Thursday, 29 September 2011

Motorcycling Landscapes

These are the types of scenes that you imagine you'll experience when you first buy a motorcycle. Stark, beautiful, inspiring and any other adjective you can think of......

Sadly, where I live, it's mostly traffic lights, congestion and steaming asphalt.

But hey, at least I can look at pics like these from time to time...

Her Eyes

Something about the sparkling eyes that caught my attention.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

How the EURO became broken

It's an interesting read and a primer if you (like me) want to make sure you've got your facts straight before you carry on condemning everything that's bad about Globalization, "Free Trade" and the power of money & greed. 

Also, as a side bar, it's interesting that CNN's web reporting is vastly better than the on-air crap that they feed the world. I wonder if they could learn a lesson from themselves but then again, that presupposes that their audience can actually read.  


How the euro became a broken dream
By Irene Chapple, CNN
September 23, 2011 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
The euro, a currency binding 17 European nations, is under pressure due to the eurozone's debt crisis.
The euro, a currency binding 17 European nations, is under pressure due to the eurozone's debt crisis.

  • The Treaty of Maastricht which enabled the euro's creation was signed in 1992
  • The euro was available as cash by 2001
  • It is used over the eurozone's 17 countries
  • But it is under pressure due to the eurozone's debt crisis
London (CNN) -- Why was the euro created?
The euro, which created the world's largest trading power, was designed to link together the European nations for trade and political purposes. It was born amidst political and economic upheaval as Germany headed towards reunification - with the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 - and communism disintegrated in Eastern Europe. The European Union was put in place after World War II, but as the economic winds shifted the drive to create a single economic and political bloc intensified.
The Treaty on European Union, known as the Treaty of Maastricht, was signed in the Netherlands city of Maastricht on February 7, 1992, before entering into force in 1993. It created the structure for a single currency, later named the euro, to be born. The currency's symbol was inspired by the Greek letter epsilon, with the notes and coins available by 2001. They were issued by the European Central Bank, which was based in Frankfurt to placate Germany's loss of its beloved Deutschmark.
But now the European dream -- which has the euro at its centre -- has been hobbled. Eurozone members, led by Germany, are being forced to bail out the weaker economies in a financial crisis which is threatening to drag the bloc into a recession and is reverberating across the globe.

The rise and fall of the euro
How does the euro work?
Creating a currency which could be used across such disparate economies was always a difficult task. The idea for a single currency was promoted by Jacques Delors, a former French minister of finance, who held the European Commission presidency from 1985 to 1995.
The aim was to stamp a European identity in the markets, bringing, among other things, price stability, growth and trading benefits. The Delors report of 1989 defined a monetary union objective as being, in part, a "complete liberalisation of capital movements."
The final structure was a bloc in which political and fiscal integration was minimal; The euro was not designed to create a 'United States' of Europe. Instead the Maastricht Treaty created specific conditions for entry into the single currency. Among other criteria, member countries must not allow annual budget deficits to exceed 3% of gross domestic product, and public debt must be under 60%.
The bloc's monetary policy was to be controlled by the European Central Bank, which had a remit of setting interest rates and controlling inflation around 2% or below. However, each country would retain its own tax policies, budgets and banks and issue their own bonds - with prices varying depending on the risks investors associated with each country.
Who belongs to the eurozone?
Of the 27 countries in the European Union, 17 nations -- comprising almost 332 million people -- use the euro as their currency. The eurozone's biggest economy is Germany, followed by France.

Europe growing nervous over Greece
The weaker economies are Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain, a group which gained the unwanted acronym PIIGS as the crisis unfolded. Other members are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia with the most recent edition, Estonia, joining in January this year. Sweden does not belong to the eurozone but is obligated to do so in the future, according to the terms of the treaty.
Those who don't qualify for the euro, even though they are members of the EU, are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. In 2000 Denmark rejected the adoption of the euro in a referendum, while the UK also stayed out.
Why didn't the UK want to belong to the eurozone?
Debate over joining the single currency was fierce. Margaret Thatcher, Conservative prime minister from 1979 to 1990, was anti-euro. The Tories remained largely eurosceptic under Thatcher's successor, John Major.
Then came Black Wednesday, the day in 1992 on which Britain was forced to halt its membership of euro's precursor, the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. Black Wednesday was seen as proof a monetary union and European currency could not work, says Hans-Joachim Voth, research professor of economics at Barcelona's Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
Adding to the political humiliation, Black Wednesday is also remembered as the day which enabled investor George Soros to collect an estimated $1 billion in profits from betting against the pound.
Tony Blair's Labour government, which succeeded Major's Conservative government, was in favor of joining the euro, but only if certain economic tests were met. They weren't, and the UK stayed out. Blair reiterated his support of the euro in an interview with the BBC this year, but said the case for Britain was not compelling. Public opinion polls have showed opposition to adopting the currency at up to 75%.
According to Voth, Britain "has always had the problem of wanting to be a part of Europe, without really signing up for the European project."
What was the issue with Greece?
The Greek economy has been in trouble since the country joined the euro, due to a mix of overspending and inability to raise enough revenue. In 2004, it admitted that the country's financial position was worse than reported and had breached the eurozone entry requirements.
By 2008 the government had narrowly passed a belt-tightening budget, designed to trim its massive national debt burden, triggering massive protests. In 2009, Greece admitted its deficit would be more than 12% of gross domestic product -- far higher than previous estimates and more than four times the requirements of entry into the eurozone.
The country was hit with ratings downgrades, pushing its sovereign bonds into so-called 'junk' territory, and the damage continued to spiral. Despite the introduction of brutal austerity measures - which have prompted waves of violent protests - Greece has been unable to balance its books. It is currently negotiating for the release of €8 billion in funds which it needs to pay its public sector wages. Greece will be out of money by about mid-October should the funds not be released, and likely default on its debt.
While a default is now widely expected, the consequences are not yet clear. A disorderly default, which would be sudden and unexpected, would most likely trigger global panic. An orderly default, in which creditors have clarity about the losses they will take, may ease some pain. Creditors can expect to take losses of up to 70% on their investments, according to Standard & Poor's figures.
Why is the eurozone cracking?
Greece's shifting economic data created panic among investors, who stopped buying its bonds, making it impossible to fund itself. In May 2010, Greece received a €110 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund and its eurozone partners.
A European bail-out fund was then set up to enable a more organized response to subsequent emergencies. The fund was quickly tapped again as turmoil gripped the markets. Ireland's banks were revealed to be a black hole of cash and it was forced to tap the fund for cash. Portugal followed, then Greece returned for more financial help.
While the countries which have been bailed out have specific problems - Greece's lax tax collection, and Ireland's black hole of a banking system, for example - the problem has been exacerbated by a currency which shackles the weak to the strong, economists say. Political difficulties in driving through a decisive plan for reining in the crisis has fed the panic.
What happens if a member defaults?
Nobody really knows, and the uncertainty has fed massive volatility in both the credit and equity markets across the world, driving the costs of global stocks dramatically lower and pushing both Europe and the U.S. -- which is also facing massive financial problems -- toward recession. The return of a recession will likely create increased unemployment and lower wages.
A default by Greece, or its departure from the eurozone, also carries contagion risk. That means investors will worry about other nations in trouble -- such as Italy, which makes up 17% of the eurozone economy, nearly seven times bigger than the economy of Greece -- and further increase financial instability across the globe.
Politically, it will ignite the debate about whether the European dream, and the euro, can survive, and if it should have even been created in the first place.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Mid-East peace needs fresh US approach

Interesting Read......

Shamelessly nabbed from the BBC without their permission. Original site is here

Viewpoint: Mid-East peace needs fresh US approach

A girl waves a Palestinian flag during a rally in support of the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition at the UN, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday 21 September
Yezid Sayigh of the Carnegie Middle East Center argues that the hollowness of US-led diplomacy and the more and more deeply entrenched Israeli occupation have forced Palestinian leaders to resort to trying to gain full UN membership.
Whatever the outcome of the Palestinian bid for recognition at the United Nations, the Obama administration must confront the fact that its handling of the whole affair has been a mess.
A hard look at what went wrong in US diplomacy is essential if proposals by President Barack Obama and other leaders to launch new peace talks in the aftermath of the UN decision are to avoid the same fate.
The dispatch of veteran US negotiator Dennis Ross and Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair to dissuade the Palestinians was virtually guaranteed to arouse distrust of the administration's motives and provoke an adverse reaction.
Mr Ross is universally regarded among the Palestinian political leadership and negotiating team as biased toward Israel, and as excessively inclined to browbeat his interlocutors.
As Mr Ross's former colleague Aaron David Miller admitted: "For far too long, many American officials involved in Arab-Israeli peacemaking, myself included, have acted as Israel's attorney, catering for and co-ordinating with the Israelis at the expense of successful peace negotiations."

Israeli viewpoint

Yossi Klein Halevi, an Israeli author and political commentator, argues that all the Palestinians need to do to get a state is to convince Israelis that this state does not represent a threat.
This week, according to Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, Mr Ross used "undiplomatic language" in addressing the Palestinian leadership. One has to wonder what the Obama administration was thinking.
Tony Blair was, if anything, an even worse choice. The Palestinian leadership not only distrust him, they disrespect him. His accounts of supposed achievements on behalf of the Palestinian economy are deeply resented as overblown and self-promoting.
In my extensive encounters over the years with international officials in the Palestinian territories, this is a widely-held view of Mr Blair's work in the region.
According to a close aide, during his brief visits to Jerusalem, Mr Blair typically arrives late for meetings he has called with senior donor representatives, speaks without an agenda or action points, and then rushes away to catch a flight back to his other activities.
Quartet irrelevant The US attempt in July to circumvent the Palestinian UN bid by recruiting the Quartet, a group that also includes the European Union, Russia and the UN, to issue "quasi terms of reference" for new peace talks was deeply inadequate in terms of substance - the other three members rejected it outright.

Palestinian UN Statehood Bid

  • Palestinians currently have permanent observer entity status at the UN
  • They are represented by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)
  • Officials now want an upgrade so a state of Palestine has full member status at the UN
  • They seek recognition on 1967 borders - in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza
  • Enhanced observer member status could be an interim option
More importantly, however, it confirmed just how marginal the Quartet is.
For years, the Quartet has been used by the United States to safely sideline its supposed partners while America sets the agenda and timetable for action.
One glaring example of this occurred in spring 2003. The Quartet had agreed to establish a "monitoring mechanism" to verify Israeli, as well as Palestinian, implementation of the "Roadmap to Peace", but the United States came under Israeli pressure and unilaterally discarded the mechanism when it published the official version of the Roadmap, without consulting the other Quartet members.
The time to dismantle the Quartet has long passed, since it has failed to balance and constrain US bias.
All process, no peace US diplomacy has been characterised by a multiplicity of conflicting channels, leading to confused signals and a weakened impact.
Over the past four years, the US effort has been distributed among Special Envoy George Mitchell (representing the Department of State), US Security Coordinator Gen Keith Dayton (until 2010), the White House and National Security Council and the CIA, most of whom have strained and competitive relations with one another that end up being counterproductive.
After 20 years of an ultimately futile peace process... the Palestinian leadership has lost credibility with its own people over its dealings with Israel”
Of course, dysfunctional turf battles reflect the more fundamental problem of a policy vacuum towards the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that extends back to the start of George W Bush's administration in 2001.
After 20 years of an ultimately futile peace process, the facts on the ground of the Israeli occupation and settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have become more entrenched and the Palestinian leadership has lost credibility with its own people over its dealings with Israel.
A principal factor in this outcome is that US diplomacy in the Israeli-Palestinian context has been inept and badly misjudged.
If public statements about launching new peace talks are to be credible, then the Obama administration must engage in a thorough overhaul of how it conducts its diplomacy. This is no guarantee of success, but is nonetheless the minimum bar it must pass.
Replacing the present cast of envoys and mechanisms is necessary to reach the "legitimate and balanced framework" for negotiations called for by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
To retain the old is to maintain the US monopoly on the peace process - all process and no peace - and makes it difficult for the US to present itself as an honest, credible broker.
Ironically, now that the Obama administration appears finally to have woken up, focused and sharpened its skills - even if only to thwart the Palestinian bid - perhaps it can be persuaded to direct this new-found energy into a diplomatic framework that is international rather than unipolar, and not only in name.

Yezid Sayigh is a senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

Unfuckable Lard Ass ?!?

I just saw heard this on the Colbert Report and after Googling it I came across the following news article....

Italy, seriously folks, this guy's gotta go.

Don't you people have any shame, any self respect, any sense of morals ? How in the hell can you tolerate having this lecherous, narcissistic, foul-mouthed, elitist pig as your head of state ?

Isn't it bad enough that he's been banging 17yr old girls who're prostitutes (I know prostitution is legal in Italy but surely not underage ones). Isn't it bad enough that this moron is making comments about the head of state of THE country that could very well be your economic saviour (or not after this)

Original post is located here

Berlusconi calls Merkel an "unfuckable lard-arse:" reports

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi reportedly calls German Chancellor Angela Merkel an "unfuckable lard-arse."

Berlusconi july 11
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi inside the Parliament in Rome on July 15, 2011. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE /AFP/Getty Images)
Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi reportedly called German Chancellor Angela Merkel an "unfuckable lard-arse" during a wiretapped conversation, the Independent of London reports.
Investigators overheard the remarks during a July phone conversation between Berlusconi and the man accused of supplying prostitutes to the prime minister's parties, the Independent states. Berlusconi used the Italian phrase, "culona inchiavabile," reports the Atlantic.
More from GlobalPost: Italian voters run out of sympathy for Berlusconi
Investigators were searching for evidence against the prime minister regarding a number of charges including corruption, Germany's The Local reports.
“If the rumors are true, which are not only circulating in journalist circles but also in parliament, that the Prime Minister has spoken about Merkel in an unspeakable, unpronounceable, unacceptable way, the situation would be dramatic. Someone who has reached out their hand to us would be spat at in the face," Italian MP Rocco Buttiglione told parliament, according to The Local.
Berlusconi, 74, has made a series of what many describe as outrageous gaffes during his tenure as prime minister. Three years ago, he described President Barack Obama as "suntanned."
The latest sexist remarks concerning Merkel came as German officials were pressuring Italy over its implementation of budget cuts.
During the call, Berlusconi also called Italy a "shitty" country.

Not gettin' any ? You can always buy some !!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Why I Hate Credit Cards, Credit Companies and Banks in General

What's on HBO tonight ?

They do great programming but this graphic really does capture the essence of what's on TV nowadays....

Click to Expand

Not Your Parent's Ecomony Anymore.....

Wonder why we don't hear more about this in the media, or why our politicians aren't doing anything to rectify this ? Could it be that the media are owned by the wealthy and the politicians are beholden to the wealthy ? NAH....that would be too conspiratorial...too outlandish...Tickle Down Economics works !! Just look for yourself...

Click to Expand

Who Owns Our Modern Mythology

Our modern era doesn't just celebrate stories about gods and demi-gods — we have a whole host of new mythic figures that we obsess about, from Luke Skywalker to Superman to Captain Kirk. But who owns these legends? We decided to find out.

We've compiled a chart, to the best of our ability, showing the corporate ownership of our modern mythology, and here it is:

Click to Enlarge
A few caveats apply. We established the current ownership, or investment in, properties, to the best of our knowledge. In the case of movie rights, options do expire, and production deals may be only for a particular project. Twentieth Century Fox has been a co-production partner in the live-action Star Wars films, but may not own any rights to Star Wars beyond those films. Obviously, the truth of who owns what is always debatable and subject to reams of contractual language, which we don't have at our fingertips. So this is our best guess as to which corporations have a stake in our modern folklore.