Friday, February 27, 2009

WELL, I'm home from the hospital at last, and with good news: after all the extensive testing, doctors have completely ruled out that there's anything wrong with my heart. What happened last Sunday could be either an anxiety attach -- which I think it's unlikely, because I'm not particularly stressed these days; in fact, I'd say I'm much less stressed than usual -- or, as odd as it seems, some reflex from my digestive system --a nuisance but not life-threatening. Still need to find out, but in a normal setting and not in a hospital: the care and attention from doctors and nurses at the Hospital de Barcelona has been top notch, but it's not the place where you would ideally spend a week...

So now back in the game and catching up, but before anything else, I'd like to thank all the messages of support. I knew you guys were terrific, and now I know exactly how much -- and it's even more than I thought.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

HOSPITAL UPDATE: Doctors just said that it doesn't look bad. They still won't confirm if there actually is any cardiac tissue damage until they see the results of a test tomorrow afternoon, but they suspect there isn't, since traces of it would have shown up in at least some of the stuff they've done to me by now. So good news so far...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

THANKS TO all of you who wrote to ask if everything is OK seeing the blog non-active, or who saw the news on Twitter or Facebook; truth is that I'm in the hospital since Sunday; had to come very early in the morning with chest pain. It's the second time in 9 months and, even though last summer there was no cardiac damage, doctors are not taking any chances so they're performing all kinds of tests the whole week, and they won't release me until Friday at the soonest. I have my laptop with 3G card with me, but the interruptions are many so I may not post much for a few days, unless I suddenly feel the urge to do some hospiblogging, that is... (I may jottle some notes on Twitter, though)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I LAUGHED at this tweet: "If you watch 'Jaws' backwards, it's a film about a shark that keeps throwing up people until they open a beach."

UPDATE. Another: "Friday the 13th backwards is about a magic hockey player who heals a bunch of injured teens so they can go home from camp."

UPDATE II. And another: "Superman backwards is about a guy who flies around putting people into precarious situations and then hiding."

Friday, February 20, 2009

I COULDN'T HELP but laugh when I read this on Instapundit about Czech president Vaclav Klaus's speech at the European Parliament, where he said the EU is "an undemocratic and elitist project comparable to the Communist dictatorships of eastern Europe that forbade alternative thinking." Because you know what did most of the lawmakers do to prove that Klaus was wrong on the forbidding alternative thinking part?

They walked out while he was speaking.

Can't find any video, but it was all over the TV news here.

THE UN CONFIRMS that Iran has enough uranium for at least one nuclear bomb. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

AFTER THE FIESTA: The Financial Times looks at Spain's devastating economic crisis.

The article, by the way, has the odd picture I commented here.

LIKE ME, David Harsanyi is an atheist who, seeing the oh-so fashionable atheist manifestations, almost feels like believing in God...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

JUST IMAGINE FOR A SECOND if this had happened in Bush's USA, or in Aznar's Spain, instead of Zapatero's Spain:
A memo leaked to Spanish media this week is purported to have instructed one particular police station in the Madrid area — not in Lavapies — to arrest 30 undocumented immigrants per week.

The Interior Ministry has denied there is any quota system. But police unions complain they are under pressure to make arrests, and say officers pushed to meet their targets have ended up simply stopping foreign-looking people at random at train stations and bus stops.
It's even worse: according to Spanish media, that leaked memo allegedly instructed police officers to aim for Moroccans preferably, as they're cheaper to deport since their home country is nearer.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

THAT THE VICTORY of the right in Israel's election puts an end of a negotiated solution is no more than a myth, writes Bradley Burston:
A closer examination of the much-vaunted Gush HaYamin, or Bloc of the Right, suggests that it qualifies neither as a bloc, nor, strictly speaking, as the Right.

There is the Likud [27 seats], with its track record of having already withdrawn in the past from 89 percent of all the territory Israel captured in the 1967 war. There is Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu [15], which has made far-reaching proposals for ceding land to the Palestinians, and is the current standard-bearer for secular rights in Israel. There is the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism [5] which has shown some willingness for flexibility in negotiations toward a future peace settlement. At this point, only the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi Shas [11], the settler-dominated Jewish Home [3] and the far-right National Union [4] can be reliably counted upon to reject compromise.
Keep reading.

THE TWO KINDS of progressivism.

OBAMA'S ELF. Histerical.

(via BB)

THAT SHOULD BE a cause for concern: Spanish Air Force soldier arrested for editing and publishing Internet Jihadist videos calling for attacks on Spain. It's not only a problem in France.

GREEN HYPOCRISY (I'm shocked, shocked!):
THEY may shout their green credentials from the rooftops, but some of Britain’s most prominent environmental champions are living in homes that produce up to half a ton of excess carbon dioxide a year.

An audit of properties, measuring heat loss, has revealed that Chris Martin, the pop star, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, and Sir David Attenborough, the broadcaster, are among those who reside in homes that are “leaking” energy. Some lack even the most basic energy saving measures such as cavity wall insulation and double glazing.

Thermal images of the residences of 10 high-profile green campaigners found that their heat loss was either worse or no better than that found in the average family home.

Santander (SAN.MC) said its Banif property fund, the largest of its type in Spain, could not meet an avalanche of redemptions and had asked the stock market regulator for permission to suspend payments for up to 2 years.

Clients holding 80 percent of the fund, or 2.62 billion euros ($3.3 billion), have asked to redeem their investments but the euro zone's biggest bank said the Banif Inmobiliario Fund FII lacked the cash to do so.

Although funds invested in bricks and mortar are by their nature illiquid, analysts warned the news could spark an overwhelming redemption demand by investors in other Spanish real estate funds. Spain's nine such funds have 7.25 billion euros under management.

"I've never seen a case like it," said one fund manager at Madrid brokerage Renta 4, who asked not to be named. "It could trigger a snow ball effect; that's one of the consequences when you start to hear that the biggest (fund) is doing badly".
UPDATE. Edward Hugh has more.

GOOD WAY TO INSTILL CONFIDENCE in the economy: the Japanese finance minister, Shoichi Nakagawa, appeared drunk at a G-7 summit press conference. He denied he was wasted, but has stepped down.

WORLD DEPRESSIONS lead to an increase in anti-Semitism; British MP denis MacShane writes that the current times are no exception.

CZECH PRESIDENT Vaclav Klaus on Europeism.

Monday, February 16, 2009

STRANGE BUSINESS ADVICE for people wishing to do business in Spain:
The Spanish are not too punctual, and never hurry. Consequently, deadlines are not of the highest priority in the Spanish business culture.

Respect to the country’s language, history and traditions is highly valued by the hospitable citizens. As for communication, it is normal for two Spanish to stand a few feet away from each other and shout simultaneously.
Huh? I wonder how long ago these guys haven't visited the country.

NO, IT'S NOT JUST YOU, SCOTT: I also agree that Kurzweil seems to be turning his Singularity stuff into a religion. At least it has the same goal:
Kurzweil is a genius among geniuses whose family has a habit of dying early. He’s also an atheist at the level of not believing in an afterlife. He’s quite scared of entirely ceasing to exist in the relatively near future. I share that belief (and periodically that fear), but inventing one’s own no-evidence afterlife story is no different than having faith in the afterlife promises of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, et al.

FRANCE'S HIGHEST COURT has recognized the state's responsibility in the Holocaust:
The Council of State said the state had permitted or facilitated deportations that led to anti-Semitic persecution without being coerced by the occupiers.

But the council also found reparations had since been made "as much as was possible, for all the losses suffered".

Correspondents say the ruling is the clearest such recognition of the French state's role in the Holocaust.

Between 1942 and 1944 some 76,000 Jews were deported from France by the Vichy government in collaboration with the German occupying army.

Strangled by the collapse in global export demand, Japan's economy shrank at its fastest rate in 35 years in the fourth quarter and shows no signs of reversing course anytime soon.

Japan's gross domestic product contracted 3.3 percent from the previous quarter, or an annual pace of 12.7 percent, in the October-December period, the government said Monday.

That was worse than expected and the steepest slide for Japan since the oil shock in 1974. It is more than triple the 3.8 percent annualized contraction in the U.S. in the same quarter.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

IF YOU DON'T KNOW what was Hamas doing while launching rockets, here's a video for you (content warning). Most of it kindly bankrolled by the European Union.

TURNS OUT the 13-year-old kid may not be the dad after all (see this for background). The 15-year-old girl was sleeping with-- eight! boys around that time. Or not, who know. It all comes from British trashy tabloids.

CHAVEZ kicked a Spanish Euro lawmaker out of the country for calling him a dictator. "Someone needs to tell Chávez that tossing a guy out for calling you dictator isn’t a very good way of rebutting his description."

UPDATE. "President Hugo Chavez said Saturday that the expulsion of European deputy Luis Herrero for statements against the Venezuelan government would "not tarnish" relations with Spain." Of course not. Herrero belongs to the conservative PP, now in the opposition. Zapatero, though he lodged a "lip service complaint," won't do anything about it.

AN ACTIVITY now booming in Spain (alas): queuing up at a soup kitchen.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I WAS GOING TO BUY a nail clipper for this woman, but she doesn't need it anymore (warning: the pic is creepy).

UNDER THE RADAR, a big victory in Iraq:
Iraq moved away from religious sectarianism toward more secular nationalism. "All the parties that had the words 'Islamic' or 'Arab' in their names lost," noted Middle East expert Amir Taheri. "By contrast, all those that had the words 'Iraq' or 'Iraqi' gained."

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki went from leader of a small Islamic party to leader of the "State of Law Party," campaigning on security and secular nationalism. He won a smashing victory. His chief rival, a more sectarian and pro-Iranian Shiite religious party, was devastated. Another major Islamic party, the pro-Iranian Sadr faction, went from 11 percent of the vote to 3 percent, losing badly in its stronghold of Baghdad. The Islamic Fadhila party that had dominated Basra was almost wiped out.

[...] All this barely pierced the consciousness of official Washington. After all, it fundamentally contradicts the general establishment/media narrative of Iraq as "fiasco."

One leading conservative thinker had concluded as early as 2004 that democracy in Iraq was "a childish fantasy." Another sneered that the 2005 election that brought Maliki to power was "not an election but a census" -- meaning people voted robotically according to their ethnicity and religious identity. The implication being that these primitives have no conception of democracy, and that trying to build one there is a fool's errand.

What was lacking in all this condescension is what the critics so pride themselves in having -- namely, context.
Keep reading.

UNINTENDED IRONY, that's what this is.

Friday, February 13, 2009

FRIDAY FUN: This is quite an impressive illusion:

Most Amazing Illusion Ever

SHE'S 15, he's only 13 (though he looks way younger), and they're holding their just born baby. Poor kids.

A RANGE of respected economist openly say that the stimulus won't stimulate.

AN INITIATIVE WORTH CONSIDERING: Well known French female bloggers get naked for a re-enactment of a film's poster. Here's the video of how it all was made (sorta NSFW, I guess). Let's do this, ok? I offer my place, my camera and my talent as photographer (cough, cough):

(clicking the first of these two links will get you the video full-screen. You're welcome.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spain's economy shrank at its fastest pace in 15 years at the end of last year, pushing it into recession for the first time since 1993 and pointing to further dire output data from across the euro zone on Friday.

FAKE BUT ACCURATE, also in Spain's tourism advertisements.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Image via Wikipedia
ON A POWDER KEG: "European banks sitting on £16.3 trillion of toxic assets may suffer massive losses, according to a confidential Brussels document."

THIS IS HOW is was to land in the Bilbao airport, in northern Spain, this last few days, amid very strong winds. If it looks scary from the outside, I can just imagine how it was for the people on the plane...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

SHAMEFUL: A poll commissioned by the ADL shows that 33% of Europeans blame the Jews for the financial meltdown. A mind-boggling 74% Spaniards think so; another 2/3 of Spaniards think that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their home countries.

I'm angry.

UPDATE. Welcome Instapundit readers; glad to have you here. Take a look at the homepage for more, and if you're interested consider adding the RSS feed to your aggregator. You can also follow me on Twitter. Hope you come back often!

HOW THE WORLD ALMOST CAME TO AN END at 2pm on September 18, 2008.

UPDATE. Some doubts that this is what really happened.

SURPRISING STORIES behind 20 Muppet characters.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

THIS IS AMAZING: A Tom Daschle campaign ad in which he brags about driving himself to work each day for the last 15 years. You can't make this up:

'Viva España,' cheered Norberto Luis Diaz, the first Cuban to get a Spanish passport under a new law that grants citizenship to descendants of former exiles.

Diaz, a 38-year-old cardiologist, will to travel to Spain on Sunday, spending a few days in Madrid and then Valencia, where he even has a job offer.

Diaz got his passport on Thursday under the new Law of Historical Memory, which allows the children and grandchildren of Spaniards who fled the country during the Spanish Civil War and the beginning of the Franco dictatorship to apply for citizenship.

'This is a great moment for Cuba and for Spain,' said Pablo Barrios, the Spanish consul in Havana, as he handed over the document. 'And for me!' Diaz added, exultant.

Last December, Diaz was the first Cuban to formally request Spanish citizenship. His grandfather was from the Canary Islands and came to Cuba in 1916. 'He never returned to Spain,' Diaz said.
(emphasis mine)

Anyone knows that the Spanish Civil War didn't start until 20 years after that.

THE SPANISH EXTENDED FAMILY, the greatest resource during a financial crisis?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

SUSTAINABLE POWER not so sustainable.


(via Spanish-language blog Democracia en América)

TIME TO BUY? Warren Buffett says it is. Personally I'm not so sure. And, what are you going to do, believe Buffett or me?

Friday, February 06, 2009

LESSONS not learned from the failure of Japan's stimulus after the real estate bubble popped in the late 80s.

A FEW interesting lessons on how retail is re-framing amidst the economic crisis.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

NOT ALL is rosy, certainly:
President Obama's economic recovery package will actually hurt the economy more in the long run than if he were to do nothing, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

CBO, the official scorekeepers for legislation, said the House and Senate bills will help in the short term but result in so much government debt that within a few years they would crowd out private investment, actually leading to a lower Gross Domestic Product over the next 10 years than if the government had done nothing.

CBO estimates that by 2019 the Senate legislation would reduce GDP by 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent on net. [The House bill] would have similar long-run effects, CBO said in a letter to Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, who was tapped by Mr. Obama on Tuesday to be Commerce Secretary.

The war is all over Etta's song, "At Last " -- Beyoncé sang the tune at Obama's 1st Inauguration Ball on Jan. 20th ... but last week at a concert in Canada, James was still pissed.

While on stage, Etta told the crowd, "Your President, the one with the big ears ... he had that woman singing my song. She gone get her ass whipped."
There's video at the link...

IF THIS IS TRUE -- and coming from China you never know -- it's heartbreaking:
A 13-year-old Chinese girl tried to commit suicide because she wanted her family to donate her liver to her cancer-stricken father, state media reported Thursday.

The girl, Chen Jin, swallowed more than 200 sleeping pills after she discovered a medical note in her mother's purse that said her father was dying of liver cancer and had three months left to live, the news agency Xinhua said.

YOUR DAILY DOSE of Spain's economy bad news, and this time it's double. One:
Spanish provisional industrial production plunged 19.6% in December on a calendar-adjusted basis against a year ago, compared to a 15.3% fall in November. Output of consumer goods fell 10.8% against a 9.3% fall in November and intermediate goods output fell 33.6% and energy production fell 3.4%. The fall in industrial production is reportedly the worst in more than 15 years.
Spanish debt defaults leapt 197 percent in 2008 with construction and property firms accounting for 4 of every 10 failures as the credit crunch coincided with the end of Spain's housing boom, data showed on Thursday.

The Swedish government plans to allow new nuclear reactors to be built, according to reports - overturning a ban introduced three decades ago.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

UNBELIEVABLE: The 11 Most Unnecessary 'How To' Guides on the Web. And they're all real...

Spain lost almost 200,000 jobs in January in the worst one-month rise since records began, lifting the unemployment rate to 14.4pc and inflicting further damage on the credibility of the Spanish government.

Staying recently in a South Yorkshire town called Rotherham—described in one guidebook as “murky,” an inadequate word for the place—I was interested to read in the local newspaper how the proprietors of some stores are preventing hooligans from gathering outside to intimidate and rob customers. They play Bach over loudspeakers, and this disperses the youths in short order; they flee the way Count Dracula fled before holy water, garlic flowers, and crucifixes. The proprietors had previously tried a high-pitched noise generator whose mosquito-like whine only those younger than 20 could detect. This method, too, proved effective, but the owners abandoned it out of fear that it might damage the youths’ hearing and infringe upon their human rights, leading to claims for compensation.

There is surely something deeply emblematic about the use of one of the great glories of Western civilization, the music of Bach, to prevent the young inheritors of that civilization from committing crimes. The barbarians are well and truly within the gates.

SOMETIMES it's as if everything has been invented in music videos, but you still find gems like this one:

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Spanish police have arrested 15 people suspected of forging passports and other documents for al-Qaida, news reports said Tuesday.

SPAIN'S economic situation is getting worse and worse: January unemployment figures are the worst on record, and the government is stupidly threatening banks to lend more money. But wasn't the problem, precisely, that there had been too much lending driving prices -- particularly read estate -- up so wildly?

And no, it doesn't change if the government says it will back the lending -- just ask Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

REMEMBER THE MAINE: Mark Falcoff has some thoughts on anti-Americanism in Spain, which certainly has differentiating factors to the one in the rest of Europe. He's spot on when he writes that Spaniards think they know the US without having been there, basically from the movies and TV series. Talk about the drawbacks of soft power!

Even some normally thoughtful people seem weirdly unable to grasp the difference between movies and reality. I've seen not-uneducated guys making a point about how the Americans are using a movie as evidence, it's ridiculous. When I find someone like that, I often make the reverse argument: I ask them what would people from other countries think of Spain if all the information they got was from the movies by Andrés Pajares and Fernando Esteso or by Alfredo Landa, who always played the chubby middle-aged balding horny hillbilly trying to knock the first scantily-clad northern-European tourist spending in vacation in Spain. To wit.

Let me tell you, this technique usually helps.