Wednesday Night #1460

Written by  //  February 24, 2010  //  David Kilgour, Herb Bercovitz, Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

As many Wednesday Nighters are out of town taking advantage of school holidays and others were glued to the Olympic hockey game (Russia vs Canada), it was a small group that enjoyed a wide-ranging, sometimes lighthearted and sometimes intense conversation.

Diana introduced the beautiful book Memories and profiles of McGill University, written and published in November 2009 by our friend Mackay Smith. A wonderful gift for any McGill graduate or alumni event, it is available at Nicholas Hoare and through Chapters online.


Cyber attacks

Every generation has a particular threat that it fears – in the 1950s it was the bomb and accordingly, people built bomb shelters, civil defense was taken very seriously and those who lived in major target cities took note of the best routes by which to leave town. Today it is the vulnerability of western society to cyber attacks, especially with the growth of wireless (WiFi) that allows people to circulate and attack vital systems inside buildings, that preoccupies security and communications technology experts. Thus CNN recently broadcast Cyber ShockWave, a simulation initiative sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center. One of the principal ‘players’ was Michael Chertoff, who also is a member of the Board of Wi2Wi, of which Hans Black is Chairman. Cyber attack is very real and highly malicious threat, whether to the individual, corporation or national system, as Richard Bruno confirms when discussing his company’s pattern of design, attack and redesign of systems.

A cultural divide
Even before Calixa Lavallée composed O Canada, national anthems were considered sacred, their repetition taking on significance not unlike that of morning prayers. Although this apparently remains true in most parts of the world, the recent jazzed-up rendition of our national anthem at the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics has elicited much controversy, probably mostly inter-generational. With the possible exception of most immigrants, not only has this irreverence of national heritage been reflected in our places of work but in our cultural activities as well, most particularly in the younger generation.

(Under) Funding of the performing arts
The presentation of Susanna Eyton-Jones‘ latest CD (not yet available to the public) of music by Gabriela Lena Frank  prompted a discussion of the woeful underfunding of our cultural activities, notably music. Orchestras and opera companies are suffering, especially because of damage to endowments. What is particularly dismaying is that successful young – tekkie -entrepreneurs (35-50) who have money appear to have no interest in music, or culture, and little idea of what to do with their money, other than investing in a company -with the exception of  health causes.
Wednesday Nighters are convinced that there is a thirst for quality performances, as demonstrated by the sold-out performances of theatre readings in the Francophone communities. How to build on this thirst and encourage the needed funding?  Possible solutions advanced include  ‘peers’ whom the young entrepreneurs are anxious to emulate and with whom they can share the experience; a freshening of the programs and approaches of  orchestras, opera companies, etc.; ‘engineered exposure’ – invitations by friends to performances of either extraordinary talents, or works that are relatively easy to understand and appreciate. The Met has been incredibly successful with the its simulcasts as have – on a different level – concerts by the Orchestre métropolitain under  Yannick Nezet-Seguin and Kent Nagano’s MSO summer programs in Lanaudière and (the late, lamented) Knowlton summer festival . The (free) 7PM pre-concert program that educates the audience about works to be performed is also working. But we have to recognize that more modern (new) music is less accessible to the newcomer to concert halls.  Furthermore, if the joys of classical music are to continue, the school curriculum must become more deeply involved and public funding significantly increased.

The economy
In the area of world economics, the PIGS prevail. Greece is greasing the slide of the euro. Europe’s financial problems are expected to continue for a long time, the United States, although turning around (thanks to consumer demand, but not housing), albeit slowly, appears strong only in relation to Europe.  The paradoxical strength of the Asian countries in relation to North America and especially, Europe is becoming increasingly evident.   The Asian economies are growing, as is their domestic consumption. However, China is a question mark thanks to its over capacity. Latin American countries like Brazil, that produce food and have natural resources/commodities are doing well.  Western Canada, especially Saskatchewan, is doing very well; and several interesting discoveries are adding to the  resource base – including new gold discoveries in northwest New Brunswick for Michael Judson’s Blue Note, and recent shale gas find southwest of  Quebec City.  The Canadian dollar is expected to continue its upward trend.

The market
Continuing low interest rates should direct the prudent investors to favour solid high-yield stocks over bonds.There appears to be a differing crystal ball view of the stock market by two Wednesday Night Mavens present, one pointing to the stock market correction starting March 2009, continuing to February 5 of this year, followed by a small peak and anticipating that following a small correction, the market will experience an impressive up- leg continuing through 2010 and 2011. The second expert sees many problems in the market, much complacency, overcapacity in China and a serious turndown in twelve months, and recommends gold as a sensible, viable investment.

  T H E  I N V I T A T I O N

We are delighted that Hans Black will be with us this Wednesday and look forward to discussing his latest enthusiasm which is apparent in this message from him:
“Of late, it has become increasingly apparent that internet security is a significant global issue. Recent weeks have brought news of Chinese hackers penetrating Google’s network, as well as competition between major U.S. telecom companies for use of America’s restricted and congested bandwidth.
In this context, former Secretary of Homeland Security and Wi2Wi board member Michael Chertoff participated in a ‘war game’ style simulation of a cyber-attack against the United States. The simulation, broadcast on CNN, was titled “Cyber Shockwave.” The simulation brought prominent national security experts together, including former heads of the intelligence community and military officials, in order both to prepare for an attack and to demonstrate the pertinence of internet security issues to a wider audience.
We highly suggest that you take the time to watch the broadcast of the crisis simulation. Wi2Wi is increasingly becoming involved in defense and security applications of wireless connectivity technology, though it is not involved in telecommunications infrastructure defense at present. We think it is important to bring the subject of cyber-security to your attention because the threats posed by cyber attack seem to increase as our society becomes more reliant on internet connectivity. We think that it behooves those involved in the telecommunications and wireless connectivity businesses to be aware of these threats, and we thank Mr. Chertoff for his efforts to raise public awareness of this issue.”
We have been feeling grumpy for some time now between the proroguing, the Rights & Democracy débacle, Peter Kent’s declaration that an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada (And this is our foreign policy … ) – the public discussion of terminating the Governor General’s mandate early, and we could go on.
Our mood certainly has not been improved by the debate over Own the Podium and the generally sour tone of the Olympics epitomized by the mean-spirited challenges that have popped up everywhere “[Canada’s] appeal over [Amy] Williams’ aerodynamic helmet … Austria has complained about a Swiss ski jumper’s boot bindings and Russia and the United States are bitching at each other over men’s skating gold denied to the great Yevgeny Plushenko.” More (if you can stand it) On the other hand, Guy Stanley forwarded this slightly different take on Own the Podium from Slate which should help us take ourselves slightly less seriously.
However last night’s electric performance by the Ice Dancing pairs at least restored our faith that grace and sportsmanship in the Olympics is not oxymoronic, a sentiment bolstered by media coverage that included this particularly glowing tribute in the Christian Science Monitor  Ice dancing Olympics: Virtue, Moir, and the night we were all Canadians
On the other hand, we continue to be very unhappy about proroguing, especially as we learn that Budget to contain no new spending, taxes: official  For this, we have waited three months while Parliament was prorogued?
The news of the appointment of Gérard Latulippe as the new head of Rights & Democracy has not cheered us up. Aside from the flagrant political (Alliance) connections, his past appears to be less than savoury -Read (and weep!) Paul Wells on the subject Rights and Democracy: Loyalty and Competence. Meanwhile, Wednesday Night’s Julius Grey, who is defending the three managers suspended from R&D has warned that the matter must be resolved within two weeks (that was 11 days ago).
Canada’s international role is also a matter for some despair – aside from Peter Kent’s declaration (Peter Kent goes to war) – Mr. Cannon has managed to upset aboriginal leaders and Nordic friends over their exclusion from the Arctic Council meeting Canada called out by Arctic allies  In today’s Globe & Mail, Brett House and Désirée McGraw take the government to task for its poor performance in international aid to Africa Our shaky hand on African aid – that’s three parts of the world who aren’t very happy. So far, the only good news is the exemption from the Buy America policy, and we note a lot of trepidation that there is a quid pro quo – U.S. firms have to be allowed to bid on infrastructure projects here – wouldn’t one think that a little competition might be good for the taxpayers’ pockets?
South of the border, the U.S. political environment is increasingly hostile. A Tea Party supporter recently referred scornfully to a Republican conservative as a moderate and the Conservative Political Action Convention chose Ron Paul as its preference for Party standard bearer. Tea Party Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right   On the other hand, we are pleased that the new Senator from Massachusetts has proven to be someone who thinks for himself and had the courage in his first Senate vote to buck the Party and vote with the Democrats for the Jobs Bill. Of course, he is being excoriated by the Right.
Our Wednesday Night financial experts are warning of the dangers of the euro’s decline. They are in good company. George Soros (yes, that would be the same George Soros who more than doubled his investment in gold, despite calling it the “ultimate bubble” just weeks ago] worries that The euro will face bigger tests than Greece  and has told EU ministers he believes the future of the euro and Eurozone is in doubt. Meanwhile, others worry that Greece threatens more than the euro. Our financial experts see an upside to this situation – Canada is more and more sought after as a safe haven for investments.

Before we depress ourselves and you, some cheerier notes.

David Kilgour has been nominated with David Matas for the Nobel Peace Prize for their unflagging work on human rights and particularly organ harvesting crimes against the Falun Gong. We have already sent David our warmest congratulations and he has promised to come back to Wednesday Night in the very near future. We believe this is the first time a Wednesday Nighter has been nominated for the Peace Prize!

We would like to call to your attention Canada’s world which, after pointing to some of the country’s recent failures to achieve anywhere near the glowing picture we have of ourselves on the global stage, offers some inspiring illustrations of Canadian leadership by example. It is our hope that these will stimulate us all to look for the good beyond the gloomy.

AND

The Gallery at Victoria Hall is pleased to present the Three Photographers: Diana Bruno, Richard Lock, and Jaroslava Miler from February 18 to March 13, 2010.

“You Are Better than You Think You Are” Seminar Coaching Series
Anita Nowak and her colleagues are hosting a final edition of their Workshop Series 3-10-17-24 March, 6-7:30pm

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