Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday musings

In Venezuela, the government is assiduously promoting via TV and radio the profile of the Vice President as rumors about the health of Hugo Chavez abound. Many analysts feel this attention to the Vice President is an attempt to position him to succeed Mr. Chavez sooner than later.
Foreign heads of state that have traveled to Caracas were not allowed to visit the President and even though he is purported to be in a military hospital in the city, no one on the staff will admit to having seen him. It is rumored that Mr. Chavez may be near death or may have already passed on.
A troubling situation and surely it will be resolved very soon one suspects.
I read an interesting article in an American news source the other day about the upcoming “Sequester” impact. By now you know what is supposed to happen when these budget cuts hit the country as a result of the government not being able to pass a legal budget very soon.
In the article (here is the link to this CNN report - ) the conclusions it draws is very interesting. In essence the cuts will have a minor impact on the American economy and while there will be some job losses, it believes that they are over stated and slanted by the industries to be affected. In addition, the military budget while decreasing to 2007 levels in the short term will be higher by 2019.
Interesting reading indeed.
In Canada, the Federal Government announced last year some changes to the way the Employment Insurance program runs for those people that are out of work. It actually had the nerve to say that people should prove that they are actually looking for work in order to receive benefits (money) and also to be willing to accept work within 100 kilometres. It also tightened the rules for eligibility for seasonal workers. It is kind of ironic that they protests that now have erupted (almost 6 months later) are mainly based in Quebec and a small Maritime province. Thereby lending credence to the common held believe among other Canadians that this system is skewed in favour of those not wanting to work all year long but rather be part time workers with full time pay during the winter when they are off.
The truth one suspects is somewhere in between.
The Canadian government established the Canadian Office of Religious Freedom this week. One wonders where Atheists fit into this scheme.
Poor France, this week the head of a large American tire manufacturing company declined to purchase an ailing French tire manufacturer citing the lack of work ethic of its staff, specifically only working three hours while getting paid for a full day and also noting other “failings”. Then a German MP, Michael Fuchs, deputy chairman of the Christian Democrats' parliamentary group told public radio that France was Europe's “problem child” and has to reform the work week – make it longer, and raise the pension age from 60 as the rest of Europe has done. He even said that Italy was doing a better job of addressing its fiscal problems that France.
A cynic might say that the French are taking a page out the attitude of the Quebec people towards fiscal responsibility and a work ethic.
Just saying.
Speaking of Germany, did you know that “peaceful” Germany is one of the worlds largest arms exporters with Saudi Arabia as a huge client?
Another week before the Pope resigns and the coverage from some media outlets (hello CNN etc.) is already becoming just a little over the top. From out of seemingly nowhere, a top contender, according to these “unbiased” (ha!) sources, is an American bishop (who also happens to be really, really anti Jewish in comments).
Like, really?
An American is the frontrunner?
Does one honestly think the the highly Euro centric, snobbish, Italian dominated Catholic Church would elevate an American over someone from Europe?
While possible, it is probably highly unlikely to happen as much of Europe really dislikes Americans ( oh yes, except for their money, foreign aid, military help, technology and the like -then they love the Yanks!) and the prospect of an American -gasp – LIBERAL Pope horrifies them.
Actually, might shake them up and help bring the Church into the modern world.
Don't bet on that though.
Italy will be having National Elections on the 24th and 25 of this month. In a land where 1 in 3 young people cannot find a job and daily living is getting more and more difficult, the choices are, to be charitable, weak at the best.
Running to head the country, a tycoon, a professor, a politician and a comedian and many say none are fit to be elected as a dog catcher.
So the saga continues.
Will the extreme xenophobic right surface with all its hatred of non native born peoples as was the case in Greece? That disturbing trend appears poised to continue and that is not good for any and all both in the short and in the long term for any country.
Have you noticed how that evil, vicious war in Syria has slipped off the front pages of the news lately?
Not glamorous enough anymore for the media one supposes. Something like the horror in Mali these days. And yet, we can and do get 24/7 coverage in North America over any rumors about a new product – real or imaginary from Apple Corp., or the latest buzz from the upcoming Oscars.
Crappy isn't it?
Oh well, sometimes it is impossible to actually have any new News all 24 hours a day that is really news so better to invent some or create some I guess. Speaking of that, have you ever seen the odd video report when some so called “Foreign Correspondent” is breathlessly babbling into a microphone in front of a slightly wobbly handheld camera with a backdrop of a “HUGE” angry mob that sometimes the camera actually pans the mob and there are maybe 25 people there?
In fact a couple of weeks ago when the Idle No More movement was proudly adopted by Canadian media and a clip was shown of a so called “massive” demonstration of those folks walking along the main street of Regina, a freeze frame of the web broadcast showed no more than 30 folks in the group. Yet the police closed off all traffic and were bending themselves into virtual pretzels to make sure that the protesters were not inconvenienced rather than the general public.
Too bad that there is no accountability and honesty office for media.
The problem with that concept though is that while nice in concept, a controlled media is a horrible thing in practice if allowed to happen.
Look at the media in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, North Korea etc.
But is it too much to ask for some balance or fairness from the media these days?
I was talking to my golf buddy in Regina the other day and it seems like the weather there is slowly warming up and that is a good thing. It was sad to hear him sob when I mentioned that I drove by a golf course filled with “duffers” today. Spring will get there one day – hopefully not in July though!
We had some nice days this week and took a short trip to a small town called Parksville to walk along the beach, pick up some sea shells ( a secret project my better half is embarked upon) and just enjoy the day. We saw some plants that I have no idea as to what they are but sure liked them for their colour and promise of great days ahead. All in all a good day.

Next weekend the local outdoor markets are supposed to open!
Take care out there,

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday musings

So a photo of Hugo Chavez laying flat on his back with 2 of his daughters beside him had been released by the government of Venezuela to show that he is alive and recovering from the latest round of surgery for his cancer. A close look shows an extremely puffy face and an expression that sadly does not seem quite focussed.
Something still does not seem right about this.
We shall see I guess.
In Argentina the government seems to have offered teachers a 33% wage increase over 3 years in contract negotiations. Sure sign of inflation at work in the economy.
Not a good sign at all.
This week a large meteorite crashed into the northern regions of Russia traveling at an estimated 54,000 KPH and blowing out windows and injuring over 1,200 with its sonic booms. With the abundance of video devices including webcams mounted on car dashes, many clips were available for viewing throughout the world.
A truly impressive sight.
Sadly one talking head for the CNN TV network was quoted as saying this was the result of global warming.
Here in Canada a restaurant chain has discontinued a line of beer termed Albino Rhino, named after an animal with that condition from over 25 years ago because a lady who recently immigrated to Canada filed a Human Rights complaint because as an albino, she felt slighted/discriminated against.
As one person noted, pretty soon the Human Rights Commissions in Canada will support any grievance, major or frivolous except those from a white male.
Also in the wonderful fantasy land of Quebec, it seems that the student unions that were so assiduously courted by the now ruling separatist Parti Quebecois in the last election, have lost faith in the PQ and now will boycott a summit on education because the government will not provide free education and indeed has mentioned that tuition rates may, just may rise with inflation.
How ironic.
As many political hacks find out over and over and over again, it is so easy to promise the world in opposition but once in power, the real world has a nasty way of intruding.
And the PQ wants to run their own country?
Here in British Columbia, there will be a provincial election in a few months. So, like many other governments over the last century or so in Canada, what does the ruling party do but launch a taxpayer funded media blitz telling people how good life is in the province. I remember the last 2 times governments changed in Saskatchewan and it was like a case of deja vu seeing this here. As if people are as naive as the handlers for the governments tell the Leaders they are. And the Party Leaders actually believe this crap. In B.C. The cost of this feel good campaign has ballooned from 14 million to 17 million. And it will make not an iota of difference in the minds of voters – regardless of who they intend to vote for.
A lot of money for absolutely nothing.
What a waste.
In America this week a former police officer murdered a number of people in a vendetta against his former employer and was finally tracked down to a cabin in the mountains and a huge firefight ensued with large amounts of gunfire exchanged and smoke grenades being tossed into the cabin with the result that the cabin caught on fire. The fugitive committed suicide and it took a number of days to confirm the identity of the body.
During the process of securing him, police shot 2 women in a truck because they thought that the women were actually the fugitive. The truck was also a different colour and make. So what made the police shoot these women?
A question that many doubt will ever be answered.
The Pope announced his retirement this week. He becomes the first Pope in over 500 years to resign rather than die in office. At 85, many say this is a good decision. That being said, many say his legacy is a sad and troubled one. Increased agitation against birth control, no women in the priesthood, anti gay stance, cover up of sexual abuse by priests – not a great record people say.
Is it time for a non European and non white Pope?
Doubt if that will ever happen.
If by some fluke this happened, the new Pope would be so thoroughly emasculated by the College of Cardinals and the Vatican bureaucracy, one would never think that the new Pope was anything but a old white European!
Speaking of Europe, the “scandal” of horse meat being incorporated into hamburger products has spread throughout the EU. Just one thing, people have eaten horse meat for a heck of a long time in the history of mankind and never had a problem because of that. Also, I suspect that no one who actually had some of this so called tainted meat even noticed or were affected by it. So what the heck is the problem? Just stop the process, tighten up checks and balances and get on with life. Many more important things happening in the world rather than this tempest in a tea pot.
I think we all have read that Disney Studios purchased the Star Wars franchise and have a new film in the concept stage. Harrison Ford, Han Solo in the series, is now 70 and apparently is going to reprise his role therein. Not sure if this is a good idea. Film “freezes” a persons age forever and to see a 70 year old man in a new film, where he was (and is in many re-runs and DVD's) in his 30's in earlier ones will be difficult for many to accept.
Remember my comments on the “fiscal cliff” in the United States recently? And how ALL in government ducked their responsibilities to the American people? And then they cobbled together a feel good bill that only punted the problem down the road for three months?
Well, the three months are almost up and nothing was done in the meantime. Indeed the Republicans have decried the so called sequester cuts that THEY agreed to last year that will start in March. Now they say it is the idea of the President and they had nothing to do with it. They are now seeing what the impacts are going to be in their constituencies and all of a sudden are concerned. They still do not get it do they? They work for the people, not the other way around but they still do not and will not accept this simple fact. They seem much more concerned about vacations, pay perks and benefits for themselves rather than the fate of the country.
Wait until the cuts happen and see the firestorm erupt as people discover that they are the financial victims in a political power struggle.
It will not be pretty, that is for certain.
I would be remiss in not posting one last observation about our time in the Sandwich Islands recently. And that is about the people there.
Many so called sophisticated people around the world have an arrogant opinion and attitude towards Americans.
They are so wrong.
I have once again found them to be wonderful hosts and a pleasure to be around.
Yes, as in all countries, there are some not so wonderful people among them but I dare you to show me a country any better. If the world stopped envying the United States and instead tried to incorporate some of the best things it offers, we all would be better off.
So, thanks America, we will visit you again!
Anyway, back on our Island, Spring continues to unfold.
I still think it is early and new acquaintances insist that indeed it does sometimes snow again in March but somehow, I do not believe them. I see reports of other parts of the country and feel for the people there. Next week we intend to drive to a park called Cathedral Park that is home to some of the oldest and tallest old growth trees on the Island and indeed in the province.
That should be fun and entertaining.

Finally, on a personal note, I lost someone that I admired very much on Saturday. I once referred to him in a column as KHK in B.C. Well, he was my uncle and he was a good man, a good husband, a good father and a good grandparent, what better epitaph than that can one offer?
He will be missed by many.

take care out there,

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday musings

Well, I am back home on the Island and here we go!

You want some examples of how screwed up the Canadian province of Quebec is?
Here goes.
All the provinces have health care as their responsibility, not the Federal Government. In spite of this, the Federal Government transfers massive amounts of cash to each province to assist in the paying of these services with hardly any accountability required. Last year the provinces formed a common bargaining group to deal with the multinational pharmacy companies in the purchase of drugs. Recently this common front was able to achieve savings in this area but of course Quebec decided they wanted nothing to do with this saving. Instead, as is usual when the Quebec tries to back out of agreements where it is not the “big cheese”, it does so by quietly sending a letter of withdrawal the provincial group in the literal “dark of night” with no media fanfare to embarrass them.
Big babies.
Then the Quebec government had decided it wants to take over the field of Employment Insurance. A field that the provinces signed over to the Federal Government in a Constitutional amendment in 1940.
Of course the Separatist government assumes that the funds to pay for the program would flow from the Federal Government to Quebec.
It would become the responsibility of the Quebec government to fund the program and that would be raising taxes or borrowing the money from international money markets at higher interest rates than what would be charged to the Federal Government which has a much higher credit rating than the province. A quick path along the road of Greece or Spain, no question about that at all.
And of course the final example occurred over the past few days. The previous government in Quebec drafted an action plan for economic development of the north of the province as an engine of growth for the entire province. The Separatist government, which harshly criticized the plan while in Opposition had quietly adopted the same plan with minor changes after assuming power in the last Provincial election. So there was a job fair held in Montreal by potential industries that wanted to be part of the action plan. Immediately protests rolled out with smashed windows and other violent disturbances as the protesters hit the streets. They wore red tags like the student protesters of last summer did (remember how they were aghast at the prospect of paying tuition fees and wanted it all paid for free by the state?) and carried banners linking them to the Idle No More movement. Indeed one person said that there should be no development of the north of Quebec as all the resources belonged to the First Nations peoples. Of course no could reply when asked who was to pay for the social programs, cheap tuition, free day care if no money flowed from the Project Nord as it is called. Probably they assumed that the rest of Canada would continue to foot the bill.
Big surprise coming along the track on that concept I think.
More and more people outside of Quebec are displaying less and less willingness to compromise with what is considered spoiled demands from an “immature” province.
Maybe pundits are correct when they say that the upcoming generation of Quebecois are more concerned with their economic well being and future prosperity in Canada and that the aging Separatist fanatics will slowly fade into oblivion as they die off.
One has to wonder if Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is getting better – as reported by his people or in fact is worse or even dead these days based on the news that the country devalued its currency 32% on Saturday vs the American dollar. For a country that is considered wealthy based on its petrodollar economy, this was disturbing news indeed. The next month or two will tell the tale one suspects.
According to reports, this past week the Government in Zimbabwe had only $217.00 in its bank account after paying government employees. How far has this once proud and prosperous land fallen since falling under the thrall of Robert Mugabe. And of course the world stands idly by.
Like it does about North Korea, Syria, Somalia .... and the list goes on.
You wonder why I am so disheartened by the impotence of the so called United Nations? That bloated self serving waste of money and space?
What a sad state for what was originally visioned as the greatest hope for the planet in terms of governance and the ability to stop armed conflicts.
The White House in the United States this week released a photo of the President shooting skeet targets to show that he uses weapons in his life. As if this will stop the National Rifle Association from opposing his proposals to change gun laws in the land. The President should really try to stop being all things to all people. That tactic never works. He should realize he has a mandate from the electorate and proceed with his agenda. If it proves unpopular and does not work, then a future President and government will change or remove those laws. It is typical of the malaise that plagues all branches of the government where instead of doing the business of the people, special interest groups rule the day.
The American Defence Secretary is speaking out about the upcoming budget cuts to the military if a new budget is not passed by the lawmakers in time. Dire warnings of becoming a third rate military power and the economic penalties civilian employees face as a result of reduced work weeks are waved in the face of politicians and the media. One has to wonder how real this is and maybe with a wind down in Iraq and Afghanistan, that the budget should be reduced anyway. To use the logic that “things always were funded and run this way” is not always correct or honest at times.
Really amazing how far science has advanced in the last 20 years or so. In England a skeleton over 500 years old was unearthed and by genetic DNA testing of the remains with the DNA of a descendant of who the remains were purported to be of, determined that indeed the remains were those of King Richard the Third.
Truly amazing what science can do.
And yet science cannot finds the remains of Jimmy Hoffa.
Truly baffling.
Data released by the German government showed that the German trade surplus hit a five year high in January. Strange how Germany is doing so well while many other European countries are, to be kind, struggling economically. Greece, Spain, Portugal, France – the list is long on this score. Could it be the the era of governments pandering to its citizens by implementing costly social programs funded by ever increasing borrowing with little hope of repayment is over? While the Germans put in many social programs, in the main they were properly costed and funded, A testament to Teutonic practicality you could say. While many of the younger generation say that the ills of the worlds economy are the fault of the free spending boomer generation, many are not that different in their expectations either. Many went to university for year after year pursuing degrees in fields that in all honesty are not relevant in the working world but rather expensive pastime degrees promoted by their professors who have bullied the education system and the taxpayer into believing that what they say is really important. One wonders how these so called educators would fare if they had to work for a living, say in the construction trades, clerical or flipping burgers?
I forget, they are too vital to a civilized society to actually have to get calluses on their hands– aren't they?
Just ask them I guess.
In France, the painting that inspired the Statue of Liberty was defaced with a black marker by a deranged woman who scrawled the letter and numbers AE 911 across one corner. The AE stands for a group of conspiracy “people” in the United States termed Architects and Engineers 911 who believed that the Twin Towers destroyed in New York not by terrorists aboard hijacked airplanes but rather by explosive charges apparently set off by order of the American government itself.
Forgetting the complete weirdness of such a theory ( the same type of delusional thinking is being promoted on YouTube by some folks that believe that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school in America is a plot by the President to disarm the population and that the murdered children really were not killed and are safe and in hiding!) what sane person can justify destroying something priceless for any reason what so ever? Just as pathetic as the religious nuts who destroyed the giant Buddhas in
For every step mankind takes forward, it seems there is some barbarian determined to drag the process back two steps towards the Dark Ages.
So watching the news on Friday and Saturday we got to see video casts of the latest winter “STORM OF THE CENTURY” - like come on, why does, sadly the American media (aped by the Canadian media) go into overdrive in their descriptions of any and all events? It is as if the talking heads think and speak only in exclamation points. Yes it was a big storm but guess what? These storms have happened for a long long time in the history of the world, so media, get over yourselves and start responsibly reporting the news, OK?
But in this 24/7/365 news world, this is probably a forlorn hope.
However, getting back to the storm, it is hard to believe that it is only early February and much of continental North America still has a couple of months of winter left.
Here on the Island we have our planted bulbs sprouting above ground and the Spring bedding plants are already on sale at the local greenhouses.
In fact I have heard the hum of lawnmowers already!
Said it before and will say it again, I sure do not miss winter at all.
That's it for this week,
take care out there,

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Saturday musings

Well, time to head home and say farewell  until next time to the Sandwich Islands, we had a great two weeks here.
One of the downsides (actually the only one) of being here is that world news is almost non existent unless there is some angle that pertains to the United States.
But I did get some tidbits.
It seems that Argentina is miffed at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for imposing economic sanctions on the country because the IMF will not accept economic data supplied by the Argentine Government. The fact that most Argentine and international observers have been pointing this out for months now seems irrelevant to the Government. Inflation officially is less than 1/2 of what it is agreed to be by these observers. Just look at the official exchange rate of the Peso to the American Dollar and the fact that it is almost double that on the unofficial “blue” market. Inflation stats are suspect and reports of larger and larger wage demands by government employee unions make the claims of the government ring hollow.
It looks like tough times ahead for that wonderful land. Also it does not help the the President is now seeming to style her image to resemble that of the controversial former First Lady of Argentina – Eva Peron, a highly divisive figure in the history of the country.
This week we lost the last surviving sister, Patty at age 94 of the singing Andrews Sisters. The trio personified the big band, swing era in American history. An era now shrouded in glamor and allure and nostalgia. Of course the real world at that time was very different than that, but I digress. Also, and many kids of the 1960's will remember, the Etch a Sketch machine, the inventor,Andre Cassagnes passed on.
Two icons from 2 different eras, time marches on sadly.
Blackberry has released what many consider its last best hope to remain relevant and more importantly, alive in the smartphone wars. Early reviews are positive but shares slumped as the release in the all important USA market will not happen until mid February at the earliest.
More conflicting reports on the state of health of President Chavez of Venezuela emerge and one wonders how long this soap opera with huge consequences for North and South America will continue.
In both the United States and Canada, people are seeing price increases at the gas pump these days. Now let me get this right – the US and Canada are exporters of oil and yet prices are going up? And the cowardly politicians on both sides of the border who never have met a tax that they would resist, do absolutely nothing?
You think the oil industry has them in its pocket?
The politicos are too busy ducking and weaving and running from actually doing the job they were elected to, to help the average citizen. Too easy to raise their own wages and benefits and pension plan isn't it?
The Republicans passed a measure in the US government basically punting the fiscal cliff a few more months down the road but added a wage hold back clause to it if nothing is done in passing a budget. So some Democrats objected to that, seems that not being paid for not doing their job offends them
Too darn bad.
And they castigate the Republicans?
Israel bombs a convey from Syria headed to Lebanon supposedly loaded with advanced military arms.
And the great bastion of freedom, the United Nations condemns the attack.
The world is not shocked that this gutless organization conveniently did not say a word about the arms involved or what consequences they would have unleashed against Israel if delivered.
And this same august body condemns Canada on its history in dealing with its aboriginal peoples while turning a blind eye to events in such democratic areas like North Korea, Pakistan, Syria, Brazil, Tibet – get the picture?
And yet nations like Canada, Britain, Germany, the United States still pay their dues and keep this bloated bureaucracy alive.
Some day this will end and I will not mourn its demise.
So, a couple of rodents used to forecast whether of not Spring will be early this year,indicated that this was going to be the case. Well, if you live in Regina (our old home town) you have to hope that is true. Reports indicate that this is one of the most intense and long winters in many, many, many, many years. It seems to have started in October and continues to this day. Every other day seems to bring stories of either intense (minus 30-40) cold or extremely high winds and snow storms and large accumulations of ground drifts.
Spring cannot come too soon for them I suspect.
So here are a few final photos from the Islands for them

So another short column ends and I apologize for that but somehow, with sun, surf and sand it has difficult to focus strongly on things other than sun, surf and sand.
I will try harder next week after we get home.
Until then,
take care out there,