Tuesday, February 28, 2012

SECRET MEMO suggests White House ignored SOS from Iranian opposition. Heartwarming, eh?

STRATFOR is a joke, and so is Wikileaks for taling it seriously.

And most of the Spanish media, I should act. You wouldn't believe how they're describing the whole thing.

GREECE'S MESS in four charts.

Monday, February 27, 2012

SPAIN MISSES budget target big time:
Spain missed its 2011 budget- deficit target by a larger margin than previously estimated, complicating Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s bid to rein in the euro area’s fourth-biggest shortfall amid the nation’s second recession since 2009.

Spain’s overall deficit was equivalent to 8.5 percent of gross domestic product, compared with a 6 percent goal set by the European Union, and a budget gap of 9.3 percent in 2010, Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro told a news conference in Madrid today. The government earlier estimated a deficit of about 8 percent and the 6 percent target was missed because of slippage in the 17 semi-autonomous regions and social-security system, he said.
It needs to be reminded that the 6% figure was set up by the outgoing Zapatero administration, which accused anyone who said it was going to be bigger of 'alarmists'. Almost traitors because, they said, they were people who would say anything just to damage the Socialist party in order to win the election, even if it meant they were damaging the country's reputation in the process...

THERE GOES your conspiracy against the heroic judge by Franco supporters blah blah blah:
An embattled superstar judge known for taking on high-profile international human rights cases was acquitted Monday on charges of overstepping his jurisdiction by launching an investigation into right-wing atrocities during and after the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War.

Baltasar Garzon misinterpreted Spanish law but did not knowingly and arbitrarily violate the limits of his jurisdiction, as would be required for a conviction, the Supreme Court justices said in their 6-1 vote and 63-page ruling.

Friday, February 24, 2012


CHEER UP: Joseph Schumpeter was wrong.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The euro-zone economy will fall back into recession at the start of this year and is now expected to contract in 2012 as a whole, the European Commission warned Thursday.

The new gross-domestic-product forecasts will add to concerns about the impact of broad-based regional austerity plans. The 2012 forecasts for Italy, Spain and Greece were all slashed—all countries that are implementing fiscal-consolidation measures.

But European Union Economics Commissioner Olli Rehn said EU finance ministers agreed at their last meeting that sticking to the path of overhaul and austerity is imperative.

NEURONS vs free will.

It’s hard to not feel guilty about eating seafood these days as reports of overfishing and collapsed fisheries abound. Led by a group of Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum, however, an exciting solution is beginning to emerge, the brainchild of marine ecologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala. Sala spoke to Forbes/Momentum recently about ‘fish banks’ as a tool for protecting marine biodiversity while providing food and jobs from the ocean.
Read the interview.

THE ECONOMIST on Spain's labor reform:
Spain’s labour laws, which date back to the Franco era, have condemned half the workforce to unemployment or to temporary jobs while the rest enjoy ironclad contracts and huge redundancy pay-offs. The new law blurs this insider/outsider divide and may thus get more people into stable employment. The decree comes on top of a January agreement by unions and employers to limit pay rises over the next three years. Mr de Guindos thinks most Spaniards see the need for labour reform. But its success in terms of growth may depend on unions’ choice between protecting jobs and keeping up their members’ pay.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

SOON you'll be able to be like Terminator: "People who constantly reach into a pocket to check a smartphone for bits of information will soon have another option: a pair of Google-made glasses that will be able to stream information to the wearer’s eyeballs in real time."

Monday, February 20, 2012

IN A LITTLE LESS than two hours, at 6am Eastern (1pm Central European Time), I'll be on Silvio Canto Jr.'s show in Dallas, Texas, talking about the latest developments in Spain: economy, the reforms by the Rajoy administration, Garzóon, and much more.

Tune in live, or listen the recorded program afterwards, at this link.

Friday, February 17, 2012

AMERICA the over-regulated:
But red tape in America is no laughing matter. The problem is not the rules that are self-evidently absurd. It is the ones that sound reasonable on their own but impose a huge burden collectively. America is meant to be the home of laissez-faire. Unlike Europeans, whose lives have long been circumscribed by meddling governments and diktats from Brussels, Americans are supposed to be free to choose, for better or for worse. Yet for some time America has been straying from this ideal.

Consider the Dodd-Frank law of 2010. Its aim was noble: to prevent another financial crisis. Its strategy was sensible, too: improve transparency, stop banks from taking excessive risks, prevent abusive financial practices and end “too big to fail” by authorising regulators to seize any big, tottering financial firm and wind it down. This newspaper supported these goals at the time, and we still do. But Dodd-Frank is far too complex, and becoming more so. At 848 pages, it is 23 times longer than Glass-Steagall, the reform that followed the Wall Street crash of 1929. Worse, every other page demands that regulators fill in further detail. Some of these clarifications are hundreds of pages long. Just one bit, the “Volcker rule”, which aims to curb risky proprietary trading by banks, includes 383 questions that break down into 1,420 subquestions.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

VENEZUELA'S republic of crime:
In recent years, Venezuela’s crime rates have increased more than those of any other Latin American country. In 1998, when President Hugo Chávez was first elected, 4,550 murders were recorded. By 2011, that number had skyrocketed to 19,336 – an astonishing figure that exceeds the total number of murders in the United States and the European Union combined.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

VENEZUELA'S stunning primary results.

AN extremely serious accusation, especially the second part:
The European Union is likely to take action against Spain's newly installed government by May for delaying austerity measures ahead of a regional election next month, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.

A final decision still has to be made, but the European Commission believes the new government overstated the deficit figures for 2011 so the current year's data would look better.
If this proves to be true, heads should roll. To begin with, because the bigger-than-expected deficit was the reason given to break the "read my lips: no more taxes" pledge during the campaign. Furthermore, such a thing would destroy the credibility, and trust is a must for the recovery.

Let's see what the Rajoy government responds.

UPDATE. The EU's economic affairs spokesman categorically denies the information, calling it "speculative" and "premature"; apparently they still haven't seen the official data, so they can't be suspicious on whether it's inflated.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE II. An even more categorical denial of the Reuters information, by Brussels.

LOVE really is a drug: " Romance stimulates the brain in a similar way to recreational drugs, scientists have discovered."

Monday, February 13, 2012

TEN YEARS after decriminalization, drug abuse in Portugal is down by half.

EUROPE'S Tobin tax distraction: Barry Eichengreen, a Berkeley professor, completely destroys the logic behind the attempts in the Eurozone to establish the 'tax du jour'.

JUDGE GARZON walks out free from a second accusation (unlike last week). But it's not because the Supreme Court justice found him innocent; the justice states in the ruling (pdf) that he was indeed guilty of passive bribery (receiving gifts or other benefits on the basis of the high position he holds). It's just the statute of limitations kicked in, for only 20 days.

QUITE POSSIBLY, the most amazing interactive inphographic you have ever seen: The Size of the Universe.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Spain's new conservative government announced drastic changes to the country's labor system Friday, in some cases altering contract terms that have been untouched for 50 years, in a bid to bring down Europe's worst unemployment rate.
I'm not sure that'll be enough, but it's a good first step towards reducing the unacceptable jobless rates, which are double from the OECD average and reaches almost 50%! among the young.

More at BusinessWeek.

SORRY, GUYS, but according to a study, jerks are more successful than nice people.

Now just leave me alone, will you? I don't have to waste in so much stupidity!

FOR THE New York Times, adamantly against Bush's wiretapping, illegal wiretapping by judge Garzón, which breaks one of the most sacred tenets in the rule of law --the attorney-client privilege-- is fine and dandy just because they like the person.

And they wonder why they're losing readers.

Friday, February 10, 2012

THE BEST in the FBI file on Steve Jobs: "One person indicated that although Jobs was dishonest, he did not think that honesty and integrity were required qualities for a high-level political position and therefore recommended Jobs 'for a position of trust and confidence with the Government.'"

Thursday, February 09, 2012

JUDGE GARZON has been unanimously found guilty by the Supreme Court of illegal wiretapping; he will be disbarred for 11 years, which means his career is ended. For the whole background, including the mistakes or even disinformation spread by the English-language media, see my previous posts: one, two.

ECONOMY MINISTER: Spain's economy 'to worsen in first quarter'

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

MARSHALL AUERBACK: Eurozone's elephant in the room is Spain, not Italy.

AMAZON to open retail stores? For now they'll be testing with one, soon to open in Seattle.

Meanwhile don't forget that Valentine's Day is around the corner; here's some ideas for your significant other...

HOW to hide from Google.

Monday, February 06, 2012

THE SPANISH Socialist Party (PSOE), severely wounded after its crushing defeat by the right-wing Partido Popular (PP) in last November’s elections, chose a leader at the weekend. But the average Spanish voter could be forgiven for finding it difficult to tell that anything has changed.

Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba (60) beat his only rival for the leadership, Carme Chacón (41), by a mere 22 votes out of 600.

But Mr Rubalcaba is the same leader who presided over the party’s recent results – the worst in its history. The PSOE’s toxically unpopular outgoing Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, had controversially appointed him to lead the party into the elections from last August.

What is more, for many Spaniards, Mr Rubalcaba seems to have been around forever. He was a minister in the glory days of Felipe González’s huge majorities in the 1980s, and he has almost always been in cabinet since.



Saturday, February 04, 2012

ARE THE positive U.S. employment numbers cooked? More at Zero Hedge.

UPDATE. Maybe not.

Friday, February 03, 2012

SOME NEEDED -though maybe insufficient- moves by the Spanish government to fix the banking mess:

Spain’s new conservative government on Friday imposed sweeping new rules it hopes will flush out bad property loans and foreclosed property from the financial system, restore confidence in banks and set the ailing economy back on track toward recovery.

The regulations approved by the Cabinet require banks to set aside an estimated €50 billion ($65 billion) more in provisions to cover toxic real estate assets by the end of the year.

Those unable to do so can present merger plans by the end of May and get government assistance from an existing bailout fund that will be strengthened with an addition €6 billion.

To avoid being forced to raise so much money for the real estate provisions, banks will face enormous pressure to sell assets like land and foreclosed or unsold homes at lower market prices.

The aim is to keep them from hoarding the loans and property on their balance sheets, a practice which has already sapped strength from the banking system and the country’s finances overall for years.

USA vs. China: a visual comparison of the two economies.

ARNOLD KLING: Why government can't create jobs.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

ANOTHER GREAT Star Wars-themed Volskswagen ad:

THE BEST science pictures of 2011, at National Geographic.

SPAIN'S opposition odd concept of what 'renovation' is:

Spain's Socialists, struggling to regroup after a crushing November electoral defeat, are considering choosing a female leader for the first time in their history.

They meet this weekend to decide between ebullient 40-year-old ex-defence minister Carme Chacon and her rival, the wily, highly experienced former deputy premier, 60-year-old Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba.

If Chacon emerges victorious from the party congress being held from Friday to Sunday in the Andalusian capital of Seville, southern Spain, she will be the first woman to lead one of Spain's two main parties.

Nothing like the just-ousted deputy prime minister or the just-ousted defense minister, having both just suffered the worst electoral defeat on record, to revive a struggling party, eh?

IT'S GROUNDHOG DAY TODAY: How accurate is Punxsutawney Phil?

IT'S GROUNDHOG DAY TODAY: How accurate is Punxsutawney Phil?

IT'S GROUNDHOG DAY TODAY: How accurate is Punxsutawney Phil?

(but why I'm repeating myself?)

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

THE WORLD'S 20 most beautiful bookstores.


AND STAYING with historical recordings, this is the just-released tape of Air Force One's radio traffic immediately after Kennedy's assassination.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: let me introduce you to Otto von Bismarck. It's a 1889 recording of his voice, be Edison.

UPDATE. And more: this is the voice of Helmuth von Moltke, Bismarck's Field Marshall; it's the only known recording of someone born in the 19th 18th century. Impressive.

Spain's Prado Museum says it has a copy of Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" that was painted at the same time as the original in the same studio, perhaps making it the earliest replica of the masterpiece.
A museum spokeswoman said the work was painted alongside the 16th century original that now hangs in the Louvre in Paris. It was done by one of da Vinci's key students.
UPDATE. You can see it here, alongside the original.

UPDATE II. Just to be clear: it's not that the Prado Museum found the painting in its vaults all of a sudden. They had the painting and they knew about it; what they just found out is that it's a contemporary painting, not just one of the hundreds of replicasmade over the centuries.