Friday, June 30, 2006

Manana Is Good Enough For We

Hurry up and wait, for medical care in Spain:

MADRID — One out of every 100 people in Spain is on a state hospital waiting list for surgery, the government said on Thursday.

....The figure is nearly the same as two years ago, showing that nothing has improved despite promises to cut delays from the government.

And other figures show the situation is getting worse.

The average waiting time has gone from 81 days to 83 days.

The percentage of people who wait six months or longer for their operation is 9.48 percent – a rise from 9.16 percent two years ago.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

We're in the money...

Indiana seals the deal, and pgl's reputation is further shredded (if possible):

By noon today state bank accounts bulged with $3.8 billion for the lease of the Indiana Toll Road to a foreign partnership.

The money flowed in a series of wire transfers and state officials signed the paperwork completing the deal.

The state, meanwhile, disclosed that the lowest bid for the toll road had been submitted by a U.S. firm, the investment bank Morgan Stanley, which was ready to pay $1.9 billion for the right to lease the Northern Indiana highway.

....The other losing bids came from an Australian consortium that offered $2.84 billion and a Spanish company that was ready to plunk down $2.5 billion.

In other words Macquarie-Cintra overpaid by about one billion dollars.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Kurse of Kwame

Michael Jordan's first official act in Charlotte is to draft Gonzaga's Adam Morrison with the third pick.

For crying out loud?


Je suis histoire:

PARIS, June 28, 2006 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, the target of fierce criticism in recent months, said Wednesday he had no plans to stand as a candidate in presidential elections next year.

"I have no presidential ambitions," he told a regular monthly news conference in response to a journalist's question.

Previously, 52-year-old Villepin has dodged the question even though he was widely seen as President Jacques Chirac's chosen successor.

But in recent months Villepin's popularity has plummeted as he lurched from one crisis to another, prompting Chirac to make a rare televised interview this week to voice support for his embattled prime minister.

A recent voter intention survey credited Villepin with just four percent of the ballots if he contested the elections.

Back Home in Indiana...

[Update: Couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of guys (from the comments section at Angry Bear before the Honda announcement):

Well, it will be interesting to see what Daniels does with his Powerball check.
Improve the economy long-term? Not likely.


... this is a short-term fix based on a long -term lease.
This is like the junkie kid selling the family heirlooms for a fix.


These new toll road transactions are and will prove to be another hollowing out of our capital base.


The goal of our Republican politicians is to reduce the level of services provided by the state to the lowest in the nation. They want a plantation economy to out Mississippi, Mississippi.


By the time this turns sour Mitch will be only a memory.

[Now back to the original post, aka speaking truth to nincompoops] Governor Mitch Daniels, to welcome a new Honda factory. Likely made possible by the new roads the toll road lease financed:

11:34 AM...Gov. Mitch Daniels rushed home from a trade mission in Asia to welcome Honda to Indiana this morning.

“Honda is going to feel right at home in Indiana, and you are going to love Greensburg and this part of our state,” Daniels said.The $550 million auto assembly plant will be seen at the place where Indiana’s economic comeback began, Daniels told a press conference in Greensburg.

11:41 AM...The Honda auto plant will take 24 months to build and begin production in 2008 of a 4-cylindar car. The model wasn't revealed. The plant will pump $1.5 billion in the midwestern economy, as Honda buys auto parts and other supplies needed for the new plant.

Government will kick in at least $134 million in incentives to the project. That includes money for wastewater treatment and new or expanded roads.

A woman's work is never done... the Netherlands, thanks to the trade unionists:

AMSTERDAM — The chairwoman of the largest trade union group in the Netherlands has made a "moral appeal" for women in part-time jobs to work more hours.

Agnes Jongerius of the FNV confederation said the approaching greying of society justified making such a call.

To many women in the Netherlands, Jongerius told Christian daily newspaper 'Trouw', are in part-time employment. As a result a significant portion of the potential work capacity in the country is being lost, while all hands will be needed in the coming years.

Jongerius said policy-makers, employers group and trade unions must call on women to work more hours.

.... The union leader said she did not support the idea of penalising highly-educated women financially for not working enough. Labour Party MP Sharon Dijksma controversially suggested that female college graduates who choose not to work should be compelled to repay study grants to the government.

Fly 'em, if ya got 'em

Smokers, from Germany to Japan and back:

DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - A smokers-only airline said Tuesday it hopes to be airborne next year, flying a route between Tokyo and the German city of Dusseldorf where there are connections onward to European destinations.

Alexander Schoppmann, founder of Smoker's International Airways (Smintair), told Deutsche Presse-Agentur he would be leasing two Boeing 747 jumbo jets and fitting them out entirely with just 138 roomy first-class and business-class seats each.

Schoppmann described Smintair as the world's first airline just for smokers. Most other airlines have banned smoking.

.... Schoppmann said he also chose Dusseldorf as a destination because it has a large Japanese business community that would be willing to pay Smintair's high seat prices, but currently has no direct connections to Tokyo.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Go East, Jung Mannschaften

German youth find employment and are cut some slack in India:

...some German graduates, frustrated by the tight job market back home, are taking up positions in India.

Germany's Federal Labour Office has already placed three German economists with Evalueserve, a business consultancy in Gurgaon, near New Delhi and the company now plans to expand the pilot project.

Ten-hour workdays are normal for the German "guest workers," who sometimes even put in 14 for salaries that no university graduate would lift a finger for in Germany. But the Germans say they are content in India, where a booming economy has generated a general mood of excitement.

Marcel Lee, Andrea Demsic and Marita Birschke are the names of the young Germans at Evalueserve, which carries out market research for corporate clients worldwide.

....all three were unable to find suitable jobs in Germany - or any jobs at all.

...."The German job market is exasperating," Birschke said. "People without prior experience have little chance."

"If you set your sights lower, you can find a job in Germany," Demsic conceded. "But I didn't study economics for that."

Another benefit of coming to India, she said, was getting away from the "lousy mood" back home. "In contrast to Germany, things are really happening here," she said. "There's no time to complain."

Berkeley Unfair to Poets

And that used to be a good thing, say the arts and crafts guys:

Potters still throw pots, glassblowers still blow glass, woodworkers still plane wood, and sculptors still chisel away, not in virtual space, but in real time immemorial, just as they have always done, in industrial-type studios. The very concept of an art/craft studio is to make space available for uses that cannot be done in an office setting. The definition determines what uses are eligible to be in an arts/crafts studio, and the current definition includes only those arts/crafts that actually need an industrial-type space. There have always been types of artists, such as poets for example, who do not need industrial-type studios, and these were purposefully not included in the West Berkeley definition. But to open the definition to all creative work, inclusive of that ordinarily done in an office, means doom to numerous working artisans and artists.

The new computer media are practiced in an office environment, and can afford it.

Computer art functions on a higher financial level than traditional arts/crafts, which generate only industrial-level rent. Office rent is double that of industrial. To include computer art in the definition means doubling the rent on arts/crafts studios, pushing working artisans and artists out of town, and converting all the arts/crafts studios into offices.

It is actually no joke, poets being made eligible for arts/crafts studios. That’s what the city actually put in the shameful use permit of Strawberry Creek Center, a formerly industrial building located at Addison and Bonar, that was supposed to become arts/crafts studios, but which instead was converted into offices.

The pity of it!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Chardonnay Deadhead

Ann Coulter explains why she and Jerry Garcia are kindred spirits:

[Q]: What exactly do you love about the Grateful Dead?

[Coulter]: ....Oddly enough, I like the music. ....

Moreover, I really like Deadheads and the whole Dead concert scene: the tailgating, the tie-dye uniforms, the camaraderie – it was like NASCAR for potheads. You always felt like you were with family at a Dead show – a rather odd, psychedelic family that sometimes lived in a VW bus and sold frightening looking “veggie burritos.”

But whatever their myriad interests, clothing choices, and interest in illicit drugs, true Deadheads are what liberals claim to be but aren't: unique, free-thinking, open, kind, and interested in different ideas. Also, excellent dancers! Watching a Deadhead dance is truly something to behold.

....[Q]: What's your favorite Grateful Dead show, and why? Were you there?

AC: They were all my favorites – especially the shows at Shoreline. It's a beautiful outdoor amphitheater, the Dead's home field, with California chardonnay for sale by the glass (in addition to not being a pot-smoker, I'm not much of a beer-drinker), and I often ran into my college Deadhead friends there. We'd go sailing during the day and see the band at night.

I fondly remember seeing the Dead when I was at Cornell. It was the day of the fabulous Fiji Island party on the driveway “island” of the Phi Gamma Delta House. We'd cover ourselves in purple Crisco and drink purple Kool-Aid mixed with grain alcohol and dance on the front yard.

Wait – I think got the order reversed there: We'd drink purple Kool-Aid mixed with grain alcohol and then cover ourselves in purple Crisco – then the dancing. You probably had to be there to grasp how utterly fantastic this was.

Mamas don't let your babies go up to South Bend...

...for an education. That is, if Professor of English William O'Rourke is typical of the faculty (and, gee thanks, pgl for more material). O'Rourke, commenting on the impending turnover of the asset know as the Indiana Toll Road in exchange for nearly $4 billion, asserts:

... the Toll Road takeover is a triumph of ideology over economics.

Supporting his argument with such ironclad logic as:

I've always been amused by Daniels' invented campaign persona -- decked out as one of the hicks, wearing wool, plaid or flannel and some ridiculous hat, looking like some character out of a "Saturday Night Live" skit poking fun at Canadians, usually accompanied by many shots of his RV rolling through the Indiana hills. Mitch Daniels, man of the people, not....

Now that the former Eli Lilly executive has put most of the state on Eastern Standard Time's daylight-saving time (Eli Lilly time!), and Hoosier parents experience the fun of trying to put their children to bed while it's still light out ....

Yeah, we really have to wonder about people who are slaves to ideology. Especially when it gets in the way of seeing scarce resources being directed to more highly valued uses. In this case valued only by the Cintra-Macquarie consortium at anything like $3.8 billion.

Divorce, Spanish Style

Just in time for Gay Pride Week, tenemos una batalla custodia:

MADRID — A year after legalising gay marriages, comes Spain's first gay divorce, complete with a custody fight over the couple's dogs, it was reported on Monday.

The Spanish daily El Mundo reported the claimant was asking for the right to stay in the marital home and to take custody of their pets.

The suit added that his ex-partner would be granted visiting rights to see the animals.

.... The claimant said in a petition that he had dedicated his life to the relationship, giving up a modelling career and abandoning his dog hairdressing business to follow his partner who had found work in France.

Algo puedes hacer, puedo hacer mejor?

We Love a Parade

Because of the bucks:

Of course there were the drag queens, the marching band playing "YMCA" and the inflatable homage to the male anatomy atop a flatbed truck -- all the stuff that veteran Minneapolis GLBT Pride parade watcher Kirby Moore called "the silly glitter element."

But with thousands of people lining Hennepin Avenue, Sunday's 34th annual parade celebrating the metro area's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) community was possibly more about business than pleasure. ....

Volunteers riding in the Wells Fargo stagecoach tossed candy and beads to the crowd. A fleet of Saturn vehicles followed with water bottles and Frisbees. Ikea, General Mills, Chipotle, United Parcel Service and Affordable Granite and Stone of Minnetonka all had contingents in the parade.

"It's about the homosexual dollar," said Robert Lindquist, 40, of Minneapolis.

In the park, American Family Insurance, 3M and ING financial services had booths, as did Accurate Home Loans of Bloomington.

Julie Appel, owner of Accurate Home Loans, said she tries to get to several gay pride events every year. She said she makes more contacts at the Minneapolis GLBT Pride events than at any of the other events where she has displays, including the Women's Expo and the Minneapolis Convention Center's home and garden show.

"I've always thought it was a great community to be involved with," Appel said. "The most important thing is that they're very supportive of businesses that are supportive of them. That's why everybody comes to this event -- to support each other."

Show her the money.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

More Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth...

...can be expected from the precincts of Angry Bear, when pgl gets word of this:

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley ...secured a landmark $1.8 billion lease of the Chicago Skyway in late 2004, and now he's considering handing control of Midway Airport over to private operators.

Likewise, state officials soon could be presented with an offer to privatize the Illinois tollway they simply can't refuse.

....Illinois lawmakers are exploring what likely would be an even more lucrative long-term lease of the state's 274-mile northern tollway system.

"There's clear evidence of the emerging trend for public-private partnership in infrastructure," says state Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg. "I strongly believe that Illinois should be on the front end of that curve."

The Evanston Democrat ....

So, even to the Democrats it makes sense?

Chicago, meanwhile, is serious about making Midway the first major U.S airport to be put under private control. A multi-decade lease could bring in billions, which Daley would use to build infrastructure, such as schools and libraries, and to shore up four city employee pension funds that face a combined deficit of at least $5 billion.

Of course! Gotta protect those public employee pensions.

"The mayor absolutely is on the forefront of this concept by virtue of the fact that, up until the Skyway, there had never been a privatization of a tollway in the U.S., while it's, frankly, very commonplace overseas," says Dana Levenson, Chicago's chief financial officer.

"I think, clearly, the Indiana tollway proved what we knew all along — that the Skyway was not just an isolated incident. I think you'll now start to see cities and municipalities across the country start to examine their 'portfolios' for what can be done, from a practical and political viewpoint."

Show them the money!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A very strange bird is a Pelican...

His beak holds a snootful:

Possibly drunk pelican hits windshield

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. — The driver was sober. The bird he hit may have been under the influence. A California brown pelican flew through the windshield of a motorist on the Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County Thursday, and wildlife officials said the bird was probably intoxicated by a chemical in the water.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Out of the Closet

Soon available at the stock exchange of your choice:

MILAN, Italy – Nothing on wheels more personifies Italian style than the Vespa scooter, whose carefree spirit was immortalized by Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck circling Rome's piazzas in the 1953 film "Roman Holiday."

The Vespa's familiar curved frame has a found a place in design museums and in the hearts of Europeans, who first hopped aboard simply to get around after World War II and who still cling dearly to its handlebars as they zip through clogged streets.

Now, as the Italian icon turns 60, the company that makes the Vespa is about to go public.

The move is a sign of Piaggio & C SpA's return to health after being rescued from the verge of collapse by Roberto Colaninno, the former Telecom Italia chief executive whose holding company Immsi SpA bought Piaggio in 2003 and brought the company to record sales in two years.

....An investor should be someone "who believes in a product that is a combination of technology, beauty, style, dreams and sport," Colaninno said. "We're not just about transportation, but about a particular concept of transportation, stylish, fun and luxurious."

Just the thing for Max and pgl to motor about Italy if they can't afford the privatized toll roads of Autostrada.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Career Breaker

Max Sawicky drove the steam shovel off the Indiana Toll Road into the ditch:

The Gov could just as easily contract out operations and management, but keep the tolls for itself.

To which the FLUBA Committee on the Obvious responds; that the $3.85 billion the state will receive from Cintra-Macquarie this week, are (twice the projected net) tolls. That the lease is a contract, and, that the same consortium will operate and manage the road.

From that position, head engineer pgl has been busy excavating the position further. The latest being:

...the state could also run the toll roads more efficiently with technology. But isn’t it evident that there has been a huge efficiency gain when the private firms can offer double the state’s reservation price as established by the Crowe Chisek discounted cash flow model? ....The alleged efficiency gain would have to come from Cintra and Macquarie being able to run the toll roads not only more cheaply than the government but also more cheaply than the other bidders if this were a truly competitive auction.

The emphasis in the above not only being the FLUBA's, but also it's point--made several times in the comments sections attached to pgl's posts--and we're delighted it finally penetrated.

Not that it had any effect on the quality of his analysis. As he later explains it away as graft:

... maybe the other 10 bidders refused to pay enough to the Governor under the table as he was so happy to claim $3.8 billion was better than his reservation price - a reservation price concocted by citing a really sloppy analysis.

Which would further extend the investors' break-even point beyond the $ 8.25 billion--in addition to the $3.85 lease payment, they've committed to $4.4 billion in maintenance expenses--and make it even less likely they'll profit from this deal.

Not to mention it is a casual slander of Governor Daniels, the successful bidder, and the Goldman Sach advisers the state hired to vet this.

No mind, personal slights will be overlooked when there's money to be made. And, according to pgl, there's plenty of that left on the table:

So the Governor – aided by what appears to be a faulty Crowe Chisek analysis are selling assets that may be worth $5 billion to private investors for only $3.8 billion. might wonder of the Governor asked them to lowball the reservation price. In other words, is this some form of financial fraud imposed upon the taxpayers? Why would any responsible Governor be engaged in this kind of behavior? Oh but – we are talking about George W. Bush’s first OMB director.

The FLUBA Committee on Economists Who Insist on Flying Under Low Hangers, asks (given that the Ohio Turnpike is undoubtedly next in line, unless Texas or New Jersey beats them to the punch), when will Sawicky, pgl & Assoc. be entering the lists?

I.e., if you're so smart, why don't you make yourselves rich by getting in on the deal? Thar's gold in them thar tolls, you sez.

And if the wearer doesn't bathe...

A country with 400 types of cheese, and obsessing over its jeans...

Want to save the planet? Wear your jeans two days a week, wash them every fifth day, and let them dry by themselves. Or better still, don’t wash them at all. And don’t even think of ironing them.

This is the conclusion of a report commissioned by France’s environment agency on the ecological impact of a pair of denims.

.... The study, by the research firm Bio Intelligence Service, looked at the jeans’ life cycle, from material production to daily use of the garment. It concluded that a French jeans wearer would damage the environment the least by buying denims made of cotton from a country not too far from Europe with strict anti-pollution laws. Machine washing, tumble drying and ironing caused 47% of the eco damage the jeans caused -- 240kWh of energy a year, equal to using 4 000 lightbulbs, each of 60 watts, for an hour. Dry cleaning was “an environmental disaster”.

The report’s author, Nadia Boeg-lin, who suggested also minimising impact on the planet by giving jeans away or cutting them down to make shorts, said: “We focused on jeans but all the things we use daily are a problem ... just by paying attention to a few simple details we could reduce [greenhouse] gas emissions.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

No Free Riders

Update: [Gary Becker and Richard Posner dignify the debate]

On the Indiana Toll Road, unanimously says that state's Supreme Court:

The state Supreme Court, dealing a blow to foes of plans to lease the Indiana Toll Road to a private partnership, rejected claims the deal is unconstitutional and ordered opponents to post a $1.9 billion bond if they plan to move ahead with their challenge.

Well, there goes the Angry Bear consultancy fee. Sorry guys.

Spear the Whales

Japan makes progress toward resuming the hunt:

The International Whaling Commission voted narrowly in favour of a future return to the managed hunting of whales at its annual meeting on Sunday. The vote, by 33 to 32, was a victory for pro-whaling nations led by Japan.

A worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling has been in place since 1986. Sunday's vote was the first favouring the resumption of whaling that Japan has won.

But the victory is only symbolic. In order to end the moratorium, pro-whaling countries need to secure 75% of votes.

....The motion that was passed was proposed by a group of six Caribbean nations including St Kitts and Nevis. It has no legal force but requests a "normalisation" of the IWC. According to the pro-whalers, this means returning to the commission's original 1946 mandate of regulating whaling rather than preventing it.

"The moratorium, which was clearly intended as a temporary measure, is no longer necessary… many species and stocks of whales are abundant and sustainable whaling is possible," read the motion.

The main justification outlined is that whales are now competing with humans for fish stocks, and threatening "food security for coastal nations".

'Guess We'll Just Go Eat Frogs'

Down in the Dumps in Dijon:

LONDON, June 19, 2006 (AFP) - The French are highly pessimistic about their country's future, with 85 percent finding their nation headed in the wrong direction, a survey of five European countries published here Monday showed.

The poll in the Financial Times newspaper, spanning 5,000 people across Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, found that Spaniards were the most optimistic, with 44 percent believing their country was on the right track as opposed to 45 percent thinking the opposite.

....Just nine percent of French respondents thought the country was moving in the right direction as it enters the final months of Jacques Chirac's 12-year presidency, ahead of elections in April.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

It Tolls for Thee Reputations, Fellas

The FLUBA Committee on Economists Who Can't Be Embarrassed is having to work overtime countering the fantasy lives of Mad Max and pgl, neither of whom can grasp the concept of a profit seeking business being willing to pay to lease an economic asset in the hope of making that asset more productive.

Max's singular contribution being that the state of Indiana is 'borrowing' by leasing its toll roads for 75 years to a Spanish-Australian consortium of toll road operators. Though under pointed questioning he seems to have admitted that, no, the state will not have to return the lease payment ($3.85 billion dollars) to the 'lender' at the end of the lease.

pgl, is more interesting in that he's busy trying to deny the definition of economics; the analysis of alternative uses of scarce resources, as well as the basics of arithmetic. Even when it's been spelled out for him by another professional economist:

Cintra is paying $3.85 BILLION up front for this lease. And they expect a 12.5% internal rate of return. If I can still do arithmetic, that's more than $400 MILLION per year in net income from the lease.. From a toll road currently generating only $96 MILLION in REVENUE (before any costs). And Cintra will be responsible for the operating costs, maintenance, and at least some expansion costs. The more I look at the numbers, the more I think it's a better deal for the state of Indiana than I originally thought.

Explanations of what is going on have not been in short supply, and they include a New York Times Op-ed by Indiana's governor:

In much of the world, but only recently in the United States, private capital has begun to play a role, most often in partnerships with public authorities. ....

If it were merely a matter of getting hands on money today that would otherwise come in over the years, such partnerships would make little sense. The goal for states is to capture far more value than an asset would be worth if it remained in public hands. That goal is often not difficult to achieve.

The 157-mile Indiana Toll Road had lost money five of the last seven years. A principal reason was its antique pricing; tolls had not changed since 1985 and were far below what comparable American toll ways charged.

As a private citizen, I had always been intrigued to stop at a concrete booth and fish out a dime and a nickel to pay the 15-cent toll at Gary. As governor, I asked, ''What does it cost us to collect a toll?'' This being government, no one knew, but after a few days of calculation, the answer came: ''About 34 cents, we think.'' I said, only half in jest, that we should just go to the honor system and we'd come out way ahead.

Why would a losing enterprise with an underpriced product drift on in that way? Because it was run by politicians, who are rarely businesslike and deathly afraid to annoy anyone. So the state lost money on the road, postponed repairs and expansions and failed to install the electronic technology that makes toll ways elsewhere faster, more convenient and more efficient.

Just as many business units are more valuable if separated from their conglomerate parent, an asset like a highway can be worth vastly more under different management. When we offered our road for long-term lease, we received a high bid of $3.8 billion, cash, from Macquarie-Cintra, an Australian-Spanish consortium. The highest estimate of the road's net present value in state hands was less than half that amount, and even that estimate assumed regular toll increases of the kind past governors steadfastly refused to impose. Noting the road's record of losses, one finance professor remarked, ''If they'd gotten a dollar for it, it would have been a good deal.'' Instead, Indiana will soon cash a check that closes a gap most had believed insoluble. Future toll increases will be capped at the level of inflation.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Dutch Treat...

...their slackers to a minimum wage, or else:

The law will require people who have lived in the Rotterdam region for less than six years to earn at least a minimum figure to be stipulated by city officials.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

With friends like Kos, you don't need enemies...

sez Froma:

The [Howard] Dean who entered the 2004 presidential campaign was a pragmatic centrist -- the very sort of Democrat who could win a national election. As governor of Vermont, Dean was rather conservative. He held down social spending, much to the annoyance of many Vermont liberals. They used to call him "the best Republican governor we ever had."

....All that changed when Dean ran for president and started the first "net roots" campaign. The left-wing blogs embraced him, raising both money and his national profile. But instead of visiting the blogosphere as a friendly tourist, Dean went native. Before you knew it, he was transformed into a latte liberal and proceeded to lose the nomination to the ineffective John Kerry.

We don't want that to happen to Ned Lamont, who is challenging Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary. The blogs have turned the Greenwich entrepreneur into a serious contender, and bless them for that. But now things get dangerous. Lamont is running a television ad in which he is joined by jubilant young supporters, including the DailyKos's Markos Moulitsas, who mugs at length for camera. That's cute, but stop right there.

Lamont is the best kind of liberal candidate. He's for universal health coverage and all the other good things, but comes at the issues from a sophisticated business perspective. It's not healthy for his campaign to become overly identified with the hothead dramatics and childish expletives of the lefty blogs.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Beer Is Your Life

Says the British Ambassador to football fans:

NUREMBERG - German police bracing for England's next World Cup match said Wednesday they were encouraged by English fans' behaviour so far, while the British ambassador reminded them that modern Germany "has nothing in common" with its Nazi past.

....Britain's ambassador to Germany, Sir Peter Torry, urged England fans to behave in another way, too - by restraining the urge to view Germany through the prism of Nazism.

"Many people will associate Nuremberg with its Nazi past," Torry wrote in an article for England team fanzine Free Lions. "But no country has dealt as honestly and comprehensively with its past as modern Germany."

....He urged England fans to take in a more care-free Germany.

"Fans will be able to enjoy the German South: bigger beer glasses...Torry wrote.

Peddling the same ol' cheese... Angry Bear, is head salesman 'pgl'. The above graph is designed to show abnormal tax revenues as a percent of GDP thanks to the tax cuts of George W. Bush.

But, as pgl well knows--thanks to the diligence of the FLUBA Committee on Truth in Packaging--the decline in revenues from over 20% in 2000 is merely regression to the six decade post WWII mean of slightly over 18%.

The Federal government has never been able to sustain revenues of even 19% of GDP. Using the boom years as a baseline is fundamentally dishonest.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

More French Socialists Learning Economics

Another one (Jean Paul Sarte's ami) bites the dust:

PARIS, June 13, 2006 (AFP) - Serge July, historic founder of the left-wing French newspaper Libération, was poised to resign Tuesday after a row with the principal share-holder Edouard de Rothschild over the paper's mounting losses.

July told AFP that Rothschild had asked him to step down as chairman of the newspaper. "If my departure can help the refinancing of the newspaper, I will not be an obstacle," he said.

.... Rothschild, who invested EUR 20 million in Libération in January 2005, is furious at the paper's continuing losses and at a meeting last week demanded July's resignation as a condition for new finance, several French newspapers reported Tuesday.

....A 63-year-old former Maoist, July set up Libération with philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in 1973, aiming to give voice to the counter-culture of the post-May 1968 generation.

Originally the newspaper was supposed to be free from the pressures of advertising and investor finance, but it has gradually had to accommodate itself to a capitalist economy.

Truth Out (on Jason Leopold)

The Fly Under the Bridge Academy's Shadow Jason Leopold Committee reviews the record:

Thursday 20 April 2006
...Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald met with the grand jury hearing evidence in the CIA leak case and introduced additional evidence against Rove, attorneys and other US officials close to the investigation said.
...sources close to the case said... that Fitzgerald told the jurors that he would soon present them with a list of criminal charges he intends to file against Rove in hopes of having the grand jury return a multi-count indictment against Rove.

Wednesday 26 April 2006
Karl Rove's appearance before a grand jury in the CIA leak case Wednesday comes on the heels of a "target letter" sent to his attorney recently by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, signaling that the Deputy White House Chief of Staff may face imminent indictment, sources that are knowledgeable about the probe said Wednesday.

Friday 28 April 2006
Despite vehement denials by his attorney, who said this week that Karl Rove is neither a "target" nor in danger of being indicted in the CIA leak case, the special counsel leading the investigation has already written up charges against Rove, and a grand jury is expected to vote on whether
to indict the Deputy White House Chief of Staff sometime next week, sources knowledgeable about the probe said Friday afternoon.

Friday 12 May 2006
Within the last week, Karl Rove told President Bush and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, as well as a few other high level administration officials, that he will be indicted in the CIA leak case and will immediately resign his White House job when the special counsel publicly announces the charges against him, according to sources.

Saturday 13 May 2006
Special Prosecutor Patrick ....Fitzgerald served attorneys for former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove with an indictment charging the embattled White House official with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of
the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 hours to get his affairs in order, high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said Saturday morning.

And the denouement:

WASHINGTON, June 13 — The prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case on Monday advised Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, that he would not be charged with any wrongdoing, effectively ending the nearly three-year criminal investigation that had at times focused intensely on Mr. Rove.

Monday, June 12, 2006

What's in a name can get you in Dutch

AMSTERDAM – The Love of Fellow Man, Freedom and Diversity party, which grew out of the paedophile movement, was told on Friday by a judge in The Hague to change its acronym, NVD.

A security company, NVD in Haarlem, had brought a case against the party in a bid to stop it from using the abbreviation. The company said that it had incurred damages because of the paedophile party’s use of the acronym. Clients had indicated that they did not want the company’s logo on their property, and some employees had also said that they did not want to wear the company uniform with the letters NVD, for fear of being confused with the ‘paedo-party’.

The judge ordered the party to remove
the abbreviation from its registration with the chamber of commerce and in its statutes and to change its Internet domain name. He gave the party three days to comply.

The Love of Fellow Man, Freedom and Diversity party is controversial because it stands for the legalization of sex between adults and children older than 12 years (the present legal age of consent is 16).

Friday, June 09, 2006

Desverguenza... the closest the Fly Under the Bridge Academy Committee on Chutzpah can come in Spanish to describe:

MADRID — One the 29 people accused in connection with the Madrid bombings attempted to claim compensation for his step-daughter was among the 191 victims.

Morrocan Abdenneri Esabar, 41, was arrested last year and has been accused of trying to send recruits to Iraq to fight in the insurgency. Authorities have discovered he has claimed compensation for his step-daughter who was one of 65 people who died at the Pozo de Tío Raimundo station.

....The Spanish radio station Cadena Ser reported the judge in charge of the inquiry Juan del Olmo turned down the request.

Pre-defending Ann

Irony abounds in the wake of the Matt Lauer assault on Ann Coulter. One time Coulter critic Dorothy Rabinowitz was two years ahead of her lambasting The Jersey Girls:

The core group of widows led by the foursome known as "The Jersey Girls," credited with bringing the 9/11 Commission into being, are by now world famous. Their already established status in the media, as a small but heroically determined band of sisters speaking truth to power, reached ever greater heights last week, when National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice made her appearance at a commission session--an event that would not have taken place, it was understood, without the pressure from the widows. Television interviewers everywhere scrambled to land these guests--a far cry from the time, last June, when group leader Kristin Breitweiser spoke of her disappointment in the press, complaining to one journalist, "I've been scheduled to go on 'Meet the Press' and 'Hardball' so many times, and I'm always canceled."

No one is canceling her these days. The night of Ms. Rice's appearance, the Jersey Girls appeared on "Hardball," to charge that the national security adviser had failed to do her job, that the government failed to provide a timely military response, that the president had spent time reading to schoolchildren after learning of the attack, that intelligence agencies had failed to connect the dots. ....

The hearing room that day had seen a substantial group of 9/11 families, similarly irate over the Jersey Girls and their accusations--families that made their feelings evident in their burst of loud applause when Ms. Rice scored a telling zinger under questioning. But these were not the 9/11 voices TV and newspaper editors were interested in. They had chosen to tell a different story--that of four intrepid New Jersey housewives who had, as one news report had it, brought an administration "to its knees"--and that was, as far as they were concerned, the only story.

.... Who, listening to them, would not be struck by the fact that all their fury and accusation is aimed not at the killers who snuffed out their husbands' and so many other lives, but at the American president, his administration, and an ever wider assortment of targets including the Air Force, the Port Authority, the City of New York? In the public pronouncements of the Jersey Girls we find, indeed, hardly a jot of accusatory rage at the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.

....The day of Ms. Rice's appearance before the Commission, a radiant Gail Sheehy, author of "Hillary's Choice," beamed gratitude as she congratulated the host of "Hardball" for bringing the women on as guests. ....

Ms. Sheehy was hardly alone in her faith in the widows and their special skills. Their every shred of opinion about the hearings last week was actively solicited--as will be true, no doubt, this week. Asked what question she would put to Ms. Rice, if she could, one Jersey Girl answered, after some thought, that it would be, What did she know and when did she know it? ....

Little wonder, given all this, that the 9/11 Four blossomed, under a warm media sun and the attention of legislators, into activists increasingly confident of their authority--that, with every passing month, their list of government agencies and agents guilty of dereliction of duty grew apace. So did their assurance that it had been given to them, as victims, to determine the proper standards of taste and respectfulness to be applied in everything related to Sept. 11, including, it turned out, the images of the destroyed World Trade Center in George Bush's first campaign ad, which elicited, from some of them, bitter charges of political exploitation.

....Nor can anyone miss, by now, the darker side of this spectacle of the widows, awash in their sense of victims' entitlement, as they press ahead with ever more strident claims about the way the government failed them.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Mauvaise Voyage

The recent interest in getting the incentives right in France doesn't appear to extend to the courts. This should be good for the travel and tourism biz:

PARIS, June 7, 2006 (AFP) - A French travel agency was ordered Wednesday to pay more than a million euros in damages to three tourists who were abducted by a Philippine kidnap gang during a diving holiday.

Stéphane Loisy, his partner Sonia Wendling and Marie Moarbes were among 21 people seized by the Abu Sayyaf guerrilla group in the Malaysian diving resort of Sipadan in April 2000.

They were held captive for more than four months in Jolo island in the southern Philippines, the stronghold of the rebel group blamed for a spate of kidnappings, murders and bomb attacks over the past decade.

.... The court ruled that the company had failed in its duty to monitor the risks in the region — and should have realised the Western tourists would act as a magnet for the kidnap gang.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Grandmasters Behaving Badly

Over chess babes:

When Danny Gormally, 30, one of Britain's leading chess players, spied his Armenian rival and the world's No 3 at the Turin Chess Olympiad jiving with a beautiful chess queen, usual tactics were abandoned.

In a spectacular strategic blunder, Mr Gormally allegedly moved in with clenched fist and sent Levon Aronian, the 23-year-old Armenian national hero, sprawling.

As gambits go, it was to prove one of the worst. Not only did Mr Gormally sacrifice both his dignity and place in the team, but the following day found himself at the wrong end of a beating as Mr Aronian's hot-headed team-mates weighed in with a forceful counter-attack.

....According to insiders, the catalyst for this whole sorry affair was the appearance on the dance floor of attractive Australian female No 3, Arianne Caoili, 19, whom Mr Gormally's team-mates believed him to be fond of.

Neither shy nor retiring, Miss Caoili, of Filipino descent and who aspires to be a professional singer, is clearly intent on enjoying life. Her website lists her likes as "getting up to no good", "fine food and fine boys", "Edward Norton and Johnny Depp" and "Pina coladas, vodka, red wine, Kahlua, dwarfs and the odd Cuban cigar".

Apart from improving her chess, which she has been playing since she was five, her ambitions include earning "giant gobs of money".

Clearly a party girl, she had a reputation, according to one source on the chess circuit, "for coming back at 2am and waking people up, then having recharged her batteries, leaving again at 5am".

....Miss Caoili is currently voted No 7 in the Top Ten Women's Chess Beauty Contest on a website dedicated to the charms of chess's female finest in terms of looks if not always in terms of rankings.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Take un Vieil Aigri to Work Day

The French continue to discover the power of incentives:

PARIS, June 6, 2006 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin unveiled proposals Tuesday aimed at boosting employment among older workers, notably via the creation of a new medium-term jobs contract.

Available to unemployed over 57 year-olds, the 'Senior Fixed-Term Contract' would last 18 months and be one-time renewable.

...."We cannot accept the fact that some of our fellow citizens cannot find employment because of their age. Older people are an opportunity for our country," Villepin told a meeting of government officials, academics, employers and unions.

....However two large unions — CGT and FO — remain opposed to the measures, especially a provision to phase out a tax on companies that fire workers over 50 years old.

The government argues that the tax discourages firms from hiring such employees.

Other provisions — which are to be approved by the cabinet later this month before going before parliament — include financial incentives for people to keep working beyond their official retirement age.

The target is to increase employment among 55-64 year-olds from 37 percent at present to 50 percent in 2010.

Monday, June 05, 2006

DeLong on DeCaf?

Not enough java. That your problem, Bunkies?

The coffee you drink as a pick-me-up in the morning could also make you more open to persuasion, researchers say. Evidence from a new study suggests that this happens because caffeine revs up the brain, not because it generally boosts mood.

Previous studies have show that consuming caffeine can improve one’s attention and enhance cognitive performance, with 200 milligrams (equivalent to two cups of coffee) being the optimal dose.

Moderate doses of caffeine can also make you more easily convinced by arguments that go against your beliefs, say Pearl Martin of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, and her colleagues.

In 2005, her team published a paper suggesting that the compound primes people to agree with statements that go against their typical views because it improves their ability to understand the reasoning behind the statements.

Not Making Socialists Like They Used To

Now they say you're not working enough:

PARIS, June 5, 2006 (AFP) - France's Ségolène Royal — the Socialist presidential frontrunner who sent sparks flying by calling for army training for young offenders — has violated another left-wing taboo by attacking the 35-hour working week.

In a text published on her website, Royal says the 35-hour week introduced by a Socalist government in 2002 has had "mixed results for the quality of working life" — the main argument put forward at the time for its adoption.

The number of people on flexible working hours has jumped from 10 to 40 percent as a result, she argues, with employees facing longer working hours and greater time pressure on the job.

Royal said this had the "unintended consequence of worsening the situation for the most vulnerable, notably for women with few qualifications" who now had less time to spend with their families.

She also said the measures — and subsequent case-by-case negotiations on its implementation — had led to a "spectacular loosening of labour laws".

A law with unintended consequences!

Go to your room... that the principal has cleaned it out:

A head teacher has raised standards at his school by confiscating computers and television sets from the homes of under-performing pupils.

Duncan Harper, the head of New Woodlands school in Bromley, south London, visits the homes of pupils who are tired or grumpy in lessons and seizes electronic equipment from their bedroom.

...."We discovered that a lot of them had televisions and Playstations in their bedrooms. They were staying up till all hours playing sometimes quite violent games or watching unsuitable programmes."

He said some of the pupils were amazed to see their headmaster walking off with their possessions. "When we turn up they are usually absolutely gob-smacked. They are quite taken aback as like lots of kids they might think that adults don't mean what they say."

....Annie Blake, whose eight-year old son Robert Juniper is a pupil at New Woodlands, said she noticed a "complete turnaround", in her son after his Gameboy was taken away for a month.

Miss Blake, 37, said: "It is a fantastic idea. He wasn't happy about it but it sends a very clear message that he can understand: 'misbehave and you lose the game, behave well and you can have it back'. After being a child who didn't sleep, would hit out at other children, and would be sent home from his old school 10 minutes after arriving, he is now the happiest he has ever been."

....Another 11-year-old pupil showed a marked improvement in concentration and behaviour after his television was confiscated for a month, Mr Harper said, but soon returned to his old habits.

"He realised there was a problem and actually brought the television into school himself for us to look after."

Sunday, June 04, 2006

It's a riot

Now, you can play along

Kinder, Gentler Than Your Average Bear

In Homer Alaska, the Reginald Denny of joggers says, the grizzlies have to be cruel to be kind:

[Mike] Mungoven and the bear stared at each other momentarily, and then the bear reacted.

"The bear got me across the shoulder first, then took a couple more swipes at me," he said. "I went down and curled up into a fetal position."

It was a move that Mungoven had been taught many times, and possibly what saved his life.

"It really worked pretty well," he said. "I just played dead. The bear came back and bit me a couple more times and then left me alone."

Mungoven said he speculated that the bear was possibly a female protecting her cubs, as he thought he heard some mewing sounds coming from the woods behind her.

"I really think the bear actually showed quite a bit of kindness in the way she mauled me," Mungoven said.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Le Boot Camp?

It's printemps and young Frenchmen's attention turns to rioting. So, the politicians are competing with each other to enforce law and order:

PARIS, June 1, 2006 (AFP) - France's Segolene Royal, the Socialist frontrunner to succeed President Jacques Chirac, has broken ranks with her party by calling for a crackdown on youth crime that is set to rival the centre-right on its home turf.

....She charged that tough anti-crime policies led by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy -- the top centre-right contender in next year's election -- had failed to prevent an explosion of violence in poor French suburbs.

However in a break with her fellow Socialists -- who demonise Sarkozy as a hardliner -- the mother of four called for "a much firmer approach" towards young offenders.

"The left has long underestimated" the problem, she said. "Now is the time to tackle it head-on."

Military-style academies could be set up for young offenders aged 16 or over, she suggested, steering troubled youths into aid work or apprenticeships and teaching them "how to behave as citizens".

Herself the daughter of an army officer, Royal said Chirac's decision to scrap military service in France in 1996 had been a mistake.

For younger offenders, parents would be enrolled on compulsory courses at the first sign of trouble -- with social benefits scrapped for those who failed to bring their children back into line, she said.

Serious troublemakers under the age of 16 should be removed from schools and placed in special boarding schools under close supervision by teachers, sports workers and volunteers, she said.