Thursday, November 30, 2006

Flip a coin

The Man Who Saved Britain from the trauma of Empire Withdrawal, didn't know up from down about martinis, according to the Huns:

According to some experts in Germany, Bond's eccentric drinking habits are proof that he enjoys breaking the rules of alcoholic beverage etiquette. It seems he orders his martini "the wrong way," contravening what every novice barkeeper is taught.

"A classic Martini is stirred. This is always done when two alcohols are mixed with one another," explains Bernd Ohlmeier, a Hamburg-based of the respected German Barkeeper Union (DBU).

Cocktails are generally shaken when two liquids of a different consistency are combined, such as a clear alcohol and a cloudy juice. From a taste point of view, there is scarcely any difference between a stirred or a shaken Martini, admit the top barkeepers.

"The shaking motion does make the ice cubes melt more quickly and this may diminish the flavour of the drink," said Ulf Neuhaus, another expert who heads the DBU's Dresden branch.

These nuances are too subtle for most people's taste buds to detect, said Neuhaus, who pointed out that the easiest way to spot the two types of martini drink is by looking at them - shaken martinis appear cloudier than those which are stirred.

There is also disagreement over what constitutes a genuine "James Bond-style martini." The classic martini drink consists of four centilitres of gin along with two centilitres of vermouth and an olive, said Ohlmeier. Mixing four parts of vodka with two of vermouth results in a rather un-Bond-like creation known as a "vodkatini."

The Dutch are Shocked


To find money being exchanged in a brothel:

A large amount of the window prostitution in Amsterdam's red light district will be shut down as the city council gets tougher on criminal activities.

Amsterdam City Council said investigations had revealed about one-third of the prostitution sector is allegedly involved in money laundering.

About 100 of the 350 prostitution windows in the Dutch capital's red-light district will be forced to close by the end of the year.

....Amsterdam introduced a new law in 2003 which made it possible to investigate the operational management in the sex industry.

The new law was designed to prevent authorities unintentionally supporting criminal activities by issuing permits and subsidies.

Nobody does it better

Nobody does it quite the way the French do:

PARIS, Nov 30, 2006 (AFP) - The French government, facing a presidential election in April, got a double dose of bad news Thursday as official figures showed that consumer confidence contracted in November while a decline in joblessness ground to a halt in the previous month.

The results reflected France's stagnant economic momentum in the third quarter.

...."It's a serious warning," said Nicolas Bouzou of the economic research group Asteres.

"It is striking that the unemployment rate interrupts its decline at a time when economic growth is zero and when all economic indicators are pointing downward."

He said French companies managed to create fewer than 15,000 jobs in the third quarter and that economic layoffs were rising sharply.

France's stubbornly high jobless rate is frequently attributed by economists to an inflexible labor market, which saddles employers with high social charges and constraints to laying off staff and makes them reluctant to take on workers.

"In the last 20 years France on several occasions has found itself in the same situation," noted Alexander Law of the market research firm Xerfi.

"The unemployment rate can fall sharply for exceptional reasons but cannot go below the 8.5 percent threshold. At the moment, France is approaching its structural rate of unemployment but nothing suggests that it can break through this barrier."

Call it l'economie ennui?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

No Growth Industry

Rental fees are up, delivery area limited; guilt isn't selling this year:

The price to rent a Living Christmas Tree is 75$ (yup 75). Each order also requires a separate $15 deposit check which we don't cash- we give it back to you when we get the tree back. Make checks out to TOLCTC. ....

Delivery is 12/15 through 12/17. Pickup is Tuesday January 2nd.

We are doing trees this year (it's our fifteenth in a row)

We are sorry to our past customers who have been shut out of our delivery area. I'm sorry i don't do this live tree and replanting idea more credit by doing a better job, i apologize.

Compared to his jerk of a father?

Senator-elect from Virginia doesn't get the old joke, instead enlists in the Democrat Fight Club:

At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, [George W.] Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

[Jim] Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief...

The Senator has now revised and extended his remarks to: 'That's between my son and me.'

Boarish Behavior

The hunted turn the tables in Bavaria:

Shaken burghers in the quiet Bavarian country town of Veitshoechheim were left licking their wounds and counting the cost after a herd of wild boars went on the rampage.

Chaos erupted in the market town near the city of Wuerzburg when more than a dozen frightened and aggressive animals invaded the town centre after fleeing a boar hunt.

Shoppers were taken by surprise when one of the animals bulldozed its way into a fashion boutique, frightening staff and leaving a trail of destruction.

....Eyewitnesses said further mayhem ensued when one of the wild boars attacked a 44-year-old man in the street. He needed hospital treatment after being bitten on the leg.

Another boar knocked a 76-year-old woman off her bicycle and was then struck down and killed by a passing car. There was an estimated €5,000 worth of damage to the blood-spattered vehicle.

Police marksmen intervened after receiving dozens of phone calls from townsfolk. One of the boars was cornered in a back garden and shot dead. Another was shot and killed by police while trying to swim across the nearby river Main. "It took more than two hours before peace could be finally restored," Mr Schmidt said .

Threepeat! Threepeat!

Exclusive: The Fly Under the Bridge Academy has learned that Northwestern University has won--for the third year in a row--the national 'Fed Challenge' held Tuesday November 28th in Washington DC.

Josh Goldstein, Frederick Herrmann, Rosa Li, Joshua Plavner and Jeanne Ruan beat 12 teams from other universities at the Oct. 31 regional competition that tested their knowledge of how the Fed creates policy to foster a strong and stable economy.

And in the finals yesterday, Northwestern defeated three other teams. Second place went to
Boston College, Rutgers University was third, and Virginia Commonwealth University got honorable mention.

Northwestern's coach is Mark Witte, senior lecturer in economics and director of undergraduate studies. Dr. Witte is also Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to the Fly Under the Bridge Academy. And, with whom, we are well pleased.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Queen of Charge of the Sty

Heretofore only known for being the stupidest member of the Senate, now Patty Murray is in a position to bring home even more bacon to her state:

Murray has just been named secretary of the Democratic caucus, a nebulous title that makes her part of the Senate Democrats' leadership quartet.

More important, Murray is poised to become chairwoman of the Appropriations subcommittee for transportation and other areas.

....U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, a Bremerton Democrat, noted that Murray's ascension to the chairmanship of a powerful subcommittee will mean that "everybody has to talk to you. ... Every chairman has to come to you, and ask: 'Can you help me on my project?' "

"This chairmanship will give her a lot of leverage in the Senate. Patty is an activist. She will use that leverage."

....Murray is dismissive of criticism of her and other lawmakers' attitude about spending.
Particularly under fire is the use of so-called earmarks, narrowly tailored appropriations that allow senators to skip the normal budget process for some of their favorite projects.

The Appropriations Committee is where most of the budget pork is doled out, and the transportation subcommittee is one of the biggest smokehouses. That panel approved 2,820 earmarks, worth nearly $5 billion for fiscal year 2006 alone.

Earmarks are often quietly slipped into legislation as favors among politicians. Murray has been a player in the earmark process and was dubbed "the Queen of Pork" last year by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a group sharply critical of congressional spending.

Asked if she favors reforming the earmark system, as some fellow senators have proposed, Murray paused before answering.

"I think all of us believe that earmarks have to be transparent," she said of the need to identify which senator is behind each funding request.

But she is unabashed about her willingness to use earmarks for her home state.

"Earmarks are how those of us who lives 2,500 miles from the nation's Capitol ensure projects critical to our state are funded," she said. Otherwise, she said, bureaucrats in D.C. would be making all the decisions "with their own friends."

"We would get lost in the process, and I'm not going to lose," she added. "Washington state will be feet first at the table."

Doing what comes naturellement

The manuevering to control Airbus continues:

The French government is seeking to take control of European aerospace giant EADS by pushing for a capital increase to finance development of the new A350 long-haul jet, German newspapers reported on Monday.

Paris surprised the industrial shareholders of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company — namely DaimlerChrysler which holds a stake of 22.5 percent and French group Lagardere which holds 7.5 percent — by proposing a capital hike to finance the A350, the business daily Handelsblatt reported.

The newspaper said that DaimlerChrysler and Lagardère both rejected the idea. But if the capital increase went ahead and they refused to participate, then France, which holds 15 percent of EADS via Sogeade, would effectively gain a dominant position in the company's share capital.

....Handelsblatt said that the aim of the French government was to prevent a far-reaching and painful restructuring of EADS's troubled aircraft maker Airbus.

Karl Marx is Back

And the documentarians have got him!

"Black Gold," now being screened at festivals and art houses, is the latest in a growing genre of documentary films shaking up the business world. They are taking critiques of corporate power that would once have been the province of newspapers and magazines to movie theaters and DVD shops, where they're finding an increasingly receptive audience.

The trend, which started with "Roger and Me" in 1989 and more recently featured "Super Size Me" and "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," is forcing some corporate targets to counterattack — and, some say, even change business practices — to dodge claims of unfair wages, unhealthy products or environmental degradation.

"When you're talking about a documentary, it's something that's being presented as if it's fact, so that's a huge problem for companies," said Paul Argenti, a professor at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University.

....This year's "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers" from director Robert Greenwald was bankrolled by thousands of individual donors who responded to a fundraising e-mail from the filmmakers.

Despite the relatively small budgets, many of the films have drawn big attention.

....Even less broadly distributed documentaries are finding wider interest than a liberal screed in The Nation or an expose in The New York Times Magazine with similar ideas might reach.

....Web sites for documentaries like "Black Gold" and "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" list dozens of screenings each month at repertory theaters, universities and churches where they're presented by advocacy groups and often followed by discussion sessions.

"They become events in themselves," Nick Francis said.

We're all professionals here

And millionaires too, but our feelings are hurt when someone points out that we're shooting 15%:

Sunday it was Earl Watson, and Monday it was coach Bob Hill.

"Every time the team struggles, it's always the coach's fault," Hill said. "I understand that. Whoever the coach is, it's his fault. He's not doing this or he's not doing that. Then when you're winning, it's the players. I understand that. But it's [crap]. It's [crap].

"This is a player's league and they have to be held accountable for their play. I'm not going to leave a guy out there who's struggling, and we're trying to win games and we're losing, so he can maybe find his shot. That's his job. This is professional sports. It's not the role of the coach to threaten him to play. But blame it on me. That's fine. I have no trouble with it. Blame it all on me and protect them."

Hill's statements were tongue-in-cheek, meant to show just how out of whack the NBA's star system has become, and an indication just how out of sync Hill is with two of his top reserves, Damien Wilkins and Watson.

....When the subject switched to Wilkins, Hill admitted he's considered benching the disgruntled swingman in favor of rookie Mickael Gelabale, who the coach believes will mature into a solid NBA player.

Coincidently, before Hill could explain why he hasn't made the move to Gelabale, Wilkins, dressed in street clothes, walked out of the weight room and stepped on the practice floor. He had a meeting with the Sonics coach, and Hill asked him to wait in his office.

Wilkins complied, although he didn't look happy. "You see, he's pouting today," Hill said. "He's pouting. How can you do that? He's got a nice life."

Monday, November 27, 2006

No word for 'diplomacy' in French?

'This is a fine mess you've gotten us into', says the Ambassador to the Foreign Ministry:

KIGALI, Nov 27, 2006 (AFP) - Thousands of Rwandans staged anti-French protests here Monday while the last French diplomats flew out of Rwanda amid a growing diplomatic row centered on the central African nation's 1994 genocide.

In remarks that could further erode bilateral relations, Rwandan President Paul Kagame suggested Monday evening that Paris was deliberately trying to hinder the country's recovery from the horrific massacres.

Indeed, in an interview on Rwanda's national television, Kagame asserted Rwanda was in better shape than it had ever been in its history.

"Some enemies of Rwanda are not happy with that," he added. "The French, I believe, didn't want to see us develop. Their whole objective is to push us back. We have done what we humanly could."

Meanwhile, the last French diplomats and civil servants posted in Kigali took an evening flight to Uganda where they were to later transfer to another flight for Brussels. France's ambassador to Rwanda, Dominique Decherf, left Saturday.

....Relations between Rwanda and France soured in the recent months over recriminations in the 1994 mass slaughter that claimed an estimated 800,000 lives within a space of 100 days.

Rwanda accuses French troops deployed at the height of the genocide of training and arming Hutu Interahamwe militia blamed for the mass murder, and has established an inquiry panel to probe those claims.

...."We had warned Paris several times that this (Bruguiere) report would be negatively received here and that the Rwanda government would break diplomatic relations," a French diplomat said earlier, as he finalized his departure from Rwanda.

You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company.

And your excuse won't be that you were trying to to avert nuclear war:

Vienna - Santa Claus is being banned from Christmas markets in the European countries of Germany and Austria.

Anti-Santa campaigners say that Father Christmas was invented by Coca-Cola and detracts from the true spirit of the festive season.

Austria's biggest Christmas market is in front of the Vienna city hall where thousands of visitors stroll past stalls offering everything related to Christmas - everything, that is, except Santa.

....A Vienna city hall spokesperson said: "There are rules governing what stallholders can do and one of them is to agree not to use the image of Santa as a condition of being able to trade there.

"Santa is an English language creation, people who want to see him should go to America where I am sure Coca Cola will be happy to oblige."

The move in Vienna has been copied by Christmas markets across Austria and Germany where St Nicholas is the traditional bearer of Christmas gifts.

Bettina Schade, from the Frankfurter Nicholas Initiative in Germany, commented: "We object to the material things, the hectic rush to buy gifts, and the ubiquity of the bearded man in the red suit that are taking away from the core meaning of Christmas.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

We' 1, Dude

Czech happens, you know:

The Czech Republic has the highest consumption of hemp products (marijuana) and meta-amphetamine (pervitine) among European countries, according to the annual report of the Lisbon-based EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) for 2006, which was released in the EU member states´ capitals today.

Marijuana consumption in the Czech Republic is comparable to the US, the largest marijuana consumer in the world.

This Just In

They couldn't find it when it happened, but the NY Times gets around to recognizing the deaths of 10 million Ukrainians:

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Holding candles and standing silent, thousands massed on a fog-shrouded square Saturday to mourn 10 million Ukrainians killed by a famine orchestrated by Soviet leader Josef Stalin -- an ordeal many insisted must be recognized as genocide.

Some 33,000 people died every day during the 1932-33 famine, wiping out a third of Ukraine's population in a calamity known here as Holodomor -- Death by Hunger. Cases of cannibalism were widespread as desperation deepened. Those who resisted were shot or sent to Siberia.

The Times couldn't bring themselves to write about it themselves, instead running an AP story. Maybe because they aren't totally beyond being embarrassed:

Pulitzer Prizes board decides not to revoke 1932 prize awarded to New York Times reporter Walter Duranty for 1931 series of articles about Soviet Union that were later discredited as too credulous of Soviet propaganda; cites lack of evidence of deliberate deception by Duranty; award has been subject of protests by Ukrainian and other groups angry over his failure to report vast famine of 1932-33; board calls famine 'horrific' and notes it deserved more international attention; Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr lauds board; admits defects in Duranty's journalism

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Day Without Ukrainians...

...coming soon to Moscow. And it doesn't sound as though they'll like the results:

Russian farmers are flocking to Preobrazhensky Market in northeast Moscow, filling stalls where foreign vendors used to hawk their produce.

The farmers are coming in response to the government's ongoing effort to rid the country's markets and kiosks of foreign workers by April 1.

And Preobrazhensky Market is having trouble keeping up with demand, said Nikolai, the market's director of sales, who declined to give his last name.

....Some Moscow markets are filled to just between 20 percent and 40 percent of capacity as they wait for Russian vendors to move in, said Vladimir Malyshkov, head of the City Hall department for retail markets and services.

Several stalls at a small, covered market near the Belorusskaya metro station were standing empty Thursday as the result of the city's new quota system, under which half of all stalls in produce markets are reserved for Russian farmers.

A Tajik fruit seller in an adjacent stall said he knew Azeri vendors who wanted to fill the empty slots but who had been turned down.

"Russians don't like this kind of work. It's too hard," said the vendor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution from the market's owners.

Despite such mixed success at the city level, the federal government is pushing ahead with tough new regulations on foreign workers.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov signed a decree that imposed a total ban on foreign vendors in all markets, kiosks and other small retail outlets as of April 1 next year.

While some food vendors will remain until next April, foreigners will be banned from the retail trade in pharmaceuticals and alcohol Jan. 1, 2007.

During a transition period from Jan. 15 to April 1, the share of foreigners in small retail outlets is set to fall to 40 percent, Fradkov told President Vladimir Putin during a meeting at the president's Novo-Ogaryovo residence last week. ....

Putin told Fradkov that he saw no reason to amend the decree down the line.

"This is not a sector of the economy where we have a labor shortage," Putin said.

Malyshkov, of the city's department for retail markets and services, told a different story. He said Moscow would have trouble filling vacancies in the retail sector without migrant workers.

"I shudder to think what would happen if the Georgians, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Azeris leave this sector," Malyshkov said.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Tolls, and You Tolls Alone

In your Ford or other fine automobile, you will be led, as if by an invisible hand, to reduce congestion, even though that was no part of your intention. And in Washington state they've got the data to prove it:

For about eight months, drivers in 275 Seattle-area households agreed to pay for something the rest of us get for free: The right to drive on the region's freeways and streets.

They were guinea pigs in a pioneering study that explored how motorists' behavior might change if they had to pay tolls — not just on a few bridges or highways, but on almost every road with a yellow center line.

Researchers established virtual tolls ranging from a nickel to 50 cents a mile. They gave participants pre-paid accounts of between $600 and $3,000, and told them they could keep whatever the tolls didn't eat up.

The experiment ended in February. Preliminary results, released this month, suggest that if such so-called "road pricing" were widespread, it could make a significant dent in traffic.

....The promise of keeping some of that money proved to be a powerful incentive. Nearly 80 percent of the participants drove less than they did before, or they changed their routes or travel times to avoid the highest tolls, said Matthew Kitchen, the study's director.

When the study was finished, the average payout was nearly $700 per household.

When other variables are factored out, Kitchen said, participants took 5 percent fewer auto trips and drove 2.5 percent fewer miles each weekday because of the tolls.

The drop was even more dramatic during peak-traffic periods, when tolls were highest: 10 percent fewer trips and 4 percent fewer miles in the morning, 6 percent fewer trips and 11 percent fewer miles at night.

Participant Kathi Hardwick, an executive assistant at a downtown Bellevue bank, started riding the bus to work from her home in Bothell. It wasn't as convenient as driving, she said, but it saved her about $5 each way in tolls on Interstate 405.

She also began combining errands and driving less on weekends.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanks for the Win

Bulldogs bite Men of Tar

And give thanks for the recognition:

Men's College Basketball 2006-2007

1 Gonzaga

2 Duke
3 Maryland
4 Marquette
5 Alabama
6 Butler
7 Pittsburgh

8 North Carolina
9 Ohio State


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Professorial Pilfering

Big bucks in Ivy League royalty avoidance:

Book publishers say professors who post long excerpts of protected texts on the Internet without permission cost the industry at least $20 million a year.

Cornell University, the Ivy League college in Ithaca, N.Y., agreed in September to regulate work its faculty puts on the Web, in response to a threatened lawsuit from the Association of American Publishers.

Professors are making material available free rather than requiring students to buy $100 textbooks. While faculty members from Harvard University to the University of Pennsylvania complain of a restricted flow of ideas, publishers say they must protect $3.35 billion in annual U.S. college textbook sales.

"We can't compete with free," says Allan Adler, vice president for legal and governmental affairs with the Washington-based publishers group, whose members include McGraw-Hill Cos. and Pearson Plc.

....Cornell, like other large universities, offers hundreds of courses each semester, with professors using the Internet for making articles or excerpts from books available to students at no charge, Adler says. Each item would typically generate royalties of $10 to $30, he says.

"Professors were putting up multiple chapters from books on course Web sites, and it would be repeated from semester to semester with successive classes, with students purchasing nothing," Adler says, referring to Cornell and other schools.

In a Cornell course in late 2005, 25 separate works on the syllabus were freely available to students as reserved electronic postings on an internal Web site.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

We told you so...

A few years ago.

And if anyone thinks the Fed isn't targeting the money supply by manipulating overnight interest rates...well...they're just naive.

As did Milton Friedman.

That is a question not of basic principle, but of technique. When they so-called 'target the interest rate', what they're doing is controlling the money supply via the interest rate. The interest rate is only an intermediary instrument.

Now, the Wall Street Journal says that, yes, inflation is always and everywhere, a monetary phenomenon:

Of all the legacies left behind by Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, who died last week in San Francisco at age 94, the idea that central banks should focus on money supply to manage inflation is one that largely fell out of fashion years ago. Now, though, some policy makers in Europe are taking a second look.

....But while many central bankers still believe his dictum, few, including those at the Fed, allow their policy to be guided by a target for money-supply growth. That's because the quantity of money in the economy -- which, depending on the definition, can include currency in circulation, commercial-bank reserves at the central bank, bank deposits and money-market mutual funds -- is hard to measure, and its relationship to overall spending, which tends to drive prices up or down, often shifts.

European central banks acknowledge the data can be tough to decipher. As money-supply growth rates rise, however, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and Sweden's Riksbank all have cited the data as a factor in their decisions to raise interest rates lately.

....The ECB, which sets monetary policy for the 12 nations that share the euro, has kept the monetarist faith throughout, maintaining a target for money growth since the euro's launch in 1999. Hoping to infuse the fledgling currency with credibility, the ECB borrowed a page from the Bundesbank, the German central bank that kept prices steady for several decades before the euro's introduction.

The ECB's president, Jean-Claude Trichet, providing a rare peek at how money-supply numbers affect the bank's decision making, revealed this fall that strong money growth prompted the ECB to start raising rates last December. At the time, other economic signals were mixed and international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, advised holding steady. "In retrospect, money turned out to be a good trigger, which put them ahead of the curve," says Thomas Mayer, chief European economist for Deutsche Bank in London.

It's all in the numbers

And the disequilibrium:

Scientists believe they have worked out a formula to calculate how "beer goggles" affect a drinker's vision.

The drink-fuelled phenomenon is said to transform supposedly "ugly" people into beauties - until the morning after.

Researchers at Manchester University say while beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder, the amount of alcohol consumed is not the only factor.

Additional factors include the level of light in the pub or club, the drinker's own eyesight and the room's smokiness.

The distance between two people is also a factor.

They all add up to make the aesthetically-challenged more attractive, according to the formula.

A poll showed that 68% of people had regretted giving their phone number to someone to whom they later realised they were not attracted.

The Running of the Economists

Mexico's new President, himself with a Master's Degree in economics, loads up on talent:

The President-elect of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, has announced his first cabinet appointments, including the key economic portfolios.

Mr Calderon appointed several pro-business economists and academics to important financial positions.

....Mr Calderon said his finance minister would be Agustin Carstens, a former economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

....The president-elect's team will also include an academic, Georgina Kessel, who has been named as energy minister, and Sduardo Sojo, who is the head of public policy in the outgoing government of Vicente Fox and will be the minister for the economy.

Analysts say these pro-business appointments are expected to help the president-elect effect crucial reforms in taxation, energy and labour - which his predecessor Mr Fox failed to get through Congress.

Mr Calderon is due to take office on 1 December.

Sick Man of Europe

Which may soon have an unwed mother living in the Elysee Palace if this keeps up:

PARIS, Nov 21, 2006 (AFP) - The French economy ground to halt in the third quarter, official figures showed Tuesday, a performance that analysts said could leave France at the bottom of the eurozone growth table this year.

The national statistics institute INSEE, in a second estimate, said momentum in the July to September period came to zero compared with the previous three months.

....At the research group Asterès Nicolas Bouzou said the third quarter figures highlighted structural weaknesses that mar the competitiveness of the French economy. French exports fell 0.7 percent in the third quarter.

He maintained that France's woes could not be blamed entirely on the international environment, the slowdown in the US economy or the strength of the euro.

"In fact, it's the weakness of our industry, in an extremely competitive global environment, that penalizes our growth," he argued.

"Production figures by sector show it. Activity slowed in all manufacturing branches in the third quarter," he added, in particular the automobile industry.

He also pointed to sluggish investment by non-financial enterprises and a real estate construction sector that ceased to grow in the third quarter.

For analyst Alexander Law at the market research firm Xerfi "the confirmation of zero growth in the third quarter supports our theory that the French economy is clearly incapable of progressing at a sustainable pace about two percent, even when we are assured that all is going well in the best of all possible worlds."

Loaded for Bull

Looks like a kinder, gentler matador might be needed for Penelope:

Manolete, starring Adrien Brody and Penelope Cruz, will tell the story of the life of the matador Manuel Rodriguez Sanchez and his forbidden love for the actress Antonita Lupe Sino in grim post-Civil War Spain.

....But Cruz, who is to pay the beautiful Sino, appears confused over where she stands on the issue of bullfighting.

The Spanish star once put her name to campaign by activists People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

But she later changed her mind after accusing activists of using her name without her permission to call for the end to San Fermin's famous 'running of the bulls' festival.

She also clashed with her father who is an aficionado or fan.

Monday, November 20, 2006

From each according to their gullibility?

Real estate is no game for amateurs, even in former Communist countries:

Prague- The Communist party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) may lose over 60 million crowns due to the disadvantageous agreements on the sale of its headquarters in Prague's centre and the purchase of a building under construction in Prague-Vysocany, which eventually did not materialise, KSCM deputy chairman Jiri Dolejs told journalists.

The Communists have given a deposit of 20 million crowns for the purchase of their new headquarters and as they changed their mind, they may lose the money. Besides, they can be penalised another 40 million crowns for the sale of the old building, which did not materialise, Dolejs said.

"If costs for a mediator are added, the loss may be even higher," Dolejs said, adding that he believed that the loss could still be pushed under 30 million crowns.

"This is still my hope," Dolejs said.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

If you're so smart...

...what took you so long to appreciate Milton Friedman, says Michael Strong:

Milton Friedman, whose life I fondly commemorate with this article, was probably responsible for more human happiness and well-being than any other individual in the 20th century. And yet his tireless efforts on behalf of humanity were, for much of his life, greeted with taunts, ridicule, and abuse.


After WW II, when many dozens of former colonies became independent nations, there was a unique opportunity to create new institutions. In almost every case, the newly liberated colonies implemented the policies that their western educated leaders had learned at western universities. These policies, driven by theories propounded by western academic intellectuals, consisted of either Marxist communism or Fabian socialism. Both of these policy paths are unambiguous failures, the first leading to poverty and mass death in nations such as China and Cambodia, the second leading merely to never-ending poverty, as in India prior to the 1980s.

A thought experiment: What if Milton Friedman, and other classical liberal economists, had been as widely read and as highly regarded in 1947 as were Marx and Lenin, Laski and the Webbs? What if every newly liberated nation had, in 1947, created institutions similar to those of Hong Kong or Mart Laar’s Estonia?

If this had happened, there might well be no poverty on earth today. The institutions of economic freedom, which we are today so laboriously working to create in the aftermath of fifty years of cultural and institutional destruction caused by Marxism and socialism, could have been developed from the colonial institutions re-structured by indigenous leaders if schooled in classical liberal principles. A unique opportunity to create a better world was lost because classical liberal ideas were despised at the time.

Better late than never, countries such as India, China have seen the light, and are prospering. Yet there are still those who criticize Friedman for taking his ideas to places where they needed to be heard:

A few years ago I had the opportunity to have dinner with Milton and Rose. I asked him if the attacks had been difficult to take. He cheerfully denied that they had bothered him, stating that when he knew what the truth was it didn’t bother him if people made absurd claims against him. But Rose was not so forgiving; she fully recognized how profound the injustice to him had been, and her eyes gleamed and her nostrils flared at the memories.

Milton is now in the heavenly firmament of the greatest thinkers in world history. It is to Rose that I offer this vindication of Milton, to alleviate however insignificantly the loss of a man who was surely among the greatest husbands in history, as well as one of the greatest human beings.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hurry up and...die

In Norway: This is the sort of thing Milton Friedman warned about...government provision of services:

Ivar Bolin spent the final weeks of his life being driven from hospital to hospital, and died in the family cabin while waiting for a cancer operation.

The story highlights the perplexing situation of acute lack of hospital capacity in a wealthy country that is regularly named the world's best country to live in.

After falling ill with headaches, a swelling around the right eye and a lump on the throat, 73-year-old Ivar Bolin was denied a spot at Moss and Fredrikstad Hospitals in southeastern Norway.

A call to emergency services managed to free up a spot in Fredrikstad nonetheless, but he was shortly moved to the Diakonhjemmet in Oslo, a diaconal hospital affiliated with the state church. Here he could only get a space in a corridor and, unable to rest, chose to leave.

Hillary Clinton could not be reached for comment.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

THE Giant Passes

RIP Milton Friedman, who had, more than any other man, the credit for the superior performance of this nation's economy as depicted in the graph in the immediately preceding post.

As even Brad DeLong realized:

All five of the planks of the New Keynesian research program ...had much of their development inside the twentieth-century monetarist tradition, and all are associated with the name of Milton Friedman. It is hard to find prominent Keynesian analysts in the 1950s, 1960s, or early 1970s who gave these five planks as much prominence in their work as Milton Friedman did in his.

The importance of analyzing policy in an explicit, stochastic context and the limits on stabilization policy that result comes from Friedman (1953a). The importance of thinking not just about what policy would be best in response to this particular shock but what policy rule would be best in general--and would be robust to economists' errors in understanding the structure of the economy and policy makers' errors in implementing policy--comes from Friedman (1960). The proposition that the most policy can aim for is stabilization rather than gap-closing was the principal message of Friedman (1968). We recognize the power of monetary policy as a result of the lines of research that developed from Friedman and Schwartz (1963) and Friedman and Meiselman (1963). And a large chunk of the way that New Keynesians think about aggregate supply saw its development in Friedman's discussions of the "missing equation" in Gordon (1974).

Thus a look back at the intellectual battle lines between "Keynesians" and "Monetarists" in the 1960s cannot help but be followed by the recognition that perhaps New Keynesian economics is misnamed. We may not all be Keynesians now, but the influence of Monetarism on how we all think about macroeconomics today has been deep, pervasive, and subtle.

Amen. And we won't see his like again.

Tales of Two Quarter Centuries

Several economist-bloggers have taken note of Senator-elect James Webb's temper tantrum in yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

But, as the graph at the top makes clear, in the last quarter century (1982-2006, inclusive) there were only two (and short and mild) recessions. Compare that to the previous 25 years (1956-1981) with its six recessions.

We seem to have a clear picture of which period 'working people' are better off. Does Webb really think that allowing high income earners to pay at lower tax rates (on more reported income) is too high a price for the comparative economic bliss of the last twenty five years?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Can't see the forest...

...for the thieves:

Thieves in southern Germany made off with an entire forest, police said Tuesday.

The theft was discovered by the 56-year-old owner when he went to check on the trees in the Hunsrueck region south of Frankfurt. The man was shocked to find they had disappeared over an area of 2,500 square metres - about half the size of a football pitch.

Police said the thieves appeared to be professionals who used different cutting devices to chop down the fir trees and drive away with them.

Microcredit Micromania

Microsoft too:

Seattle philanthropists have embraced the idea of microcredit, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which recently decided to steer an undetermined amount of its own enormous resources into a new program for financial services for the developing world's poor.

....Money has been pouring into microfinance programs lately from individuals, foundations and corporate philanthropies such as

Locally, organizations involved in microfinance now include the Gates Foundation, Unitus, Global Partnerships, Microfinance Corp., the Grameen Technology Center and World Vision.

....Some younger philanthropists, most notably eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, say microfinance can grow much faster if it's opened up to venture capital and commercialized as a profit-making business.

....In Seattle, some programs combine the region's deep-rooted technology expertise with the social-service aspect of microcredit. The Grameen Technology Center, started with support from wireless entrepreneur Craig McCaw, created an open-source software platform for managing microfinance projects, and the Gates Foundation gave Unitus a $1.5 million grant over three years to look for ways to make microfinance work more efficiently.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

License to Speak

Reviving the Danegeld?

Right-wing radio station Radio Holger has again run afoul of broadcasting authorities for its alleged racist programming. Despite having its licence revoked last week, the station continues to broadcast.

Radio Holger, which takes its name from Denmark's mythical guardian, had its licence suspended after failing to deliver a copy of a broadcast to the Radio and Television Board (RTB).

....Radio Holger broadcasts on a shared, public access frequency, making an immediate shut down of the station impossible.

'Unfortunately if we pull the plug on them, other stations that are broadcasting legally will also be shut off,' said Christian Scherfig, chairman of RTB. 'We could possibly seize the equipment through an injunction. Our legal advisor is investigating the possibility.'

RTB has since reported Radio Holger to the police, who will likely slap the station with a fine and possibly confiscate its broadcasting equipment.

....Radio Holger has had its licence revoked before. Should its broadcasting equipment be confiscated as a result of the current dispute, station spokesperson Kaj Wilhelmsen has pledged to move the station's broadcasts to the internet.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Pelosi Care

'Don't do it', says an Italian who has to live with it in his country:

The next speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), has let it be known that within her first 100 hours on the job, she will move to allow the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to obtain lower drug prices for Medicare patients.

....But before Pelosi rushes down the road to Italian-style health care, allow me to offer a word of caution. Italy is hardly a health-care paradise. In fact, it's more like a quagmire of red tape.

....The state purchases nearly 60 percent of the nation's prescription drugs. And it supposedly negotiates prices directly with pharmaceutical companies. But since the Italian government controls such a disproportionate share of the market, it in effect dictates drug prices.

....Because of the country's artificially low drug prices, demand for pharmaceuticals is artificially high -- higher than it would be under free-market conditions.

The point is that the government's attempt to force down drug prices has not reduced overall health-care spending. Rather, it has resulted in a spike in demand -- which is one reason why Italy's health-care spending has skyrocketed, growing nearly 68 percent between 1995 and 2003.

As for the quality of Italy's care, that, too, is suffering. With demand for drugs rising, the Italian government has attempted to save money by adopting reimbursement policies that favor certain drugs over others. Unfortunately, the most innovative products often aren't considered reimbursable by the government precisely because they are the most expensive.

It's a great system if you just need an antibiotic. But if you're hoping to avoid open-heart surgery through access to a miracle drug, it can be a nightmare.

....The economy is also harmed. Because it's simply not profitable for companies to invent cures in Italy, price controls have decimated Italy's pharmaceutical industry. Today not one of the world's 50 largest drug manufacturers has its headquarters in Italy, even though the country is the world's seventh-largest economy.

....So by attempting to hold down drug prices, the Italian government has deprived its citizens of the best care without reducing health-care spending. And it has deprived the country of what could be a vibrant sector of the economy. In their rush to revamp Medicare, U.S. policy leaders should be careful not to make the same mistake.

[Thanks to Don Boudreaux]

Content to lose, and proud of it!

When will Tim Russert and Rahm Emanuel issue their apologies to Elizabeth Dole, now that Howard Dean admits Democrats are the party of Vietnam Syndrome Redux:

WALLACE: But beyond that, beyond preventing the safe haven, is -- what ends up in Iraq is not our business?

DEAN: .... Our problem is we've got to cut our losses and figure out how we're going to get our folks out and still defend the United States of America.


WALLACE: But cut our losses is what the message you get from this election is.

DEAN: Yeah, don't stay in Iraq. We're not going to put up with terrorism in Iraq or anyplace else, but we can't keep 140,000 brave Americans in Iraq indefinitely. Did not we learn this lesson in Vietnam?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

They have the cojones?

Tax collectors in India:

Tax authorities in one Indian state are attempting to persuade debtors to paying their bills - by serenading them with a delegation of singing eunuchs.

Eunuchs are feared and reviled in many parts of India, where some believe they have supernatural powers.

Often unable to gain regular employment, the eunuchs have become successful at persuading people to part with their cash.

The eunuchs will get a commission of 4% of any taxes collected.

In Bihar's capital, Patna, officials felt deploying the eunuchs was the only way to prompt people to pay up.

Friday, November 10, 2006

That's What Adolph Thought

That Germany should rule the world:

Just days after his resignation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

....Along with Rumsfeld, Gonzales and Tenet, the other defendants in the case are Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone; former assistant attorney general Jay Bybee; former deputy assisant attorney general John Yoo; General Counsel for the Department of Defense William James Haynes II; and David S. Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Senior military officers named in the filing are General Ricardo Sanchez, the former top Army official in Iraq; Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of Guantanamo; senior Iraq commander, Major General Walter Wojdakowski; and Col. Thomas Pappas, the one-time head of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib.

Germany was chosen for the court filing because German law provides "universal jurisdiction" allowing for the prosecution of war crimes and related offenses that take place anywhere in the world.

Remember where that got you last time, guys.

Royal Gaffe

Segolene caught Kinsleying French teachers and their unions:

PARIS, Nov 10, 2006 (AFP) - The Socialist favourite in France's presidential race Ségolène Royal caused more dissension in the ranks Friday after she was shown in a video chastising teachers for not working hard enough.

In a clip circulating on the Internet, Royal is seen telling a meeting that "revolutionary ideas" are needed to reform the French education system, and that teachers in secondary schools should spend 35 hours a week on the premises as opposed to 17 hours at present.

"I am not going to sing it from the roof-tops, because I don't want to come under attack from the teaching unions," she says on the video, which was filmed in January in the western town of Angers.

She described it as an "absurdity" that many state sector teachers use their spare time to give private tuition via "companies that are quoted on the stock exchange".

"We need to take a step, perhaps with the new generation (of teachers) if the current lot say — sorry, we've got our rights, 17 hours and then we are off home," Royal says.

Royal's spokesman Gilles Savary confirmed the video was genuine, but said its broadcast on the Internet was "an underhand attack" ahead of next Thursday's vote by Socialist party (PS) members to designate a candidate in April's presidential election.

Teachers make up a large proportion of the party's 200,000 card-carrying members and are likely to be angered by her remarks.

And at Tight End...

...from the Republican Party?

KIRKLAND — Only in Jerramy Stevens' bizarre world could something like this happen. Only he could take a knee to the groin and wind up a villain.

The NFL fined the Seahawks' troubled tight end $15,000 Wednesday, ruling that Stevens provoked Oakland defensive lineman Tyler Brayton on "Monday Night Football." Meanwhile, Brayton was hit with a $25,000 fine and spent the day apologizing and turning less evil.

Somehow, the knee-er is garnering more sympathy than the knee-ee.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mosque State News

Belgium offers Islamists a few more slices of salami:

BRUSSELS - Belgium plans on setting up an Imam school before the end of the 2006 -2007 academic year.

This school was requested by the Exécutif des musulmans de Belgique (the Belgian Muslim executive).

The Muslim executive also requests the presence of a mufti - a Muslim scholar who is also an interpreter and advocate of the Sharia, Islamic law, and who is, according to traditions, capable of issuing a fatwa, a judgment based on Islamic laws.

However, a Belgian mufti would not be given this right since it would conflict with Belgian's justice system.

For the time being, that is.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Growth Industry

Palm grease:

Corrupt Russian officials are estimated to take bribes of US $240 billion a year, an amount almost equal to the state’s entire revenues, a senior prosecutor said in an interview with the government daily printed Tuesday.

Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Buksman told the Rossiiskaya Gazeta that prosecutors had uncovered over 9,000 cases of bribery in the first eight months of the year.

....The global anti-corruption group Transparency International and Russia’s business-funded National Anti-Corruption Committee last year estimated that the level of graft had jumped as much as sevenfold since 2001.

Russia is near the top of Transparency International’s scale of corruption, at No. 121 out of 163 in 2006, along with such countries as Rwanda and Burundi. Four years ago, it had been rated 71. On that scale, the least corrupt is Finland, while Haiti and Myanmar occupy the top two places.

Oversized and Over There

Appropriately for an 840 passenger jet, Airbus had too much of almost everything, and now must shed the dead weight:

PARIS, Nov 6, 2006 (AFP) - European aircraft maker Airbus plans to reduce by 80 percent the number of subcontractors used by the company as part of a vast restructuring plan aimed at reducing costs, a company spokesman said Monday.

The number of subcontractors is to be cut from nearly 3,000 to about 500, the spokesman said, confirming a report in the Financial Times Deutschland published on Monday.

The group, based in Toulouse, southern France, also plans to cut its administrative costs by EUR 900 million in total by 2010 and its supply costs by EUR 350 million over the same period, the spokesman said.

He added that the number of logistics facilities used by the company would be reduced from 80 to between four and eight.

Update: Word appears to be filtering out:

Boeing scored a victory in the airliner wars Tuesday when FedEx became the first customer to cancel an order for Airbus's much delayed A380 jumbo jets and said it will instead will buy Boeing 777s.

FedEx Corp., the world's largest express transportation company, cited production delays for its decision to retract an order for 10 of the new double-decker A380's. Its FedEx Express unit has ordered 15 Boeing Co. 777 freighters with a list price of $3.5 billion (2.8 billion euros) and taken options on an additional 15.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Not to speak ill of the dead...

...but it proves nearly impossible with Jo Jo:

Jo Jo Laine, who died on Sunday aged 53 after falling down a flight of stairs, led a fast-paced life which bore witness to the dangers of too much beauty combined with an almost total lack of self-restraint.

Petite, wide-eyed and with waist-length dark auburn hair, Jo Jo Laine became famous as a model but notorious as a groupie who numbered among her conquests some of the most glamorous icons of the Sixties and Seventies rock scene.

After losing her virginity to Jimi Hendrix, her lovers included Rod Stewart, Jim Morrison and the Wings (and former Moody Blues) guitarist Denny Laine, to whom she was briefly married. After a fling with Randy Rhoads, the Black Sabbath guitarist, she began a relationship with Peter O'Donohue, a builder who was jailed in 1988 for 11 years for his part in a £40 million armed raid on a safety deposit centre in Knightsbridge. Later she became one of the live-in "wifelets" of the Marquess of Bath, occupying a cottage on the Longleat estate. Cream's drummer Ginger Baker was quoted as saying: "No sane man would go near her."

During her rock chick years, Jo Jo Laine consumed heroic quantities of drugs and alcohol and remained seemingly unfazed by the premature deaths of at least two of her former lovers from drug and alcohol abuse.

Defeatocrat...And Proud of It!

We suppose James Carroll ought to get some credit for admitting just what he is:

It is one thing to feel uneasy about your nation's war, or even to move to a position of outright opposition. It is another to face the harsh fact that the only way out of the war is to accept defeat. The goal of "peace with honor" assumes that the nation's honor has not already been squandered. During Vietnam, for all the widespread opposition to the war, the American public was never ready to face the full truth of what had been done in its name, and so the martial band played on. And on. The war ended not with a bang, but with a whimper, with the United States whining that somehow it had been the victim. Not incidental to the present disaster is the fact that the men dragging out that shameful last moment of Vietnam, when our nation's abject defeat was made plain for all the world to see, were Ford administration honchos Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

Rumsfeld and Cheney are prepared to do it to their nation again. The question now is whether America will let them? The general uneasiness with the war in Iraq is mostly tied to how badly it has gone. Tactical and strategic planning have been bungled at every level, and the elusive enemy is yet to be understood in Washington. If the Democrats take power with the elections tomorrow, congressional hearings will have a lot of such questions to consider. But what about the moral question? For all of the anguish felt over the loss of American lives, can we acknowledge that there is something proper in the way that hubristic American power has been thwarted? Can we admit that the loss of honor will not come with how the war ends, because we lost our honor when we began it? This time, can we accept defeat?

Update: Carroll's timing couldn't have been worse for Tim Russert and Rahm Emanuel:

SEN. DOLE: .... it’s almost as if the Democrats, you know, it’s like they’re content with losing because to pull out, to withdraw from this war is losing. No question about it. You look at...

MR. RUSSERT: The Democrats are content with losing.

SEN. DOLE: The Democrats appear to be content with losing because they’re to...

REP. EMANUEL: I really...

SEN. DOLE: No, no, I, I want to finish what I’m saying here because...

REP. EMANUEL: I, I, I, no, no, you made yourself—Senator, wait a little sec, Senator...

SEN. DOLE: No, I, I’m going to finish this.

MR. RUSSERT: That’s a very strong statement.

SEN. DOLE: It is a strong statement.

REP. EMANUEL: Yeah, senator, senator, you, you...

MR. RUSSERT: Senator, that’s a very strong statement. I think he, he deserves a right to respond, no, no, no.

REP. EMANUEL: Senator, that is not fair.

SEN. DOLE: Yeah, it is, but I would like to finish why...

MR. RUSSERT: You—I’ll let you back, but I’ll tell you, when you make a statement like that...

REP. EMANUEL: Senator, senator, senator.

SEN. DOLE: ...why, why they appear to be content to lose.

MR. RUSSERT: Excuse me. When you make a comment like that, I got to give the other side a chance to respond.

SEN. DOLE: But I do need to explain what I mean by that.

REP. EMANUEL: Senator. Senator, you, you, you said something that’s wrong.

SEN. DOLE: Osama bin Laden and, and, and they...

REP. EMANUEL: Democrats, Democrats have provided—wait a second, Senator.
I’ve—I understand some. I will not sit si...

SEN. DOLE: No. Rahm, I want to finish what I said.

REP. EMANUEL: ...I will not sit idly by with an accusation that Democrats are content with losing.

SEN. DOLE: They appear to be content to lose...

REP. EMANUEL: We want to win and we want a new direction to Iraq because after three, three years—I’m—Tim...

SEN. DOLE: ...because when you pull out, this is losing. That we know that it becomes a breeding ground...

MR. RUSSERT: All right, hold on. Hold on. Time out, time out, time out.

REP. EMANUEL: Forget about it.

MR. RUSSERT: Time out. Time—time out. Time out, please.

SEN. DOLE: ...a breeding ground for terrorists. We’ve got Iran and Syria sitting there on each side of Iraq...

REP. EMANUEL: That, that’s wrong. You should take that back, Senator.
We’ll have differences, but we do not disparage you like that, Senator.

MR. RUSSERT: You’ve made your point. You’ve made your point, Senator.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Just don't call them late for dinner

The dolphins' dinner, that is:

Fish can eavesdrop on the calls of dolphins to avoid getting eaten, a new study suggests.

"Probably a lot of fish can do this," said lead researcher Luke Remage-Healey, a behavioral neuro-endocrinologist at University of California, Los Angeles.

....Remage-Healey first suspected that gulf toadfish could listen in on hungry dolphins' calls two years ago while recording the mating calls of the male toadfish off the Gulf coast of Florida.

"Then, they all stopped calling," Remage-Healey recalled. "My field assistant noticed dolphins [image] foraging right over the toadfish site, and we heard we were recording dolphin sounds instead."

The researchers captured toadfish and placed each in its own cage and rested the cages on the seabed in the breeding patch. From underwater speakers, they played recordings of snapping shrimp sounds or dolphin sounds — both high frequency "whistles" that dolphins use to communicate with each other, and low frequency "pops" likely used to locate a quarry. The shrimp sounds mimicked a common background noise in the bay.

Results showed that the toadfish ignored the snapping shrimp sounds and dolphin whistles and continued on with their mating calls. But when the fish heard dolphin pops or combinations of pops and whistles, they drastically reduced their calling rates.

Perfect Pitch

Sandy Koufax never delivered a more accurate fastball than this knockdown of John Kerry from Mark Steyn:

A vain thin-skinned condescending blueblood with no sense of his own ridiculousness, Senator Nuancy Boy is secure in little else except his belief in his indispensability.

Then he explains why the 'botched joke' matters:

In fairness to Kerry, he didn't invent the Democrats' tortured relationship with the military. But ever since Eugene McCarthy ran against Lyndon Johnson and destroyed the most powerful Democrat of the last half-century, the Democratic Party has had a problematic relationship with the projection of power in the national interest. President Jimmy Carter confined himself to one screwed-up helicopter mission in Iran; Bill Clinton bombed more countries in a little more than six months than the Zionist neocon warmonger Bush has in six years but, unless you happened to be in that Sudanese aspirin factory, it was as desultory and uncommitted as his sex life and characterized by the same inability to reach (in Ken Starr's word) "completion." As for John Kerry, since he first slandered the American military three decades ago, he's been wrong on every foreign policy question and voted against every significant American weapons system.

To be sure, like Kerry in 2004 deciding that the murderers and rapists were now his brave "band of brothers," the left often discover a sudden enthusiasm for the previous war once a new one's come along. Since Iraq, they've been all in favor of Afghanistan, though back in the fall of 2001 they were convinced it was a quagmire, graveyard of empire, unwinnable, another Vietnam, etc. Oh, and they also discovered a belated enthusiasm for the first President Bush's shrewd conduct of the 1991 Gulf War, though at the time Kerry and most other Democrats voted against that one, too. In this tedious shell game, no matter how frantically the left shuffles the cups, you never find the one shriveled pea of The Military Intervention We're Willing To Support When it Matters.

To be sure, the progressives deserve credit for having refined their view of the military: not murderers and rapists, just impoverished suckers too stupid for anything other than soldiering. The left still doesn't understand that it's the soldier who guarantees every other profession -- the defeatist New York Times journalist, the anti-American college professor, the insurgent-video-of-the-day host at CNN, the hollow preening blowhard senator. Kerry's gaffe isn't about one maladroit Marie Antoinette of the Senate but a glimpse into the mind-set of too many Americans.

Friday, November 03, 2006

If the punishment fit the crime

Wouldn't he be let go immediately?

(ANSA) - Rome, November 3 - An Italian man has been convicted of escaping justice for leaving house arrest to return to jail.

The young drugs offender from the Abruzzo region left a treatment community earlier this year and turned up at Rome's Rebibbia prison the next day, saying he preferred jail to his new companions.

Italy's highest appeals court, the Court of Cassation, on Friday fined him 1,000 euros and added two months to his sentence .

Art Laffer, llama su oficina

In Spain, do as the Spanish do; evade capital gains taxes of 35%:

There is an anecdote which some Spanish property lawyers tell about King Juan Carlos.

They relate with apparent nonchalance how he only declared 50 percent of the cost when he sold one of his many homes – technically breaking the law by avoiding tax. However, the attitude of those who tell this story is not one of appalled concern that even the monarch has such disrespect for the law.

Instead, the king is seen as a chip off the old block; the attitude appears to be "if he can get away with it, why not the rest of us?"

If you buy a house in Spain, you will almost certainly be asked to break the law as a routine part of the process. Refusing usually means you face losing the house of your dreams....

In simple terms, the fraud works like this: to reduce capital gains tax, a seller will ask a buyer to declare they are buying the house at a reduced price - and then pay them the difference in cash.

This practice of using 'black money' to make cash buys 'under the table' for all kinds of services is part of the culture in Spain – as the story about the king proves.

A recent estimate suggested 30 percent of all EUR 500 notes in Europe are in circulation in Spain. This is not purely by chance, but linked to money laundering.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Day Without Anglicans?

They're fed up and not going to take it anymore:

"What do we want?"

"More police!""When do we want them?""NOW!"

It was a curious sight, some 500 people, many middle-aged, marching along a Spanish road, in a Spanish town, watched with curiosity and not a little concern by Spanish police.

The banners were in English, the chants were in English, and most – but by no means all – of the marchers were English.

....Steve Miller, 42, lives in Huddersfield, in Britain. He was holidaying in nearby Torrevieja when he was mugged early one evening, losing all his money, papers, the lot. He went straight to the Guardia Civil offices close by, to report the theft.

“They said I needed an interpreter. I told them, 'I've lost all my cash, my passport, I'm bleeding from a cut to my forehead, and no, I don't speak Spanish. I'm just here on holiday, for God's sake!'

"No, they told me to go away and get an interpreter. How they hell do I do that? How do I pay for one? They just shrugged, and told me to clear off. I tell you, it's the last time I come to ruddy Spain!”

Law and order is the biggest issue, closely followed by lack of interpreters, seemingly absurd Spanish bureaucracy, police apathy and official intransigence.

And they're inspired by:

...if the estimated 150,000 British residents along the Costas got together, and formed a political party, the effects of Spanish local government could be enormous. No Taxation Without Representation; the slogan that sparked the American war of independence, and lost Britain its American colonies - and now it's starting to be heard again.

'I'll spot you an open-heart surgery...

...and still expose your front office as total incompetents.'

Or so, the 2005 second round draft choice of the Los Angeles Lakers could have said been saying to the Seattle Supersonics who passed on him to pick, in the first round, his French National Team colleague Johan Petro--16 minutes, 0 points, 2 rebounds in his NBA opener--when they could have been getting nights like this:

Ronny Turiaf showed spark underneath the basket, nailing career-highs with 23 points and nine rebounds in only his 25th NBA game.

....A year ago, Turiaf was coming back from open-heart surgery, plowing through one hurdle after another, the largest being an enlarged aortic root that left him shaken to the point of telling reporters he was "scared of dying" a couple days before he had surgery in July 2005.

....He successfully came back from that, no small accomplishment in its own, but then had to prove his way in the CBA and fight visa problems — he is a French citizen — before finally playing for the Lakers on Feb. 8.

The 37th pick in the 2005 draft, he picked up on Wednesday where Andrew Bynum left off Tuesday against Phoenix, making eight of 10 shots and providing a timely lift.

"It's a blessing just to be part of this, to be part of something," said Turiaf, 23, who still must wear a pad made of foam and plastic to protect his sternum. "Last year was tough at this time, lying down in my bed and not able to move."