Monday, August 14, 2006

Milton Friedman on Google Video

Excelente serie realizada por el GRAN MAESTRO.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Victor Davis Hanson: Surreal Rules

The difficulties of fighting in an absurdly complicated region.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

David Pogue: Canon HD Camcorder

El review:

David Pogue: What War?

Getting Hung Up on the Apple-Microsoft War

This week, Apple revealed some of the key new features in “Leopard,” the 10.5 version of Mac OS X that’s scheduled to ship in the spring. Apple and its most die-hard fans wasted no time in comparing it with Microsoft’s own imminent new operating system, Windows Vista. One banner at Apple’s Developers’ Conference said, for example, “Hasta la vista, Vista.” Another taunted: “Redmond has a cat, too–a copycat.”

Mac fans online are fond of pointing out that in the time it took Microsoft to release *one* new Windows version, Apple has released *five* new Mac OS X versions. (Of course, they’re less vocal about the fact that they’ve dished out $650 to keep up with these updates.)

Apple and many observers also point out that Mac OS X is a *better* operating system than Windows. I’m among them, especially if we’re talking about Windows XP. Mac OS X is far more logical in structure and more refined around the edges.

And it’s certainly more secure. The Mac is essentially virus- and spyware-free–and no, not just because its market share is so small the virus writers don’t bother with it. Mac OS X had security built in from the beginning, in ways that Microsoft didn’t add until Windows Vista (like requiring your permission when a program tries to install itself).

What baffles me, though, is why people get so hung up on the Apple-Microsoft war. As far as I can tell, there *is* no real war.

See, I’m fairly resigned to Windows’s dominance. If Microsoft changed nothing in Vista but the color scheme, Windows would still be the 90 percent market-share gorilla.

Why? Because the market-share figures includes sales of computers to corporations, which buy hundreds of PC’s at a time. And the corporate world long ago standardized on Windows. It makes no difference how superior Mac OS X or Linux may be; the world’s I.T. staffs will switch their entire companies away from Windows the day Rush Limbaugh votes for Hillary Clinton.

After all, the I.T. people know where their bread is buttered. If Macs are indeed less trouble-prone and complex than Windows PC’s, they’re doomed in corporations; the last thing the I.T. guys want to do is obsolete themselves.

The only legitimate fight, therefore, is for the souls of individuals and small business owners who actually have a choice of platform–people whose computer choice is dictated by their corporate employers. But these are just market-share scraps.

Apple does seem to be winning the scraps, by the way; Macs have actually picked up a couple of points of market share recently.

But big companies will always buy Windows. In my view, the die was actually cast the day I.B.M., supplier to corporate America, chose Microsoft decades ago. And when you accept that fact, this business about an Apple-vs.-Microsoft feud for dominance looks purely symbolic.

Maybe it would be best to keep this observation secret, though. The fantasy that the marketplace is actually up for grabs does do two good things: It drives Microsoft to improve Windows, and drives Apple to continue dreaming up new directions for the desktop operating system.

(For example, I had my doubts that Apple could come up with anything in Mac OS X 10.5 with as great an impact as the Spotlight instant-search feature did in 10.4.

But Leopard will include an automatic, invisible, whole-computer backup system called Time Machine. In times of hard-drive failure or human error, it will let you rewind either your operating system or even individual documents and windows to earlier versions. Remember, fewer than five percent of us have automatic backup systems in place, so this is huge. Yes, I know there are certain third-party software programs that do something like this–there always are. But it’s quite another matter when it becomes part of the operating system.)

Followers of both camps, in other words, can save themselves a lot of ulcers if they just acknowledge a few facts:

* Microsoft gets a lot of ideas from Apple; Apple also gets ideas from Microsoft. It doesn’t matter; the most expensive lawyers in Silicon Valley have established that it’s all perfectly legal.

* Microsoft has won the market-share war, because it dominates in corporations.

* Both companies are profitable and have very long futures ahead of them.

* If market share were measured by individual buying decisions (rather than quantity of computers), Apple’s rank would be much higher.

* Even if the grand prize for the “war” is individuals, families and small businesses, the perception of a much bigger war is useful; Windows Vista and Mac OS X Leopard may in fact be on completely different playing fields, but they’re both looking like the best versions ever.

Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy

Gore isn't quite as green as he's led the world to believe

Al Gore has spoken: The world must embrace a "carbon-neutral lifestyle." To do otherwise, he says, will result in a cataclysmic catastrophe. "Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb," warns the website for his film, An Inconvenient Truth. "We have just 10 years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tailspin."

Graciously, Gore tells consumers how to change their lives to curb their carbon-gobbling ways: Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, use a clothesline, drive a hybrid, use renewable energy, dramatically cut back on consumption. Better still, responsible global citizens can follow Gore's example, because, as he readily points out in his speeches, he lives a "carbon-neutral lifestyle." But if Al Gore is the world's role model for ecology, the planet is doomed.

For someone who says the sky is falling, he does very little. He says he recycles and drives a hybrid. And he claims he uses renewable energy credits to offset the pollution he produces when using a private jet to promote his film. (In reality, Paramount Classics, the film's distributor, pays this.)

Public records reveal that as Gore lectures Americans on excessive consumption, he and his wife Tipper live in two properties: a 10,000-square-foot, 20-room, eight-bathroom home in Nashville, and a 4,000-square-foot home in Arlington, Va. (He also has a third home in Carthage, Tenn.) For someone rallying the planet to pursue a path of extreme personal sacrifice, Gore requires little from himself.

Then there is the troubling matter of his energy use. In the Washington, D.C., area, utility companies offer wind energy as an alternative to traditional energy. In Nashville, similar programs exist. Utility customers must simply pay a few extra pennies per kilowatt hour, and they can continue living their carbon-neutral lifestyles knowing that they are supporting wind energy. Plenty of businesses and institutions have signed up. Even the Bush administration is using green energy for some federal office buildings, as are thousands of area residents.

But according to public records, there is no evidence that Gore has signed up to use green energy in either of his large residences. When contacted Wednesday, Gore's office confirmed as much but said the Gores were looking into making the switch at both homes. Talk about inconvenient truths.

Gore is not alone. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has said, "Global warming is happening, and it threatens our very existence." The DNC website applauds the fact that Gore has "tried to move people to act." Yet, astoundingly, Gore's persuasive powers have failed to convince his own party: The DNC has not signed up to pay an additional two pennies a kilowatt hour to go green. For that matter, neither has the Republican National Committee.

Maybe our very existence isn't threatened.

Gore has held these apocalyptic views about the environment for some time. So why, then, didn't Gore dump his family's large stock holdings in Occidental (Oxy) Petroleum? As executor of his family's trust, over the years Gore has controlled hundreds of thousands of dollars in Oxy stock. Oxy has been mired in controversy over oil drilling in ecologically sensitive areas.

Living carbon-neutral apparently doesn't mean living oil-stock free. Nor does it necessarily mean giving up a mining royalty either.

Humanity might be "sitting on a ticking time bomb," but Gore's home in Carthage is sitting on a zinc mine. Gore receives $20,000 a year in royalties from Pasminco Zinc, which operates a zinc concession on his property. Tennessee has cited the company for adding large quantities of barium, iron and zinc to the nearby Caney Fork River.

The issue here is not simply Gore's hypocrisy; it's a question of credibility. If he genuinely believes the apocalyptic vision he has put forth and calls for radical changes in the way other people live, why hasn't he made any radical change in his life? Giving up the zinc mine or one of his homes is not asking much, given that he wants the rest of us to radically change our lives.

Peter Schweizer is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dilema judeo-progre

Cuando la realidad te baja de la nube de pedos

Gracias Kirchner...

por tus sobradas muestras de hombría e independencia. Con la frente alta vas a cenar esta noche en la rosada. Me pregunto como van a poner comida en la mesa los miles de afectados por tus bravuconadas.
(Nota: Gracias también a los políticos en Washington. Voy a estar pensando en ustedes cuando pague la frutilla. Cuándo nos daremos cuenta que los castigos arancelarios los paga el consumidor?)

Food: Summertime

Recetas veraniegas:

Bread salad with tomatoes and arugula

Cucumber gazpacho

California summer pudding

Copiar un cd es ilegal?


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

How Do You Spot An Anti-Semite?..

An old joke tells the story of an elderly traveler at the Vienna train station asking passersby whether they hate Jews. After a score of indignant "No's," one fellow finally admits that, why yes, he does hate them. "Thank goodness for an honest man!" exclaims the traveler. "Would you mind looking after my bags while I run to the men's room?"

Ahorrá ese latte

Do long lines for Frappuccinos really explain Starbucks' disappointing results?

Medio Oriente antes de la Segunda Guerra

Excelente galería de fotos:

The Eighteenth Brumaire of the Castro Dynasty

Cuba's military coup marks the end of the revolutionary era.
By Christopher Hitchens

If there had been a military coup in any other Latin American or Caribbean country, even a fairly small or obscure one, I think it safe to say that it would have made the front page of the newspapers. But the military coup in Cuba—a nation linked to ours in many vital and historic ways—has not been reported at all. Indeed, in "Castro's Younger Brother Is Focus of Attention Now," by Anthony Depalma and James C. McKinley Jr., on Page 8 of the New York Times of Aug. 3, the very possibility of such an event was even denied:
[O]ne of the most telling aspects of his career is that in the nearly five decades that Raúl Castro has led the Cuban armed forces, there has never been a coup attempt or an uprising of rank-and-file soldiers against their officers.

Thus did the newspaper of record digest the interesting novelty that the new head of government in Cuba was, in fact, the five-decade leader of the Cuban armed forces! In other words, an overt military takeover was the main evidence that these things don't happen in Havana. Perhaps Raúl Castro's accession doesn't count as a "coup attempt" (since it was successful), let alone a "rank-and-file" mutiny, but the plain fact remains that, for the first time in a Communist state since Gen. Jaruzelski seized power in Poland in 1981, the army has replaced the party as the source of authority.

The even more grotesque fact that power has passed from one 79-year-old brother to a "younger" one who is only 75 may have assisted in obscuring the obvious. So may the fact that—continuous babble about his "charisma" notwithstanding—Fidel Castro has never taken off his uniform (except for the tailored suits he dons for appearances at international conferences) since the day he took power. Even my distinction between the army and the party may be a distinction without much of a difference. Cuba has been a garrison state run by a military caudillo for most of the past half-century. More than anything, the maximum leader always based his legitimacy on his status as commander in chief. The dynastic succession of his brother only formalizes the situation. As was once said of Prussia, Cuba is not a country that has an army but an army that has a country.

Nor does this army confine itself to the stern questions of political and military power. Under the stewardship of Raúl Castro, it has extended itself to become a large stakeholder in the few areas of the Cuban economy that actually make money. A military holding company known as "La Gaviota" oversees perhaps as much as 60 percent of Cuban tourist revenues. Large farms and resorts are operated by serving and retired officers reporting to Raúl, and according to the Depalma/McKinley story, he has also "sent officers to business schools in Europe to learn capitalist management techniques."

Awareness of all this makes it the more surprising that everyone seems to have forgotten the highly charged moment in 1989 when there did appear to be an important rift within the Cuban armed forces. On June 12 of that year, Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa Sánchez was placed under arrest and accused of extreme corruption, dereliction of duty, and narcotics trafficking. Ochoa was no small fry. He had belonged to the original band of guerrillas in the Sierra Maestra, was a member of the 26th of July Movement that formed the inner core of the revolution, had been among those Cuban internationalists who tried to raise the flag of revolt in Venezuela and the Congo in the 1960s, and had headed the Cuban military missions to Angola, Ethiopia, and Nicaragua. (To mention something of which Cubans can be proud, I should add that he was prominent in the military defeat of South African forces at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1987, which contributed handily to the independence of Namibia and the ultimate defeat of apartheid itself.) Perhaps he had seen too much of the outside world. Perhaps, in that year of 1989, he was one of many Cubans who saw promise in Mikhail Gorbachev's program of glasnost and perestroika. Or perhaps he was simply guilty as charged—of colluding with the Colombian drug cartels in order to enrich himself and others. We shall never really know (or then again, we may be just on the verge of finding out), because the entire interval between his arrest and his death, and those of his associates, was a matter of four short weeks. His execution by firing squad was announced—after a special court martial—on July 13, 1989.

The man who made the long, rambling speech justifying the arrest and prejudging the verdict was Raúl Castro. Awarded the sort of TV time that was normally reserved for his brother, the head of the Cuban armed forces addressed the nation for two and a half hours instead of the allotted 45 minutes (one hopes he does not now fall into the habit of doing this) and amazed many Cubans who had been brought up to think of Ochoa as "sea-green incorruptible."

The moment was a significant one, because, in general, Cuba had been able to avoid the spectacle of the Communist "show trial" that had been inaugurated by Stalin in Moscow in the 1930s and pursued in even more grotesque form in Prague, Budapest, and Sofia after World War II. The only arraignment of a "factional" group in Havana had been in the mid-1960s, and it was paradoxically directed at a bunch of Moscow-line Stalinists allegedly led by Anibal Escalante. However, the show trial of Ochoa in 1989 was not a protracted ideological inquisition. It was a swift, ruthless business that produced immediate confessions, was conducted by a military "honor court," and concluded with an expeditious death sentence. All was decided within the framework of the military high command. Perhaps that should have been a warning of what was to come.

On the "new calendar" date of 18 Brumaire in 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte used his troops to seize power in Paris, proclaimed himself the nation's first consul, and soon after announced that the French revolution had come to its end. (Karl Marx's celebrated essay on "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon," lampooning a much later and lesser French monarch than Bonaparte, gave us the overused jest about the relationship between tragedy and farce.) Now the 26th of July Movement has arrived at its own belated historical terminus. The new pretender, once again, is much less flamboyant and impressive. If we cannot yet say that Castro is dead and we cannot decently say "long live" to the new-but-old Castro, we can certainly say that the Castro era is effectively finished and that a uniformed and secretive and highly commercial dictatorship is the final form that it will take.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair.

Housing Market May Land Harder Than Economists Predict

Del WSJ:

NEW YORK -- Home prices in some parts of the country are falling. Builders are scaling back. Bubble or not, the biggest housing boom in recent U.S. history is coming to an end.

Now here is the big question: How bad will the aftermath be? At this point, most economists expect a "soft landing," a gradual decline that won't derail the nation's economic expansion, now in its fifth year.

But there is a good chance they are being too optimistic. The boom has depended heavily on the upbeat psychology of consumers, builders and lenders. As moods swing, the landing could be very hard indeed.

"We could be underestimating the dark side," says Mark Zandi, chief U.S. economist at Moody's and among the first to seek to quantify the housing boom's broader effects. "Euphoria could turn into abject pessimism very quickly."

With each passing data point, signs of the housing slowdown grow stronger. In June, total single-family-home sales fell 8.7% from a year earlier, to an annualized rate of 6.9 million -- the sharpest year-to-year drop since April 1995.

The government's report on second-quarter real gross domestic product, the inflation-adjusted value of the nation's output, showed that fixed investment in housing by companies and individuals declined at an annual rate of 6.3% in the quarter. That was a sharp change from a year earlier, when it was increasing at an annual rate of 20%. As of Friday, futures markets were predicting about a 5% drop in house prices by May 2007.

Still, judging by most economists' forecasts, the fallout from a slowing housing market doesn't look all that unpleasant. Typically, they expect the decline in housing -- and housing-related activity -- to shave about a percentage point off inflation-adjusted GDP growth in 2007, compared with the estimated one percentage point the sector contributed to growth in 2005. If business investment and exports accelerate as expected, that would bring inflation-adjusted GDP growth to about 2.8% in 2007, down from a forecast 3.5% this year.

Economists, however, have few clues on which to base their predictions. Today's housing boom differs radically from its predecessors. For one, it has been bigger and longer-lived. House prices are still more than twice the level of 1991, when the boom began. Even after the recent decline, June's rate of home sales is 40% above the 20-year average.

Much of the recent increase has been driven by an unprecedented flood of cash into U.S. capital markets. Global demand for U.S. mortgage bonds, competition among big national lenders and the advent of exotic loans have made it easier than ever to borrow money to buy a house -- and to turn rising home values into cash.

Because the market has risen so far, economists worry it has the potential to fall much harder than their main forecasts would suggest. As Janet Yellen, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, put it in a speech last week: "We can't ignore the risks of more unpleasant scenarios developing."

One big question is how much the housing slowdown will affect consumers, whose spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy. If house prices plateau or fall, homeowners will feel poorer, and thus less willing to go out and buy more cars, boats and refrigerators. Typically, this "negative wealth effect" would be only about three to five cents of spending for each dollar of wealth lost.

But modern mortgage finance has magnified the effect of home values on spending, says Jan Hatzius, chief U.S. economist at Goldman Sachs in New York. He estimates that when people take cash out of their homes through home-equity loans and refinancings -- which they were doing at an annualized rate of $558 billion in the first quarter -- they tend to spend about 50 cents of every dollar. If house prices merely stabilize, people's diminished ability to use their houses like automated-teller machines would subtract about 0.75 percentage point from annualized GDP growth in 2007, Mr. Hatzius says.

Another question is how fast home sales, and consequently home building, can fall. Even after the second-quarter decline, investment in residential construction accounted for about 6.1% of the economy -- close to a 50-year high. If, as some economists expect, housing investment merely returns to the long-term average of about 4.6% over the next two years, the decline also would shave 0.75 percentage point from annual real GDP growth.

But there is reason to believe home builders will have to pull back more sharply. That is because the leveling off of house prices changes the equation of homeownership. When mortgage rates were less than 6% and house prices were rising at about double that rate, people could reasonably expect to make more on their house's appreciation than they would pay in interest on their mortgages. Now, though, inflation-adjusted mortgage rates -- the interest rate on a typical 30-year mortgage minus the percentage rise in home prices -- are on track to turn positive for the first time since 2001.

When housing took a similar turn in the 1970s, new-home sales quickly fell to their long-term norm. This time around, that would entail about a 50% decline in sales, says Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at consulting firm High Frequency Economics. He estimates that the resulting decline in residential construction would subtract about 1.5 percentage points from annual GDP growth in each of the next two years. "It's a 15-year bubble unwinding in two years," Mr. Shepherdson says. "It's going to hurt."

If Messrs. Hatzius and Shepherdson are both right, the effect of the housing slowdown on construction and consumer spending alone would subtract more than two percentage points from economic growth in 2007, bringing it well below 2%.

But that isn't all. Economists can't quantify some risks, including the biggest: the chance that a sharp drop in house prices -- what economists call a "disorderly downturn" -- would leave many homeowners owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. If that led to a wave of foreclosures and losses on riskier mortgage-backed securities, banks and investors could get spooked and cut back on all kinds of lending -- a move that could snuff out economic growth.

"For me, the risk of a disorderly downturn is the greater one," Mr. Hatzius says. "That's a scenario that people would worry about a lot, because typically recessions are the result of a general unwillingness to lend."

August 22

Que esto venga de una eminencia de la talla de Bernard Lewis significa que es para preocuparse.

August 8, 2006

During the Cold War, both sides possessed weapons of mass destruction, but neither side used them, deterred by what was known as MAD, mutual assured destruction. Similar constraints have no doubt prevented their use in the confrontation between India and Pakistan. In our own day a new such confrontation seems to be looming between a nuclear-armed Iran and its favorite enemies, named by the late Ayatollah Khomeini as the Great Satan and the Little Satan, i.e., the United States and Israel. Against the U.S. the bombs might be delivered by terrorists, a method having the advantage of bearing no return address. Against Israel, the target is small enough to attempt obliteration by direct bombardment.

It seems increasingly likely that the Iranians either have or very soon will have nuclear weapons at their disposal, thanks to their own researches (which began some 15 years ago), to some of their obliging neighbors, and to the ever-helpful rulers of North Korea. The language used by Iranian President Ahmadinejad would seem to indicate the reality and indeed the imminence of this threat.

Would the same constraints, the same fear of mutual assured destruction, restrain a nuclear-armed Iran from using such weapons against the U.S. or against Israel?

Muhammad's night flight on Buraq.

There is a radical difference between the Islamic Republic of Iran and other governments with nuclear weapons. This difference is expressed in what can only be described as the apocalyptic worldview of Iran's present rulers. This worldview and expectation, vividly expressed in speeches, articles and even schoolbooks, clearly shape the perception and therefore the policies of Ahmadinejad and his disciples.

Even in the past it was clear that terrorists claiming to act in the name of Islam had no compunction in slaughtering large numbers of fellow Muslims. A notable example was the blowing up of the American embassies in East Africa in 1998, killing a few American diplomats and a much larger number of uninvolved local passersby, many of them Muslims. There were numerous other Muslim victims in the various terrorist attacks of the last 15 years.

The phrase "Allah will know his own" is usually used to explain such apparently callous unconcern; it means that while infidel, i.e., non-Muslim, victims will go to a well-deserved punishment in hell, Muslims will be sent straight to heaven. According to this view, the bombers are in fact doing their Muslim victims a favor by giving them a quick pass to heaven and its delights -- the rewards without the struggles of martyrdom. School textbooks tell young Iranians to be ready for a final global struggle against an evil enemy, named as the U.S., and to prepare themselves for the privileges of martyrdom.

A direct attack on the U.S., though possible, is less likely in the immediate future. Israel is a nearer and easier target, and Mr. Ahmadinejad has given indication of thinking along these lines. The Western observer would immediately think of two possible deterrents. The first is that an attack that wipes out Israel would almost certainly wipe out the Palestinians too. The second is that such an attack would evoke a devastating reprisal from Israel against Iran, since one may surely assume that the Israelis have made the necessary arrangements for a counterstrike even after a nuclear holocaust in Israel.

The first of these possible deterrents might well be of concern to the Palestinians -- but not apparently to their fanatical champions in the Iranian government. The second deterrent -- the threat of direct retaliation on Iran -- is, as noted, already weakened by the suicide or martyrdom complex that plagues parts of the Islamic world today, without parallel in other religions, or for that matter in the Islamic past. This complex has become even more important at the present day, because of this new apocalyptic vision.

In Islam, as in Judaism and Christianity, there are certain beliefs concerning the cosmic struggle at the end of time -- Gog and Magog, anti-Christ, Armageddon, and for Shiite Muslims, the long awaited return of the Hidden Imam, ending in the final victory of the forces of good over evil, however these may be defined. Mr. Ahmadinejad and his followers clearly believe that this time is now, and that the terminal struggle has already begun and is indeed well advanced. It may even have a date, indicated by several references by the Iranian president to giving his final answer to the U.S. about nuclear development by Aug. 22. This was at first reported as "by the end of August," but Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement was more precise.

What is the significance of Aug. 22? This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.

A passage from the Ayatollah Khomeini, quoted in an 11th-grade Iranian schoolbook, is revealing. "I am decisively announcing to the whole world that if the world-devourers [i.e., the infidel powers] wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against their whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all them. Either we all become free, or we will go to the greater freedom which is martyrdom. Either we shake one another's hands in joy at the victory of Islam in the world, or all of us will turn to eternal life and martyrdom. In both cases, victory and success are ours."

In this context, mutual assured destruction, the deterrent that worked so well during the Cold War, would have no meaning. At the end of time, there will be general destruction anyway. What will matter will be the final destination of the dead -- hell for the infidels, and heaven for the believers. For people with this mindset, MAD is not a constraint; it is an inducement.

How then can one confront such an enemy, with such a view of life and death? Some immediate precautions are obviously possible and necessary. In the long term, it would seem that the best, perhaps the only hope is to appeal to those Muslims, Iranians, Arabs and others who do not share these apocalyptic perceptions and aspirations, and feel as much threatened, indeed even more threatened, than we are. There must be many such, probably even a majority in the lands of Islam. Now is the time for them to save their countries, their societies and their religion from the madness of MAD.

Mr. Lewis, professor emeritus at Princeton, is the author, most recently, of "From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East" (Oxford University Press, 2004).

Se alquila

Visto en Luis este excelente análisis sobre el control de alquileres.

Sociología: The New Gender Divide

Interesante artículo en el NYT sobre el tema.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Europe's Willful Blindness

Del WSJ Europe:

BRUSSELS -- Mounir Herzallah explains how it works. Following Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, he writes in a letter published last month in the German daily Der Tagesspiegel, Hezbollah took control of his South Lebanese village, setting up missile depots in bunkers. "The social work of the Party of God consisted of building a school and a residential home on top of these bunkers. A local sheikh explained to me, laughing, that the Jews will lose no matter what -- either because rockets will be fired on them or because the international community will condemn them if they attack the depot."

And so a Lebanese Shiite now living in Berlin sets the record straight on Hezbollah. It should be common knowledge in Europe that Hezbollah is an Islamo-fascist organization bent on the destruction of Israel. But Hezbollah's cynicism in triggering the death of innocents, as seen in the current conflict in Lebanon, is matched by Europe's cynicism in closing its eyes to reality. Instead, as last week's debate in the European Parliament shows, politicians and media are once again turning Israel into a pariah state.

The fact that Hezbollah is waging a proxy war for Syria and, especially, Iran, which shares Hezbollah's genocidal intention for the Jewish state, is played down. Pictures showing Hezbollah terrorists practicing the Hitler salute are rarely shown. Similarly, reports on the current conflict seldom mention that Hezbollah is using Lebanon's population as human shields -- presenting Israel with the terrible dilemma of either not protecting its own civilians or hitting back and risking hurting Lebanese civilians. This essential context is missing in much of Europe's public debate of the war.

The killing of civilians in Qana by an Israeli missile strike is a case in point. As usual, the Israelis had warned the population to leave the village, from where 150 rockets had been launched at Israel. As usual, Hezbollah had been firing from or nearby civilian structures. And as usual, none of this played a role during last week's debate in the European Parliament. As the word "massacre" was repeated in the European press, an uninformed observer of the lawmakers' discussions would have had to conclude that Israel killed the Lebanese civilians intentionally.

For French Communist Francis Wurtz, Israel's attack on Qana was a "war crime." The Parliament President Josep Borrell, a Social Democrat from Spain, stated categorically that "no right of self-defense can justify such an act." The head of the parliament's Social Democratic group drew the only possible conclusion: "We distance ourselves from those who bear responsibility for this and call on everybody else to distance themselves as well," Martin Schulz proclaimed. Mr. Shulz called for the isolation of Israel, not the terror organization morally responsible for the carnage.

Of course, for the European Union, there are no terrorists in Lebanon. Just last week, after 213 members of the U.S. Congress asked the EU to finally add Hezbollah to its terror list, Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, once again ruled it out, citing the "sensitive situation."

It's that same lack of principles dressed up as responsible policy that turns Hezbollah's terror sponsors, Syria and Iran, into "mediators." External affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said last week that "whether we like it or not, Syria is an influential player." On Thursday, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos, a former EU envoy to the Middle East, took the road to Damascus, proclaiming a diplomatic breakthrough. The Syrians are "going to exercise all their influence on Hezbollah," he said. "Both Syria and Spain believe there is no military solution." Oh, if only those war-mongering Jews were a little more like that peace-loving dictator in Damascus, one could almost hear Mr. Moratinos sigh. The Spanish newspaper El Economista reported Friday that the Syrians denied having given any such promise of influencing Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy chatted up Tehran. Before heading into talks with his Iranian counterpart last week, the Frenchman had this to say about the state that wants to wipe Israel off the map: "In the region there is of course a country such as Iran -- a great country, a great people and a great civilization which is respected and which plays a stabilizing role in the region." Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, obviously pleased that his "stabilizing" ideas had found an appreciative audience, immediately reoffered his solution of the Middle East crisis -- the destruction of Israel. "Unacceptable," Mr. Douste-Blazy said. But then what? "Unacceptable" might be an appropriate adjective for lecturing your teenage son who just flunked his math test -- but as condemnation of threatened policide?

While Europe has no problem issuing disproportionate criticism of Israel's actions, it hews to a different standard for Jerusalem's mortal enemies. The idea that flattery might talk Iran or Hezbollah out of their raison d'être -- the destruction of Israel -- is criminally naïve. Such servility only serves to embolden them.

The same goes for calls for an immediate cease-fire. It is particularly perplexing that the French would have pushed for this during negotiations for the United Nations Security Council draft resolution announced over the weekend. After all, Paris will likely lead an international force for South Lebanon after such a truce.

The two positions seem mutually exclusive. If the French really want to send a robust force, one that would go after any Hezbollah cease-fire violations, they must have every interest in seeing the Israelis first finish the job to limit the risks to their own soldiers. This means either their calls for an immediate cease-fire were dishonest or the Israelis shouldn't get their hopes up that the new troops, should they ever arrive, would be much different from the current U.N. forces, which only monitor Hezbollah attacks without stopping them.

Above all, the EU tends to forget that this is not just Israel's war. Iranian missiles, possibly soon tipped with nuclear warheads, can reach parts of the Continent. It's in Europe's vital own interests that the mullahs in Tehran and South Lebanon be defeated in this fight.

Mr. Schwammenthal edits the State of the Union column.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Artículo en "The Atlantic Online" sobre Wikipedia