Wednesday Night #2075

Written by  //  December 22, 2021  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

The days are getting longer! Tuesday afternoon’s winter solstice marked the beginning of the winter season.

Happy, Joyous, Merry, Bright and all those seasonal adjectives don’t seem to be appropriate this year. At least the SAQ is busy restocking the shelves so we can drown our sorrows.

In an earlier column, Chris Patten set the scene: “As 2021 draws to a close, the greeting “Happy New Year!” may sound implausibly optimistic. Russian President Vladimir Putin is massing troops near his country’s border with Ukraine. Chinese President Xi Jinping broods threateningly about whether now is the right time to invade Taiwan. And the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten the lives and well-being of people around the world, with the new Omicron variant reminding us of the danger of large populations remaining unvaccinated – especially in the poorest countries.” Meanwhile, his Project Syndicate colleague Ana Palacio writes of The Failures of 2021 and concludes “even more asymmetric warfare and geopolitical tumult can be expected in 2022.”

As we in Montreal and Quebec awaited the drop of the heavy boot of Covid-related restrictions on Wednesday evening, resignation seemed to be the dominant sentiment, along with resentment that the politicians (read Legault) could not resist relaxing regulations far too early. As the people and businesses of all kinds pay the price, we can only hope that memories will be long when the next election comes. When the announcement came, it seemed a tepid response to the seriousness of the situation.

Around the world, not much cheerful news.
One rare bright light in our view: Gabriel Boric wins Chile’s presidential election, although as might be expected, the WSJ grumps President-Elect Boric Aims to Undo Chile’s Economic Progress predicting that His wish list, which includes ending private pensions, would destroy Chile’s capital markets.. The Guardian’s view is that Boric comes from a cohort that is grimly determined to bury dictator Augusto Pinochet’s bitter legacy once and for all. We can endorse that.

The election results in Hong Kong elicited scorn from some, resignation from others. Only China’s Xi endorses Hong Kong’s ‘patriots only’ election

Boris Johnson is not having much fun either. As Chris Patten said in the column cited above: “a tawdry political scandal in Britain – concerning parties held in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official residence and office during lockdowns late last year – has recently highlighted one of the central virtues of genuinely democratic societies: their leaders cannot get away indefinitely with bad, corrupt, or self-serving behavior. At long last, Johnson now seems to be finding that out.” See more on Boris, Brexit & Britain October 2020 –

Putin says Russia has ‘nowhere to retreat’ over Ukraine See more:  Russia November 2021-

Amidst the weeping, wailing and gnashing of Democratic teeth (see Democrats/progressives 2020- 2021) over Senator Manchin’s scuttling of the Build Back Better Act, Bill McKibben holds a more optimistic view:  Joe Manchin Has Wrecked the Biden Presidency—Perhaps He’ll Also Liberate ItThe need to appease the West Virginia senator is gone now, and not just on the climate.

On the 51st day after the election, Prime Minister Trudeau published the ministers’ Mandate Letters that Politico’s Ottawa Playbook has been asking for on a daily basis. They make for interesting reading. Mélanie Joly has a HUGE laundry list and the new minister of Immigration (IRCC) has an impossible task.
Fortunately, Parliament is in recess, so no accountability for the moment?

Highlights from Peter Berezin‘s Special Report: Life, Death, And Finance In The Cosmic Multiverse which he introduces by stating “This piece is not for everyone. … But for those willing to go down the rabbit hole with me, what you will find is a wide-ranging discussion of how modern cosmology can be used to better understand not just financial markets but the nature of reality.”
• The idea of parallel worlds seems like the stuff of science fiction. Yet, most leading cosmological theories suggest that the universe is vast enough to contain multiple copies of everything, including multiple copies of you.
• The existence of the “multiverse” may account for why the parameters of physics seem highly fine-tuned to support life and why the earth has escaped so many existential threats – major asteroid strikes, World War III, a more deadly strain of Covid, etc. The resulting survival bias helps explain why stocks have historically performed so well.
• Randomness is an illusion. Everything that could possibly happen to the stock market over the next 12 months will happen. As an investor, the best you can do is estimate the relative frequencies of various outcomes, as given by the Born Rule for quantum mechanics.
• Subjectively, you will feel immortal. When life-threatening events occur, it will always seem as though you miraculously pull through. This has major implications for financial decisions, not to mention how you live your life and see the world.

UPDATE: due to adverse weather conditions at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, the flight VA256 to launch Webb – initially scheduled for Dec. 24 – is being postponed. The new targeted launch date is Dec. 25, as early as possible
The much-delayed launch of the James Webb space telescope will go ahead on 24 December, NASA and the company overseeing the launch have confirmed.
The James Webb Space Telescope is currently sitting on top of a rocket in South America, surrounded by technicians obsessively checking every bit of it. Webb, the product of a collaboration between three space agencies, is 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescop, and will be the largest and most powerful telescope ever to be launched into space. For more, see Space: the final frontier May 2021-

A lighter look at the economy
How’s the inflation, eh? Smokes and beer boost prices for Bob and Doug McKenzie
It’s a lighthearted holiday tradition for financial experts to calculate the price of the true love’s gift list from the beloved carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas.
Called the Christmas Price Index, the cost of all those lords a-leaping, turtle doves and gold rings climbed to $41,206 US this year, up nearly six percent from 2019.
But Canada has its own take on the famous carol by fictional brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie as played by comedians Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, respectively.
For the 40th anniversary of the song’s release – and with inflation in the news — The Cost of Living is combining the Christmas Price Index with a Canadian comedy tradition, and comparing the price of assembling the list in 1981 versus today.
We’re calling it the Hoser Price Index.
In the end, Cost of Living calculated the legendary hosers’ list would have totalled $265 in 1981 — if added up in 1981 dollars.
In 2021, our equivalents cost $800, in 2021 dollars.
This isn’t a firm or exhaustive inflation analysis. It’s fair to say, this is a very particular basket of goods. Inflation affects everyone differently depending on how and where they live.
… However, to provide context, economist Don Drummond, the Stauffer-Dunning Fellow and adjunct professor at the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University, took a look at the Cost of Living Hoser Price Index.
The list took Drummond back to a time when he was starting his career at Finance Canada – another notable economic period.

Varia
Won’t this awful woman ever go away?
Sarah Palin says she’ll get Covid vaccine ‘over my dead body’
Former vice-presidential candidate also falsely claimed that those who would refuse a vaccine outnumbered those taking them
The chemistry of Christmas baubles – and the great scientist who made them possible
Were it not for Baron Justus von Liebig, Christmas might look and taste quite different. Yet despite his contribution to everything from the stock cubes used in your gravy to the mirrors in your home, it is unlikely you have heard of him.

While delighted to learn about Baron Justus von Liebig’s contribution to Christmas celebrations, for us the most important ingredients of the season are Friendship and Fellowship, Generosity of spirit, Compassion, and despite all, Faith in our fellow humans. Each of you is a vital thread in the comforting blanket that enables us to survive even the bleakest of times.
We wish each and every one of you the best possible Holiday, whatever you may be celebrating, as we look forward to longer and brighter days in the months ahead.

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