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    Not done at Fox                 [zoom]
    Photo: Al Jazeera

    Yesterday we presented a subhuman performance at Fox. Today, we present the other end of the human spectrum at Al Jazeera.

    With Bibi all the way         [zoom]
    Photos: Fox News

    The Great American Freak Show continues, featuring Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S. Carolina) and the host Greta Van Sustern in this Fox News orgy of stupidity, opportunism, sycophancy, and cowardice. Thanks to our Seattle correspondent for bringing this gem to our attention.

    It used to be Providence's
    Photo: Federal Reserve

    The American totalitarians go after the journalists, using surveillance and inti- midation to suppress exce- ssive curiosity and devia- tion from the party line.

    Worrisome growth            [zoom]
    Graph: Tor Metrics/Russia

    Something about the Tor Network upset Putin, pro- mpting him to post an €83,000 reward for finding out the identity of the user. The ambitious objective got downgraded to "conducting Tor research" after some- one had explained to him the difficulty of the task.

    Holder loves it                  [zoom]
    Photo: AP/Matt Dunham

    Ozzie justice minister (on the left) is proudly propo- sing a law allowing the go- vernment to lock up whi- stleblowers, as well as the journalists using their infor- mation, for up to 10 years. Justice ministers of Eng- lish-speaking countries me- eting in London are duly im- pressed.

    It left the scene immediately
    Photo: USAF                      [zoom]

    Our Seattle correspondent forwards this fascinating Smithsonian article about the legendary X-15 aircraft.

    Unsafe at any speed         [zoom]
    Photo: Royal Opera House

    Ewa Kawczynski, one of our Vancouver correspon- dents, signals an excellent Covent Garden production of Manon Lescaut. For a couple more days, the ope- ra can be heard on BBC 3.

    This one for Avigdor, and this one for Bibi                               [zoom]
    Photo: Palestine Today

    Israeli border cops beat up brother of the burnt-alive Palestinian boy.

    No holy smoke for now     [zoom]
    Image: Ando Hiroshige/Wikipedia

    The magnitude 9 Tohoku earthquake, which triggered the Fukushima disaster, had also put Mount Fuji on a short fuse, says a Fran- co-Japanese study just pu- blished in Science. The last major eruption of Mt. Fuji came in 1707, 49 days after an 8.7 magnitude qua- ke in the south of Japan.

    Hungarian goulash            [zoom]
    Photo: Wikipedia

    Spicy beef from Tiszafu- red. BBC reports.

    Clueless looking for clues
    Photo: NASA

    NASA launches a satellite to "seek clues to climate change". They are wasting time and taxpayer's money. We've had these clues for the last quarter of a cen- tury, and will give them out just for the asking.

    Keep it complicated, stupid!     Photo: MoD
    The Brits show how to em- power the spooks by ma- king the law governing sno- oping (RIPA) deliberately obscure. Caspar Bowden, a privacy researcher, ex- plains, "Interpreting that se- ction [of RIPA] requires the unravelling of a triple-nested inversion of meanings ac- ross six cross-referenced subsections, linked to a do- zen other cross-linked defi- nitions, which are all dep- endent on a highly ambigu- ous 'notwithstanding',"

    Ki-moon tries to smile       [zoom]
    Photo: Dannynis/Wikipedia

    A bad joke at the UN. An Israeli will be in charge of a Special Commission on Decolonization. The last ti- me we heard one like this was when Kissinger got a Nobel for Peace.

    Orthogonal but compatible         Photo: Edda Dietrich
    Our Vienna correspondent signals the good works of the Austrian professor Chri- stian Felber, who cham- pions the "Economy for the Common Good". Felber presents it himself in this You Tube footage.

    Photo: AP/Th. Habede       [zoom]
    We love good football, we give a yellow card to FIFA, and we absolutely adore the spirit of the Brazilian girl shown here before the match between her country and Mexico.

    Photo: Jacob Rask              [zoom]
    A Jaffa orange too far. In order to exorcise the dae- mon of the Boycott, Disin- vestment and Sanctions which is hovering over Isra- el, Bibi appoints a destabi- lization and disinformation wiz, the current minister for the strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz.

    Photo: NASA                      [zoom]
    We've always thought the purpose of the International Space Station was to en- tertain children. Now we know for sure.

    Muggy woz hear        Photo: BBC
    Filthy rich, dirt-poor, and the studs.

    It's got the kicks
    Photo: Wikipedia/M. de Silva

    Debit Suisse. The Swiss have unearthed a 120 kg container filled with radio- active waste, mainly ra- dium 226 left over from the 60s, when the highly-radio- active isotope was com- monly used to make the hands and the numbers of the watches glow in the dark. Many more such sur- prises remain to be disco- vered.

    Photo: SpaceX                   [zoom]
    A little bit of smoke and a couple of mirrors. The pri- vate rocketeer Elon Musk presents an animation and gives a guided tour of a mockup of a space capsule freshly off the drawing bo- ards at SpaceX. May the propulsive force be with him.

    Photo: SpaceX                   [zoom]
    Lee Kee Shipyard. Elon Musk's private rocketeering plagued by leaks. One, a helium leak in the first stage of the Falcon v1.1, the second in the Dragon capsule which brought to Earth the samples of a water leak which filled the astronaut Palmitano's hel- met during a space walk.

    Image: US Gvt.
    Pills and spills. Forget the al-Qaeda. The Economist describes the magnitude of the health-care fraud in Am- erica..

    Photo: AP/D. Lopez-Mills   [zoom]
    Subcomandante Marcos has quit the command of the Zapatistas.

    Photo: JAXA
    Clean launch for the Dai- chi-2 satellite on top of the H-2A rocket from Japan's Tanegashima Island.

    Image: The Guardian
    The Guardian and others demolish DIA's report clai- ming Edward [redacted]'s disclosures did staggering damage to the US intelli- gence.

    Photo: Yorick Le Saux        [zoom]
    We wish to signal a serio- usly good film coming out of Cannes: Sils Maria, by the director Olivier Assayas.

    Walking while Palestinian  [zoom]
    Photo: Surveillance camera

    Israeli soldiers waste two Palestinian youths just to show who's the boss. Dis- turbing footage here.

    Behold a new Callas          [zoom]

    Our Vienna correspondent signals a birth of a star. She is Myrtò Papatana- siu. He says her Violetta is glorious, and that she sings Mozart, Rossini, and Verdi with equal success. Her repertoire spans music from the Baroque to the contemporary. This season she will be singing Fiordiligi at the Opéra Garnier and Violetta at the Concertge- bow in Amsterdam, but not in Vienna, to the chagrin of our correspondent. We wi- sh her a long and happy stardom.

    There will be a slight pain [zoom]
    Photo: AFP

    US has slapped the wrist of Credit Suisse with a debit of $2.6bn. The bank is ex- pected to feel some pain for a quarter, after which all sh- ould return to normal.

    Abstention-free zone         [zoom]
    Photo: BBC

    Cheers mate! The Econo- mist takes a look at booz- ing across the world.

    Not Cotillard                      [zoom]
    Photo: Eric Gautier

    The 67th Cannes Festival opened with Grace of Mo- naco by Olivier Dahan, who had previously directed La Vie en Rose. Le Monde treats the new film to pit- oyable and the princely fa- mily is said to be peeved.

    'Dave, I want to stay in Grenoble'
    Photo: Warner Bros.

    Grenoble's newly-elected socialist council wants to dismantle the 13 high-tech surveillance cameras instal- led in the city centre by the previous junta. We applaud this initiative and wish other cities follow suit.

    "Look, an American chip" [zoom]
    Photo: MCT/Getty

  • Hands on at the NSA.

  • Photo:        [zoom]
    Elisabeth Schwarzkopf sings O mio babino caro. Karajan conducts the Vien- na Philharmonic in this fre- shly re-mastered 1948 re- cording by Warner Clas- sics.

    Bezos wants to help         [zoom]
    Photo: AFP-Getty/E. Durand

    Women on the verge of a shopping spree. Bezos has got a website to tell him who they are. NSA ta- kes care of the rest.

    Rainy night in Georgia      [zoom]
    Graph: Nat. Climate Assessment

  • Even rainier in Pennsyl- vania. (Also see below.)

  • Spot the glorious lifestyle [zoom]
    Graph: The Economist, 2013

  • "Our glorious lifestyle", used to rhapsodize Dubya referring to the America's gas-guzzling culture. An un- glorious effect of this is now manifesting itself in Florida where raising sea level is bringing flooding to the land- scape. Erecting barriers will not help, since the Swiss-cheese nature of the bed- rock assures the water will get through. Graph: tonnes CO2 emissions per capita per year.

  • Health food, actually         [zoom]
    Photo: Tomas Castelazo

  • Those pesky negative iso- topes. "All bizarrity comes from California," once said Jack London. No joke.

  • Photo: Wikipedia
  • Remembering the Nakba as the 66th anniversary ap- proaches

  • Photo: Gill/Glasgow           [zoom]
  • A chorus of oy veys ema- nated from Israel as the Nigerian-born Muslim anti- Semite Obama demanded banking details of the Ame- rican tax cheats hiding their loot in the noted tax haven

  • Photo: AP/L. Pitarakis        [zoom]
  • Muggy woz hear. In Wes- tern Europe, only Malta has a higher child mortality rate than Britain.

  • Photo: The Counterforce
  • The natives are restless. Protest against the googli- fication of San Francisco gets close and personal. Demos were held in front of homes of Kevin Rose, found guilty of nerdification, and Jack Halprin, a Google la- wyer and slumlord, found guilty of evicting people in order to replace them with geeks capable of paying several times more. Sepa- rately, a glasshole, posing as a reporter, had his glass snatched and smashed ag- ainst the pavement.

  • Photo: YouTube
  • Palin speaks, err, quacks.

  • Image; BBC
  • Our Vancouver correspon- dent (EK) forwards this ex- ceptional BBC Radio 3 pro- gram in which Rolando Vil- lazón presents Mozart's operas (available till May 2)

  • Image:
  • Greenwald explains how the NSA unceremoniously reveals its top secrets whe- never it suits them. Others doing this endanger Ameri- can lives.

  • Kratzer the Younger           [zoom]
    Painting by Holbein the Younger

  • Our Munich correspondent tells us that among the pain- tings of Hans Holbein the Younger (see below), there is a portrait of his own ance- stor, Nikolaus Kratzer, who 500 years ago, was a well- known figure in the Renais- sance Europe. We congra- tulate Michael for having such an illustrious ances- tor, in whose footsteps, as a scientist, he himself fol- lowed.

  • "Hey, life's great!"             [zoom]
    Photo: Reuters/A. Bianchi

  • High on the hog at the Holy See. Pope Francesco lives in a humble 70 sqm pad. Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone will soon be living in the Pa- lazzo San Carlo in a fresh- ly-revamped 700 sqm (7,500 sqft) one, with 3 girls full-ti- me at his service. Church of the Poor his foot. Pope Francis is not amused.

  • Spot the unwelcome one   [zoom]
    Painting by Holbein the Younger
  • President Obama signs into law ban on 'terrorist' UN envoys. We feel for the Isra- eli ambassador.

  • "Welcome comrades"       [zoom]
    Photo: AP

  • NASA was told to sever all contacts with Russia as a punishment for the mugging of Ukraine, except those related to the ISS. Wisely so, if eating space statio- ners' heavy boots, and then each other is to be avoided in the near future.

  • Overtime French style      [zoom]
    Painting by Manet

  • La vie en rose, says Lucy Mangan in her fantasy pie- ce in the Guardian, of the new French work law com- pelling workers to ignore boss' email after 6 pm. "If only!," comments the amu- sed Le Monde.

  • Photo:                   [zoom]
  • Franck Lepage démolit la notion que la culture est un outil de rattrapage social.

  • Photo: ESA                        [zoom]
  • Perfect launch from Kou- rou for ESA's Sentinel sate- llite, first in the Copernicus Earth observation program- me. This open-ended prog- ramme is by far the biggest earth monitoring project of its kind.

  • Photo: AFP                        [zoom]
  • Sorry, no twerking for Putin

  • Le Monde/J-C Coutausse   [zoom]
  • Immediately after a com- prehensive rout in the mu- nicipal elections, Hollan- de, makes a grave error of promoting Manuel Valls from the post of the interior minister to that of Prime Minister, instead of firing him. Then taking time off to concentrate on what it me- ans to be a Socialist.

  • AFP/J. Sutton-Hibbert       [zoom]
  • Whales would be the most researched animals on the earth, if you believed the Japanese authorities. We don't. Mercifully, the UN has now caught up with this research, taking place principally on the Tokyo Fish Market at 4 o'clock in the morning. But not bris- kly, because no one is in- terested in whale's meat. The annual slaughter is a form of government subsidy to the whalers, whose jobs would otherwise vanish.

  • Photo: El Al                       [zoom]
  • UP, but for how long? El Al launches a low-cost offspr- ing, not to jazz-up business, but tourism. Businesswise it's lead baloon, given a stiff European competition, one- rous and expensive security procedures, and a self-inflic- ted wound of a 24-hour sab- bath each week.

  • Photo: Kodak                     [zoom]
  • No photographer worthy of his lens shade is indiffe- rent to the Tri-X film from Kodak. Our New Mexico correspondent forwards this tribute to its glory in the current issue of Intelligent Life.

  • We warmly welcome Wal- lis Hutton as our new cor- respondent. Dr Hutton is a research scientist at the IRIS/PASSCAL Instrument Center of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Tech- nology. She is also a moun- taineer and a serious reader. She regrets the extinction of "interesting men".

  • Photo: Event Brochure
  • Hilary Hahn delivers a me- smerizing performance at the Philharmonie, reports our Munich correspondent. In program, Brahms' Violin Concerto in D-Major, Paavo Järvi conducting the Hes- sischer Rundfunk Sympho- ny Orchestra. For the enco- re, she played an excerpt from JS Bach's Partita Nr 3 in E-Major.

  • Photo: BFMTV                   [zoom]
  • Nathalie Kosciusko-Mori- zet, we predict, will be the next mayor of Paris. Why? She's pretty, Paris apprecia- tes that. And brainy, being alumna of the École Poly- technique, reputed to be the toughest school in the world.

  • Photo: Reuters/Neil Hall
  • Defanged. Under pressure from the FBI, JPMorgan China dumps Fang Fang, a top boss, for nepotistic hiring practices. Hiring red princelings has been JPM's tactic for gaining preferential access to Chinese goodies.

  • Photo: NSA                       [zoom]
  • NSA's council unceremo- niously contradicts GAFA's claim that it didn't participa- te in the Agency's spying.

  • Photo: USDE                     [zoom]
  • Mishka's gentle hint to the West. But Mishka is wrong. It is the US alone that's got the capability to track all submarines, ie, to destroy them, and any attack on the US would have to come from a submarine. A bad bluff on the part of Mishka. (Story forwarded by our Houston correspondent.)

  • Photo: NOAA                     [zoom]
  • Billions and trillions. An otherwise interesting NYT piece on the origin the oxy- gen in the atmosphere is marred by the innumeracy of the author who seems not to grasp the timing of the events on the evolutio- nary time scale.

  • Photo: AP/Dan Steinberg
  • The right wing jihadist Ru- pert Murdoch sees Islamic jihadists behind the disap- pearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. In the tradition of the News of the Screws, evidence for the assertion is optional.

  • Photo: Reuters
  • Zuck, the core of whose bu- siness is spying on people and selling the information to marketeers, expresses indignation at the spooks', whom he helped tap into his database, doing the same. We think he ought to consider running for the Senate.

  • Photo: Wikipedia
  • Zbigwrites on Ukraine. Im- portant reading. (We thank our Munich correspondent for pointing us to the article.)

  • Photo: Le Monde
  • When all else fails, call them anti-Semites. Having run out of rational argument, Bibi lashes out against sup- porters of the Boycott, Dis- investment and Sanctions movement, which is rapidly gathering momentum, cal- ling them anti-Semites. Subtlety, alas, is not Bibi's forte. BDS is in support of the Palestinians, who are Semitic people.

  • "This one looks yummy."  [zoom]
    Photo: AP

  • A leopard sparked panic in the northern Indian town of Meerut. Army was deplo- yed but there was no news of his capture. DD roots for the animal.

  • Maybe God knows?          [zoom]
    Photo: Reuters/Baz Ratner

  • BBC people reporting from Ukraine find it difficult to identify the soldiers roaming the Crimea. DD wishes to help. They are Chinese.

  • Putin's gentle touch          [zoom]
    Photo: BBC/Christian Fraser

  • Crimean wars. Russian forces have invaded Ukrai- ne. Russian gunboats fire on the entrance to the port of Balaclava, and Russian troops patrol the main air- port of Simferopol.

  • Photo: J. Stratenschulte     [zoom]
  • NSA has ceased spying on Angie but they are merrily at it spying on 320 others in the German government and business, reveals Bild am Sonntag. 300 clappers are said to have been dep- loyed in Germany for the task. The bilateral relation- ship is bound to flourish and the future for the Black- phone looks bright.

  • Predator                            [zoom]
  • The ex-workers of Sam- sonite France are in Bos- ton for a second hearing in a suit they had filed against Bain Capital for being swin- dled out of their severance when Bain had artificially bankrupted the firm in order to avoid the payment. At the time, Bain was run by Mitt Romney.

  • Photo: Unknown artist         [zoom]
  • Vladimiro, formerly Risto- rante Marcello, in Via Au- rora, is a few steps from the Via Veneto, dear to all cinephiles fond of Federico Fellini and Marcello Mas- troianni. DD, having just partaken, reports the fare to be great, service excellent, and the ambiance old Rome

  • Quo vadis?                       [zoom]
    Photo: Le Monde

  • The sky in Xingtai, China's most polluted city, has be- come permanently not visi- ble.

  • Photo: Pascale/Giorgio      [zoom]
  • The 2014 edition of the Carnevale di Venezia commenced yesterday, February 15, and shall last until mardi gras, March 4.

  • Photo: D. Goddard/Getty   [zoom]
  • Suddenly politicians have noticed the climate is chan- ging. Good news, you might say, let's do something abo- ut it. Well, no, it's too late.

  • "Hey, what's that thing in the mid- dle?"                                 [zoom]
    Diagram: N. Copernicus, 1543

  • Jesus 1, Copernicus 0. A just-published report by the National Science Foun- dation says 26% of Ameri- cans don't know that the Earth circles around the Sun, and more than a half don't know humans descen- ded from an earlier species.

  • Image: PewReseachCenter
  • Evolution my foot, particu- larly if the foot is Republi- can. In 2009, the foot was half-way up the tree, today it's in the foliage, banana firmly in the other.

  • Photo: Chinese Acad. of Sciences
  • Yutu gives out the ghost. Re-education (concentra- tion) camp awaits the hap- less rocketeer.

  • Image by unknown artist     [zoom]
  • João Vale de Almeida, the EU ambassador to Wa- shington, responded with the above image and the wishes of a good Valenti- ne's to Nuland's suggesti- ve advice to Europe.

  • "Fuck the encryption!"
    Photo: Reuters/Gleb Garanich

  • Nuland's soft-spoken con- versation with Pyatt went on an unencrypted cellular line, revealing breathtaking incompetence.

  • Photo: Reuters/Gleb Garanich
  • The ill-bred Victoria Nul- and, it turns out, is wife of Robert Kagan, a noted ne- ocon and promoter of the Iraq war.

  • Photo: Tovah Lazaroff
  • Avigdor the dove. In an apparent dramatic change of heart, Lieberman "is rea- dy to swap populations an land for peace", reports Je- rusalem Post. Translation: Israeli Palestinians go to Palestine, where some of their land is given back to them.

  • "Hear those clicks, Goeff?"
    Photo: Itar-Tass Maxim Nikitin

  • Hooligan to hooligan, he- art to heart. The sound tra- ck in its full glory.

  • Photo: Lionsgate
  • The Old Redford and the Sea. An error-based, Holly- wood-style flick not to see, a real disappointment after The Company You Keep.

  • "Look, the finest cardboard and staples money can buy"   [zoom]
    Photo: Freshome

  • Zuckerberg, who makes money by selling your pri- vacy, has bought four hou- ses adjacent to the one he lives in to enhance his own.

  • Photo: NASA
  • "This is Ground Control to Major Tim. Repeat after Ms Hewson from Lockheed, Tim, 'Space travel is vital to our survival.' Say it again, Tim. And again." Our view.

Apocalypse Earlier

Close Encounter With The 18th Century

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Hairy                                                                                                     Image: NASA

NASA reports on a near wipeout of Earth's electricity, telecommunication, and satel- lite navigation infrastructure when a huge solar storm two years ago nearly relegated our electricity-based civilization back to the 18th century.

The Great American Freak Show

A Stern Message

Monday, 28 July 2014

Howie speaks, you listen                                                                   Photo:

We have known for a long time that to be anti-American—for example, by not having supported the war on Irak—was automatically to be anti-Semitic. Now we learn that to be anti-Israel is automatically to be anti-American.

The truth comes from the American lout Howard Stern, hastily enlisted by Bibi to boost the sagging ratings of Israel's latest mugging of Palestine.

The target audience was the America's Zionist Christians, which have become essen- tial part of Israel's artificial life support system. The technique du jour was the "demo- lition of a straw man", in this case, a fictional caller to Howie's Tea Party News Net- work rant show, who was given the role of a defender of the Palestinians.

Howie hit him with nuclear weapons, at one point calling him a "cocksucking fuck", which, as a sacred cow, he can afford. Here's a link to the spectacle, kindly forwarded by our Seattle correspondent.

Statistically Significant

Kinder, Küche, Kirche

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Percentage of Republican women who say it would “make no difference” to them if there were more women in Congress : 67

This and more in this month's Harper's Index.

Your Land Is Our Land

This Pesky Fog Of War

Friday, 24 July 2014

Regev is confused                                                                        Photo: BBC newsnight

Bibi's personal disinformation chief says he doesn't know who is firing the ordnance which is landing on Palestinian schools and hospitals. Poor lamb.

Daily Detox hastens to help.

These missiles, Mr Regev, are being fired by the Chinese.

Being so disoriented, Regev probably isn't also noticing that the International Criminal Court in the Hague is busy dusting off the dock where to put him and the rest of the murderous junta to which he belongs.

Tragicomic Relief

Eyeless, Armless, Legless, And Childless In Gaza

Updated Friday, 25 July 2014

Pass the popcorn                                                                       Photo: AP/Khalil Hamra

In the border town of Sderot, Israelis gathered on a hilltop to eat popcorn and cheer strikes on Palestinian towns below."

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.

UPDATE  Schools, hospitals, and UN facilities are now fair game for the IDF exter- mination campaign. Warnings previously issued to the Palestinian population before attacks are not longer seen by the Israelis as necessary.

Your Land Is Our Land

Silence Of The Lambs

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Victims on the move                                                             Photo: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

Daily Detox finds no words of contempt for the meek passivity and cowardice of the West vis-à-vis Israel's sadism in Gaza.

Hollande (may Julie dump him) has just banned a pro-Palestinian demo in Paris. Angie (may she always look frumpy) keeps quiet so as not to compromise the submarine deal with Bibi, Cameron, never prepared to sacrifice a weapons contract on the altar of humanitarianism, cannot be counted on, and Obama (may his birthpla- ce be proven to be Nigeria), held so firmly by the genitals by the AIPAC that he cannot move an inch, is afraid to inflict the slightest pain on the Zion.

With minor exceptions, the media look the other way, or withdraw correspondents who have seen too much and may get the idea to write about it.

Silence emanating from Scandinavia particularly pains us, because in the past Scan- dinavia spoke for the oppressed. That voice is no longer heard, having succumbed to the homogenized market barbarity which is beaten into the heads of the ambitious thirtysomethings in business schools.

Canada used to be a vice of conscience in those good old days. Now, Harper (may he choke on a hockey puck) tries to outlikud Bibi.

Golda Meir had once rhapsodized about dispersing Palestinians "like the dust in the wind". The opposite is actually happening, though it probably wouldn't displease her: they are being bombed in a concentration camp from which there's no escape.

Essential Reading

A Dime A Dozen

Thursday, 17 July 2014

He violated the curfew                                                                            Photo: Reuters

Mouin Rabbani writes about the Israeli contempt for the Palestinian life. Essential reading from the current issue of LRB.

Monty Python's Flying Circus

And Now For Something Completely Different

Monday, 14 July 2014

It ain't gonna fly, Donald                                                Photo: Monty Python's Flying Circus

"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders," observed Her- mann Goering. "All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

This for firing up nationalist fervour. To boost sagging popularity ratings, one goes to Mars, or at least into space.

Every rocketeer knows that going to orbit is best done from launch pads located near the equator. This is because Earth's rotation gives a free extra boost to the rocket, which can then carry more payload, or get to the orbit on less fuel. For that reason, the European launch facility is situated in the French Guyana, practically on the equator. The farther away from the equator, the less the effect. At the poles, the effect vanishes altogether. At 56° of latitude, Scotland is an example of a bad location from where to launch space rockets.

Yet, it is precisely from where Cameron wants to boldly go to where others, more cheaply, have gone before. Desperate times call for desperate measures, we guess.

Your Land Is Our Land

Rubble To Rubble, Dust To Dust

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

"You send us the firecrackers, we send you the real thing"                        Photo: Reuters

The programmatic pulverization of Palestine, having just acquired a fresh alibi, resu- med with a renewed vigour. While the coal-fired Palestinian missiles fall randomly on the Israeli border wastelands, occasionally frightening some old women out of their wits, real munitions rain on the Palestinians, making what had previously resembled one big rubble heap, resemble an even bigger rubble heap, with body parts sticking out here and there.

The world, as is its habit, takes pictures and does absolutely nothing. Uncle Sam him- self keeps the good eye on Israel's munitions stockpile to make sure it isn't wanting, and the glass one on Gaza.

Chomsky had treated both Israel and the US to rogue states. This now seems almost polite.

Tragicomic Relief

Thursday, 8 July 2014

A customer entered a Barclays bank in Andover, England, defecated on the floor in several places, and left. “He didn’t look ill,” said a witness, “he just looked a bit smug as he walked out."

His deposit may not be credited today.

This and more in this week's particularly rich Review from Harper's.



Sunday, 6 July 2014

"Let me tell you, it hurts"                                                                       Photo: Reuters

Writing for the Nation, Noam Chomsky urges caution about the boycott, disinvest- ment, and sanctions diet prescribed for the Israelis to get them off the Palestinian back and land. There's something in it, and we appreciate the difference which Chom- sky points out between the South African apartheid and the Israeli one.

But to see Bibi squirm is a hugely gratifying sight and a sign that the punches are landing where it hurts, contradicting previous consensus to the effect that, being pro- tected by the Americans, Bibi was immune to all pressure. Now proven untrue, this new knowledge must be exploited to inflict pain on Bibi and his likudniks.

So, as much as we don't want ot disagree with Noam Chomsky, we will support the BD to the bitter S.

Le Carré

The Spy Who Bugged Me, Part 2

Tuesday, 2 July 2014

Sir, here is your toothbrush, razor, and a change of shorts      Photo: P. de Cosette/Europe 1

At 7.30 yesterday, the French Judiciary Police took the former president Nicolas Sarkozy into custody in order to give him a chance to explain in his own words how he stayed abreast of the details of a confidential inquiry into the financing of his 2012 election campaign. This is not to say that this isn't known.

At the police headquarters in the Paris suburb of Nanterre he will join a select group which had arrived earlier and includes his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, and two magistrates from the Cour de cassation (France's Supreme Court), who fed him the information.

It is poignant that Sarkozy's political life come to an end a stone's throw from where it began 30 years ago, in his fief of Neuilly-sur-Seine. It is customary in such situations to invoke the concept of 'closure', though, given that he is in one, it would be at the risk of being accused of undue levity in face of a grave (we hope) circumstance.


Daniel Mermet

Monday, 30 June 2014

Soon to be replaced by a Jacques du Rozier                                     Image: France Inter

It's a joyous moment for hooligans of all stripes.

The first move of Laurence Bloch, the new directrice of France Inter, the most important of France's nine public radio channels, was to pull the plug on Daniel Mermet's famous program Là-bas si j'y suis, which has been on the air for the last 25 years. In other words, to pull the plug on Mermet.

None is more pleased than CRIF, France's answer to the American Anti-defamation League. CRIF was saddled with a stiff bill after losing a legal attack on Mermet. It had accused him of anti-Semitism, which is understood to be any form of defence of the Palestinians against the Israeli land grab. Mermet had a nasty habit of inviting pro- Palestinian people, including a number of Israelis opposed to the occupation. The court had disagreed. In France a losing plaintiff coughs up for everybody's legal fees. The pain was intense and the memory bitter.

The list of celebrants today will be long. From Sarko, to the arms manufacturer and dealer Serge Dassault. From the oligarch Bernard Arnault to the oligarch François Pinault. From the Rotary Club, to the Bilderberg Club, from Monsanto to Exxon, from the likudniks in the Knesset to those on Capitol Hill. We cannot think of any other individual with so many high-power enemies as Mermet. Nor of one with so many friends.

One time he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He immediately announced he wanted nothing to do with it.

He has a huge support across France, and the hostile move of Mme Bloch acting on orders will be met with a protest. There's been talk of a siege of the Maison de la radio at the Trocadéro.

DD has had some pleasant interaction with Mermet and with his staff at Radio France, and at the unofficial La-bàs site, The scoundrels may have succeeded in kicking him out of RF, but we doubt he will remain silent for long.

Bonne continuation, cher ami !

Free Trade

In TAFTA's Embrace

Thursday, 26 June 2014

He wanted clean air                                                                    Photo: 20th Century Fox

Following up on our June 21st TAFTA essay, our Munich correspondent signals an earlier piece on the same topic, which we'd inexplicably missed when it first appeared back in December 2013. We thank Michael for saving it from oblivion.

Music Of The Spheres

Summer Solstice

21 June 2014

A bright moment with a dark outlook                                                         Photo: NASA

Summer solstice in Northern Hemisphere had arrived on 21 June at 10:51 Universal Time marking the beginning of a slide toward winter.

Free Trade

TAFTA Bursts On The Stage

Saturday, 21 June 2014

He will be always right                                                                Photo: 20th Century Fox

Something nasty is hatching.

"What doesn't kill you," says the philosopher, "makes you stronger". Thus, Obama's failure to bludgeon Wall Street after the sub-primes swindle has spawned a beast so fearsome that it will put an end to the West's silly experiment with Democracy, and, more particularly, will finish off with the frivolous idea of a united Europe.

The TAFTA talks, conducted in secret, have produced one thing that is known thus far—special courts, run by corporate lawyers, to deal with 'trade' matters. To give an example of a trade matter, consider the 'problem' of the minimum wage. A multi- national will now have the right to sue in front of these courts a country for enacting a minimum wage law, if it feels the law steps on its bottom line, which it surely will. The court will then award said multinational a compensation for the future lost income.

These figures normally run in billions, as Ecuador, among others, has found to its chagrin. Enacting legislation to protect population against dangerous pesticides or food additives will have a similar effect. There won't be any need to produce anything to ascertain future cash flow, just to sue a country which had the cheek to put in such reckless laws. Try to object and you'll have your head bitten off (see above.)

The multinationals will be reimbursed with public money for the projected losses. A law enacted by a sovereign body, in other words, will be subject to a penalty. Spot the error. Yet, this is what's being concocted in complete tranqulity, with elected officials looking the other way.

Owing to the strong structure of social and environmental protection which will come under fire, Europe will be a big looser. The little people, who might think that TAFTA will let them move freely between the New and the Old worlds, should not hold their breath. It's not for them.

Statistically Significant

No Child Left Behind

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Percentage of children in single-mother Scandinavian families who are living in poverty : 11
In single-mother U.S. families : 55

This and more in this week's Harper's Index.


Phantoms At The Opera

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Pre-recorded from the Lincoln Center                                                  Photo: Paul Masck

Peter Gelb, New York Metropolitan Opera's General Manager, just back from a ma- nagement refresher sponsored by Goldman Sachs, fumed against a third of his bud- get "going to the unions", by which he meant the people working at the Met. We were relieved not to hear that the money went "to the union bosses", as the reacs had the habit of putting it back in the halcyon day when the unions actually existed.

Gelb says the house is on a bankruptcy track. If so, we feel his pain. But neo-fascist stunts aren't the way to fix it. He ought to go to Obama and ask for a few minutes of the annual war-on-terror budget to save the bottom of an important American cultural venue, which is the Met.

For other Met news, the diva Anna Netrebko cancelled a performance in Japan for fear of the slow neutrons from Fukushima lurking in the wings at the Tokyo Opera house. Pity, Japanese food is great for losing weight.

Tragicomic Relief

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Obama Administration proposed an Environmental Protection Agency regulation that would establish the country’s first official limit on carbon emissions, targeting a 30 percent reduction by 2030 in carbon pollution from power plants compared with 2005 levels. “Today’s proposal from the EPA could singlehandedly eliminate [our] compe- titive advantage,” said the CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.”

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.

Statistically Significant

In God Some Trust

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Percentage of Egyptians who say it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person: 95
Percentage of Americans who do: 53
Of Chinese: 14

This and more in this week's Harper's Index.

Pretty Bad Privacy

Yellow Bird Up High In Banana Tree

Sunday, 25 May 2014

And la cucaracha in the cell phone                                                       Photo: Wikipedia

The Intercept reports that NSA has comprehensively bugged the island nation of Bahamas, intercepting all electronic communication and recording it for later analysis. A similar operation is under way in another, unnamed, country.

So what's going on? And why the Bahamas?

As we suspected, and as the article confirms, the Bahamas serve as a rehearsal stage for a similar operation on the territory of a more important target. The Bahamas just happened to offer a convenient alibi—fight against narco traffic—that allowed DEA to tap into its telecommunication infrastructure. Under the pretext of chasing drug smugglers, the agency installed a fancy and potent data collection infrastructure, and put it to use while opening the shop to the NSA. "The DEA and the NSA", as one memo puts it, “enjoy a vibrant two-way information-sharing relationship”.

Nice. If it only squared with the law.

Pretty Good Privacy


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Enigmail v. 0.1                                                                   Image: Greg Goebel/Wikipedia

If you want to massively boost your privacy, download, install, and use Enigmail.

The adverb "massively" is actually inadequate. It should be "infinitely", because the underlying PPP encryption is unbreakable, and will remain so until someone (NSA) comes up with an operational quantum computer.

Debit Suisse

Full Frontal Nudity

Sunday, 18 May 2014

New traffic lights                                                                                       Photo: AFP

The last two bastions of banking secrecy, Switzerland and Singapore, have suc- cumbed to the pressure from the cash-strapped governments to sign the full disclosure agreement with the 34 members of the OECD plus China and Russia, designed to help pursue tax cheats. At first, banking data will be released case by case, upon a specific request from fiscal authorities, but beginning with 2017, the fisc will have an automatic free access to the information.

That sounds nasty if you're a tax optimizer.

DD, however, has learned from a source intimately familiar with the subject that not all is lost, for it is possible to circumvent the requirement by the following simple strata- gem. The moment a financial institution hosting an account wishing to remain anony- mous receives a request for information, it transfers the account to itself, so it can truthfully answer that it hosts no account of the person in question. As soon as the intruder goes away, all reverts to the original status.

Complications will come in 2017. But we will be surprised if they are not met with a satisfactory workaround.

To Boldly Stroke Ego

Blue Yonder

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Strange sightings in West Texas                                                        Photo: Blue Origin

Noting a continuing paucity of interesting space news, we thought to check on the progress of the private rocketeering by the retailer Jeff Bezos.

While we've found the countdown at the Corn Ranch space facility (a concrete slab, basically) on hold, and the technicians out scouring the downrange perimeter for the bolts that fell off the New Shepard vehicle on its maiden flight, we have discovered that an escape capsule had been successfully tested, and that a new liquid fuel rocket engine underwent a full-cycle static firing in situ.

Barbecue picnics were held at a nearby shack to celebrate the progress of the project Blue Origin.

There are, alas, signs that Bezos has filed an amended flight plan for his undertaking, which calls for the lowering of the flight level, and a group performance with Richard Branson, rather than a solo stunt. This may have something to do with a realization that came more or less simultaneously to both rocketeers of the enormity of the costs which are involved.

Spreading the immediate pain might help for now, but it won't alleviate the pain to come. Bezos' declared intention to put "2 to 3 million people into hotels and luna parks" in orbit should draw attention of the mental health and law enforcement commu- nities, for the amount of pollutants which such an endeavour would inject into the alrea- dy fragile atmosphere would drive the final nail into its coffin.

An Orange-brown Finale to a megalomaniac lunacy, one might say.

Tragicomic Relief

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Russian president Vladimir Putin... signed a law banning cursing in public performan- ces. “It is a common practice to swear,” said Russian philosopher Vadim Rudnev, “among the intelligentsia.”

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.

Pretty Good Privacy


Friday, 9 May 2014

The incurious                                                                                        Image: ixquick

If you don't want to be spied on, if you don't want another piece of information about you added to your digital profile every time you search the Internet, if you don't want that profile to be sold to advertisers, then use ixquick.

We have it on the authority of the nerds at Radio France, who had dissected it, that ixquick is what it claims to be on its front page.

We have reported (see Pretty Good Privacy below) that Gmail objects to being used from the Tor network. Our Munich correspondent adds that Google search some- times doesn't work when accessed from the Tor Browser. We have seen no such beha- viour from ixquick.

Happy searching.

Pretty Good Privacy


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Surfing from another jurisdiction                                                    Image: The Tor Project

If you're innocent, says the snoop as he sticks his hairy nose into your life, you have nothing to worry about.

We prefer not to worry unconditionally, by leaving him no place where to put his nose.

Please say hello to the Tor Browser, which allows you to surf the Internet with total anonymity. Goodbye to being tracked, having your digital profile built, being targeted by who knows whom and who knows where, hello to anonymity and a poke in the eye of the corporate and government spy. Goodbye to selling your profile to the advertiser; they won't have any information to build one.

The Tor Browser (TB) is a modified version of Firefox, so those who already use it will be on a familiar ground. (You may of course use your old browser as you wish, but you won't be anonymous.)

The difference comes on the other end, so to speak. To someone who happens to watch your browsing, you will be in Mongolia. Or in Bolivia, or Timbuktu. The IP address which he thinks is yours, won't be yours. To put it differently, your internet identity, as it presents itself to the curious, will have nothing to do with you, or anyone in particular. In addition it will be changing all the time.

That's as good as it gets, especially compared to the full frontal nudity of the conven- tional browsing. And Tor's pedigree is great—Snowden used it to pass to the Guardian the Prism scoop.

To get the Tor Browser, go to the website of the Tor Project, click on the big purple button, and follow the instructions in the documentation. It's a good idea to do all the authentications and verifications of the source code, as recommended therein. Some minor nerdy skills on your part, or on the part of someone you know, will come handy.

Take a look at the Wikipedia article on Tor.

Happy browsing.

Postscriptum.   You will begin noticing funny things when you start Tor browsing. For example, looking at an article at the USA Today had triggered the following message from the TB,

"This website ( attempted to access image data on a canvas [of Editor's computer]. Since canvas image data can be used to discover information about your computer, blank image data was returned this time."

Well, thank you!

Often, but not always, upon closing TB, Windows will growl at you saying it closed the TB (no, it didn't, you did) to protect you against "data execution". We think it's a form of intimidation on the part a card-carrying member of GAFA.

Trying to send Gmail from TB, which combination is said to offer discrete email com- munication, will engender all sorts of anxiety on the part of Google, this other card- carrying member of the club. Immediately upon logging in, they ask you to provide an alternative email address as a verification that you are you. Fair enough.

Then, about two minutes into the session, a message pops up saying they have a difficulty identifying you and to please log in again. We don't, suspecting it's a ruse to find out who you are. We think that for the second log in, they drop the (secure) https protocol, which, upon your initial log in, had protected your credentials. Pure fun. Enjoy.

May Day

From Haymarket To The Financial Market

May Day 2014

New Harmony (work presently outsourced to China.)                         Painting by F. Bate

We wish to signal progress.

Last year we quoted from Wikipedia that May Day was "an ancient Northern Hemis- phere spring festival and usually a public holiday; it is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures." This year the following has been added, "May Day coincides with International Workers' Day, and in many countries that celebrate the latter, it may be referred to as "May Day".

Times must be harder than we thought for such a bolshevik addendum to get bolted on.

The reality on the ground is even harder. The class war appears to be over, as explain- ed by Warren Buffett*, the Occupy movements in hiding, and the governance, in fulfil- lment of Rockefeller's wet dream, taken over by the monied interests**.

Happy May Day.

*) "Class war? Of course there's a class war! It is us who's waging it, and it is us who's winning."
**) "...somebody has to take governments' place, and business seems to me to be a logical entity to do it."—David Rockefeller, Newsweek International, Feb 1, 1999.
See also our April 19th essay.


Heinz Anger

Tuesday, 29 April 2014
Campo Pescheria, Venice. Watercolour by Heinz Anger, 1994                            [zoom]

Our Vienna correspondent, having recently organized a show for his friend, the reno- wned Austrian painter, Heinz Anger, wishes to present him to our Readers. Anger, born in 1941 in Karlstetten, a year later moved with his parents to Vienna, where he has been living since. He received his artistic schooling at the Vienna College for Graphic Arts and at the Academy of Visual Arts. Since 1965 Anger followed the style of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, then Pop-Art, finishing in Impressionism.

Some of his works can be seen at his website, and the Wikipedia entry for the legen- dary Austrian soprano Leonie Rysanek is accompanied by a portrait he was commis- sioned to paint in 1962. To us, it reflects her beauty and intelligence, and his own love of the opera.

Tragicomic Relief

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Israel suspended peace talks with the Palestinian Authority after President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party agreed to form a unity government with Hamas."

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.

Statistically Significant

Gender Gap

Monday, 28 April 2014

Percentage of US married men who say their spouses vote the same way they do: 73. Of US married women who say so: 49

This and more in this week's Harper's Index.

Branson Galactic

To Boldly Sell Tickets

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Not to confuse with Virgin Comics                                                  Photo: Virgin Galactic

Noting a certain paucity of interesting space news, we thought to check on the sta- tus of the private rocketeering by the entrepreneur Richard Branson. While we've found the countdown at the Spaceport America on hold and windows shuttered, we did come across this excerpt in a recent LRB piece about his exploits.

"Since 1999 Branson has been pioneering the idea of commercial space travel under the auspices of his Virgin Galactic business. He has been taking deposits from would-be civilian astronauts for more than a decade, many of them paying up to $200,000 to secure seats on a flight into orbit. He promised these eager punters that takeoff would happen in 2007, then 2010, then 2012, then 2013; now we are told the first flight will take place sometime later this year or early next. The project is based in the New Mexico desert, in part because Branson was able to extract subsidies of more than $200 million from the state governor, Bill Richardson, who seems to have been dazzled by the Branson name. The ostensible reason for the delays has been a series of technological and practical setbacks, the worst of which occurred in 2007 when an exploding fuel tank killed three engineers working on the project. Critics complain that Virgin Galactic’s technology, far from being groundbrea- king, is hopelessly out of date, and what is being proposed (a short flight above the atmosphere with a brief bout of weightlessness) is nothing that couldn’t have been attempted in 1945. Branson talks about the project as though it were something else entirely. In 2005 he told an audience that included Donald Trump (which may have sent him into overdrive): ‘My aeronautical engineers are designing a Virgin hotel to be built on the moon, or perhaps orbit around it, with glass-encased sleeping areas. You could be making love in these see-through domes and looking at Earth.’ Since then the rhetoric has been damped down a notch or two. Now the focus tends to be on the celebrities who have signed up for a trip: Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber all want to go into space on a Virgin craft. Branson’s children, Holly and Sam, will be on the first flight, to be screened live on NBC, which is already describing this future broadcast as something that ‘will go down in history as one of the most memorable events of television’. Maybe so, especially if something goes wrong."

For other space news, Elon Musk has just delivered a load of groceries to the ISS, where there are apparently some people, though no one knows for exactly what purpose.


One Man, One Useless Vote

Saturday, 19 April 2014

And We the People who count                                                    Photo: National Archives

One of DD's constant themes, as regular Readers have no doubt noticed, has been the grotesque farce which is the 'American Democracy'.

Our Seattle correspondent forwards an article which gives a preview of what seems like a scholarly look at the sham. We are looking forward to reading the paper, even though aren't entirely thrilled about its apparently high-fibre style.

Naked Aggression

Russia's Imperial Moment

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A touch of headache, Vladimir Vladimirovich?                                Photo: AP/Yves Logghe

There is something intensely gratifying about small causes triggering big effects.

Such a big effect is now buffeting Vladimir Putin. It was triggered by the seemingly innocuous sanctions put in place against him for raiding the Crimea. At first they seemed like a slap on the wrist unlikely to go noticed by the thick-skinned siloviki at the Kremlin, and they were decried as such by the more junior members of the Western press corps, or those who have never grown up. But the more perceptive observers have immediately seized their portent

The biggest pain has been immediately felt by the apparatchiks and the oligarchs in Mishka's entourage. What's life worth if you can't go to see your mistress in London or pop in to Saint-Tropez to check on your carbon superyacht?

From one moment to the next they had to say goodbye to jetsetting and hello to kartoshki and rotgut vodka at the Griboyedov. Vladislav Surkov, Putin's evil hunchback, has been heard making light of the pain, but not convincingly; he himself had the habit of flying to Stockholm to take luncheons. That's over now. He will be one of the first to jump ship when the crunch comes.

The crunch will be economic. We had mentioned previously that $70bn had fled Russia in the first spasm of panic. That figure has been now upped to $100bn and counting. In a country with an economy of Holland, that begins to look like real money, and the bad news doesn't end there.

For Mishka has been stabbed in the back by the "middle-income trap", a phenomenon well known to rapidly growing economies, wherein they seemingly cannot progress beyond the $10,000 to $11,000, or $15,000 to $16,000 GDP per capita, a malaise described by a Berkeley economist Barry Eichengreen. While countries such as South Korea had managed to extricate themselves from that ditch, Russia seems stuck in the $15,000 to $16,000 bracket for good. This will be Mishka's undoing, and he knows it.

It's been calculated that in order to keep Putin's promises to the middle class, Russian economy has to grow at an annual rate of 5 to 6 percent. The actual figure is 0.5 per- cent. The middle-class natives have already been restless comparing and contrasting their lot with that of the Europeans. Hitherto docile, Mishka's bronco is bucking.

Desperate times, say experienced persons, call for desperate measures.

Contrary to the propaganda, which has it that Europe cannot survive without Russia's gas, it is Russia that cannot survive without the petro-euros. Gazprom has been aggressively expanding in Western Europe, fighting tooth-and-nail for the market share with local gas distributors. Mishka, meanwhile, has dipped into the rainy day kitty which he managed to accumulate in the halcyon day of the peak oil price. These reserves are now vanishing before his bewildered eyes, and Russia's rickety economy offers few alternatives to plug up the hole.

Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had propped up their sagging popularity ratings by bombing Grenada and the Sudan respectively. François Hollande, by raiding Mali. Mishka, under the pretext of defending ethnic Russians, grabbed the Crimea. This gave him his imperial moment. His domestic ratings shot up. They will crash so much the harder.

Speaking to Die Welt, Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany's Finance minister, predicted that "Russia's imperial moment will be just that, a moment".


Interesting Men

Friday, 11 April 2014

A hard act to follow                                                                   Illustration by FD Bedford

Having read our New Mexico correspondent's welcoming note, our Munich corres- pondent asked his wife who, in her opinion, was an "interesting man".

The answer which he received is the most charming thing we have heard for a long time.

"An interesting man", she said, "is like Peter Pan. He can fly, but sometimes he crashes."

Survival Of The Fitted

 Lee Kee Shipyard

 Wednesday, 9 April 2014

"It's over now. Off you go."                                                       Painting by Simon de Myle

The just-released Hollywood sword-and-sandals Noah will, to the majority of the Americans, depict the historical truth, and be further proof of God's might and glory. It will be also a handy reminder in these times of 'great recession' that things can get much worse, and a stern warning from Metro Goldman Sachs to those who disobey.

And there are those who do.

Pierre Barthélémy, Le Monde's Science Editor is one. He thought to give the biblical screenplay a back-of-the-envelope once over. The question was, would the ark of the dimensions stipulated in Almighty's blueprint have been able to float holding two specimens each of all of the 8.7 million, minus 2.2 million that swim (and presumably can take care of themselves), or, 6.5 million species on Earth? In working out the answer, he propped himself up on a seminal paper presented in the British journal of irreproducible results called the Journal of Physics Special Topics, published at (if not quite by) the Physics Department of the University of Leicester. The answer was a resounding yes, it would float! So far as this went, the question was settled.

But God forgot something—the food and drink for the happy menagerie for several months at sea. Which throws the scenario overboard.

We are happy to inflict more pain. For example, where would the huge amount of water needed for the deluge come from? Not from the oceans, surely, because the sea level would have then dropped owing to the evaporation and transfer of the liquid into the atmosphere, thus cancelling the inflow from the precipitation.

All right, say the counters of angels on the head of a pin, God created this water! Very well, but the creation of matter, while allowed by physics according to E=mc2, involves such fantastically huge amounts of energy that creating from scratch several trillion tonnes of water would drain the entire Universe of juice. That is not evident.

There's no choice but to disobey.

Postscriptum.   Helena Porter, our Vancouver correspondent, points out that 'waste management' would have proven to Noah an even greater problem than feeding the furry, scaly, and befeathered masses huddled on and under the deck. The following calculation explains why.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that the average mass of the waste material produced per sheep per day was 0.5 kg. (For the benefit of the Literal Truth set—how- ever unlikely they may be to read this text—that's a tad more than a pound.) Multiplied by 13x106 sheep, that's 6.5 million kg, or 6,500 tonnes of fertilizer, handling which would require a big, well equipped, and well-organized department of sanitary person- nel (nowhere mentioned in the Holy Writ) to remove.

Alternatively, let's assume the material would be allowed to accumulate (as it may have had to during periods of bad weather. Since all depictions of ark's voyage show nothing but stormy weather, this may have been a permanent condition at the time.) 6,500 tonnes per day makes for 65,000 tonnes per 10 days of the cruise, in other words, quite a shitload. Furthermore, this exceeds the 50,000 DWT rating of the empty ark (see the scholarly paper mentioned above), and 10 days is nowhere near the months at sea referred to in the Bible.

The scripture set may counter that God himself took care of the sanitary engineering. The problem with this argument is that it's hard to imagine Southern Baptists accep- ting a vision of the Almighty in which He shovels manure.

Tragicomic Relief

Saturday, 5 April 2014

BuzzFeed revealed a Pentagon plan to help Yemen develop its own targeted-killing program by supplying the country with crop-dusting planes armed with laser-guided missiles. “As much as you can put a Yemeni face on it,” said an American business- man familiar with the plan, “it feels better.

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.

Air Travel

The Tale Of Two Airports

Monday, 31 March 2014

This isn't JFK                                                                                     Photo: Flickr/loac

Having flown many times between New York and Venice, the Editor has acquired a certain feel for their respective airports; at Marco Polo, it's pretty much luxe, calme et volupté, at JFK, on the other hand, it is not.

At Marco Polo, pretty girls in short skirts and not very short heels carry pencils and notepads and ask if it was you who packed the suitcase. Yes, it was you, and you catch yourself hastily devising some stratagem in order to prolong the inspection. At JFK, a goonish oaf barks at you to take off your shoes after you've just disembarked from an American flight, and had undergone the shoes-off routine eight hours earlier, and made no intermediate stops in the tribal regions of Waziristan before alighting from the aeroplane in the City-That-Doesn't-Sleep. There's no need or indeed latitude for any stratagems. Your ill-tempered remark about the redundant gyrations is met with a threatening growl. They wear latex gloves. There's something about it that brings to mind animal husbandry.

The air at Marco Polo smells vaguely of Chanel N°5, of which a huge crystal bottle greets you at the entrance to the departure lounge. The espresso in your cappuccino is Illy and the croissant is hot. Paper cups and plastic utensils remain unknown. Vivaldi joins N°5.

JFK has no restaurant where to kill two hours over a decent dinner. It stinks of toil and trouble, and the 'security' personnel watches over you. For some reason they all seem derived from the 'minority' segment of the America population. As a rule, fat bulges from under the belt on which they carry a pistol.

The best American airport is Cincinnati. It ranks number 27 in a survey conducted by Skytrax, and reported here by The Economist. Airports have joined the rest of the crumbling American infrastructure of interstate highways and bridges, whose mainte- nance budgets went to Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever the war on 'terror' saw it fit to take them, irrespective of the fact that the true terror hotbed was right at home, at Fort Meade, MD, and at the Treasury Annex in Washington, DC.

Naked Aggression

Expensive Crimea

Friday, 28 March 2014

"Yes, darling, these are papa's dacha and boat, but you can't see papa's bank from here"                                                                                                               Photo: Flickr
Putin's mugging of Crimea may not come without nasty consequences, not just to his nomenklatura, but to the entire Mother Russia. It is not clear whether Putin had thought of these consequences before launching the Crimean operation. The Econo- mist makes a good observation with respect to this (Mar 29th).

"A senior Russian minister predicted that up to $70 billion could flow out of the country this quarter, as investors fret about the effect of sanctions that may be imposed for annexing Crimea. The chief executive of Sberbank, Russia’s biggest financial company, warned that there was a real risk of recession if outflows reach $100 billion. Russian stockmarkets and the rouble have fallen sharply over the past month and speculation has increased that the government may have to impose capital controls."

Petroleum, on the sales of which Russia relies to stay afloat, has been showing signs of weakness on world's markets in recent weeks. A significant drop in the price of oil is sure to destabilize Putin politically, and may eventually lead to his ousting. Let's hope for the best.


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

"This is Puffin 1-heavy on the final. Gear down and locked."                               [zoom]

Note the upturned wingtips, conformant to the latest aerodynamic standards.

"Clear to land, Puffin 1-heavy."
                                                                                                    Photo by Anonymous


Blurred Vision

Sunday, 23 March 2014

"Greetings, glassholes"                                                             Photo: AP/Paul Sakuma

The Google Glass is quickly becoming uncool.

Sarah Slocum, a high-tech 'evangelist' with Google discovered this having ventured into Molotov's, a punk-rock bar in the Haight-Ashbury quarter of San Francisco, where she was brusquely confronted for wearing the equipment. Since she filmed, there will be good downrange telemetry to mull over at the post-crash soul-searching sessions at the Googleplex in Mountain View, from where the product was launched a year ago.

The objections to Google Glass range from ugliness to snooping, since the device is capable of registering all that is said, and all that happens to find itself in the field of view of the wearer. Institutions begin to take notice, reports Le Monde: the 5 Point bar in Seattle, for example ("where alcoholics serve alcoholics since 1929"), has taken action—sorry, no Glass in the name of the right to be able to get drunk without the risk of finding oneself on YouTube the following day. A dozen or so West Coast establish- ments followed suit. Several states have disallowed the use of the Glass while driving.

The stink emanating from NSA's spying (with Google's eager help) doesn't create a good ambiance for the product, nor does the sobriquet "glasshole" with reference to the wearer.


Essential Reading

  (Essential Viewing→
  (Essential Listening→

LRB on the economic slaughter of Palestine

LRB on the art of ceasefire

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (VIII)

LRB on putting Palestine in formaldehyde

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (VII)

LRB on the genocide in Palestine.

LMD deconstructs TAFTA.

Dubya woz thear

A Tale from the Land Adjacent to the Land of the Absurd

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (VI)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (V)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (IV)

The Intercept

Le Roi s'amuse. The 2014 Oligarch Games in Sochi.

Thomas Frank on how the hap- less Democrats allow the brain- less Republicans to steal the show in Washington. (stub)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (III)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (II)

William T. Vollmann on being a permanent suspect. (stub)

Andrew Cockburn on sanctions.

The Guardian on the 1.6 percent solution.

National Journal on the collu- sion between the surveillance state and the Internet companies.

Glenn Greenwald talks to Harper's.

Frank on a "freedom fighter", a "journalist", and a "strategist", all freshly departed. (stub)

Ellsberg on the United Stasi of America

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (I)

The Israel Lobby

Mearsheimer on Gaza

Quentin Tarantino and Friends

Essential Viewing

Franck Lepage demolishes the notion that Culture is a social elevator (in French).

The Invisible Elephant in the Room

Blix on Iran

Chomsky in Trieste

Essential Listening

France Inter sur l'art contempo- rien (courtesy

France Inter interview with Ken Loach (courtesy

France Inter exposé on Pope Bergoglio (courtesy
part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4

France Inter interview with Tariq Ali, part 1; part 2

France Inter interview with Julian Assange, part 1; part 2