From the Continent That Invented Totalitarianism

A centralized power grid with a single failure that affects numerous cities in numerous countries shows itself as an example of a needed solution. That solution, of course: more centralization.

One of the worst and most dramatic power failures in three decades plunged millions of Europeans into darkness over the weekend, halting trains, trapping dozens in lifts and prompting calls for a central European power authority.

The blackout, which originated in north-western Germany, also struck Paris and 15 French regions, and its effects were felt in Austria, Belgium, Italy and Spain. In Germany, around 100 trains were delayed, and in the French capital firemen responded to 40 calls from those trapped in lifts late on Saturday night.

The only thing that more centralization cannot solve, to some people, is the hunger for more consolidation of power into their hands.

New Market For Venezuelan F-16s?

If Greeks and Turks are going to play chicken:

A mid-air collision between jousting Greek and Turkish fighters in disputed airspace over the Aegean Sea yesterday threatened to reignite age old rivalries.

The two planes are believed to have rammed each other, in full view of a passing commercial jetliner. The Turkish pilot, Halil Ozdemir, was rescued by a merchant ship after ejecting, but last night emergency services were still searching for the downed pilot of the Greek F-16 jet.

might provide a unique marketing opportunity for South American dictators with too many F-16s on their hands.

Come on, people, think outside the box. We can get this deal done.

(Link seen on Outside the Beltway.)

Conan O’Brien Skirts McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform

By making fun of the elections in Finland:

Finland’s president finds her traditional support among women and the Social Democratic Party base, but lately to the surprise of many Finns — and her opponents in Sunday’s election — she has gotten an endorsement of a different sort.

The redheaded late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien has been promoting President Tarja Halonen’s re-election bid as part of a long-running joke about their supposed physical similarities.

“Why do I support Tarja Halonen? Because she’s got the total package: a dynamic personality, a quick mind, and most importantly — my good looks,” the comedian, whose show is broadcast on cable in Finland, said in a statement to The Associated Press.

They’ve Got An Awful Lot of Coffee in Brazil

Frank predicted this story: “Brazil free school breakfast menu to offer coffee“:

Brazil’s coffee industry has brewed up a plan to serve up to 1 million schoolchildren a free breakfast — complete with a cup of java.

Brazil’s Coffee Industry Association (Abic) is seeking the support of 50 roasters to launch a pilot “Adopt-a-School” programme to feed breakfast to 1 million Brazilian school children aged 6 to 18.

It’s best not to dwell upon what the Brazillian Rubber Industry Association provides the children in Rio de Janerio.

(Link seen on Ace of Spades HQ.)

Good News of a Sort from Nigeria

‘More than half survive’ Nigeria crash:

The wreckage of a passenger jet that crashed in central Nigeria has been found, and more than half of the 117 people on board are reported to have survived, officials said.

As Quality Assurance professional who’s extremely conscious of the contingencies required to successfully keep a tube of people aloft, I’m not encouraged that aviation in the United States has seen its safest three years in history nor am I comforted that we’ve not had a major airline crash domestically in years. Because when one of those birds comes down….

A fifty-fifty shot at survival in the rare event that an airline crashes? That brightens my flying mood considerably. Because an aircraft crash that is not an automatic death sentence is much better than an aircraft crash that is. No matter how rare they remain.

Update: Ah, man. Headline amended to 117 killed in Nigeria plane crash

Chavez Hearing Voices Again, Pronounces Them Intelligence


US planning invasion, says Chavez
:

Washington officially sees Hugo Chavez as an unfriendly leader
Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chavez, says he is in possession of intelligence showing that the United States plans to invade his country.

In a BBC interview, Mr Chavez said the US was after his nation’s oil, much as it had been after Iraq’s.

But he stressed that any invasion would never be allowed to happen.

Some circus is one clown short.

Campaign Finance for the Unreformed – Germany

Here’s one of the other things you get when government pays for political advertising:

A fringe German anarchist party has outraged national television audiences with its election campaign television spot — a video montage of booze-fuelled chaos, syringes and men cavorting with topless women.

Rather than offer any presentation of policies, the party’s campaign spot spliced together scenes of debauched revellers smashing furniture, pouring beer down each other’s throats and groups of couples kissing and groping each other, all set to a frantic heavy metal soundtrack.

As an officially registered political party, the Hamburg-based APPD, which sells t-shirts on its Web site that proclaim “Arbeit ist Scheisse” (“work is shit”), is entitled to free television air time for its advertisements.

Of course this group is approved. Although embarrassing, it is no real threat to the established order. Anything else simply isn’t government-approved.

Forget Taiwan

Same old story, underplayed as usual: Report: China Faces Severe Water Shortages:

China’s already severe water shortages are worsening due to heavy pollution of lakes and aquifers and urban development projects with a big thirst for water, such as lawns and fountains, state media reported.

More than 100 cities have inadequate water supplies, with more than half “seriously threatened,” the official Xinhua News Agency cited Qiu Baoxing, a vice minister of construction, as saying.

“The uneven distribution of the limited resource and serious pollution further deteriorate the situation,” Qiu said.

In Beijing, for example, each resident has access to only 10,593 cubic feet of water a year, compared with the world average of 35,310 cubic feet, Xinhua said in a separate report.

That reminded me of an article I read in the November 1997 edition of The Atlantic Monthly entitled “Our Real China Problem” by Mark Hertsgaard (available online to subscribers here) which documents the impact of China’s population growth and industrialization on China’s environment. Excerpt:

At least five of the cities with the worst air pollution in the world are in China. Sixty to 90 percent of the rainfall in Guangdong, the southern province that is the center of China’s economic boom, is acid rain. Since nearly all the gasoline in China is leaded (Beijing switched to unleaded gas in June), and 80 percent of the coal isn’t “washed” before being burned, people’s lungs and nervous systems are bombarded by an extraordinary volume and variety of deadly poisons. One of every four deaths in China is caused by lung disease, brought about by the air pollution and the increasingly fashionable habit of cigarette smoking. Suburban sprawl and soil erosion gobbled up more than 86 million acres of farmland from 1950 to 1990 — as much as all the farmland in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. Farmland losses have continued in the 1990s, raising questions about China’s ability to feed itself in years to come, especially as rising incomes lead to more meat-intensive diets.

Also:

Beijing has so little water that Party leaders have questioned whether the city can remain the capital, according to Yu Yuefeng, the staff director of the Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Conservation Committee of the National People’s Congress. With a nervous chuckle, Yu told me that the problem has eased in the past two years, thanks to higher than normal rainfall, but, he conceded, “This is a roll of the dice. We have to rely on the gods to keep the rains coming.” In his privileged Party position Yu can afford to laugh. The problem is not so amusing for some 50 million people in rural northern China who must walk for miles or wait for days to obtain any drinking water at all. As for farmland, population growth has reduced the supply per person to about the size of one third of a tennis court.

That article appeared seven and a half years ago.

If China wants to conquer, Taiwan might only be a starting point. If China goes the militaristic conqueror route, it will need clean land, arable land and fresh water. Which would worry me if I shared a frontier with China.

Watch This Space

Here’s a story in the New York Times: Ethnic Clashes Erupt in China, Leaving 150 Dead. What ethnicities?

Violent clashes between members of the Muslim Hui ethnic group and the majority Han group left nearly 150 people dead and forced authorities to declare martial law in a section of Henan Province in central China, journalists and witnesses in the region said today.

I don’t think China will have a long term problem with Islamicism because it will take extreme measures early. So take some comfort, fellows, that Sharia law will never encircle the globe, for even if we cannot stop it, there are other competing civilizations that can and would.

Tony Blair Breeds Prostitutes

Drudge links to a story in the News of the World about an eighteen-year-old British student who’s going to sell her virginity on eBay to pay for her schooling.

Let’s enumerate the sordid details, shall we?

  1. She’s only eighteen, and she’s only still a virgin because she’s a lesbian.
  2. She’s going to the university to get a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Policy.
  3. She’s hard up because she’s working 3 shifts a week.
  4. The government is only giving her £3000, which leads poor Rosie to say:

    “The government has made it difficult for people like me to follow their ambition to study.

    “I wish we could concentrate on learning rather than constantly worrying about money or working to get by.

    “I think Tony Blair and Charles Clarke are encouraging a class divide, which is wrong and goes against all of Labour’s principles.”

  5. In Social Policy in British universities, false dilemma logical fallacies are proper rhetoric for socialism:

    “I’m not willing to sacrifice my future for the sake of a part-time job, so I am faced with two choices—years in debt or prostituting myself on the internet for my education.”

  6. Her lesbian lover supports her as long as she is safe, but is angry that she’s [Rosie] in this position.
  7. A British newspaper presented this as news.

British kids these days. Fortunately, we won both the revolution and the War of 1812, or these would be our future leaders and Socialist Policy setters. Our own are bad enough.

Europeans Blame America For Spam

Of course, America is responsible for spam e-mails, European weenies say.

Next, the European Union will also announce its discovery that the United States is also responsible for a host of other ailments, such as impotence, receding gum lines, those times when the moon swallows the mother Sun, the existence of spiders, and using satelite beams to make the neighbor’s dog bark all night.

(Link seen on TechDirt.)

Just Depends On What Your Country Trips On

Michele Alliot-Marie, defense minister of France, shares “Whoa, dude, and like one time when I was dropping acid….” type stories in the Washington Post:

“The American Defense Secretary (Donald Rumsfeld) believes the United States is the only military, economic and financial power in the world. We do not share this vision,” Alliot-Marie told Le Monde newspaper in the interview published on Saturday.

Of course not. They, and by they I am not sure whether I mean Alliot-Marie and her friends and associates or the whole of France, see different things when they eat the wrong types of mushrooms with their snails, which is most of the time. In these weird moments when the walls breathe and sweat, they oten have visions of a relevant and powerful France, just like in their picturebook history texts. A free, fraternal France, where workers have to punch in at 10:30 in the morning and get to punch out at 10:42 and the economy continues to grow. Hated tourists realize they mess up the beautiful landscape and just mail money directly, without trompling through the vineyards. And then suddenly the grapes grow very large, develop eyes and a nose but no mouth, and talk through their nostrils.

Perhaps that’s the vision they would like to share with us.