Wednesday Night #1421

A video montage of many of Julius Grey‘s most publicized cases served to remind all of his commitment to the rule of law and his fight for reasonable laws governing civil rights and humanitarian issues. Although the freedom of expression, freedom of association along with freedom not to associate cases have been widely publicized, it is some of the lower profile ones, such as the one dealing with equitable valuation and division of assets in divorce cases that have had the most impact on jurisprudence and on the general well being of Quebeckers. In a sign of the times, there are an increasing number of cases of reckless trading of portfolios (especially with those of older people) which should be handled very conservatively. The plaintiffs in these cases usually obtain damages.

Over a period of 30 years, Philippe Valois sold Canadians on the idea of investing in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, but was never successful in convincing institutional investors in those regions to invest in Canada. He notes that while some private investors have done so, it is only in the past three years that he and his partners in Europe have been able to convince large foreign institutions to actively buy Canada, recognizing that our economy is the strongest in the world. Kimon Valaskakis confirms that when he was Ambassador to the OECD, the image of Canada was most favourable except that Canada was looked upon as weak in follow-through – good ideas, social innovation and inventions that inevitably wound up being promoted/commercialized somewhere else. Some of this weakness may be attributable to the fact that Canadian entrepreneurs tend to look only to the U.S. It would be interesting to study the Beauce model for lessons in successful Canadian entrepreneurship.

Now that Philippe has returned to his base in Montreal and Knowlton, he has become a member of the Board of the  Knowlton Festival , successor to last year’s hugely successful Bel Canto Festival, and proposed as an annual event that will give the MSO a summer home – a Tanglewood North.

Privacy versus transparency

Privacy is a lost cause therefore what is needed is a change in moral attitude to a society that becomes much more tolerant
Poker is a disinformation game and so is capitalismthe last thing you want in either is transparency
Transparency and accountability are incompatible with capitalism
Intervention at the state level means nothing; only at the global level can solutions be implemented successfully

If it is true that transparency and accountability are incompatible with morality, then the question arises as to the effect of government and business on the morality of the nation. As transparency, morality and accountability are not necessarily evident in either religion or government, the need for the establishment of global, transparent government becomes even more attractive.  Unfortunately, the regulation of the global economy has not as yet worked and the politicians appear to be joining the industrialists in terms of morality and transparency.  The establishment by humans of territorial boundaries must certainly have occurred to fence off people as well as land; current attempts to reopen the frontiers, as has been done between nation members of the European Union, have been a small, positive step towards ultimate world governance.
Neither the rampant socialism of Eastern Europe nor the untrammelled capitalism of Reaganomics and Thatcherism is the answer. It is to be hoped that the public’s current demand for transparency in governance will lead us to a new moral society.  Capitalism – wherein a company requires secrecy in order to stay ahead of the competition – cannot thrive in a fully transparent society and there is little reason to believe that after a decent interval of deep concern, human nature will not revert to the greed that has propelled us into the current crisis – and many previous ones. On the other hand, if we do not modify our behavior in line with certain moral precepts, and learn to work within a certain globally regulated framework, i.e. arrive at a balanced approach that will not see all manufacturing jobs exported to the developing world while eschewing protectionist policies, we will continue to create bubbles and eventually one could destroy us. There are encouraging signs of a move towards a moral system; issues such as environment, education, healthcare, culture, have taken on a moral dimension in public discussion today.
[Editor’s Footnote on governance, see Yoni Goldstein: When Democracy is fair to a fault]
In a transparent world, what happens to intellectual property? Another way will have to be found to reward inventiveness. While there would be none of the protections on which we insist with some success today, it should be remembered that it is the interpretation of knowledge that is valuable. We have not found an answer yet, but what is certain is that intervention at the state level means nothing; only at the global level can solutions be implemented successfully.

Privacy and the Internet
Is privacy –  a  word that has no equivalent in many languages including French and Greek – an illusion today? With the advent of cell phones, digital cameras and cell phones with digital cameras, the ease with which pictures and statements are posted on the Internet for the world to see, the whole concept of privacy has disappeared – and it has been eroded by individuals, not the paparazzi or media. In fact, the public, but more especially journalists who are unable to or physically prevented from reaching a crime scene or disaster, can inevitably track the events on such sites as Face Book within minutes of their occurrence. (The case of the inadvertent recording of the unfortunate remarks made by Minister of Natural Resources, Lisa Raitt, in a private conversation with her aide highlights murky rules of privacy law)
A notable exception appears to be the culture of Japan (and possibly Korea?), which despite being a highly technologically developed society where social networking is prevalent, there remains a highly developed sense of privacy which is even supported by social structures. There also exists a global counter culture of privacy reflected in the growing number of secret societies and the number of individuals (by definition wealthy ones who can pay for the privilege), who maintain anonymity behind corporate screens, unlisted telephone numbers and addresses, do not have or use credit cards, or leave any form of paper/ether trail – and most certainly do not participate in any form of ‘social network’. For the less fortunate individual, achieving this goal is impossible unless one is prepared to live totally indoors without bank accounts or credit cards and avoiding streets and stores with observation cameras. [Editor’s note: for an interesting view of the debate on the Internet versus individual privacy, see Big Brother vs. Social Media vs. Basil Fawlty]

Nuclear arms  
With the announcement this week North Korea has nuclear weapons, it is confirmed that North Korea has nuclear capacity; Israel has nuclear weapons, Iran has nuclear weapons, India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons.  Nuclear weapons appear to confer a special status on nations, but their use in today’s world except as a threat is deemed extremely unlikely (except possibly in the case of Israel, says one Wednesday Nighter, who believes that Israel relies on perceived international support that would inhibit any other country from ‘punishing’ it).  In the case of North Korea, both Japan and South Korea are highly vulnerable, but the only nation that could realistically react is China  and that is unlikely. Until the development of pocket bombs accessible to everyone from Islamist terrorists to Columbian -and Mexican – gangs, the world remains a relatively safe place. Furthermore it appears that the developments in North Korea relate more to the internal political situation, specifically the question of succession. Certain neighboring countries may welcome this development as a counterpoint to China, whose vast population, racist outlook and gender imbalance stemming from the one-child policy, poses a serious threat to them.

Population and climate change – the real threat
Is population growth in combination with climate change the real ‘bomb’, with the threat of emigration of hundreds of millions to those countries in the West that remain sustainable? James Lovelock , the originator of the Gaia Theory and most recently author of The Vanishing Face of Gaia argues that ‘terror-crazed masses of climate change refugees’ will invade the last habitable lands.  Global warming appears to be unstoppable at this point – mitigation is no longer a realistic solution –  so if humans are to continue to exist, they must adapt.  Mass transport, education, new forms of food and agricultural technology are near-term solutions. Reliance on oil must be eliminated;  nuclear power will be essential to meet the needs of the cities, although alternative energy sources can respond to rural requirements. If the current trend continues, as appears most likely, only  Canada and Northern Europe will be able to continue to support human life and will have to face the prospect of unprecedented massive human migration. Dr. Lovelock estimates that the carrying capacity of the earth is a population of one billion people -less than one-sixth of the current population – the same figure that was put forward 15 years ago by David Pimentel of Cornell University in the paper Natural Resources and an Optimum Human Population.
This, of course, is the current outlook but prediction is of necessity, a linear projection of the present.  In the millennia of human presence on the earth, mass migrations have indeed occurred, but adaptations and creativity have enabled human civilization to enjoy its current success; however it is less likely that there will be time for  future generations to show the same ingenuity at problem solving as have our ancestors.

Graphic illustration of the effects of energy waste on the current globalized context is offered by Jeff Rubin, former Chief Economist of CIBC and author of  Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization, in an interview with CBC’s Fred Langan. “Triple digit oil prices will reverse globalization (distance costs money) and lead to the reemergence of local economies where we make our own steel and grow our own food – our diets are going to change”. He also notes that land use patterns will change as life in sprawling suburbs will no longer be a tenable.

The Governor General dines on raw seal  – cultural sensitivity or faux pas?
Recently, our image has been tarnished by the Governor General’s publicized Inuit meal including engaging in the butchering of a seal and eating its raw heart.  This was widely viewed as a political gesture showing support for the seal hunt, coming on the heels of condemnation by the European Community, rather than as a recognition of traditional practice – not to mention acknowledgement of the benefits of traditional diet that replaces the fresh fruit and vegetables necessary to a healthy diet in the south. (Canada’s seal hunt, or for that matter, the manner in which farm animals are fed and slaughtered, is no more inhumane than for example, force-feeding geese held immobilized in order to ultimately enjoy their liver as a delicacy.)  The reports were taken out of context as it was a ceremonial offering to a special guest and her participation was greeted enthusiastically by her Inuit hosts.  As Governor General, she would have violated the rules of etiquette and insulted her hosts had she refused. On the other hand, one wonders how the Queen felt about this public gesture by her representative in Canada. It was a formal visit and it might very well have been better to have foreseen and reviewed the protocol before the event.

T H E  I N V I T A T I O N

After weeks and weeks of contemplation of the financial crisis, economy, markets and related topics, with only occasional wanderings in unallied fields like Somali piracy and the Mulroney-Schreiber circus, we are happy to offer a more eclectic range of topics this week, although, rest assured, the economy will always have its place.
Philippe Valois
returns to WN after a very long absence and with a new enthusiasm: the Knowlton Festival. For those who are not familiar with this recent development: “Last summer’s Bel Canto Festival—which this year has changed its name to the Knowlton Festival—was such a success that the Eastern Townships community and Kent Nagano, the Festival’s artistic director and music director of the OSM, have decided to make it an annual world-class event. This year’s Knowlton Festival will take place from August 4 to 16 and will again feature the OSM and Maestro Nagano.”  We are very much looking forward to hearing more about the Festival and catching up with something like 10 years worth of Valois news.
Julius Grey
has promised to join us – much-too-rare event – despite his incredibly busy professional life, which includes acting for Julie Couillard  who is suing her former employer, the company that rejoices in the (to us) somewhat inappropriate name of Kevlar – or maybe, on the other hand, they are strong enough to resist even Julius? Closer to home – at least for some of us – Julius has been retained by a former manager at ICAO in a messy case involving charges of excessive expenditures by a current director of technical cooperation. Julius is also representing the mother of Nathalie Morin, the young woman who is seeking to return to Canada from Saudi Arabia  where she says she is being held against her will. And those are only three of his files!
As Judith Patterson is with us this week, we could not possibly ignore the ongoing story of the Alberta tar sands versus the new Green administration in Washington. Of interest is the new report of the Council on Foreign Relations, which, according to the Scientific American  appears to dismiss claims of environmentalists. And then there is the IHS CERA report discussed in the NYT  but unfortunately not available (at least not that we could find).
Water 
is – or should be – always one of our preoccupations, and yes, there are WN proponents of water as a commodity, while there are others who believe it is a fundamental right; whichever side of the argument you come down on, we commend SciDev Net’s pages on Nanotechnology for clean water : Facts and figures makes fascinating reading.
The Conference Board of Canada has released a new report one of whose authors is our OWN Guy Stanley : Intellectual property rights—innovation and national competitiveness  Not surprisingly, the premise is that Canada is a comparatively weak innovator and, overall, has a comparatively weak system of IPR protection. The report, prepared for The Conference Board of Canada’s Intellectual Property: A Catalyst for Innovation Conference, seeks to provide the international context necessary to assess Canada’s intellectual property and innovation relationship and to provide insights on improving Canadian intellectual property policy. We look forward to Guy’s personal review of this oeuvre. It should be a good companion piece to that of the panel appointed by the Council of Canadian Academies and chaired by Robert Brown: Innovation and Business Strategy: Why Canada Falls Short, touted as presenting a fresh look at innovation as an economic process. [See May 20 Jeffrey Simpson column: Needed urgently: more creativity from the business class – “Business in Canada, generally speaking, has a poor research and development record. International reports have documented the Canadian private sector’s inadequate record. The decline and fall of Nortel was devastating for the country’s innovation, since that company used to be the country’s R&D leader, far more important for R&D than those car companies whose agonies have been so much with us in recent months.”]

How many of you knew that the 10th World Congress on Art Deco is being held this week in Montreal? Do check out the excellent website and related news

Should we manage to exhaust all of the above in record time, we can always revert to such continuing international topics as Pakistan, Sri Lanka; China, and certainly the farcical trial of Aung San Suu Kyi; and Canadian politics including the weak response of Minister Flaherty to the need to regulate credit card companies; the reaction of Michael Ignatieff to the attack ads –  ; and by Wednesday, sad to say, there will no doubt be more on Mulroney-Schreiber.

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