Sunday, May 31, 2009

The phrase “bankrupt General Motors,” which we expect to hear uttered on Monday, leaves Americans my age in economic shock. The words are as melodramatic as “Mom’s nude photos.” And, indeed, if we want to understand what doomed the American automobile, we should give up on economics and turn to melodrama.

Politicians, journalists, financial analysts and other purveyors of banality have been looking at cars as if a convertible were a business. Fire the MBAs and hire a poet. The fate of Detroit isn’t a matter of financial crisis, foreign competition, corporate greed, union intransigence, energy costs or measuring the shoe size of the footprints in the carbon. It’s a tragic romance—unleashed passions, titanic clashes, lost love and wild horses.
Keep reading.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I HAVE TO ADMIT that I just learned about the internet meme of literal music videos, with the lyrics slightly changed to sound very similar to the original, but made to literally describe what's going on in the images. And they're really clever. Here's two I selected for your enjoyment (you'll appreciate them even more if you know the original lyrics, but it's not necessary): first, Total Eclipse of the Heart, by Bonnie Tyler:

And next, Losing My Religion, by R.E.M.:

THE MOTHER OF ALL MYTHS: That all the problems in the Middle East and Arab countries stem from what happens in Palestine and Israel.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

CRUSADER CRUSADED: Spain high court will hear a challenge against terrorism superstar judge Garzon. This is big stuff, since he's accused of the worst thing a judge can do: to knowingly give an unjust verdict or resolution. It's regarding the Franco-era crimes: Garzón wanted to indict the regime leaders, forgetting the amnesty law of 1977, that the accusation went beyond the statute of limitations, and also the small detail that Franco and his cronies were, well, dead (in Spanish criminal law, one of the reasons of ending the responsibility is the death of the accused). Garzon even sent a judicial order to the Civil Registry asking for the confirmation that Franco et al were dead; he wanted to see their death certificates (as if there was any doubt). Regardless of what you think of the Franco regime, Garzon's initiative was so clearly without merit that the Public Prosecutor was against it and asked him to stop.

It's worth noting that the amnesty law of 1977 didn't just apply to one side, but to both: besides any possible member of the Franco regime, it also forgave crimes commited by the Republican side before and during the Civil War, in the rearguard, or by ETA terrorists (the two links are to texts by notable historian Stanley Payne; you can also read George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia or Looking Back on the Spanish War, if you prefer. Full text at the links). For many, the amnesty law was a key element in the reconciliation process that gave way to the democratic system we now enjoy; it allowed people like Communist leader Santiago Carrillo to come to Spain, run for election, and become one of the key figures in the Transition. In any case, anything should be open to revision if a sufficient number of people wishes for that. But it must be done with a wide, bipartisan agreement, not because a lone crusading judge wants to be on the spotlight and perhaps get a Nobel.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

THE TIMES (UK) correspondent in Washington is back from a visit to Guantanamo: here's how he views it.

SPAIN'S GOVERNMENT ANTI-RECESSION PLANS are just like moving the furniture as the economy sinks: a sobering analysis.

THIS IS ALMOST HYPNOTIC. But can be a real time-waster, I'm warning you.

KIM THREATENS he may hit South Korea:
North Korea has threatened action against the South after it joined a US-led initiative to intercept ships suspected of trafficking weapons of mass destruction.

The communist North's military said it will respond with "immediate, strong military measures" if South Korea stops and searches any of its vessels.

In a statement it said it no longer considers itself bound by the armistice that ended the Korean War, following the South's participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

Monday, May 25, 2009

(click to enlarge)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

ZAPATERO, former pacifist; current warmonger imperialist aggressor and invader!
Royal Navy warships have forced heavily armed Spanish ships to retreat from British waters around Gibraltar.

Relations between the 30,000 residents of the British outpost and mainland Spain have become strained following what the Foreign Office described as 'a violation of British sovereignty'.

The warships were dispatched after Spanish ships sent boarding parties to inspect fishing boats in British waters, despite having no authority to do so.

ON WHY Jihadists love attacking Jews.

Friday, May 22, 2009

THIS IS BAD, but it could be worse: they could be Spanish children!

SLOW MOTION LIGHTNING, filmed from an aircraft. Wow.

THE SPANISH GOVERNMENT'S coverup of a swine flu outbreak is unacceptable not only in itself, but also because it may have endangered more than 100 kids. This level of incompetence is hard to imagine, even in Zapatero's government. And it makes clear they have taken the transparency lessons from Obama...

Here's the story: On Monday, the medical services in one of the main barracks outside Madrid detected some cases of possible swine flu. It was particularly worrying since none of the affected had been in Mexico or other affected areas. Without reporting it to anyone outside the military -- not even the health authorities who have been monitoring the illness since it all started in Mexico --, the army isolated the sick soldiers in one building; they were not even allowed to let their families know what was happening. The next day, some of the results came out positive for H1N1 (sources differ on how many, but they could be up to 11); the infected soldiers were sent to a hospital and about 600 were quarantined. Still silence, until a Spanish online newspaper broke the news almost at midnight on Wednesday.

But the worst thing is that the Health ministry was so intent on raising any red flags that they didn't cancel two field trips by schools, who visited the barracks on Monday and Wednesday. In all, 130 11-and-12-year-olds who were recklessly exposed to the virus, although the army is now saying that they were kept at least 500 yards from the building were the quarantined soldiers were being kept Guantanamo-like. Even if you think that there's at least some alarmism and exaggeration surrounding swine flu you have to admit that this is outrageous. If swine flu is nothing, why hide it and not letting parents decide whether they wanted their kids to go on the field trip. If swine flu is really dangerous, than it's obviously much, much worse.

The uproar in the country today is inmense, and rightly so. Young media-darling Defense minister Carmen Chacón, as any teenager would do, has been in hiding since news broke, relying on others like the deputy prime minister and the health minister -- who as I said she hadn't informed and learned about this when questioned by journalists yesterday -- to give explanations for her. She had already shown her incompetence on the Kosovo pullout, and hadn't been as shy when she was showing off her pregnant tummy; now even leftists as asking her to resign. Stay tuned.

UPDATE. Deputy PM, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, has just confirmed there's 11 tested positive with H1N1, 9 of them still in hospital and 57 under observation.

TEA PARTIES coming to Spain: it'll be this Sunday, at 1pm, in Pamplona. They won't be running the bulls, but something more dangerous: voracious bureaucrats.

UPDATE. Welcome Instapundit readers: make yourselves at home(page), and check this latest post. Prepared to be shocked.

BERLUSCONI BUSTED! This is his makeup secret: a disk hidden in a handkerchief. So, when he seems to be drying his sweat, he's putting on more powder. Wait until Amy Winehouse sees it....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

NOW THIS IS A cool wedding video, unlike the usual corny stuff:

Brian & Eileen's Wedding Music Video. from LOCKDOWN projects on Vimeo.

A Spanish judge reinstated charges Thursday against three American soldiers in the death of a Spanish journalist covering the Iraq invasion in 2003.

Judge Santiago Pedraz said he had obtained new testimony from witnesses contradicting the U.S. argument that the tank crew was responding to hostile fire when it shot at a Baghdad hotel housing Western journalists.

[...] These reporters — Jon Sistiaga, Olga Rodriguez and Jesus Quinonero — testified that the tank had not come under fire before shooting at the Palestine Hotel. They said that morning of April 8, 2003 was particularly quiet outside the hotel, the judge wrote.

"There was nothing to film. It was a rather calm morning, and that is why they were all standing by the window," the judge wrote.

"Obviously, this contradicts the argument that the company was under strong enemy fire," the judge wrote.
I also remember some journalists who were at the Palestine hotel back then that they day of the incident they didn't hear the shell that impacted on the 14th floor where Couso was killed, but somehow they were totally, positively sure that there hadn't been any fire whatsoever aimed at the US tank from the rooftop, several floors above the 14th. Somebody explain this to me, please, how could they hear nothing of the big shell blast, but were so sure that there had been no other fire from the hotel.

In any case, if this contradicts the argument that the US company was under strong enemy fire, I'd challenge the Spanish judge to get the testimony of Jules Crittenden, who was with the US company at that very moment, and who has offered to come to Spain to testify. C'mon, judge.

UPDATE. Jules Crittenden has much more on this.

BJORN LOMBORG writes on the climate-industrial complex:
Some business leaders are cozying up with politicians and scientists to demand swift, drastic action on global warming. This is a new twist on a very old practice: companies using public policy to line their own pockets.
Don't miss the rest.

A BLACK HOLE for human rights, where inmates are mostly innocent who were sold, for money, by warlords, or something. Yeah:
An unreleased Pentagon report concludes that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has returned to terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION in the Middle East is impossible. Here's why.

Spain’s crusading judges may have their wings clipped after legislators called on the government to curb the power of Spanish courts to pursue cases against people accused of crimes against humanity in other countries.

The lawmakers approved a non-binding proposal late Tuesday that urges the government to reform the law of universal jurisdiction, which enables prosecutors to investigate alleged human rights crimes regardless of where they are committed or where the defendants live.

The proposal, originally presented by the opposition Popular Party, was approved with 339 of 350 votes, a spokeswoman for the Parliament said.

Spanish judges have invoked universal jurisdiction in recent years to pursue cases against alleged human rights violators in several countries, including Tibet, Rwanda, Israel and the United States. Under the proposed reform, courts would only be allowed to pursue cases if the victims were Spanish or the alleged perpetrators were on Spanish territory.

Recent efforts to investigate former United States officials and former and current Israeli officials caused some diplomatic embarrassment and prompted calls within the government for a change in the law. Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos reportedly told Israeli officials he would seek to have the law changed — a comment the government later denied.

Here's a list of the ongoing investigations by the crusading judges.

Monday, May 18, 2009

GENERALISSIMO FRANCISCO FRANCO had Hitler envy in more ways than one: he also had just one ball, it seems (at least as the Hitler legend goes). Not that it really matters: it's not like they were the SOBs they were because of a trauma for this, or something. Still, nice to laugh about them.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

CONSIDERING THAT there's no such thing as the crime of piracy in the Spanish criminal law, isn't this akin to extraordinary rendition?
Spain says 13 suspected Somali pirates captured in the lawless Gulf of Aden have been handed over to Kenya for a possible trial.

Defense Minister Carme Chacon says the suspects were transferred under international agreements signed in March by the European Union and Kenya. The handover took place Saturday at the Kenyan port of Mombasa.
I've long forgotten my international law classes but I think such an agreement like the one between the EU and Kenya would be valid, at least as far Spain is concerned, only if the activity was a crime in Spain, which is not. And should not be done just as a transfer under some signed agreement. It should be done properly: that's what extradition is for. So, any expert can correct me if I'm wrong: would this be in fact an extraordinary rendition like those done by evil Bush? I guess it means that the Spanish crusading judges can start investigating!
UPDATE. Welcome Instapundit readers; however, I think Glenn didn't plan to put this link in that particular post (UPDATE: No, he didn't). As you know, he often schedules items to go up while he's sleeping, and I assume this topic will be in another one, going public in a bit. Since he's offline I can't alert him instantly, but he'll notice as soon as he logs in this morning. FYI, I believe the post he meant to link to was this one at PowerLine.

UPDATE II. All fixed: Glenn links here from this item. Thanks!

UPDATE III. William C. Hicklin emails: "Actually there shouldn't be a problem in this case, because under the 1958 Geneva Convention on the High Seas (codifying customary international law and earlier treaties), pirates are hostis humani generis and subject to universal jurisdiction: pirates apprehended in international waters may be tried and punished by any nation under its own laws.

However, many nations no longer have laws against piracy: Belgium, for instance. I don't know about Spain.  In any event, Kenya is willing to prosecute and jail them, and has concurrent jurisdiction with every other signatory of GCHS."

So according to this reader, whether piracy is a crime in Spain or not (it isn't)  is irrelevant, as lomg as any nation is willing to try the guys.

Friday, May 15, 2009

CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF, Twitter was invented in 1935. Amazing.

GEORGE SIMPSON on folks who complain about Internet ads:
But I am going to wonder why this noisy crowd that hates all forms of online advertising isn't picketing up and down 6th Avenue ranting at the broadcast networks for "taking over my screen" for ads and not just for 15 or 30 seconds, but for three or four minutes at a time at least four times an hour? And that doesn't count the promo craplets that run on the screen during the programming.

Where were these outraged voices when newspapers (bless their dying little hearts) started taking over 9/10th of each page with display ads for department stores? Not a lot of "screen real estate" left on those pages for news was there? Why weren't there riots when these fine folks settled into their $10 seats for the 7:15 start of a movie, only to suffer through the screen being "taken over" for the next 8 to 12 minutes with ads? How about those September issues of magazines that are (at least used to be) 80% ads? Where was the outrage of having to flip past spread after spread of "full screen takeovers" to find the first edit story?

When people sit down at their PCs a strange sense of entitlement overcomes them. They think they are entitled to free content. Free apps. Free movies. Free music. Free research that 20 years ago they would have paid hundreds of dollars for to get in a week - that now takes 15 minutes. Not that the internet is free. The ISPs are doing everything possible to make it more expensive to deliver service at speeds which would be considered an insult and a rip off in most other developed countries. But that only covers the hardware to pump the Web into your home, not the billions of pages of news, entertainment, games, porn, etc. that are available within a few clicks.
Keep reading.

WHAT HAS SPARKLED SOME CONTROVERSY on Spain's draft bill expanding abortion rights is something I'm not seeing mentioned in the English-language reports: that is lowers the age to 16, meaning that underage girls of 16 and 17 can get an abortion without parental consent, or even without parental notification. So, if law passes as is, a 16-year-old Spanish girl will need a permission from their parents for getting a piercing, cosmethic surgery, even live-an-death medical procedures like emergency appendectomy; of course she can't drive, vote in an election, drink, or smoke. But she can have an abortion. This is not only troubling for conservatives: it's an inconsistency that worries many Socialists too.

THIS IS NEAT; you can of course enter another word above to get different results.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'D HELP THEM OUT, but I don't have lump change in my pocket right now:
Intel Corp. will have to pay a record fine of €1.06 billion ($1.45 billion) for breaking European antitrust laws, the European Commission said Wednesday.

AN ABSOLUTE MUST READ: this letter written in 1865 by a former slave to his former master, who had asked him to return to the plantation and work -- for pay, this time. His reply is a real lesson. (via the Spanish blog of Albert Esplugas)

I FOUND THIS PIECE by my old writing colleague Bernhard Warner, on birthday wishes in the age of social networks, very funny. It's from last year; he recycled it via Twitter on his birthday. Make sure you wish him a good one ;)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

GEEK PORN: a 3D view of the Airbus A380 cockpit.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Friday, May 08, 2009

FILMS THAT SUCK... Pretty much agree with all of them, except the chick flicks. I know, I know. I know I shouldn't, but I kinda enjoy them. Which has actually saved me a lot of arguing with the ladies over which movie to go and see...

JOBLESSNESS SOARS: Spain is experiencing Europe’s worst unemployment problem.

AND YOU THOUGHT that the CIA would gladly take the blow of Obama's releasing the torture memos? Think again: who do you think leaked the report that revealed that Nancy Pelosi and other Dems who are now shouting "torture" were briefed on the use of enhanced interrogation techniques and didn't object. That is, they approved: if they were against it, as they say now, that was the moment to object and try to stop it. what a bunch of political opportunists.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

MEASURING CHAVEZ RETALIATION against critics in Venezuela. Not that it's a big surprise, but it's appalling to see tangible proof.

I AGREE: pà amb tomàquet, a kind of bruschetta with rubbed tomato, is probably the most characteristic food in Catalonia -- and the most pervasive. We eat it all the time, not only on its own, slice by slice with or without stuff like ham, cheese, what have you, on it: it's almost impossible to find a sandwich around here with something other than rubbed tomato (instead of butter, or just nothing, as in other countries). But it has to be done right: the perfect bread (as the article says, preferably some kind of rustic bread: in Catalonia it's pà de pagès, or "peasant's bread"), good quality olive oil, and a very ripe tomato that you cut in half and gently rub on the bread (since it's now more popular, in other parts of Spain they just open a can of mashed tomato and spread it; that's disgusting). Personally I don't put garlic in it, though.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

IT'S NOT LIBERAL BIAS what's killing newspapers, writes Jeff Jacoby; it's the world around then, which has been profoundly transformed. I agree.

FASCINATING PIECE by an American writer living in the Netherlands and "learning to love the welfare state". I wonder, however, if he'd be seeing the same upside had he settled in the epitome of European welfare country, say, in France -- or Spain.

The political mood in the Basque country seemed set to shift on Wednesday after a Socialist politician became president on Tuesday, ending three decades of nationalist government in the prosperous and turbulent region of northern Spain marked often by separatist violence claimed by the militant group ETA.

Patxi López, 49, won 35 of a possible 75 votes cast by Basque lawmakers, vowing to confront ETA head-on and calling for unity between Basque secessionists and those who favor remaining part of Spain.

AND PRESS GUYS still wonder why they're in crisis: an Irish student planted a false quote by Maurice Jarre in its Wikipedia page the day he died. A false quote that was included in obits for the late musician published by many newspapers.

NOW THIS IS BAD NEWS: a smart ass decides to explain in NewTeeVee how to watch Hulu from outside the US using Hotspot Shield, which was the open secret nobody mentioned in widely read websites. Why? Because Hulu would notice. Lo and behold: since this morning it's blocked. Damn. Good job, guys.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

I LOVED THIS LINE by Mark Steyn:
President Obama's strongest talent is not his speechifying, which is frankly a bit of a snoozeroo. In Europe, he left 'em wanting less pretty much every time (headline from Britain's Daily Telegraph: "Barack Obama Really Does Go On A Bit"). That uptilted chin combined with the left-right teleprompter neck swivel you can set your watch by makes him look like an emaciated Mussolini umpiring an endless rally of high lobs on Centre Court at Wimbledon. Each to his own, but I don't think those who routinely hail him as the greatest orator since Socrates actually sit through many of his speeches.

Georgia’s Interior Ministry announced on Tuesday that it had uncovered a Russia-backed military coup a day before the scheduled start of NATO military exercises there.

At a morning news conference, a senior Interior Ministry official, Shota Utiashvili, said several top Defense Ministry officers have been arrested. He said preliminary evidence shows that the plot was coordinated with Russia.

“The plan was organized with Russia, and the plan was at a minimum to spoil the NATO exercises, at a maximum to carry out a large-scale military uprising in the country,” Mr. Utiashvili said.

Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitri O. Rogozin, said the accusations were baseless.

“Of course we have slowly begun to get accustomed to mad accusations by Georgian political and military officials that if there is hail or thunderstorms, this is all Moscow’s work,” he said, according to Interfax.

Georgia also reported that a tank battalion has mutinied. Defense Minister David Sikharulidze announced on Rustavi-2 television that the battalion, which is based just northeast of Tbilisi, announced the mutiny Tuesday. Mr. Sikharulidze said Georgia’s Interior Ministry had uncovered plans for a wider-scale mutiny.

A Spanish judge decided on Monday to go ahead with a probe into alleged crimes against humanity by top Israeli military figures over an air force bombing in Gaza in 2002 that killed 15 people.

Last month public prosecutors advised National Court judge Fernando Andreu to shelve the case on the grounds that the attack, which killed a suspected leader of the Islamist movement Hamas, Salah Shehadeh, had been under investigation by Israel.
Ambassador to Spain Rafi Shotz came under an anti-Semitic verbal barrage when he and his wife walked home from Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on Saturday.

ANOTHER MYTH SHATTERED: the rich paid a greater share of taxes under Clinton than under the evil neocon Bush, according to the CBO.

Monday, May 04, 2009

BIG-SCREEN E-READERS TO SAVE NEWSPAPERS? No way. Not only for the reasons that MG Siegler says in TechCrunch. It's also because I'd be very surprised if a lot of people are going to carry those things with them all the time, as they are already starting to do in numbers with the current Kindle or Sony Reader. The key to a reader is portability: you toss it into your backpack, purse, jacket pocket, and you take it out when you're riding the subway, waiting at a queue, and so forth.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

ISN'T THIS SIMILAR to what made UK's antiterror chief resign?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

WHY SWINE FLU isn't so scary.

UPDATE. Overreaction is more costly than the virus itself, writes VC Bill Gurley:
Some people rationalize that this hysteria serves a noble purpose, in that it prepares us for the worse.  This, however, ignores the fact that there are tremendous real economic costs to overreaction, and that sometimes overreaction has far reaching negative impacts which can be many times greater than than that of the original problem.  In the case of swine-flu, schools and universities are closing, countries are unnecessarily slaughtering animals, and travel and entertainment are being constrained in an already fragile world economy.  For Mexico, which already has enormous political and economic issues, overreaction is remarkably painful, virtually inihiliating all tourism - the third largest sector of it’s economy.

THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR looks in awe at how the unprecendented unemployment level in Spain is not giving way to social unrest:
As most of the world observes May Day amid the worst recession since the Great Depression, perhaps Spanish workers have the most to protest and worry about.

Unemployment here has nearly doubled over the past year to 17 percent – the highest in the European Union and double that of the United States. The economy is shrinking at its fastest rate in 50 years.

Conditions are expected to worsen, yet there's little indication that Spain will be plagued by the social unrest that's heating up elsewhere in Europe.

The governments of Hungary, Latvia, and Iceland have already collapsed after angry protests over the handling of the economy; France has thrice been disrupted as millions staged nationwide strikes. And demonstrations – sometimes turning to riots – in Greece, Ireland, Britain, and several Eastern European countries have reminded the continent of the violent class struggles of past century.

The Spanish government, however, remains strong. No national strikes or protests have taken place, and the mood in the street is somber, but not angry. Indeed, the 65,000 people who organizers say partook in the traditional May 1 demonstration in Madrid danced and cheered to a samba beat as they chanted slogans demanding more jobs.

Judging from the festive mood, it's tough to imagine that unemployment is the most pressing concern for three of every four Spaniards, according to the government's statistic agency. So, why has Spain remained so calm?
The reason is very simple, and it's not listed in the piece: Zapatero has 'bribed' the unions, increasing the subsidies by a whopping 50% since 2006 (link in Spanish). Not only the unions are much more keen to 'forgive' the sins of their ideological cousins, the Socialist party (Zapatero's). It's also because, to loosely paraphrase Anderson Cooper, it's difficult to open your mouth to complain when your mouth is full...

Want proof? Well, there has actually been union-backed demonstrations against the government. But not against Zapatero's -- against the regional governments that are in the hands of the conservative Popular Party, in the opposition nationwide. Never mind that regions (autonomous communities, as they're called in Spain) have hardly any role to play in the econoomic policies. Need to say more?

The Obama administration is moving toward reviving the military commission system for prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, which was a target of critics during the Bush administration, including Mr. Obama himself.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Half a glass of wine a day may add five years to your life, a new study suggests. Drink beer, and you’ll live only 2 1/2 years longer.

Dutch researchers followed 1,373 men for more than four decades, noting their eating and drinking habits. Men who had about 20 grams of alcohol daily -- equivalent to a half a glass of wine -- had 2 1/2 years added to their life expectancy at age 50, compared with men who didn’t drink at all, according to the research published today in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Men who consumed only wine had twice as much added longevity.

SOME SOBERING THOUGHTS by Henry Blodget: "Stop Thinking The 30% Stock Rally Means The Bear Market Is Over"