Wednesday Night #1266

7 June 2006

Writer’s block is the phenomenon in which a writer temporarily loses the capability to continue writing. It is characterized by the loss of inspiration or confidence in creativity.
We confess to thinker’s block – or would that be news junkie’s block? – this week. No matter how hard we try, it is impossible to think, let alone write, clever thoughts or phrases about the overwhelming number of related and unrelated items we have viewed, read, heard, down-loaded and otherwise acquired. Information overload? Yes. Ennui? Yes. World weary? Definitely. Even the Abramoff story has lost its titillation, although it leaves us to wonder why all the fuss about the Gomery enquiry. And, dare we say it, we don’t really care about the Brangelina baby, Shiloh Nouvel, though we like the idea that whatever ridiculous amount of money is to be paid for its first pictures will be donated to charity.
This is no reflection on the two recent and sterling evenings devoted to economic and environmental issues. Debates on climate change have been stimulating and thought-provoking; we look forward to more on this topic and will continue to collect articles of interest for your consideration.
We confess that we are tired of the Harper-Press Gallery bun fight; the border-crossing documentation requirements, and we are infuriated by the resurrection of the same-sex marriage issue in Canada at the same time that the Bush Administration has decided that this is a mid-term election topic . We are dismayed by the deep-seated hatred that fuelled the 17 “home-grown” Canadian terrorists arrested over the weekend and resigned to the chorus of critics of Canada’s “lax immigration policies”.
We cannot understand why the letter from the Iranian president was rejected out-of-hand (and unread) only weeks before the U.S. offers Tehran a new deal
Recent events in Iraq and the increasingly worrisome situation in Afghanistan are beyond our ability to solve.
And the ultimate sign that all is not right with the world? The World Cup mascot firm goes bust
Truly we feel like chronically depressed Marvin the android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!
But take heart. Dutch evangelical Christians are to hold a round-the-clock prayer vigil to ward off the forces of evil on Tuesday – the so-called Devil’s Day. So we anticipate that the spell of -6-6-6 will be lifted and our usual enthusiasm for the potpourri of news and comment will be restored by Wednesday evening, and writer’s block unblocked in time for next week.

The Report (Photos)

Introduction
Despite the ominous rants about the previous day’s triple-six date, mirrored by the numerology of tonight’s event, the evening was cheerful, even merry at moments, and the varied debate was courteous, albeit quite sprightly on topics such as Ann Coulter. One regret: our failure to pay appropriate attention to the anniversary of the landing on the Normandy beaches.
We were delighted to celebrate the new honours (exactly a week old) accorded to Professor emeritus John Jonas and Honorary Doctor Peter Roper.

Diamonds (or zinc) are an investor’s best friend
Our favorite Forest Gate Resources inc. (not to be confused with the Forest Gate raid of the UK ) is moving from success to success through Bluenote Metals, which has recently raised $75 million for its acquisition of an old zinc mine in New Brunswick.

The economy
The global economy has peaked and will decelerate for a while. The market is nervous about inflation in the U.S. which will force the Fed to raise interest rates. Even if the fears of inflation are exaggerated, there will be an environment where growth is slowed. There has been a lot of easy money and that has given a lot of support to gold prices, zinc, or any other prices and investors fear that spigot will ultimately be shut off. The real pain so far has been in the emerging markets.
Will the upcoming meeting of the G8 have any effect? Not likely. Past meetings have tended to focus on currencies, this time it will be on energy prices and Russia’s ability to serve the energy markets (“G8 ministers upbeat on global economy: Despite optimism, high energy prices, imbalances called continuing threats”). China remains of concern, particularly the lack of flexibility on exchange rates and will probably be on the agenda.
The Fed has made statements in the past days expressing concern over the rising commodity and energy prices. Particularly, Bernanke, in his speech at the IMF Conference said higher energy prices have contributed to a notable “deceleration” in consumer spending. He also stated that the Fed will be “vigilant” to make sure recently elevated core inflation “is not sustained.” Core and CPI inflation have risen sharply in the first quarter and wages in Canada have also risen. Both the Fed and the Bank of Canada will raise interest rates again. The Canadian economy is strong. Auto sales up 7%, however the overall auto sector will reduce in the months ahead. The Fed will continue to tighten. There is likely another 250 pt decline ahead in the stock market- a further correction. An exception may be the Canadian small cap stocks which are showing growth rates of 30 – 35 – 40%
Mention was made of a special presentation organized by Raya Mileva the previous evening at CIBC Wood Gundy offices by Eric Desbiens, Senior Associate at Jarislowsky Fraser Ltd.

Gay marriage
The recent resurrection of the gay marriage issue in both the United States and Canada does not find much sympathy around the Wednesday Night table. Most, if not all, agreed that bringing up the issue again at this time, when certainly in Canada we all felt that it was solved, is a particularly cynical political move made in an effort to please his conservative friends south of the border. In the U.S., George Bush’s backing of an amendment to the Constitution is viewed as an attempt to rally conservative voters in the mid-term elections, even though lawmakers knew it would be defeated. The U.S. Senate vote today effectively killed the issue for the year, though the House is expected to consider its own version this summer. Without recognition of civil union and full civil rights in the U.S., however, it is unlikely that it will go away.
Possibly the concern for “traditional” marriage relates to the declining birth rate in the U.S. and Canada? There is however a very high birth rate in other parts of the world; what is really needed is a balanced birth rate throughout the world?

Ann Coulter
Has made her reputation as a screamer and the media have allowed her to become a star. But there is a large audience for what she has to say. Her attack on the 9/11 widows (“These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparrazies. I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s death so much.”) is beyond the pale. It was noted that she has gained notoriety and made her own fortune by doing precisely what she accuses them of having done. Moderate Republicans are certainly not in agreement with her views and eventually she may prove to be more of a liability to the party [check out: U.S. Senate Passes “Ann Coulter Amendment”]

High-speed trains
A recent returnee from China described the thrill of his first ride on the Maglev train from Shanghai’s Pudong International airport. What used to be a minimum 40-minute ride is now somewhere around 7 minutes as the train can reach its top speed of 430kph (267mph) in just under two minutes. With at least 2 Wednesday Nighters versed in the technology, it was explained that Maglev – shorthand for magnetic levitation – is basically a train that floats on an electromagnetic cushion, which is propelled along a concrete guideway. Maglev is cleaner and cheaper to run than passenger aircraft. The German manufacturer claims that the technology uses five times less energy – per passenger mile – than jet aircraft; schedules should also be less affected by bad weather or congestion than air travel and are cheaper to maintain. As the maglev has no wheels there is far less erosion of track, radically cutting operating costs.

Celiac Disease
is a lifelong autoimmune intestinal disorder found in individuals who are genetically susceptible and may appear at any time in a person’s life. It is a multi-system, multi-symptom disorder. Symptoms are extremely varied and can often mimic other bowel disorders. Gluten has been identified as the trigger Although the illness is becoming far better known today, diagnosis can take up to 11 years to obtain. It is suggested that as there is now a diagnostic tool available, it would be advantageous to screen for it, especially among children, and could be very cost-effective for the healthcare system. It was suggested that the Children’s Hospital in Boston is extremely interested in this disease and might well be helpful in assisting the Canadian foundation to develop a strategy to obtain adoption of early screening, although there is a cautionary note sounded by at least one of our doctors that there are many false positive test results of early screenings with painful physical and mental consequences.

Terrorism
Why do normal, sometimes intelligent and/or well-educated people become terrorists? It is not a new phenomenon, sects have existed for centuries, whether the Assassins of the 12th century, the Jewish Zealots or today’s followers of Al Qu’aeda. What are we doing to overcome the successful ‘brainwashing’ of these people, turning individuals with healthy minds into fanatics? Montreal has some expertise dating back to the electrical shock therapy experiments of Dr. Cameron, but much, much more time must be devoted to exploring these questions and the solutions.
Some studies have indicated that individuals who join cults, while no less intelligent than the average, are ‘fantasy prone’. Thomas Friedman has offered an analysis of the terrorists of 9/11 that indicates that aside from the leaders, the followers were people who were disenchanted with their lack of success in European cities. This would seem to be a similar situation to the one in Toronto as far as we understand from the media accounts.
Canada’s much vaunted tolerance has perhaps gone too far; while everyone preaches the rights of the individual and the Charter of Rights, there is an obligation to impress upon our citizens, especially new Canadians, that with rights go responsibilities.

QUOTES OF THE EVENING
… a financing to buy a property we don’t own, based on a letter of intent that wasn’t finalized from a vendor who didn’t want to sell
Ten percent of the population is susceptible to deep-hypnotic suggestion; what is the difference between these individuals and those who are susceptible to the instigators of terrorist attacks
Wednesday Night is a town hall meeting in a private house

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