Monday, March 31, 2003

Here are a few quotations from La Vanguardia in its Sunday, March 30 issue: "The Reuters agency reported yesterday that a child of 14 years was murdered in the city of Mahmudiya when a bomb fell on her house while the family was having breakfast."--Unsigned sidebar, page 3. "(North Korea) has a serious argument: neither the acceptance on Iraq's part of the UN inspectors nor the destruction of Al Samud II missiles has impeded the invasion, so the lesson for North Korea and for any other country threatened by American doctrine is that only the possession of nuclear arms can dissuade the United States."--Rafael Poch, Peking. "New boycott campaigns against French products on the other side of the Atlantic and, above all, the first sign of the grabbing of the reconstruction projects in Iraq by the American business lobby cause nervousness in economic and political circles in France...they fear that the US will impose the "law of the strongest" and its near-exclusive protagonism in the can imagine what might now happen to TotalFinaElf's interests in Iraq."--J.R. González Cabezas, Paris. "The bombings of Baghdad at the beginning seemed to center on official or strategic objectives but now are clearly indiscriminate and affect residential neighborhoods and civilian public places, like the markets where there were so many innocent victims." --Carlos Nadal. "We believe that the way to stop this war is through the active and conscious implication of the workers' movement. We need a strike of 24 hours to stop the war...a million students, in more than 70 demonstrations, said no again to a war for oil in which the only beneficiaries are the multinational corporations, the arms industry, and American imperialism."--Spokeswoman for the Union of Students. George Bush I said the other day something about how it didn't matter how many people demonstrated in Barcelona; "The mayor of Barcelona, Joan Clos, and the Councilman for Tourism were thrilled by the ex-president's allusion. Clos stated that Bush's words were "an honor for the city"...many newspapers from around the world reproduced the photo of the Futbol Club Barcelona's players wearing, before the game, T-shirts that read "El Barça for peace". The Palestine Chronicle pointed out the round of applause with which the fans greeted the players' initiative."--Unsigned. "The photographs of the faces of the first American prisoners were innocuous. What is a very grave attack against the Fourth Geneva Convention, and against humanity, is that armies kill civilians and cause international havoc."--Josep María Casasús, Vanguardia ombudsman. He hasn't mentioned Márius Serra yet in his Sunday column, in case you were wondering, and Serra has not been suspended while they are supposedly investigating the case. I wonder what the OmbudsGod thinks about Mr. Casasús's opinions.
From an interview with Raúl González Blanco, Real Madrid star forward and leader of the Spanish national squad, published in the Vangua today:

Q. What do you think about the war?
A: Well, now that it's started, what we all want is for it to end as quickly as possible and that there is as little suffering and as few casualties as possible. These days in Spain we're watching TV all the time, but while we were in Kiev (for a World Cup qualifier against Ukraine) we were more isolated from what was going on.
Q: Are you against it?
A: I'm not the one to judge. What I'd like is that there were no wars and that there were peace in the world, but it's not just this war, there are a lot of others, but you don't hear about them.
Q: The other day I'm sure you saw the Barcelona players demonstrate in favor of peace. Would this be possible for Real Madrid? Would you wear a T-shirt for peace?
A: I don't know, that's a question you'd have to ask the club. But I think that everybody is for peace, that nobody wants wars or deaths, that that's the only thing that has no solution.
Just a quick skim through La Vanguardia for pertinent quotations:

Monday, March 31: "The witchhunt for the guilty has begun. The military campaign in Iraq has tripped over unexpected difficulties, greater than those foreseen, and this causes tension and impatience in the United States"--Eusebio Val, Washington. "(The British "Desert Rats") eventually defeated the Germans and Italians at El Alamein, two and a half years later, pushing back the Afrika Korps in a humiliating retreat through the deserts of Libya and Tunisia. Shortly afterwards they returned to Europe and participated in the advance through the south of Italy toward Rome, the liberation of Ghent, the landing at Normandy, and the entrance into Berlin."--Rafael Ramos, London; hey, Rafa, that there Berlin thing was the Russians. And Don Mattingly was a pitcher, and you scored an interview with Brian Epstein."The (American religious) fundamentalists insist on the infallible primacy of God and the corruption of modern life. (They would be as willing to bomb New York and San Francisco as Baghdad.)--Norman Birnbaum, "adviser to the Progressive Caucus of the House of Representatives". "Seeing Bush pray before starting this war is pornographic, obscene, scandalous, and indecent."--Jack Lang, French idiotarian.
Country music lyrics of the day by a guy named Tom Russell over KHYI:

"There are two damn things that'll break your heart
Modern love and modern art."

Sunday, March 30, 2003

I am faced with an ethical dilemma. My favorite brand of rolling papers is OCB. OCB papers make a big deal about being of fabrication française. Should I boycott OCB or not? Answer: Yes, but I'm going to use up this packet of papers first. Looks like I have to go back to Smoking, which I'm pretty sure are made here in Spain. Smoking papers are crap. The glue never sticks. Any suggestions? Rizla papers exist around here but they're kind of hard to find.
Here's a piece from The Wall Street Journal's editorial page by Ana Palacio, Spain's foreign minister. It's an eminently respectable article that doesn't say anything particularly new but pretty well sums up the official position of the Spanish government, which, y'all should remember, has stuck its neck out big-time for the United States, democracy, and just plain decency and against Saddam and the international rogue states and terrorists.

I don't feel like translating or commenting on anything from the Vanguardia over the last couple of days. You're reading it all in America: the Yanks' and Brits' military plans have failed, the Allies are massacring the Iraqi civilians, Israel is the main beneficiary of the war, there's a moral equivalence between Bush and Saddam, the arms manufacturers are the ones behind the war, and for the real truth you need to read Robert Fisk and the Vangua's Fiskimitator, Tomás Alcoverro, as they tell you how the streets of Baghdad are strewn with the dying bodies of Iraqi babies.

I remind all Americans that Catalonia, despite its charms, is the most anti-American place in Europe. It's not merely that the press and popular conversation is anti-American; it's that there are about three pro-American voices who are not getting heard these days. Everybody's anti. Nobody's pro. Even in France there are a good few pro-American voices, not to mention in Germany. Remember this when planning foreign travel. They're nice people, the Catalans, and I love them dearly, but they hate the United States. Not much question of that. So it's your decision whether you want to give them any of your money or not.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Here's a fascinating webpage which lists the number of deaths in the wars, genocides, democides, and general massacres during the 20th century. Comparing these numbers, which are compiled from various sources (each source named for each deaths figure; I would seriously discount Rummel's figures, which seem to be compiled according to the Marc Herold method; Rummel's book, Democide, is well worth a read, but his numbers to my mind appear wildly exaggerated), to those of the recent Afghan War or to the current Saddam War, should prove very enlightening. Unless your name is Zap or Gas.

UPDATE: This guy, whose name is Matthew White, has a hell of a website called the Historical Atlas of the 20th Century which I just spent a couple of hours clicking through. Give it a look; it gets four and a half coveted Iberian Notes stars.
There is a pro-war Internet video presentation on the war on Saddam in Spanish which you guys ought to look at. (via Samizdata). It's signed by "Eslabon Perdido", "The Missing Link". This name is registered to Miguel Angel Rodriguez, the former spokesman of the governing Partido Popular. The PP itself has denied any official party connection with this video presentation. It doesn't matter whether they had anything to do with it, in my opinion; making a pro-war video is exercising one's freedom of expression in a much more socially responsible way than, say, throwing rocks at candidates for office, looting department stores, trashing fast-food restaurants, or dumping tons of animal excrement in the streets. Anyway, though, the SocioCommunists, Zap and Gas (Zapatero, the Socialist boss, and Gaspar Llamazares, the Communist leader), are demanding some kind of parliamentary investigation, I suppose on the grounds that the video makes them look like morons at best (the truth about Zap) and mendacious at worst (the truth about Gas). By the way, speaking of Parliamentary investigations, the PP's website is still down; the Communists are e-mail-bombing it.

Friday, March 28, 2003

John Derbyshire from National Review has posted an "illegal" copy of Malcolm Muggeridge's famous essay on George Orwell, "A Knight of the Woeful Countenance", which I had read about but had never read. You really ought to read this.
For all you new country music fans, check out TwangCast, a damn good Internet country station. They have links to a lot of other interesting sites with cool music, like Freight Train Boogie, The Gumbo Pages, and Alternative Country.Com. Check it all out and pick your favorites. For American and especially Louisiana music, check out WWOZ out of New Orleans, possibly the best individual radio station in the world. Blues, jazz, country, Cajun--they've got it, and I've never heard a lot of the stuff they play anywhere else. KBON out of Eunice, Louisiana, is stupendous, mixing Cajun stuff with classic country and at least one country-pop atrocity per hour. KHYI out of Dallas plays rednecks-and-longnecks Texas country. I like Bluegrass Country.Org a lot, too, though they repeat prerecorded shows all week; it's your only source for all bluegrass, all the time.
Angie from Dark Blogules / The Machinery of Night, the unmasker of Márius Serra the plagiarist, took Murph up on his request for other people to classify anti-war letters to newspaper editors in their country. She's in Berkeley, so she's got an awful lot of material to work with. You ought to read Murph's original typology of Spanish anti-war letters on EuroPundits, and then read Angie's response. Then you ought to read everything else on EuroPundits--Nelson Ascher is turning out some great stuff from Paris--and everything else on Angie's damn good blog.

Jesus Gil at Ibidem keeps us up to date from Madrid--check it out. Natalie Solent has the dope--thanks for the link--both at her own site and at Biased BBC. Bite the Wax Tadpole has some cogent analysis, including an excellent explanation of why we might lose the propaganda war even after a clean, quick victory over Saddam. Xavier at Buscaraons has some fine quadrilingual posts--and Xavier is often critical of the United States, but always in a constructive and positive way. He is pro-democracy and basically likes America, despite all its faults, from his Catalano-Quebecois perspective. You're a lot more likely to convince people of your ideas doing things Xavier's way than, say, uh, mine.

Cinderella Bloggerfeller, the most erudite blogger of them all, has two illuminating translations from French intellectuals, with his commentary, of course. One of them is by Pascal Bruckner, who I do know something about, and the other is by some guy from Le Monde I've never heard of but who is no dummy. He also translates a piece (of shit) by Barcelona's own Eulàlia Solé that I couldn't make any sense out of and so didn't translate for y'all. It's good for a guffaw or two and at least three snickers. The Dissident Frogman has a long, brilliant, and very cranky post on the "human shields" who left Iraq after seeing the real nature of the Saddam regime. Frank McGahon fills us in from Ireland--check it out.

Merde in France has a lot of good merde up there to read, along with several enlightening photographs. Eamonn at Rainy Day has several good posts up, including a defense of the BBC. Check out his "Diarist of the Day" feature. Jessica from Chloe and Pete rambles on in a compulsively fascinating manner, switching between war commentaries and, thank God, OTHER TOPICS BESIDES THE WAR. The Jedman fills us in on his love life and his trip to spring training in Arizona, and brings back his famous stupidhero character, the Overland Park Streetfighter.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Oh, one thing for you folks in town or visiting: the best undiscovered restaurant I know, and I will hunt you down and kill you if you tip off a tourist guidebook, is the Bodega Manolo around the corner from my place. Two people can have two courses, dessert, and wine for less than forty-fifty bucks, and that's not ordering the cheapest stuff on the menu. It's open for an inexpensive fixed-price lunch every day and that's decent enough. The dinner menu is small, admittedly, but what they do they know how to do very well. The quality is excellent; you get what you pay for here. A lot of their dishes are in a wine sauce because they're a real bodega as well as a restaurant; they sell wine from the barrel. You bring your own recipient and they charge by the liter.

Dinner is only on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and you'll need a reservation. The place is popular with the staff of El País, who can frequently be seen hanging around there. Since they don't know or care who I am, I leave them alone. Goddamn SocioCommunists.Their phone number is 93 284 43 77 and the address is Torrente Flores, 101. What I like is their salad of homemade pasta, shrimp, and avocado in a red wine sauce, their sole--not filet, you get the whole fish--a la meuniere, with white wine and butter, and the salt cod baked with a mild allioli sauce--homemade garlic mayonnaise, doesn't taste at all like the stuff out of a jar. Remei likes the entrecot. They serve sea urchins, for some ungodly reason. Icky poo. Eating sea urchins is common around the Northwest Mediterranean, from Cartagena around to Palermo. So is eating anything snail-like.

No, I don't get a kickback, nor am I being paid for this here advertisement. The folks who run the place are ace, though, and deserve to get a little more business. Maybe they'd open up a couple of more nights a week or something.
Well, they did the pot-and-pan banging again tonight, so this evening's serenade was "The Fightin' Side of Me" and "Okie from Muskogee", then "The Envoy" by Warren Zevon, then "This Land is Your Land" off the Folkways tribute album, and finally "Surfin' USA". Tomorrow we're going to kick off with "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" by the Pogues (in tribute to the Aussies and the Irish), then hear Gordon Lightfoot doing "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", and finish off by "Desolation Row" by Bob Dylan. After we hear those three long, depressing songs, there will be a pause of about one minute and then we will crank into Fear doing "I Don't Care About You". Should the cops show up, I have NWA's "Fuck tha Police" on hand, since if they come here because I'm soundblasting the block while there is rioting happening in other places, they've got their priorities all wrong.
Here's an article by Stanley G. Payne in Spanish about what the declassified Soviet archives let us know about the Spanish Civil War. He says that one thing that surprised him is that these internal Soviet documents is that they used the same "running-dog-hangman-butcher-paid-agent-Trotskyist" rhetoric as they used to the public. He also says, "The dictator who took best advantage of the war was not Stalin but Hitler, since the objective of the Nazi leader was not so much to contribute to a rapid Franco victory, but to prolong the conflict as long as possible in order to distract attention from German rearmament and German expansion in Central Europe, dissuade the democratic countries, create internal divisions in France, and involve Mussolini in German plans. In each of these aspects Hitler was entirely successful."

Here's Payne's introduction to a University of Wisconsin (where he is Hilldale-Jaume Vicens Vives Professor) exhibition called Life under Italian Fascism. You really ought to take a look at the whole exhibition. This is a chapter from one of Payne's books on the formation of Portugal. Uh, duh, my bad, here's the whole damn book, titled "A History of Spain and Portugal". It runs through the end of the 1600s.
Televisión Española is reporting, first, that Izquierda Unida, the Spanish Communist party, has incited people to hack the Partido Popular's website, and second, on its own website, has posted photographs of Bush, Blair, and company, and of the Spanish PP leaders, under the heading "Asesinos" (Murderers). The PP has announced that it will sue them for libel. Go, PP! I am intentionally not linking to the Communist webpage. Esquerra Republicana, the Catalan neo-fascists (its origin is Fascist, as Stanley G. Payne, my favorite historian, documents; today, it is about as "leftist" as my left nut, but it is rabidly Catalanist. That there is the "national" part of National Socialism. As for the "socialist" part, Esquerra seems to prefer some sort of corporatist paternalistic state in which property would remain private but the government would control the economy. That's what I gather, anyway. They're a lot clearer on their nationalism than they are on their economics. I am not just using the F-word to refer to something I don't like, and I think the F-word perfectly defines Heribert Barrera, Esquerra's elder statesman, who made the news most recently about a year ago with some horribly and blatantly racist statements compared with which Trent Lott's are vanilla pudding) have pasted up similar posters all over Gràcia. I hope the PP sues them too.
I haven't been downtown today but Murph has; I just talked to him on the phone. He says that both Corte Ingléses and the McDonald's are a wreck and Plaza Cataluña looks like there was a riot there, which is precisely what there was. I suggested that the government should perhaps turn the cops loose and have them beat the crap out of and then arrest the rioting punks. Murph said that we'd better watch out or this could be another '09 or '23 or '30 or '34 or '36. I said nope, in those days the rioters were real anarchists and SocioCommunists and Trotskyists who did Paris Commune shit like building barricades in the streets and torching the churches and murdering their enemies. These are just a bunch of middle-class kids smashing things up for fun. The most important thing is they don't have any guns. The militias in the old days, both right and left (though there's never been a real right-wing militia in Barcelona except for the Estat Català-Esquerra Republicana fascists, the Falange was very strong in some parts of Spain) had guns and used them, sometimes indiscriminately. These punks don't have any guns, nor do they have the balls necessary to do anything really revolutionary.
Here in Barcelona, a mob of "antiwar" rioters stormed the El Corte Inglés (a well-known chain of department stores) on the Plaza Cataluña yesterday. They smashed windows and destroyed sections of the interior of the store, and looted what they could before leaving. Basically they stole hams and liquor, from what I could tell. Several other stores in the area were also attacked. The McDonald's on Puerta del Angel was completely trashed. (Avui has a nice color photo of a couple of squatters smashing the windows with the sign, which they'd torn down; just scroll down a bit), and the employees of the Corte Inglés at Puerta del Angel and Santa Anna drove away the rioters with a firehose. This was all caught on camera; I am not exaggerating.

No arrests were made.

Catalan Partido Popular leader, Alberto Fernández Díaz, was to have given a speech in the city of Reus, near Tarragona. He was booed off the stage by a mob of some 500 "antiwar protestors" who then assaulted him physically as he attempted to leave the building under police protection. They kicked and punched him and threw things, mostly eggs and tomatoes, but also rocks and bottles, and one of the latter hit Fernández Díaz in the forehead and cut him; he bled rather copiously. I am not exaggerating; this was all caught on camera.

No arrests were made.

Over 120 offices of the Partido Popular, José María Aznar's governing conservative party, have been attacked over the past few days in Spain. In Catalonia the PP offices in Barcelona, Lérida, Reus, Terrassa, Tárrega, and Cornellà were attacked yesterday, with varying degrees of violence; the worst was Reus, where the police had to charge the mob twice to disperse it. 47 of the anti-PP attacks since March 18 have occurred in Catalonia. In addition to throwing rocks and bricks, protesters also threw human and animal excrement, animal viscera, and animal blood.

No arrests were made.

In Barcelona, a mob of rioters stoned the central government's delegation, equal to a prefecture in France, down on Marqués de Argentera by the harbor. The only decent thing that happened in Barcelona yesterday was that a group of honest pacifists put their bodies where their mouths were and stood in front of the delegation building as "human shields" to force the rioters to stop the assault. Congratulations to those brave people; they may be against the war but they are also supporters of democracy and the rule of law.

No arrests were made.

Here in Gràcia, the boho neighborhood of Barcelona, I haven't seen anything broken, but the protestors, probably mostly squatters, have covered up most of the walls with graffiti ranging from plain stupidity to incitements to violence. Bank and savings bank branches have been particular targets; every single one of their façades is covered with paint, accusing the financial institutions of being capitalist murderers who are profiting from the war.

No arrests were made.

La Caixa, the biggest savings bank in Europe and one of the three basic foundations of Catalan civil society--the other two are the Generalitat and FC Barcelona--was the especially particular target. This is stupid because La Caixa is a nonprofit institution which spends a lot of money on the public good; they've established schools--some for handicapped people--and libraries, they've paid for literally thousands of scholarships (including sending 50 graduate students every year to the US and 25 each to Britain and France), they subsidize a very large cultural program including theater, music, and art exhibitions, they give large contributions to various Barcelona institutions from the opera house to the Picasso Museum, they support various sports clubs, they subsidize scientific research at the universities and hospitals, and their pet project is establishing "neighborhood houses" (casals) where retired people can meet up and play dominoes and hold dances and the like. In the old days, before the National Health, they funded clinics. La Caixa was founded in about 1900 with the stated goal of providing banking services to the ordinary working Joe, giving him a place where he could earn interest on his small savings without fearing that the bank would go bust, providing small loans for his store or workshop, and even serving as his broker if he wanted to put his money in stocks or bonds. What it especially did was provide someone honest and disinterested that ordinary people could talk to about money matters; half the little old ladies in town still do exactly what the Caixa guy at their neighborhood branch advises them to do with their pensions. (You need a degree in Econ or business to be a teller there; you also have to win out over others in a test like the civil service exam.) It is genuinely a fine institution with a sterling reputation that is dedicated to benefitting the public. And these morons call them murderers.

Tomás Alcoverro is La Vanguardia's guy in Baghdad and he is doing his best to imitate Robert Fisk, whose articles the Vangua publishes daily. Alcoverro says that Baghdad smells like burned and putrefying human flesh. Interestingly, he said the exact thing about the so-called Jenin massacre a few months ago. Mr. Alcoverro is full of shit.

Reports Catalunya TV about last night's pot-and-pan-banging protest: "Some of the participants in the protest, which occurred without incidents, joined together in places around the city with pots, pans, and other metal recipients in order to express their repudiation of the warlike policies of the United States and the governments that support it." Now they're being honest. They're not antiwar in the least, since they practice violence themselves. They're anti-American and anti-Aznar. That is the motivation that moves them.

By the way, Catalunya TV has not posted the video of the looting of El Corte Inglés or the attack on Fernández Díaz, though they have about twenty-five sports videos up. Wonder why? It's pretty exciting, action-packed video, great stuff. Wouldn't be, uh, censorship, would it?

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Sorry I haven't been blogging much. There's only one topic, the war, and Command Post has got that pretty well covered.

I'm too disgusted to write much. Barcelona is a sea of anti-Americanism. These people are so childlike and so easily led politically by people with SocioCommunist agendas. They're organizing a bunch of anti-American crap like demonstrations and shit. Supposedly everybody in town is supposed to bang pots and pans at ten PM tonight. I'm going to listen, and if I hear any noise coming from my building, when it all finishes and everyone is eating or watching TV, I'm going to turn up my boom box in the living room all the way with my Merle Haggard CD on it, and I'm going to turn up KHYI as loud as I can on these tinny little computer speakers. I bet I can crank enough noise that everybody on the block can hear it. If anybody gives me any shit, I'm demonstrating in favor of the war. Fuck the neighbors. If they participate in this they can kiss my ass. By the way, of course, while all this is going on, I'll be down at the bar myself.
Friend of Iberian Notes Alan Murphy has posted an excellent piece on EuroPundits titled "A Typology of Spanish Anti-War Letters". Check it out. It's excellent. You'll have to scroll all the way down to the bottom. There are all kinds of other terrific posts up there, so go read all of them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Well, I called up La Vanguardia and got hold of the ombudsman and finked out Márius Serra. They are opening an internal investigation. I feel like a rat but he had it coming. He stole a nasty America-bashing piece of trash off the Internet and signed and published it as his own work, and I assume he got paid for it. That's wrong, especially since the text he stole is so sick. Thanks to Angie for tracking down the source of Serra's plagiarized article.

Monday, March 24, 2003

On my accent in Spanish: I sound weird. First, I have rather a high, nasal voice, which actually makes me pretty easy to understand because it's easier to hear high tones than low ones. That's just my own way of talking, though. Second, I have a fairly strong Kansas-Texas accent, noticeable if you're from one of the Coasts. Third, people from Texas and Kansas and that general area often cannot distinguish, before a nasal, between the "short I" sound or mid-high front unrounded vowel(pin, bin, etc.) and the "short E" sound or mid-low front unrounded vowel (pen, Ben, etc.) I pronounce them all the same, with the short I. This makes my English just a little weird, and it carries over into my Spanish since I didn't really learn good Spanish until I was about 22 or 23. It's impossible to get rid of an accent when you learn a language that late in life unless you have an unusually fine ear and an unusually good ability to mimic. I have neither. The only convincing accent I can do is of someone who's a bigger redneck than I am. This all means, combined with my fluency and fast talking, that it takes these folks a couple of minutes of listening to my voice to catch on. Damn. Wish I was better at this. Oh, well, can't change it, so no point in worrying about it.
Sorry, guys, not tonight, and after I'd taken three pages of notes--I'd gone on last time without any except for the quotations I didn't use anyway. They ran out of time since they had to get the necessary clownishness all in and so there's no debate tonight; it's been rescheduled for either tomorrow or Wednesday.

This guy named José, who is apparently a Spanish leftist according to his blog, Tierra y libertad, is kind enough to comment on both this blog and my television performance the other night. He links to some video that I hadn't seen before. I watched it; hadn't seen it before since I don't know how to work our VCR except to play videos from Blockbuster. God, my accent is horrible, but I really did do OK. He is polite and open-minded and admits that, though he is anti-war, that I put up a pretty decent case ("coherent from the American perspective"). His blog is good; it's extremely well-written, this guy's Spanish is a good model for you non-Spanish-speakers who are interested in learning to write Spanish effectively. I disagree with most of what he says, of course, but he is reasonable and he argues according to the rules. Check it out for a different perspective on Spain than you get from me.
You guys are not going to believe this again. They've invited me back on Crónicas marcianas. They were apparently happy with my performance and they want me back. They're picking me up at 11 tonight. I guess that the debate segment will be on late, probably around 1 AM like last time. It's on Tele 5, in case you need to be reminded, so check it out if you're here in Spain. This time I've done some research. I'm raring to go. Javier Nart is not going to know what hit him.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Spanish TV is showing footage of three people who certainly look to be American soldiers being questioned. The first was a white guy with glasses from El Paso, the second was a light-skinned black guy who looked pretty tough and unbowed, and the third was a blonde guy who said he was from New Jersey. One of them said they were mechanics. The first and third guys looked genuinely scared; if this is a fake it's a damn good one. They also showed eight or ten bodies wearing American uniforms who had been shot in the head or the chest. They say Al Jazeera is running this footage nonstop and that it has not been broadcast yet in the United States.
I honestly believe that people should have pets (domestic animals, of course, not captured wild ones). They're quite capable of sincerely giving love and affection, and they experience at least some of the same emotions humans do (fear, jealousy, kindness, anger, longing, embarrassment, curiosity, moodiness, protagonism, gratitude, self-esteem). I think I learn about people as well as cats from watching mine.

When slightly excited, I find the best way to calm down is to lie down on the living-room couch and turn on the TV; immediately, between one and five cats take their positions. The most favored one is on my chest, probably because cats find rhythm and vibration soothing and also because that's the position in which they get the most attention. They sort of take turns; every ten or fifteen minutes one will wedge his way in where another was.

In case you didn't know, we have Chang and Eng, the red-point Siamese twins who behave like live teddy bears, red-and-white muscular Bart who loves individual attention and will wake you up in order to get some, grayish Lisa with a tiny little mewish voice who insists on hiding underneath the stove when people come over, and sleek jet-black Oscar, who is absolutely fascinated by water and especially the toilet flushing. He likes to watch the swirly going down the tank. He also enjoys sitting on the edge of the bathtub while you take a shower. Surprisingly for a cat, he doesn't mind getting damp, though he doesn't like wet. If you were here probably one of them would be sitting on you by now; right now Chang is peacefully seated on the chair next to mine and Oscar is interfering with my typing. He likes to watch me type, too, and I think it's the clicking of the keys that he enjoys most.

Yes, I've come out of the closet; at heart I'm really a catblogger, not a warblogger.
I have made a momentous decision.

I am no longer a fan of FC Barcelona.

FC Barcelona has announced that tonight, when the Barcelona players run out onto the field, they will carry a banner that says "No to the war." Several of the players, especially the Argentinian crew, have spoken loudly about their anti-American feelings. They have every right to take these actions, though I believe it's a better idea to keep politics and sports separate and think that FC Barcelona has made a very serious mistake in mixing the two. And, of course, I have my right to demonstrate my disapproval of any action FC Barcelona takes. I plan to do so by boycotting the club from now until it makes a public apology, which it is never going to do and especially not on my say-so.

During wartime, when it's a question of loyalty to your country or loyalty to a sports team--and it seems to me like I have to make a choice here, since not only some players as individuals, but the organization as a whole, have come out in opposition to the United States--I'll go with both my home country's government and my adopted country's government rather than just some sports team. That's all FC Barcelona is to me now. Just another club. "Més que un club"? It's just a soccer team. Supported by a bunch of jerks who take their frustrations out on the players more obnoxiously than those of any other club I've seen. They're not particularly violent, they're just pissy. And whiny.

It does not help that the coach, Radomir Antic, despite the professional success he has had, publicly supported Slobodan Milosevic during the Serbian Wars. I had been willing to overlook that until now, as well as the attitudes of some of the players, especially of Bonano and Sorín, reasoning that one does not vet one's workers politically and so their individual actions are not the club's responsibility. But now that the club has openly proclaimed its anti-American status, I will no longer overlook the actions of the coach and the players on the ground that FC Barcelona is openly supporting said individuals' actions and that it, as an organization, is therefore responsible.

So who do I root for now? Ajax Amsterdam, with Ronald Koeman as coach. Koeman is a gentleman and was a fine player known for his intelligence as much as his skill. He was the leader of the great Barcelona teams of the early Nineties when they won four Spanish Leagues in a row and one European Cup. And, get this. During the mayoral elections one year, buffoonish Socialist then-mayor Pasqual Maragall said that he was going to get Koeman to run for City Council on his party's ticket--this was when the Maastricht treaty went into effect and EU nationals could vote and run for office in their adopted city's municipal elections. Koeman responded something like, "First, it's not very professional to say things like that without checking with me first, second, Enrique Lacalle, the PP candidate, is a friend of mine--he even rents me my house--and I'm not going to go against him, and third, in my country, I vote for the conservative party anyway." It was devastating and the talk of the town for a few days.

Also, I will say one thing in favor of defenestrated coach Louis van Gaal. He is well-known for refusing to put up with any sort of racism, which is very common in the world of soccer fans. Van Gaal once pulled his team off the field and took the forfeit when he was in, like, the Belgian league, because his team's own fans were insulting his black players, making monkey noises, and throwing bananas on the field, for the grave sin of playing lousy that day. So we get rid of a guy who is best known, on the issues, for being legitimately anti-racist and putting his money where his mouth is, and we hire a guy who is best-known, on the issues, for backing Slobodan Milosevic. That's progress.

And in the Spanish league? I guess I root for whoever's playing Barcelona.
Everyone knows all about the war, I suppose. It's being reported in Spain like this: The Vangua's headline today is "No to the war floods Barcelona; Hundreds of thousands march during four hours with good behavior; Police charges and sixty injured at end of Madrid demonstration." Yesterday it was "Hell in Iraq; Tremendous rain of missiles and bombs over downtown Baghdad; Land offensive begins in south, where oil wells burn; Iraqi army division with 8000 soldiers surrenders near Basra; Turkish troops penetrate northern Iraq despite American opposition." Friday it was, "Land invasion of Iraq begins; Anglo-American troops move toward Basra; Severe, selective bombing of official centers in Baghdad; Sixteen soldiers die as US helicopter crashes."

I would say that, in general, the Vangua's news coverage has been pretty fair; they do point out that many, even most Iraqi troops seem willing to surrender, that several sons-of-bitches like Chemical Ali have been blown straight to Islamic hell where they will be forced to endlessly service seventy-two nymphomaniac Divines (if women go to Islamic hell, they get 72 Ron Jeremys), that what we've seen so far of the Iraqi public is welcoming the invading troops, and that very few civilians have been killed as far as we know. Unfortunately that figure is a little higher than zero, but let's keep it as low as we can, even if we have to put our troops into danger in order to do so.

Here's a nasty comment from their correspondent, Tomás Alcoverro, the guy who wrote in such purple prose about the sights and smells of Jenin: "Despite these spectacular attacks on Baghdad, so far there has been a limited number of victims (officially). Four killed and 220 wounded, mostly children and women. (Fair enough so far.) The civilian population, which the American leaders are trying not to attack in its offensive (more than fair, that), is still the innocent cannon fodder as in every war." Wait a minute, dickface, didn't you just say that very few civilians have been hurt and that the Allies are doing their best not to hurt any more? Cannon fodder, my ass. Jesus Christ. This is the first war in history in which one of the sides, ours of course, is doing the best it can to spare not only "enemy" civilians but also enemy soldiers.

The Vangua is running Robert Fisk's dispatches. They are as full of crap in Spanish as they are in English. I will not bother commenting on them any further. Xavier Batalla is trying to weasel out of the "We're not naive, we know that the fact that Saddam is a dictator who tortures his people isn't the only reason we're going in; the most important reasons are that Saddam constitutes a threat to the US, its allies, and his own neighbors, and that Saddam is in league, loosely, with other rogue states and several terrorist gangs" realpolitik argument. He says that we had to go into Kosovo because there was a question of days or even hours in which the incipient genocide of the Albanians needed to be stopped, but that Saddam's been in power for years so that there's no urgency in getting rid of him through war. Right. Sure.

Nutcase Rafael Poch in Peking, who is pro-North Korean, says that it's cool if North Korea goes to war because it has the right to make a preventative attack, since the Americans are obviously planning to hit North Korea. He says that North Korea should not tamely wait to meet its end like Iraq did. This guy is not merely stupid. He's insane. I cannot believe that a newspaper claiming to be responsible could print his dangerously violent ravings. Just for fun, he calls South Korea a "vassal" of the United States. That sounds to me like, besides being a lie, a grave insult to the people of South Korea, who are fiercely independent-minded and who DEMOCRATICALLY elected the government that has expressed open support for the US.

The Pope, as usual, missed a good chance to shut up, saying the war "threatens the fate of humanity"--just a little overblown there, J.P., especially since it's Saddam who directly threatens the fate of a whole lot of humans--and that "Violence and weapons can never solve humanity's problems." Dunno, seems to me that it was with violence that we beat the Nazis and with an arms race that we beat the Soviets. Pretty successful, I'd say. Those were a couple of big problems there, Naziism and Communism.

Yesterday's demo in Barcelona, with a march from Plaza España down the Paralelo to the central government's delegation on the Paseo Colón, beteen the harbor and the Parque Ciutadella, was sizable, some 150,000 people. The organizers are claiming a million, of course, and are calling a general strike on Wednesday. I'll be sure to shop in stores that stay open that day. They got about 20,000 out in Madrid, though they claimed a million. The pacifists threw all kinds of shit at the cops in Madrid and they finally charged and beat the living crap out of them. Go Cops! Seventy peace-lovers who had been throwing beer bottles were injured. Cops! Cops! Cops! Thump 'em! Beat 'em! Let's go, Cops! Nightsticks, truncheons, Cops, Cops, Cops! Don't hurt 'em too bad, but let them know that that kind of behavior is not socially responsible nor a sign of civic values. There was a cool photo of some peacenik committing sabotage in San Francisco having his face ground into the sidewalk while being handcuffed. Anyway, the Madrid government warned people that if they participate in illegal demos or behave illegally in a legal demo, they will face the consequences.

Dumb Letters To the Editor: ...they want to sell us the military intervention as the only solution to fight against a regime that, according to the United States and its allies, possesses dangerous arms of mass destruction that the Americans themselves sold the Iraqis, when the real question is centered basically on power, wanting to control one of the countries where the United States has most economic interests (Anna Sans Caudet, Barcelona)...We must convince the other through the force of reason, not defeat him or annihilate him with the force of arms (M. Angels Manén Folch, Barcelona)...Damn Bush and his hawks. Damn the court jesters of the American emperor. Damn you, Aznar and company, because with your support of the illegitimate attack on Iraq you are sending Iraq "to the shit", you're sending all of us to "the shit". You go there, both to the war and "to the shit". It's your fault and we will all pay the consequences but, most importantly, people will die. Although you don't care (Manel Zaera Idiarte, Amposta)...Bush and his hawks have stubbornly started an unjust and cruel war against Iraq, with the excuse of disarming it, when the real motive of controlling its oil and and expanding its power (Antonio Aparicio, Barcelona)...Spain is one of the countries that are going to commit many murders in the next weeks or months, directly or indirectly. And everything is motivated by economic interests, by the aspiration to show who is the boss in the world (the US) or that to "show up in the photo" next to the powerful ones or because of who knows what secret, dark promises (Juan Antonio Criado, Barcelona)...The cost of the war is paid for by the State with the money from its citizens' taxes. The profits will go to private companies, controlled by the lobbies in the US (Santiago Martín, Barcelona)...France, Germany, Russia, and China have shown respect for international law (Enric de N. Palacios, Barcelona)...Will Aznar carry, wrapped in his colossal flag, the cadavers of those which make us hangmen because of his support of the United States? (Sergio Barrera Perea, Reus)...The capitalist system has caused the power of the citizen to reside in his consumption, without noticing that with every purchase and every sale the basic principles of democracy are being eaten away (Borja Vilaseca, Martorell)...We all know that the cause of the current wars and conflicts is based on economic injustice, the great difference between comfortable Western society and the rest of the countries.(José Rodríguez, Olesa de Montserrat)

On Saturday Rafael Poch, the nutcase, went to a meeting of 1200 "Chinese intellectuals" who are against the war on Saddam and quotes several of them extensively. Here's the best quotation from someone billed as the ex-ambassador to Russia, Yang Shou Zheng, "The first American interest is the oil, they're thieves and they want to steal it. We should consider them paper tigers and not fear them. We have a 5000-year-long history and if we want to be more powerful, we must study the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao." This guy is living on Planet Claire.

Zap is still going on about how he wants to deny the Americans the use of bases in Spain. Meanwhile, the Catalan Parliament passed a resolution agianst the war which called on the Catalan people to "speak up against the war". The PP was the only party who didn't support it. Convergence and Union is still trying to sit on both sides of the fence; this time they supported the resolution. They'll do something contradictorily pro-war tomorrow or Tuesday.

Here's the absolute most offensive thing I've read printed in La Vanguardia, perhaps ever. It's by Gregorio Morán, who is an old-line communist who blows off steam by insulting the United States or the Aznar government every Saturday. I normally don't quote him because his articles always say the same thing, and he's not nearly as "good" as Baltasar Porcel or Eulàlia Solé. This one is especially "good", though, really an achievement for Morán. He's normally a windbag; his columns occupy almost a full page and they're hard slogging through and I usually just don't bother. He's managed to express his real opinion quite concisely this time, buddy, he sure has.

...I still believe exactly the same thing (about Vietnam), and I keep the books and documents of the Vietnamese, including some poems by Ho Chi Minh, excellent, for sure. That iniquitous war liquidated entire generations of Vietnamese and undermined the morale of an empire, an empire I hope and believe is gasping out its dying breaths. In case you don't understand me and you think I'm being ambiguous, I'd like to be specific: I fervently desire, and will put all the strength I have into helping, the defeat of the United States Army, whether in Vietnam or in Iraq, for many reasons, but one above all: it represents everything I have fought against since I had the use of reason. Of course during the Vietnam War everything was very clear, and if the Vietcong communists won then the Vietnamese won...

Friday, March 21, 2003

Well, I went on TV last night. We didn't go on until after 1 AM. There was a fifteen-minute debate segment which, I must say, was reasonably serious--they got all the clowns off the stage before the debate and it was the host, Xavier Sardà, who was perfectly nice and a gentleman, me, some guy who wasn't anti-war who was pretty cool, and this guy named Javier Nart, who was my designated enemy. Nart didn't bother to argue much, he mainly insulted the United States and called me ignorant. I think I did pretty well, though I wasn't exactly prepared for what was going to get thrown at me--instead of going for the cheap populist arguments all the time, Nart tried to confuse me by attacking subpoints of what I was trying to say, and he did pretty well at that. I had plenty of facts on my side. I thought the crowd was going to be totally against me, but they weren't; Nart only got two sustained rounds of applause off them. Sardà bent over backwards to give me a chance to talk and shut Nart up a couple of times. I had a couple of quotations from Iraqi exiles prepared that I was going to read, but I forgot to. Anyway, I thought it went all right in general. I didn't make a fool of myself, anyway, and got a few good points in. I wonder how many people saw it.

In case you want to see a tiny photograph of me in action, click here for the Crónicas marcianas home page. It's the third or fourth little section down; I'm the guy on the left with glasses, a beard, and a black shirt pointing with my top two fingers. Better look now because they'll probably take this off the Net pretty soon. The other guy with the white hair is Javier Nart. If you click on the little headline there's another tiny photo of me and the third guy, along with some commentaries made by the viewers; at least some of them agreed with me and one of them takes Nart to task for not letting me talk.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Boy, you guys aren't going to believe this one. Clark, who is in with the local TV production companies, got a call from a program called Crónicas marcianas, which is more or less the Spanish equivalent of the Jerry Springer Show, wanting a pro-war American to go on the show presumably to get ambushed. He immediately thought of me, of course, and I received a call asking me to come on the show. I agreed and they're coming to get me at 10:30; we go on at 11 PM, presumably live. This ought to be fun. I'm going to attempt to be reasonable, but pull no punches, and use irony instead of anger when challenged. I expect that someone will try to provoke me and I am not going to take the bait. Let's see if I can convince even one person that Uncle Sam's right about this one. So if you're here in Spain, turn your TV to Tele 5 at 11 o'clock and we'll see what happens.
Jacques Chirac has addressed the French people, saying that France is against the war on Saddam. He also invited France's self to take part in the postwar phase of reconstruction. Dream on, Jacques.

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has just announced, in the name of the Spanish Socialist Party, that "today is a black page in the history of the world." Not quite as good as "a day that will live in infamy", but with the same meaning. Zap's comparing this with Pearl Harbor. He continued, "Every bomb is an attack on the principles of democracy." Huh? Exactly how? I thought this was a bunch of democracies dropping bombs on a tyrant and his henchmen. Seems to me that if one is pro-democracy, then one supports the democratic countries, doesn't one, especially if they come into conflict with a dictatorship? He added that Aznar was responsible for the war; Mr. Aznar has played a prominent role, certainly, but calling him responsible for the whole thing is a bit of an overstatement. Zap also demanded an emergency parliamentary debate, which doesn't make sense while 1) we don't know what's going on yet 2) they've been debating all week anyway 3) no vote taken will come to anything because Aznar has an absolute majority in Parliament and all his backbenchers are behind him, 100% of them. In the last secret ballot in Parliament there were no defections. Finally, Zap called upon Aznar to deny the Americans use of Spanish airspace and of American bases inside Spain. This would, of course, be a unilateral (which I thought we were all against) violation of both the NATO treaty and the Spanish-American bilateral agreement (I thought we made a big deal out of observing treaties and keeping agreements) and would break completely with the United States. That would not be very smart. Zap, however, is a clear case of the wheel's turning but the hamster's dead. This guy is dumber than anyone in American politics, even Jesse Ventura or John Warner or Carol Moseley-Braun. Maybe not dumber than that "Beam me up, Scotty" congressman from Ohio, whatever his name was, who got sent to jail. But pretty near as dumb. He can't even read a speech convincingly, much less take questions about it. The Communist leader, Gaspar Llamazares, is a mental giant in comparison.
Márius Serra, who is a self-righteous prick, is the guy who writes the crossword for the Vanguardia. He adds these pearls to the discussion:

One of the most respectful forms of protest is, without doubt, silence. Even if it's only a minute, or thirty seconds, to remain silent in memory of the victims of human predation gives us space to think, distance ourselves from the most-shouted slogans, and be aware of things. That's why, on a day like today, it is worthwhile to bother ourselves to tremain silent for one minute in homage to the four thousand American civilians (of course, actually, it was around 3000) who died in New York on September 11, 2001, victims of the mad warmongering of some fanaticized beings. Since we're already remaining silent, we could be silent for 13 minutes in memory of the 130,000 Iraqis that the bombardments of the civil populace during the Gulf War killed. (Bullshit. He's just making up numbers. It was more like 5000. And while the death of civilians is a tragic and unfortunate cost of war, the Americans' plan wasn't to kill those people. There's a major difference in motivation between the US Army and Al Qaeda. But there's nobody to blame but Saddam for the death of these people since if he HADN'T STARTED THE GODDAMN WAR they wouldn't have died. That there seems to me to be one of those "root causes" that sophisticated Old Europeans are supposed to be non-simplistic enough to realize.) Doesn't all that silence make you think? So, since we're at it already, let's lengthen those 14 minutes that we've been shut up with 20 more in homage to the 200,000 Iranians killed by their Iraqi neighbors with the weapons (literally of mass destruction) that the Americans sold to Saddam Hussein while he was their ally. (OK, Iraq and Iran go to war, and, guess what, let's blame America! Of course, the great majority of Saddam's arms were and are of, uh, Russian and French manufacture, and the rest are illegally acquired from, say, North Korea. And Mr. Serra isn't saying that those Iranians were, uh, the soldiers of an aggressive and dictatorial regime.) Then we could dedicate another quarter hour to the 150,000 Russians and Afghans killed at the hands of the Taliban, also with American arms and training, including Bin Laden. (Wait. The Russians INVADED Afghanistan, remember? Isn't any of this their fault? Second, we never armed the Taliban because when the Russians pulled out in 1989, we pulled out too, and the Taliban wasn't formed until 1994. During the eighties we did arm the mujihadeen, some of whom later joined extremist and terrorist groups, not because we loved them but because they fought the Soviets. Third, we never armed Bin Laden. And fourth, these dead people were Soviet soldiers and Afghan revolutionaries, not civilians.) Since we've gone so far, we only have 11 minutes left in the hour, we could dedicate them tho the more than 100,000 Japanese victims, direct or indirect, of the nuclear barbarism of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not to mention Vietnam, Panama, Chile, Guatemala...(Please. You could name a number of past American actions that are morally questionable, just like you could do for any other country on the face of the earth--including both Spain and Catalonia. But remember, the Japanese started the war, and we had to stop it somehow. Many fewer civilians were killed in the atomic bombings than would have died in a full-scale invasion of Japan, which would have been just as horrific as the German-Russian war.)

All added up, this makes an hour of silence. One minute for the American victims and fifty-nine for the victims of the Americans. How much longer will we have to lengthen our sepulchral silence? (Marius, you prick, do you or do you not understand that the great majority of American actions of questionable morality occured in the context of the Cold War, when there were lesser evils like the Shah and Pinochet and greater evils like Communism, responsible for 50 or 60 or 100 MILLION deaths in the 20th century. World War II had to be won and we won it, and the Cold War had to be won and we won it too, and you should thank your god for the preservation of your sad little asshole, Marius, because instead of getting all worked up about your right to speak Catalan, you'd be cheerfully obeying the orders of your masters in either German or Russian. No, Marius thinks too highly of himself and his culture to admit anything of the sort. You know how, sometimes, someone can be your political adversary but you like him? I like Jordi Pujol despite everything, for example. But I just know I'd hate Marius. He's one of your snotty uptown bourgeois Catalans who thinks because he's a medium fish in a tiny pond he's something special, and he hates us because our example proves the truth, which he will die before admitting but which he also knows in his heart, that he and his culture are insignificant in the eyes of the world, so insignificant that their most recognized sign of their identity around the world is a football team whose players are almost all from somewhere else.)
As you almost certainly already know, the attack on Iraq began about an hour and a half after the deadline ran out. The Allies fired some forty missiles into Baghdad, targeting political and military leaders. Saddam was a target. The Iraqis have fired two missiles into Kuwait, and there was a rumor that they contained gas; the rumor has been debunked. That's all the news there is so far; I'm flipping back and forth between Televisión Española, Catalunya TV, Tele 5, and Antena 3, but they haven't got much to report for now. It's a little after 11 AM here; the attack began at 3:40 AM our time, 5:40 AM Baghdad time, so the war is a little over seven hours old. I'll be home all day, between writing and blogging, so I'll keep y'all updated on what's happening here in Spain.

The newspapers on the stands this morning, with one exception, are all noncommittal; a good example is the Vanguardia's headline, "Attack Begins: Bush gives order to bomb selected targets; Iraqi leaders targets of attack; Cruise missiles and precision bombs fall on Baghdad at dawn; War begins hour and half after deadline." The Vangua's editorial page contains this sensible sentence, "Right now we can only hope for the rapid fall of Saddam Hussein and a minimum of victims, especially among the civilians." I can support that.

The exception is El Periódico, which is running this full-page headline in red and white letters on a black background: "The Illegal War Begins". Still, though, the papers didn't have much time to get anything thrown together.

Spain is sending three warships, the amphibious assault boat Galicia, the frigate Reina Sofía, and the tanker Marqués de la Ensenada, with a total of 900 men and women through the Med and the Suez Canal, down the Red Sea and around Arabia to Qatar. It should take them two weeks to get there, so hopefully they won't be needed. The Galicia has an emergency hospital with facilities to care for some 160 wounded, and among the 900 soldiers are several chemical and radiological cleanup teams and bomb and mine deactivation squads; those guys will certainly be useful after the war. Spain also has a competent paramilitary police, the Guardia Civil, who could send detachments to Iraq in the postwar period for civilian police purposes--somebody's got to patrol the streets and I imagine that Iraqi law enforcement has been rather discredited in the eyes of the people.

The first political reactions are in; Jordi Pujol, Prime Minister of Catalonia, is supporting the Aznar government and is walking the tightrope over supporting the war. All Pujol will say so far is that he doesn't think Aznar is acting illegally, but ethically he's against the war, but he understands why the Americans are nervous about Saddam, and that the French bungled the diplomatic negotiations, and that everybody wants Saddam to go, but "many people think that doing it through war seems excessive." Whichever way the war comes out, he can say he was right. Jordi Pujol is an old fox, the smartest politician in Spain. Aznar is the most courageous, though.

The Socialist reaction is to call the war illegal, and the Communists claim that they're gonna sue and take it all the way to the Constitutional Court. Juan José Ibarretxe of the Basque Nationalists, the Basque prime minister, sent a letter to Kofi Annan, of all people, saying "We Basques say absolutely no to the war and we will not participate either directly or indirectly." Of course, Mr. Ibarretxe is widely suspected of harboring sympathy for the ETA, and it's ridiculous to say that the Basques are united in saying anything to anything, since a minority of Basques has been trying to kill a majority of Basques and the rest of the Spaniards for the last thirty-five or so years. If my people were the group that had produced ETA, I'd be very careful about giving morality lessons to anyone else.
I've got a new post up at EuroPundits. It's about the war, of course, and the Catalan reaction to it. Check it out! Nelson Ascher is also posting away full blast, and there are a lot of good posts up there by everyone involved. To read mine, you'll have to scroll all the way to the bottom. Sasha, please, fix the HTML! Or somebody! I'd do it but I can't. I feel impotent and frustrated. Wait a minute! I think I'm turning into a Catalan nationalist!

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

The country radio station I'm listening to, KHYI in Dallas (they play great music, no disco-country crap) is telling all of us to go out and buy Spanish and Portuguese products. The DJ is playing songs with lyrics in "Es-paaan-yoooohl" as a tribute. He couldn't think of anything produced over here but olives, but he's telling everyone to go out and buy some Spanish olives because they're "standing right with the USA." He can't think of anything made in Portugal, but he guesses they probably grow olives, too. One of the redneck callers said, in praise of the Portuguese, "They speak Spanish over there, too, just like in Texas and Mexico." Not too internationally aware, our caller, but he's got his heart in the right place.

Part of the diference between conservatives and leftists is that conservatives actually give a damn what the working people think. Leftists just assume they know what's best for the working people, who should just shut up and follow them.
Ion Pacepa, who was a colonel in Ceaucescu's intelligence service, bashes the anti-war crowd who used to be the pro-Soviet crowd in NRO. Pacepa ought to know. Terrific piece. David Horowitz has a piece up on a debate he attended at which Christopher Hitchens showed up. Hitch was dutifully pro-war but failed to make the necessary anti-Left arguments that would have clinched the debate in his favor, says ex-nutcase lefty now turned right-wing activist Horowitz. Fox News has this article on who's behind the anti-war protests; their language is not strong enough. Both International Action Center and ANSWER are Workers' World Party fronts, and you don't have to do too much digging to find that out, since the same activists control all three organizations and their control is not democratic.

The story also talks about people who are planning direct action against the war effort, by blocking traffic and doing everything they can to cause disruption and confusion and create problems to distract the government from fighting the war. This is aiding the enemy. It is one thing to protest against the war. You've got every right to do that. You can peacefully assemble against the war. You can write against the war--anyone can do that, because anyone can have a weblog. You can call the president a Fascist murderer and say you hate America and that you hope that all our soldiers get killed, if you want to. That is your right. It is not your right to break the law, and it is especially not your right to break the law when your stated intention in doing so is to impede the United States from fighting a war. That is called aiding the enemy, and aiding the enemy is treason. I think these people should be tried for treason; I think there are a lot of people in this world who have no idea what their responsibility and its consequences are. You, personally, MAY NOT interfere with the war effort. You are, personally, RESPONSIBLE if you do so. Interfering with the war effort is a CRIME. It is called SABOTAGE. People who commit crimes are PUNISHED. People who commit sabotage, which is a form of TREASON, are punished HARSHLY. I don't care whether you love baby seals and redwood trees or not, and I don't care if you're the black Hispanic Native American lesbian transgendered unwed mother of five minor children, and I don't care what your fucking conscience told you to do. You break the LAW, you help the ENEMY, you go to JAIL. There are a lot of people who just do not understand the seriousness of what they are doing, and do not understand that lying down in front of an army truck or any other form of sabotage has CONSEQUENCES. It's time these people found out.
There are more posts up on EuroPundits! Nelson Ascher has more up, and Amiland has a piece, too. Go check 'em out.
All of you already know that Wednesday or Thursday is War Day. The Vanguardia's headline today is "Bush to attack in 48 hours if Saddam not exiled; President demands Iraqi leader and sons leave country; Washington asks Iraqi Army to surrender and collaborate; UN orders evacuation, embassies close; Blair faces resignation of minister Robin Cook." Yesterday it was: "Definitive ultimatum from Bush, Blair, and Aznar; USA, UK, and Spain certify alliance against Saddam; Three Presidents (sic) give UN 24 hours for agreement; Bush may announce attack on Iraq tonight if diplomacy fails." I won't go into detail about my opinion, except to say, "Finally. About goddamn time." The Vangua is furiously backpedaling, trying to ride on both sides of the center line; Alfredo Abian, in the page 2 editorial, says that Saddam is a murderer, that the gas attack on Halabja was made with French Mirage planes, and, get this, "Neither Jacques Chirac nor other European actors are saying this, but they, at least, should be reproached for a degree of cynicism as elevated as that attributed to the USA." So we're all cynical, even the French. How about this: "The French are as cynical as Talleyrand, while the Americans are as cynical as Wilson". Wilson was a damn fool, and so are we for not having taken Saddam out at least twelve months ago and for having asked the worthless UN for permission. By the way, everybody is forgetting about Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Durao Barroso, who stands firmly with the Alliance against Saddam, who was the host of the meeting in the Azores, and who signed all the documents that the other three leaders did. I vote we give three cheers for Portugal and its gutsy Prime Minister.

Bush's complete speech is transcribed on page 4 of the Vanguardia, which I have to admit is very good about this kind of thing, since it considers itself the newspaper of record in Catalonia. I won't discuss it except to say I think it was a damn good speech, clear and concise and laying out America's case. No bullshit. Mr. Bush is not a bullshitter. Mr. Clinton certainly was. This is why the Old Europeans, those expert bullshit-flingers, loved Clinton and hate Bush.

Want some Frog bullshit? Here's some from Dominique de Villepin (hasn't anybody made fun of this guy for being a pantywaist effeminate sissy purse-carrying Frenchman with a girl's name? Typical Gallic girly-man. Iberian Notes, your one-stop blog for immature juvenile sophomorica.) He says the war isn't necessary, that there's not a majority that voted for it (uh, Dommy, the majority of the people in the pro-war democratic states, of which I count 16 out of 19 in NATO and twelve or fifteen others in Eastern Europe, not to mention Japan and Australia and several Latin American governments who are prudently keeping quiet about it, voted for the governments that are now deciding for war. Who cares what a bunch of Third World dictators of shithole ex-French colonies think?), and he went so far as to rebuke Bush for using an expression that comes from poker when Bush said that Paris "had shown its cards". Said snotty Dommy, "Comparing the current situation with a game of poker does not reflect reality". Go wipe your nose, Dommy, it's dripping on your shirt. Dommy! Didn't Daddy tell you always to carry a Kleenex in your pocket? Will you ever grow up...Now, Dommy, remember, big boys don't cry...

The Vangua is also reporting that Aznar's goal is to become America's leading European partner, after Britain, of course. Well, he's worked pretty hard to gain America's confidence, and he deserves it. I also vote that the United States should take Mr. Aznar and Spain very seriously in the future, since Aznar has behaved responsibly where other European leaders have failed. They're trying to talk up a Parliamentary revolt against Aznar, but there's one problem: Aznar's PP has an absolute majority in the parliament and every one of his 183 deputies is behind him all the way. There have been zero defections. Zero. That's because the PP is a well-organized, professional political party, unlike the pathetically unprofessional and unprepared Socialists. Anyone used to American or British politics can only laugh at the Socialists' incompetence, because they should have been able to knock Aznar's approval rating down to about seven percent what with the oil spill, the water plan, the problems with the high-speed train, the education bill, the slow economy, and the unpopular war on Iraq. The Socialists do not constitute serious opposition. They're divided and weak besides being stupid and incompetent, with an incoherent populist message and a leader who is as dumb (ever heard Zapatero answer questions at a press conference? He's as unprepared as they incorrectly accuse Bush of being) as any other in the world.

Chirac is demanding "one or two months more" of inspections. Sit down and shut up. You have lost and you have lost badly. Your only hope is for the attack to be a disaster. You are hoping at this moment for a lot of American and British soldiers to die, and you are hoping they will kill a lot of innocent Iraqi civilians so that they will look like the bad guys. I have never used this phrase before in the thirteen months of this blog's existence, but I'm going to now. Fuck you, Jacques Chirac, and fuck you, France, for having elected him. And double fuck-you for putting your stupid selves in the stupid position of having to choose between him and Le Pen. Michele Alliot-Marie, the French defense minister, said while touring the Gulf states that France will not take part in any war not backed by the Security Council, but will participate in the postwar phase. Dream on. Next time anyone consults France about anything will be about 2087. Way to go, Jacques. You could have had Washington and London and Madrid and Rome and Tokyo as friends. You could have led a strong and united European Union into a transatlantic alliance in which the EU would have counted for something. Now you have Moscow and Baghdad. Berlin will be your friend until Schroeder goes, which will be within weeks, and Germany will then become more pro-American than the Americans themselves in order to avoid being consigned to the same international cryogenic freezer as France will be. (And have you ever heard of anyone frozen cryogenically being resuscitated? I haven't.) As for your pal Saddam, he will not be alive on Friday. Looks like you French are about to find out whether you like borscht and vodka better than McDonald's. I suppose Jose Bove is happy.

The Pope is pissed off at the US, UK, and Spain. He is worried about the fact that "only three leaders are deciding about the situation" and claims that an attack on Iraq could have "tremendous consequences for the suffering people of Iraq and the Middle East". He also goes on about the UN and international law and peaceful solutions and negotiations and working responsibly for peace and fomenting extermism.

Well, I'm pissed off at the Pope, and I repeat that this mistake will cost him his place in history. The man who would have been remembered 100 years from now as the Pope who stood up to Communism will now be remembered as the Pope who kissed Saddam's ass. If Catholics are offended--I'm especially hoping not to make Jesus Gil, whose opinion I respect, angry--I'm sorry, that's not my intention, but if the Pope speaks up on international issues he runs the risk of being harshly criticized. And if the Pope speaks foolishly and behaves disgracefully, which he has done just like Chirac and Schroeder, he deserves to be raked over the coals in the same way. He doesn't get a free pass for being a religious leader, especially since he is the only religious leader who governs an internationally recognized state.

Said archbishop Renato Martino, another Old European in a high position in the Church (others include papal nuncio in Iraq Fernanco Filoni and his secretary Jean-Francois Lantheaume. I want to see one surname other than Wojytla of an important person in the hierarchy that isn't Italian, French, or Spanish. I bet there are some with Portuguese names, and I bet that's it) on Radio Vatican, "The war is a crime against peace that calls for vengeance before God." Does this mean that Aznar is going to hell? That's sure what "vengeance before God" sounds like to me. Shouldn't Aznar and Berlusconi be excommunicated, along with all other pro-war Catholics? Does this mean they won't let Tony Blair in when he converts after his term as PM is over?
Something's wrong with the Comments section; seems that some of them have disappeared. I haven't censored anything from the Comments and I hope I never have to, so if you put up a comment and it's been erased, it wasn't me. Feel free to repost it.
I've received a couple of proposals that we hold a Barcelona Blog Bash. I'm in. All other bloggers and blogreaders are invited. Sometime during Holy Weekend (Apr. 18 to 21) would probably be the best time, since almost everyone in Spain is off work then and the weather should be nice. For people coming in from out-of-town, we can put up a couple who don't mind smoking and cats. There's also a decent and inexpensive hostal within walking distance of my place, and a three-star hotel not much farther away. We could even hold a lunch symposium with my mother-in-law--we'd take her out to eat somewhere nice, of course, and get a glass or so of wine into her--over her experiences as a fourteen-year-old girl during the Spanish Civil War. I checked the listings in La Vanguardia and the classical music offerings aren't up yet for that week, but I guarantee you that there'll be something at the Palau de la Musica Catalana (a spectacular Domenech i Montaner building) and at the new concert hall, L'Auditori, for you music people out there. There will be a nice exhibition on of the female nude in 19th century French painting from the Petit Palais in Paris, titled "From Ingres to Bonnard", at La Pedrera (one of Gaudí's major buildings), for you art people. There's always something good on at one of the theaters, for you theater people who know Spanish or Catalan. There'll be a soccer game in town that weekend, either Barça or Español, for you sports people. And, of course, plenty of beer, for you beer people.
Remei and I have decided that we're going to confiscate her mother's dog because she just can't take care of it correctly and it's not a good situation for the dog. We won't take away all her pets; she's got two cats that she can take care of just fine, but the dog is just out of the question. We'd take the dog ourselves but we can't fit two of us, five cats, and a dog into one Barcelona-sized apartment. So, do any of you folks anywhere near Barcelona want a wonderful dog? Her name is Perla, she's a pretty cinnamon-colored short-haired mutt (the best kind of dog!), she weighs about eight kilos and is 3 or 4 years old, and she's had all appropriate veterinary care, including vaccinations and sterilization. She's great with kids and tolerant of cats, she's friendly, affectionate, and playful, and she has no bad habits (howling all the time, tearing up stuff, crapping on the floor, etc.). She has never bitten anyone, no matter what, and she never will. Her tail doesn't wag when she sees you; the whole dog wags. It's kind of funny to see. She'll eat anything you give her; she's not picky like some dogs. This is a dog with a lot of positives and only one negative: she's used to a good bit of attention, which is why she'd be better off with a couple, a family, or a retired person than with someone single who's away from home for more than about eight hours a day. You have to promise that if you ever decide to get rid of her you will return her to us, and we'll figure something out, but you will not abandon her or dump her at the dog pound. Not that you'll want to get rid of her, you'll love her and she'll love you, but just in case.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Oh, great, now it works, after eating three longish posts. Screw this. See you tomorrow. If we're all lucky, we'll have won the war by then. If we haven't, it'll be no thanks to our friends the Leftist Spaniards, who are behaving like a bunch of asses as usual. The media is totally anti-Aznar except for Televisión Española; TV3, Catalan TV, is probably providing the most-biased, most anti-American coverage. I vote Aznar breaks his promise and runs in 2004 just to make sure that somebody intelligent is in charge of this country, because I'm not sure right now that I trust anyone else in Spanish politics.
I cannot get Blogger to work. I don't know what the problem is.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

There's not all that much in Part II of John's Intellectual Progress or How I Became a Hawkish Free-Market Libertarian. I said yesterday that I came to Spain in 1987, and Spain was not a capitalist country yet. The best example is Telefónica, which was then the government telecoms monopoly. It cost something like two hundred bucks to get a phone hooked up. There were, of course, no cellphones. They sent you a non-itemized bill every two months and you could either pay it or let your phone get cut off. Overseas calls cost a fortune and there was a phone center, not one of those new card-phone places that cater to immigrants but an old-style Bulgarian Third World place in the Plaza Catalunya where you could go and make a station-to-station call, which cost an arm and a leg but at least you knew you were paying twenty bucks for ten minutes. You could dial direct from pay phones, but you needed a huge pile of change and you risked getting cut off before you got an answer due to some bug in the system.

In 1989 I was living with another American and a Canadian, who were both gay but not a couple, which took me a while to figure out (You mean they're both gay and like, friends and all, but they're not stuffing one another's orifices?), a Dutch guy, his Spanish girlfriend, and two California chicks. The California chicks used the phone we got hooked up so we could deal with job offers and stuff to call their high school friends, against the house rules, and wouldn't admit it, so we all had to pay like seventy extra dollars each one time when we got a huge, of course nonitemized bill. No, it wasn't me calling a phone-sex line, I was getting plenty, thank you, and besides there weren't any phone sex lines then. Not that any of us were aware of, anyway, at least not me. Maybe Don and Tony were calling up Dial-a-Squirt, I don't know, they sure brought home some avant-garde people occasionally, but I don't think so, those guys were legit. A little fruity, but legit. We never had any problems with the avant-garde folks, either, though Don had this big old tube of lube with nonoxynol or whatever that spermicide was called that he'd just leave lying around the place. I'd never seen that stuff before. He used to say he was a virgin because he'd never had coitus with a woman. Anyway, we couldn't prove the chicks had done it and so had to agree to divide the unitemized bill equally. Don just marched into the living room with his undeserved share of the cash we had to pay and just slammed it down on the table while shouting "THIS! IS! THE PRICE! OF ONE LONG PHONE CALL! TO YOUR FUCKING BOYFRIEND! WHO YOU WON'T EVEN FUCK!" It was great. This was still the 80s and some chicks still didn't put out, or at least didn't go all the way, because they had complexes about it. And they certainly wouldn't do that.

I decided right about then that socialism just didn't work, neither the government kind nor the all-for-one-and-one-for-all kind. This decision corresponded, more or less, to the same time I was reading Orwell and then went to Friedman and the Constitution and all sorts of histories.

I also decided that people are all confused about sex and to try not to analyze it too much more, and especially not to take it too seriously. Sex is something people do, and you can't stop them from doing it, so you'd better not try. This tied in with the general libertarian agin' authority streak I've always had. But I decided that authority, in the form of the laws, was there for a reason, just like in every organization you have to have a hierarchy. Now, we all agree to the laws, and if we don't agree with one of them, we can campaign to change it. Don't call me naive--it's happened, from prohibition and back again to women's suffrage to the abolition of slavery to those referendums they keep having in California, all cases where grassroots campaigns caught fire with the people.

Anyway, though, I figured any law must be there for a good reason. Now, we should analyze it and decide if it still does what it's supposed to, guarantee our rights to life, liberty, and property. If the law doesn't do that, it's probably a bad law and we might think about changing it after due debate and process. How does the Kansas sodomy law guarantee life, liberty, or property, for example? All I know about it is it makes me a felon. And fellow Kansan Bob "Mr. Viagra" Dole, too. If you can't giv--oops, never mind. Anyway, being conservative-minded doesn't mean you want to conserve everything, it means you want to conserve the good things. We can try to change the bad things. We just need to be damned careful in how we decide what's bad, and think about questions like basic human rights--individual freedom and our right as a society to decide what's right and what's wrong and how far that goes into people's individual lives. We need to frame questions at the most basic level.

Should the state pay for day care for working parents' children? Well, the right to life doesn't really come in here. Neither does the right to liberty. The right to property--wait, that does come in. The state's gonna pay for that day care with money that belongs to all of us. There are some advantages to and some questions about state day care. Parents with small children will benefit; they'll pay much less for child care. Should we subsidize people to have kids, taking money from the childless to support the fertile? We as a society do need to at least replace our current population. It's certainly true that it's in everybody's economic interest for these working people to spend their valuable time doing the jobs they're trained and educated for and to leave their children in the hands of strangers for nine hours a day. Is parents' ability to leave children safely with strangers something we ought to be spending everyone's money on, though? Why should I pay so somebody can watch your kid? It seems to me that these are more basic, more radical, if you will, questions than "How can we assure that women enjoy job equality with men? Well, since women usually get stuck with the kids, we need to pay for those kids to get taken care of while Mommy works. Mommy thereby benefits. This is good." The question we need to ask is "Do we all benefit?"

In 1992 I came back to Kansas to get a master's degree in linguistics, applied, I must confess. I was there until 1994. Authority was now in the hands of the PC Patrol. Dennis Dailey, Mr. Popular Sex Professor, refused to speculate on the question "What causes homosexuality?" because if we asked that question, then we would use the answer to make gay people be straight. Concerned people, the kind who were into saving the baby seals the year before and wanted us to spend several thousand bucks per capita in order to save the family farm the year after, were passing out condoms all over the place because the Left was pushing the idea that heteros had as much to fear from AIDS as homos. (I'm not saying don't wear a glove. I'm saying that the biggest factor determining whether you're gonna get AIDS is who you're hosing. If that's an IV drug user, a prostitute, or a gay man in a big city, that person has a lot better chance of having the virus and you stand a lot better chance of getting it, since your chance of getting AIDS from someone who doesn't have it is zero.)

The Applied English Center told us ESL teachers that we had to teach our foreign students that there was a word, "lesbigay", which referred to some hypothetical community of lesbs, bis, and gays. I had students from Afghanistan and Mozambique You think I'm going to teach them that shit? They had some "women and minorities" program to get those groups into engineering, tragically dominated by pale penis people. This consisted of workshops to which all high school girls and black and Hispanic boys were invited in order to get them interested in engineering. Great, you'd think, the department is trying to get kids interested in coming to school here, it's selling the university. But white boys were not allowed in, and neither were Asian boys, who seemed to be unfairly engineering-oriented.

This black guy whose initials were D.F. got elected student body president on a "let's unite everybody together" platform. Great, you'd think. Then it came out he'd had a job working at the Salvation Army homeless shelter, for which he was paid the minimum wage. He got caught falsifying time sheets, claiming a good many more hours than he'd actually worked. This guy was stealing from the Salvation Army. From the homeless shelter, for Christ's sake. What's lower than stealing from homeless people? He wasn't forced to resign like anybody else would have been after something like that came out. This guy was not fit to hold any position of trust. And the university administration at first tried to sweep this under the rug. Then D.F. punched his girlfriend, causing her to need dental work. She took him to court and he pleaded guilty in Kansas City, Missouri. The shit hit the fan like three days later. The feminists aboutfaced and now wanted D.F.'s scalp. Most of the regular Student Senators, the frat boys who vote to lavishly support all the intramural sports teams and the aggressive bearded grad teaching assistants who always want higher pay and free parking stickers, wanted to get rid of this guy because, like, the KC Star and CNN were picking it up and it was making us look bad, having a woman-beater and thief from the homeless as our president. The Black Student Union wouldn't back down, though, and finally the Student Senate, completely illegally, invented an impeachment procedure, since no one had ever even thought about having to remove a thief and a bully from his position as our president, and removed D.F. from office. Everybody got denounced as racist. D.F.'s successor, the previously elected vice-president, didn't give much of a damn about what people called him, but his mom was Japanese and his dad met her when he was in the Army. Racists, my ass.

I could tell you fifty-eight stories about the idiocy of early 90s political correctness. Here's the best one. I was teaching upper-intermediate writing and we were supposed to have our students keep daily journals in which they could write anything they wanted, but it was suggested they write about their feelings. I figured most of these people probably didn't think their feelings were any of my business, so I added the suggestion that if they had no other ideas, they look at the free daily student newspaper, find a story they were interested in, and write a paragraph giving their opinion.

So the UDK broke what they figured was a big story, that 48% of all students who graduated finished their BA in four years and 38% in five, with the rest in six or more. Or whatever the stats were. But the figure for black students was more like 32% in four and 56% in five, with the rest in six and some 5% in seven. My guess is that a lot of us white students from the KC suburbs, Topeka, and the Kaw Valley went to better schools and were better prepared for college than many of the black students, who came more from KCK and Wichita where the schools aren't as good. So it took them a little longer to graduate, on average. No surprises there. The UDK called racism, of course, and wrote about how blacks were discriminated against somehow.

Anyway, this Taiwanese guy who I had in class--he'd just come over--chose that story to write his daily journal entry about, but he completely missed the point. He wrote about how it was terrible that the black students didn't study harder and work more diligently in order to graduate on time (seems that if you don't pass your classes or drop half of them in Taiwan, it's your own fault), and how he and the other foreign students were always down in the dorm cafeteria studying in the evenings while the black students were partying and carrying on. I seriously thought about what to do and decided to just sort of ignore that entry and let him figure things out for himself, not out of cruelty but of my own incapacity to explain exactly what the hell was going on.

This was the final nail in the coffin. The multiculti-diversity folks had pushed me too far. It was the same smarmy ed-school crap that I'd had to put up with in high school, but then it was authoritarian old-style teachers and church ladies bossing you around. Now it's those damn department secretaries and associate professors and cataloguing dorks in the library who've taken over the universities and mark a hard line which you must follow or be publicly declared antidiversity, culturally arrogant, and Eurocentric. There's still a "they" telling you what to do, and at least the old-style authoritarian teachers were honest about their goals, keeping all of us in line. The new "they" wants us all to get in line, too, because if we don't we're racists. What's worse is that they're convinced of their virtue. The old-style teachers left you alone after you got out of their class, but the new ones try to change your behavior at all times.

So I got out of there as fast as I could, after getting the damn degree, of course, and before getting myself blacklisted. Now I just stay far away from that kind of people. They get on my nerves. My nerves are delicate.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Over at EuroPundits Nelson Ascher is turning out the posts; he's got a good one on how a Brazilian saw the Falklands War, so check it out. I've got a new post up called "Fisking 101"; you've got to scroll down to the bottom, for some reason, to read it. So go read it already!
Hitch has another article up on the war and those who oppose it. There's no turning back for this guy. He's committed. He's burned his bridges. I guess we'll have to take him if he wants to join, but I vote we force him to work for the Telegraph as penance. Jonah Goldberg rips into those who suggest that the Administration is in the hands of a cabal of Jewish neoconservatives, and rips into them good. Goldberg's quality was sort of iffy there for a while, but this is a strong piece.

Michael Kinsley put up a piece a couple of days ago that Goldberg attacks, but I haven't seen the strongest argument against Kinsley put forth yet. It is that AIPAC openly states that it is a pro-Israeli lobby and that its intention is to influence policy as much as possible. It obeys the laws. It raises funds. It puts its arguments forward. There's nothing wrong with that. That's what lobbies do. It is completely aboveboard. But Representative Moron or whatever his name is was not referring to AIPAC. If he was he should damn well have been careful enough to say so. He was referring to Jewish leaders, and he qualified it by saying Jewish religious leaders. The idea that Jewish religious leaders should take a position either in favor of or against a war in Iraq is completely ridiculous, since there is no Jewish hierarchy. Jews organize themselves into congregations independently, and each congregation chooses its own rabbi. What does Representative Moron want them to do, get all the rabbis together and take a vote? By the time they all shut up about whether your vote counts if you've accidentally eaten pork that day, the war will have been over for eight months. No, Rep. Moron is clearly referring to the cabal that we all know operates underground, and is begging that cabal to stop using its sinister influence over American foreign policy for Israel's benefit.

I accuse Rep. Moron of anti-Semitism, and I accuse Michael Kinsley of not knowing the difference between a transparent, legitimate political organization that works to achieve its openly stated ends and an alleged group of amorphous "Jewish leaders" who manipulate the United States government.
Yesterday I posted about how one's political opinions are often based more on emotion that on logic and reason. It's not fair to generalize unless you admit you're part of the generalization. It's at least partially true for me. I remember, for example, when I was in my late teens and early twenties, it was the 1980s, definitely the least cool decade since the 1910s (20s-Fitzgerald, flappers, wealth, sex. 30s-jazz, gangsters, rad politics. 40s-WWII, The Big One. 50s-Elvis, rock´n´roll, the Beats. 60s-hippies, rock, sex. 70s-hedonism, partying, Me Decade. 80s-Huey Lewis and Hall and Oates. Like a really uncool Fifties. With ugly clothes. And AIDS. 90s-let's all get cyber-rich and be BoBos. Hedonism unseen since the 20s. 00s-decadence? Another Seventies?) Now, I'm a nice middle-class suburban guy; my folks are from Texas but we lived in several different suburbs around the United States. The suburbs in the '80s were stifling compared to what you young pups have now.

I mean, in Kansas City in 1984 we didn't have Internet and barely had cable TV. You still watched the Big Three networks because there wasn't much else, ESPN and CNN and MTV and the Braves and Cubs games and HBO, which wasn't worth what little extra it cost. There were two art house cinemas in town, the Tivoli and the Fine Arts. Each had one screen. There were still more porno movie theaters in town--video has killed off the porno movie theater, fortunately, unless you're Pee-Wee Herman--than art houses. It was really cool to sneak into the Old Chelsea, by the way. I never had the guts to try. I bet nobody else did, either. We had VCRs but there weren't too many good movies available on video. Home computers then couldn't do a damned thing. We still used typewriters to type up our term papers. Video games were cool. It was a big deal to be good at, like, Defender. We had Ataris to play extremely rudimentary video games at home.

We actually went to high school football games and dances. We could get beer really easily because back then it was 18 for 3.2 beer in Kansas, and people would swill it by the bucket. We had no moral compunctions about driving around drunk out of our skulls, either. I'm amazed we didn't all get killed or, worse, kill somebody else. It was really hard to get pot, though. That was something that you didn't often get our hands on. None of us smoked cigarettes, anyway, so we didn't really know how to smoke pot--it wasn't cool at all, it was very redneck or greaser, what those cowboys and auto-shop dudes over at West would do. It was cool to dress prep. People actually said, seriously, "I'm not prep because I never wear Polo over Izod." Whatever that was. I never caught on. And those sweaters with the diamonds on them.

Being into Zep and Floyd and the Who was having good musical taste, one cut above the jokers who thought Foreigner and Styx and Journey were kick-ass. "Rock the Casbah" was the absolute most radical thing played on any radio station, and if it didn't get on the radio, we didn't hear about it. The Violent Femmes were terribly avant-garde then. The Police were considered to be the best major band by high-schoolers; real hipsters might get into the Talking Heads. U2 and REM were just coming out. If you'd heard of the Dead Kennedys you were an out-and-out punker. I was kind of an intellectual kid (I was one of the elite fifty or so on the honors track, which they were still allowed to have back then) and I was into Bob Dylan and Van Morrison big-time, which let me put on intellectual airs. It wasn't cool to listen to black music--Michael Jackson didn't break that taboo because he was so obviously a weirdo. I remember when Prince came out with his Purple Rain album, which was considered shocking; he'd already done "Little Red Corvette" and "1999", which broke through to rock radio. I was listening to Purple Rain at a high-school party at some girl's house in 1984 and "Raspberry Beret" came on and I thought it was cool and said so and my friend George told me, quite earnestly, that it wasn't and that I didn't really like it. It didn't become cool to listen to rap until Aerosmith did "Walk This Way" with Run-DMC in 1986, and it didn't really become accepted until the Chili Peppers and the Beastie Boys.

It was fun. I don't regret it. It was really stifling, though. If you were in high school between 1980 and 1984, your teachers were mostly about forty, which means that they had a 1950s attitude. (The sixties didn't get to Kansas until about 1973.) And that was a pain in the ass because the good ones had no problem getting respect, and we had a lot of good ones, but we also had a lot of bad ones who got by with old-style rigid discipline. That's not allowed now. The predominating attitude you were surrounded by, parents and churches and neighbors and teachers (my folks were pretty good; it's some other people's folks who were repressive), chafed. The Religious Right was just beginning to flex its muscles, and they stood for everything--authority pushing people around, especially, and those goddamn phony silly-smiling "Don't y'all jist luuuv Jaysis" overly-made-up real-estate-agent Republican moms at the goddamn church--that just made me want to puke. (All us Dylan-listening intellectuals actually took The Catcher in the Rye seriously. I thought I was cool because we got assigned Catch-22 senior year and I was the only one who figured it out. I still love that book. But I now know that if I got it back when I was 18, then it's not really that deep.)

The other thing about the 80s was the fear of nuclear war. You pups under the age of about 25 don't remember the fear of us all getting killed in a nuclear war that we all had back in the 1980s. They assigned us to read Alas, Babylon, a very bad nuclear war novel, I suppose because it was relevant. That was the time of the uncertainty in the Kremlin between Brezhnev and Gorbachov, and people still thought the Soviet Union was a huge, dangerous power that might take us over or try to or threaten to nuke us or nuke us by accident. There were movies like The Day After and War Games and also Red Dawn, and Time published endless stories about the Salt talks and throwweights and MIRVs. We all had nightmares about getting blown up in a nuclear war. You missed out on that, fortunately. We had nuclear drills in school, once a year. Just like fire drills and tornado drills.

This led me, and many of us, to be scared out of our skins and to prefer appeasement to confrontation. I spent the whole decade of the 80s as an appeaser and a pacifist because I was scared shitless of the Soviet Union. Now, I was aware that the Soviet Union was a very nasty dictatorship, and I had to find some way to rationalize my natural sympathy for the victims of Soviet rule with my fear of the government that oppressed them. You see, I got picked on pretty badly when I was in the ninth grade. I didn't know how to deal with a confrontation. I therefore chickened out disgracefully and became widely despised, and it was a good thing we moved away from that place because it would have gone on, I'm sure of that. Since then, though, I have always identified very strongly with the victim of aggression.

I somehow had to reconcile that sympathy for the victim with my pro-appeasement feelings, which came from fear. I therefore decided that the Soviet Union was not really all that awful. I couldn't stand for it to be a cruel dictatorship that imprisoned and tortured its people, so I made myself believe it wasn't one. An act of self-deception that great carries all kinds of intellectual consequences. If the Soviet Union wasn't so bad, then Marxism couldn't be too bad either. In fact, maybe, it could be right. And if the Soviets aren't so bad and Marxism isn't so false, then the United States, who opposes them, must be bad. It must be the aggressive provoker that molests the Soviets, who just need to defend themselves so they can carry out their revolution. Why hadn't the revolution been successful yet, I asked, and I answered that it was because the bad US and the capitalists and the power brokers were interfering with it because they wanted to keep their big houses and fancy cars and also their power over other countries. Who are these specific power brokers, I should have asked. Name them. But I didn't ask that. It was so easy for me to run and hide inside the sheltering conspiracy theory.

Now, once you assume the United States is bad, all kinds of things follow if your ideas are in any way coherent. Vietnam--a cynical attempt to impose capitalism on the Vietnamese people. Chile--we did it for the phosphate mines, not because we feared that by about '76 Allende would become Fidel II. If we did it at all. Israel--we support them to keep the Arabs down. Cuba--Castro loves his people and gives them health care and schools. Our nuclear weapons--dismantle them, they provoke the Soviets. Besides, really, the US Army exists to keep the American people down. Marcos and Somoza and Batista and Pinochet and the Shah of Iran--evil despots with bloody hands who we propped up in order to keep their peoples enslaved. Kennedy and King--they were killed because they were dangerous to the power structure. (What's the power structure?, I didn't ask myself.)

So how did I get over this? Well, I came to live in Spain in 1987. I'd been a Spanish major in college and my leftist teachers--all Spanish departments in the USA are Latin American hard left--had filled me full of Diego Rivera and Che Guevara and García Lorca and José Martí and Pablo Neruda and the like, which I'd absorbed in a half-baked melange. And I'd read all about the Spanish Civil War and, of course, I was wildly for the Republic in its struggle against fascism. Then I got here and I believed what I read in the newspapers, especially in El País.

But then a few things happened. I started reading George Orwell, not just 1984 and Animal Farm, but his essays, and I was knocked over by his clear and questioning style. I now know that Orwell was full of faults; he claimed to be logical and rational yet was full of absurd prejudices, and much of his journalism, espceially the As I Please columns, is crap. He never got over being convinced that Socialism could work, and, in fact, that it would eventually win out. Orwell died a convinced Marxist. And I think this is what helped me understand something; this guy's a Marxist, so he must be good, I believed. Yet he questions orthodoxy both on the left and on the right (on the left only up to a certain point). He asks critical questions about what people write, and he made me begin to think critically about what I read. It took a while, but I tried to think like Orwell. Eventually, of course, I began to use Orwell's techniques of critical reading. I figured I'd gone through a stage on the way to my thinking black belt (not there yet, don't pretend to be) when I began to read Orwell himself critically and discovered how full of crap he sometimes was.

One of the books I read was Homage to Catalonia, in which Orwell criticizes both the Communists and the Francoists. (He does not criticize the Anarchists or Trotskyists, with whom he served.) I saw that Communism was, unquestionably, bad in Spain. That caused me to read other books, more in depth and more historically correct than Orwell's, on the subject. I came to know a good bit about the Spanish Civil War and I decided that the Left was actually even more mendacious than the Right in Spain, if that's possible. Then all of Marxism came crashing down.

I read several books on economics, including two by Milton Friedman, and realized after a good bit of thought that Adam Smith's original model of the free market is the way economics actually works, whether you like it or not. Marx was as wrong as Lamarck and should be taken no more seriously. Every time one of Marx's theories has been put into practice, it hasn't worked. So I added that to my little bag of intellectual weaponry and started asking this question: "How much do we have to futz around with the free market in order to make policy X work?" every time I read something. I discovered that if the answer was "Not much", then the policy is more or less sound, and if the answer is "A lot", then it probably isn't.

This led me to examine the Constitution closely and think for a while about rights, and I decided that the three basic human rights were life, liberty, and property. Killing people is wrong and you shouldn't do it. Can we say you shouldn't do it ever? If there's a man with a gun in his hand threatening you, do you let him shoot you? I decided that you shoot him first if you can. Therefore the right to life is not absolute. Where does it stop? When you threaten someone else's basic human rights. You can't do that, and if we catch you violating someone else's human rights, we'll make you stop. If you won't stop, we'll use violence. And if we have to kill you, we will.

Who is "we"? Well, "we" is "We the People". That's all of us within the boundaries of our country. I decided that the system of laws which apply to everyone equally is necessary to preserve everyone's rights. You can't kill me, and if you try to, you must be punished. You can't interfere with my freedom, and if you try, you should be punished. (Corollary: Slavery is always, absolutely, wrong, because it's a restriction of freedom. Prison is acceptable because violators of others' rights are punished by the loss of their freedom, and the laws, administered by an independent judiciary, are what determine what is a violation of others' rights and what isn't. How do we decide on the laws? We, or our elected representatives, vote on them. That is why they are legitimate; we have all agreed on them. Can they be changed? Sure, but it's dangerous. Don't do it if you don't have to. Especially don't do it on a whim.) Anyway, you can't take my property, either. And I can't do any of these things to you. We agree to leave disputes between us to be administered peacefully by a judge, and we agree that people who go outside the laws to kill, enslave, or steal must be stopped and if necessary killed or punished.

So how do we stop those people who kill, enslave, or steal? Well, we need a system of social protection, a police force to defend us from those within our society who violate others' rights and a military to defend us from those outside said society who want to violate our rights--we, as a society, have the right to life (to continue existing), to liberty (to make our own decisions), and to property (to do what we want to with our stuff), besides our right as individuals to all of those things. Those forces must act within the laws if our society is to function. They must be under the authority of both the people, as voters, and by the independent judiciary.

This piece is getting way too long. If you guys want me to, I'll keep going tomorrow. If not, I'll stop philosophizing.