Wednesday, March 31, 2010
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time, officials said Tuesday.
Monday, March 29, 2010
The fiercely pro-Israeli Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was among the guests at the controversy-filled Arab League summit in Libya with the supposed aim of forming a unified strategy against Tel Aviv's illegal settlement plans in Palestinian territories.
At one point, according to reports, Berlusconi, whose country ruled Libya for over three decades after 1911, stooped to kiss Gaddafi's hand upon arrival at the summit.
It's as if Silvio thought Muammar was a cardinal, or something...
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Iceland has passed a law that will result in every strip club in the country being shut down. And forget hiring a topless waitress in an attempt to get around the bar: the law, which was passed with no votes against and only two abstentions, will make it illegal for any business to profit from the nudity of its employees.How is banning women the right to earn their living as they please feminist, exactly? It seems to me that it treating them not as adults, but as children who don't know better.
Even more impressive: the Nordic state is the first country in the world to ban stripping and lapdancing for feminist, rather than religious, reasons.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
ANOTHER "neutral", "institutional" White House twitter avatar:
As you remember, a few days ago it was this, too... I still think any official administration communication should be above pure advocacy. As opposed to a party or individual, the White House works not just for the guys who agree with it, but also for those who don't. Or at least it should.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
For some reason I can't upload it for you to see it, so I can't guarantee it'll be the same when you look; I'll keep trying. As a quick description, there's a big number nine under the phrase "We Can't Wait".
UPDATE. Here it is:
UPDATE II. Yes, I know it's about healthcare, and I assumed everybody knew what I was implying. That's precisely the point: the White House using the avatar for policy advocacy, forgetting that the presidency is not just for those supporting its initiatives but also for those against it.
UPDATE III. Welcome, Instapundit readers; make yourselves at home. If you like this post, please consider visiting the homepage, or subscribing to the RSS feed. See you soon!
Monday, March 15, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
THERE'S STILL MORE on the alleged problems between American and Spanish troops in Afghanistan on today's La Vanguardia (see previous post here). According to the Barcelona-based newspaper, the Spanish military attribute the friction to misundertandings at subordinate levels. Oddly, it quotes an unnamed ministry official, which could be either sloppy journalism (if the source wishes to remain anonymous the reporter should say so and the reason why), or that the Defense ministry wants to have it both ways: making it sound as a sort of official response without being a real official response, just in case they need to perform some CYA if the allegations are further proven.
Here's my translation (done in haste, with hardly any proofreading):
"The relationship between Spanish and U.S. troops in Afghanistan are good," Spanish Defense Ministry sources insist. They show documents and letters exchanged between senior commanders of both armies. In a letter dated yesterday, Col. Robert J. Ulses, responsible for U.S. military logistics in Afghanistan [NOTE: I believe this is wrong, since he is Chief of Staff of US troops in Afghanistan -- JMG], told Colonel Jesus de Miguel that the command in the Spanish base in Qala-i-Naw (one of three Spanish posts in Afghanistan) "has adequately addressed requests for help to USFOR-A DET (U.S. forces in Afghanistan) in the western areas of the country.
With these documents, the Defense ministry reacts to a report circulating on the Internet in recent days: according to an email making the rounds among U.S. troops, the Spanish refuse to help U.S. Marines who live or stop at the base. [NOTE: Partial, short selection of a few quotes of the emails omitted here to avoid redundancy -- JMG]
Defense says the real situation is not so. A spokesman gave two examples to La Vanguardia. He said that the Spanish troops in Qala-i-Naw (northwest) responded well to twelve Marines who had called for help after a mission by the river Murghab, the most dangerous area of the Badguis province. "They were offered food and a shower, the same conditions as the Spanish troops," he said. And then he mentioned another example: a Spanish unit worked with an American unit in defusing an IED (improvised explosive device) in Mukuro.
"Every two weeks, he continued, U.S. soldiers camped in the open go to Qala-i-Naw. They eat, shower and rest a few days before returning to his mission."
According to the letter from Colonel Ulses, complaints circulating on the internet "might reflect the lack of understanding between subordinate units at the base. "We will take steps to ensure that in the future all matters are routed through the appropriate channel," he said.
In the past year, U.S. commanders have sent several letters to Spain's Chief of Staff General Jose Julio Rodriguez, thanking him for the support from the Spanish troops. They were signed by General McChrystal, General Petraeus or General McColl. Admiral Stavridis (1 December 2009) welcomed "the continuing commitment (from Spain) with the security and stability in Afghanistan at this critical and historic moment." During a meeting in Washington in July, Defense minister Carme Chacón and Defense secretary Robert Gates, emphasized the "total harmony between the two countries."
Today, Spain has 1,065 troops in Afghanistan, with 511 more joining the mission in the coming weeks.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
THIS IS what happens when you're at a swearing-in ceremony (Chile's Piñera, in this case and there's a 7.2 magnitude earthquake:
(via one of my brothers, who is there and had to evacuate the building where he was in)
THE PROBLEMS for the US troops in the Spanish base in Afghanistan make it to the front page of the World section of La Vanguardia, one of Spain's most respected newspapers (it's not what it used to be in the good old days, but at least it's not as anti-American as the others are). It's a pretty big and visible piece, which is basically an explanation of Michael Yon's post, whom they mention by name.
The article also includes this reaction from Spain's ministry of Defense (I didn't get any response to my request for comment, BTW):
We don't know if the problem is real. For the moment, we won't comment on this matter. In fact, we only have knowledge of an email making the rounds among US servicemen. It's an internal channel to which we have no access. In any case, if the problem exists the US should come out publicly with it and communicate it officially. For the moment no one has filed any complaint. And under these circumstances, we cannot issue a statement".(my translation)
There you go. They say are not aware there is any problem, and that it's all an anonymous email. So it looks like either the commanders on the ground are keeping this from their commands in Madrid, or the ministry in Madrid is lying, or at least playing with words and shielding themselves behind the lack of official complaint from the US (I assume there's been plenty "unofficial" complaint, since I don't think they'd quietly accept this). Of course, the critical point is not whether they comment or not, but whether they're doing anything to solve the situation or not. But still, it would be important to know where in the chain of command this got lost if it did. Or if someone is lying and, in that case, who.
Eva Belén Abad Quijada, Spain, 30 years old
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
BARCELONA WEATHER UPDATE: turns out that it wasn't Al Gore but Baghdad Bob who was in Barcelona yesterday... Anyway, it did get worse yesterday, with thousands of people still without power in northern Catalonia and scores of schools closed. Today's a sunny, but very chilly day.
Monday, March 08, 2010
AL GORE must be in town, because it's snowing heavily in Barcelona, something that doesn't happen often, especially in mid-March. Take a look at the view from my apartment (click to enlarge):
And it keeps on, so it's going to get much, much whiter soon...
UPDATE. Here's a live webcam, less than a mile from my place.
Before waxing ecstatic over Greece's ability to flog some bonds, remember this: Greece is a sideshow. Spain is the main event.Read the rest.
Its economy, the euro zone's fourth largest, is five times the size of Greece's, and almost twice the size of those of other financially struggling countries — Greece, Ireland and Portugal — combined.
So it matters that Spain's socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, seems to be an admirer of Charles Dickens's Mr. Micawber. Ask him what he plans to do about his country's 11.4% fiscal deficit, and he first promises to extend his country's retirement age, and then says he won't. He promises a public-sector wage freeze, but his Finance Minister, Elena Salgado, says he really doesn't mean it. But somehow he will cut the deficit to 3% by 2013. "We have a plan," says Spain's deputy prime minister, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega. To most observers, that plan seems to be Mr. Micawber's: "something will turn up."
Saturday, March 06, 2010
PEDIGREE DOGS AD shot at 1000 frames per second:
THE TOP five green myths.
THE MICROSOFT COURIER, the digital journal / tablet / ebook reader that will be launched later this year, looks pretty cool...
Friday, March 05, 2010
Spain's property woes and economic downturn finally may be catching up with the country's two largest banks, Banco Santander SA and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA.
The big banks have remained profitable throughout the financial crisis despite the bursting of the housing bubble in Spain, high unemployment and other problems. One reason: the government's strict requirements for Spanish banks to maintain high reserves against bad loans, in part a response to a previous property downturn in the 1990s.
But now there is concern whether these cushions can withstand the impact of an increase in nonperforming loans. As these mandatory reserves wane, the banks' profits could be hit by the same economic and real-estate-related losses that have dogged banks in the U.S. and Europe.
"Having outperformed the sector during the credit crisis … recent results cast doubt over the adequacy of generic reserves to absorb future losses," said Barclays Capital analyst Tom Rayner in a recent note. Barclays ranks the banks "underweight."
Both Santander and BBVA maintain that their provisions are adequate and in compliance with the central bank's rules.
At the same time, some analysts have raised questions about whether the Spanish banking sector in general is underreporting problem loans, by agreeing to loan modifications that help borrowers make payments before the loan is officially categorized as delinquent. Recent data from Spain's National Statistics Institute show a 55% rise in mortgage "novations," or changes to the terms of a mortgage, to 435,835 in 2009, for the sector.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Monday, March 01, 2010
Israel lodged a formal complaint with Spain on Sunday, charging certain individuals in Spanish schools of promoting anti-Semitic and anti-Israel ideas among young children. The letter comes after Israel's ambassador to Spain, Rafi Shotz, recently received dozens of anti-Semitic postcards from Spanish elementary school students.
The postcards bore statements including "Jews kill for money," "Leave the country to the Palestinians" and "Go somewhere where they will accept you." A Foreign Ministry official said the handwriting appears typical of children six to nine years old.
Spain, at four times the size of Greece in terms of its economy, is by far the largest of the budgetary laggards that will be facing renewed scrutiny, and probably higher financing costs, in the sovereign debt markets.You don't say.
The crucial issue for Spain and its European neighbours is the credibility of its “stability plan”, which outlines sharp cuts in government spending, including a near-freeze on hiring civil servants, and aims to reduce the deficit from 11.4 per cent of gross domestic product last year to 3 per cent of GDP in 2013.
Although it will have no short-term impact, Madrid has also proposed increasing the retirement age to 67 from 65 to secure the financial health of the pensions system.
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, prime minister, faces an uncomfortable spring, for very few economists, analysts or foreign investors are convinced either that the plans are plausible or that the government has the will or ability to implement them.
“It is all air,” said Luis Garicano, professor of economics and strategy at the London School of Economics, “just ideas that for the most part the government cannot put in place by itself, particularly on pensions or public employees.”
Nomura said it was “not convinced” that the austerity plan could be implemented. Standard & Poor’s, the rating agency, predicted that the budget deficit would stay above 5 per cent of GDP until 2013, well above the eurozone’s widely abused 3 per cent limit.
Critics of the austerity plan, which has been sent to Brussels for approval, point to three main obstacles. First, its economic forecasts are over-optimistic. Second, central government has direct control over only about a quarter of expenditure, with the rest disbursed by autonomous regional governments and the social security system. Third, the Socialists lack the necessary will.
When they talk to foreigners, Spanish ministers say they are determined to do whatever it takes to restore order to their public finances. But when they address their supporters at home, they emphasise plans to maintain social spending.
The result is confusion and disarray.