Archive for April, 2005

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

Breaking news:
The runaway bride: Ga. Woman Found, Reportedly Got Cold Feet

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

Ask, and ye shall receive,
says the New Testament (actually, it’s Ask, and it shall be given you), and I asked: I want my MTV filibuster!

Well, I got.

Not quite the filibuster I wanted, but filibuster it is: the students at PU held their own filibuster in front of the Frist (ah!) Campus Center. Tuesday I was on campus and almost joined in, but, not being a student, I had errands to attend.

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

Principled realism, and being disliked
are the themes discussed by Paul Johnson and Victor Davis Hanson.

The first one, Principled Realism: Good For Both Parties, by Paul Johnson, explains

Nobody in his right mind–certainly not a President who believes in democracy and is a man of high principles–wants to use force. Force is a dangerous, blunt instrument. It is a step into the dark, with often unpredictable results. It is a weapon of last resort. But if Mr. Bush hadn’t been willing to use it, the Middle East would still be the same desolate, hopeless area it was at the time of 9/11–a region of cruel and irremovable dictatorship, where democracy had no charge and the people were resigned to perpetual oppression.

Bush’s use of force has changed all that. Democracy now has a chance; and freedom, perhaps, has a future. We can’t bank on anything, for the enemies of democracy and freedom are still powerful, heavily armed and totally ruthless. But hope is on the rise. The U.S. has planted the seeds of democracy, and its armed forces are in the area to ensure that those seeds are nurtured. That is progress.

I don’t care whether the Republicans or the Democrats win the struggle to appropriate the slogan “principled realism.” In fact, let them share it. What’s important is that both should practice it. It is always an excellent moment in the life of a democratic nation when the main political parties come together in agreement on a fundamental way of doing things. If Mr. Bush’s successful policy in the Middle East and its endorsement by American voters last November have achieved such a result–a coming together in principled realism–then America is in healthy shape

Johnson also has an article on the Five Marks of a Great Leader, namely,

  • Moral courage
  • Judgement
  • A sense of priority
  • The disposal of concentration and effort
  • Humor

Johnson’s article pertains leadership on a national level, but these traits apply to any situation.

Victor Davis Hanson’s article On Being Disliked: The new not-so-unwelcome anti-Americanism, explains,

All that being said, the disdain that European utopians, Arab dictatorships, the United Nations, and Mexico exhibit toward the United States is not — as the Kerry campaign alleged in the last election — cause for tears, but often reason to be proud, since much of the invective arises from the growing American insistence on principles abroad.

America should not gratuitously welcome such dislike; but we should not apologize for it either. Sometimes the caliber of a nation is found not in why it is liked, but rather in why it is not. By January 1, 1941, I suppose a majority on the planet — the Soviet Union, all of Eastern Europe, France, Italy, Spain, and even many elsewhere in occupied Europe, most of Latin America, Japan and its Asian empire, the entire Arab world, many in India — would have professed a marked preference for Hitler’s Germany over Churchill’s England.

Think about it. When Europe orders all American troops out; when Japan claims our textbooks whitewash the Japanese forced internment or Hiroshima; when China cites unfair trade with the United States; when South Korea says get the hell off our DMZ; when India complains that we are dumping outsourced jobs on them; when Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians refuse cash aid; when Canada complains that we are not carrying our weight in collective North American defense; when the United Nations moves to Damascus; when the Arab Street seethes that we are pushing theocrats and autocrats down its throat; when Mexico builds a fence to keep us out; when Latin America proclaims a boycott of the culturally imperialistic Major Leagues; and when the world ignores American books, films, and popular culture, then perhaps we should be worried. But something tells me none of that is going to happen in this lifetime

I don’t expect so, either. However, I do agree with Claudia Rosett, who said, “I will hazard the prediction that if we of the free world stick to our principles–and, where necessary, defend them with our guns–we stand on the verge of a global renaissance.”

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

Our nutty professor beats theirs
and Paul Mulshine has the details:

Much has been made in the national media lately of a Colorado professor named Ward Churchill who made some loony remarks about the victims of the 9/11 attacks. But I am prepared to argue that we have here in our midst a professor who makes Churchill look sane by comparison. His name is Grover Furr and he teaches at Montclair State University.

Paul raises questions about academic freedom; read the rest.

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

French taxpayers pay for bears, taxpayer-subsidized farmers complain
BBC News this morning reported that the French government has paid for several Slovenian bears to be released in the Pyrenees, where native bears had been killed off years ago. Apparently the Slovenians were brought in to attract French tourists to the region, which tells me something about French tourism.

The reason the bears were killed off was because of sheep farming. Of course, now that the bears are back, the sheep farmers are ready to kill the bears again because the bears are killing sheep again, and the Beeb report (available as Barefaced cheek: French bears get backing) says about a local farmer: “he’s prepared to shoot the bears”. The Beeb also talks about the patou dogs (re-introduced, also at taxpayer’s expense) that the bears don’t dare tangle with. My question was, “nice, the French bears didn’t, but do the Slovenian bears know that? How do the sheep feel about this? Are the dogs working 35-hr weeks?” After all, the Beeb has a report (at the same link) that shows an American psychiatrist who traveled all the way to New Zealand to visit farm animals (junket, anyone?) and concluded from his trip that animals have feelings.

Before my questions were answered, the Beeb concluded its report on bears by showing a guy dressed like one of the democratic peasants from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, complete with John Cleese’s French accent.

For those who ask, “Does the bear sh** in the woods?”, the Beeb also has a video on What bears really do in the woods, done with hidden, Candid-Camera equipment, this time paid by British taxpayers.

Update: Richard at EU Referendum sees the French all at sea

Friday, April 29th, 2005

Big news
Being fat won’t kill you: John Luik at TCS explains,

Despite the alarmist cries of declining life expectancies, the scientific evidence of the last half century does not support the claim that obesity will mean shorter lives for our children. As the Journal put it so well in 1998, “The data linking overweight and death, as well as the data showing the beneficial effects of weight loss, are limited, fragmentary and often ambiguous. Most of the evidence is either indirect or derived from observational epidemiologic studies, many of which have serious methodologic flaws.”

And sometimes being real big might make your hunger strike all the more dramatic.

Columbian artist living in Paris Fernando Botero’s showing in Rome some of his big fat paintings, now with a trendy Abu Ghraib theme. As TigerHawk points out, Botero conveniently sidesteps Columbia’s own history of human rights abuses,

Or maybe Botero just assumed that Europeans would not flock to see depictions of brutality in Latin America, but that he could buy his way into massive publicity in Europe if he took on the big, bad United States.

On to the fattest airplane of all, which EU Referendum calls a flying black hole, and has managed to take off and land:

Speaking after he landed the plane, test pilot Claude Lelaie said the flight was a “milestone”.

More like a millstone, since, as EU Referendum points out,

is set to make losses in excess of £4 billion over its commercial life. As a result, Airbus will never repay the £2 billion-plus state aid paid to help launch it.

I dread to think of the lines waiting to get through security, customs, boarding, and luggage retreival for one plane that carries 800 passengers (just imagine two or three at the same time in one terminal), all the while managing to loose that much money. The International Herald Tribune says “Now that the Airbus A380 has taken to the skies on its first test flight, this giant bird needs someplace to land.”

Oh, that.

Much more aerodynamic is the recently sighted ivory-billed woodpecker, which is not only big (the largest woodpecker in North America and third-largest in the world), but was sighted at the Big Woods region of eastern Arkansas.

Back on land, the Big Board merge with Archipelago will apparently generate a $2.5 million bonus for NYSE seatholders. That would make them fat(ter) cats.

And it won’t kill them, either.

Friday, April 29th, 2005

The Venezuela, Cuba, and Qatar get-together in Havana
“Venezuela, Cuba Forge Anti – U.S. Alliance”, says the NY Times this morning:

In the last five years, Venezuela has become a vital economic lifeline for Cuba’s cash-starved government, partly filling the void left by the Soviet Union’s collapse with vital supplies of oil on very favorable terms.
. . .
PDVSA will make Havana the headquarters for its Caribbean oil refining and distribution plans. It signed an agreement with the Cuban oil company Cupet to build a lubricants plant in Cuba.

The Venezuelan company is also looking at building a super-tanker shipping terminal and a storage facility with a 600,000 barrels a day capacity at Matanzas, east of Havana, and the completion of a Soviet-built oil refinery in Cienfuegos.

PDVSA will consider off-shore exploration in Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico waters, where Spain’s Repsol YPF last year discovered a noncommercial deposit of good quality oil.

The two countries further agreed to undertake joint nickel and cobalt mining projects, improve communications and step up air and shipping links.

Venezuela increased oil shipments to Cuba to 80,000-90,000 bpd, Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said on Wednesday.

Since 2000, Venezuela has officially supplied Cuba with 53,000 bpd [barrells per day] of crude and refined products, but exports have risen since Chavez’s consolidation of power.

El Herald analyzes the situation (my translation):

La presencia de PDVSA en Cuba tiene una importancia estratégica para ambos países.

Venezuela pretende convertir la isla en su centro de operaciones para el Caribe y Cuba se ha beneficiado de un significativo aumento del suministro de petróleo venezolano pactado en el Convenio Integral de Cooperación suscrito en el 2000.

”Estamos poniendo una base de operaciones en Cuba”, dijo el ministro venezolano de Energía y Petróleo, Rafael Ramírez.
PDVSA’s presence in Cuba is strategically important for both countries.
Venezuela aims to turn the island into its operations center for the Caribbean, and Cuba benefits from the significant increase in the Venezuelan oil that has been supplied since the 2000 Convenio Integral de Cooperación (Integral Cooperation Agreement).
“We are opening a base of operations in Cuba”, said Rafael Ramírez, Venezuelan minister for Energy and Oil.

There’s a lot of money involved: The Banco Industrial de Venezuela branch’s initial funding amounts to $400 million, for commerce not related to oil. Additionally,

El presidente del Banco Industrial de Venezuela, Luis Quiaro, explicó que la nueva oficina operará bajo una licencia extraordinaria, la primera otorgada en Cuba a un banco extranjero, que le faculta a recibir y otorgar créditos o financiación.

Esta semana, adelantó, se realizarán reuniones de coordinación sobre la financiación de este nuevo esquema de comercio, que tiene como base la Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas.

El BIV cuenta con una aportación de $200 millones del BANDES, otros 81 millones a través de Bancoext (Banco Exterior) y $119 millones en créditos para impulsar esta relación comercial.
Luis Quiaro, president of [state-owned] Banco Industrial de Venezuela (BIV), explained that the new branch will operate through an extraordinary permit, the first one issued to a foreign bank in Cuba, which will allow it to receive and grant credit or financing.
This week, he stated, there will be meetings for coordinating the financing of this new commerce plan, which is based on the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas(Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas).
The BIV also has $200 million in funds from the BANDES bank, $81 million from Bancoext (Banco Exterior), and $119 in credits for starting this commercial relationship.

Chávez wore red and Castro wore olive green, which I’m sure added to the festiveness of the occassion, and walked together for four blocks in downtown Havana. Walking along with them was their very-well-heeled friend, Sheik Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, vice-president of Qatar, in charge of energy and industry.

The NY Times article doesn’t mention the sheik’s presence.

The article doesn’t specify whether they held hands, or whether Al-Jazeera broadcast the celebrations live, but the boliburguesia will party hardy.

Domestically, Venezuela’s Central Bank will set caps on interest rates, “increasing government control over an economy that already has state regulation of currency exchange, wages, and many prices”.

Internationally, Chávez, just like Bolívar, has his eye on Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia:

In the meantime, the export of revolution continues with Venezuela using its oil revenues to arm subversive groups around the region. Bolivia’s leading revolutionary, Evo Morales, is a Chávez disciple, coached and coddled from Caracas. Ecuador’s former President Lucio Gutiérrez fell last week due to popular, and mostly peaceful, protests against his Chávez-like consolidation of power. But there is also reason to believe that Chávez actors created the violence in Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca in the hopes of further destabilizing the fragile situation to his advantage. My Venezuelan contact assured me that there is evidence of infiltration in the Ecuadoran armed forces.

He also told me that Chávez envisions an axis of power linking Brasilia, Montevideo and Buenos Aires. As it is, these populist governments aren’t much for standing on principle and anything anti-Yanqui scores cheap domestic points; some may even aspire to Venezuelan-style authoritarianism. But it is also possible that cooperation with Chávez is part survival technique to ward off his use of bullying militants.

It’s all part of the Bolivarian revolution, folks.

Also posted at Blogger News Network

Thursday, April 28th, 2005

Venezuela’s oil monopoly will use Habana as its base of operations for the Caribbean
From Forbes

Venezuela’s state-run company Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, will open an office in Cuba during a meeting aimed at boosting trade between the two Caribbean nations this week, the government news agency reported Tuesday.

El Herald has further details (my translation):

Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), que abrirá hoy una oficina en La Habana, planea utilizar a Cuba como centro para sus operaciones en el Caribe, dijo ayer el ministro venezolano de Energía y Petróleo, Rafael Ramírez.
Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), which is opening today its Habana office, plans to use Cuba as its center of operations for the Caribbean, stated Rafael Ramírez, Venezuela’s minister for Energy and Oil.

Ramírez stated that Venezuela’s sending Cuba over 50,000 barrells per day, and that the PDVSA office in Habana will be in charge of commerce, storage, and transport. Venezuela’s also opening a branch of the state-owned Banco Industrial de Venezuela in Habana.

It doesn’t really take a rocket scientist to realize that, since Venezuela’s a Caribbean country and already has the necessary infrastructure to carry out all its commercial activity, opening this office and the bank in Havana is simply a means to further merge Venezuela’s rapid descent into communism and finance Castro’s goverment while avoiding those pesky investigations on corruption scandals and the subsequent calls for financial transparency at PDVSA.

As I mentioned before, Citgo, which has eight refineries and some 13,000 service stations across the U.S., is owned by Petróleos de Venezuela SA. What Venezuela does concerns us directly.

Additionally, Chávez has gone on the record saying that “oil is a geopolitical weapon”.

Carlos Alberto Montaner pointed out last week that,

when the Cuban army became the largest in Latin America it ended up invading Angola and Ethiopia with tens of thousands of soldiers, who — from 1975 to 1989 — fought in Africa the longest war ever waged by a foreign force: 14 years.

Cuba might not be at that stage again, and Chávez is certainly making headway in his arms race, but the USA’s most immediate need is elsewhere: energy.

Yesterday President Bush started to address the subject:

President Bush called for construction of more nuclear power plants and urged Congress on Wednesday to give tax breaks for fuel-efficient hybrid and clean-diesel cars. He also said he was powerless to bring down high gasoline costs.

Calling the problem one of not having enough energy supplies to keep pace with demand, Bush said technology will provide the answer in the long run by allowing development of more domestic energy sources.

”Technology is the ticket,” said Bush, calling today’s tight energy markets ”a problem that has been years in the making” and will take time to resolve. He said he was determined to spur development of more nuclear power, coal, oil and renewable energy and again called on Congress to provide him with a national energy agenda.

And not a minute too soon.

Also posted at Blogger News Network

Thursday, April 28th, 2005

Arthur writes on Putin’s
ridiculous assertion that “the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” and has this to say to Vlad,

No, Vladimir, the creation of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. It led to deaths of tens of millions, enslavement of hundreds of millions and half a century of Cold War with its simmering tensions, frequent violent outbursts, and the ever-present specter of nuclear annihilation. After all this, the collapse of the Soviet Empire was the greatest geopolitical blessing of recent times.

Today Arthur also posts on those who are Fondly remembering dinosaurs.

Thursday, April 28th, 2005

McGreevey resigns, this time from his job
at Lesniak’s law office
Former N.J. Governor Resigns From Law Firm Amid Flap Over Work for Developers. The developers are involved with the “Xanadu” project in the Meadowlands, which is worth an estimated $1.3 billion.

DynamoBuzz explains,

Good to see that McGreevey has developed a respect for both the letter and spirit of the law, something he was lacking during his three years in office.

And then there’s that “Xanadu” name for the Meadowlands project. . .
To those of us with literary inclinations, or minds for trivia, or both, the name Xanadu doesn’t quite strike a good note when it comes to real estate development atop a swamp. (The Meadowlands are on a swamp, or, more nicely put, wetlands.) Look up the poem where Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote,

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea

So far so good, in keeping with the swampy theme. But scroll down a bit and you’ll find something for a sequel of The Exorcist:

A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover!

And further down,

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure dome with caves of ice!

Caves of ice in the Meadowlands? No, thanks.