Wednesday Night #1642

Written by  //  August 21, 2013  //  Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Renewable energy
Wind power is capricious, noisy, destructive of nature and constitutes a blight on the skyline, especially in historic areas.
Robert Galbraith recently returned from a trip to his beloved Gloucester, Massachusetts, the oldest fishing port in the U.S. , where he was outraged to find the historic town blighted by wind turbines  Rob has had what might be termed a vigorous exchange with WGBH which had reported favourably on the turbine development (it seems they could revise their opinion after his none-too-gentle prodding) and he points out that the town of Falmouth on Cape Cod appears poised to remove three offending turbines, while the residents of near-by Scituate are complaining of the noise factor.  Meantime, the much larger Nantucket Bay offshore wind farm appears to be moving ahead.  Although possibly a logical choice in some unpopulated or under populated areas, it is considered by some as being uneconomic from a cost point of view as well as being reliant on poor technology for the storage of energy, particularly in terms of weight and reliability.
Québec has been blessed with a generous potential for hydro-electrical energy generation.Solar energy is weather-chronometrically dependent and

Federal politics
An unasked, perhaps unperceived question appears to be being raised in the minds of Canadians as to whether the long reign of the Federal Liberal Party has permanently come to an end, considering its current diminished status in the Parliament, along with some doubt that  the depth of personal and intellectual skills of Justin Trudeau are sufficient to return it to power. Some suggest that he is “an empty vessel”, but he is attracting a group of bright, attractive young(er) candidates and his current no-policy policy may be a very smart move, as it offers no target to his opposition.
The present Prime Minister’s political skills are undeniable and, added to his ability to attract the support of ethnic votes, appear to bode well for his re-election, with or without strong support from Québec However,  having previously twice prorogued Parliament under circumstances that reeked of political manoeuvrings, the news that Mr. Harper again plans to prorogue is greeted with considerable suspicion that he is anxious to avoid  the fallout from Duffygate/Wallingate.
There appears to be sufficient evidence to anticipate an exciting race in the next federal election, especially in the absence of the universally respected Jack Layton. In the last election many who voted NDP probably did so less ideologically than out of respect for Jack Layton and his devotion to the cause that he apparently valued over his own wellbeing during the final moments of his lifespan, combined with a continuing anger directed against the Liberal Party of the day. If Justin Trudeau and his companions can clean up their act, there is undoubtedly a major part of the electorate that will support them. Although he has garnered considerable support, it remains to be seen whether his intellectual skills will match his charisma and family name. As for the groundwork, he will certainly benefit from efforts of Michael Ignatieff achieved at the grass roots level.

Hypotheses abound related to the factors involved in the current difficulties in Egypt. The Coptic community is suffering, but it is unclear as to who is in charge. The media are, unsurprisingly, pro-coup, perhaps logically, perhaps ideologically, or perhaps because there is a positive relationship between conflict and news. There appears to be cooperation between the military and the corporate, the result of which remains a concern for some Wednesday Nighters. Generally, the influence of the United States appears, by some, to be yielding to the growing influence of Russia.

There appears to be a lot of tightening of military policy in the U.S., with an unpredictable result on the stock market. The Canadian dollar is expected to drop in relative terms, up to ten to fifteen percent against the U.S. Dollar.

Quotes of the Evening

“Health care and pharmaceuticals are too big and too profitable (in the U.S.) to turn off.”

“Per person expenditure within Canada may lower than in the U.S; eleven percent of GDP in Canada, eighteen percent of GDP in U.S.”¨

”Obamacare is either `have it or buy it’. The U.S. could have a system more efficient, at a lower cost than in Canada.”

“Society doesn`t care about fifty million people who don`t want universal health care in the «U.S. for non-whites.”

¨Low paying jobs account for twenty-nine percent of the jobs in Canada.” ¨

“Why does the average white collar person vote against their own interest?”

“We are building a reserve army of the unemployed and it is in my own interest to help change the situation”.¨

“Debts do not cause recessions: recessions cause debts.”

“My mom voted for Pierre and loved Justin …voted N.D.P. in last election but will vote for Justin in the next election”.

“Like Jimmy Carter, Obama will not gain credit for his achievements.”

“A lot of bad stuff is happening to the Coptic community in Egypt but it`s not clear who is in charge. The Military are ignoring the civil administration… A lot of people are fed us and don`t support anyone.”

“Conservation is the most effective method of energy conservation The Japanese did it but we aren`t prepared to do it.”

“Society doesn`t care about 50 million people who don`t want universal health care in the «U.S. for non-whites”.

“The Senate and congress are non-functional.”

“Seventeen billion dollars of energy production and in North America people are not prepared to give it up”.

“Health care and pharmaceuticals are up too big and too profitable to turn off”.

“Obama care is either ‘have it or buy it’. The U.S. could have a system more efficient and. at a lower cost than in Canada.”

P R O L O G U E

1642, a year notable for the civil war in England, which pitted the hapless Charles I against Parliament, and, as it happened, broke out on August 22nd.
It was a banner year for education in Massachusetts, where the first compulsory education law was passed and Harvard College held its first commencement.
Montreal was founded (but did it have a mayor?) and New Zealand discovered (not by the hobbits).

It’s unthinkable that civil war will break out here, but Stephen Harper does appear to be girding his loins to do battle. With his penchant for making big announcements from as far away from Ottawa as possible, it is not surprising that it was from Whitehorse that he confirmed his intention to prorogue Parliament until the Speech from the throne is delivered some time in October. As the Toronto Star points out “It [Prorogation of Parliament] used to be to be a fairly mundane procedural tool used to re-launch a tired government seeking to use a throne speech as a re-branding exercise.” However, “it gained notoriety after Harper used it in 2008 to avoid a non-confidence vote over political party subsidies, and again in 2009 to avoid scrutiny of Canada’s role in the treatment of Afghan detainees.” Thus, Canadians may be justified in thinking that this is more about avoiding uncomfortable questions in the House about wayward Senators.
As we look at the rest of the world, we can appreciate how truly blessed we are that our unease is over a ‘mundane procedural tool’.

The situation in Egypt deteriorates from hour to hour, and the news that Mubarak is likely to be freed this week is ominous. As we observe the critical comments of the media from around the world, it becomes more obvious that the U.S. and like-minded nations are caught in a bind – damned if they do and damned if they don’t. And if they don’t, the Saudis and their allies will.  Saudi Arabia Blames America for the Turmoil in Egypt
One of the more cogent analyses we have read is Waller R. Newell: Coups and democracy
The author summarizes his surprisingly positive assessment: “don’t let the perfect be the enemy to the good. No one can be happy when the prospects for democracy can be secured only through a coup against a democratically elected government and by bloodshed in the streets, and negotiations are probably both necessary and inevitable. But the current Egyptian military regime, while arguably authoritarian, has no long-term totalitarian blueprint for the revolutionary transformation of Egypt, and will likely wish to withdraw from politics and restore elections as soon as it is able. If they are governing by coup, it is a coup aimed at forestalling a Muslim Brotherhood coup whose effects would be far more destructive and would last far longer. Totalitarian movements favour elections when they can hope to win — but only once.”

In China, according to the New York Times, Communist Party cadres have been hearing a “sombre, secretive warning issued by senior leaders. Power could escape their grip, they have been told, unless the party eradicates seven subversive currents coursing through Chinese society.” And these currents are? “Western constitutional democracy”; promoting “universal values” of human rights, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civic participation, ardently pro-market “neo-liberalism,” and “nihilist” criticisms of the party’s traumatic past.
It seems a pity that the CPC did not instead trumpet the historic voyage of the Yong Sheng, which sailed from Dalian on August 8th for Rotterdam to test the Northern Sea Route that global warming has freed from ice. Successful completion of the voyage will signal a huge development for China’s exports to Europe, cutting some 12 to 15 days from traditional shipping route (and conveniently avoiding the Suez Canal, as well as Indian Ocean pirates).

A less happy result of global warming is signalled by the recently published report in Nature Climate Change, on the increased dangers of flooding for coastal cities.

The uproar over Russia’s anti-gay legislation continues with calls to boycott the Sochi Olympic Games in protest. Unfortunately, with under six months to go before they open, it is too late to find a viable alternative site. Moreover, commentators point out that the host nation benefits the most from boycotts [Boycotting the 2014 Sochi Olympics Is a Really Bad Idea] and the athletes from boycotting nations are the ones who suffer. It is to be profoundly hoped that the new IOC chairman will actually find some backbone (not usually a criterion for that position) and help participating nations to develop creative ways of shaming Mr. Putin’s homophobic legislation. CBC’s wonderful Joe Schlesinger offers one idea: Don’t boycott Russia’s Olympics, raise the rainbow flag instead

Energy
In a footnote to last week’s quite depressing dismissal of the efficacy of green technology and renewables, Robert Galbraith recently returned from Gloucester, Mass with photographs documenting the horrible invasion of that historic port (oldest fishing port in North America) by wind turbines. No matter how efficient they might be, there is NO excuse for this blight on the landscape of the historic and charming town.

On the good news side of the energy ledger, Foreign Affairs recently featured Better Batteries, Better World – Why Improved Energy Storage Will Matter More than Fracking and Renewable Energy
“Thanks to breakthroughs on the horizon, batteries qualify as one of 12 disruptive technologies that the McKinsey Global Institute has identified as part of a recent report on innovations that will change the way the world works. Each game-changing technology could affect hundreds of millions of people, create hundreds of billions of dollars a year in economic value, and reconfigure large sectors of the global economy. Advanced batteries, for their part, have the potential to shape global demand for fossil fuels, increase the use of renewables in the electric grid, bring reliable electric power to businesses in developing economies, and extend electricity — and therefore access to the modern world — to millions of the world’s poorest.” Read on and cheer.

Miscellaneous:

— Congratulations to Nigel Penney on concluding another successful Westmount Science Camp – he is full of plans for next year (3 locations!) but before that, he is off on a cycling trip, headed to the Isle of Eigg which has the first completely wind, water and sun-powered electricity grid in the world. He will be studying the grid and sharing the information with McGill.

— Equally, congratulations to the Ecomaris team on the completion of a very full summer of activities, culminating in a recreation of the arrival of Les Filles du Roy at the Old Port

— When household items break, the temptation is to chuck them out, yet our throw-away society means we are filling up landfill sites and using up natural resources at an alarming rate. But in Holland, 96 so-called Repair Cafés staffed by volunteers, some of whom are unemployed, have been set up to help people mend items rather than throw them away. More

— One of the most entertaining and informative websites we have found is 40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World, which also has links to several similarly intriguing infographic and map sites. So far our favorite map is The only 22 countries that Britain has not invaded, although a close second is Map of Where 29,000 Rubber Duckies Made Landfall After Falling off a Cargo Ship in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean, but we will doubtless come across even more entertaining items as we delve deeper.

— We are sure you will be thrilled to know that there is a new dog at the White House; another Portuguese Water Dog has joined Bo and will no doubt share his official duties.

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