Wednesday, September 30, 2009

STICK A FORK in Gordon Brown; the British prime minister has lost The Sun.

NEXT TIME you hear someone saying that the Israeli army targets innocent civilians waving white flags, show him this video.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

MEGHAN McCAIN writes a slightly puzzling piece regarding the controversy surrounding the pics of Zapatero's daughters. She's fascinated by the fact that the prime minister was able to persuade some of the newspapers not to publish them ("nice little paper you got 'ere; what a shame if something happened to it"), and also because in Spain there's a law that protects kids' public image. And it's true, there is a 1996 law (Spanish link) that allows parents -- not just prime ministers or politicians, but all parents -- to block the public display of their children's images. And it's clear that Zapatero and his wife have always been against their daughters being in the media.

Until now.

Because what Meghan doesn't seem to know, or understand, is that this was not a picture stolen by a paparazzi while the kids were with their buddies at a mall, or having fun at the beach, like it happened five years ago. The kids were a part of an official delegation in an official trip to NY, paid by public money, whose costs were paid by taxpayers. Because they were a part of an official delegation they got things like, i.e., an accreditation to the UN General Assembly session to see his dad speak. They were promimently at one of the few coveted seats that every country's delegation to the UN has for guests.

During that session there were some pictures of them taken by the government-owned press agency EFE, which were promptly withdrawn at Zapatero's office request before its distribution to syndication clients. Maybe you think it's not such a big deal and Zapatero could have acted like Sarkozy, but it's his prerogative since the kids weren't supposed to be on the spotlight there.

But what happened at the Metropolitan Musem is another matter. Because if you don't want your daughters to be in pictures,  is it wise to put them in front of a bunch of official photographers in an official event posing with the most photographed man in the world and then expect that the picture won't be released? If not Zapatero, his tens of advisors should have told him that the White House photographs end up in it's own website and/or Flickr, as it eventually happened, where it was snatched by some Spanish media before it was withdrawn, again, at Zapatero's request.

And then all hell broke loose. In a matter of hours, tens of photoshopped versions and even YouTube videos (some quite funny, you got to admit, but I'm not going to link them here) appeared online and in everyone's email inbox. People seemed to take special pleasure at disseminating the picture, sometimes with quite nasty comments attached. Why? There are several reasons, often in combination:

First, Zapatero's strictness at the law shielding kids from publicly appearing in pictures has backfired a little: it's not such a big deal if the chief of the executive power's children appear in a picture now and then (ask Sasha and Malia). The law is meant to protect kids from abuse, but one wouldn't say that being shown together with Obama is abuse, but rather something to be proud of.

Second, well, at the risk of sounding un-PC, the way they dressed didn't exactly help. Yeah, I know everyone should be free to dress the way they like, bla bla bla. But just as you don't go to a wedding in a t-shirt, shorts and sandals, going to a fancy gathering with world leaders requires a sufficiently elegant attire. And if they're minors, their parents should be able to persuade them to dress appropriately. It doesn't bode well for someone who is supposed to lead a country that he's not even able to lead at home. In any case, I'd wager one of my bespoke suits that had the kids looked more 'normal' there would have been such a big reaction.

Third, because people were "taking revenge" for the picture at the UN that was suppressed, and for the fact that the trip was paid by public money. I'm not sure if that's a good reason to make fun of the girls, but it's undeniable that this took a part.

And finally, and perhaps more importantly, because people noticed the hypocrisy involved. The same week that the Zapatero's government introduced legislation that allows minors to get an abortion without parental permission, Zapatero says that a law shielding minors from pictures should be respected, being the key factor whether they're or not minors. You can't say that kids are too young for pictures and at the same time old enough for an abortion without mom and dad having anything to say. If the parents' wishes regarding their children appearing in pictures should be universally respected, why shouldn't they be when they oppose their kids' decision about having a baby or terminating an abortion?

Again, I'm not sure these are reasons for making fun of the kids -- and that's exactly what happened -- but what I do know is that the situation is more complicated than Meghan McCain makes it sound.

The United States blasted ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya for his "irresponsible and foolish" return from exile before a settlement was reached in the Central American country's political crisis.

At an emergency meeting of the Organization of American States to discuss the Honduran face-off, Lewis Anselem, the U.S. ambassador to the OAS, also criticized Honduras' de facto government for its "deplorable" action in barring entry of an OAS mission and declaring a state of siege on Sunday.

Anselem also criticized Zelaya for fueling violence by slipping back into Honduras last week and holing up in the Brazilian Embassy, from where he has called on his supporters to take to the streets.

"The return of Zelaya absent an agreement is irresponsible and foolish ... He should cease and desist from making wild allegations and from acting as though he were starring in an old movie," Anselm said.

Anselem urged the de facto government to handle security with "restraint and caution" and called on Zelaya to "exercise leadership" and urge his supporters to express their views peacefully.

He said the United States had urged Zelaya on several occasions not to return to Honduras before a political settlement was achieved because of the potential for unrest.

"Having chosen, with outside help, to return on his own terms, President Zelaya and those who have facilitated his return, bear particular responsibility for the actions of his supporters," the U.S. official said.

(via Fausta)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

TEN dirty little restaurant secrets.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Obama administration reaffirmed its belief this week that it has the power to indefinitely detain prisoners at Guantanamo and said it would not reach out and ask Congress to craft legislation to give them the authority.

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said that when Congress on Sept. 18, 2001 gave President George W. Bush the authorization to use force against those behind the 9/11 attacks, lawmakers gave President Obama the power to indefinitely detain prisoners captured in that effort.

“Congress has already provided authorization through the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force to detain persons who the president determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, persons who harbored those responsible for those attacks, and persons who were part of, or substantially supported, Taliban or al Qaeda forces or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners,” Boyd said.

Yes, We Can!

Friday, September 25, 2009

BUH-BYE special relationship: Obama has snubbed Gordon Brown: UK's prime minister tried to arrange a meeting with the US president but was rebuffed five times.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

BIG BROTHER arrives in Europe:
A five-year research programme, called Project Indect, aims to develop computer programmes which act as "agents" to monitor and process information from web sites, discussion forums, file servers, peer-to-peer networks and even individual computers.

Its main objectives include the "automatic detection of threats and abnormal behaviour or violence".

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

YES, something's happening in Iran.


Monday, September 21, 2009

ZELAYA is back in Honduras; Fausta is following developments.

JIMMY CARTER says the US was probably behind the 2002 coup against Chavez:
Jimmy Carter, a former US president, has said that Washington knew about an abortive coup against Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, in 2002, and that it may even have taken part.

"I think there is no doubt that in 2002, the United States had at the very least full knowledge about the coup, and could even have been directly involved," Carter said in an interview with Colombian El Tiempo newspaper published on Sunday.

It's unknown whether he also said it was because Chavez is half black...

UPDATE. Here's the full interview by Colombia's El Tiempo, in Spanish.

ZAPATERO IS on his way out, Edward Hugh thinks. He sees some signs, and has even a substitute. I'm not so sure, but you can always dream...

IF YOU HAD ANY DOUBT LEFT that the anti-smoking laws have nothing to do with any damage cause by smokers to other people, but are a step further in the road to politicians controlling everything:
Calling soda the new tobacco, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will introduce legislation this fall that would charge a fee to retailers that sell sugary beverages.
Exactly how does drinking a Coke damage anyone else?
First they came for the smokers, and I didn't speak out -- because I wasn't a smoker.

Then they came for the soda drinkers, and I didn't speak out -- because I don't drink soda.

Then they came for the people who eat burgers, and I didn't speak out -- because I don't eat meat.

Then they came for the CO2 emitters, and I didn't speak out -- because I don't have a car.

Then they came for people who criticize the governement -- and there was no one left to speak out for me.

AND YOU REALLY needed a study to know this?
Ever wondered how long a woman can keep a secret? Well the answer, it seems, is less than two days.

Researchers found that they will typically spill the beans to someone else in 47 hours and 15 minutes.

A study of 3,000 women aged between 18 and 65 also found that four in ten were unable to keep a secret, no matter how personal or confidential the news was.

No! Really?

(Yeah, yeah, call me sexist. Whatever.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

THIS IS what the police of non-violent, pomo 21st-century Europe looks like: see how three officers of the Guardia Civil (a Spanish law enforcement body known until recently for its brutality or its bravery, depending who you ask) actually flee, scared, from the individual that they were trying to catch. It took three cruisers, nine officers in total, to arrest the guy.

(via Spanish blog Heterodoxias)

Friday, September 18, 2009

THIS SOUNDS bit too much tone-deaf to me. So much that even WaPo's Dana Milbank notices, no less:
Let's say you're preparing dinner and you realize with dismay that you don't have any certified organic Tuscan kale. What to do?

Here's how Michelle Obama handled this very predicament Thursday afternoon:

The Secret Service and the D.C. police brought in three dozen vehicles and shut down H Street, Vermont Avenue, two lanes of I Street and an entrance to the McPherson Square Metro station. They swept the area, in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs, with bomb-sniffing dogs and installed magnetometers in the middle of the street, put up barricades to keep pedestrians out, and took positions with binoculars atop trucks. Though the produce stand was only a block or so from the White House, the first lady hopped into her armored limousine and pulled into the market amid the wail of sirens.

Then, and only then, could Obama purchase her leafy greens. "Now it's time to buy some food," she told several hundred people who came to watch. "Let's shop!"

Cowbells were rung. Somebody put a lei of marigolds around Obama's neck. The first lady picked up a straw basket and headed for the "Farm at Sunnyside" tent, where she loaded up with organic Asian pears, cherry tomatoes, multicolored potatoes, free-range eggs and, yes, two bunches of Tuscan kale. She left the produce with an aide, who paid the cashier as Obama made her way back to the limousine.

There's nothing like the simple pleasures of a farm stand to return us to our agrarian roots.

The first lady had encouraged Freshfarm Markets, the group that runs popular farmers markets in Dupont Circle and elsewhere, to set up near the White House, and she helped get the approvals to shut down Vermont Avenue during rush hour on Thursdays. But the result was quite the opposite of a quaint farmers market. Considering all the logistics, each tomato she purchased had a carbon footprint of several tons.

The promotion of organic and locally grown food, though an admirable cause, is a risky one for the Obamas, because there's a fine line between promoting healthful eating and sounding like a snob.

You bet.
The first lady said the market would particularly appeal to federal employees in nearby buildings to "pick up some good stuff for dinner." Yet even they might think twice about spending $3 for a pint of potatoes when potatoes are on sale for 40 cents a pound at Giant. They could get nearly five dozen eggs at Giant for the $5 Obama spent for her dozen.

[...] And she spoke of her own culinary efforts: "There are times when putting together a healthy meal is harder than you might imagine."

Particularly when it involves a soundstage, an interpreter for the deaf, three TV satellite trucks and the closing of part of downtown Washington.


(via Fausta)

AHMADINEJAD hoist by his own petard:
Tens of thousands of opposition demonstrators chanting, "Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I sacrifice my life for Iran," swarmed the streets of Tehran today, audaciously turning an annual commemoration in support of the Palestinian cause into the first major rally against the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in six weeks.

The president, whose disputed reelection three months ago triggered Iran's worst political domestic crisis in decades, ignored the protesters, some of whom confronted him with chants of "Liar! Liar!" minutes before he delivered a blistering condemnation of Israel on Quds Day, an annual commemoration of the Palestinian cause.

WAIT A MINUTE: Wasn't this supposed to happen only in Guantánamo, Bush's black hold for human rights bla bla bla?
Spain must end the practice of holding suspects incommunicado, without access to lawyers of their choice and without telling their families, activists say.

MY BOSS IS AN S.O.B. I'm not saying it literally (among other things, because I am my own boss!), but because of this:
A court in Barcelona says insulting your boss with one particularly foul obscenity is not grounds for dismissal, insisting the slight is common in arguments in Spain and not that big a deal.
And so it goes.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

LOL (click to enlarge):

(seen at Spanish blog

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

1929 REDUX? Four prominent financiers killed themselves in the last 48 hours.

AND WHEN people criticized him, was it anti-peanutness? Peanutphobia?
Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that racial politics played a role in South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during President Obama's speech to Congress last week and in some of the opposition the president has faced since taking office.

I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American," Carter told NBC News. "I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shares the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans."
Yeah, that's why racist Americans elected Obama in the first place. Guys, you can't have it both ways: either he was elected because of his race and is now criticized for the same reason, or he was elected because folks thought he's be a good president and now many of them are getting cold feet. I of course think it's the latter. But everyone who thought it was anatema to say that Obama got a little help because of his skin color can't just now say that it's because his skin color that he's getting a hard treatment.

Time to put the race card to rest, lest we'll all think Obama's supporters are getting so desperate resort to the "ultimate argument."

And don't you even think of criticizing me for this post, or for anything else, ever. If you do, you'll be doing it because I'm disabled. Shame on you if you do.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CAP-AND-TRADE a recipe for corruption, at least if we look at what's happening in Europe. I don't see why it shouldn't be the same in the US, do you?

OF COURSE, REP. STARK had no other option, in a meeting with a bunch of 70-year-old violent Nazis in a town hall, than to tell one "I wouldn't dignify you by peeing on your leg; it would be a waste of urine."

Friday, September 11, 2009


(I'm using the same picture every year because it's awesome. It was taken by my friend José Carlos Rodríguez who back then was living in New York.)

UPDATE. A must-see.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

DO YOU LIKE POOL? This dog does:

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

OLIVER STONE IS A MORON. There, I said it. I don't care what he's saying about Spain's king Juan Carlos. It's what he says about Castro what irks me.

HUFFINGTON POST: "The Spanish newspaper Público reported exclusively on Saturday that Judge Baltasar Garzón is pressing ahead with a case against six senior Bush administration lawyers for implementing torture at Guantánamo." (via Say Anything)

Judge Baltasar Garzón (link in Spanish): That's a big pile of horse manure. No, won't do it. Totally denied. And it's significant, because there's nothing that he likes more than publicity (he's not called the "crusading judge" for nothing).

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

THIS IS GREAT, though a bit intriguing:
An injectable ''biogel'' that may help wounded soldiers and car crash victims recover from brain injuries could be tested on patients in three years, it has been claimed.

The material, containing a cocktail of synthetic and natural chemicals, spurs on the growth of neural stem cells which in turn repair damaged nerves.

After promising studies on rats scientists in the US say the treatment could be ready for patient trials in as little as three years.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

50 THINGS that are being killed by the internet.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

WHY THE OPTIMISM? The Spanish economy indicators are still awful.

WHEN I TALK about "United abomiNations" it's because of things like this (original in Spanish):
The president of the UN General Assembly, Nicaraguan Miguel D'Escoto, said today in Havana that the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, is "the best disciple of Jesus." "Fidel is for me, today, the best disciple of Jesus. I was privileged to be near him, to observe him, to hear him, to see him, and he is a man in love with justice, brotherhood, solidarity," said the priest and former Sandinista foreign minister.

D'Escoto emphasized that the UN must be "reinvented", introducing in Havana his book "Anti-imperialism and non-violence" to the Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon and Culture Minister Abel Prieto, among other officials.
No, dear Miguel, no; the UN shouldn't be reinvented. It should be demolished.

UPDATE. Apparently in the same event, Cuba gave an award back to D'Escoto (warning: link is to the regime's mouth):
D’Escoto said he felt somewhat uncomfortable because he was being granted an award for doing what any priest and militant of the Sandinista National Liberation Front should do. He also mentioned solidarity as the main virtue in a critical moment like the one the world lives today due to selfishness, greed and other anti-values of the dominating culture.

“I humbly accept this award with a commitment to continue fighting to defend this people, their Revolution and all the just causes,” said D’Escoto and added that it was even a greater honor because “it comes from the sister and heroic Cuba, a paradigm of solidarity and a bright torch of hope.”

[...] Visibly moved, he expressed his gratitude for living in times of the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro and for “witnessing the best times of Latin America, when the dream of Simon Bolivar is coming true and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA) grows.”
I said it already but I'll say it again: tear down that thing.

Friday, September 04, 2009

AT LEAST they weren't surfing for porn:
It all started with late-night solitaire at the state Capitol Monday.

And the fallout still hasn't stopped.

Two Democratic legislators were playing solitaire on their state-issued computers Monday night during a late-night debate on the state budget, and an Associated Press photo that showed the solitaire games soon whipped around the nation on the Internet.

From there it was a short hop to national cable TV news.

Now there are calls for apologies — and for new rules regarding computer games at the Capitol.

THE UAE has given all Palestinians living in its territory one month to leave, no reason specified. We'll continue hearing about "Israel's apartheid," though.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

OBAMA'S GREEN CZAR, Van Jones, a Truther?

IS THE SWINE FLU VACCINE SAFE? Apparently a group of British neurologists doesn't think so; they are now alerting about a possible link to the Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a very serious neurological disorder. Take this with a grain of salt -- it wouldn't be the first case of anti-vaccine hysteria, just like with the false link between the smallpox vaccine and autism, still believed by quite a few people but which was based in manipulated data. Still it's worth following up on this, if you're thinking on getting the shot.

THIS BRAZILIAN AD FOR WWF MOCKING 9/11 reminds me a lot to what the Madrid daily El País did back in 2004 (see here and here). The Brazilian ad is understandably causing a huge controversy. The Spanish newspaper finally had to apologize, amid a deluge of complaints coming from all over the world.

UPDATE. There was also a video version of the ad. It was pulled from YouTube, but Ed Driscoll managed to save a copy.

SOMETHING ELSE for the file "If Bush did this...":
NLPC has uncovered a plan by the White House New Media operation to hire a technology vendor to conduct a massive, secret effort to harvest personal information on millions of Americans from social networking websites.

The information to be captured includes comments, tag lines, emails, audio, and video. The targeted sites include Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and others – any space where the White House “maintains a presence.”

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

He has made a punchy start which, if replicated nationwide, would lead to public sector bedlam. The question is who should be most worried about his success: Labour or the Tories? Because his message threatens both.

Within a week of his election, Mr Davies had slashed his own salary from £73,000 to £30,000, scrapped the mayoral limousine and abolished the council's free newspaper.

He has written to the Electoral Commission asking them to scrap two-thirds of Doncaster's 63 council seats in order to save the town £800,000 a year.

'If Pittsburgh can manage with nine councillors, why do we need 63?' he asks. 'They each get a basic salary of £12,590 and we have only eight council meetings a year anyway.'

Deeply sceptical of 'green claptrap', he must be the only mayor in Britain who wants more traffic in his town. He says it will boost business and has just announced plans for more parking spaces and an end to bus-only routes. 'Like it or not, we live in the age of the car,' he says.

He wants to cut all 'non-jobs' in his 13,500 workforce - such as platinum-pensioned 'community cohesion officers' - and aims to shrivel future pay deals for council executives.

Much as he likes his chief executive, Paul Hart, he says his £175,000 salary is 'a joke' and that any successor can expect half.

'Don't believe that stuff about "having to pay the best to get the best". It's arrant nonsense - look what it did to the City,' he says.

And he is in the process of 'de-twinning' Doncaster from its five twin towns around the world. Twinning, he says, is all about free holidays for councillors and their staff. On taking office, he was amazed to discover that the council had agreed to pay a £2,800 hotel bill during next month's St Leger race meeting at the local racecourse.

The money is for entertaining councillors from Herten, Doncaster's (soon-to-be-ex) twin town in Germany. It was too late to cancel the reservations, but Mr Davies will ensure the exercise is not repeated.

'Racing happens to be my passion, but I don't expect the taxpayer to fund it,' he says.

While these preliminary cuts may be local government heresy, what has really marked out Mr Davies for liberal opprobrium is his gratuitously provocative assault on what he calls 'the culture of political correctness'.
Seguid leyendo. El hombre se ha convertido en uno de los políticos con más impacto del país. Si hubiese alguien así en España...

A COMPILATION of Spanish Google Maps mashups.

More than $10bn in advertising disappeared from US media markets in the first six months of this year, according to new data that show intense pressure on media owners and ad agencies as they search for other business models.

Preliminary figures from Nielsen show a 15.4 per cent year-on-year decline in US advertising revenues, the largest drop for any period in the decade since the marketing and media measurement group began compiling such reports.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

VENEZUELA further sliding down towards tyranny (link in Spanish, my translation):
Some 2,220 people have been prosecuted in Venezuela for participating in demonstrations against President Hugo Chávez and his policies, or for protesting the poor functioning of public services, according to figures released today by the NGO Venezuelan Program of Action and Education (Provea). Blocking a street to protest the lack of water or poor conditions of schools or to express the rejection against the Government are some of the causes that have led to the opening of these court proceedings, reports local newspaper El Universal.

According to Provea's coordinator, Marino Alvarado, the Attorney is criminalizing protests with the excuse that these people "disrupt public peace." Alvarado criticized the measures taken by the Attorney General Luisa Ortega to initiate criminal investigations against the 120 university students who demonstrated against Chavez government's decision to revoke the license to RadioCaracas Television (RCTV) in May 2007 .

The Provea coordinator said that "these figures are conservative, because there are cases like the protests in townships and villages, which do not come to light. There are many community organizers under prosecution for protesting."
Community organizers? Will Obama show sympathy to his colleagues?