Wednesday Night #1442

On the eve of George W. Bush’s luncheon speech to a gathering of individuals willing to fork out a modest $4000 per table, no Wednesday Nighters indicated that they would attend. However, the unanimous reaction to the event was that the Montreal Board of Trade and other sponsors should be billed for the costs of security which are to be borne by the absent taxpayer. John Parisella, newly appointed – and highly qualified – Quebec delegate-general in New York will moderate the event. (L. Ian reports George W. Bush equals an entertaining lunch)
The news that CBC has abruptly cancelled the nightly CBC News: Business, program with Fred Langan is cause for dismay, as Fred’s incisive interviews and analyses have been a part of Wednesday Night for the 12 years the program has run. He will apparently continue to be a business reporter, but not within the same format.

After Elizabeth II: Monarchy in Peril?
Watch for John Curtin‘s film, to be aired on CBC at 8PM on November 12, on the last day of Prince Charles’ and Camilla’s visit to Canada.
As the world shrinks and national boundaries become less sacred, it is inevitable that the question will be raised as to whether the lifespan of monarchy will come to an end concurrently with that of Elizabeth II.
Up to the post World War II era, the British Empire enjoyed its highest level of esteem among its member states, its integrity fiercely defended by British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. During the war years, the Royal family served as an inspiration to citizens of the Empire/Commonwealth around the world. The Union Jack was the flag of Canada and school children were told of their good fortune, should they ever have the opportunity of visiting the motherland, to be able to enter in a line consisting only of citizens of the Empire – later referred to as the Commonwealth – while visitors of less favoured nations such as the United States were ineligible for that privilege.
Although much has been made of Governor General Michaelle Jean’s self-description as Head of State, rather than the Queen’s representative in Canada, her counterparts in the Commonwealth include Kings of Lesotho, Swaziland, Tonga, Malaysia and the Sultan of Brunei. (For more on this question, see historian Andrew Smith’s blog).
With increasing immigration to Commonwealth countries from outside the Commonwealth, the sanctity of that bond has become less secure.  While respect for the Queen remains high, polls indicate that support in Canada for the monarchy has weakened, as it has in many other countries, led by Australia.  Prince Charles does not share in the high regard accorded to his mother (or grandparents) and the heirs are either unwilling or unsuited to the role of monarch. Aside from the question of what of ‘Brand Britain’ without the monarchy, there are constitutional issues for Canada in the event of a decision to sever ties with the monarchy. What of the office of Governor General? The Prime Minister is Head of Government and not of State, so if Canada wants to retain a figurehead, ceremonial head of state (as in many European nations, e.g. France, Germany), then there must be serious thought given to what kind of person should fill that role and what electoral process would be appropriate. Giving up the comfortable umbrella of the monarchy might not be as easy as it appears at first glance.

The Vatican’s outreach to dissident Anglicans
I, myself am heaven and hell.  — Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
With the possible exception of mosques in the Middle East, houses of worship are emptying out and closing and especially among the youth, blind, unquestioned acceptance of the Holy Bible is on the wane.  The Roman Catholic Church, which has survived and thrived for over twenty centuries, has begun to lose some of its lustre. It may be that prior to the Judeo-Christian era, gods wore human faces, possessed human weaknesses and lived high in the unattainable summit of Mount Olympus.  As mortals reached that summit, they discovered that they had been mistaken.  In fact, it seemed evident that the all powerful, unique, benign deity, lived in the heavens, a certainty that has been both a comfort and a life’s guide to all religions until this day, but a belief perhaps somewhat shaken by Man’s trip to outer space without finding any evidence of the presence of a divine being in that inhospitable climate.  Certainly the inability to physically ascertain the presence of an omnipotent God in the place where He had been believed to live may have been seen to provide proof to an increasing number of non-believers.  As described in the Bible, this is not the first time that the human population has questioned the existence of God to their regret.  It is undoubtedly the interpretation of the text by self-serving clerics rather than the text itself that is in doubt, constituting not only the absence of a moral compass, but a danger to the world as well.
The startling announcement from the Vatican that dissident Anglicans would be welcome in the Roman Catholic Church is likely deeply disturbing to liberal Catholics. The Church welcomes the most conservative elements of the Anglican Church – those who are opposed to the ordination of women, openly gay clergy and sanctified homosexual partnerships – while allowing them to retain a married clergy (though not Bishops), something that the more liberal wing of the Roman Church has been recommending for years (and an issue that has caused many priests to leave the Church). Whether or not this is ‘fair’, it appears to parallel the reconciliation with the Eastern Rite that was confirmed by Vatican II.
Henry VIII’s break from Rome and establishment of the Church of England is usually attributed to his desire for a divorce from Queen Catherine of Aragon and/or his need to replenish the monarchy’s coffers by taking over the rich properties of the abbeys and monasteries, as well as the consolidation of political power  However, these explanations neglect the fact that there already existed considerable discontent with the excesses of the Church of Rome (Martin Luther was a contemporary of Henry VIII), which exercised great temporal power and was also a pawn in the power struggle between England, France and the Holy Roman Emperor.
While the recent history of abuse and scandal by a number of Catholic bishops and priests gives support to the need to permit marriage of the clergy*, Protestant clergy have not been blameless.  The memory of the tragedy of the Residential Schools where Anglican and United Church clergy were guilty of abuse unfortunately complicates the situation in this part of the world.
* The prohibition of marriage is more likely a temporal measure than one born of theology. With the death of an unmarried clergyman or nun – particularly relevant among the upper levels of the hierarchy – his/her goods reverted to the Church, rather than to offspring.

Canada, NATO and Afghanistan
Canadians rightly take pride in the members of our armed forces and grieve the loss of any of our volunteer military killed in combat abroad.  Generals Rick Hillier and Lewis McKenzie may have possibly risked hurting the families of fallen soldiers in Afghanistan by publicly complaining about the perceived incompetence of bureaucrats at the political level in Canada.  The Italian, Dutch, and German governments have negotiated their role in Afghanistan but we have not.  Although the exceptional allegations of incompetence in the Canadian bureaucracy have been raised by the military, there is some fear that it may exist at many levels of government and may be, at least in part, characteristic of the layer of political interveners in the current government.
It is believed by at least some Wednesday Nighters that none of the heads of government of the U.S. and Canada, including Presidents Bush and Obama as well as Prime Minister Harper, has succeeded in articulating what goals we wish to achieve in Afghanistan.  They may very well include the denial to Al-Qaeda of facilities to train the next generation of terrorists who will attack the U.S., U.K., or other western nations. But eight years later, what has been accomplished?
How can we expect honest elections in Afghanistan? How many years does it take to establish democratic traditions? Recent experience in the U.S. (the Bush-Gore election) and Canada (Referendum) underlines the exaggerated expectations we have of other countries.
The motivation for the invasion of Iraq may have been the protection of a continuing supply of petroleum, but there will be no chance of achieving victory there as we are perceived as foreign, perhaps atheistic killers with little or no regard for the life of civilians.  If this is so, it would be logical that our efforts be concentrated at home rather than chasing terrorist phantoms in inhospitable countries.
Unfortunately the established historical dynamic of running an empire is to co-opt local strong guys to enforce the rules, ending up with unreliable, dishonest, disagreeable friends.  Whatever the motivation, whatever the errors, it seems obvious that our presence in Afghanistan has motivated the Taliban to move their operations to Pakistan.  As Pakistan (a client state of the U.S. since its creation) is a member of the nuclear club and despite compelling arguments to the contrary, it would be unwise for NATO to leave Afghanistan until that situation has been resolved.

Pension funds and the economy
The story of Nortel’s pensioners highlights the impact of the current recession which has proven especially difficult for pensioners as pension funds have dried up in concert with falling security prices and bond yields.  In better financial times it was not unusual for pension funds to enjoy a healthy surplus, but government regulations did not permit surpluses of more than 10% and so the cushion was lost.  In the current situation, it seems inequitable that concurrent with government bailouts with taxpayers’ money, large executive bonuses continue, but little if anything is being done to protect pensions.  Part of the problem is the unfairness of any thought of retroactive legislation requiring reimbursement of pension funds (by treating pensions as deferred wages) by companies in trouble at the expense of creditors or for the government itself to contribute to the shortfall in pension funds. Alternatively, the government could bail out a pension fund, but there are many out there and could be an endless prospect. The current trend in Canada, with the notable exception of government employee pension schemes, has been to change from defined benefit to defined contribution plans. In Quebec, 16 pension funds of public sector employees (teachers, firemen, civil servants) was forced by the government to use the Caisse, rather than going to the best money managers available; as a result, over a 10-year period the public sector pension funds underperformed all other major funds, including the Canada Pension Fund. Overall, the problem is deeper than it appears and there is no easy and no mechanical solution.

The market
We are still in a bull market, however corrective periods should be anticipated. Possibly in anticipation of the third quarter reports to be released shortly by the banking sector, the market has been slowing down but is still doing well. Oil and metals are replacing bank stocks whose prices are declining, making Canada a very attractive place to invest. The momentum has been decreased in anticipation of the next run.  A rise is expected in December, as cash-rich institutions rush to do year-end window dressing; with some Wednesday Night analysts anticipating a slowdown in January and others predicting an increasing rate of upturn during the New Year.

New development for aviation fuel

In the “you heard it first at Wednesday Night” category, on October 18, Qatar Airlines has completed a passenger flight by an Airbus 340 from London to Qatar, fuelled by a combination of traditional fuel and liquefied natural gas (GLT). Story in WSJ. Compressed natural gas was suggested last week as a clean alternative fuel by a veteran Wednesday Nighter, but deemed impossible or improbable by most.

T H E  I N V I T A T I O N

This week we offer a wide diversity of topics, with no particular linkage between them – and are open to other suggestions.
We hope to have Ron Meisels and Chil Heward with us for their last evening before their trip to London, and that they may give us a quick run-down on what they will be telling their London associates about Canada’s economy and investment opportunities.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is refusing to accept the conclusions of the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission that has challenged his victory by exposing evidence and allegations of widespread voter fraud. Karzai says the commission deliberately has misused evidence to trigger the runoff process against leading opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah. The ECC delayed its announcement of a runoff-voting round to give Western leaders time to try to convince Karzai to accept the ECC’s decision and face Abdullah in a second round.The Times (London) (10/19) Now everyone is scrambling behind the scenes to find a solution.
The world is still waiting for the Obama administration to announce what its plans for Afghanistan are [Stratfor offers a good analysis The U.S. Challenge in Afghanistan ), while the dust-up with Pakistan over the provisions of the Kerry-Lugar bill seem to have died down and the Pakistani army is now engaged in a massive offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan. The U.S. may not be too happy with the news that the army has cut a deal with two anti-U.S. tribal chiefs (war lords?) to keep them out of the conflict.
David Rohde
, the New York Times reporter who was held by the Taliban for seven months, has written a fascinating account of his ordeal
Remember Peter Galbraith (no relation to our Robert, but son of John Kenneth), that nice U.S. Ambassador who was fired when he first raised the issue of fraud in the Afghan elections? It seems that after he resigned from the U.S. Foreign Service, he worked as an adviser to leaders in Iraq’s Kurdish community, while also arguing passionately in public media that Iraq’s Kurds should be given maximum independence from Baghdad – including full control over any new sources of oil. Guess what? In 2004, he set up a small, U.S.-registered company that held a five percent stake in a newly exploited oilfield in Iraqi Kurdistan. More
Airships have long been dear to our hearts and we are delighted to see the Canadian SkyHook (great images), pioneered by our friends John Aikman, André Audet and Eric McConachie, is at last being recognized as a viable project, thanks to Boeing , of course, and not the Canadian government.
The Kimberly Process certification scheme set up to halt the trade in conflict, or blood, diamonds by the international diamond industry is faltering over a lack of accountability and follow-through, according to a report from Partnership Africa Canada. The failures, campaigners warn, have contributed to a flourishing illegal market that threatens to put conflict diamonds back on the world market. AlertNet.org/Reuters (10/18)
There’s an intriguing report that Nigerian officials are planning to give 10% of the country’s oil revenues to people in the Niger Delta, an area plagued by insurgencies. Presidential adviser Emmanuel Egbogah told the UK’s Financial Times that the money would go directly to communities, bypassing powerful state governors. Analysts say the government fears local officials would embezzle the money.  – We believe it’s a good start and will certainly keep an eye on developments.
The Obama administration is warning that there may be no deal forthcoming on Climate Change in Copenhagen  which should be a relief to Lord Christopher Monkton, one of the seriously deranged climate change deniers (we think he will give pause even to Ron Meisels), who is now (October 14) saying that the Climate Change Agreement will create a new (communist) world government with a transfer of wealth from first to third world countries … and on and on (If you can stand it, see Is Obama Poised to Cede US Sovereignty? )
It’s well before Hallowe’en, but the crazies are out in force. Not only do we have Lord Monkton, but in Norway, there is Dr Rauni-Leena Luukanen-Kilde who advertises herself as a UFOlogist and maintains that the HiN1 vaccination procedure is a plot to depopulate the world. If you seek more punishment – or a moment of head-shaking, there is a 6 min video
We are attempting to keep track of news about Swine flu H1N1 and the vaccination process. There are many conflicting stories and opinions and some of our best informed Wednesday Nighters are sceptical. The concern seems to center on the addition of an adjuvant,  which may bring more important side effects, and the very brief period allowed for clinical trials. As we learn more, we will share it with you.
Finally, the most wickedly delightful read of the week has to be the collection of valedictory messages from British Ambassadors and High Commissioners that has just been obtained by the BBC and (links to the texts) Lord Moran’s parting shot has this to say about Canada: “One does not encounter here the ferocious competition of talent that takes place in the United Kingdom. Canadians still seek wider opportunities elsewhere. Anyone who is even moderately good at what they do – in literature, the theatre, skiing or whatever – tends to become a national figure, and anyone who stands out at all from the crowd tends to be praised to the skies and given the Order of Canada at once

2 Comments on "Wednesday Night #1442"

  1. Clemento October 21, 2009 at 3:05 am · Reply

    Valuable thoughts and advices. I read your topic with great interest.

  2. Cornelius October 22, 2009 at 5:32 am · Reply

    I liked it. So much useful material. I read with great interest.

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