Wednesday Night #1302

Written by  //  February 14, 2007  //  Climate Change, Economy, Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Climate Change and politics
While some sceptics remain, pour in a large measure of David Suzuki, Al Gore, melting icebergs, floods, droughts, devastating climate change, stir briskly, and suddenly citizens and the people they elect appear to be listening. Prime Minister Harper claims to have been converted, Shell Oil is out in front, while Exxon is moving at glacial pace (which, according to many scientists is no longer the yardstick for slowness), perhaps putting self-interest ahead of public interest.This is an instance in which governments seem to have fallen behind the electorate by appearing to balance the long-term well being of citizens against perceived short and medium-term commercial interests.
The hope for future generations is that youth, unencumbered by baggage, engage in the political process as a counterbalance to self-interest groups who appear to be willing to go so far as to sacrifice the future of the human race in the interest of immediate material gain.
Happily such groups as Apathy is Boring exist. This “national non-partisan project uses art, media and technology to encourage active citizenry, outreaching to a broad demographic of youth, between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, about how to be more involved in the political process.”
In Canada, it was Stéphane Dion, the Leader of the Opposition who seized the attention of Canadians in his pursuit of countering climate change during his leadership campaign, a theme that instantly caught the imagination of the electorate to such an extent that it appears to have converted the Conservative Prime Minister, a good friend of Alberta and the Tar Sands. Cynics might believe that this conversion may serve to strengthen the parliamentary presence of the Conservative Party following the next federal election, expected to take place in late May of this year.

Fear of flying (security)
Flying was, at one time, considered to be a pleasurable experience, even a luxurious one. Security was not perceived to be a problem, boarding was quick and easy, seating comfortable, meals edible, service cheerful, fares reasonable and airports accessible.Many of today’s problems relate to the public’s demand for low fares which can only be achieved by sacrificing these amenities in order to offset the considerably increased security and landing fees, as well as the cost of building modern facilities.

[Editor’s note: There is an outstanding Canadian exception to the misery of flying the big airlines. Several Wednesday Nighters are advocates of Porter Airlines whose planes land at the Toronto Island Airport.]

While some of the irritants are inevitable or at least, difficult to avoid, there are some that can be diminished.
There are various ways of treating security around the world.While the U.S. Secret Service smothers the President with burly security guards, the U.K. displays the Queen openly with security discretely held in the background.The history of assassinations of heads of states does not bear out the superiority of in-your-face, top-down security measures.One factor in airport security may be cost, as it is probably less expensive to hire security guards trained to blindly follow rigid orders than to train them to use their intelligence, but it would make air travel less uncomfortable and probably safer if they were to use the information available on individual passengers and while doing some random checks, focus on those travellers for whom increased vigilance is warranted by intelligence previously gathered on them.The use of one-size-fits-all security checks not only leads to apathy, but risks such outrageous results as depriving renowned musicians of their instruments or destroying them during the inspection process.Trained, intelligent security personnel using acquired skills and information acquired on individual passengers before boarding, and engaging those selected briefly in conversation, would speed up the process while minimizing irritation and risk, especially if accompanied by a limited number of random inspections.
The downside risk is the possibility of McCarthy-like civil rights violations.Following the bombing of the World trade Center, people appear to accept more passively, the erosion of their civil rights, probably in fear of a second attack on territorial U.S. as we approach the five-year mark following that event.Nevertheless, a choice must be made between perceived security and running the risks involved in effective security.
El-Alhas gone to the extreme with expensive, intensive intelligent airline security checks which would prove impossible in high-volume, price-sensitive situations.

The Airbus
A380-800
Just as happened when the Boeing 747 first appeared, there is considerable controversy over the ability of airports to adapt to the A380.The consensus of Wednesday Nighters is that it will be successful in hub-to-hub transportation of passengers or on certain long-run routes, and that after the anticipated growing pains, airports will adapt with modification of runways, access gates and increased increased numbers of luggage carousels, customs agents and ground personnel.As with the 747 experience, IATA will set the standards and the airports will adapt,but it will take time. Meanwhile, ICAO, the UN Civil Aviation Organization that sets safety and security standards for aviation, has set the new standards for widths of runways, taxiways, etc. for the new planes. ICAO, Airbus, ACI (the Airport Council International) and so far, everyone, seems happy.
IATA is the airline trade association that sets standards for ticketing, boarding passes, provides services to and represents member airlines. The advantage of membership is that it makes doing business with other member airlines easier.

The U.S.
Although Iraq and Afghanistan are presented as combined operations of coalitions, it is the United States that is being blamed for failure to achieve objectives.Poorly defined objectives, the lack of adequate firepower, or the porous Pakistan-Iraq border are blamed on the United States.Some believe that redefining political borders along traditional tribal lines is the answer to the present situation.Unfortunately, an exit strategy does not exist and choosing to leave now would invite increasing violence at home and abroad.

California leads the way
Despite the focus on Iraq, some astonishing domestic news is coming out of the United States, not the least of which is California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan for universal health insurance in that state.

[Editor’s note: there are many instances where U.S. cities and states take highly differentiated paths from the federal government, notably on climate change issues. In San Francisco in May 2005, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, responding to the perceived vacuum in federal and state leadership on this issue, developed their own municipal version of the Kyoto Protocol]

The Internet as ultimate research source
The Internet is rapidly becoming the universal source of reliable and sometimes not so reliable information.Wikipedia appears to be replacing Britannica as the prime source of information despite the fact that corrections made by users put that confidence to the test.This is both a source of concern and the path to the future.Then too, a statement appearing in print in book form does not constitute an absolute guarantee of accuracy.

QUOTES OF THE EVENING

  • The Québec election is not going to help the federal Liberals find candidates and define their policies
  • The way [airport] security is conducted today there is no intelligence (information) associated with it – unless you start focusing on people’s intent rather than their capability, it will continue to be ‘dumb’ security
  • The whole process (of flying) is… frustrating and discouraging … waiting is part of it, humiliation is part of it and so is rubber chicken (if you get anything)
  • It’s our duty to use Canada’s fantastic resources to supply aid in the world …when you try to do all things for all people all over the world, you are not effective
  • Anyone who says (about Iraq) it is time to get out, must be ready to answer the question ‘And then, what?’
  • If someone had asked me three years ago, where do you see hope in the United States, I would not have named Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Where do you get this combination of topics, smart people, eloquence,- why wouldn’t anyone come back?

 P R O L O G U E

Hearts and flowers to the two wonderful out-of-town Wednesday Nighters, Misha Crnobrnja and Tom Windmuller, for last week’s wonderfully stimulating seminar on Europe, Russia, integrating economies, Iraq and other serious topics. Misha has promised to be back this week to continue the seminar with emphasis on the future of Kosovo, and we are hoping that Tom will still be in town as well. In addition, we are delighted that Dr. Alexandra Tcheremenska-Greenhill and James Greenhill will join us.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day we cannot resist the Economist piece on genetically modified flowers: Roses are blue, violets are red, and for those looking to their future: A garden centre for after the apocalypse, and will attempt to cast a romantic light on the events of the week, the last week of the old Chinese Year of the Dog, but it’s not always easy.
Certainly Stephen Harper and Jean Charest are the Valentines du jour with all their cuddling over the announcement of Ottawa’s decision to transfer $350 million to Quebec to finance its greenhouse gas reduction. Of course, there’s carping from environmentalists, but it’s a grand gesture just before the Québec election is called.
We said there would be no comment on the early contenders in the US presidential elections, but how could one resist America’s newest Sweetheart? Barack Obama, having tossed his non stove-pipe hat in the ring last Saturday in the city where Abraham Lincoln served in the state legislature, is emerging as America’s principal Valentine (not for Australian Prime Minister Howard)
Among the many favorable reviews, we like the New York Times take Stop Him Before He Gets More Experience
What’s this? North Korea suddenly overwhelmed with good will agreeing to take first steps toward nuclear disarmament and shut down its main reactor within 60 days before eventually dismantling its atomic weapons programme. IF we can trust the KimJong-il régime to keep its word, this is certainly cause for breaking out boxes of valentines.
We are not quite sure how to greet the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. forecast of plunging oil prices,- with glee as consumers, or with deep concern for the Canadian economy, or whether to even give credence to a ‘perennial bear’ – we don’t know any of those, do we?
Nor do we know how to categorize the Canadian Senate Report on its recent review of NATO’s progress in Afghanistan over the past year.
Climate Change heating up?
Al Gore is not sending valentines to John Baird for “mischaracterizing” Gore’s comments as praise for the Harper government’s actions on global warming and for suggesting he endorsed the Conservatives’ performance on climate change.
In lieu of a box of chocolates

We take great pleasure in selecting the links that we forward and sometimes pointing you in new directions. In that spirit, we suggest another excellent news site We receive the news round-up on Wednesday, no less, and are finding it very useful.
We cordially invite you to spend a romantic candle-lit Wednesday Night chewing on these and other (non-fattening) topics.

 

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