Wednesday, November 30, 2011

SOME friendly advice: if you have a relationship with a tatoo artist, think twice before you cheat on him/her. Basically to avoid this from happening to you:

You're welcome.

UPDATE. It's a hoax.

INTERNATIONAL COMPANIES are preparing contingency plans for a possible break-up of the eurozone, the Financial Times reports:

Concerned that Europe's political leaders are failing to control the spreading sovereign debt crisis, business executives say they feel compelled to protect their companies against a crash that can no longer be wished away. When German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy raised the prospect of a Greek exit from the eurozone earlier this month, it marked the first time that senior European officials had dared to question the permanence of their 13-year-old experiment with monetary union.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

WHAT HAPPENS if you put a robot in 'face recognition mode' in front of a mirror? This is what happens:


Thursday, November 24, 2011

THE 75 best LIFE magazine photos. Enjoy,

I WAS in Silvio Canto's Jr.'s show earlier today, talking about what's next for Spain after the election. If you're interested, here's the audio:

Listen to internet radio with Silvio Canto Jr on Blog Talk Radio

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NOW that's worrying: "Germany has been considered a safe haven of financial stability amid the ongoing euro crisis -- but that may be changing. Growing mistrust from investors seems apparent after what has been described as a "disastrous" government bond auction on Wednesday. Just two-thirds of the German bonds sold, leaving analysts concerned but not panicked."

If not even Germany is safe...

THE 48-HOUR blackout has ended, so I can now run my PJ Media piece on the Spanish election aftermath here, for those of you who didn't read it there.

Spaniards Boot Out Socialists: Is It Too Late?
In his victory speech last night, the next prime minister of Spain said: "Don't expect any miracles; I didn't promise any."
by José Guardia

That sound you heard if you were in — or flying over — Europe on Sunday was five million Spanish voters firmly planting their feet on the Socialist party’s behind. And with it, kicking out the last center-left government still standing on the continent.

To be sure, it didn’t come as a surprise; it’s exactly what polls were predicting for months. Although there was a slightly lower turnout than expected, the conservative Popular Party, led by Mariano Rajoy, was granted a comfortable absolute majority with 186 seats in the lower chamber. This is the biggest victory ever for the PP, even larger than in 2000, when Jose Maria Aznar was leading the party. And with just 110 seats‚  59 less than in 2008, the Socialist party suffered its biggest defeat since the restoration of democracy after Franco’s death in 1975. It’s their Titanic moment.

(To avoid complicating this analysis needlessly, we will focus on the lower chamber, called the Congress of Deputies; because of how Spain’s legislative process works, the Senate is a chamber of second reading. All bills originate in and get final approval in the Congress, which means it’s there where the beef is cut.)

Spanish voters decided they had had enough of youthful idealism and traded it for a more seasoned, though not particularly charismatic, leader who is perceived as more competent with the economy. After all, the PP has the experience to prove it: it led the country to an economic boom in 1996-2004 during Aznar’s tenure, in which Rajoy held several cabinet positions, including deputy prime minister. At 56, Rajoy will become the oldest prime minister ever elected since the transition.

But the results reflect an unquestionable rejection of the Socialist platform by Spanish voters rather than very strong support for the PP. Looking at the actual votes, not seats in parliament, the conservatives gained only 500,000 votes from 2008, while the PSOE lost a whopping five million (if that number rings a bell it’s because, interestingly, it’s the number of jobless Spaniards). Years of erratic, even failed, economic policies that drove the country to the brink of collapse, and made it the country with the highest level of unemployment in the industrialized world, led many leftist voters to either stay at home or vote for alternatives like United Left (former Communists), which, with 11 seats, multiplied its result almost sixfold. Or for UPyD, a young party formed by Rosa Diez, a former Socialist official who left the party with a bang. The UPyD went from one to five seats. The Spanish electoral system punishes atomization: if the same number of votes is divided among several parties, the sum of the number of seats these parties get is lower than it would be if those votes were concentrated in just one party. So the discontent with the PSOE not only made the party lose millions of votes; it also helped the PP, which has more solid support because there’s no alternative on the right, earn a clear majority even though it had 400,000 votes less than the PSOE in 2008, when the PSOE only achieved a plurality.

Further evidence of the Socialists party’s disaster is that they even lost two of its strongholds: Catalonia, where it lost to moderate nationalists, sinking to almost half of the votes from 2008; and, more meaningfully, Andalusia, where it was defeated by the PP. It’s the first time in a national or regional election that the PSOE has lost its “home base.”
In the Basque Country the situation wasn’t better for the Socialists: since the Socialists lost almost 50% from their 2008 vote count, the big winner was Amaiur, ETA’s peaceful political arm, which got a green light by the Constitutional Court to participate in the election after the terrorist group announced a permanent ceasefire. Second in votes but first in the number of seats, the emergence of Amaiur, which openly advocates for the independence of the Basque Country from Spain, opens a new set of issues whose scope is too wide for this article.

So, now that the votes have been counted and the confetti has been dropped, the big question is: what’s next?

There’s no doubt that Rajoy has a clear mandate to govern. After yesterday’s big win, his party holds the biggest concentration of power ever in democratic-era Spain: it won at the national level, and following the regional and local elections in May of this year, it also governs 14 out of 17 regions, as well as all the big cities but a handful. So it’s clear that he’s got what is needed to start applying his program without any allies, but will he want to? Should he?

There’s an almost overwhelming challenge ahead for Spain’s prime minister-elect in order to put the number one 1 priority above anything else — the country’s economy — back on track: restore market confidence and enact the sorely needed reforms to turn a sclerotic system with little flexibility and low productivity into a much more open, agile, and transparent economy that starts growing again and is able to create employment. There have been lots of missed opportunities and broken promises in the last few years, and now is the moment when decisive action is needed, including very painful measures. Right now. And it’s unclear whether Rajoy (who wasn’t too specific during the campaign, presumably in order not to scare voters as David Cameron did in the UK when he started detailing his policies) or anyone else in his position will be able to pull it off. Rajoy seems to be very aware of this, and in his victory speech on election night told his supporters: “Don’t expect any miracles; I didn’t promise any.”

But the biggest priority is going ahead with the reforms while minimizing the chances of generating widespread protests on the streets in order to prevent a worrisome situation from descending directly into chaos, which certainly wouldn’t help the country regain stability. For that reason, it’s vital to prevent the usual temptation of Spanish Socialists to ride the wave of discontent by supporting, even encouraging, any protest movement against their rivals (many of you will probably remember what happened with the Prestige oil spill or the Iraq war). That’s why, even if the PP has the mandate to act on its own, there’s still a chance Rajoy could coax his opponents by handing one or two cabinet seats to the Socialist party, and even one to the moderate Catalan nationalists. This would at least deactivate the opposition, build a bigger support for the unavoidable measures that need to be taken, and reduce the chance of the PP’s rivals trying to exploit the presumable backlash that these measures will bring to their favor. Plus, the rumors were flying in Spain the week before the election that there might be an unofficial request for an agreed “stealth rescue” by the EU, the BCE and the FMI.

The next few days are going to be extraordinarily important. According to Spanish election law, under normal circumstances it would still take one full month from today to complete the transfer of power: once the new parliament is inaugurated, it votes in the new prime minister, and he and his cabinet members are sworn in. There’s a growing chorus, even among the left, that given that the country is in a state of emergency, and that the PP majority grants Rajoy the nomination with no possible alternatives, the process should be sped up. That would reduce the “interregnum” and allow Rajoy to start sending a signal to the world and the financial markets that things have changed in the country.

Let’s hope it’s not too late.

José Guardia, a former supervising editor for PJ Media, has a J.D. from Barcelona University. He is a political analyst with a two-decade experience in online media, technology, and internet businesses as an executive, consultant, and entrepreneur. Guardia’s website is

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people." ~John F. Kennedy

(via Liza Rozenberg en FB)

SEEING things like this, you can only take your hat off and admire this guitar-playing genius. Notice how at some point he even puts some strings out of tune and puts them back on, on the fly without stopping to play, just to get the effect he desires.

In one word: spectacular.

YOU KNOW that you don't need to waste time reading a post analyzing the Spanish elections when the first sentence is: "I do not follow Spanish politics closely". But, masochist as I am, I kept reading but got stuck on the first point:

First, the role the Indignados played, as summed up in CiF by Katharine Ainger. More people spoiled their ballots, or did not vote, than voted PP. These protests – in the same way as Occupy London – are not going to go away any time soon.

Which I bet most, if not all of you, realize that it's a big pile of horse manure.

You can't simply add up the number of spoiled ballots or people who abstained, because that happens in any election. To measure -- imperfectly, to be sure, but giving a quite accurate indication -- the impact of the indignados you should compare the numbers before and after their movement appeared. It's the difference what can tell whether it has had or not a big role.

And if you look at the data, they did grow, but not that much: abstainers rose roughly 500,000, Votos en Blanco (literally, blank votes: people do emit a ballot but it's one with no candidate; it shows an active rejection of all candidates) increased by 50,000, and spoiled votes were approximately 150,000 votes. Add them all up and it's 700,000 votes. Even if for the sake of the argument we put them on the indignados side, it would only have been the 6th most voted in last Sunday's election. Remarkable, sure... basically to conclude that the shakeup they were supposed to bring to the political system was little more than a shiver.

If you add all abstainers and spoilers to the indignados column, just like that, then I'll create a movement -- the José Guardia platform -- in which my policy would be to ask all people to go to the polls fully clothed. Voilà, I get a mandate from the 100% of the voters! José Guardia rules!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I THINK I'm going to turn into a climate change believer. To make a killing, of course:

NASA records released to resolve litigation filed by the American Tradition Institute reveal that Dr. James E. Hansen, an astronomer, received approximately $1.6 million in outside, direct cash income in the past five years for work related to — and, according to his benefactors, often expressly for — his public service as a global warming activist within NASA.

This does not include six-figure income over that period in travel expenses to fly around the world to receive money from outside interests. As specifically detailed below, Hansen failed to report tens of thousands of dollars in global travel provided to him by outside parties — including to London, Paris, Rome, Oslo, Tokyo, the Austrian Alps, Bilbao, California, Australia and elsewhere, often business or first-class and also often paying for his wife as well — to receive honoraria to speak about the topic of his taxpayer-funded employment, or get cash awards for his activism and even for his past testimony and other work for NASA.

This is for those who see obscure financial motivation in the skeptics. I believe Freud called that "projection".

BLONDE JOKES are usually unfair. But seeing things like this I have second thoughts...

Monday, November 21, 2011

MY PJ Media piece on the Spanish election is up.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

YESTERDAY I was in Silvio Canto Jr.'s show talking about today's election in Spain; if you're interested, you can listen to it at this link.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I TOOK PART in a PJ Media symposium on tomorrow's general election in Spain tomorrow; on Monday I'll be commenting the results.

SPAIN poised to undergo Europe's next leadership shake-up:

In Spain, dissatisfaction with the state of affairs runs so deep that the Socialists are poised to lose even here in the southern region of Andalusia, where the party has enjoyed a stranglehold on politics since democracy was restored in Spain in 1975.

But a win for the Popular Party, or PP, could prove a poisoned chalice. It would inherit a nation beset by an unemployment rate of more than 20%, a shaky banking system and growing doubt by global investors about Madrid's ability to pay its debts and make the painful reforms required to get the economy back on track.

GREAT MOMENTS in the 'European dream society': EU bans claim that water can prevent dehydration.

BLOOMBERG: Spain Set to Vote for Rajoy Cuts as Crisis Claims Fifth Leader:

Spaniards may hand the biggest majority in three decades to opposition People’s Party leader Mariano Rajoy as polls suggest Europe’s debt crisis will push a fifth government from power.

Rajoy will win as many as 198 of the 350 seats in Parliament in tomorrow’s federal elections, the largest majority any Spanish government has secured since 1982, polls show. Set to inherit a 23 percent jobless rate and the highest financing costs since Spain joined the euro, Rajoy has pledged to deepen spending cuts and overhaul the economy after a four-year downturn.

IN THE MAIL: Making it in the Political Blogosphere: The World's Top Political Bloggers Share the Secrets to Success. There's a few missing, but looks very interesting.

P.J. O'ROURKE: "If the 1% had less, would the 99% be better off?"

THE GUARDIAN: "Spain on course to elect a conservative as PM"

Friday, November 18, 2011

SPAIN credit crunch deepens:

Lending by Spanish banks contracted by 2.64% on the year in September, the sharpest annual decline on record, pointing to a deepening credit crunch in Europe's fourth-largest economy.

Data released Friday by the Bank of Spain showed that some €48.4 billion in credit was removed from the Spanish economy over the past year through September. The decline was the biggest on record in the country since the central bank began to track lending growth in 1962.

September is normally one of the most active months of the year for lending in Spain. A year earlier, banks extended €17.5 billion in additional loans that month. This year, the increase from August was a meager €892 million.

"The rate of decline is starting to be alarming," said Maria Lopez, a banking analyst with Espirito Santo Investment in Madrid.

WSJ: "Spanish Vote Heralds More Austerity"

REUTERS: "Emergency post-election measures won't save Spain"

SPAIN goes to the polls as debt fears grow: "Mariano Rajoy’s center-right opposition party is favored to win Sunday’s election in Spain, but he is unlikely to have any time to savor his victory as fears grow that the debt-laden nation may end up needing a bailout given its skyrocketing borrowing costs."

IF YOU THINK nanotechnology is a geeky subject with no practical applications, at least not yet, watch this.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

NEW YORK TIMES / REUTERS: "Spain’s Leader Faces Debt Worries"

Spain’s next government was never going to have much time to ease into the job. But the recent steep rise in borrowing costs, initiated by problems in Greece and Italy, will make life even tougher for Mariano Rajoy, whose opposition Popular Party is tipped by polls to win the elections on Nov. 20 by a wide margin.

One of Spain’s strong points is that its debt looks set to end the year at 68 percent of gross domestic product. That is lower than the European Union average and far below the 120 percent Italy labors under. The snag is that spiraling costs could eventually make the debts unsustainable. At current rates of 6 percent to borrow money for seven years, Spain would need to run a primary fiscal surplus of 1.8 percent just to keep its debt-to-G.D.P. ratio stable in the long run, according to Reuters Breakingviews calculations. That is well above the primary deficit of 3.5 percent that the European Commission predicts next year for Spain.


HOW famous companies got their names.



Thursday’s Spanish bond auction was seen as a key test of demand for bonds issued by highly indebted euro zone countries. If the latest results are a glimpse into the future, Spain should be very, very worried.

The country paid nearly 7% to flog bonds due in 2022. Despite the fact that the yield on offer was the highest ever at an auction since the advent of the euro, the sale only attracted a measly 1.5% cover ratio.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ARE the new Italian and Greek governments democratic? Of course they are; economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin explains why.

THE END of an era:

Voter anger over Spain's economic plight is certain to sweep the center-right People's Party to an election victory on Sunday, giving it a resounding mandate to slash public spending and try to rescue the country from the euro zone crisis.

The Socialists, in power for seven years, are set to become the latest political victims of Europe's economic woes as voters punish them for failing to heal the sickly economy and fix the worst unemployment rate in the European Union.

Victims? I'd say "culprits", particularly in Spain. Zapatero spent two years not only denying there was a crisis to begin with, but labeled anyone who suggested so as "antipatriotics" who wished their country hurt and boasting that Spain's banking system was the world's most solid. Which means he didn't do a thing when it would have been relatively cheap. Then, when he finally recognized there was a crisis he went fully Keynesian, believing that merely throwing money in half-baked plans with no accountability would change the situation by itself. So he failed to do real reforms and spent the 'silver bullet' (at that time, the indebtedness was not high) without success. Then, on May last year the debt was spiralling out of control, he had to follow the EU, Obama's and China's orders to trim spending no matter what, which he did with the faith of the converted.

FINANCIAL TIMES: "Spain’s new government will ‘have to act quickly’"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NOW what about Spain? "Bond investors will surely be following the election results, yet thus far their concerns have not moderated.  As this note is being written, the 10-year yield on Spanish sovereign debt is above 6% and the spread over the German bund is over 4%.  This spread is more than double the 1.00 to 2.00 country risk spread that could be considered “normal” for a country with Spain’s profile. Of course, what is “normal” may now be somewhat higher because of the market’s reassessment of the value of credit defaults, as David Kotok explained in his Sunday, November 13 Commentary. Our friend Manuael Balmaseda, Chief Economist for CEMEX, has calculated that Spain’s debt is sustainable if the government’s credibility can be restored."

GREAT MOMENTS in ecochondria:

When Denmark’s new government ministers presented themselves to Queen Margrethe II last month, the incoming development minister established his green credentials by rolling up to the palace in a tiny, three-wheeled, electric-powered vehicle. The photo opportunity made a powerful statement about the minister’s commitment to the environment – but probably not the one he intended.

Christian Friis Bach’s electric-powered vehicle was incapable of covering the 30 kilometers from his house to the palace without running out of power. So he put the electric mini-car inside a horse trailer and dragged it behind his petrol-powered Citroën for three-quarters of the trip, switching back to the mini-car when he neared the television cameras. The stunt produced more carbon emissions than if he had ditched the electric car and horse trailer and driven a regular car the entire distance.

Unfortunately, the story is not unique. Under the United Kingdom’s Labour government in 2006, Conservative party leader David Cameron attracted attention for trying to “green” his credentials by cycling to work; the tactic went awry when it emerged that a car trailed him carrying his briefcase.

But environmental hypocrisy in current politics runs deeper than photo opportunities.

Keep reading.

LONG LIVE SCIENTISTS! "Women Aren’t Having Enough Sex, Says Science":

According to a recent survey, “women who had sex at least four times a week were scored as looking up to ten years younger than their actual age,” said Greenblatt. “While pleasure and intimacy with your partner should be a primary motivation to have sex, the health and wellness benefits are a big bonus.”

However, it's unclear what came first: whether women look younger because they have more sex, or whether they have more sex because they look younger. But, girls, considering the benefits you shouldn't take the risk. It's for your own health!

SO MUCH for "Europe Is Fixed": French, Spanish, and Belgian CDS hit new records.

Monday, November 14, 2011

THE NEXT shoe to drop in the Eurozone debt crisis: Spain's regions.

UPDATE. Richard Fernandez has more.

ACCORDING to a study, men and women who bare more flesh are regarded as less intelligent.
Give these girls a Nobel prize!

WHAT are those gigantic structures that China is building in the middle of the desert?

Friday, November 11, 2011

WHEN Wall Street-ers respond.

ONE in 10^2,685,000: these are the odds of you coming into existence. "As a comparison, the number of atoms in the body of an average male (80kg, 175 lb) is 10^27. The number of atoms making up the earth is about 10^50. The number of atoms in the known universe is estimated at 10^80."

Makes your head spin, doesn't it?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

DEUTSCHE BANK on Europe: 'It's Not Inconceivable That We Could Be In Full Crisis Mode By The End Of This Week'

UNRAVELING: "German and French officials have discussed plans for a radical overhaul of the European Union that would involve establishing a more integrated and potentially smaller euro zone, EU sources say."

GREECE goes full circle:


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

THE EVOLUTION of the word "What" (click to enlarge)

(via Ana Nuño)

AND when you thought that bureaucrats couldn't be more stupid: "An ad of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts riding a scooter without helmets for Larry Crowne has landed the film's Spanish distributor a traffic fine of 30,000 euros ($41,500)  for promoting reckless driving."

YES, there's also debates in Spain:

Spanish opposition leader Mariano Rajoy defeated Socialist Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba in their only election debate, polls showed, strengthening the People’s Party’s chances of clinching a record majority on Nov. 20.

A poll by newspaper El Pais, a traditional Socialist backer, showed Rajoy won by a margin of 5 percentage points, while broadcaster La Sexta gave him an 8.7 percentage-point advantage. A poll by El Mundo newspaper showed 51 percent thought Rajoy won, compared with 44 percent for Rubalcaba.

Rubalcaba's main mistake is that quite a few times in the debate, he tried to make everyone forget he had been deputy Prime Minister under Zapatero, so his recipes of what he would do opened the question of why he didn't do them when he had a chance. Also tactically, he kept asking Rajoy what he will do, even going as far as saying "I know what you will do; you will raise taxes", which was an admission that he sees himself as having zero chance of winning..

Monday, November 07, 2011

THE report on Iran's nuclear capabilities that the IAEA will release this week is, at least for what the Washington Post reports, worrying:

Intelligence provided to U.N. nuclear officials shows that Iran’s government has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon, receiving assistance from foreign scientists to overcome key technical hurdles, according to Western diplomats and nuclear experts briefed on the findings.

Documents and other records provide new details on the role played by a former Soviet weapons scientist who allegedly tutored Iranians over several years on building high-precision detonators of the kind used to trigger a nuclear chain reaction, the officials and experts said. Crucial technology linked to experts in Pakistan and North Korea also helped propel Iran to the threshold of nuclear capability, they added.

The officials, citing secret intelligence provided over several years to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the records reinforce concerns that Iran continued to conduct weapons-related research after 2003 — when, U.S. intelligence agencies believe, Iranian leaders halted such experiments in response to international and domestic pressures.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog is due to release a report this week laying out its findings on Iran’s efforts to obtain sensitive nuclear technology. Fears that Iran could quickly build an atomic bomb if it chooses to has fueled anti-Iran rhetoric and new threats of military strikes. Some U.S. arms-control groups have cautioned against what they fear could be an overreaction to the report, saying there is still time to persuade Iran to change its behavior.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

SPAIN'S Socialists seem about to implode: even the state-owned pollster (yes, there's such thing in Spain; talk about overreaching) predicts a historical loss:

Spain’s opposition leader Mariano Rajoy is poised to gain an absolute majority in parliament as he plans to cut taxes and revamp the banking industry to shield the euro area’s fourth-biggest economy from Europe’s debt crisis.

The People’s Party has a 17 percentage-point lead and would win 46.6 percent support if the Nov. 20 vote were held now, according to the survey conducted by state polling unit CIS from Oct. 6 to Oct. 23. That compared with 29.9 percent for the ruling Socialists led by Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, Madrid-based CIS said in an e-mailed statement today.

Friday, November 04, 2011

THERE'S SOME YEARS that I don't earn that much:

Spanish banks, saddled with 176 billion euros ($243 billion) in “troubled” holdings in the real-estate industry, face an “uncertain setting” because of a weak economy that may mean their bad loans will rise, the Bank of Spain said.

“In the next few quarters, the volume of asset-impairment losses can be expected to remain high,” the regulator said in its twice-yearly financial stability report, published today. “This, along with the foreseeable adverse trend in net interest income, constitutes a difficult scenario for the income statement of Spanish banks.”

Thursday, November 03, 2011

GOOD THING that CNN is an international-oriented news network, because you know they're always going to have the information right, at least the most basic one. Oh, wait:

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

TEN David Ogilvy quotes that could revolutionize your blogging. Or your tweeting, or just about anything you write, actually.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

EUROPE'S EVOLUTION in two images (click to enlarge):