Friday, April 28, 2006

Lunatics Running The Asylum (Part II)

Only in America could a company's stock drop after its "quarterly profit rose 7 percent to $8.4 billion."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Lunatics Running The Asylum

We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Is it possible to take anything seriously these days? Seriously. No, seriously. American government types can't control the fire they started in Iraq but they still seem to think they can put more men (and women-not too smart ladies) on the front lines to keep tabs on the rest of the world. Are these people for real? Oh yeah, they are. In fact, they still seem to think that they can also put more people on the front lines to start more fires. Why don't they just stick to the travel and tourism industry? Or maybe they should just look for some more like-minded investors, buy themselves a big plot of land and cultivate their garden. Too optimistic...?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Taking It To The Streets

Eh bien. Le monde comme il va....

Gigantesque manifestation à Katmandou malgré le couvre-feu
LEMONDE.FR | 22.04.06 | 17h22 • Mis à jour le 23.04.06 | 12h20

Selon des journalistes et un diplomate cités par l'AFP, de 200 000 à 300 000 personnes ont défié le couvre-feu et la police anti-émeutes lors de cette nouvelle journée de protestation dans la capitale népalaise, contre le roi Gyanendra et pour le rétablissement de la démocratie.

C'est toujours la révolution...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

"Ce n'est pas une rébellion, Sire...

C'est une révolution."

Des manifestants opposés au roi sont descendus dans les rues de Katmandou en dépit du couvre-feu imposé par le roi, pour une deuxième journée consécutive, dimanche 23 avril.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Just a Coke, Please

When the French Revolution finally swept aside the estate of aristocracy, nobody could have imagined that we'd invent an even better subterfuge to pick up the slack. Michael Blanding refreshes the memory a little in his article, The Case Against Coke, by reminding us about the corporation's virulent anti-union policies: and they are so ugly it isn't even hyberbole to call them medieval. By way of comparison, all Wal-mart does is shut down stores for Christ's sake! (Which reminds me: Happy Easter... and good luck.) According to a statement on the web-site, in 2005 Coca-Cola signed an agreement with the IUF, the international food and beverage industry union, permitting employees to "exercise rights to union membership and collective bargaining without pressure or interference." But the company feels compelled to follow neither the letter nor the spirit of such agreements. People have been fighting Coca-Cola's abuses (among other corps) for years now.

This story makes that evident:
In his last harvest, Shahul Hameed, the farmer who owns the modest smallholding, could coax only five sacks of rice from the land, and a meagre 200 coconuts. His irrigation wells have run dry. Meanwhile, the huge factory extracts up to 1.5 million litres of water a day from the deep wells it has drilled into the aquifer to produce Coke, Fanta, Sprite and the drink the locals call, without irony, Thumbs-Up.

So does this one:
A Coca-Cola franchise company in India is the subject of a police inquiry into the death of a community leader who had publicly objected to a planned Coca-Cola bottling plant in the village where he chaired the local council.
This second citation, for a frame of reference, is from February 2006. And that's just how they've been treating the workers.

Here's another horror story:
Coca-Cola in India is Guilty of:
* Causing Severe Water Shortages for Communities Across India
* Polluting Groundwater and Soil Around its Bottling Facilities
* Distributing its Toxic Waste as "Fertilizer" to Farmers
* Selling Drinks with Extremely High Levels of Pesticides

(Notice the reference to Columbia in here.)

You may as well sell the farm and head for the hills, folks. And don't forget to bring extra soft drinks because it could be a long picnic. As if religious fundamentalism wasn't bad enough on its own, now we've turned loose a bunch of psychopaths in the hope that the "better angles of our nature" will overcome their dogmatic, money-grubbing instincts and their self-righteous, selfish cruelty. You'd better think again Pangloss.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ohmygod - They Killed Kenny!

I haven't seen a South Park in a few weeks but this is getting crazy:

Comedy Central Censored Mohammed
An update: South Park caves. From NRO, with thanks to all who sent this in.

I'm not sure if it's been reported yet, but for what it's worth, I just got off the phone with a Comedy Central spokesman. I asked him about last night's episode of South Park in which, at a moment right before the prophet Mohammed was supposed to make a cameo, the words, "Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network" appeared on the screen.
I asked him whether this truly was Comedy Central's decision or whether this was just another gag (with South Park, you never know). He said:

They reflected it accurately. That was a Comedy Central decision.

Just in case there was any confusion, that settles it. Comedy Central censored the image.

[Update: Matt Stone and Trey Parker respond here.]

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Cover to Cover: Hijab vs. Playboy

As we recover from the riots that resulted from the offense of caricaturing Mohammed, another offensive is being mounted against equally offensive offenders. Various media outlets estimate that 150 to 300 members of a hardline group, the Islamic Defenders Front, protested in Jakarta against Indonesia's first edition of Playboy, despite the fact that nobody posed nude. But if criticizing Mohammed even in jest is blasphemous, suicide bombings are easily and reasonably justified, and Playboy is morally bankrupt, then where is there room for the elusive compromise I keep hearing the West must strike with Islam? Here's a sample of Al-Jazeera's report on Jakarta's most recent protests:
Muslim leader Yusuf Hasyim said the magazine posed more of a threat to Indonesia than terrorism by al-Qaeda-linked militants who have killed more than 240 people across Indonesia in recent years. "This is a kind of moral terrorism that destroys the way of life of the nation in a systematic and long-term way," state news agency Antara quoted Yusuf Hasyim as saying. He went on to urge Muslim youths not to attack shops selling the magazine but to express their objections peacefully.

Another, more optimistic sounding article is The birth of a global society, by Soumaya Ganoushi. She says the Islamic world is divided into left and right too. A very compelling argument that reasons, in part:
[I]n Europe and across the Atlantic, in the name of the war on terror, Muslim minorities have been the subject of a string of draconian legislations, endlessly required to prove their allegiance to the nation-state.... On the other side, the liberal and socialist left has found itself at the heart of Arab and Islamic causes, as the axis of its conflict with a will to hegemony imposed on the world in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. For these opponents of occupation, the Palestinian Kufiyye has turned into the symbol of their movement for a just world order.... The rapprochement between Muslims and the left is in this sense more pragmatic than ideological and more objective than doctrinal.... Religion may be an ally of fatalism and stultified conservatism just as it may act as a catalyst for dynamism and change. Insane violent al-Qaeda anarchists aside, this is precisely the role Islam is playing across the Muslim world today from Tangier down to Jakarta.

Ultra-conservative Indonesian protesters burn the country's first edition of Playboy magazine on Wednesday. The protesters called for the new magazine to be banned. (AP)

Given recent events (time frame of your choice) and the tenacity of superstitious human credulity, however, it's difficult to take "peaceful" rhetoric seriously, Islamic or Western (ostensibly secular, but who are we kidding?). Playboy will continue selling magazines in the world's most populous Muslim country because there's money to be made, at the expense of Woman. And people will continue to protest--violently whenever they deem it necessary, which is almost always--in the name of protecting Woman. So this may only be the beginning. There may of course be many who would disagree with this analysis. But consider this:
The Council of Ulemas made up of 43 Muslim scholars and leaders of major Islamic organizations, was formed in 1975 to guide Muslims on how to live in accordance with Islamic principles. The council has recently issued fatwas banning women from leading prayers if a man is present and prohibiting Muslims from praying alongside members of other religions.

And this:
On the same day that [Condoleezza] Rice was in Jakarta, the police in the province of Aceh arrested a French woman and an Acehnese man found together in their car on suspicion of adultery and possible "sex crimes," and referred their case to Aceh's Shariah law enforcers--the same ones who in recent months ordered public canings for women caught kissing or drinking beer in public.

And then this:
"If within a week they are still active and sell the magazine, we will take physical action," said Muhammad Alawi Usman, a spokesman for the [Islamic Defenders Front]. "Playboy is not suitable for reading because its contents degrade women."

And if there remains any doubt as to the insidious nature and the severity of the situation, remember the Secretary of State only last month reiterated that her government's "unfailing support for Asia's success remains rooted in the same basic principles [as Islamic fundamentalists]: the promotion of peace [by force] and the rule of law [again by force]; freedom of commerce and exchange and support for the just [i.e., pious] aspirations of all people [except dissenters, otherwise known as blasphemous heretics].

Or, one could leave Indonesia altogether.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

La Victoire

Des étudiants anti-CPE de l'université de Toulouse-Le Mirail ont bloqué, le 11 avril dans la matinée, un dépôt d'autobus. Le Monde

Deux mois qui ont changé la France
Dès qu'ils ont appris que le chef de l'Etat retirait l'article 8 créant le CPE, les syndicats - CGT, CFDT et FO en tête - ont crié victoire. Etudiants et lycéens maintiennent leur journée d'action d'aujourd'hui. Le Parisien

The CPE is no more. French citizens have once again shown that sustained mass demonstrations usually fare better than voting when engaged in governmental conversation. C'est très bien fait!

Real Time?

How do we account for this being reported on in today's news, knowing full well that it's old news?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Only The B[r]e[a]st For My Kids

Organic living gone berzerk.

Oh, The Humanity!

It's good to see that the Chinese government can take a little constructive criticism.

An Epidemic Of Unrest

Here's how some different news agencies report on the same event.

From India; from New York City; from China; from London; from Paris; from Tokyo; from the Kingdom [note the date and story]; from Jerusalem; from Calgary [again, note the date, story and fact that this link also works for Montreal, Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver]; from Toronto; from Caracas; from Salt Lake City; from Fairbanks; and, of course, from Nepal itself. Here. Here. Here. And especially this story and this one. Here's a short, but poignant glimpse of life in the Himalayas. You have to wonder, however, when some of your neighbours don't even notice sustained, violent upheavals such as Nepal has been experiencing.

But is this sort of thing out of the ordinary?
Not really; which could explain some of our innate indifference whenever these kinds of things happen so far away from one's own home.

[Update July 31, 2006 : The links for India, Jerusalem, Caracas, Salt Lake City and Fairbanks are no longer functional. On behalf of the formerly linked news agencies I would like to thank you for your patronage. -jp]

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Security Blanket?

Remember when "the blanket" meant this?

Well Dorothy, you ain't in Kansas anymore.

Try this blanket...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Urban Oasis

Water is the driving force of all nature.
–Leonardo da Vinci

Mulling over the Canadian media's extensive coverage of last week’s Cancun summit I wondered if there wasn’t a more pressing issue south of the Rio Grande, something besides international murder investigations, softwood lumber disputes or Mexicans illegally burrowing their way into California and Texas. As it turned out, there was: but you’d never have guessed it given the paucity of coverage. On March 22, World Water Day, the fourth World Water Forum concluded in Mexico City. It had attracted nearly 20,000 participants, plenty of activists, 120 nations and addressed both the quality and quantity of our most vital resource. The paucity of coverage inversely reflected the gravity of our situation. Consider some of what came out of Mexico City:

Radical youths were blamed for outbreaks of violence.

• More than one billion people currently have no access to safe drinking water, and an estimated 2.7 billion, or one third of the world’s population, will face major water shortages by 2025.
• Sanitation services vary [across the region] and treating wastewater remains a major challenge for some Latin American countries.
• 41 million Europeans do not have access to safe water.
• 300 million Africans currently lack access to basic water and sanitation.
The Middle East has the world’s lowest per capita share of water, which is further declining, with absolute scarcity expected by 2025.

Yet the forum’s participants failed to declare “the right to safe, clean drinking water as a human right.” Moreover, given the increased problems associated with urbanization, industrialization and population growth, we can only expect things to get worse. Since a PetroChina chemical factory leaked 100 tonnes of benzene and nitrobenzene into the Songhua River four months ago, depriving 3.8 million citizens of their only source of fresh water for five days, there have been another 73 major spills and the Ministry of Water Resources “estimates that 40 per cent of water in China’s 1,300 major waterways is fit only for industrial or agricultural use.” And it gets worse.
Of China’s 600 cities, 110 are facing serious shortages; the available fresh water per capita is 2,300 cubic metres, a quarter of the global average (Environment Canada says: “Water stress begins when there is less than 1,700 cubic metres per person per year”); and people in at least four provinces along the Huaihe River, China’s third longest, must add sugar or salt before drinking their water or else buy the bottled variety, “despite the arduous efforts made in the past ten years” to reduce pollution levels.
Then there’s India, where in provinces like Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, “an average of 70 per cent of available groundwater has been used... while the districts of Jalandhar and Kapurthala have mined a shocking 254 and 204 per cent [of their groundwater reserves last year] respectively.” In other words, every year India sucks more water out of the ground than Mother Nature can replenish. Even non-math types like me will draw ominous conclusions from this dilemma born of sheer volume. And India’s Central Groundwater Board “assesses only water quantity, not its quality,” which is a whole other ballgame.
Canadians of course remain oblivious to the impending crisis but our comfort level may soon prove illusory. Bottled water consumption has jumped 57 per cent in the last five years, reaching 154 billion litres in 2004 according to And our very own Great Lakes are the best watering hole around. Jim Olson, an environmental attorney in Michigan, criticized the Great Lakes states for allowing the sale of their water. “We’re banning diversions, but on the other hand we’re loosening up the law in a way that will allow exports,” he said in December. But let no law prohibit profits. calls “the potential for further growth in the market staggering.” Each Chinese citizen need only consume 100 eight-once glasses of bottled water per year to become the world’s leading consumer (31 billion litres). And their demand has doubled in the last five years, reaching almost 12 billion litres; it’s tripled in India over the same period, and neither country makes the top 15 in per capita consumption. In Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico (all of whom are in the top 15) the consumption per person has increased “by 44-50 per cent between 1999 and 2004.”
With urban populations more than tripling from 1950 to 2000, to 2.86 billion, it can safely be assumed that the pollution concomitant with this trend will only get worse: most of the growth will be in developing nations where environmental protection is often sacrificed on the altar of profitable industrialization. “By 2020,” says a 2001 UN report, “77 per cent of the global urban population (3.26 billion) is expected to be in developing countries.” All you visionary investors might want to consider rainwater-catchers.