Greece

ATHENS, Greece – Greece’s finance minister says rescue lenders will send inspectors back to Athens in about two weeks after both sides failed to finalize a new round of deficit reduction measures.

Now isn’t that a surprise.

I can fully sympathize with the Greek people. The talk of a lost generation is very much true, with unemployment at incredible levels, especially for the young. I’m surprised that Greek politicians aren’t hanging by the basket loads from lampposts all over Athens. In the Middle Ages it was not unusual to see highwaymen hanging at crossroads to discourage others, greeks politicians please take note.

Bottom line though is that Greece made a deal with the Devil and  is trying to wheedle out of it. I never understood why Greece didn’t just leave the Euro. Yes, there would have been a massive amount of short term disruption, but by going back to the Drachma, they would have been able to devalue their currency and at least make some progress towards getting out of their current troubles. I can understand why the rest of Europe wouldn’t want that, but I really don’t see why the Greeks wouldn’t. The alternative that they have signed up for is just long and apparently unending pain, which I suppose they hoped their international buddies would let them out of eventually, but that isn’t going to happen.

The best way to remove a bandaid is to rip it off quickly, not tug gently on the edge. On second thoughts I can see why it is this way, and it is the continual battle between the establishment and the remainder of the populace, By staying in the Euro, the establishment remains, and the pain is felt by the remainder. Devalue and the pain is shared.

Historically, Greece has always been a financial basket case. By joining the Euro it managed to hide that until the chickens came home to roost in a major way. The current situation is horrible, but it is only going to get worse – especially for the remainder of the populace. Does the term fiddling while Rome is burning come to mind?

European parliament rejects budget deal agreed in February

“The Parliament rejects the 8 February European Council conclusions in their current form,” the EU said in a statement Wednesday.

Now isn’t that a surprise

The Euro MPs however insisted that they would not open negotiations until governments agreed to fund an emergency budget to cover unmade payments, worth around 2.9 billion euros from 2012.

They have also demanded further negotiations on the multi year budget from 2014-2020 for the creation of a flexibility mechanism allowing money to be shifted between years and budget headings. It also wants agreement to hold a mid-term review of the budget following next year’s European elections.

In other words – we want to be able to spend how we like, irrespective of what the budget says and we also want to ensure that our oink trough continues without oversight, According to the EU’s own laws, the EU cannot run deficits, and by asking that the 2.9 billion be dealt with, they are cloaking the fact that they are doing exactly that. If the 2.9 billion is not funded, then isn’t that by it’s very definition a deficit?

The next part is a game the bureaucrats have been playing for centuries, hold off on doing things that everyone agreed to and then have a slush fund for doing things that no one agreed to, then go back and ask for more money to do the things that they originally said. Not only that but they want the ability to roll the slush fund from year to year.If you actually trusted that the EU had effective oversight that wouldn’t be so bad, but by taking this stance, the bureaucracy is showing it is out of control

Girl Guide cookies

A Little League in Illinois is raffling off an AR-15 military-style assault rifle to raise money for its kids.

The Atwood-Hammond Little League partnered with the local armory for the raffle, which launched Tuesday. “It has been going gangbusters,” Charidy Butcher, co-owner of theAtwood Armorytold WAND-TV. “My phone has been ringing nonstop since 4:30 this morning. It’s just been crazy.”

….and that is not the only thing that is crazy – have the sponsors of this actually been watching the news?

I just cannot fathom the mental workings or lack thereof of someone that could possibly think that this was acceptable, unless you espouse “the end justifies the means” as a rationale for raising money. Couldn’t you at least try a Bake Sale? At least that way, the worst that is likely to happen is a bit of food poisoning. What happens next? maybe it will be  bioweapons being sold on behalf of charities – hey – good advert copy there – Anthrax for Athletes

Oscar

I had the misfortune to watch the Oscars a while ago. I should be able to learn from past experience, that it will be far too many hours of my life that I won’t get back. The industry congratulates the industry and bores the rest of us to tears with hackneyed song and dance routines, and people reading long lists of “I want to thank my agent….” until they are drowned out by the band and dragged off-stage.

This year was more of the same until we got close to the end, and what did we have, we had Michelle Obama, that is the wife of the president making one of the awards. I know that the presidency is relying more and more on media to get its message out, and has been very sophisticated in using social media especially during the election campaign, but this seems a step too far to me.

I don’t know why I feel this way. Politicians need a high media profile to get their messages across, and this would count as keeping the profile up. I just feel it stepped beyond the bounds of necessity and into the realm of wrong.

What is next? The presidents kids checking into the Big Brother House? The Vice President turning up on Survivor?

Immigration

I read this quote

Apparently Canada isn’t the welcoming multicultural paradise we once fancied ourselves.

A new survey from Forum Research, for theNational Post, found that 70 per cent of Canadians are in favour of limiting immigration.

Even more notably, the survey also found that most approve of immigrants accepted into Canada bringing their spouses and dependent children, but not grown children, parents or grandparents.

Mixed into this debate is how those who move to Canada should be expected to acclimate themselves to our society.”

The article went on to talk about the change in policy to favour those that are a benefit to Canada. And at this point I ask – what is wrong with that?

I don’t believe that new immigrants should surrender their cultural identity, and be forced into cookie cutter “canadian template” even if we could figure out what that is, but I do believe that there are certain key values that simply cannot be ignored and if any immigrant is not willing to accept those, then this is not the place for them. It is all well and good that people wish to come to Canada to gain a better life, but the idea that they can establish “type place name here” 2.0 is not right.

North Korea and inevitability

My last post about the strange goings on in North Korea got me thinking, and that is a somewhat dangerous thing – steam tends to come out of my ears and there is a smell of burning wiring

Still – occasionally ideas come out before the fuses blow, and one came out that has me worried.

Over the years North Korea has sacrificed pretty much everything to its military machine. It has spent currency that it didn’t have on its nuclear ambition and has used that to try to blackmail the world into being nice to it. China, throughout all of this has been its strongest supporter, more for the reason I suspect of keeping at least some influence with its scary neighbour, than anything else. The Chinese  are good at realpolitik.

Finally, with the latest round of nuclear testing,  China has realized (at least publicly) that they don’t have a firm hand on the leash and have signed on to the latest round of sanctions. Does this remind you of what happens when someone closes the gate on the one escape route for a rabid dog?

I hope I am wrong, but it would seem to me that North Korea doesn’t have many options left. The latest round of sanctions are being targeted at their reality challenged elite and no one at least publicly are giving it any out. I’m sure there are back channels in play, but those are always hit and miss. North Korea can look over its border and see affluence and the desire to go and try to grab that must be close to irresistible. If it believes that it can quickly overwhelm the Korean peninsula, then the temptation for Kim Jong haircut and his coterie of old cynical generals must be near to overwhelming.

I have a very bad feeling about this. Before I have had the feeling that it has always been a strange negotiation plan – asking for bribes for good behaviors. This time I don’t get that feeling – the gate has closed and the dog doesn’t see any other options but to bite.

Kim Jong who

Those of us that are news junkies are following the North Korea situation with schizophrenic feelings.

On one hand it is a somewhat terrifying situation. There is a slightly chubby, reality avoiding idiot with a dodgy haircut potentially in a situation to turn a part of the world into a glass factory.

On the other side, it is a soap opera par excellence. Rather than stringing this idiot up by his toenails, the deluded regime spins further and further into the twilight zone. It makes George Bush’s role as all american jockstrap with daddy issues seem positively normal.

I don’t know where all of this will end, but it is resembling a reality tv show, and just like those shows, the term reality is being very loosely used.

Tablets and a cautionary tale

I have a number of tablets and in general have been very pleased. They are thin, lightweight and serve to keep me connected when I can’t be bothered to drag a laptop and its associated paraphernalia around.

That being said, I have some cautionary advice for prospective purchasers.

Do not – I repeat, do not trust on-line reviews. I don’t know who writes this stuff, but in most cases it seems to be written within 45 seconds of someone getting the product. They turn it on and providing the new toy boots/starts up/doesn’t explode they immediately head to Facebook or Twitter or one of the other bits of social software that allow you to show far too much of yourself, and gush about their new acquisition.

There should be a time check on reviewers – you need to have had the thing for a month at least before you are allowed to review it.

I purchased a Le Pan TC970 at the start of the tablet revolution. I couldn’t afford an Ipad, and went looking for alternatives. I ran across the Le Pan on Amazon and based upon some research and their reviews I bought one. So far so good, and to be honest, the device has worked pretty well within its constraints. I have a few issues with it – it occasionally seizes up – but those of us used to Windows aren’t bothered by that. The manufacturer lied about the software upgrade path – it was originally promised and then vanished like smoke in the wind, and support – well they have a contact form on their web site, but it seems to siphon emails into a black hole. They don’t adhere to the Terms of Service for use of the Android operating system, or at least I don’t think so as they won’t talk to me.

Am I a little po’d at this – well duh – yes. Software for tablets is freely available based upon observing a few rules. The various Android operating systems are released to everyone with very few strings and observing the agreement isn’t exactly hard.

What should you do – wait a couple of months, go onto the development forums for the device and actually read what real users say.

I’ve learnt my lesson, and if you read this stuff – Le Pan, please learn one too. There is an old saying:

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.