Saturday, June 30, 2007

Whenever this blog may roam

I've decided to give WordPress a try.

Here is the new address for this blog: http://fyiblog.wordpress.com/

Friday, June 29, 2007

A noble ruling

Juan Williams, for the Herald Tribune:

"Let us now praise the Brown decision. Let us now bury the Brown decision. With the Supreme Court ruling ending the use of voluntary schemes to create racial balance among students, it is time to acknowledge that Brown's time has passed.

...

Desegregation does not speak to dropout rates that hover near 50 percent for black and Hispanic high school students. It does not equip society to address the so-called achievement gap between black and white students that mocks Brown's promise of equal educational opportunity.

...

In 1990, after months of interviews with Justice Thurgood Marshall, who had been the lead lawyer for the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund on the Brown case, I sat in his Supreme Court chambers with a final question. Almost 40 years later, was he satisfied with the outcome of the decision?

...

His response was that seating black children next to white children in school had never been the point. It had been necessary only because all-white school boards were generously financing schools for white children while leaving black students in overcrowded, decrepit buildings with hand-me-down books and underpaid teachers.

He had wanted black children to have the right to attend white schools as a point of leverage over the biased spending patterns of the segregationists who ran schools across much of America.

If black children had the right to be in schools with white children, Marshall reasoned, then school board officials would have no choice but to equalize spending to protect the interests of their white children.

Racial malice is no longer the primary motive in shaping inferior schools for minority children. Many failing big city schools today are operated by black superintendents and mostly black school boards.

And today the argument that school reform should provide equal opportunity for children, or prepare them to live in a pluralistic society, is spent. The winning argument is that better schools are needed for all children - black, white, brown and every other hue - in order to foster a competitive workforce in a global economy.

Dealing with racism and the bitter fruit of slavery and "separate but equal" legal segregation was at the heart of the court's brave decision 53 years ago. With Brown officially relegated to the past, the challenge for brave leaders now is to deliver on the promise of a good education for every child."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bits & Bytes

If you are an old time geek like me, you might remember the series "Bits & Bytes" (broadcasted in Brazil by TV Cultura I believe). Check these out:

The Difference Between Apple ][ and TRS-80

Bits & Bytes - Home Accounting

Bits & Bytes - ROM and RAM

Bits & Bytes - The Computer's Speed

BONUS: Billy Learns French on the Atari 800

The good old days :-)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Burn Sicko, BURN!



PETA has a message for Michael Moore: You’re the Sicko.

The animal-rights group is blasting the filmmaker as a hypocrite for criticizing the U.S. healthcare system in his new documentary, “Sicko,” because they say he’s in such poor health himself.

“There’s an elephant in the room, and it is you,” PETA president Ingrid Newkirk wrote in a letter to Moore.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Greedy bastards

New record: Americans give $300 billion to charity

"Americans gave nearly $300 billion to charitable causes last year, setting a new record and besting the 2005 total that had been boosted by a surge in aid to victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma and the Asian tsunami.

Donors contributed an estimated $295.02 billion in 2006, a 1 percent increase when adjusted for inflation, up from $283.05 billion in 2005. Excluding donations for disaster relief, the total rose 3.2 percent, inflation-adjusted, according to an annual report released Monday by the Giving USA Foundation at Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy.

...

Individuals gave a combined 75.6 percent of the total. With bequests, that rises to 83.4 percent.

The biggest chunk of the donations, $96.82 billion or 32.8 percent, went to religious organizations. The second largest slice, $40.98 billion or 13.9 percent, went to education, including gifts to colleges, universities and libraries.

About 65 percent of households with incomes less than $100,000 give to charity, the report showed.

...

Gaudiani said Americans give twice as much as the next most charitable country, according to a November 2006 comparison done by the Charities Aid Foundation. In philanthropic giving as a percentage of gross domestic product, the U.S. ranked first at 1.7 percent. No. 2 Britain gave 0.73 percent, while France, with a 0.14 percent rate, trailed such countries as South Africa, Singapore, Turkey and Germany."

Monday, June 25, 2007

In the Face of Evil

I was watching a cold war documentary this weekend and noticed that the word “Détente” was mentioned several times. Honestly I didn’t even know what it meant so I looked it up:

“Détente is a French term, meaning a relaxing or easing; the term has been used in international politics since the early 1970s. Generally, it may be applied to any international situation where previously hostile nations not involved in an open war "warm up" to each other and threats de-escalate. However, it is primarily used in reference to the general reduction in the tension between the Soviet Union and the United States and a thawing of the Cold War, occurring from the late 1960s until the start of the 1980s.”

Ah, that worked out great. Obviously it had to be a French word.

---x---

Every time I see footage of the US at the end of the 70s I get spooked. The strikes, the complete lack of confidence, the economic mess created by FDR and all the boobs that came after him… I almost threw up when I saw Carter kissing Brezhnev, and when Ford denied that the Helsinki Accords were confirming our defeat in East Europe.

That was really a time when things were spinning out of control and I believe that Reagan’s victory was like a last minute lucky strike. Another 4 years and things could have really been lost.

---x---

Another thing that is clear when we compare our current situation with the cold war is that terrorism is really a small problem compared to communism. I know there are people dying and that is always sad and clearly 9/11 was a horrendous day. But putting in perspective, we live in a much more stable and prosperous world today. Bin Laden and his thugs are dangerous but comparing them to the old USSR is really ludicrous.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

It’s the aid, stupid!

Palestine is the land of charlatans and murderers. Why? If the problem is Israel, how can these people behave so badly amongst themselves?

The answer could be Foreign Aid. Despite the international embargo on aid to the Palestinian Authority since Hamas came to power a year ago, The International Monetary Fund and the United Nations say the Palestinians received $1.2 billion in aid and budgetary support in 2006, about $300 per capita, compared with $1 billion in 2005.

According to the German newspaper Die Welt, Palestine is the world's largest per capita recipient of foreign aid.

So why would Fatah do anything differently? When things are bad they get even more money. Take a look at what happened to Suha Arafat. Oh, the revolution life is much sweeter from Paris.

How about Hamas? How can it exist when the West is pouring money into Fatah’s pockets like there is no tomorrow?

Well, let’s see what Mahmoud Zahar, co-founder of Hamas has to say:

“SPIEGEL ONLINE: The international community plans to release all the aid money it has withheld from Palestinians for over a year to the Fatah government in the West Bank. Will the West Bank become a kind of luxury-Palestine, while the Gaza Strip starves?

Zahar: Fatah in the West Bank will receive money, and they will have to pass it on to Gaza. If it doesn't, it will lose Gaza forever. We would also have to search for alternatives. We have a very good image among people throughout the Arab world. If we want, we can get $5 million per month in donations from Egypt. We have also received money from foreign countries in the past -- $82 million from Kuwait, $50 million from Libya. I personally once brought $20 million from Iran to the Gaza Strip in a suitcase. No, actually twice -- the second time it was $22 million.”


So why would they change? The charlatans might become murderers, and the murderers can become charlatans.

But that’s pretty much all you can get.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The land of the free buzz

Via Claudio:

Dutch Cannabis Buyers Face Biometric Testing

"All 15 coffee shops in the southern city are spending about 100,000 euros ($134,000) installing a security system that makes it harder for an under-age cannabis smoker to enter than a terrorist to set foot in Europe, according to Marc Josemans, head of the local coffee shop union."

This reminds me something I’ve always think about: the odd absence of data about the consequences of “drug liberalization” in the Netherlands. For such a unique and grand experiment one would think that loads of data would be available.

Now considering the message sent by this type of measure and also considering the fact that the so called liberalization has not moved forward (Why 5 grams? Why only pot?) I assume that not everything is roses in the land of the free buzz…

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Happy for the Work

This is very interesting... and confirms my theory that a "life of leisure" is nothing but a fantasy and in most cases leads to disaster (think Paris Hilton).

"It is vacation season once again, giving occasion for the usual homilies about how Europeans are having a much better and healthier time of it than we are when it comes to work. You've heard it a thousand times: Americans "live to work," while Europeans "work to live."

By almost every measure, Europeans do work less and relax more than Americans. According to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Americans work 25% more hours each year than the Norwegians or the Dutch. The average retirement age for European men is 60.5, and it's even lower for European women. Our vacations are pathetically short by comparison: The average U.S. worker takes 16 days of vacation each year, less than half that typically taken by the Germans (35 days), the French (37 days) or the Italians (42 days).

Why these differences? There are two standard explanations, neither of which casts Americans in a particularly good light. First, we are emotionally stunted. According to Time magazine, "In the puritanical version of Christianity that has always appealed to Americans, religion comes packaged with the stern message that hard work is good for the soul. Modern Europe has avoided so melancholy a lesson."

Obviously, there is a point beyond which work is excessive and lowers life quality. But within reasonable bounds, if happiness is our goal, the American formula of hard work appears to function pretty well.

Second, we are under the yoke of hard-bitten capitalism. London's Daily Telegraph reports that the heavy U.S. work effort does not result from a special affinity Americans have for work; rather, it is because we are "terrified of losing [our] jobs" in a labor environment in which workers have few of the protections Europeans enjoy.

According to either explanation of the high American work effort, we would be a lot happier if we could somehow throw off our chains--both emotionally and legally--and demand shorter work weeks, longer vacations and bulletproof tenure until our early retirements. A tidy hypothesis, to be sure--until we look at the facts.

The truth is that most Americans don't feel particularly shackled. To begin with, an amazingly high percentage of us like our jobs. Among adults who worked 10 hours a week or more in 2002, the General Social Survey (GSS) found that 89% said they were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their jobs. Only 11% said they were not too satisfied or not at all satisfied.

Of course, some would argue this statistic must be hiding big differences between people with "good" jobs and those with "bad" jobs. Presidential candidate John Edwards, in an argument fit for the French, tells us that we are two nations: "One America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward."

No doubt there is great job dissatisfaction among people with low incomes and little education--the folks working in factories and on farms; the people who sell you socks and serve you lunch--right? Wrong. There is no difference at all between those with above- and below-average incomes: nine in 10 are satisfied, as are people without college degrees. 87% of people who call themselves "working class" are satisfied.

But even if we are satisfied with our jobs, might we still be happier at the beach? Imagine asking people something like this: "If you were to get enough money to live as comfortably as you would like for the rest of your life, would you continue to work or would you stop working?" Certainly a high percentage would answer in the affirmative? Wrong again: In 2002, the GSS found that number to be less than a third of all workers. And once again, there is no difference between those at different levels of income or education. 69% of working class folks say they would keep working even if they didn't have to.

For most Americans, work is a rock-solid source of life happiness. Happy people work more hours each week than unhappy people, and work more in their free time as well. Even more tellingly, people with more hours per day to relax outside their jobs are not any happier than those who have less non-work time. In short, the idea that our heavy workloads are lowering our happiness is twaddle.

Obviously, there is a point beyond which work is excessive and lowers life quality. But within reasonable bounds, if happiness is our goal, the American formula of hard work appears to function pretty well.

This may be one reason why Americans tend to score better than Europeans on most happiness surveys. For example, according to the 2002 International Social Survey Programme across 35 countries, 56% of Americans are "completely happy" or "very happy" with their lives, versus 44% of Danes (often cited in surveys as the happiest Europeans), 35% of the French and 31% of Germans. Those sweet five-week vacations and 35-hour workweeks don't seem to be stimulating all that much félicité. A good old-fashioned 50-hour week might be a better option.

The bottom line is that this year, I will not flinch at any mocking European glance as I write emails from the beach--or skip the beach entirely. For I am happy."

Amem Tyler

"Claims that intelligent left-wing bloggers couldn't possibly agree with

We don't take steps to redress inequalities of looks, friends, or sex life. We don't grab a kidney from you to save someone's life, even though that health difference was unfair brute luck. Redistribution of wealth has some role in maintaining a stable democracy and preventing starvation. But the power of wealth redistribution to produce net value is quite limited. The power of wealth creation to produce net value is extraordinary. Most of America's poor are already among the best-off of all humans in world history. We should be putting our resources, including our advocacy and our intellectual resources, into wealth creation as much as we can."

China becomes world's top carbon dioxide emitter

According to the AP:

"China overtook the United States in carbon dioxide emissions by about 7.5 percent in 2006, according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency's report."

Oh, and let's not forget:

"China signed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which caps the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted in industrialized countries. But China is exempt from emission reductions because it is considered a developing country, a situation often cited by the U.S. and Australia for rejecting the treaty."


So who was right?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Where would you rather be? Palestinian edition

Brasil receberá refugiados palestinos fugindo da violência

Death penalty works

A series of recent studies claims to settle a hotly debated argument -- whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder.

The analyses say yes. They count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer.

"I oppose the death penalty," said Naci Mocan, an economics professor. "But my results show that the death penalty [deters] -- what am I going to do, hide them?''

Monday, June 18, 2007

I really despise the press

Let me show you another example of how biased and dishonest our world press is:

Go to Google news and search for “Afghanistan children killed”. You will get thousands (literally) of results and headlines like “AFGHANISTAN: CHILDREN KILLED IN US-LED COALITION AIR STRIKE”.

Now search for “Gaza children killed”. You will get a hand full of articles that talks about this. And guess what? Most of them blame the deaths on Israel!

Look for pictures. The killing of Palestinian people (by Palestinian people) has been going on for more than a week, but I have not found one picture of it. The Afghan bombing was yesterday and yet you can find plenty of very (very) graphical pictures of dead children.

Oh and by the way, the Afghan bombing was targeting Al-Qaida. The Palestinian conflict is targeting… Palestinians. The US used bombs against Al-Qaida for all the known reasons. Bombs are not 100% accurate so collateral damage happens. When Hamas attacks Fatah they use small weapons. They kill children because they intend to.

I wonder how this crazy morality scale has taken over the “free” press. I am not a conspiracy guy and much less in favor of censorship, but maybe there is some kind of underlining battle that is being lost here that people just don’t know about.

It makes me sick.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Oh, what a difference 15 years make...



The last 30 seconds are an instant classic.

Would I have voted for Clinton/Gore in 92? :-)

Hamas gives Fatah ultimatum to surrender

More than a year ago when Hamas won the Palestinian election I said that this would probably be a good thing. It was the second death of Yasser Arafat and the façade of a “moderate” Palestine was going to be unraveled soon.

I was right. The current battle (civil war for the ones who love the term) shows that Palestinians are a problem within themselves. That is, all the talk about Israel being the provocateur of violence in the region is (and has always been) pure bullshit.

The radical elements of Hamas are not radical elements. The UN control of the region is non-existent. Hamas is radical (and violent) by definition, and that is the path most of Palestine chose to itself. Fatah was the promise of moderation that never actually materialized and now is being destroyed. Muslims killing Muslins for nothing else but power. No fatwa required.

Now it will become clear what needs to be done to solve the “Palestinian problem”. Or at least it should.

Water for the World

A $3 gadget that promises to quench a user's thirst for a year without spare parts, electricity or maintenance.

Ah, crazy business men ruining the world yet again with their insane contraptions. 400 thousand children saved by a straw. Beat that UN!

Still you hear loons saying that the world is going down the drain (no pun). Even worse, some people still don’t undertand the power of technological advances.

I always think to myself how some of the “big problems” we have today will look pretty ridiculous in the near future (let’s say 50 years from now). The issues with potable water, for instance. Once we convert sea water to drinkable water, the problem goes away immediately. I can even hear my grandson saying “Didn’t they know that three quarters of the planet is covered by water?”

(After writing this I actually found out that such devices actually already exist. So we might get there way before 50 years from now).

Monday, June 11, 2007

The United States of the World

A cool map from Strange Maps:

world_US
Click on map for bigger picture

"Although the economies of countries like China and India are growing at an incredible rate, the US remains the nation with the highest GDP in the world – and by far: US GDP is projected to be $13,22 trillion (or $13.220 billion) in 2007, according to this source. That’s almost as much as the economies of the next four (Japan, Germany, China, UK) combined.

The creator of this map has had the interesting idea to break down that gigantic US GDP into the GDPs of individual states, and compare those to other countries’ GDP. What follows, is this slightly misleading map – misleading, because the economies both of the US states and of the countries they are compared with are not weighted for their respective populations.

Pakistan, for example, has a GDP that’s slightly higher than Israel’s – but Pakistan has a population of about 170 million, while Israel is only 7 million people strong. The US states those economies are compared with (Arkansas and Oregon, respectively) are much closer to each other in population: 2,7 million and 3,4 million.

And yet, wile a per capita GDP might give a good indication of the average wealth of citizens, a ranking of the economies on this map does serve two interesting purposes: it shows the size of US states’ economies relative to each other (California is the biggest, Wyoming the smallest), and it links those sizes with foreign economies (which are therefore also ranked: Mexico’s and Russia’s economies are about equal size, Ireland’s is twice as big as New Zealand’s)."

Friday, June 08, 2007

Solve this riddle

Call this my thirty-something conundrum on the meaning of life or just plain weirdness:

As I grow older, I feel a smaller and smaller personal interest in religion and at the same time I find out that the nicest people I know are all religious.

Go figure.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Now for something really funny

In Bananaland:

Chávez diz que reagiu a ato 'grosseiro' do Congresso brasileiro
Na quinta-feira, Chávez disse que o Congresso brasileiro é um "papagaio que repete o que diz Washington" - depois que o Senado em Brasília aprovou um requerimento pedindo que o presidente venezuelano autorizasse a RCTV a voltar a funcionar.

Chávez makes brazilian politics look reasonable.

Now back in the Unique Nonsense bubble:

U.N. Team Still Looking for Iraq's Arsenal
Every weekday, at a secure commercial office building on Manhattan's East Side, a team of 20 U.N. experts on chemical and biological weapons pores over satellite images of former Iraqi weapons sites. They scour the international news media for stories on Hussein's deadly arsenal. They consult foreign intelligence agencies on the status of Iraqi weapons. And they maintain a cadre of about 300 weapons experts from 50 countries and prepare them for inspections in Iraq -- inspections they will almost certainly never conduct, in search of weapons that few believe exist.

The best part of this is that these same guys say the US could never have gone to war because the weapons didn't exist.

Life in the Empire

Chomsky is right. Life in the Empire is definitely not easy. Here are some examples of the oppression we suffer in our everyday lives:

Troopers patrolling American streets

Harmless kids being arrested

Bush lost in the crowd. Cheney and the boys (I believe the one on the right is Gonzales)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

This is waaay good



Ok, I am old, they are old, it's all pathetic... But me like it :-)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Um pé na Casa Grande

Às vezes você acha que o mundo não tem jeito. Só tragédia, conflitos, trabalho saindo pela orelha...

Mas aí aparecem textos como este. Uma pérola. Se eu pudesse colocaria essas partes aqui num quadro:

"Tinha muita esperança de ser 100% negro. Se fosse, eu ia pedir uma indenização muito pesada nesse país, mas sou filho dos culpados também"

"Miscigenação era barbárie. Não tinha isso de história de amor, era barbárie. Fico feliz em saber que parte da minha galera resistiu e compõe 85% dos meus genes"

"É uma pena eu ter tão pouco de índio"


Será que o cidadão ainda acha que "miscigenação é barbárie"? Afinal ele quer que os "brancos" (sera que existe alguém no Brasil 100% branco?) paguem para os 100% negros certo? E essa história de que ele queria ser parte índio? É porque eles são mais escurinhos? Quem é que explorava quem nessa relação???

Já imaginaram o piripaque que esse sujeito teria quando soubesse que negros africanos participavam ativamente no tráfico de escravos?

Quando eu era criança, naqueles remotos tempos aonde o politicamente incorreto ainda não era motivo de cadeia, brincavamos que os mais morenos da escola tinham um "pé na senzala". Quem diria, o tal "Seu Jorge" tem um pé na Casa Grande. E ficou bem mais bravo do que ficavam meus amigos moreninhos.

Mas claro que tudo isso é falta de compaixão minha. Como diziam meus amigos, sou somente um alemão branquelo. Será que estavam me chamando de nazista? Devia processar aqueles moleques. Ou então fazer um teste de DNA e mostrar que eu também sou um pouco africano!

É duro levar essa vida a sério.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The power of tinkering

Interesting idea (see complete article here)

"You Can't Predict Who Will Change The World

Before the discovery of Australia, Europeans thought that all swans were white, and it would have been considered completely unreasonable to imagine swans of any other color. The first sighting of a black swan in Australia, where black swans are, in fact, rather common, shattered that notion. The moral of this story is that there are exceptions out there, hidden away from our eyes and imagination, waiting to be discovered by complete accident. What I call a "Black Swan" is an exceptional unpredictable event that, unlike the bird, carries a huge impact.

It's impossible for the editors of Forbes.com to predict who will change the world, because major changes are Black Swans, the result of accidents and luck. But we do know who society's winners will be: those who are prepared to face Black Swans, to be exposed to them, to recognize them when they show up and to rigorously exploit them.

...

If the success rate of directed research is very low, though, it is true that the more we search, the more likely we are to find things "by accident," outside the original plan. Only a disproportionately minute number of discoveries traditionally came from directed academic research. What academia seems more masterful at is public relations and fundraising.

...

America's primary export, it appears, is trial-and-error, and the innovative knowledge attained in such a way. Trial-and-error has error in it; and most top-down traditional rational and academic environments do not like the fallibility of "error" and the embarrassment of not quite knowing where they're going. The U.S. fosters entrepreneurs and creators, not exam-takers, bureaucrats or, worse, deluded economists. So the perceived weakness of the American pupil in conventional studies is where his or her very strength may lie. The American system of trial and error produces doers: Black Swan-hunting, dream-chasing entrepreneurs, with a tolerance for a certain class of risk-taking and for making plenty of small errors on the road to success or knowledge. This environment also attracts aggressive tinkering foreigners like this author.

Globalization allowed the U.S. to specialize in the creative aspect of things, the risk-taking production of concepts and ideas--that is, the scalable part of production, in which more income can be generated from the same fixed assets through innovation. By exporting jobs, the U.S. has outsourced the less scalable and more linear components of production, assigning them to the citizens of more mathematical and culturally rigid states, who are happy to be paid by the hour to work on other people's ideas.

...

The current discourse in economics, for example, is antiquated. American undirected free-enterprise works because it aggressively allows us to capture the randomness of the environment--the cheap Black Swans. This works not just because of competition, and even less because of material incentives. Neither the followers of Adam Smith nor those of Karl Marx seem to be conscious of the prevalence and effect of wild randomness. They are too bathed in enlightenment-style cause-and-effect and cannot accept that skills and payoffs may have nothing to do with one another. Nor can they swallow the argument that it is not necessarily the better technology that wins, but rather, the luckiest one. And, sadly, even those who accept this fundamental uncertainty often fail to see that it is a good thing.

Random tinkering is the path to success. And fortunately, we are increasingly learning to practice it without knowing it--thanks to overconfident entrepreneurs, naive investors, greedy investment bankers, confused scientists and aggressive venture capitalists brought together by the free-market system.

We need more tinkering: Uninhibited, aggressive, proud tinkering. We need to make our own luck. We can be scared and worried about the future, or we can look at it as a collection of happy surprises that lie outside the path of our imagination.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is an applied statistician and derivatives trader-turned-philosopher, and author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

U.N: Unique Nonsense

Zimbabwe to head key U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development

The comedy factor of this kind of thing almost makes me ignore the mystery behind this kind of decision. Incompetence is one thing. Doing things that are clearly illogical is another.

And these are the same people that want to control which wars are just, how we should control our climate and so on.

Where are the street protests against this? Where is Al Gore? Where is Jimmy “Worst President Ever” Carter? WHERE IS MICHAEL MOORE?

Monday, May 21, 2007

What the hell is this?



You’d think they wouldn’t laugh about these things. But then again, that is Brazil.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Irony all around

The last few days have been filled with a beautiful blend of ironic headlines:

Carter: Bush’s foreign policy is ‘worst in history’
Next thing you know he will be calling Bush’s economic policy a failure.

Wanted: A new Truman
Newsweek wants a new Truman??? Are we talking about the President who dropped the big ones, fought the Korean War and that has the all time lowest approval rate for a President (23%)? Just to put in perspective, at this same time (May 1951) in Truman’s presidency his approval rate was 24% compared to Bush’s current 34%. This is the grand-daddy of ironies. I’ve said long ago that Bush is very similar to Truman, for all the good and bad reasons. I just hope to live enough to see 40 years from now “Wanted: A new Bush”.

That of course, just adds up to the irony that the anti-war democrat congress has currently an approval rate of 29%.

Another interesting bit of political irony is that most critics of Bush’s immigration plan are from the right. You would not believe the deluge of criticism coming from talk radio about this (one big and much welcome exception is the great Medved). The media of course downplays all of that, and continue to say that Bush is divisive even within his own party.

You just can’t win with these people.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

My favorite internet adages

The Benford's law of controversy:
Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.

Godwin's Law:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

Hanlon's razor (very useful)
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

And my own (still unnamed) little contribution:

Generalizations are the best way to run away from a serious debate.

:-)

Friday, May 18, 2007

No One Makes You Shop at Wal-Mart

This MR post about this “No One Makes You Shop at Wal-Mart” book is really great.

It’s interesting that every time you look deep enough on these theories around “market imperfections” you end up falling into some great, brilliant bureaucrat sitting in a desk making decisions for everybody else.

Something else that fascinates me is this idea that all these forms of herding are illogical. The fact that you buy at Wal-Mart because your neighbor does makes total sense to me. The part that is always missing in the analysis is that this is just one among many factors, and it has a subjective importance to different people. The questions should be: Would you continue to shop at Wal-Mart if you didn’t like it just because your neighbor continues to do so?

Something else that always makes me laugh is how these “managed” economic theories end up going back to morals. Something that lefties hate in the social arena. They actually have the same ideals about “going back to the good old times” that extreme conservatives have on the social issues.

People say the extremes tend to be similar but I’d argue that the idea that you can control your economy in some moral way is inevitably extremist.

The irony of the book title is almost overwhelming. Nobody really makes you shop at Wal-Mart. And the author would really like to change that.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Is the Iraq war lost?

I’ve heard rumors before about the Iraq parliament’s lack of ethics.

But hey, I was born in Brazil. These things don’t shock me that easily.

Then today I heard on NPR a Kurdish law maker called Mahmoud Othman saying the following:

"Every month we work two weeks," Othman said. "That's another point people should know about ... we are working half the time. So it's two-to-three hours a day, two weeks a month and then there is a holiday. So it's sort of a disaster."

To make the disaster complete, here is what another law maker said about the vacation issue:

“Lawmaker Shatha al-Moussawi says U.S. objections to the vacation schedule here have only made matters worse, saying it sends a message that Iraqis "don't have any control" of their own country and "receive orders from America."

So you have these people working 3 hours a day, 2 weeks a month, with absolutely no political progress to show after all this time, and when the US complains they tell us to back off. And all the while you have American soldiers dying to protect these same people.

I am as favorable as it gets for this war. I think removing Saddam was right; I am sure it was strategically a good decision; I know that a democracy in Iraq would be historically huge.

But there is a limit for everything. If the Iraqis can’t make the effort to postpone their vacations and maybe work 8h a day just like the rest of us, maybe it is time to admit that this enterprise has not worked and we should get out of there.

This is all very sad.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Health trade-offs

Interesting coincidence: A few days ago, a telegraph article talked about how Europe socialized medice systems are really bad at getting new cancer treatment to their patients and how that is linked to Western Europe’s cancer survival rates being much lower than the ones in the US.

Now today, this report from the Commonwealth Fund says that the US ranks last in “health care quality” among five other rich countries (Germany, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada).

I honestly don’t have the patience to find out all the parameters of this study, but the MSNBC article mentions some of them at the end that are very interesting:

“The United States had the fewest patients — 84 percent — reporting that they have a regular doctor.

And U.S. doctors are the least wired, with the lowest percentage using electronic medical records or receiving electronic updates on recommended treatments.”


Well, I don’t have a “regular doctor”. And the reason is not that it is difficult to find one or that it is too expensive… It’s quite the opposite! My plan offers so many doctors that when I have a problem I go directly to a specialist and not to a “family” doctor.

And the point about being connected is really ridiculous. The US has privacy laws against keeping electronic records that are accessible to other doctors that have nothing to do with the quality of health care!

Now I understand that comparing trade-offs is not easy. But it is really hard to understand why the people who defend socialized medicine have to go through these hoops to make their point, while the other side (for a more capitalist approach that is) can show specific measures of things that work better.

This reminds me of a “factual joke” I heard the other day. Do you know who are the biggest opponents to a universal health care in the US? Canadians. They cross the border in huge numbers for the MRI, hip replacement and other hard to get treatments that they would have to wait for months in the north side of the border.

If you really want to simplify the issue, this comment from the Captain’s quarters post does it best:

“You're health care WILL be rationed. Either by availability (long lists and inflexible calendars) or by price. I'd rather have the chance to come up with the money somehow.”

Monday, May 14, 2007

Some cool places

There are some of my favorites from places we visited recently (click for bigger version):

Cannon Beach, OR

cannonBeach1cannonBeach2


Oahu, HI
honululuhawaii1


Leavenworth, WA
levensworth1levenswoth2


Vancouver, BC (Canada)
canada1Capilano2006-t

Friday, May 11, 2007

Your favorite middle man

I am very, very tired. So all I can give you are some pictures and links. You can imagine what I would write about them. Maybe you can even comment about it and people won’t even notice I haven’t actually written a post.

Think of me as your favorite middle man.

Introduction to Oil and Natural Gas





Free Cloclô


U.S. divorce rate falls to lowest level since 1970

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

How to change France

This is just great (From the NYT):

“The French are notoriously resistant to change, and any new president would be hard-pressed to deliver any dramatic departure from the way people here live and work and get along with each other (or don’t)....

Mr. Sarkozy promised pension reforms and limits on unions’ ability to strike. Already, the most critical union federations are warning him to expect people in the streets if he tries to push through either change.

“Radical change in an authoritarian manner will lead to a situation of blockage,” said Michel Grignard, national secretary of the French Democratic Confederation of Labor. French unions are strong in part because the right to strike is written into the Constitution.

And then there is the French love of their vacations.

Parliament usually is away from mid-July to October, but Mr. Sarkozy has suggested he would call a special session to push through legislation while most of the French are vacationing — and when it would be hard for unions to mobilize them.”

Monday, May 07, 2007

Funny thing

It’s interesting to look at what happened to the two biggest opponents of the US war in Iraq. Both Germany and France turned to the right, almost proportionately to their level of criticism of US policy.

That of course could be just a coincidence. After all, internal politics are more important and the “Old” socialist Europe has been falling apart for quite some time. But still, it is important to notice how Markel and Sarkozy made clear right away that they will rebuild relations with the US. And as far as I know, the Iraq war is still there...

If Gordon Brown does succeed Blair in England, what you have now is the three main powers in Europe much more aligned with the US than they were in Sept 10 2001.

The trend is not restricted to Old Europe of course. Japan also turned to the right, Australia remains there and our Canadian friends also did the same.

Even Sweden has kicked the lefties out.

Funny thing who the divisive George Bush continues to reach his goals being such an incompetent, uh?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

It's the means, stupid!

One of my favorite inside jokes with my wife is to say that we are actually liberals. We are vegetarians (which by the way, makes us much more ecofriendly than anyone who drives a Prius and believes in Al Gore – and still we drive high mileage cars); we are in favor of civil unions for gays; we are rabidly against racism; my wife is totally against death penalty; we are very much pro (legal) immigration; we don’t follow any religion.

There are of course some political beliefs that we follow that match with the right: we believe that you need a strong military and that you need to use it from time to time; we are pro-life; we think people should be able to own a gun within some guidelines; we are against high taxes and huge social programs.

But the question remains: Why are we conservatives that are somewhat liberal and not liberals that have some conservative traits?

I believe the answer has to do with our attitude towards other people. Again let’s talk about vegetarianism. We love it. I had a bunch of health issues before and now they are gone. My wife can tell you all the horrible atrocities animals suffer. All and all, it’s really a clear belief for us that at this point in our life we don’t need to eat animals and a lot more people could do the same.

However, you won’t see us protesting with PETA. We don’t want the government to outlaw eating meat. You won’t even see us swearing at people who have barbecues in their houses.

We won’t be at these barbecues either, but there is a huge difference between not doing something and wanting to force other people not to do it.

I think that this “militant” approach is what irritates us most about liberals and people on the left in general. It’s not just the silly idea that you need to save the world in all fronts. It’s more this notion that people are not able to make decisions; that information is never enough, and that you need to find little ways to trick people into doing what you want them to do.

There is also the feelings vs. logic issue. I go nuts every time I hear someone say this kind of stuff, or when I hear people trying to justify government economic actions on the “this will help the helpless” banner. Sometimes I even agree with the outcome, but I can’t stand the demagogy.

So the means do make a difference after all. At least for us.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The King of low cost

No, I am not talking about Wal-Mart. It’s Chapolin Colorado! He wants to steal some more of the companies in Venezuela, and the excuse is the usual. Check it out:

"Chavez threatens to nationalize banks, steel

“Private banks have to give priority to financing the industrial sectors of Venezuela at low cost,” Chavez said. “If banks don’t agree with this, it’s better that they go, that they turn over the banks to me, that we nationalize them and get all the banks to work for the development of the country and not to speculate and produce huge profits.”
...
“If the company Sidor ... does not immediately agree to change this process, they will oblige me to nationalize it,” Chavez said.
...
“Sidor has to produce and give priority to our national industries ... and at low cost,” he said.
"

The bitter left

"Ms. Royal, who has often been accused of making factual errors, struggled to prove she was right.

“Let’s go to the bitter end on every issue,” she said. She also said, “I know all the topics well.”

While they were speaking about the economy, she summed up her philosophy of leadership, saying, with a little smile, “I will be the president of what works.”

Mr. Sarkozy replied, caustically, “People don’t vote for us to go complicate what works, but on the contrary, to fix what doesn’t.”

Still, Mr. Sarkozy was gracious at the end, expressing his respect for Ms. Royal’s “talent and competence.” But she kept her distance, saying, “I abstain from personal judgments.”


That's from the NYT's account of the French presidential debate.

Some things are really the same all around the world.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Voting with your feet - Venezuela edition


This is the future. Be afraid!

Exasperated by Chávez, more Venezuelans leave

"Middle- and upper-class Venezuelans are leaving the country in droves
...

U.S. embassy officials say inquiries for U.S. visas rose by one-third from March 2006 to March of this year, and requests to obtain U.S. passports — mostly by people claiming to be sons and daughters of U.S. citizens — have doubled over the past two years. Inquiries for Canadian visas are up 69 percent since last year, officials at that embassy say."


Last one out turn the lights off.

Eleições na França

Esse Exílio político é muito bom.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Greatness

Last week was Shakespeare's day (people believe he was born and died on the same day - April 23rd).

My favorite passage of his is from Hamlet, and it takes place when Hamlet is anguishing on whether he should or not kill the king. Here it is:

"What is a man
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.
Sure he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and godlike reason
To fust in us unused. Now whether it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
Of thinking too precisely on th’event –
A thought which, quartered, hath but one part wisdom
And ever three parts coward – I do not know
Why yet I live to say this thing’s to do,
Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means
To do’t. Examples gross as earth exhort me,
Witness this army of such mass and charge,
Led by a delicate and tender prince,
Whose spirit, with divine ambition puffed,
Makes mouths at the invisible event,
Exposing what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,
Even for an eggshell. Rightly to be great
Is not stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honour’s at the stake.
"

Voluntourism

Ah, these crazy selfish Americans and their imperialistic ideas.

Who are they to try to help other people? What if people don’t want to have bathrooms inside the house? How about that uh?

Don’t these people know that this is all part of their plan to conquer the world?

Michael Moore needs to make a mockumentary about this. ASAP!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Hey hey hey

Leo Monasterio showing up (or off :-)) in my favorite blog.

Congrats!

Friday, April 27, 2007

He is the future

I’ve always thought that Mangabeira’s Portuguese was incomprehensible. After reading some of his texts in English I come to realize that the problem is not really the language factor.

But hey, he’s supposed to be a genius. Maybe my intellect is just too limited to grasp his greatness.

I think it’s poetic justice that such an obtuse man was chosen to be the head of Brazil’s “special secretariat for long-term actions”.

Just perfect.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Trade fallacies

This one comes from Dani Rodrik’s blog (via Smart):

Trade and procedural fairness

Economists fail to appreciate sufficiently that globalization often runs into a procedural fairness roadblock.

Imagine some change in the economy leaves Tom $3 richer and Jerry $2 poorer, and I ask you whether you approve of this change. Few economists, regardless of their political and philosophical orientation, would be able to give a straight answer without asking for more information. Is Tom richer or poorer than Jerry to begin with, and by how much? What are their respective needs and capabilities? And what exactly is the nature of the shock that created this redistribution of income? It would be one thing if Tom got richer (and made Jerry poorer) through actions that we would consider unethical or immoral; it would be another if this was the result of Tom’s hard work and Jerry’s laziness. In other words, most of us would care about the manner in which the distributional change occurred--i.e., about procedural fairness. The fact that the shock created a net gain of $1 is not enough to conclude that it is a change for the better.

The thought experiment clarifies, I think, why the archetypal man on the street reacts differently to trade-induced changes in distribution than to technology-induced changes (i.e., to technological progress). Both increase the size of the economic pie, while often causing large income transfers. But a redistribution that takes place because home firms are undercut by competitors who employ deplorable labor practices, use production methods that are harmful to the environment, or enjoy government support is procedurally different than one that takes place because an innovator has come up with a better product through hard work or ingenuity. Trade and technological progress can have very different implications for procedural fairness. This is a point that most people instinctively grasp, but economists often miss. (Notice that even in the case of technology, we have significant restrictions on what is allowable—c.f. human-subject review requirements—and wide-ranging debates about the acceptability of things like stem-cell research.)”


The problem here is the concept that we can define the fairness of trade. Child labor does sound horrible, but the bigger question is: What were those children doing before they went to work in a dirty factory? How do you want to force that country to send all these children to clean and safe schools?

I’ve read once (I believe it was at Johan Norberg's) that Sweden had a serious problem with child labor. The solution was not new laws but pure and simple economic development. Once society is richer and education is more valuable to parents than sending kids to work for $1 a week in sweatshops they will stop doing so. I even believe that government can accelerate this process but only up to a point.

In any case, globalization and technological advances are important because they make the pie bigger. That in turn makes better choices and social organization possible. To think that this is the other way around is dangerous. This is not only the case of “You can't have your cake and eat it too” but the simple truth that you cannot expect to have a cake without the appropriate ingredients in place.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Jonathan Rauch

This is a great interview with Jonathan Rauch. He is what I would call "my type of journalist". Here is why:

"reason: Who are some of the villains in journalism for you?

Rauch: Well, if you'll take this not in the personal sense that there's anything wrong with the people, but if you take this in a sense of having played a counterproductive role, I think I'd say Maureen Dowd.

reason: In what way?

Rauch: I'm not a fan of the idea that the journalist and the journalist's attitude should be front and center. I think that a good journalist's duty is to get out of the way. The hardest thing about journalism--the hardest thing, a much higher art than being clever--is just to get out of the way, to show the leader of the world as the reader would see it if the reader were there. Just to be eyes and ears. Calvin Trillin, another writer I greatly admired who steered me towards journalism, once said that getting himself out of his stories was like taking off a very tight shirt in a very small phone booth. He's right.

I think Maureen Dowd is very good at what she does. But the problem is that lots of people who aren't any good at it think this is journalism. It's what we should all be doing, showing off our attitude. I think that sets a bad example. The blogosphere tends to further the [notion] that journalism is about opinion and not about fact. I think that's wrong.

Most people think they know truth and think that what they know is right. They're usually wrong. Journalists are among the few people in society who are actually paid to try go out and learn things. Checking is the core of what we do. David Broder once said that the old slogan in journalism is, "If your mother says she loves you, check it."

The article is long but it's worth reading all of it. Also, check this one out:
The Convenient Truth

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Root of All Evil

“I have discovered that all human evil comes from this, man's being unable to sit still in a room.”

Blaise Pascal

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What People Earn - 2006

After you filter out the BS, this article has some interesting information:

Economy:

“By most economic measures, 2006 was a great year. Despite rising interest rates, high oil prices and the sharpest housing downturn in 15 years, inflation was low, productivity rose steadily, corporate profits reached a 40-year high, the stock market soared and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent -- the lowest level in more than five years.”

It’s good to remember that people were predicting that 2006 was going to be horrible…

Paycheck:

“Last year's 1.1 percent average raise was their first real pay increase in a long time. Workers' productivity grew an impressive 18 percent between 2000 and 2006 -- but most people's inflation-adjusted weekly wages rose only 1 percent during that time. This was the first economic expansion since World War II without a sustained pay increase for rank-and-file workers.”

That of course doesn’t take into account benefits. Tax breaks for employer-provided health insurance will definitely cause distortions. But I also think that global competition is a factor in the huge jump in productivity, as well as the improvement of internet related technologies.

The Hottest Jobs (No College Degree Required)

“Translators
The need is expected to grow 26 percent by 2014: $43,000-$100,000

Insurance adjusters
These jobs aren't easily outsourced or replaced by technology: $34,000-$75,000”


The Hottest Jobs (For College Grads)

“Logistics manager
Plan, implement and control flow of goods or services: $35,000-$118,000

Physical therapist
Aging baby boomers will drive the increasing need: $34,600-$74,000”


Interesting how the salary difference is not that large in some cases. The key word seems to be specialization, no matter if it requires a degree or not.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Where is Europe?

Where does Wal-Mart get its products? (Via MR)

Bellevue



View of Bellevue and surrounding mountains on a nice, clear day.

If I Were King

From the series “10 simple rules that would make the world a better place”:

1 – Everyone would pay the same flat tax. This would include income and stocks/saving earnings. Maximum would never be over 20%. Only exception would be for all levels of politicians, who would pay 30% more than everybody else.

2- Social security and free health care for anyone below the poverty line. No benefits at all for everybody else. Everyone would contribute an extra fixed percentage (1%) of their income for this social fund.

3- Government budgets in all levels are limited to spend 90% of tax income. The remaining 10% would be used to pay exclusively: unemployment insurance (which includes basic health insurance) up to 1 year as long as proof of job search is provided. The only exception would be times of war.

4 – Abortion would be completely legal. The only requirement is that these women would have to get their tubes tied at the same time (except when there is a clear danger to the mother’s life, baby’s life or rape was involved).

5 – Every prisoner would be forced to work in government projects. Each day of work would cut sentences in half day. Life prisoners would work anyway.

6 – All import tariffs would be limited to 10%.

7 – In order to carry a gun, people would have to go through a preparatory course and test (think driver’s school for guns). The license would need to be renewed every 2 years. Buying a gun to keep at home would remain legal without extra requirements.

8 – Drug consumption in public places would get you fines. Very expensive ones. Drug trafficking would continue to be punished by jail time.

9 – The US would route all its international aid through NATO instead of the UN. Only NATO members would be eligible receivers.

10 – Politicians would have to register a plan of government during the first 2 months of the campaign (or at least 6 months before election). This plan would be legally binding.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Top three problems

This tragedy at Virginia Tech (where I got my masters by the way) is a classical example of what I consider the three biggest problems in the U.S. nowadays. These are:

- Moral relativism and social determinism
- Big Government impulse
- The media circus

Moral relativism and social determinism

Have you noticed how the media keeps trying to find something special about this guy? First, he must have been crazy. He was writing violent poetry. He even used to have lunch by himself at the cafeteria! I bet he was depressed. Probably played violent videogames too…

I am not saying that it's not possible that he had some mental disturbance. But the thing is that people never even consider the option that this guy had total control over his actions and still decided to do this evil, coward thing he did.

By trying to fit him in some kind of group or condition, people are basically saying that there is no choice between good and evil. For the moral relativists, Evil doers are insane so it’s not really their fault. There is no other option.

Most amazingly, this kind of lunacy is not restricted to the lefties. The cuckoo right wingers keep trying to find some crazy connection with the fact that the guy was an immigrant.

Now that we can (unfortunately) see these idiotic videos that this loser taped, it is obvious that he was completely in control of his actions. He planned the killing; he even tried to push the guilt of this thing away from him by saying that he was “pushed into a corner” and that “he wasn’t going to run anymore”. A typical coward. And yet, I feel that there is this unconscious effort to create some type of rationalization of why this guy did all of this. Nobody openly calls this guy names or say he was a disgrace to his family. They don't even talk about his family! What if people actually knew that their parents would be openly disgraced if they did something like that? Wouldn't that be a deterrent?

In my opinion, this attempt to transform this scumbag into a victim is not only unfair to the real victims but it is also an open invitation to copycats.

Big Government impulse

Immediately after the shooting you could see headlines that linked the murders with gun ownership. I heard people on the radio actually saying that this was again Bush’s fault because he was in favor of selling guns to anyone.

Now, maybe you all haven’t heard about it but Virginia Tech is actually a “gun free” zone. That is, even if you have a license to carry a gun in Virginia you can’t bring it into Virginia Tech.

That might explain why thousands of students and hundreds of professors in that one building heard dozens of gun shots and did not react at all.

In any case, this idea that whenever a tragedy occur it is the government’s fault is a big cultural vice in America nowadays. It happened during Katrina, and it happens daily for a variety of problems. People blame the real state downturn on the government. They blame the fact that kids are fat on the government!

This not only means more and more money being spent in stupid programs but it also means people getting less prepared to deal with the very situations they should be ready to.

It’s a dangerous vicious circle.

The media circus

Watching the VT president’s press conference on the day of the murders was one of the most irritating experiences of my life. Here is a guy trying to explain the unexplainable, doing his best to list the details of what is probably the worst day of his life and what did the reporters do? They were asking the most stupid, inconsequential and populist questions you could ever imagine.

Something very wrong has happened to the American media. Maybe it is just plain ideology that moves these people into transforming every single issue into some sort of crusade that helps their cause. Maybe it is just pure incompetence. Maybe it is just the reflection of a large part of the population that has this “can’t look away” instinct that makes these things profitable.

In any case, I believe the fact that the American media makes this circus around every single bad thing that happens here brings more and more negative results to the country. It happens in Iraq, and it happens locally. I have no doubt that showing all these movies and pictures of this dirty bastard will at some level motivate others to do similar hideous things.

How is it even legal to show this material? Isn’t it obvious that this is a reward for the murders? Why not say that they received letters and videos and that they will not show it on the air because this loser doesn’t deserve it?

It really seems to me that the press is always on the wrong side of things. They don’t want to inform, they want to shock. No matter what the cost is.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A victory

'Partial-birth' abortion ban upheld.

For those who think this is just a corner case, read this:

"More than 1 million abortions are performed in the United States each year, according to recent statistics. Nearly 90 percent of those occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and are not affected by Wednesday's ruling. The Guttmacher Institute says 2,200 dilation and extraction procedures - the medical term most often used by doctors - were performed in 2000, the latest figures available."

And let's not forget that this was a 5x4 vote. That means this would never be possible without Bush.

For those who think that babies are just "balls of cells" this is probably bad news. After all, some women will have to actually acknowledge the consequences of their acts. God knows, maybe they will have to go through the murderous process of giving up these babies for adoption instead of killing them.

For me, this means that thousands of lives were saved. I know people seem to be more interested in death, but to me this is great news.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Call a spade a spade



This is from a Time article.

The thing that really pisses me off about the abortion discussion is how the pro choice people pretend it’s a different issue.

It is not a baby, it’s a fetus.

It is not killing, it’s “an interruption of possibility of life”.

And of course, the reasons for doing an abortion are always noble ones.

I just wish they had a poll where they asked the income of these women that say “can’t afford a baby”.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Direita no Brasil

"Não existe direita no Brasil, no sentido clássico do conceito... O pensamento conservador filia-se a uma tradição ocidental que estabelece como pilares da ordem a família, a propriedade, os costumes. O nosso conservadorismo não é nada disso. Tem a ver com clientelismo, patrimonialismo, uso indevido dos recursos do Estado. Ele não é composto de um ideário, e sim de aproveitadores. Por que a 'direita', no Brasil, apóia todos os governos, não importa qual? Na história recente, ela apoiou os militares, apoiou o Sarney, apoiou o Collor, apoiou a mim, apóia o Lula. Porque seus integrantes não são de direita. Essa gente toda só quer estar perto do Estado, tirar vantagens dele."

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, via Olavo de Carvalho

Friday, April 13, 2007

Keeping things in perspective

US bodies recovered from N Korea.

"More than 33,000 US troops died in the Korean War, which started in June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. Some 8,100 US servicemen are still listed as missing."

Human Development Trends

So are we poorer or richer? Is income better distributed or not?



How about the health of the world?


Who is staying behind?




Sometimes pictures do speak for themselves. Courtesy of Gapminder.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

MR and bias

"I would like for my posts on MR to be one small space where these necessary but ignoble human tendencies toward personalization are resisted and sometimes even criticized. I am biased, just as you are. But for aesthetic reasons I would rather my biases be played out in the realm of ideas, rather than directed at people. And at the margin, some of you should be just a little more like me."

One of the reasons why MR is my favorite blog.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Living the dream. Dutch style.

From the Curious Capitalist:

"Meet permanently unemployed Dutch guy Gertjan van Beijnum (from today's Volkskrant, translation mine):

The ex art school student stands in the middle of his room in a former squatters' dwelling, an old hospital in the center of Den Bosch. Since he broke off his studies in 1979, he's been unemployed. For 28 years now he's been receiving a government check of 800 euros a month. "It's not that I can't work, it's that I don't want to. I'm against paid work," he says."


According to the article, there are still 300 thousand people on welfare in the Netherlands. And that's their lowest level in 25 years!

Just to give an idea of how high that still is, it would be the equivalent of having approximately 5.5 million people in Welfare in the US. That is more than double of the actual current number (around 2 million).

Iran v. Britain: Who Blinked?

Very interesting article. I was especially interested in the part about the political power that groups like Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and allied institutions like the Basij militia have in Iran.

Whether diplomacy will really work against Iran is debatable. I do think they are unstable enough that it might work. But what concerns me is that power will soon change hands in the US and UK. And there is a great chance that in both places more “peaceful” governments will take place.

It is usually in these times when nuts go wild.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sweet irony Batman

This one is just beautiful. From the Time’s "The Global Warming Survival Guide - 51 Things We Can Do to Save the Environment”:

45. Make One Right Turn After Another

United Parcel Service took a detour to the right on its way to curb CO2 emissions. In 2004, UPS announced that its drivers would avoid making left turns. The time spent idling while waiting to turn against oncoming traffic burns fuel and costs millions each year. A software program maps a customized route for every driver to minimize lefts.

In metro New York, UPS has reduced CO2 emissions by 1,000 metric tons since January. Today 83% of UPS facilities are heading in the right direction; within two years, the policy will be adopted nationwide.”


Now you tell me if this is not the perfect allegory for this global warming discussion.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The unfairness of American theocracy

Isn’t it unfair that we Americans are working hard in this Good Friday while people all over the world are at the beach enjoying life?

Especially if you consider that America is a theocracy, while other countries like France, Germany, Spain, etc, are modern secular democracies, the greatest examples of church and state separation for the world.

God, even in Sweden Good Friday is a public holiday!

I guess this just shows how Americans are cold-hearted, profit-seekers, crazy-pagans who can’t even make a decent theocracy!

We should hire Mahmoud as a consultant. I bet Pelosi could stop by on her way home and get this all arranged. Now that’s a plan!

The world hates the US. Well, kind of.

U.S. immigration services reached its annual quota for H1B visa applications in one day.

The Citizenship and Immigration Services received a record of more than 150,000 applications for the H-1B visa on Monday, nearly double the number of visas it can grant for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2007.

The government will grant 65,000 visas to those who hold the equivalent of an undergraduate degree and possess the technical expertise in a specialized field, such as engineering and computer programming. Another 20,000 visas will go to people with advanced academic degrees who have technical expertise.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

JAGs Take a More Central Battlefield Role

"Lawyers may be advising commanders in any decision in the field."

Listen here.

Ah, these American barbarians...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

If money is power...



It looks like Romney actually raised $23 million according to MSNBC.

UPDATE:: Obama raised $25 million

But in any case, I think the numbers are a little surprising. I thought it was common knowledge that the Republicans were the money party. Hmm….

By the way, if Romney wins, you can always say you heard here first.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Where would you rather be? Afghan version

Just to please the ones who didn't like the Iraq comparison:

Fatalities of civilians and police in Rio between Feb.1st and Apr.1st:
560

Fatalities of coalition troops in Afghanistan between Oct. 2001 and Apr.1st 2007:
546

And that's no April fools' joke.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Shakedown 1979?

This kidnapping of 15 British sailors doesn’t smell so good.

It could be just one of those little crisis like the on we had a few years ago when after a few days they are released and it’s business as usual.

But the thing is that Iran is looking a little bit too full of himself.

A guy on the radio show asked the other day “Why would they do this? Don’t they know that the US and UK can destroy them in a second?”

The answer to this is: They do because they can. Or at least they think they can.

They did it big time in 1979. That in my opinion was the origin of everything else that happened until this point in that region. Another great heritage we received from Mr. Carter (or as I prefer to call him, the worst President in American history).

But this could be something else. It could be a bad move from Mullahs. If the west reacts and, let’s say, destroys Iran very few gasoline refineries and its Navy, what will they do?

Let’s wait and see.

Friday, March 30, 2007

S.U.A.T.



Especialmente para o Arranhaponte e Matamoros.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Democrats Own Defeat (and LOVE some pork too!!!)

Check this beauty out:

$25 million for a spinach farmer
$24 million for funding for sugar beets
$3 million in funding for sugar cane going to one Hawaiian co-op
$20 million for insect infestation damage reimbursements in Nevada,Idaho and Utah
$2.1 billion for crop production losses
$1.5 billion for livestock production losses
$100 million for dairy production losses
$13 million for ewe lamb replacement and retention
$32 million for the livestock indemnity program
$40 million for the Tree Assistance Program
$6 million for North Dakota flooded crop land
$35 million for emergency conservation programs
$50 million for the Emergency Watershed Program
$115 million dollars for the Conservation Security Program
$18 million for drought assistance in the upper Great Plains and in the Southwest
$6 million for the North Dakota flooded crop land
$3.5 million dollars in funding for guided tours
$60.4 million for salmon fisheries in the Klamath Basin region
$12 million for forest service money
$425 million for education grants for rural areas
$640 million for something called LIHEAP
$25 million for asbestos abatement at the Capitol Power Plant
$388.9 million for funding for backlog of old Department of Transportation projects
$22.8 million for geothermal research and development
$500 million for wildfire fire management
$13 million for mine safety technology research
$31 million for a one month extension of the Milk Income Lost Contract Program
$640 million for Low Income Energy Assistance
$50 million for Fisheries Disaster Mitigation Fund
$100 million for security at the presidential candidate nominating conventions
$2 million for the University of Vermont
$6.4 million for the House of Representatives Salaries and Expenses Account (to which President Bush said, "I don't even know what that is.")

Now, this is all hidden inside the bill that the Democrats in the House and Senate passed this week to pull troops out of Iraq in March of 2008 and not fund the surge.

Ah, and to think that some people voted against Republicans because they were spending too much.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sader must be so sad...

I can’t decide which part of this piece of news is more bizarre.

Is it the fact that a loony left publication was sponsored by those money-grabbers-global-warming-bastards from Petrobras?

Or how about this quote:
“Além da publicidade, a principal fonte de renda da Carta Maior é o patrocínio de projetos de cunho social. O veículo já encaminhou uma série deles para agentes fomentadores e segue aguardando uma resposta que pode oferecer novo fôlego à agência.” ???

Or maybe the fact that they think a left biased opinion is “an alternative position” in Brazil? (By the way, you have to read this “editorial”: Como ajudar 'Carta Maior' e a democratizar a comunicação – Great stuff!)

Oh, comments are interesting too. So much to say, so little time…

Pacific Northwest


3/28/07 6:04 PM

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Quickies

Things are way too busy at work. But there’s always time for some good reading.

Here are some you should all check out:
Medved: The Essence of Liberalism: Embracing Life's Losers
MR: The Credit Snobs

Also check this Gallup poll about the "most important problem" facing the US. Of course the focus is on the huge preoccupation with Iraq… But what I think it’s really amazing is that table that shows “Issues Previously Mentioned by 10% of Americans or More (Jan. 2001 to present) “

1% of people worry about crime (from 10% in Oct. 2002)
Another 1% of people worry about energy (from 12% in May. 2001)

Most surprising of all, only 5% worry about terrorism (from 46% in Oct. 2001)

I don’t want to sound callous, but it seems to me that Iraq’s importance is completely inflated and out of proportion…

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Polls Together, Polls Apart

Look at these two recent polls:

USA Today and CNN:
Most Iraqis live in fear of violence 4 years after invasion

The Sunday Times:
Resilient Iraqis ask what civil war?

The differences are striking. The USA Today poll focus strictly on bad news (it never mentions that a majority still thinks that life today is better than under Saddam). The Sunday Times is much fairer, even though it could have been more direct.

Which one do you think will get more exposure?

According to a BBC poll, it is easy to guess:

- 60% believed the US and UK were not right to invade Iraq exactly four years ago.
- In contrast, 57% of people would back British military action overseas if it was to assist disaster relief or stop genocide.

Do these people think the Iraqis did not need relief? Or do they think Saddam was not a genocidal dictator?

If even with the current mess in Iraq 49% of Iraqis still think life now is better than before, can you imagine how bad life was before?

Or maybe they think that there is a magic way to remove these guys from power! Every single time I hear people calling for something to be done in Darfur, I imagine what exactly they think would happen. Would R.E.M. be ok with invading Sudan? Would they ask for a timeline? How many US soldiers would we be willing to have killed? Do they remember at all what Mogadishu was about?

Am I really asking for too much here?

Monday, March 19, 2007

How many zeros are in a loser?

Venezuela is knocking three zeros off the bolivar, its currency, and renaming it the "bolivar fuerte" (strong bolivar).

Agora vai.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Talking about bias

This editorial from Robert Kagan is just outstanding. That first paragraph is an instant classic.

"The 'Surge' Is Succeeding

By Robert Kagan
Sunday, March 11, 2007; Page B07

A front-page story in The Post last week suggested that the Bush administration has no backup plan in case the surge in Iraq doesn't work. I wonder if The Post and other newspapers have a backup plan in case it does.

Leading journalists have been reporting for some time that the war was hopeless, a fiasco that could not be salvaged by more troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy. The conventional wisdom in December held that sending more troops was politically impossible after the antiwar tenor of the midterm elections. It was practically impossible because the extra troops didn't exist. Even if the troops did exist, they could not make a difference.


Four months later, the once insurmountable political opposition has been surmounted. The nonexistent troops are flowing into Iraq. And though it is still early and horrible acts of violence continue, there is substantial evidence that the new counterinsurgency strategy, backed by the infusion of new forces, is having a significant effect.

Some observers are reporting the shift. Iraqi bloggers Mohammed and Omar Fadhil, widely respected for their straight talk, say that "early signs are encouraging." The first impact of the "surge," they write, was psychological. Both friends and foes in Iraq had been convinced, in no small part by the American media, that the United States was preparing to pull out. When the opposite occurred, this alone shifted the dynamic.

As the Fadhils report, "Commanders and lieutenants of various militant groups abandoned their positions in Baghdad and in some cases fled the country." The most prominent leader to go into hiding has been Moqtada al-Sadr. His Mahdi Army has been instructed to avoid clashes with American and Iraqi forces, even as coalition forces begin to establish themselves in the once off-limits Sadr City.

Before the arrival of Gen. David Petraeus, the Army's leading counterinsurgency strategist, U.S. forces tended to raid insurgent and terrorist strongholds and then pull back and hand over the areas to Iraqi forces, who failed to hold them. The Fadhils report, "One difference between this and earlier -- failed -- attempts to secure Baghdad is the willingness of the Iraqi and U.S. governments to commit enough resources for enough time to make it work." In the past, bursts of American activity were followed by withdrawal and a return of the insurgents. Now, the plan to secure Baghdad "is becoming stricter and gaining momentum by the day as more troops pour into the city, allowing for a better implementation of the 'clear and hold' strategy." Baghdadis "always want the 'hold' part to materialize, and feel safe when they go out and find the Army and police maintaining their posts -- the bad guys can't intimidate as long as the troops are staying."

A greater sense of confidence produces many benefits. The number of security tips about insurgents that Iraqi civilians provide has jumped sharply. Stores and marketplaces are reopening in Baghdad, increasing the sense of community. People dislocated by sectarian violence are returning to their homes. As a result, "many Baghdadis feel hopeful again about the future, and the fear of civil war is slowly being replaced by optimism that peace might one day return to this city," the Fadhils report. "This change in mood is something huge by itself."

Apparently some American journalists see the difference. NBC's Brian Williams recently reported a dramatic change in Ramadi since his previous visit. The city was safer; the airport more secure. The new American strategy of "getting out, decentralizing, going into the neighborhoods, grabbing a toehold, telling the enemy we're here, start talking to the locals -- that is having an obvious and palpable effect." U.S. soldiers forged agreements with local religious leaders and pushed al-Qaeda back -- a trend other observers have noted in some Sunni-dominated areas. The result, Williams said, is that "the war has changed."

It is no coincidence that as the mood and the reality have shifted, political currents have shifted as well. A national agreement on sharing oil revenue appears on its way to approval. The Interior Ministry has been purged of corrupt officials and of many suspected of torture and brutality. And cracks are appearing in the Shiite governing coalition -- a good sign, given that the rock-solid unity was both the product and cause of growing sectarian violence.

There is still violence, as Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda seek to prove that the surge is not working. However, they are striking at more vulnerable targets in the provinces. Violence is down in Baghdad. As for Sadr and the Mahdi Army, it is possible they may reemerge as a problem later. But trying to wait out the American and Iraqi effort may be hazardous if the public becomes less tolerant of their violence. It could not be comforting to Sadr or al-Qaeda to read in the New York Times that the United States plans to keep higher force levels in Iraq through at least the beginning of 2008. The only good news for them would be if the Bush administration in its infinite wisdom starts to talk again about drawing down forces.

No one is asking American journalists to start emphasizing the "good" news. All they have to do is report what is occurring, though it may conflict with their previous judgments. Some are still selling books based on the premise that the war is lost, end of story. But what if there is a new chapter in the story?"


Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund, writes a monthly column for The Post. His latest book is "Dangerous Nation," a history of American foreign policy.