Friday, April 30, 2010

THE MICROSOFT Courier looked great, yes, but it's been killed. That's too bad.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

THE APOLLO 11 launch at 500 frames per second. Impressive.

This is a political crisis for Europe rather than a financial crisis because the only way out for the PIGS involves a large bailout from the northern countries led by Germany and France.  Germans especially don’t want to pay.  It has been clear for some time that the Greeks cheated and lied their way into the eurozone, and for years they have pursued selfish and foolish economic policies.  Why, Germans ask with some force and logic, should German taxpayers who cannot retire until their late sixties pay the bill so that Greeks can retire at 55?
This is spot-on:
It is tempting and superficially agreeable for Americans to gloat about Europe’s troubles.  After all, every time something goes wrong in American domestic or economic policy, European elites and journalists are quick to gloat and find fault.  After listening to two years of stern and self righteous lectures about the ‘failure’ of the American capitalist model, many Americans who deal with the Europeans are quietly enjoying the spectacle of the smug Europeans writhing in helpless indecision and pain over the continent’s self-inflicted wounds.

But bad news for the EU is bad news for us too.  Irritating as a strong EU can be, a weak and divided Europe is much worse.  A peaceful, prosperous and geopolitically boring continent that exports tedious platitudes about global governance is a far better place than any other Europe we have seen in modern times and American national interests are in no way enhanced by economic and political instability in the Mediterranean — to say nothing of Ukraine and Turkey.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

AFTER GREECE AND PORTUGAL, today it's Spain's turn: S&P has just downgraded Spain's rating to AA. Reading the press release is to weep (reg req, but it's quoted at length at the link). And, meanwhile, the Zapatero government is doing nothing, not even the few things he announced he would do. ZapaNero fiddling while Madrid burns. Even yesterday, when it was revealed that unemployment had reached a staggering 20.05%, he said in Parliament that the economy had started going upwards. He's the Spanish version of Baghdad Bob. And we know how well it ended for that one.

UPDATE. Zapatero-friendly newspaper El País, in full damage control mode, says (link in Spanish) that the downgrade is not the end the world -- literally -- because S&P makes mistakes: for example, giving AAA to Lehman Brothers, or failing to see trouble in Dubai and Iceland. Fair enough. What the paper doesn't seem to realize is that when S&P has made a mistake it's been when it didn't detect problems, not when it exaggerated them. S&P was overly optimistic, not pessimistic. So if S&P gave Lehman, Dubai or Iceland top rating and they're now in the sorry state they are, just imagine what can happen when they do detect problems...

UPDATE II. A great cartoon at the Madrid-based newspaper ABC, mocking the unions who have yet to demonstrate, or even seriously complain, about the crisis -- but of course, they saw how Zapatero raised the subsidies they're getting from the government by five in the last five years (link in Spanish).

Here's the cartoon:

"The working class is starting to be fed up. And as soon as there's a conservative government, they're gonna hear us!"

THE EUROZONE, on its deathbed?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A DOSE OF HUMILITY: the Earth, viewed from Mars.

Monday, April 26, 2010

WAS THE ASH CLOUD that paralized Europe's skies for days nothing more than, well, hot air?
Britain's airspace was closed under false pretences, with satellite images revealing there was no doomsday volcanic ash cloud over the entire country.

Skies fell quiet for six days, leaving as many as 500,000 Britons stranded overseas and costing airlines hundreds of millions of pounds.

Estimates put the number of Britons still stuck abroad at 35,000.

However, new evidence shows there was no all-encompassing cloud and, where dust was present, it was often so thin that it posed no risk.

The satellite images demonstrate that the skies were largely clear, which will not surprise the millions who enjoyed the fine, hot weather during the flight ban.

Jim McKenna, the Civil Aviation Authority's head of airworthiness, strategy and policy, admitted: 'It's obvious that at the start of this crisis there was a lack of definitive data.

'It's also true that for some of the time, the density of ash above the UK was close to undetectable.'

MOISÉS NAÍM departs from Foreign Policy.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

SO this is why the Icelandic volcano had such a strange name...

IF YOU EVER FIND AN ALIEN, don't talk to him, Stephen Hawking advises: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A FEW MYTHS about capitalism.

Monday, April 19, 2010

[Several updates] IF THIS is confirmed, it's big stuff; these two guys were really senior terrorists:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced Monday that the two leaders of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq have been killed.

In a televised news conference, Maliki said Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group that includes al Qaeda in Iraq, were killed in a recent raid.
Their death or capture has been announced before, so we'll have to wait for more corroboration, though.

UPDATE. CNN says Maliki showed reporters photos of the two men (depicting them dead, I assume).

UPDATE II. Reuters:

Maliki said Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir and thought to be an Egyptian, and Baghdadi were killed in Thar-Thar, a rural area 80 km (50 miles) west of Baghdad that is regarded as a hotbed of al Qaeda activity. The operation took place over the last couple of days.

"The attack was carried out by ground forces, which surrounded the house, and also through the use of missiles," Maliki told a news conference. "U.S. forces also participated."

He said the house was destroyed and the two bodies were found in a hole in the ground inside in which they had been hiding.
The news agency also notes that there's no confirmation yet from the US military.

UPDATE III. According to the BBC, the US military has indeed confirmed that the two guys have been killed by Iraqi forces.

UPDATE IV. Totally confirmed by the US, AP reports:
U.S. forces commander Gen. Raymond Odierno says the deaths are potentially the most significant blow to the terrorist organization since the beginning of the insurgency.

The U.S. military said they were killed in a nighttime raid on their safehouse Sunday near Tikrit, the hometown of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
UPDATE V. From the horse's mouth.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

HEY, maybe the Afghanistan war is not going as bad as some say (clueless commanders notwithstanding): Mullah Omar, the Taliban's supreme leader, is ready to talk about peace.

Friday, April 16, 2010

NO, HE CAN'T MUCH: "Registered voters are about evenly divided over whether President Barack Obama is deserving of a second term in office. Currently, 46% say he deserves re-election and 50% say he does not. Predictably, Democrats are one-sided for Obama's re-election and Republicans are one-sided against it, while independents lean against a second Obama term." It's not Rasmussen but Gallup, by the way.

YEAH, but would you rather be clean, sneezing, and coughing -- or dirty and dead?
"There is an inverse relationship between the level of hygiene and the incidence of allergies and autoimmune diseases," says Dr. Delespesse. "The more sterile the environment a child lives in, the higher the risk he or she will develop allergies or an immune problem in their lifetime."

WHY IS Spain's opposition less loved than it should be, given the "parlous economy"? Good piece from The Economist, though there's something missing: it's difficult to be more loved when the media is overwhelmingly against you (think W levels, maybe even worse)

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

WILL CHINA'S property bubble burst as early as this year?

Monday, April 12, 2010

FUNNY: What brought the Dallas Cowboys Stadium? Truthers wanna know.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

IT'S TEMPTING to think there's some Russian foul play in the death of Poland's president Lech Kaczynski, but why would pilots attempt to land four times if that was the case? It seems to me a clear case of an accident with a worn out, 40-years-old plane under severe weather conditions.

Several European leaders travel in not state-of-the-art presidential planes: for example, there were serious security incidents involving the planes carrying Spain's King Juan Carlos or prime ministers Felipe González and Jose María Aznar, two aged 707 with more than 40 years of service. Aznar purchased two brand-new Airbus -- and the Socialist party, then in the opposition, quickly called it "profligate spending" and "budget recklessness". I guess they wouldn't have minded much if he had been Kaczinski'ed, but I'm sure currently sitting PM Zapatero is now quite happy about that. He must be, considering how often he uses them for private travel...

IF THE US Europeanizes, Europe is in trouble, writes Jonah Goldberg. I love the last paragraph:
Europhiles hate this sort of talk. They say there’s no reason to expect America to lose its edge just because we have a more “compassionate” government. Americans are an innovative, economically driven people. That’s true. But so were the Europeans — once. Then they adopted the policies they have today and that liberals want us to have tomorrow.

Friday, April 09, 2010

MEET the "Chinese Susan Boyle." It's a guy, though (¿the "Chinese Paul Potts," then?)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

REMEMBER WHEN monitoring the communications of Americans was a proof of Bush's fascism, even when an American citizen was suspect of terrorism? Yeah, that was when Bush was in the White House, not so long ago. Now, with Obama in the presidency, it's okay to order not just who he calls to on the phone but his targeted killing (yes, it's also the same stuff that elicits howls of protest when it's done by Israel...)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

PHOTOS OF SPRING at Some are almost on the corny territory, but the photoblog is generally so good that we can forgive them...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Friday, April 02, 2010

Both Maine Senators declined the White House's invitation to attend President Obama's event in their home state today, according to White House spokesman Bill Burton.

Burton said the Maine Republicans decided not to attend Obama's healthcare speech in Portland, Maine.