Better get fracking, eh?

President Vladimir Putin threatened the “extreme measure” on Thursday of cutting off Russian gas for Ukraine unless the country pays in advance for all its supplies.

In a stark letter to 18 world leaders, Mr Putin acknowledged that, in such a “critical situation”, gas deliveries to the European Union would also be jeopardised.

The EU buys a third of its gas from Russia, about half of which arrives through pipelines running across Ukraine. But Mr Putin accused the EU of causing the current crisis, leaving Russia with “no alternative” but to toughen its approach.

Actually, the best thing that anyone could do right now is to get as much oil and gas as we possibly can flowing into the international markets. The US should allow crude and LNG exports, the EU should be fracking all over the place, get Iran, Iraq and Saudi pumping at full capacity. There’s enough out there to potentially drop the oil price $30 or $0 a barrel.

And that would entirely screw the Russian economy. Hell, people want to play economic games then why the hell not?

They are getting inventive, aren’t they?

A North Korean official has been executed with a flame-thrower, South Korean media has reported, amid a crackdown on loyalists of Kim Jong-un’s purged uncle.

Whether it’s the South Korean media or the North Koreans being so is unknown. But we’ve had the execution by mortar round, the eaten by wild dogs, now the flamethrower. I start to wonder whether there’s someone, again whether in the media in the south or the military in the north, who is trying to compile some record of the most inventive methods of execution. Are we going to get people being broken on the wheel again? Perhaps evisceration will come back into fashion?

And yes, we might think it a little macabre to joke about such things. And I wouldn’t if we were talking about the conditions in that North Korean gulag. But we’re talking here about the people who run that gulag, who put the people in it to be tortured. Musing over inventive methods of executing these bastards is not macabre, it’s justice, of an admittedly rough and ready kind.

So, a competition. What will be the next interesting method reported? Vogon poetry? nibbled to death by kittens? force fed ginseng until internal explosion?

They’re entirely losing it, aren’t they?

As the Venezuelan government attempts to quell opposition protests that it claims are part of plot to overthrow it, official suspicion has landed on an unlikely hotbed of conspiracy: the crossword department of regional newspaper El Aragüeño.

Delcy Rodríguez, the minister for communication and information, said she had requested an investigation into the daily from the state of Aragua, accusing it of hiding messages “linked to conspiracy” in its crosswords.

“The El Aragüeño daily is sending coded messages linked to conspiracy and violence in its crosswords. We have requested an investigation,” she said.

Ms Rodríguez did not give details of exactly what messages had been detected in the crosswords.

This is why no one likes the Crimean referendum

It’s not really about whether Crimea should be part of Russia, nor an abhorrence of all things Putin (as valid as such feelings would be). It’s really about the nation state itself:

Activists pushing for the Italian region of Veneto to become an independent country have claimed that over two million residents backed their call in an unofficial referendum.

Although the poll lacks any legal basis, organisers said the high number of voters -56 per cent of registered voters in the region – meant a clear majority of voting Venetians were in favour of restoring the independent Venetian Republic, which dominated the Mediterranean for centuries until it was occupied by Napoleon.

The result was announced to cheers from supporters in a piazza in Trevisolate on Friday after a week of voting.

“It’s a huge party here, it’s like a reunion,” said Cristiano Zanin, one of the organisers of the poll, which was held online and through polling stations set up by local town halls across the region.

Organisers said that of a total of 2.36 million votes cast, out of a total of 3.7 million qualified voters, 2.1 million voted for independence and a quarter of a million voted against.

What paralyses politicians with fear is that if you just let any old group vote about whether to leave whatever nation state they’re currently crammed into then a lot of them will vote to leave. Crimea from the Ukraine (and does anyone doubt that the result would be different if the referendum was had all over again under more equitable rules?), Catalunia from Spain perhaps, Veneto (or even the whole North) from Italy, perhaps Bavaria from Germany?

Me, I’d be entirely happy with any and all of those outcomes. But the people currently in power wouldn’t be for obvious reasons. And it’s the fear at looking at their own people which makes them insist that no one can leave some other grouping.

A not very well thought out solution to the Ukraine

Yes, yes, we all know, Western, Uniate, Ukranian speaking, eastern, Orthodox, Russian. Fatally divided country etc.

However, Crimea is the one part that is really Russian dominated (a result of the expulsion of the Crimean Tatars by Stalin) and it’s also the one part that has never, historically, been a part of the Ukraine. Only became so in 1954.

So switch Crimea over to Russia. What the hell….the end result being that Ukraine becomes a majority Ukrainian/Uniate/state…….umm, I think. It would actually reduce Russia’s argument about being the Big Brother of the remaining state.

Or perhaps I shouldn’t be doing this realpolitik sorta stuff?

How we know Victor Yanyukovitch is really a Russian

The extravagance and outrageous bad taste of the man who fled from the presidency of Ukraine was laid bare when dumbfounded ordinary Ukrainians inspected the residence of the missing president

An old joke is that if you ask a Russian “How much is enough?” you’ll get the reply “More than everyone else”.

And while they’ll do large and big, they tend not to do maintenance:

Bricks paving a recently built path leading to the shore have come loose, making it easy to trip.

Wooden steps in some places have simply been allowed to rot away.

I was never really able to work out, when living there, whether this was all about Soviet stuff, where new could be measured and thus was prioritised over maintenance, which was very difficult to put into the plan, or was something innate in Russianness. Still not sure but tend quite a bit to the latter now.

And ain’t this standard OP:

Shortly afterwards the government sold off the property in a murky privatisation deal, and Mr Yanukovych has remained there ever since.

Mr Yanukovych’s lavish spending on home improvements since – including building a new road with state funds to link it with the government district of central Kiev

I like this very American story, I do indeed

When WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum signed a deal with Facebook on Wednesday he became an overnight billionaire, but when he first moved to the U.S. he needed food stamps to survive.

Koum, who is estimated to now be worth about $6.8 billion, was 16 when he moved to the U.S. from Ukraine with his mother.

He had been raised in a rural community, in a house with no hot water or electricity, and when Koum moved to the U.S. his mother packed their suitcases with school supplies to save money.

But Koum’s fortunes soon changed and on Wednesday he returned to the Mountain View welfare office, where he used to queue to get food stamps, to sign his historic deal with Facebook.

The offices for WhatsApp, which 37-year-old Koum created with Brian Acton in 2009, are also only a few blocks from the welfare office.

The pair stood outside the welfare building today as they signed the $19 billion deal with Facebook, only this time Koum was able to drive there in his Porsche.

Is there any recent story that so encapsulates the American Dream?

Those racist bastards in Spain

More than five centuries after Spain’s Jews were forced to flee, convert to Catholicism or face execution without trial, their descendants are being invited to return and take up dual citizenship.

Spain’s government has approved a draft bill that will allow descendants of those Sephardic Jews who were expelled in 1492, under the crusading Catholic rule of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, to seek dual citizenship.

OK.

An estimated 300,000 Jews resided in Spain before the infamous Spanish Inquisition of the 15th Century, when the “Reyes Catolicos” reconquered Spain from its Arab rulers and ordered Jews and Muslims to convert to the Catholic faith or leave the country.

So where’s the racism?

Spanish Muslim groups have long been campaigning for the Spanish state to grant nationality rights for the descendants of Muslims who were expelled or forced to convert during the same period as the Sephardic Jews but no legislation has yet been proposed to award them the same rights.

“It seems unfair that one thing is being offered to the Jews but will not be considered for the Muslims who suffered the same fate,” said a spokesman from the Junta Islamica de Espana.

Maybe religionism is the right word here, not racism. But it does appear odd…..

On the subject of Shirley Temple

I see that, among other things, she was Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. 1989 to 1992.

Erm, all the way through the whole Velvet Revolution thing. And she was appointed to that as a “political” ambassador, not a diplomatic service one. The Americans do this: ambassadors are often chosen from those who support the party of the President, handed out as baubles in fact to campaign sponsors. It tends to be the less important posts, true.

The thing is, I wonder how well she did? Anyone know?

Crazed lunacy from Italy

The Italian state auditor, Corte dei Conti, notified Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch that the rating agencies may have violated Italian law by downgrading the country during the 2011 Eurozone debt crisis. An Italian prosecutor representing the audit body may demand damages of up to $316 billion, Corte dei Conti said. According to the auditor’s letter to S&P, one of the reasons the string of downgrades could be deemed illegal is that “S&P never in its ratings pointed out Italy’s history, art or landscape which, as universally recognized, are the basis of its economic strength.”

You do realise that we’re in an economic union with these fools, don’t you?

Timmy elsewhere

In City AM:

There is, however, one matter on which I agree with the embassy: the French health care system is indeed better than the NHS. This is why we’re copying it, of course. It has multiple providers, all competing to service the needs and desires of consumers, exactly as Smith would have the entire economy work. The real oddity is that France needs to make the rest of its economy like its health care system, while Britain needs to make the NHS more like its economy.

Not a surprise

The Portuguese Algarve came out as the cheapest destination in Europe, with a basket of items costing £35.37.

The survey showed that although the pound was slightly weaker against the euro compared to last year (-1.9pc), prices have fallen 18pc in the Algarve.

The economy is simply dead.

Not sure this is how building contracts work mate

The president of Panama said on Thursday he would go to Spain and Italy to pressure companies to honour contracts to expand his country’s canal after a building consortium behind the project threatened to suspend work because of a row over costs.

The consortium – Spain’s Sacyr, Italy’s Salini Impregilo, Belgium’s Jan De Nul and Panama’s Constructora Urbana – said on Wednesday that $1.6bn in cost overruns on the $3.2bn plan to build a third set of locks for the canal should be met by Panama.

Underbid, claim contract changes, yes, we’ve seen this story before.

Martinelli, who took power in 2009, said he expected Italy and Spain to uphold commitments to back the project which the countries’ leaders made to him during his first year in office.

“So I’m going to go to Spain and Italy to demand this from them, because a company should not be able to put such a high amount of overrun costs on a project that belongs to humanity,” he told reporters in Panama City.

Ah, no, I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works actually.

And, umm, if this canal belongs to humanity, it will be humanity getting the fees from ships traversing it, will it? Or is the Panamanian Government going to keep them?

America did last near 200 years as the land of the free

Which is a pretty good run for a socio-political system.

One of the people I hit it off with was Hoover fellow Jim Mattis, recently a Marine Corps general. He told me about being caught in a bar at the the tender age of 19. He was ready to fess up and go along with the cop but then the cop jabbed Mattis hard in the back with his club. Mattis reacted and decked the cop. He went to jail for 21 days. The next morning in class, I told my students, all of whom are officers in the U.S. military, the Australian military, or the U.S. Coast Guard, the story. One of the students said, “If he did that today, there would be a good chance he’d be shot.” I looked around the room and noticed a number of the students nodding sadly.

A little note to 10,000 Americans I’ve never met and never will

laneycarols

Well done to all 10,000 of you. A very good show there.

An eight-year-girl whose dying was wish to hear carolers serenading her with Christmas tunes passed away in the early hours of Boxing Day morning after attracting warmth and well-wishers from all across America.

On the Saturday before Christmas, some 10,000 people had spontaneously gathered beneath the window of Delaney Brown in the tiny of town West Reading, Pennsylvania to sing Christmas favourites, such Good King Wenceslas and Come All Ye Faithful.

I am a hopeless cynic but just occasionally something happens to make me think that it’s worth having humans around.

That is, just to note it, two and a half times the entire population of that small town of West Reading. Lashings of ginger beer all round I think and that isn’t something that is easy to deserve.