Sunday Roast: March 3, 2013 – Govern and be Governed, but do it right!

Good Morning, I hope you slept well (and long because I’m late again 😉  ).

Government: You’re doing it right:

The Swiss are governing today and how. One reason for my being late here is the coverage of the latest polls on tv. Three major propositions have been voted on today and a number of regional ones. One was to amend the constitution to protect families’ rights to reconcile having a job and raising kids. It is a draw, more or less. While big cities have voted for it in big numbers and the overall popular vote is for it, the cantons are divided and as it is a constitutional amendment, it needs a majority of both popular votes and cantons. The more rural areas are, predictably against it, kicking women in the teeth once again. (Sound familiar?)

Second vote is on getting land out of the building code, so the environment can be protected from uncontrolled and uncontrolleable building for profit. It got a majority. Easily, too.

The third and most internationally acclaimed vote is on the so-called “fat-cat” initiative. A whopping 68% of voters have voted for it. This after the initiative has been blocked and fought against for seven years.

Under the proposal, shareholders will be given the right to hold a binding vote on executive remuneration. Companies would also no longer be able to pay so-called “golden hellos” and “golden parachutes”, whereby senior managers receive a one-time cash lump sum, often running into millions of pounds, when joining or leaving a company. Polls show the majority of Swiss plan to vote “yes” in the referendum, despite businesses warning it will drive out companies from the country.(read more)

Add to that the cap on manager salaries imposed by the surrounding EU countries and you see things are moving in the right direction over here.

Government: You’re doing it wrong:

You think the Tea Party is  the most proficient government obstructionist of all times? They are not. They’re outright amateurs compared to the Italians: Our southern neighbors are blocking government right at the source. All Europe is frustratedly looking at what voters there did to their country. Outright distrust of government and politicians is in the Italian genetic code and not surprisingly so, given the corruption that is rampant in the country, but now they overreached.

IT IS hard now to recall that just three months ago the big threat Italy posed was of becoming boring. Its technocratic government, under Mario Monti, had regained the markets’ confidence. The spread of Italian government bonds over German ones was dwindling. The troublesome Silvio Berlusconi no longer led his fast-disintegrating party, and it seemed certain that the centre-left would win the next election. Mr Monti might then have become an economic super-minister—if he had not taken over the right with a mandate to make it more soberly European. (read more)

Let me add, Italy, unlike the US for instance has a fairly low constitutional threshold for new elections. They’ll be at it again in a few months, everybody agrees.

I wish you all a Happy and Relaxing (yes caps) Sunday. Enjoy some reading and our discussion. It is an Open Thread so join in.

 

Sunday Roast: February 24, 2013 – Sick Leave

 

Uuuuoooohhhh. I could use a sick leave. So please forgive me for an emergency post only.

Not enough austerity or too much of it? Great Britain has been downgraded.

Still not enough of the cavaliere or too much of him? Italy votes.

How much is too much? Switzerland has enough!

This is our Open thread, Join in!

 

The Watering Hole: Tuesday, September 20th – Outside..

.. the US there’s politics, too.

Germany: Chancellor Merkel’s coalition Government is in hot water. The junior partner FDP, a strictly neoliberal party, has received the fifth and, if you ask me, final blow at last Sunday’s elections in Berlin, when they were down to 1.8% of votes. This bodes ill for the ruling coalition.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel dislikes putting her foot down to solve government disputes. She associates that form of exercising authority with ill-tempered men who use arrogance to make up for their lack of competence. And she thinks people who keep banging their fist on the table end up getting ignored in the long run. (read more)

I beg to differ with some of the article, however. The SPD (Social Democrats) would be ill advised to enter a coalition government in times of really unpleasant decisions about the future of the Euro. They’ll tolerate a minority rule and ask for new elections, is my guess.

Italy: S&P has now downgraded Italy. Italy, is one of the more important economies in Europe, so I expect the stock markets to go down significantly again today. (Update: With markets you never kow. The indices are up right now. Markets always know best. What do I know? 🙄 )

S&P’s downgraded its unsolicited ratings on Italy to A/A-1 from A+/A-1+ and kept its outlook on negative, sending the euro more than half a cent lower against the dollar.

The agency, which put Italy on review for downgrade in May, said that the outlook for growth was worsening and there was little sign that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s fractious center-right government could respond effectively. (read more)

But Berlusconi is dealing with more pressing problems:

The conversations, wire-tapped as part of a probe into an alleged prostitution ring surrounding Berlusconi, also suggested for the first time that he gave money to the women he allegedly slept with, contradicting his repeated insistence that he never paid for sex, ‘The Daily Telegraph’ reported.

The taped conversations revealed in extraordinary detail how parties involving dozens of young starlets and escort girls were organised for the Italian PM by a 36-year-old middleman, Gianpaolo Tarantini, a convicted cocaine dealer. (read more)

United Kingdom: Blair’s back, or did he ever go away? Cameron is taking advice from Tony Blair? Well here’s an expert. Watch out, you may end up with another war on your hands! The question is, how much are they paying for his consulting prowess? He likes the cash.

David Cameron is secretly receiving political advice on foreign affairs from Tony Blair – most recently on how to resolve the international deadlock over Palestinian statehood, The Independent has learnt.

Mr Cameron has buried party political loyalties and privately invited the former Labour Prime Minister to Chequers to discuss the impasse, according to Foreign Office sources. (read more)

Hey Tony, there’s a warm cell in The Hague waiting for you (I hope)!

This is our Open Thread. This is my part of the world. What’s up in yours?

The Watering Hole: Tuesday June 14th – Basta!

“Basta!” means “Enough!” in Italian. And basta the Italians said yesterday. In four referendi they dealt a huge blow to Italian Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi. They said: “Enough!” To the privatization of their water supply. “Enough!” to the guaranteed profits of same privatization. “Enough!” to the plans to build new nuclear power plants. And, finally: “Enough!” to the tailor made legislation, that was meant to let Berlusconi off the hook in his legal troubles. They even managed to get over the quorum of minimum 50% of voters (57%) even though the government had picked a bank holiday weekend for the vote and tried to discourage the people from voting. You can find two excellent background articles on Berlusconi’s Italy here and here.

Basta Cavaliere! Vattene!

The Italians could do it. The Spanish can do it, the Greek can do it, the Syrians do it at a cruel price, the Libyans do it, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan so many people are now standing up for their rights against their corrupt elites. When will we?

This is our Open Thread. Speak Up!

The Watering Hole: December 14 – Berlusconi’s End ?!

Today Silvio Berlusconi is about to be ousted, the discussion on the vote of no confidence is happening while I write this. Italy, a country I love, has deserved better than him. I hope they arrest him on the spot after they do send him off.

This is our open thread, feel free to comment!

UPDATE: The BBC just confirmed he has won the vote in both houses. đŸ˜„

Across the Pond: Austerity, Losers and Football

French Team Plotting (source:l'Ă©quipe)

In the United Kingdom there are only two newsworthy items today. One is the return to fiscal austerity of the new government:

Public sector workers face cuts in their pay and job prospects worse than anything they have seen for a generation as George Osborne tries to cut spending in the way that Margaret Thatcher did – but in half the time. (read more)

The list of cruelties in this “bloodbath budget” is impressive (discussion can be found here). I’m, for my part, shudder at the implications, Britain will come to an economic standstill IMHO.

The second is: Football. At least until this afternoon. Should you do business with the UK, hurry up. After 3 p.m., if you are really lucky, a polite utterance of incomprehension will be all you get. Don’t try it after 6 p.m. either, they’ll be eithere grieving or celebrating collectively.

In Germany you have time until 8.30 p.m. and you will encounter similar reactions.

The football mania is probably a welcome relief for some in Germany who are losing their match in the politics business:

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, head of Chancellor Merkel’s junior coalition partner the Free Democrats, is facing mounting criticism from his party. Falling poll numbers and limited political leverage have led many to believe it is time for a change at the top.

One can be forgiven for having forgotten, but Germany’s foreign minister still does exist. (read more)

The current coalition is down to 35% approval and won’t last the whole four years, if you ask me.

France is already grieving collectively. Their team has managed to go out of the World Cup in utter disgrace and it starts to have consequences:

PARIS – Sponsors are starting to distance themselves from France’s scandal-hit soccer team.

Credit Agricole said on Monday it had cancelled its television campaign with the team, which on Sunday boycotted a training session in support of expelled striker Nicolas Anelka.

“We are suspending our advertising campaign on insurance products that features the French team,” a spokeswoman for the French bank said.

The campaign was initially slated to end on June 25.

They only got in on a foul and I don’t believe the Irish, who have been cheated out of participating, would have dared to behave like this.

The Italians? Don’t get me started on them. Luckily, this time the unspeakable Umberto Rossi of the fascist Lega Nord, insinuated bribery himself:

Federal Reforms Minister Bossi reportedly said two to three Slovak players would surface in the Italian league next season, responding to a question about which team would win.

They are the worst divers ever and I adamantly refuse to recognize a penalty for them unless the player is bleeding profusely. Everything else is a dive!

So what is really going on in Europe these days? Well, Football! Never mind the Euro is still in trouble, we can take care of that after July 11th.

CNN: Global Celebrations Over Obama Victory

The world reacts to the news that Barack Obama is elected the 44th President of the United States.

Europe Calling – 415 Days to Go

Today is World AIDS Day. There have been so many talented people, who lost their lives to this disease. Freddie Mercury, Arthur Ashe, Keith Haring, Anthony Perkins, Rudolph Nurejew, Rock Hudson, just to name a few. Another estimated 25 million men, women and children have succumbed to the virus. Twenty years ago infection meant you were going to die, today it means you’ll have to live with the disease. Unless, of course, you’re poor and living in Africa, then even today with all the modern pharmaceuticals available to us, you are going to die. Neither a cure, nor immunization are available yet. We’ve come a long way, from the times, when politicians asked for segregation of the patients in camps. But we will still have to go a long way when it comes to accepting the diversity in lifestyles, not only sexual, and despite any differences, accept the other man as a fellow human being worthy of our respect.

This said, here is what’s in the news in Europe today: Continue reading

Sunday Morning in Europe – News

 (Swiss Steam Engine) 

Good Morning on a slow news morning in Europe. Slow? Depends on how we view it. Actual lack of breaking news of the “Britney-faces-jail” variety makes one concentrate on the real important stories.

And, as on most Sundays, “The Sunday Times” is a bonanza of information. Israel claims it has seized nuclear material from a Syrian site before the site was attacked in an air-raid. When reading this article, don’t omit reading the comments that come with it. And, surprisingly, there is no mention of Iran. The Israeli military mission was met with determined support from Washington, whereas an Israeli invitation to Syria to talk and lower tensions  met with a “studied lack of interest” from the US. (Honi soit qui mal y pense!)

At least no lack of interest here: The planning for airstrikes and a war with Iran, get their own article in “The Times” today. “Project Checkmate” has been resurrected. And intense planning is under way for military action against Iran. However, can the following be counted as a small flicker of hope?

The US president faces strong opposition to military action, however, within his own joint chiefs of staff. “None of them think it is a good idea, but they will do it if they are told to,” said a senior defence source.

Hardly. So the drumbeats keep accelerating.

“The Guardian” is doing well, too. Why is the UN trying to bring an effectual newcomer into the position of top prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia?

The mercenary armies in Iraq have been warned in May (!) about a deteriorating security situation, due to growing tensions between American security contractors and Iraqis. Blackwater didn’t heed the warning and fulfilled the prophecy.

In Myanmar, the Buddhist monks, and now the nuns, too, are busily trying to bring the military junta to their knees. All it takes is taking to the streets.

Italians are anxious to learn about the fate of two of their soldiers who disappeared in Herat province. They are feared to  have been abducted along with two Afghan interpreters.

In France M. Sarkozy and M.Fillon are losing voter confidence. Maybe war drums are not so popular in France, the social reforms planned by the duo will most certainly cause hackles to rise.

While German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting the Dalai Lama in Berlin, the Chinese are showing their discontent. They are giving their blogging community enough slack, so they can voice their fury. But honestly, being called a “witch” by Chinese bloggers won’t impress her that much.

And last:

Sadly, the French mime artist Marcel Marceau passed away yesterday. You can find more on this unusual man here.