Occasional News and comments on the situation in Post-Saddam Iraq by an Iraqi-American living in Texas
Actually those sentiments were apparently pretty widespead. Here's a collection of other posters:http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/07/03/15-anti-obama-photos-from-tahrir-square-protests-that-you-probably-havent-seen/
Marcus ate my hamster!
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This is how Egyptians view the US administration's reaction to their uprising against Mursi.Really? Has the Obama administration called for Morsi's reinstatement as President? I hadn't heard that.
Lynnette (from previous),Yes, I have noticed the US is not calling it a coup. Almost certainly the number one thing that would destabilise Egypt over and above any political unrest is the withdrawal of US aid. So I would be amazed if Obama pulled the plug. Doesn't mean it wasn't a coup, just that it doesn't suit the US to call it one. As I said, such rules are made to be broken :)As to the "terrorism" posters, I don't know how common that sentiment is but it's unwarranted. Obama's reaction was no different to the UK, most of Europe, the EU, the UN and many others. There were several middle eastern and African countries who were a bit more partisan in their reaction, but that's to be expected.
Another note on American oil/gasoline prices. It's a very odd (but explicable) situation. US crude prices have been rising for months, and yet gasoline prices have been falling for seven weeks in a row.The crude price rises are due to the unblocking of the transit mid west supplies which makes WTI more fungible with world oil and therefore commands a higher price (while Brent and other benchmarks fall). But the same unblockage has created a refinery glut, dragging down gasoline prices. The expansion of the BP Whiting refinery is taking some of the glut, while benefitting mid west consumers, and export of refined products has increased. I don't think the fall in gas prices can continue much longer -- refiners have been making good margins for a couple of years but there's a limit to how much they can afford to cut. What will have to give eventually is the ban on US crude exports (which most people don't realise is still there since the 1970s).
Should be "transit of mid west supplies".One other point I forgot -- a big oil train derailment in Canada has blown the guts out of a small Quebec town today. I wonder if it could result in any regulatory problems with carriage of oil by rail in the US. Seems unlikely to affect things, but could go down badly with environmentalists fresh from pipeline protests.
Pete: "As to the "terrorism" posters, I don't know how common that sentiment is but it's unwarranted."Very much unwarranted. I'd say that the US (and the rest of the west) were always quite sceptical of the muslim brotherhood and would rather have seen a more secular coalition win. But the muslim brotherhood won, and not to be complete and utter hypocrites the rest of the world had to try to work with that, since they have been such strong proponents for that democracy.It seems some of the protesters somehow believe the US tilted the elections in favour of the MB. Or that the US ought to have tilted it against the MB but didn't. In any case they seem to credit the US with having the decision making power over their country. In this case I believe they are just plain confused. I am fairly certain the US had very little to do with the elections in Egypt besides trying to advocate that they should be fair. And I'm almost dead certain the US wouldn't take sides with the MB over their old allies in Egypt.The fact seems to be that the young and "liberal" factions in the big cities who first led the protests against Mubarak had their protest movement and especially the elections it led to taken over by the more numerous and politically better organised islamists. I don't see any foreign hand in that at all. Then, it's not certain the ones who put those Obama=terrorism posters even believed that themselves. Might be just propaganda. A message for an audience.
I would imagine they're just pissed off about the US making disapproving noises in the run up to the coup ... er, I mean... transition.It is a very dangerous precedent. I haven't followed Egypt well enough to know what nasty things Morsi may have done in his brief time at the helm. Ok, I heard about the Luxor governorate thing, which was reprehensible. But people get a chance to kick him out at the next election if that is the will of the people.
Seriously good news -- someone is actually working on a real thorium reactor and intends to have it commercial in five years. Thorium reactors produce a lot less waste, and can actually consume existing plutonium waste.http://www.thorenergy.no/(Marcus, I think they're less than a couple of hundred kilometres from you. How apt that Thorium is being developed by Thor Energy in Norway :)Marcus,
Pete,Yes, I have noticed the US is not calling it a coup. Almost certainly the number one thing that would destabilise Egypt over and above any political unrest is the withdrawal of US aid. So I would be amazed if Obama pulled the plug.I'm not absolutely certain but I heard somewhere that our aid to Egypt for this fiscal year has already been sent. The payment was made in May. Anyway, as to the banner thing, I think Marcus is right when he says it is propaganda directed at a certain audience. As to how Morsi was removed from office, if there had been a way via the legal system, such as impeachment, they would have tried that. But apparently the constitution that Morsi pushed through didn't allow for that. For there to be proper checks and balances within the civilian government there must be a way to remove an official from office via the legal system. The critical factor is whether or not they can transition to a civilian governemnt that will function under an all inclusive constitution. That means setting up something that protects the rights of each individual.
I heard about that train derailment in Quebec. Terrible. For some reason it seems even more so when it happens in a small town. Everyone knows someone who has been affected. I doubt it will have any significan impact on any of our regulations for transporting via rail. Although I should think it would give pipeline supporters more ammunition in any fight they may have to wage in the future.
It's been hot here for the past week or so. No rain, either. Everything is drying up. Hard to believe after the extremely damp spring, but so it goes. Although our temps aren't anything compared to what they've been having in Texas.
A quick update on our housing market. It looks like mortgage rates are headed up. They were at around 3.3% back in November, but are now running about 4.5%. They started rising when Bernanke hinted that he was going to ease back on the QE. Emphasis on the word "ease". A rate of 4.5% is still good, though.
Lynnette,Your interest rate rises are causing the dollar to strengthen as well -- not great for the economy. It remains to be seen if Bernanke sticks to his guns.I'm afraid your gasoline price reductions are at an end too. WTI is quite a bit more expensive now, and this must eventually be reflected at the pumps. Another negative for the economy.Those temps in your southwest have been making the news here. I think we have a fatal fascination with temperature extremes, having none of our own. That said, it's been an insane 29 C (84 F) here. With no residential air con, and the usual high humidity, it's quite unbearable. Can't wait to get back to cool and cloudy again :)
Pete,With no residential air con, and the usual high humidity, it's quite unbearable.It's been like that here for the past couple of weeks. The humidity broke last night and it feels wonderful today. I can't imagine not having A/C. I know, I know, people lived without it in the past just fine, but once you get used to it, it's hard to do without. I was out picking up apples last night and it was very pleasant.Your interest rate rises are causing the dollar to strengthen as well -- not great for the economy. I read a couple of articles the other day about our deficit being smaller than expectecd. On the surface that sounds good, but it's partly do to the sequestration cuts, which are still rolling out. Nothing has really been addressed with regards to the entitlement programs. I don't think anything has changed very much in Washington when it comes to a decent compromise on our budget and taxes. So the lower deficits will probably not be of significance in the long term. Whether or not Bernanke will ease up on the QE depends on what the economy does. It's wait and see time.Have you seen any improvement in Ireland's economy?
Just another comment on the current post. There was an article in my local paper regarding this, this feeling that the US supports Morsi over others in Egypt. And to those people who may believe Morsi is a terrorist, we therefore support terrorism. Apparently our Ambassador isn't well liked in many circles. Well, if I had an open forum in which to address people in Egypt I would probably say something like this:Dear People of Egypt,First and foremost this fight you are involved in is yours, you own it. Whether you are struggling for religious freedom, women's rights, economic equality, or more selfish motives such as a quest for power, it is your fight. Whatever Obama or our Ambassador says, or doesn't say, should have no bearing whatsover on your decision on who or what to support. And, for our government's part, they very much need to give you, the people of Egypt, the room to make your choices without unduly attempting to influence you. Because this is an extremely volatile situation that will affect your country for many years to come. And it is your home. To that end they may make what you feel are wishy-washy comments that can be interpreted various ways. Except for our members of Congress, of course, who are in the opposition of the current administration. You can be sure that they will scream to high heaven that the White House is doing something wrong. The bottom line is that the United States is a democratic country. It is what the American people wanted and it is what we have practiced for over 200 years. It is our system of government and we expect all citizens, inside and outside of government, to adhere to it. We would not settle for less.So, dear people of Egypt, if your motives are of pure heart, I wish you all the best.An American citizen
[Lynnette]: "Have you seen any improvement in Ireland's economy?" No. The domestic economy is still stuck with the effects of "austerity" (reduced government spending and increased taxes), lack of consumer confidence, and a huge debt overhang. I expect things to get considerably worse from where we are now.P.S. Can't get the indoor temps down much below 30 C. I officially hate summer :)At least they're talking about a Grand Minimum in the solar cycle, so a mini ice age is on the way :)
The WTI-Brent differential is now below $3! That's less than any analysts were predicting. At the end of Friday it stood at $2.86. WTI itself is at about $106 -- very expensive compared to recent times and presumably about to be reflected in US pump prices.
Yes, our gas prices have gone up.30C(86F)? Without air? I'd hate summer too! I like it around 26.1111C(79F). That is comfortable, without being cold.They're predicting around 32.2223C(90F) and high humidity for most next week here. Do you have a basement? You might want to make like a mole and spend some time underground. :)Oh! I just discovered that if I hover over the temps it pops up with the conversion figures! Cool. Why did I not notice that before?
Remember the fellow living in Minneapolis who is accused of being a Nazi?Here is an update on that story.
I don't know if you have heard about the Trayvon Martin shooting case, but it has been pretty big in the news here. The jury found George Zimmerman(the shooter) not guilty.
On my scale of summer comfort, 12C (54F) is cool, 16C (61F) is comfortable, and 20C (68F) is hot. We rarely see it, but to extend the scale, 25C (77F) is brutal, and 30C (86F) is hellish. The last three weeks have been between brutal and hellish.Our typical year-round afternoon humidity is 75-90%. I've been in the American southwest with much higher temps than we're having now, but it doesn't seem so oppressive.
Interesting update on the (supposed) Nazi story. The Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin verdict made the news here, but I hadn't followed the case.Iraq is also making the news, which is always a bad sign since the violence has to be particularly bad to get a mention these days :(
Lynnette, the Zimmerman trial was big news here as well. Our media has picked sides against Zimmerman quite clearly. It seems like since the opinion is that because the "stand your ground" laws are barbaric, the guy must be guilty. That he could only be considered innocent under flawed and barbaric laws. And for sure, here it would have been murder because here you're not allowed to stand your ground in almost any scenario and certainly not with a firearm.I haven't followed the case in detail so I can't really say wether I consider the verdict fair or not. Then there has been a debate about the race issue as well. Apparently in cases where someone is shot and the stand your ground laws are invoked the shooter is considered innocent in 2/3 of cases in white-on-black shootings but only in 1/2 of cases in black-on-white shootings. I don't see that as evidence for court bias though. It could be. But it could just as well be that the shootings happen for different reasons and that the courts are fair. Our media skips that second part and presents the numbers as clear evidence for "structural rasism against blacks" in the US.Further, I'm not sure Zimmerman is white. Isn't he a latino and therefor also a minority? It seems to me some commentors and organisations awfully much want to depict him as white though.
PeteS: We rarely see it, but to extend the scale, 25C (77F) is brutal, and 30C (86F) is hellish.lol! Oh dear, while Zeyad would hate the winters here, you would hate the summers.Wimps. :)The American southwest is more of a dry heat, less humidity. We always say, it's the humidity, not the heat, that makes it so unbearable.Even a native Floridian I was talking to the other day said he doesn't like the high humidity, either, and Florida is known for it.
Marcus,It seems like since the opinion is that because the "stand your ground" laws are barbaric, the guy must be guilty.I just can't agree with that thinking. If someone is attacked on the street or in a store, they should be able to defend themselves. Killing someone is obviously an extreme scenario, but having your only option of defense be running away just seems unrealistic. For example, what if you are being attacked by someone larger or stronger than you who has you immobilized except for your hands, which allows you to use a gun or other weapon? Running away certainly wouldn't be an option. Are you to allow your attacker to do what he will to you? As a woman I would like to have various options to try. Stand your Ground LawsI haven't followed the case in detail so I can't really say wether I consider the verdict fair or not.Fair or not, I think the law was followed. Zimmerman needed to be proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the case had various holes that the prosecution just couldn't fill. The only people who really know what happened were Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. 5 Reasons for acquittal.Our media skips that second part and presents the numbers as clear evidence for "structural rasism against blacks" in the US.I think there are all sorts of people who skip any extenuating circumstances to scream racism. It's a sad commentary that events have encouraged that thinking and that they can't see beyond it.I don't know the exact sequence of events that led up to Trayvon Martin being killed. We heard about why he was there, why Zimmerman was following him, but we know very little about how the fight started or who was actually getting the worst of it until Trayvon was shot, except for what Zimmerman has said. In the realm of public opinion Trayvon is dead and it boils down to whether or not people believe George Zimmerman's retelling of what happened. In the realm of the law, and the jury, there was not enough evidence to prove George Zimmerman guilty or murder or manslaughter.A boy is dead and a man's life is forever changed. A tragedy all the way around.
Hey all,If you look at the monthly average temperatures over a year here in Bangkok, you’ll see the highs and lows don’t really change very much. 30-35C during the day and dropping to 28-30 during the evening. A bit warmer in the “spring” months and a bit cooler in the “winter” months. I worried about the heat and humidity before coming here, but to my surprise I’ve become acclimated pretty quickly. I sweated quite a bit my first week or so, but now I don’t notice the temperatures so much and, when there’s a breeze, it almost feels cool (even if the temperature is near 32C). Here in Bangkok you don’t get the wild, unpredictable swings in weather and temperature that you do in a temperate zone, like in New York, so here you your body adjusts to the average temperatures. In New York, however, one day it could be 50F and the next 85F. Those swings don’t allow your body to adjust. In New York, to be sure, you have to check the weather before stepping out the door. In Bangkok, people really don’t have to look at a weather forecast (except to check for heavy rain).Thais, of course, don’t notice the heat as much as I do. Some people do carry around small towels to wipe their foreheads, but most don’t. There’s a very popular vendor-restaurant on Rangnam Road, the main street in my neighborhood, that serves crock-pot dishes (like Japanese nabemono). This sidewalk “restaurant” is a big operation, with about ten tables, each one with a crock-pot in the center of the table. Even with temperatures in the mid-30s Thais will sit around these boiling crock-pots under the sun, smiling as they eat with their friends and family, boiling the choice meats and vegetables, most of them without a drop of sweat on their foreheads.In my apartment I have a very good Mistubishi air-con that I run for fifteen minutes or so two or three times a day to chill the room and then just run the internal fan. This seems to work for me.
Jeffrey, I find that in Thailand it's more about the level of humidity than the changes in temperature. Of course the humidity is, afaik, also pretty predictable around the year. One difference I always notice is how quick the day changes into night and vice versa that close to the equator. Lynnette, I agree with your thoughts in that last post. I wasn't voicing my own opinions but those of our media.
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Hi Jeffrey,The even temps that you're describing sounds a bit like Hawaii. I remember walking out the door in the morning into instant warmth and having it remain like that all day. Very nice. Even when it rained it seemed to do it with the sun shining. And, where I was at least, there was always the scent of flowers.
I've been reading a bit more about shale gas fracking. The volumes involved are hugely higher than I imagined. The hydraulic fracturing fluid is at a typical pressure of 700 atmospheres. Shale is brittle and cracks easily along bedding planes. Sand in the fracking fluid keeps the cracks wedged open, allowing hydrocarbons to flow. A good well in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania might produce ten billion cubic feet of gas! The main constituents for the fracking fluid for this would be about five million gallons of water and three or four thousand tons of sand. A multi well pad might have half a dozen such wells drilled from a single site.About 30-40% of the fracking water flows back out of the well as it depletes. This has to be cleaned up if it is to be disposed of, but it is common to recycle the water for futher fracking operations. A number of other frack fluid options exist. Nitrogen and carbon dioxide foams have been tried. A promising alternative is light alkanes -- propane, butane and pentane. A hundred thousand gallons of liquid alkanes can replace the five million gallons of water. This can be 98% recovered and recycled at the end of the frack operation, and it is claimed that the approach can recover 20-30% more shale gas from a well. It would be a major plus in places like Saudi Arabia which has plenty of shale gas resources but no spare water.
Marcus,I guess I've become acclimated to both the temperatures and the humidity. I would also say that it's hard to separate the two here in Bangkok, at least right now in July. Maybe this winter there will be a drier heat. My favorite season is fall, so it looks like I'll have to travel to Australia in the spring to walk in crisp fall weather. It ain't gonna happen here.You're right about sunset. The sun goes down about seven here, and it goes down pretty quickly. And because I'm in a city, it's hard to actually see the sun descend. It's been a while since I've seen an unimpeded horizon. Lynnette,The smell of flowers? I wish. Well, maybe on one of the famous Thai islands, but I'm here in Bangkok. There are many smells here, but I have yet to smell flowers while walking the streets of Bangkok.Here's something worth noting, though. No mosquitoes. I haven't seen or heard one mosquito since my arrival here a couple months ago. Nice.
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Jeffrey, I've never been in Thailand except in January-Febrary when I hear it's the "cool season" there. Still warm enough for me by a margin. I've never really suffered from the heat though - that's one of the main things I escape the swedish winter for. The one smell in Bangkok I always think of is when you pass a sidewalk BBQ where they fry up chilies and the smell is so intense your eyes water and sometimes your nose starts to run. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.Then of course the less than pleasant smell of rapidly rotting garbage is a common one too. Even if they pick up the trash daily it seems in the tropics it still has time to rot. Not so nice that smell.I've not noticed that many mosquitos in BKK either but I heard that during the floods a few years ago they were a real pest. Out in the provinces and on the islands however you'd better wear repellant in the evenings. The good thing is that repellant actually works against the wussy mosquitos in SEA. The ones we have here drink mosquito spray as a chaser after feasting on your blood. In northern Sweden they are as big as seagulls the bastards. Ok, maybe not quite that big.Pete, interesting intel on fracking. I'm not yet sure of what to make of it all except I realise it's BIG. The main worry I have is what the risks are in terms of ground water pollution. Fresh water I see as a resource we can ill afford to waste, and certainly not to pollute.
PeteS,Thank you for the more in depth detail of how fracking works. I never really knew before what they specifically used the sand for. Yes, I've heard it takes a lot of water. That is one of the issues that could cause problems in the future depending on climate changes. That, and the pollution issue that Marcus mentioned. It's nice to know that they may have alternative options to use. Like anything when they first develop it, there are probably refinements that can be done to mitigate some of the concerns. At least I like to hope so. :)
Jeffrey,There are many smells here, but I have yet to smell flowers while walking the streets of Bangkok.lol! Probably a Hawaii thing. It's funny though how a certain aroma can remind you of a place. With certain flowers I think of Hawaii, with diesel fumes I think of England. It makes me understand how someone suffering from PTSD could be vulnerable to certain triggers, like a smell.No mosquitoes. I haven't seen or heard one mosquito since my arrival here a couple months ago. Nice.Very nice! We are fully engulfed in the mosquito season here. It seems like every time I go out in the backyard at night I get eaten alive. Yet with the temps being so high that is one of the best times to be out.
Marcus,The ones we have here drink mosquito spray as a chaser after feasting on your blood. In northern Sweden they are as big as seagulls the bastards. Ok, maybe not quite that big.There are people here who consider the mosquito here the state bird. ;)I live close to what I would call a swamp/marsh, but which the marketers now call "wetlands", and they were just out spraying for mosquitos yesterday. It couldn't come to soon for me!
Re: fracking and pollution... the chances of pollution from the fracked zone itself have to be tiny, I would think. It's typically many thousands of feet below the water table, and the hydrocarbon source rocks are by definition impermeable or capped above by something impermeable (otherwise the hydrocarbons would have migrated to the surface and evaporated millions of years ago, as has happened to most of the hydrocarbons ever produced).I think the danger is more at the wellhead and well shaft. If those aren't properly sealed you can get leaks and spills. Nowadays, a responsible operation will make sure the shaft is double walled and properly lined, and the entire wellhead area is built on a multilayer rubber/plastic sheet with an outer berm to catch any spillages so they can be siphoned before there is any local contamination.
Lynnette - they spray the entire area for mosquitoes?! Couldn't quite believe it, but I checked, and the common insecticide is permethrin. Is that not a bit of a disaster for all other more desirable insects? (Ok, "desirable" is not a term I often apply to insects, but I suppose the honey bee is as close to cuddly as they get).
I got buzzed by a mosquito last night. I'd heard we've had them here for some years, but it's the first I've ever seen in Ireland. I'd imagine they normally take one look at our weather and pack their suitcases. That said, the weather is unusually dry, which should be bad for them. In the UK they are having their driest July since records began 247 years ago.
We spray entire areas for Mosquitos here too, up north. If they didn't this is what you'd get:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4xcwopO4Q8There was some critizism a few years back and the government stopped the pest control. One lady invited the minister in charge home for a discussion and served coffe outside in the garden with the mosquitos. 5 minutes of that and then the minister flew back to Stockholm and authorised the spraying.
Here they just spray over the wetlands area, not over the neighborhoods. They are always warning on the news to remove any standing water that would allow mosquitos to breed. I try to change the birdbath water frequently. Although with it being so hot now it usually evaporates quickly. What's really bad is trying to work in the garden in the evening now. You have to keep that moist and with the plants becoming more mature(taller) you have a perfect place for mosquitos to lurk. Morning is a little better, but of course I am usually off to work then. So it's the weekends if I'm not running around doing errands.I've found that Aloe Vera gel and a lot of willpower(not scratching) makes the itching short lived. :)
PeteS,You made me curious as to what they use here. It looks like a couple of things, but the main one is methoprene. It looks like adult bees have a higher tolerance for it than the bee larvae, according to this site I found.But you are right, there is a concern for bees if there is over spraying of any sort. My cousin was just mentioning the other day that growers have been noticing a certain lack of pollination going on due to lack of bees. I don't know if the spraying is the guilty party or the strange weather we have been having. Maybe a little of both?
Marcus,I hope I never see that many mosquitos in one place! That guy had to be crazy to stand there for that to be taken. lol!
A web test where you can get an estimate of your english vocabulary:http://testyourvocab.com/Jeffrey, something to put your students through perhaps?I had a hard time with the right hand column, especially on the second page of words. My result was I know an estimated 24.600 words. That sounds a bit much but I do read books in english instead of in swedish and that must have helped out.
Bloomberg currently reporting the WTI-Brent differential at less than $1 !!!Brent is looking pretty average compared to the last couple of years, whereas WTI is pretty much at its most expensive since the crash of 2008 (apart from one blip last year).
Lynnette, thanks for that -- methoprene looks safer than permethrin. The latter is a nerve disruptor, with pretty much the same effect on humans in large doses as insects. It has the advantage of breaking down quickly in the environment though. (I guess that's not an advantage if you want something that lasts a while and is relatively non-toxic to humans ... sounds like methoprene fits that bill).Bee populations have been under pressure in a lot of developed countries. For a while it was thought that the varroa mite was doing it. I see now, though, that the EU has banned three classes of pesticides that are implicated.Marcus -- that video is gross.P.S. You vocab sounds very decent (not unexpectedly). I'm not sure how much I trust the estimate though. I have read elsewhere that native speakers can have vocabularies up to 250,000 words. I scored 32,200 on your one. (Ok, maybe I'm a dunce, but I'd expect to have quite a large technical vocabulary).
Well, at least the mosquitoes in Minnesota and Sweden (and that one lost soul in Ireland) aren't associated with any disease, right? Here in Thailand, I've learned, besides malaria, one of the issues with mosquitoes is dengue fever, which for most people isn't a big deal but for a few can be deadly. Right now there is no vaccine for dengue fever, but health officials are hopeful that one is produced in a few years. Yesterday I went to a Red Cross clinic here in Bangkok and got a few vaccinations. I researched this before leaving New York and discovered I would save hundreds of dollars by getting the shots here. I went to a place called the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute and here’s what I paid (in baht and then US dollars): 1 registration: 20 baht / $0.642. consultation with doctor: 50 baht / $1.613. shot for Japanese encephalitis: 450 baht / $14.504. shot for typhoid: 400 baht / $12.895. Tetanus booster shot: 700 baht / $22.566. Hepatitis A shot: 1400 baht / $45.11Total: 3,000 baht / $96.67I will have to get second shots for the Japanese encephalitis and Hepatitis A. The clinic was well-run, had very good staff (and as usual in Thailand, more than enough people to help run the show), and fast service. The whole process took around forty-five minutes. I was the only one there until another guy came in just when I was finishing.
Lynnette,I took that vocabulary test and scored 37,700. I should mention, though, that I teach a special vocabulary course that focuses in detail on the Germanic and Latin/French/Greek prefixes, suffixes, and base words of modern English (using my own self-published booklet). I would not call myself an average reader. Still, as Marcus noted, the words on the right-hand columns of the third page are just weird. Many of those on my page I had never seen before. So I’m not sure how accurate or reliable this test is. The first problem is that it goes from easy words to very strange words too quickly. A more accurate test would take longer, I’m afraid, and have a much smoother gradient.
Here’s a question that has always bothered me. Is there a fundamental difference between Iraqi society and that of the US in particular and the West in general? I remember reading Zeyad’s essays on the history and structure of the tribes in Iraq and thinking how bizarre that social structure was when compared to what I had grown up with in a small town in Iowa. Every now and then since then, I’ve taken a look at a book that tries to explain those differences. The latest I’ve come across (but haven’t purchased yet) is Culture and Conflict in the Middle East by Philip Carl Salzman, an anthropologist who has lived with Arab tribes. Here’s a couple paragraphs from the Kindle sample of the book: Arab culture in the central Middle East is characterized by a particular form of social control that has a major impact on human experience and social life. This form, or structure, is what I will call "balanced opposition."Balanced opposition is an ingenious way to organize security. It is decentralized, in that no central officials or organizers are required. It is democratic, in that decision making is collective and everyone has a say. It is egalitarian, in that there is no ascribed status, rank, or hierarchy into which people are born, and all groups and individuals are equal in principle. It is also to a substantial degree effective, in that balanced opposition often successfully deters attack by threatening reprisal.This is how balanced opposition in the Middle East works: Everybody is a member of a nested set of kin groups, from very small to very large. These groups are vested with responsibility for the defense of each and every one of its members and responsibility for the harm each and every one of its members do to outsiders. This is called by anthropologists "collective responsibility," and the actions taken by a group on its own behalf are called "self-help." If there is a confrontation, small groups face opposing small groups, middle-sized groups face opposing middle-sized groups, or large groups face opposing large groups: family vs. family, lineage vs. lineage, clan vs. clan, tribe vs. tribe, confederacy vs. confederacy, sect vs. sect, the Islamic community (umma) vs. the infidels. This is where the deterrence lies, in the balance between opponents; individuals do not face groups, and small groups do not face large groups. Any potential aggressor knows that his target is not solitary or meager, but is always, in principle, a formidable formation much the same size as his.Maybe this idea of "balanced opposition" helps to explain the chronic conflict between the Sunnis and Shias. Neither group is willing to concede power. There's always another bomb to detonate or another suicide bomber ready to do the Allah-Akbar.Of course, maybe today in the US, Democrats and Republicans are also in "balanced opposition." The difference is that they battle each other in Congress and on the Sunday-morning political shows, always hoping for a devastating gotcha headline and news story.
Marcus,Yes, the comment on English vocabulary should have addressed to you instead of Lynnette. Sorry about that.
Out of curiosity, I just finished clicking down the IBC blogroll of Iraqi bloggers. Well, I knew the English-language Iraqi bloggers had reduced their out-put, but I didn’t know that most had quit blogging. There are, however, a couple still writing. An old favorite of mine is Sami (Skies), the student of psychology and lover of good literature. As usual with him, he writes candid and thoughtful accounts of his daily activities, encounters, and ideas. Here’s a paragraph from a recent blog entry:I was in bus going to work when we passed by that city south of Baghdad named Alexandria, a city Alexander the Great had passed in once. I asked the man sitting next to me about the prices of rent of apartments in this city. He answered that even if it cheap as 5000 ID (about 4 $) per month he won't live in this city and then he called those people living in that area with some names. I nodded my head in what seemed as an agreement to what he had said. The rest of conversation he was the talking-one, and I was the nodding-head one. And then came that question, he asked me: "Where do you live?". That question is meant to know your religious status and to what sect you belong. Well, like Carraway's father, my father also taught me to see the best in people. The man sitting next to me and I ended to have a good conversation. We are finally simple persons having a conversation in a bus, no more, no less. The man reached his station before mine and to my surprise, when he landed on earth, and our bus was about to leave, he turned and smiled and waved to me. That was so nice from him.http://saminkie.blogspot.com/2013/06/contemporary-iraqi-conversations.html By the way, he’s been reading Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. His favorite character is Phoebe, Holden’s younger sister.
Jeffrey, "I’m not sure how accurate or reliable this test is. The first problem is that it goes from easy words to very strange words too quickly. A more accurate test would take longer, I’m afraid, and have a much smoother gradient."I'd agree on that. From quite easy to puzzingly difficult without much in between. And the scores seem out of whack too. I know I know a decent amount of english for a non-native speaker but no way is my vocabulary 76% of that of PeteS's for instance. And one of my friends who speak decent English scored only 11.200, less than half of my score. No way I know more than twice as many words as he does. Still, it's always fun to take a test.Interesting description of that "balanced opposition" theory. I think balanced opposition pretty well describes plain tribalism though, and I wonder if tribalism isn't a better overall term for it. We used to be a tribal society here in Sweden longer perhaps than the more advanced, at the time, European nations/regions. It took a central power in the fashion of a monarchy, and religios leaders, to wash that away, and it took centuries. At around year 1000 Sweden was and had long been a tribal society where blood feuds could lay waste to whole sections of the country for decades.Around 1250 the King at the time, aided by the Catholic church, broke the back of tribalism by introducing the common Law and forcing it on the country as a whole. There had been laws before but provincial ones and ones that could always be challenged by a superiority in force. The new Law was a law for the realm and punishment and fines were to be handed out/paid to the Crown. And it was enforced by the Crown with the backing of the Church. In return for its backing the Church got to outlaw some of the more heathen practices up in what they considered a mostly pagan part of the world. Then we had absolute monarchy (dictatorship) for about 600 years before democracy prevailed.I think about that sometimes when the hopes for say the "arab spring" seem just too outlandish. You don't simply change from one way of ruling a nation to a completely different one by a weekend of protests and a loan from the IMF. It takes time. It takes force sometimes and the passing of generations for it to really stick.
[Marcus]: "no way is my vocabulary 76% of that of PeteS's for instance"Why not? Your posts rarely betray any sign of not being a native English speaker. The spelling, grammar and coherency is probably better than 90% of what's posted on the internet by native English speakers, since most school leavers only seem semi-literate these days :)
Marcus, I think about that sometimes when the hopes for say the "arab spring" seem just too outlandish. You don't simply change from one way of ruling a nation to a completely different one by a weekend of protests and a loan from the IMF. It takes time. It takes force sometimes and the passing of generations for it to really stick.Excellent point. As you say, people just don't go from relying on family-clan-tribe to local-state-federal overnight. As for the term "balanced opposition," I think Salzman is suggesting that the opposition runs from the smallest units to the largest units and that the tribe is just one unit that may be opposed. Again, I haven't read the book yet, but I imagine he argues that which groups are opposed depends on the conflict itself and how serious it is. If it's not so serious, it may be just family versus family. If more serious, it may trigger clan versus clan conflict. Really serious brings tribes against each other. I also think he argues that Islam is overlaid onto this Arab form of tribal structure. Sectarian conflict (Sunni versus Shia) and permanent jihad against the infidels (Muslims versus non-Muslims) were just two upper levels of balanced opposition added to Arab tribal organization and ways of thinking.
Pete, "Why not? Your posts rarely betray any sign of not being a native English speaker."Thanks, I take that as a compliment. But as Jeffrey said that test went from very easy to very hard without much in between. My guess is that if there were more somewhat-hard words you native speakers would have a clear advantage over me on those. The basic words I know almost all of and the very odd ones even you don't know what they mean. The difference would probably be in the spectrum in the middle, is my guess."The spelling, grammar and coherency is probably better than 90% of what's posted on the internet by native English speakers, since most school leavers only seem semi-literate these days :)"Yes that's universal these days it seems, at least in the west. The status of teachers has dinminished and along with that the quality of the profession. Disciplin in schools is seen as authoritarian in a bad way and grading is seen as an unjust evaluation breaking kids' spirits. I'm sorry but I do believe cathedral education practices with repetitive learnining is essential in some areas. It seems to me many kids graduate without even knowing by heart the multiplication table for the numbers 0-9. In my days we ground those in to the point where someone could have woken you up in the middle of the night and asked you "7 times 9 ?" and you'd have blurted out "63" and gone back to sleep. And I'm not that old. Standards are slippin'.
Jeffrey, "I also think he argues that Islam is overlaid onto this Arab form of tribal structure."Probably that's true because it sprung from it. A "prophet" from a certain school of thinking would incorperate that thinking into the religous ideology he prophethised, seems logical.
Jeffrey,While we don't see dengue fever or malaria here there is West Nile virus and La Crosse Encephalitus. But odds are good that one won't be exposed. I can see why you waited to get your shots. I think the last time I got a tetanus booster shot (after being bit by a chipmonk I was trying to free from some raspberry netting), the cost was around $100.In some circumstances medical care can be cheaper and more efficient abroad. But not always. Someone I know was treated at a hospital on one of the Caribbean islands after falling and breaking a leg. He was never so happy to get back to the states. The hospital was very much third world. Yet people who have went to Mexico have been very pleased with the care there.
Lynnette,"In some circumstances medical care can be cheaper and more efficient abroad. But not always."That's right. And it's even more of a difference for us in Europe with universal healthcare. If you need basic medical attention in a third (or possibly second) world country like Thailand where Jeffrey now lives it can be cheap and good quality. Better than at home even.But if you get really sick and require expensive treatments then you'd better hope you have your medical insurance in order and that your insurance provider doesn't try to weasel away from their obligations.In that case getting back home to where taxes are higer but healthcare is universal is the #1 priority. Getting stuck without first rate medical insurance in a less developed country could be an effective death sentence.
Jeffrey,Is there a fundamental difference between Iraqi society and that of the US in particular and the West in general?Do you remember when Abbas translated a few Ali Al Wardi pieces for his readers? Ever since then I've been wanting to read more of him. But the translations done of his first book by Haydar Al-Khoei (sp?) is $82 in paperback. So I've been waiting on that. It is egalitarian, in that there is no ascribed status, rank, or hierarchy into which people are born, and all groups and individuals are equal in principle.But is it really? Aren't there some tribes that are more, shall we say, dominant? And by swearing allegiance to a sheikh, which is seemingly a fundamental requirement, aren't you then becoming, well, less equal? Because his will may not be yours. What if you have no problem with that Sunni or Shia down the block, yet the sheikh orders the tribe to fight? Having to do his bidding wouldn't seem to make you equal to him.Maybe this idea of "balanced opposition" helps to explain the chronic conflict between the Sunnis and Shias. Neither group is willing to concede power.Somehow I get the impression that conceding power in the Middle East does not have the same connotation as it does in the West. In the Middle East it so often comes with a death sentence and/or oppression.
Marcus,But if you get really sick and require expensive treatments then you'd better hope you have your medical insurance in order and that your insurance provider doesn't try to weasel away from their obligations.That's what the fellow I was talking about found out. In his case it was travel insurance that he was covered under. They did pay...eventually. The paperwork was onerous to say the least.
Jeffrey,Well, I knew the English-language Iraqi bloggers had reduced their out-put, but I didn’t know that most had quit blogging.Every once in a while I will click on one of the blogs just to check up on people. I have read Sami a few times. You know, of course, that Abbas is in the States now? It would be nice to hear what everyone is doing, but other than a few rare Zeyad sightings, they seem to have been absorbed into real life. I know it can be a little time consuming, but for us in the virtual world it is like they fell off the face of the earth.
Okay, I took your test, Marcus. I scored 30,000. There were a number of words that were obviously out of date. Some I recognized, but didn't check because I couldn't put into words a good definition. Then there were some rather strange ones I had never seen before. They seem to be trying to measure various things, including age based knowledge. At least looking at the survey they had at the end.
P.S. Tricorn always makes me think of the Revolutionary War. As in a tricorn hat. :)
I must be watching too much news when I even recognise White House press room journalists. Anyway, RIP Helen Thomas.
Lynnette,Abbas is in the US? Hm. That’s surprising. I wonder if he’s still playing his oud instead of the electric guitar (instrument of Western aggression and hegemonic oppression)?You remember Omar Fekeiki (24 Steps to Liberty) right? A couple days ago I came across an article by Wapo journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran about what’s happened to some of the Iraqis who worked in the Baghdad bureau with him and who emigrated to the US. The last person profiled is Omar, now a US citizen.http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/at-great-risk-they-helped-the-post-cover-iraq-now-theyre-remaking-their-lives-in-america/2013/07/18/76867d10-e7e5-11e2-aa9f-c03a72e2d342_story.htmlI recall lots of arguments between the IBC crew and Omar, lots of good, heated discussions. While I was going through the IBC archives, I even found an entry that highlights an argument between Zeyad and Omar, a rare occasion when two Iraqis got up in each other’s grill. Zeyad hits Omar upside the head with this: These are all very dangerous and troubling statements. The press has a grip on reality, you seem not to have one.jarrarsupariver.blogspot.com/2006/02/hey-iraqi-sunnis-its-called-blowback.htmlI also re-read Mister Ghost’s 2005 interview with Omar for IBC and found this exchange, which offers a blunt response to a question I raised the other day here.MG: Can Islam and Democracy Coexist? Because as Dennis Prager notes via a Freedom House study on Democracy: Of the world's 47 Muslim countries, only Mali is free. Sixty percent are not free, and 38% are partly free. Muslim-majority states account for a majority of the world's "not free" states. And of the 10 "worst of the worst," seven are Islamic states. So, what exactly is the problem between Islam and Democracy? 24 Steps: Islam cannot work parallel with democracy. That's just impossible. But that doesn't mean Islam is a bad religion or includes bad ideologies. For many people, it works well by itself. But to combine it with democracy?? Never.http://jarrarsupariver.blogspot.com/2005/12/in-t-view-24-steps-to-liberty-iraqi.htmlDamn. That’s called a definitive reply.
Lynnette,Somehow I get the impression that conceding power in the Middle East does not have the same connotation as it does in the West. In the Middle East it so often comes with a death sentence and/or oppression.You're right. If you "concede power" in the Middle East, it means you're a loser. And, of course, one thing I've learned about Arab mentality is that Arabs just don't lose. Victor or martyr, those are the two possible outcomes. Loser? Never. That realization, in fact, was central to my positing the concept of the Arab Parallel Universe, which I explained to Sandmonkey on his comments page and which he then formalized for his readers as the "7 Rules of the APU."http://jarrarsupariver.blogspot.com/2004/08/arab-parallel-universe-triumphs-again.html
Why the closure of the WTI-Brent price gap won't result in higher gasoline prices -- article.
Pete,I don't know anything about higher gas prices, but I thought of you when I came across this from an Irish blogger residing in Berlin (Der Irische Berliner) and currently back in Ireland on a visit with his young son.We’re in Ireland. I think it’s Ireland. They told us it’s Ireland and it’s full of Irish, but the sun’s shining so I’m not sure. Clouds have been suspiciously absent the last couple of days and it’s warm. Warm!People are going around topless and witless, out of their senses due to the unseasonably summery summer in Ireland so far. Everyone’s talking about the weather, there are even warnings about it “the unusual summer weather” on the news.“A blue sky! It’s even blue at night,” said one auld wan to another as they were walking along, as if the other couldn’t lift her eyes and gaze at the wondrous blue sky too.Even the young lad can’t believe it.“It not raining,” he says, over and over.http://www.irishberliner.com/2013/07/summers-in-ireland.html?view=classic
Jeffrey,I just finished the WaPo piece. Thank you for posting it. That picture of Omar with the American flag at the end was beautiful. :)It sounds like a mixed bag as to how people are doing here. Sometimes it just takes time. I wish them all the best.For a time I thought that Abbas was going to resume blogging. But he apparently had second thoughts. I think, like those Iraqis in the WaPo piece, ties to Iraq are still strong in some respects.
It's true Jeffrey. Three weeks of 25 - 30 centigrade has us all scratching our heads as to what's going on. Frankly, it's been unbearable. The Spanish have the good sense to build their houses like caves, with tiny windows. We, on the other hand, need our passive heating, so our brick houses have become ovens. Our prevailing winds blow across twenty million square miles of North Atlantic ocean, so afternoon humidity of 90% is standard. Usually the sea keeps us cool in summer and warm in winter. If the temperature stayed between 10 and 20 C, summer and winter, day and night, nobody would be surprised ( - ok, we get a little more variation than that).Today, at last, normal service has been resumed. Temperatures are back to low twenties and a stiff westerly makes it feel a few degrees colder. The forecast is for more normal Irish summer weather from here on in ... which basically means they are predicting our usual unpredictability. It will rain somewhere between zero and twenty-four hours a day, the wind will be between zero and 60 mph, we might see the sun again between now and autumn, or we might not.Two thing's are for sure -- our landscape which had been getting a bit singed at the edges will go back to it's normal vibrant green. And people will keep complaining about the weather. That's the one thing that didn't stop during the heatwave. Me ... I'm looking out at the first grey sky for three weeks and loving it.
I'm reading reports of major attacks on prisons north and west of Baghdad yesterday. Sounds like security forces came off worse than the militants in both cases, and at Abu Ghraib five hundred convicted prisoners escaped, many of them senior al-Qaeda figures. Pretty embarrassing for the government, and more evidence of the serious ongoing unrest.
“ Out of curiosity, I just finished clicking down the IBC blogroll of Iraqi bloggers. Well, I knew the English-language Iraqi bloggers had reduced their out-put, but I didn’t know that most had quit blogging.”“ Every once in a while I will click on one of the blogs just to check up on people. I have read Sami a few times. You know, of course, that Abbas is in the States now? It would be nice to hear what everyone is doing, but other than a few rare Zeyad sightings, they seem to have been absorbed into real life. I know it can be a little time consuming, but for us in the virtual world it is like they fell off the face of the earth.”Jeffrey , Lynette ألا تعتقدون انه حان وقت التوقف لكم ايضاً؟انتم تتواجدون هنا وبشكل شبه دائم منذ بدأ زياد بالكتابة أي قبل حوالي 10 سنوات على ما اعتقد، ولا تقولون سوى سخافة في سخافة وغباء في غباء ، الا تشعرون ابدا بالملل؟ زياد نفسه يقضي اقل من ربع الوقت الذي تقضونه هناالا يوجد لديكم عمل او حياة؟ لهو آخر؟لقد تابعت هذا الموقع لأشهر قليلة عام 2006 والآن عدت لأرى صاحب الموقع مختف تقريبا ومعظم الشخصيات الكوميدية التي كانت (تعلق) اختفت الا انتم ، ما السر؟لا بد ان حياتكم فارغة وتعيسة الى ابعد الحدود ، ووجودكم السخيف هنا يشعركم بالاهميةشئ محزن جدا
Pete,You bring up an interesting topic: What do people do in different countries to accommodate (or not) to the local weather? Having grown up in the Midwest, where you damn better have a good heating system set up in your home before the first snowflakes start to fall, I remember the first time I lived in San Francisco. With a handful of other Midwesterners, I lived in a railroad-style flat that had one tiny heater in the old fireplace of the living room -- for the entire five-bedroom apartment! The heat barely made it past the coffee table. That first winter in San Francisco turned out to be much colder -- at least indoors -- than Iowa had ever been. Bottom line: San Franciscans failed to accept the reality of their own weather. It was as if the people in San Francisco just couldn't admit to themselves that the winters in San Francisco were cold. I mean, I guess they said to themselves, "Hey, were in California! Why would we need heat?"Anyway, it seems that your architectural choices in Ireland are just fine, except for handling these one-off oddities like this summer.When I lived in Berlin, I rented an apartment in an old building that had coal-burning stoves and one shared, unheated toilet for each floor. Maybe Marcus knows about these. And the toilet was a Flachspueler, an old-style German toilet that has a platform in the middle of the bowl that catches your crap (and allows the good German to inspect his shit -- don't ask, I don't know).Anyway, if I missed buying a bag of coals (the store always closed at six p.m. sharp), I had to put on all my sweatshirts, a jacket, and stocking cap and climb into bed until the next morning. That damp, icy cold of Berlin really cut through your clothes.Bottom line: The coal heat was adequate, but don't be late to the coal store. Also, use the brush and thoroughly clean the Flachspueler or next time you use the toilet the stench will smack you in the face and make your eyes water.
Lynnette,Yes, mixed, to be sure. Some can put everything they've gone through mostly behind them; others struggle. And then there's Omar Asaad (Omar Two), who is still waiting to get his visa (while he and his family receive death-threats from evil bastards).
Wow, it's hard to believe that I still have to deal with anonymous commenters after all these years (and all my battles with those cowards). Anyway, here's what Google Translate does with the Nonny's Arabic:Don’t you think it’s time you stop, too?You Ttoajdon here, and almost always since Ziad writing began before about 10 years I think, and say only the absurdity of the absurdity and stupidity in stupidity, but never feel bored?Himself spends less than a quarter of the time you spend hereBut there you have work or life? Fun last?I have followed this site for a few months in 2006 and now promised to see the owner of the site almost disappeared and most comical characters that were (attached), but you disappeared, what the secretA must empty your life and extremely unhappy, and ridiculous your presence here Aharkm importanceVery something sadWell, guys, I guess our discussions are making Nonny really sad, so we should just stop talking to each other. For Nonny, I imagine, the exchange of ideas and stories and observations is probably un-Islamic. In Islam, people only need ONE IDEA, and that's "Allah Akbar." Everything else is decadent, or, in Nonny's Google-Translated expression, an "absurdity of an absurdity." For Nonny, it's time for us to submit to one god, one idea, one thought ... or die.
Jeffrey: "When I lived in Berlin, I rented an apartment in an old building that had coal-burning stoves and one shared, unheated toilet for each floor. Maybe Marcus knows about these."No I don't. The quality of housing units and the infrastructure for heat, water and sewage is generally excellent in Sweden. I'd even say our building codes are such that much of what you put up in the states would be considered inferior here and wouldn't get permission to be built (of course we have different climates so that might be only natural).I've lived in two apartments in my home town over the last 17 years and I remember two times the power went out for about an hour, and I remember them because we tend to think it shouldn't ever happen and are pissed off if it ever does. Hot water and heating in radiators is in basically infinite supply for the individual household due to our community heating system. I could leave my tapwater running at the hottest, go to work, come back 10 hours later and it'd still be running just as hot. Not to have at least one bathroom for every household I have only ever heard of for student hallways (our version of dorm rooms), the ones built decades ago.Small scale coal burning you'd have to go back to the 50's to even find an example of. It hasn't been used in my lifetime, anywhere in Sweden. Wood fired stoves are plentiful though, but mostly as a compliment and usually for the cozy-factor.But I do know that some older European major cities have crappy facilities. Copenhagen in Denmark just 30 minutes away from me has plenty of older buildings that might resemble what you descibe I guess. In Sweden we tore that down or renovated it to modern standards in the 70's.
Btw, I've been thinking about putting together a few posts here with pictures describing how renewable energy in the form of wood-chips plants can provide heat, hot water and electricity for mid-sized cities or communities. I've taken some pictures while at work and thought I might post them on some pic-site and link to them to illustrate what I'm writing about. Let me know if there is any interest and I'll try to get to it.
Marcus,That's an amazing difference. When I lived in Berlin in the mid-80s, old buildings like the one I described were pretty common. The coal stores that sold the plastic bags filled with coal bricks, some small sticks of wood, and a small fire starter (everything you needed to get a fire going in the stove) were almost on every corner. There was no shower in the apartment, so we had to squat in the kitchen over a plastic tub and splash soap and water over ourselves. There was one of those wall-unit water heaters above the kitchen sink that we used to fill the shallow tub. What you're describing sounds heavenly. I wonder why the difference is so huge between Germany and Sweden. I also lived in Swabia a few years earlier in a small village south of Stuttgart and it wasn't that different than Berlin. I don't know about Swedes, but Germans like cold bedrooms and sleep under a heavy down cover -- no sheets and blankets like in the US. That down cover always made we sweat and then I’d wake up freezing in the middle of the night after I had kicked the cover off myself.So do you guys use the Flachspueler, or is that just a German thing?
Before I check the comments, just a quick link to the major prison breaks that have occurred in Iraq. Inside help? Definately.
PeteS,The forecast is for more normal Irish summer weather from here on in ... which basically means they are predicting our usual unpredictability.Sounds a bit like Minnesota weather, blink and it will change. But strangely enough there does seem to be a bit of a pattern forming. A pattern of extremes. We had a heat wave in the 90'sF for almost a week or week and a half. Now it has started to cool off at night almost like fall is arriving. Which I will not argue with, it's very pleasant. :) Unfortunately it's not a good sign though.
Marcus,So what's the most popular heating fuel in Sweden?By the way, when my Dad was in his fifties, he began to focus on ecological matters with a passion. In our small town in the 1970s, he was unusual in the extreme ways he changed our lives to run an ecological house. All of our kitchen sink water, for example, was scooped out after every meal and used to flush our toilets manually once a day (to save water). All of our table scraps were composted and later used in our huge garden. Because all table scraps were composted and all other materials recycled (glass, plastic, paper, all separated), we had no trash pick-up at our house. In fact, my father eventually had to fight with the town government because they tried to charge him for trash removal even though we didn't even have any trash cans. He disconnected our oil-burning furnace and started using a wood-burning stove that had previously been at our cabin on a lake. I could go on, but you get the picture. My father is now dead, but he would have been interested in your ideas about using wood-chip plants for energy.
Anonymous,Have you ever been to the United States? Life here can certainly suck you in so that you get so busy you don't have time to think sometimes. Many people do spend the majority of their discretionary time doing the social, entertainment thing. But to only do that starts to get a little boring too. Sometimes you need something a little more substantive. And the discussions here can be very substantive. I found the exchange of ideas, opinions and stories to be just as valuable in their own way as other things in real life. As for Zeyad not being here that often, it certainly is a regrettable turn of events. I liked his input and knowing he was still around. But if he is busy doing something to improve his future or simply something to make him happy I will be happy for him.
Lynnette,Man, I wish I could have written a gracious, level-headed reply to Nonny like yours. Sigh. Well, I guess we all have to play with the cards we're dealt.
Jeffrey,Some can put everything they've gone through mostly behind them; others struggle.It depends on the baggage they carry, I suppose. Not only have they gone through a traumatic experience but by moving to a different country they are attempting something that even the strongest people can find daunting. And, in the case of the United States, I think many people have such strong preconceived ideas about it that the reality can be a surprise. Those with a strong support system, either family or friends, probably have the best chance for a positive outcome.
Jeffrey,Well, I guess we all have to play with the cards we're dealt.We all have our strong suits. Your comments has always been very creative.
*sigh*"has" should be "have"And, much as I would like to continue, I have actually run out of discretionary time. Later...
Jeffrey"I wonder why the difference is so huge between Germany and Sweden."I have no real clue to that. Sweden and Germany are not that close in much of anything these days, except for being important export/import partners. Myself I do speak some german since I took german lessons for 5 years in school way back when. But these days it's pretty rusty. I could probably read and write an easy text but I'd need a lexicon for some of the words. That said, I believe if I spent a month or so in Germany my german language skills would be up to the point where I could hold basic discussions.Jeffrey: "I don't know about Swedes, but Germans like cold bedrooms and sleep under a heavy down cover -- no sheets and blankets like in the US."We tend to like our houses and apartments to be warm enough that you just walk around in pyjama pants or jeans with no shoes on inside. And that you sleep with a light blanket on. Say about 25 degrees inside day and night.Jeffrey: "So do you guys use the Flachspueler, or is that just a German thing?"Never heard of it. Don't really know what it is even. The only thing I can say is when a Swede takes a shit it goes under water immediately and when he flushes it goes away never to be thought of again.
Jeffrey:"So what's the most popular heating fuel in Sweden?"Well that's very diversified. A lot of homes in Sweden, especially outside larger comminities, have their sole power from electicity (which is not a fuel in itself but a conduit for energy). We are a fairly large country with a fairly small population (less population density than the US, which is not what you normally have in Europe) and our hydro electric plants make us the most hydro-dependent population of any first world country I'd say. About 60% of our electricity comes from hydro. Then another about 25%-30% comes from nuclear. The rest is mainly from renewables and some little but growing bit from natural gas imported from Norway or Russia.As for heating much comes from that electricity via heat-pumps in individual houses. But in larger communities it usually comes from larger furnaces. Those are fed either by garbage or biomass or natural gas. I know in the US you still have those things called landfills for garbage. We recycle almost all of that and burn the rest for heat. We even import garbage from abroad for that puropuse.Biomass is another story and having huge tracts of woods we simply harvest those and use some of it for fuel. But all in all we are heavily dependent on hydro and nuclear. We're alledgedly trying to phase out nuclear but I don't see that as a viable option for the time being. And it's been ongoing for 40 years so I don't really any abrupt end to nuclear power in Sweden in the very near future.
Jeffrey;BTW"When I lived in Berlin in the mid-80s"Did you perhaps reside in the part of Berlin that used to be on the wrong side of that wall?To this day you can't really compare the former East Germany to the former West Germany. Much progress has been made in the east but it still lags behind. And in the 80's it would have been close to communist squalor there. You don't base our thoughts on Germany and Germans on the former East Germany do you? That was not representative of the German people neither in history nor today. That was a brief period in time where a people was shackled and tortured under a vile regime.
Back when we were still building houses (before the mother of all property crashes) "Swedish-style" construction was held up as the last word in ultra-modern thermally efficient living. Some of the prefab buildings were actually imported from Scandinavia, but mostly I'd say they were just trading on Sweden's reputation for quality housing. Unfortunately, the wood frame construction never caught on. I considered it myself but was told that the average Irish Mick wouldn't touch anything not built from bricks, so resale would be affected.I saw Jeffrey's Flachspueler contraption once -- in a 100 year-old house that had never been renovated. The down bed cover is less surprising though... you do have duvets in the States, don't you? I haven't slept under anything else for thirty years except in hotels. Wouldn't even dream of having old-style blankets anymore. My sister-in-law is from a small Swabian village south of Stuttgart, so I know the area a little bit. I wouldn't have said the houses were out of the ordinary, except that there's a fair bit of old-ish housing stock. But I would have said most were decently insulated -- kind of a necessity in those Schwarzwald areas. Their greatest asset is external window shutters -- keeps the sun off the windows in summer, and creates an external insulating layer of air in winter. My experience of Germany is like Marcus says of Sweden -- people like the indoor temperature in winter to be like a hot summer's day, with only light clothing required. I find that really uncomfortable, although I'm becoming more German now that I have underfloor heating controllable to a fraction of a degree.The winter temperatures here in Ireland are rarely so cold that you would actually die without heating, unlike parts of the continent. So, back in the bad old days, when we were a third world country masquerading as a second world country, we didn't have any of that fancy stuff. The house I grew up in had a coal-burning stove in one room that was lit once each morning to produce hot water. There was no other heating. The windows were single-glazed and the frames were warped, so the place was pretty drafty. On the occasions that the outside temperatures plummeted, us kids would literally cry with the cold. At least the air was fresh. (Actually, come to think of it, it wasn't. We hadn't yet banned smoky fuels, and during temperature inversion conditions you would get particulate smogs. The clothes that you vainly tried to dry outdoors in the damp winter air would be blackened with soot).
Marcus,I just spent the last couple hours researching some of the points you made above. I have lots of thoughts, but let me first respond to some of your statements.I have no real clue to that. Sweden and Germany are not that close in much of anything these days, except for being important export/import partners.When I first lived in Europe, I was first surprised by the stark differences between neighboring countries. As an American, where our general culture stretches three thousand miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and is then insulated further from other countries by those very oceans, I was shocked by how two countries living right next to each other could be so different. I remember crossing the Rhine from Germany into France and everything changed: houses, streets, buildings, dress, behavior. Just by crossing a bridge that takes a minute or two. When I traveled in Europe, these abrupt differences were always what hit me. I remember one morning taking a train from Stuttgart to Milan. In Germany, the trains really did run exactly on time. In Milan, our train sat without moving for an hour two behind time as a few Italian workers walked along the carriages checking something. In Germany, a train sitting on the tracks for two hours would have created a dozen heart attacks among the Germans. The Italians didn’t even blink.Anyway, I’m not surprised by how different Sweden and Germany are. Also, having lived in Europe, those differences have always made me wonder how the EU would work. How do you bring together nations that are so different?
Marcus,I checked out all the figures for Sweden’s energy production. Impressive. As you say, it’s mostly hydro and nuclear, with a very good biomass sector, which my Dad would have loved to investigate. But all in all we are heavily dependent on hydro and nuclear. We're alledgedly trying to phase out nuclear but I don't see that as a viable option for the time being. And it's been ongoing for 40 years so I don't really any abrupt end to nuclear power in Sweden in the very near future.This may be one of those major differences between Swedes and Germans. Germans have this concept of Gruendlichkeit, in English usually translated as “thoroughness” or something like that. Anyway, Germans like to do things all the way and the best way they can. This can be good and bad. As you know, most Germans have a strange fixation with nuclear energy. They see it as an evil and impurity on their land (not unlike the Jews pre-World War II) and would like to see ALL of the nuclear plants removed. No compromise. They must all be torn down. Merkel placated the German public, you will recall, by agreeing to do just that. The only problem is that German factories really need the energy those nuclear plants were providing and no amount of renewable energy will be able to replace those plants. Germans, once they get an idea, can be very inflexible and fanatical. Nuclear energy is just the latest. I’m guessing that Swedes are more reasonable about this issue. Or are they as committed to being as nuclear-free as the Germans? One thing that I kind of forgot is that population of Sweden isn’t that large. Around 9 million. Quite small. And the population density, as you pointed out, is low. I can see now why immigration is an issue for Swedes. In my opinion, some countries are set up for immigration and some aren’t. Of course, it also depends on where those immigrants are coming from. Iraqis in Sweden? That could be a problem. Listen, the US is a country of immigrants, so adding more immigrants is nothing strange. For traditional mono-ethnic European countries, however, I’m not sure how smart it is to bring in too many immigrants. Multiculturalism is part of America’s history. It sounds good and multi-kulti is a popular buzzword among European liberals, but I’m not sure how well it will work down the road in countries like Sweden.Did you see that Australia has now decided not to accept boat-people asylum seekers? They’ve decided to pick them up and drop them off in Papua New Guinea. They say too many asylum-seekers have been drowning in the waters between Indonesia and Australia. Of course, looking at the paper today, I see that leftist Australians are protesting. But the question is whether Australia should allow any and all people into their country, the very issue, I imagine, that Sweden is debating. Of course, we in the US have to struggle with the same issue (ours is mostly about Mexican immigration, however).
Marcus,Never heard of it. Don't really know what it is even. The only thing I can say is when a Swede takes a shit it goes under water immediately and when he flushes it goes away never to be thought of again.The Flachspueler is a “shelf toilet” that, as I said, catches and holds up you shit for inspection. It’s mostly found in Germany, but can also be found in a few other countries (Austria, for example). Here’s a funny Toytown Germany link on the subject:http://www.toytowngermany.com/lofi/index.php/t165089.htmlAbout Swedes walking around barefoot in their homes, I found this explanation and discussion:http://blogs.transparent.com/swedish/quirky-swedish-lifestyle-facts
Pete,Americans don't use duvets. In fact, if you asked an American if they used a duvet, the American would say, "What the hell is a duvet?" I have to admit that sleeping under a duvet was one the hardest things to adjust to. By the way, there are certainly no duvets in Thailand. My bed has a large blanket, but I’m assuming it’s only put there as a whimsical aside like the parkas I sometimes see for sale in shopping malls here. On a bed, this is what we use on mattresses (in sizes Twin, Full, Queen, King): 1. fitted sheet, 2. flat sheet, 3. bedspread, and 4. a blanket, if needed.Their greatest asset is external window shutters -- keeps the sun off the windows in summer, and creates an external insulating layer of air in winter.My first night in Germany I woke up with jet-lag in a room that had those Rolladen and couldn't even see the hand in front of my face. I had no idea if it were day or night and had to crawl across the floor and open the door to the room to let in a little light to check the clock.
Of course, maybe people in Minnesota (Scando-America) sleep under duvets. Lynnette will let us know later on.
Pete,The house I grew up in had a coal-burning stove in one room that was lit once each morning to produce hot water. There was no other heating. The windows were single-glazed and the frames were warped, so the place was pretty drafty. On the occasions that the outside temperatures plummeted, us kids would literally cry with the cold. Man, sorry to hear that. In the house I grew up in (my father built a new ranch-style house the year I was born), we had central heat, so in the morning we kids would stand on the floor registers to our room to warm our feet and look the windows at the new snow as we woke up. My Dad always monitored the thermostat, never letting the house to get too warm or too cold.
Jeffrey,بامكانك الاستعانة بالبلوكرز العراقيين الذين تلاحقهم للحصول على ترجمة جيدة ومفهومة للنص العربيالحقيقة ان الوصف الذي تضمنه ردك المضحك جدا ينطبق عليك ، وعليك فقط بصورة ممتازةايضا لا اعرف سبب هوسك بكلمة (الله اكبر) التي استخدمتها مرتين او اكثر ربما في عمود التعليقات الحالي Lynette,الحياة مجنونة في معظم انحاء العالم وليس فقط في بلدك الذي تتصوريه مركز الكونافهم جيدا انك اعتدت على المكان ومن فيه ولكن من الصعب التصديق انك تستفيدين فعلا من الوقت الذي تقضيه هنا ، اسمحي لي ان اختلف معك ان النقاش هنا بناء او ممتع فقد قرأت العمود من بدايته حتى آخرهالحقيقة انني اخطات بتوجيه الكلام لك وللشخص الآخر، فانا اعني كل المتواجدين هنا بصورة دائمة من الامريكيين والغربيين الذين لاحظت انهم يملكون تقريبا نفس الاراءولا يأتون بأي جديدوالامريكيين بالتحديد يدافعون باصرار عجيب عن كل ما تقوم او لا تقوم به حكومتهم ويرددون ما تقوله ويمتدحون كل ما هو امريكي ويجدون صعوبة كبرى في تقبل اي نقد ويتحدثون عن شعوب جزئنا من اسيا وكانها كائنات غير عاقلة فأي تبادل في الافكار هذا الذي تتحدثين عنه والذي يجري هنا؟اين المتعة او الفائدة؟على العموم اسف على ازعاجك
A head's up on upcoming American domestic political events of some international import:House Republicans are working hard to gin up another manufactured economic crisis over the American ‘debt ceiling’. Timing is for late summer or, more likely, sometime this autumn.
Duvets...We would call them comforters, the best ones being filled with down. I used to use one when I had a waterbed(heated, of course). But when I did away with the waterbed and changed to an airbed (Select Comfort) I did away with the down comforter as well. The airbed slipped neatly into my waterbed frame. But I assume because there is little air circulation using the waterbed frame it tends to be warm enough without it. Even with central heat it can get chilly in the winters here when it is below zero (Fahrenheit). Especially if the weather stripping on your windows needs replacing and those winter winds are howling. ;)
PeteS,The winter temperatures here in Ireland are rarely so cold that you would actually die without heating, unlike parts of the continent.Here in Minnesota if you didn't have heat you'd be in trouble. People stranded outside in the winter, for whatever reason, have been known to freeze to death. But then, the same would go for any of our northern states.On the occasions that the outside temperatures plummeted, us kids would literally cry with the cold. At least the air was fresh. (Actually, come to think of it, it wasn't. We hadn't yet banned smoky fuels, and during temperature inversion conditions you would get particulate smogs. The clothes that you vainly tried to dry outdoors in the damp winter air would be blackened with soot).That sounds very unpleasant. I'm glad things have improved. My mother told me about an incedent when she was growing up and sleeping over at a neighbors during a snow storm. They had been stranded there because they couldn't see to make it back to their farm because of whiteout conditions. Yes, all those stories about people getting lost in blizzards are true. Anyway, when they woke up the next morning they had a pile of snow in the room with them, because the windows weren't sealed tightly enough. Luckily housing construction has improved since then. :)
Jeffrey,In the house I grew up in (my father built a new ranch-style house the year I was born), we had central heat, so in the morning we kids would stand on the floor registers to our room to warm our feet and look the windows at the new snow as we woke up.When I was a kid we used to play outside in the winter until our toes were numb with cold. When I went inside I would take off my boots and socks and stand over the heat register to thaw out. Now, of course, I realize I was probably dealing with a low grade frostbite, but back then it was no big deal to warm up like that.
Marcus,I know in the US you still have those things called landfills for garbage. We recycle almost all of that and burn the rest for heat. We even import garbage from abroad for that puropuse.Actually, in Minnesota we also have a plant that burns garbage to generate power. Recycling is encouraged, but not all people are diligent about it. They still end up pulling crap out that will not burn well before sending it through.What really seems strange to me though is that they don't want yard waste put through the trash. They pick that up separately. Yes, they send it to be composted, but that doesn't explain them being so picky about it. Unless it is merely another way to make money, since they charge separately for that.Your pictures would be rather interesting, if you have time.
Jeffrey,Speaking of Germany, did you ever read Melantrys? Unfortunately she has stopped blogging, but she always had an intelligent and unique take on things. In one of the older posts she talks a little about the healthcare situation in Germany.
Anonymous,Do you have the link or url to a better place for Iraqi translation? Google translate only does so much, as you are aware.No, the United States isn't the center of the universe. I used it as a reference because you were addressing me regarding how I use my time, and it is where I live. As to how often I spend here, that depends on what we are discussing. If I find it interesting, and am free, I will comment more. During my busy season at work, you may not find me here as often. Summer is slower.As to whether or not we are willing to criticize the United States, perhaps a closer reading of some of our comments might show that we have no problem doing so if warranted.But criticizing the United States or the West in general will not necessarily help with issues that the peoples of Asia or the Middle East are having to deal with. Unless you are specifically referring to our actions with regard to perhaps Syria, Egypt, or Al-Qaida? In those cases I can only try to explain our reasoning as I understand it.If you are talking about social or political issues what you may or may not find of use to you is how we have dealt with similar problems. Because people have more similarities than differences. And you are not a bother at all.
Lee C,House Republicans are working hard to gin up another manufactured economic crisis over the American ‘debt ceiling’.Obviously not smart enough to learn from past mistakes.Nice to see you again, btw. If it is one thing we are good at, it is shooting ourselves in the foot. :(
Hmmm...probably should have put that "nice to see you again" at the bottom. :)Now I really have to get to work.
Lots to catch up on here.Lynnette: "Actually, in Minnesota we also have a plant that burns garbage to generate power. Recycling is encouraged, but not all people are diligent about it."Here it's getting a bit silly really. In apartment buildings here the garbage drops that used to be on every level are now shut. We have to go down to the yard and into the garbage room. There are these different canisters there:* clear glass* coloured glass* tins and metals (but not for say coke cans, they are recycled at the store with 1 SEK back for every can or bottle)* cardboard* newspapers and envelopes and such paper.* batteries* household waste (everything not going into one of the other canisters)In the near future the household waste will be divided into two fractions also. Foodstuffs will go into biodegradable paper bags so it can be rotted for bio-gas to run city buses on. The rest will be burnt for energy. I'd say we're about halfway there on that. In my building it hasn't been implemented yet.Even if you go to McDonalds there are several different canisters for the waste. Ths ice and remaining beverage in one. The plastic lids and straws in one. The paper cups in one and the rest in one. You're expected to do your part and sort waste at the source.It can be quite a hassle but you get used to it. The thing I don't really like is for foodscraps and such to be sorted in those bio-degradable bags. Simply because I don't like to have garbage sitting in my home and it'd take weeks for me to fill one of those bags as I live alone and eat out a lot. I'd be running down frequently with almost empty bags I imagine.
Pete: "Back when we were still building houses (before the mother of all property crashes) "Swedish-style" construction was held up as the last word in ultra-modern thermally efficient living. Some of the prefab buildings were actually imported from Scandinavia, but mostly I'd say they were just trading on Sweden's reputation for quality housing."I think we do deserve a good reputation for quality housing. But I was always the most sceptical of those prefab units. Some are good enough but some have been sub par.Pete: "Unfortunately, the wood frame construction never caught on. I considered it myself but was told that the average Irish Mick wouldn't touch anything not built from bricks, so resale would be affected."I'd say that the wood frame can be a good option especially since it can save on costs. But if I ever was to buy a lot of land and build from scratch I'd go for a stone house no doubt. An inner bearing wall made from light concrete bricks, 20 CM of insulation and an outer shell of some nice looking brick wall. All sitting on either a basement foundation or on a concrete one with waterborne heating pipes built in. A tiled roof at a 30 degree angle jutting out just righ so that in summer it'd shield most of the windows but in winter when the sun is lower the rays would hit the windows.
Jeffrey, "I checked out all the figures for Sweden’s energy production. Impressive. As you say, it’s mostly hydro and nuclear, with a very good biomass sector, which my Dad would have loved to investigate."We do have almost uniquely good condidions for hydro and biofuels here. So many quite large and pretty predictable rivers makes hydro a no-brainer. And lots of forests makes biomass a good alternative. I work in biofuels myself and have a pretty good understanding of the opportunities and the limitations. "Germans have this concept of Gruendlichkeit, in English usually translated as “thoroughness” or something like that. Anyway, Germans like to do things all the way and the best way they can."I know about that. Back when I was working in IT support for IKEA germany was about 30% or so of the stores we supported. But they were less than 5% of out workload. That's because most of the problems we had were due to users not doing what they should be doing for the IT system to work, except for German users who know the instructions and almost always follow them."As you know, most Germans have a strange fixation with nuclear energy. They see it as an evil and impurity on their land (not unlike the Jews pre-World War II) and would like to see ALL of the nuclear plants removed. No compromise."Yes, many seem to have that idea there. I see that as a bit utopian. Of course it would be nice to get rid of nuclear, or even more so to find a way for it to be less risky. But what are the options?"The only problem is that German factories really need the energy those nuclear plants were providing and no amount of renewable energy will be able to replace those plants."That's probably a correct assessment. Instead the compromise in Germany has been to rely more and more on Natural gas imported from Russia. It's a fuel that gives less CO2 impact than coal, is considered clean enough and has the potential to actually replace nuclear plants. And it does work like a charm too, as long as the pipelines are intact. A very clean and easy fuel. But what worries me is the geopolitics of Europe's main industrial nation sitting firmer and firmer in the lap of Russia for their energy. Especially given historical relations between those countries."I’m guessing that Swedes are more reasonable about this issue. Or are they as committed to being as nuclear-free as the Germans?"Swedes are in general not as german as germans with that grundlichkheit issue. We are pragmaatic for the time being about needing our nuclear plants, but they will be phased out is the idea.
Jeffrey, "One thing that I kind of forgot is that population of Sweden isn’t that large. Around 9 million. Quite small. And the population density, as you pointed out, is low."Yes, we have ample room and I believe we would be well served not to try to change that too much. I believe, globally, that overcrowding is a way larger risk factor than "undercrowding". And I really don't see the benefits of intentionally expanding our population just to try to fit it to an economic regime where growth is God."I can see now why immigration is an issue for Swedes. In my opinion, some countries are set up for immigration and some aren’t. Of course, it also depends on where those immigrants are coming from. Iraqis in Sweden? That could be a problem."I view it in terms of numbers. I don't doubt that immigrants can be productive new citizens and many Iraqis here are just that. But I believe there are limiits to how much immigration we can handle at any given time.One difference betweeen us and the US is the very generous welfare state we have chosen here. For that to work people will have to be willing to pay very high taxes because they feel it's for the common good. If people start to feel it's being misused or wasted away (or given away) there will be strong reactions."It sounds good and multi-kulti is a popular buzzword among European liberals, but I’m not sure how well it will work down the road in countries like Sweden."I'm fairly certain it will not work that well, and I could go out on a limb sayinng it's not working even now. We're one economic downturn away from starting to really question multiculturalissm, is my best guess."Did you see that Australia has now decided not to accept boat-people asylum seekers? They’ve decided to pick them up and drop them off in Papua New Guinea."I've read some about that yes. But I have a very limited understanding about politics in Australia in general. I've only visited there once and was too preoccupied with sightseeing to venture into political discussions.To understand Sweden on thing is critical: we're an extremely consensus driven society. In politics, workplaces and in our social lives we strive for consensus almost above all else. This means the consensus, which today is that multiculturalism is good, is defended across the media-political spectrum and that dissidents are fiercly challenged. But it also means that if a new consensus is one day established things can turn very swiftly.
Hi Lee, long timme no see.
Jeffrey, "Anyway, I’m not surprised by how different Sweden and Germany are. Also, having lived in Europe, those differences have always made me wonder how the EU would work. How do you bring together nations that are so different?"I don't think it's feasible that the EU would ever become a Unitedd States of Europe, to resemble the USA. My opinion is that to some degree the EU is already oversteppping its initial mandate. Of course beuracracies tend to grow on their own behalf for their own benefit and now that we have unleashed the Brussels monster it will probably just keep bloating itself and sticking its fingers into our lives in ways we don't really like.
[Jeffrey]: "in the morning we kids would stand on the floor registers to our room to warm our feet"[Lynnette]: "I would take off my boots and socks and stand over the heat register to thaw out"I've never heard the term. What is a "register" in this context?[Jeffrey]: "Germans have this concept of Gruendlichkeit"One time we had a German visiting us in the office. He was staying in town and took a public bus to his hotel. Next day he complained that the timetable said 5.08pm but the bus didn't arrive until twenty past. We all roared laughing and told him how extraordinarily lucky he was to only wait twelve minutes. The norm would be for three buses to arrive together about an hour late.And it's little to do with our roads and towns having developed in an unplanned sort of way. We just have a cultural aversion to organisation. It's not that we prefer chaos (although that's what we end up with). We just dislike the thought of anyone calling the shots, or organising things better, which we see as "uppity". All part of our post-colonial neurosis, which I am by now convinced we will never get over.We are also strongly committed to having good "craic" (loosely translates as fun / having a good time) and Gruendlichkeit sounds to our Irish ears like its antithesis.[Marcus]: "Swedes are in general not as german as germans with that grundlichkheit issue. We are pragmaatic for the time being about needing our nuclear plants, but they will be phased out is the idea."Just don't interfere with the thorium plant up the road from you in Norway. I reckon it's going to be super-important in years to come.
I can't see the EU continuing in its current form for another ten years. Certainly its subset, the Eurozone common currency region, is coming apart at the seams. There is simply no way the Eurozone periphery can logically remain tied to the same currency as Germany, one of the strongest economies on the planet. This tie has wreaked havoc as hot money has flowed from the low-inflation centre to the developing edges, creating a massive credit bubble that has now popped and left the weaker Eurozone economies struggling and without the normal tools of interest rate manipulation and currency devaluation to balance the books.Even some of the traditionally stronger small economies -- the Netherlands and Denmark for instance -- are suffering the effects of housing bubbles and bank failures. Meanwhile, with Sarkozy in France replaced with the socialist Hollande, even the mighty Franco-German axis is under strain.And politically, all is not well with Europe. German elections are coming up in two months, and the German grundlichkheit does not sit well with what they see as profligacy in the southern countries. And if the Tories get reelected in the UK in 2015 they will hold a referendum on leaving the EU which could really shake things up. We may not have to wait that long though. Several countries may face up to their unmanageable debt by quitting the Eurozone, and as things stand it seems impossible to do that without also leaving the EU. Greece and Cyprus may do it but nobody other than the Greeks or Cypriots would likely notice. Portugal or Ireland may do it. If Spain or Italy do it then it is curtains for the Eurozone.I see that all is not well on the debt front in the US either. While the US is an ironclad fiscal union unlike the EU, the same is not true of municipalities. Detroit declared bankruptcy last week. An interesting article in the Financial Times suggests that it may not be am isolated incident (article is behind a paywall but you can get it by Googling and following the FT link). The problems are very much the same as EU problems -- bondholders versus public pay versus other public spending.
Pete, here we'd expect a bus to arrive on schedule. 1-2 minutes late might be forgivable but 12? No way! Not if there wasn't a snow storm or anything like that to blame it on.I heard that in Japan the aggregate delay for the Tokyo subway for all lines over a whole year can be measured in just a few minutes. I like it like that. And since it can be done, why not do it? That some slob of a maintenance worker or train driver disregards his obligations and then many people suffer - I can't stand that. For one person to reneg on his duties so he can finish his egg sandwich while hundreds of people down the line have to wait in the rain? Unacceptable.Trains should run on time. If they do not you have to rebuild the system so that they do. Period.
Marcus,They used to be rather particular with how the recycling items were sorted, but now they are fine with everything mixed together. They are also recycling more items then in the beginning. If you have appliances you want to dispose of they have a designated drop off site that is open between certain dates. For things like old TV's I have taken them to Best Buy and they will take them for a nominal charge, then give you a coupon to use on a new purchase. Burned out light bulbs I can drop off at Home Depot.But does everyone do these things? Probably not. They still just dump some of these things in the regular trash. It will take time for people to change.
PeteS,[Jeffrey]: in the morning we kids would stand on the floor registers to our room to warm our feet[Lynnette]: I would take off my boots and socks and stand over the heat register to thaw out[PeteS]: I've never heard the term. What is a "register" in this context?Basically it's just a metal grate that sits over the hole in the floor/ceiling/wall where the ductwork for the furnace/air conditioner ends. There are louvres that open and close by pushing a little wheel to adjust the air flow. It's also a way to help regulate the air flow to try to keep a more even temperature in the house. For instance, the registers in my book room (library would be too fancy a term) I have closed in the summer because it would get too chilly with the air conditioning on. And since cold air falls it still remains comfortable. In the winter I have them opened partway to leave the heat in. If I leave the door at least partway closed it stays toasty warm in there.
PeteS,Detroit declared bankruptcy last week.Detroit has been teetering for some time. The population loss has been huge. One report said that the city of Paris could fit into the abandoned buildings. No businesses, no people, no tax base. Big problem.I heard that prediction before about other cities having problems. And it could very well prove accurate. A city is only as fiscally sound as its tenants. Whether or not the economic recovery will prove timely enough to rescue some of them remains to be seen. Like the big automakers benefits for city employees can be generous. And it is questionable whether or not those plans are properly funded.Speaking of the automakers I was talking to some people the other day who either worked for Ford or had relatives who did. They praised to heaven the medical insurance benefits. When I tried to suggest that part of the problem with the automakers was the lucrative benefits packages given to workers they just shrugged and said the workers deserved them. *sigh* They just didn't get it. P.S. Fortunatly for me my town is fiscally sound and should, barring unusual circumstances, remain so for the forseeable future.
US to Delay F-16 Delivery to Egypt
Our weather finally broke. Massive thunderstorm and downpour in the last two hours. (Like all other extremes, thunder and lightning is unusual here). I can taste the freshness in the air. Bliss!
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Massive thunderstorm and downpour in the last two hours.I'm jealous. All I've been doing is hauling hoses around trying to keep the lawn alive. *sigh*
Lynnette,You described what a "register" is just fine. I had another memory of winter in the Midwest. I recall that we usually tried to stay outside playing as long as we could, even on the coldest days, which meant wearing two pairs of jeans, multiple socks and sweatshirts, a heavy coat of some kind, and a three-holed stocking cap. By the time our legs dragged us back inside later in the day, our hands were almost frozen. In the sink in our bathroom, we would start running COLD water and put our hands under that and gradually begin adding warm water. And then our hands would slowly start to function properly again.There were lots of winter activities for kids: ice-skating, hockey, sledding, building snow-forts, snowball fights and wars, and so on.
Pete and Marcus,This is about bus and train schedules.In Bangkok, the bus system, which is very complicated, has no timetables. You just walk to the bus stop and wait. So the idea of the bus being early or late makes no sense. In New York, the buses have a timetable but the subway system (as far as I know) does not. You just walk to the platform and wait.
That last bit about the NYC subway system needs more explanation. During peak times, the timetable will say that the train arrives every five or ten minutes, or something like that, depending on the line. If you have a very regular schedule and your stop is close to where the train begins its journey (as it was for me in Queens), you can get very precise on the exact time to leave home and walk to the station to catch your train. On good days, I only had to wait two or three minutes for the Q-train to take me through Manhattan and into Brooklyn for work.
Pete and Marcus,Oh, and my experience of using the bus system in NYC was closer to Pete's than Marcus's. The timetable was more like a general guideline than an accurate report of what you could expect.
Jeffrey,Ahhh...the multiple layers trick. Been there, done that. We also tried to stay out as long as possible. Snowforts and sledding were a big thing when I was a kid. You didn't have to get anyone to take you anywhere. Now I know people who have skating rinks in their backyards. Hockey is huge among many kids now. Everything is more organized, not as much free time for kids. I can understand why, but it's still rather sad. We really enjoyed making up things to do.As for trains being on time, I well remember running to catch the train in London because we were late and it wasn't. :)
Anonymous,If you're still out there you will no doubt be pleased to know that I will be busy this weekend and probably won't be able to take part in the discussions. Yes, as odd as you may think it, my real life does intrude sometimes. :)
P.S.Everyone have a nice weekend!
By the way, I've been trying to find out if Bangkok has a city-wide recycling system and it seems they don't. There are people here, however, who collect cardboard. The other day I took a photo of a flatbed truck that was piled up about twenty feet high or so with flattened boxes. Anyway, as far as I can tell, Thais in Bangkok don't separate any of their trash. I think poor people will go through some of the trash looking for bottles and cans. You guys may know more than I do about this. One thing Bangkok has is a superabundance of street-sweepers. They are usually dressed in blue uniforms and use a very peculiar broom (looks like something the Wicked Witch of the West might ride) and an over-sized dust-pan. They keep the streets and sidewalks and parks pretty clean. I can't imagine they're making very much money, though.
Jeffrey, Those brooms I know well. They seem to be the main cleaning equipment in all of SEA. No matter that a stadard western broom would do a much bbetter job of actually cleaning they stick with those whisker-like thingies.I've seen cardboard collectors in Bangkok also. And I've seen collectors of plastic bottles. I don't think Thailand is still at the point where desperate people scurry around the landfills for a living, like they do in say the Phillipines, but I also don't imagine there's much of a modern recycling system in place.One other thing I've noticed on the streets of Bangkok and around the region is the abundance of "security guards" with whisle pipes. They whistle and they whistle all day long and the people in the cars they whistle to can't hear them, but the ones on the sidewalks most certainly can and do. It's like it's in the job description to be plain noisy.
Marcus,Those brooms I know well. They seem to be the main cleaning equipment in all of SEA. No matter that a stadard western broom would do a much bbetter job of actually cleaning they stick with those whisker-like thingies.When I first saw these brooms, I wondered about their efficiency like you. But after watching them being used for the last few months, I realize that they're a perfect solution to what is required. These brooms, I now see, are mostly used to sweep up leaves (that are always falling here) and pieces of paper. For this, these brooms do a great job. A stiff push-broom would probably be better at sweeping up dirt, but I think here because of the frequent rains they don't need to get the dirt up as much as just removing leaves and larger debris.Here's a link with some of the stats on what a street-sweeper makes per month in Thailand (at least for Chiang Mai).http://www.worldsweeper.com/Country/Thailand/ThaiSweeping.htmlI don't think Thailand is still at the point where desperate people scurry around the landfills for a living, like they do in say the Phillipines, but I also don't imagine there's much of a modern recycling system in place.That's my feeling, too. There are people here who specialize in cardboard and plastic bottles, but I haven't seen any Thais separating anything else.One other thing I've noticed on the streets of Bangkok and around the region is the abundance of "security guards" with whisle pipes. They whistle and they whistle all day long and the people in the cars they whistle to can't hear them, but the ones on the sidewalks most certainly can and do. It's like it's in the job description to be plain noisy.Yeah, the superabundance of security guards is kind of strange. My apartment building has two guys who alternate 12-hour shifts. As far as I can tell, they work seven days a week. And the traffic guys, as you say, are constantly working the traffic. On busy streets it's always quite a scene as these guys with the whistles are trying to get their cars into the street traffic flow. The huge population of Asia makes their issues very different from ours in the West. I remember in China two instances of this odd distortion. At a bowling alley, there were fully automated machines with keypads that kept track of your scores and computed everything. But, this being China, each of these machines had an employee who would sit at the keyboard and put in scores for you. What had been created as a labor-saving device in the West simply created another job for a Chinese person. The same thing happened at the main train station in Beijing. The station had purchased fully automated lockers (created in the West to reduce labor). In Beijing, however, these lockers were run by a handful of Chinese women who did everything for you. Bottom-line: In Asia, labor-saving devices are used to create more jobs. Very strange.
Jeffrey,Bottom-line: In Asia, labor-saving devices are used to create more jobs. Very strange.I think, especially in the case of China, keeping people employed is more important than saving costs on labor. China doesn't want to have its large population at loose ends, encouraging unrest.
Speaking of unrest, it appears the Egyptian military was cracking down on demonstrators over the weekend. Not a very democratic type of activity, IMHO.
Lynnette,I think, especially in the case of China, keeping people employed is more important than saving costs on labor. China doesn't want to have its large population at loose ends, encouraging unrest.That's absolutely correct. When I traveled in China, what hit me, and what must hit everyone who travels there, is the huge income gap between city-dwellers and people in the countryside. It seemed to me like they lived in completely different worlds, which is why people in the countryside, if they want to raise their standard of living, either go to the city for a factory job or send their children. When I got back to the States after that trip, I felt that democratic-style governance similar to the US just wouldn't work. The Communist Party running things fits into the Chinese pattern of having a Mandarin class controlling from the top. Multiple parties, for Chinese, could very well lead to disaster. Would the losing party ever admit defeat? Anyway, having looked at China close up, I'm not one of those that believes China would benefit from Western-style democratic elections. I do, however, believe in reforms that make the Communist Party more flexible and less corrupt.
Jeffrey,In reading Iraqi blogs and talking to people from various countries I have found that I've become far more interested in how the world's civilizations have developed. Because if we are to really understand our present we must understand our past. So I have collected books from various regions, both fiction and non-fiction, to read. Currently I am reading Russka by Edward Ruthford. It is fiction, but it has a wealth of historical detail. It is huge, so it will take me some time to finish, especially as I read others at the same time. I have various books on China as well. But to get to my point, in reading some of these books I am beginning to get an understanding about those people who talk about American exceptionalism. When I got back to the States after that trip, I felt that democratic-style governance similar to the US just wouldn't work. The Communist Party running things fits into the Chinese pattern of having a Mandarin class controlling from the top.Whether this is true or not, I can see where people would want a fresh start elsewhere, starting from scratch so to speak. And that fresh start was what they tried to create here in the United States.
"That's absolutely correct."Or, maybe not. The difference is as easily explained by the large number of illiterates in China. Lots of the underclass, who'd be the ones using the trains and buses, are newly arrived from the hinterlands where they have little exposure to automated technologies and high levels of illiteracy. Reading the directions often isn't an option for them.. (I suspect bowling isn't a ‘Mandarin’ activity either.)
Bradley Manning beat the "aiding the enemy charge". That's the life sentence he was facing. He's already pled guilty to several charges and was convicted on several of the reat, but he beat the rap on the big one.
Saudi blogger gets 7 years in prison and 600 lashes for insulting Islam
Bradley Manning beat the "aiding the enemy charge".I saw that. I would guess they didn't have any evidence to support the theory that his actions directly helped our enemies harm us. It was a propaganda coup, yes, but it didn't help them in formulating tactics against us.I suspect Manning, and Snowden as well, were a little too caught up in the glamour that being in the spotlight would entail to really judge wisely on the tactics they used to make a point. Immature people who were placed in jobs they were ill prepared to handle. Snowden may find that with living in Russia he has jumped from the frying pan into the fire. He thinks the NSA is bad? And he moves to Russia? Seriously?
"I would guess they didn't have any evidence to support the theory that his actions directly helped our enemies harm us."Not exactly. One of the elements of the crime is ‘intent’. They failed to present sufficient evidence that Manning specifically intended his disclosures to be of benefit or assistance to al-Qaeda or other jihadi organizations engaged in hostilities against the United States.
Jeffrey: "Anyway, having looked at China close up, I'm not one of those that believes China would benefit from Western-style democratic elections. I do, however, believe in reforms that make the Communist Party more flexible and less corrupt."Whoa! Better be careful where you voice those opinions. :-)I find that many in the west will equate that to "you don't think the Chinese deserve freedoms", or "you racist don't think the chinese are capable of democracy" or some such allegations.Myself I agree with you. I believe reforms would be the way to go, and maybe some time in the future those reforms have gone long enough to allow for a multi-party democratic systm, or not.One could argue that China has made dramatic reforms already. Sure, it's no easy country to be a dissident in but these days they don't slaughter people en masse just on suspicion alone. They don't starve millions to death under insane social "improvment" programs. It's a way, way better place than it was just a few decades back.
Lynnette:"He thinks the NSA is bad? And he moves to Russia? Seriously?"There's some irony in that he got stuck in Russia for sure. If the Russians had the muscles of the NSA, which they don't by a long shot, they'd be spying on everyone and everything I'm sure. But I don't think Snowden planned to get stuck in Russia. Not sure what he thought he might do but to stay in Russia doesn't seem likely.The problem for him is how to get out of there. He has a few options in South America where he's been granted asylum but there are a couple of problems going with that. First of all how to get there. A Bolivian government plane, as you might have heard of, was forced down in Switzerland because Snowden was thought to might have been onboard. The French and some other countries therefor denied it into their airspace, until it had been landed and checked. How do you get from Russia to say Venezuela without passing the airspace of some country where the US holds sway? Not possible. Not unless the russians really decides to back him and sneak him out, which they probably won't. I don't see Putin backing Snowden to the point where Russia is deliberatly going against the US. Today Snowden just landed there and Russia is content to do nothing much about it, is my view. Second, even if Snowden made it to Bolivia or Venezuela, how stable are those governments really? They've had pretty close call elections both of them. Could mean just one new election and of to the US he goes.I think he'll be in US custody within the next few years. Maybe as soon as in the next couple of months, but I'll hedge that and go with within the next few years.
They failed to present sufficient evidence that Manning specifically intended his disclosures to be of benefit or assistance to al-Qaeda or other jihadi organizations engaged in hostilities against the United States.Ahhh...so he got off because he is stupid. That brings back that question of how someone with so little understanding of the world could have been given a job in military intelligence. :(
Lynnette:"Saudi blogger gets 7 years in prison and 600 lashes for insulting Islam"Insane. Must be weak lashes though because noone would survive 600 lashes otherwise. Or do they dole them out like 20 at a time with a recuperation period in between each session? They might. After all they've got 7 years to torment a person for posting on a blog.I wonder though.... where are the calls for democracy in KSA? Where are the embargos and the sanctions? Where's all the rage in western press against the gangster-band of princes and princelings who treat that country as their own piggy-bank and use a vast police-state to oppress any domestic dissidents, and meanwhile sponsor chaos and destruction in other countries? They must surely have some important backers on the international arena to get away with all that, don't you think?
Come to think of it my previous post alone would probably get me 1000 lashes and a few decades in a dingy hole in a Saudi prison if the Saudi court system got hold of me.Is there anyone posting here who wouldn't get lashed and sent away if the Saudis got at them? Zeyad would be sent down hard for sure. Most commentors also I imagine. Has anyone of us been completely "halal" over the years? I'd guess not.
One could argue that China has made dramatic reforms already.Yes, people could make that arguement, especially economically.Sure, it's no easy country to be a dissident in but these days they don't slaughter people en masse just on suspicion alone. They don't starve millions to death under insane social "improvment" programs. It's a way, way better place than it was just a few decades back.I am sure many Chinese feel the same way. I have read that nationalism in China is farely high. But it is a large population and you will always find those who are looking for just a little more. It is human nature.
Is there anyone posting here who wouldn't get lashed and sent away if the Saudis got at them? Zeyad would be sent down hard for sure.Considering the sexual exploits Zeyad disclosed "HRH" probably would have.Maybe that's why he never wrote that book.
I wonder though.... where are the calls for democracy in KSA? Where are the embargos and the sanctions? Where's all the rage in western press against the gangster-band of princes and princelings who treat that country as their own piggy-bank and use a vast police-state to oppress any domestic dissidents, and meanwhile sponsor chaos and destruction in other countries? They must surely have some important backers on the international arena to get away with all that, don't you think?Indeed. Oil is a huge motivator, or non-motivator as the case may be. Probably the only way around that is to find oil elsewhere and stop relying on KSA. Hmmm....
Lynnette:"Probably the only way around that is to find oil elsewhere and stop relying on KSA. Hmmm...."I just read an article today about how one of the richer princelings (the one who's suing Forbes Magazine because they dared to not put him high enough on the rhichest list) was worried about that "cheap shale gas" in the US. Apparently the Saudi government incomes is 98% from oil exports. So if there are lower prices it affects them immediately. And since the few-thousand princes must have their unfair share there might not be much left for the people as a whole. Then the people might get angry. Then there might be problems.
Marcus,And since the few-thousand princes must have their unfair share there might not be much left for the people as a whole. Then the people might get angry. Then there might be problems.Yes. I think it falls under that "be careful what you wish for, you just might get it" clause. The problem was never the oil, it was always the wealth derived from it, and how it was distributed. Equitable income distribution has been a key to the success of countries in the West. It has led to a more stable environment where everyone has a fair share of the pie. The question has just been how best to achieve that goal. And that is why there is concern about income disparities that have developed here in the States. With the propensity of countries in the Middle East to have a "strongman" or one party in charge, they have not had the opportunity to create that type of environment, as usually the wealth is syponed off for those in favor. You may modernize all you want, but if you leave people feeling that they cannot achieve anything, or get ahead, then what do they have invested in your system? KSA is no different. Religion may play a role in the cultural aspects of a country but, like here, to coin a phrase from our elections, "it's the economy, stupid".
It seems that our radical right-wingers are finally beginning to question the role of the CIA in Benghazijust preceding the attack last year. I was beginning to wonder if this was ever going to dawn on them. (This guy actually tends towards the libertarian end of the spectrum, but the right-wing libertarians are in close cahoots with the teabaggers.)
I read that al-Zawahiri is accusing a coalition of "the USA, the military, christians and the non-religious" of overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt.He's probably correct in that all those factions are sceptical, to say the least, of the Muslim Brotherhood but I seriously doubt they are working that close together.I'd say the Egyptian military is the one faction above all others who facilitated the downfall of the new government. Sure, the protesters were out there on the streets but were it not for the military taking their side (or hijacking their cause if you will) the protests would have been stomped by the islamists.I don't see either the 10% christian population or the USA as a major player in the events in Egypt today. The christians wouldn't dare to put their names on the protests for fear of retaliation and the US doesn't want to own that conflict at all.
Lee: "It seems that our radical right-wingers are finally beginning to question the role of the CIA in Benghazijust preceding the attack last year."Does that tell you that the NATO-involvment in Libya wasn't so much about protecting the "peaceful demonstrators aagainst an oppressive regime" but rather about regime change?The same goes for Syria today. Even the majority of the sunni population root for al-Assad if the alternative is the "rebels". And ya'll are about to arm the Al Qaeda (or the Al Nusra Front to put a more palatable name on those Al Qaeda fighters) "rebels". Go figure.It's geopolitics. Always was, always will be. Human rights has nothing to do with anything. Surely you who are an intelligent person realise this?
"Human rights has nothing to do with anything."I believe you rather overstate your case there.
Lee: "I believe you rather overstate your case there."OK, Human rights is just a scapegoat for geopolitics. Is that better?
"Is that better?"Not much. First, I believe you've misperceived the definition of the English word ‘scapegoat’; the recent compliments on your fluency in English notwithstanding. Second, assuming you find the word you actually want there, I'm guessing you'll still want to overstate your case if at all possible. (I should have expected this, mentioned the CIA in front of a Euroweenie, kinda like mentioning Obama in front of a Republican--apt to draw a knee-jerk over reaction.)
Yes scapegoat was the wrong term there, I see that. Pretext would have fitted better. I blame that error on the beers I had with dinner. It was a warm summer evening so I had a few.
A year old article about Syria:http://www.quarterly-review.org/?p=948
Lee It seems that our radical right-wingers are finally beginning to question the role of the CIA in Benghazijust preceding the attack last year.If the CIA was actually funneling Libyan arms to Syrian rebels before Congress actually approved arming them I could see where some people may be a little...er...concerned with people blabbing about it.
Marcus: Does that tell you that the NATO-involvment in Libya wasn't so much about protecting the "peaceful demonstrators aagainst an oppressive regime" but rather about regime change?But the two are not mutually exclusive. It was the regime that was attacking its people, so removing them should help with that problem.Marcus: Human rights is just a pretext for geopolitics.Ahhh, but it could also work in the reverse, that is... geopolitics is just a pretext for human rights. It would depend on the people on the receiving end of assistance. That is, what they do with that assistance.And ya'll are about to arm the Al Qaeda...That is the question, who do we ultimately help.
Two more "swedes" were killed in Syria a few days back. An 18 YO blew himself up in a carbomb aimed at a checkpoint and the 22 YO brother was killed in the fighting afterwards. Another relative of theirs was killed in fighting in Lebanon in 2007 and an uncle of the two brothers is imprisoned in Germany for links to Al Qaeda. There was a time not too long ago when a swedish passport was possibly the best travel document you could hold. Not so much any more.
"I could see where some people may be a little ...er...concerned with people blabbing about it."More to the point… The more politically minded among the radical right-wingers recognized early on that it was going to be hard to drum up a ‘scandal’ affecting the fortunes of either Obama or Hillary (depending on whether they were scandal-mongering before or after the November 2012 election) if they acknowledged that the Benghazi "diplomatic outpost" was basically a cover for a CIA operation hoping to meddle in the Syrian uprising. However, they've pretty much not had any luck in getting the Benghazi ‘scandal’ to gain any wide traction despite repeated and persistent play on FoxNews. They can't seem to get anybody else to be interested, so they're finally trying to widen the inquiry a little bit, hoping to get some traction somehow, outside of their own FoxNews world.
Lynette," Immature people who were placed in jobs they were ill prepared to handle. Snowden may find that with living in Russia he has jumped from the frying pan into the fire. He thinks the NSA is bad? And he moves to Russia? Seriously? "Snowden didn't move to Russia , your criminal government and its cowardly allies left him no other choice. I wouldn't expect someone like you to understand what motivated your 2 country men, their disgust ,shame .. but to have no sympathy at all for the 2 young men who are not murderers or rapists ,to laugh at their ordeal ? is something beyond my understanding.
"…what motivated your 2 country men, their disgust ,shame ."I see nothing in the two men, including in their own public statements that suggest that either of them feel any sense of shame. ‘Disgust’, maybe. The one thing that seems common to both of them is a certain ‘social misfit’ personality type (although there are substantial differences between the two men in the manifestation of the ‘misfit’ behavior). This may have generated a certain level of disgust in them towards the societies they lived in; that one's a bit of a stretch for me; there's more than a bit of speculation involved for me to call on the available evidence, but it's possible.
Ivy,Snowden didn't move to Russia , your criminal government and its cowardly allies left him no other choice.On the contrary, Snowden had another choice. He could have given himself up. If he truly was trying to make a point, the publicity of a trial would certainly have done so. That he chose instead to request and accept asylum in a country that is still struggling to achieve individual rights and freedoms makes me question how serious he was about his "cause". I wouldn't expect someone like you to understand what motivated your 2 country men, their disgust ,shame ..You are right, I do not understand at all their motivations. There are other ways to get your point across then to risk endangering innocent people and leaving your country and her people to swing in the wind. ...but to have no sympathy at all for the 2 young men who are not murderers or rapists ,to laugh at their ordeal ? is something beyond my understanding.It is hard to feel sympathy for 2 fools who have thrown the baby out with the bath water. They do no credit to activists of the past who have struggled to improve our society. And believe me, laughter is not an emotion their actions have elicited.
Marcus,There was a time not too long ago when a swedish passport was possibly the best travel document you could hold. Not so much any more.It is not just Sweden with this problem. We too have had people participate in extremist behaviour. Somalia and Boston come to mind. This mindset is not easily changed, no matter what country they reside in. That we have offered them an opportunity to make a different life for themselves is to our credit.
Lynnette:"It is not just Sweden with this problem. We too have had people participate in extremist behaviour. Somalia and Boston come to mind."In my locl daily newspaper there are several notices daily of "lost passports". Almost never a swedish name among them though for some STRANGE reason. It's starting to get known, from whistleblowers within the police, that the same (mostly arab) person loses up to 20 passports in a year here*. Then gets a new one.The bulk of them are never ussed for any terroris puroposes but sold to human trafficers to make it more easy for more asylum seekers to get here, and we're anticipating 113.000 in 2013. (which per capita would resemble 4.000.000 persons from mainly the MENA countries into the USA in one year for comparasion).Then of course some partion of those thousands of "lost" passports will be going to jihadists and outright terrorists. Which is why I say that the value of a swedish passport is not what it once was.*Of course it's insaniy on our behalf to issue a new passport to some fucker who claims to have lost his tenth passport in one year. But you have to realise that if anyone was to protest this they'd be labeled a "racist" and probably dragged through court because of it. It's that far gone now.
Obama cancels the visit to Russia the day before the G20 meeting and goes to Sweden instead. Swedish government politicians are wetting themselves with excitement and the opposition demands that Manning, Assange and Snowden be at the top of the agenda (which they won't be, they won't be mentioned).
Marcus,If most of the passports are being used to enter Sweden illegally isn't there some list of all of the old numbers that can be checked against the passports used by anyone entering the country? That way you could tell if the passport was bogus.The same could be done internationally if there was a worldwide database of old passport numbers set up to compare to. In these days of instant internet communications one would think it would not be that difficult to set up.
Obama cancels the visit to Russia the day before the G20 meeting and goes to Sweden instead.His not so subtle way of saying he's upset with the Snowden outcome. ...the opposition demands that Manning, Assange and Snowden be at the top of the agenda... Why? They chose their paths. Why should we make it any easier for them? (Sorry, Ivy, still no sympathy here.)
Lynnette:"If most of the passports are being used to enter Sweden illegally isn't there some list of all of the old numbers that can be checked against the passports used by anyone entering the country? That way you could tell if the passport was bogus."Nope. One would think that an old passport would be made invalid if the same person gets issued a new one. But that't not the case.And even if it was forgery would be made way easier if you have plenty of the originals to work with.This is how it goes: someone who wishes to get to Sweden gets an air travel from say Istanbul. They check in with a real but phony passport. The passport is real but not belonging to them. It could be that the passport has been manipulated. It could be that the mugshot is close enough. It could be that bribes are paid. In any case the person gets on a plane to Stockholm. The fradulent passport is done away with during the trip, like ton up and flushed out the airplane toilet. The busineess of the passports is to facilitate getting on a plane to begin with.IMO there is ONE very easy way to deal with this. If a person in Sweden has his passport "lost" and someone else tries to enter illegaly - deport them both.
Short video on fracking and risks.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/9255520.stm
Marcus, I didn't realise that Sweden was part of the European deal on future bank bailouts ... I thought it was just in the Eurozone. http://www.thelocal.se/48718/20130627/I don't know if your finance minister knows what he is getting you into. Your Swedish banks look set to repeat the mistakes of the early nineties. You've got all those mad 140 year mortgage terms. Your neighbours, Denmark, are having a housing crash caused by government-mandated tightening of credit there. You've got the Swedish banks about to pour hot credit into the Baltic countries which have all been recently hammered by Euro-related recessions.And now you've signed up to the new Euro rules which say depositors can be bailed in along with bondholders and other creditors in the case of another banking crisis. But Anders Borg says the taxpayer will be able to bail out Sweden's banks in the case of any problems. (I read elsewhere that he is a bit of a clueless fool who hung around in student bars organising the students' union instead of getting his degree). So we can add Sweden to the list of countries where the government is prepared to steal deposits to cover the risky business engaged in by the banks.
P.S. Your finance minister is reminiscent of our own, who declared that we would have "the cheapest bank bailout ever". Within a short while the bailout hit 40% of GDP and destroyed the national economy. The finance minister had the bad grace to die and leave us in the lurch a few months later.
The finance minister had the bad grace to die and leave us in the lurch a few months later.Some people are so inconsiderate.
Pete:"I don't know if your finance minister knows what he is getting you into."He's hailed as some sort of hero by many though. While it's true that the present government has made some important structural changes to our economy I think it's simplistic to say Anders Borg somehow "saved" Sweden for the worst of the financial turmoil ssince -08. He did continue the regime of budget diciplin installed by his Social Democrat predecessor. That sure helped out. But things completely out of his control like a weakened currency that boosted our important export sector was more important still. That was possible by not having the Euro, and Anders Borg is among the overwhelming majority of politicians who wanted the Euro but got handed a referendum result by the people that stopped that idea.Pete: "Your Swedish banks look set to repeat the mistakes of the early nineties. You've got all those mad 140 year mortgage terms. Your neighbours, Denmark, are having a housing crash caused by government-mandated tightening of credit there."I believe the domestic housing bubble is the worst risk. And even though Sweden's government finances look solid enough things change dramaticallly if you also consider private debt.Pete: "You've got the Swedish banks about to pour hot credit into the Baltic countries which have all been recently hammered by Euro-related recessions."They are continuing something that started long ago. Swedish banks are major players in the Baltics. I don't know if the new volume of credit is just normal banking greed or if our banks are forced to throw in more money to as some form of bailout program to those markets to save the mess they're already in over there.Pete: "And now you've signed up to the new Euro rules which say depositors can be bailed in along with bondholders and other creditors in the case of another banking crisis. But Anders Borg says the taxpayer will be able to bail out Sweden's banks in the case of any problems."Exactly how our crash will play itself out when it comes I don't really know. Nor do I have a real idea when it will hit us. But I'm counting on a crash to come. Pete: "I read elsewhere that he is a bit of a clueless fool who hung around in student bars organising the students' union instead of getting his degree".He's very good on stage at least. He says all the right things and gives the impression he's both knowledgable and ethical. It wouldn't be a stretch to say he secured the last election for our govvernment. It wouldn't be such a stretch to say the opposition lost it themselves either, but Anders Borg was a huge asset for the sitting government. Pete: "So we can add Sweden to the list of countries where the government is prepared to steal deposits to cover the risky business engaged in by the banks."That seems like a possibility. I think the main bill will land with the taxpayers though.
[Lynnette]: Some people are so inconsiderate.:)On a totally different topic ... Perseid meteor shower reaches it's peak on Sunday night, 11th August, or wee hours of Monday.To find the radiant (the point from which all the meteors appear to originate, although they may be anywhere in the sky when you see them)... locate the W of Cassiopeia (which is more or less circumpolar in northern mid-latitudes); the second stroke of the W (the up stroke) will be pointing toward the horizon; follow that line down toward the horizon and Perseus is the big K.No point watching until Perseus is well above the horizon, about three hours after it rises (it rises at 20.00 UT, add an hour if you are daylight savings). For most of us, wherever we are, that's from midnight onward.
More veggie bombings in Iraq today, with killings up and down the country from Kirkuk to Nassiriya. There were at least twelve bombs in veggie markets, shopping streets, and parks. Appears to be the Sunni Islamist way of saying "Eid Mubarak!". Congrats to them on another record month since 2008 ... over 1,000 dead in the month of July.God help Iraq!
God help Iraq!It does seem to be sliding backwards. If people are intent on putting their own wants before the good of the country then this will only escalate. *sigh*
Pete,I watched the video on fracking. Very interesting. Unfortunately it appears that the Bush administration, in its zeal for new energy sources, may have allowed the fox in the henhouse. But I think we have gone too far to turn back now with this. Hopefully they will come up with safer processes and more oversight to mitigate the dangers of contamination. If not they may have something far more extensive to deal with than our energy dependency on foreign sources.
No point watching until Perseus is well above the horizon, about three hours after it rises (it rises at 20.00 UT, add an hour if you are daylight savings). For most of us, wherever we are, that's from midnight onward.So, what you're saying is that most of us will be sleeping. :)Meanwhile on Mars Curiosity is still chugging steadily along.
Are atheists smarter than religious people?http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/religious-people-are-less-intelligent-than-atheists-analysis-of-over-63-scientific-studies-stretching-back-over-decades-concludes-8758046.html
Lynette,"He could have given himself up" Sure , to torture and life in prison." They chose their paths. Why should we make it any easier for them?" Despite everything u`ve been repeating here for years , i actually still thought u r a good person, not anymore.
Ivy,Lynnette: "He could have given himself up" Ivy: "Sure , to torture and life in prison."Life in prison? Very possibly. But hasn't he chosen another kind of prison?As to torture, we do not have an institutionalized system of torture, despite what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. But could things have been made very uncomfortable for him? Very possibly.As far as I can tell both Manning and Snowden threw away their lives and accomplished very little. Was the killing of the photographer in the video Manning released any different from friendly fire incidents? He knew the risks when he chose to enter a war zone, just like the soldiers. Do I care if the NSA is listening in on my conversations? Not really. And I doubt very much if they are, unless they are looking for an alternative to a sleeping pill. Do I want them to be monitoring someone who has given them good reason to? Certainly.What I care about is that by their actions Manning and Snowden may have left innocent people in danger. Lynnette: " They chose their paths. Why should we make it any easier for them?" Ivy: "Despite everything u`ve been repeating here for years , i actually still thought u r a good person, not anymore."We all have our criteria of how we judge others. You are certainly free to feel as you choose.
[Lynnette]: "So, what you're saying is that most of us will be sleeping. :)"I have noticed you Yanks go to bed quite early. I have a theory about that. You know the way Australians, being on the other side of the planet, must stand on their heads all the time? Well, it must mean that Americans are more than half way to being horizontal. So it's easier to fall into bed because you're almost there already :)I've also noticed that Californians go to bed earlier than New Yorkers, which exactly proves my point, since the latter only lean over at a 75 degree angle while the former are already beyond horizontal.And that piece of impeccable scientific logic brings me to ...[Marcus]: "Are atheists smarter than religious people?"This atheist sociologist takes issue with that report. Unfortunately, I don't think his arguments are especially good.More fun (and maybe more erudite) is this other study from the Netherlands which says the correlation between atheism and intelligence is country dependent. In some countries being an atheist makes you more likely to be stupid or -- even worse -- a stinkin' commie :)
[Marcus]: "Are atheists smarter than religious people?"Well, I wasn't going to touch that with a ten foot pole, but since you did, Pete, I'll give it a glancing blow...The paper concludes that: "Most extant explanations (of a negative relation) share one central theme —the premise that religious beliefs are irrational, not anchored in science, not testable and, therefore, unappealing to intelligent people who 'know better'."My question here is, are religious beliefs irrational? Given a situation where hope for a better life, or even life itself, is a rare commodity, is it irrational to turn to a belief in a higher power, or savior, that will free them from that situation? As for not being testable, weren't there all sorts of things that existed before tests were done? Just because we haven't discovered a proper way to test, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. But I don’t think that atheism can be equated with intelligence any more than religion with stupidity. Why? Because the experience of life shows that the ranks of atheists have their fair share idiots. If you doubt my words – launch a research study that does a content analysis of their tweets.I rather liked this argument, Pete. :) Don't get me wrong, tweeting can serve a useful purpose, but I think a lot of it is just background noise....the correlation between atheism and intelligence is country dependent.That seemed to be dependent on whether religion or secularism was the prevailing norm. Perhaps the more intelligent are also the more rebellious? :)
Jeffrey,Do you ever hear from Rhus or Mojo? How are they doing?
P.S.I have noticed you Yanks go to bed quite early.I can get my sleep(even at a 90 degree slant) and still enjoy the meteor shower. :)
@ LynnetteThree part series by Republican pollster Sean Trende (no pun; that's really his name); on why it is that the Republicans can just keep on doin’ what they're doin’ and it'll all work out fine for them in the end. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.It's something of an understatement to say I consider this to be ‘whistlin' past the graveyard’ by an othewise usually rational Republican pollster. ¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯ "I can get my sleep…and still enjoy the meteor shower"Look to the NNW, high up. Where they're comin' out of should be fairly soon apparent. ¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯The situation in Egypt is lookin’ really ugly this morning. I don't see either side backin’ off any time soon. And ain't a whole hell of a lot we can do ‘bout it.
Bombing in Lebanon too. That looks like the work of fighters connected to the Syrian conflict.Not sure there's much we can do about that either.But the real question is, just where did Zeyad get to? Usually he would have some comment with so much going on back in his region of the world.
In my view, humans are parts rational and parts irrational and always will be. Humans are superstitious and all religions are a deliberate, detailed, quasi-rational appeal to the heavens to give meaning to the lurking specter of death that haunts us and all our activities. Religions provide interesting stories, theories, a moral system, clothing styles, you name it, in the service of offering a coherent plan for how to live on this earth. All religions do this, from Buddhism and Hinduism to Christianity and Judaism and Islam and so on. Atheists also tend to look to outward models to help them make sense of the world. For some, Communism provided all the answers; for others, Humanism, as a kind of secular religion. From Asia, Confucianism is an atheistic system. It’s just a set of hierarchical rules that reduce conflict between different levels of society; it appeals to no Creator or Creators. Atheism and intelligence? Strange question. Hey, how about this: Is a polytheist more intelligent than a monotheist? Do you believe in many deities, one main deity, or no deity? And how does that correlate to an IQ test? Thais are definitely polytheists, even though Buddhism is considered not to have a single guiding deity. Thais will supplicate any and all spirits if they think those spirits will help them, from the local spirits in their houses and buildings to Hindu gods to help them in matters of the heart (as they do at the Trimurti shrine here in Bangkok, placing red roses, fruit, and bottles of soda in front of the three-headed Hindu deity). Are Thais irrational? No, just very human.Irrationalism is our blessing and our curse. Is it rational for a human mother to love her offspring? Probably not. But it’s pretty nice. Is it rational for you to cheer for your local sports team? Not really, but it’s fun and provides a sense of unity (and exclusion). Was it rational for Germans in the 1930s to blame Jews for any number of problems in their society and then decide to exterminate all of them? No, definitely not. And it was very bad.
An interesting analysis of the legality and efficacy of drone warfare against al Qaeda and the Taliban, et al. Partisan alert: The author (author of the book "Black Hawk Down") comes out pro-drone-strike and goes easy on Obama.
A very interesting article Lee. Thanks for posting the link. A few points:"As anyone who has ever been in combat will tell you, the last thing you want is a fair fight."No that's not the case at all. That thinking comes from being embedded in a society that has had the clear upper hand in conflicts throughout your lifetime. I'd say every single Taliban out there would relish a "fair fight" with the opposing forces, to name one example. The worst thing for someone in combat is certainly not a "fair fight" it's of course an unfair one when you are on the side with the disadvantage."No civilian death is acceptable, of course."Evidently it is. OK the author goes on about other forms of combat killing more civvies than drone strikes do, but still. If no civilian deaths are acceptable they are unacceptable. And since the author admits dronestrikes result in some civilian deaths then by his own "rules" they would be unacceptable.What he does is he tries to pose as someone who thinks civilian deaths are unacceptable but in reality he clearly does accept some collaterate damage. Not that honest writing there.My opinion: I don't see the drone as a weapon as something that needs to be singled out. It's a tool. The leagal framework for if/when killings are justified and where they are allowed to fly is what's important. If a hardcore terrorist needs to be killed then do it with as little effort and collaterate damage as possible. If that means using a drone, then by all means use one.
Jeffrey: "Thais will supplicate any and all spirits if they think those spirits will help them, from the local spirits in their houses and buildings to Hindu gods to help them in matters of the heart (as they do at the Trimurti shrine here in Bangkok, placing red roses, fruit, and bottles of soda in front of the three-headed Hindu deity). Are Thais irrational? No, just very human."If you look at the ceiling in any taxi in Thailand you'll find scribblings there. When a Thai taxi driver gets a new car having the #1 priority is to get monks to bless it and scribble sacred words on the ceiling. Way more important than wearing the seatbelt or having the car properly insured. And that's not me joking, they really see it like that.I also find that the spirits in Thailand must be overly fond of the red variety of Fanta, don't you? Because that drink is the most common one offered to them it seems, in all those spirit houses.If you look in to the Thai spirit world you'll also find that there are a lot of ghosts. Specific ghosts appearing in specific suits. Pi a ghost is called in Thai (pronounced like phee in english). From what I've gathered phees are basically the spirits of people who cannot get rest in the spirit world (or if you wanna go buhddist cannot move on with reincarnation) and are stuck in our world for some purpouse. Usually because they were wronged in life and now haunts the living.Also many Thais feel both superior to and are very fearful of cambodians. Superior because they are Thais and ethno-chauvinism is natural still in Asia and because Thailand is a richer country, but fearful because Cambodia is full of ghastly ghosts.Try talking to thais about Cambodia (without ridiculing the of course). It can be great fun.
"I'd say every single Taliban out there would relish a ‘fair fight’ with the opposing forces…"If given their preference, I believe they'd opt instead for an unfair fight in which they have the advantages.