Wednesday Night #2018

Written by  //  November 18, 2020  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Looking forward to welcoming Gloria Calhoun from Georgia back to WN after a long absence.  Gloria is an historian of technology with extensive telecommunications experience; she worked for AT&T-BellSouth Telecommunications for 25 years. Her current research focuses on pattern formation in large-scale network infrastructure, emphasizing common functional characteristics and pattern persistence across multiple technologies.
She also has a wide range of interests from European history, to social and political situations. AND she has a delicious southern accent!
Her return could not be more timely given the laborious, costly and historic hand recount of presidential ballots, the scandalous behaviour of the Republicans, especially Lindsey Graham, and the tension surrounding the January 5th critical runoffs for both Senate seats.

Peter Berezin will also be with us. His latest report cautions
“Stocks jumped earlier this week on encouraging news on the vaccine front. While we remain positive on equities over a 12-month horizon, we would stress five vaccine-related risks that stock market investors should be cognizant of.
First, immunizing most of the world’s population could prove logistically challenging, especially in light of widespread skepticism about the safety of the vaccine.
Second, the virus could mutate in a way that undercuts the efficacy of the vaccine, as recent unsettling news from Denmark demonstrates.
Third, vaccine optimism could, ironically, lead to weaker economic growth in the near term, even if it does lead to stronger growth in the medium and longer term.
Fourth, improved prospects for a vaccine could reduce urgency around extending fiscal support.
Fifth, bond yields could rise further in anticipation of an earlier return to full employment. This could pose a headwind for equities – especially growth stocks.”
In anticipation of the 21-22 November Summit, the chairman of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) has addressed a letter to G20 Leaders that notes that while financial conditions have continued to ease, the global economic outlook remains uncertain and financial stability risks elevated. The letter sets out three responses to financial stability vulnerabilities highlighted by COVID-19

Congratulations to Céline Cooper and to Fraser Hickson, the first free public library established in Montreal (in 1885), where she will assume the role of President and Chair of the Board, effective January 1, 2021.

A delightful end note to the Atwater Library fundraising auction from Terry Mosher
“Back in the 70s and 80s, during the heyday of the Montreal Canadiens, my favourite hockey player was Bob Gainey, the crafty, defensive forward for the team. … His young family lived on Lansdowne Avenue in lower Westmount, not far from the old Forum. The Gaineys used a young high-school student as a baby-sitter by the name of Kamala Harris.
Bob and I both support The Atwater Library as best we can in our elderdom. Recently, the organization held a charity auction, selling off a bunch of my signed cartoons. Bob bought [the] one of Mutsumi Takahashi announcing on air (tongue in cheek) that Westmount was considering a street name change to honour Kamala. He also bought the cartoon entitled “No flies on Kamala” that he will be forwarding to the about-to-be American Vice-President.
I’m chuffed!”

We were surprised and saddened to learn that Maison Jeanne Sauvé House is for sale ($8.9 million plus taxes, should you be interested), bringing to an end the imaginative and highly successful Sauvé Scholars (Fellows) program. A subsequent message from the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation states:
“We are thrilled to announce that we will be moving forward with a new approach to better meet the changing needs of young public leaders. We will continue supporting young change makers, both in Canada and abroad, by working in collaboration and partnership with peer organizations which share Jeanne Sauvé’s values, vision and goals. We aim to achieve greater impact by joining our resources and expertise”, but offers no specifics.

Our fears about the aftermath of a Biden-Harris victory are being realized, but not quite as we had imagined them. Although Trump loyalists converged on the nation’s capital on Saturday to protest the election results and falsely assert the vote was stolen (Thousands rally behind Trump, believing he won race he lost), there has not (yet?) been rampant violence across the country.
Instead, as Heather Cox Richardson sums it up: “The Trump camp is hampering Biden’s ability to govern, weakening popular faith in our democratic systems, and illustrating to foreign nations that our country is an unreliable partner.” Trump’s charges of vote fraud -however spurious- , are supported by prominent Republicans weakening faith in the transparency of the system.
On Sunday, Trump almost acknowledged that Biden won, but quickly reversed course and continued his charge that the election was rigged.
And on Tuesday, he fired Christopher Krebs, the U.S. government’s top cybersecurity official;  Krebs’ commitment to debunking misinformation about the presidential election finally proved too much for the White House, which pushed him out as part of a government-wide purge.
Following her usual succinct summary of Saturday’s gathering in Washington of Trump supporters, Heather Cox Richardson’s Letter of 14 November traces the evolution of the Republican Party
“Today’s Republican Party has traveled a long way from the party of Abraham Lincoln.”

Everyone has advice for the incoming administration. Of the foreign policy advice focusing on relations with China, one of the best, in our opinion is America Should Rewrite the China Trade Contract
The Iran file will be front and center, thanks to the news that Trump recently consulted senior officials on whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks. It seems they talked him down from action that would make it much harder for Mr. Biden to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, as he has promised to do.
Saudi Arabia has announced that it reserves the right to arm itself with nuclear weapons if regional rival Iran cannot be stopped from making one, but the Saudis may need to watch their step as the Biden administration is committed to reassessing the traditional special relationship with their country – and there will be no more MBS-Kushner special relationship.

One of the many incongruous items of the Administration’s denial dystopia: After refusing to acknowledge President Donald Trump’s loss in last week’s election” Mike Pompeo left last Friday on a trip (can you take a defeat lap?) to Europe and the Middle East, to countries where leaders have all congratulated former Vice President Joe Biden for his victory.

The G20 meets virtually on Saturday and Sunday The three key agenda items to be addressed under the theme the theme, ‘Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century For All’ are: ‘Empowering People, by creating the conditions in which all people – especially women and youth – can live, work and thrive’ (the irony that Saudi Arabia presides); ‘Safeguarding the Planet, by fostering collective efforts to protect our global commons’; and ‘Shaping New Frontiers, by adopting long-term and bold strategies to share benefits of innovation and technological advancement’.
Will Trump participate? Maybe not, given his recent summit no-shows

Note there is no explicit or implicit mention in the G20 themes of the global Coronavirus pandemic which surely should be of concern to all the members as the Global daily coronavirus deaths cross record of 10,733 single-day deaths
Jeremy Kinsman and Larry Haas discuss the pandemic, and whether or not availability to developing and less wealthy nations is a concern; will there be national hoarding of vaccine(s) by wealthier nations? Jeremy emphasized the initiative of the WHO in developing the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax.
Meantime, there is excellent news from Pfizer and Moderna. In case you missed it, the story of how and why Dolly Parton helped fund Moderna’s vaccine.

Good reads

Andrew Caddell‘s weekly column In Quebec, a wilful blindness to racism against Indigenous people inspired by the shameful treatment of Joyce Echaquan before her death, and Premier Legault’s refusal to recognize systemic racism in Quebec.

Kyle Matthews and George Tsagaroulis: Why Canada must confront the rise of digital authoritarianism
Digital technological advances can facilitate repression. Canada has a duty to ensure they don’t.
“While all eyes are on China, we must consider the wider dangers on our doorstep. … Democratic countries are not doing their due diligence to regulate digital technologies. There is a troubling lack of consensus between governments and private entities on how to tackle these challenges and whether there should be export restrictions.”

Thanks to Graeme Campbell for A Game Designer’s Analysis Of QAnon – Playing with reality, an original and disturbing argument that the success of QAnon is rooted in Apophenia (our new word-of-the-week) : “the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas)”.

Thanks to Doug Sweet, this from Angus Reid: The US Election and Reliable Polling
“… Faced with this cacophony of often competing forecasts the media and others have turned to organizations such 538 to sift through this mess and publish a poll of polls. Sadly, these aggregators are part of the problem since they mix results from less proven pollsters in with otherwise respected polling companies. They create a mirage of scientific precision and unity when, in truth, aggregators aren’t the ones doing any of the tough work that has become polling today.”

The most recent edition of Open Canada features a Q&A with John Stackhouse, author of Planet Canada: How Our Expats Are Shaping the Future.  (See WN 2015)
“We have to get rid of the expression ‘brain drain’ and understand how the world of brain circulation works. When Canadians go abroad, they are not a loss to Canada. In fact, if we do this properly, it’s a gain, because they are going to use that exponential power of networks.”

Robin Wright: The Seven Pillars of Biden’s Foreign Policy
Although Biden has not announced his full foreign-policy team, the seven pillars of his foreign policy are already well defined. First, the West is back. … One of Biden’s top priorities is to breathe life back into the eroding transatlantic alliance with Europe, which, until Trump took office, had provided the foundation of U.S. interests since the Second World War.

With only 11 weeks, a transition delayed is a transition denied
Farm policies, energy policies, labor policies, transportation policies and a myriad of other areas over which the federal government has responsibility do not develop by themselves. A transition delayed is a transition denied and its consequences are real for the citizens and businesses of the United States.

The lighter side of White House lore:
When the White House Was Full of Claws, Scales, Stripes and Tails
The long tradition of presidential pets is set to resume this January with two German shepherds belonging to President-elect Joe Biden. Their predecessors weren’t always cats and dogs.

Upcoming events

Thursday, 19 November
8am – 2pm  EST
The Globe & Mail hosts a free event
Shaping the Future of Cities – New Jerusalem or dystopian wasteland?
Canadian and international experts explore who and what will be the driving force behind how cities will transform
Register with special code ‘GlobeSub’

Friday, 20 November
7 – 9 pm EST
The American Elections: What Next?
A Conversation with Jason Opal
The Thomas More Institute is pleased to present an evening of conversation with Professor Jason Opal on the recent American elections.
Prior to the webinar, please read the three articles at this link.

9 December 2pm UTC
Hosted by Project Syndicate, From Paris to 2030, distinguished speakers – including former Irish President Mary Robinson, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and European Investment Bank Vice President Ambroise Fayolle – will address this problem head on.

Jimmy Fallon: It’s clear Trump is not going to concede anytime soon, so we thought we’d do it for him…
The Concession Speech we all deserve

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