Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday musings

Well this posting is by necessity a bit disjointed due to the fact that we are in transit from our Island to the Sandwich islands via aeroplane.
So accept my apologies for any "jumping" around or indeed the shortness of the blog this week.
All forms of media are now completely saturated with either fond/bitter/nice/mean/nasty/hopeful remembrances of the year quickly ending and while I am not in the same league as those blatantly overpaid self centered news experts/pundits (heck, my blog is free!) I will put forth some thoughts.
Death is a part of life for humanity and we lost a number of folks this year. I will only mention two. One made an impact on mankind that hopefully with endure and grow through time - Nelson Mandela. Another was a man that was everything to his family and the people he touched in his life. Not a world famous personage, no, not he, but in his own way, just as important as Mr. Mandela, and that was my uncle Karl K.
Both heroes left us better for knowing them.
What next for the world?
America stares at the consequences of the drastic changes to its health care system both in terms of the impact on citizens and the very real, apparently incorrectly figured out fiscal impact. It seems a rule of governing that all programs are over hyped and inversely low balled as to cost. Sadly politicians all over the world assume the voter is stupid and cannot figure out the truth as to cost vs promise. What happens now to the USA economy? Anybody who says they know, well, I think they are just guessing and hoping. Will further budget cuts (and they are coming) hurt the economy? What about the military? For every spokesman that says a cut will destroy the functioning capability to respond to outside threats, a reports emerges about abandoned,never used multi million dollar facilities in countries like Afghanistan alongside newly delivered airplanes and armoured vehicles being mothballed in the American desert lands and never having ever been used. America needs (as does the world it protects) a strong healthy military but it also has to have a cost effective one and that should be a focus for the coming years.
For the rest of the world?
Does any person see changes for the better in the Middle East? North Korea? Europe?
Anywhere?
Sadly, probably not my friends.
One can only hope for so much and instead strive to improve the life they live and the impact that they have on others and the part of the world they live in. That includes the environment. I was taught that each persons responsibility to the land was to leave a place they stayed at or used - better than they found it. And I have always tried to do so. Maybe a promise each can make to the world is to try and do the same. That being said, blind hatred of change and a myopic fairy tale view of a world that can not exist harms all good causes. Too many folks for example decry oil usage but cannot or are incapable of understanding the role oil based products play in their lives. They boycott big oil - while talking on their plastic based cellphones. They cry about forced labour but refuse to but local produced clothing because they do want to pay that much money. They scream about high taxes but want safe streets and cheap almost free electricity - because they are of the generation that seems to have a birth right to deserve everything for almost nothing. Their elders and great grandparents that struggled to live during the Depression of the 1930's would be dismayed.
You know what though?
Now that I am a self proclaimed grizzled old geezer, I still am an optimist.
I still enjoy a golden sunrise.
I still enjoy the look of joy on kids faces at playtime.
I still believe this world can and will get better.
Let's see if WE can make 2014 be a good year for you and for the world.......
from the magical Sandwich Islands,
A hui hou
flatlander52

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday musings

So, just a few more days until Christmas and time for a few thoughts and reflections instead of my usual rants and moans about this and that...
One of the things that is common to all majour celebrations regardless of culture or religion is the time available to reflect and consider friends, family and one's life in general and that is a precious commodity in this high speed 24/7 electronic invasive no mental “downtime” society. People have become too immersed in the “commune” life of interdependent consciousness provided by Facebook, Twitter and the like to be able to sit back think alone and quietly it seems.
So this time of reflection is a good thing.
Time for an update.
I have mentioned in earlier blog columns about the three young ladies that I consider my adoptive “daughters” because of the influence they have had on my life since I first met them.
Last week we were fortunate enough to have a thoroughly enjoyable lunch with our “daughter” the realtor here on the Island and later reflected on our good fortune to have had her enter our lives last year,
She is a really great person.
I had news this late fall where another one of my “daughters” is continuing on her life path and is starting to re-enter the work force, but on her own terms – she is an independent and strong willed young lady.
She is a really great person.
I have heard from my third “daughter”, the author that yet two more books are being published and continue to be in awe of her talent and super personality.
Here is a link to her web site - worth a visit- http://allthingsimpossible.com/
She really is a great person.
All three have so enhanced my life, that words fail to express my gratitude towards them.
I am fortunate to have them as my friends and “daughters”.
We had a small gathering the other day and sometimes you forget how nice it is to get together with people and just enjoy the moment, something sadly lacking in many of the Christmas Season's office and home parties as office politics play a huge corrosive role in those.
And that is too bad.
I was able to stand back and observe just how much pleasure people got by being just themselves, because all of the guests were past the age where they needed to impress anyone with their lives or status or “toys”. No, these folks were comfortable in their “skin” and at peace with themselves at this stage in their lives.
My thoughts go out to a friend and his mother in Germany whom I have not seen in many a year but still are close friends and at this, their first Christmas without the family patriarch. A sad and lonesome time and hopefully they will do well.
Here on the Island, where snow hardly if ever falls in my little town, it is somewhat different to drive around at night and see so many houses ablaze with festive lighting and not see any snow on the ground. But, with this being our second Christmas here, it is starting to have its own appeal. And indeed, one experiences a mellowing of spirit unknown when we lived on the Prairie flatlands covered in its many feet of snow and really darn cold temperatures. And yes, here on my Island we are fortunate in that regard.
But I will gladly accept small mercies these days.
So what thoughts/message can we take from this time of the year anyway?
Well, as long as man exists, sadly there will be war, strife and both good and evil. It is part of our makeup unfortunately. But maybe that is part of the meaning of Celebrations like Christmas ( and yes, I know that the occasion is the celebration of the birth of Christ) where if we take the time for reflection and thought, maybe, just maybe, we can become better as an individual and that may slowly change humanity for the better.
And that would be a good thing.
So, a merry Christmas to all – those that believe in the meaning of Christmas and all of the others that accept the message and meaning of the season of “Peace and Goodwill” to all mankind.
My next column will be posted from the Sandwich Islands, so until then,
A hui huo”


For those interested, the illustration is the work of an emerging Saskatchewan artist, V. Morhart
flatlander52

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday musings

Last Sunday was the 72nd anniversary on the bombing of Pearl Harbor by forces of the Empire of Japan. Just reading that sentence gives one pause, it is as if one is seeing literature from another era in front of you. First, Empire of Japan? How quickly time has changed that aspect of Japanese society. And second, it happened 72 years ago?
How is that possible?
This points out to me the biggest change in modern society, indeed a change that is more sweeping than perhaps any other in history. And yes, I do apologize if after reading this you conclude that the observation is over the top, but, it seems correct.
The change I refer to is the way history is recorded starting at the time of the First World War. In majour wars and events in world history, the pattern was for the event to occur and then oral history would emerge supported by archival documents such as treaties, letters and occasional learned texts on the topic for historians to peruse. And for some, the only glimpses of it would be artifacts in various museums.
Film making, black and white and colour photography has changed that forever.
Now no event is ever lost in the mists of time or fading memories of our elders as they pass on.
You can get video CD collections of the Second World War on-line, and on Remembrance Day, the TV is filled with grainy images of trench and aerial warfare from the First World War. Normandy beaches are stormed forever and that mustachioed evil monster from Nazi Germany struts the stage over and over again.
How many times will America have to see their President Kennedy assassinated?
A popular saying that "history forgotten will be repeated" rings a little hollow when one reflects on how many evil and bloody wars have raged since 1945 (yes - 68 years ago - almost 3/4's of a century!).
Did mankind learn anything?
No, not really it seems.
Uganda, the Ukraine, Bosnia, Korea, Ethiopia, Argentina, Syria, the list is almost endless and nothing is changed. And just a year ago that horrible massacre of children at Sandy Hook elementary school, America.
Yet we will have this digital memory to watch for as long as technology exists.
Even in movies this trend exists.
Now in the Christmas Season the old ones with Jimmy Stewart, Bing Crosby and the like are re-run endlessly and these people have long passed on, in some cases decades ago but there they are - still on the video screen.
Does it make sense to you?
Anyway, in America some sort of budget compromise has been reached where possibly the country can function for a while in a non crisis mode. This fragile, soon to be voted on deal secures money flow for 2 years - which would be a strong step forward in many peoples' thinking. It should give some stability to world financial markets and possibly encourage American employers to re-invest in staff and equipment which would be a win-win situation all around. More employment, more factory orders, more taxpayers and less people needing public fiscal assistance and more revenue flowing into collapsed city coffers to pay for essential civic services.
Only good can come from that.
The spin off effect for that is if the American economy starts revving up - all the world will feel an economic impact and improvement. America is still the economic engine of the world and as soon as it starts humming again, the better things world wide will be. And indeed that is great potential news for all the unemployed in Europe no matter how much their myopic politicians say about how America does not matter.
It seems that the Chinese have successfully landed a lunar probe on the moon. In some American news outlets "talking heads" mutter about "dark" intention and yet one has asked the question that if the so called security of the moon (strange concept given the distance and more importantly the cost to get or do anything there) is so vital to American interest, how come successive Administrations have in essence starved the space agency NASA to fiscal death?
Here in Canada we have the same silliness where our armed forces have been trying to replace a helicopter fleet, apparently designed and built by Leonardo Da Vinci for decades only to be flummoxed by politicos of successive different administrations
No, the blame finger never points to those in charge, nope, the fault is in laid at the feet of a previous administration. Really, do politicians actually believe the nonsense they dish out to the citizenry?
In that great democratic country, the DPRK or North Korea, reports say that the uncle of the Leader, Mr. Kim Jung-uns has been dragged from office and executed.
Cool - true democracy at its finest, at least as done by the North Koreans.
Who needs criminal charges, fair trials and nonsense like that when a swift firing squad saves money and time.
Sarcasm?
Yup.
Snow fell this week in the Middle East. Somehow while many might see that as "so nice for the Christmas season" many folks in central and eastern America that are up to and beyond their limits in snow will not concur. It has been a tough year for snow for a lot of folks around the world. Of course the climate change folks will now say that since the change is not a dessert world in the making, it is instead a wet, rainy, and snow filled world in the making.
Huh.
Will they ever make up their minds do you think?
A sure sign (as if we needed it) that political correctness is so, so overdone and tiresome comes from a report in the BMJ journal, while purportedly "tongue in cheek" reports that James Bond, the super spy was an alcoholic.
Sigh, an imaginary book character being analyzed this way?
Really?
Wonder how much that report cost the taxpayer.
It ranks as silly as the broadcast reports that detail where Santa Clause "personages" residing in shopping malls have been directed by the management folks to refrain from saying Merry Christmas as it would, maybe, might, ahhhh - offend, hurt, alienate those that do not partake in the Christmas tradition. I wonder if these functionaries issue such stern edicts when events like say, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanza and the like come up? Heck there is even the story out of the small town of Saskatoon, Canada where a loud and proud atheist had taken local council to the Human Rights Court (oops, Tribunal) because local buses had Christmas greetings on their scrolling messages boards and it hurt his precious feelings. He never filed any complaints when other greetings (see Kwanza, Ramadan, Hanukkah) were posted.
Poor baby.
Folks, there is a lot more grief and sadness in this world to correct than worrying about the politically correct egos of some folks. People like some here on the coast of British Columbia who are determined to flee the evils of society by living on islands that dot the coast BUT demand things like electricity - free of course, roads - free of course, and multiple ferry service sailings to and from their island so that they can visit, buy things, have a job, that kind of thing, While it may be a stretch to say free, they sure as heck want everyone else to subsidize their way of living instead of paying the piper themselves.
I would rather focus efforts on all the victims of HIV/Aids in Africa for one.
Well, just under 2 weeks until Christmas and so next week I will talk a little about some things near and dear as well as thoughts on the season itself.
So until then,
take care out there,
flatlander52

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday musings

Gone
   Never ever
      should he be forgotten,
         please,
            remember this man.
The pages and air waves have been full with tributes to this man and they barely touch the depth of him.
Nelson Mandela.
A hero to all of humanity.
A hero and beacon to all of us that try to make a good difference 
in the state of mankind.
My hero.
Words are inadequate and indeed they fail me as I try to write about Mandela and his meaning to me and South Africa and the world.
Suffice it to say that he breathed different air than we mortals, that he saw things invisible to our eyes and he understand things we cannot grasp.
As a person grows and ages, you can judge the growth of their character and morality by the people they call “their heroes”. And I mean no disrespect to the individuals I will mention but I believe you see what I mean as I progress. As a young child, cowboys strode tall – the Autrys's, the Wayne's, heck even the Zorro's. Then later, The Beatles and later still, for some, the Bieber's and the Kanye's and the Kardashian's. Eventually we (usually that is) all grow up and outgrow these one dimensional people and with luck become attuned to the Mandela's and the Tutu's and the others of this ilk.
I will not be the only one to miss this man.
Rest well Nelson Mandela, you have earned your sleep – and thank you.



I will return next week for a full column but somehow the cares of the world just seem a little less important than they were a few days ago.

Take care out there,
flatlander 52

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday musings

I have had a number of readers criticize me over the years (yes, hard to believe but this blog is almost 3 years old!) on what they see as my tendency to "love" America as compared to other countries around the world.
Sorry, that aint gonna change soon.
As a counterpoint to their argument, may I present a recap of what has happened recently in that great bastion of human rights and democracy - the DPRK - or as is commonly referred to, North Korea.
That august country has seen fit to imprison an American tourist for over a month now.
Did I mention that this person deemed a criminal by the North Koreans is 85 years old?
His "crime" was that he fought on behalf of the United Nations ( cue my feelings about that body!) in the early 1950's in the so called police action to halt the illegal invasion of the South by the same North Koreans.
He has been shown on state media reading a prepared "apology" for his criminal acts.
And yes, I know life in America has a pot full of warts and bad things, but ya think that this kind of behavior would occur?
Don't think so.
Anyway... seems like things are heating up in the seas around China where that country and Japan are embroiled over claims as to the ownership of a couple of tiny uninhabited islands that just happen to be directly over some potentially vast reserves of natural resources. The Chinese have officially expanded their national airspace  claims over the islands and in response to this, American, South Korean and Japanese air forces have done overflights - just to remind the Chinese that just saying something is not the same as having actual ownership. One outcome may be actual joint ownership of the resources by both nations.
That being said, that might be too sensible a thing to expect isn't it?
In Canada this week we had, what could be called a story that is a bit of a head scratcher in my opinion. There is a national world class, respected police force called the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and as part of its reason for existence is the enforcement of laws of the land.
Sounds simple right?
Well....  here in Canada people can get medical permission to smoke "pot" after strict conditions are met ( sadly for some observers, not so apparently in America, especially California where merely having a sore wrist can qualify one apparently) without fear of arrest and prosecution. That being said, basic common sense would dictate that the consumption be done by the individual in a discrete manner both in location and away from areas where the fumes/smell/stink can affect those that do not want to inhale this products air borne byproducts. Similar to the reasons why smoking of tobacco has restrictions when done in public areas these days. But there seems to be a driving need for many of today's' folks that they demand special treatment for them so as to not bruise their delicate emotions. A member of the force decided to try and basically embarrass the force in front of conveniently assembled media carnivores by smoking a "joint" while in full ceremonial red serge uniform while demanding that exemptions be made for him because of a medical (PTSD) condition brought on by his employment. First off, this is not to dispute his condition, not one bit. However what is/was he thinking of by promoting the use of an illegal substance in the uniform of a police force?
It seems like once again, someone wants rules just for them - and too bad for everyone else in the process.
You think youth unemployment is tough in your area?
Try Italy where in the 15 - 24 age bracket, the rate is 42.1%.
Yes, 42.1%.
Unemployment has affected 3.2 million Italians this year as compared to 2.9 million a year ago.
 In a burst of joy the Spanish government has declared that the current recession is officially over as it has stats that record that the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) grew this past third quarter. What was not said was that the growth was a staggering  0.1% and the unemployment rate is at 25.98% and that means 5.9 million folks are looking for work.
Something like the old medical joke where the punch line is "the operation was a complete success but the patient died."
One weeps for those people.
The mayor of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mr. Macri, had grim news for his taxpayers this week. As a result of inflation running at 30% (his numbers as compared to the "official" government number of 10.4%) he will have to raise property taxes by a staggering 40%. Time seems to be running out on the hopes of keeping inflation and possible social unrest at bay. And that is a tragedy as that wonderful country has just recently crawled out of financial grief and after a short invigorating burst of prosperity faces a potentially grim future. And yet the government, just like in next door Venuezala keeps saying all is well and any problems come from "outsiders".
Tough to swallow.
Seems like the Ukraine has decided to sign an economic pact with Russia instead of the European union this week. It seems the turning point was the insistence of the EU that the government release from prison a former Prime Minister which was not negotiable with the Ukrainian government. I admit to not knowing whether the former politician is guilty or innocent but once again there is the sight of an economic deal being conditional of what could be called interference of an outside body into a sovereign country's legal system.
The more I learn about the world, the more I am perplexed by it.
This week America celebrated Thanksgiving and the strangest of cultural phenomenons called Black Friday. This is a day of sales nation wide that showcases deals on all kinds of merchandise not normally available during the rest of the year. People camp out overnight in front of stores. People storm entrances at store opening. People knock others down in the actual run through the shopping aisles. People even shoot each other for crying out loud. One sees news videos of people with actual blank looks in their eyes, honestly it is both scary and saddening.
Supposedly a great American tradition but honestly, the more I see of it, the more I am perplexed by it and what it says about the society that takes some sort of pride in it.
One of the strangest things about Thanksgiving in America is the yearly reports where people have "accidents" when they prepare their turkey meal. No, not in the traditional oven cooking method, but in the newfangled method of having a large drum full of cooking oil and deep frying the bird. Sadly many folks seems to think that you can drop the bird - frozen - into the hot oil and have no consequences. Right, so each year you have 4,300 fires, 27 million in damages and 15 deaths as a result.
Boggles the mind doesn't it?
Oh well....
 So on my Island this week folks have started to decorate their yards with Christmas (nope, never going to call it Holiday in submission to the Political Correct wimps) lights and figurines. Even thought this is now our second Christmas time here, it is not getting easier to see all this without snow and biting cold all around.

Actually, it is kind of nice!
take care out there,
flatlander52 



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday musings


This week saw the marking of an event that occurred 50 years ago.
The President of the United States, Mr. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas Texas.
He served a short time actually, from January 1961 to November 1963 – 2 years and 10 months in total. Not even a full term and yet, the affection, pain and sorrow felt for what was lost in his death has become part of the American soul and consciousness. A mythical legend of the “American Camelot” has been fostered and accepted by the nation.
Is this a yearning for simpler times, such as was portrayed in the imaginary town of Mayberry of the “Andy of Mayberry” TV show from that time?
For indeed, when the life/lifestyle of the late President is compared to the standards today, well to say that he adhered to his marriage vows would be disingenuous at the least. At the best, he was much more discrete than folks like Mr. Weiner or the Toronto Mayor, Mr. Ford are these days.
History says that his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis was flawed at best and more details emerge yearly as to how he involved the United States more and more into the quagmire of the war in Viet Nam.
And yet..... the longing endures.
Maybe we judge present day politicians more harshly these days.
Maybe not.
I also wonder how different the world might be today if he had lived.
It seems that some sort of deal between six world powers and Iran that calls on Tehran to limit its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief, has been reached. This according to the French and Iranian foreign ministers.
Some cynics might wonder if this will follow the same mode as all those “agreements” that North Korea has agreed to in order to get loads of foodstuffs from the Americans only to ignore them as soon as the material entered North Korea. You know, the type of agreement that the United Nations so happily embraces as if to point to themselves as relevant and then turn totally mute when broken.
Oh that wonderful Useless Nations....oops again, United Nations...
Off to Germany now, where a 61-year-old man had been sentenced to three years in prison for abetting tax evasion by the court in Kleve, North Rhine-Westphalia. During sentencing, he complained of diarrhoea and was allowed a “potty” break where he promptly broke a window and fled the scene. Compassionate buggers those Germans.
Sadly for the fugitive, he was later caught by police while trying to enter the washroom of a gas station after being recognized by the attendant there.
There has to be a joke about Karma in there somewhere doesn't there?
Speaking of politicians, sure glad to know that those in Spain know who the real enemy is these days. The federal government passed a bill with heavy monetary penalties for 2 groups of law breakers.
The first group, those selling drugs or offering sexual services in front of minors could face a penalty of up to €30,000.
Sounds good and concerned about minors right?
Because the other law is a lot harsher on a more “dangerous” group (at least in the minds of the politicos that is) where unauthorized protesters outside the Spanish Parliament could soon be hit with fines of up to €600,000.
How uncool and hypocritical is that????
And politicians wonder why people are cynical?
Huh....
Last week I mentioned about Italian momma's boys and this week, well, out of Rome comes a report that satisfies every stereotypical notion one has about Italian lovers and “older” Italian women with balconies. A young couple who succumbed to their passion in the gardens of Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo have been sentenced to three months in prison after being spotted by an elderly woman from the balcony of her home.
Wonder how long she watched them?
Bet you can “see” that in your minds eye!
Also in Italy there was some massive flooding in Sardinia this week. When local authorities appealed for financial disaster relief funds, they were told none were available. Here comes the rub for you. In Italy, like America and Canada, there are taxes on items such as petrol (gas), electricity and other activities deemed environmentally damaging with the money to go to environmental remediation and disaster relief. And just like every other jurisdiction, these funds disappear into general revenue accounts and end up subsidizing other government operations across the board.
Sounds familiar right?
To repeat - “And politicians wonder why people are cynical?
Huh....”
In a case of what or who do you believe, there are 3 reports that came out of Argentina this week.
The first is a claim by the the Argentine agency INDEC (the agency for statistics and census) that the national trade surplus for October rose 25 percent compared to the same month in 2012. While the second report from the same agency details how industrial activity dropped 1.1% in October this year compared to last year. The final report is one from the government, and that it is submitting a bill to the legislative arm to increase the tax on luxury imported cars by 50% from the present levels. All payable in much needed American dollars it seems in an effort to bolster the Argentinian Peso.
So...good times or bad?
Over in my third (after #1- my own, and #2 - Maui) favourite Island Oahu, a State representative, a Mr. Bower apparently has taken a baseball to shopping carts used by the homeless. That is unfortunate as I have always found the people of Hawaii to be very kind to those less fortunate and to destroy these peoples cart just does not seem right. While homeless folks camping in public parks can be visually distasteful and possibly dangerous to both the homeless and the general public, one has to believe that these homeless really, really, really would rather not be in the difficult straits that they are in. In fact one would think that there is probably no one that wants to be homeless – right?
So to attack and destroy their meagre items, well, it just seems so wrong,mean spirited and spiteful.
Hopefully Mr. Brower can re-direct his energies to legislate help for the homeless people towards a better life.
Olu'olu, ho'olu, ho'olu'olu?
Georges Lautner left us this week.
He was a world renowned French film director who made over 40 movies, often comedies, during a career that lasted over 60 years. He worked with stars like Jean-Paul Belmondo, Alain Delon and Lino Ventura and died this past Friday after a long illness aged 87.
Who replaces great ones like him these days?
I forget, it seems like YouTube and "selfies" from talentless drones seem to be the answer for modern folks...sigh...
In a case where a lack of a complete plan ends up costing the taxpayer more and more money, here on the Island we have the continuing saga of the sewage disposal plans of the Capital City mandarins. Forget the previous fiascos caused by laziness, lack of detailed (intelligent) planning - all the hallmarks of a bureaucracy (and this seems to be the case at the civic, provincial and federal levels throughout the world) that bows before the mythical money tree that is fed uncomplainingly by the taxpayer? Well now that the city compost is not being done as planned (dreamed) and instead of being done locally is to be trucked to a town down the highway and the sewage "sludge" is to be transported via a now to be built pipeline out of the city and that may force construction of an (unbudgeted multimillion dollar) incinerator word comes that these delays will soon kick in penalty clauses in contracts issued to suppliers for about 1 million a month for delays!
Really?
And not a head will roll....argghhhh.....
Oh the poor taxpayer - in more ways than one it seems.
Sometimes it seems like the spirit of Monty Python is alive and thriving here on my Island on the so called "Left" Coast.
Anyway, as my friends on the Sandwich Islands say,
"A Hui Hou"
flatlander52

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday musings

The death toll continues to mount in the Philippines and emergency aid arrives by the hour. News reports show clips of airplanes from nations around the world with supplies. At the forefront, yup, those Americans that a lot of the world reviles.
 Well, maybe the news media just “forgot” to show pictures of the planes arriving from, hmmm.....Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, North Korea – you know, those champions of the rights of all people? Somehow, one suspects that this is not the case.
Yet those darn Yanks, somehow they always seem to help people enduring disaster don't they?
Sorry, but the Americans, especially compared to a lot of other sanctimonious countries, are a pretty good lot by and large. Yes they have problems, but yet, there are many that would rather have them in their corner than any other.
Anyway, the death and destruction there is too much for the average person to comprehend and yet everywhere one sees reports of groups gathering together across North America to raise money and dry goods to send for relief to the affected peoples. Perhaps you have also made a financial donation, if so you have the gratitude of those folks.
Thank you.
Remember all those protests from the recent past about those “evil 1%” folks who shirk their duty to society by avoiding taxes and the like? Well.... a report out of England says that the top 1% of English taxpayers are now paying almost 30% of all income tax. And yet, it seems to be the desire of many to destroy the wealth and wealth creation (read employment of folks as a result). And yet these same people, well, they do not want to pay more in taxes to support others less fortunate in society or improve roads. Heck they say “oh no, not me – I deserve special treatment."
Balderdash.
Seems more like a bunch of these folks just want a free ride at the expense of others doesn't it?
Just like the folks they accuse.
Interesting eh?
Things are heating up again in Libya these days. 
After the overthrow and execution of the late Mr. Gaddafi, a form of democratic styled government was imposed by the coalition forces on the country. While a laudable effort, it was probably doomed to failure as democracy imposed on a country trained to live under a dictatorship usually “spins” its wheels as no order survives as no one group assumes authority. Too much freedom without training and education causes that. A 48-hour state of emergency has been declared in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, after a fresh wave of clashes broke out following a deadly protest against armed groups. Tripoli is on edge since the deadly clashes that also left more than 500 wounded, local news agencies report the Interior Ministry as saying. The fighting followed demonstrations on Friday, in which imams, during weekly Muslim prayers, called for protests against armed groups and former fighters who refuse to disarm, which then degenerated into deadly clashes continuing through the night. This “long night” will take a long time to resolve and many will die sadly, as a result. And really, these is nothing the rest of the international community can do to help, nothing.
Life, not always fair and just is it? 
In Argentina, President Cristina Fern├índez de Kirchner “is recovering in an excellent way” from surgery for a brain clot caused by a fall recently. Indeed reports speculate that she will be able to start campaigning in the National election coming up in that land of beauty and mystery.
What a marvelous place Argentina is, as we spent a month there last year in the city of Buenos Aires and what a treat that was. The people are so gracious and kind to those who stumble in poorly spoken Spanish, as I can attest to. The buildings have a beauty and charm that enchants one. It shows how striking a city like Havana could and should be as it also has similar architecture but under the rule of Communism, it seems as if everything is slowly crumbling into dust and faded glory. Indeed, as noted Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez ( http://generacionyen.wordpress.com/ ) points out, all the fabulous Havana fountains no longer spout water as the pumps have been stolen and the copper lines removed by thieves.
Oh, poor Cuba, what lies ahead for you?
In Canada we have a political party named “The Green Party” and it supposedly is one that is on the side of the common person (hmm was not the NDP – New Democratic Party – supposed to wear that crown? And yes , I digress) and Mother Nature.
It is opposed to Big, Bad Oil. WIFI in schools, fluoridation in water as well as that nasty old GMO stuff.
So.... the official Green Party blog refers to evidence of “abiotic oil” (yes, a concept from Stalinist Russia- that era of great free and rational thinking) which believes petroleum is not derived from biological matter, but is rather a geological substance.
Really?
WIFI – well, health agencies such as Health Canada have not felt the need to sound the alarm against the much-weaker radiation coming from WiFi routers, which also carry the added health benefit of not being routinely held next to the human brain such as cell phones which most “Greenies” proudly sport.
Hypocritical ya think?
And bad old fluoridation?
Again, Canadian dental organizations, Health Canada and the World Health Organization call artificial fluoridation the “most effective public health measure for the prevention of dental decay.”
Who is right and who is wrong?
GMO – you know, the food products which so called responsible media trumpet the buzz words created by opponents – Frankenfruit, Frankenburger etc. Supposedly the 5th Horseman of the upcoming Apocalypse to the worlds food chain? Once again, we have the case where Aaron Larsen, a Canadian-born Harvard post-doctoral fellow, declared “Just to be clear, there has never been a single reputable, peer-reviewed study that has found any link between the consumption of genetically modified foods and adverse health effects”.
Huh.
All this proves that like all the political parties that the Greens oppose, indeed they also have no shame in twisting truth to their own agenda.
As in life, there is no absolute truth in politics and no one party has the “only right way”, no matter what the say, do they?
A couple of tidbits from Italy for you.
First, showing that the recession of 2008 still is affecting that country, reports indicate that the Italian economy, the third-biggest in the eurozone, contracted by 0.1 percent in the third quarter in the ninth showing of such shrinkage in a row. Indeed, the data also showed that over 12 months the economy shrank by 1.9 percent. Not a hopeful sign for the future is it?
Secondly, Italian men are often portrayed as “mammoni” or “mamma's boys” and a report from the Italian National Institute for Statistics (Istat) show that in 2012, 52% of Italian men between 25 and 34 lived with their parents and that the number is increasing.
Hmmm....so much for the land of “la dolce vita”!
Passages this week include Mavis Batey.
Who was she?
Well, she was an English garden historian who worked as a code breaker in England (at a super secret site called Bletchley Park) during the Second World War. There she worked as an assistant to Dillwyn Knox, and was closely involved in the decryption effort before the Battle of Matapan. That battle has the distinction of being the last fleet action of the Royal Navy in the war. Incidentally, due to her work, the British decisively defeated the forces assembled by the Italian navy.
It has been a while since I talked about life here on my Island and with fall almost over with, figure a few notes might be in order. Sadly almost all the leaves are off the maple trees and have been gathered and removed to compost stations. But... our winter plants are starting to blossom and that still is kind of unsettling for a former flatlander I have to say. It seems strange to have things bloom at this time of year when on the Prairies everything is hunkered down under the cold and first snow falls. Indeed, I was on my daily walk the other day and happened to glance at the rhododendron plants in our area and saw that there were flower buds forming already! My better half, who is well underway to getting Master Gardener status from the local University informs me that these buds will grow until late February next year and then burst forth into flower – February not June for crying out loud!
Even now going into our second year here, the growing patterns amaze and bedazzle me. I hope this joy of discovery never dims for me as the years fly by.
I went for a shoreline walk the other day, all the while carrying my obligatory West Coast cup of hot chocolate (truth be told, it should have been coffee to be authentic, alas, I have never been a coffee aficionado) and took a snap of a marvelous sunrise, hope you like it!


take care out there,
flatlander52

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday musings

Here in Canada, over the last few months, 2 stories have slowly developed that in the one instance filled me with a mixture of cynicism and impotent rage.
The second, only with sorrow.
In the first, played out on a national level, the saga of 3 Federal Government Senators accused - but not tried, let alone convicted- of a number of abuses of their positions of Parliamentary privilege saw them suspended without pay for a maximum of 2 years from their “jobs” as a result. Cynicism as this type of abuse of power has been a hallmark of the Senate since the day that this retirement ground for lackeys of the ruling party was founded. But these days, it seems that because the Prime Minister has been linked - once again by innuendo not fact - to these bad folks, the hammer of justice has actually been wielded and punishment swift and severe.
Really Mr. Prime Minister?
You, when in Opposition were going to abolish the Senate and now when in power continue to reward old friends and hacks?
Yes, you, Mr. Prime Minister.
Impotent rage - what the hell can one citizen do anyway?
Other than vote and that is one privilege that I will never let lapse, probably nothing at all.
Oh Canada….
The other story?
Well, Canada has a mega city, one that because it is so darn successful has bred animosity from the ROC (Rest Of Canada) by those folks more inclined to sit and whine than go out and do...but I digress…
This city is Toronto and for months now the slow, twisting political demise of its Mayor has been the fodder of late show comics and gossip focused “responsible” media worldwide. In a nutshell, claims of a video purporting to show the Mayor smoking an illegal substance were made earlier this year and now months later, the local police confirm the existence of said video. Then another video of the Mayor in a drunken rage surfaces. One has to wonder about the integrity and cowardice of such a “friend” of the mayor to film, save, and then later “leak” this video. Indeed, memory says that Julius Ceasar had friends like that once.
Following months of denial, now the mayor says yes, he did smoke that substance and indeed, was drunk when the other video was made.
Why I feel sorrow is twofold.
First, sadness for the citizens of that great city based on his conduct. They deserve better from their elected officials, as all people with elected government at all levels do.
And then, more importantly, sorrow for the mayor.
Not because of what he is accused of doing.
No, he is a grown man and all choices good or bad, well, he made them of his own volition, no one else did that to him. The sorrow is based on the fact that I once was where he is now. If indeed all the accusations are true, then he has a drug and alcohol addiction/dependency - call it what you want. That being said, it is so painfully evident that he has not hit the “wall” in seeing what he is doing with his life. After all, he is still mayor, earning money, has press following him (addictive stuff in itself - ask the Kardashians!) and in essence, has not lost a damn thing.
So why admit or change anything?
Only when one “awakes” can any attempt be attempted to remedy the life of that person. Because no matter what is available, whether through medication, counselling, anything, nothing will been worth a darn unless the person involved takes responsibility for their recovery. Otherwise it is a sham. Look at all the people in Hollywood for proof of that. That place is full of professional rehabbers who cannot wait to flee from recovery services to the closest enabler and lord, there are so many of those folks just waiting for them.
This story will not end well I am afraid to say.
Wish that I were wrong…….
Trust is a precious commodity isn’t it?
A person can take it for granted and yet once it is lost/betrayed, it can never be really rebuilt or restored. There will always be a kernel of doubt and suspicion sadly.
I think we all have experienced this in our lives haven’t we?
So, in the Philippines, a large (no way will I stoop to using dumb words such as “super typhoon” “typhoon of the century”, “mega monster storm” - that I leave to trash seeking media “experts”) typhoon slammed ashore with initial accounts of 1,000 dead but later reports suggesting possibly 10,000 or more. And the remnants of the storm are now headed towards Viet Nam. How does one grasp the enormity of such death and destruction while sitting on a comfortable chair in a dwelling safe and secure? Is it possible? Will the region ever really recover? Look at places such as in Japan where the Fukshimal Daiichi nuclear plant ruptured after the massive (darn, used a descriptor word!) earthquake- there now exists a ghost town, never to be rebuilt. Look at Chernobyl - another ghost town. In America, the flooding of the east Coast last year - savaged shoreline and destroyed businesses and housing slowly recovering, but long term - who knows?
Other than the victims, will or does anyone care?
Another example of where people want anyone but themselves to pay for things emerges from the land of lederhosen and bratwurst - dear old Germany - where German shepherds are calling for sheepdog subsidies to help them protect their flocks from wolves which are steadily reclaiming ancient territories - and treating themselves to lamb suppers.
The Chairman of the Berlin and Brandenburg sheep breeders' association called for the state to subsidise dog costs, telling the Berliner Zeitung newspaper it could cost as much as €2,000 a year for food and veterinary care for each one.
Come on, it is your field of income - YOU invest in it not everyone else OK?
One expects better of Germans.
Off to France we go and see a wonderful example of ‘free trade” at work. It seems that most of the emblematic red hats worn by members of the “Bonnets Rouges” protest movement weren’t made in France, according to reports this week. Some 7,500 wooly caps sold to patriotic and anti-transport tax demonstrators were imported, of all places, from Scotland.
Of course the hats were taxed - oh the irony of it all!
I have occasionally mentioned the former Prime Minister of Italy, Mr. Berlusconi, and now reports emerge where he is quoted as saying he blames his tax fraud conviction on persecution by magistrates, and his children "feel like the Jews under Hitler."
Really?
Someone tell this - person - to ask Jewish Holocaust survivors if his excessives and criminal acts resemble the hell they went through just for being Jewish OK?
Is there no shame for these people?
In America, a gunman murdered a federal government employee at the Los Angeles airport this week. And sadly, the refrain of guns do not kill people but people kill people is brandished by gun advocates throughout that great country. In an ironic twist of reality, there in the land of free speech, an Editor of a national gun magazine who suggested that maybe, just maybe some discussion should take place of gun ownership policies was fired immediately for this viewpoint.
Sadly this smacks of “free speech when it agrees with my views” and I do not think that this is what made America what it is - do you?
I have always seen it as a country that thrives on vigorous debate, but maybe this is no longer the way it is anymore.
That would be the worlds’ loss - not just Americas’
Another quality person went away this week.
Chana Mlotek, a noted archivist of Yiddish folk music and an impassioned collector of Yiddish songs from the shtetls of Europe, has died at age 91.
The world will always need people like him or our history will drift away in the mists of time.
This year, as in years past, we will take a day (November 11th here in Canada) to celebrate the lives of those that fought to preserve our way of life and democracy through wars and police actions. The Great War. the Second World War, Korea, Suez, Cyprus, Bosnia, the list goes on and on.
Heros all, survivors and the fallen.
They all deserve our gratitude and respect.
My father fought in the Second World War and he is one of those heros.





take care out there,
flatlander52

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday musings

Well, we are into the 11th month of 2013 and where the heck did the previous 10 months go?
November brings to us in Canada, Remembrance Day where citizens pause to remember the sacrifices of those that fought for democracy over the years. Unfortunately, what was once a solemn day where almost no stores were open for business, now mainly is a full set open for business day with not so many people having the day off anymore to actually reflect on what the day means.
Indeed the last traces of Halloween promotions are competing with the newly posted Christmas decorations.
Sigh….
Remember my observations over the past couple years about the giant debris field from the earthquake that rattled Japan 2 years ago, (killing over 16,000) drifting across the Pacific to Hawaii and North America?
Well, it now seems that the American media have re-discovered this story and bylines in media such as Fox News scream about the “toxic monster” approaching the American shores. Embedded in this debris field are life forms native to Japan and area and totally foreign and unknown on this side of the Pacific and scientists are alarmed over the possible devastation on plant and animal life from these now invasive species. As stated before, the world continues to get smaller day by day doesn’t it?
Speaking of America, one has to think that if the Republican Party would have had any idea how horribly inept the unveiling and implementation of the so called ObamaCare law by the Federal Government was going to be, then perhaps instead of holding the country hostage with useless grandstanding (and damaging voter support) they would have let it proceed while arguing against it in the media. Reports indicate that a grand total of 6 people signed on the Interweb site on the first day! And the website itself has been horribly bad - unusable would be a charitable word to describe it. Of course since it was built by a Canadian company, run by a close friend of the President’s wife apparently, the old canard of “blame Canada” has resurfaced. Just like when the 9/11 bombers struck, rabid far right wing “experts” claimed that the terrorists went through Canada to the USA - didn’t happen - a lie. In fact all the terrorists entered the USA through American cities and the ones who flew the hijacked planes got their flight training in the USA - not Canada. Anyway, reports indicate that the website will be shut down for a number of days for “repairs”. Now what better way of turning people against a government program is there? Pity the Republicans for not seeing this coming.
News from Syria say that all stocks of chemical weapons have been destroyed under a program created by Russia, a program that was met with disapproval by the Obama Administration when first brokered. That being said, two things are important to note. One is that the stocks have been destroyed and that is a good thing. The second, is that the evil carnage continues in that country as the Americans have properly pointed out to all. And that the Assad regime seems to be getting stronger with each passing week and it is publicly supported the Russia, the same country that brokered the destruction of said chemical stockpile. Skeptics wonder is this was just an endgame to ensure the survival of the Assad regime.
Interesting thought that.
And to prove that life is wonderful we go to Italy where a pensioner in the central Emilia-Romagna region has been threatened with legal action over an outstanding one cent social security bill which dates back to the late 1990s. He was told he could repay the bill "in installments" if it proved too much for him. One wonders how much money was spent to determine this incredible amount owed and of course postage and staff hours that could have been spent doing something productive - ah, as if!
This next item is kind of interesting if you follow the story to its logical conclusion. In Venezuela this week the government owns a company that is, by law, the sole provider for oil rig equipment servicing - no one else but they can do this -OK? The government had decreed that oil production is vital to the national security and cannot be interrupted - period. Soooo….the servicing company (remember, did I mention it is State owned?) has not been paid by the Government for a while and since the oil rigs cannot run without mandated supervision schedules - stopped doing the contracted servicing as a result. And...you guessed it,  the government seized ownership of the oil rigs. And yes, the rigs were American owned and now the Government has 2 rigs THEY can and will operate. And all profits flows to the government, not the rightful owner.
Some observers decry this as a thinly veiled theft by legal means via subterfuge - what do you think?
Interesting, that is for sure.

The following is a quote from an article in the National Post online edition this week...
The war on the plastic bag has been waged across Canada and Europe, but a new study out of Scotland highlights how the issue is another prime example of the law of unintended consequences. This week, Britain’s pre-eminent food scientist, Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, warned that using reusable bags could result in “an increase in the number of cases of food poisoning.” A bag that has carried meat, wrapped or unwrapped, “shouldn’t be used again” because it can harbour dangerous bugs, he said. It is not the first time that policy decisions have had unintended consequences.

I post this because it seems that in this modern world where people are taking offense at everything and trying to wrap all of us in a giant plastic bubble to avoid dealing with the good and bad in life, again and again we see action taken with no thinking of the consequences.
Another case in point is where a blogger commented on the fact that the word “bullying” is being used and overused to the extent that it is losing relevance. And that is both true and dangerous. In Saskatchewan, a Canadian province, a report comes out where a young student who dressed in extreme goth style, clothing and makeup, declared she was “bullied” because she was reprimanded for disregarding the school dress code.
Sorry, she was in the wrong, end of discussion.
If she did not agree with the code - change schools or work to have it changed within the rules.
In fact one could say that she is attempting to “bully” school officials to get what she wants.
Oh well, as the young folks say - whatever!
We lost another giant this week.
British sculptor Anthony Caro, whose industrial yet playful metal creations helped abstract sculpture gain global acclaim, died Oct. 23, 2013.
He was 89.
Caro’s works were often made of steel, and his large, abstract steel sculptures stand in galleries, parks and museums around the world.
I was fortunate to view some many years ago while “a yondering” in my younger university days across England and Europe, fascinating works indeed.
On a personal note, this week saw yet another candle lit on my annual birthday cupcake and the sheer number of the flaming things almost set off the fire detector in our abode. Heck, I am almost as old as I look!!!!
Well, the infamous Halloween celebration has come and gone this past week here on my Island. And it seems that after living here for just over a year, the village children no longer tip toe in fear past our place but actually stride up the walk to ring the bell and chant out the old “treat or treat” refrain to get candy goodies.
And that meant less for me….
Oh the horror!!!!!!!

take care out there,
flatlander52

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday musings

The school, Sandy Hook in Newtown Connecticut, America, that was the site for the horrific massacre of  27 people last December, is now being demolished and all rubble is being destroyed by the contractor to eliminate “human scavengers” from pilfering pieces of the debris and then selling these “souvenirs” on the Internet.
First off, this is the only way to help diminish, but never remove, the memories of this evil act.
Secondly, what a sad statement of mankind in the way people will always exploit pain and grief for money in the selling of artifacts associated with monstrous acts.
This will never change as this has been a “feature” of man, but gee whiz, it is depressing all the same.
So, the Yanks spy on world leaders conversations?
Big deal, really.
Everyone wants the Americans to protect them from bullies but, as the Chief Inspector in Casablanca always was, are “shocked, yes shocked” to discover that the means to provide protection are not always above board.
As if Al Qaeda does not do things like this.
As if the regime in North Korea does do not do this.
As if the regime in Iran does not do this.
Heck, even in the great democracy of France - try checking into a hotel without surrendering documentation to the front desk that routinely is checked by local authorities.
Sadly, all world leaders are human, equipped for greatness and evil, so why are the conversations of them so sacred?
And with so many people posting any and every thing possible under the sun on Facebook, Twitter and the like, including intimate photos, what privacy is left anyway?
Just asking…
Another boatload of immigrants were rescued off the coast of Italy this week - 137 in fact. Over 32,000 migrants have made the journey to southern Italy by boat so far this year, according to the United Nations. One wonders how many have been returned home and whether the country of origin even wants them back. Heck what about the cost of feeding and housing these people?
So, the Middle East has been a little less noisy than usual lately so of course the pot is being stirred by reports that Iran is within a month of completing a nuclear bomb. So, an Israeli defense official says this is further justification for why Israel will take military action before that happens. So far, no reaction from the 2 big boys in the world - the USA and Russia. 
Curious isn’t it?
How is the price of gasoline in your part of the world these days? Did you know that oil was near $97 a barrel Friday, consolidating after two weeks of losses sparked by high supplies and patchy global economic growth. And yet when there is a “crisis” (tip of the cynical hat to the world media) in the Middle East, Venezuela, USA -storms in the Gulf of Mexico- without a murmur the prices jump at the pump in a heartbeat. So how come the prices haven’t dropped lately?
Perhaps it is because the fact that governments are addicted to the tax cash flow from gas sold. The higher the price at the pump, the more money that flows into government coffers.
Kind of sad, where in Canada, the money from gas tax in some provinces is supposed to flow into road budgets - sensible thinking. User pays for system right? Well, just ask the province of Saskatchewan about that. The money is diverted into what is called General Revenue and from that fund, all government operations are funded. So, of course highway building and repair suffers.
Hmmm….
Another earthquake off the coast of Japan happened this week raising concerns again about the safety of the damaged reactor in Fukushima. Remember the core meltdown in Chernobyl and how, relatively quickly, a concrete containment dome was erected? The Japanese ‘quake was in 2011 and basically zip has been done? A proposal for refrigerated pools to hold the radioactive water in the ocean has been submitted but leakage continues to this day. A democracy sits by idle yet a former communist run country acted faster? Just what the heck is going on anyway?
OK, over in France a senior police commander in the Paris region has ordered his traffic officers to issue three tickets for driving offences every day, or they would miss out on days off over the Christmas period, it was alleged this week.
Gotta love the dedication to the letter of the law of the French police.
All the old jokes about buying tickets for the Police Xmas Ball to avoid real tickets spring to mind.
In a drastic move, it seems that the American Burger company, McDonalds has stopped using the Heinz Company as its supplier of ketchup!
The horor!
Last week a Roma camp in Greece was raided by police and a blond girl was found in the custody of a couple dark featured Romans’. Instantly the media declared that she had to a kidnapping victim, ignoring the statement of the caregivers, that they were related to the mother of the girl (living in Bulgaria) and that the mother gave the girl to them to raise as she could not afford to do so. Talk shows around the world, especially in the USA railed mightily on the topic. So…..DNA tests were done on the lady in question and indeed, the story was correct! Not a peep from all the righteous folks - not a one. Now the mother wants the girl back - to live with 10 others in a mud hut in Bulgaria, lovely future indeed.
And where are the do gooders doing now?
Right, off on another crusade “of the moment”.
Can people only focus for 10 minutes these days?
What is wrong with society anyway?
We lost another notable this week, Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, Thailand's Supreme Patriarch who headed the country's order of Buddhist monks for more than two decades, has died at 100.
Well, this week brings the once wonderful night of Halloween to North America.
Years ago it truly was a fun night where kids were dressed up, usually in home made costumes to go with their parent(s) door to door in the area collecting “trick or treats” from bemused neighbours. Sadly this as everything in life, changed and in this case, probably for the worse. Now the costume industry is BIG TIME indeed and home-made outfits are so passe it seems. Also parties are larger and many are so out of control, fueled by the ever available, regardless of legal age, booze and drugs. Did you know that Americans will spend over 10 billion dollars on costumes? And the “little” kids? Now you get teen agers strutting door to door and almost demanding candies from the homeowners.
Too bad, somehow we as a society continue to lose what little innocence and faith that we once had.
BUT…. hope springs eternal in me and maybe we will get a gaggle of little tykes this year, heck I hope so because otherwise I will once again have to offer myself up as the consumer of massive amounts of candy!!!!!

take care out there,
flatlander52