Wednesday Night #1650

Written by  //  October 14, 2013  //  Wednesday Nights  //  1 Comment

Reminders for your agenda:
Tuesday October 15 and Wednesday October 16  – Two screenings at Montreal’s Festival du nouveau cinema of  Gerontophilia  produced by Jennifer Jonas (daughter of John & Holly) and her husband Leonard.  It was shown at the Venice and Toronto film festivals in September. Jennifer won the TIFF CMPA Producer of the Year prize last month; she calls this film “the gay Harold & Maude“. It features the unlikely bonding between a teenager and an octogenarian living in a nursing home. There will be two showings: i) Tuesday October 15th, 7:10pm at the Quartier Latin (350 rue Emery near St-Denis/de Maisonneuve); and ii) Wednesday October 16th at 9pm at Cinema Ex Centris (3536 St-Laurent just north of Sherbrooke).

Monday, October 21 Is Pakistan a Failing State? – a CIC event with Adnan Qaiser from 6 to 8pm at the Atwater Club
Tuesday, October 22 The Launch of Kimon Valaskakis’ Buffets And Breadlines at a 5 à 7 at the University Club.

The intense anticipation over the Nobel Peace Prize is over and the award to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was a surprise to most, although not nearly as much of one as the award of the Prize for literature to Canada’s own Alice Munro.  While there were many vocal critics who maintained that Malala should have received the Peace Prize, we wonder if it was not the right decision; the honour might have been both a burden on her young shoulders as well as increasing her security risk. The virulence with which she has been attacked by some voices lends credence to the second concern. As the Economist writes “people who really wish Malala and her cause well should be more relieved than let down. The Nobel Prize has not always brought blessings to its recipients.” Was Malala snubbed for Nobel Peace Prize? Six experts weigh in
The last of the Nobel Prizes, the “Nobel Prize in Economics” (more accurately known as the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel) has gone to three Americans for their work on predicting markets – obviously a safer bet than predicting political outcomes. Sadly,  the two Canadians, David Card  (Thomson Reuters’ pick) and Peter Howitt (named by the Wall Street Journal)  rumored to be  in the running did not come true.

Bill Watson may not be in the running for the Nobel prize, but his recent column Fiscal assassins sparked by the Quebec government’s gratuitous handouts to Ubisoft is a Must Read.

Also on our Must Read/View List:  ‘Inequality is bad for everyone’: Robert Reich fights against economic imbalance
(PBS) Economics correspondent Paul Solman talks to Robert Reich about the former labor secretary’s personal crusade to explain to Americans why everyone should care about the nation’s growing economic disparity and divisiveness.

As was long-ago established, almost all events of major import take place on Wednesday. Thus, this Wednesday Parliament returns and the government will lay out its plans in the Speech from the Throne. It should be interesting, given that prorogation did not exactly offer Mr. Harper the cooling-off period he had hoped for.
In addition to the Seven challenges for the Stephen Harper government, aka files that won’t go away,  more news has emerged about Mike Duffy’s deals, the nomination of Justice Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court poses a problem, and the hitherto largely unknown CSEC has bounded into the spotlight.
Added to the mix, are delays and scheduling conflicts in the much-vaunted shipbuilding contracts. It is distressing to note the delay in the icebreaker construction, particularly at this time when Canada chairs the Arctic Council. It appears that the government was fully aware of the potential scheduling problems, and, after explaining that the projects were announced separately before the implementation of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS), gives this logic for its decision to proceed sequentially.
Through the NSPS, the Government of Canada has committed to building these ships here in Canada. … An important principle of the NSPS is to avoid boom and bust cycles, which are ultimately inefficient and detrimental to the long-term sustainability of the shipbuilding industry. It is therefore not in Canada’s best interest to develop shipyard capacity beyond our long-term needs. Public Works and Government Services FAQs
CSEC – who had ever heard of this up-to-now obscure agency? Stephen Harper may be forgiven if he profoundly wishes neither we – nor he – ever had. Alongside the news of the Canada/Brazil spying scandal, CBC published a tour of CSEC’s magnificent new headquarters, rumoured to cost at least $1billion – not exactly hiding the agency’s light under a bushel. Now Independent MP Brent Rathgeber offers some useful background and can be expected to follow this story closely.
For your guidance over the next months, here is a timely list of People to watch as Parliament resumes

In Quebec, Charter Chatter continues as the most recent Léger poll shows solid support for the Charter with 46% in favour,  41% against and 14% per cent who said they didn’t know or refused to answer. Minister of Many Hats including Montreal Jean François Lisée stirred the pot on Thursday, when he “suggested” that Montreal’s mayoral candidates have no mandate to oppose charter . He  invoked the example of Mayor Drapeau. “I asked myself what Jean Drapeau did at the time and it is interesting because there is no trace of a public or private position by Jean Drapeau on Bill 101,” he said.
Happily, Bernard St-Laurent, who has a prodigious political memory, did a little fact checking. Here’s what he had to say: “In fact, on October 5, 1983, Mayor Drapeau testified before a parliamentary hearing examining Bill 57 — the proposed changes to Bill 101. Drapeau said Bill 101 had hurt the Montreal economy and its international reputation. He asked for special status for Montreal to allow the city to post bilingual signs and to have greater access to English schools.”

All of this pales in comparison to the on-going political crisis in the U.S. While the negotiations see-saw, Mark Shields and David Brooks agree on the shutdown’s ‘tectonic’ effect for Republicans Shields says “The Republican Party is paying an enormous price. Voters have turned against them. They have the lowest rating in the history of the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, the lowest rating for either party in the history of the Gallup poll.” David Brooks adds: “the polls are just … catastrophic. I’m not sure how longstanding they will be. But the problem for the Republicans is tectonic, that they’re in this place where they’re catering to 28 percent of the country, which is about the support they have now.” Sunday’s edition of the Guardian headlines a thorough analysis of the situation under the cheerful headline Senators seek to end US government shutdown and avoid default but cautions that “procedural complications mean a vote might not be taken until Wednesday or even Thursday.”
And just because we love the headline, John Parisella’s piece in the Americas Quarterly, Is the Cruz Missile from Canada Hurting Republicans?

The 12 Days of Shutdown

… On the seventh day of shutdown
my government gave to me:
no negotiations,
angry WWII vets,
dark panda cam,
no tweets from space,
three factions fighting,
a closed Yosemite
and furlough for fed employees.

The annual IMF/World Bank meetings in Washington do not attract much attention given the competition offered by the Capitol Hill Circus, but Brett House reminds us in  Beyond the Communiqués that “in 2008  those two institutions came together to  take innovative and decisive action. Five years later, the global economy may still be on life support, but it’s still alive”. Meanwhile, although the emerging economies and BRICS  raised their demands for greater voting power and share of top positions – known as the “shares and chairs” issue –  Rising powers slam IMF reform delay,  it seems their power is somewhat diminished, given that the IMF sours on BRICs and doubts eurozone recovery claims According to the story in The Telegraph, the IMF “has thrown in the towel on emerging markets. After years of talking up the BRICS club of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, it now admits that these countries have either exhausted their catch-up growth models, or run into the time-honoured problems of supply bottlenecks and bad government.”
The Bretton Woods Project offers useful coverage, including links to analysis and decoding of the communiqués  and Emerging Markets cites Deep divisions over eurozone.

As the IMF-World Bank meetings close, the Global Investigative Journalism Conference opens in Rio. An impressive list of international speakers includes the ubiquitous Glenn Greenwald, but at first glance only two Canadians; not sure whether that is a reflection on media budgets or the paucity of true investigative journalists. We prefer to think it is the former.

With all of our preoccupations with assimilation, accommodation, etc. here is a truly profound issue for Thanksgiving weekend. Question: How did they manage to obtain their visas? Are they invaders or investors?
Southern Flying Squirrels Land in Canada
Southern flying squirrels are moving into the habitat of Northern flying squirrels. Now people are debating what to call the hybrid offspring.
Steve Patterson, a Canadian educator who uses flying squirrels to teach ecology to school kids and other groups, says in presentations he already refers to the Northern species as “Canadian” because they’re “quiet, reserved and peace-loving,” he says. “The Southern, on the other hand, is noisy and boisterous, and bullies the Northern flying squirrel,” which is the larger but more docile of the two, he says. [Special thanks to Terry Jones]

Finally, this item from the BBC “a 2013 study in the International Journal of Public Opinion Research found participants had higher recall rates for political comedy than cable news, while a 2012 University of Michigan study found that exposure to political comedy was just as effective as the news in spurring discussion among viewers. … comedy is not about lampooning those when they’re down but instead a chance to reframe complicated issues in new, more approachable ways.” And, we would add, comedy gives viewers an opportunity to really understand how nonsensical politics can be.

One Comment on "Wednesday Night #1650"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson October 13, 2013 at 2:12 pm ·

    Re the Fiscal Assassins:
    Tony Deutsch: Bill is dead on, as usual. The point would be just as valid, if the subject were not assassinations, but improvements in the preparation of potato soup.
    Mario Iacobacci: I second this one. Didn’t the NDP just lose an election in NS because they were subsidizing “corporate welfare bums” (pace David Lewis).
    David Jones: As you will recall, we know Watson and had already seen this column. Essentially, I agree–I suppose our question would be whether Quebec’s fiscal bribes will prevent a U.S. firm from buying it up and transferring its key animation talent to the United States?
    Guy Stanley comments: Well, the obvious response to this is (1) assassin’s creed is a money spinner for the company, so the multiplier for the government is more than they would get by just handing me $50K. (costs virtually zip to make copies and distribute them online) (2) The government pays for the human “inputs” by supporting a clutch of engineering schools in Montreal and elsewhere, so for a marginal “extra” they are ensuring some payback on that spending, and (3) England, in particular around London, is also heavy with the same talent (source of Grand Theft Auto). Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver have the game design jobs they do because provincial governments make it just a bit more profitable to be here than there. Net net, are we any better off? One could imagine different economic strategies. This one seems to be working. But unlike aerospace–which works just about the same–the fixed capital , i.e. stocks instead of flows, is much less. That’s the “knowledge” economy. Mainly about the flows. So if the flows stop, not much to sell off, no airports, airframe factories, inventories of sub-components. Perhaps some intellectual property rights and unused bitcoins…and a few more math teachers available. Look, Ontario got automobiles, but after all the billions in subsidy, the future is elsewhere as marketshares continue to dwindle. Subsidies don’t buy security, but they can enable certain capacities to flourish that for a time add to the general welfare. The Kenny Rogers rule for zero sum games (know when to hold ’em, etc.) also applies to the subsidies game.

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