Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday musings

Things seem to be approaching a critical point in both Egypt and Syria these days.
In Egypt, the President, Mr. Morsi ( I wonder why 99% of the Western press spell his name that way but CNN does not?) has rescinded the decree that gave him dictatorial powers and immunity from the law in case he authored illegal acts and also invited opposition leaders to discuss revisions to the proposed constitution in an attempt to defuse protests against his regime by an ever increasing number of people. Meanwhile counter protests in his favour by supporters of the Islamic Brotherhood are also occurring with predictable violent bloody clashes between the two groups.
The prospect of a violent quasi religious civil war increases by the day.
In Syria reports continue to emerge that with his regime teetering on the brink of collapse, the President, Mr. Assad apparently has given the go ahead to prepare deadly chemical toxin based weapons for a last ditch attempt to defeat opponents or possibly start a “scorched earth” policy to destroy the land and people rather than giving way. Other reports that any attempt to convince Mr. Assad to flee the country are not having any success.
If this is true and events continue to unfold, perhaps he is destined to follow the same path as the late leader of Libya did, to his inglorious death.
Over in Argentina, tensions are increasing over a controversial radio licensing law. In short, critics contend that not allowing media companies to have multiple stations, the government by virtue of it having the authority to issue license renewal every two years, is creating a splintered radio community unable to mount any viable criticism of potential incorrect government laws and policies as they occur. Indeed the critics contend that with this license control, the government is creating radio stations that are beholding to them and willing to turn a blind eye to any problems that may happen.
First the changes to the Dollar versus Peso, restrictive bank regulations, inflation, nationalization of companies owned outside of Argentina proper - signs that may indicate the slippery road to dictatorship is underway.
If so, what a tragedy for such a wonderful country.
In the United States, the fiscal cliff hurtles toward the confused land at breakneck speed. It looks like instead of compromise, the American President, Mr. Obama seems determined to “break” the Republican Party. This past week the Republicans backed off their position of no new taxes and actually endorsed a plan very similar to what Mr. Obama had advocated earlier this summer.
And yet Mr. Obama flatly rejected this!
And, regardless whether or not the fiscal impasse is solved in the next few days, three new taxes will hit the US population on January 1st to help finance the changes to the American Health Care system which have been called Obamacare. One controversial tax is the one which will apply to all medical supplies and technologies. Everything from latex gloves to heart pacemakers will be affected.
And that will be passed on to the consumer.
I just have to shake my head and want to weep.
The rich and the politicians will not suffer, no they are too well insulated financially. The people who are too poor to have health plan insurance and savings and a job, how can they suffer more than they do now?
The ones that will be whipsawed relentlessly will be the ever shrinking middle class.
If you are of a certain age or have access to the TV shows broadcast in North America in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, you will remember some of the iconic shows of the day. Ones like Andy of Mayberry, The Nelsons, Father Knows Best, My Three Sons and the like spring to mind. In these shows, the lives portrayed were those of middle class suburban (mainly) families, living the American Dream of working hard, living right and success will surely come their way - and in those shows it did. Children of that era watching the shows, on the main, aspired to attain a middle class life following those dictates. That Middle Class made many things possible in much of the world. Things like social programs such as Universal Medicare for all ( sorry America, sometimes social intervention can do good)  Government regulated safety systems such as Food Inspection, Air transportation, environment protection were started and funded by the middle class in that time - not by any government, because no government creates wealth, it only taxes and spends wealth. Now the middle class is under attack by the so called uber rich and their legal minions as well as special interest groups and PAC’s (Political Action Committee’s) in the United States bent on securing their special status and usually tax exempt standing. All the while the middle class gets hammered and somehow blamed for this mess by a media that stopped being true to its heritage of being non political and beholding to no one or group. Instead most media is owned by special interest groups with specific agendas and are proud to flaunt it to people.
Sad, really sad isn’t it?
Nelson Mandela, age 94 was admitted to hospital this past Saturday for what has been termed as “tests”. Another icon who will soon no longer be with us. Giants like him do not seem to be with us anymore these days. Instead the youth revere people like Justin Bieber and women beaters like rap singer Chris Brown. Can you name any one that strides the world stage these days like Mandela, or Winston Churchill or Gandhi?
Can you?
In Venezuela, a day after returning from Cuba for hyperbaric chamber treatment, President Hugo Chavez announced that new tests had found cancerous cells and that in the coming days he would again return to Cuba for more treatment. This does not sound very good for the 58 year old leader sadly.
Robert Mugabe, the 88 year old leader of Zimbabwe is noted as looking eagerly forward to next years election in that ruin of a once prosperous land. Corruption, political murder and lawlessness apparently condoned and sponsored by the government has devastated the economy and decimated the population. It seems like the only time change will come to that land will be when Mugabe dies, probably in office which will in all likelihood be a forerunner of a bloody and devastating civil war that will further impoverish the land.
In Germany, auto giant General Motors has announced plans to stop building the Opel car at the plant in Bochem. Reports indicate that as many as 2300 workers will lose their jobs when this happens in late 2013 or early 2014.
All across Europe car purchasing has slowed as a result of the financial crisis of the past few years. People just are not buying cars and instead making the old ones last a couple of years or more longer. Or, if they have lost their jobs, buying a new car is not on their list of anything to buy as food, clothing, health and accommodation has become the sole focus in life.
Here in Canada, it appears that the Federal Government may be cancelling the purchase of a new fleet of military aircraft as costs have soared from a projected 8 billion dollars to over 45 billion! Can we hope that sanity has emerged in this process? Did you know that the whole purchase program was sole sourced? Yes, no bids were solicited from different manufacturers, just it seems, a wink, wink, nudge, nudge, “old buddy” verbal handshake to get the best price “possible” from a favoured supplier. Of course the Minister in Charge of that portfolio will not resign or be fired but probably get a raise or some other plum.
Oh Canada indeed!
OK, this week we had a couple of nights where the local news shrieked at us that SNOW was coming to devastate the area. Earnest and solemn faced talking heads endlessly intoned in funeralistic tone about road carnage, snarled traffic and old people stranded in their residences. And why oh why have YOU NOT GOTTEN SNOW TIRES YET?????
And on it went.
Of course, it did not snow.
Not a flurry and not a single flake - but by Gawd, it is on the way!!!!! At least so they say.
In talking to people that have moved here from areas such as the Prairies or the East of Canada, all well versed in winter road driving a true story emerges.
Yes, snow does fall here, no argument there at all. However that being said, it does not last for months on end. In fact it melts within hours. The problem is that they people born here have no idea of how to drive in snow/slush/ice. They seem to think that if the speed sign says 50 KPH, then they can do so, no matter what the road conditions. A sure recipe for slip, slide and crash - guaranteed. It seems the best thing to do is wait a day so the roads clear and the drivers have their “normal” roads back.
And that is fine by me. I have my chai latte and various power nibbles stockpiled so I can wait out any disruption!
Just a little over two weeks until Christmas, and I cannot wait for my usual cornucopia of presents from my better half.
I look forward to the “usual suspects”.
Tube socks, underwear, maybe a new apron?
I dunno, with all the changes in our lives this year, somehow gifts are not such a focus to me as they were in other years.
That is a good thing I think.
Anyway, take care out there,
flatlander 52

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