Wednesday Night #1523

“Beware what you set your heart upon. For it shall surely be yours.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Diana welcomed the presence of three unusually dynamic and interesting members of the generation that is inheriting the problems created by the generation that predominates Wednesday Night , and invited each to elaborate on his/her current projects and ambitions. Kyle Hill led off with a description of Teach for Canada which is currently competing for a $100,000 grant from Pepsi.

The future of the Liberal Party of Canada
The LPC is at a stage when and where no ideas should be suppressed
The outcome of the election and the future of the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) was [and no doubt will be for some time] the subject of much discussion.
Many hypotheses have been formulated to explain the inexplicable flight of the electorate from Liberal to NDP candidates, presumably in an ill conceived, herd-like attempt to deprive the Conservatives of a majority, while punishing the Liberals for past sins, real and imagined. Although the participation of youth is refreshing and generally a good omen and although many candidates elected for the first time were prepared for their legislative duties, others are believed to be totally unaware of what is entailed in those duties beyond sitting in the House of Commons and occasionally raising one’s right hand. Canada has not suffered by having had majority (Progressive) Conservative governments in the past, but despite the similarity in titles, the current Conservative majority government is best described as a party that has risen from the ashes of the Reform Party, a western-based, western-oriented political entity, at times appearing more closely linked with the District of Columbia than the Province of Ontario.
The Liberal Party, reduced to a rump, its leader deprived of a seat in Commons, has been left little space for further descent without approaching oblivion. An interim leader will be elected to oversee the attempt to rebuild the party for two years, then ceding his (or her) place to a successor who will lead the party into the next election. It appears to be hoped by some that the apparent attraction that Justin Trudeau holds for the population will translate into the belief that he has risen phoenix-like from the ashes of his father, undoubtedly not a great hypothesis nor a great idea for the twenty-first century. A number of Wednesday Nighters express concern that, while his inherited/acquired charisma is an asset,  he does not possess his father’s intellectual capacity or maturity, and that he lives in an era in which the population has changed significantly in its beliefs and wishes, clearly demonstrated in the results of the recent election.
Hypotheses abound to explain the results, including the voters’ belief that voting NDP was the way to unseat the Prime Minister; that Michael Ignatieff failed to relate to people because of his superior intelligence, his prolonged absence from the country and how he was portrayed in the highly effective attack ads that preceded the election; that Quebeckers’ support of the NDP represented a recognition of the courage of Jack Layton in returning with vigour following his recent serious illness; that it was an error for the Bloc to bring up independence (and bring Jacques Parizeau into the fray) at this time. More credible is the interpretation that unknowingly, Michael Ignatieff lost the election, as opposed to Stephen Harper winning it.
Some people do not buy ideology and idealism (but) when you are in politics, you get an adrenalin rush.

Much negative discussion has taken place around the youthful naïveté and lack of qualifications of many of the newly elected Members of Parliament, but if the young guests of Wednesday Night are any indication, once forged in the fire of political life, their interest, intelligence and especially their concern for their fellow human beings will ensure a sine qua non brighter future for our nation. Currently, a group of young people are working to raise the level education of citizens of low income, especially remote communities, overcoming difficulties and such roadblocks as working with unions to recognize the value of providing an adequate education throughout the populations as being of even greater importance than that of collective bargaining in some instances.
The unpredicted involvement of youth in this election may very well prove to be the bellwether in Canada’s unwritten history now being created, the evidence being how the great Liberal Party of Canada has been brought to its knees and is seeking a reincarnation, which it appears to have an excellent choice of achieving under the changing and evolving game rules.

The economy and market matters
In the market, following a run-up of 130% to 150% since August last year a correction is anticipated, possibly ending at this or next Friday. Silver, which has been gaining favour may undergo a possible correction ending at the end of this or next week.
The big question is the future of the repurchase of U.S. bonds as they expire. They are largely held by China which will undoubtedly repurchase them, but the question remains as to what will happen in the future as it is possible that future repurchases will become more and more partial as time goes on, causing possible financial difficulties for the U.S. Not for the first time at a Wednesday Night, it was suggested that a logical solution to this dilemma would be the U.S. going back to the gold standard as it still has large holdings of gold at Fort Knox.
Consensus appears to be that the Canadian dollar could rise to $1.05 or perhaps $1.08 U.S. before the government might be expected to intervene.

Quotable Quote

Kyle speaks about his Teach for Canada project

We are very pleased that this Wednesday we will be joined by two of this past year’s Sauvé Scholars, Kyle Hill and Lisa Rae. Like their colleagues, these are two outstanding young people. Kyle’s Sauvé Scholar project Teach for Canada program is currently a candidate for $100,000 Pepsi Refresh grant (Yes, please vote for it). The program plans to aggressively recruit a national teacher corps of Canada’s top recent university graduates to teach for 2+ years at schools in need; namely, in Aboriginal communities, economically disadvantaged communities, and rural communities.
As a Sauvé Scholar Lisa investigated how to improve access to mental health services and the cultural relevancy of mental health assessment tools in Canada’s North. In addition, she has been one half of englishimmersionfrancaise échange littéraire de Lisa et François’ literary exchange – even if you are not reading along with Lisa and François, their commentary is most instructive.
Kyle and Lisa will be joined by yet another remarkable young woman, Martha Chertkow, who is just back from Carleton. As you can see, Martha is obviously Sauvé Scholar material and is a political junkie (like so many we know).

As Canadians continue to adjust to the realities of the election results, and to absorb the varying degrees of wisdom and nonsense from pundits, prognosticators and self-appointed experts, they might wish to take some comfort from those reported from Singapore where the Natural Governing Party (the PAP) suffered the worst results since the country became independent 46 years ago. Although the PAP has a majority that might make even Stephen Harper blush – 81/86 seats – their percentage of the vote was only 60%.

Adding insult to injury for the 40% are the published figures http://www.yeocheowtong.com/Salaries.html  of the salaries paid to the senior members of the government and the generosity of their pensions. The President, having recently been given a raise of some US$ 700,300 now is paid the equivalent of US$3,355,270 p/a. We understand that the theory is pay them well and officials will not be tempted by petty graft and corruption, or as it is more delicately put in the NYT report of April 2007, “In this nation where the bottom line truly is the bottom line, the argument goes, you’ve got to pay to get them and you’ve got to pay to keep them.” [Do see Tony Deutsch’s Comment below.]

Last week’s lively discussion of the election results and the killing of Osama, left little time – or inclination – to pursue other topics. Before introducing them, however, we should call your attention to two thought-provoking articles forwarded by Amara Possian:
The Ability to Kill Osama Bin Laden Does Not Make America Great and The Devil likely died happy by CBC’s Neil Macdonald.
Also worthwhile is the Economist’s round-up of What the Arab papers say

Follow-up on the Canadian election includes tonight’s news that “New rules set out by the Liberal Party say an interim party leader won’t be allowed to run for the party’s long-term leadership and won’t be able to talk about a merger with the NDP, according to an internal party document obtained by CBC News” – a related item (also sent by Amara) announces a national day of action for electoral reform on the 14th. Now that’s something that wouldn’t happen in Singapore.

A few weeks ago (BE/Before Elections), there was a rare flare of interest in Finland’s election and whether the outcome might affect the EU bailout of Portugal. Today, in the Wall Street Journal the new PM, Timo Soini explains Why I Won’t Support More Bailouts
Insolvency must be purged from Europe’s system and it must be done openly and honestly. Meanwhile,
Portugal Opposition Vows To Go Beyond EU Bailout Measures and a flurry of headlines from a wide variety of publications sounds the alarm: Analysis: Effort aside, Europe fails to staunch debt crisis ; EU mulls lower rate plan for Greek debts ; Spartan: Disciplined, frugal. Greece: Certainly not Sparta and EU under pressure to slash ruinous Irish and Greek bailout bills The Financial Times goes so far as to suggest that Europe is running a giant Ponzi scheme. We have been so self-absorbed of late that we have missed much of the run-up to the impending crisis (or is it?).

Jeffrey Sachs’ piece in Al Jazeera The global economy’s corporate crime wave has stirred up some comments from Wednesday Nighters. He notes that “Advanced economies with ‘good governance’ are facing alarming incidents of business corruption at the highest levels. The world is drowning in corporate fraud, and the problems are probably greatest in rich countries – those with supposedly “good governance”. Poor-country governments probably accept more bribes and commit more offenses, but it is rich countries that host the global companies that carry out the largest offenses. Money talks, and it is corrupting politics and markets all over the world.” Please see comments from Guy Stanley and Kimon Valaskakis on World Economy 2011  – Maybe Singapore is on to something after all?

On a somewhat related topic La Presse offers an acid view of the nightlife of UN and NGO representatives in Haiti Foie gras et champagne pour les expatriés en Haïti … Une véritable vie nocturne qui ne cesse de se développer depuis le séisme du 12 janvier 2010, portée par les contingents de travailleurs humanitaires et d’employés de l’ONU venus au secours de l’État le plus pauvre des Amériques. Mille, dix mille? Personne ne sait combien d’ONG sont présentes dans le pays. Mais une chose est sûre: une véritable «bulle économique» a été créée.

Many may have missed the IPCC Report  Renewables could power global future
Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power can produce enough supply to power the world and help fight global warming, according to a report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Building capacity and use of renewables would cost only 1% of global GDP and help keep greenhouse-gas concentrations below levels where scientists predict climate change would become irreversible. The Guardian (London) (5/9) It all sounds too easy and we can be sure that numerous vested interests will ally to defeat any such solution, but the color of hope is green!

There is so much more, but here is a final item for our economists: Inflation spiral threatens global economy
(Emerging Markets) Ultra-loose monetary policy in the west and exchange rate inflexibility in emerging economies could spell a devastating inflationary spiral and a hard landing for the global economy, a leading expert has warned
Bill White, a former chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements, warned that today’s rising prices are a structural phenomenon, resulting from years of ultra-loose monetary policy in the west and exchange rate inflexibility in emerging economies.

As always, we try to conclude on an up-beat note. This time we point you to two excellent pieces of Robert Galbraith’s published in last weekend’s Gazette. In Reconstructing the Townships’ past, he writes about the efforts of a small group of dedicated residents in the Eastern Townships municipality of Notre Dame de Stanbridge to preserve and restore what is left of the tiny 19th century pioneer settlement of Des Rivières. The second piece Doubly delightful, describes the property – two townhouses combined into one –  at 3430 Peel Street. You can have it for a mere $$3,650,000. Unfortunately the second has none of Robert’s trademark wonderful photos.

There is lots to talk about and three wonderful young guests.

One Comment on "Wednesday Night #1523"

  1. Antal (Tony) Deutsch May 9, 2011 at 4:29 pm · Reply

    During my year in S’pore I had to learn all this slowly. There are free elections on a first-past-the- post basis, and as we all know, the Westminster heritage does not produce seats in proportion to the popular vote. There are political parties. The PAP which has been in power since 1965, does have a few non-Chinese faces in the leadership, but in fact its rank-and-file is Chinese. The opposition, which exhibits the same token racial representation, is made up mostly of people whose ancestors came from the Indian subcontinent, mostly from the South. The population is about ¾ of Chinese extraction, which gives you the election results. The latter group seems to be not dissatisfied with the government, as long as the country is prosperous, and it is. Thus the PAP keeps getting re-elected.
    Freedom of public expression is not what we are accustomed to in the West, but that is freely admitted, and explained as a positive part of the neo-Confucian culture of the majority.
    Lee Kwan You, who started his public career as a radical leftist labour lawyer, wanted a corruption free S’pore, sandwiched between countries that are everything but. The means to accomplish this difficult task was to pay civil servants and politicians as well as their counterparts are compensated in private industry. Hence the high pay shown in the article. Their counterparts in Indonesia and the Philippines have lower salaries, but make much more money. By and large , S’pore is corruption free.
    Life in S’pore is efficiently planned by the government, with a very good retirement system (compulsory DC) and modern, well-functioning, and generally accessible health-care, clean water, and well-functioning public transport. It is hard on people who want to be public intellectuals.

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