Thursday, November 29, 2012

THIS IS what happens every 60 seconds on the Internet (click this link to enlarge)

SPAIN to overhaul rescued banks as condition of aid:

Three nationalized Spanish banks will more than halve their balance sheets in five years, cut jobs and impose losses on their creditor bondholders in return for a euro zone rescue, while a fourth will be sold off, the European Commission said.

The measures, approved by the Commission on Wednesday, are a condition of 40 billion euros ($52 billion) in aid that offers hope for an end to a banking crisis which has pushed Spain to the brink of a sovereign bailout to keep the government afloat.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

PROBABLY the best candid/hidden camera in History:


IF YOUR PETS were your human friends: dog vs. cat.

(via FB)


A state-run newspaper in China reported, accurately, that The Onion has named North Korea’s leader its Sexiest Man Alive for 2012. Left unsaid in the report, which was featured on the English-language home page of People’s Daily Online on Tuesday, is whether the editors of the Chinese Communist Party’s newspaper are in on the joke that the American publication is, well, kidding.


GREAT PARODY of an Amazon ad for Mother's Day in times of 50 Shades of Grey:

AFTER Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv Ranks Best for Tech Startups: Study

Israel’s Silicon Wadi beat out the places commonly thought of as startup hotbeds, such as Los Angeles (Silicon Beach), New York (Silicon Alley) and Seattle (Silicon Rainy?). In the study published yesterday, which happened to coincide with renewed hostilities in the Middle East, cities were evaluated based on eight criteria including the performance of companies located there as well as their access to funding.

So why Tel Aviv?


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

40 YEARS of HBO, in pictures.

WHY EHUD BARAK resigned as Israel defense minister.

Monday, November 26, 2012

IN 90 MINUTES (at 1pm Eastern, noon Central) I'll be on Silvio Canto Jr.'s radio show in Dallas talking about this and what it means for Catalan, Spanish and European politics: Voters deal blow to Catalan president's hopes for independence referendum.

I'll post the link to the live streaming as soon as I have it, in case you're interested. Details soon.

UPDATE. Don't miss this comment by FT reader "ANCOXF" to an article that, by the way, was stealth edited this morning. Read this at the FT too and, for some background, this from last Friday's The Economist. It's before the election but still worth it to understand what's going on.

UPDATE II. Here's the link to Silvio Canto's; you can either listen live in a little over 30 minutes, or you later to the recorded program.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

50 INSANE FACTS about Australia.

YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. Really? Cyber-Babbittry: Conventionality and Banality Are Alive and Well on the Internet.

I'd have never guessed...


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

PETRAEUS, CALL YOUR OFFICE: 13 Torrid Sex Scandals Involving Spies

Former office, actually.

U.S. Deficit Shrinking At Fastest Pace Since WWII, Before Fiscal Cliff

If U.S. history offers any guide, we are already testing the speed limits of a fiscal consolidation that doesn't risk backfiring. That's why the best way to address the fiscal cliff likely is to postpone it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

THE ARAB SPRING, the Arab street, and Gaza:

Israel's assassination of senior Hamas military commander Ahmad Jabari and launching of a major air campaign against Gaza on Wednesday poses the first serious test of the effect of the Arab uprisings on Israel. Egyptian President Mohammed el-Morsi declared that "Egypt today is different from yesterday, and Arabs today are different from yesterday."  Israel is gambling that he's wrong, that the Arab uprisings have changed little, and that Arab leaders will continue to act much as they did during its 2008-09 war against Gaza, controlling popular anger while doing little beyond perhaps some more heated rhetoric.  
This poses the first real test of some of the biggest questions about the real strategic significance of the Arab uprisings of the last two years.  Do the uprisings really constrain Israel's ability to wage wars such as the 2006 war against Hezbollah or 2008/09 war against Gaza?  In what way?  Would the empowerment of a mobilized Arab public force Arab leaders to adopt significantly different policies towards Israel?  Would democratically elected Islamist leaders like Morsi really change core foreign policy positions such as the commitment to the Camp David peace treaty? Would intense political competition, popular mobilization, or different ideologies outweigh the cold calculations of Realpolitik and hopes for international acceptance?  It's far too soon to know the answers to these profound questions -- and the signals are mixed.

SPAIN'S BANKS see bad debts hit new high:
Problem loans at Spain's banks hit a new all-time high in September, as the collapse of the country's property bubble continued to hurt the economy.
However, the BBC makes a huge mistake (one more) on this bit:
An estimated 350,000 families have been evicted from their homes since Spain's property market crashed. There have been widespread news reports in Spain of suicides by some repossession victims, prompting public outrage at the banks.
Yes, there's been approximately 400,000 evictions, but only about 2,500 are families thrown out from their primary homes; all others are evictions from second, or even third, residences; business buildings, commercial space, or even parking spaces. So it's not like 400,000 families have had to go live under a bridge; it's much, much less than that, and most have been assisted by social services on different levels of government or even by private initiatives.

And yes, there's been widespread reports of suicides, although there's been a grand total of 4 (way below the suicide rate in the general population). And in cases that didn't really have much to do with poverty or the financial crisis. For example, the case that prompted the biggest news coverage was that of Amaia Egaña who had, as well as her husband, a well paid job and no financial problems. Thing is, she offered the marital home as collateral on a bank loan to her brother without telling anyone, not even her husband. His brother defaulted, the bank went ahead, and the poor woman, likely because of social and family pressure, still kept mum, not even going on court dates. On the day of the eviction --even if it was announced in advance by the judge-- her husband went to work as usual as he still didn't know anything. When the court officials and police came to her home to evict her, she opened the door -- then jumped off a window. An extremely sad case which was used by the Socialist party (the lady was a former official) to play opposition to the government. Oddly, until November last year the Socialists were in government and they were bragging that they were streamlining the eviction processes.

Another case, yesterday, was of a man who also jumped to death when court officials came to evict him. According to the reports, he was a mentally unstable man and it wasn't a heartless bank prompting the eviction: it was his own family who co-owned the appartment that the man was refusing to vacate.

Just  a bit of perspective.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Looking for a new place to call home? Spain is hoping to give you a little bit more than a welcome basket of baked goods if you decide to move there. In an attempt to reduce the country's bloated stock of unsold homes, the government is set to offer permanent residency to any foreigner provided they buy a house or apartment worth more than €160,000 ($200,000).

The plan, unveiled by Trade Ministry secretary Jaime Garcia-Legaz Monday and expected to be approved in the coming weeks, would be aimed principally at Chinese and Russian buyers. Spain has more than 700,000 unsold houses following the collapse of its real estate market in 2008 and demand from the recession-hit domestic market is stagnant.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy stressed Monday that the plan has not yet been finalized, but added that Spain "needs to sell these homes" and that getting them off the market could help revive the nation's devastated construction industry.

The plan to unload the unsold homes comes as thousands of houses have been repossessed by banks and their owners evicted because they cannot pay their mortgages. The government last week approved a decree under which evictions would be suspended for two years in specific cases of extreme need.

The country's residency offer would beat others in bailed-out countries such as Ireland and Portugal, where residency papers are offered to foreigners buying houses worth more than €400,000 and €500,000, respectively. However, Latvia on the Baltic coast offers a cheaper deal, with property buyers eligible to receive residency permits if they purchase real estate in the capital Riga worth €140,000 or €70,000 in the countryside.

INTERESTING: Blame affairs on evolution of sex roles:

Tolerance for male adultery is certainly at a new low. In letters and diaries written during the Colonial and Revolutionary eras, men routinely bragged about their extramarital conquests -- even to the brothers and fathers of their own wives! In the 1850s, it is estimated that New York City had one prostitute for every 64 men, while the mayors of Savannah, Georgia, and Norfolk, Virginia, put the numbers of prostitutes in their cities at one for every 39 and 26 men, respectively.

As late as 1930, Somserset Maugham's play, "The Constant Wife," was considered shocking because the heroine confronted her husband about his affair instead of simply ignoring it, as most women in polite circles did.

President Thomas Jefferson fathered a child by his mistress. So did Warren G. Harding, who also carried on an affair with the wife of a family friend. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower had a long-term relationship with the woman who was his driver in England during World War II. CIA Director Allen Dulles, according to his own sister, had "at least a hundred" affairs, including one with the queen of Greece. President John F. Kennedy's affairs and one-night stands may have numbered even more.

But times have changed. The press and political insiders no longer turn a blind eye. So why do men continue in behaviors that now carry so much risk of exposure and punishment?

Keep reading.

PETRAEUS BIOGRAPHER said to regret affair - Houston Chronicle

Paula Broadwell is telling friends she is devastated by the fallout from her extramarital affair with retired Gen. David Petraeus, which led to his resignation as head of the CIA.
A person close to Broadwell said Sunday she deeply regrets the damage that's been done to her family and everyone else's, and she is trying to repair that and move forward. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
A group of friends and neighbors welcomed Broadwell, her husband, Scott, and their young sons back to their home in Charlotte, N.C., after Broadwell spent more than a week being hounded by media while staying at her brother's home in Washington. The family associate said she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from her neighbors.
While Petraeus has given one interview, and communicated his regret over the affair through friends and associates, this is one of the first messages to the public from Broadwell.

UGH: Iran Could Ramp up Uranium Enrichment Within Days, Diplomats Say

Iran would need only a few days to double the number of centrifuges producing higher-enriched uranium at a facility hardened against attack, an informed envoy told the Associated Press on Thursday.

Activating close to 700 additional devices, on top of a similar number of centrifuges that are already operating, would enable the nation to produce sufficient amounts of uranium for a nuclear weapon in slightly more than 90 days, according to the report.

Iran says it is enriching uranium to 20 percent for a medical research reactor in Tehran. The United States and other nations worry that the current work at the plant near Qum is a key step toward Iranian preparation of weapon-grade uranium, which has an enrichment level of roughly 90 percent.

“WHEN you adopt the standards and the values of someone else … you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.” -- Eleanor Roosevelt


MORE AMAZING PICTURE: this time, commuters at packed Tokyo subways, literally compressed.

AMAZING INDEED: Portraits of true grit: Amazing black-and-white photos capture the everyday struggles of Oklahoma farmers fighting to survive the Dust Bowl

HMMMM: China Begins Pumping Lots Of Oil In Afghanistan.

Big business gets cold feet as Catalonia's vote for a breakaway hangs in the balance | World news | The Observer

Elections are a week away, and president Artur Mas has draped himself in the flag. But money might win out over sentiment


BUT IT'S OK; since it's not Bush sending Islamists to listen to loud heavy metal all night long, or keeping them in standup for 5 or 6 hours, it's not even torture...

Just one in 50 victims of America’s deadly drone strikes in Pakistan are terrorists – while the rest are innocent civilians, a new report claimed today.

The authoritative joint study, by Stanford and New York Universities, concludes that men, women and children are being terrorised by the operations ’24 hours-a-day’.

And the authors lay much of the blame on the use of the ‘double-tap’ strike where a drone fires one missile – and then a second as rescuers try to drag victims from the rubble. One aid agency said they had a six-hour delay before going to the scene.

The tactic has cast such a shadow of fear over strike zones that people often wait for hours before daring to visit the scene of an attack. Investigators also discovered that communities living in fear of the drones were suffering severe stress and related illnesses. Many parents had taken their children out of school because they were so afraid of a missile-strike.


Friday, November 09, 2012

WHY PEAK OIL is never going to happen.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

BRENDAN O'NEILL on Obama's anti-terrorism record, which he labels as a failure:

His administration’s specific failures are easy to measure. The key reason young people in particular got so excited about Obama in 2008 is because he was the anti-Bush – he presented himself as anti-war, regularly criticising the decision to invade Iraq, and he wrung his hands over Bush’s sacrifice of liberty at the altar of security.

Yet, Obama has proved himself as keen on bombing foreigners as his predecessor was. In fact, he is deploying six times as many drone strikes in Pakistan as Bush ever did, and with far more lethal levels of inaccuracy: where a third of drone strikes under Bush killed a militant leader, only around 13 per cent of Obama’s drone strikes have done so.

The strikes have, however, killed hundreds upon hundreds of civilians, often entire families. In Obama’s 283 strikes in Pakistan, at least 1,494 people and up to 2,618 people have been killed – very few of them Islamic militants. Under Obama, America has expanded its drone wars to Somalia and Yemen, too. Yet there have been virtually no public demonstrations against Obama’s warmongering, certainly nothing like the big, rowdy demos that greeted Bush’s foreign ventures. Perhaps that’s because no actual American soldiers are at risk in these remote-controlled attacks on brown and black people "over there", so what is there to freak out about?

As for Obama’s stance on civil liberties, he has well and truly carried on where Bush left off. Bush was regularly attacked for turning the National Security Agency into an hysterical spying outfit, which could basically listen in on the calls and read the emails of every American citizen; Obama has expanded the NSA’s illiberal, interfering remit. In the name of tackling terrorism, he has further undermined the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures” by the state and its agents; he has virtually obliterated Habeas Corpus, the age-old principle that people who are arrested should be brought before a judge rather than being left to languish in jail; and he has assumed the right, without judicial review, to assassinate American citizens suspected of being involved in terrorism. As the New York Times rather politely remarked, “It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing”.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

I DIDN'T HEAR the news that Jacques Barzun, the eminent Franco-American historian of ideas, had died a few days ago at 104. And didn't know either that he had written his magnificent From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life 1500 to the Present -- which I can't recommend highly enough -- when he was... 92!

GOOD QUESTION: Why are couples so mean to single people? Why, oh why?

Friday, November 02, 2012

TIMES SQUARE like you've never seen it before: images from 1904 to now. Don't miss it.

ISLAM for swingers. No, really.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

GOOD FOR HIM: Disney Deal: George Lucas Will Use $4 Billion to Fund Education - Hollywood Reporter

By the end of the year, the $4.05 billion sale of Lucasfilm to Disney should be finalized. And since George Lucas owns 100 percent of his company - which has little to no debt - all that money goes to him.

After that, Lucas plans to quickly put the bulk of the money into a foundation which will primarily focus on educational issues, a spokesperson for Lucasfilm tells THR.



PRACTICAL LESSON OF FATHERLY LOVE: a dad makes an icecream truck Halloween costum for his little son who uses a wheelchair. Blame me for any teardrops, if you want, but you gotta see it:

SEE, Mitt Romney and Bronco Bama [sic], what you're doing to this little girl?

Most of us can sympathize with the kid, really...

SPAIN, Rescued but Not Saved:

In Spain's recent attempts to right its economy, a pattern emerges: There is intervention layered upon intervention, dithering as the problem deepens, "reform" resulting in higher taxes—and, sometimes, the suggestion of cronyism.

THE PHOTOGRAPHER AT AUSCHWITZ: Wilhelm Brasse was forced to take pictures of prisoners at the concentration camp. He has died, at 94, still haunted by it.

WHY Late-Night Jokes About Romney Really Outnumber Those About Obama

Romney jokes on late-night TV outpaced Obama jokes 2-1, according to a George Mason study.


SPAIN extends short-selling ban for three months | Reuters

The crisis has knocked more than 8 percent off Spain's blue-chip IBEX 35 index .IBEX over the past year. Big losses earlier in the year led Spain, along with other European countries, to prohibit short-selling in July.

SPANISH BAD BANK faces struggle to lure property investors | Reuters

Real estate consultants predict that almost two-thirds of assets that the government's newly-created bad bank is due to take over from commercial banks will fail to attract investors, at least in the short term and possibly ever.
Spain is setting up the bad bank, known by the acronym SAREB, under a plan to cleanse the banking system of toxic property assets. SAREB aims eventually to buy up to 90 billion euros ($117 billion) of the assets at deep discounts and then sell them to investors over 15 years.

A NEW BOOK on China's Great Leap Forward detailing the horrors of the Great Famine, the first one written by a former regime's official who lived through it, has been published in English; The Economist has a review.

Haven't read it yet, but it looks like this could be the equivalent to Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago.