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.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The different types of bias

This latest brouhaha between me and Mr. Hermesmart made me think about a subject I don’t think I wrote about before: the difference between personal bias and news bias.

First of all, I don't think personal bias is something one should be ashamed of. I believe everyone without exception has some kind of bias about any possible subject. Even (maybe especially) about the ones they know absolutely nothing about.

Taking personal beliefs and experiences into account when analyzing an issue is not bad. It’s part of our freedom of choice and speech. It is also a way to bring discussions to a more realistic way. Using stone cold logic in every aspect of your life is just impractical.

It probably comes down to a matter of degree. If your biases don’t prevent you from at least considering the chance that you are wrong, you are probably ok.

The situation is completely different with press bias. More specifically, with news reporting bias.

News reporting is not (or should not be) subject to personal interference. In many ways, I think of the news as an exact science: it is based on hard facts. Reporters describe what they saw or heard. There is no middle ground here. Either something is there or is not. Your contribution to the job is to be precise and eloquent so others can understand exactly what has happened. That is it.

What people do with the news is completely out of scope. Some ignore it, some write editorials about it, it really shouldn’t matter to an honest reporter.

Nowadays, the news media in the US and around the world is a disgrace (with very few exceptions). And I don't say that recklessly. I really believe that it is one of the worst aspects of our current society. It somehow got morphed into this “social animal" that tries to mold reality to fit into their vision of what the world should be.

I am not the only one to think that. This recent Zogby poll shows that 83% of American voters believe that the media is biased in one direction or another, while just 11% believe the media doesn’t take political sides. Nearly two-thirds of those who detected bias in the media (64%) said the media leans left, while slightly more than a quarter of respondents (28%) said they see a conservative bias on their TV sets and in their column inches.

This creates all kinds of problems. First, it skews public choice based on the preferences of a few. Second, it makes people biased without them really knowing about it: they based their opinions in distorted facts.

Third, and worst of all, it makes people behave in more extreme ways. For instance, I spend a lot of time “defending” President Bush just because there is so much crap going around about him that I just can’t stand it. That in turn gives the wrong impression that I am a huge fan of his, because I have no time (or motivation) to write about the things I believe he is doing wrong.

It is a vicious cycle all around. And that is why I honestly hate the news press so much, and that is why I think it is the most dishonest and damaging institution in the US currently.

Flip-flop

Ok, so let’s try this again. Comments are back.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Rageh Inside Iran

Full video here.

More info here.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Where would you rather be?

Desde 1º de Fevereiro de 2007:

Rio Body Count
Mortos: 323
Feridos: 194

Iraq Coalition Casualties
Mortos: 111
Feridos: 285

Mass stupidity (updated)

I was looking at the pictures from these protesters in Brazil today and I honestly thought to myself: What in the world are they trying to say?

Please, let’s start by being honest here. Brazilians don’t give a damn about Iraqis or Afghans. They care even less whether Bush is doing a good job governing the US or not.

So, is this still the anti-capitalist dinosaurs and their childish fantasies? Or is it people that are so disillusioned with their country that they have to blame foreigners for their situation?

Having lived in Brazil for so long, and now being here in the US for almost 10 years, this whole thing makes me nauseous.

I mean, you have an official representative (governor of Maranhão) participating in a mock hanging of Bush! How much more ridiculous and pathetic can you possibly get?

Brazilians, of course, are not alone in this delusion.

These are the results of a recent poll that measured views of countries' influence:


I ask myself: Who in their right mind think that a tiny puny democratic country like Israel, who is just fighting against people who openly say that they want to annihilate them, can be the most hated country in the world?

Is the parameter here violence? Where is the Sudan?

Are we talking about fear of imperialism? How about China who actually IS occupying countries against their will?

What the hell is Canada doing for the world???

I have to admit that this kind of mass stupidity is one of the most depressing aspects of our world today.

UPDATE:
Clovis Rossi says that he would ask Bush about Guantanamo and other accusations from Human Rights Watch. Would that make him feel better about the violence in Brazil? Or all he is trying to do is to criticize the American government so they stop criticizing the Brazilian government? What a great strategy.

Lula however, decided to focus his complaints on subsidies. Agricultural subsidies on the American side, that is. It would be great if Bush would propose to open the ethanol imports if Brazil would remove the barriers for, oh, let’s say automobiles (currently at 35% plus every other tax on manufactured products).

But the really interesting part is that the US runs a considerable trade deficit with Brazil ($6.7 billion in 2003). Also, US-Brazil trade grew 195% from 1987 to 2004. The United States is Brazil’s largest single-country trading partner. Yes, much more could be done, but the fact is that there is a lot of money flowing from the evil American hands to the oppressed Brazilian people.

So how come all these angry protesters on the streets are telling the US to go away? Could it be because Brazil’s economy is under developed and all this money from trade is going to a few fat farmers and not the rest of the country?

Do people really expect that the US can fix this? I thought the consensus was that the US should stay away from internal problems of other countries…

Am I asking for too much here?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Drug use on decline

Two good news:

- Workplace drug use hits lowest on record
- Poll: Youth alcohol, drug use on decline

So, is the "war on drugs" working?

Back in LALA land, it looks like the medical marijuana boongoggle is falling apart.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Pro Bono?

Advertising Age reports that around $100 million has been spent on the Red campaign blanketing billboards and magazines with images of Bono and other "celebrities", while the total sum raised for Africa is $18 million.

Just to be clear...

Total spent on making Bono more famous = $100 million
Total spent on drugs for Africans = $18 million

(via MR)

Monday, March 05, 2007

564

Some people believe that abortion is just a tool.

Not just a population control tool. They believe it is a solution for various social issues: child abuse, crime, low literacy, and so on.

Apart from the obvious fallacy of this argument (which is equivalent to propose the murder of all poor people to end poverty), it is interesting to think about why these issues are not all solved by abortion, even in countries like the US where abortion is openly legal and accepted. They may be attenuated (maybe by the simple matter of having less people available to commit these crimes) but by no measure they go away.

Not even filicide is solved by abortion!

Now, this woman, without any big bucks from the government or any help from “humanist” activists, is saving lives. 564 lives that were being literally thrown in trash cans.

What should we learn from this? That if we build more clinics these women will stop behaving this way? Are we saying that these babies are doomed and the only question is whether they die inside or outside their mother’s wombs?

Why do we have to invest billions in prisons and social programs to criminals and not invest the same in orphanages? Why do death row in mates have the benefit of years and years of bureaucracy and unborn babies are just killed on demand? Why not increase the death penalty to free up some space and resources to these unborn babies? What should be easier: to adopt a baby or to kill it?

Are my proposals a little too barbaric to you?

What kind of life are we really choosing to protect here as a society?