Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday musings

So you may remember that last year when the President of Egypt, Mr. Mubarak was overthrown in popular revolution, many experts hailed this dawn of a new democratic era in the country.

Then free elections were held and a Mr, Morsi was elected in his place. At the time many pointed to this as an indication of the evolution of democracy in Egypt.

I was soundly criticized by many for pointing out that Mr. Morsi was the candidate of a party that was founded on extreme Islamic principals with a goal of imposition of Sharia law and the repression of woman's rights and those of other religions as well. Some said I was seeing problems were none existed.

This week Mr. Morsi issued an edict assuming dictatorial powers far more than Mubarak had before him. The judiciary has been muzzled and opponents to him are now in jail. All the while members of his party celebrate and urge even more controls be placed in his and their party's hands. In essence, suspending or actually eliminating all democratic processes and rights in Egypt with Sharia law sure to follow.

Riots have occurred in protest and the future seems bleaker now than it did a week ago.

And, one can assume that the United States will sit by and not say anything because it seems that as long as the American government believes that they have a leader in Egypt that will follow existing peace treaties with Israel and as in the case last week, was part of the process (majour part actually) to sealing a truce in the latest violence between Hamas and Israel, that is good enough. At least they have someone they think they can control one assumes.

Not too sure if this is good idea.

And speaking (writing) of the conflict between Hamas and Israel, is it just me that finds it strange that while Hamas has killed a half dozen or so Israelis in its rockets attacks on Israel while having over 100 plus killed as well as a senior leader by Israel in return, as well as incredible infrastructure damage - that Hamas claims victory in this peace accord? And their people actually believe and celebrate this?

That kind of logic would make Monty Python proud.

Over in Europe, the people of Greece must be livid over recent budget meetings by the European Union. It seems that this political entity has no desire to impose fiscal restraint on its own staff. Heaven forbid that the free education for their children at exclusive schools should be paid by the parents - oh no, let their employer pay that. Raise the pension retirement age like many countries are being forced to do? Oh no, that will just not do. Have the employees contribute to their pension plans? Oh no, that would hurt them financially, that would be cruel. Delay or eliminate the construction of a multi million Euro museum dedicated to the history of the European Union and its employees? Oh no, the world needs to appreciate the oh so hard work of the overpaid, under worked, over entitled rulers of all of Europe.

Can you believe that?

No wonder the Greeks are rioting.

Argentina reports an increase of 15.5% in groceries sales over the previous year. Price increases for power utilities increase by 12.5%. All this points to an economy crumbling under, apparently government policies and inflation fueled by the policies. The subway system in Buenos Aires has been handed over to the city by the state with no funding at all causing massive increases in fares and reduction in services and maintenance programs. Some critics suggest this is the result of the combination of the personal beliefs of the President, Ms. Kirchner and that of the worst of socialism. Even though for many commentators from the United States, socialism is evil on a par with communism thereby denying the fact that many countries throughout the world use modified forms of socialism. especially in fields like health care where countries like Canada spend about $4,700 person a year on health care services compared to over $7,200 in the States.

Whatever the reason, this country is facing really tough times right now and and in the months and years ahead it seems.

In the United States with the looming fiscal cliff only short weeks away, the country is not seeing any action  among politicians and affected parties towards some solution and compromise that actually helps the average voter, but rather a deluge of advertising from special interest groups angrily defending their entitlements and demanding that some one else feel the pain, just not them. From companies dedicated to supplying the military to various large unions to the association (read: union) for retirees the battle is being waged. If they all would put this much money and effort into solving the problems instead of turf protecting, maybe something would get done. Instead it would seem that the only thing to emerge will be a bill passed to "punt" the day of reckoning down the road for another 6 to 9 months in the hopes that something, anything will emerge to distract the voter and somehow make the problem just magically go away without them having to actually do their job and then being held accountable for doing so.

Some people might call this cowardly.

So a lawsuit launched in Russia against Lady Gaga for issuing a statement in support of gays on the grounds that it would harm the youth and affect the birthrate has been denied. Good for the Russian legal system which has been suspect on many issues in the recent past.

Russia would be a great place to visit. Sadly, probably not in my time - that is unless some mysterious benefactor invites me - right, as if that would ever happen!

Meanwhile in Germany there is a sad story emerging about flawed governments (being polite here) and banks. Back in the 1970's many "guest workers" from the then Yugoslavia saved their earnings in a bank in what is now Slovenia. When the country dissolved, the banks assets were transferred to a new legal entity bank but not its liabilities with the approval of the Slovenian government. There are millions of Euros lost as a consequence, Thousands of people have had their savings and retirement lost with only a hollow legal victory that has no teeth for enforcement.

This is wrong, but in all probability nothing will be done as the victims are not politically powerful - they are just ordinary citizens.


In Spain, the once powerful terrorist group Eta has said it is ready to disband and willing to enter into talks with the French and Spanish governments. The government has rejected the offer and indeed a top Eta leader has been arrested by French authorities. Meanwhile tension increase in Spain in the Catalonia region where talk of separation has intensified.

So today dawned bright and sunny and we decided to go to the harbour front to see Santa come into town via a float plane.

It was an interesting time to say the least. I am used to Santa coming to town with lots of snow and ice on the ground accompanied by bitter bone chilling temperature and wind. Nor walking around with a light sweater on while sipping a hot chocolate and then walking on green grass along the waterfront later.

Strange feeling.

Then we watched a float plane take off and that was a first time event for us.

Finally starting to get an idea of Christmas gifts for the better half. One thing she mentioned that she would not mind waking up to on Christmas Day was Johnny Depp – I don't think so!!!!!
take care out there,
flatlander 52

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday musings

This is a case where being wrong in something makes no difference – the result is still horrible.
I have mentioned recently that the senseless civil war in Syria might be the precursor to a wider conflict in the Middle East. Sadly it appears that the old enemies of the area – Hamas and Israel will take the lead point instead. In retaliation for rockets being fired into Israel, the killing of a senior Hamas leader by the Israelis in retaliation ratcheted up the tensions and now more rockets are thundering into Israel and counter attacks are occurring. Military reserves are being called up by Israel and a ground war seems more likely than at any time in recent history.
Much can be said and indeed has been said over the years about this conflict. It seems there are experts that are legion on both sides of the debate/war/tragedy. I am not a qualified pundit and indeed, what would my opinion matter anyway? That being said, I cannot believe that something like this can not be resolved – if there are honourable men and women on both sides willing to commit to peace and justice. But there are fanatics and idiots that abound on all sides that sabotage any attempt to do so.
I dunno....
News reports indicate that as soon as 2025 the United States will become a net EXPORTER of crude oil. Am I the only one wondering what the heck is going on here? If like me, you recall, over the past decade more and more so called petrol experts and indeed, even eco fanatics were trumpeting the soon to happen disappearance of crude oil and the end of western civilization, especially the much reviled (by these experts at least) United States. And lo, there was much joy at these pronouncements. Yes, the Yanks will finally get their comeuppance and the world can revert to the life style so wondrous and so in harmony with nature – you guessed – the Middle Ages. Of course things like health care, medicine, electricity, Iphones, hot tubs and the like would somehow still work for the “enlightened” people – never could figure out that B.S. Amazing how these folks want the worst for everyone else but definitely not for themselves. But I digress, anyway it seems that the Americans have been finding oil in their country at an incredible pace and will be self sufficient pretty soon. Darn them anyway!
Actually what will also probably happen is that the Americans will continue to purchase massive amounts of Canadian crude at NAFTA (look that up if interested) imposed world price discounts to fuel their economy while exporting all their crude at higher world rates thereby making money on the whole deal. One suspects Canada will be among those buying their crude for its Eastern provinces because the small minded premiers of most provinces in Canada refuse to allow pipelines to cross their borders purely for political gain all the while ignoring the needs of their populace.
Ironic that an exporter of crude pays higher price for gas internally than a country like the US which for a short while longer still imports its oil.
Oh Canada indeed!
The looming "fiscal cliff" in America is approaching at a blinding speed. Year end is the deadline for any resolution to their fiscal impasse. The political heads all profess good faith and a willingness to compromise for the greater good - yet if you look closely, you can see the small smirks on the faces as they say that. They really believe that the people accept what they are saying as honest. Read a little deeper into their comments and you still see the hardline positions that brought them to this dangerous precipice. These political hacks really think the average American is stupid and does not see what they are doing or rather what they refuse to do. They are so used to hearing their own lies and that of political supplicants and donors that they live in a cotton candy world of their own. Well, the world money markets are taking notice of this and sadly, the probably of a new world recession with the United States leading the downward economic spiral becomes more of a reality with each passing day.
OK- over to Bremen, Germany we go.
Once again this year, the SlowFisch convention has celebrated local fishing traditions and artisanal food production. A local businessman has built a website called ‘Fisch vom Kutter’ which means ‘fish from boats’ in German. The site gathers SMS messages from fishermen who are returning to shore with their day's haul. Customers can go online and find out what kind of fish is for sale at which port. The project is now two years old and the site tallies around 600 hits a day. This way people are assured of fish when they go to market instead of times before when many went shopping and returned with nothing due to poor catches or other conditions making purchase of fish impossible.
Good idea.
Crafty buggers those Germans!
This Tuesday there will be a national strike in Argentina. Protests against the economic direction the country is taking as well as general unease about the rate of inflation, cutbacks and economic difficulties are spreading. This week also saw the majour power supply companies in the country report huge operating deficits with no relief in sight. In the space of a couple of years Argentina seems to gone from an economic tiger to one in need of help.
This is not good for all of South America and not just Argentina.
In France, tens of thousands of people , along with Catholic church leaders, marched Saturday in protest against plans by the government to introduce same sex marriage This in a country that prides and indeed promotes itself as a paragon of tolerance and an attitude of joie de vivre?
The President of France, Mr. Hollande plans to introduce a tax rate of 75% on everyone earning over 1 million Euros per year in the next few months. As a result there seems to be a mass exodus of wealthy people from France to countries like Belgium where the tax rate is much lower. The latest appears to be Gerard Depardieu the famous actor of over 170 films who has purchased/is purchasing property in Nechin. One realizes that is is fashionable to rail against the “1%” and demand that they pay more in taxes. Perhaps the discussion should focus a little more on having equitable tax rate for all. Some people think that the so called 1% do nothing in life and are parasites on the economy. Well, maybe some are but definitely not all or even a slim majourity at that. Even the rich over paid athletes or reality stars that I have occasionally mentioned put real money into the economy. For all they earn/are paid, they spend lots on clothes goods and services. They have extensive staff who are paid and in turn pay taxes and spend money. Indeed one hears many stories of once high flying athletes that essentially squandered all their money and live almost destitute after their bodies have worn out on the field and the limelight has left them.
For the so called capitalist owners – well, in almost all cases, these are small business owners. Indeed I was once one of them. They gambled on an idea, concept, product or a service with their time, effort and money. And many times they (and I write from personal experience) did without a paycheque while their staff faithfully got theirs in the formative years of the company they founded. And it was their house and savings on the line with the bank or credit union if things went wrong – not the employees. So if they want to declare a dividend or take some more money home or lease a car or whatever once the company is doing well, then why not? I say good for them. They have created jobs, not like government that by its nature is parasitical in form. Governments are funded by the taxpayer – something many governments at all levels tend to forget in their arrogance at times. Governments do not create wealth – unless one counts graft, corruption and nepotism to friends and family that is.
The second wife of TS Eliot passed away this week. Kind of shows my ignorance of he and his life as I assumed he was a person of letters from the 1800's. This modern day has its own giants, sometimes we just do not see them sadly.
Speaking of the useless United Nations, once again in secretive meetings not open to the public, attempts by many governments to impose control over the Internet continue. Reports emerge that Russia apparently wants each country to have total control over what is posted on the Web in its area. Something like what appears to be the norm in China one assumes. It seems to be the case also in countries like Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan.....getting a picture from this? The theory once so fervently espoused by academics of a wired global village sharing common values and ideals is revealed as no more than a poor jest fuelled by naivety or even stupidity.
In India, Bal Thackeray, a somewhat controversial politician who dominated affairs in Mumbai for over 40 years and increased sectarianism in the city died of cardiac arrest at the age of 86.
I went into the inner harbour business area this week for my regular hair cut, a process that as time marches on produces smaller, fewer and thinner clippings on the plastic “bib” that is fastened around ones neck. Darn. Anyway, while walking around the area I walked by and then had to stop and back up to view a storefront that seemed like a glimpse of yesterday.

I think most of us recall the days when stores had great signage on them. Whether as in this case, a rotating globe or flashing neon, animated figures or the like, the signage was fun and cheerful and individual. Nowadays, well, blah is probably the best word that comes to mind. This city has many such stores and maybe though other writings, I will show a few more to you.
Well, another week has flown by, indeed only 5 more weeks until Christmas and yes, for the first time in decades, I have not bought the presents for my better half by June of this year. You blink and the months rush by you. But that being said, now is the time to start the list. And for those among you that like good reading, I shamelessly offer one of my favourite authors to you – Deb Dalton – and here is a link to her site –
And with that, take care out there,
flatlander 52

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday musings

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada.
In recent years there has been a definite and welcome increase in the interest of the “younger” generation in this day. Originally started after the First World War to celebrate the deeds and passing of those involved, it has since been expanded here to include the second World War, Korea and more recent conflicts.
One of the aspects of this modern day and age is that video clips and materials from those times have endured and in some (video) instances have been enhanced. This means that the visual reminders of almost 100 years ago are still with us and are still fresh every time seen. Not as is the case in centuries past where only written words remain and precious few physical artifacts. We still see the brave young men and women from all sides of any modern day conflict even though if they survived are either now deceased or in their later 80-90's or late 50's for more recent. No longer lean and fit but aged and settled but forever young in those videos.
One battle from Korea is now starting to emerge from obscurity into the public consciousness.
In a horrific battle, in April, 1951, 700 Canadians halted the invading army of over 5,000 Chinese infantrymen. This key battle from the 1950-53 Cold War conflict stopped the massive communist invasion force from overrunning the Kapyong Valley and ultimately capturing Seoul, the present-day capital of South Korea. This borders on the heroism of Vimy Ridge in the First World War or the action during the Normandy invasion in the Second World War.
One should not forget that horror and death during all wars and conflicts happen on both sides and bravery is not restricted to just the victors.

Please take a moment to remember.

Well, the Presidential election in the Excited States is now over and Mr. Obama has retained his position. And the defeated experts from the opposition Republican Party are crying foul and people like the bad haired Mr. Trump have advocated on Twitter for people to march to Washington and openly revolt. Others say ballot fraud and others blame the Hispanic, Gay, Black and youth vote. And of course this cements the image of the Republican Party as that of “grumpy old rich white men” firmly in this new and the next generations mind. And of course the Republican Party has a radical fringe element called the Tea Party whose members have campaigned on abolishing abortion for women, allowing that rape is “God's will” and who also support deporting anyone that seems to be Hispanic from Mexico who crossed the border illegally and demanding tax breaks for the super rich and abolishing social programs like Medicare and Social Security completely.
And they wonder why they do not win at all?
Oh my, is this party in trouble.
Now the looming “fiscal cliff” awaits the president and already so called lines in the sand have been drawn by him and the Leader of the Republican controlled House of Representatives, John Boehner. Mr. Obama insists on tax increases for those earning above $250,000 US dollars a year to help pay for the running of the country and Mr. Boehner insists that tax increases can happen but not to the rich and only if matched by decreases in social program spending.
Was anyone foolish enough to think that anything would change after the election? One can almost see that nothing will happen and the money markets will downgrade the bond rating of the States and the likelihood of a return to job loss, inflation, and the reemergence of the latest recession will happen by mid year 2013.
And not the United States will suffer – the whole world will be devastated by this as it will cascade into the money markets of Europe – hello Greece, Italy, Spain and the like and then barrel into China and the Far East. Of course one assumes that the uber rich Republicans will ride out this “tempest in a teapot” quite nicely.
Oh my, indeed.
The east coast of the States has been hit with a winter storm right on the heels of hurricane Sandy. Thousands are still without power and heat and gasoline is being rationed. Officials are blaming the utility companies for a tardy response. I think that this is a bit unfair as this is a disaster of large dimensions and there is no way possible that everything can be restored to all in a blink of an eye. Look at the disasters that hit in the Caribbean over the years. After many years there are still many people living in tents with no future at all. And yes, if it happens to you it is different but this is America we are talking about and the response while not perfect is pretty good and will improve day by day.
And just to show you how American media, sadly, keeps everything in perspective, what with the election, disasters and the like, headlines all over the place are blaring the critically important social news that Justin Bieber and Selema Gomez have stopped being a couple.
Gawd, isn't that just peachy?
And people wonder why some say that the States are starting to resemble Imperial Rome during the slow start of its decline?
And in Egypt, what many feared after the fall of Mubarak may be starting to happen. Thousands of Islamists marched in Cairo Friday to demand the implementation of Sharia Law and demanding as well that the new President Mursi facilitate that process.
One supposes that the rights of women just does not matter to those people?
And in Norway, mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, who is serving a 21-year sentence for killing 77 people in a bomb and gun rampage last year, has complained that he is being held in inhumane conditions and is being denied freedom of expression. Apparently sometimes he is served cold coffee and also has limited access to quality hand lotion and he does not like writing with a suicide proof pen ( one that is super soft and bendable so it cannot be used as a weapon if so desired). In the pen instance the prison authorities have issued him an electric typewriter.
So let me see if I get this right. He kills 77 and HE complains he is not being treated properly?
I must be missing something or maybe the world has passed me by somehow.
But this is idiocy indeed.
In news from South America, the President of Ecuador, Mr. Correa, has announced that he will seek re-election next year for another 4 year term with boosting state control over the economy as its main plank.
In Argentina, thousands of people have taken to the streets in Buenos Aires to protest the policies of President Cristina Kirchner and specifically the laws introduced in regards to possession and use of American dollars. Estimates of the crowds range from 100,000 from the government to over 700,000 from other non government sources. Inflation is officially pegged at 10% but others claim it is running at 20% or more and that is causing severe problems throughout the country.
One hopes this will soon work out as this is such a wonderful country and the people deserve the best.
In China, there over 2,200 delegates of the ruling Communist Party have been meeting since November 8th at the 18th congress to elect a new party leadership that the world will have to live with for the next 10 years.
Interesting times ahead for the Chinese and the world ahead.
Syria continues down the road to Hell.....what more can one say?
OK, now to the mundane. During the last half of the week numerous news/weather reports from the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan showed the onset of winter with a couple of nasty storms hitting them. I watched in disbelief as reports of over 2 feet of snow hit my old home city of Regina.
This just seems way too soon for winter.
While this was going on, we had a rare sunny day here in Nanaimo and we decided to go to the harbour and walk around the promenade and enjoy the day.

I really do not miss snow.
Sorry, but it is true.
Take care out there,

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday musings

The east coast of North America really got hit by hurricane Sandy this week. Damage was much worse than expected and the costs estimated to be in the 2 billion dollar range are probably north of 23 billion. Over 50 dead and many more unaccounted for. One casualty of the storm was the sinking with 2 lives lost, of the replica sailing ship HMS Bounty. Built in Canada and used in many films over the decades, it is a treasure that will probably never be rebuilt again and that is a huge loss. The area of Staten Island in America looks like a war zone and help is slowly trickling in.
Simply incredible.
Some in the American media have tried to twist it into a judgement on the Obama administration but I think this has failed in the main. The Republican Governor, a Mr. Christy, who is a strong opponent of Mr. Obama was sincere in his thanks for the response of the federal government emergency services and the President in this disaster. Sometimes politics does retreat and the real humanity and spirit of the American people briefly shines forth again.
The election of the President and members of federal government take place this week and some pundits declare a race too close to call while others say the incumbent, Mr. Obama will handily win based on the way the American electoral college is set up. In the American Presidential system, it is not a case where the person with the most votes win. Rather the votes in electoral districts determine how many “electoral votes” are counted for the candidates. So a person can have more votes but still lose the election.
Whoever wins will have a terrible road ahead of him.
If Mr. Obama wins, he will face a Tea Party led Republican Congress determined not to do anything that might be considered as co-operation on the affairs of the country. They will defeat every proposal no matter its merits just because it is from him. And to heck with the consequences for the average taxpayer.
Gridlock looms and lower credit ratings loom and budget cuts are inevitable it would seem.
If Mr. Romney wins, well, that is the question is it not? Will he be able to cobble together a consensus on turning the American economy around? Will the Tea Party hardliners derail him? What about the promised goodies for the uber rich? And who will pay for all of the promises he made?What will happen to the American Health Care system?
Either way, interesting times ahead one would think.
Western Canada has been hit with various amounts of freezing rain and snow and cold temperatures. Even for this time of year, these conditions are early. Usually this does not occur until mid month or so. In fact for the past few years, snow that stayed on the ground in any large amounts did not happen until month end or early December. Obviously this is not the case this year.
Thieves in Amsterdam are targeting Porches, for their headlights these days. It seems that the high intensity lights also give off a lot of heat while consuming less power making them ideal grow lights for pot. I remember the good old days (?) when thieves stole cars for joyrides or for parts. Too mundane and pedestrian these days I guess.
Over in Japan, Chinese ship entered into Japanese territorial waters near the Senakau Islands Saturday for the second day according to news sources. This is the 10th time since September when Japan nationalized the island chain that an incursion has happened. While the East China islands are under Japanese control, China claims them as well and call them the Diaoyu Islands.
Does anyone still believe that Lance Armstrong is still innocent of charges of doping during his biking career? However, he was not the only one in that era you have to remember. And why is it only the athletes that are sanctioned or punished and not the officials and leaders of the sports? One famous American President once said that “the buck stops here” (at his desk) when assigning responsibility. Have you heard of the head of American baseball taking responsibility for the steroid usage scandal? Or the head of the Olympics for the same? Naw, they are too busy collecting obscene salaries and “gifts” and rewarding friends to think they share some responsibility.
It seems another Argentine vessel may be interred in a foreign port due to cash claims by American “vulture” fund lawyers. In 2001 the country defaulted on 132 billion on foreign debt. Since that time, all IMF loans have been repaid and a large number of creditors have settled as well. There remains outstanding claims, about 24% of the origional which refuse to accept any reduction in amount owed and they are and have been pursuing the Argentine government for a while. Of course the cynic in me wonders why this is allowed to happen when in the United States, companies can file Chapter 11 proceedings and stiff creditors. And yes, there is a difference between companies and governments but defaulting on loans by governments has happened throughout history and so called “vulture” groups rarely succeed in the pursuit of the outstanding money owing. One has to wonder what will happen if the United States is forced to default on its obligations if it cannot right its economy and bankers call in their notes?
Just asking....
It seems Mr. Putin in Russia is having some health issues these days. Reports have surface indicating that he is having back pain issues. Some discredited reports say this happened when he did his “flight with birds” adventure. Other reports are not so kind. Oh well, hope he gets better soon. The Olympics are coming up soon in Russia aren't they? I fully expect this human dynamo to participate in many if not all events. Except maybe the ladies figure skating.... but then again..... just kidding!
In the tech world, it seems sales of the Ipad mini are not blowing the doors off the walls in stores. Perhaps consumers are not ready to over pay for an under priced machine even if it has the Apple logo? Probably not, more likely it is due to the storm in the States yet reports out of flooded and storm damaged New York said that there were lineups at the Apple store when it opened for business and quickly sold out out of the product. It is ironic that the company that once railed against the monolithic big bad Microsoft corporation is now exactly what it once opposed? A big uncaring (according to some ) corporation more focused on profits than product or its workers?
Back to the mundane.. I made it through my birthday unscathed and as my better half would say, none the wiser. But then again, it was a quiet day and considering the journey undertaken to get to this moment and age, I was pleased.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that Remembrance Day is fast approaching and as the ranks of veterans from WW2 and Korea continue to dwindle, we should never forget them or the the veterans since then and the new ones that come from so called police actions or interventions – war is war only the scale is different. And you look around the globe, and you realize that war is still with us and still is big business for weapons manufacturers. We will never be rid of this evil will we?
Take care out there,