The bailout

Here’s the latest news on the development from Forbes. Both congress and senate seem to be dragging their feet.

And I think that’s a good thing. I’ve decided that there is probably more of a libertarian in me than I’d thought. I read through Paulson’s plan when it was first launched, long and dead-boring as it was. And I just couldn’t agree with the man. I haven’t read Dodd‘s counter plan, but had it explained here.

Here’s a couple of good quotes that pretty much sum up my feelings on the matter:

Tyler Cowen, professor of economics and prominent writer, explains the difference between the two plans:

Think of a barrel of apples, some good, some less good.  To oversimplify, the Paulson plan has the government buy some of the bad apples.  The Dodd plan has the government buy a 20 percent share in the barrel.  In both cases government buys something.

He points to this letter signed by a host of economists:

As economists, we want to express to Congress our great concern for the plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson to deal with the financial crisis. We are well aware of the difficulty of the current financial situation and we agree with the need for bold action to ensure that the financial system continues to function. We see three fatal pitfalls in the currently proposed plan:

1) Its fairness. The plan is a subsidy to investors at taxpayers’ expense. Investors who took risks to earn profits must also bear the losses.  Not every business failure carries systemic risk. The government can ensure a well-functioning financial industry, able to make new loans to creditworthy borrowers, without bailing out particular investors and institutions whose choices proved unwise.

2) Its ambiguity. Neither the mission of the new agency nor its oversight are clear. If  taxpayers are to buy illiquid and opaque assets from troubled sellers, the terms, occasions, and methods of such purchases must be crystal clear ahead of time and carefully monitored afterwards.

3) Its long-term effects.  If the plan is enacted, its effects will be with us for a generation. For all their recent troubles, America’s dynamic and innovative private capital markets have brought the nation unparalleled prosperity.  Fundamentally weakening those markets in order to calm short-run disruptions is desperately short-sighted.

For these reasons we ask Congress not to rush, to hold appropriate hearings, and to carefully consider the right course of action, and to wisely determine the future of the financial industry and the U.S. economy for years to come.
 

In today’s New York Times there are several good articles and an interesting op-ed. The Economix blog, economy writer Vikas Bajaj‘s very informative piece “Plan’s mystery (…)”

And there’s another thing that I can’t help thinking about. What about the US’ economy in general? If this bail-out goes through, half the American economy will be based on loans in foreign currency. Most of it in yuan (Chinese money). Is that better than having some banks and some mortgage brokers go under?

Here’s a quote from BBC:

Ballooning state debt: The plan would swell the budget deficit, which could fuel inflation, economists warn (Mr Paulson has asked to raise state borrowing to $11.3 trillion, from $10.6 trillion).

A picture of Meg Ryan from The Women? Oh no! No pictures of face-lifted women on my blog. So here’s cute George. Picture borrowed from Styletraxx.

OK, some of you would probably much rather know what I thought of the film The Women, which I saw yesterday. Well, it stinks! I remember being pleasantly surprised by The Devil Wears Prada, which I watched on one of the long-hauls on our trip. Entertaining, funny and with a bit of bite. This one was/had neither. And tooooo looooong! My fingers were literally cutting through the air in some scenes… So, don’t go there. But I saw trailers for two films that I’m longing to see: Brideshead Revisited (oh, how we swooned in front of the TV, when the series was shown in the 80’s!). And the new Coen Brothers film. I’ve seen all their films and I just looove them… and George Clooney ;-)

PS: You’ll want to be wary of the above Wikipedia links (economy). All the articles are highly controversial. So – if you want to go in-depth with any of this, seek other sources as well.

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24 hours

Sarah Palin is meeting how many? foreign leaders in 24 hours? I forget. And I suspect she will too. Very quickly.

How is it possible in a democracy to keep a candidate to such an important job away from the press? I do believe everybody would find it quite OK, if she doesn’t know the name of the president of Belgium or whatever. But in one of two interviews (one on one) she’s given, she didn’t know what the Bush Doctrine is? And I remember that her “boss” McCain named the German chancellor Vladimir Putin… How can the Americans choose to vote for her, when they haven’t even heard her answer some of the questions, which must surely be on their minds?

Anyway, I don’t really have time to elaborate and I’m sure you’d rather I didn’t, so here are links to more qualified deliberations elsewhere: Washington PostInternational Herald Tribune, The Times.

I’ve read a lot about the bailing out of banks and other financial institutions lately. It is very difficult to form an opinion! But I think I’m getting there and tomorrow I’ll let you in on my thoughts!

But now I’m off to the movies with a group of other women (neighbours) to see – The Women. It’s got horrible reviews and it looks more than a little silly. But I’m sure we’ll have a good laugh.

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American television

 I’m often a bit behind in reading The Sunday Times. It is not always that you can devote an entire Sunday to the devouring of The Times. So this morning while I was having breakfast, I read the Culture section. After an interesting article about Baz Luhrmann‘s new film Australia (see trailer here), I got to the previously mentioned AA Gill commenting on British and American television. If you’re interested, you can read the bit about British television yourself here, but I’ll quote his bit about American television. I really wish I could have written it that way myself – we often thought and discussed along those lines while we were there:

 

I have spent the past fortnight in America, immersed, or submerged, in rolling news. There is something numbly comforting about the repetitious lapping of CNN. They say that, after the initial gagging and panic, drowning is quite a pleasant way to go, and that’s rather like watching Fox News — as you drift into unconsciousness, other people’s lives flash before your eyes. The rolling news channels give you the impression of being constantly informed while actually telling you very little. The world sidles past like a great river, and you never have to get wet. Disasters and basketball matches, comic animals and those strangely misshapen commentators all float away with equal inconsequence.

I was reminded again of two strange truths about American broadcasting. One is the astonishing number and variety of snake-oil medicinal commercials, not just advertising patent medicines but whole new diseases. Medical care is one of the main broken bones of contention in the coming American election, but nobody has actually pointed out that getting the halt, the flatulent, the palsied, the breathless and the hypochondriacs to pay for television is a very weird way of financing the entertainment and gaiety of a nation.

 

Brilliant powers of observation!

In a couple of hours I fly with boring Sterling to Copenhagen. Btw. if you’re NOT in Denmark, but want to fly there, Lastminute.com is always, ALWAYS, cheaper with the Sterling tickets than Sterling themselves. This particular ticket (out Thursday and back Sunday) I got for £100, whereas Sterling wanted £300. Don’t even mention SAS

Am going to participate in a 90th birthday celebration in the family. It really is something, isn’t it, to reach 90 and still have all your faculties?

So, see you on Monday…

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School buses

On our trip through America we often marvelled over the school bus system. Wherever we were, we saw school buses everywhere and we noticed how they enjoyed very special privileges over any other vehicles on the road. All traffic stops, when the school bus does. It is just so not done to overtake a school bus, no matter what the road conditions are like.

Picture taken in Mississippi, if I remember correctly. It’s a tired old bus this one.

Since coming here I’ve often wondered why they don’t use them. Except for very urban areas, the public transportation here isn’t that fantastic and even if there were a bus, you can’t send your primary school child on a public bus to school unless it stops in the actual school grounds or there are traffic wardens in place where they get off the bus. Where we live, there’s not a bus Dane can safely take to school. So like all the other parents at his school I dutifully drive him to and from school every day. Don’t get me wrong – I actually cherish the moments alone with him in the car. There are few places or occasions where you get a more free conversation with your child than in the car.

But I still think it would be wonderful with a school bus. For several reasons: The parents – it’s stressful to do the school run, there’s loads of traffic and you’re constantly worried about either being late for work in the morning or being late for pick-up in the afternoon. And there’s the cost of petrol and the wear and tear of the car – by now we’ve all learned that it’s the short trips that wear the car out and which are most expensive in petrol. Then there’s the general congestion. I don’t recall the number, but it’s an astonishing amount of cars that would not fill the roads, if school buses became generally used in this country. And not least, there’s the environment. There’s a lot of CO2 emissions saved on that account. And – for the children, there’s the not so small matter of security – it’s a lot safer to drive in a dedicated school bus with a certified school bus driver than to drive with stressed-out mum or dad. And it’s more fun too – you get to travel with all your mates.

So, as David Blunkett, the chairman of the Yellow school bus committee, said: It should be a no-brainer. But apparently the unions have complained that the children should much rather go by public transport. ‘Scuse me, but that’s the no-brainer here. If sufficient, safe and on-time public transportation was to be found, would everybody drive their kids to school? And besides, what about all the nice new members the union would get?

I’m writing about it today because it’s on the news. The above mentioned committee published their report yesterday.

Anyway, now it’s up to the politicians to figure out if we’re going to have school buses in this country. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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Double standards

I was recently enlightened on a new blog on The Times’ page. It’s called Alpha Mummy and it’s full of good stuff. Some pretty clever writers who do a lot of reading, off line and online.

Here’s on the double standards women political candidates are subjected to. It’s the Tonight Show again. I’m afraid I find him very, very funny. He must have some fantastic researches to always find just that clipping that gives his current victim away. And the fact that he always lets them give themselves away. He just sits there, leering…

Here’s an entirely different post about influential and infamous women from ancient times till now. If I tell you that both Lucrezia Borgia and Carla Bruni are mentioned, will you click through?

And here’s an article written by an American Republican woman in The Times, which more or less answers the question I asked a couple of days ago. What are the not-so-religious etc. Republicans going to vote now? The sad answer probably is: They are not. Since they can’t bring themselves to vote for Mr. Obama, they’ll just stay home and do nothing. And if McCain/Palin win, they can sit on their high horses and say that they didn’t vote for them. No, but they didn’t vote against them either.

On the day – may it never come – when Mrs. Palin is president of the United States and wreaks havoc of all the remaining things we love about America, what will these people say in their defense?

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AA Gill on Ms. Palin

The Sunday Times is unbeatable. There is no better Sunday paper – at least not of all the English, Swedish and Danish language newspapers I’ve tried over the years. It’s conservative, it’s snobbish, it’s eh, for want of better word, British… But it’s wonderful! We timed it today – a very lazy day indeed. We’ve been reading for six hours! On a daily basis I prefer the Independent and sometimes the Guardian. But not on a Sunday.

One of the great things about it is one of it’s most high-profile writers, AA Gill. He writes in a style all of his own in an English so flamboyant, so flowery, so vibrant, so vitriolic! And on Wikipedia I just read that the man is so dyslectic that he literally can’t write, he dictates all of his articles and books to a copywriter. He does features, travel writing and restaurant reviews. I found an interview with him on the American food-buff site Chow. I certainly don’t agree with him on everything, but I like to have my views challenged (occasionally…).

Picture borrowed from Clive Arrowsmith

Today he writes on the subject on – yes again – the American election. The article is hilariously funny – at least if you’re no great fan of McCain & Palin. About Minnesota, where the GOP convention is held:

This is where the Swedes and Norwegians came to try to whittle Scandinavia out of the hem of Canada. Back home they grew to be the most liberal nations in the world. Here they grew silent and maudlin. There’s a Minnesotan joke – only the one. It goes like this: there was an old Norwegian man who loved his wife so much he almost told her. That was so funny I almost laughed.”

About the choice of Palin:

“Depending on how fundamentally hard right you are, Palin is either a godsend who speaks to the experience of ordinary small-town large-breasted American women and sticks two fingers in the eyes of the coastal latte liberals. Or she’s a hideously embarrassing mistake that will swamp the election in underclass redneck sexual incontinence and that everything is about damage limitation and trying not to think about what would happen if president McCain died and this was the first family. Not so much from igloo to White House as igloo to White Trailer.”

Isn’t he wonderfully vicious? (The article, Redneck Regina, is not yet available online, but I suspect that it will be made available in a few days time.)

Anyway, we discussed this at length at a dinner party last night. Most people around the table had friends, business relations or family or all three in America and several of them known Republicans. But none of them from the religious right. How are they going to vote??? McCain is 72 and looks even older, his health isn’t that good, he’s had several so-called cancer scares and has the five years in Hanoi Hilton in his baggage. And the job as president is rather demanding, isn’t it? You can’t really take a day off? So, this woman will only be the famous heartbeat away from the presidency. Are the not-so-religious, pro-choice, non-members of the NRA, polar bear-friendly Republicans just going to cross their fingers, close their eyes and vote for McCain anyway? Or what?

I’ve got friends and family of the Republican persuasion. And I know some of them occasionally read my blog. If you do, then please enlighten us Europeans on your thoughts upon the matter. We really want to hear!

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Ms. Palin revisited and other odds and ends

A friend of mine sent me this very funny episode of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. You won’t be surprised to hear that his subject is Sarah Palin.

Inspired by the renewed debate about abortion, Slate has a really good article about the statistics surrounding this. And the history of the debate. The Republicans are talking about challenging Roe vs. Wade, the historical Supreme Court case about the right to abortion. I’m sad to see though, that the far right has succeeded in planting the term Pro-Life (like they also planted the term Political Correctness), so that even liberal Slate uses it. They are NOT Pro-Life. They are Anti-Abortion. It is NOT the same thing in my opinion.

In yesterday’s Guardian there was a good, although sad article about how the number of women in the highest positions in society is dwindling fast. There are good insights and some stabs at an explanation. The super famous and wildly successful businessman Sir Alan Sugar is quoted:

“he said that as an employer he would like to be able to ask women at interview “Are you planning to get married and have any children?”, adding that the fact that this was legally prohibited gave businesses an easy option: “Just don’t employ them.” “

Is this sad or what?

I wrote recently about intellectual property and copyright. The record industry always claims that it’s doing for the artists. That’s such a joke! And I feel sorry for the artists who believe it. Here’s a story from Boing Boing about how prolonged copyright in Europe benefits – yeah well, who do you think. Clue: it’s not the artists.

On happiness, this time the Danes’. Again. The article is written by a Brit living in Denmark. And so, why are Danes the happiest people on the planet? Because we have such low expectations to life! Take that. Link found on New York Times’ Idea blog.

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He might be old, but he looks even older…

Here’s a commercial from the Obama camp, which might do the trick. Isn’t it great that Mr. McCain has actually been filmed while bragging about voting 90% of the time with Mr. Bush (or W. as the American media love to call him)! Ezra Klein had it.

That American politics really are different from politics anywhere else is no news. Here’s an article from Politico about “the Jewish Problem” (not that Jewish problem, the Republicans’ Jewish problem). And why is that interesting? Well, it’s interesting because it – from one corner of this huge arena of stuff that’s not politics – shows why real politics are so relatively unimportant in the US presidential elections.

Ezra Klein is at the Republican Convention (also called the GOP convention, GOP being short for Grand Old Party!!!) and reports from all the speeches. He tells us that the theme of Mr. McCain having spent five years in the Hanoi Hilton isn’t exactly being played down. And that several of the speakers seem to think that having endured torture will make Mr. McCain a better leader. And he quotes this freezing comment from one of his readers:

So torture builds character that leads to leadership.

I can only imagine the sign above Gitmo:

“Welcome future world leaders”

Ezra Klein also points to the front page of US Weekly.

I almost begin to feel sorry for the woman!

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Boing Boing

I’ve had this Internet directory on my roll for quite some time, but it’s not really until today that I’ve found anything other than curiosities on it. When I looked through it today though, there seemed to be a lot more substantial stuff or maybe I just haven’t paid close enough attention earlier.

This post is about the tendency we all have to embellish a good story AND about how willing we are to believe what we see/read/hear if it “sounds right” or suits our own beliefs. I wonder if that has become worse with the Internet or if it’s always been like that. Think of H. G. Wells and The War of the Worlds.

Here’s about the suspicious and hostile treatment you get in the US immigration – in this case in JFK. On our journey we experienced unpleasantness many times, but luckily nothing like this. We joked about the fact that the only nice immigration officer we met, while in the US, was in fact Canadian…

And here’s a story – or rather a video – that puts what I wrote above into perspective. Should one really believe that this can happen to anyone – ANYONE – in London, here in wonderful, democratic UK????? It sure looks very authentic, but I just don’t want to believe that this could happen to me next time I venture up to London!

The next one is little more than a curiosity, but since it’s about John McCain, I will not hesitate to bring it to you: Here’s the quote from McCain’s own website:

It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman’s memory of war from the comfort of mom’s basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others.

Although it’s not written by McCain himself (how could it be, he’s just learning to surf the Internet as we speak), it’s still ON his website. A Dungeons & Dragons fan promptly had this t-shirt designed:

The guy who designed it has several cool t-shirts to offer actually. Check this for a cool motif:

Now, where was I? Oh yes, politics, that’s right. There’s also a couple of pointers to stories about people arrested at the Beijing games for drawing attention to Tibet. Brave and admirable people, they are!

And now to something completely different. This is a Danish blogger I’ve been following for years. She has just recently posted one of the most exquisite photo series I think I’ve ever seen on a blog and I really must share it with you! It’s called Laundry. Here’s just one photo from the series:

Thank you, Lisa!

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7 pencils made of paper…

Dane and I have developed a taste for Origami. The pencils to the left are folded by Dane. Soon I’ll make a brag-post with pictures of our best creations. My most refined to date was a Triceratops (that’s a dinosaur) which I made earlier this evening. Dane’s comment: “Oh Mummy, that’s SO COOL!” A reward in it’s own… Inspiration and instruction courtesy of The Natural History Museum where we spent most of the day with good friends visiting from Denmark.

The rest of this post is devoted to all the nice places on the web you never knew you were missing…

On Slate there’s a quick’n’dirty guide to testing various search engines, obviously prompted by the emergence of the self-proclaimed Google-competitor Cuil (pronounced COOL). It’s quite good and it’s more quick than it’s dirty, if you get my drift. Still, it’s good to bear in mind that if you often search within a specialty realm, it’s a good idea to make your trial searches with well known items within that realm.

Another way to waste some time online is to check if your use of the Internet is gender specific or not. Take the test here, it takes only a few seconds. Apparently I’m 64% male… and that’s without ever having visited a sports page in my online existence. The pointer came from Marginal Revolution – as usual.

Here’s an interesting article about US presidential candidate John McCain. I’m not a taker, so I needn’t be convinced. But reading an article like this, where the author clearly likes McCain and takes him serious as a candidate, is much more interesting than reading hundreds of articles that just make fun of McCain. He’s not to be made fun of, really. He’s one of two contestants for the world’s most influential job – and almost half of all American voters are looking his way at the moment. The article focuses on McCain’s Internet illiteracy. Apparently, he needs an aid to log on to a news site or a blog for him and the man has never sent an e-mail. I don’t believe that has anything – or much at least – to do with age. I know quite a few people of his age or near it who are very proficient on the web. It has to do with a kind of arrogance and stubborn defiance that is far more troubling than age! But read the article for yourself, it appears in the Washingtonian, the local website for all things Washington D.C. Pointer from Ezra Klein.

Tomorrow we head south for the first part of our holiday here in Great Britain.

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The Gift Economy?

No matter how hard I try, I never seem to be quite up to speed with what’s going on out there in the world. Today I read about a phenomenon, which I’ve occasionally been arguing for (to a degree), but didn’t even know had a name… Well, it does have a name: The Gift Economy (Wikipedia article disputed, but still quite informative). First book on subject written more than 20 years ago :-(

The source of all this new information is a blog I’ve been following for quite a while. It’s called

This Blog Sits at the

Intersection of Anthropology and Economics

which is an unusually accurate title for a blog.

What he uses as an example is a rapper called Lil’ Wayne from New Orleans. Apparently he tipped Coldplay off No. 1 in the American charts. And I’ve never heard of him… Anyway, the interesting bit is that Lil’ Wayne makes practically everything he ever makes freely available on the Internet – in every shape or form you can imagine. So, when his album was recently released, could you then expect it to sell? Well, I would. But I know a lot of people who wouldn’t!

Gift Economy is based on the thought that “What Comes Around Gets Around”. Where I’m certain that variations on this idea can work very well for most artistic products, I’m not so sure about other stuff. As the above blogger muses, will somebody give him the aluminium siding that he so wants? And if somebody did, wouldn’t that somebody go bankrupt very soon? Or would other people start giving him back stuff (he wants and needs)  out of sheer gratitude? I know people who would and people who wouldn’t. Don’t know which kind there are most of out there!

But oh, can I just love the idea of it for a little while!

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Links

Now, what kind of idiot does a thing like this? Thank you to Capac for the pointer.

I’m always going on about TED (Technology Entertainment Design). As the happy owner of an Iphone I have taken podcasts to a higher level and sit on buses, trains and airplanes etc. and LEARN things in a very entertaining way by watching video-podcasts from TED. If you still haven’t taken my hint and tried to watch a TED video, here’s your chance of watching some of the very best ones, picked out by really brainy people. The theme of TED is “Ideas are Everything”. And what the speakers have in common is that they have one or more original idea(s). Some speakers are world famous, some “only” famous within their field. Some of them aren’t famous at all before they appear on TED!

A spinoff of TED is this lovely online shop based in San Francisco with messenger bags made of discarded plastic bottles. I want one!

The Long Now Blog links to this very funny post about the messages that we, Earth, have sent into space since we were able to go there. It’s not uplifting reading, but it’s so funny! I’m going to keep an eye on that guy.

The Times (and most all other media) has the story this morning of an American court ruling against Google/Youtube. Viacom has sued for infringment of their copyright. Oh, I’m tired of hearing the big media companies going on about Artists’ Rights. It’s not really the artists’ rights they care about, but their own sources of income. And very often they – mysteriously – are biting the hand that feeds them. For instance, the many, many clips in Youtube from Britain’s got Talent and all the other similar shows. Do those clips give the shows more viewers or less viewers? More interest or less interest? Your guess is as good as mine… It really is worrying that Viacom can look into the viewing habits of every single Youtube user and maybe even access their IP-address. In a statement Viacom says that they are not going to do that, but only time will show. Reading about this led me on to this honourable organisation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation. How glad I am that people have the time and energy to found and run such organisations. It’s for the benefit of us all. More on this issue from Jeff Jarvis.

Also from the Long Now Blog a pointer to an article (disguised as a book review) in the New York Review of Books about global warming by British physicist and author Freeman Dyson (what I would not give to be as clearminded at the age of 84!!!). Before you roll your eyes and move on, let me tell you that this article is about the whole issue. The arguments for and against whether global warming is a serious problem or not, the economic aspects of all the different paths we could take and a very interesting finale about Environmentalism as a new religion. If you’re interested in this and want to read something that is truly unbiased, then try this. It’s not exactly an easy read and I will not claim to have understood all of it. But I understand lots more now than I did before…

The News is now Public ( a site dedicated to the publishing of news ignored or played down by other media) tells about Patrick Waller, the 31st innocent man freed by DNA in the state of Texas. The state of Texas apparently has a double record in the US. It’s the state where the most sentenced have later been found innocent based  on DNA and other evidence. And it’s the state with the highest rate of executions. That’s bone-chilling! CNN is the source of the story. An organisation called the Innocence Project are fronting and financing many of these cases. God Bless them!

As many of you will know, I’m an “Apple Person”. I love all things Apple and have much more of that “I Can’t Live Without It”-feeling in the Apple Store than in any department store. But there are things that aggravate me with Apple too. And mostly that has to do with the copyright thing. I absolutely detest that I can’t do with my own paid for CD’s and downloads exactly as I please. That absolutely INFURIATES me. And reading that I couldn’t watch Netflix films on my Mac if I so chose, infuriates me further. Give me my rights back! Why are my rights influenced by what platform I’ve chosen? Grrrr…

Jabberwock, an Indian blog, reviews the debut novel by Mohammed Hanif, which I’ve also read good things about elsewhere. He tells about the similarities to a book I read a long time ago and really, really liked: Mario Vargas Llosa‘s The Feast of the Goat. Mr. Hanif himself acknowledges the inspiration from Llosa. If you’ve never read anything by Llosa, he can be recommended as good – and very entertaining – summer reading. I’ve added the Exploding Mangoes to my Amazon wish list.

Oh, just realising I’ve been going on like this for hours and you’ve probably left this page a long time ago. Let this then be the last link. A funny post by Megan McArdle on The Atlantic about the demise of the SUV. I was never fond of SUVs in the first place, them being petrol-consuming and even more dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists than other cars, so of course I love her little piece. Have a laugh over some of the comments as well.

No, here’s the last bit. On a very nice social outing with neighbours here in our convent, one person collected money for a “kitty”, for drinks at the pub. I did know what a kitty was, but hadn’t heard the word in many years, not having lived in England before. Asking all these knowledgeable and well educated people about the origin of the word “kitty”, they all drew a blank. But view possible explanations here, here and here.

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A “dunk in the water”

The above is a quote from Donald Rumsfeld. And no, he wasn’t talking about his latest holiday by the sea or one of his grandchildren falling into the pool.

He was referring to waterboarding. If you don’t know what that is, it’s an “interrogation technique” which the top of the American administration has allowed to be used in Guantanamo and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Get a definition on Waterboarding.org or on Wikipedia.

Picture from Waterboarding.org

The top guys in Washington did their very best to cover their tracks and make it look like the ideas for waterboarding and a number of other “interrogation techniques” came from the bottom: the soldiers and officers stationed at Guantanamo and in Iraq and Afghanistan. But luckily there are people out there, some of which are even journalists, who have been digging through heaps and heaps of documents and uncovered the paper trail, which points directly to Rumsfeld and Bush.

An army of lawyers have been deployed to “legalize” these interrogation methods, which are most certainly not allowed in the Geneva Convention. Or in the American constitution…

Two lawyers at the Justice Department’s office of Legal Council came up with this brand new definition of torture: Physical torture occurs only when the pain is

equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death

and that mental torture requires

suffering not just at the moment of infliction but… lasting psychological harm.

These quotes are from a memo written by the two lawyers Jay Bybee (now a federal judge) and John Yoo (now teaches law at Berkeley!!!!!!!). The quotes are from an article in Vanity Fair by British law professor Philippe Sands. It’s a very long article (8 pages), but well worth reading.

A shorter article, to some extent based on the findings by Philippe Sands, is on today’s BBC Online.

Presidential hopeful John McCain, who consistently claims to be against torture (he himself has been a prisoner of war) voted against a bill proposed to the senate about banning waterboarding and other kinds of torture. Article in New York Times.

Democratic senator and presidential hopeful Barack Obama (or Barack HUSSEIN Obama as all the right wing newsletters and blogs scrupulously write) made this statement last year about torture:

The secret authorization of brutal interrogations is an outrageous betrayal of our core values, and a grave danger to our security. We must do whatever it takes to track down and capture or kill terrorists, but torture is not a part of the answer – it is a fundamental part of the problem with this administration’s approach. Torture is how you create enemies, not how you defeat them. Torture is how you get bad information, not good intelligence. Torture is how you set back America’s standing in the world, not how you strengthen it. It’s time to tell the world that America rejects torture without exception or equivocation. It’s time to stop telling the American people one thing in public while doing something else in the shadows. No more secret authorization of methods like simulated drowning. When I am president America will once again be the country that stands up to these deplorable tactics. When I am president we won’t work in secret to avoid honoring our laws and Constitution, we will be straight with the American people and true to our values.

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Do you have one (or more) bumper stickers on your car?

Then I don’t want to meet you out there in the traffic… A recent study shows that there’s a clear connection between having bumper-stickers (the more the worse) on your car and the probability of you being a road-rager. That’s interesting, isn’t it. And it also goes for bumper stickers with “peace & love” or similar gentle messages on them.

I’m happy to tell you that I’ve always abhorred bumper stickers. Now I know why!

The article (Washington Post) is here. Thank you to Marginal Revolution for showing the way.

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