Wednesday Night #1235

2 November 2005

Hallowe’en is past, but witches, ghouls and ghosts are rampant in the news, howling that the world is a SCARY place.
Mixing our metaphors slightly, the four horsemen of the apocalypse continue to roam the globe; from avian flu to Zimbabwe’s failing economy where inflation has soared to an annual rate of 360% and 75% of the population live below the poverty line. Devastation in Kashmir, bombings in Delhi and Iraq, riots in Paris, weakening of the German Grand Coalition, Italy in perpetual political turmoil ….
Still, one of the scariest places is the U.S. Consider the evangelical church in (where else?) Texas that operates Hell House, a “chamber of horrors, whose aim is, quite literally, to scare the bejesus out of impressionable teenagers and shock them into signing up for a life in the service of Christ.”
We think that the political scene is scary enough without this divine intervention. Now that trick or treater Scooter Libby has been exorcised from the White House by (St.) Patrick Fitzgerald, and Harriet Miers has been (so to speak) buried with  a stake through her heart, attention is focused on the nomination as Associate Justice of conservative Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr , also known as Scalia-lite. While we are not thrilled, we take some comfort in the fact that he is a judge and, according to the President has “more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years,” therefore, unlike Harriet Hobgoblin, he has a paper trail the Democrats can follow. More scary is the” Michael Brown of Refugees”, one Ellen R. Sauerbrey, who has been nominated as assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration in recognition of her fine work as Maryland state chair for Mr. Bush’s 2000 campaign. We wonder what she would think of Canada’s Joe Volpe’s plan to increase the number of immigrants to Canada to 300,000 per year  – no doubt a Pinko Plot.
Canada may become a VERY scary place for the fed libs with The Great Pumpkin (aka John Gomery) Report on Adscam. On the other hand, Ralph Goodale is more likely to be bedeviled by the blood-letting his department unleashed with the ill-advised attack on Income Trusts, and Québec is haunted by the ghosts of the Referendum amidst the battle for the hearts of PQ members. Finally, poor Montreal has had to endure the battle of the Headless Horsemen for the Mayor’s Chair, while Bombardier curtails the latest flight of bats.
Bring your Jack o’ Lanterns and Witches Brew this Wednesday Night to help us to cast light on these and other topics. Jacques Clément will gaze into his crystal ball and recite a ghost story or two about the murky markets, and John Buchanan has arrived from London (famed for evil doings in its mysterious byways) on his broomstick.  Be sure to check for new conundrums, spells and spider webs.
BEWARE! Rosemount Avenue resembles a scene from the Inferno as Public Works does its best to unearth the secrets of bygone water pipes. Who knows what fearsome creatures may be released?

The Report

Long-term fallout from the Gomery Commission
Has the government of Canada wasted time and heritage while the sands in the hourglass of national pride slowly disappear into the lower chamber?  Of the leaders of the four national parties, sadly, none can claim the confidence of the majority of Canadians and only Gilles Duceppe can claim widespread support in a single province, a province which has come to grips with political corruption in the post-Duplessis era and now looks on Ottawa as a waster of taxpayer dollars.  This is not so much the legacy of the sponsorship scandal as it is that of the system that permitted it.
Much of the detail that fueled tonight’s discussion may be found in: A Political Mugging by Beryl Wajsmann  
While there is much to be critical of in the American system, there appears to be far greater transparency and accountability there than in Canada.  In the U.S., unlike Canada, the four pillars of constitutional liberalism are alive and well: the separation of Church & State; direct election of elected officials; independent judiciary responsible and responsive to the public; and responsible government with a cabinet responsible to the people. In America, despite the fact that the president’s party controls both houses of Congress, along with ownership of much of the media, because there are elected judges and district attorneys, along with an activist press, they have managed in a month to put leaders of both the House and the Senate and the President’s and Vice President’s Chiefs of Staff under indictment or investigation.
[Editor’s note: for a particularly provocative piece on the “Scooter” Libby indictment, please see: A Cheney-Libby Conspiracy, Or Worse? Reading Between the Lines of the Libby Indictment   – with thanks to Frank Kinnelly for this contribution]
This could never happen in Canada, no matter how egregious the mis-government of the country, one of the reasons being that in contrast to the U.S. and the U.K., the media in Canada are abjectly uncritical of the government.
It is generally believed that Paul Martin, backed by a powerful group of business interests, will continue to lead the Liberal Party for the next 2-4 years, depending on the fortunes of the LPC in the next election. There is no fixed interval or date for a leadership convention and one can only be called by the leader of the party, therefore there is little opportunity for new voices to be heard until either the leader seeks support for a new mandate, or the leadership is seriously called into question, or the leader decides to step down.
There is evidence that Canadians from coast to coast would like to see a new, truly national, party willing to forego the excesses of the past, reflecting the essentially good instincts and aspirations of the Canadian electorate, and with the courage to make the hard choices for the good of the entire country.  It is to be hoped that it is not too late.
Canada needs a new political policy that represents coast to coast thinking.  Canada is not radical.  It’s not that people are stupid; they are tired
Whether it be Canada, the other members of the Commonwealth or the United States, there exists a common heritage, namely that of British colonialism.  Whereas there can be no defense of colonialism, with its evils and violence, at the end of that period in history, the British had left a legacy of a judiciary and rule of law, democracy and of great importance, the English language which has become the world’s lingua franca.

India
Stimulated by the presence of new guest, Geeta Nadkarni, a journalist who is originally from Mumbai/Bombay and now a director and host of Indo Montreal Magazine on Montreal’s multicultural Channel 14, CHTV, discussion focused on India, an emerging economy, predicted to soon equal if not surpass the previous “Asian Tigers”.
China and India have much in common.  Traditionally, both have been nations of world traders, innovators and survivors.  Today, the gap between wealthy and poor, educated and illiterate widens.  Interestingly, there is a tremendous interest in television.  Poverty stricken Indians will go into debt to purchase (usually communal) television sets, a stimulus to upward mobility.
It is generally accepted that “no news is good news,” but is equally true that good news is no news, and despite the press coverage of India’s immense poverty, illiteracy, total lack of a social safety net and widespread tax evasion (partly because there is no visible return to the taxpayer in the form of social safety net, infrastructure improvements?), the good news is that India has come alive, quietly mirroring and in many instances, surpassing China on the world scene, with increasing education, initiative and traditional mercantile drive as well as that positive aspect of a rather dark colonial past, democracy, the rule of law and very importantly, the English language.
India will be a great super power in the next thirty years … fabulous technical people and they speak English
[Editor’s note: please see Here Comes the Indian Consumer :  “What excites me the most is the potential for an increasingly powerful internal consumption dynamic — an ingredient sorely missing in most other Asian development models, including China.  India’s constraints — infrastructure, saving, foreign direct investment, and politics — are well known.  Yet on this trip, I saw visible progress on most of those fronts.  Moreover, the consumption story — the organic sustenance of sustainable growth and development — casts India in a very different light.” ]

Alan Greenspan’s departure
An era is coming to an end with the departure on February 1, 2006 of the seemingly ubiquitous and immortal Alan Greenspan who first (temporarily) took office as Chairman of the Federal Reserve on August 11,1987.  Ben Bernanke, former Governor of the Fed, former head of the department of Economics at Princeton, Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, prominent economist, and monetarist will succeed him.  Bernanke aims to bring the burgeoning deficit into line and it is likely before the end of next year that the Fed will adopt inflation targets that have been implemented Canada for some time.  His highly respected skills (including his ability to communicate clearly and simply – a welcome talent after Greenspan’s highly nuanced pronouncements) place him in the almost unique position of having been appointed by the President solely on the basis of his sterling qualifications.

Jacques Clément’s report on the economy 

Short-term outlook – Trading Range:
–          Canadian Dollar: 84¼¢ – 85¼¢ U.S.
–          Crude oil: $59 -$61 U.S.
–          Euro: $1.19 – $1.21 U.S.
–          Dow Jones: 10,600
–          T.S.X.: 10,800
–          Gold: $465 – $475 U.S.
The forecast trading range for crude oil is based on demand easing, inventories rising production in the Gulf States is expected to return to normal.  Some Wednesday Nighters expressed concern about the effect of the recent hard-line outbursts from Iranian President President Mahmud Ahmadi- Nejad and wondered about their impact on oil supply from that country, the fourth most important oil producer in the world
The three major hurricanes: Katrina, Rita and Will, will cost maximum 1% growth in the 4th quarter, but growth will rebound steadily throughout 2006 in the U.S. on a national basis, rather than regional.

News item
[Oct. 19 WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. housing starts jumped 3.4 percent in September and permits for future groundbreaking surged to a 32-year high, defying forecasts for a slowdown in construction following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, government data showed on Wednesday.]

Incidental Information
The media are now widely reporting the story raised last Wednesday Night about the connection between Donald Rumsfeld and the Tamiflu vaccine. Although it is the Swiss-US firm, Roche that holds the sole license to manufacture Tamiflu, the vaccine was developed and patented in 1996 by a California biotech firm, Gilead Sciences Inc. which gave the marketing rights for its patented discovery to Roche. In 1997, before he became Pentagon chief, Donald Rumsfeld was named chairman of the board of Gilead Sciences, where he remained until early 2001 when he became Secretary of Defence. The Department of Defence has now stockpiled some $58 million worth of the vaccine for use by U.S. troops and needless to mention, Donald Rumsfeld still own shares in Gilead, valued at between $5 million and $25 million – and climbing.

 

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