Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday musings

December 9th –circle that day on your calendar. That is the final day for a solution to the Euro crisis. To make a long and often repeated story short, Germany has presented a list of conditions that the rest of the European community – especially France must agree to in order to stabilize and save the Euro as the common currency of Europe. It involves ceding fiscal control to the ECB (European Central Bank) which means a loss of sovereignty over money matters. This is something that Sarkozy of France is dancing around, one day he agrees in principal while talking with the world press, and the next while talking to French media, denies that this will ever happen. If failure is the result, look to the end of the Euro starting in the New Year. This will impact the entire world, causing probably a return to a double digit recession, massive layoffs, and majour social unrest. If you think the Occupy demonstrations in the United States were something, well, that will look like child’s play in comparison. The worlds stock markets will be savaged, pension plans decimated and it will take, in my opinion, anywhere up to 5-10 years to recover – that is how serious this will be.
Think the problem is only in Europe? Try looking at America. The so called Super Committee that was supposed to reduce government spending took the whole summer to dissolve into finger pointing and posturing and achieving diddly squat. So sure enough the fiscal ranking institutions in the States were the beneficiaries of a credit downgrade. This makes borrowing and lending money in the States more costly. And of course the banks immediately pass this on to the customer and the government turns a blind eye to this. So while politicians play at being irresponsible, the consumer pays and loses. And incredibly the politicians get re-elected time after time.
In the United States, one of the people running for the nomination of the Republican party to be the candidate in the 2012 Presidential elections has ceased his campaign. This was due to a number of women coming forward to claim that he had affairs with them in years past. I do not know the man or even his political positions but it amazes me that in a such a great country that almost venerates a former president that had a number of well known affairs- John Kennedy, that now they judge a man solely on this instead of how and what the complete man is. That does not minimize the alleged affairs, but if they were consensual – why does this disqualify the man? Indeed there is also another candidate, Mitt Romney who has endured attacks on his religious beliefs.
Strange people the Americans.
Yet I still believe that they were and still are, one of the greatest societies this world has seen.
Today marks election day in Russia. In the last few days the only independent election overseer has been arrested with no charges laid. This does not bode well for the democratic process in the land. Also Mr. Putin is reengaged in the process and that is something that rarely happens in a truly democratic society where the accepted norm is that once a leader has had his time at the head of the country, he/she slowly fades back into obscurity and a dignified retirement. Not apparently with Mr. Putin, it seems the lure of power is too irresistible for him. Not an encouraging sign. Maybe the Russian people yearn for the days where certain basic things in life were a given, no matter how harsh life was, there was a form of security in that. They may resent the rise of a rich wealthy class and no corresponding rise in their own life. Who knows?
In Egypt election results show that 2 fundamentalist Islamic parties, if they decided to form a coalition would become the first democratically elected government. There is a difference in their approach to policy where one favours strict Sharia law, with all its’ negative implications for women. And the other having a more moderate approach and seemingly more concerned with the rule of the land and improving the lot of the average person. Funny thing about the interpretation that some strict Muslims give to their faith and that is in the way they treat their women. Apparently there is no mention of women having to veil their faces, yet it appears that their men are too insecure to allow this. This applies to education for boys versus girls. Even codes of morality allow for extremes for the males but have great restrictions for the females.
Further unrest in the Middle East where tensions are slowly starting to increase as more and more evidence comes forward about the nuclear goals of Iran. Israel will surely not sit back much longer before taking action of some sort to stop what they (and the Americans) believe is a threat to their existence and peace in the region. Something to keep an eye on.
So here in Canada there is a system of government and individual funded retirement benefits called- are you ready? The Canada Pension Plan. It is designed for those people that have been in the workforce and is based on contributions paid in over the years. It can be accessed at age 65, for the most cash monthly or at age 60 at a reduced rate if so desired. For this you apply a year before your 60th birthday less one month. Well that surely is an indicator that something has changed in your life and you are starting a new phase. Formerly called old age, it has now been termed “later middle age”. That truck has hit me today. For now I can apply for those early benefits. Funny, I do not recall the years slipping by so quickly. Indeed I still wake up from my mid afternoon nap (just joking!) thinking I am in my mid forties. It is true, you never think about time so much, as when you perceive that you are on the wrong end of the stick. Anyway, getting back to my upcoming pension (late next year), heaven knows what I will do with all that new found wealth. That is said tongue in cheek, because if you had to live on just that, life would be very difficult indeed for you. I think for the early takers it is in the $600 per month range. Kinda tough to live on that nowadays. If you have been fortunate in life, you planned for retirement without figuring in the Canada Pension and that money is bonus. In fact just a few short years ago, many so called “experts” were proclaiming loudly that the plan was going to run out of funding in the near future and all chaos would happen in Canada. Strange thing about that, it seems that there is more than enough money in the Plan to cover obligations.
So tomorrow I will access the forms online and probably spend a couple of days trying to figure them out and them submit them and then like a child on Christmas Eve, await that glorious day when the dough rolls in!
OK, speaking of Christmas shopping, how is it going? Are you one of the few that is long finished are now are one of the struggling masses running up and down the aisles looking for any and everything under the sun? Are you spending as much as last year- more or less? Probably no matter what item you spend money on, the day after Christmas it will be on sale for even less. Those that celebrate Christmas in January have had the right idea all along I think. I tried to boycott Christmas one year, bad idea, I still get teased about being Mr. Grinch all these many years later. One of the things I do not participate in is carol singing – when you have a voice like a dying frog, it is the right thing to do. Otherwise you might get a call from the police seeking to find the person who is being murdered according to the screams coming from the house.
Want to hear a pet peeve of mine in this wireless age we live in? In Canada there is such a lack of free WiFi spots that it is ludicrous. In Europe and the United States they abound. But no, not here. Sometimes the lack of competition in the wireless market here is striking in that rates are high, plans are restrictive, you have to lock into term lengths with whacking big penalties to opt out. Try to get a plan for more than 1 phone, cable and internet combined – fat chance my friend. Just like cable TV here, you are saddled with channels you do not want, and those you want, are not allowed to get. Almost makes you want to go back to the days of a party line phone system and 2 channels of black and white TV!
Sure, and while I am at it, why not go back to the horse and buggy and the outhouse in the backyard and walking uphill to school and uphill back home again? Maybe it is time for my pension. Sometimes I sound like the grumpy old farts I used to laugh at years ago!
Well the winter weather is here. Blasted cold, rotten wind whistling through every exposed pores in body, golly gee, how many months until Spring anyway? At least we have not too much snow on the ground at this point, but sure as death and taxes, there is at least 4 to 6 feet of the stuff on the way over the next few months. I am glad that I have a tuned up snow blower in the garage but I will not be heart broken if I use it very little this winter. It is something like insurance, nice to have, better not to have to use it.
So, anyway, hope you are bundled up warmly.
Take care out there,

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