Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Email of the Day (Name of the Guilty and the Guilty Bastard's Wife Changed)

Dear Louise,
Would you please remove my email address immediately and substitute it with my wife XXXXXXX’s email address: XXXXXXX@sympatico.ca for all correspondence including this one.
Thank you very much,
Jack Arsehole



What precipitated this bizarre and less than kind note was an introductory email by Louise to the parents of the children that are on the soccer team that Louise and I are coaching. Now what to make of this? Surely, a father might be interested just a little, wee bit in his son's soccer? Or if he felt so strongly (and why does he feel so strongly?) could he not just forward it on to his wife and ask that his wife be included on subsequent emails? And no, it's not that the fellow's email account is so precious or secure that mere soccer mail was unsuitable. It is in fact, as you can see, a domestic sympatico account. Also, this is that this family (his wife?)asked Mooredale to use for soccer correspondence.

Not Quite Sure of What to Make of This (Leave Comment)

You Would Think Bush Would Want to Keep a Backup, (in the style of Borat) 'Not!'




Great story here about how the Whitehouse have just happened to misplace something on the order of 5 million emails over the course of Bush's presidency. Will Hillary go back to Lotus Notes, I wonder?

Poor Anastasia; The Remains of All The Czar's Children Have Been Found






This was a story, that so to speak, would never die.

Every few years, a self-styled Princess would surface calling herself Anastasia and laying claim to the Russian throne, having somehow been spared the vicissitudes of the Bolshevik Revolution, who shot the family in a basement, threw them down a mine shaft, and poured over acid over so as to hide the complete discovery of the crime for 90 years. I can remember in my lifetime at least 3 or 4 different claimants.

A parallel, but less known story, is that had the British Royal family invited the Romanoffs to England--Nicholas and George V were cousins, you can see the family resemblance in the photo above--, they, unlike 40 million others, would have escaped one of the worst regimes of all time. Alas, no such invitation was forthcoming and no such counter factual history made factual.


YEKATERINBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Scientific tests have confirmed that remains found in Russia last year belong to the last Tsar's male heir and his daughter, missing since the royal family were executed in 1918, officials said on Wednesday.

...

Bolshevik executioners shot the family in 1918 in the basement of a merchant's house in Yekaterinburg, 1,450 km (900 miles) east of Moscow. Attempts were made to destroy the bodies, then they were dumped into pits.

.


Full story here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More Great Cold War Era Music


Cold War and Central Committee. Series. 4: Plenums of the Central Committee of the CPSU, 1941-1990. Woodbury, CT: Research Publications, 2001. 181 reels, 690 fiche (Media Commons)
This collection documents the plenums of the Central Committee of the CPSU from the Stalin era until the demise of the Soviet Union. During each plenum a team of stenographers compiled an "uncorrected stenogram" or verbatim transcript of the proceedings. However, speakers were permitted to revise and extend their remarks. These corrected versions, called the "author's copy," were then collated into the "corrected copy." After additional editing, usually with an eye to maintaining ideological consistency, the remarks were distributed to members of the Politburo, the CPSU Secretariat and members of the Central Committee as a final "edited copy." This publication contains nearly all versions - from uncorrected stenogram to edited copy - of Central Committee plenums. Of particular interest to scholars, the author's copies often contain the handwritten corrections of the participants as well as the inclusion of newly drafted remarks.

If you Look Really Closely, You Can See the Olympic Torch Passing Unmolested.



The amazing picture above shows the two Koreas at night. If you look really closely, you can see the Olympic Torch in the middle of darkness of North Korea.


North Korea welcomes Olympic torch

You have to love the article below from The Star.

KYODO/REUTERS

April 29, 2008
ASSOCIATED PRESS

PYONGYANG–North Korea mobilized tens of thousands of citizens yesterday to celebrate the Olympic torch relay in Pyongyang, the flame's first visit to the authoritarian nation.

Men in their best suits and women wearing traditional high-waisted dresses waved flags and paper flowers in the capital, greeting the torch like a visiting head of state.

Unlike some other parts of the relay ahead of the Beijing Olympics, everything went off without a hitch in North Korea. Only the most loyal Communist elite are allowed to live in Pyongyang, a showpiece city filled with monuments to the hard-line regime.

China is North Korea's main ally and a key provider of aid, and the torch relay was used to herald their ties. North Korea has condemned disruptions of the relay elsewhere, and supported Beijing in its crackdown on violent protests in Tibet.

Leader Kim Jong-il was not seen at yesterday's event, but he was "paying great interest to the success of the Olympic torch relay," Pak Hak-son, chair of North Korea's Olympic committee, said at the relay start, according to a report from Pyongyang by Japan's Kyodo News Agency.

"We express our basic position that while some impure forces have opposed China's hosting of the event and have been disruptive, we believe that constitutes a challenge to the Olympic idea," Pak said.

The torch began its run from beneath the giant red stained-glass flame that tops the 170-metre-tall obelisk of the Juche Tower, which commemorates the national ideology of "self-reliance" created by the late founding president Kim Il-sung, father of Kim Jong-il.

An attentive and peaceful crowd watched the start of the relay, some waving Chinese and Olympic flags, APTN footage showed. The ceremony was presided over by the head of Parliament, Kim Yong-nam. Kim passed the flame to Pak Du-ik, a former soccer star who played on North Korea's 1966 World Cup soccer team.

As the 19-kilometre relay wound through Pyongyang, thousands of cheering people lined the streets waving pink paper flowers and small flags with the Beijing Olympics logo and chanting "Welcome! Welcome!" Middle-aged women in traditional dresses danced and beat drums in one square, while young girls held red balloons and bouquets of flowers.

Security was far lighter than in most other cities visited by the torch.

The relay ended after about five hours at Kim Il-sung Stadium, where female marathoner Chong Song-ok used the torch to light an Olympic cauldron, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Later yesterday, the torch arrived to a warm welcome in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Carter is Outed by a Frenchie as the Anti-Semitic Peanut Farmer That He is



From the WSJ.
The Sad End of Jimmy Carter
By BERNARD-HENRI LÉVY
April 25, 2008

The problem is not that he is, or is not, talking to the Syrians – everyone does it to some degree.

It isn't that he went to Damascus to meet with the exiled head of Hamas – everyone, including the Israelis, will one day have to do that too, in accordance with that old rule which says that in the end it is with your enemies not your friends that you have to come to an understanding and make peace.

No.

The problem is how Jimmy Carter went about it.

The problem is the spectacular and useless embrace he exchanged with the senior Hamas dignitary, Nasser Shaer, in Ramallah.

The problem is the wreath he laid piously at the grave of Yasser Arafat, who, as Mr. Carter knows better than anyone else, was a real obstacle to peace.

It is that in Cairo, if we are to believe another Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, whose statement has so far not been denied, Mr. Carter apparently described Hamas as a "national liberation movement" – this party which has made a cult of death, a mythology of blood and race, and an anti-Semitism along the lines of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion into the linchpin of its ideology.

The problem is also the formidable nose thumbing he got from Hamas's exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal, who, at the very moment he was receiving Mr. Carter, also triggered the first car bombing in several months in Keren Shalom on the Gaza strip – and that this event elicited from poor Mr. Carter, all tangled up in his small-time mediator calculations, not one disapproving or empathetic word.

The former president, it will be recalled, is an old hand at this sort of thing.

Going off track like this is not new for the man who 30 years ago was one of the architects of peace with Egypt, but who since then has not stopped vilifying Israel, comparing its political system to that of South Africa during apartheid, ignoring Israel's desire for peace, which is no less real than its errors, even denying its suffering.

A year ago, he told CBS that for years his beloved Hamas had not committed any terrorist attacks resulting in civilian casualties – this, a few months after the assassination of six people at the Karni Terminal, and the attack on Aug. 30, 2004, which killed 16 passengers in two buses in Beersheba.

And it is one thing to speak to CBS, and another to say these words, which are unofficial but have indisputable moral authority, to the belligerents.

It is one thing to say, in Dublin on June 19, 2007, that the true criminals are not those who proclaim, like Mashaal, that "before dying" Israel must be "humiliated and degraded," but those who would prefer that these charming characters be pushed out of the circles of power, sooner or later, with a distinct preference for "sooner." It is quite another to come over in person and put all one's weight behind the most radical elements, those who are the most hostile to peace, the most profoundly nihilistic in the Palestinian camp.

The truth is, if one wished to discredit the other side, to fully humiliate and ridicule the only Palestinian leader (Mahmoud Abbas) who at the risk of his life continues to believe in the solution of two states – if with a word one wanted to ruin the last dreams of men and women of goodwill who still believe in peace – one would be absolutely on the right track.

So what happened to this man, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate?

Is it the vanity of someone who is no longer so important, who wants a last 15 minutes in the spotlight before he has to leave the stage forever?

Is it the senility of a politician who has lost touch with reality and with his own party? Barack Obama, even more clearly than his rival, has just reminded us that it will not be possible to "sit down" with the leaders of Hamas unless they are prepared to "renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and respect past agreements."

Could he be suffering from a variant of self-hatred, or in this case a hatred of his own past as the Great Peacemaker?

All hypotheses are permitted. Whatever the reason, Mr. Carter has demonstrated an unusual capacity to transform a political error into a disastrous moral mistake.


Jimmy reads Rawls too, I understand. HT: KPF

There's Something Refreshing About a bad Review

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Notice the Lower Case 'P' in 'pope.'

Pope Makes First Papal Visit To Six Flags

The Onion

Pope Makes First Papal Visit To Six Flags

EUREKA, MO-Benedict granted a private audience to dignitaries Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam at the Moose Burger Lodge in DC Comics Plaza.

I Am Not Quite Sure What The Following Picture Means, But I Agree: Boycott Beijing!!!



There was an excellent article in theThe NYT last week here arguing that it was Nazi Germany, with the wonderful mountain climber Leni, who engineered the same ceremony for the same reason: that China might take its place in the fascist sun!


The Relay of Fire Ignited by the Nazis
By EDWARD ROTHSTEIN
Published: April 14, 2008
If you want to know how the Olympic torch really began its “Journey of Harmony,” as the Chinese call its current relay, if you want to see why the torch has had to pass through a human obstacle course composed of protesters, SWAT teams and police in San Francisco, Paris and London, then do not look to Tibet’s grievances against China. Look to the opening of Leni Riefenstahl’s 1938 film, “Olympia.”
In that homage to Berlin’s 1936 Olympic Games the origins of this ritual are revealed. Never before had a lighted torch been relayed from a Greek temple in Olympia to an athletic competition, let alone by thousands of runners trying to keep it from being extinguished.
So Riefenstahl creates the myth the Greeks never got around to telling, creating a filmic counterpart to the opening of Wagner’s “Ring,” in which an entire world gradually emerges from elemental fragments. The camera begins by surveying a misty landscape of ruins, of shattered pillars and overgrown grasses. Restless and circling, the camera reveals a Greek temple standing amid the stones. Heads and the bodies of Greek statues appear in an eerie erotic landscape. Under the sensuous caresses of Riefenstahl’s lens, a naked discus thrower comes to life, polished stone becoming muscular flesh. Another athlete prepares to throw a javelin, its trajectory leading toward a bowl of fire. Lighting the Olympic torch, another nude acolyte triumphantly raises it aloft like Wagner’s Siegfried displaying his sword.
Humanity is given its purpose; the relay begins. The torch is conveyed from one bearer to the next and ends in Berlin at a 110,000-seat stadium where it ignites an altar of flame. Through shimmering heat the sun itself can be seen, vibrating in sympathy. And Hitler salutes the cheering crowds.
This passing of the torch thus demonstrates a lineage of inheritance — a historical relay — making Nazi Germany the living heir to Ancient Greece. A claim was being staked.


sub Beijing for Berlin and 1938 for 2008 and I fail to see the difference.

If You Have Spent Any Time in Essex, No Explaination is Needed



HT: KPC

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Friday, April 11, 2008

Better Find my Leicas!



Click to read the fine print.

HT: AS
(I believe it's for real).

Amazingly, Not From the Onion

By Emma Graham-Harrison Reuters - Friday, April 11 10:58 am

BEIJING (Reuters) - A wheelchair-bound Chinese torch bearer has rocketed to national fame after fending off protesters in Paris, becoming a symbol of China's defiance of global demonstrations backing Tibet.
(Advertisement)

Jin Jing, a 27 year-old amputee and Paralympic fencer has been called the "angel in a wheelchair" and is being celebrated by television chat shows, newspapers and online musical videos after fiercely defending the Olympic torch during the Paris leg of the troubled international relay.

Protesters denouncing Chinese policy in Tibet threw themselves at Jin. Most were wrestled away by police but at least one reached her wheelchair and tried to wrench the torch away.

Jin clung tenaciously to what has become a controversial icon of the Beijing Olympic Games until her attacker was pulled off.

Her look of fierce determination as she shielded the torch, captured in snapshots of the scene, has now spread throughout China, inflaming simmering public anger at the protests.

"I thought we had lost in France, but seeing the young disabled torch bearer Jin Jing's radiant smile of conviction, I know in France we did not lose, we won!" said one of tens of thousands of Internet postings about the incident.

...

Jin, cheerful and photogenic, has emerged to embody nationalist indignation at Western criticisms and protests.

"I still feel very angry now, and I think the man was very irrational," she told Reuters in an interview.

"Hosting the Olympics is such a good thing for our country, so why do they want to ruin it?"


(Additional Reporting by Guo Shipeng, Nick Mulvenney and Sally Huang; Editing by David Fogarty)

Bored of Google Earth? Just Add the Onion


Here is is.

On Canada I think it goes a bit easy.

Living in the shadow of its southern neighbor, the nation of Canada will never be as great as the U.S. so long as it continues to burden citizens with universal health care, refuses to drill for oil in federally protected wildlife reserves, and neglects its duty to blindly support unilateral invasions of Middle Eastern states.


On Quebec, accurate:

A combination of french fries, gravy, cheese curds, and a disregard for one's health.


Too harsh, however, on Italy:

Italy is known as one of the most racially intolerant nations in the world, where citizens base their opinions of other ethnicities on appearance and stereotypes alone. But then, what more do you expect from a bunch of greasy, filthy womanizers?

It's Amazing to See How Much Crap is in The Heavens



Click on photo to see crap in greater detail.

Between the launch of Sputnik on 4 October 1957 and 1 January 2008, approximately 4600 launches have placed some 6000 satellites into orbit, of which about 400 are travelling beyond geostationary orbit or on interplanetary trajectories.

Today, it is estimated that only 800 satellites are operational - roughly 45 percent of these are both in LEO and GEO. Space debris comprise the ever-increasing amount of inactive space hardware in orbit around the Earth as well as fragments of spacecraft that have broken up, exploded or otherwise become abandoned. About 50 percent of all trackable objects are due to in-orbit explosion events (about 200) or collision events (less than 10).


More info here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

God Loves The Onion

What the Chinese Media has to say about the Torch that Everyone is Trying to Extinguish







Here’s how the Chinese Communist Party’s English version of the People’s Daily is portraying American calls for some type of action on the Beijing Olympics in response to recent turmoil in Tibet:

“ According to some U.S. media reports, Pelosi said in March that what happened in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world. But people have to ask who is posing this challenge. The truth is, normal life was resumed in Lhasa after the Chinese government took appropriate actions according to law. More than 100 countries in the world have expressed their understanding of and support to Chinese government’s actions, an indication that the international community sides with China on the issue.”

Notice the appeal to the “international community.” The Chinese government is very adept at appealing at the median voter amongst the world’s nations. Proposals that seek to deploy American or European soft power to change Chinese behavior - such as Sen. Clinton’s call on President to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Olympics -have a really high hurdle to overcome as long as China can appeal to such a broad global coalition of nations that care a lot about sovereignty and have not been persuaded about the West’s focus on democracy and human rights.


HT: AS
From elvaliente.wordpress.com

The Olympics, since well before Hitler displayed Nazism to the world in '36, has always been political. Suggesting that it has ever been or could be otherwise is disingenuous. Personally, I am in favor of a boycott. It would be nice to shoot a volley across Peking's ever growing bow. The ironic bit is that China was one of the 64 countries that boycotted the Moscow Olympics of 1980.

I thought Anne Applebaum put it very well here where she argues thatL

The Olympics are the perfect place for a protest

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Duchess of Bedford and One Woman Who Travelled On It.


The Duchess of Bedford, called "the most bombed ship still afloat", was a very lucky ship. During World War II, she sank a U-boat, damaged another, was shot at and bombed on a number of occassions, and once struck an iceberg without sustaining damage.


From here.

Met a woman last night who sailed as a war bride to Halifax from Southampton on the Duchess of Bedford just a few days after Germany surrendered on May 7th 1945. They still had to travel in convoy formation as not all the German U-Boats had been informed that the war was over. With a round bottom, and no stabilizers so as to travel as fast as possible, her abiding memory was of being sea sick. I didn't ask her age, but her great grandson is 14. The past lives on.

As it was a CP ship, I believe my grandfather would have traveled on it as well.

And its Bayerische Motoren Werke and Mercedes-Benz Calling For Mosley's Head?



The great thing about this is not just that this Mosley is the son of the infamous Oswald Mosley, but that it is BMW and Mercedes (along with Toyota) calling for Mosley's head. Mosley paid for his services. BMW and Mercedes used slave labor during the war. I am not saying their isn't something offensive about a grown man impersonating a Camp Guard, but it seems to me far less offensive than BMW and Mercedes waiting until most of the surviving slave labourers had died before even admitting that they might have employed some unpaid help. I don't know the story behind Toyota but it would surprise me if things were that much different different. Who's next, IG Farben?

The Reserve Bank of Zimbawe Releases a $50,000,000 Note

Here's a Z$5 from 2001. And no, I haven't done the math.

Every Once in a While You Miss a Comment on Your Blog: Dominic Touting his Underwear

In answer to all the fuss caused by Jeremy Paxman'...In answer to all the fuss caused by Jeremy Paxman's comments to M&S's Stuart Rose concerning his gusset anxiety around the lack of support and quality of their underwear and the job that they do for him, I would like to make the point that you generally get what you pay for in this world. This has always been the case and remains one of lifes golden rules. If you pay peanuts then... etc.

I, as joint owner of Sunspel, would challenge anyone to trial a pair of our underwear and not agree that they have recieved the most comfortable underwear you can get. We have been making underwear in Long Eaton, Derbyshire for the last 150 years and therefore know a thing or two about it. We have made it for all sorts including Johnny Depp, Liam Gallagher, Anthony Hopkins, Daniel Craig as James Bond, Levis 501's Nick Kamen, even Cyril Smith and Prince Charles.

It is not a simple thing to get right, however years of experience gives our designers a unique, almost boffin-like insight into the essentials of fit and fabric quality. Sunspel's unique fabrics have been created for softness, lightness and strength - all 100% long staple Egyptian cotton.

To back up this claim if you follow the link http://www.sunspel.com and use the voucher code paxo-challenge, we will offer you a 50% discount on any of the underwear or t-shirts we sell, including all those made for Casino Royale - try it out and see for yourself what Paxo is missing.Dominic

Hitchens to Sullivan: "Oh, well, don't be such a lesbian. Get on with it."



Transcript here. Hat tip, AS himself.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Weird Blog: Terrorists Evolve. Threats Evolve. Security Must Stay Ahead. You Play A Part


Found this weird blog today from The Transportation Security Administration with a .gov domain name no less. Here's a rather all too representative quote:

As a result of the bag search, a variety of suspicious items were found. (Since the FBI is leading the investigation, we're not saying exactly what these items are although there is speculation in the press and on the web). The individual was taken into custody by Orlando Police and the FBI is now questioning him. If you’ve been watching the news, you’ve probably seen the bomb squad removing the passenger's clothing curbside to ensure he did not pose a threat.


What's the point here. Is this a blog to show that the TSA is on the case or to inform would be terrorists how to better avoid detection? Oh for the days of Mr. Reid the shoe bomber and his pack of matches.

It's Good to Know that They Are Still Building Vehicles in Flint




The latest news from Michael Moore's Flint, Michigan.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

It Had to Happen Sometime: Blogging Takes Casualties

From the NYT

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.



The truth is stranger than fiction.

Some Stuff You Can't Make Up: Mugable Demands a Recount When There has Yet to be a Count

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — President Robert Mugabe's ruling party demanded a vote recount and a further delay in the release of presidential election results, the state Sunday Mail newspaper reported, prompting outrage from the opposition party.

...

"How do you have a vote recount for a result that has not been announced? That is ridiculous," said opposition spokesman Nelson Chamisa.


Another great moment in Democracy.

Quote of the Day: We Are Not Iceland with Trees. Iceland has Excellent Governance and Clever Policies. We Have Trees

--Dan Gardner in The Ottawa Citizen

HT: M2 at Mock Turtle

Friday, April 4, 2008

Your Toronto District School Board in Action; Notice the Spelling

Dear Parents,

This week began with a discussion about Earth Hour. Although every student in our class participated in Earth Hour, we learned through the Toronto Star, that Stephen Harper did not so we decided to write him a letter (which we all signed). Our letter will be mailed to Stephen Harper today and Tara Parker and myself are also going to combine our class letters and send a copy to the Toronto Star. Below the grade one news is a copy of our letter - out of the mouths of babes!

Spelling words for this week are: that, there, coming, work, playing

Nancy O'Foole

Nancy O'Foole's Grade One Class

March 31, 2008

Dear Steven Carper,

Mr. Prime Minister, we feel Earth Hour was very important to our future. Everyone in our school turned off the lights, computers, and anyhting else that is electrical on Friday from 2 p.m. - 3 p.m.. We also recognized Earth Hour with our families on Saturday night. We are sad to learn that you did not do the same. As the leader of our country, we feel that you should be setting the example, not grade ones! We hope that you will recognize the next Earth Hour because this is important to our country and to our world.

Thank you and we hope to receive a letter in return.

From,
Tegan Julia S. Michelle Olivia Sean David Perry Ella Kaden Daniel
Parker Callum Jack Julia H. Luke Imran Fiona Gracie Charlotte Claudia




Names changed to protect the guilty.

Al Qaeda’s No. 2 States that AQ Does Not Kill Innocent People : With Logic Like This....




Al Qaeda’s No. 2 Defends Attacks
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

CAIRO (AP) — A speaker on an audiotape identified as Ayman al-Zawahri, the chief deputy to Osama bin Laden, has rejected criticism of attacks by Al Qaeda’s followers that have killed thousands of people, maintaining that Al Qaeda does not kill innocent people.

The comment came during a 90-minute audio response, issued Wednesday, that was described as the first installment of answers to the more than 900 questions submitted on extremist Internet sites by Al Qaeda’s supporters, critics and journalists in December.

“We haven’t killed the innocents, not in Baghdad, nor in Morocco, nor in Algeria nor anywhere else,” the speaker identified as Mr. Zawahri said, according to a transcript posted on Web sites linked to Al Qaeda.

“If there is any innocent who was killed in the mujahedeen’s operations, then it was either an unintentional error or out of necessity,” he said.


PS The bump on Mr. Zawahri's forehead is a mark of religious dedication, a testament to bumping his head 5 times a day on the prayer mat.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Fun For a Girl and a Boy



Found here.

HT: P @ AS

Woo hoo; Now Cubans can legally have cell phones. Toasters are still, however, illegal






Yes. The US Trade Embargo is a sick anachronism. But so too is the regime.

From: Ninetymilesaway



Yes, boys and girls, your ordinary citizen can now ante up to the check-in at any hotel establishment on the island of Cuba, as long as he or she has the money to pay in hard currency. Ah, there's the rub.

A cursory search reveals at least one hotel in Varadero where a weekend stay costs about 120 dollars. Do a little simple math. Convert it to CUC's and then divide it by the average monthly salary of a average Cuban. Soon you realize that a weekend in Varadero would cost the equivalent of 5 and a half months complete take home pay. Now say you make 35 thousand a year, it would be like paying about 10 thousand dollars for your weekend.

...

If you look at the "reforms" that have made the latest splash in the media, they all have one thing in common. Cell phones, computers, appliances (except for the lowly toaster, they'll have to wait 'til 2010 for them), they are the appurtenances of modern life, the must haves of the global consumer society. Your average American hears, "Cubans will be allowed to buy microwaves," and immediately pictures them in addition to the Kraftmaid kitchen with the Kitchen Aid appliances, not as a replacement for the lone hot plate with the grease of twenty years and the fraying cord, the cost of which must be paid out for years. So to the uninformed, the impression made is that Cuba is joining the 21st century.

Now Cubans may be isolated, but they have a sense of how the other half lives. All they have to do is look at the tourists, the party apparatchiks, and the State stores, or look to their exiled kin. And in part, they realize how little likelihood there is that they will be able to afford these luxuries the rest of the world takes for granted. As usual with the regime, appearance is all.

Still among the banned, however, are the rights of free assembly, free speech, free elections. Call me a skeptic, but I'm looking for one tell, and that is the release of the political prisoners. The day that Dr. Oscar Biscet walks out of whatever hell hole they've transferred him to a free man; then I will believe change is truly on the way. Until then, I fear I have misjudged Raul, who may very well have been the brains behind keeping the throne all these many years.


And as Canadians are always wont to tell you: they have great literacy and more doctors per square mile or some such tripe. Well, they do have great literacy, but there's little to read. And Fidel (who now wears a shell suit) sold off many of his doctors to Chavez for US$27 a barrel Venezuelan oil. There is also the little medical issue plaguing the Cuban medical system: antiquated equipment and an acute shortage of drugs. Oh yeah, that's America's fault....

Addendum: Spoke with a Cuban Graduate Student (in Divinity no less) at Trinity College about the toasters. His comments were. Practically everyone he knows in Cuba already has a cell phone, albeit registered in a foreigner's name, and that Cuba is not ready for toasters as there is not enough electricity on the Island to support them. However, unlike the Dominincan Republic, they have no longer have the nightly blackouts that those toaster wielding Dominicans do.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Excellent Idea: Why Not Just Buy Out Mugabe (It would certainly be cheaper and might set a decent precedent for other dictators looking for an out).



Beautiful isn't it?

As the Zimbabwean electoral soap opera continues to unfurl, I am led more and more to wonder why "we" (Western governments and IFIs) don't simply buy out corrupt dictators? The World Bank has loaned a lot of money to Zimbabwe, all of it seemingly wasted judging by current conditions there. From the Bank's Zimbabwe page:

Between 1980, when Zimbabwe joined the Bretton Woods Institutions, and 2000 when the country fell behind in its payments on World Bank loans, the Bank funded a total of 33 projects worth US$1.6 billion. Bank support concentrated on infrastructure, agriculture, health support, and community and local government programs, financed from both International Development Association (IDA) Credits (42%) available to low-income countries, and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) loans (58%) available to middle-income countries. Zimbabwe’s arrears to the World Bank were estimated at US$521 million as of September 13, 2007. The arrears to the IMF stood at US$134 million at end-July 2007 and to the AfdB at US$359 million as of end-April 2007.

So why not "buy the rascals out"? Go to Mugabe in 2002 and offer him $500 million cash to go live in Canada. Is it that his expected profits from being in power are too large for us to afford the buyout? Is it because of moral hazard? Is it because of the moral outrage such a scheme would create?

Or is it because if the institutions of the country don't change, the new president will simply become the next Mugabe?


From Kids Prefer Cheese

I will say that this election has become that much more interesting. Mugabe, who often compared himself to Hitler as someone fighting for the rights of his people with the use of the white landowners as scapegoats, looks increasingly like he will jump. I don't know much about the opposition, but they certainly can't be any worse. It's a wonderful thing, cameras and democracy.

Good To See Old Habits Die Hard



Many Americans assume that China's internet users are both aware of and unhappy about their government's oversight and control of the internet. But in a new survey, most Chinese say they approve of internet control and management, especially when it comes from their government.

According to findings from the fourth and most recent of a series of surveys about internet use in China from 2000 to 2007,1 over 80% of respondents say they think the internet should be managed or controlled, and in 2007, almost 85% say they think the government should be responsible for doing it.


HT: AS
Original story here.

Isn't There Something Inherently Self-Negating or Even Oxymornic in Letting Ex-Behind the Curtain Countries Join Nato?



Harper Doesn't Seem to Think So.



PRIME MINISTER HARPER BACKS UKRAINE’S PROGRESS TOWARD NATO MEMBERSHIP

April 2, 2008
Bucharest

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today expressed Canada’s strong support for Ukraine to move towards membership in the NATO alliance.

“Ukraine has made great progress on democratization and in opening up its economy in recent years,” the Prime Minister said. “The country is on a path to a better future for its people, and I call upon our NATO partners to agree that we should keep Ukraine moving forward toward full membership in the alliance.”

...

The Prime Minister also indicated that Canada would join any NATO consensus to admit the Republic of Georgia to NATO’s Membership Action Plan.

Damn I Wish I Could Write Like This: Hitch on Hilary


(This concentration camp, Jasenovac,was set up by the Ustaša of Croatia in 1941, but you get the picture.)

The Tall Tale of Tuzla
Hillary Clinton's Bosnian misadventure should disqualify her from the presidency, but the airport landing is the least of it.
By Christopher Hitchens

The punishment visited on Sen. Hillary Clinton for her flagrant, hysterical, repetitive, pathological lying about her visit to Bosnia should be much heavier than it has yet been and should be exacted for much more than just the lying itself. There are two kinds of deliberate and premeditated deceit, commonly known as suggestio falsi and suppressio veri. (Neither of them is covered by the additionally lying claim of having "misspoken.") The first involves what seems to be most obvious in the present case: the putting forward of a bogus or misleading account of events. But the second, and often the more serious, means that the liar in question has also attempted to bury or to obscure something that actually is true. Let us examine how Sen. Clinton has managed to commit both of these offenses to veracity and decency and how in doing so she has rivaled, if not indeed surpassed, the disbarred and perjured hack who is her husband and tutor.

I remember disembarking at the Sarajevo airport in the summer of 1992 after an agonizing flight on a U.N. relief plane that had had to "corkscrew" its downward approach in order to avoid Serbian flak and ground fire. As I hunched over to scuttle the distance to the terminal, a mortar shell fell as close to me as I ever want any mortar shell to fall. The vicious noise it made is with me still. And so is the shock I felt at seeing a civilized and multicultural European city bombarded round the clock by an ethno-religious militia under the command of fascistic barbarians. I didn't like the Clinton candidacy even then, but I have to report that many Bosnians were enthused by Bill Clinton's pledge, during that ghastly summer, to abandon the hypocritical and sordid neutrality of the George H.W. Bush/James Baker regime and to come to the defense of the victims of ethnic cleansing.

I am recalling these two things for a reason. First, and even though I admit that I did once later misidentify a building in Sarajevo from a set of photographs, I can tell you for an absolute certainty that it would be quite impossible to imagine that one had undergone that experience at the airport if one actually had not. Yet Sen. Clinton, given repeated chances to modify her absurd claim to have operated under fire while in the company of her then-16-year-old daughter and a USO entertainment troupe, kept up a stone-faced and self-loving insistence that, yes, she had exposed herself to sniper fire in the cause of gaining moral credit and, perhaps to be banked for the future, national-security "experience." This must mean either a) that she lies without conscience or reflection; or b) that she is subject to fantasies of an illusory past; or c) both of the above. Any of the foregoing would constitute a disqualification for the presidency of the United States.

Yet this is only to underline the YouTube version of events and the farcical or stupid or Howard Wolfson (take your pick) aspects of the story. But here is the historical rather than personal aspect, which is what you should keep your eye on. Note the date of Sen. Clinton's visit to Tuzla. She went there in March 1996. By that time, the critical and tragic phase of the Bosnia war was effectively over, as was the greater part of her husband's first term. What had happened in the interim? In particular, what had happened to the 1992 promise, four years earlier, that genocide in Bosnia would be opposed by a Clinton administration?

In the event, President Bill Clinton had not found it convenient to keep this promise. Let me quote from Sally Bedell Smith's admirable book on the happy couple, For Love of Politics:

Taking the advice of Al Gore and National Security Advisor Tony Lake, Bill agreed to a proposal to bomb Serbian military positions while helping the Muslims acquire weapons to defend themselves—the fulfillment of a pledge he had made during the 1992 campaign. But instead of pushing European leaders, he directed Secretary of State Warren Christopher merely to consult with them. When they balked at the plan, Bill quickly retreated, creating a "perception of drift." The key factor in Bill's policy reversal was Hillary, who was said to have "deep misgivings" and viewed the situation as "a Vietnam that would compromise health-care reform." The United States took no further action in Bosnia, and the "ethnic cleansing" by the Serbs was to continue for four more years, resulting in the deaths of more than 250,000 people.

I can personally witness to the truth of this, too. I can remember, first, one of the Clintons' closest personal advisers—Sidney Blumenthal—referring with acid contempt to Warren Christopher as "a blend of Pontius Pilate with Ichabod Crane." I can remember, second, a meeting with Clinton's then-Secretary of Defense Les Aspin at the British Embassy. When I challenged him on the sellout of the Bosnians, he drew me aside and told me that he had asked the White House for permission to land his own plane at Sarajevo airport, if only as a gesture of reassurance that the United States had not forgotten its commitments. The response from the happy couple was unambiguous: He was to do no such thing, lest it distract attention from the first lady's health care "initiative."

It's hardly necessary for me to point out that the United States did not receive national health care in return for its acquiescence in the murder of tens of thousands of European civilians. But perhaps that is the least of it. Were I to be asked if Sen. Clinton has ever lost any sleep over those heaps of casualties, I have the distinct feeling that I could guess the answer. She has no tears for anyone but herself. In the end, and over her strenuous objections, the United States and its allies did rescue our honor and did put an end to Slobodan Milosevic and his state-supported terrorism. Yet instead of preserving a polite reticence about this, or at least an appropriate reserve, Sen. Clinton now has the obscene urge to claim the raped and slaughtered people of Bosnia as if their misery and death were somehow to be credited to her account! Words begin to fail one at this point. Is there no such thing as shame? Is there no decency at last? Let the memory of the truth, and the exposure of the lie, at least make us resolve that no Clinton ever sees the inside of the White House again.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Just What The Women of America Ought to Do With The US$ in A Tail Spin

Oh, The Irony: Geothermal Probe Sinks German City



Geothermal probe sinks German city

By Bojan Pancevski in Vienna
Last Updated: 2:02am BST 31/03/2008

A German town is subsiding after authorities drilled underground in order to harness green energy.

Staufen, in the Black Forest, was proud of its innovative geothermal power plan that was supposed to provide environmentally-friendly heating.

But only two weeks after contractors drilled down 460ft to extract heat from below the earth, large cracks have appeared in buildings as the town centre subsided about a third of an inch (8mm).

The baroque Town Hall, the main church, two schools and over 64 other buildings in the historic centre were severely affected. Experts said buildings in the outer part of the town had risen by a similar amount.

...

A spokesman for Staufen council said: "The community was so proud of the environmentally-friendly geothermal energy project that it would be a painful irony if that was the cause for this incredible occurrence."


Hat Tip: Kids Love Cheese

You Could Too if the ONLY had a Beak and No Bones



HT: Netscrap

Earth Day and Sussex Avenue Part II


Could Harper not have put the lights out for an hour at 24 Sussex? How much would that have hurt? How many cheap shots could that have avoided? And what’s wrong with saving a bit of power anyway, less than 6% I understand for 1 hour of 1 day of 1 year. Well, a lot--and that is perhaps what Harper was thinking, Borat not! If, for arguments sake, 10% less power was used during the hour (which is high), if my sums are correct, we would have saved 0.114077116% energy for the year. Spreadsheet available on request. Now if we subtract that figure from the amount of energy spent on Earth day (some would say incalculable, others invaluable—and you know who you are) I am pretty sure we would seriously be in the red and it is no wonder that the power companies get behind such projects: they look good and sell more power! Nonetheless, the Grades 1s, under the auspices of that August apolitical institution the Toronto District School Board, are being made to write letters to Harper about his failure to flick the switch. Why give the TDSB such fun? Dumb.