Saturday, January 31, 2009

GOOD WAY to encourage people to negotiate with you, Mahmoud!

THE CLIMATE is obeying them, certainly.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

THEY SAY that, no matter how in bad shape you think you are, there's always someone worse. To wit: Zimbabwe unemployment reaches... 94%.

THE LESSONS from Culture11's end.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

SIGOURNEY WEAVER pulls a Britney / Basic Instinct...

(Couldn't resist, but hey, don't complain: if I was fishing for traffic I'd have written "Signorney Weaver caught with no panties." Oh, wait...)

IT'S OFFICIAL: Spain is in recession, for the first time since 1993.

THIS is creepy. And this.

SIGNS you may be a Taliban. Funny.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

JOHN UPDIKE has died.

TEN THINGS Hollywood types can do to save the planet; hilarious.

EUROSKEPTICISM back in fashion.

DON'T BELIEVE the latest hype: the Antarctic is not warming up.

Monday, January 26, 2009

TWENTY-FIVE people at the heart of the global financial meltdown.

AUSTRALIAN serial killer gives the finger to the court... literally.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

HAMAS, those brave freedom fighters:
PALESTINIAN civilians living in Gaza during the three-week war with Israel have spoken of the challenge of being caught between Hamas and Israeli soldiers as the radical Islamic movement that controls the Gaza strip attempted to hijack ambulances.

Mohammed Shriteh, 30, is an ambulance driver registered with and trained by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

His first day of work in the al-Quds neighbourhood was January 1, the sixth day of the war. "Mostly the war was not as fast or as chaotic as I expected," Mr Shriteh told the Herald. "We would co-ordinate with the Israelis before we pick up patients, because they have all our names, and our IDs, so they would not shoot at us."

Mr Shriteh said the more immediate threat was from Hamas, who would lure the ambulances into the heart of a battle to transport fighters to safety.

IMPRESSIVE 1,474-megapixel photo panorama of Obama's inaugural address.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

THEY NEVER SEEM TO LEARN that government intervention, even in the cases where it looks like a good idea, most of the times ends up creating the wrong result. To wit:
At the beginning of 2008, the government of Spain (a very sunny
country) created a year-long law that required power utilities to buy
solar power at premium rates. This made solar power competitive with
all other sorts of power...but only for one year.

The result was an enormous explosion in installed solar capacity,
over 3 gigawatts in one year, enough to displace up to five coal-fired
power plants. This number was far higher than analysts had predicted,
but it comes at a significant cost, and not just to people's
electricity bills.

Now that the subsidy is being rolled-back, the artificially inflated
solar market in Spain is reeling. Oversupplies of panels are driving
prices unprofitably low and installers are scrambling for work. Worse,
many installations are lying about whether they were finished by the
subsidy's deadline, effectively attempting to defraud the government.

For some of the countries on the periphery of the 16-member euro currency zone — Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain — this debt-fired dream of endless consumption has turned into the rudest of nightmares, raising the risk that a euro country may be forced to declare bankruptcy or abandon the currency.
Not longing for the bankruptcy, of course; just for dropping the euro...

Friday, January 23, 2009

NOW IT'S OFFICIAL: the UK is in recession, the worst slump (-1.5%) in 28 years.

I'M NOT precisely a fan of Geert Wilders, but I agree with Bruce Bawer that his trial is another blow against the (former) Dutch freedom:
The appalling decision to try Wilders, the Freedom Party’s head and the Dutch Parliament’s only internationally famous member, for “incitement to hatred and discrimination” against Islam is indeed an assault on free speech. But no one who has followed events in the Netherlands over the last decade can have been terribly surprised by it. Far from coming out of the blue, this is the predictable next step in a long, shameful process of accommodating Islam—and of increasingly aggressive attempts to silence Islam’s critics—on the part of the Dutch establishment.
Keep reading.

IT'S BEEN ONLY two days and the snake charmer is already getting testy with the press:
President Obama made a surprise visit to the White House press corps Thursday night, but got agitated when he was faced with a substantive question.

Asked how he could reconcile a strict ban on lobbyists in his administration with a Deputy Defense Secretary nominee who lobbied for Raytheon, Obama interrupted with a knowing smile on his face.

"Ahh, see," he said, "I came down here to visit. See this is what happens. I can't end up visiting with you guys and shaking hands if I'm going to get grilled every time I come down here."

Pressed further by the Politico reporter about his Pentagon nominee, William J. Lynn III, Obama turned more serious, putting his hand on the reporter's shoulder and staring him in the eye.

"Alright, come on" he said, with obvious irritation in his voice. "We will be having a press conference at which time you can feel free to [ask] questions. Right now, I just wanted to say hello and introduce myself to you guys - that's all I was trying to do."
More on the media frustration here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

THE GAZA TUNNELS that Hamas uses to smuggle weapons in are back in business, and it's been only a few days since Israel pulled out. Sheesh.

THIS NEW i-LIMB prostethic hand sure is cool.


A Spanish electrician who was allegedly nicknamed 'Manuel' by workmates after the Fawlty Towers waiter is suing his former employer for nearly £30,000.

Juan Ignacio, originally from Barcelona, says he was routinely taunted with the famous 'I know nothing' and 'Que?' catchphrases used by Andrew Sachs's sitcom character.

Mr Ignacio, 33, claims that bullying bosses mocked his accent and jibed 'He's from Barcelona', in front of others - the standard excuse made for Manuel by John Cleese's Basil Fawlty.
And get this:
In legal papers submitted to Croydon Employment Tribunal, Mr Ignacio said: 'When we used to watch Fawlty Towers in Spain in Catalan, we
laughed at ourselves as we have a sense of humour.

Of course we laughed, but that's just because, for fear that people would be offended, the Spanish and the Basque language network turned Manuel.... into an Italian guy, and the Catalan-language network turned him into a Mexican.

Good luck with the lawsuit, pal.

GAZA, a new version of the genocide-that-wasn't in Jenin?
The number of Palestinians killed in Operation Cast Lead did not exceed five or six hundred, Lorenzo Cremonesi, a correspondent for Italy's Corriere della sera reported on Thursday.

Cremonesi based his report on tours of hospitals in the Gaza Strip and on interviews with families of casualties. He also assessed the number of wounded to be far lower than 5,000, the number quoted by Hamas and repeated by the UN and the Red Cross in Gaza.

"It is sufficient to visit several hospitals [in the Gaza Strip] to understand that the numbers don't add up," he wrote.

In the European hospital in Rafah, one of the facilities which would presumably be filled with wounded from the "war of the tunnels," many beds were empty, according to Cremonesi. A similar situation was noted in the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, and in the privately-run Amal Hospital Cremonesi reported that only five out 150 beds were occupied.

Cremonesi interviewed Gazans who echoed Israel's insistence of how Hamas gunmen used civilians as human shields. One Gazan recalled civilians in Gaza shouting at Hamas and Islamic Jihad men, "Go away, go away from here! Do you want the Israelis to kill us all? Do you want our children to die under their bombs? Take your guns and missiles with you."
I'm told that Haaretz (only in Hebrew so far, so I can't personally check) reports that a doctor in Shifa hospital says that there were 500-600 killed max, most of them 17 to 23 year-old males.

UPDATE. The Israeli army denies the Italian journalist's report:
Despite a report by Lorenzo Cremonesi, a correspondent for Italy's Corriere della sera, that the number of Palestinians killed in Operation Cast Lead did not exceed five or six hundred, Israeli defense officials on Thursday said there were around 1,300 Palestinians killed during the fighting in Gaza and that a majority of them were Hamas operatives.

The IDF's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration has already compiled a list with 900 names of Palestinians killed during the operation, out of which 750 are believed to be Hamas operatives.

The IDF estimated that two-thirds of those killed were gunmen affiliated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror factions. At least 500 are believed to have been members of Hamas's military wing.

Hamas, defense officials said, purposely covered up the number of dead and on Sunday claimed that only 48 members of its military wing had been killed. Many bodies belonging to Hamas operatives were being stored - officials said - in the morgue in Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

The vast majority of the Hamas operatives killed were not wearing uniforms to disguise their affiliation, another reason for the exaggerated estimate of civilian casualties by the United Nations. 
Stay tuned.

SOME SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS, Part Whatever (so many that I lost count):
Physics professor William Happer GS ’64 has some tough words for scientists who believe that carbon dioxide is causing global warming.

“This is George Orwell. This is the ‘Germans are the master race. The Jews are the scum of the earth.’ It’s that kind of propaganda,” Happer, the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics, said in an interview. “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Every time you exhale, you exhale air that has 4 percent carbon dioxide. To say that that’s a pollutant just boggles my mind. What used to be science has turned into a cult.”

Happer served as director of the Office of Energy Research in the U.S. Department of Energy under President George H.W. Bush and was subsequently fired by Vice President Al Gore, reportedly for his refusal to support Gore’s views on climate change. He asked last month to be added to a list of global warming dissenters in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee report. The list includes more than 650 experts who challenge the belief that human activity is contributing to global warming.
By the way don't skip the part about being fired by VP Al Gore for not toeing to ecochondria. Take note of this and tell it to whoever goes with the "Bush manipulated the scientific reports on GW and pressured the experts bla bla bla" line.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

OBAMA = GWB II? Jon Stewart has some fun.

IT DOESN'T REALLY SUPRISE ME that China cut the parts of Obama speech where he was talking about Communism and dissent. Why? Because even in Spain some parts of his speech were left out too: I'm told by a friend who watched the inauguration on government-owned TVE (I watched it on US newschannels) that the translator just skipped all the mentions of God, particularly the "so help me God" at the end of the oath.

Of course, the anchors and correspondents on the ground were fawning. They even said, twice, that in the future everybody would remember where were they during Obama's inauguration, as they do "when Kennedy and Franco were killed" (link in Spanish). Not only this is stupid, because everyone knows that Franco died in his bed (rewriting of history by retroactive "freedom fighters" who didn't do anything and peacefully lived under the dictator notwithsanting), but it's offensive: it implies that Bush was a dictator just as Franco was.

JUAN WILLIAMS is totally right:
If his presidency is to represent the full power of the idea that black Americans are just like everyone else -- fully human and fully capable of intellect, courage and patriotism -- then Barack Obama has to be subject to the same rough and tumble of political criticism experienced by his predecessors. To treat the first black president as if he is a fragile flower is certain to hobble him. It is also to waste a tremendous opportunity for improving race relations by doing away with stereotypes and seeing the potential in all Americans.

Yet there is fear, especially among black people, that criticism of him or any of his failures might be twisted into evidence that people of color cannot effectively lead. That amounts to wasting time and energy reacting to hateful stereotypes. It also leads to treating all criticism of Mr. Obama, whether legitimate, wrong-headed or even mean-spirited, as racist.

This is patronizing. Worse, it carries an implicit presumption of inferiority. Every American president must be held to the highest standard. No president of any color should be given a free pass for screw-ups, lies or failure to keep a promise.

During the Democrats' primaries and caucuses, candidate Obama often got affectionate if not fawning treatment from the American media. Editors, news anchors, columnists and commentators, both white and black but especially those on the political left, too often acted as if they were in a hurry to claim their role in history as supporters of the first black president.

For example, Mr. Obama was forced to give a speech on race as a result of revelations that he'd long attended a church led by a demagogue. It was an ordinary speech. At best it was successful at minimizing a political problem. Yet some in the media equated it to the Gettysburg Address.

The importance of a proud, adversarial press speaking truth about a powerful politician and offering impartial accounts of his actions was frequently and embarrassingly lost. When Mr. Obama's opponents, such as the Clintons, challenged his lack of experience, or pointed out that he was not in the U.S. Senate when he expressed early opposition to the war in Iraq, they were depicted as petty.

Bill Clinton got hit hard when he called Mr. Obama's claims to be a long-standing opponent of the Iraq war "the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen." The former president accurately said that there was no difference in actual Senate votes on the war between his wife and Mr. Obama. But his comments were not treated by the press as legitimate, hard-ball political fighting. They were cast as possibly racist.
I'm afraid it won't happen, though.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I'M SURE lots of people loved Obama's speech, but I found it a little arrogant and suffering of Adamism, as if he was the first legitimate president of the US and nothing before him really counted. I don't dislike him, but I find the fawning adoration from the masses a but unsettling. If it wasn't in the US, with a system of checks and balances, it would be creepy. It's not Obama what worries me (at least not yet, he definitely deserves the benefit of the doubt); it's his worshippers. Including most notably the media, which one would expect to get its healthy skepticism towards power back. At least a bit.

One small detail that I found telling. After his speech, Obama turned to Bush and they hugged. Then immediately, Bush's look was totally different. You could tell he knew he was not the most powerful man in the world anymore. He looked at the new President with respect. He even bowed his head at him.

I think this shows that, like him or not, he saw the office as something that trascended him. He was holding it to serve the country and follow through his principles --which may explain at least partially why he took so many impopular policies--.

I have to say, by contrast, that Obama, at least prior to the speech as he was approaching the dais, looked as if he was about to be handed what legitimately belonged to him; that cosmic justice was about to be done.

I hope I'm wrong.

Spanish police arrested 10 suspected Islamic extremists in a series of raids Tuesday in Madrid, Barcelona and the Canary Islands, a source close to the inquiry said.

The operation was ordered by Spain's top anti-terrorist judge Baltazar Garzon and was still ongoing, the source told AFP.

Six arrests took place in Barcelona, although all of those concerned had travelled from different parts of Spain, said another source.

They are suspected of financing terrorist activities by carrying out thefts and sending the money they raised from their criminal activities to Pakistan, the judicial source added.

THE PAIN IN SPAIN isn't hard to explain, writes Paul Krugman:
Spain was basically Florida, with a housing bubble inflated by both resident and holiday purchases, and now the bubble has burst.

But Spain is in worse shape than Florida, for two reasons — reasons familiar to anyone who was involved in the great debate about whether the euro was a good idea.
Read the rest.

UPDATE. More from Forbes and the AP.

Monday, January 19, 2009

TWO DECADES after the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, "the violence continues, and Muslim fundamentalists have gained a new advantage: media self-censorship."

DOES THAT MEAN Obama smells of sulphur too?
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Saturday Barack Obama had the "stench" of his predecessor as U.S. president and was at risk of being killed if he tries to change the American "empire."


UPDATE. A CNN report.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

THE MOMENT before pain begins (be warned that some images are a bit icky, but watch it through the end to get the message).

WHEN YOU SEE a beatiful woman dating, or marrying, a rich old fart you probably take comfort by thinking that she does it for the money while probably retching as she has to "pay back" in bed, no?

Well, no. According to a study, money is an aphrodisiac but not only for women, but for the lucky guys too:
Cassie is unrepentant about dating rich men. “Of course it is much better to sleep with men with lots of money,” said the 27-year-old lawyer from London.

“Any girl who tells you different is lying. Rich men are powerful and successful and confident and charismatic. They know what they want, and they go out and get it. That translates to being fantastic in bed.”

Cassie is living proof of the latest scientific discovery about human sexuality: that the number and frequency of a woman’s orgasms is directly related to her partner’s wealth.

Her explanation is simple. “Women don’t want to lie back and think of the gas bill,” she said. “It’s a lot more fun to have sex in the Ritz than the Swindon Travelodge. And to be ripping off Rigby & Peller underwear than M&S knickers.”

YOU JUST NEED four chords and you, well, you rock:

SOME ceasefire...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Candido Méndez and Fernando Toxo, the heads of the two largest trades unions in Spain - the CCOO and the UGT - stated yesterday that they were against a general strike against the socialist government due to rising unemployment.

The two leaders were in Valencia taking part in a demonstration that ended in front of the regional Employment ministry to protest against the disproportionate rise in unemployment levels in the conservative-governed Community.
So they demonstrate against a regional government, which has a limited hand in economic policies, and they don't lift a finger over the central government that is responsible of an unprecedented surge in unemployment?

Ah, of course: the Valencian regional government is conservative; the central government in Madrid is Zapatero's Socialists. Can't touch that.

OBAMANIA comes to Spain.

150 REALLY STRANGE BUILDINGS across the world. Wonder what the architects of some of them were smoking...

Friday, January 16, 2009

WELCOME to your new office, Obama and Hillary:
U.S. security and law-enforcement officials say they have fresh evidence of recent efforts by Iran to evade sanctions and acquire metals from China used in high-tech weaponry, including long-range nuclear missiles.

Iran's efforts are detailed in a series of recent emails and letters between Iranian companies and foreign suppliers seen by The Wall Street Journal. Business records show one Iranian company, ABAN Commercial & Industrial Ltd., has contracted through an intermediary for more than 30,000 kilograms (about 66,000 pounds) of tungsten copper -- which can be used in missile guidance systems -- from Advanced Technology & Materials Co. Ltd. of Beijing. One March 2008 email between the firms mentions shipping 215 ingots, with more planned.

Spain's economy will contract 1.6 percent this year and unemployment will jump to nearly 16 percent, the government predicted Friday in a desperately gloomy outlook for a country that had been one of Europe's great success stories.

This year the government will also run up a huge deficit equivalent to 5.8 percent of GDP, nearly double the 3 percent target set by the European Union, Finance Minister Pedro Solbes said.

The economy will start to recover in 2010, but vigorous growth will not return until 2011, he told reporters Friday after a Cabinet meeting at which a major revision of Spanish economic growth forecasts and other figures was presented.

"The panorama I have just described is a complex and difficult one," Solbes said.

Until now, even as economists and the OECD predicted negative economic growth in Spain in 2009, the government had insisted it foresaw at least moderate expansion.

That upbeat talk is over, at least for the time being.
Only a few weeks ago, Zapatero's government refused to amend the 2009 budget, whose macroeconomic were sunny, before passing it, even though virtually anyone asked them for it. Just as the financial crisis itself, which Zapatero was flatly refusing until it was too late. Now that the budget is passed passed, we have an utterly unrealistic budget, full of entitlements that are now binding because they're law.

POOR COUNTRIES need more sweatshops, not less, writes Nick Kristof at the New York Times:
Mr. Obama and the Democrats who favor labor standards in trade agreements mean well, for they intend to fight back at oppressive sweatshops abroad. But while it shocks Americans to hear it, the central challenge in the poorest countries is not that sweatshops exploit too many people, but that they don’t exploit enough.

Talk to these families in the dump, and a job in a sweatshop is a cherished dream, an escalator out of poverty, the kind of gauzy if probably unrealistic ambition that parents everywhere often have for their children.

“I’d love to get a job in a factory,” said Pim Srey Rath, a 19-year-old woman scavenging for plastic. “At least that work is in the shade. Here is where it’s hot.”

Another woman, Vath Sam Oeun, hopes her 10-year-old boy, scavenging beside her, grows up to get a factory job, partly because she has seen other children run over by garbage trucks. Her boy has never been to a doctor or a dentist, and last bathed when he was 2, so a sweatshop job by comparison would be far more pleasant and less dangerous.

I’m glad that many Americans are repulsed by the idea of importing products made by barely paid, barely legal workers in dangerous factories. Yet sweatshops are only a symptom of poverty, not a cause, and banning them closes off one route out of poverty. At a time of tremendous economic distress and protectionist pressures, there’s a special danger that tighter labor standards will be used as an excuse to curb trade.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

TALK ABOUT the famed amenities at Club Fed! Striptease performance at a Spanish jail:
A prison guards' union says a female stripper performed at a Spanish jail and authorities did nothing to stop it.

The union says the woman took her clothes off before male inmates on January 2 and committed several lewd acts at the prison in Picassent in the eastern Valencia region.
Spanish press reporting that, once she was totally nude, the performed covered herself in condensed milk and invited inmates to lick it off. No, seriously. Among the inmates there were several convicted for rape and other sex crimes.

There are some things you just can't make up.

UPDATE. Don Surber emails: "No pictures????" So, in the spirit of  blogger's comraderie, it is! (should be SFW, I think; taken from here)

TENSION MOUNTS in Spain, as jobless numbers skyrocket. Not a pretty read. Worst part:
Over a million more workers are expected to be laid off in Spain by 2010, taking the total above four million, according to the Funcas savings bank consultancy. That would be far more than Germany, which has a population nearly twice as large.

Like other countries, particularly the United States, Britain and Ireland, Spain is struggling to wean itself off foreign financing and contain a property crash.

But unlike its European rivals, Spain has no strong financial or technology sectors to fall back on. It has no substitute for a construction-driven, labour-intensive economic model that created 8.5 million jobs in the last 13 years.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has exhausted his emergency public spending power with an avalanche of over 70 billion euros in economic stimulus measures.

He has shied away from labour and education reforms: these could boost Spain's weak productivity, but might also ignite unrest like that seen late last year in Greece.
And that, my friends, is the key factor. There's no other economic sector that can pick things up fast. Even if the badly needed reforms in the labor market and education were made --a big if-- it would take several years, especially the latter.

THIS WAS A SURPRISE TO ME, I admit: even though it's often said that cars define the American ethos, its culture, it's only the 16th country in ownership across the world.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

THESE GUYS got more action they were looking for:
Thinking it was the sound of actual gunfire, a concerned neighbor in an apartment in Copenhagen calls the police to sort it all out. Now this isn't your regular patrol man
lazily knocking on the door clutching a doughnut on one hand - they sent the SWAT team who called the guys out on the street with a megaphone.

As it turns out, it's just two guys enjoying their PlayStation 3 on a flat screen and speakers on full volume.

BONO PULLS A KRISTOL in his first column for the NYT...

Google and Spain's Prado Museum have teamed up to put 14 masterpieces, including Francisco de Goya's "Third of May," online in high-resolution detail.

Long a satisfactory procrastination aid at work, school or home, Google Earth allows users to soar above cities and countries, oceans and deserts. Now, Google is teaming up with Spain’s Prado Museum to bring armchair tourists access to 14 of Spain’s most treasured works of art, including works by Francisco de Goya, Diego Velázquez and Hieronymus Bosch—all in stunningly high-resolution detail.

Google Earth’s technology allows users to get close enough to examine a painter's brushstrokes or the craquelure (small cracks) on the varnish of a painting. The images of these works are about 14,000 million pixels, 1,400 times more detailed than the image a 10-megapixel digital camera would take. "There is no better way to pay tribute to the great masters of the history of art than to universalize knowledge of their works using optimum conditions," Prado Director Miguel Zugaza told the Associated Press.
Even if you don't have Google Earth in your computer, you can see this --and zoom, and zoom...-- here.

MY LIFE AS A P*SSY: how would you see the world if you were... a vagina? Exactly like this, according to a commercial for a Dutch maker of female hygiene products:

(via Spanish blog Pasión por el marketing)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TEXT REMAINS KING of the web, and will remain for the foreseeable future: I totally agree with Steve Rubel, who lists the reasons why.

I'd also add that watching video on the computer makes it much more difficult to multitask, because it forces constant attention. I don't think I'm the only one, for example, who works at the computer while having the TV in the background. I can't seem to find the patience of watching an online video longer than a couple of minutes, do you?

10 FAMOUS PAINTINGS recreated in Lego. Clever.

HIGH-SPEED TRAINS in Spain, a success. They certainly beat the inconvenience of flying; and for relatively short distances it's much quicker, if you count the time you spend going to the airport, etc. I don't do that much now, but for several years I went almost weekly -sometimes more than once a week- to Madrid from Barcelona and back, by air. It was a real pain. It takes pretty much the same 2.5 hours it takes by train, but the worst is that it's fragmented: home to airport, which is usually at a certain distance from the city center; wait in airport; embarking; 50-minute flight; disembarking; airport to city center.

By train you arrive to the station in the middle of the city only a few minutes before departure time; you get on, you sit down, you flip open your laptop, and you can spend the whole time working, or going to the restaurant, etc. It's like night and day.

The government has promised to lay more than 6,000 miles of high-speed rails by 2020, which is good news if they really do it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

MORE CRACKS SHOWING within Hamas, and with the rest of the Arab countries. We're there's not an inch of separation is with the demonstrators...

A PHOTOBLOG with great pictures of Barcelona.

TOO BAD Orwell is not alive, because we could use him reporting from Gaza: a great post by Jim Sleeper:
[W]e need reporting like George Orwell's from the bloody Spanish Civil War in 1936. Orwell joined and fought for the democratic left against the fascist Franco, but he quickly found something his leftist readers didn't want to know: Franco wasn't the only evil enemy of freedom in Spain.

If a new Orwell informs us that Israel, although it's hideously cruel and wrong, isn't the only evil enemy of freedom in Gaza, will anyone want to know?

Orwell watched Stalinists, the supposed champions of democracy, killing not only fascists but also other leftist and liberal democrats. He learned that the Stalinists were fighting less for Spanish republican freedom than for Spanish submission to Moscow. "The Communist influence in Barcelona was not progressive but reactionary," as Orwell put it.

The leftist British New Statesman and Nation refused to publish his reportage. That drove him to write his great book Homage to Catalonia, which also had trouble finding a publisher. Franco was so truly and obviously bad that no one wanted to hear that some of those fighting him were just as bad, possibly worse.

A reviewer of Homage for the Daily Worker called Orwell a "disillusioned little middle class boy" who couldn't stomach a tough fight for freedom. But it was Orwell who could stomach the truth, while, to this day, defenders of the idealistic but naive young American leftists who went to Spain in 1936 still deny what they actually served. That denial is sustained by the fact that Franco won, sparing us any disillusionment with a Communist Spain.

If Israel in Gaza can be likened in some ways to the fascists in Catalonia, can Hamas be likened to Stalinists who seemed (and sometimes were) heroic but carried a dreadful poison of their own?

BERT & ERNIE go gangsta-rap. LOL:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

THE COLD TEMPERATURES we're having across pretty much all the northern hemisphere could be just a small appetizer:
The earth is now on the brink of entering another Ice Age, according to a large and compelling body of evidence from within the field of climate science. Many sources of data which provide our knowledge base of long-term climate change indicate that the warm, twelve thousand year-long Holocene period will rather soon be coming to an end, and then the earth will return to Ice Age conditions for the next 100,000 years.
Some scientific consensus, huh?

DURING YESTERDAY'S pro-Palestine demonstration in Barcelona, peace lovers were brandishing guns.

UPDATE. And this morning in Madrid:

"You can put my mortgage up your Holocaust" 
UPDATE II. Here's another, er, shot of the guy with the handgun:

ANTI-SEMITISM LIVES, from Gaza to Florida:
You would have to be very hardhearted not to weep at the sight of dead Palestinian children, but you would also have to accord a measure of blame to the Hamas officials who choose to use grade schools as launch pads for Israeli-bound rockets, and to the U.N. refugee agency that turns a blind eye to it. And, even if you don't deplore Fatah and Hamas for marinating their infants in a sick death cult in which martyrdom in the course of Jew-killing is the greatest goal to which a citizen can aspire, any fair-minded visitor to the West Bank or Gaza in the decade and a half in which the "Palestinian Authority" has exercised sovereign powers roughly equivalent to those of the nascent Irish Free State in 1922 would have to concede that the Palestinian "nationalist movement" has a profound shortage of nationalists interested in running a nation, or indeed capable of doing so. There is fault on both sides, of course, and Israel has few good long-term options. But, if this was a conventional ethno-nationalist dispute, it would have been over long ago.

So, as I said, forget Gaza. And, instead, ponder the reaction to Gaza in Scandinavia, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, and golly, even Florida. As the delegitimization of Israel has metastasized, we are assured that criticism of the Jewish state is not the same as anti-Semitism. We are further assured that anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism, which is a wee bit more of a stretch.

Only Israel attracts an intellectually respectable movement querying its very existence. For the purposes of comparison, let's take a state that came into existence at the exact same time as the Zionist Entity, and involved far bloodier population displacements. I happen to think the creation of Pakistan was the greatest failure of post-war British imperial policy. But the fact is that Pakistan exists, and if I were to launch a movement of anti-Pakism it would get pretty short shrift.
The reference to the creation of Pakistan is spot on.

UPDATE. As you can see, it's all the Zionists' fault...

HASN'T EVEN BEEN SWORN IN, and he's already breaking his promises:
President-elect Barack Obama said reviving the U.S. economy will require scaling back on his campaign promises and personal sacrifice from all Americans.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

WHAT'S CONSISTENTLY MISSING in virtually all historic analyses of the Arab-Israeli conflict? The role of the USSR.

Friday, January 09, 2009

HAMAS cracks showing?

I DON'T THINK I'll be able to wait and see if Santa is as cool as to bring to me the new Sony Vaio P series... No, I don't think so.

UNRWA AND HAMAS: Gaza bedfellows.

LET'S DITCH THE EURO! The Telegraph is spot on:
As historians begin to assess damage from the credit crunch, Spain will surely be singled out as a classic study for what can go wrong inside a monetary union when the policy requirements of its members become hopelessly misaligned. It is simply not possible to pursue the best interests of every participant when some nations are running trade and fiscal surpluses while others clock up huge deficits.

Ten years after it was launched, the euro is propelling Spain towards disaster. In giving up control of domestic interest rates to the European Central Bank, Madrid handed over a vital instrument of macroeconomic management. It is learning to regret that.

For the early part of this millennium, that loss of power seemed not to matter: Spain's outrageous (and in some cases illegal) construction frenzy hid a multitude of sins. At the peak, about 800,000 homes were being built annually on the basis that demand from foreign buyers was limitless.

That dream has vanished, along with the over-supply of cheap money that funded it. Drive down the E-15, the main motorway link between Malaga and Gibraltar, and you will see block after block of half-built apartments, connected neither to essential utilities nor to financial reality. They stand as temples to a religion that ceased to exist when the bubble popped.

The Spanish economy is weak; it needs lower interest rates and a softer currency. Such a prospect, however, doesn't suit Germany, the eurozone's dominant force, so Madrid has to sit and suffer while its people cry for help.
UPDATE. Tenerife News has a harsh -and mostly right- take on Zapatero:
Perhaps the Christmas break will have helped the President of Spain’s Government to regain his normal equanimity. In the weeks leading up to December 24, Mr. Zapatero appeared un peu distrait at conferences within his own party (the PSOE), or in televised performances on TV/PSOE (a.k.a. Radio Televisión Española). If he allowed his eyes to leave the script prepared by his several hundred asesores, there were long silences between his not always coherent sentences, as if he was trying to remember what Pepe Blanco had suggested he should say.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

I KNOW, I've been over the grim economic situation in Spain several times recently, but it just gets worse and worse. To wit:
Spain's registered joblessness leapt by a higher than expected 139,694 people or 4.6 percent in December, the ninth straight month of increase, and rose above three million for the first time in over 12 years, government data showed on Thursday. Since December last year, the number of registered jobless has risen by 999,416 people or 46.9 percent as the global credit crunch hit the property market and hammered pre-Christmas spending on Spanish high streets. The government said conditions would worsen this year.
The number of Spanish firms filing for bankruptcy protection almost tripled last year as builders and real estate developers went bust at record pace, consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers said on Wednesday.

The consultancy said 2,864 firms filed for administration last year, 1,849 more than in 2007.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

DO YOU KNOW why I love America? Because of things like these. If only they happened in Spain, or in any other country...

WHY SPAIN'S ECONOMIC CRISIS is something more than a 'housing slump.'

CREATIVE ACCOUNTING: the Spanish government is boasting that traffic deaths plummeted 20 pct:
The death toll of traffic accidents has fallen to the lowest level in 44 years in Spain, Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said Monday.

In 2008, at total of 2,181 people were killed in traffic accidents, 20 per cent down from the previous year.
The trick? According to this report (Spanish link) in 2007 they changed the methodology. Unlike earlier years, they started counting just the deaths on the spot and within the first 24 hours, instead of within 30 days after the accident, and only the deaths outside urban areas. In 2007 that would have added 341 and 741 respectively, which would have left the figure more or less than the previous year (the 2008 data won't be known until an obscure official statistic is released at the end of 2009.

THE MIDEAST'S GROUND ZERO: today's column on Gaza by Tom Friedman on the New York Times is a must read.

HMMMM: "French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Wednesday Israel and the Palestinian Authority had accepted a truce plan for Gaza announced by Egypt on Tuesday."

Isn't there someone missing here. Y'know, Hamas? Hello?

Mr. Panetta has also been a vocal opponent of the use of torture, but Mr. Clinton said “that’s likely just a lasting effect of his close contact with the former First Lady.”

“Hillary made an impact on a lot of people that way,” he said. “Personally, I still can’t stand the thought that another human would have to endure loud, harsh noises and or the continual drip, drip, drip of Chinese water torture. She’s made Leon and me much more merciful toward even our enemies.”

WHAT IF the New York Times goes out of business—like, this May?

One more thing, speaking of pornography -- we've all seen endless pictures of dead Palestinian children now. It's a terrible, ghastly, horrible thing, the deaths of children, and for the parents it doesn't matter if they were killed by accident or by mistake. But ask yourselves this: Why are these pictures so omnipresent? I'll tell you why, again from firsthand, and repeated, experience: Hamas (and the Aksa Brigades, and Islamic Jihad, the whole bunch) prevents the burial, or even preparation of the bodies for burial, until the bodies are used as props in the Palestinian Passion Play. Once, in Khan Younis, I actually saw gunmen unwrap a shrouded body, carry it a hundred yards and position it atop a pile of rubble -- and then wait a half-hour until photographers showed. It was one of the more horrible things I've seen in my life. And it's typical of Hamas. If reporters would probe deeper, they'd learn the awful truth of Hamas. But Palestinian moral failings are not of great interest to many people.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I GUESS UKRANIANS, and Europeans in general, would be applauded by the world's intelligentsia if they started lobbing "homemade rockets" at, say, Belgorod, considering Russia's strangling by cutting off a vital resource, gas, precisely during a severe cold wave across the continent, no?

At least that's what many people should advocate if they want to be consistent with what they're saying of Hamas in Gaza, no? Then again, asking for consistency is asking too much, but you can't lose for trying!

UPDATE. Charlie Martin emails a one-liner: "Only if Russia converted to Judaism." Alas, so true.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

FIFTEEN SECONDS IN SDEROT: this is what the media -virtually all, here in Spain- have been hiding to us. It's what happens between the incoming Qassam alert and the explosion. And the effects afterwards. It's 15 seconds that people have to leave everything they're doing and run for cover to save their lives. And for the last months they had to do this even dozens of times every day. Can you imagine how Spaniards would react if they were being lobbed with hundreds of "homemade rockets" from, say, Andorra?

If the media had been exposing people to this, I'm sure far less swastika-wielding, angry-shouting mobs would be going out to the streets to protest in favor of the "poor Palestinians".

Watch this:

Saturday, January 03, 2009

EVERYTHING BUT THE SKY FALLS-IN ON SPAIN: a roundup of -very bad- economic news.

2009 will be worse than 2008. Here's why.

BIDEN AND HILLARY on Hamas, Gaza and Israel.

Friday, January 02, 2009

SPAIN: Where the gaffe is now an art form.

ISRAEL'S ground assault on Gaza to start any moment now, maybe even tonight, according to the UK Times.

TOP 25 POP SONGS in one 4-minute mashup. Brilliant.

DJ Earworm - United State of Pop 2008 (Viva La Pop)

AND THE CHAIN CONTINUES: besides Spain's real-estate crash and the employment down the drains, the auto industry, well, had a major accident: car registrations fell a whopping 49.9% on the year in December. It's been a 28.1 percent decline for the whole year.

2009 won't be pretty over here.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

IT'S NOT ONLY the real-estate, it's an employment crisis in Spain too:
Tensions mounting between native job-seekers and immigrants competing for a declining pool of work in Spain will intensify in 2009 as generous benefits for those laid off reach the end of their fixed terms.
Unemployment at 12.8 percent in November, a 12-year high and by far the highest rate in the European Union, could reach 20 percent of the workforce in 2010 as a slump in construction spreads into the wider economy, economists say.

That is a level not seen since the 1990s and as Spain heads for its deepest recession in 50 years it may trigger social unrest like that of the 1980s, when high unemployment and low wages led to country-wide demonstrations and violent strikes.