Wednesday Night #1638

Written by  //  July 24, 2013  //  Wednesday Nights  //  2 Comments

We are delighted that Kimon Valaskakis has returned to Montreal – and Wednesday Night – and look forward to his progress report on the forthcoming NSoA conference.
Many will recall that Kimon has championed the image of Plato with a tablet (iPad?). It is therefore, highly appropriate that we have recently (and somewhat belatedly) become aware that indeed the Ancient Greeks did invent the first computer, known as The Antikythera Mechanism – it is a fascinating story.

Monday marked the 44th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing in 1969.

And one might say that with the birth of  THE BABY, the world seems to have gone over the moon. (British royal baby dominates world media – like it or not

Nameless Prince Cambridge (we submit that Nelson would be an admirable departure from tradition, honouring both Nelson Mandela and the Commonwealth, as well as Britain’s greatest naval hero) has arrived and the camped-out media are (very) temporarily satisfied. We like that despite a tweet from Clarence House and a press release from Kensington Palace, traditional means of spreading the news – town crier and the posted notice at Buckingham Palace – were preserved.
[Update: Royal baby named George Alexander Louis]

Whatever one’s opinion about the Royal Family and the desirability of having a Queen/King of Canada, surely we can agree that the public scrutiny of the Duchess’ pregnancy in the glare of the world media (many from republican/antimonarchist regimes) has been positively obscene – worse, in many respects, than the previous tradition of numerous attendees at the birthing. If we could grant one wish to the Cambridges and their assorted in-laws, it would be for a few days of privacy to enjoy the miracle of the healthy birth of their baby. But we know that is a vain thought. Privacy doesn’t go with the job. And it’s not a job you can resign from – at least not since 1936. Our politicians have more rights and options in this respect.

Which leads us to a quick mention of the news that Justin Trudeau’s public spat with the Grace Foundation is at an end  and the leakers to the Conservative Party are no longer on the Board of the Foundation. (Charity drops refund request to Justin Trudeau, kicks out board members)

We draw your attention to Kyle Matthews’ op-ed in Monday’s Gazette Opinion: What happened to Canada’s big ideas?  in which he contrasts the of role of Lester Pearson in finding a solution to the Suez Crisis, precipitated 57 years ago on 26 July, with Canada today where: “Many Canadian diplomats are currently on strike. The ambitious ones are jumping ship for the private sector. We have been unable to get a trade deal done with the European Union. Canadian high commissions and embassies in Africa have been closed down, even as countries like Brazil and China are doing the opposite and opening new ones. Canada has given up on bidding for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2014, after being rebuffed in 2010.”

Today, Canada’s foreign policy is focused on foreign trade, e.g. securing trade agreements, but so far without recent notable success – there has been little talk (and less information on the DFAITD website) of the Canada-EU pact since it didn’t happen in time for the G20 meeting. In fairness, as Jeremy Kinsman has pointed out, this is a very complex deal.

The outcome of Japan’s elections (Japan poll: PM Abe seeks stable government after win) might offer Canada an interesting opportunity to become proactive and do well by doing good, as suggested by Joseph Caron in Tuesday’s Globe & Mail. Abe wants to transform Japan. Canada can help
Canadians may not be help Mr. Abe fight his political battles at home, but the government of Canada can use its diplomatic assets and skills to encourage a more positive geopolitical environment in Northeast Asia, where Japanese, Chinese and Korean interests increasingly clash. The new Japanese government’s domestic policies will come to naught if the focus is on the day-to-day management of a fractious regional environment. Canada should do everything in its power to encourage regional political and security dialogues, trade and investment liberalization and the multiplication of civil society contacts.

We are happy to see that Transport Canada has taken preliminary action on rail safety with some basic regulations to be in effect until more formal rules are introduced. New rail safety rules issued after Lac-Mégantic disaster  Meanwhile, there will be intensive study of the chemical composition of the crude oil carried by the train, with emphasis on the particular characteristics of Bakken oil (Probe of Lac-Mégantic train disaster turns to composition of oil). We are also pleased that the Feds have stepped up to the plate with an initial $60 million – some of which will go as a refund to Quebec – this brings the total pledged to $95 million.

Most intriguing business story of the week has to be the debate over the Goldman Sachs aluminum shuffle, which should not qualify as new news, given that Reuters raised the issue a couple of years ago. Nonetheless, arguments in defense of  and against the banks’ actions are intense and of course, we all love to hate banks, except when they enrich our pensions.

Our Prologue would not be complete without a reference to the Snowden Saga [noting that the Financial Times reports that he is to remain in limbo at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport a while longer after the Russian Federal Migration Service failed to process his documents on time, suggesting that Mr Snowden’s entry to Russia may be more difficult than expected.] and the sanctimonious reactions of European governments who are ‘shocked’ to learn that the U.S. might have been spying on them. From Spiegel, we learn that there was likely close cooperation between Germany’s BND and NSA. We are reminded of a throw-away line in John Le Carré’s The Perfect Spy to the effect that the Brits would already know something if “as usual they were tapping the U.S. Embassy telephones. Gentlemen (and ladies) along with lesser mortals do indeed read one another’s mail and have been doing so for quite a long time. P.S. we are sure you are delighted to know that ‘he has been inundated with offers from Russian women of a home and marriage’. We can only wonder how he might fare under Canada’s current immigration regime – oh, but we forgot, that office has been closed due to cutbacks, and anyway, the professionals offering consular services have withdrawn their services.

2 Comments on "Wednesday Night #1638"

  1. Gerald Ratzer July 24, 2013 at 12:15 pm ·

    I did visit a number of the sites you linked to and loved the one on the Antikythera Mechanism.
    Given the available technology of the day, I am impressed with the level of deep thinking that went into this design.
    I am sure Steve Jobs, Apple and Google would hire the designers in a flash. Gerald Ratzer

  2. Ron Meisels July 24, 2013 at 12:56 pm ·

    I would be amiss (and you’d never forgive me!), if I did not take this opportunity to quote from the story of the Antikythera Mechanism:
    “operates as a complex mechanical “computer” which tracks the cycles of the Solar System” (italics mine).
    Nancy and I actually have seen a replica of it in the Archaeological Museum, gears and all. Fascinating!! Ron M.

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