Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Spanish media has made a big deal over the jerk college kid who made a fuss and got himself tasered at a John Kerry speech at the University of Florida. TV3 made it appear as if it were a question of police repression of freedom of speech, the Gestapo dragging away a protestor who asked dangerous questions. Of course, what happened was the guy 1) charged to the head of the line of people asking questions and grabbed the mike 2) went way over his allotted one minute and wouldn't give up the mike when asked to 3) resisted the police when they came to remove him from the premises 4) had someone filming the whole thing for his web site 5) is a notorious "prankster," but seems more like a guy with a long record of jerk behavior.

Also, somebody is already selling "Don't tase me, bro" T-shirts.

La Vanguardia is reporting that Cuban baseball star Alexei Ramirez, the Cuban league's top home-run hitter, has defected to the Dominican Republic and plans to sign a major-league contract. I hope the Royals sign him.

A World Health Organization study ranks Barcelona as the 8th worst city in the world, out of 26 cities surveyed, in air pollution, specifically suspended particles. Here's the ranking, along with the number of micrograms of particles per square meter of air in each city.

New Delhi 170
Peking 105
Bombay 90
Seoul 65
Santiago de Chile 63
Prague 62
Bucharest 60
Barcelona 60
Milan 58
Mexico City 56
Berlin 50
Oslo 48
Los Angeles 45
Sevilla 43
Helsinki 42
Hong Kong 41
Budapest 41
EU goal for maximum particles in suspension in 2010: 40
Vienna 40
Madrid 38
Munich 35
Johannesburg 35
Amsterdam 35
Tokyo 32
London 30
New York 25
Brussels 21
WHO recommended maximum of particles in suspension: 20
Stockholm 15

Barcelona doesn't do well at all, especially not compared with those nasty environment-destroying Anglo-Saxons who don't believe in the Kyoto treaty. Hard to believe our air is more polluted than Mexico City or Hong Kong or Tokyo. Supposedly 1200 Barcelona residents die every year from excessive air pollution.

La Vanguardia is making a big stink about the Blackwater incident: what happened was that last weekend a State Department convoy was passing through Baghdad when it was attacked. Security guards working for Blackwater repelled the attack, but eight people, at least some of whom were civilians, were killed. Of course what happened needs to be investigated, and I must say I don't like the idea of private security forces running around a war zone packing serious weapons.

But check out what Eusebio Val in La Vanguardia has to say (I've shortened it a bit):

"The most visible face of the privatization of war...they have a license to kill...modern mercenaries...Rambos out of a movie...they opened fire indiscriminately...succulent government authentic private military no value on Iraqi lives...indignation."

Now, now. First, "mercenaries" is the wrong word, since they have been hired by their own country's government, and their mission is exclusively defensive. That is, they can't go out and do a patrol and shoot up some alleged terrorists; they're restricted to defending what they're told to defend.

Second, "license to kill" is out of a James Bond movie, since Blackwater security guards are not allowed to intentionally shoot at anybody who is not attacking them.

Third, Mr. Val has definitely seen too many movies. Rambo? Please.

Fourth, the great majority of subcontractors in Iraq are, like, cooks and truck drivers, not security guards.

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