JWG via DTN 15 January 2023 JT and Rae have been reading the tar baby saga and are trying hard…
Wednesday Night #1593
A number of David Mitchell‘s Wednesday Night friends gathered to honor his return with particularly stimulating debate. In addition, we celebrated the latest of John Curtin’s documentaries Sibling Rivalry: Near, Dear & Dangerous which aired last Thursday on CBC’s DocZone and featured John Buchanan‘s extraordinarily attractive son and daughters along with a number of famous pairs of rival siblings. John Curtin notes with satisfaction that “despite being up against the Democratic National Convention and the MTV Awards, it got 497,000 viewers, so did very well, especially considering it ran so early in the season.”
Diana introduced Sauvé Fellow Brett House who will be living and working at Sauvé House this year. A Rhodes Scholar, he is currently working on his DPhil in Economics at Oxford. Brett’s impressive career includes serving as Principal Advisor in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Policy Advisor at UNDP, Senior Macroeconomist with The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Economist with the International Monetary Fund and Director of Studies and Stipendiary Lecturer in Economics, Keble College, Oxford University. He has also had positions with the World Bank and Goldman Sachs International in fixed-income emerging markets and capital markets.
9/11 and conspiracy theories
Along with the ghosts of the genuine horror of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, every year the eleventh day of September brings out numerous conspiracy theories that range from the contention that the attacks (particularly the one on the Pentagon) never happened to those promoted in the more recent film Loose Change. 9/11 Conspiracy Files: The Third Tower examines the theory that “Building 7”, which housed the offices of a number of government agencies and was not hit by an aircraft, was in fact destroyed by controlled explosions engineered by one or more of those same government agencies. The official report concluded that “fire weakened floor beams and a critical support column leading to the collapse of the third tower. However, that would make the third tower the first and only skyscraper in the world to collapse solely due to fire.”
Some of those who subscribe to the belief that steel could easily sustain the heat of the burning jet fuel emanating from the plane that downed the Twin Towers argue that defective design and/or steel caused the collapse of the buildings. A closer analysis, however, would indicate that physical reaction to stimuli other than or in addition to excessive heat are capable of and in this case, were responsible for the success of the tragic attack.
Wednesday Night is fortunate in counting among its notables Professor John Jonas, one of the world authorities on steel and John, who often is questioned on matters relating to the steel structure of the WTC , arrived armed with printouts of supporting documentation. He explained in easily understandable terms the reasoning behind the conclusions that “the failure of the steel was due to two factors: loss of strength due to the temperature of the fire, and loss of structural integrity due to distortion of the steel from the non-uniform temperatures in the fire.”
One consequence of the proliferation of conspiracy theorists is the concurrent rise of an industry of debunkers. One such site Conspiracy theories and controlled demolition addresses the points raised in Loose Change and similar Internet-based rants regarding the collapse of Building 7 and offers a very cogent response, pointing out a number of inconsistencies and omissions in the theories, reminding the reader that “while building 7 wasn’t hit by an airliner, it was hit by the large perimeter columns of the Tower collapse. It was 400 ft away but the towers were more than 1300 ft tall. As the tower peeled open, it easily tilted over to reach building 7.”
The event was, indeed a tragedy. Although it is very difficult to distinguish truth from fiction, if it had been the result of a government (or intelligence agency) plot, as has been suggested, to turn Americans against Islam, it was too big and would have involved too many people for the information not to have leaked and to have been recognized as a conspiracy.
In retrospect, President Bush’s insistence on invading Iraq because of that country’s alleged, but non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) has contributed to the destabilization of the Middle East and resulted in shifting the balance of power from Iraq to Iran. The U.S . has advanced military weaponry to the extent that the American military dominates military combat as never before. U.S. drones permit assassination of the targeted victim without the benefit of trial. Small arms fire from modern weapons is said capable of targeting and killing individuals from a mile away. War has never been a laudable or satisfactory means of settling differences, but the realization of video game logic in real military combat is worrisome. The vastly increased price of modern weaponry must certainly be a powerful incentive to international arms dealers to increase revenue by developing newer weaponry and selling it to both sides of any conflict. It is to their benefit to promote distrust, rivalry and perceived differences between nations, cultures and/or religions.
The world economy
Outsourcing manufacturing to less developed countries is blamed for job loss in wealthier nations, but remains a two-edged sword as the higher prices of domestically produced goods and services, as evidenced by floor prices on some agricultural products, might be interpreted as a subsidy to less competitive producers, funded by consumers. This policy is viewed by some Wednesday Nighters as the equivalent to a subsidy to selected non-competitive industries which should have been put to better use, invested in people skills. The standard of living is rising rapidly in the countries to which manufacturing is outsourced; this speaks loudly for the necessity for global government, the equality of humans and a more satisfactory standard of living for all.
AFTER A VERY LONG ABSENCE DAVID MITCHELL WILL BE WITH US!
And Margaret Duthie has promised to bring tickets for the Celiac Association benefit concert on September 24th for those of you who would prefer to have them in hand before the performance.
Not that we ever suffer from a lack of topics, but following the national party conventions in the U.S., the Quebec campaign and the by-elections in Ontario (you did follow them too, didn’t you?), we hope to take a step back from that quite limited focus in favor of some of the broader issues that we may have neglected recently.
Tuesday is the 11th anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11 and for the first time, politicians are excluded from the commemoration at Ground Zero. Reactions are mixed. This time of year is also inevitably when various conspiracy theories are brought up. The latest “The Third Tower” was aired on The Passionate Eye on Saturday – much of the argument resting on various opinions regarding whether or not the steel of that building could have melted. John Jonas, we need you!
With the end of the two US conventions, we now settle in for sixty days of campaign nastiness fuelled by disgusting amounts of money raised thanks to the Citizens United decision, and interrupted only by the debates (for Obama-Romney: 3 October – domestic policy; 16 – domestic & foreign policy; and 22 – foreign policy; 11 October for the Biden-Ryan free-for-all).
Meanwhile we can bank on a fair amount of – at the minimum – surliness in the National Assembly and of course when Parliament resumes on 17 September, there will be more opposition unhappiness with the fiats handed down by the Harper government.
A propos the latter, we recommend Allan Gregg: 1984 in 2012 – The Assault on Reason. One person to watch will be Scott Vaughan — Stephen Harper’s environment watchdog to investigate ‘risks’ of federal budget bill – seems that while Canadians were frolicking in the (we hope still unpolluted) lakes and rivers, The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency revealed in August that part of the 400-page budget bill eliminated 2,970 environmental assessments across the country, including hundreds of projects involving fossil fuels or a pipeline.
Iran – Canada has now closed its embassy in Tehran and sent the Iranian diplomats in Ottawa packing. Al Jazeera offers a fairly detailed account of reactions to the move. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised it as a “clarion call to action,” in an interview on The National on Sunday evening, but aside from his expected reaction, there are two sharply delineated schools of thought on whether this was a good idea. One believes that Ottawa needed to send a stern signal, as well as take precautions in the face of mounting fears that Israel may take drastic pre-emptive measures against the threat of an attack by Iran. David Kilgour adds another dimension, reminding us that one of the major unstated reasons for the expulsion yesterday was no doubt the outrageous conduct over a number of years by the “diplomats” of Iran in Ottawa and elsewhere in our country and substantiating this view with this story On the other hand, in the absence of British and American diplomats, the three countries now lack like-minded representation and ability to protect the interests of Canadian-Iranians, international students and other citizens. The Current featured a comprehensive report Ending diplomatic ties with Iran including an interview with Canada’s last ambassador to the country.
Meanwhile, we are curious about the long silence regarding the report cited in early July by MJ Rosenberg from Barbara Slavin indicating that Iranian officials put forward a detailed explanation of their point of view including a proposal for high-level negotiations every three months with a view to resolving the conflict over its nuclear program through comprehensive negotiations with the west. Mr. Rosenberg makes some very good points about how such negotiations might be carried out. But what has happened?
Europe, the EU and Greece – According to Spiegel online, Angela Merkel has made a surprising U-turn in her policy on Greece. The German chancellor now wants to stop Athens from leaving the euro zone at all costs — even if it means massaging the figures in the upcoming troika report. For the German leader, it is essential to avoid the consequences of a Grexit before national elections next year. (See Why Merkel Wants To Keep Greece in Euro Zone). The Economist frets about the Balkans and European integration (The Balkans and the EU — Integrated circuit): “all bets are off. No one knows what the future holds because no one knows what the EU will look like in a year’s time let alone ten”, while Spiegel is unhappy that the ECB’s plan to restart its bond-buying program flies in the face of preserving democracy (Why ECB Bond-Buying Plans Undermine Democracy) . Forbes runs an amusingly sceptical opinion piece on Mario Draghi’s efforts (How to feed your Draghi). Maybe it is time to revisit Reuven Brenner’s Eurozone Bonds: Learning from Pre-Nuptial Agreements?
APEC – Anybody paying attention to what happened, or didn’t, in Vladivostok? Xinhua reports that APEC economic leaders issue joint declaration on regional development under the theme of Integrate to Grow, Innovate to Prosper, with the equally unoriginal statement that “the leaders agreed that robust international trade, investment and economic integration are key drivers of strong, sustainable and balanced growth.” Meantime, China, Russia Sound Alarm on World Economy The Russians invested over $20 billion worth of new roads, bridges and buildings (see Russia’s Bridge to Nowhere) in the province in the lead-up to the summit — for this?
But Mr. Harper is happy because he signed the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (see Allan Gregg above regarding title of the accord), leaving some concerned Canadians wondering what impact this may/may not have on the CNOOC/Nexen deal. See the David (Jones) vs. David (Kilgour) dialogue on CNOOC/Nexen.
Time to lighten up and dream a little bit about the rebirth of the Avro Arrow as the F-35 4.0. According to Global News: “The Harper Conservatives quietly dismissed a Canadian company’s plan for an alternative to the plagued F-35 program — a revival of a national legend that one of the country’s most celebrated infantry commanders says is far superior to the planned American purchase.”
The alternative aircraft can fly 20,000 feet higher than the F-35, soar twice as fast and will cost less, the project’s organizers wrote in documents obtained by the Global News program The West Block. So, of course the Feds – notably that great authority on aviation, Minister Fantino – have rejected the idea (Feds reject bid to revive Avro Arrow). But, we aren’t giving up hope as no less a personality than Maj.-Gen. (ret’d) Lewis MacKenzie is a backer of the project. Now if the Harper government has any sense of history … October 4 is the 55th anniversary of the Arrow roll-out.