Wednesday Night #1557

Written by  //  January 4, 2012  //  Canada, Herb Bercovitz, Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  1 Comment

Our Scribe’s comments: It was an extraordinary evening, remarkably civilized considering the issues discussed, one which I only really appreciated while transcribing my notes, which may very well have misinterpreted the nature or details of topics discussed.

The U.S. Political Future
Politics appears to be a national sport that combines the physical, psychological, emotional and thespian resources of the individual. Unfortunately, perhaps, as in hockey, the remuneration of the elected can surpass even the hubris of the anointed. The interpretation of the term “public service” appears to have changed with time and increasing remuneration, or perhaps, the nature of one’s memories changes with the passage of time. This year’s U.S. election is especially interesting as the effect of the American economy on the fate of the elected (as well as defeated) candidates in November is crucial but unpredictable.
A war in the Middle East would undoubtedly have an effect on the current U.S. administration and the elections outcome, but again, difficult to predict what that effect might be.
For President Obama, the single issue is economy and jobs. If the economy is good, the incumbent should be reelected, but if the economy worsens, Mitt Romney will no doubt present himself as the candidate who knows how to run a business. Some Wednesday Nighters suggest, possibly only partly facetiously, that the Republicans might be very content to lose an election in a deteriorating economy.
The Iowa caucuses represent only the beginning of the process and any number of unforeseeable events during the next ten months will undoubtedly have an important impact on the November results. Whatever the strategy, whatever unforeseen events have in store, Barack Obama must recognize that although the game rules look reasonable on paper, as in other professional sports, he has to stop playing fair and learn to play rough.
Even, if as anticipated, Obama wins the presidential election, without a majority in the Senate, he, as well as the country will experience two to four years of additional pain. The joker in the pack is the Tea Party, which is not in a position to be elected, offers no solutions and whose shine will eventually wear off. However, it has the potential to make life difficult for the Democrats in a Senate dominated by the Republicans, and with the Tea Party, the wild card. Like the recent occupation movements, the Tea Party is a movement in indignation, but cannot seriously be considered a political movement – YET. Hope lies in the fact that historically, it has not been the extremes, but the median that wins elections. Meantime, the one element of surprise for the Democratic ticket is the identity of the vice-presidential candidate.

Market outlook
Canada and the U.S. have invariably moved in tandem in the turn to a bull (or bear) market, a mantra to be applied to yesterday’s two to three hundred point rise. The explanation for that anomaly is that investors tend to reduce their holdings prior to a weekend, especially a holiday weekend. This year, Christmas and New Year fell on a weekend, thereby extending both weekends through the following Monday.
Much volatility is expected in 2012. At least one Wednesday-Nighter recommends only holding shares of secure companies that pay cash dividends. As for emerging markets, growth in China remains at from 7% to 8%, but that country is not doing well at all. With European financial institutions in bad shape, some express fears of bad, or at least indifferent, news coming out of that area in the next three or four months. Others suggest the preservation of capital by purchasing agricultural land. Still others see the yen and euro as being overvalued and the U.S. dollar still the most stable currency, predicting its rise in value to $1.10 Canadian.

A Happy New Year to all as we predict the future through the eyes of the fabled blind man assessing the shape and size of the elephant

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Happy New Year to one and all!

Welcome to the Year of the Dragon, and appropriately,
given the dragon’s propensity for breathing fire,
the UN Year of Sustainable Energy for all.

Query? Is that fire a form of sustainable energy? Has anyone calculated the effect of the Dragon’s emissions on climate change?

We would like to echo Alan Hustak’s optimistic FB post:
This will be the year we stop complaining, the year we laugh more, find more time for the important things in life, it will be a day longer than last year, it will be the year we will be more generous, the year we finish what we start, a year to be more charitable, here’s to 2012.
Unfortunately, we doubt that the ‘we’ of whom he speaks is sufficiently embracing to make the world a noticeably better place.
And, as we wrote last week, we hope that you have been (and will continue to be) surrounded by warmth and love, whether from family or close friends, finding peace of mind, heart and soul, respite from the turbulent times of 2011, and recharging of spiritual/mental batteries for the challenges of 2012 – and challenges there will surely be.

Rather than giving you a long list of clever and not-so-clever predictions from a variety of genuine and self-appointed authorities, we prefer to direct you to the all encompassing www.2012predictions.net that offers a “directory of links to prophecies and predictions relating to the year 2012, no matter whether they relate to global catastrophes, changes of consciousness, or mundane predictions about science and economy.” No guarantees. Notable is the information that the Mayan tablet does not predict end of the world in 2012, says expert  Maybe not the end of the world, but we may anticipate some big changes – as Foreign Policy points out, “if 2011 was the year when governments were overthrown in the streets, 2012 could be the year when politics plays out at the ballot box.” Twenty elections that could change the world in 2012.

In January 2010, it was predicted that Global supply of rare earth elements could be wiped out by 2012 – is this still true?

Let us start the New Year by considering this comment from Nicholas Kristoff: “HERE’S a paradox: We’re finding authentic leadership these days not from our nominal leaders in Washington but from unelected (and mostly unelectable) figures whom we like to deride as self-indulgent narcissists.”

There appears to be a natural segue from the “nominal leaders” to Tuesday’s Iowa Caucus. After the endless polls and punditry to which we have been subjected, we would recommend Gail Collins’ Feel Free to Ignore Iowa as the only rational view of the process. However, it proved to be a fascinating night with an unexpected outcome. See more

Update – an old/new topic – Executive compensation
Singapore panel recommends PM take 36% pay cut President’s annual salary should be slashed by 51% Don’t feel too sorry for him, he would still be earning $1.2 million Cdn, but would be far behind some of our Canadian executives.
Top Canadian CEOs got 27 per cent pay hike
By noon on Tuesday, Jan. 3, the highest-paid chief executives officers in Canada will have earned as much as the average Canadian makes in an entire year, according to a new report.
The top 100 Canadian CEOs were paid an average of $8.4 million in 2010, a 27 per cent increase over the previous year, the report published Tuesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says. In comparison, the average Canadian earned $44,366 that year, or 1.1 per cent more than in 2009.

Among the immediate challenges of 2012, the Middle East continues to provide cause for concern, with first and foremost, Iran’s nuclear capability and threats to stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz if foreign sanctions are imposed on its crude exports. Backing up the threats are two troubling announcements: Iran navy tests surface-to-air missile near Strait of Hormuz and Iranian scientists have produced the nation’s first nuclear fuel rod. Israel is having a public debate about the urgency of Iran’s nuclear threat and the wisdom of an Israeli military attack to counter it. And what role for that other nuclear power, Pakistan?

The ineffectual Arab League mission to Syria, headed improbably by Sudanese Lt.-Gen. Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa Al-Dabi, has caused more harm than good, thus no resolution to the crisis is imminent.

The dangerously autocratic moves of the government of Hungary, culminating in the new constitution that takes effect on January 1, have unfortunately been somewhat ignored in light of the world’s preoccupation with Europe and the euro, the U.S. economy and political turmoil, however, Tony Deutsch has faithfully monitored events and now not only Secretary of State Clinton, but also Paul Krugman are paying serious attention. If you have not, this is a good place to start.

North Korea will remain a source of tension following the death of Kim Jong Il, (were you aware that neither he nor Kim Jong Un bears the title of president? It seems that after Kim Il-sung died, he was named ‘Eternal President’. That beats those despots who unwisely declare themselves ‘rulers for life’.) The absence of the particular title does not appear to have deprived the Dear Leader of any power, but did cause a UN protocol flap “This case is unique,” a senior U.N. official explained … “I can’t think of another country where the head of state is permanently dead.” Did you see the grief stricken crowds? Even if the tears were faked it was a scary sight. Almost as scary as the massed troops.

Kimon has maintained for some time (The Perils of Austerity) that austerity is not the prescription for Europe’s economic woes. He will be pleased that Paul Krugman (Keynes was right) echoes his sentiments “the real test of Keynesian economics [has] come from European nations like Greece and Ireland that had to impose savage fiscal austerity as a condition for receiving emergency loans – and have suffered Depression-level economic slumps, with real G.D.P. in both countries down by double digits.” All well and good if the right people are listening, but isn’t the damage already done?

Whither Canada? Politicians of all stripes seem to have fled their respective offices mostly for deserved – or not – holidays. Two exceptions worthy of note are Bob Rae, who spent Christmas in Kabul on the same visit as the Governor General and wrote a thoughtful blog about the importance of Canada’s presence in Afghanistan, and James Moore, who continues to tout the merits of celebrating the War of 1812, while cutting and slashing the budgets of arts and heritage organizations. And the Globe & Mail muses that “one option for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after seeing bills through their final stages, would be to prorogue Parliament [again!] and to launch a new legislative agenda – and a new tone to Parliament.” Another issue to watch for is the question of whether Bill-C18 (the Wheat Board’s death knell), was passed illegally. Has the Harper Government overstepped its authority?

In conclusion, Frank Kinnelly has sent along Foreign Policy’s list of 20 books to read in 2012 (and the year is only one day old), while Stephanie Lalut brought to our attention a piece by Charles Dobson published in The Tyee in 2004 : Seven Great Ways to Build Community – see the part on Salons – “The right mix of people and perspectives was and still is necessary for a lively conversation.” Whether by design or happy coincidence, we are blessed, thanks to you, to have that happy mix.

One Comment on "Wednesday Night #1557"

  1. John Curtin January 1, 2012 at 8:11 pm · Reply

    Dear Diana and David,
    Happy New Year from DC!
    I’d like to go out on a limb at this time and predict that the world will not end in 2012.
    So enjoy all 365 days and 52 Wednesday Nights.

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