Thursday, September 30, 2010

WIKILEAKS' JULIAN ASSANGE to team members who were concerned about the Aghanistan leaks: "I am the heart and soul of this organization, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organizer, financier and all the rest. If you have a problem with me, piss off."

What a charming fellow, huh?

UPDATE. Australia, Assange's home country, wants Sweden to prosecute him.

IS SPAIN cooking its books?

UPDATE. Here's the full report alleging that Spain is hiding a whopping 14% decline in GDP (a 17.3% actual fall vs the 3.1% official figure). It comes from an anonymous source, so take it FWIW:
Spanish GDP Report

Via Zero Hedge, who has much more.

UPDATE II. Hmmmm... Angel Gimeno, who just left the Socialist party and is calling for Zapatero's impeachment, wrote on his blog (in Spanish) about this back in May.

UPDATE III. Let me be clear: I have no clue on who wrote the report, but the language that Tyler Durden uses ("a Spanish blogger who wishes to remain anonymous") suggests me he does. And I have a hard time thinking that the FT would publish, even on a blog (not the paper itself) such information if they really didn't know who the author is (whether they say they don't, maybe to avoid questions, is another matter). The language in the report suggests it's written by a Spanish speaker with a reasonably high knowledge of English, but not totally proficient, and who has access to the central bank's data. The report has been making the rounds for hours now, but the markets don't seem to be reacting negatively: they've even gone upwards, which is somewhat surprising on the day that Moody's has downgraded Spain.

UPDATE IV. Megan McArdle thinks this is much ado about nothing:
But precisely because it would represent such a massive fraud, I'm skeptical.  Statistical skullduggery would answer some questions, but raise others, like how come tax revenues are now rising?  Why isn't the budget deficit bigger--is it all lies?  If so, where are they getting the money to spend?  And how on earth did the government manage to coordinate such a massive fraud? . . . . It looks to me as if the anonymous blogger is resting too much on divergence between previously correlated series; this divergence is interesting, but series do diverge from time to time, and that's not necessarily a sign that someone has gotten creative with the underlying data.
UPDATE V. Alphaville, the Financial Times blog that started it all, is now exercising the caution that it should have exercised from the start, and has updated the post -- actually it has removed all the original content and replaced with some questions on whether the report was politically motivated. Perhaps. On the other hand, from conversations I've had with people who know this stuff it does seeem that there's a widespread suspicion among economists that the official 3,1% decline in GDP is excessively low, though a 14% difference is way out of line. It'd be a catastrophic collapse of giant proportions and yes, the country is in trouble, but not that much.

I hope.

UPDATE VI. For the record, I am not the anonymous blogger that Megan refers to -- it's the blogger that the posts at Alphaville and Zero Hedge, which I linked, are talking about. For good or worse, I'm completely identifiable...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

THE SIZE of which part of a woman's body makes her instantly attractive to men? No, it's not what you're thinking, you excessively hormoned bloggers. It's the arms, according to a study.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Detainees’ diets at Guantanamo Bay have been a controversial issue for some time and now the U.S. prison is said to be rationing ice cream.

The frozen dessert is allegedly being tightly measured, with only one ice cream allowed for each of its 147 detainees.
No wonder they call it the Human Rights' black hole. How can they be so cruel?

Monday, September 27, 2010

UN's PLAN to appoint an "alien ambassador", a hoax? You see, the thing is that if this was said just about any other organization people would instantly know it's not true. But everyone has swallowed it this time, since you can expect anything from the UN...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

IS BUSH BACK in the White House?
The FBI raided the Minneapolis homes of five antiwar activists, including three leaders of the Twin Cities peace movement, Friday morning as part of what it called a probe of "activities concerning the material support of terrorism."

The Minneapolis office of an antiwar organization was also raided, protest leaders said. No one was arrested in any of the raids.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

BECAUSE SOMEONE HAD TO SAY IT: "The depressing vogue for having fun at work". I'm certainly not anti-social, but when I've been the boss in an office environment, even when it's a virtual team, I always try to keep a good atmosphere without turning it into a compulsory thing. Good atmosphere doesn't come from forcing people into doing 'fun' things (it can actually make things worse). It mainly comes from what the leadership does, and the profile of the people you hire.

HARSH, BUT TRUE: "The Truth About Spain's Politics". Sounds ripe for a local Tea Party, though I doubt that's where the author wanted to go to...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WHEN BULLFIGHTING was banned in Catalonia (the northeastern region in Spain with Barcelona as the capital), the prohibitionists said it had nothing to do with nationalistic, anti-Spanish sentiment. It was all a matter of ending animal cruelty, they insisted.

Lawmakers who banned bullfighting in Spain's Catalonia region have voted to effectively endorse other traditions involving the animals such as attaching burning poles to bulls' horns.

The legislation was approved Wednesday by a 114-14 vote, with 5 abstentions.

In July, Catalonia banned bullfighting on grounds of cruelty, becoming only the second Spanish region to do away with the centuries-old tradition.
But Wednesday's vote protects traditions in Catalonia involving bulls that have been widely criticized as cruel.
I'm not a bullfighting fan --never been to a corrida, and don't think I ever will-- but the double standard, the hypocrisy and thinking everyone is stupid really gets on my nerves...

EURO-ZONE DEBT CRISIS IS OVER, Zapatero told the WSJ yesterday in New York after his meeting with a bunch of Wall Street's big fish. Not sure how much they believed him (those guys have their own sets of data they use, so they don't really rely on spin from an interested party, do they).

Because the markets are begging to differ this morning. This is how Madrid's stock market looks only a little over two hours since the opening bell:

UPDATE. It hasn't improved during the rest of the day: down 1.9%.

UPDATE II. The investors looked really interested and engaged, eh? (click to enlarge)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ARE THEY TOTALLY NUTS, OR WHAT? "The UK's tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer."

Somewhere, Guido Fawkes is smiling: he could have never dreamed something that would turn so many people so fast into anti-government revolutionaries. This could be the tipping point, but I actually doubt the British government is going to be able to pull this off.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT IN THE US is certainly bad, but take a look at Spain.

Friday, September 17, 2010

THE CEO OF BEST BUY says that the iPad is cannibalizing laptop sales by a whopping 50% (I suspect it's more for netbooks and less for real laptops, so the figure is an average). That doesn't suprise me at all. Yes, the iPad is more expensive, but if you add the cost of a cheap netbook and an ebook reader, it's not that far.

I was a bit skeptical when I got one, but after a few weeks I can say that the iPad can really do the work of any netbook, with a much richer user experience (no, it doesn't have a keyboard, but those of us who type with 2 or 3 fingers don't really notice much difference). And it's even better than a laptop for regular use (email, office suite, browsing): it's lighter, battery life is great, and if you get the 3G version you avoid the bulge of the modem, which defeats the whole purpose of mobility.

And something else that the iPad clearly beats laptops: at meetings. There's no open lids that 'separate' participants and act as a barrier between them. With an iPad on the table it's easier to establish 'psychological connection' with the other people in the room, which is better unless you really want to put some 'distance' as an advantage against the person you're negotiating with.

I SAY they should now call it Park 51: "A popular Spanish nightclub has been forced to change its name from Mecca after sparking a furious reaction around the Islamic world. Intelligence chiefs warned owners they were being targeted by extremists who claim the disco is insulting to their religion."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTICE: it seems there's some issue with that triggers a malware alert if click here and other websites using the service, but only if you do so on Chrome. It should be ok for other browsers (and actually I think Chrome users also now, since it seems they have pulled the service). In any case, it was just a false positive, so there should be no worried regarding your computers. Thanks for your attention.

UPDATE. I finally had to pull the Blogrolling code from the blog, since the issue was still ongoing and visitors were kinda freaking out :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

IF YOU'RE A WINE AFICIONADO: From Spain, Big Reds That Are Well Balanced.

GOT NINE: "Nine people accused of heading an offshoot of Basque separatist group ETA were arrested early Tuesday, the Spanish press reported."

Downside: again, the English language media calling ETA separatists, not what they are: terrorists. See here and here.

SPAIN'S CHEECH AND CHONG: some guys were busted for pot possession. I wonder what was the police clue...

Monday, September 13, 2010

TRUE, it's on a low starting point, but it's nevertheless significant: "The Palestinian economy grew by a resounding 9% in the West Bank and 16% in Gaza through the first half of 2010, due to the easing of Israeli restrictions, donor aid and aggressive financial-sector overhauls by the Palestinian Authority, according to the International Monetary Fund."

FRANCE, the country of love? Nah. Oh là là.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010


(I'm using the same picture every year because it's awesome. It was taken by my friend José Carlos Rodríguez who back then was living in New York.)

UPDATE. Don't miss the pictures at the Boston Globe.

Friday, September 10, 2010

FIDEL now says he didn't say what Jeffrey Goldberg said he said...

WHY isn't Spain happy?

Sunday, September 05, 2010

FORGIVE ME if I fail to get much excited about ETA "declaring ceasefire". That's because, if you read the communiqué in full (Spanish translation from the original in Basque), they merely declare an end to "offensive attacks". Which, in their perverse logic, it's something they've never done. They have never attacked: they have been responding, defending themselves, from what they call "attacks" on them from Spain.

So it all seems a very calculated move: after the police has been successfully dismantling them, they are in a bad shape. It's not the first time they have apparently called for a ceasefire as a way of getting some time off and a chance to regroup (in fact, the last time the communiqué was more blunt, but it still ended this way). Plus, there's local elections soon, and they need the 'legitimacy' so that their political allies can run, get a few councilmen elected, and start getting the public funds that the government gives to the parties with political representation.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

CIVIL WAR at Wikileaks.

DID YOU just eat garlic and your breath stinks? Drink a glass of whole milk. You're welcome.


Friday, September 03, 2010

AND ANOTHER POLL in the Gray Lady today will send shivers down the Democrats' spines: far fewer young voters identify themselves as Democrats, compared with 2008.

SIXTY-SEVEN PERCENT of New Yorkers believe that, while the promoters of the Ground Zero mosque have a right to build it, they should move it farther away, according to a New York Times poll. Its editorial writers are apoplectic.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Spain's deficit is down sharply thanks to an unpopular cocktail of tax hikes and austerity cuts — good news for a government fighting to ward off fears it might need a bailout like the one that saved Greece from bankruptcy.

[...] The figures do not include spending by regional governments, however, which will be key to helping the government meet its stated goal of cutting the deficit from 11.2 percent of GDP last year to 3 percent in 2013.

The report says revenue rose 10.4 percent through July, largely due to a higher VAT rate, a tax on goods and services.
Except that, as the piece says below,
But this is a one-time boost widely attributed to Spaniards rushing to buy big-ticket items like refrigerators and washing machines before those tax rates rose on July 1.
So let me get this straight: it wasn't the tax hike -- which kicked off in July, yes, but since the VAT returns are done quarterly they won't really have an effect in tax income for a couple more months. It was the anticipation of the VAT increase which made people hurry and buy big-ticket items before the tax hike went into effect. So tax hike had an effect, yes, but not what the government had in mind. In fact, it showed why it was such a bad idea: once the higher VAT is on, people will buy less, therefore the government income will go down.

Plus, on the other hand,
Jobless claims in Spain rose 1.6% in August, an increase of 61,083 against the prior month, bringing the total number of unemployed to 3,969,661. The rise is the first after three straight months of declines in jobless claims. On an annual basis, jobless claims rose 9.4%. Jobless claims had trended downward. "This increase in jobless claims, even though it's not good news, still is much less than the past two years and maintains the tendency for the data to gradually to return to where it was prior to the crisis," said Maravillas Rojo, Secretary General of Employment in Spain. Euro-zone data released last week showed Spain's unemployment rate remains the highest in the region, climbing to 20%.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

IT LOOKED LIKE George Orwell had it right, but maybe it was Aldous Huxley who really nailed it...

APPARENTLY SEVERAL OF YOU are having trouble contacting me via the yellow button on the top right; apparently they weren't receiving the email verification of their address. I just changed the config (until I know what's the matter) so that you can now send me tips, links, ideas, or information (always welcome!) simply by filling the form that appears when you click on the button, and supplying with a valid email address. Keep 'em coming!

SWEDISH PROSECUTORS just announced they're reopening the rape investigation against Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange:
"There is reason to believe that a crime has been committed," Marianne Ny, Sweden's Director of Public Prosecution, said in a statement. "Considering information available at present, my judgment is that the classification of the crime is rape."