Wednesday Night #1576

Written by  //  May 16, 2012  //  People Meta, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

It is with sadness that we note the passing of Neil McKenty, broadcaster, author, former Jesuit, major Montreal personality (and sometime Wednesday Nighter). As usual, Alan Hustak has written a wonderful obituary of this complex individual who dominated Montreal’s airwaves for many years.

We are delighted that Kimon Valaskakis, freshly arrived from Paris, will be with us to share his thoughts on the election of the new French president and the on-going crisis in Greece and what this all means for austerity as the policy du jour. M. Hollande who has clearly expressed his anti-austerity stance is now off to Germany to meet with Angela Merkel, in the words of ABC’s Eleanor Hall, “the EU’s unofficial austerity enforcer”
The news that Greece is to return to the polls yet again has created ever more pessimism about the Eurozone, as Reuters reports fears of contagion are rising  , more pundits are discussing the real possibility that Greece might leave the Eurozone, and the BBC posts a piece on how Greece would leave and what would happen
For those of you who have not already been alerted, the New School of Athens websitehas several excellent posts (including Kimon’s own writings) on austerity. Comments are MOST welcome.

We submit some random thoughts on the Economy for the remainder of the evening’s topics.
For the economists and China watchers among us, the New York Times reports that “Data Signals Economic Trouble in China
As China’s leaders have been preoccupied with a political struggle leading up to a once-in-a-decade leadership change this autumn, there are increasing signs that the Chinese economy may be running into trouble. China announced [last] Thursday that growth in imports had unexpectedly come to a screeching halt in April — rising just 0.3 percent from the same period a year earlier, compared with expectations for an 11 percent increase. Businesses across the country appeared to lose much of their appetite for products as varied as iron ore and computer chips.
One place in the universe that could do with some austerity is Wall Street as evidenced by the JP Morgan story. Seems Mr. Dimon took “Too Big to Fail” too seriously and possibly the outcome will be exactly what he has been lobbying against. [Will JPMorgan’s Loss Provide a Win for Wall Street Reform? ] We are happy to see that the much-admired (by us) Elizabeth Warren is calling for his resignation from the Federal Reserve of New York Any bets that he will slither out of this situation?
[Update: It seems that Mr. Dimon will not suffer from any austerity measures. JPMorgan’s Dimon wins pay backing  — At its annual shareholder meeting in Tampa, Florida, 91% of those who voted backed Jamie Dimon’s $23m pay packet for the last year. … But most ballots were cast before the trading loss was announced.]
One intriguing side bar to the story is that of the White Whale  obviously a very different animal from the Fabulous Fab of Goldman Sachs ; other than both are French citizens- can one discern a pattern?
Although Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is about to join the ranks of the uber-rich with the much-heralded IPO, the public buzz is not about austerity, but according to the Christian Science Monitor  “Facebook IPO or not, a new poll shows skepticism. Could 900 million users worldwide be wrong? Half of those polled say the Facebook IPO price is too high” and a large number of Americans believe it is a passing fad. Others ask if he is too young to lead the company which could be worth more than Disney, Ford and Kraft Food. One person who has no doubts about the success of the IPO is co-founder Eduardo Saverin, who has renounced his U.S. citizenship in favour of continuing to live in Singapore where there is no capital gains tax (and no austerity).

Environment/climate change
The climate change (and Tar Sands) debate continues with James Hansen’s provocative Game Over for the Climate  and his complementary TED Talk “Why I must speak out about climate change
Meanwhile the Harper government continues to stonewall its critics and wage war on any and all environment concerns, refusing to split the budget bill in more manageable pieces. The NDP has announced it will hold public hearings across Canada about the government’s omnibus budget bill and will also launch a website and social-media campaign to alert Canadians to the scope of the legislation. We are not sure what good this will do.

Conference on de-growth
Coincidentally, “Just as events are forcing Quebecers to debate some fundamental questions about our economy and our future, five Montreal universities happen to be hosting a weeklong conference on “degrowth” – a movement that questions whether economic growth should be our society’s primary goal.”  We have heard no reports of disruptions. Neither have we heard of large delegations from the Harper government in attendance, however Jean Charest found the time to promote the Plan Nord. Peter Brown and Paul Shrivastava have been deeply involved in the planning of this event and our thoughts and wishes that all will go well are with them. More on the conference

Quebec student protests
The confrontation between Quebec students (not in favour of austerity) and the government took yet another dramatic turn with the resignation on Monday of Line Beauchamp as Minister of Education and her replacement by Michelle Courchesne, who will more than likely prove to be the Bad Cop in negotiations with the students. One CBC interviewer suggested to the leaders of the student groups that they too should resign and then everything could start on a new footing. They were not inclined to do so; nor were they amused. Which reminds us that one of the problems with student leaders today is a singular lack of sense of humour. There is a good profile of Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois in the Globe & Mail and Germain has added to the somewhat sparse information about him « Le petit révolutionnaire, qui est membre depuis 4 ans d’un parti communiste-anarchiste, n’est nul autre que le fils de Pascale Nadeau, de Radio-Canada et le petit-fils du très sérieux Pierre Nadeau. »
More developments after Mme Courchesne’s Tuesday night meeting with the student leaders.

Amidst the prevailing gloom, we are delighted to recommend a wonderful book about Expo 67 by John Lownsbrough. The just-published The Best Place To Be, part of the History of Canada series of Penguin Canada, is a beautifully researched and written account of the social and political context in which Expo was conceived and built, which also manages to be a delightfully gossipy snapshot of those who made it happen (in some cases, against their better judgement). It’s a great read for those who remember the magical event and for those who wonder what the fuss was all about.

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