA.
The major development is, of course, the newly aggressive role for Russia in proposing to solve the Syrian/ISIS situation, along with support for Bashar Assad – at least for now. Vladimir Putin Wants A New UN Resolution To Fight ISIS His Way. “Russia plans to soon introduce a United Nations Security Council resolution that would aim to reshape the global fight against the Islamic State terrorist group”. [Before endorsing this proposal, we suggest you may wish to read  Charles Lister’s analysis The West is walking into the abyss on Syria.]
The current U.S.-led approach to defeating the Islamic State group, or ISIS, is flawed because it does not support the government of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, Putin argued. He said his country would use its present position as president of the Security Council to first hold a meeting to analyze threats in the Middle East and then try to bring together all forces that are opposed to extremists.”
Obama said he was willing to cooperate with Russia and Iran to try to end the four-year civil war in Syria, in which at least 200,000 people have died and millions have been driven from their homes. But he described Assad as its chief culprit. ”  we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the prewar status quo.”
In contrast, Putin said there was no alternative to cooperating with Assad’s military to fight Islamic State militants, and called for the creation of a broader international anti-terrorist coalition. This appeal may compete with the coalition that the United States has assembled to fight Islamic State.
Despite the diplopolitical manoeuvering and spin, it is evident that the key issue is how to deal with Assad. For the moment, President Obama is not budging, but we suspect that Robert Fisk is correct in his prediction that eventually it will be decided that the devil we know is the better choice and a resigned acceptance of the real politik check from Quartz: “… as long as US strategic interests are met, Washington probably shouldn’t care if Russian actions—or those of China or Iran—help, or even are primary, in achieving American objectives. If the aim is to stabilize Syria and, if possible, Iraq, it shouldn’t matter that Putin has swooped in at the last minute to prop up Assad, and bolster his regime against ISIL” (Why the US should give Putin a free rein in Syria).
UPDATE: Obama ends up dealing with Russia and living with Assad, for now

The Monk Debate on Foreign Affairs was far better than the previous debates because the moderator was forceful and managed most of the time to keep the leaders from interrupting one another (Justin the most blatant transgressor). Even At Issue was kind in its critique. There were still some pretty heated exchanges, and one nasty comment from Mulcair re Bob Rae (Bob Rae Lets Thomas Mulcair Have It After Munk Debate Insult). For the truly masochistic, Maclean’s offers the complete transcript, with the advantage that the facial tics and melodramatic gestures cannot be seen.
We wish that Stephen Harper and Chris Alexander would read the fine NYT Opinion piece, How Dragging Our Feet on Refugees Creates More Terrorists,  by Anne Speckhard. She makes a telling point:  “the vast majority of war-torn Syrian refugees are fleeing terrorist groups. But they are at risk. Experience from many conflict zones teaches us that the longer these refugees are left to languish in despair in camps the more prone they become to radicalization.”
CBC’s Neil Macdonald offers a provocative (not so say snarky) analysis of Mr. Harper’s statements regarding the ‘special relationship’ with the U.S., The myth of Canada’s ‘special relationship’ with the U.S. – Canadian politicians all think they can bond with the person in the White House, good luck. It’s an entertaining read.

The Saudis did not have a good week. Not only have critics of the Saudis’ continued flaunting of human rights within their country – including the cases of Ali al-Nimr and blogger Raif Badawi – and their systematic export of Wahabbism across the Muslim world become more vocal, but the tragic events surrounding the stampede during the Hajj have brought widespread condemnation of Saudi management of the huge crowds and led to sharp criticism from Iran Then there is the war with Yemen where civilian deaths are now calculated at some 2,300
Writing in The Dispatch, TO STOP RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM, INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY MUST CONFRONT SAUDI ARABIA (scroll down to page 20) Kyle Matthews details the failures of Saudi Arabia to offer any assistance to the refugees – other than the offer to build 20 mosques in Germany – and urges the world to “shine the spotlight on Saudi Arabia’s hypocrisy and demand that it, as one of the wealthiest countries in the Middle East, begin to use its national resources for the good of humanity by taking in Syrian refugees, rather than exporting Wahhabism. Religious extremism is powering conflicts that lead to the mass displacement of people. It must no longer be tolerated.”
Daniel Benjamin explains the U.S. support of and alliance with Saudi Arabia in: The King and ISIS and concludes: “Will our partners of seven decades, as U.S. officials like to refer to the Saudis, join in the fight against extremism and not just its terrorist end-product? Don’t count on it: Saudi Arabia has avoided taking such steps for decades, and there is no reason to think the kingdom can’t stay on its current course for decades more.”
While many voices have been raised over the Saudi membership on the UN Human Rights Council, much of the fury is misplaced as laid out by the Daily Beast which argues that:
“By all means the international community needs to take a long and hard look at how it elects members to the UNHRC. By all means that process needs serious reform. Indeed, countries with a poor human rights record should not be part of such a council. And, indeed, there should be clear criteria to determine whose record is worse than others’, and countries that are politically strong should not get a free pass, and countries that are convenient to dislike are not excluded. Those are far bigger issues, and far more significant concerns, than arguing whether Saudi Arabia should be the temporary chair of an advisory panel, whose recommendations would simply be that—recommendations.” – still, the optics are awful! And the Guardian article that revealed this week that leaked documents suggest a vote-trading deal was conducted between the UK & Saudi Arabia to enable both nations to secure a seat at the UNHRC certainly doesn’t help.

Volkswagen did not have a good week either. In case you were paying attention to other news, Fortune gives a precise round-up of what has happened to date 10 things to know as VW’s emissions scandal enters its 2nd week

BBC offers The scandal explained and the woes continue with the further revelations on Monday that Audi and Skoda say an additional 3.3m cars have ‘cheat’ emissions software. Kimon mentions that “the Volkswagen scandal is much bigger than meets the eye. Germany has been a model for Europe and has lectured everybody else on economic virtue. This is a very serious blow to her reputation and knocks her off her pedestal.” Making matters worse, According to Bloomberg Martin Winterkorn, the now-ex CEO of Volkswagen Group could benefit from a $32 million pension on his way out. If the company’s supervisory board decides he is not responsible for the circumstances surrounding his exit, Winterkorn could also reap millions more in severance.

Looking forward to reading Kevin Page’s tell-all Unaccountable: Truth and Lies on Parliament Hill, even with the flaws that IRPP’s Stephen Tapp identifies in his review.

Countering the claim of the Toronto Star that Canadian musicians don’t write protest songs about politicians, Blue Rodeo have released, as a free download, a song titled Stealin’ All My Dreams, targeting Steven Harper. However, capping all political discussions, cartoons and comedy, is the wonderful Harper Song (Canadian Lies) by Helen Austin of whom, we are ashamed to admit, we had not previously heard. (Thank you, Ron Robertson.)

Cleo gave a radio interview on India’s Prime Minister Modi’s remarks to the U.N. that were preceded by a trip to the Silicon Valley where Modi pushed his “Digital India” project and met with the leaders of the giant tech companies, many of which are headed by Indians or Indian Americans. Note that both he and Xi Jinping visited West Coast technology centres (Xi was in Seattle) before coming to the UN.

Sauvé Alumna Anupreeta Das has a fascinating piece in the WSJ about the storied Plaza Hotel (of very fond memories before Donald Trump owned it) Plaza Hotel Sale: The Latest Twist In a Long, Strange Trip – Jailed tycoon faces off with Indian government over future of the storied New York property. Sahara Group, the hotel’s majority owner, must convince India’s Supreme Court it will make good on the $6 billion regulators say it owes. Otherwise, the Indian government has indicated it could take action to seize the historic Manhattan property and sell it to the highest bidder.

Congratulations to two friends of long-standing, Lionel Chetwynd and Pierrette Sévigny, who were Concordia’s commemorative degree ceremony valedictorians — part of Homecoming 2015.

And to the unstoppable West Winger, Alexandra Greenhill, who has been nominated to represent Canada at the Cartier Women’s Initiative.

Sad news of the death of Canadian tenor Michael Burgess, best known for his role in the Toronto production of Les Misérables where he played the character of Jean Valjean 1,000 times for the duration of the production. “Michael created the role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, which was one of the first international blockbusters to have its own production in Canada with a local cast,” said David Mirvish
Les Miserables: Do you hear the people sing: Sung by 17 Valjeans from around the world

Indeed we have a full plate and have barely consumed the hors d’oeuvres, so look forward to having you help us digest it all.

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