Wednesday Night #1545

Written by  //  October 12, 2011  //  Education, Europe & EU, U.S., Wednesday Nights  //  2 Comments

The main topic remains the Economy – a tradition for Wednesday Night, but we are beginning to wish for a little variety!

However, the announcement of the winners of the Nobel Prize for Economics deserves recognition even if we are ever-so-slightly puzzled by the reason given for the award – “their work in sorting out cause from effect in the economy and policy” – isn’t that part of an economist’s job? We are sure to be disabused of this idea by at least some members of our WN Economists caucus. We did like the personal touch that Professor Sims told reporters the academy had to call him twice because “my wife couldn’t find the talk button on the phone so we went back to sleep”, although it’s not as good a sound bite as the one from Adam Riess, Nobel Prize for Physics co-winner “The phone rang and it was Swedish sounding people and I knew it wasn’t IKEA calling”.

Messages have been flying back and forth between members of the WN Economists Caucus, all offering good reading and intelligent commentary on the European Debt Crisis and the future of the eurozone. One report that has stirred much interest is Spiegel’s 3-part series on The ticking Euro Bomb, which is posted on the New School of Athens website as well as those of Wednesday Night. NSoA is promoting dialogue on this and related topics. Meanwhile, the EU has postponed the meeting on the Debt Crisis until the 23rd.

Rodrigue Tremblay has published a new piece “The Five Macro Crises of Our Times” – “we are facing simultaneously at least five intractable worldwide crises that it will take years to solve or to outlive. They are a financial crisis that it will take at least twenty years to jugulate, an energy crisis that’s looming on the not too far horizon and which threatens the very foundation of the economic prosperity of the last half century, a double-barreled demographic crisis of a magnitude never encountered during the entire history of humankind, a political crisis that is related to the ingrained inability of governments most everywhere to solve society’s problems, and, as a general background, a moral crisis that corrupts most institutions and makes them ineffective in promoting the common good.”

Education is, we all agree, one of the key issues in developing a healthy world economy. Thus, the UNESCO report that the world is facing a shortage of 8 million teachers, especially in primary schools, is cause for great concern. Of that number, an estimated 1 million will need to be recruited over the next three years merely to meet the growing numbers of primary school students in sub-Saharan Africa, while 6.2 million teachers will be needed to account for attrition. The Guardian (London)/Data Blog

A little deviation from the Economy theme:

We could start with South Africa‘s really dumb move in blocking the Dalai Lama from attending Desmond Tutu’s birthday celebration. The most blistering critiques come from Reuters and Foreign Policy:
S.African diplomacy reeling from Dalai Lama debacle
Africa’s biggest economy has already shown that it casts a tiny foreign policy shadow and South Africa’s most recent diplomatic debacle – over a visa for the Dalai Lama – has likely further diminished its stature by showing how easily it can be bullied.
South Africa’s Cowardly Lion
From kissing Qaddafi to stiffing the Dalai Lama, what’s happened to Nelson Mandela’s Rainbow Nation? While the widely accepted explanation is detailed in this Telegraph account Dalai Lama visa blocked ‘over South African trade fears with China’

Turkey has become a major player on the geopolitical board game and not only because of its recent abandonment of the former strong ties with Israel. Now it is all about Cyprus and natural gas (Erdogan’s Fighter Jets Challenge Cypriot Gas Exploration in Mediterranean), when it isn’t about being a power broker in the Middle East (Turkey sees new regional dynamics emerging)

Several months ago, Kimon drew our attention to The Rage of the ‘Indignants a phenomenon that may be somewhat related to the Arab Spring, but has spread from Spain to Brussels EU ‘indignants’ camp out in Brussels park, with offshoots in Israel Israelis plan million-strong march as protesters call for social justice and the U.S. Occupy America: protests against Wall Street and inequality hit 70 cities Now everyone is paying attention, but what does it all mean for governments and society?

In case you missed the latest news about the 2012 U.S. elections, Ohio’s `Joe the Plumber’ plans to run for Congress The bad part of this is that thanks to redrawing of district lines, there may be a fairly brutal face-off between two Democratic incumbents. More relevant is the Occupy Wall Street movement and what it means in the polarization of American politics. The Globe & Mail has a good piece on this.

And in Canada … on Wednesday, we will have Mr. Mulcair’s official announcement that he will run for Leader of the NDP. Not everyone is thrilled. Meantime, a plethora of elections. At least we were saved from a trifecta in Ontario (possibly thanks to Stephen Harper’s boosting of the idea). Most interesting to us is the low voter turnout and the pollsters’ reconsideration of their methodology Most of us don’t pay much attention to the Newfoundland vote, especially now that the colourful Danny Williams is no longer a contender, but we would like to draw your attention to the controversy over the Muskrat Falls hydro development. None other than Jim Prentice is in favour, but many others, including our good friend Gerry Germain, marshall arguments against, reminding the voters that there are lessons to be learned from the Churchill Falls development. As for Quebec, isn’t it nice to know that Jean Charest is discussing his Plan Nord in Spain, where he admits that “the conservation plan is still rough”. Presumably he would rather say that there than here.

Although last week we learned that Nine Canadian universities are among the Top 200 educational institutions in the world, this week, we are told that Canadian universities must reform or perish – we are confused!

We wonder how many of you realized that Monday was the last day that the Montreal (Dow) Planetarium would be open? A new (Rio Tinto Alcan) planetarium is under construction near the Olympic Village at a cost of $35million+. Who knew this became a priority in the Montreal capital works budget in 2004? Might one suggest that replacing the planetarium is a nice thought, but it would be interesting to see the estimates of economic benefits, given all of Montreal’s other needs.

2 Comments on "Wednesday Night #1545"

  1. Prof. David Mitchell October 11, 2011 at 9:14 am ·

    A short note. Could elaborate but not today.
    You said, “Although last week we learned that Nine Canadian universities are among the Top 200 educational institutions in the world, this week, we are told that Canadian universities must reform or perish – we are confused!”
    Don’t be confused.
    First, look at the criteria by which those top 200 were identified. Research (volume, income, reputation and citations) accounts for 60% of the ‘performance indicators’. Not all Canadian universities play that game.
    If you concur with the Globe that universities ” ought to produce critical thinkers, scientifically and culturally literate people who can assess evidence, connect the dots and communicate with clarity …” note that this is not how those 200 or the Canadian nine were judged. Even the 30% weight accorded to teaching looked elsewhere.
    Second, I suggest that you go with the Globe’s editorial; it is close enough to accurate in its assessment if not in its prescription. So are many comments. The editorial deserves serious consideration by all of us.
    Then there is the issue of job-preparation. Why should universities serve in large measure as a costly substitute for what could be apprenticeship or on-the-job training by corporations?
    To complicate the whole teaching question is the simple fact that we do not have a standard unit of measurement; what exactly is ‘good teaching’ or a ‘good teacher’? By what criteria do we determine this? By students’ grades? By students opinions? By retrospective polls of graduates? By university presidents’ opinions?
    As for the high cost to students of a university education, anyone wanting the information or knowledge implicit in a degree can start here:
    Of course getting a certificate of pedigree costs more!
    I won’t say that this descriptive note from an American graduate could ever occur in Canada but it is instructive:
    My first quarter in grad school I had to prove competency in statistics by passing a course. This was a disaster from start to finish. Imagine being thrown into a classroom where every word is foreign to you. Sink or swim, right? There’s actually another strategy: just tread water. My strategy was: show up to every class and never be late. I sat in the front row and asked meaningless questions to demonstrate I was paying attention. (”Could you repeat that last part?” “What would happen if you switched those two numbers around?” “Oh, I see. That’s interesting.”)
    On the day of the final exam I looked at the paper and understood virtually none of the questions. I wrote gibberish on the front side and drew an arrow to indicate something on the reverse side. On this side I composed a list of “Top 10 Things I Learned During Statistics Class.” I made sure a few of them actually related to assigned materials, even if I didn’t understand them.
    I somehow received a B-

  2. Diana Thébaud Nicholson October 12, 2011 at 2:35 pm ·

    Our favorite Technical Analyst says:
    … the 105-day cycle, which was due on October 7th, came right on time on October 4th(there is always s ±5-day leeway), and now we are on the upleg of this cycle!
    Translation: there is a strong possibility of a year-end rally.
    However, since the 200-day moving average is falling on all indices and all indices are still below these falling 200dMAs, this cannot be a new bull market, and therefore, chances are that once this year-end rally is over, we will face some more trouble. You heard it here first.

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