Friday, April 27, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
THAT'S EXACTLY how I feel too about vlogging and online video in general. In theoretical terms I like the idea, which is generally more appealing than text. But it's just that I don't have the time, and even when I do I feel my scarce available time is better put to use at other stuff, namely... reading more text. Quicker and to the point.
It's as if I was always thinking in the back of my head about the information's cost of opportunity, so I tend to keep the URL of the videos I want to watch and, with some exceptions, I leave them for some other day. Which means the weekends but, who wants to spend them watching videos at the computer, instead of, say, hanging out or going outdoors? I spend too much time sitting in front of a computer during weekdays, anyway; and on weekends I still need to be more efficient with my time at the computer, not less, in order to have time for other things. Which makes watching video even less likely. It's a sort of a Catch 22.
IF WOLFOWITZ'S pseudo-scandal is so important and reflective of the culture of corruption bla bla bla, what should we call this?
Imagine that a top civil servant at a major multinational institution arranges a job for a fortysomething female colleague that comes with a $45,000 raise and brings her yearly salary to about $190,000, tax free. Now imagine that the couple has been photographed at a nudist beach--him wearing nothing but a baseball cap.Keep on reading.
The latest sordid twist in l'affaire Wolfowitz? Not at all. This is the story of Günter Verheugen, first vice president of the European Commission in Brussels. In its contrasts and similarities with the "scandal" now absorbing the World Bank and its president, it offers timely instruction on the nature and power of modern bureaucracies.
In April, Mr. Verheugen, a former German parliamentarian for the Social Democrats, appointed economist Petra Erler as his chief of staff. In August, the couple was spotted au naturel on a Baltic shore. Mr. Verheugen--who also has a wife--has dismissed allegations of impropriety as "pure slander" and asked the German newsweekly Der Spiegel whether "two adults [can't] do as they wish in their private lives?"
In fact, they can't: The EU Commission's Code of Conduct, which he helped draft, observes that "in their official and private lives Commissioners should behave in a manner that is in keeping with the dignity of their office. Ruling out all risks of a conflict of interest helps guarantee their independence."
Monday, April 23, 2007
In many ways, the feminization of bullfighting reflects the broader changes taking place in Spanish society as a whole. And nowhere is this more evident than in the anti-terrorism policies of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a self-proclaimed feminist who lately has committed a number of blunders so outrageous that Spaniards of all political leanings now fear that he has made Spain more, not less, vulnerable to terrorism.There's much more; keep on reading.
For many Spaniards, including his supporters, Zapatero is an accidental political leader who was thrust into the prime minister’s office by the Islamic terrorists who set off a series of train bombs in Madrid that killed 191 people only three days before the 2004 general elections. Although the incumbent Popular Party (PP) was widely expected to win another term in office, Zapatero benefited from the hysteria fomented by Spain’s left-leaning mass media in the hours before voters went to the polls. With the aid of a motley hodge-podge of leftist and nationalist parties, Zapatero, who failed to win an absolute majority, was able to cobble together a coalition government. Thus Zapatero, who is dogmatically attached to the ideas of the European left, is beholden to the extreme left in order to remain in power.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
In response to the horrible mass shooting at Virginia Tech on Monday, overseas leaders as well as many Americans have condemned the "gun culture" of the United States. Perhaps these overseas leaders and American citizens would be less hard on our country if we discuss what has been happening in other countries.And it's even worse than what Steve Sanek says: he forgot the Dunblane massacre, I think. John @ Iberian Notes has a fairly long list; too bad there are not links, but nevertheless it's instructive.
UPDATE. John says he got the data from Mayhem.net, which he linked. True.
Friday, April 20, 2007
1. An armed madman comes to a place and starts shooting people. None of the people who's around is armed.Read it all.
2. An armed madman comes to a place and starts shooting people. Several (say, five) people in the vicinity are armed.
Which madman is more likely to be stopped quicker — the one who outguns everyone else 1-0, or the one who is outgunned 5-1?
If this weren't a madman but Jack Bauer — or even an average highly trained soldier — the five may well be unable to stop the one. But otherwise, the odds would seem to be more against the madman in situation 2 rather than 1, no?
No-one can prove anything, of course. Maybe the five would be the first to be shot. Maybe they'd run away. Maybe they wouldn't be around. Maybe they'd shoot and miss. Still, if you had to bet, which would you bet would be the worse scenario for the madman, and the better one for his victims?
Now of course if arming the five people for the extremely rare situation when they'll need to stop a madman will end up causing more harm than good in the much more common situations when there's no madman around, that might be a bad tradeoff. That is the argument I've heard against letting students possess weapons on-campus: They're young, they drink a lot, they'll start shooting when they get into a hot argument in class or at a debate. I'm not sure that's right, but let's say it is.
What, though, is the argument against allowing professors and other university staff to possess weapons, if they choose?
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Roy Spencer is speaking up about his belief that Earth is not headed toward a global warming disaster.
Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and former NASA scientist, said he knows he's in the minority with his opinions, but he doesn't believe manmade influences are causing catastrophic climate changes.
"We see something change in our climate and we blame ourselves," Spencer told the Republican Women of Madison during a lunch meeting Wednesday.
Spencer contends there is not yet enough known about the Earth's atmosphere to understand exactly what occurs naturally to stabilize the earth's climate.
"I don't think we understand what happens. We can watch it happen on the (climate) models, we know it happens, but we don't know for sure how it happens," Spencer said.
Developing new energy technology is the only way to know for sure, he said, because he believes the existing climate models are too sensitive.
He said everything about the climate is tied to precipitation systems. But the climate models don't consider precipitation efficiency. However, he said the little evidence that exists shows precipitation systems act as a natural thermostat to reduce warming.
"The air you're breathing right now was, in the last few days, part of a precipitation system," he said.
Spencer said the fears about global warming have people wondering whether something should be done now to stop it.
"That's the precautionary principle, and it makes no sense because we don't live our lives that way," Spencer said. "Everything in life has risks and benefits; we could die from eating food."
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
"We will not be in peace until we set our foot again in our beloved al-Andalus," al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said on claiming responsibility for an attack which killed at least 24 people in Algiers on Wednesday.
Al-Andalus is the Moorish name for Spain, parts of which were ruled by Muslims for about eight centuries until the last Moorish bastion, Granada, succumbed to the Christian Reconquest in 1492.
The terrorists will undoubtedly attempt to extend their offensive from Northern Africa to European soil, anti-terrorism judge Baltasar Garzon warned, cautioning that Spain was at a "very high risk" of suffering an Islamist attack.
The reference to al-Andalus was not the first by al-Qaeda, which has also vowed to put an end to the Spanish "occupation" of the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the Moroccan coast.
Such announcements worry the security services in Spain, where 29 mainly Moroccan suspects are on trial for the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 and injured about 1,800 people.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Until just a few days ago, most policymakers and analysts in the West often cited Algeria as a successful example of dealing with Islamist terror through political means rather than the use of force. The idea is that accommodating the Islamists by offering them a share of political power while adopting part of their social agenda would temper their appetite for total domination.
The resurgence of terrorism, as witnessed in the recent series of attacks including a spectacular suicide operation that killed 30 people in the capital Algiers on Wednesday, casts doubt on the validity of that analysis.
For, during the past six years, President Abdulaziz Bouteflika has gone out of his way to accommodate the Islamists. He started by freeing thousands of militants, including hundreds with blood on their hand, from prison.
He continued with an amnesty that allowed thousands more to come out of the hiding and resettle in society, often with generous grants from the government. In some cases the government “compensated” the supposedly repenting terrorists for losses sustained while away doing the “jihad”.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Saturday, April 14, 2007
[P]reliminary results are visible. The landscape is shifting in the two fronts of the current troop surge: Anbar province and Baghdad.
The news from Anbar is the most promising. Only last fall, the Marines' leading intelligence officer there concluded that the United States had essentially lost the fight to al-Qaeda. Yet just this week, the Marine commandant, Gen. James Conway, returned from a four-day visit to the province and reported that we "have turned the corner."
Why? Because, as Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, the Australian counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, has written, 14 of the 18 tribal leaders in Anbar have turned against al-Qaeda. As a result, thousands of Sunni recruits are turning up at police stations where none could be seen before. For the first time, former insurgent strongholds such as Ramadi have a Sunni police force fighting essentially on our side.
Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a major critic of the Bush war policy, reports that in Anbar, al-Qaeda is facing "a real and growing groundswell of Sunni tribal opposition." And that "this is a crucial struggle, and it is going our way -- for now."
The situation in Baghdad is more mixed. Yesterday's bridge and Green Zone attacks show the insurgents' ability to bomb sensitive sites. On the other hand, pacification is proceeding. "Nowhere is safe for Westerners to linger," ABC's Terry McCarthy reported on April 3. "But over the past week we visited five different neighborhoods where the locals told us life is slowly coming back to normal." He reported from Jadriyah, Karrada, Zayouna, Zawra Park and the notorious Haifa Street, previously known as "sniper alley." He found that "children have come out to play again. Shoppers are back in markets," and he concluded that "nobody knows if this small safe zone will expand or get swallowed up again by violence. For the time being though, people here are happy to enjoy a life that looks almost normal."
Paris - where it all began.Read the rest.
Anti-Americanism was born in France. And here's a fascinating fact: it was born well before the United States existed. It was not caused by Coca-Cola, or McDonald's, or Hollywood or George W Bush.
The prevailing view among French academics throughout the 18th Century was that the New World was ghastly. It stank, it was too humid for life to prosper. And, as one European biologist put it: "Everything found there is degenerate or monstrous."
In their heart of hearts, many French people still believe that to be true.
A French intellectual once compared the United States with Belgium. Wounding. But you see what he meant: the French capital has a grandeur about it that demands attention on the world stage. Belgium does not, nor does most of America.
Washington is grand but Washington was designed by a Frenchman and his vision didn't fit the rest of the nation. America is ordinary. Go on say it out loud on the streets of Paris: "America is ordinary". It celebrates the pursuit of small-scale happiness - in families and communities - and that is what the anti-Americans can't stand.
Friday, April 13, 2007
In a campaign without peacetime precedent, the media-entertainment-environmental complex is warning about global warming. Never, other than during the two world wars, has there been such a concerted effort by opinion-forming institutions to indoctrinate Americans, 83 percent of whom now call global warming a ``serious problem.'' Indoctrination is supposed to be a predicate for action commensurate with professions of seriousness.Read the rest.
For example, Democrats could demand that the president send the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate so they can embrace it. In 1997, the Senate voted 95-0 in opposition to any agreement which would, like the protocol, require significant reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions in America and some other developed nations but would involve no ``specific scheduled commitments'' for 129 ``developing'' countries, including the second, fourth, 10th, 11th, 13th and 15th largest economies (China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico and Indonesia). Forty-two of the senators serving in 1997 are gone. Let's find out if the new senators disagree with the 1997 vote.
Do they also disagree with Bjorn Lomborg, author of ``The Skeptical Environmentalist''? He says: Compliance with Kyoto would reduce global warming by an amount too small to measure. But the cost of compliance just to the United States would be higher than the cost of providing the entire world with clean drinking water and sanitation, which would prevent 2 million deaths (from diseases like infant diarrhea) a year and prevent half a billion people from becoming seriously ill each year.
Though there is no Soviet Union today, the enemies of Western democracy, supported by a conglomerate of Islamic states, terror groups, and insurgents, have begun to work together with a unity of purpose reminiscent of the Soviet menace: Not only in funding, training, and arming those who seek democracy’s demise; not only in mounting attacks against Israel, America, and their allies around the world; not only in seeking technological advances that will enable them to threaten the life of every Western citizen; but also in advancing a clear vision of a permanent, intractable, and ultimately victorious struggle against the West–an idea they convey articulately, consistently, and with brutal efficiency.
[...] What would such a struggle look like? We should not fear to call this conflict by its name: It is the Second Cold War, with Iran as the approximate counterpart of the Soviet Union. Like the ussr, Iran is an enemy that even the mighty United States will probably never meet in full force on the battlefield and instead must fight via its proxies, wherever they are found. Like the Soviet Union, the Ayatollahs’ regime is based on an ideological revolution that repudiates human liberty and subjects its political opponents to imprisonment and death, a regime which, in order to maintain its popular support, must continue to foment similar revolutions everywhere it can, to show that it is on the winning side of history. And like the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the Iranian regime today has two clear weaknesses, which could ultimately spell its downfall: Economic stagnation and ideological disaffection. With unemployment and inflation both deep in double digits; an increasing structural dependence on oil revenue; a negligible amount of direct foreign investment; and a stock market that has declined over 30 percent since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s heavy investment in other people’s wars and its own weapons and terrorist groups must in the end exact a price in terms of support for the regime. Today, moreover, the great majority of Iranians do not identify with the government’s Islamist ideology, and among young people the regime is widely derided. (On this, see Marla Braverman’s review of two new books on the subject, on p. 132 in the current issue.)
Is it possible to bring about the fall of revolutionary Iran? Despite the obvious differences, there is a great deal the West can learn from the way victory was found in the first Cold War. Led by the United States, Western countries in the 1980s mounted a campaign on a wide range of fronts–military, technological, diplomatic, public relations, and covert operations–to convince the Soviet elites that their regime was failing at every turn, and was headed for collapse. By deliberately escalating the arms race and through trade sanctions on the Soviets, America increased the pressure on the Soviet economy. By supporting dissident groups, sending radio transmissions into the Soviet Empire, and making dramatic pronouncements such as Ronald Reagan’s famous Berlin Wall speech in 1987, the West emboldened the regime’s internal opponents. And by supporting anti-Communist forces around the world, from Latin America to Africa to Western Europe to Afghanistan, the West halted the expansion of the Communist bloc and even began to roll it back. In all cases the goal was the same: To make it clear to the ranks of Soviet elites, upon whom the regime’s legitimacy continued to depend, that they were on the wrong side of history.
[...] By most measures, Iran is an easier mark than the Soviet Union. It does not yet have nuclear weapons or icbms; its Islamist ideology has less of a universal appeal; its tools of thought control are vastly inferior to the gulag and the KGB; and its revolution is not old enough to have obliterated the memory of better days for much of its population. In theory at least, it should be much easier for the West to mount a similar campaign of relentless pressure on the regime–from fomenting dissent online, to destabilizing the regime through insurgent groups inside Iran, to destroying the Iranian nuclear project, to ever-deeper economic sanctions, to fighting and winning the proxy wars that Iran has continued to wage–in order to effect the kind of change of momentum needed to enable the Iranian people to bring their own regime down the way the peoples under communism did in the 1980s and 1990s.
Yet it is precisely because of the Ayatollahs’ apparent frailty that the West has failed to notice the similarities between this menace and the Soviet one a generation ago.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Saturday, April 07, 2007
I still keep mine some place at home. What do you want, I'm a sentimental guy.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Despite claims by some critics that the Bush administration invaded Iraq to take control of its oil, the first contracts with major oil firms from Iraq's new government are likely to go not to U.S. companies, but rather to companies from China, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
While Iraqi lawmakers struggle to pass an agreement on exactly who will award the contracts and how the revenue will be shared, experts say a draft version that passed the cabinet earlier this year will likely uphold agreements previously signed by those countries under Saddam Hussein's government.
* 70 million weblogs
* About 120,000 new weblogs each day, or...
* 1.4 new blogs every second
* 3000-7000 new splogs (fake, or spam blogs) created every day
* Peak of 11,000 splogs per day last December
* 1.5 million posts per day, or...
* 17 posts per second
* Growing from 35 to 75 million blogs took 320 days
* 22 blogs among the top 100 blogs among the top 100 sources linked to in Q4 2006 - up from 12 in the prior quarter
* Japanese the #1 blogging language at 37%
* English second at 33%
* Chinese third at 8%
* Italian fourth at 3%
* Farsi a newcomer in the top 10 at 1%
* English the most even in postings around-the-clock
* Tracking 230 million posts with tags or categories
* 35% of all February 2007 posts used tags
* 2.5 million blogs posted at least one tagged post in February
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Workers digging a new Jerusalem tram line have stumbled upon the remains of an ancient Jewish city from the first century AD under what is now a Palestinian suburb of the Holy City.
Archaeologists are frantically working to unearth the nameless settlement that lies beneath the bustling streets of the Shuafat neighbourhood before they have to bury it again in order to lay tracks for a long-planned light rail line.
The newly discovered settlement dates back to the period of the second Jewish temple.
Although some archaeologists have argued that this is the site of the biblical city of Nob, a refuge for ancient priests where Saul was anointed King of Israel, the find has excited scholars.
"No one knew of a city of this importance just a few kilometres (miles) north of Jerusalem, and its name remains unknown," said Rachel Bar Nathan, one of the three archaeologists from Israel's National Antiquities Authority working on the site.
The city is believed to have been built after Roman legions sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the second temple of Herod in the year 70 AD, Bar Nathan said.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Spain is trying to forge a new rapport with the Cuban government amid speculation that Fidel Castro's bad health could accelerate regime change in the Caribbean dictatorship. But other EU states want to step up pro-democracy work with the island's opposition groups instead.First Iraqis, then Sahrauis, and now Cuban democrats. Spain's government has abandoned them all. Who'll be next, Zimbabweans?
"It's unthinkable that Spain cannot defend and develop an intense and constructive dialogue with the Cuban authorities," Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said during a rare visit by an EU minister to the island this Monday (2 April).
UPDATE. More here.
IRAQ'S parties of the Left were shocked when the new So cialist government in Spain decided to withdraw from the U.S.-led coalition in 2004. "We had hoped that with a party of the Left in power in Madrid we would get more support against the Islamofascists, not a withdrawal," says Aziz al-Haj, the veteran Iraqi communist leader.Not only the Spanish left, that's for sure. But the pullout made it all much more poignant.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
A COLLECTION with a bit over 500 online documentaries on all kinds of subjects. Check it out.