Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday musings

What a week this has been.
First off, in Italy where the Prime Minister, Berlusconi has tendered his resignation Saturday in order to start the reform process to appease the money markets. The Italian parliament passed laws increasing the retirement age starting in 2026! As well legislation to open up the inflexible labour market was ignored. Sounds a little like what is happening in Greece does it not?
Speaking of Greece, the Prime Minister there apparently has also called it quits.
So what anyway?
The underlying problems in both countries still exist and do not seem to be going away anytime soon do they? More and more the general consensus in the market is that Greece will have to leave the Euro zone and default on its obligations and that Italy will have to have its economy run by the 2 economic powerhouses of Europe-France and Germany. This will be a bitter pill for the Italians to absorb but there seems no other option on the table at present. The French and Germans will soon stop shoveling money into the endless pit that holds the Greek and Italian economies and instead will force those countries to allow them to run their economies and hopefully return them to some sense of normalcy.
That could take a generation to accomplish. The whole social fabric needs to be revamped with cradle to grave civil service employment and pension plans changed or restructured to be paid by both the employer and employee. Generous benefits must be scaled back or portions removed. I am talking of a revolution in the entitlement thinking that is prevalent by many in those countries. Just compare those programs to those in Germany and you will see what I refer to. That country has lived within its means but even now faces problems with the influx of so called “guest workers” and their families that are starting to cause strains on the economic and social structure of the country.
Here in Canada there are a number of interesting stories to attend to. One is the election in Saskatchewan where the governing Sask. Party was returned to office with an increased majority at the expense of the opposition socialist New Democratic Party whose Leader lost his own seat as well. The problem I see with the results is that an effective government depends on an active and responsible opposition to keep it honest and accountable for its actions and with such a reduced opposition, there exists the potential for sloth and abuse of power.
Hopefully this does not happen.
Rim, once the world leader in the smartphone market with the Blackberry, seems to be in difficult times as its phone offerings are being used by less and less people who are switching more and more to those of the Android operating system and that of Apple, namely the iPhone.
Its attempt to compete in the tablet market against the iPad with its unit called the Playbook has not been well received by the general public and plagued with a lack of applications and lack of a native e mail service and promised upgrades for this quarter are now delayed until the New Year.
This is one of Canada’s largest hi tech companies and the future looks fairly grim at this time. Will there be enough time for a turn around to occur or will it end up being just a footnote in the history books? Something tells me that this answer will happen in the New Year.
A pipeline from Alberta to refineries in the United States has been stalled in the American Government approval mechanism and it looks like ill informed activists will succeed in preventing its construction. Compromise could have been achieved with reasonable discussion but emotions appear to have won the day. So, on the surface it seems, sadly, that the American public prefers getting its crude oil supplies from countries that lack basic democratic rights, treat women as chattel and in some cases, fund terrorist activities.
The consequence of this action is that where a source for safe, ethical oil from a democratic ally that shares a common border and political interests is spurned, is unfortunate. Instead of the pipeline going to refineries in the States for processing and distribution, the pipeline will in all likelihood go through the Canadian Rockies to the West Coast and the crude will ship to markets in India and China.
When Americas runs low on oil and is forced to go to more costly alternatives, will they remember this?
And that this could have been avoided?
Probably not, and that is a pity.
Remembrance Day came and all through Canada ceremonies were held to honour the dead and the remaining veterans. They fought and gave their all so people like the Occupy…(you fill in the city) could squat in public places and rail against those that they think have denied them whatever they think they should have. There may be some things to accept in what they say but when I see pictures of some of these people dressed in really fine clothing, with portable computers in their tents, cell phones at hand and some going home to warm houses at night, I wonder at their motives and sincerity. I started working when minimum wage was 1/10th of what it is today and I took out student loans to pay for my university studies and paid them back without complaint as I understood that they were a loan and not a forgivable grant. I worked 7 days a week, 12-16 hours a week when I started in business with the belief that if I worked hard and saved, that something like owning a house, with a good life and retirement were possible.
It is a tough world we live in, not everyone will get the same chance as others to do well in life. That is a fact. It is the responsibility of those more fortunate to assist those less fortunate by way of social programs and assistance. It is not the role of those to be made feel guilty of their hard work and fortune and then be penalized for it as some of those that protest want. I wonder how the protestors would react if they were part of the so called 1% that they rail against?
In the United States one of the men running for the Presidential nomination of the Republican Party, Herman Cain, was accused this week of sexual harassment charges by some women stemming from the days when he was the head of a large national pizza company. At a press conference and later an all candidate’s debate he held firm on his denial of the claims. While not judging on whether these claims are true or not, it must be noted that the maturation of the American people is striking in this case. It would not be a stretch to say that if you had said 10 years ago that a black politician would be able to able to calmly address and refute such allegations – still to be proved or disproved – was possible, you would have not been believed.
The Arab League has given Syria a 4 month deadline to reform from its human rights abuses or be thrown out of the League. Quite a bold and courageous step. It is too bad the United Nations did not have the same courage when it came to seating the Palestinian delegation in the UNESCO. You had the French delegation cheering this acceptance. Where are these countries when it comes to finally once and for all getting the warring parties in the Middle East to settle the Borders of Israel and a State of Palestine? And when will the Americans stop letting Israel continue to build expansion settlements further inflaming the people of Palestine?
Probably not in my lifetime I am afraid.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has issued a report detailing how Iran is in the process of building nuclear weapons. This leads to the specter of some sort of military action by countries unknown against it. Can you imagine what would happen to the region if Iran did have these weapons? This is a country that has vowed to wipe Israel off the map, hates Saudi Arabia, wants to rule Iraq and the list goes on from there. It might surprise you that there are some Arab countries that share the same concerns about Iran as does Washington (the worlds; much maligned policeman) Israel and others.
And one wonders at the strange behavior of both China and Russia in this matter where they both abstain from any involvement at all.
Out in Hawaii there is a gathering of Asia Pacific leaders in order to try and craft a sort of free trade zone.
 Lower tariffs, freer movement of goods, less red tape and the like is the goal.
Funny thing about that is that the Americans are on board with this concept. Yup, the same people that when times get tough fall back on the old Buy American concept, raise tariffs and taxes against other countries.
You cannot have it both ways I am afraid, either you are for Free Trade, warts and all.
Or against it.
So I was right on the mark with my weather forecast last week and yes, the kamikaze car drivers were out in full force the first couple of days. Fortunately the weather has moderated and indeed the plus side of the heat gauge was in use for a few days and helped to clear most of the streets and some parts of the sidewalks. It is just a small reprieve until the big stuff hits, but, what the heck, every little bit helps.
Now the next period of time off will be Christmas and already the music and commercials are pushing me to the edge of my level of tolerance. I told my wife what I would like for a gift and somehow a pair of boots with heating elements in them (got to keep the toes toasty you know) just did not generate enthusiasm from her. Probably another set of socks is in my future I suppose!
So that is it for another week and it is really funny how fast a week can go by sometimes.
Take care out there,

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