Tuesday, January 31, 2006

JUST ANOTHER EXAMPLE of the high-flying level of the political debate here in Spain. Yes, it shows hypocrisy by Zapatero but, is that really news? And, is that really the most pressing issue to follow by the opposition? At the same time, whether Zapatero smokes in his workplace or not is not really what matters; what does matter, and what shows an appalling amount of hypocrisy, is that he smokes at all. He, who recently said in a public address, when announcing the new anti-smoking legislation, that "smoking is something for rightwing people". Yes, that's the sophisticated and nuanced political cosmovision by our prime minister. And absurd, since under that logic it turns out that he's a right-winger himself...

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THE IAEA is inflitrated with Iranian agents, the Daily Telegraph reports:
Iran has formed a top secret team of nuclear specialists to infiltrate the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, the UN-sponsored body that monitors its nuclear programme, The Daily Telegraph has been told.

Its target is the IAEA's safeguards division and its aim is to obtain information on the work of IAEA inspectors so that Iran can conceal the more sensitive areas of its nuclear research, according to information recently received by western intelligence.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

IT'S THE FIRST PUBLIC IMAGE ofIsabelle Dinoire, the woman who had the world's first face transplant (via Bill Quick).

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Friday, January 27, 2006

UNREST ON THE RISE in China: China's Ministry of Public Security admitted that, last year, there were 87,000 riots, demonstrations and smaller protests, an increase of 6.6 percent over 2004. The most common cause of this unrest is government corruption, particularly among Communist Party members. The government has responded by pledging to come down hard on anyone who disturbs the peace, as well as finding and punishing corrupt officials. More restrictions are being placed on public access to the Internet (which over 110 million Chinese use.) All this was the same response the government had last year, when it was announced that unrest had been up for several years.

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GREAT NEWS, and with much more meaning than Cassandras would want you to believe: Omar of Iraq the Model just IM-ed me about his post saying that local tribesmen in Anbar have arrested 270 al-Qaeda terrorists. Talk about "Bush's war has pushed Iraqis and al-Qaeda-ists together bla bla bla"!

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SPANISH/CATALAN ESSAYIST and author Eugeni d'Ors was once in a restaurant and ordered a bottle of an expensive champagne. A young waiter, struggling to open it, only made things worse because while trying to remove the cork, he was shaking the bottle so bad that when he finally managed, most of the precious beverage burst out of the bottle and was spilled on the floor. "Sorry, sir," he said, "I just started working as a waiter and am lstill earning ." "Well, young man," D'Ors famously quipped, "you should do the experiments at home, and with a bottle of soda." He meant, of course, that some things are too expensive, or too important to play with, just to see what happens. I was reminded of this story when I read this:
Like many others, a young Fatah activist wished yesterday he could go back in time and replay the Palestinian elections all over again.

"I voted Hamas so that my own Fatah Party would be shocked and change its ways," he said, giving his name only as Mohamed, in the Palmeira cafe in Gaza City. "I thought Hamas would come second.

"But this is a game that went too far. Nobody thought Hamas would win - even them. I know lots of people who voted Hamas, who regret it now. If I could vote again, I would vote for Fatah."

[...] But it is precisely the rigour of Hamas's conservative brand of Islam that made some women in Gaza fear for their future.

"I didn't vote yesterday, now I wish I had," said Basila Nassar, out shopping with her hair clearly visible, a freedom Hamas could soon deny her. "But we will not give Hamas the chance to restrict us. We will be strong. I will never accept to wear full covering from head to toe. We will create a women's revolution if they try."
(via Clive Davis)

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

IRAQ'S WMDs were flown to Syria in the run-up to the war, in 56 trips by two Iraq Airways Boeings that had their passenger seats removed. It's not the first time that such informations are published; the new thing is who's saying it now: general George Sada, number 2 higherst official in Saddam's air force:
The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, "Saddam's Secrets," released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.

"There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands," Mr. Sada said. "I am confident they were taken over."

[...] The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, "Saddam's Secrets," released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.

"There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands," Mr. Sada said. "I am confident they were taken over."
(via IRIS Blog, with more background)

UPDATE. Right Wing Nuthouse has much more on the background and previous coincident informations (including some tapes that will be unveiled next month), and alerts that Sada's revelation is still based in indirect sources. In From The Cold, the blog of a former intel analyst, also warns about this though because of his previous contact with some of the people involved he says the information is more than plausible.

If this is confirmed sooner or later, I guess it won't change much in the minds of the people who claim the "Bush lied, people died", but we'll have to keep an eye on this anyway.

UPDATE II. More bakground here.

AL QAEDA is losing, writes Christopher Hitchens regarding the timeout asked by Osama:
I once hypothesized that Osama Bin Laden might be dead. The induction went like this: Proof of life is easy to furnish, but some of the tapes allegedly showing him could easily have been cobbled from earlier releases. Ergo, it mattered to al-Qaida to demonstrate that he was alive. Yet they lacked the ability to demonstrate it. Furthermore, Bin Laden used to be a highly loquacious man, pronouncing on everything from East Timor to Iraq, and seemed at a crucial juncture to have gone quiet.

This reasoning proved inadequate when he popped up during the last U.S. election and made a series of contemporary references, mainly (and ill-advisedly) drawn from Michael Moore's dreadful Fahrenheit 9/11. And we are now assured that the latest audiotape delivered to Al Jazeera has been authenticated also. If we suppose this to be true, then it nonetheless seems to be further evidence that al-Qaida is, as I argued last week, facing a very serious crisis.

Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, there were arrogant and megalomaniac statements from men like Suleiman Abu-Ghaith, spokesman for al-Qaida, saying that this "storm" of violence would not cease falling, and warning all Muslims living in the West to avoid air travel and tall buildings. Then there came all kinds of bluster about how Iraq would be turned into a sea of fire if one coalition foot was allowed across the border. Then there was a long silence. And then the truce offers began, of which the second, delivered in a somewhat thin and reedy voice, was last week's. (The first was a truce offer to Europeans only, offering a separate peace, and went nowhere, as might easily have been predicted.)

The conditions for this latest truce are of course impossible as well. All one needs, in order to earn Bin Laden's mercy, is to give up Afghanistan and Iraq. But this raises a more intriguing question. Why are formerly triumphalist jihadists using the language of "truce" at all? Not very long ago, God was claimed to be on their side and victory certain.
Read the rest.

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WHAT A DISASTER. Oh, and you can start greeting Israel's future PM, Netanyahu. After today's result, and with Sharon sadly out of the game, he's gonna win by a landslide.

UPDATE. Well, that didn't take long:
Hours after unofficial results indicated Hamas' clear victory in the Palestinian elections, Hamas supporters poured into the Palestinian parliament amid clashes with Fatah loyalists.

The Hamas supporters then raised the Hamas flag over the building.

The two camps threw stones at each other, breaking windows in the building, as Fatah supporters briefly tried to lower the green Hamas banners. The crowd of about 3,000 Hamas backers cheered and whistled as activists on the roof of the parliament raised the Hamas banner again.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

MORE RED ON RED fire in Iraq:
BAGHDAD: Iraqi insurgents in the Sunni city of Ramadi have turned against their al-Qa'ida allies after a bomb attack killed 80 people, sparking tit-for-tat assassinations.

Residents yesterday said at least three prominent figures on both sides were among those killed after local insurgent groups formed an alliance against al-Qa'ida, blaming it for massacring police recruits in Ramadi on January 5.

"There was a meeting right after the bombings," one Ramadi resident said, speaking anonymously for fear of reprisals.

"Tribal leaders and political figures gathered to form the Anbar Revolutionaries to fight al-Qa'ida in Anbar and force them to leave the province.

"Since then, there has been all-out war between them."

[...] Last week, three local Islamist groups around Ramadi - the 1920 Brigades, the Mujaheddin Army and the Islamic Movement for Iraq's Mujaheddin - met to distance themselves from their fellow Islamists in al-Qa'ida.

Iraqi newspapers quoted a statement from six armed groups on Monday announcing they had united to form the "People's Cell" to confront al-Qa'ida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and preserve security in the Anbar province.

The statement condemned "armed operations which target innocents" and affirmed "a halt to co-operation with al-Qa'ida".

In a further sign of the rifts emerging within Iraq's insurgency, Zarqawi has also stepped aside as the head of a new council of radical groups in favour of an Iraqi, according to a posting on a website used by al-Qa'ida.

UPDATE. Still more:
Hundreds of Iraqis staged a demonstration in the restive city of Samarra on Tuesday in a show of defiance against al Qaeda militants they blamed for killing dozens of police recruits last week. Nationalist rebels and tribal leaders in the city north of Baghdad had already let it be known they were joining forces to try to expel the foreign-influenced Islamists from the area, part of a trend in Sunni Arab areas that U.S. commanders have pointed to optimistically as a sign of political development. The protesters, estimated by police to number 700 to 1,000 and organised by the Iraqi Islamic Party and Muslim Scholars Association, major forces in Sunni politics, accused al Qaeda of killing some 40 local men who were hauled off a bus near Samarra last week after leaving a police academy in Baghdad and killed.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

LAST MONTH it was an ambush; today it's a bomb:
At least six people were killed and 40 injured in two blasts in the south-western Iranian city of Ahwaz, police said.

The two bombs exploded outside a privately-run bank and a government office in the city in Khuzestan province, which borders Iraq.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been due to give a speech at a religious centre nearby.

But his office told the BBC the visit had been cancelled due to bad weather.
And in neither case it had anything to do with the fact that loony Ahmadinejad was supposed to be there. Yeah, right.

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ACCORDING TO AN INTERNAL INVESTIGATION, the corruption and mismanagement in UN's procurement program may dwarf the Oil-For-Food scandal, George Russell and Claudia Rosett report:
How bad is the still expanding scandal in the United Nations' multi-billion-dollar procurement division? Based on a still-secret internal investigation, the answer is: for the U.N., it is just as bad as the gigantic Oil-for-Food debacle — or maybe worse.

The focus of the current scandal is U.N. peacekeeping, a function that consumes 85 percent of the U.N.'s procurement budget — a cost that could reach $2 billion in 2005. Like many of the U.N.'s financial dealings, it is shrouded in secrecy. And like the multi-billion-dollar Oil-for-Food scandal, it is wrapped in what the U.N.'s own investigators now call "systematic abuse," "a pattern of corrupt practices," and "a culture of impunity."

In all, U.N. investigators have charged that nearly one-third of the $1 billion in major U.N. procurement contracts that they examined involved waste, corruption or other irregularities — $298 million in all. And that total covered slightly less than one-third of the $3.2 billion in major supply contracts that the U.N. has signed in the past five years.

These conclusions are contained in a confidential 34-page report by the U.N.'s internal watchdog, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), which landed on the desks of top U.N. managers just before Christmas. The document, blandly entitled "Comprehensive Management Review of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations — Procurement" was circulated to various U.N. departments for comments and corrections, as part of the world body's labyrinthine and often ineffectual process of self-criticism.

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IMPERIALISTIC BLOODY MURDERERS! Look, look at how they crush with their tanks anything that moves, as they always do!

All the above, and much more, via Michael Yon, who writes about the Operation Iraqi Children (video here)

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Monday, January 23, 2006

IRAQI INSURGENCY GROUPS have declared war to al-Qaeda.

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SPAIN'S ECONOMY is running out of steam, writes Matthew Lynn at Bloomberg:
Europe has often had models to follow over the years: France in the 1960s, Germany in the 1970s, and the U.K. in more recent times.

And how about Spain? No other major European economy has been so consistently successful in the past decade.

Its boom has been going on for so long, everyone is used to it. The euro region's growth last outpaced Spain's in 1995, according to Bloomberg calculations.

Now the first signs are starting to emerge that the miracle may be running out of steam for Europe's fifth-largest economy. Spain's prosperity now looks more like a combustible mix of a real-estate frenzy and an influx of immigrants rather than a lasting transformation of the country's competitiveness.

Once that kind of boom runs into the ground, it can take a long time to sort out the mess.
I'm afraid the worrying signs he sees are all correct.

UPDATE. The silver lining.

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XAVI TELLS how to know when you're really a Barcelonian:
You think a 1.5 million people city is big.

You consider yourself cosmopolitan and multi-lingual because you can speak Spanish and Catalan.

You think Madrid sucks if you have never been there, and say "there are nice people there too" if you have.

You have never been to the Sagrada Familia or the Park Güell but love Central Park.

You consider eye contact an act of overt aggression.

You and your family spend the whole Sunday morning to check the latest urban development in the city like it were the improvement of your own backyard.
There's much more, and it's all so true...

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THE AUTHOR of the information about segregation in Dutch schools replies; he says that it has notthing to do with racism.

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POLICE BRUTALITY IN NEPAL: pro-democracy protestors are being crushed by Nepalese police after the government cut off all communications with outside the country, and decreed a curfew that created some serious supply shortages.

A group of Nepalese journalists, howewer, are gatteing information out about what's happening, as well as some picture to document it all:
Nepal Police came heavily against pro-democracy demonstrators and general public a day after the curfew was imposed in Kathmandu. Captions will be added in a few hours time. I will describe in detail about these images.

Here are some images in which we can see how male police misbehaved women protestors and how two policemen batoncharged over protesters and innocent bystanders. One of them was nearly killed. Yes, I repeat, nearly killed.

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Many years ago, I worked on a campaign for a politician whose sole tactic was running one nasty TV commercial after another savaging his opponent. When I asked him about this approach, he said, "If I can't get people to vote for me, maybe I can get them to vote against him." In politics, sometimes your best friend is the right enemy. If you want to look handsome, stand next to a rhinoceros.

By that standard, George Bush is enjoying an embarrassment of riches. In the same week, he found himself under attack by both Al Gore and Osama bin Laden. The only thing better would be if Jacques Chirac denounced him for not wearing French perfume.


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A GREAT POST by Bjørn Stærk:
Political activism can do horrible things to a cause. Many think only bad causes get corrupt, but it's almost inevitable that it happens to all of them. Activists compete for media attention. They dedicate their lives to one cause. How can this not lead them to exaggerate their claims, hush down nuances, and pretend that their cause is more important than all the others?

Show me an activist who is always honest and keeps everything in the right perspective. I'll show you Santa Claus, the Sandman and the Tooth Fairy. We need activists, they've done useful things. We also need politicians and journalists, but that doesn't mean we pretend they can be trusted, or that these professions generally reward honesty and intelligence.

We hear often enough about the problems of activism on the "left". I don't even have to list any examples, you're already making a list in your mind as you read this. Instead I'm going to talk about something closer to home: The way political activism on the right can turn people into victims, and make freedom a gift from the state.
Don't miss the rest.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

THE FOREIGN MEDIA is wrong saying that the Netherlands has shifted politically to the right, writes Pieter Dorsman.

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France's ministry of health said it is testing a woman who recently returned from Turkey for possible avian flu, the BBC reported Sunday.

The first test results from the 32-year-old woman came back negative, and the results of further examination will be available Sunday. She remains under treatment with antiviral medication in an isolation ward.

Official say they are being cautious because of her "symptoms and because the woman saw dead birds while traveling in a country affected by the epidemic."

The woman had spent two weeks in Turkey, although not in one of the 26 provinces known to have been affected by the H5N1 strain of bird flu. Four people in Turkey have died from bird-to-human transmission of the disease.
Let's wait for the results, then; interestingly, I couldn't find the information on the BBC News's website, and it's getting little play so far in Google News in English though it's been all over here in Spain, with lots of reports according to Google News España. There was even an email alert by El Pais, the Madrid daily, which is how I learned about this.

UPDATE (Jan. 23, 2006). False alarm.

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CODE PINK has removed the fake photo, but the result -although certainly less revolting ethically speaking- is still quite awful.

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STEVE JOBS heading for Disney? If the news is confirmed next week, it may be the first step for an eventual CEO position, something that the Mickey Mouse company is in dire need.

UPDATE. Reader John Redhed emails:
Steve Jobs, as the article mentioned, is a computer guy, not a Hollywood guy and certainly not a Disney guy. He doesn't have a day-to-day role at Pixar -- Lasseter is the man mainly responsible for Pixar's success. If Jobs sells Pixar, he may take a board position at Disney to facilitate media deals between Apple & Disney, but there's zero chance he'd take a leadership position at Disney.
Which is a good point, though in a relatively short time -that is, when Jobs could take over Disney's helm- being a Hollywood guy and a computer guy (meaning new media, digital distribution, more open minded towards copyright) will require pretty much the same mindset, so I'm not so sure Jobs wouldn't do a good job as Disney's CEO. At least much better than the ones they've had the last few years. Heck, even I would do better than them...

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

THE ECONOMIST assesses the different options we have with Iran; none of them are good, I think (via Spanish blogger Marta Salazar)

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Friday, January 20, 2006


Above, it's Code Pink using a crudely Photoshopped image of what they claim is a young Iraqi woman in an anti-Iraq war demonstration. Below it's the original, non-Photoshopped picture: it was really an Iranian woman in a protest against Iran's mullahs. Publius Pundit caught them in this revolting manipulation.

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I despise conspiracy theories, but sometimes one has to surrender to the evidence. With abundant proof at hand, German documentary filmmaker Wilfried Huismann has attributed to Fidel Castro the responsibility for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.

Shown for the first time on German public TV, the documentary, Rendezvous with Death: Castro and Kennedy, contributes several documents and some testimony that are newsworthy. But its most convincing element is a report from Mexican intelligence that states that in September 1963 Lee Harvey Oswald received in Mexico $6,500 from the Cuban secret services to help him carry out the planned crime.

Oscar Marino -- a former officer in Cuba's state security apparatus, now elderly and in exile -- corroborated the research done by the German filmmaker: ''He offered to kill Kennedy, and we used him,'' he told Huismann.

This is not the first time that this theory is put forward. Jackie Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, two of the people closest to the late president, believed it firmly but withheld their certainty to avoid provoking another incident with the Soviet Union. Had they revealed their well-founded suspicions at that time, and given the indignation that filled U.S. society, an invasion of Cuba to punish the guilty would have been inevitable. But the shaken White House did not wish another dangerous confrontation with the Kremlin similar to the one in October 1962 that brought the planet to the brink of nuclear war.

Bobby Kennedy, then U.S. attorney general, surely shared the same suspicion, but it wasn't to his advantage to accuse Castro. In the end, it seems that the Cuban dictator -- as he told the Brazilian ambassador in Havana a few days before the crime -- was responding in that manner to the assassination attempts organized by the president's brother, with the help of the Mafia.
Read the rest.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

OSAMA BIN LADEN asks for a timeout.

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IT'S FROM SOME TIME AGO, but this item at The Onion almost ruined my laptop:

AL JIZAH, EGYPT—A team of British and Egyptian archaeologists made a stunning discovery Monday, unearthing several intact specimens of "skeleton people"—skinless, organless humans who populated the Nile delta region an estimated 6,000 years ago.

"This is an incredible find," said Dr. Christian Hutchins, Oxford University archaeologist and head of the dig team. "Imagine: At one time, this entire area was filled with spooky, bony, walking skeletons."

"The implications are staggering," Hutchins continued. "We now know that the skeletons we see in horror films and on Halloween are not mere products of the imagination, but actually lived on Earth."
The sad thing is that these kinds of "reasoning" are not too rare in real life...

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Remember the American South in the early 1960s? Or South Africa in the 1980s? That is what Western Europe in the early 21st century is beginning to resemble. A school in Amsterdam has introduced separate entrances for white and coloured pupils.

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Via Isaac an article from Spanish El Mundo, Chirac advierte que Francia podría responder a un ataque terrorista de forma 'no convencional' (Chirac warns that France could response to a terrorist attack with "nonconventional" means), also Jacques Chirac défend la pertinence de la dissuasion nuclaire (Jacques Chirac defends nuclear dissuasion as pertinent) [comment: I like that. Nuclear dissuasion dissuasion nuclaire]. Here it is in English, France 'would use nuclear arms'
French President Jacques Chirac has said France would be ready to use nuclear weapons against any state which launched a terrorist attack against it.
Speaking at a nuclear submarine base in north-western France, Mr Chirac said a French response "could be conventional. It could also be of another nature."

He said France's nuclear forces had been configured for such an event.
Jacques's "da bomb".
On a visit to L'Ile-Longue base in Brittany, Mr Chirac said leaders of states who would "use terrorist means against us, just like anyone who would envisage using, in one way or another, arms of mass destruction, must understand that they would expose themselves to a firm and adapted response from us".
. . .
"In numerous countries, radical ideas are spreading, advocating a confrontation of civilisations," he said, adding that "odious attacks" could escalate to "other yet more serious forms involving states".
Now imagine the uproar if it'd been W or Condoleezza saying it.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

DON'T HAVE MUCH TIME today, so here's a few links on the hotter-everyday situation regarding Iran:
Sleep well tonight.

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IT'S NOT ONLY THE BLOOD, horrible as it is:
The Basque Country has lost more than €8.8 billion in gross domestic product over the last 30 years, 21.3% of its total GDP, according to a study by economics professor Mikel Buesa for the Industrial and Financial Analysis Institute. The loss of business is due to the effect of terrorist violence on the expectations of investors, which reduces investment below its potential level. Also, ETA terrorism has caused some companies to move out of the Basque Country.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

TODAY'S READING: Christopher Hitchens on the fight between "insurgents" and al-Qaeda terrorists, and how the media are missing the implications.

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"THE ART OF WRITING A STORY About Walking Across Andorra"; a fun read.

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SOMEHOW I don't think that by playing so nice, almost weasely nice, US ambassador to Spain Eduardo Aguirre will bring many people out of the anti-American camp so dominant among Spaniards, let alone the current government.

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IAN LLORENS has some advice for Catalan politicians, currently in the middle of a sometimes bitter debate on the devolution of powers from Madrid's central government. Cleverly stated, from a nationalist point of view but not in an divisive way. Alas, not very usual.

UPDATE. OK, that is not a way to do things; using schooldchildren as language police, to report on a teacher who dares to teach in Spanish. Allow me to remind you that Spanish is a co-official language besides Catalan.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

MORE ON the German spies helping the US during the Iraq war in spite of Schroeder's public position, at Der Spiegel (via Spanish expat in Germany Desde el Exilio)

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YESTERDAY I WONDERED if the failed strike against Zawahiri could have been some sort of set-up; there's more indications that this could be the case.

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Most of us are not Patrick Henry and would be willing to lose a great deal of freedom in order to save our lives. This is especially true when the freedom in question is that of foreigners with funny names, but it is true of our own freedom as well. It's not even necessarily deplorable. Giving up a certain amount of freedom in exchange for the safety and comfort of civilized society is what government is all about, according to guys like Hobbes and Locke, who influenced the Founding Fathers. And that's good government. Many people live under bad governments that take away more freedom than necessary and choose not to become heroes. That is not a contemptible choice, especially if we're talking France, or maybe even China, and not Stalin's Russia or Hitler's Germany. The notion that freedom is indivisible—if you lose a little, you have lost it all; if one person is deprived of liberty, then we all are—is sweet, and useful for indoctrinating children. But it just isn't true.

The current debate about government wiretapping of U.S. citizens inside the United States as part of the war on terrorism, like the debate before it about the torture of terror suspects, and the debate before that one about U.S. government prison camps at Guantanamo and in Eastern Europe, are all framed as arguments about the divisibility of freedom. They are framed that way by the good guys—meaning, of course, the side I agree with, which is the side of the civil libertarians who oppose these measures. That is part of why the good guys are losing. The arguments all seem to pit hard practicality on one side against sentiment, if not empty sentimentality, on the other. There are the folks who are fighting a war to protect us from a terrible enemy, and there are the folks getting in their way with a lot of fruity abstractions. You can note all you want the irony of the government trampling American values in the name of protecting them (yes, yes, like destroying that village in Vietnam in order to save it). The hard men and hard woman who are prosecuting this war for the Bush administration can turn that point, rather effectively, on its head. If the cost of losing the war and the cost of winning it are both measured in the same currency—American values, especially freedom—then giving up some freedom in order to avoid losing all of it is obviously the right thing to do.

Arguing for abstractions while the other side argues for practicality is, to some extent, just a burden that civil libertarians—maybe even liberals in general—will always have to bear. In the old days, liberals at least had the luxury of the easy, tempting argument in the economic sphere—"here is some money from the government"—while conservatives were stuck with long-term abstractions like fiscal responsibility. Now conservatives promise tax cuts starting yesterday, and liberals are left defending government spending (which conservatives deplore in general and ignore in the particular) and fiscal responsibility as well.

The good guys need to frame their argument in ways that don't require people to be heroes—to give up something practical and immediate like safety from terrorism in exchange for an abstraction like liberty, especially the liberty of someone else (like a young Arab swept off the streets of Baghdad and locked up in a secret prison). This argument is easy to sketch out, no doubt harder to make in detail. Fortunately, sketching out is all that is expected of a newspaper column.

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

IT'S MONDO HOLLYWOOD over at Pajamas Media, where you can follow the ins and outs of the American Renaissance Film Festival this weekend thanks to video reports by Andrew Marcus and Clay Champlin. Check it out!

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IT LOOKED as if we had got Zawahiri, but now apperently the information is that we didn't, after all. Now half of the world is howling at the trigger-happy yanks and, considering that the information on Zawahiri's whereabouts came from the Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, notoriously inflitrated by Islamists, one can't help wondering if it was all a set up to "embarass" the US...

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The United States will not allow Spain to sell military aircraft with American technology to Venezuela, saying the sale would aid the increasingly "antidemocratic" government of President Hugo Chávez and would destabilize the region, the American Embassy announced Friday.

The Spanish government, led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, said it regretted the decision, but vowed to move forward with the deal after acquiring the necessary technology elsewhere.
Orrin Judd rhetorically asks: "Why don't we sell ETA some Stingers?" And it's even worse, because Stingers do not contain Spanish technology.

Oh, and get the nerve of this unnamed Spanish diplomatic official, quoted in the NYT's piece linked above:
It is unclear whether the American decision to oppose the Venezuelan deal will spoil the good will that both nations say has been building between them.

One Spanish diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the news media, said Spain was committed to avoiding further recriminations. "We are adopting a very conciliatory and friendly position on this," he said. "If the Americans want to provoke us, that's fine. But we are not going to get into that."
[BTW, after some unplanned hiatus during the last few days, I'm back in the blogging game, and now it's for good. I hope.]

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Monday, January 09, 2006

"THE WAGES of Spanish Appeasement": FrontPage Magazine publishes today an article Aaron Hanscom and I wrote.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

I'LL BE OUT a couple or three days without my laptop, so mostly offline. There won't probably be any postings until around Monday. It's the weekend anyway, so I don't think you'll miss me much --you shouldn't!

See you in a few days.

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MAN, HUGO CHAVEZ is a swell of a dancer...

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

IS THE NEW YORK TIMES Madrid correspondent trying to help Zapatero reach out to Bush? One would think so after reading his report on the visit of Evo Morales, Bolivia president-elect, including his fashion faux-pas. Red carpet for him, as the English version of the government-owned news agency says. Prensa Latina has very upbeat reports on how this signals a new era (see here and here). The local press has gone gaga over the latest folk hero, in his fight against imperialism and against Bu$hitler, and has been meeting everyone and his uncle.

And how does the NYT correspondent portray the situation? Well, presenting Zapatero as a mature leader, surely in the hope that the clipping arrives to the White House press service.
After receptions in Cuba and Venezuela this week and last that included marching bands, red carpets and praise for his stand against American "imperialism," Evo Morales, the president-elect of Bolivia, encountered a chillier welcome in Spain on Wednesday as he began a three-nation tour of Europe.

Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain refused to appear with Mr. Morales at a news conference here after their meeting on Wednesday, and Mariano Rajoy, the main opposition leader in the Parliament, declined to even visit with him.

Mr. Morales, who was elected in a landslide on Dec. 18, has raised concerns in the United States and Europe and with his pledges to decriminalize the cultivation of coca, the plant used in cocaine, and to increase government control of the energy industry, where foreign companies have significant investments.

In explaining Mr. Zapatero's absence from the news conference, Spanish officials said it would violate diplomatic protocol for a president-elect to have a joint news conference with a sitting prime minister.
That didn't seem a problem for a meeting between King Juan Carlos; maybe because the real reason is that the King and Morales are both heads of state, while Zapatero is prime minister, that is the chief of government. In protocol, he's one step below.

And Morales got a nice debt relief; incidentally, it will be in exchange of education programs. That is, basically in textbooks and know-how. Oh, and who's the biggest Spanish company and therefore the one that will cash on the contracts surrounding these education programs? Santillana publishing company, which belongs to the Prisa media group, owner of the newspaper El País, the SER radio station (biggest in Spain), Cuatro broadcast network, and has the monopoly on satellite digital TV. A well-greased machinery that acts as a virtual house organ for the Socialist party. (you'll remember them because they were the ones leading the agit-prop and disinformation campaign between March 11 2004, the day of the terrorist attacks in Madrid, and March 14 2004, the day of the general election that Zapatero won by surprise)

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OH, THE AUSTERE and humble attitudes in a Socialist government:
The Spanish defense ministry, presided by Jose Bono, used a Spanish Air Force Hercules C-130 to pick up 23 civilian waiters in Zaragoza in order to take them to Madrid for a celebratory reception at the Army's headquarters on the day of its patron, Our Lady of Loreto. The "mission" cost €10,000.
It seems that a well-known Zaragoza restaurant's catering service is so popular at the defense ministry that no expense was spared, so three pilots, a mechanic, and a supervisor carried the 20 women and three men to Madrid for the meal for 300 persons. When it was finished, they were flown back to Zaragoza. Among those present was military chief of staff Felix Sanz Roldan.

Soldiers are unhappy about this use of an Air Force plane. One said, "Other missions, like relieving the troops in Afghanistan, are canceled because the planes are too busy." Other soldiers wondered whether there are not good catering services in Madrid or whether those soldiers who normally perform such duties are not up to the highest standards.

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TECHNORATI'S NIALL KENNEDY presents two new features in search results. I liked it much, muh better when the number of links appeared without having to flyover the pointer...

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2005 WASN'T such a bad year after all, Amir Taheri writes.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

DID THE CUBANS kill Kennedy? So says a former Cuban secret service agent in a documentary on German TV to be broadcast next Friday:
The Cuban secret service was behind the assassination of President John F Kennedy, according to evidence presented in a new television documentary.

Rendezvous with Death, to be shown on German television on Friday, offers the most convincing evidence that Fidel Castro's regime was behind the most talked-about murder of the 20th century.

A former agent of the Cuban secret service G2 talks for the first time about how Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin, was, he claims, pointed out to the Cubans by the KGB.

Oscar Marino, who fell out with the Castro regime, said the Cubans were desperate to eliminate Kennedy, an opponent of the revolution who wanted to kill Castro.

"You ask why we took Oswald?" he said to the German film maker Wilfried Huismann. "Oswald was a dissident: he hated his country. He possessed certain characteristics.

"There wasn't anyone else. You take what you can get. . . Oswald volunteered to kill Kennedy."

Oswald was a Communist who spent three years in the Soviet Union and shot Kennedy in Dallas. He was killed by Jack Ruby after his arrest, leaving his motives shrouded in mystery.

Huismann spent three years persuading people to break their silence about Oswald's alleged Cuba connections. His film is based on testimony by former US, Cuban and Russian agents, KGB files and Mexican archives.

One of the main witnesses is a retired FBI agent, Lawrence Keenan, now in his eighties. Keenan was sent after the assassination to trace Oswald's footsteps in Mexico.

The evidence he found - linking the Cubans with the murder - prompted the FBI head, J Edgar Hoover, on the orders of President Lyndon Johnson, to withdraw Keenan after three days.

"This was perhaps the worst investigation the FBI was ever involved in," said Keenan.

"I realised that I was used. I felt ashamed. We missed a moment in history."

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SO OLD, so new:
Many ancient Egyptians marked the first month of the New Year by singing, dancing and drinking red beer until they passed out, according to archaeologists who have unearthed new evidence of a ritual known as the Festival of Drunkenness.

During ongoing excavations at a temple precinct in Luxor that is dedicated to the goddess Mut, the archaeologists recently found a sandstone column drum dating to 1470-1460 B.C. with writing that mentions the festival.

The discovery suggests how some Egyptians over 3,000 years ago began their New Year, which for them started around the end of August to coincide with seasonal, desired flooding that drenched farmlands where they would grow crops, such as barley and wheat. The Festival of Drunkenness usually occurred 20 days after the first big flood.

It is a bit more complex, as it wasn't precisely a social gathering, so you'll have to read the rest.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

AN IMPORTANT post-electoral development:
Iraq's main Sunni Arab group made an unprecedented trip north to see the Kurds and agreed Monday for the first time on broad outlines for a coalition government — possibly opening a way out of the political turmoil that has gripped the country since disputed elections.

A promise of Iraqi army protection for tanker truck drivers reopened the country's main refinery — a last-ditch effort by the Shiite-led government to avert a fuel crisis that has led to deadly riots and the oil minister's resignation.

The violence that followed the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections was unabated. A suicide car bomber targeted a busload of police recruits north of Baghdad, killing seven people, and gunmen in the capital killed five workers.

As part of the bargaining for a new coalition government, President Jalal Talabani assured Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari that his fellow Kurds would not object if the United Iraqi Alliance — the Shiite religious bloc that won the most votes in the election — again nominates him for the post.

But it was the agreement struck Monday by Kurdistan regional President Massoud Barzani and representatives of the main Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance Front that opened the way for a new broad-based government. It also drew the ire of minority parties and secular groups.

"They will be part of a future government," said Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd who sat in on the meetings.

Sunni Arabs and secular parties, such as the one headed by Shiite former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, have complained the elections were tainted by fraud and intimidation. They have demanded a new vote in some provinces, including Baghdad.

More at Iraq The Model. Less at the MSM in Spain, of course.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

DON'T MISS this spectacular photo tour of the Volkswagen Phaeton assembly plant in Dresden. It's a car factory, but looks as a lab.

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NOW THAT LUXURY has gone mass-market, what do really rich people do to stand out? An interesting piece in The Economist via Virginia Postrel, who is quoted.

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

SOMETHING ELSE you must read when you can: this online lecture by Michael Crichton: Fear, Complexity, & Environmental Management in the 21st Century. Don't worry, it's a hundred times more enjoyable than the title suggests... definitely worth a read.

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EVERYBODY GO and read Victor Davis Hanson. Now.

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IRAN IN US CROSSHAIRS? That's what the German magazine Der Spiegel says, in an article long on speculation and short on facts, if you ask me. There's a roundup of blog commentary here.

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