List of Previous Titles

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Absolute Joy, Misery, and Miracles of El Gordo

As the world is aware Spain has presented El Gordo, The Fat One, once again to the delight of more people than I can imagine. The lottery paid out Two Billion, Two Hundred million euros. Spain is the only country in the world where thousands and thousands of people dance with joy because they have received a financial boost from the lottery. Even those of us who did not win anything substantial are happy for those who struck it big. Our hope is that it will be our turn next time.

No individual wins the jackpot, as is the case in most other lotteries. No individual needs to win 100 million euros or dollars. To begin with, the average person is simply not equipped to be able to handle that much money at once. The Spanish system is unabashedly socialist. The idea is to spread it around as far and wide as possible.

The prizes don't sound like much compared with Euro Millions, or New York lottery. For first prize we have 4 million euros, second prize is 1,250,000 euros, third prize is 500,000 euros, fourth prizes are two amounts of 200,000 each, and fifth prize consists of eight 60,000 euros. However, these are formulas. The punter can buy a whole ticket, or tickets, in which case you win 4 million on the first prize, as many times as tickets you hold. You could buy ten whole tickets at 200 euros each, and if that number comes up you walk away with ten times the stated prize.

You are also offered the opportunity to buy fractions of a whole ticket. Most people opt to buy a tenth of a ticket for 20 euros, or what is known as a decimó. There are also lesser participations to be had that allow people with low budgets to participate perhaps in several numbers.

This year brought forth an extraordinary result in the form of several winners who are illegal immigrants. I'm thinking of Mohammed from Senegal, a country that Spain has had close relations with in the past. Senegal is a beautiful country, but without economic promise to its young men and women.

Mohammed left his home for the usually mistaken promise of Spain. He crossed the Sahara Desert and the Mediterrean Sea, a journey that results in far more lost souls to the sand or the sea than anyone knows. Once here in Spain he has had to rake and scrape just to eat, but still you will find him at the local locutorio sending small amounts of money home to family. For Mohammed to acquire 20 euros would be like me to acquire 20,000 euros. So, to pay the massive sum of 20 euros to buy a piece of paper was a great leap of faith for him. I have been doing the same thing for years and my number has not come in big yet. His number did, paying him 400,000 euros. He is in total shock!

Of course, everybody who heard this news are happy for Mohammed, however, his problems have just begun. He is an undocumented immigrant so will not have a bank account, but he now has a cheque that is made out to CASH for 400,000 euros. He is part of a large immigrant community of very needy people, and while he was not the only one of his community to win he will have to endure severe pressure to share his fortune.

Since the 22 December draw, at least one of the immigrants has been stabbed to death, so we can imagine there is serious trouble within the ranks.

As much as I would like to be favoured with a big win on the lottery I don't think I would want to be Mohammed. Sometimes it is true to be careful what we wish for.

Copyright (c) 2015
Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, December 20, 2015

My phone, My friend, My Addiction!

To be addicted to something is to say that you are what you are addicted to. Addicted to smoking? You are a chronic smoker who is unable to voluntarily stop under any circumstances.
Addicted to recreational or doctor prescribed drugs. You're a sad druggie and your use will likely lead to an early death.

Now, enter the modern day addiction to IPhones and SmartPhones. Much has been written about this phenemon, but to watch it take place in a loved one is an unsettling experience. Three years ago my wife bought herself a Samsung phone, and progressively she has learned to use its many features. In particular she has become expert in combining the use of the camera with facebook, as well as research on the Internet. Naturally, she is an enthusiast in worldwide communication through Whatsapp.

I have observed her total immersion into her phone, just like so many others, to the extent that every second that is spare is used to text or to do someting or the other with the phone. Even when we are sitting and watching television she is only half watching the program. With her second eye she is following something on her phone.

It is common to observe people who enter a restaurant to seat themselves around a table, and out comes the mobiles. There was a time when people wanted immediate attention from the wait staff, now it is difficult to get anyone to give their order. People walk in the street with their heads down texting as they go. More than one person has walked to their death that way, simply unaware of what they are doing. I watched two drivers at a red light. They were both focused on their phones when the light changed to green, and then back to red without being noticed.

My wife lost her phone. She was equally completely lost. It was as though the major portion of her personality was missing as she experienced withdrawal symptoms. The tension from that spreads throughout the family and friends and nothing else matters but to find the damn phone. The nearest thing I can imagine would be to have your pet cat or dog whom you love, to wander off. At least they don't carry valuable information with them. They just carry your heart.

A mobile phone is such  a small thing. It is entirely portable and very easily stolen or lost. I think the option of uploading everything onto the cloud is something that everyone should do because over the years so much data is created that not to do so is very dangerous.

My wife had attended a special concert where it was essential that mobiles were placed on silence. So trying to locate her phone through calling it did not work. It was finally found, having fallen from her bag and become wedged in a perfect hiding place in the car. The stress caused to her, (and to me) during its absence was overwhelming.

I don't own a Smartphone, but who am I kidding, I will buy one eventually, as I seem to be living in a world all alone with my fliptop. I ask that you remind me not to become so absorbed as everyone else, but that may be asking too much. I must, at least, upload everything to the cloud.

Copyright (c) 2015  Eugene Carmichael

Saturday, December 12, 2015

An American Dictator President

Should the American electorate ever mistakenly elect for its president a person who is bullheaded, racist, misogynist, ignorant, illiterate, medically insane, un-diplomatic, and worst of all, dictatorial, how much damage could such a person do, and how would America get rid of him?

This question is part of a much wider question, because most Western governments are structered in the same way. At the top there is the President, or Prime Minister, or Premier, and that person has a Cabinet that is comprised of Secretaries, or Ministers. Those people hold great power and are usually well taken care of. However, they serve at the pleasure of the person at the top. Failure to support the chief can be expected to lead to those dreaded words, "You're Fired!"

I think what generally hapens in most countries is that the person at the top, whom I will call the CEO, chooses a policy directive which is then supported by the cabinet and the members of Parliament, if the same party holds a majority.

A classic example of this was the sitting president at the time who wanted to bring about regime change in Iraq. This was an unpopular directive that brought American forces into harm's way, which many thought was based on a pretext. Since the war people are more outspoken against that action, but the fact remains that America was dragged into a war that it did not want to be involved in.

Was that something that happened as a result of a dictatorial decree?

It is possible that in America a president dictator, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of all the armed forces could seek , with the assistance of The Secretary of Defence, to divert those forces for his own purposes, and to turn them against the population of America.

That seems to be a close existing reality when we consider that many police forces in the country have extensive military munitions, and under the Homeland Security powers many freedoms once held no longer exists. Certainly, the armed forces can be deployed within the country to face a domestic threat, and those can possibly be manufactured at will. 

How can the excesses of such a loose cannon in the White House be controlled? Fortunately, under the Constitution a sitting president can be fired if members of the Senate and the House of Representatives deem appropriate. They effectively fired Richard Nixon, and they sought to fire Bill Clinton.

However, before that could happen the Commander-in-Chief could issue orders to the armed forces that could be directly counter to the interests of the country. It would take some very determined generals to say no. It is also why so many people think they need to posses so many guns and ammunition so that if an attempt was made to control the country by a dictator president, who would clearly be a megalomanic, they would be ready to fight their own armed forces.

The choice of who to elect as president, or Prime Minister or Premier is a weighty one with awesome possibilities, both good and bad.  It is one of the most serious responsibilities a voter can have.

Copyright (c) 2015   Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Oscar Pistorious. Finally !

What a peculiar ole broad is Lady Justice. We can have a straight forward case where something happens that is not complicated, but by the time prosecution and defence get done making a mess of it all, everybody is confused.

The Appeal Court of South Africa has declared that Oscar is guilty of murder; that is to say, the unlawful taking of a human life, with malice aforethought.

I held from the start that if I find that there is a person in my house, and if I go and get my gun with the intention of killing that person, I had better have compelling evidence that I had no other option to neutralize the threat, if it was a threat, than to kill that person.

In the defence that was presented, Oscar said that there was someone in his toilet and that he fired four bullets through the door in the intention of killing that person who he considered was a threat to him. For all he knew the person might have simply dropped in to have a shit. I could not understand why he was charged with simple manslaughter. Of course it was an act of murder, clear and simple.

This was South African law, so I assumed that things work differently there, but under common sense law if I aim a gun at another person and deliberately pull the trigger and I send a bullet into a vital organ(s), I have committed an act of murder. Even careless handling of a gun that is discharged, killing someone might be considered an act of murder if we should have known what the outcome would be.

I cannot say that this is what happened in this case, but the often repeated senario goes as follows: an argument breaks out between man and woman. It escalates with the woman running off to the bathroom and locking the door. She is followed by the man who bangs on the door, shouting "open this door!" Now the original argument is forgotten by the man. He is simply royally pissed off that the woman has locked the door.  "I will break this door down!" he declares.

I have been in this situation a couple of times. The first time I didn't handle things all that well. I stayed at the door banging and yelling. Eventually things calmed down and we made up. The second time when she went into the toilet I said, "Well, I'm going out!" I went out, and while I did have a couple of drinks, which might have made things much worse when I got back home, in fact I had such a good time while at the club the argument was forgotten by the time I got home.

This could be all the difference between living in a country that allows its citizens to own guns, or not. The argument that ends in the small hours of the morning with a slap, where there is no gun in the house, perhaps ends in someone lying dead on the kitchen floor if a gun is handy.

Finally, Justice has been done. I am personally saddened for both families because one family has lost their young daughter, and Oscar, a person who overcame such an overwhelming disability has ruined his life and a very promising career. For me he was the pin-up boy that said, "Never give Up!"

It's all so sad!

Copyright (c) 2015  Eugene Carmichael