“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thomas Friedman Knows Nothing About Costa Rica

Tom Friedman must have a nose problem.

I had to laugh at the NY Times piece by Thomas Friedman. It is a puff about the rivers and power resources in Costa Rica. It is supposed to be a model for the US. Tom Friedman has to be a better fiction writer than he is a journalist. I prefer to believe that Friedman was just sloppy and not totally dishonest, but honestly for starters, Costa Rica has no municipal sewage treatment plants. The capital of San Jose, two million people, pumps everything into the rivers. The river where Thomas Friedman went white water rafting faces this:

During the last decades, the proliferation of tourism megaprojects and agricultural infrastructure have caused considerable impacts on the region’s natural systems, which already suffer from regular impacts caused by natural processes, including floods and droughts. The development of infrastructure projects to control floods, as well as the unrestrained extraction of superficial and subterraneous waters for irrigation threaten the ecological integrity of the region.
Duke University

The air in San Jose from auto pollution is choking and the city has regular scheduled power outages as the government monopoly rations power distribution.

I would not swim on any Costa Rican beach that has a house or hotel in sight. There is not one state in the United States that would tolerate the pollution and power distribution standards that exist in Costa Rica. I will add, that I happen to like Costa Rica, but am not blinded by a ten day sheltered exposure.

This is not the direction the United States wants to go in either energy or conservation.


(No) Drill, Baby, Drill

Published: April 11, 2009
Liberia, Costa Rica

Sailing down Costa Rica’s Tempisque River on an eco-tour, I watched a crocodile devour a brown bass with one gulp. It took only a few seconds. The croc’s head emerged from the muddy waters near the bank with the footlong fish writhing in its jaws. He crunched it a couple of times with razor-sharp teeth and then, with just the slightest flip of his snout, swallowed the fish whole. Never saw that before.

These days, visitors can still see amazing biodiversity all over Costa Rica — more than 25 percent of the country is protected area — thanks to a unique system it set up to preserve its cornucopia of plants and animals. Many countries could learn a lot from this system.

More than any nation I’ve ever visited, Costa Rica is insisting that economic growth and environmentalism work together. It has created a holistic strategy to think about growth, one that demands that everything gets counted. So if a chemical factory sells tons of fertilizer but pollutes a river — or a farm sells bananas but destroys a carbon-absorbing and species-preserving forest — this is not honest growth. You have to pay for using nature. It is called “payment for environmental services” — nobody gets to treat climate, water, coral, fish and forests as free anymore.

The process began in the 1990s when Costa Rica, which sits at the intersection of two continents and two oceans, came to fully appreciate its incredible bounty of biodiversity — and that its economic future lay in protecting it. So it did something no country has ever done: It put energy, environment, mines and water all under one minister.

“In Costa Rica, the minister of environment sets the policy for energy, mines, water and natural resources,” explained Carlos M. Rodríguez, who served in that post from 2002 to 2006. In most countries, he noted, “ministers of environment are marginalized.” They are viewed as people who try to lock things away, not as people who create value. Their job is to fight energy ministers who just want to drill for cheap oil.

But when Costa Rica put one minister in charge of energy and environment, “it created a very different way of thinking about how to solve problems,” said Rodríguez, now a regional vice president for Conservation International. “The environment sector was able to influence the energy choices by saying: ‘Look, if you want cheap energy, the cheapest energy in the long-run is renewable energy. So let’s not think just about the next six months; let’s think out 25 years.’ ”

As a result, Costa Rica hugely invested in hydro-electric power, wind and geo-thermal, and today it gets more than 95 percent of its energy from these renewables. In 1985, it was 50 percent hydro, 50 percent oil. More interesting, Costa Rica discovered its own oil five years ago but decided to ban drilling — so as not to pollute its politics or environment! What country bans oil drilling?

Rodríguez also helped to pioneer the idea that in a country like Costa Rica, dependent on tourism and agriculture, the services provided by ecosystems were important drivers of growth and had to be paid for. Right now, most countries fail to account for the “externalities” of various economic activities. So when a factory, farmer or power plant pollutes the air or the river, destroys a wetland, depletes a fish stock or silts a river — making the water no longer usable — that cost is never added to your electric bill or to the price of your shoes.

Costa Rica took the view that landowners who keep their forests intact and their rivers clean should be paid, because the forests maintained the watersheds and kept the rivers free of silt — and that benefited dam owners, fishermen, farmers and eco-tour companies downstream. The forests also absorbed carbon.

To pay for these environmental services, in 1997 Costa Rica imposed a tax on carbon emissions — 3.5 percent of the market value of fossil fuels — which goes into a national forest fund to pay indigenous communities for protecting the forests around them. And the country imposed a water tax whereby major water users — hydro-electric dams, farmers and drinking water providers — had to pay villagers upstream to keep their rivers pristine. “We now have 7,000 beneficiaries of water and carbon taxes,” said Rodríguez. “It has become a major source of income for poor people. It has also enabled Costa Rica to actually reverse deforestation. We now have twice the amount of forest as 20 years ago.”

As we debate a new energy future, we need to remember that nature provides this incredible range of economic services — from carbon-fixation to water filtration to natural beauty for tourism. If government policies don’t recognize those services and pay the people who sustain nature’s ability to provide them, things go haywire. We end up impoverishing both nature and people. Worse, we start racking up a bill in the form of climate-changing greenhouse gases, petro-dictatorships and bio-diversity loss that gets charged on our kids’ Visa cards to be paid by them later. Well, later is over. Later is when it will be too late.


Costa Rican Electricity Institute
Says No Power Outages This Year

Power outages are somewhere near the top of residents' complaint lists. In Costa Rica, like much of Central America, sometimes the lights go out, though often there's a warning from the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) before they do.

But 2008, ICE claims, will be a blackout-free year, the daily Al Día reported.

This might come as relief to those who recall in mid-April when the government declared a state of emergency amid sweeping blackouts across the country. There wasn't enough rain to feed Costa Rica's hydroelectric plants, said ICE President Pedro Quirós.

Quirós told Al Día Friday the reservoirs in Arenal and Chachí are now at capacity, and users can rest assured that “this year there will be no cuts in electricity service.”

-Tico Times

Costa Rica to ration power amid hydro shortfall
27 Apr 2007 02:24:05 GMT
Source: Reuters
this article | RSS

SAN JOSE, April 26 (Reuters) - Costa Rica said on Thursday a lack of rainfall to drive its hydroelectric plants meant it would have to start rationing electricity.
Power will be rationed twice a day for five hours at a time for different sectors of the population on a rotating basis, Pedro Pablo Quiros, executive president of the state-run Costa Rican Electricity Institute, said.
Costa Rica's rainy season, which normally starts in March, has still not begun, leaving the country's resevoirs depleted and triggering periodic power outages over the past week.
A sprinkle of rain spotted San Jose on Thursday, a far cry from the dousing needed to replenish the reservoirs.
"No one foresaw that the summer would be so strong," said Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias.
Costa Rica, famous for its lush rainforests, relies heavily on hydro-power, but built its first combined-cycle electricity plant in 2004 to meet 10 percent of its energy needs.
It now plans to install a 150-megawatt thermal electric generator at a cost of $150 million to help ease the shortage.

Tourism boom threatens Costa Rica eco-paradise
Fri Jun 20, 2008 6:44am EDT Email | Print | Share | Reprints | Single Page [-] Text [+]

TAMARINDO, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Pungent brown sewage spews into the Pacific ocean. In the background, cranes put up hotels and beachfront apartments.

Once home to monkeys, turtles and other rare wildlife, this stretch of coast in northwest Costa Rica is developing so fast that it is tarnishing the country's reputation as a destination for eco-tourists.

Biting the hand that feeds in Costa Rica

...Agro-export organizations oppose conservation measures that aim to improve the landscape to entice ecotourists. Use of pesticides is rampant, even though 20 per cent of them only make produce look better. There are five times more crop pests in Costa Rica than in North America, and agriculturalists argue that pesticides are a must to control them, even though pesticides cause huge wildlife losses through poisoning.

To make matters worse, Costa Ricas waste disposal is a nightmare. Raw sewage is usually dumped in the nearest wastercourse, just anywhere it can flow away.

The Costa Rican federal and local governments are so poor, largely due to a lack of any organized taxation system, that enforcement of all conservation laws is in the hands of local communities.

They, too, lack financial capability to enforce conservation laws. Even though Costa Rica has had a national conservation strategy since 1984, it has not spawned any workable programs.

"The laws are tough, but nobody really pays much attention to them," said a conservationist based at San Jose.

"Sure we have national parks and wildlife reserves, but nobody really enforces environmental laws there, or anywhere else," said a spokesman for the Fondacion Neotropica.

Wildtrapping of birds is a case in point. It is unlawful, but almost everybody does it. Costa Rica has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, and fully one-half are wild birds, poached from wild nests. About 50 per cent of Costa Ricans admit that they have owned a wild parrot at some point in their lives.

There are almost 200,000 pet parrots in Costa Rica, all belonging to species that are threatened or endangered.

Tax for Releasing Sewage Into Rivers
Posted 04-07-2009 at 09:51 AM by larryhans
In Costa Rica, we have to pay a tax for polluting rivers with raw sewage and soap out of households, industries, businesses and government offices.

This is the new canon of discharges which came into force this year and aims to raise funds to build wastewater treatment facilities throughout the country.

The tax is collected by the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (Minaet) through the Water Department. Homes will receive their surcharge in their drinking water bills.


Two months ago, a report was released by the government citing Jaco Beach has having a bacteria count of coliforms multiple times higher than acceptable for human bathing. Many people who live here already know this is a problem since they can smell the raw sewage as they walk by the rivers or over the bridges on a daily basis. Furthermore, business owners and homeowners are not surprised by this report since they know themselves to be pollutors and/or contributors. More so, Costa Ricans know very clearly where the pollution is coming from as noted by the Sala IV in 2007.

The problem is further exacerbated by local business advocates focusing not on the report but that the report was published with alterior political motives. Translated: They are not denying the reports of “Aguas Negras” or “Black Water” but fuming about how the report was published and its timing. Nobody seems to focus on the real issue which is lack of enforcement for existing laws.

Currently, there is one inspector for about 400 septic treatment plants in this area and once cited the violator has XX months to correct the problem. When the inspector returns to check on progress, who has oversight of the inspector? When you pay minimum wages to an inspector, the lure of pay-offs to look the other way from larger developers is huge. People cannot deny that payoffs occur and in fact exists and happen on a daily basis.

One leading local business leader says “control the rivers and we will control the pollution.” This might be true but it still does not address the root problem which is education and enforcement of existing laws. How can a law be enforced if the penalty is not a deterrent? When a developer spending millions of dollars to build pays only hundreds for a penalty, it makes good business sense to move the project along without regard to preserving the enviroment or minimizing the damage.

Until Costa Rica suffers a loss of tourist dollars, which is forthcoming, the governement will not move to correct these issues. Costa Ricans never created parks or bio-zones because they wanted to preserve their beautiful country, business leaders and foreigners did this to create opportunities. The opportunity to be the “green” tourism destination was a economic decision not a altruistic one. So when Costa Rica begins to lose hundreds of millions of dollars each year in tourism because people finally have witnessed the hypocrisy of this country. Only then will the government and the business leaders move to correct the issues.

The sad truth is we do not have to wait until then, If people were to understand that preserving their country and not polluting it, means a better future for them and their families. Or their health will be much better if Costa Rica remains clean, then we will really begin to make REAL changes here. The false promises of business leaders, government, and developers is short sighted and dollar related. True fundamental change begins with each person living in the country, each persons decision not to pollute, and each persons committment to a cleaner and safer home for all of us. This can only be achieved through education and massive public service announcments.

Two years ago, a sign was erected on the highway that leads to the central pacific beaches from San Jose. The sign was titled “Playa Limpia” or Clean Beach, and discussed how we need to keep our beaches clean for us and others and for the environment. It was a great public service, the problem is ticos erected the sign and could only be seen by people returning to San Jose after they have spent the weekend littering the beaches and towns. Common sense tells most of us, the message should be delivered prior to arrival at the beach. Imagine in the US Parks, you are leaving Yosemite during the dry season, upon you exiting the park, you are given a message that using fire is prohibited.
Surf in jaco


  1. By the way, 2008 turned out to be worse than 2007 for power outages.

  2. To make matters worse, Costa Ricas waste disposal is a nightmare. Raw sewage is usually dumped in the nearest wastercourse, just anywhere it can flow away.

    The Costa Rican federal and local governments are so poor, largely due to a lack of any organized taxation system, that enforcement of all conservation laws is in the hands of local communities.

    They, too, lack financial capability to enforce conservation laws. Even though Costa Rica has had a national conservation strategy since 1984, it has not spawned any workable programs.

  3. “We now have 7,000 beneficiaries of water and carbon taxes,” said Rodríguez. “It has become a major source of income for poor people. It has also enabled Costa Rica to actually reverse deforestation. We now have twice the amount of forest as 20 years ago.”

    Most of the beneficiaries are large landowners who count about anything taller than three feet as a tree. They are going to try and hoist these so called carbon syncs on the rest of the world in a carbon swaps scam. Even though Costa Rica is a poor country, these wealthy Costa Ricans get a stipend form the government for holding land in "forest."

  4. One of the nicest suburbs of San Jose is Escazu. Every little stream reeks of sewage and is polluted with trash and run off. 96% of all urban wastewater is discharged into rivers without any treatment.

    Such are the journalistic standards of Thomas Friedman and the New York Times.

    I, however am going to have some splendid Costa rican coffee.

  5. Well, doug, the is no Federal Regulation that will stop prejudice.
    Whether by race, creed or national origin.

    Should the US employee quotas for Chrisitans, at Health Care facilities, and then limit their work loads?

    Maybe that CBC piece was mistaken, or not. But what is the Action Plan advised for turning the cultural tide, other than moaning about the reality of life in America.

    How do you propose to save the Bush legacy in Health Care, the expanded Conscience Clause?

  6. A HHS regulation, not even a Law.

    Gonna make a stink in the Congress?

    Which of your Hawaiian Congressmen will carry the water?

  7. Wow, Deuce, that is good stuff.

    One wonders, is Friedman a paid stooge or a total idiot?

  8. That is a post which should be nominated for a blogging award.

    That is what blogging is all about.

  9. Here is a sample of comments on the Friedman piece in the NY Times:

    4.April 12, 2009 8:47 am

    Excellent article!

    The USA could and should learn a lot from Costa Rica.
    — chris, New York

    Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers
    5.April 12, 2009 8:47 am

    Wonderful column but I still would like to see a detailed piece about how the carbon tax would directly affect US consumers in the short run. How much of an increase in electricity bills would the average consumer see initially? This information is needed in order to rebut the opposition.
    — TEK, NY

    Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers
    6.April 12, 2009 8:47 am

    The key to your column today comes when, describing the croc gulping down the briefly-chewed brown bass, you say you’d never seen that before.

    Trouble is, you’ve evidently not spent much time lately in American, else you’d know we’ve all seen that – lots – right here at home, as our own most lovely-clever combinations of bankers, financiers, lawyers, and politicians have regularly been gulping down the rest of us.

    OK: Costa Rica contrasts with our dear land where the greedy rule, and we the people dearly pay. But since when is reporting on international common sense, decency, and a respect for the public good going to do anything for our classes of corporate souls all schooled only for exploiting the public good all the more brazenly to enrich themselves? We Americans follow what they model. We by and large don’t learn foreign languages, as we, like our institutional masters, may generalize all foreigners as targets for the same corporate consumers and other reduced “ethics” we all learn to fit here. We never learn from history – except that it makes good yuk-yuk for Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking.”

    So thanks, anyway, for more lovely reporting from abroad, even as it does surprise you to see actually reptilian behavior of actually-large reptilian souls.

    Phil Balla
    — Phil in the mountains of Kyushu, Japan

    Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers
    7.April 12, 2009 8:47 am

    Bhutan is another of these countries, it's so environmentally friendly that it bans even mining.
    Here there are also religious reasons, since the country is fervently Buddhist, but their approach to happiness and wealth is unique. They even developed a parameter to "measure" countries called GHP, gross happiness product, arguing that the usual GDP used commonly is not the right index, it evaluates only wealth and that's just part of picture. applying the simple principle that better a happy poor farmer than an unhappy rich industrialist they are and will be able to rise the level of everybody slowly but surely, even if it will take a hundred years. That's what I call good planning for future generations!
    — alessandro biglioli, sweden

    Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers
    8.April 12, 2009 8:47 am

    And did you pay a carbon offset tax on the plane ride that took you to Costa Rica? Because that's an "externality" too. I'm continually amazed at how we environmentalists all say we need to change the way we do things, but go on doing exactly the same thing.
    — Alison Sainsbury, Bloormington, IL

    Recommend Recommended by 9 Readers
    9.April 12, 2009 8:47 am

    This is so incredible I added it to the quicklinks in Op Ed News for others to read.
    I did have one question though: if Costa Rica doesn't make it's own oil, what do they run their cars on? Are they moving towards Zero Emission Vehicles like some island nations like the Maldives, or Israel with it's electric car push? That seems to be the final feather in their green cap.
    Woe to America. If a little poor country like Costa Rica can get its act together, why cant we with all our resources - the Saudi Arabia of Wind, Solar and Geothermal?
    — Scott Baker, New York City

    Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers
    10.April 12, 2009 8:47 am

    Costa Rica has always been an island of progressive democracy in a region tormented by fratricidal war. Once again, they are leading the way by forging a peaceful sustainable economic model in a world where growth based on the untrammeled dominance of the Earth's resources has been the norm. Thank you, Thomas Friedman, for bringing us this good news.
    — Jean, Seattle WA

    Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader
    11.April 12, 2009 8:47 am

    Another Pulitzer Prize!
    — Max Reif, Walnut Creek, CA

    Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader
    12.April 12, 2009 8:47 am

    This article to me has two key strengths:

    (A) It is an example of leadership in journalism -- for shining a bright light on an important issue that has been mostly shunned so far, including Costa Rica's successful proof-of-concept remaining virtually unknown in the US.

    (B) It responds convincingly to the oft-cited concern about the (allegedly, negative) effect of carbon tax on poorer people. Clearly, things work the opposite way in Costa Rica -- there, those who didn't have income before the system was put in place now do, owing to the payments for preserving the environmental resources in the areas they live. That makes a win-win situation.
    — Valentin, Seattle, WA

    Recommend Recommended by 7 Readers
    13.April 12, 2009 8:47 am

    Exllant article sir, if Costa Rica can do USA can do it too.
    — ram, pune

    Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader
    14.April 12, 2009 8:47 am

    You neglected to point out that Costa Rica has been the only US diplomatic success story in Latin America.

    We signed a treaty guaranteeing protection to Costa Rica if it did not maintain an army. Without an army there were no military coups. Money could be spent on items useful to the common good, as you describe. National wealth was not squandered on civil wars and arms purchases.

    Without an army, the large land-owners could not cry "Communism" and brutally suppress the peasants when they asked for justice and reform. And we wold not have come in to stifle progress in the name of fighting communism.

    Imagine if we had made similar treaties with all the small countries in Central America. What a different history the region would have had.
    — John McGrath, Providence, RI

    Recommend Recommended by 7 Readers
    15.April 12, 2009 8:47 am

    A carbon tax is an essential thing that needs to be done to save the planet from climate catastrophe.

    But an even more fundamental thing is fixing up the monetary system, which actually provides "incentives" for people to waste food, energy and consumer goods. We need a monetary system that rewards people for not wasting. And this starts by fixing up the fractional reserve banking system, that is tied to the petrodollar agreement between USA and OPEC.
    — vakibs, grenoble

  10. It would be interesting to see if any of the big blogs pick this up. The NY Times edited my comment out, but I did catch a couple of their employees linked to the EB reading it.

  11. Here is one. Of course, they do not want to have facts interfere with a "Pulitzer prize" piece by Uncle Tom.

    Domain Name (Unknown)
    IP Address 170.149.100.# (The New York Times)
    ISP The New York Times
    Continent : North America
    Country : United States (Facts)
    State : New York
    City : New York
    Lat/Long : 40.7619, -73.9763 (Map)
    Language English (U.S.)
    Operating System Macintosh MacOSX
    Browser Firefox
    Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; Intel Mac OS X 10.5; en-US; rv:1.9) Gecko/2008061004 Firefox/3.0
    Javascript version 1.5
    Resolution : 1280 x 800
    Color Depth : 24 bits
    Time of Visit Apr 12 2009 10:00:05 am

  12. April 12, 2009 10:50 am

    Costa Rica is well on its way to becoming 100% energy independent. No dirty oil or coal needed here thank you very much! (what a great place to go for a healthy vacation)

    Its expanding wind farms will operate at full capacity during most of the region's dry season from December to May. Up until now Costa Rica had to import electricity expensively during that time because the country's hydropower stations could operate only at partial load. Thus wind power will become a valuable export for Costa Rica as it provides a perfect complement to hydro-power. Not only will wind electricity can provide needed electricity when the dams have low water levels but hydro-electricity may be saved to be used for a windless day. This integration of wind and hydro will allow Costa Rica to soon achieve 100% clean renewable electrcity.

    A similar integration of hydro-electricity and wind electricity can help the US and Canada kick the oil addiction. 330 GW of offshore wind potential is waiting to be developed a short distance along the East Coast from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras according to Delaware researchers ( According to this study offshore wind energy potential can suffice for 100% of the electricity needs, transportation (with electric cars), and heating buildings for the dense population along the coast. Canada vast hydro-electric potential of 100 GW is more than adequate to provide 100% back up for windless days. (

    Al Gore’s goal for 100% clean renewable electricity is not a technological or an economic problem it is a political problem, as gigantic oil and coal vested interests are attempting to prevent North America from becoming another Costa Rica. However forces bigger than their power is fueling global renewable energy expansion that it much bigger than their power: market forces.
    — Lefteris Pavlides, Providence, RI

  13. For Rufus, the Arab oil dick sucker

    Modern Israeli Inventions ^
    Posted on March 21, 2006 10:33:57 AM EST by fishtank

    Israel, the 100th smallest country, with less than 1/1000th of the world's population, can lay claim to the following:

    Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world.

    Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation by a large margin - 109 per 10,000 people - as well as one of the highest per capita rates of patents filed.

    In proportion to its population, Israel has the largest number of startup companies in the world. In absolute terms, Israel has the largest number of startup companies than any other country in the world, except the US (3,500 companies mostly in hi-tech).

    Israel is ranked #2 in the world for venture capital funds right behind the US.

    Outside the United States and Canada, Israel has the largest number of NASDAQ listed companies.

    Israel has the highest average living standards in the Middle East. The per capita income in 2000 was over $17,500, exceeding that of the UK.

    With an aerial arsenal of over 250 F-16s, Israel has the largest fleet of the aircraft outside of the US.

    Israel's $100 billion economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined.

    On a per capita basis, Israel has the largest number of biotech start-ups.

    Twenty-four percent of Israel's workforce holds university degrees - ranking third in the industrialized world, after the United States and Holland - and 12 percent hold advanced degrees.

    Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East.

    In 1984 and 1991, Israel airlifted a total of 22,000 Ethiopian Jews at risk in Ethiopia to safety in Israel.

    When Golda Meir was elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1969, she became the world's second elected female leader in modern times.

    When the U. S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya was bombed in 1998, Israeli rescue teams were on the scene within a day - and saved three victims from the rubble.

    Israel has the third highest rate of entrepreneurship - and the highest rate among women and among people over 55 - in the world.

    Relative to its population, Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on earth. Immigrants come in search of democracy, religious freedom, and economic opportunity.

    Israel was the first nation in the world to adopt the Kimberly process, an international standard that certifies diamonds as "conflict free."

    According to industry officials, Israel designed the airline industry's most impenetrable flight security. U. S. officials now look to Israel for advice on how to handle airborne security threats.

    In 1991, during the Gulf War, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra played a concert wearing gas masks as scud missiles fired by Saddam Hussein fell on Tel Aviv.

    Israel has the world's second highest per capita of new books.

    Israel is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees, made more remarkable because this was achieved in an area considered mainly desert.

    Israel has more museums per capita than any other country.

    Medicine... Israeli scientists developed the first fully computerized,no-radiation, diagnostic instrumentation for breast cancer.

    An Israeli company developed a computerized system for ensuring proper

    administration of medications, thus removing human error from medical treatment. Every year in U. S. hospitals 7,000 patients die from treatment mistakes.

    Israel's Givun imaging developed the first ingestible video camera, so small it fits inside a pill. Used to view the small intestine from the inside, the camera helps doctors diagnose cancer and digestive disorders.

    Researchers in Israel developed a new device that directly helps the heart pump blood, an innovation with the potential to save lives among those with heart failure. The new device is synchronized with the heart's mechanical operations through a sophisticated system of sensors.

    Technology... With more than 3,000 high-tech companies and start-ups, Israel has the highest concentration of hi-tech companies in the world (apart from the Silicon Valley).

    In response to serious water shortages, Israeli engineers and agriculturalists developed a revolutionary drip irrigation system to minimize the amount of water used to grow crops.

    Israel has the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita.

    Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce, with 145 per 10,000, as opposed to 85 in the U. S., over 70 in Japan, and less than 60 in Germany. With over 25% of its work force employed in technical professions. Israel places first in this category as well.

    The cell phone was developed in Israel by Motorola, which has its largest development center in Israel.

    Most of the Windows NT operating system was developed by Microsoft-Israel.

    The Pentium MMX Chip technology was designed in Israel at Intel.

    Voice mail technology was developed in Israel.

    Both Microsoft and Cisco built their only R&D facilities outside the US in Israel.

    The AOL Instant Messenger was developed in 1996 by four young Israelis.

    A new acne treatment developed in Israel, the ClearLight device,produces a high-intensity, ultraviolet-light-free, narrow-band blue light that causes acne bacteria to self-destruct - all without damaging surroundings skin or tissue.

    An Israeli company was the first to develop and install a large-scale solar-powered and fully functional electricity generating plant, in southern California's Mojave desert."

    All the above while engaged in regular wars with an implacable enemy that seeks its destruction, and an economy continuously under strain by having to spend more per capita on its own protection than any other country on earth. This from a country just 55 years young having started off life on a very frontiers-like basis, whose population had mostly just emerged from the devastating World War II years.

  14. Another comment:

    We have lived in Costa Rica for five years now, and I can only say that the country we have lived and travelled extensively in is not the country Tom Friedman is writing about here. A few quick statistics...the Virilla river that runs through the center of the San Jose metropolitan area is the most polluted river in Central America, over 90% of Costa Ricans have no access to sewage treatment, several of the country's cities have very iffy access to landfill services and trash collection is a perennial crisis. The entrance fees from the national parks, which Mr. Friedman probably visited, don't go to MINAET to maintain the parks(the health department nearly shut one down two months ago because raw sewage was too close to the beach), that money goes right to central government budget. By one calculation only about 13% of what tourists and Costa Ricans pay in park entrance fees actually go back into the parks.

    As for the wisdom of including the environment and mining (and now telecommunications) in the same ministry, there is also the possibility of growth trumping nature. An example of this occurred just a couple of months ago, when President Oscar Arias and his environment minister cosigned a decree allowing a gold mining company to cut down over a hundred trees in a northern neotropical reserve, trees that the endangered Green Macaw needs to reproduce. For a gold mine!

    I could go on, and other newspapers have (see the Miami Herald article about the scourge of pineapple plantations destroying habitat and watersheds in Costa Rica). Unfortunately, Costa Rica seems to be this permanent Shangri La for U.S. travellers and observers. Local journalists at La Nacion and even the expatriate paper the Tico Times don't hide the truth, and do Costa Rica much more of a service in telling the unpleasant truth than most international media do in simply helping the Costa Rican tourist board propagate its green image.

    Mr. Friedman, if you are still in Costa Rica, please use your real journalistic talents and ask some people about what is happening in places like Crucitas (the gold mine), Sardinal (where the local water supply is under threat to serve coastal hotels), and the fila Costena in southern region of the country where luxury homes have caused serious deforestation threatening downslope mangrove swamps. With all due respect (and regard) Costa Rica needs Tom Friedman the journalist, not Tom Friedman the well-connected columnist on vacation.
    — Scott Pentzer, Costa Rica

  15. Yeah, they're great. They're soopermens. Then they can do without my charity. Fuck'em.

  16. Deuce, TWO Excellent Posts, back to back.

    Someone said this should be what blogging is all about. I say, "THIS is what Journalism is all about.

    ***** (five stars)

  17. Well, almost back to back. (referring to the UAV deal, of course.)

  18. Exactly rufus, here's to an Israel INDEPENDENT of US.

    Trouble is we'll all be dead, first.

    The perpetual needy cousin.

    The one that's always there with a hand out, wanting gifts and stealing what is not freely offered.

  19. From the list wi"o" the one thing that seems clear, they have more than their fair share of lawyers.

  20. Well I got to say you're honest to a fault deuce, selling condos in Costa Rica and giving out all this'd never make it in the advertising game :)

    Dare I ask where the turds from the condos go?

  21. green as an Irishman's ass on St. Patty's day.

  22. Neanderthal Man moves up a notch--

    Pronounced Nay-an-der tahl and now spelled Neandertal, the name first appeared as Neanderthal when the famous fossil was discovered in the summer of 1956. Neander is the Greek rendition of Neumann (new man). The Greek form was adopted by the family of a seventeenth-centruy German hymm composer, Joachim Newmann. Thal was German for "valley" before the spelling change of 1901, when it became Tal. Neandertal then was Newman's Valley near Dusseldorf....

    Before the First World War both the German and English literature treated Neadertals as an earlier stage in human evolution that had become transformed through time into anatomically modrn form. Under Boule's influence the Neadertals were perceived in caricature and regarded as having been replaced by an invasion of modern-appearing humans who came from "the East." There is no archaeological or anatomical support for this interpretation, although it is the view now held by most students of human "evolution." Various estimates of Neandertal stature show males ranging from 5'5" to 5'9" and females from 5'0" to 5'1". Male body weight has been estimated to run from 198 to 220 pounds. Cranial capacity was larger than the modern average but perfectly in proportion to their greater body weight. Clearly Neandertals were characterized by a degree of skeletal robustness and muscularity well beyond the more recent human average. With intellectual and linguistic capabilities probably at modern levels, the Neandertals qualify as an archaic form of Homo sapiens.

    The conversion of Neandertal into modern human form was accomplished by a reduction in those manifestations of robustness as a result of technological innovations that allowed them to gain subsistence with less expenditure of effort. Analysis of trace elements shows that their intake of animal protein was approximately the same as that which characterizes the wolf. The use of traps and snares, however, greatly reduced the amount of effort needed to bring food home. Most mutations reduce the trait they control, and when selection that maintains robustness is relaxed, its manifestations will show a reduction. The cooking of food will reduce the intensity of selection that maintains tooth size. During the last glaciation Neandertals were using earth ovens to thaw food that froze, and a reduction in tooth size can be shown from 130,000 years ago in a straight line of 1% every 2,000 years until the end of the Pleistocene around 100,000 years ago.

    Preliminary mtDNA comparisons show that the Neadertals differ more from the condition in living humans than the average difference between populations of the living. The distinction between Neandertals and living humans, however, is not as great as the mtDNA differences between populations of chimpanzees or even the differences within populations of chimpanzees.

    from "Evolution: The First Four Billion Years"

    Too much easy living ruins the teeth, collapses the muscles, shrinks the brain....The Neadertals would by now be fit to dine with us at the Ritz, or at
    Ronald's McDonalds....

  23. rufus said...
    Yeah, they're great. They're soopermens. Then they can do without my charity. Fuck'em.

    Yep rufus... America has fucked them...

    from doing NOTHING in ww2 and allowing 6 million to be murdered, to turning BACK boatloads of refugees to Nazi germany, from spying on Israel and telling the egyptians where to attack (that's your liberty story) to forcing a land for peace on Israel that sits on 1/650th of the land mass of the middle east and arming the arabs to the teeth...

    Yes America has fucked the Israelis...

    and helped them too...

    But you love the Arab oil dick so much you can see past that black shit crusted around your lips....

    Rufus... You want to write of Israel so fast? Fine, your not a friend of Israel anyway.. No great loss...

    But please stop telling Israel when to stop fighting her enemies

    Face your double standards....

    Israel CAN and will take care of herself, with or without the USA, after all for the 1st quarter of her being America did NOTHING to help her, only when AMERICA wanted help against the USSR did Israel get help...

    It's amazing how easy you can toss to the wolves an entire people... I guess you have that camp guard blood in you....

  24. desert rat:

    The one that's always there with a hand out, wanting gifts and stealing what is not freely offered.

    hey rat, I heard your father was killed in a concentration camp during ww2...

    falling from one of the guard towers must really hurt...

  25. The New York Times, never had the courage to post my comment.

  26. Huh? How did Thomas Friedman's visit to Costa Rica end up in Israel?

    Damn, those Israelis ARE amazing...

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