Monday, October 31, 2011

WHY the Eurozone bailout will fail in a matter of weeks:
 The deal itself, unveiled dramatically in the early hours of Thursday, was met with the now obligatory "relief rally". The FTSE All-World equity index soared 4.1pc, helped by signs of renewed US economic growth. European bank shares spiked no less than 12pc on Thursday, as traders recognised, for all the official obfuscation, the latest dollop of government largesse.

By late Thursday, though, and certainly on Friday, the warning signs were there. Global bond markets, by character more sober and smarter than the excitable equity guys, were voting against the deal. This is alarming. For it is only by selling more bonds that the eurozone's deeply indebted governments can roll-over their enormous liabilities and keep the show on the road.

Some say Western governments shouldn't "accept" what the market says. "Who do these trading people think they are," I hear from the lips of the educated but financially-illiterate political elite. Let's be clear – if global bond markets stop lending to a number of large Western economies, we are in the realms of unpaid state wages and pensions, transport chaos and closures of schools and hospitals – sparking the prospect of serious civil unrest. Forgive my intemperate tone, but these are the dangers we face. And I'm afraid the only rational response to Thursday's announcement is that the probability of such undesirable outcomes has just been increased. 
 The Economist:
Yet in the light of day, the holes in the rescue plan are plain to see. The scheme is confused and unconvincing. Confused, because its financial engineering is too clever by half and vulnerable to unintended consequences. Unconvincing, because too many details are missing and the scheme at its core is not up to the job of safeguarding the euro.

This is the euro zone’s third comprehensive package this year. It is unlikely to be its last.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

THAT'S what I call being a multitasker: "While seated on the bench, an Oklahoma judge used a male enhancement pump, shaved and oiled his nether region, and pleasured himself, state officials charged yesterday in a petition to remove the jurist."

THE ECONOMIST on the euro debt deal:
But is it a good deal? This was, after all, the third “comprehensive solution” devised by the euro zone so far this year. With each “unprecedented” effort, the problem has only worsened (see chart 1). Sadly, this latest deal promises to be no more enduring. At best, it will buy time before the next round of panic. At worst, it may push the euro zone into catastrophe. “This is certainly no summit to end all summits,” said Sony Kapoor, managing director of Re-Define, an economic think-tank in Brussels. “Once again, good economics has fallen victim to bad politics.”

The package consists of three connected parts: reducing Greece’s debt to a sustainable level by a “voluntary” agreement with private creditors to accept the loss of half the value of the bonds, in exchange for safer debt; recapitalising Europe’s banks to the tune of €106 billion ($146 billion) to help them absorb the losses on Greek and other distressed debts; and creating a €1 trillion firewall to prevent the spread of panic to vulnerable, bigger but still-solvent states, above all Italy, the euro-zone country with the second-biggest debt burden. In the word of one well-placed source, “the more zeroes the better”. The trouble is, the more zeroes are added, the more holes are likely to be found in the plan.

Friday, October 28, 2011

WHY Coldplay and Adele aren't bringing new albums to Spotify.

The government says Spain’s unemployment rate rose more than half a percentage point in the third quarter to 21.5 percent.

The National Statistics Institute said Friday the country’s jobless ranks swelled by nearly 145,000 in the July-September period. The jobless rate in the second quarter was 20.9 percent.

The total number of people unemployed as of the end of the third quarter was 4,978,300.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

TEN myths about innovation.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TROUBLED Spain faces vote: the Wall Street Journal on the November 20 general election and conservative Mariano Rajoy, who seems poised to win by a landslide. More than because of his abilities, because of the Socialist meltdown.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

MY former employer, Pajamas Media, is now PJ Media. I have to say that it was about time; the Rathergate fiasco was too way behind and the name, which may have sounded quirky at first, was clearly worn out. Time flies, and it's been already more than three years since I moved on from my stint there as supervising editor, but it was a blast. I wish them nothing but the best.

Monday, October 24, 2011


(via Facebook)

THE ten best subliminal ads ever made.

Friday, October 21, 2011

TODAY'S Thought of the Day:

(via Dale Wu on Facebook)

A MAJOR NEW STUDY of 360,000 cellphone users in Denmark has found there's not increased risk of brain tumors with long-term use.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

BASQUE TERRORIST GROUP ETA has just announced it is putting an end to its armed campaign. Although they don't announce they're disarming and disbanding, and even if they've broken the pledge before, it's undoubtedly good news: the announcement seems more drastic than in previous occasions.

You can read the communiqué here (in Spanish, pdf).

UPDATE. The statement in English here (pdf)

UPDATE II. This is the list of the 829 people killed by ETA throughout the years.

FIVE REASONS why 'income inequality' is at least an exaggeration.

WAS the Declaration of Independence illegal? That's what a group of lawyers contend. British lawyers, naturally...

ONLY THOSE who simultaneously are Mac users and Walking Dead fans will probably appreciate this:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

SOME data on the 'Occupy Wall Street' protesters:
Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn't represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.
Keep reading

MOODY'S downgrades Spain:
The main drivers that prompted the rating downgrade are as follow:

(1) Spain continues to be vulnerable to market stress and event risk.
Since placing the ratings under review in late July 2011, no credible resolution of the current sovereign debt crisis has emerged and it will in any event take time for confidence in the area’s political cohesion and growth prospects to be fully restored. In the meantime, Spain’s large sovereign borrowing needs as well as the high external indebtedness of the Spanish banking and corporate sectors render it vulnerable to further funding stress.

(2) The already moderate growth prospects for Spain have been scaled back further in view of (i) the worsening global and European growth outlook and (ii) the difficult funding situation for the banking sector and its impact on the wider economy. Specifically, Moody’s now expects Spain’s real GDP growth in 2012 to be 1% at best, compared with earlier expectations of 1.8%, with risks mainly to the downside. Over the following years, the rating agency continues to expect a very moderate pace of growth of around 1.5% on average per annum.

(3) Lower economic growth in turn will make the achievement of the ambitious fiscal targets even more challenging for Spain. Moody’s expects the budget deficits for the general government sector to be above target both this year and next. In particular, Moody’s continues to have serious concerns regarding the funding situation of the regional governments and their ability to reduce their budget deficits according to targets.


(via RJ Friedlander on Facebook)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

GILAD SHALIT, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas five years ago -- if he was in Guantanamo, everyone would be screaming 'war crime' and 'black hole of human rights -- is now a free man, at last.

UPDATE. First images of Gilad after being set free.

Monday, October 17, 2011

NOBELIST Daniel Kahneman explains our fondness for not thinking:
Here's a simple arithmetic question: "A bat and ball cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?"

The vast majority of people respond quickly and confidently, insisting the ball costs 10 cents. This answer is both incredibly obvious and utterly wrong. (The correct answer is five cents for the ball and $1.05 for the bat.) What's most impressive is that education doesn't really help; more than 50% of students at Harvard, Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology routinely give the incorrect answer.
Keep reading.

LIBERTARIANS vs. Left vs. Right (click to enlarge):

(via Amy Alkon on Facebook)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

CAN A BLOOD TEST really tell you when you'll die? "A small Spanish biological research company was deluged with queries after reports that its blood test could predict the age you would die. Well, can it?"

AT LAST! I found what to say when she complains because you never call her the next morning: Mind-blowing sex actually can wipe memory clean, according to some research.

I'll use this, thanks guys!

HOW TO launch a campaign on Facebook and shoot yourself in the foot: just ask Dr. Pepper.


"Today's service will be using the hashtag #Jerrysdead"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

DO YOU HAVE A DOG? Are you a nerd? Well, Halloween's approaching and you need to start thinking about costumes (click to enlarge):

(via Lee Stranahan on Facebook)

UPDATE. More Star Wars-related stuff for the geeks out there:

THE REAL REASON why the dinosaurs became extinct:

(via Glenn Reynolds on Facebook)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

FBI and DEA agents have disrupted a plot to commit a "significant terrorist act in the United States" tied to Iran, federal officials told ABC News today.
The officials said the plot included the assassination of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubeir, with a bomb and subsequent bomb attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C.

Bombings of the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Buenos Aires, Argentina, were also discussed, according to the U.S. officials.

The stunning allegations come against a backdrop of longstanding tensions between Iran and the United States and Saudi Arabia. In the last year, Saudi Arabia has attempted to build an anti-Iran alliance to push back against perceived aggression by Iran in the region.

I'M RETRACTING my global warming skepticism. How could I not, confronted with sureproof evidence?

(via Arthur Chrenkoff on Facebook)

"SPANISH VOTERS ready to swing to the right", MarketWatch reports on the forthcoming general election in Spain. True: the conservatives now in opposition are widening their lead in the polls. The only question now seems to be whether they will get a majority or whether they'll get short and achieve a plurality. But it seems pretty clear that Mariano Rajoy will be the next prime minister.

MarketWatch, however, has a one thing wrong: it's not true that " In local and regional elections last May, the PP defeated the PSOE in every region it had held outright since 2007, and also took control of Spain’s biggest cities, including Barcelona." The PP did make big gains across the country, but it came third in Barcelona, behind the nationalists of CiU and the Socialists.

Monday, October 10, 2011

STEVE JOBS arrives in Heaven (via many on Twitter):



CLIMATE SKEPTICS are today's radical rebels, Brednan O'Neill pointedly writes: "Green thinking represents a challenge to the status quo? That's a laughable idea. From schools and universities to every corner of the Western political sphere, the climate-change outlook is the status quo. In fact, it's the new conservatism."

THE CHART that will get Obama fired.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

STEVE JOBS' obituary, as edited by Apple auto-correct.

ARE WE headed towards a Great Depression like in 1929? In some regards, we should be so lucky...

Saturday, October 08, 2011

RAJOY'S BURDEN: "Spain’s probable next prime minister will have a tough job on his hands." No shit, Sherlock.

Friday, October 07, 2011

WHAT everyone is too polite to say about Steve Jobs.

THE U.S. drone fleet hit by a virus? How did they know, they got a Blue Screen of Death?

JUST IN TIME to brighten up the weekend:
Fitch just downgraded the credit ratings of Italy and Spain — not unexpected, but the latest in a string of gouges being cut in the side of the market’s high hopes for Europe.

Fitch cut Spain’s long-term credit rating to “AA-” from “AA+.” It cut Italy to “A+” from “AA-.”

This isn’t having a huge impact on the market, but it does seem to be shaking optimism a little bit. The Dow is down 9 points or so, while the S&P is down 0.6% and and the Nasdaq is down 1.2%.

The Italian downgrade is maybe a little less of a shock, given that Moody’s just downgraded it three notches a few days ago. But Spain might be kind of a bigger deal.


(via  and  Ana Nuño)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

INSULT like Shakespeare: it's easy with this kit!

I BLAME the SUVs and the polluting factories back then: "Climate Shifts Sparked 17th-Century Conflicts"

GENERALISSIMO FRANCO IS STILL DEAD: "As Spain's jobs crisis deepens, more young Spaniards are leaving the country in search of greater opportunities in Germany."

It's back to the 60s all over again.

STEVE JOBS' best quotes.

QUOTE OF THE DAY, by Kevin Williamson (in a Steve Jobs tribute, but it doesn't matter; the sentence is atemporal):
Profits are not deductions from the sum of the public good, but the real measure of the social value a firm creates. Those who talk about the horror of putting profits over people make no sense at all. The phrase is without intellectual content. Perhaps you do not think that Apple, or Goldman Sachs, or a professional sports enterprise, or an internet pornographer actually creates much social value; but markets are very democratic — everybody gets to decide for himself what he values.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

AMERICA'S most beautiful college campuses. Awesome.

PRETTY MUCH a no-brainer, ain't it?


ACCORDING to the European intelligentsia, the U.S. is the land where the poor who can't afford health insurance die at the hospitals' doors because the are not admitted. This will come as a suprise:
ON Jan. 4, 2010, Raymond Fok was changing trains on his way to kidney dialysis treatment when he collapsed on the Canal Street subway platform. Emergency medical technicians examined him and took him by ambulance to the nearest hospital, New York Downtown, near the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. Workers in the emergency room recorded that Mr. Fok’s speech was slurred and that he was lurching from side to side when he walked.

“He was a very typical hemorrhagic stroke,” said Jeffrey Menkes, the hospital’s president. From the emergency room, the hospital admitted Mr. Fok to the intensive-care unit on the third floor, where workers tried to find out more about their patient — not just his medical history, but his insurance or Medicaid status, his address, his Social Security or taxpayer identification number, the location of family members.

Once his condition had stabilized, the hospital moved him to a regular room on the fifth floor, where staff members expected to treat him for 7 to 10 days before discharging him to a sub-acute-care center for rehabilitation, the usual regimen for stroke victims.

Nineteen months later, Mr. Fok, 58, greeted a reporter from his bed in Room 516, eager to have a visitor. In the previous year and a half, perhaps 100 or more patients had come and gone from the room’s other bed, but Mr. Fok had gone nowhere. “Yes, I remember you,” he said. “John, right?”
The price of his treatment: $1.4 million.

And who was paying for it?

“The government,” Mr. Fok guessed, though he was not sure. “The hospital is losing money.”

In a city with a large immigrant population, it is not rare for hospitals to have one or more patients who, for reasons unrelated to their medical condition, do not seem to leave. At Downtown, where a bed costs the hospital more than $2,000 a day, there are currently three long-term patients who no longer need acute care but cannot be discharged because they have nowhere to go. The hospital pays nearly all costs for these patients’ treatment. One man left recently after a stay of more than five years.

They are the forgotten people in the health care system — uninsured, usually undocumented, without resources and stuck in the system’s most expensive course of care. Some are abandoned by or estranged from relatives; some belong in rehabilitation centers, where care is much cheaper, but because of their immigration status they are not enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare, so the places will not take them. For hospitals, some of these patients, like Mr. Fok, come in as medical cases and then quickly become puzzles for detective work.

THE MIT has developed an 'artificial leaf' that turns sunlight into storable fuel; there's video at the link.

A MOVING VIDEO of a 29-year-old girl, born deaf, as she hears for the first time in her life thanks to an implant. Those pharma and medical tech industries are evil, eh?

MANY OF YOU have probably seen this chart purportedly showing how bad Republican presidents are and how good Democrat presidents are -- particularly Obama -- at controlling the growth of public debt:

There's just one problem: it's as false a Michael Moore's slimming diet. I'll give word to the Washington Post:
The chart has some basic conceptual flaws. For instance, as the debt keeps getting higher, the possible percentage increases will keep getting smaller. Under the mixed-up logic of this chart, a person can go from 10 to 20, and that would be a 100 percent increase. If the next person goes from 20 to 30, that’s only a 50 percent increase, even though the numerical increase (10) is the same.

The chart also cherry-picks the data that portray Obama in the best light by claiming to show “public debt” but in actuality using the statistics for gross debt.

Gross debt includes intergovernmental transactions such as bonds held by Social Security and Medicare, but public debt is the more commonly used figure of national indebtedness, at least among economists.

If the chart actually used public debt rather than gross debt, it would have put Obama and George W. Bush virtually in the same league — 60 percent increase (as of September 2011) for Obama versus 70 percent for Bush — even though Bush served as president much longer.

But the biggest problem is that this is just dumb math. What really counts is not the raw debt numbers, but the size of the debt as a percentage of the gross domestic product. The GDP is the broadest measure of the national economy and directly indicates the nation’s ability to service its debts. In fact, the White House budget office historical tables portray much of the data as a percentage of GDP, because that is the best way to truly compare such numbers over time.

If the chart were recast to show how much the debt went up as a percentage of GDP, it would look pretty bad for Obama after not even three years in office. In fact, Obama does almost twice as poorly as Reagan — and four times worse than George W. Bush.

    Reagan: plus 14.9 percentage points
    GHW Bush: plus 7.1 percentage points
    Clinton: down 13.4 percentage points
    GW Bush: plus 5.6 percentage points
    Obama: plus 24.6 percentage points

WHAT A STRANGE WAY oil has to reach its end, eh?
U.S. oil production in areas including West Texas' Permian Basin, South Texas' Eagle Ford shale, and North Dakota's Bakken shale will record a rise of a little over 2 million barrels per day from 2010 to 2016, according to data compiled by Bentek Energy, a Colorado firm that tracks energy infrastructure and production projects.

Canadian crude production is expected to grow by 971,000 barrels per day during the same period, with much of the oil headed for the U.S.

Combined, the U.S. and Canadian oil output will top 11.5 million barrels per day, which is even more than their combined peak in 1972.
Goldman Sachs has estimated the U.S. could move from being the No. 3 oil producer behind Saudi Arabia and Russia to the No. 1 spot by 2017.