Wednesday Night #1860

Written by  //  November 1, 2017  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Warmest congratulations to Ron Meisels who was honoured for his many years of devotion to the University Club’s well-being at its Annual Dinner on October 30.

We are very much looking forward to having Stephen Kinsman join us to share the results of his extensive research into flood and disaster insurance coverage in Canada and the U.S.
A few weeks ago, the headlines:  Flooding response dominates Pierrefonds-Roxboro campaign and  After Harvey and Irma, what’s the future of flood insurance?This hurricane season has caused widespread damage and left some parts of the U.S. and its territories in complete ruins. The National Flood Insurance Program was created in the 1960s to insure high-risk areas like these. But by bailing out homeowners, is the program encouraging people to live in flood-prone areas? prompted many questions including:
Is there a Canadian flood insurance equivalent?
Why do we allow people to keep rebuilding in high-risk areas?
How can we compensate them if we insist they move without penalizing all those taxpayers who have no responsibility for the choices of the few?
How to deal with those in areas that only recently – and suddenly – are in jeopardy?
With his usual thoroughness – and naturally inquisitive mind – Stephen went to work and now advises that he is ready to share his findings.

Unfortunately we doubt that any of Stephen’s findings will help poor Puerto Rico where the situation seems to get worse and worse. Topping it off is the strange story of Whitefish Energy. One of the few good news stories is that Tesla has restored power to the Children’s Hospital, “the first of many solar+battery Tesla projects going live in Puerto Rico.”

Not to steal Gerald Ratzer’s thunder, but #1860 was the year when Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the about-to-be dis-United States following which South Carolina seceded from the Union.

For the moment, there does not seem to be an obvious secessionist movement in the U.S., but there is no lack of political bitterness and divisiveness. Monday’s announcement of indictments of Trump associates [The Atlantic comment: The indictment of Paul Manafort, who made a fortune as a political consultant to kleptocrats, stands as a rejection of corrupt regimes’ international legitimacy.]  caused a tweetkrieg from the occupant of the White House and an unwelcome distraction from the proposed tax reform bill that Donald Trump wants to sign before Christmas.
If you – or anyone you know – still believe that Mike Pence would be a good replacement for DJT, a must-read from The New Yorker: The Danger of President Pence
Trump’s critics yearn for his exit. But Mike Pence, the corporate right’s inside man, poses his own risks.

For those among us who really enjoy conspiracy theories tinged with espionage, we suggest Trump, Assange, Bannon, Farage… bound together in an unholy alliance
As Facebook, Google and Twitter face investigation of the role they played in Russia’s dissemination of misinformation and propaganda during last year’s presidential election, there’s increased examination of How Fiction Becomes Fact on Social Media (this is a good start).
If it were not the New York Times, we would certainly think this bizarre, maladroit announcement was part of a fake news campaign: A Train Called Anne Frank? German Railway Plan Prompts Outcry

While China has been in the news for the quasi-coronation of President Xi Jinping, (China: government and governance), Reuters reports that Beijing seen poised for fresh South China Sea assertiveness . And, on the eve of Donald Trump’s first trip to Asia, the Wall Street Journal reports that three U.S. aircraft carriers are scheduled to travel near the Korean Peninsula, and the military may decide to keep them in the area for maneuvers that would coincide with his visit.
Foreign Policy headlines their story on the visit Asia Awaits Trump’s Visit With Trepidation but then states in the first paragraph that “The fact that Trump will spend over a week traveling from Japan to South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines is itself a reassuring indication of continued U.S. commitment to the region.” However, further down, the author continues “On the negative side, U.S. partners are growing alarmed that the president’s hostility to trade agreements may be as intense in practice as it was in campaign rhetoric. The U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership was probably the greatest self-inflicted wound on American regional influence since the Vietnam War. Asian business leaders have confidence in the American economy, and investment from Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia into the United States is robust. But the United States has ceded leadership on regional economic rule-making, and China is grabbing the helm. Meanwhile, the administration’s continuous swinging of the sword of Damocles over the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement at a time of growing danger on the Korean Peninsula undermines all the professions of alliance solidarity with Seoul coming from the Trump national security team.”
And of course, there is always the Trumpian unpredictability factor.
Whatever else transpires, we already know that he is skipping the East Asia Summit in the Philippines despite being in Manila the day before. It’s a bad signal to send to the region, and it could undermine the overall goal of his Asia tour by calling American regional leadership into question. “officials close to Trump were concerned the president did not want to stay in the region for so long and worried he could get cranky, leading to unpredictable or undiplomatic behavior.” ‘Nuff said.

The situation in Spain and Catalonia continues to deteriorate. Cleo Paskal offers a somewhat different slant from most coverage in Catalan crisis tests EU’s limits
reminding her readers that “An independent Catalonia will have to negotiate from scratch membership in the World Bank, WTO, United Nations, Interpol, etc. All while dealing with a resentful Spain on the other side of the negotiating table. Meanwhile, many other states will also have to play hardball in dealing with Catalonia because of concerns a Catalan success will spur separatist movements in other parts of the EU.”

We doubt that this will come as a surprise to our economists and market gurus, but others might be interested in The U.S. Isn’t Prepared for the Next Recession When it comes—and it will, eventually—it’ll be worse than necessary.
“Maybe it will start with a failed initial public offering, followed by the revelation of widespread fraud in Silicon Valley. Perhaps energy prices will spike, sapping the finances of anyone who drives a car to work. Maybe a foreign crisis will cause a credit crunch, or President Trump will spark a global trade war. A recession might seem like a distant concern, with the latest data showing that the current, extraordinarily economic long expansion just keeps humming along. But one will hit eventually, for some reason or another—that’s how economies work. And when it does, the country won’t be ready.”
And now for a conundrum: will the news that The world’s largest exchange owner reversed course today and said it plans to introduce bitcoin futures by the end of the year, signal the start of aforementioned recession, offer a rosy alternative, or be completely irrelevant?

November 5 is municipal election day – do your duty, VOTE!, but as you do, you might want to consider Roslyn Takeishi’s counsel. We are saddened by the acrimony so evident in Westmount’s current race for the mayoralty and the viciousness of rumors about all the candidates. It is a far cry from the genteel and quite genial campaigns of the past. SHAME!

Reminders:

Former Canadian Ambassador to Russia Jeremy Kinsman speaking at Concordia
“The Russian Revolution’s Meaning 100 Years Later”
November 9 6:30pm to 7:30pm
H1220 (Hall Building, 12th floor, 1455 de Maisonneuve W.).
Registration http://www.concordia.ca/artsci/polisci/wssr/registration/events/kinsman2017-evening.html

3 events from The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies

The prolific Alan Hustak has a new book coming out in time for Christmas giving:
Magnetic North: The Unauthorised Biography of Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Selfie PM
We hope for a mini book launch on a Wednesday Night.

 

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