Saturday, July 30, 2011

Random Thoughts

As I noted in my most recent post, I had recently started using Spotify, an online music service. I cannot tell you how absolutely thrilled I am with this service. Granted, I am not necessarily a huge user beyond my office and occasionally at home but the ability to play both the music I already have then the music I find from their site has been absolutely wonderful and opened up new genres for me to appreciate. This evening, I found the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack as well as a variety of music from the various Star Wars films among the music available and have been listening to them with great joy. This does not include the list of music from the 70's, 80's & 90's that I have found and listened to over the last week or so. Granted, they do not have all of the music I would like (I found very little by Peter Schilling who I truly enjoy) but it has been far more of a gift than a disappointment. For music lovers, this site is highly recommended!

For those in the US (not that most Americans are paying any attention to it at the moment other than the various talking heads who have been wailing for the last few weeks), the looming debt crisis has to be rather unnerving. The possibility that the US could fall into a default status is a worrying concern and one that, frankly, should never have reached a critical point such as it now faces (3 days from today). Politicians have whored themselves out to every interest group (I can't refer to them as special interest groups as that would assign them a status that would not be fitting) and created causes for which government money can be spent with wild and reckless abandon. It has deemed itself an integral factor into the everyday life of its citizens and, as a sad result, requires vast sums of money to support itself. And now, both sides are playing brinksmanship in the hope of winning political points (and elections) rather than trying to resolve an issue that has no short-term solution. Democrats are unwilling to cut social programs - let's face it, if you received money from any one of those social programs (and far too many people do), would you vote for the party that took it away from you? Republicans are unwilling to increase the debt limit unless some form of fiscal restraint (and significant social spending but not military cuts) are imposed. And both sides of Congress waited until less than a week before even attempting to pass any form of legislation - and both sides passed bills that they knew would not pass in the other half. It is at times like this that not only Americans but people everywhere look at this form of government and wonder how the US managed to become a world superpower.

And, just to be fair, let's not forget the other burgeoning superpower that is facing a crisis that seems to have only grown in the past week and does not figure to become better with time - the fatal crash of one of its high-speed trains. A nation that has grown increasingly restless with the corruption that has plagued its government leaders found a focus upon which to vent in not just the crash itself but the actions taken by the government that seemed designed to hide any unpleasant facts that may have placed culpability for the crash upon itself. And the fact that there has been little transparency and deliberate efforts by the government to put a rosy picture on the efforts of the government to help the people hurt by the crash (much like the Wenchuan earthquake of 2008 which saw the rise of Ai Weiwei who worked to reveal facts of shoddy school construction that resulted in many children's deaths that the government did not want advertised) has only added fuel to the anger of many people who want accountability. Sadly, the likely outcome of this will be a sop - some poor official who has insufficient ties to higher officials for protection will be held as a sacrificial lamb and likely executed for "corruption". It is worth wondering how much longer Chinese will be satisfied with such sops before they demand real answers and accountability that correspond with the rise of the Chinese nation. For that matter, it's worth wondering how long Americans will be content to live with the decreasing accountability they seem to hold their own officials to...

EDIT: And just learned that apparently there isn't much in the way of an independent judiciary in China (big surprise!). Or at least it doesn't seem that way when the government tells all lawyers in the vicinity of the train crash they are not allowed to help any victims of the train crash because it "is a major sensitive issue concerning social stability".

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