Saturday salon 27/12 late edition


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.

1. It was a dark and stormy night


Actually we’ve had gentle rain tonight, easing. Probably about 15 to 20 mm. Enough to keep the grass, shrubs and trees interested, but not enough to run water into any of the dams on properties where I work.

Other than Christmas, not too much has happened that impinged on my consciousness, but then we’ve intentionally missed the news on telly a couple of times. With Christmas midweek I lost a sense of what day it was. Tomorrow’s Sunday, when I normally work on a 50-acre property with possibly an acre of kept gardens. If it’s raining in the morning I’ll put the cue in the rack which means for sure the sun will come out to a bright shiny day!

The idea of the image above came from son Mark’s Facebook. He’s holidaying in southern Thailand where I gather the weather is bad!

2. Tsunami anniversary

Mark will be here next week. I must ask him whether Koh Samui was affected by the Boxing Day tsunami.

Of course, Boxing Day was the tenth anniversary of the tsunami that destroyed large tracts of Aceh province in Sumatra, also affecting Thailand and Sri Lanka, killing some 230,000 people. See reports at the the ABC and the BBC.

3. Putin needs new annexations

Looking further abroad the German magazine Der Spiegel ran an interview with the Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who thinks that Putin needs new annexations to feed his popularity at home. Yatsenyuk is plainly pessimistic about any resolution of the situation, which is a worry for the whole world in 2015.

This article by Anatole Kaletsky is reasonably optimistic, pointing out that the formal truce struck in September is holding and that the situation should evolve into

a broadly stable “frozen conflict,” similar to the stalemates that have prevailed for years, even decades, in Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kosovo, Cyprus and Israel, to name just the frozen conflicts closest to Europe.

Kaletsky thinks Ukraine will never make it into the EU or NATO. He thinks:

an EU association agreement, similar to Turkey’s, could help reduce corruption and encourage economic reform. A dual trading relationship with both Europe and Russia could ultimately offer Ukraine the only possible route to economic viability. This sort of relationship should become possible once this year’s conflict is definitively “frozen.”

4. Heightened terrorist “chatter”

There is always a possibility that Abbott’s warning of heightened terrorist chatter is playing politics. I’d be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Professor Jeff Lewis, terrorism expert at RMIT, said:

predictions were “very, very difficult” but believed an attack would occur in the following year.

“While we engage in war against ISIS it makes us vulnerable,” he said.

“I wouldn’t want to put a percentage on it, but I think in the next 12 months something else will happen, either in Australia or in Indonesia directed at Australians.”

Not good!