Friday, February 28, 2003

Amiland links to this article on Spanish diplomacy and Spain's place in the world from the International Herald Tribune. I think it's very good and have nothing much to add, except that I'm not worried about the PP's performance in the upcoming elections. They'll suffer a few losses but nothing huge--a couple of mayoralties and a region or two. The PP will continue to control regional and local governments almost everywhere but the Basque country, Andalusia, and Catalonia.

By the way, the article is seven pages long--you need to click on the almost invisible "Next Page" in the lower right.
The Vanguardia has recently been publishing a lot of lefty America-bashing by international lefties; today they've got one by Robert Fisk, and they've printed a couple more of Fisk's screeds in the last week or so. It's the same-old same-old. Naomi Klein got a couple of chances, too. Now, I do not agree with anything these two people say. I think they're idiots. However, I do not think they are bad people, nor do I think they are dishonest.

I do not feel the same way about Gore Vidal, though. Gore Vidal is scum. Gore Vidal is what you scrape off the bottom of your shoes after a day walking the streets of Barcelona. Gore Vidal hates Jews with a passion. He is a bitchy, catty, gossipy old queen. If you want to be sickened by amorality, read Vidal's autobiography. He got interviewed by Clarín, the Argentinian paper, and the Vangua picked it up and reprinted it on Wednesday. Here are some excerpts.

About conspiracy theories. We're a country full of accidents. We keep assassinating public men and we never find out who did it. It doesn't seem like we care too much. Then people tell me, "Oh, you're a conspiracy theorist," and start laughing hysterically. There's another extraordinary thing that I pointed out recently on television. Look: the first Bush was with the Carlyle petroleum group; the second, with Harkins Oil; Vice-President Cheney, with Halliburton Oil; Gale Norton, the interior Secretary, is also connected to petroleum. Condoleeza Rice is related with Exxon and Texaco, and the boss of the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld, was Occidental Petroleum's man. While I was speaking, I saw they were already trying to minimize it. So I said, "I'm not going to say there's a conspiracy. I don't believe in conspiracies. But are you telling me that it is a coincidence that they're leading the US and that we're about to go to war for the oil in Iraq?"

First, we're not going to war for the oil in Iraq. I've already posted about why, as have a lot of other people, and I don't think I need to post it again. Second, it's not unusual that a group of several important people should all have worked in the petroleum industry. It's one of the most important industries of our time. A hundred years ago all politicians had ties with the railroads. Two centuries ago all politicians had ties either with the shipping industry or with plantation agriculture. Third, Vidal shows what a rat he is with his little sally saying that he's not calling it a conspiracy while implying it is. Vidal is accusing the leaders of the United States of conspiring for the benefit of the oil industry. He is saying that they are guilty of war crimes and corruption and abuse of power, since going to war to steal another country's resources is obviously not a just war. But they can't sue him for libel because he weaseled out of making a direct statement of what he is implying. Oh, and fourth, three important men have been assassinated in America since World War II. We know that Oswald killed John Kennedy, Ray killed Martin Luther King, and Sirhan killed Robert Kennedy. Vidal, of course, believes that all three murders were some kind of CIA-Pentagon-Mafia plot. What this means is that he believes that our elected government is a front for the mysterious men who really run things, and that those mysterious men are killers.

Remember: saying "No blood for oil" is saying that the United States, British, Spanish, Italian, Australian, and Eastern European governments are international war criminals. That's a very serious charge to make and I am disgusted that so many people are making it so lightly. But not surprised.

(On September 11) During an hour and a half they knew that the airliners that had taken off from Boston had been hijacked. The FAA followed them on the radar and saw that they were heading for Washington. The FAA has a law saying (my father was once the director and I believe he was the one who made this law) that in case of any kind of hijacking, the air force should intervene within four or five minutes. It didn't. This called my attention. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it was a conspiracy. A conspiracy of whom? Why didn't they intervene?

Vidal weasels out of calling it a conspiracy again while implying that there was one--a conspiracy to destroy the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the World Trade Center that resulted in 3000 deaths, presumably so we'll have an excuse to grab the oil. Vidal is accusing the Bush Administration of being a gang of mass murderers. That is an extraordinary claim and it requires extraordinary evidence, which Vidal does not provide.

Vidal goes on to accuse Bush of not having properly organized investigations into September 11, the Democratic leadership of behaving like sheep, the CIA of conspiring with the Pakistani secret services to funnel money to Mohammed Atta, the whole government of "suspending our civil rights", and the British of being Bush's lapdog for political and economic reasons.

I don't think Vidal is an agent of some kind of international conspiracy to defame America. I think he's just an asshole.
Good stuff, as usual, is up at Ibidem. Chicago Boyz also has several good posts up, and these guys are no dummies. Craig Schamp has some Franco-Deutsch jokes that are pretty funny. Merde in France rocks. John Bono always has plenty of good stuff up. This guy is not a bad writer. Check out his archives. The People's Republic of Seabrook is a clever, well-written site. Eamonn from Rainy Day is an Irishman writing from Munich. Check his stuff out.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Today's Vangua is reporting that Bush said that Saddam's overthrow will lead toward the possibility of "a viable Palestinian state". Bad, bad move, George, if what you mean is that a Palestinian state will be possible with the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority, also known as "that gang of criminals and murderers". Now, if we get rid of Saddam, that'll be one fewer source of money, shelter, training, and weapons for Arafat and his thugs, but it won't change the Arab-Israeli problem one bit. Maybe getting rid of Saddam will force the Saudis to give up funding all the terrorists they have been funding over the years, and that'll force a change in the Palestinian leadership. I dunno. We could speculate all day. But I think linking Gulf War II with the Palestinian problem is not a good idea at all.

The White House is also calculating that the war will cost us $95 billion and we're not likely to get the subsidies we got form the Japanese and Arabs last time. Yeah, right, we're doing it for the oil. Aznar met Chirac in Paris yesterday and the official announcement after the meeting said that the two countries disagreed, but in a friendly way. Tony Blair got hit by a backbench revolt from his own party; a motion of no confidence gained 199 votes out of 659. Almost all the Lib Dems, all the nationalists, a good few left-wing Laborites (rumor has it Gordon Brown is sharpening his knife, but I don't buy it, not over a national-security issue), and a few dumbass Tories like Kenneth Clarke. They're saying this looks bad for Tony. Wait till the war is over before we decide what looks good or bad. And, of course, the most important question is not what fickle public opinion thinks right now but about what history will say in a hundred years. Wanna bet the leaders of the capitalist democracies are more likely to be on the right side of history, especially when the opposition is Schröder, Saddam, Putin, Chirac, and whoever's running China? What a collection of mediocrities. Saddam will be remembered for possessing the evil of Hitler combined with the competence of Mussolini. Putin is no Havel. Schröder is no Adenauer. Chirac is, unfortunately, a Blum or a Daladier. Blair will be remembered as a slick politician who came up trumps when it counted, showing more backbone than anyone figured, a lot like Franklin D. Roosevelt. That's pretty good. I think Roosevelt is overrated, but he did show real backbone against the Axis and is justifiably celebrated for that, despite his other shortcomings.

Dan Rather interviewed Saddam, who didn't say anything we didn't figure he would say. Rather, however, failed to ask Mr. Hussein what the frequency was. He also addressed the Iraqi dictator as "Mr. President", rather than "Kenneth".

Aznar said that he "wouldn't trade security for votes". Well said, Mr. Aznar! Meanwhile, Aznar's popularity has dropped but he's still holding a two-point lead over the Socialists in "voting intention", and the PP always does two or three points better in the real election than the surveys say. This is as rock-bottom as Aznar's popularity is going to fall, since it will rise again after the war is won.

Spain is sending its aircraft carrier, the Principe de Asturias, which carries some 20 Harriers and helicopters, on combined maneuvers with the Italians in the Mediterranean. That gets it several hundred miles closer to the Syrian coast. The carrier is the jewel of the crown as far as the Spanish military goes. In addition, several other Spanish ships are going on antisubmarine maneuvers with those of other NATO countries in the Ionian Sea.

Barça went into Milan last night and came out with an 0-0 tie against Inter, breaking their streak of 11 consecutive victories in the Champions' League. Both teams played highly defensively during the whole game; Vieri was Inter's only forward, and he didn't do anything much. For the Barça, Cocu tore a ligament and will be out at least two months; he'll be replaced by some combination of Gabri, Gerard, and Luis Enrique. Gabri had a good game last night at right defenseman. Puyol, in the middle, got banged in the head going up for a high ball and had to be substituted, since his eye swelled up. He might miss next weekend's Spanish league game against Osasuna. Andersson played competently during the rest of the game. Good thing he's healthy again because they're going to need him; he's a solid defender who they signed from Bayern Munich a couple of years ago right after Bayern won the Champions'. He then got hurt instantly and hasn't played until now. Luis Enrique didn't play, I don't know why, because he's supposed to be healthy again. Riquelme got in the game late and did OK. Saviola didn't do much and Kluivert wandered around aimlessly as if he were a midfielder. Rochemback did OK as a defensive midfielder on the right side. Lots of defense. It was really pretty boring. Imagine an 0-0 hockey game, but with fewer fights.
Here's a link to the CIA Factbook for Spain. I thought this was pretty interesting. It contains an extensive list of economic, political, and social data. From here, besides the Spain info, you can access, first, a listing of all countries' statistics on each particular datum--e.g. telephone lines per 1000 people or whatever--for purposes of comparison, by clicking on the second icon (not the open book, the other one) for each datum, and second, the same extensive report on any other country in particular. I suggest that people look up a couple of the Latin American countries and see how their data compare with, say, those of an Eastern European country, an Arab country, an East Asian country, and an African country. Just pick fairly standard countries--say, compare Peru and Hungary and Syria and Thailand and Ghana. See if you can make any generalizations from that. I don't know if I've succeeded. If I do, I'll let you know. I'm sure y'all are waiting with bated breath.

I thought this paragraph was interesting:

Spain and UK are discussing "total shared sovereignty" over Gibraltar, subject to a constitutional referendum by Gibraltarians, who have largely expressed opposition to any form of cession to Spain; Spain controls the coastal enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, which Morocco contests, as well as the islands of Penon de Alhucemas, Penon de Velez de la Gomera, and Islas Chafarinas; Morocco rejected Spain's unilateral designation of a median line from the Canary Islands in 2002 to explore undersea resources and to interdict illegal refugees from Africa.

The emphasis is mine.

Other things I thought were interesting were: In 1997 Spain had 9000 kilometers of expressways. Now, Spain is a big country, the size of Texas, but when I first came here, in 1987, there wasn't a four-lane road all the way from Barcelona to Madrid, and the road from Córdoba to Granada was just barely two-lane. This is a major change; here's an important piece of infrastructure that's jumped from high-Third World level to real European level. Since they're still building expressways all over the country, I figure Spain has well over 12,000 km of them by now.

The countries with which Spain has the most international commerce are France, Geramany, and Italy, in order. The US provides 4.5% of Spanish imports and takes 4.4% of Spanish exports; I'd figured it would be more. Latin America provides only 2% of Spanish imports and takes only 4% of Spanish exports; I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the lack of imports from Latin America, because I don't think there are any but coffee--it's hard to find anything Latin American here. I thought Latin America was an important buyer of Spanish imports, though, but they're not.

Spanish electricity production is 57% from fossil fuels, 12% from hydro, 3% from "other sources", and 28% from nuclear plants. I thought hydro was much more important, and I'm surprised at how dependent Spain is on nuclear power. Agriculture provides only 4% of the Spanish GDP, which I find surprising, because of Spain's enormous fruit and vegetable production--it feeds half of Europe--and I'd thought that the traditional Spanish crops, wine grapes and olives, were lucrative crops per hectare. In addition, Spain has huge pork and poultry industries and a large dairy industry; it exports a lot of this stuff to the rest of Europe as well. I keep forgetting that Spain is now a major economic power, with the fifth largest economy in Europe.

By the way, today's Vanguardia is reporting that Aznar has said that he wants Spain to be a "First Division" country; there's a nice soccer metaphor. He's succeeded, as the Vangua publishes a photo of some demonstrators in Cairo holding up a sign that says: "New Axis of Evil=USA UK Italy Spain". Cool! Spain's important enough to get bashed by the Islamofascists! Seriously, I believe that Mr. Aznar is very much enjoying feeling himself a major world leader. Well, he is one now. The anti-PP Spanish press, which is most of it except ABC, has been publishing a flood of editorial cartoons trying to ridicule Aznar's world standing, showing Bush as the sheriff and Aznar as his subservient deputy. For some reason they're all using the same tired image. The truth is that Mr. Aznar has fairly won the esteem and high regard of the American and the British governments, and this cannot but be a good thing for Spain.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

I have a suggestion to make to other Eurobloggers (that is, other bloggers who write about Europe, wherever they live or come from). Let's put together a joint blog that would consist of column-length and -style pieces rather than the informal entries that we usually blog. I'd be willing to contribute a column a week, and if four other people (of course, the more the merrier) want to sign on, too, that'd give us a minimum of five quality pieces a week. People would pay attention, I think; at the very least all our regular readers would be interested and I'll bet we could attract a good few more as a group. Anyone interested?

Possible boring name: Euroblog. Possible more interesting name: Euro Sex Snack Blog. There used to be a dive called the Euro Sex Snack Bar on the Ramblas across the street from the Plaza Real. It was apparently a clip joint with strippers. Once this dumb German guy who was living in the same hostal I was (this was 1988 and he was kind of a dirtbag. He was evading his military service) went in there with no money and ordered like six double whiskeys and tried to leave without paying and they stripped him to his underwear and threw him out in the street. This same guy sneaked a hooker into his room and she stole whatever stuff he had left and the owner kicked him out. Anyway, I personally never went in the Euro Sex Snack Bar. Really. I've never even been in Barcelona's notorious Bagdad Club, where audience participation is encouraged in the stage show, if you know what I mean, and I'll bet you do. The story is they used to have a donkey that, uh, performed live on stage, until the Protectora de Animales showed up and took it away.
The Vanguardia leads off today with the headline "Bush says another resolution 'unnecessary'." Bush made it clear that he wants another UN resolution to pass, but if it doesn't, he considers the US to be operating with UN permission anyway because of Resolution 1441 and the 16 previous UN resolutions censuring Saddam. Meanwhile, sources within the Spanish government said scornfully, "If France uses its veto, that'll be their last veto in history", since the UN will lose all authority if it is seen to be openly defied by the United States.

Aznar and Blair are sticking by Bush though it's going to cost them, short-term, in popularity. Big deal. After the war is won nearly bloodlessly and all of Saddam's atrocities are revealed--and they are going to shock the world--it will suddenly be a very popular war. Aznar and Blair and Berlusconi will look like strong leaders who took a stand. Chirac and Schröder will look like what they are: weasels. The Belgians will embarrasedly look to make some other international news, perhaps another bribery scandal involving the royal family or another ring of pederast murderers ignored by the police. The Spanish Left will claim that the anti-American demonstrations of the 15th were a glorious popular outcry against war in general rather than a tantrum thrown at the United States in general and the war on Saddam in particular.

The Vanguardia is making an extremely big deal out of the Vatican's--well, Angelo Sodano and Jean-Louis Tauran's--stand aginst the war on Iraq; Aznar is going to Rome tomorrow to see the Pope and the guys who do the actual work. (Note: I do not think these guys are manipulating the Pope. I see the Pope as someone like Reagan, someone who set the general tone of leadership, made the final decisions, and left the detail work to competent, well-chosen associates. Sodano and Tauran and Navarro Valls are certainly competent, and I'm sure they are following the Pope's general instructions.) I'll bet Aznar's visit does no good at all.

Jesús Gil from Ibidem had a good post a couple of days ago in which he warned about Catholic-bashing, which he is absolutely right to caution about, and pointed out that it's the Pope's responsibility to work toward peace. What's he supposed to do, cheerlead for a war?

I dunno. One thing is that the Church is not a pacifist organization and never has been. In fact, the Church has often justified war. (The Quakers, say, are really pacifists.) Therefore, it seems to me that the Pope is being unfair in his judgment. Right now there are ten or twenty wars, depending on how you count them, happening around the world. I haven't heard the Church speak out against any of them, and especially not about the French intervention in the Ivory Coast. I think, therefore, that the Vatican is being partial and the part it's taking is against the United States, since the only war that it is speaking out against is the war on Saddam--a war that is as justified as any in history, in my view. I also believe that this partiality is due to the Latin European cultural outlook of those who hold the important posts in the Church hierarchy.

Another thing I find very disturbing is the attitude among Catholic circles in Spain that there is a conspiracy against them in the United States. Their evidence is that there has been a "media campaign" about the wave of cases of child sexual abuse over the past couple of years in the United States. I personally believe that it's difficult to be much lower than a child-molester, and enough Catholic priests were child-molesters, lifelong pedophiles who behaved upon their urges, that this is a sign of a serious problem within the Church that has to be dealt with openly and honestly. The current Pope is unwilling to deal with the problem. But this is not the worst part about what happened; the worst part is that certain elements within the American Church, bishops and cardinals, knew there was a problem with child-molesting priests and covered it up. This is about as evil as it gets, protecting men who abuse their positions of trust and authority to exploit children sexually. The Church has lost a great deal of moral authority in my eyes, and I will continue to find it wanting until I see a real change. I haven't seen that change. I imagine it will take a new Pope to make a clean break with the past.

The Church needs to greatly modernize itself. Its hierarchy needs to be completely democratized and to become transparent. It needs to do a much better job vetting its priests. It also needs to get rid of the "only single men in the priesthood" rule. It's unnatural to expect people to be celibate all their lives. Most normal people, gay or straight, are thereby excluded from the Church hierarchy; many young Catholics who feel a religious call go over to the Episcopalians or Lutherans instead, where they can work as ministers and live like normal people at the same time. What this means is that there is a sizeable percentage of weirdos among priests. (Personal experience: I've known three Catholic priests. One is a great guy who I went to high school with. He's a real Christian and I admire that. He practices what he preaches. We had a running gag in senior-year American government class: I'd make a comment and end my reasoning with "Because, of course, there is no God." This guy Bill would imitate a lightning flash striking me dead and intone in a deep voice, "You could be wrong." Maybe you had to be there. Cracked up the class, though. One, here in Spain, is a weirdo but not a perv. He is a drunk. I know this because back when I was a drunk I used to drink beer with him. And a third, who lived in the same college dorm as I did, is a major weirdo. He's a perv, all right. I wouldn't turn my kids loose around him if I had kids. I really would not.)

And, by the way, it's simply ridiculous to say that women can't be priests. That attitude is simply not acceptable to the general American or European public any more. In addition, the no-birth-control rule is just plain ridiculous too and a cause of unnecessary deaths from sexually transmitted diseases. Seems to me they could at least legalize barrier methods for reasons of disease prevention. I'll bet all you Catholics have heard this many times before and don't much appreciate us outsiders giving unsolicited advice, but you know the Church is in trouble and needs a major shakeup. There have been major shakeups before; allowing condoms, women priests, and married priests wouldn't be as big a change as those made during Vatican II, and taking these steps would remove a lot of the opposition to and criticism of the Church. And they'd regain the moral authority they used to have, because right now, the fact that the Church opposes the war means about two cents to me. A democratic, modernized, transparent Church--I'd think twice about what they have to say. The Church as it is currently operating--nope.

Here's a little pearl from right-wing Catholic Enric Juliana in today's Vangua: "Catholicism will have to have a showdown with the evangelical fundamentalism of the ruling group in Washington". That is not a very responsible attitude at all, and it is not unusual among Spanish Catholics. Enric Juliana is the guy who keeps complaining about the "moral lynching" of the Church over the pederasty scandals in America. He's one of the elements that just doesn't get it yet. By the way, Bush is a Methodist. Some evangelical fundamentalism. The United Methodist Church is against the war. The only evangelical, as far as I know, who is important in the government is John Ashcroft. He's pretty far right and is too extreme for me. I would not vote for him in an election if the Democrats put up a reasonable candidate. But Ashcroft is not the neo-Nazi that he is often portrayed as. His fundamentalism is non-violent. It's misleading to call both Ashcroft and other American fundies the same thing we call Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda and the Wahabis, because they are two different kinds of fundamentalism.

The Generalitat took a survey about the values of Catalans and especially Catalan young people (ages 18-29) in 2000 and have just gotten around to publicizing it. Only 5.7% of Catalan young people consider themselves to be practicing Catholics. 58.2% consider themselves "nonpracticing" Catholics. The rest, I suppose, are agnostics, atheists, or don't know, don't cares. If this isn't an alarm bell for the Church, I don't know what would be. And check out this table of "basic values"; the percentages are, first, young people who say these things are basic values, and second, all adults.

Value Young people Adults
Family 99% 99%
Friends 97% 88%
Free time 92% 79%
Work 85% 88%
Politics 15% 20%
Religion 10% 33%

This should be another alarm bell. And here comes wake-up call number three: the degree of confidence in the social system. These percentages are of the number of people who trust different influential institutions.

Institution Young people Adults
Educational system 58% 63%
Health care 58% 62%
Catalan parliament 55% 62%
Catalan police 54% 61%
European Union 46% 45%
Spanish police 46% 58%
Spanish parliament 46% 53%
Public administration 41% 41%
UN 41% 36%
Press 40% 40%
NATO 38% 31%
Judicial system 36% 42%
Armed forces 21% 37%
Church 18% 31%

My responses would have been that I trust all of these Spanish institutions to be acting basically honestly and with the public good in mind except for the press and the judicial system, but I only trust the health system, the Spanish Parliament, both police forces, and NATO to act generally competently.
An excellent source of news from Spain, in Spanish, is the online daily newspaper Libertad Digital. It's out of Madrid and has a moderate-conservative leaning. Among its well-known writers are Federico Jiménez Losantos, Amando de Miguel, Carlos Rodríguez Braun, Carlos Alberto Montaner (one of the authors of the Complete Latin American Idiot), Jorge Alcalde, and Andrés Freire. This is a legit, very professionally done site and I should start paying a lot more attention to it. Another source of information that I am going to pay a lot more attention to is the World Press Review Online, which is a wonderful selection of news stories from all around the world, not only America, Spain, and Germany, but also Botswana, Bangladesh, and Bolivia. Fascinating stuff. If you, for some reason, have never been there, you ought to check it out.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Just a trip through a few blogs this afternoon...Amiland has all kinds of good stuff up from Germany. Belligerent Bunny Blog has an updated list of national GDPs per capita, which is very interesting, among bunny photos and weapons info. Cinderella Bloggerfeller has a lot of very erudite stuff--this guy is the best-read blogger there is out there and has a sharp wit as well. Just one thing--change your name, please! The Dissident Frogman has an excellent banner up, as well as commentary from behind the Escargot Curtain. Sasha Castel and Andrew Ian Dodge have gotten married. Opposites must have attracted in this whirlwind courtship, the first blog-marriage I have ever heard of, since operatic Sasha and heavy-metal Andrew seem to have hit it off quite well. Sasha, Sasha, if you had wanted the brilliant and sculpted Jedman, I could have got him for you! Oh, well, your loss. Poor old Jedman does need a girlfriend, though. Hope you females out there think bald guys are cute. Leave flirtatious comments for him here and I'll make sure he gets them. He's actually not a bad-looking guy, in sort of a goofy kind of way.

This crap does actually happen. I've been treated to it more than once in Spain, though never in France or Britain. Most Europeans are basically decent people, and most people in Spain are very nice though they may have political ideas that you would find inane. But it does happen occasionally. Last time it happened to me was about a year ago when a waitress at a neighborhood restaurant started giving me shit after I sent back a salad because it had salsa rosa on it, and I hate salsa rosa. Salsa rosa sucks. It's just mustard and ketchup mixed with a little brandy dumped in. I can't believe people think it's good here. Why would you put that shit on a salad in Spain, the home of extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar? Catalonia's arbequino olives, which come from Remei's area, make terrific olive oil that you can get here for three bucks a liter or so. You can even get varietal vinegars for only a couple of bucks for a liter bottle. They're good. Anyway, the report below is via The Radical.

Monday, February 24, 2003
No Americans Served Here: Rob Nichols, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs for the US Treasury, was on the Eurostar train from London to Paris when he changed his mind about his breakfast order. Nichol's server first mocked the American's indecision and then refused to provide him with cutlery, stating "Give peace a chance." Nichols was obliged to borrow the Secretary of the Treasury's cutlery. When asked whether Eurostar had extended an apology for its employee's behavior, Nichols replied that no apology had been sought.

There's a fascinating book that's only available in Spanish, as far as I know. It's called the Manual of the Complete Latin American...and Spanish...Idiot and it's by three Latin American liberal journalists and writers named Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, who is Colombian, Carlos Alberto Montaner, who's Cuban, and Álvaro Vargas Llosa, who is Peruvian. One of their chapters is titled "Ten Books that Latin American Idiots Love". (They are by no means calling all Latin Americans and Spaniards idiots, just those that still believe in, like, Socialism and stuff.) This comes up because one Régis Débray wrote a nasty op-ed in the New York Times a couple of days ago in which he said all kinds of nasty stuff about the United States. None of it looked too shocking to me, since I'm used to these Porcel-Solé-Haro Tecglen-Vázquez Montalbán Yankee-bashing frenzies that I have so faithfully informed y'all of. Andrew Sullivan and James Taranto sure thought that Débray's rant was out of line, though, and they took him to task for his revolutionary past; James Lileks took the fiskbroom to him.

Well, Régis Débray wrote a book called Revolution within the Revolution? in 1967, and it is one of the ten best-loved books of the Idiot Left according to Mendoza, Montaner, and Vargas Llosa. Here's their take on it, and him.

In the decade of the sixties, Régis Débray--born in Paris in 1941--was a young French journalist, with a degree in sociology, incredibly mature for his age, seduced by Marxist ideas, and--even more--by the Cuban revolution and the photogenic spectacle of a paradisiac Caribbean island governed by audacious bearded men who were preparing the final assault on the imperialist American fortress.

With good prose and a crazy young head predisposed toward sharp analysis, he was received in Havana with open arms. Cuba was a petri dish of men of action, but there was not an abundance of theoreticians capable of giving meaning to the facts or, simply, thinkers competent enough to justify them reasonably well. Che, for example, had published his famous manual "Guerrilla Warfare" and was preparing to put it in practice on the South American stage, but the battle he was on the point of launching left a dangerous flank open: what was the place of the Communist parties and the traditional Marxist-Leninist organizations? Besides, from a theoretical perspective it was necessary to explain the rupture with the old script written by Marx in the 19th century and finished by Lenin in the 20th. Hadn't we agreed that Communism would come as a consequence of the class struggle, egged on by the revolutionary vanguard of the working class organized by the Communist Party?

This is what Revolution within the Revolution? deals with, not as an abstract intellectual exercise, but as an extremely important revolutionary task, absolutely deliberated, which reveals itself with total candidness in a paragraph which says the following: "When Che Guevara reappears (he had "gotten lost" to prepare the uprising in Bolivia), it would not be too adventurous to affirm that he will be at the front of a guerilla movement as the unchallenged political and military leader". Débray, simply, was one more guerrilla soldier, although his mission was not to ambush enemies but to justify actions, rationalize heresies, write in the newspapers, spread revolutionary theses, and open up a space for the comrades in the First World. He was, in the old language of the Cold War, a fellow traveler, totally consciously, and proud of his work.

He'd had some practice. In 1964, under the pseudonym Francisco Vargas, he published in Paris, in the magazine Révolution, a long article ("A Guerrilla Experience") in which he described his visit to the Venezuelan subversives who were then trying to destroy the incipient democracy resurging in the country since the overthrow of Pérez Jiménez (1958). It was this long text which won him the confidence of Castro, the intellectual author and material accomplice of the Venezuelan guerrillas, to whom he sent not only weapons and money, but even his best-loved disciple: Captain Arnaldo Ochoa, shot by a firing squad many years later in 1989, with the rank of general, after ceasing to be sufficiently loyal to him.

In any case, if Che was about to begin his great (and last) adventure, and if this action would provoke the wrath, the rejection, or the indifference of the local Communist parties, dependent upon Moscow, they had to get ahead of the action with a sort of grammar-book of the Cuban revolution: Revolution within the Revolution? The little Frenchie said three fundamental things for the happiness and benefit of Havana as well as for the greater glory of Che: in the first he advised that revolutions in Latin America must emerge from a rural military base which, in its moment, will give birth to a political vanguard. This thesis is referred to as "focusism". In the second he affirms that, when the order of factors is inverted--creating the political vanguard first and then trying to create the "focus" of insurrection--the political organization becomes an end in itself and never manages to forge an armed struggle. With the third, he signals the enemy to be defeated: Yankee imperialism and its local henchmen.

This gibberish--a true conceptual amplification of Guevara's manual--didn't do him much good. A patrol of badly armed Indians shot down the pompous theory of "focusism". Débray was captured by the Bolivian Army after a visit to the guerrillas organized by Guevara and was tried for armed rebellion, despite his protests of innocence based on his journalistic alibi. He admitted, nonetheless, having kept watch a few nights, denied ever having fired at anyone, and asked for the procedural guarantees which he certainly never defended for his hated bourgeois enemies. Fortunately, his captors didn't mistreat him beyond slapping him around a few times, and due to international pressure, after a few months he was released despite the long sentence that he had been given. After his return to Paris he underwent a slow, gradual evolution and, much to his regret, became profoundly hated and held in contempt by his Cuban friends. Débray had learned that within the revolution there was not another revolution, but an immense and bloody lie that led to the deaths of thousands of dreamy adolescents in love with political violence.

By the way, the authors' list of the Ten Books Loved by Idiots consists of:

10. History Will Absolve Me, Fidel Castro, 1953.
9. The Damned of the Earth, Frantz Fanon, 1961.
8. Guerrilla Warfare, Che Guevara, 1960.
7. Revolution..., Débray, 1967.
6. The Elemental Concepts of Historical Materialism, Marta Harnecker, 1969.
5. The One-Dimensional Man, Herbert Marcuse, 1964.
4. How To Read Donald Duck, Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, 1972.
3. Dependence and Development in Latin America, F.H. Cardoso and Enzo Faletto, 1969.
2. Toward a Liberation Theology, Gustavo Gutiérrez, 1971.
1. The Open Veins of Latin America, Eduardo Galeano, 1971. The authors call this "The Idiot's Bible" and devote a whole chapter to fisking some of its most ridiculous assertions.

Monday, February 24, 2003

I was looking around in the Internet Public Library when I found this little 1830s manual titled The Young Man's Guide by Wm. A. Alcott. Mr. Alcott warns young men luridly about the dangers of going to the theater and playing cards and the like, and he points out that spitting on the street is "common", but he reserves his heavy artillery for, you guessed it...

Neither resort to solitary vice. If this practice should not injure your system immediately, it will in the end. I am sorry to be obliged to advert to this subject; but I know there is occasion. Youth, especially those who lead a confined life, seek occasional excitement. Such sometimes resort to this lowest, -- I may say most destructive of practices. Such is the constitution of things, as the Author of Nature has established it, that if every other vicious act were to escape its merited punishment in this world, the one in question could not. Whatever its votaries may think, it never fails, in a single instance, to inure them, personally; and consequently their posterity, should any succeed them.
It is not indeed true that the foregoing vices do of themselvees, produce all this mischief directly; but as Dr. Paley has well said, criminal intercourse 'corrupts and depraves the mind more than any single vice whatsoever.' It gradually benumbs the conscience, and leads on, step by step, to those blacker vices at which the youth once would have shuddered.
But debasing as this vice is, it is scarcely more so than solitary gratification. The former is not always at hand; is attended, it may be, with expense; and with more or less danger of exposure. But the latter is practicable whenever temptation or rather imagination solicits, and appears to the morbid eye of sense, to be attended with not hazard. Alas! what a sad mistake is made here! It is a fact well established by medical men, that every error on this point is injurious; and that the constitution is often more surely or more effectively impaired by causes which do not appear to injure it in the least, than by occasional and heavier shocks, which rouse it to a reaction. The one case may be compared to daily tippling, the other to those periodical drunken follies, which, having an interval of weeks or months between them, give the system time to recover, in part, (but in part only) from the violence it had sustained.
I wish to put the younger portion of my readers upon their guard against a set of wretches who take pains to initiate youth, while yet almost children, into the practice of the vice to which I have here adverted. Domestics -- where the young are too familiar with them -- have been known to be thus ungrateful to their employers. There are, however, people of several classes, who do not hesitate to mislead, in this manner.
But the misfortune is, that this book will not be apt to fall into the hands of those to whom these remarks apply, till the ruinous habit is already formed. And then it is that counsel sometimes comes too late. Should these pages meet the eye of any who have been misled, let them remember that they have begun a career which multitudes repent bitterly; and from which few are apt to return. But there have been instances of reform; therefore none ought to despair. 'What man has done, man may do.'
They should first set before their minds the nature of the practice, and the evils to which it exposes. But here comes the difficulty. What are its legitimate evils? They know indeed that the written laws of God condemn it; but the punishment which those laws threaten, appears to be remote and uncertain. Or if not, they are apt to regard it as the punishment of excess, merely. They, prudent souls, would not, for the world, plunge into excess. Besides, 'they injure none but themselves.' they tell us.
Would it were true that they injured none but themselves! Would there wer not generations yet unborn to suffer by inheriting feeble constitutions, or actual disease, from their progenitors!
Suppose, however, they really injured nobody by themselves. Have they a right to do even this? They will not maintain, for one moment, that they have a right to take away their own life. But what right, then, to they allow themselves to shorten it, or diminish its happiness while it lasts?
Here the questions recurs again: Does solitary gratification actually shorten life, or diminish its happiness?
The very fact that the laws of God forbid it, is an affirmative answer to this question. For nothing is more obvious than that all other vices which that law condemns, stand in the way of our present happiness, as well as the happines of futurity. Is this alone an exception to the general rule?
But I need not make my appeal to this kind of authority. You rely on human testimony. You believe a thousand things which yourselves never saw or heard. Why do you believe them, except upon testimony -- I mean given either verbally, or, what is the same thing, in books?
Now if the accumulated testimony of medical writers from the days of Galen, and Celsus, and Hippocrates, to the present hour, could have any weight with you, it would settle the point at once. I have collected, briefly, the results of medical testimony on this subject, in the next chapter; but if you will take my statements for the present, I will assure you that I have before me documents enough to fill half a volume like this, form those who have studied deeply these subjects, whose united language is, that the practice in question, indulged in any degree, is destructive to body and mind; and that although in vigorous young men, no striking evil may for some time appear, yet the punishment can no more be evaded, except by early death, than the motion of the arth can be hindered. And all this, too, without taking into consideration the terrors of judgments to come.
But why, then, some may ask, are animal propensities given us, if they are not to be indulged? The appropriate reply is, they are to be indulged; but it is only in accordance with the laws of God; never otherwise. And the wisdom of these laws, did they not rest on other and better proof, is amply confirmed by that great body of medical experience already mentioned. God has delegated to man, a sort of subcreative power to perpetuate his own race. Such a wonderful work required a wonderful apparatus. And such is furnished. The texture of organs for this purpose is of the most tender and delicate kind, scarcely equalled by that of the eye, and quite as readily injured; and this fact ought to be known, and considered. But instead of leaving to human choice or caprice the execution of the power thus delegated, the great Creator has made it a matter of duty; and has connected with the lawful discharge of that duty, as with all others, enjoyment. But when this enjoyment is sought in any way, not in accordance with the laws prescribed by reason and revelation, we diminish (whatever giddy youth may suppose, ) the sum total of our own happiness. Now this is not the cold speculation of age, or monkish austerity. It is a sober matter of fact.
Really, there's very little far-right opinion in Spain. There are no far-right political parties, unless you consider the national socialists in ETA to be far-right; I'd just call them far-out. The only far-right talk you'll hear, unless it's immigrant-bashing, which you can find anywhere, is in crummy bars whose aging patrons start knocking off chatos of wine long before lunchtime. These guys never had too many neurons anyway and the ones they've got left are pretty much frazzled.

This puts the lie to what I call the P.J. O'Rourke Fallacy. According to the O'Rourke Fallacy, in order to find out what is really happening in a country, you have to take a tour of the local bars. In my experience, though, the people you meet hanging out in bars--and I've hung out in bars, fairly assiduously, in five countries--tend to be drunks. Drunks may be many things, including, famously, honest, but they do not tend to be well-informed, nor are they highly efficient at processing the little information they have. In fact, they are almost certainly the last people you'd ask about anything if you wanted an intelligent answer to a serious question. You'd do much better inviting yourself to a Rotary Club lunch meeting if you want to meet locals. Or chat up a librarian. They tend to be well-read and know some English, and they're easily found at public libraries. There is, by the way John's Corollary to the O'Rourke Fallacy: The more time you spend hanging out in bars, the more likely you are to get fuddled and woozy and take poor notes.
I just heard a country song with the line, "I was drunk the day my ma got out of prison". And now they're playing a live version of "Okie from Muskogee". Cool.
Manuel Trallero is a rather ironic fellow whom I often disagree with--he does a good bit of America-bashing--but who can't stand the current Catalan government, either. Here's his bit in today's Vanguardia about Convergence and Union "conseller en cap" Artur Mas and the reprehensible proposal on immigration that he made in Quebec the other day. I'll let Trallero explain it.

Artur Mas, on his recent trip to Canada, requested the power to stamp the seal of approval on immigrants' papers, and that they then go to the window that says "Spain" to take care of the rest. The conseller en cap wants them with their Spanish and Catalan well-learned. I really don't think that's too much to ask. I think they should arrive already knowing "El virolai" by heart, eating "mongetes amb botifarra", playing dominoes, knowing what a caganer is, and being able to identify the Barça forward line that one season won the Five Cups. Dancing sardanas, giving a rose and a book on St. Jordi's Day, and watching Buenafuente's TV program get a better score.

We want hand-picked immigrants, nice and showered, and if possible baptized and converted to the true faith that created Europe. It doesn't matter if their names are Mohammed and Fatima as long as their children are named Jordi and Montse. From what we've seen, this and only this is what so-called integration consists of. This is a policy that has had wonderful results in the Francophone province of Canada. Thanks to the vote of the immigrants--to their vote against, of course--Quebec has lost one after another the successive referendums for independence. So, it seems, we Catalans, as usual, do it our way and fail again.

It is, without a doubt, a great achievement that, to carry out such a selection, Catalonia will have its own foreign representatives. And it's an even greater achievement, if that's possible, to have named the same gentleman who left the Republican Left with the contents of the strongbox to found another party, the PI, which he abandoned after an unprecented electoral disaster, to reappear now in a third, Convergence and Union, to become nothing more and nothing less than our man in Morocco. It is at the very least curious that those who wish to enjoy the alleged benefits of the Catalan dream may come to think that all of us Catalans are like Mr. Ángel Colom, a real example for children.

To sum up, we want immigrants who are perfect to preserve our national identity, when, precisely, Catalonia's national identity has consisted of "I tripped and fell here, I guess I'll stay here", as far as the 21st century, which is not just turkey snot. But what does not seem fine to me is that only immigrants have to be perfect, and the rest of the citizens, what about them? So, therefore, I'm anxiously awaiting the day that our authorities pass out certificates of perfect Catalanity, just like you used to have to get a certificate of good conduct in order to get a passport or a drivers' license. They'll probably make me repeat the course in September.

Someone mentioned my Catalan wife. See, my wife is a Catalan girl from the country. She laughs at the idea of anyone handing out certificates of Catalanity because no one could possibly deny her one. She doesn't think Barcelona is a really Catalan city; Catalan people, to her, are from the country and the small towns. She is always polite, but she snickers behind their backs at people who always go around trying to prove they're more Catalan than you. Those people, you see, all have a Castilian surname sometime in their recent genealogy. She doesn't. She's got nothing to prove to anybody. Also, here in Barcelona, a lot of people don't understand country Catalan. What they speak here is an either an educated, artificial "RP Catalan" dialect, like the one they use on TV Catalunya--Remei's friend Gemma, for example, uses that dialect--or a popular dialect heavily influenced in vocabulary and pronunciation by Spanish.

Watching Remei interact with other people in Barcelona is interesting. (In the country, she just uses Catalan.) When we go into a shop, there's always a little bit of feeling the other person out. If the other person seems to be a natural Catalan speaker, Remei instantly goes into country Catalan and you can see the other person's eyes light up a little--"One of us!" If the other person uses Spanish or not-very-good Catalan, she seamlessly flows into Spanish. I am convinced she doesn't do this consciously. I know she doesn't discriminate either, but I note we return to places where they speak Catalan--the basket shop down by the market, the bathroom fittings shop on Providencia, the lighting shop up on the Travessera de Dalt.

One important thing is that country people in Catalonia are pretty much the same as country people anywhere else in northeastern and north central Spain, as in Aragon or Old Castile or Navarra. They just speak a different language, but they think in similar ways--except politically--and they do similar things and live in a similar way. The food is a little different, OK, but that's about it. They're more like one another than either is like the country people of Andalusia to the south or the country people of France to the north. It's the city people, the "we've gotta-prove-we're more-Catalan-than-you" folks, who seize on minor or even invented regional customs (dancing sardanas, building human towers, holding correfocs) and regional foods (escudella i carn d'olla, tomato bread, all i oli, calçots) and declare them the heart and soul of Catalanity. Country people blow all that stuff off (except for the food) and watch the Barça and Spanish TV variety shows while listening to Spanish and international pop music.

Country people even have insulting names for Barcelona people; they are "quemacus", because they always say "Que maco!" (Wow, that's beautiful") when shown something countryish like, say, a field, or they are "pixapins" (pine-pissers), because they stop their cars by the side of the road to take a leak. Barcelona is "Can Fanga", "Mudville". I occasionally refer to Barcelona as Mudville on this blog; that's why. Girona, by the way, is "Can Fums", "Smoketown". Hey, Jesús Gil, next time Barça comes to play in Atlético's stadium, you guys ought to make a big banner telling the Barça players to go back to Can Fanga. Rhyme it with "pachanga". That would "meter un gol a" the Barça fans, since that's a name used only in rural Catalonia. The players wouldn't get it because they're all from Holland and Argentina.
The Vanguardia is reporting that Colin Powell says the war is going to begin "shortly after" the next UN inspectors' report on March 7. They also say the Pentagon wants to attack during the new moon, which will be March 3-11; that fits with shortly after March 7, and that the Americans want to attack before the Iraqi desert starts heating up in April. That all makes sense, at least to me. Anyway, Powell is in Peking trying to bring the Chinese around. Aznar has apparently been given the mission of trying to bring around some of the Arab countries; he called up Qaddafi, of all people, and he's going to talk to the kings of Morocco and Jordan in an effort to gain their support. The king of Spain might get to do something useful here; the Spanish and Jordanian royal families are known to get on well. Our king has no power but theirs does, and if Juanca can actually influence Abdullah, he'll have earned his salary this year.

The EU foreign ministers are meeting today in Brussels. Aznar is going to talk to Chirac on Wednesday; Chirac will be back from his visit to Schröder by then. The Americans will be leaning on Security Council members Angola, Cameroon, and Guinea, whose votes are more or less openly for sale; Pakistan, who will find it very difficult to do more than abstain in the face of a pro-Iraqi public opinion; and Chile and Mexico, both of whom would probably like to vote with the Americans but are afraid their voters will interpret it as selling out to the gringos. There is considerably more anti-American feeling in Mexico than in Chile; on his way to see Bush in Texas over the weekend, Aznar stopped off to see Vicente Fox in Mexico. I have no idea how much good that did. Syria is out of the question; they're not even bothering to try.

The rumor is out that the US, the UK, Spain, and Italy will co-sponsor a second UN resolution this week on the use of force against Iraq. I'm not sure why the Vanguardia says Italy, since they're not on the Security Council. Bulgaria is on the Security Council and is the fourth sure vote the Alliance has. Chile is a likely five. The three African votes make eight. Mexico and Pakistan both look like pretty tough nuts to crack for a yes vote. French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin is now saying that he sees no reason for a second resolution and that UN inspections should continue. Hans Blix, meanwhile, said that "Iraq has no credibility, and if they ever had any they lost it in 1991". Blix, working for the supposedly neutral UN and a native of historically neutral country Sweden, seems more put out by Saddam than do Chirac and Schröder, leaders of former US allies.

The Vangua is trying to float the rumor that Bush is mongering war so he can get reelected. Let's see, first it was the oil, then it was the water, then it was the media, then it was testing out the weapons for the arms manufacturers, and now it's getting reelected. Any other ulterior motives out there for grabbing Saddam and hanging him off a lamppost? Oh, yeah, could be because Bush knows Saddam is a threat to peace and stability and has to go somewhere, either into exile on the French Riviera next door to Baby Doc Duvalier or, preferably, straight to hell. Naah, that's too obvious. Can't possibly be true. There's gotta be a conspiracy somewhere, and if we can't find one we'll just make it up.

How many conspiracy theorists does it take to change a lightbulb?

They gave Pedro Almodóvar another award, this time in England. Mr. Mushroom Hair took advantage of the occasion to say something monumentally goofy that nobody understood and which he failed to explain. It was something about America being a dark force. I think somebody ought to take a two-by-four to Mr. Almodóvar. Oh, I don't mean beat him half to death, just smack him across the butt a couple of times. Even better, we could hold him down and shave his head. Serious violence is reserved for Chevy Chase. God, I hate Chevy Chase. Even more than I hate Joe Piscopo.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Anecdote: the Vanguardia reporter on the way to Bush's ranch saw what she thought was the "first and only antiwar demonstrator in Texas" holding up a hand-lettered sign. Nope. It was a high school kid advertising a bake sale. Anyway, Aznar and Bush were all, like, friendly and stuff. Bush treated José María to a few hugs and pats on the back and the editorial page says, you know, maybe it's not a bad idea for Spain to be friendly to America.

Tony Blair went to Rome, where he had a very nice audience with the Pope and then met with the people running the Vatican, Secretary of State Angelo Sodano and "Foreign Affairs minister" Jean-Louis Taurin. They told him that going to war with Saddam would be inhumanitarian because it would just make the situation "caused by the embargo" worse. I figure that if we can take out Saddam and his regime fairly cleanly and bloodlessly, which I think we can do, Iraq will instantly be flooded with humanitarian aid from all sides and the embargo will instantly stopped. Then the Iraqis can sell their oil and, like, invest the profits in fixing the country instead of building massive palaces and nasty weapons for a murderous thug. The Vangua is floating the rumor that Blair plans to convert to Catholicism after his mandate as P.M. is over

Comparing Saddam to Hitler is not fair. Hitler was much weirder. Saddam is a good old Timur or Genghis Khan-style Central Asian tribal gangster, and he's got a certain amount of Stalin in him as well. Do not expect this guy to go gently into that good night.

The Vangua's weekly alleged humor section today features a cartoon genealogy of President Bush; he's descended from one "Monkey Fitzgerald Bush", whose daughter "Lucy" mated with a donkey and gave rise to the Bush family we know. It's interesting how we tend to portray those we despise as subhuman. Der Stürmer used to do that a lot.

Things are getting unpleasant in the Basque Country. The closed-down newspaper accused of being an ETA front, "Egunkaria", is pulling the same stunt these people always pull when declared illegal; they've changed the name to "Egunero" and it's business as usual. They got about 50,000 ETA sympathizers out on the streets of San Sebastián to demonstrate against government repression; these people are from the ETA front party Herri Batasuna, the Basque nationalist party PNV, and the Communists. Cataloonies Esquerra Republicana are backing Egunwhatever, as is the Cataloony wing of Convergence and Union. International imbecile José Bové showed up at the demo in Bilbao. The Socialists are supporting the PP government for now. The PP have offered to combine with the Socialists and run a joint anti-ETA candidacy in the next Basque elections. The Socialists are saying no so far. Wait till ETA knocks a few more of them off--or don't they remember ex-Socialist minister, Ernest Lluch, a naive pro-dialogue appeaser peacenik, a "useful idiot" if there ever was one (don't get us wrong, he was a good and decent man, but not the brightest), whom ETA shot in the head right here in Barcelona? Or any more of ETA's more than 800 victims?

Twisted evil PNV president Xabier Arzalluz accused the PP of having, you guessed it, a conspiracy in mind. Seems that what they want to do is not close down a newspaper spewing ETA propaganda and operating as an ETA front, which is illegal in Spain. Spewing ETA propaganda, that is. (Note: the same thing would be illegal in the US. If somebody was putting out the Osama Daily News in the US, I guarantee they'd use something, probably the RICO law, to nail the bastards.) No, their sinister plot is to cause so much social disturbance that the next regional elections will have to be suspended. Yeah, right. Dirtbag ETA cop-killer Mikel Otegi and another ETA member have been busted by the French police. Otegi had been acquitted back in 1995 of the double murder of two Ertzaintzas (regional cops) whom he shot with his shotgun. No question about that. A jury let him off, though, because he was drunk and therefore not in control of his actions. Yep. They really did. He took off before they could find something else to arrest him for; now they want to retry him for that double murder on the grounds that a jury was improcedural for a case of terrorism, which should be heard before the Audiencia Nacional.

There's a Naomi Klein full-page op-ed in today's Vangua. Seems we're trying to overthrow democratically-elected Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and we're manipulating the Venezuelan media so we can get the oil. Very unimaginative, Naomi. There are much, much more creative conspiracy theories out there.

At the Césars, the French Oscars, Pedro Almodóvar won best European film. In his speech, he said, "I'm proud to be European in a European country where I don't have to speak out against the war, because its president already has." Gee, Pedro, since you're so happy to be in such a country, why don't you stay home from the Academy Awards in protest? Since the Oscar is manifestly not an award given out by unbiased judges, I don't see why they shouldn't bias their votes against Mr. Poofy Hair. I would if I had a vote. The guy looks like a goddamn mushroom with that pile of brush sticking up off the top of his fat face. Michael Moore also missed a good chance to shut up. In fact, he gets a coveted Iberian Notes Oscar, named after Oscar, my cat, who bites my hands--the hands that feed him--for saying, "I'm part of a majority of Americans who didn't vote for Bush, are therefore the victims of a coup d'etat, and want peace." Coup d'etat, huh, Mickey? So you're calling your country undemocratic and its government illegitimate? Them's pretty strong words, there.

People Who Infuriate Me So Much I'd Like to Stomp Their Faces In:

Michael Moore. Al Franken. Chevy Chase. That's about it. See, I'm calming down. The pills are kicking in. Oh, yeah, Martin Short, just because I hate his guts. And Pee-Wee Herman, on general principles. Give me a shot at only one and I'll pick Chevy Chase. Remember when Bruce Willis goes back and saves his hated and feared enemy, Marcellus Wallace, from the murderous redneck rapists? I'd like to think that I'd be brave enough to similarly step in for someone in that position, anyone at all. Except for Chevy Chase. Hell, I'd demand a chance to take my turn if I had that kind of shot at Chevy Chase.

The International Brigadists in Baghdad are coming home, split. They were given the Saddam tour of Baghdad, which some called "deplorable and pathetic" and seem to have figured out that, as one asks himself, "Is being against the intervention in Iraq being in favor of the regime?" Others responded that Iraq was under "foreign military oppression" and that those with questioning minds "didn't understand anything". Says one pacifist, "There's an abyss between us" and "(Future human shields) should decide now what their line will be in this city of palaces and poverty." Sounds like at least some of the Brigadists have a brain in there somewhere.
Good Lord, the Barça's on a tear. I was waiting until I felt I had grounds for either optimism or pessimism before commenting in detail about the "new" FC Barcelona squad under coach Radomir Antic. Well, last weekend Barça beat Español in Español's home ground, the Estadio Olímpico, then on Tuesday they shellacked Inter Milan 3-0, and last night they whupped Betis in the Camp Nou, 4-0.

Is this just a flash in the pan or does it mean something? I think it means something. I think for the rest of the season we are going to see a Barça that will play up to its ability, which might even get them fourth place and will almost certainly get them sixth. Antic is running a tough-defense, physically-fit squad whose morale is up with three straight wins and the defenestration of Van Gaal. He's using a conservative, standard 4-4-2 alignment which, horrors, uses the stale old kick-and-rush! Passes the ball down the side and centers to somebody's head! Looks to catch the defense out of position on the counterattack! Practices strategy plays off corners and free kicks, since that's how most goals are scored! Shocking!

There are certain nutcases prominent in the Barcelona sports press who think that the Barça is above this kind of proletarian play, this grind-it-out Steel Curtain four-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust take-it-to-'em stuff. They want pretty-boy Dan Marino crap, clever passes and flashy plays, like they had back when Johan Cruyff was coaching Romario and Laudrup and Pep Guardiola. They're going to have to settle for some Jack Lambert and Mean Joe Greene kick-'em-when they're-up kick-'em-when-they're-down English-midtable-style football, with Saviola as the fast little goalscorer and Kluivert as the big oaf.

Here's what we've seen so far. Bonano, in goal, hasn't given up a goal in his last three games. The defense of Reiziger, in his natural position on the right, Puyol and Frank de Boer playing zone in the center, and Sorín on the left, is much solider than the risky three-man defense that Van Gaal was running. Reiziger and De Boer both look a hell of a lot better as part of a line of four rather than a line of three. They're not good enough to stop the opponent with only three of them back, but they do just fine with four. This guy Sorín is a pretty good player. Antic has been using the two outside defenders to mark the two guys he thinks are most dangerous, so against Betis they slapped Sorín on Joaquín and Reiziger on Denilson. It worked. Those guys were completely anulled. Cocu is not the factor he used to be but he's steady enough as a defense-oriented midfielder, and if he's turned loose he can score. Xavi has been allowed to move up as far as he wants, which puts him right behind the two forwards, big oaf Kluivert and Saviola. Saviola is on a roll, with a hat trick against Betis and two more against Inter; he's a pesky, fast little guy, the sort of guy who'd be a leadoff hitter in baseball. The wing positions are still up for grabs; Overmars was injured against Betis, so he'll be out for a while. Mendieta is looking a lot better than he was looking a couple of weeks ago. Luis Enrique is back, though I wouldn't use him to play a full game yet; I'd start him and then sub him with Motta when he gets tired. Rochemback, Gerard, and Gabri are the guys on the bench. I'd like to see them try replacing Frank de Boer with Gerard; the few times Gerard has played defense he's done well.

Barça is not going to win the League. It'll be very lucky if it finishes fourth, but I now firmly believe that sixth place in the League and the corresponding UEFA Cup slot are a legitimate possibility. They're not going to win every game, but they just might win two-thirds of them, in what's left of the League. There is still some time yet in which to make up ground, especially on Betis, Celta, and Real Sociedad, which is beginning to feel the heat and will be caught soon by either Madrid or Valencia or both. As for the Spanish Cup, they're eliminated, which is too bad, because Barca managed to redeem its two previous worst League seasons ever by winning the Cup in both years. (I distinctly remember watching the Cup Final in April 1988 on TV in a bar in Soria. Barcelona beat Real Sociedad, the Bakero and Beguiristain Real Sociedad, and salvaged a horrible season in which, of all people, Luis Aragonés took over as coach partway through.) And as for the Champions' League, it's not unthinkable. Barça will certainly make it through the second group and then will be in the quarterfinals with seven other teams. In a head-to-head competition like that, whoever's on a hot streak has an excellent chance of winning the whole thing, though the other teams are going to be tough; they're likely to be Man U, Milan, Inter, Juventus, Valencia, and two of this group: Roma, Arsenal, Ajax. No soft touches here.
Just in case you're interested, here's the CNN transcript of the press conference George W. Bush and José María Aznar gave yesterday at Crawford, Texas, after their discussions. Bush mentions that they set up a four-way conference call with Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi. Despite contrary reports and mild waffling after last weekend's demos, these four leaders are all on board together.

I'm still looking for a transcript of what Pedro Almodóvar and Carme Sansa said at last weekend's anti-American demonstrations in Madrid and Barcelona, respectively. I simply cannot find it through searching Google or the Spanish newspapers. If you can find it, please let me know.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Hero Bird Who Fought to Save Kindly Owner Convicts His Killer

Quite a story here. I wonder if my cats would do that for me if somebody broke in. Probably not. Oscar, Bart, and Lisa have always been apartment cats and are afraid of anything that's not one of their people. They would cower Frenchly under the bed.

Friday, February 21, 2003

In case y'all were wondering what Nostradamus had to say about Saddam or Sudan or whatever his name is, click here for the full story. Here's a piece from the National Review that explains in simple language even I can understand why the United States isn't going into Iraq for the oil. Let me clear up something. Currently several companies, including French and Russians, have contracts with Iraq to exploit their deposits. My understanding is that they provide the technology for getting the oil and the personnel to run that technology, but that the oil itself belongs to Iraq until it is sold on the world market.
I assume you've heard that there was a fire at a Rhode Island heavy metal bar where Great White was playing. (The band's own website is down. Their Capitol Records website is up. Turn on your audio and you can hear "Once Bitten, Twice Shy", which is their only song I remember, though I know they were around before that.) They were an up-and-coming L.A. band when I was in high school--one of those Quiet Riot-type hair-and-spandex bands that died out in the late '80s and were permanently killed by grunge and rap. Check out the Capitol website--they look like a real-life Spinal Tap, and check out their lyrics, which are incredibly dumb. Anyway, they were playing a gig at a 300-capacity venue in a redneck Rhode Island town. They kicked off their first song, and either those idiots or the moron club owner set off a bunch of pyrotechnics and the place just went up. At least 54 people are known dead and that's not all it's going to be. They all headed for the front door and ignored the other three exits, which were open. Damned shame. This is probably one of those things that happens once and then, because everyone sees that it was stupid to allow this to go on in the first place, never happens again. (Examples: "festival seating" after the Who concert where those people got crushed; excessive drinking in sports stadiums.) I guarantee you that, instantly, pyrotechnics will be prohibited indoors, and every building inspector in the goddamned country is going to inspect every nightclub in the country tomorrow.
Here's a post from last November. It's on the history of Allied relations with Franco.

Just a thought, but why didn't the victorious allies get rid of that cunt Franco at the end of the war?
Des | Email | 11.25.02 - 8:55 pm


During the war, Franco's personal sympathies were with the Axis. However, he managed to avoid openly committing himself to their side (in part he got lucky; he made major demands on Hitler in 1940 in exchange for joining the Axis, which Hitler refused. If Hitler had met those demands Franco would have entered the war and gone down for sure) and by '44 Churchill was openly flirting with Franco, knowing the war was won and not wanting to make it any longer by having to fight Spain, too. Using military force to overthrow Franco was never on the Allies' menu.

Anyway, on June 19, 1945, at the San Francisco Conference, the United Nations (which was the reincarnation of the Allied Powers) voted unanimously to exclude Franco's Spain. Then, at the Potsdam Conference later that summer, Stalin proposed that everyone break all relations with Spain, a worldwide total boycott, and that the Allies should aid the "democratic opposition" within Spain; Truman was in favor, though he feared another civil war, but Churchill wasn't. (This might be the last time the Americans and Soviets ever agreed on anything.)

Churchill pointed out, first, that Britain had strong trade links with Spain and the last thing anybody needed in Britain in 1945 was more people out of work due to a trade cutoff. He also said that "interference in the internal affairs of other states was contrary to the United Nations Charter." (Paul Preston, Franco, p.540; Chapter XXI in general). So Churchill made the same argument against getting rid of Franco that the anti-war people are making against getting rid of Saddam, who, to use your terminology, is an even bigger cunt than Franco was. Now, I'm not saying Franco wasn't a right cunt in many ways, but Saddam manages to out-cunt him, in my opinion. In the middle of Potsdam, Churchill lost a general election to Clement Attlee, who became Prime Minister; Attlee and Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin did not change British policy toward Spain. Anyway, the decision made at Potsdam was to definitely exclude Spain from the UN, but not to use economic and other diplomatic sanctions to try to force Franco out. Britain won out over the Soviets and Americans.

Bevin washed Britain's hands when he said to the Commons on 20 August 1945, "The question of the regime in Spain is one for the Spanish people to decide." Charles de Gaulle, president of the French Council of Ministers, "sent a secret message to Franco to the effect that he would resist left-wing pressure and would maintain diplomatic relations with him" sometime in summer 1945; French Foreign Minister Georges Bidault was also against action against Franco.

In January 1946, Dean Acheson, American Undersecretary of State, "suggested a joint declaration from France, the United States, and Britain that for Spain to be accepted into the international community, the Spanish people would have to remove Franco and set up a caretaker government to organize elections." But by then Washington was coming around to London's position, and Lord Halifax, the British Ambassador in Washington, pointed out the danger of a Communist takeover in Spain to Acheson. "American pressure diminished...British policy in fact aimed at restraining the French and the Americans from taking precipitate action against Franco." (p.552)

On 26 February, a month after De Gaulle's resignation, the French government closed the frontier with Spain and broke off economic relations after Franco executed ten left-wing guerrillas. France wanted to bring the question of a total economic blockade of Spain to the UN Security Council, but both London and Washington did not want to give the Soviets a chance to influence anything. On 4 March Paris, Washington, and London released the Tripartite Declaration, in which they called Franco a right cunt but said "There is no intention of interfering in the internal afairs of Spain." Franco privately accused Truman of being a Mason, which, of all things, he really was. It was no secret; it's in his autobiography.

Then on 5 March Churchill made the "Iron Curtain" speech in Fulton, Missouri, and it was all over.

Oh, by the way, should you want to contact us personally, our e-mail address is
Here's an amusing little story from Fox News about the wave of French jokes that seems to be sweeping America. The French are mad; this is what they called "xenophobic Francophobia" in the Vanguardia a couple of days ago. This is rich from France, whose media seems to spend 90% of its time bashing America and the Americans. Like all pompous asses, the French can't stand ridicule. It punctures their overinflated national ego. So keep up the French jokes, people, and we'll do what we can here to whip up all the aggressive imperialist warmongering arrogant prepotent Francophobia we can.

How many Frenchmen does it take to change a lightbulb?
One to change the lightbulb, three more to form a delegation to ask the Germans for permission, five more to make up a committee to invent a French word for such a piece of foreign technology as a lightbulb, seven to organize the industrial espionage necessary to steal the lightbulb secret from the Americans, nine to compose the editorial in Le Monde that will celebrate the glorious French achievement in lightbulb development, eleven to bribe corrupt African dictators to give the French monopoly exclusive rights on lightbulbs in their countries, and thirteen to write a very thick book relating the grandeur of the French lightbulb industry to the heritage of the Revolution.

Today's main page three Vanguardia international headline: "Africa supports France against Bush". All fifty-two African states have voted, at the Franco-African summit in Paris, to follow the French line on Iraq policy. There's a lovely photo of Chirac talking with Thado Mbeki of South Africa, the guy who says that HIV doesn't cause AIDS and whose country has the highest murder rate known in the world, well over 100 per year per 100,000 people. (In comparison, in America it's five point something and in Spain it's three point something murders per 100,000 people.) At least Mbeki was elected more or less democratically; the other three guys in the picture are Kabila of the Congo, Kerekou of Benin (this guy is sort of OK, he was dictator for many years, got voted out, and then got voted in again), and Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Fine folks, those. Salt of the earth. The French managed to talk the Brits into letting Mugabe into the EU; he's under EU sanctions and isn't supposed to be able to enter. Patassé from the Central African Republic and Ngueso from the other Congo are being threatened with international human rights violations charges. Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast didn't show up because if he left the country he'd be overthrown. Other lovely governments in attendance were Libya's, Algeria's, Uganda's, Rwanda's, Ethiopia's, Eritrea's, Equatorial Guinea's, Malawi's, Angola's, Sudan's and Mozambique's. How much do you want to bet that each of these governments is responsible for many times the number of deaths that will be caused to civilians in the upcoming Iraq War?

African states in attendance that were once French possessions: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Gabon, Congo (Brazzaville), Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles, Mauritius. Former Belgian possessions now under French influence: Congo (Kinshasa), Rwanda, Burundi. Out of all of them, the only two that Freedom House classifies as "free" are Mali and Benin. Those two countries have relatively honest democratic governments and are two of the few African countries making anything like progress. Mali, in particular, has won praise for its cooperation with the IMF, its ability to attract foreign investment, and its successful promotion of its cotton industry. Its per-capita GDP is, however, still under a thousand bucks a year.

The International Brigades in Baghdad report for today: they're trying to organize a soccer game against some university students. World peace is just around the corner. By the way, there are reports that Saddam's nutball son, who is in charge of sports in Iraq, has had losing athletes and coaches tortured and even killed. Wonder what'll happen to the Iraqi college kids if they lose to the Cataloonies. They'll probably just get bastinadoed or something mild like that.

The alleged Movement of Nonaligned Nations is meeting at Kuala Lumpur. They are organizing a Bush-bashing manifesto. It will have tremendous moral authority because the participating governments are all so highly respectable.

A Spanish judge has closed down Egunkaria, a Basque-language paper that received more than 7 million euros in Basque regional government subsidies between 1994 and 2001. The paper is accused of being an ETA front. Ten of its executives and managers were arrested. They're also investigating the network of Basque-language schools, the ikastolas, which are run by the Basque government and are widely considered to be hotbeds of pro-ETA agitation. I imagine the Basques are the most pro-terrorist people in the world, with 15% voting in favor of Herri Batasuna, the ETA political branch. Certainly they're the most pro-terrorist people in the so-called civilized world. If the ETA murdered you for whatever reason, or none at all (as in a terror bombing) 15% of the two million or so Basques would justify them, not feel sorry for you or think that they had done something wrong. I can only comprehend the insistence of the Spanish media on the idea of a fear-stricken American public when I see that the Basque Country really does live in fear of ETA bombings and killings and shootings. Many people have left the Basque Country because they are afraid, and rightly so since the ETA has murdered well more than 800 people in its history, mostly other Basques but also people in all parts of Spain. Spaniards can't understand that Americans aren't fear-stricken after 9-11 because they themselves are fear-stricken by the ETA--ask the people of Barcelona about Hipercor if you don't believe me.

Monsignor Asenjo, head of the Spanish bishops' conference, said that the statements by the Pope regarding the war on Iraq should be obeyed by Catholics, as should be all Papal declarations that are non-dogmatic. So much for freedom of thought. If you're pro-war, you're a sinner. I will also point out, again, that the behavior of most of the American mainstream Protestant churches is equally despicable.

Carlos Sentís of the Vangua says "The United States does not have the right to act on its own." So much for sovereignty. If Britain hadn't acted on its own between June 1940 and June 1941, where would we all be now? And, of course, this principle means that Spain does not have the right to act on its own, either (e.g. Perejíl Island), something that Sentís would furiously deny. The obligation to consult and cooperate is only America's. Not France's (e.g. Ivory Coast, where the French are currently acting on their own).

The Vodafone cellphone network in Spain went down yesterday. Everybody freaked out and called home from pay phones to tell their loved ones that nothing was wrong, it was just that their cellphones weren't working. There were big lines at phone booths. Jesus Christ. They're talking up mass psychosis in America over three thousand dead, yet when the cellphones crash in Barcelona everybody has to rush to call home. This is the lead story in the National News section.

The Franciscan rector at Vilanova, who was also the principal of an elementary school, was found shot dead in an isolated area notorious as a gay cruising spot. Their first story was that he had died in a car accident. Then they "found" the bullet wound in his throat. Now they're pushing the story that he was there investigating drug trafficking. See, the rector spent so much time investigating drug trafficking that the local mafia murdered him. That's what the Franciscans are saying. Me, I think he went down there to get his--uh, never mind. Just be careful if you're into rough trade.

One thing I think is interesting in the gay world is the taste for rough trade. Most of those guys--many of them kids--are lower-class heterosexuals who are doing it for the money and who are, frankly, being exploited by their clients. Just as I don't feel particulary sorry for middle-class kids who get shot when they go to the wrong part of town to score drugs, I don't feel particularly sorry for middle-class adult homosexuals who get knocked off by rentboys. Every man's death diminishes me, I know, and I wish no one got murdered ever, and I do feel sad for people who get murdered even if it was their own damn fault--but less sad than I do for people who aren't doing something they're not supposed to be doing. And Franciscan rectors are not supposed to be cruising for rentboys.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

A meme that has been repeated over and over in the Spanish press, ever since September 11, is that of Panic in the United States. Every couple of months some story about how the Americans are quaking in craven fear hits the papers. Yesterday it was La Vanguardia's turn. They print a health-care question every day and some kind of doctor answers it. It's usually a fairly solid and informative response and is a popular section of the paper. Yesterday's question was, "Is there a pre-war collective psychosis?" The author is one Narcís Mir, who is billed as the Director of Risk Observation, Institute of Security Studies. Whatever that is.

Can we say that these days we are in a situation of pre-war collective psychosis? In my opinion, Europe is not in that situation. Neither the "new" Europe of Blair, Berlusconi, or Aznar nor the "old" Europe of Chirac and Schröder. And this is despite the fact that some governments of this "new" Europe have made aneffort to create this climate, such as the purchase of a large supply of smallpox vaccine to protect us about the consequences of a possible attack in the war.

First, I thought we were talking about health care here, not politics. Second, the writer did not provide a lick of evidence except his own judgment in support of his opinion.

However, I believe the situation of the United States is different. It has been said many times that the attack on the Twin Towers constitutes an attack on the real and symbolic nucleus of their system of power. It was, for the Americans, the abrupt introduction of the consciousness of vulnerability. In these conditions, it is much easier to manipulate the citizens and submerge the population into a pre-war psychosis. We have seen these days some episodes of this, like the compulsive hoarding of food, batteries, or candles to confront a situation of war. Or the purchase of electrical tape to impede the entrance of lethal gases produced by a potential enemy bombardment, or even the panic set off in a Chicago discotheque, which produced a fatal avalanche.

1) Jesus Christ, any time something unfortunate like the Chicago disco panic happens in the United States the Europeans have to somehow chalk it up as America's fault. I vote next time a bunch of football hooligans causes a catastrophe in a European stadium we write a whole bunch of articles blaming the European social system for producing these unemployed no-hopers and making them frustrated and violent. 2) Again, he provides not a lick of legitimate evidence but his opinion. He certainly doesn't mention, say, having actually gone there. 3) People in Kansas normally keep a stock of canned food, bottled water, candles, and a battery radio. This is because we have TORNADOES. Here in Barcelona I keep a similar stock. This is because THE FRIGGIN' ELECTRICITY CUTS OUT ALL THE TIME AND YOU NEVER KNOW HOW LONG IT'LL BE. 4) These same European analysts of American life have been saying for years that we have some kind of mass psychosis of fear because of crime and violence and school shootings, but now they're saying that we felt invulnerable before the September 11 attacks. Which is it, guys?

But in order for this psychosis to emerge and maintain itself it is necessary that the system of government propaganda be used to the fullest, above all when a movement against Bush's warlike policy is beginning to take shape. And those who govern the United States are intensely concentrated upon this labor of propaganda these days.

Jesus Christ. There's a government-media conspiracy to propagandize the American people into collective psychosis so those who govern, whoever they are, can carry out their nefarious plots. Can anyone in his right mind possibly believe this?

Well, to top everything off, the Vangua publishes an extremely pretentious supplement on Wednesday called Culturas. The first four pages this week are all about panic, fear, and anxiety in America. Now, I was actually in Kansas last August. I did not notice a lot of panic, fear, or anxiety. If any readers are currently in America, would you mind doing a little report on panic, fear, and anxiety in your area down in the Comments section?

Andy Robinson says, "Other fears--Ebola or the imminent arrival of the African killer bee--seem like the projection of an anguish even more profound in the country of slavery, as filmmaker Michael Moore warns in his movie about the culture of fear Bowling in Columbine." He then explains how the culture of fear has made America a bunch of warmongers and how the big companies are manipulating us so we'll buy more stuff. He quotes Noam Chomsky, Clotaire Rapaille, Barry Glassner, and--get this--Marilyn Manson. I've had it with Robinson. He is the worst reporter I have ever read. Nothing he writes is neutral, yet it is printed as news rather than opinion. Every single one of his stories makes the same point: the United States is despicable and so are its citizens. The fact that the Vanguardia has hired him shows that their editorial staff doesn't recognize how inaccurate and one-sided Robinson's crap is. I do not think the Vanguardia is intentionally dishonest most of the time, which is pretty good for a Spanish newspaper. I just think they're not very smart.

There are three more articles. I'll just sort of summarize them here: "supermarket...freeway...fear...sniper...TV show...mirage...Third World...homeless...cannon food...dollars...terror...threat...danger...evil...death...panic...heretics...Satan...eradicate...French Revolution...collective values...Pearl Harbor...imperialism...ignorance...Yankee interests...obedience...Jack London...Nuremberg...McCarthyism...Hollywood...paranoia...Hiroshima...repression...brainwash." That ought to be enough for you to get the general idea.

Question: What motivates the Old Europeans to state so insistently that the Americans are panicking in terror?
Answer: Because if the Americans are terrorized, the terrorists have won, and that's precisely what the Old Europeans would really like to see in their heart of hearts. Maybe they aren't too big on a terrorist victory, but they would just love to see an American defeat. They need an American defeat so badly that they'll make one up if they have to. It all goes back to nationalism and comparative prestige in the end.

Well, NATO has agreed to defend Turkey. The Dutch are going to send three Patriot batteries. NATO will send at least several of its AWACS, and chemical weapons cleanup teams will be sent. This stuff won't be all ready to go for a month.

Our prediction of war by February 18 was, obviously, wrong. I don't doubt, though, that war will eventually happen. Last weekend's demos had absolutely no effect on Alliance plans, I am sure. It seems, though, that there are obviously some preparations that could be made that haven't been made yet, but when are we going to decide that enough preparation is enough? I mean, we have around 200,000 soldiers in the area, the Brits have 30,000 more, and there are at least four aircraft carriers in the vicinity. Aren't we ready yet? I know that logistics is a lot more complicated and difficult than we civilians usually think and that it takes time to prepare dozens of different units for different tasks and make sure they're all going to get the job done right. In a sense, the longer we prepare, the better chance we'll have for a quick and bloodless win, since our army in the area is getting stronger at a much faster rate than Saddam's, which right now is as strong as it's ever giong to get. However, I can't think of any other good reason to postpone the attack. Well, I can. There are a few possibilities: 1) we're trying to foment a coup in Baghdad or a Skorzeny-type commando mission to grab Saddam and are waiting to see how it turns out 2) we're really going to wait until we get another UN resolution authorizing force in order not to dynamite the UN and NATO 3) the Pentagon is behaving like Lincoln's general McClellan and is unwilling to make a decision. (Lincoln to his secretary John Hay while reviewing McClellan's army: "Why, Hay, what is all this?" Hay: "Why, Mr. President, it's the Army of the Potomac." Lincoln (loudly): "No, no, Hay, this is General McClellan's bodyguard." Irate citizen to Lincoln: "General Grant is a drunk!" Lincoln: "He fights. Find out which brand of whiskey he drinks so I can supply some to my other generals.")

Munir Al Motassadeq, a Moroccan, was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison in a Hamburg court as part of a conspiracy to murder in the September 11 attacks. 15 years was the maximum penalty the judge could impose. Al Motassadeq was a member of Mohammed Atta's Hamburg cell that carried out the attacks.

Some idiotarian and idiot Catalans, 18 of 'em, have shown up in Baghdad to serve as human shields. They've been on the Saddam tour of the city and are bursting with venom for the Americans who blow up baby-milk factories and the like. They're very proud of themselves because they consider that they are an obstacle for Bush's warlike plans. I hope they don't get killed in the attack--they say openly that in case there's an actual attack they're going to scoot--but getting them back home after the war is over does not need to be one of our top priorities. And, of course, our knowledge that some of these nutso volunteers, who are going around calling themselves the "International Brigades", are at a military target, should by no means impede us from blowing up said target.

The French are whining about the irritated rumblings coming their way from America and are spinning to make the US the villains of the piece. It seems that a sinister Republican cabal, in the hands of the powerful American aerospace industry, is organizing the proposed boycott of French wine and cheese to force American airlines to buy American-made planes instead of French Airbuses. So say les grenouilles.

All I can say every time I read the latest news from the Vatican is "Holy Mary, Mother of God, how can you permit this stuff to go on?" Radio Vatican director Pasquale Borgomeo, yet another Latin European in the high ranks of the hierarchy, said that President Bush should "listen to the voice of the street, represented by those 110 million people (sic) who demonstrated last Saturday around the world and sent a very precise message to the politicians." He said that America was "ruled by an Administration which has conferred upon itself a mission of salvation. Despite the messages of the European allies and of the citizens, Bush seems to consider diplomacy as an irritating waste of time, international law as a bothersome stick between the spokes, the UN as a club of sophists." As for the demonstrations, they were "The most positive signal of globalization" because they "were a response to the fear that some governments are sowing." And, of course, "this war, each day that passes, seems more unjustified." Well, Mr. High and Mighty Vatican Radio Director, why don't you go bugger a teenage boy to make yourself feel better? Jesus Christ. As if the Vatican hadn't done enough to destroy its moral credibility already, now they're defending Saddam Hussein, after planting a big squishy one on apostate Tariq Aziz's ass. You know, over here in Europe, the Church has not learned the lesson of the pederasty scandals in America; they're still in denial and claim it's the result of an anti-Catholic campaign in the media.

There's a rumor going around the international press that there are three Iraqi mystery ships in the Indian Ocean just sailing around (illegally) under radio silence. These large (35,000 ton) cargo ships contain Saddam's hoard of weapons, says the rumor. They dock in certain Arab ports, especially in Yemen, to refuel and restock provisions. I'll have to see it to believe it, myself.

You may have heard that Jeb Bush visited Madrid earlier in the week and made a gaffe, referring to Prime Minister Aznar as the "President of the Spanish Republic." Spain is, of course, a monarchy. When Jeb later met Juan Carlos, the King made a joke: "Oh, you're the King of America's brother." Jeb also came to Barcelona and met with Jordi Pujol last night; they spoke in Spanish because, for once, an American politician speaks better Spanish than Pujol does English. Pujol has a very rough accent when he speaks English, but except for that his English is very good. He's a polyglot; he can speak French and German as well. Juan Carlos, as well as the rest of the royal family, speaks perfect English.

The cops busted fourteen punks in the Basque Country. They are accused of being ETA minor-leaguers, right now just collaborators waiting to make the big time. Several of them have police records for rioting and street violence, and several of them hold office in Jarrai or whatever it calls itself now, the ETA youth branch. I think the most appropriate punishment for a bunch of stupid punks like these guys would be a public caning on the bare buttocks--say, six strokes of the cane, hard enough to hurt like hell--and then an hour in the public stocks. Citizens would be urged to toss rotten eggs and tomatoes and the like. Perhaps baseball pitchers or cricket bowlers could be hired to provide a display of their throwing abilities. None of that would do too much damage, and it would be a massive deterrent. Public humiliation. People really do fear it.

Racist and anti-Semitic fool José Martí Gómez says in today's Vangua that America is just using the Aznar Government for its own purposes and will throw Spain aside when it is in American interests. Mr. Martí Gómez says that, for example, when Morocco demands the return of Ceuta and Melilla, which side will Washington choose? Uh, José, I think we'll choose Spain's side, since we acknowledge Spain's sovereignty over Ceuta and Mellilla. Also, Spain's a member of NATO and Morocco is not. Besides, gee, what if we decide it's more in our interest to be allied with wealthy, democratic Spain instead of poor, oppressed Morocco?

La Vanguardia has some wanker named Andy Robinson signed up as correspondent from New York. He's a far-lefty and writes only articles critical of the United States in some way. Today his spiel is that the big American TV networks are pushing for a war because they'll make a lot of money selling commercials during the live coverage. This is a brand-new meme; I've only seen it once before, spouted by Baltasar Porcel himself, but I have a feeling that we're going to see more of it, as it fits right in with the far-lefty conspiracy theory that says that either the government controls the media or the media controls the government and no matter which, they're up to something nefarious together. Says one Robin Anderson, who is billed as holding a Ph.D. in communication studies from Fordham, which along with 99 cents will get you a cup of coffee anywhere outside academia and whom Robinson probably picked up in a bar somewhere, "The war will be reported according to the advertisers' will be turned into a sort of reality show...imagine the viewer advancing shoulder-to-shoulder with a soldier through the streets of Baghdad. A lot of new technologies can be used and the viewer will feel empowered...We'll see great interest by companies for ads directed basically at young men, beer, cars, SUVs." Ms. Anderson and Mr. Robinson seem to believe that it's not about the oil, it's about the advertising. Or, wait, it's about controlling the water supply! No, sorry, that was Porcel again...

George Clooney missed a good chance to shut up in Madrid, where he is promoting his movie "Solaris". He said, "In the US, everything is going very badly. There are no dissident voices in my country. The most important television networks are going to make a lot more money if there's a war than if there isn't one.They don't let us actors talk, they blackball us. Sean Penn, who has made his opinion public and has gone to Iraq, is still going to spend a few months in ostracism, though he'll be all right because he has a lot of talent." Mr. Clooney also dissed Hollywood, saying that "In the US we don't have cinema, only box-office hits." Mr. Clooney wins Iberian Notes' coveted Oscar Award, named for my little black cat Oscar, who spends most of his time biting the hand that feeds him. Literally. Little Osky-poo shreds my hand, the very hand that opens his cans of cat food, whenever he feels like it. My shrink wondered whether I was cutting myself, my left hand is so chewed up.

As you almost certainly know, Jacques Chirac put his foot in it big-time on Monday. Reacting to the Eastern Europeans' strong pro-US stance over Iraq, Chirac said they showed "bad manners" and that their behavior was "irresponsible" and "dangerous". He accused them of being ungrateful to France, which has generously agreed to let them join the EU, and bashed them for their "Americanism". Chirac directly threatened Bulgaria and Romania, saying that "if they wanted to reduce their chances of joining the EU, they couldn't have done anything better than sign" the Vilna Ten letter. He said that the Eastern Europeans had "missed a good chance to shut up." The Eastern Europeans exploded, of course, with nasty reactions from the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Romania; former Polish foreign minister Wladyslav Bartoszewski said, "We remember that it was the Americans who liberated Europe, including France, from Hitler in 1945, and we think they deserve gratitude for that on the part of all Europeans." Ouch. That was a smack right in the face. Tony Blair chimed in, calling Chirac a jackass for daring to lecture to the Eastern Europeans, who actually remember living under a dictatorship; not too many Frenchmen seem to remember when France was a dictatorship between 1940 and 1944.

Did you know that almost certainly more French were killed fighting for the Vichy French rather than De Gaulle's Free French? Most of them were sailors who were killed at Oran when the British sank the French Mediterranean fleet to keep it out of German hands after the French surrender. Some were killed in Algeria and Tunisia, too, in 1942 and '43, valiantly resisting the Anglo-American advance through North Africa. Vichy French forces lost at the very least 1200 men fighting with the Axis. Another bit of World War II trivia: it was Leon Degrelle's Belgian SS who were the last holdouts, or among the very last, on the German side during the attack on Berlin. Degrelle wound up escaping to Franco's Spain and living a long, undeservedly pleasant life.