Wednesday Night #1491

See also Wednesday-Night.com for photos and more

Napoleon
The pecking order governs our lives collectively as well as individually throughout the animal, human, industrial and national  kingdoms.  Although Napoleon was much more charismatic than Hitler, it is interesting to perceive, compare and contrast their careers.  Both wished to control and rule the entire planet, but Napoleon was ultimately defeated, to the detriment of France, which thereby gave uncontested world leader status to England, which, following World War II, was succeeded by the U.S.  The successor nation as world leader can be as unpredictable as a roll of the dice.  The weather and the physical absence of General Rommel during the Normandy invasion, might very well have changed the outcome of the war, consequently the world.  Had President Kennedy been unsuccessful in staring down the U.S.S.R. in the Cuban missile crisis, the successor as “World Leading Nation” might possibly have been Russia.

Energy, ecology and technology
In this, the twenty-first century the shifts in global economy, political ideology and leadership point to the evidence of China as an emerging world leader, but ecology has not as yet adequately disclosed its hand.  Despite undeniable evidence of the warming of the earth’s surface, the thinning of green space and the disappearance of some animal species, we have yet to act adequately in changing our attitudes on human population growth and our dependence on fossil fuels.  Undoubtedly, the mining, promotion and lobbying of petroleum-producing countries and companies constitute some of the problem, but human recollection of the horrors of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island appear to have prevented the public from seriously considering the only alternative to fossil fuels that is currently known to remain constant twenty-four hours a day, independent of either sunlight or atmospheric conditions.  The investment of a fraction of that spent on developing the tar sands, if invested in developing more ecologically friendly energy sources, might very well have resulted in a more acceptable, sustainable and suitable energy source, more likely to resolve or at least, modify the warming effect so worrisome to those concerned with long term survival of life on Earth.  It would be unreasonable to expect the petroleum producing companies to fund such research not in their corporate interest, but concerned citizens might possibly encourage their governments to do so.
Independent of the finite amount of petroleum remaining available from the bones of our ancestors, the recall of the horror of Chernobyl, the inevitability of ecological damage, including global warming, the good but limited value of alternative energy sources, the technology involved in exploiting the remaining underwater petroleum reservoirs has proven to be too often, ecologically hazardous and expensive.  The visual devastation of woodlands by Tar Sand technology is becoming less of an issue as exploitation is increasingly being done underground, but the larger issue remains.  Increasingly, too, whether or not justified, purchasing oil from Middle East countries is seen by some as “feeding the hand that bites you.”

The Arctic
Regardless of the nature of the beliefs of the individual or group explaining the cause of global warming, how much is inevitable, how much is man-made, it is occurring and Canada’s boast of being a nation “from coast to coast to coast” has taken on new meaning with the melting of Arctic ice.  The inevitability of the ecological changes in Northern Canada will result in the need to populate the area and the availability of underwater petroleum will push back the date of the inevitable last drop, while increasing the danger of oil spills.  Most interesting, however, is the arrival of Russia as a new next-door-neighbor and natural ally and the adjustment and accommodation that will inevitably result.  There are, of course, many  differences  between the two countries, but much in common as well.  We share a similar climate as well as a frontier, but the Arctic appears, until now, to have been a barrier to knowing each other.  In addition to the inevitable drafting of an underwater border between the two countries.  we must recognize that we, as close neighbors share the same physical space, and build a closer linguistic, diplomatic and cultural relationship.  The government of Québec has already begun to do so.

The economy
Despite the incredible accuracy of the stock market predictions of our Wednesday Night in-house Mavens, people view events much better retrospectively than prospectively.  This, of course accounts for differences in which the crystal ball is interpreted by various viewers and the variances in some of the current analyses.
The current economic climate, according to one expert, is not good, as the stimulus program approaches its end.   However, there is an insufficiency of housing starts and, while the banking system is in relatively good shape, the people taking the big hit in the recent crisis having been the shareholders.  The financial system is in much better shape than it was a few years ago; savings have actually increased.  Although a robust recovery is not anticipated, a recession is highly unlikely.  Savings rates are impressive.  The phoenix-like rise in the stock market has been remarkable, many acquisitions, and so much cash [still] waiting to be invested that the temptation to invest will inevitably take over.
Notes: The rise of China as a financial center has been nothing short of phenomenal.  The incredible rise in the price of gold is now close to the thirteen hundred dollar mark per ounce and still rising, more to due to greed than insecurity or economics.
The market is currently slightly overbought, a situation expected to continue for approximately another two weeks.  A year-end rally is anticipated.  The only possible foreseeable although very improbable glitch in the advancing market would be home owners feeling poor and borrowing on the equity of their homes, a scenario unlikely at this point.

Prostitution and the law
Judge decriminalizes prostitution in Ontario, but Ottawa mulls appeal Globe & Mail report and (Toronto Star)
Proposed changes in the law governing prostitution appear to be of great interest to Canadians, where prostitution is permitted, but not solicitation.  There is much to be concerned about, including the disappearance and murder of prostitutes, the allegations of the immigration of young girls unaware that the debt incurred for their transportation was expected to be paid through prostitution.  What is certain is that they are much safer in bawdy houses than on the streets where they are totally unprotected from unforeseen but foreseeable dangers.  The law should accept that prostitution is inevitable and prostitutes should enjoy as great protection, both physical and medical, as any other citizen.  How the proposed law will provide for their protection is as yet unclear, but it is to be hoped that it will take into account the evolution of both on the street and bawdy house prostitution into what is euphemistically referred to as escort services.  Men who live off the avails of prostitution is of special concern as is the situation of Native prostitutes.

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The Prologue

We are very pleased to have Peter Berezin, Managing Editor of the Bank Credit Analyst with us again this week. Wednesday Nighters will remember that Peter was at Goldman Sachs and the IMF prior to joining BCA.  More about Peter’s impressive background on the BCA website, but it fails to mention that he was born in Russia and came to Canada at the age of seven. We can hope for some views on Russia’s (or at least Mr. Putin’s) policies on the Arctic announced at the recent Arctic Conference in Moscow.  Would also love to hear some comments from him on the recent FT article IMF governance turns into giant sudoku puzzle. It is a gripping tale of high geopolitics and low cunning, and it is all about who gets to sit where. The saga of power within the International Monetary Fund, which has unfolded in infinitesimal increments for years in the manner of a Tolstoyan familial saga, has suddenly become a Stieg Larsson race-against-time thriller. The prizes at stake are the 24 seats on the fund’s executive board.
In addition to Peter, and thanks to Ron Meisels, we will have as a special guest this Wednesday, Sergey Prokopiev, Consul of Russia, Dr. of Science and corresponding-member of the International Engineering Academy. Prior to coming to Montreal, he served in former Yugoslavia, and also in Georgia for a long period of time.
We are curious to know whether he will have comments about the news item Mayor of Moscow sacked after lengthy power struggle
On a vaguely related topic, we are honoured to present Pierre Arbour‘s monograph on Napoleon which contains some intriguing facts of which we were unaware. We would especially draw to your attention Napoleon’s repeal of the abolition of slavery, which had been enacted in 1794 by the Convention. The historical consequences include the complicated history of the reparations paid by Haiti to France.  Pierre also highlights the role played by Alexandre Walewski, Napoleon’s son by the Polish countess, Maria Walewska, in the Congress of Paris and later in the Assemblée and Senate.  It is a fascinating and enlightening document. For those who missed it, try to find the great PBS Napoleon.
‘T’is the season for UN meetings and thus the ICAO General Assembly is on. We anticipate with enthusiasm a visit from Tom Windmuller of IATA, either this week or next (if and when he can escape the endless round of receptions, et al.) Aviation topics are always of interest whether it is aircraft design, passenger torture (aka cattle class) – see piece on new seat design – or events arising from the corporate boardrooms.  But, Tom has many other interests, notably politics.

Along with international meetings, there generally comes a ‘silly season’, exemplified by this item:
The “alien ambassador” story looks like a hoax
Mazlan Othman, a Malaysian astrophysicist, is denying a report published in the Sunday Times and elsewhere that she was to be designated by the UN for the role of being a first point of contact with extraterrestrial life. “It sounds really cool but I have to deny it,” Othman wrote in an e-mail. The Guardian (London)/News Blog (9/27)
Appropriate to this item, Gerald Ratzer is bringing David Ketterer, emeritus professor at Concordia and an honorary research fellow in the Department of English at the University of Liverpool. He is the author of numerous books, including New Worlds for Old: The Apocalyptic Imagination, Science Fiction, and American Literature (1974), The Rationale of Deception in Poe (1979), Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy (1992), and Imprisoned in a Tesseract: The Life and Work of James Blish (1987). He is currently at work on a critical biography of John Wyndham. See also SF (that’s Science Fiction) site re Tales of Wonder.

There has been active debate among several Wednesday Night contributors of the recent Globe & Mail article Time to ramp up BRIC trade and a report from the Conference Board of Canada on “Canada’s ‘missing’ trade with Europe” that Guy Stanley has forwarded with the comment that [it] makes similar points about the Canada-EU FTA now under negotiation–next session to be held in Ottawa. One interesting aspect is the New Trade Theory angle in the EU-Canada study which takes industrial organization, especially supply chains, into account, and drops the assumption of perfect competition used in the Ricardo models. The overall impact is to raise the bar on building comparative advantage, as opposed to economic activity , in small countries. The productivity gains achieved from the Canada-US arrangement arose from industrial restructuring–mainly cutting out middle men–and lengthening production runs for low and mid-level manufacturing, almost all of it foreign-owned, and based on exchange rate differences.  Together with WTO, NAFTA also made it easier to sell Bombardier aircraft and trains. Canada has not developed any more comparative advantages in goods trade and middle class incomes haven’t risen since trade liberalization. The services story has been somewhat better, as Canada now has a narrow CA in ICT-based services. Canada’s performance contrasts sharply with that of the Scandinavian countries over the same period which also saw trade liberalization with their larger neighbours but which also had strategies in place to encourage the development of particular CAs. The EU and BRIC trade expansions will place Canada’s approach in direct competition with countries with economic policies designed to promote high value added outputs and distinctive, high quality products. Given that the expansions contemplated offer enormous potential for companies in all the trading partners, what is Canada’s best policy response?

We continue our avid interest in all developments related to the U.S. mid-term elections and can only bemoan the fact that there is every indication that this is going to be an exceptionally nasty election period, given that  Rove Returns, With Team, Planning G.O.P. Push and Fight over GOP ‘Pledge to America’ sets scene for November election and Democrats Unleash Ads Focusing on Rivals’ Pasts – all this and so far we haven’t mentioned Sarah Palin, the Tea Party or that wonderful Delaware candidate, Christine O’Donnell.

You are certainly watching the news regarding the readinesss of New Delhi to welcome the Commonwealth Games. Amidst the furore, we find it somewhat astonishing (not having believed chutzpah to be part of the sub-continent culture) to see that India cautions world to show ‘respect’ in Commonwealth Games criticisms The Economist has an interesting take: The games people play (or not) – Why Delhi’s Commonwealth games fiasco is not all bad news
“India is a democracy. It is hard to deny that its political system complicates the organisation of such events. Responsibilities are split between the federal government, the local authorities in Delhi and the various sports bodies. And, in a democracy, every decision is contested. That the prime minister cannot snap his fingers, tell everybody to fall into line and “just do it” may be embarrassing. But not many Indians would prefer it another way.” All true, but other democracies have been able to get things ready – and clean – on time – see the Vancouver Olympics, which the British press was only too eager to criticize!

We pay far too little attention to South America these days, but must draw your attention to Charlie Rose’s interview with Sebastián Piñera, President of Chile. The discussion of Chile’s almost miraculous recovery from the devastation of the earthquake, and the on-going rescue of the 33 miners – “Operation Jonah” – is inspiring, as is the fact that today, Chile’s largest trading partner is China – guest what commodity the Chinese are after?

On the home front, we are impressed by the news that Apple iPads [are] now standard issue for Saskatchewan politicians It is said that the move will cost about $25,000 initially, but is intended to facilitate a move to an “eCabinet” system that will lead to a big reduction in paperwork. Not to mention that they should be much more prepared for meetings! Wouldn’t this be a good move for Ottawa politicians?  Close by – in Alberta – there’s new terminology for the Tar Sands: Alberta tar sands praised as ‘ethical oil’: Alberta’s fields of bitumen have been called “tar sands” by environmentalists, and “oil sands” by the industry and province. Now some supporters are trying on a new term for the hydrocarbons that come out of Alberta: “Ethical oil”.

Will Masdar become a new buzz word? We confess that we are fascinated by the development of this city and, despite the critics, hope that it may represent some new beginnings.
There have also been a couple of items regarding wind energy recently that could be of interest to some, particularly with respect to the lack of industry participation in the U.K. project and the contrasting approach in Germany. 

Finally, on a lighter note: we insist that no invitation to Wednesday Night #1500 be posted on Facebook – look at what happened to that poor 14-year old in England.

Meantime,  for your social calendar:
Marina Boulos advises:
The Foundation of Greater Montreal (FGM) invites you to the launch of the 4th edition of Greater Montreal’s Vital Signs, our Region’s Check-Up, Tuesday, October 5th, at the Grande Bibliothèque, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The report presents a statistical outlook of different sectors of community life such as work, the gap between the rich and the poor, learning, health and wellness, housing, getting around, safety, the environment, arts and culture, getting started in the community as well as belonging and leadership. This will be an excellent opportunity to learn more about the needs of the Montreal community and its demographics.
The launch will be followed by a coffee break, offering you an exceptional chance to network with philanthropists, non-profits, government officials and funders alike.  To view invitation and to RSVP please open the following link: http://www.fgmtl.org/sv/invitation/invitation_site_en.php

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