Wednesday Night #1290

November 22, a date that always provokes a certain nostalgia for the political era dubbed: “Camelot on the Potomac”, along with thoughts of what-might-have-been. The times were not necessarily happier for a large portion of the population, civil rights were unresolved, social safety nets unheard of, and JFK was not universally popular. However, relations with European allies (particularly France and Great Britain) were good, there was even a certain civility in the dialogue with Moscow, a perception that the Cabinet was composed of honest independent thinkers who truly served at the pleasure of the President and, above all, a pervasive ambiance of wit, charm and glamor in Washington. We have learned since that there were major flaws in parts of this picture, that under the happy exterior lay the roilings of the volcanic eruptions of following years, but nonetheless we yearn for a time when the words mystique and charisma were applied to a western leader who admired intelligence and welcomed debate in his inner circle.
Recently we have focused on events, either current or future. The Liberal leadership race, the elections in the U.S., the CBC’, LEFT);” class=”b2″ target=”_”>Canada and multiculturalism (particularly interesting in the light of the recent initiative in The Netherlands to ban the wearing of burqas and other Then there is the non-too-complacent look at spy world’, LEFT);” class=”b2″ target=”_”>the current state of the intelligence CBC’, LEFT);” class=”b2″ target=”_”>as in spying) world
We don’t think it’s any secret that we rely heavily on the BBC, frequently for the excellent coverage of Science & nature and Technology. (Superb coverage of
climate change issues including Sir Nicolas Sterns’ review) However, we also commend whoever is responsible for the collection of links that accompany any major news story. Tonight, it is commondreams.org/ has a fascinating collection of columns, many of which provide much background that the intelligent reader requires.
One item that may have escaped the attention of all but the most devoted China watchers: Beijing families were first restricted to one child, and now the Chinese authorities have set the limit on pets too with its one dog policy. China’s capital will institute a “one dog” policy for each household in nine areas, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday. Robert Travers should be with us to comment.

The Report (notes & photos)

Scribe’s Prologue:
Way back in the last century, my grandmother warned me about the evils of vanity. “Herb,” she would say, “remember that self-praise is no recommendation.” While fully cognizant of the truth of my grandmother’s observation, it is difficult to look back and realize that for one thousand, two hundred and ninety consecutive Wednesday evenings, without exception for Christmas, New Year, the marriage of the scion of the host family, the Wednesday Night Salon has continued. We have hosted diplomats, professors, prime ministers and other politicians, the mayors of various cities and other notables. The world’s events planner, if indeed, one exists, has arranged for the beginning and end of the Gulf war to occur on Wednesday, as did the grinch of the 1987 stock market crash. Each invited member of the group, but more particularly, each of our hosts, has played an integral part in the success of this remarkable endeavour. We all look forward to reflecting on the past, the bonds created between us, the incredible generosity of David and Diana and look forward to celebrating the beginning of the third decade of Wednesday Nights with them early in 2006.

[Editor’s note: The following message from our good friend, Gerald Ratzer OWN, on Thursday 23 November set off a flurry of calculations and counter-calculatins that resulted in the magnificent celebration of 25 years of Wednesday Nights on March 7, 2007. “If indeed yesterday was number 1290, then I figure that number 1300 is Wednesday 31st January 2007. To the numerate elite, I would suggest that 1300 Wednesdays are indeed 25 years. Is this the day you were thinking of to mark the Silver Anniversary of Wednesday Night?”]

Bombardier revisited
Counter intuitively, with shrinking wiggle-room within passenger aircraft, the indignity of personal and luggage checks, long walks at major airport terminals and longer distances between terminals, increasing fuel costs, air travel has grown incredibly with passenger loads the highest ever. With the possible exception of the United States, airlines have been incredibly successful and with this success, Bombardier’s regional jets have brought success to that Canadian company. The timing is good. The purchase of replacement jets certainly has been a boon to Bombardier, but the success of that company has and continues to be vision, nerve and risk taking. Laurent Beaudoin, Chairman and CEO, is carrying on in this tradition and his son and likely successor within the next two or three years, Pierre Beaudoin, who is currently Vice-President of Bombardier and President and COO of Bombardier Aerospace, will carry on the tradition.

Air passenger travel is up and the environment is the victim
The environmental effect of this increased air travel is being debated in the U.K. A recent story in The Independent states, “The increase in passenger flights is more than 50 per cent higher than predicted in the 2003 government White Paper, data from the Civil Aviation Authority reveals.” As a result, there is now talk of a new – fourth – London area airport, away from centres of population. The only logical site might be the Thames Estuary, a site that is immediately challenged by environmentalists.

The concept of carbon-neutral living, i.e. geothermal homes, with increased consideration of what is considered to be carbon-neutral travel, that is saving fuel from other applications to compensate for using it is gaining popularity. Air travelers can log on to websites to calculate the emissions their flight generates and offset these by investing in projects such as tree-planting and renewable technologies. But buyers should note that companies, rather than charities run the schemes. (scotsman.com/ )

Editor’s note: Now comes the news that Boeing, not to be outdone by Airbus, is contemplating a “www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/b/b797

Pension plans in trouble
There appears to be a renewed concern about the reported possibility of a renewal of the fear of an imminent collapse of some pension plans. The reality is that with the conversion of defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans, barring the unlikely fraudulent mismanagement by fund managers, total collapse appears to be an unrealistic possibility. Government pension funds are funded by consolidated revenue funds and so are guaranteed by the constituents of those jurisdictions.
Religious orders face a rather different problem. Whereas Jesuits (Society of Jesus) are mostly teachers and often come from wealthy families, that order has been well funded and provides very well for its aging members. Other orders, particularly orders of nuns have, at times, been victims of unscrupulous financial advisors, or having worked for the poor of the community, may have limited funds to care for their aging members who continue to outnumber noviciates by a wide margin. Here, members would have expected to be cared for during their entire life, guaranteed by the expectation that new members would continue to be attracted to the order.
Whatever the situation, the press is reporting that religious orders are selling off their assets in order to fund their pension plans. This allegation may or may not be factual.

Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman, Nobel Economics Laureate (1976), died on November 16 at the age of 94. Arguably the most influential economist of the 20th century, certainly of the latter half, his free market and small government philosophy profoundly influenced Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan and was the guiding light of Reaganomics, as well as, to a lesser extent, Margaret Thatcher’s government’s policies.

The market
The market is overdue for a correction, but it would be surprising if it were to decline in December. In a continuous rising market, it would be unusual for in investor who intends to sell some holdings at a profit would do so in December, thus having to pay capital gains tax in 2006, rather than delaying the sale until January, thereby putting off the tax bite for an entire year. However, a lot of money was made in 2006 and some profit taking may be expected in early January.
The government’s unexpected turnaround on income trusts will ultimately affect unit holders, but the payouts continue on the same basis as they did prior to the tax change legislation.
One last word of caution for astrology buffs and other technicians. Historically, the market bottoms out on the new moon. The current new moon occurred November 21, 2006.

Le Québec sait faire
It sometimes makes news when the government of Québec does things right. The perception of loss of technical and intellectual skills among the elderly is usually far sharper among the surrounding family than by it is by the aging family member. This fact has, at times, created concern and friction in the family. Québec has insisted on frequent physical testing of aging drivers by their family physician and/or specialists, insisting on referrals to medical specialists or to their own provincially operated test centre, combining the best of both worlds, peace in the family and safer roads for motorists and
pedestrians.

Liberals and Immigration Policy
Of all the leadership candidates, it is Gerard Kennedy who has taken the strongest position on the flaws of Canadian immigration policy, citing the immigrant success gap and pointing his finger at the oft-discussed [at Wednesday Night] problem that Canada makes every effort to attract the best and the brightest but then doesn’t make use of their skills and talents. One cause for optimism is that the Quebec government is beginning to introduce equivalency programs, allowing talented professionals to earn their equivalency relatively quickly and painlessly.
With the Liberal Party leadership race on our mind, we sometimes try to predict the outcome of the concurrent mid-term elections in our neighbour to the south, where despite the evidence of a great deal of disaffection with the current Republican Congress, this may possibly dissipate when the votes are cast, or expressed by refraining from voting. Will the Republicans’ ability to raise campaign funds overcome the public’s disenchantment with the Party, whether over the war in Iraq, or over morality issues like the Foley case? The days/months ahead will certainly be of interest to all.

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