Thursday, May 31, 2007

YOU WANTED human shields in Iraq? Here's one for you.

SOME 'scientific consensus': NASA's administrator Michael Griffin, questions the need to combat global warming:
NASA administrator Michael Griffin is drawing the ire of his agency's preeminent climate scientists after apparently downplaying the need to combat global warming.

In an interview broadcast this morning on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" program, Griffin was asked by NPR's Steve Inskeep whether he is concerned about global warming.

"I have no doubt that a trend of global warming exists," Griffin told Inskeep. "I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with."

"To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change," Griffin said. "I guess I would ask which human beings  where and when  are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take."

EVEN Venezuela's left seems to be aghast at Chavez's latest moves (via Marc Cooper in two posts -one, two- you shouldn't miss).

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

NO DOUBT a few guys will print this out and carry the paper in their wallets when they go partying this weekend: according to a study, semen is a powerful anti-depressant for women.

CHAVENEZUELA: a great piece from Fausta at Pajamas Media. The guy has definitely jumped the shark and everyone is sharply criticizing his decision to shut down the critical media. All but Spain's Socialist party of Zapatero, who blocked the European Parliament declaration against Chavez's attack on free speech. Of course.

Monday, May 28, 2007

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY. And a heartfelt thanks.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

DARK CLOUDS are looming over Spain's economy, no matter how many times Zapatero brags about 4.1% GDP growth. This Telegraph report has received zero attention in Spain:
Spain's foreign reserves have plummeted to wafer-thin levels, leaving the country exposed to a possible banking crisis if the property market swings from boom to bust - despite membership of the eurozone.

The Banco de Espana's holdings of foreign currencies and gold have fallen to €13.2bn (£9.02bn), equivalent to 12 days of imports.

Over the past two months the Banco de España has sold off 80 tonnes of gold, flooding the world market with enough bullion to dampen the usual spring rally. The bank has reduced its holdings of US Treasuries, British gilts, and other investments at a similar rate.

Total reserves have now fallen by two thirds from €41.5bn in early 2002. Greece and Portugal have seen a similar drop.

By contrast, the overall reserves of the eurozone system have remained stable. France (€76bn), Germany (€86bn), Italy (€59.5bn) have all kept holdings at full strength since the launch of the euro.

The Banco de España refused to comment on the sales, leaving it unclear why reserves have fallen so low, or where the money has gone.

It appears the bank has been draining the reserves to help finance the current account deficit, which has ballooned to 9.5pc of GDP, reaching €8.6bn in January alone.

"The current account is completely out of control," said Alberto Mattelan, an economist at Inverseguros in Madrid.

HOW AL-QAEDA has mastered media manipulation in Iraq.

DANIEL HENNINGER recently spent some time in Spain: he reflects on the political climate here and compares with the US'. Unfortunately for Americans, they're more and more similar.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

AL-QAEDA is on the run in Iraq; even Time says so.

LONG-STANDING rumours that the former French president Jacques Chirac holds a secret multi-million-euro bank account in Japan appear to have been confirmed by files seized from the home of a senior spy.

Papers seized by two investigating magistrates from General Philippe Rondot, a former head of the DGSE, France's intelligence service, show Mr Chirac opened an account in the mid-1990s at Tokyo Sowa Bank, credited with the equivalent of £30 million. It is not known where the money came from, nor whether it is connected to various kick-back scandals to which Mr Chirac's name has been linked over the past decade.

Last year, Mr Chirac "categorically denied" having a bank account in Japan.
And his immunity runs out next June 16. It's gonna be fun.

WHO'S RESPONSIBLE for the situation in Gaza?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A BARCEPUNDIT READER, Moose, sends this hypothetical letter from a newspaper editor to a cartoonist. It's funny:
Dear contributor:

Although it has never been this newspaper's policy to make editorial suggestions or impose limitations on its contributors (except of course under the dark days of the PP when we had to severely limit stories criticizing Aznar and his government to the front page headline area) I would like to make the following suggestions regarding your cartoon for next week's edition. It is my opinion that your recent contributions addressing such issues as the negative side of excess immigration, the failures of the social security and public health care system (for which I personally rallied during many years), the numerous useless public works projects, the lack of fear that criminals have in our judicial system and the unproductivity of our nation's workforce are not in tune with our paper's readers.Your next cartoon should deal with more relevant and important issues.

Therefore I propose (and these are just after all are the artist --- and trust me I know how tough that can be with the horrible lack of government subsidies)
  • A cartoon showing George Bush (unelected president of the United States of AmeriKa)
  • His monkey like features should be exaggerated and he should be depicted as a puppet
  • Maybe he's performing inside an oil barrel (just thinking out loud)
  • And looming over him will be his puppet master who should have exaggerated Jewish facial features (large nose? bushy eyebrows?)
  • Just to make sure the puppet master is not confused with someone from this nation's royal lineage or a Roman, place a Jewish star on the jacket (must be wearing a suit jacket)
  • You might want to write "Israel" or even "Zion" inside the star if space permits. Also, some generic laughter might be nice. (maybe try to make the "ha ha " look like Hebrew letters?)
  • You may want to include a caricature of Sarkozy also (maybe tossing coins at Bush?) Consult photos in all our previous editions during the French elections to get a good idea of how our readers see Sarkozy, make sure he has the same evil Jewish sneaky look we tried to communicate to our loyal readers. Make sure he's looking over his shoulder.
  • You may also want to include the photo from the Azores (and have Aznar saying "he is my friend" or something similar) Including the photo may be difficult since although we constantly refer to it in our editorial pages and headline articles as something that has destroyed Spain's international one else in the world paid any attention to the photo, so that may limit your chances of having the cartoon picked up by English newspapers or Reuters.
I look forward to reviewing you work.

your editor
As they say, heh.

IF THE US is going to talk to Iran about Iraq, the first thing to do is, of course, telling them to stop sending money, explosives and weapons once and for all:
US forces have killed two gunmen and discovered a large amount of Iranian currency and bomb-making materials in a raid on the Baghdad Shiite neighbourhood of Sadr City on Wednesday.

US troops searched 11 buildings during the raid in search of a cell involved in importing weapons from Iran into Baghdad and southeastern Iraq.

"As they continued to search the buildings, coalition forces found a large quantity of Iranian money, more than 6,000 dollars in US money and improvised explosive device-making materials," said the statement.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE first-hand experience makes:
While I was at the Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad on my recent trip to Iraq, a pair of Spanish journalists--a newspaper reporter and a photojournalist--walked in, fresh from their embed with the 1-4 Cavalry of the First Infantry Division (the unit with which I embedded only days later). They had spent two weeks amongst the troops there, living and going on missions with them, including house-to-house searches and seizures, and their impressions of these soldiers were extremely clear.

"Absolutely amazing," said David Beriain, the reporter (and the one who spoke English), said of the young Cavalry troops. "In Spain, it is embarrassing--our soldiers are ashamed to be in the army. These young men--and they seem so young!--are so proud of what they do, and do it so well, even though it is dangerous and they could very easily be killed." Mr. Beriain explained that the company he had been embedded with had lost three men in the span of six days while he was there--one to a sniper and two to improvised explosive devices, both of which had blown armored Humvees into the air and flipped them onto their roofs. Despite this, he said, and despite some of the things they might have said in the heat of the moment after seeing another comrade die, the soldiers' resolve and morale was unshaken in the long term, and they remained committed to carrying out their mission to the best of their ability for the duration of their tours in Iraq.

It was in the process of performing that mission, of coping with the loss of loved ones, and of just being themselves as American soldiers that these young men were able to win over the admiration and affection of more than one journalist who had arrived in their midst harboring a less-than-positive opinion of the Iraq war, and of those who were tasked with prosecuting it.

"I love those guys," Mr. Beriain said, looking wistfully out the window of the media cloister in the Green Zone that is the Combined Press Information Center. "From the first time you go kick a door with them, they accept you--you're one of them. I've even got a 'family photo' with them" to remember them by. "I really hated to leave."

Such a radical transformation--and such a strong bond of affection--can rarely be forged in so little time outside of the constant, universal peril of a wartime environment. "It is those common experiences," Mr. Beriain explained, "where you are all in danger, and you go through it together. It builds a relationship instantly."

It doesn't matter how skeptical of the war a journalist might be, according to an Army public affairs officer who spoke with me about it on condition of anonymity. "So often, they come out of that experience and--even if their opinion of the war hasn't changed--they're completely won over by the troops."
I'm far from surprised. And I wish most Spanish journalists lived through the experience instead of tapping their hatred on their keyboards day in, day out, safely in their air-conditioned offices. Particularly the ones who lash out with the chickenhawk insult to those who defend the Iraq thing.

A robbery and crime spree aided by an unloaded gun came to a halt late Thursday when the gunman met more than his match: a gun with bullets.

Charles Parker Jr., 18, of Detroit was killed when a 53-year-old man pulled out a 9mm handgun and shot the teen, who was armed with an unloaded .22-caliber handgun.

Detroit police are calling it self-defense.

[...] After the shooting, police questioned the 53-year-old man and released him, noting that he had a valid concealed weapons permit.

Then they gave him back his gun.
Maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but wouldn't that be the same logic of the Iraq war? Saddam was using an empty gun (pretending he had WMDs, or at least not letting inspections prove there weren't any) and he was "shot" because he represented a threat, a threat that any responsible person would try to eliminate.

Time to get Bush his gun back, meaning putting an end to the absurd "Bush lied on Saddam's danger." It was geopolitical self-defense too.

UPDATE. Welcome, Instapundit readers. Just to let you know, I just did some minor editing (only style and grammar)

PEACE COMES to Haifa street in Baghdad. Eli Lake explains how.

THE LEFT'S Iraq muddle: a superb piece by former Dem Senator Bob Kerrey:
No matter how incompetent the Bush administration and no matter how poorly they chose their words to describe themselves and their political opponents, Iraq was a larger national security risk after Sept. 11 than it was before. And no matter how much we might want to turn the clock back and either avoid the invasion itself or the blunders that followed, we cannot. The war to overthrow Saddam Hussein is over. What remains is a war to overthrow the government of Iraq.

Some who have been critical of this effort from the beginning have consistently based their opposition on their preference for a dictator we can control or contain at a much lower cost. From the start they said the price tag for creating an environment where democracy could take root in Iraq would be high. Those critics can go to sleep at night knowing they were right.

The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart.

Suppose we had not invaded Iraq and Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents. Suppose al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy and inflamed sectarian tensions to the same level of violence we are seeing today. Wouldn't you expect the same people who are urging a unilateral and immediate withdrawal to be urging military intervention to end this carnage? I would.
Read the rest.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

DON'T ABANDON the Iraqis, Fred Kagan writes:
From time to time, nations face fundamental tests of character. Forced to choose between painful but wise options, and irresponsible ones that offer only temporary relief from pain, a people must decide what price they are willing to pay to safeguard themselves and their children and to do the right thing. America has faced such tests before. Guided by Abraham Lincoln, we met our greatest challenge during the Civil War and overcame it, despite agonizing doubts about the possibility of success even into 1864. The Greatest Generation recovered from the shock of Pearl Harbor and refused to stop fighting until both Germany and Japan had surrendered unconditionally. A similar moment is upon us in Iraq. What will we do?
That's just the beginning; read the rest.

THE GREATEST long tracking shots in cinema, starting with the opening scene of Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. All commented and youtubed. Don't miss it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

ANBAR isn't what it used to be.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

[Spain's] Prosecutors on Friday appealed a judge's decision to charge three U.S. soldiers with homicide in the death of a Spanish journalist in Iraq, a court official said.

Prosecutors at the National Court said the troops from the U.S. 3rd Infantry, based in Fort Stewart, Ga., committed no crime when their tank fired a shell at Baghdad's Palestine Hotel in 2003, killing Jose Couso, a cameraman for the Spanish television network Telecinco, and Taras Portsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters.

The prosecutors characterized the attack as an accident of war, said a court official who spoke on customary condition of anonymity.
More at Jurist.

So, let me see: the Spanish prosecutor, who ultimately follows Zapatero's anti-American, anti-war government that has been shouted "Couso was assassinated in could blood by Bush" from the rooftops, suddenly acting rational? (here's some background)

There must be a reason. Mmmm. Let me see. Oh, yes, Reuters reveals the key:
Relations between Washington and Madrid have been strained since Spain's Socialist government withdrew troops from Iraq after winning power in 2004. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to visit Spain on June 1 -- the first senior member of President Bush's cabinet to travel there since 2004.
(My emphasis)

Aha. I knew there had to be something. Apparently it's not only ETA the ones they're selling out to...

Meanwhile CiaraZapatero is still waiting for Bush's call. Wonder what he'll do to get W to finally pick up the phone, Uh huh uh huh uh huh uh huhuh huh, pick up the phone...

LOOK WHO'S PRAISING Michael Moore's Sicko.

Climate change will be considered a joke in five years time, meteorologist Augie Auer told the annual meeting of Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers in Ashburton this week.

Man's contribution to the greenhouse gases was so small we couldn't change the climate if we tried, he maintained.

"We're all going to survive this. It's all going to be a joke in five years," he said.

A combination of misinterpreted and misguided science, media hype, and political spin had created the current hysteria and it was time to put a stop to it.

"It is time to attack the myth of global warming," he said.

Water vapour was responsible for 95 per cent of the greenhouse effect, an effect which was vital to keep the world warm, he explained.

"If we didn't have the greenhouse effect the planet would be at minus 18 deg C but because we do have the greenhouse effect it is plus 15 deg C, all the time."

The other greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen dioxide, and various others including CFCs, contributed only five per cent of the effect, carbon dioxide being by far the greatest contributor at 3.6 per cent.

However, carbon dioxide as a result of man's activities was only 3.2 per cent of that, hence only 0.12 per cent of the greenhouse gases in total. Human-related methane, nitrogen dioxide and CFCs etc made similarly minuscule contributions to the effect: 0.066, 0.047 and 0.046 per cent respectively.

"That ought to be the end of the argument, there and then," he said.
That would be a dream, of course.

Friday, May 18, 2007

PUTTING THE USUAL PRACTICE of making wild electoral promises in front of the mirror to make the cynicism usually involved as obvious as possible: a Belgian candidate offers 40,000, er, bl*wjobs to whoever votes for her. And also with a techno twist: if you prefer, it's her avatar in Second Life who'll do it. I guess most will sign for the real thing, even if she says it'll be only five minutes... you know geeks usually will have 4 and a half left to check their email! (via the Spanish blog Sobre la Red)

UPDATE. Ron Chusid: "There’s no word as to whether Bill Clinton has signed up."


UPDATE. Reader John Sanchez emails: "Just to let you know that, as the highest point for one hundred miles (until you reach the Catskills mountains), the Empire State Building gets hit by lightning hundreds of times a year (tens of thousands of times since 1931). The internal steel skeleton conducts the charge harmlessly to the ground. It's fun to watch it during a thunderstorm. Soon enough it'll get hit." And it must be as impressive every time!

Thursday, May 17, 2007


JUST IMAGINE for a minute that this was done by Bush (WSJ$)
On the evening of March 4, 10 French paratroopers reached Birao, Central African Republic, and dropped near an airstrip captured by rebel militia. The paratroopers ambushed the rebels, killing several and reclaiming the airport for the government.

In France, neither the public nor parliament was informed of the attack for three weeks. Coordinating the mission was the "Cellule Africaine," a three-person office nestled behind the Elysée, France's presidential palace. This wasn't the first time the office has been involved in the Central African Republic's internal affairs: In 1979, France toppled the former colony's self-proclaimed emperor and reinstalled his predecessor.

For the past half-century, the secretive and powerful "African Cell" has overseen France's strategic interests in Africa, holding sway over a wide swath of former French colonies. Acting as a general command, the Cell uses France's military as a hammer to install leaders it deems friendly to French interests. In return, these countries give French industries first crack at their oil and other natural resources. Sidestepping traditional diplomatic channels, the Cell reports only to one person: the president.

But with France's new President Nicolas Sarkozy preparing to assume office later today, the African Cell's days may be numbered.
If only for that, the change will be welcome.

By the way, sorry for my unannounced absence these last few days. I don't want to bore you with the explanation, but's been the addition of several circumstances. I think all will go back to normal now.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

THIS IS... well, watch it:

WALTER LAQUEUR on Europe's existential crisis:
Great changes in the cities of Europe will occur within the next decades. Will they be one-sided, affecting only the natives and not the newcomers? Perhaps the Muslim women will opt for colors other than black, and perhaps the hijab will be reduced to something more symbolic. Perhaps mosque attendance will drop just as church attendance has in Western Europe.

A hundred years ago, a visit to Commercial Road in London's East End, or to the Grenadierstrasse and the Scheunenviertel in East Berlin, or to Belleville and the Marais in Paris (or the Lower East Side in New York), would have shown a scenery that was strange and not particularly pleasing to the eye. You would have seen the Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe in their new European or American surroundings: the little synagogues, the cheap eating places, the sweatshops, the foreign-language newspapers, the men and women in strange clothes.

But there are differences. There is, to begin with, the scale of immigration. Only tens of thousands came to Western Europe 100 years ago, not millions. They made great efforts to integrate socially and culturally. Above all, they wanted to give their children a good secular education at almost any price. The rate of intermarriage was high within one generation, and even higher within two. No one helped them: There were no social workers or advisers, no one gave them housing at low or no rent, and programs such as Sure Start (a British equivalent of Head Start) and "positive discrimination" had not yet been invented. There were no free health-service or unemployment benefits. There were no government committees analyzing Judeophobia and how to combat it.

Many of the immigrants today live in societies separate from those of their host countries. That is true in big cities and small. The new immigrants have no German or British or French friends. Their preachers tell them that their values and traditions are greatly superior to those of the infidels, and that any contact, even with neighbors, is undesirable. Their young people complain about being excluded, but their social and cultural separateness is quite often voluntary. Western European governments and societies are often criticized for not having done more to integrate the new citizens. But even if they had done much more, is it certain that integration would have succeeded?

Europe as we once knew it is bound to change, probably out of recognition, for a number of reasons, partly demographic and cultural, but also political and social. Even if Europe should unite and solve the various domestic crises facing it, its predominant place in the world and predominant role in world affairs is a thing of the past. What kind of new Europe is likely to emerge as a successor to the old Continent? That, of course, is an open question, whose answer depends on events not only in Europe but also in other parts of the world.

Given the shrinking of its population, it is possible that Europe, or considerable parts of it, will turn into a cultural theme park, a kind of Disneyland on a level of a certain sophistication for well-to-do visitors from China and India, something like Brugge, Venice, Versailles, Stratford-on-Avon, or Rothenburg ob der Tauber on a larger scale. Some such parks already exist; when the coal mines in the Ruhr were closed down, the Warner Brothers Movie World was opened in Dortmund. This will be a Europe of tourist guides, gondoliers, and translators: "Ladies and gentlemen, you are visiting the scenes of a highly developed civilization that once led the world. It gave us Shakespeare, Beethoven, the welfare state, and many other fine things... ." There will be excursions for every taste; even now there are trips in Berlin to the slums and the areas considered dangerous ("Kreuzberg, the most colorful district: two hours").
There's a lot more; read it all.

GOOD RIDDANCE: Anne Applebaum bids farewell to Chirac, remembering his legacy in the international sphere, in his own words. Even if Sarkozy does a lousy job he'll be a giant compared to his predecessor...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

THE IPCC is doing harm to science, says Der Spiegel:
There is hardly a newspaper article and hardly a TV or radio program that doesn't conjure up images of "climate catastrophe," prophesy floods of gigantic proportions, droughts and hunger. Indeed, the media have developed something akin to a complete apocalyptic program.

It's the fault of the media, of course, but not exclusively. It's also the fault of a new hero, an environmental activist who likes to introduce himself by saying: "Hello, I was once the next President of the United States of America." . . .

This doesn't mean that Gore should necessarily be taken to task for his statements. He is a politician. But it is odd to hear IPCC Chairman Pachauri, when asked what he thinks about Gore's film, responding: "I liked it. It does emotionalize the debate, but it seems that it has to do that." And when Pachauri comments on the publication of the first SPM by saying, "I hope that this will shock the governments so much that they take action," this doesn't exactly allay doubts as to his objectivity. When Renate Christ, the secretary of the IPCC, is asked about her opinion of reporting on climate change, she refers to articles that mention "climate catastrophe" and calls them "rather refreshing." . . .

The problem is that the IPCC is not a political group whose goal is to exert pressure, but a scientific institution and panel of experts. Its members ought to present their results and analyses dispassionately, the way pathologists or psychiatrists do when serving as expert witnesses in court, no matter how horrible the victim's injuries and how deviant the perpetrator's psyche are.

Peter Weingart, a sociologist of science from Bielefeld, a city in northwest Germany, believes that the climate experts' lack of distance has something to do with their training. Scientists usually learn only to reflect on the results of their work, not on their role within the social decision-making process. As a result, they join forces with politicians who share their views. And in this way they do harm to science. Hay más.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

IRANIAN WEAPONS, American lives: my colleague at Pajamas Media, Richard Miniter, has a must read: a text and video report on Iran's involvement in the trouble in Iraq, where he just came back from. And there's still so many naives who believe Ahmadinejad when he says he's interested in the country's pacification. Yeah, right.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

AN EXCELLENT, DETAILED analysis of the pros and cons of Spain's booming economy, at The Economist. It's true that the country has become a giant in a couple of decades only, but there are signs that the giant may have feet of clay: lack of diversification in its productive structure, over-reliance in the touristic and construction sectors that can quicky go down if global interest rates go up or if the world's economy goes sour. Outside of that -and consumption, which may stop in its track if things change- there's little more. And entrepreneurial spirit is now difficult to find even in the Spanish regions were it used to be most characteristic, as Catalonia (whose capital is Barcelona).

Here's The Economist:
The two fashion companies are among a gaggle of Spanish conquistadors rapidly building global business empires. Many are much bigger than Mango and Zara, although sometimes less well-known abroad. Firms like Santander, a huge banking group, and Ferrovial, a construction giant, have spent billions buying foreign businesses. Often this has been financed with large borrowings. As a result, the Spanish stockmarket reflects a rising level of corporate debt (see chart).

And therein lies the worry. Spanish companies' overseas adventure has been boosted by the transformation of their home economy from an also-ran into one of the star performers of the European Union. That 14-year domestic expansion has, in turn, been buoyed by low interest rates and a construction and property boom that shows signs of suddenly receding. Does this mean Spain's new global champions will find themselves beached?

[...] But the stockmarket wobble raises concerns. Spain has achieved one of the most rapid increases in wealth in the euro zone, but it remains stuck with an unbalanced economy and low domestic productivity. Its new global champions have built successful businesses, but only in certain industries. As a whole, Spanish business remains limited in its scope. If trouble is brewing at home, these companies need to be global enough to draw on markets outside Spain.

[...] But the stockmarket wobble raises concerns. Spain has achieved one of the most rapid increases in wealth in the euro zone, but it remains stuck with an unbalanced economy and low domestic productivity. Its new global champions have built successful businesses, but only in certain industries. As a whole, Spanish business remains limited in its scope. If trouble is brewing at home, these companies need to be global enough to draw on markets outside Spain.

The new conquistadors mostly consist of a group of banks, builders and service companies. There is little manufacturing in Spain. Its steel mills and shipyards are relics of its pre-democratic days as a closed economy. Most of Spain's manufacturing is carried out by branch factories, such as those expanded by France's Renault and Germany's Volkswagen to take advantage of cheap labour when Spain entered the EU in 1986. But now cheaper labour is available in eastern Europe. Nor does Spain have much of a tradition in high-tech industries, although it is becoming a bigger contender in aerospace as a shareholder in the EADS group, which makes Airbus aircraft.

Take away construction and tourism (60m tourists arrive every year in a country of 43m people) and there is not much left. Moreover, tourism revenues have flattened as more foreigners now own holiday or retirement houses and so spend less on hotels. And there is only so much land (and, as important, water) for more development on the Mediterranean coast.
And I completely agree with that:
Those Spanish companies that have boldly escaped the confines of their home market are betting they can survive a domestic downturn despite their huge debts. But entrepreneurs are still needed to broaden the base of Spanish business or there will not be much else beyond tourism. As Ana Patricia Botín, head of Banesto, a retail bank in the Santander group, says: “It is all very well being the Florida of Europe, but it would be nice to be the California as well.”
Anyway, read the whole piece, it's a very good overview of how things stand.

Poverty may fall in half in the next ten years even if we do not enact any of the recommendations of this task force. In fact, a reasonable guess is that the recommendations themselves would, if anything, slow the rate of progress against poverty.

The point of this essay is to simply state the obvious. If you look at poverty from the broad perspective of international and historical comparisons, the solution to poverty is decentralized entrepreneurial activity under capitalism.

The capitalist solution to poverty is unsatisfying to many people, because it is not planned or intended. Policymakers and anti-poverty programs per se are not involved.

The phenomenon of unplanned results exceeding planned outcomes is quite widespread. As Nassim Taleb points out in his new book The Black Swan, and in this fascinating interview, human planning tends to work poorly when compared to trial and error. He argues, for example, that many medical discoveries are serendipitous, while systematic efforts such as those of the National Cancer Institute often yield disappointing results.

In Hayekian terms, we say that order emerges, and often this order has little to do with the intentions of planners.
Keep reading.

LIFE IN 2000, c. 1900: an impressive postcard collection showing how our grand-fathers thought life would be 100 years later. Some had quite a clue, actually, as you'll see.

Friday, May 04, 2007

American soldiers discovered a girls school being built north of Baghdad had become an explosives-rigged "death trap," the U.S. military said Thursday.

The plot at the Huda Girls' school in Tarmiya was a "sophisticated and premeditated attempt to inflict massive casualties on our most innocent victims," military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said.

The military suspects the plot was the work of al Qaeda, because of its nature and sophistication, Caldwell said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

The plot was uncovered Saturday, when troopers in the Salaheddin province found detonating wire across the street from the school. They picked up the wire and followed its trail, which led to the school. Once inside, they found an explosive-filled propane tank buried beneath the floor. There were artillery shells built into the ceiling and floor, and another propane tank was found, the military said.

The wire was concealed with mortar and concrete, and the propane tanks had been covered with brick and hidden underneath the floor, according to a military statement. Soldiers were able to clear the building.

"It was truly just an incredibly ugly, dirty kind of vicious killing that would have gone on here," Caldwell said.

Iraqi contractors were responsible for building the school, which was intended to bring in hundreds of girls.

"Given the care and work put into emplacing this IED, it is likely it had been planned for a long time" and it is thought that "the IED was not intended to be set off until the building was occupied," the military said.

Authorities intend to question the Iraqis involved in the school's construction.

FRED THOMPSON writes on the myth of Cuban health care:
You might have read the stories about filmmaker Michael Moore taking ailing workers from Ground Zero in Manhattan to Cuba for free medical treatments. According to reports, he filmed the trip for a new movie that bashes America for not having government-provided health care.

Now, I have no expectation that Moore is going to tell the truth about Cuba or health care. I defend his right to do what he does, but Moore’s talent for clever falsehoods has been too well documented. Simply calling his movies documentaries rather than works of fiction, I think, may be the biggest fiction of all.

While this PR stunt has obviously been successful — here I am talking about it — Moore’s a piker compared to Fidel Castro and his regime. Moore just parrots the story they created — one of the most successful public relations coups in history. This is the story of free, high quality Cuban health care.
Keep reading.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


GOT ANOTHER al-Qaeda big fish? This time it's al-Baghdadi, and this time it's for good: they have the body. US authorities have declined to comment, but they have scheduled a press conference in a while to talk about a success which is not related to al-Masri, they say. We'l be following at Pajamas Media, so make sure to check there.

I DIDN'T WATCH the debate between Ségolène Royal and Sarkozy, but Nidra Poller did. Johann "Globalization is Good" Norberg watched it too and caught the Socialist darling playing with the facts.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

MORE ON Wolfowitz's girlfriend controvery: unlike what it seems by reading the papers and hearing the usual suspects, salaries like Shaha Riza's are nothing extraordinary in the World Bank:
The number that triggered the attacks on World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz was $193,590.

The figure represented the salary he endorsed for his girlfriend, communications adviser Shaha Riza. Even though Wolfowitz did try to recuse himself from decisions about Riza, colleagues have turned against him so violently that both his anti-corruption campaign and his career at the bank are now on hold. Yesterday, the European Parliament called for his resignation.

Some observers will tell you the Wolfowitz flap is about Democrats and their allies in the blue states -- including the one known as the U.K. -- trying to bring down another neocon friend of U.S. President George W. Bush.

This fracas is also, just as the bank staff say, about company pay.

A closer look at bank pay suggests the trouble here isn't that Riza gets a ``girlfriend'' salary, a mysterious wage not quite tethered to market reality. It is that World Bank staffers also do -- and almost all without spending a minute alone with the bank's embattled president.

The World Bank has an administrative budget of $1 billion a year. It employs more than 10,000 people. Thousands of others consult.

It doesn't publish current salaries. But according to the 2006 annual report, a senior professional, or ``G'' level employee, starts at $92,230 and can go up to $167,860, a little more than the $165,200 for a member of the 110th Congress. A manager, or ``H'' level staffer, can make $226,650. This was the category for which Riza was on the shortlist.

In Line Pay

Some 1,000 employees are in the H range. So the portrayal of Riza as someone receiving unheard-of compensation is inaccurate.
Keep reading.

IF YOU NEEDED further evidence that global warming alarmism has more of pseudo-religion than anything else, check this:
Visitors to the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa won't find the Gideon Bible in the nightstand drawer. Instead, on the bureau will be a copy of ``An Inconvenient Truth,'' former Vice President Al Gore's book about global warming.

They'll also find the Gaia equipped with waterless urinals, solar lighting and recycled paper as it marches toward becoming California's first hotel certified as ``green,'' or benevolent to the environment.

WELL, IT SEEMS that the news on the death of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq is still to be confirmed. Truth is, it's not the first 'false alarm', so we'll have to follow up on this.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

THE HIPOCRISY of Wolfowitz's accusers is unbelievable.
Meet Dennis de Tray. In the summer of 1998, the University of Chicago-trained economist had his 15 minutes of fame when, as director of the World Bank's mission in Indonesia, he was called by The Wall Street Journal to account for the bank's performance amid that country's economic collapse. After 30 years and $25 billion of loans to the Suharto dictatorship, it turned out that "World Bank officials knew corruption in bank-funded projects was common, but never commissioned any broad reports tracking how much money was lost to it," according to Journal reporters Marcus Brauchli and Jay Solomon.

Why the relative indifference to the problem? Because, as Mr. de Tray explained at the time, "there is a trade-off between, shall we say, being pure and helping people," and also because "sometimes calling a spade a spade is not the best way" when it comes to confronting corruption.

Had matters rested there, Mr. de Tray, who still consults for the bank while working at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C., might never again have had his role in the Indonesian debacle reprised. Yet his name pops up as a signatory to a letter published on April 22 in the Financial Times under the headline, "For the good of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz should resign." The letter is meant as an indictment of the bank's controversial president, who may soon lose his job for a promotion and raise he authorized for his girlfriend, World Bank staffer Shaha Riza. But look closer and what emerges from the letter is a testament to the hypocrisy, or worse, of Mr. Wolfowitz's leading accusers.

In Mr. de Tray's case, it may seem strange that a man who was willing to countenance the theft of the bank's money by Suharto & Co. as the inevitable price of "helping people" (which people?) should now wax indignant about the damage Mr. Wolfowitz has supposedly done to the bank's "credibility as the international community's trustee of resources for fighting poverty," in the words of the FT letter. Yet Mr. de Tray is nothing if not consistent: Since leaving the bank last year, he has publicly objected to the "Puritan overtone in the current debate on corruption" and argued that Suharto's corruption "created value for Indonesia . . . just as Sam Walton created value for the U.S."--comments that nicely capture the quality of economic analysis at the bank as well as the prevailing in-house view regarding Mr. Wolfowitz's anti-corruption campaign.
There's much more, including the case of Shengman Zhang, and the little known fact that "that the raise Mr. Wolfowitz accorded Ms. Riza--after his attempt to recuse himself was rejected by the Ethics Committee, and after he was required to resolve the matter himself, thereby forcing the very conflict-of-interest he had sought to avoid--means she now earns more than Condoleezza Rice's $183,500 salary. Less noted is that no fewer than 1,396 bank employees are at or above that pay grade, hardly putting Ms. Riza in an exclusive category by the standards of her peers." In all, an amazing issue.

DON'T MISS this outstanding pictorial report from Iraq by Michael Yon


BREAKING: Al-Qaeda leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri has been killed in an internal fight between militants north of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. Follow the coverage @ Pajamas Media.

The murders two weeks ago at Virginia Tech naturally set off a cry in the usual quarters -- The New York Times, the London-based Economist -- for stricter gun-control laws. Democratic officeholders didn't chime in, primarily because they believe they were hurt by the issue in 2000 and 2004, but most privately agree.

What most discussions of this issue tend to ignore is that we have two tracks of political debate and two sets of laws on gun control. At the federal level, there has been a push for more gun control laws since John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and some modest restrictions have been passed. At the state level, something entirely different has taken place.

In 1987, Florida passed a law allowing citizens who could demonstrate that they were law-abiding and had sufficient training to obtain permits on demand to own and carry concealed weapons. In the succeeding 20 years, many other states have passed such laws, so that today you can, if you meet the qualifications, carry concealed weapons in 40 states with 67 percent of the nation's population (including Vermont, with no gun restrictions at all).

When Florida passed its concealed-weapons law, I thought it was a terrible idea. People would start shooting each other over traffic altercations; parking lots would turn into shooting galleries. Not so, it turned out. Only a very, very few concealed-weapons permits have been revoked. There are only rare incidents in which people with concealed-weapons permits have used them unlawfully. Ordinary law-abiding people, it turns out, are pretty trustworthy.

I'm not the only one to draw such a conclusion. When she was Michigan's attorney general, Democrat Jennifer Granholm opposed the state's concealed-weapons law, which took effect in 2001. But now, as governor, she's not seeking its repeal. She says that her fears -- like those I had about Florida's law 20 years ago -- proved to be unfounded.

So far as I know, there are no politically serious moves to repeal any state's concealed-weapons laws. In most of the United States, as you go to work, shop at the mall, go to restaurants and walk around your neighborhood, you do so knowing that some of the people you pass by may be carrying a gun. You may not even think about it. But that's all right. Experience has shown that these people aren't threats.

Virginia has a concealed-weapons law. But Virginia Tech was, by the decree of its administrators, a "gun-free zone." Those with concealed-weapons permits were not allowed to take their guns on campus and were disciplined when they did. A bill was introduced in the state House of Delegates to allow permit-holders to carry guns on campus. When it was sidetracked, a Virginia Tech administrator hailed the action and said that students, professors and visitors would now "feel safe" on campus.

Tragically, they weren't safe. Virginia Tech's "gun-free zone" was not gun-free. In contrast, killers on other campuses were stopped by faculty or bystanders who had concealed-weapons permits and brandished their guns to stop the killing.

SOMEBODY TELL Al Gore, quick!
Mars is being hit by rapid climate change and it is happening so fast that the red planet could lose its southern ice cap, writes Jonathan Leake.

Scientists from Nasa say that Mars has warmed by about 0.5C since the 1970s. This is similar to the warming experienced on Earth over approximately the same period.

Since there is no known life on Mars it suggests rapid changes in planetary climates could be natural phenomena.
But that's only in Mars, of course. Here on Earth it's because reckless industrialization, SUVs and all. Of course.