Wednesday Night #1636

Written by  //  July 10, 2013  //  Wednesday Nights  //  1 Comment

The Lac-Mégantic disaster has, perhaps, brought out the best in human beings. What would have constituted a disaster under any circumstances becomes magnified when the loss of human life is considered in relationship to the size of the population in which it has occurred.

The Egyptian conundrum is how the current tragic events there can be considered undemocratic as although President Morsi was elected democratically, the number of Egyptians participating in the uprising exceeded the number who voted in the last election. It is claimed that, essentially, he wrote the constitution himself and shoved it down the electorate`s throat. This has not been a military coup as has so frequently been the case, but a coup by the electorate and should not be considered undemocratic but, in a sense, a popular election reversal, in a literal sense, a civil war.

The Industrial Revolution beginning towards the end of the eighteenth century created an incredible upheaval in the countries as they attempted to adapt to the newer technologies, yet ultimately resulted in a greatly improved lifestyle, longevity and prosperity in that of the world affected by it. The technological revolution, while in some ways similar, appears to have resulted in higher unemployment in developed countries, enabled some transfer of technical tasks as the interpretation of radiology results in others and a transfer of some tasks from humans to technologically advanced machines. It is considered doubtful that the two million jobs lost in North America will ever be regained, although it is anticipated that the long term decline in manufacturing will be offset by such other sectors of the economy as health care.
As technology continues to replace human skills, a presumably offsetting absence of upward wage pressure has been noted. Japan is said to be suffering from deflation resulting in falling property prices and deteriorating bank balance sheets.

On the financial front, the value of securities is expected to decline in the near term. A stronger dollar will lead to lower profits, thus lower earnings and a decline in the stock market. Despite the many improvements, there has been a nine million drop in jobs since 2000. The price of gold has declined. .
The stock market enjoyed a significant rise from November to May, with continuing low interest rates. The upward trend is expected to continue until attaining a new high mid-2014. Ultimately, however, the honeymoon must end. Interest rates are not expected to rise in the next two to three years.

As Nelson Mandela attains the autumn of his life, his contribution to the understanding of the nature of the brotherhood of mankind, the virtue of forgiveness for and the tolerance of unfairness has little equal in the human history. Inevitably, his passing, whether imminent or delayed, without in any way diminishing his contribution to the understanding of the brotherhood of mankind, begs the question of the social strength and/or fragility of South Africa and indeed, of the planet.

The fallout of Duffygate remains to be seen. With the next federal election but two years away, the death of the brave, charismatic Jack Layton and the untested skills of the newly elected charismatic young leader of the Liberal Party who has yet to positively impact western Canada, the political scene may prove to be the most entertaining scenario of the decade. With currently only thirty-five sitting members, the task of the Liberal Party of Canada will be formidable. It should prove to be an exciting period for Canadians. As for the strength of the N.D.P., some Wednesday Nighters point to the disenchantment on the part of youth with Barack Obama and question whether this will spread to the N.D.P. in this country and/or the late Jack Layton can still light a fire under the party.

QUOTES OF THE EVENING
The youth have been disenchanted with Obama in U.S. and will happen here.
There is no way around the tumult in politics and weather.
The ninety thousand dollar cheque is perceived differently in the west, perceived as a mess in the Senate rather than a mess in the government.
Lac Mégantic – a great boost for pipelines.
There is a delicate balance between showing empathy, concern and being a total lie.
Just because an oil tank flips over doesn’t mean that it will explode.
Pauline does crisis very well.
Things are still in flux and complex in Egypt.
The West is right in that the constitution is only valid when it protects minority rights in a legal way enforced by the military.
I see the Muslim Brotherhood as the Tea Party in the U.S.
Gold is not the same safe haven that it used to be.

P R O L O G U E

In a week when seemingly the only good news was Andy Murray’s Wimbledon victory [note that The Guardian refers to him as a Scotsman right up front] , we submit some  Random thoughts regarding a week of disasters and debate

Climate change and natural disasters
On his Monday morning show, Jian Ghomeshi delivered a thoughtful essay prompted by the minimal public reaction to the recent report World suffered unprecedented climate extremes in past decade: WMO
In support of his view, the heavens unleashed an unprecedented storm on Toronto (even the BBC paid attention)  – in our view,  it should have been Ottawa had Parliament been in session – prompting the inevitable calls from some netizens for the loan of Mayor Nenshi. Not to mention the uncharitable schadenfreude regarding the $200-300K Ferrari abandoned under an overpass.
Forest fires continue to rage through western states , in the wake of terrible droughts. Meantime, NBC reports that While mourning the 19 dead Arizona Hotshots, US again prepares to ax wildfire prevention funds; northern Quebec has not been immune, and Huge waves hit Chile and Peru
Tropical storm Chantal – not related to our guest last week – is menacing the eastern Caribbean (poor Haiti! and the Dominican Republic) and likely will soon be upgraded to hurricane category.

Transportation disasters
The devastating train explosion that destroyed the heart of Lac Mégantic not only is the cause of tragic loss of lives and of heritage, but has already set off an acrimonious debate over the safety of the train in question and the efficacy of the Transportation Safety Board.
HuffPost reports that “According to data from the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration, Rail World — which owns the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MMA) railroad that operated the Lac Megantic train — had 23 accidents, injuries or “other reportable mishaps” between 2010 and 2012.
It also gives new life to the question of security of rail transport versus pipeline and new ammunition for pipeline advocates Claudia Cattaneo: Quebec rail tragedy serves as reminder that oil pipeline debate has led to poor decisions
An important question is raised by Adam Radwanski’s In the aftermath of disasters, politicians need to watch their words wherein he addresses the delicate balance that politicians of all levels and stripes need to strike in the aftermath of disasters. “There will be important discussions to be had here – about the state of our infrastructure, federal regulation and corporate responsibility. But for once, out of respect for the victims and national interests and perhaps even each other, our leaders and their supporters would do well to leave the rapid responses to others.” Also writing in the Globe & Mail (subscribers only), Andre Picard raises the point that IF they can manage to stay out of the way, it may be beneficial for politicians and for the future of policy development to “breathe in some rancid air and get their feet wet in disaster zones.” He reminds us that “One runaway train will generate more policy discussion and action on transportation and environmental policies than 100 Parliamentary debates, and a single flood will influence land-use policies more than 1,000 earnest environmental studies.”
The Asiana crash at San Francisco airport illustrates another aspect of the problem … experts who do not watch their words.  The loss of life was limited to two teen-age girls (the story is heartbreaking and reaction in Chinese social media disturbing), but many were injured and the actions of the NTSB in releasing the black box data so quickly are being assailed by the pilots union.This time, the debate is about too much information too quickly.

Political disasters
Egypt has sadly but not unsurprisingly failed to live up to the unreasonable expectations of full-fledged democracy and happily-ever-after life with Mr. Morsi and the Moslem Brotherhood. For background we recommend Reuters’ Special Report: Mursi’s downfallthere’s now an interim prime minister, Liberal economist Hazem el-Beblawi, former finance minister, while Mohamed ElBaradei was named vice president for foreign relations. Will this help?
[One Wednesday Nighter reminds us Hazem el-Beblawi is the author of, The Rentier State, adding the personal comment “While not democratically elected, certainly a much more qualified candidate for the Egyptian PMO than democratically-elected occupant of the Canadian PMO. If only the latter would read the former’s book.”]
For latest news and updates on Egypt – and the ME in general, we watch Reuters and Al Jazeera
Remember Turkey? Confirming the Ill Wind theory, at least one writer describes How Turkey’s Leaders Are Exploiting Egypt’s Coup
We are curious to see what – if any – effects the leaked Abbottabad Commission report will have in Pakistan or on U.S.-Pakistan relations.
The Edward Snowden saga continues and shows promise of being more of an embarrassment to the White House than any of the political manoeuvrings in Congress (or the Supreme Court). What were they thinking when they leaned on the Europeans to deny landing rights to president Evo Morales’ plane? There doesn’t seem to be any graceful exit strategy.

Canada’s political disaster?
Not at a similar level of gravity or intensity, but closer to home, there are those who are scrutinizing the possibilities of disaster for the Conservative Party – even though Vic Toews has now joined the ranks of the departed.
In a good round-up of leading punditry Full Pundit: Rebooting Stephen Harper the National Post asks:
Fuzzy Sweater and Kittens Guy didn’t work. Glowering Autocrat didn’t work. Could the Prime Minister succeed as a democrat?Full Pundit: Rebooting Stephen Harper
The consensus appears to be that the Mike Duffy scandal is not going away with the RCMP investigation PM’s version of events contradicted in court documents on Duffy scandal and the more Mr. Harper and his people tweak their version Stephen Harper is running out of fiction of the story, the more disenchanted the public – and even party members become.
Perhaps the most telling piece is this: Corporal Horton Versus the Harper Government
One Mountie’s attempt to get to the bottom of the Mike Duffy scandal.
On June 24, RCMP Corporal Greg Horton filed an affidavit in Ottawa. It is 28 pages of single-space text, his detailed reasons for requesting a “Production Order” that will give him the full story of Senator Mike Duffy’s public life since late 2008.
A week is indeed a lifetime in politics and there are two years to go until the general elections, but this story is not trending happily.

One Comment on "Wednesday Night #1636"

  1. Stephen Kinsman July 10, 2013 at 12:58 pm · Reply

    What may be required is a review of risk management and protection procedures of every public carrier to standards devised and monitored by a third party, probably a government agency like TSB. Coupled with that, a highly advanced technology and armed, specially trained transportation police forces with protocols specifically devised to protect rail, air, sea and pipeline transportation systems from unapproved interference may have to be introduced. In all this, we should not be attempting to re-invent the wheel. Other countries have the same problem and perhaps an international convention of about ten countries could be arranged to determine a concerted approach to what will rapidly become a worldwide problem. Stephen

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