Happy PI day everyone! I have never baked a pie in my life, and will not start today, but I stopped at two grocery stores and two bakeries looking for any kind of pie. I guess Monday is not a good pie day in Switzerland!
This week’s post will be pretty short. We did not do much last week. Julie was attending a COVID super spreader event at a hotel near the airport, and about all I did was eat fondue!
We have all seen what is going on with the price of gasoline and fuel. That price increase was expected and talked about even before the fighting started. Russia controls about 10 percent of the global production of oil. So it is of course no surprise that the price of a barrel would skyrocket. Here is the one political question I have:
Why is the republican party in the US so duplicitous? On one hand they say they support the actions President Biden has been taking in regards to Ukraine, and in fact they were the ones that really started the movement to sanction the oil coming out of Russia. Then out of the other side of their mouth they blame Biden for the sudden spike in the cost of gasoline. What I find even more frustrating is that from what I can see online, a large percentage of the population has now jumped on the bandwagon and blame Biden more so than Putin for the cost of gasoline. You could see this coming from a mile away, but I was surprised how quickly this seems to have taken root.
In the 80’s and 90’s I remember the republican party used to call many on the democrat side “useful idiots.” This term was used for someone that spread the same propaganda that the USSR was disseminating. If I remember correctly the term was first used in the 1960’s, so it is pretty old. Anyway, I think we need to resurrect that term again but this time it seems that it would be used for the loud mouth wing of the republican party, because the Tucker Carlson’s of the party seem to be really trying to shift the blame away from Putin and the Russians on this subject.
Enough about that. So we already knew that gas prices would go up, but here is something I learned this weekend. Russia and Ukraine account for 12 percent of the world’s food calories that are traded. The big one is wheat. Turkey and Egypt right now get almost 100% of their wheat from Ukraine, and many other countries in Northern Africa get about 50% of their wheat from Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine account for roughly 30% of the global supply of wheat. Corn, is also a big one. Ukraine and Russia account for 20% of the global trade in corn. Here is the one I never would have thought of. 80% of the sunflower oil production comes from these two countries. The US will slowly start to see this impact but not as quickly as those in Europe will.
The oil seed market is going to be impacted for years. Ukraine alone is over 50% of the sunflower seed market. Those seeds should be going in the ground in the next 3 – 4 weeks. How much do you think is actually going to get planted, and as the fighting continues, how much will actually grow to maturation? This will really drive up the price for all cooking oils. If the fighting continues for another two months, we could be looking at a three year timeline before the cooking oil market would actually stabilize. We will have disruptions this year since Ukraine has stopped all food exports. Next year for sure if the crop is not planted this spring. Then potentially into the third year while the pipeline replenishes.
The food issue is going to be another instance of the rich countries will be ok, but the poor countries will really suffer. Countries like the US and Canada, can probably increase their production so they will not suffer as much. Countries like Switzerland will be fine, because they can afford to buy food. It is the poor countries in Africa and South America that will be hit the hardest.
Another thing that we are seeing in Switzerland is a tie in between Covid Deniers and supporters of Russia’s invasion. There are a couple of different thoughts behind this. One is that simply these people are ANTI MAINSTREAM thought. If the majority of the population says the sky is blue and the sun is shining; these people will say it is cloudy. Another thought process is that these groups tend to use Russian sponsored means of communication and possibly they have opened themselves up to a lot more pro Russian propaganda than the average person sees. A third view simply says these people are all conspiracy believing people. According to a conspiracy specialist here, these people view Russia as the only government that ever tells the truth. Because they believe Russia always tells the truth, it is very difficult for them to make Russia the bad guy. These people have to keep supporting Russia, otherwise the entire house of cards begins to collapse. If Russia is the bad guy in this instance, then a lot of the other things they have believed may not be true either.
In another example of Swiss logic. It is OK for the government to impose economic sanctions on Russia for the invasion. Russia was the instigator, and therefore since they broke society’s norms they can be punished. HOWEVER, Switzerland also put sanctions on flights into and out of Russia. So to be neutral, they did the same with Ukraine. They took this one step further. There can be no flights over Switzerland that could be used to support Ukraine in their fight. So no planeloads of javeline missiles. They will allow humanitarian flights, though.
In a final piece of news from Switzerland. Last week the government rejected the idea of foreigners voting in federal elections. There are some cantons in Switzerland that allow foreign residents to vote in local elections. Like all voting regulations there are some requirements like living in the same town for at least five years, having no legal problems, etc… Over 25% of residents in Switzerland are NOT swiss citizens. This is a pretty large percentage of the population. So there was a proposal that said basically if you are over the age of 18, a contributing member of society (pay taxes), and you have lived here for five years you can now vote. I figured the odds of this happening were pretty slim, and it was rejected soundly at the committee level. 17 votes against to only 3 votes for the proposal.
A comment made by one of the politicians that made me laugh out loud was this one, “If someone wants to vote all they have to do is go through the naturalization process.” This is almost a joke. Switzerland has some of the most stringent methods to become a citizen of any country I am aware. There are literally people that are on their third generation of living in Switzerland that have not been able to become citizens. The biggest problem seems to be that there are minimum national standards on citizenship, but each canton, and then each community can add to those standards. I agree that taking a test to show you understand the constitution, and history of the country is a good thing. I agree that you should become a part of the community and become integrated into the culture. I do not think you should be denied citizenship because you wear sweatpants around town. (True Story, https://www.thelocal.ch/20160609/immigrant-family-denied-swiss-citizenship-over-choice-of-clothes/) Or because you did not know what canton claims to have invented raclette. (The answer to that one if you are interested is Valais.)
Oh well, I know I will not be here long enough to be meet the requirements for citizenship anyway.
I hope you have a great week. This weekend Julie and I driving to Munich for a couple of nights. So next week, I will have some pictures of a new city. Wednesday the temperature is supposed to get up to about 70; so I plan on going for a bike ride around the lake. I will bring my GoPro and have some video to share.