Wednesday Night #2092

Written by  //  April 20, 2022  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Welcome back, Peter Berezin! The timing could not be better as The 2022 World Bank Group Spring Meetings: Strengthening the case for globalism are taking place this week from April 18 – 24.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt lives and livelihoods in nearly every country on earth. And a looming food crisis – underpinned by soaring wheat, fertilizers and fuel prices – threatens to drastically increase food insecurity and drive millions of additional people into poverty.
The confluence of these crises (which themselves are further exacerbated by the ongoing challenges of climate change, fragile states, forced migration, and other development challenges) puts the need for global action on a planetary scale into stark relief
While following events at the two Bretton Woods institutions, it is worth bearing in mind that
today, there are more than forty regional and global MDBs and MFIs with a complex web of overlapping objectives and memberships and Economic and financial multilateralism in disarray
Related news: On Wednesday, Western leaders joined Ukraine in walk-out at G-20 as Russia speaks
Among the others exiting the meeting were Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister of Canada; Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank; and senior economic officials from the Netherlands, England, France and Germany … several other members of the G-20 — including China and India — did not.

In his current Weekly Report titled Is a Recession Inevitable?, Peter concludes that “The US may not be able to avoid a recession, but an economic downturn is unlikely until 2024.”
He notes that:
• Unlike in the lead-up to many past recessions, the US private sector is currently running a financial surplus. If anything, there are indications that both households and businesses are set to expand – rather than retrench – spending over the coming quarters.
• Investors should pay close attention to the housing market. As the most interest-rate sensitive sector of the economy, it will dictate the degree to which the Fed can raise rates.
• The US housing market has cooled, but remains in reasonably good shape, supported by rising incomes and low home inventories.
• Stocks will likely rise modestly over the next 12 months as inflation temporarily dips and the pandemic recedes from view. However, equities will falter towards the end of 2023.

Canada’s inflation rate jumps to new 31-year high of 6.7%
On Wednesday, Statistics Canada reported that all eight categories of the economy that the data agency tracks rose, from food and energy to shelter costs and transportation.
“The spike in prices over the month of March is the largest monthly increase since January 1991, when the goods and services tax was introduced,” economist Royce Mendes of Desjardins Group noted.

Putin’s War
As the battle for Donbas becomes the focus of the Russian invasion, if one only reads one think piece, it should be Ian Bremmer’s The price of Russian defeat
Unpalatable as it may be, the desire to beat Putin thoroughly must be weighed against the dangers of pushing him to escalate further.
The news on Wednesday afternoon that Russia Issues Warning With Missile Test supports this view.
(Reuters) – The aim of Russia’s new military offensive in east Ukraine is to grab land, establish an overground link between territories in the east and Crimea, and crush Ukraine’s armed forces, Ukraine’s defence ministry said on Tuesday.
Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuznyak said Russian forces were attacking along the entire frontline in eastern Ukraine, pressing their siege of Mariupol in the south and trying to encircle cities in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

France
Macron allies warn victory not certain as poll lead over Le Pen grows
Macron and Le Pen faced off on Wednesday evening during the live second-round TV debate, traditionally a key moment in French presidential elections, which could prove critical for winning over millions of voters, in particular on the left. le débat Emmanuel Macron / Marine Le Pen

For some time, Cleo Paskal has been warning that China is moving to acquire dominance in the Pacific. The Solomon Islands prime minister confirmed Wednesday that his government has signed a new security agreement with China. What will this mean?
For detailed background, see Cleo on The US Battles China in the Pacific (long video)
(China Unscripted) China wants to become the dominant power in the Pacific, and for a while, it was gaining ground. However the United States is waking up to China’s threat in the region and is fighting back. In this episode of China Unscripted, we talk about China’s influence in the Solomon Islands, how the Solomon Islands is a case study on Chinese colonialism, and how China uses civilians to infiltrate other countries.

Doug Sweet is concerned that our preoccupation with Putin’s War and other international topics, we are failing to adequately monitor political events in the run-up to the U.S. midterms. In particular, he draws our attention to the column by Charles Blow of the NYT, A Biden Blood Bath?
When Politico’s Ryan Lizza last week asked the Biden pollster John Anzalone how dire the situation had become for Democrats, Anzalone responded in blunt terms, saying that no Democratic consultant would say “that this is anything but a really sour environment for Democrats.”. Doug adds that it “is a depressing encapsulation:new polling suggests a dire outlook for the Democrats later this year, and the march toward a “one-party” state, in all but name, continues apace.”

Florida Gov DeSantis pushes to end Disney self-government
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday asked the Legislature to repeal a law allowing Walt Disney World to operate a private government over its properties in the state, the latest volley in a feud between the governor and the entertainment giant over what critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Media matters
We salute their courage!
This newspaper had to halt publication in Russia. But it’s not done covering the war
Novaya Gazeta suspended operations in Russia and opened a new outlet in Europe
Reporting the news is no easy feat for the staff of Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s only independent media outlets.
The investigative newspaper was forced to suspend publication inside Russia in March due to the country’s media censorship laws and crackdown on dissent against the war in Ukraine.
Now, its journalists are once again reporting on the war and other matters of national interest through a new publication, Novaya Gazeta Europe. But so far, it has no office, no website, and very few ways to reach readers inside its home country.

Joe Kahn Is Named Next Executive Editor of The New York Times – will take over a newsroom undergoing enormous change.
Joseph F. Kahn, a Pulitzer Prize-winning China correspondent who rose to lead the international desk of The New York Times, and then as managing editor helped steer the newspaper into the digital era, has been selected to be The Times’s next executive editor, the top newsroom job. … After decades devoted to the “daily miracle” of the print edition, The Times is focused on a digital future and competing for audiences around the world.

Conservatives’ mistrust of media is rooted in the feeling journalists want to ostracize them
“Our interviewees view mainstream news outlets as part of a group of liberal institutions dedicated to making conservatives into pariahs. The misinformation often at the heart of conservative responses to Covid-19 is a symptom, rather than a cause, of this distrust.”
Polling shows that trust in the media among conservatives is low and dropping. Much of the American right is hostile toward the press, but there’s not much research seeking to understand why, or what it means.

Paul Wells has launched a new subscription newsletter, which, he says, will be his main outlet for political analysis, with occasional broader discussions of culture and society. In the first edition, he goes after Chrystia Freeland’s latest federal budget, with questions about the Canada Growth Fund.

Varia
Do we really want another party?
Former Montreal mayoral candidate Balarama Holness pitches new provincial party
Mouvement Québec will be ‘continuation’ of municipal party, Holness says

Tristan Brand wrote that he had recently learned of the existence of the WW I Internment camp at Banff, which led us to do a bit of research. Thanks to the Canadian War Museum, we learned that “Canada interned 8,579 enemy aliens in 24 receiving stations and internment camps from 1914-1920 of which 3,138 were classified as prisoners of war, while the others were civilians. The majority of those interned were of Ukrainian descent, targeted because Ukraine was then split between Russia (an ally) and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an enemy of the British Empire. In addition to those placed in camps, another 80,000 enemy aliens, again mostly Ukrainians, were forced to carry identity papers and to report regularly to local police offices.

We have always loved coincidences and are somewhat surprised that we have not seen any reference to the loss of Russian missile cruiser Moskva on the 110th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic on the night of April 14-15, 1912.
Not even Wednesday Nighter, Alan Hustak, acclaimed author of Titanic: The Canadian Story has mentioned it. But then, Alan was likely too busy facing the extraordinary winter storm  in western Canada
Titanic Walking Tour in Montréal
“In terms of wealth and celebrities, only New York exceeded Montréal on the passenger list,” says Hustak, a Titanic lecturer on three Atlantic crossings, including the Titanic Memorial cruise in 2012.
In a walking tour based on Hustak’s book, here are some Titanic-related sites one can visit in Montréal today, including – after Halifax – the greatest number of Titanic-related graves in the world (six of them are in Mount Royal Cemetery, five in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery, and one in the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery).

Friday, 22 April Earth Day 2022
This year’s theme: Invest In Our Planet
[W]e already know that private sector innovation (with public support) accelerates the kind of rapid change we need, like nothing else. And it pays. Studies show a direct correlation between sustainable business practices, share prices, and business performance.
The Washington Post is offering Free access to “the best climate coverage on earth.”
Enjoy free access to our entire site through April 22.

An investigation into the murky world of ESG ratings
At the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow “net-zero” and “greenwashing” were two big buzzwords as companies and funds got tickets to ride the environmental, social and governance (ESG) express. It was easy to game the ESG system because no one knew precisely what ESG meant.
Now, as investors around the world are ploughing tens of billions of dollars a year into companies and funds that tout high ESG standards there is growing concern that treating them as an asset class alongside traditional stocks and bonds risks shifting the focus away from the non-financial values it’s meant to promote.

The small mountain town of Canmore is booming. But can large numbers of humans and wildlife coexist?
Canmore, Alta., is one of Canada’s fastest growing communities. But when human populations increase in the same space as wildlife, the risks are twofold

Follow-up to WN discussion of EVs: ‘War on climate change’: Tesla-backed engineer Jeff Dahn seeks a million-mile battery
Dalhousie professor is one of the pioneers of the lithium-ion batteries He wants you to be able to climb into your electric car and drive a million miles — 40 times the circumference of the world — before your battery finally sputters out.

Will America Become the Saudi Arabia of Natural Gas?
The war in Ukraine and the breakdown of Europe’s longstanding energy ties with Russia are transforming the world market for natural gas. For now, Europe’s ability to secure alternative supplies depends on the United States’ willingness to take on a new global role that it may be reluctant to play.

Long reads
The Investor Revolution – Shareholders are getting serious about sustainability.
(Harvard Business Review) Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues have traditionally been of secondary concern to investors. But in recent years, institutional investors and pension funds have grown too large to diversify away from systemic risks, forcing them to consider the environmental and social impact of their portfolios.
Analysis of interviews with 70 executives in 43 global institutional investing firms suggests that ESG is now a priority for these leaders and that corporations will soon be held accountable by shareholders for their ESG performance.

‘A Bridge Too Far’, Fred Kaplan, Slate’s national security columnist, reviews Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post–Cold War Stalemate by M. E. Sarotte, Kravis Professor of Historical Studies at Johns Hopkins University
Even the most ardent advocates of NATO expansion after the implosion of the USSR realized that it had limits—and one of those limits was Ukraine.
… The scope and brutality of [Putin’s war] has been shocking; yet to many of those old enough to remember the end of the cold war—when the USSR lay supine and a series of American presidents set out to expand (or as their aides put it, in an attempt to avoid accusations of neo-imperialism, “enlarge”) the NATO military alliance to include nearly every nation in Central and Eastern Europe that had been a vassal of the Kremlin for the previous half-century—the attack, at least initially, came as little surprise. In a sense, it was a backlash waiting to happen.

Trump, Putin, and the Paradox of Propaganda When you set out to brainwash others, you end up brainwashing yourself.
(New York Magazine) At a time when President Joe Biden’s own weaknesses make him an easy political target, Trump and his political apparatus instead seem to be unable to move past the abyss of election-fraud lies,” reports Politico. This is a now-familiar feature of Trump’s cramped thinking. He has been trapped by the lies of his own media ecosystem to the point where it inhibits his own power. Trump invents lies, his favored media sources repeat those lies, and Trump believes them. Trump devised the stolen-election lie to hold onto office, but his inability to relinquish his fixation on it is making Republicans abandon him. Had he not fooled himself into believing the coronavirus pandemic would disappear, he probably would have won reelection.
Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine is a vivid example of this dynamic. Putin, of course, was trained by the KGB and places enormous value on information as warfare: You hoard the truth for yourself by gathering secrets, and weaken your enemies with lies. But ultimately the lies escaped and infected their creator.
Putin sought to convince his people Ukraine was weak, corrupt, and lacking in any popular legitimacy. He wound up believing his own lies, launching a ruinous war premised on his expectation that Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government would collapse immediately and that Ukrainians would welcome Russians as liberators.

Ukraine sheds new light on the great tragedies of the last century
Putin’s invasion echoes the horrors of the 1930s and 1940s, but also quashes many myths about that era

Moscow’s most wanted man, Bill Browder, reveals what makes the Russian president tick in his new book, “Freezing Order.”
Browder’s book piles on detail upon detail about illegal Russian state activity—not just financial crimes, but the numerous murders and poisonings of its critics. It also pursues a number of other storylines: how Browder has managed to survive all these years without being murdered; how bankers and lawyers in the West enable Russian crimes by laundering money and setting up offshore accounts; and the seemingly never-ending corruption of the Russian government which has only gotten worse under Putin.

And a long listen
Thanks to Peter Frise for the introduction to Peter Zeihan’s webinar How Deglobalization Works
Deglobalization is a movement towards a less connected world, characterized by powerful nation states, local solutions, and border controls rather than global institutions, treaties, and free movement.
Peter Zeihan give a perspective on the effects of globalization, and the consequences of recent forces to deglobalize, during the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of China.

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