Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday musings

It seems that the last son of the late Gaddafi has been captured in Libya and soon will appear before the International Justice court to face charges of crimes against humanity. This may be the long awaited final step in the process of reconciliation in the country. However Libyan authorities want their jurisdiction to have first dibs on him. So will it end as strangely as the fate that befell Saddam Hussein, in a secluded hanging?
A word to the wise about Iran.
 This recent past a report was issued detailing Iran’s’ nuclear development program and the real possibility that atomic missile capabilities are in the works. There are too many powers involved and concerned to let this situation to continue for very long. The possibility of a tactical strike by Israel is not out of the question. American support for this is probably a given. We could be in for a period of strife involving many Middle Eastern countries and that will impact oil supplies and that for sure will have a dramatic negative impact on the world economy.
Sunday marks state elections in Spain and all indicators point to a conservative leaning government being formed. If you look at the political map of Europe, you will find that with the 27-nation European Union will have only four smaller members – Cyprus, Slovenia, Austria and Denmark – that are governed from the left. Ironically in order for order to emerge from the current Diaspora that grips the EU, many governments will have to adopt higher taxes and more state interventions in the local economies that are hallmarks of left wing socialist parties.
Indeed there are some analysts who see hallmarks of voter integration throughout the European community. This means possibly the installation of a true international European government with representation from member countries in it. The loss of sovereignty that so many bemoan nowadays may well be underway. Indeed this may be the salvation of the Euro and economies of countries like Greece, Italy and the like.
I am not going to mention the Euro, Italy or Greece this week for the simple reason that I think I have mentioned them for week after week and we all need a rest from this soap opera.
A poorly covered report on a change in the oil industry happened this week in North America. A large oil company purchased an oil pipeline and reversed the flow in it. What this means is that instead of the crude flowing to a refinery in the east sector of the United States where capacity is at maximum, it now flows to the Gulf of Mexico refineries in the States where there is excess capacity. Makes sense you think-right? Yes but what it does is actually change what is called future pricing on oil (where speculators gamble on whether prices go up or down and you pay the penalty at the pumps as a result) and that is where traditionally prices have been based on 2 different markers. One being West Texas intermediate and the other called Brent and based on offshore Danish oil prices.  Europe paid that price and North America paid either the lower priced WTI or the higher Brent.  The Brent resource has declined over the years and now the futures price gap has narrowed dramatically with WTI becoming a larger player in the world market. This should translate into less wild swings in oil prices because of speculators going for maximum profit and now not being able to do so. It also will mean higher prices at the pump short term but more stable prices with less dramatic jumps when prices change at the wellhead. North America with newly discovered reserves, improved recovery process has returned on the world scene as an oil exporting superpower – who would have thought of that 5 years ago?
You have to love American politics when a Presidential election year looms on the horizon. A proposed pipeline from Alberta to refineries in the States was allowed to become an environmental and political issue. Caving in to pressure the Obama government decided to postpone approval until after the election. Part of the reason was that the pipeline was going to pass over an underground aquifer and if ruptured could possibly contaminate a whole whack of water. So the company behind the proposal changed the route of the pipeline to avoid the aquifer and satisfy all concerns, so everything would be just fine right?
A big case of “oh no this changes nothing” from the Administration and greenies. Just shows you that the whole issue was votes and nothing more. I cannot say that I was surprised over that.
I remember a couple of years ago an incident that occurred in our city with what arguably Canada’s’ best known green activist. He was here to give an address on the greenhouse effect from automobiles. This was in the middle of winter and the tour bus he was using stayed running all day and over the night while he was here giving the address.
Just saying.
When the iPad came out of nowhere and created a market just by being what it is rather than as a response to a specific consumer demand, many other companies decided to invest time and money to build, promote and sell competitive alternatives. Some failed miserably. Some are not bad, but as people say, they are not an iPad. Some, such as the Asus Transformer are equal to if not superior to the iPad but lack such a heavy marketing machine and app store. Then you have Research in Motion, a Canadian success storey in the smartphone market. They were the top dog for a long time in that market until the iPhone and various Android phones emerged but still have a large world wide following. They decided to get into the tablet wars with their tablet called the Playbook. It is a very good piece of equipment with a wonderful operating system; however a lack of e mail, and apps and other items has hindered its adoption by the consumer. Now in various big box stores in North America the price on the Playbook (and its various versions) has been deeply discounted and this does not appear to bode well for the unit. Hewlett Packard (HP) had its own tablet and after it was discontinued, sold it at the $99 mark and quickly sold out its entire inventory! Thereby making a success story of a failure except that there will be no continuing technical support for this tablet. One wonders if this may be the fate of the Playbook as well.
I hope not.
Remember the Super committee that was formed by the American government this summer after gridlock occurred in its budget attempts? This was after a credit downgrade by lending institutions of the American government? Well, I hate to tell you this but it is next week is the deadline for those cuts. They were supposed to total 1.2 trillion. If nothing is achieved, then drastic cuts to social and military programs are to kick in. Bet you did not know that it did not mean next year, but rather 2013? This way any blame can be deflected by politicians seeking re-election and dealt with by another group of lawmakers. And you wonder why there are so many Occupy protesters and general voter anger with all levels of government? I think you will see a further downgrade of the American government financial rating by the bond markets and that will only exacerbate any attempts to increase employment, reduce costs of government and indeed tax reform which from all reading the Republican Party is determined to oppose. House prices will not rebound and interest rates charged to the average consumer will increase. Do they not remember that there is only one taxpayer? Printing more and more money is not the answer, especially if all it produces is more inflation and fewer saving for the average taxpayer. Members of the American Government are well insulated from this by increasing their perks and wages whenever they want, and in fact a very large number of them are millionaires to boot!
You think they really care for anything more than being re-elected to a nice cushy job?
I still have my doubts; next week will tell the tale.
So how is the weather in your part of the world anyway?
Here in Saskatchewan winter has really slapped us in the face with a blizzard and bone chilling temps just for the fun of it. I am getting too old to enjoy minus 25 anymore.
Cold is cold.
Temperature in Buenos Aires is 29 (79F) with isolated showers. That is something I can handle, no question about it. I cannot wait for February and our trip there.
On the West coast of Canada it is plus 6, sunny, cool, but still something I could handle.
Tonight it is minus 29 plus wind chill – wonderful!
We had my wife’s Beamer in for a small repair this week; the mechanic must have gold plated tools as the final bill was the size of a house mortgage payment.
Time to think of getting a new one.
How is the Christmas shopping coming along?
I did mine this summer. I always try to do so in order to avoid the dreaded mall crowds and shrill Xmas music blaring in the background as mothers with 4 kids in tow run amok in stores.
As a person ages, the way they read the newspaper changes. When young, you look at the comics first. Married – world news and sports. Middle age now brings the obituary section to the front. There sometimes seems to be a grim bit of satisfaction in finding that you have outlived contemporaries from yesterday. This week it was different. I read about the passing of someone that I had worked with for about 15 years and then as time changed and people change jobs and cities, lost contact with her. She was what is now called “a glass ceiling” (or trailblazer for others of her gender) person in the print/publishing trade as a sales representative. A lot of the crap and sexual harassment that she was subjected to would be and is illegal today. Throughout it all she endured and even prospered.
She was a good person, and a good friend.
Hopefully that might be said of me one day.
Take care out there,

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