Wednesday Night #1398

Written by  //  December 17, 2008  //  U.S., Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #1398

Inevitably in this weekly tour d’horizon, we miss or neglect a number of newsworthy items. This week it was the shoe-throwing incident. Nicholas Kristof, not always known for his humour, has developed a delightful fund-raising concept that we strongly endorse: Paying down the deficit with whizzing shoes, which his readers have embraced with enthusiasm.

Greetings all,
The illustration reflects the rather sober mood of the world in this normally festive season. Trees, yes; tinsel, no.
In the midst of the continuing financial crisis and debate over the auto industry bailout (we were overly optimistic last week), the news of the Madoff Ponzi Scheme adds a dramatic and dismaying note to the follies of Wall Street that have dominated the headlines for months. The enormous impact of the scheme on the charitable foundations of such as Steven Spielberg, Elie Wiesel and Mort Zuckerman, along with many others affects us in a way that the losses of tycoons on Wall Street could never do. The Globe & Mail puts the problem in context: ” There seems to have been a massive failure of due diligence at Madoff Investments. Mr. Madoff’s wealthy friends can be forgiven for trusting their buddy. But professional financial advisers, charged with helping their clients make investment decisions, should never have been doing business with this fund. Madoff Investment failed the most basic of screening processes.”
We also thank John Evdokias for forwarding an excellent analytical piece from Castle Hall Alternatives “Madoff – Where do we even begin?”
On the other side of the world, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said that in response to the global financial crisis, China will focus on expanding domestic demand as an effective way to stimulate economic growth. To which the World Bank’s Robert Zoellick replied that sustaining its own economy will be China’s biggest contribution to maintaining financial stability and the economic growth of the world. Xinhuanet.
At the same time, Domique Strauss-Kahn was telling a conference in Spain that the IMF sees risks of prolonged global crisis (Reuters)
The dramatic fall of oil prices has a serious downside, as Stratfor and the New York Times point out in their respective reports Falling Fortunes, Rising Hopes and the Price of Oil and Big Oil Projects Put in Jeopardy by Fall in Prices, while the IEA is now issuing truly scary estimates regarding “peak oil” [See George Monbiot]. This news may bode well for the Tar Sands, but with drastic consequences for the environment.
Reports from the Climate Change Conference in Poznan are generally not encouraging ( SFGate :”They came, they talked, they left.” and The Telegraph), although Canada’s Jim Prentice appeared to strike a positive note . However, closer scrutiny indicates that Mr. Harper’s envoy had instructions to work with the “old U.S.”, not the environmentally committed Obama administration represented by Senator John Kerry. Looks like we’ll have to wait for the move away from Canada’s ignominious role  in the Bali Conference. Still,   what a difference a year – and a new President-elect – can make.
We are cheered that in announcing his climate and energy teams, President-elect Obama has confirmed his goal of breaking the nation’s dependence on foreign oil while boosting economic growth, . Lisa Jackson will head the Environmental Protection Agency, while Carol Browner — head of the EPA under President Bill Clinton — will take a new position as “climate czar” to oversee the Administration’s broad response to global warming. The appointment garnering the most excitement is that of Nobel Physics Laureate Steven Chu . That, Mr Obama said ” should send a signal to all that administration will value science. We will make decisions based on facts, and we understand that those fact demand bold action.” Dr. Chu is a firm believer that technological leaps in the way we use energy are the answer to global warming problems. Haven’t yet ascertained his views on nuclear energy, but we are sure that some of the keen Wednesday Nighters will do so promptly.
Closer to home, we would call your attention to The Stalin Rule aired on The National on Monday evening. The story concerns a Burnaby B.C. teenager Dmitri Lennikov, who may be facing obligatory military service in Russia, a country he hardly knows, because the Canadian government(the Canadian Border Services Agency – CBSA) has issued a deportation order against his family due to his father, Mikhail’s, past connections to the KGB (connections that he has freely admitted and debriefed with CSIS). Unless someone knows something that we don’t and can convince us otherwise, like the many listeners who have sent comments to the CBC, we are outraged by the situation, ashamed of our bureaucracy and hope that anyone with influence with the Minister of Immigration will persuade him to exercise common sense and overturn the CBSA ruling.
Prompting slightly less outrage and a good deal more cycnicism is the recent development regarding the 18 empty Senate seats that Mr. Harper apparently wants to fill before Christmas. [Maybe we are just envious as nobody has ever offered us an appointment to anything.] Suitable outrage has been expressed elsewhere, but we would commend Maisonneuve’s  MediaScout, always an excellent round-up, The Tory Patronage Orgy which concludes: “it is doubtful that the Tories’ antics are over, given that 2008 saw 561 Conservative appointments to boards, tribunals, and commissions — a 56-percent increase over last year, with plenty of those appointments done right before the election was called this fall, away from the media spotlight until today. But there’s insolence of all flavours to be savoured today: Former Harper chief-of-staff Ian Brodie has been hired to a big Ottawa lobby firm, three years after Tories promised to end the revolving door between the feds and the lobbying industry.”
Ending on a happy note
Finally, the truly important (and cheerful) news item that you may have missed: Joe Biden’s new German Shepherd puppy (with photos). For those truly discriminating dog owners among us, this is a sign of Joe’s fundamental good sense and good character. We also appreciate that Mrs Biden will likely have to look after the pup while Joe is traveling around the world attending funerals and weddings, but at least the Veep’s house has nice grounds for puppy training.

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