Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Well, it looks to me like they're getting us ready for the Pope to die. Cardinal Ratzinger came out and told the world that the Pope was "in a bad way". While I am not a Christian and while I consider Catholicism to be even more laughable than the majority of religions (sorry if I offend anybody, but I'm an agnostic), for a long time I had a good deal of respect for the Pope. Of course I disagree with Catholic teachings on divorce, birth control, and abortion, but that's not the Pope's fault. He's got to be consistent with 2000 years of history, not with the current zeitgeist. If he changed all that wacky Catholic stuff it wouldn't be the Catholic church any more, it'd be the New! Improved! Church!--and one big reason that people have faith in religion is that it is a traditional and comforting set of answers to questions that are a lot bigger than we are. Folks don't want their churches to be New! and Improved! since the whole point of a religion is that its god(s) are already perfect and can't be improved.

I have always backed the Pope in his gutsy anti-Communism, but his anti-capitalism has always irritated me, as did his opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Yeah, I know, the Pope is supposed to be in favor of peace and love, but it seems to me that there are a hell of a lot of wars going on (Congo, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and that area, Israel, Colombia, Sierra Leone / Liberia) that are causing a great deal more misery than the Iraq War did, and one of the stated goals of the Iraq War is to turn over a democratic stable country to the Iraqis. That means that tens of millions of people are going to benefit, not only the Iraqis but everyone in the Middle East who will have a new democratic reference to look to. Haven't heard of too many people in the Church getting all excited over what happened in Rwanda. Of course, a good few Hutu priests and nuns were mixed up in the killing there, but that's not anything that ought to trouble the Church, no more than the exposure of the boy-buggering priests and the hierarchy that covered up for them in the States.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is what I said before, several months ago, that pissed a lot of people off. The Pope's attitude toward the Iraq War, to me, is selective. I haven't heard him condemning too many other wars, at least not making a big deal out of it the way he did with Iraq. That's wrong. If you're a coherent pacifist, you're against all war, and the Church is manifestly not against all war--look at the great job they did with World War II, for example. Or the record of the Papal States until 1870. To me the Pope and the Church have blown all the credibility they built up over twenty years.

Guess what? The European Commission is going to kick in 200 million euros to help reconstruct Iraq! Of course, the Americans are putting in twenty BILLION dollars...

ETA, as usual, is demonstrating that there is no difference between a guerrilla or terrorist organization and organized crime. Organized crime works like this. A bunch of tough people organize themselves and then take over an area, often an area full of immigrants or marginal people from the same ethnic group as the criminals. They then make their big money off two rackets: "protection", that is, extortion, and theft, normally of delivery trucks and warehouses, and the fencing of the goods. Drugs, prostitution, gambling--that's all big money, too, but nowhere as big as the two basics.

ETA's standard racket is extortion. No one knows how many people in the Basque Country pay off ETA. What they do is send people a letter demanding a payoff--liberal professionals are hit up for €60,000, corporate executives for €120,000, and independent business owners for more. They've actually got their own watermarked paper, so you know if the extortion letter you get is really from them or from some imitator criminals. The letter is always addressed to the person extorted, with the return address belonging to a member of the extortee's family.

ETA is also thought to deal in drugs. They openly campaign against drug abuse and intimidate and sometimes kill independent drug dealsers. A lot of people think this is because the ETA controls the drug market in the Basque Country and doesn't like competition.

Anyway, the news is from now on you have to pay them off in dollars. Seems that international arms traffickers and shady Caribbean offshore banks prefer dollars to euros, and it'd just be too much trouble to go down to a bureau de change on the Ramblas with sixty grand in euros and ask for dollars.

Much noise is being made about something called the "Plan Ibarretxe". Mr. Juan Jose Ibarretxe, lehendakari (prime minister) of the Basque Country, has this plan to reform the Spanish Constitution and the Basque Statute of Autonomy. The plan was first announced back in July, when we wrote about it in some detail. Basically what it would do is make the Basque country independent except for the military and foreign policy. Most Basques are against this, not to mention everybody else in Spain. Aznar has announced that the plan has exactly zero percent chance of becoming reality. So much for that.

For about a month here in the European Union, by law, cigarette packs have to cary large legends, about a third of the pack, that "Smoking kills" or one of about ten variations on that. Sales have not dropped one iota. Some people are beginning to carry their smokes in cigarette cases.

Prediction from La Vanguardia: the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Antoni Gaudi's major work, will finally be finished in approximately twenty years. It gets about two million visitors a year, which is where 95% of its construction money comes from. I do not like the new work going on--they say it's 55% done. I personally would have left it the way it was when Gaudi died. It's going to be a huge monstrosity when they actually get finished with it.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

El Mundo is reporting that Rajoy leads Zap 43%-35% in a survey they published today on voters' intentions in the next general elections. Zap is politically dead. Next time you hear from him he'll be leading the opposition on the Leon City Council.
Following the theme of going over La Vanguardia with a fine-toothed comb, in the whole Sunday paper there are only two really questionable pieces regarding the United States. They haven't ganged up on Robert Kagan as I expected they would, though that maybe has to wait a few days.

One of the questionable pieces is a review by local frootloop Justo Barranco of a Bush-bashing book by one of those horrible Americans-loved-by-the-British-left named Greg Palast. (Other examples: Michael Moore, Bill Hicks, sometimes Bill Bryson. If you don't know who some of these people are, ask any Brit.) If you're interested in knowing what Greg Palast has to say, just google "Greg Palast" and you'll find plenty of links to him, which he himself largely provides. See, Palast, like Michael Moore, "reviews the absurd bloodshed that the culture of weapons--combined with social inequality, old racial hatreds, and an atmosphere of generalized panic--causes every year in the United States." Uh-huh. Boy, have you noticed how insistent a lot of European commentators are with their idea that Americans live in a state of pants-pissing fear?

The other one is a rant by one Piergiorgio Sandri. This is, unfortunately, what often happens when Spaniards start writing analyses of the United States. He's going off on American legal restrictions on smoking, concerns about teenage drinking, and Microsoft's closing of its chatrooms, as if the three had anything to do with one another. See, "the current climate reminds one of the darkest periods of Prohibitionism in the U.S.," says Mr. Sandri.

(Especially the Microsoft thing. Microsoft realized that they weren't making any money off the damn chatrooms and they were exposing themselves to a huge lawsuit the first time some perv used a MSN chatroom to get his hands on somebody's twelve-year-old. So they said, "Why provide this for free?" I understand they will continue providing chat for those who pay for it. I bet in a few months most chatrooms around the Web will be either closed down or pay services.)

Anyway, Mr. Sandri's preferred explanation for this is "the Protestant and Puritan culture, which looks badly on distractions and prefers to center itself on work. 'We shouldn't forget that in the American constitution God is expressly mentioned, and the American economy and its values are in control,' says Gerard-Francois Dumont, rector of Sorbonne University in Paris...one must avoid everything that isn't productive...neoconservative values have found fertile ground with the arrival in power of the Bush administration...efficiency, in the American mentality, is considered the antidote to bad habits...it's an 'instant society', whose liberality is very comfortable for the individual, but not necessarily so for society."

Couldn't resist checking the US Constitution, and I was right. The only explicit reference to God is in the part at the end where it says"...the year of Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven."
Here in Barcelona they had a big "Stop the Occupation of Iraq and Palestine" demo--well, it wasn't that big, they only got 6000 people out and they all got soaked in the fairly heavy rains we had yesterday afternoon. Ha ha. This was an internationally coordinated protest--they got only 7000 out in Madrid and as few as 10,000 in London--ha ha again--organized by the various Communist Parties, though interestingly enough neither La Vanguardia's story nor Catalunya TV's mentioned this explicitly. The Vangua's story did point out that Joan Saura, Catalonia's communist leader, led the demonstration in Barcelona, and that Gaspar Llamazares, the Spanish Communist Party's boss, led the Madrid demo. The protestors spent most of their time insulting Aznar and Bush. The demo's manifesto denounced "the criminal colonial aggression" of "the invasion of Iraq" and called for the withdrawal of all Spanish cooperation in the Iraqi postwar phase, since the war was fought because of "other interests" than those previously announced by Messrs. Bush, Blair, and Aznar.

The weakness of the turnout for this demonstration demonstrates that for most people here in Spain the war in Iraq is now a dead issue. Those few who are still worked up about the war would never vote for Rajoy anyway. The masses have forgotten the frenzies of February and March, and they now see the situation in Iraq--allied, including Spanish, occupation--as the status quo. I honestly do not believe that the war in Iraq or the mass demonstrations changed anyone's beliefs. Those Spaniards who are basically moderate or conservative may have been turned off temporarily by America's undeniable and occasionally insufferable arrogance, but they've come back into the fold of those who realize that Spain and the EU and the US all have to play ball together in the long run even if occasionally we have to hold our noses (or threaten to "take my ball and go home"). And those who are on the left hate America no matter what it does anyway.

It's been fifty years since the defense agreement between the United States and Spain was concluded, on Sepember 26, 1953. General Franco had won the Civil War in April 1939 and somehow managed to avoid being drawn into World War II. After that war, Spain was excluded from the United Nations and was basically an international pariah during the entire Truman administration--Truman could not stomach Franco.

When Eisenhower became US President in 1953, he had a rather different idea than Truman about what compromises with decency needed to be made in order to win the Cold War. One of those he deemed important was getting Spain into the lineup on our side; with the signing of the defense agreement, Franco's Spain gained an international legitimacy that it had not had before, and it was admitted to the United Nations. This was an "agreement" rather than a "treaty", since there was no way Congress would have approved any kind of agreement with Franco.

Spanish nationalists disliked several aspects of the treaty, which they considered made Spain a nation "subject to" the United States; the US could do anything it wanted with the four bases on Spanish territory, Torrejon, Rota, Zaragoza, and Moron--yeah, I know, great name. It should have an accent on the second O. We needed Spanish permission for nothing. Several subsequent negotiations did not affect this state of affairs and many Spaniards felt frustrated and insulted.

In 1970 there was a renegotiation of the agreement; by this time it had become clear that the Franco dictatorship was in decline and that Spain was a country on its way up. Spain's new status was recognized: the bases became Spanish territory, consultations became necessary before using the bases, and storage of chemical and bacteriological weapons was banned. In 1976 nuclear arms were banned and a Spanish-American joint general staff was created. Then, under pressure from Felipe's new Socialist government, which in turn was under pressure from a good bit of the electorate, much Redder twenty years ago than today--Felipe had promised to pull Spain out of NATO if elected in 1982. Then he called a referendum on Spain's remaining in NATO and publicly favored a "Yes" vote. (Now he was under pressure from the army, more powerful then than today, suffering from constant ETA assaults, and elements of which had pulled a coup attempt just two years before.) The Yes vote won in a squeaker and Spain stayed in NATO.

In 1986, when we bombed Libya, both France and Spain refused to let American planes overfly their territory, and Spain refused to allow the use of the bases. In 1988 there was another agreement, in which Spain stopped receiving a monetary rent for the bases (this made them, you see, an "ally" rather than a "subject"). The Americans pulled out of Zaragoza and Torrejon in 1991; the Navy base at Rota and the Air Force base at Moron are still used by American armed forces. Spain, of course, permitted its bases to be used in Gulf War I.

Whenever you argue with a Spaniard about whether America sucks or not, something I stopped doing long ago, and you get him all tied up because his feelings about the US are emotionally, rather than logically, based, and this leads him to fall into contradictions, he'll invariably come back with what he thinks is the basic proof of the iniquity of the United States: the photograph of Eisenhower hugging Franco in 1959. This photo is reprinted about a hundred times a year or so in the Spanish press. It's in La Vanguardia today; by the way, I must commend the two authors of today's Vangua pieces on this issue, Carmen del Riego and Javier Tusell, for their evenhanded tone.

The Spaniard is normally nonplussed when the American responds, "What?" See, Fifties geostrategical diplomacy is not something most Americans (or anyone else) have any idea about, and especially not if it involves Spain. No American has even heard of this photo. Well, now you guys have. See, this photo is the basis for the Spanish lefty argument, "America sucks because they supported Franco."

What the American should respond is, "Look, this was the Fifties and it was Ike against Stalin. Ike was willing to swallow a deal with Franco if he thought it would help against Stalin, who was unquestionably the greater evil. We then provided the economic help that stabilized Spain so that it was able to enjoy the economic growth of the mid-to-late Franco era, saving Spain from Francoist autarky and isolation and providing the economic basis necessary to support a middle-class democratic government. We got you into the UN. We made Franco calm down and somewhat liberalize conditions within Spain.

"Besides, it's not like you guys ever did anything to get rid of him yourselves. There were a total of zero serious attempts to overthrow the Franco government between 1939 and 1953, the year Ike signed the deal with him that started Franco on the road to the international acceptance of his legitimacy. (There weren't any such attempts between '53 and '75, the year the old bastard finally kicked off, either.) That's fourteen years you guys had before we gave Franco any support at all, longer than the whole Third Reich lasted, so don't blame us for what you should have done for yourselves. And the Ike loves Franco photo wasn't taken until '59, after six years of generally good behavior by Franco under the terms of the bilateral agreement."

The sad thing is that this ultra-famous photo over here is unknown to 99.999% of Americans. I have a fairly decent biography of Eisenhower by a guy named Geoffrey Perret; not only is that photo not in the book, though there is an extensive section of photographs, but there is no mention of either Franco or Spain in it. This is simply not a subject that any Americans ever think about, or have ever even heard of.

By the way, Javier Tusell makes an annoying, unnecessary little comment, when he refers to Truman as an "Anabaptist". Spanish authors have an irritating habit of throwing little facts in which are not germane to the point in order to show off their erudity, and it's especially irritating when those little facts are wrong. Virtually no Spaniard, for instance, knows a damn thing about Protestantism, and Mr. Tusell, though he is a historian, is no exception. This lack of knowledge leads Spanish writers to have ridiculous misconceptions.

(Note: All Spaniards, especially those over about 40 years old, were heavily bathed in Francoist National-Catholic propaganda, which was both anti-Protestant and anti-American, and which has strongly influenced them, no matter how hard they try to deny it.)

Mr. Tusell, Truman was a Baptist. The Baptists, who are a split off the Anglicans, have nothing to do with the German Anabaptists, who were running around the Rhineland in the 1500s and who were really crazy. Now, it's true that the Baptists are conservative socially. They're also very open theologically. As far as I gather, the only thing you have to do to be a Baptist is go to a Baptist church. Of course, it helps if you believe in Jesus and stuff, too, but they don't worry about complicated stuff like transsubstantiation or the Immaculate Conception.

It's sort of a rule that the more conservative an American Protestant group is theologically, the more liberal it is politically. For example, the Anglicans, a very liberal church, have a whole lot of Jesus stuff they have to believe in. Same thing with the Presbyterians and the Lutherans, most of whom are pretty moderate. Most Southern-based Protestant groups, though, the Methodists, the Baptists, and most of your Pentecostal and fundamentalist churches, don't have much of a theology at all ("Believe literally in what it says in the Bible" is pretty simple-minded, now, isn't it?), and they're the bunch that tends to be most socially and politically conservative.

Check out the Congregationalists. They're what's left of the Puritans, another offshoot of the Anglicans. They're now known as super-liberals politically. (The Calvinists up there were Presbyterians.) The Puritans were not Puritans as regards pleasure. They drank and smoked and wenched with the best of them. Their rate of girls who got married pregnant was very high, due in part to their custom of "bundling", which meant that young men would be invited to sleep in their daughters' beds. Chastely, of course. Yeah, right, if you believe that I have some clay dolls with pins in them left over from the Salem trial to sell you. One of the reasons that a bunch of Massachussetts troops got wiped out by King Philip's Wampanoag tribe one time is that he ambushed them while they were all marching along a road, all drunk to the gills off the casks of rum that made up most of their baggage (the fortress they were off to relieve, under siege by the Indians, was out of rum so they brought plenty as part of the resupply effort).

The thing about the Puritans was that they were very strict about religious observance and what you had to believe; if you disagreed, you were a heretic, and a few heretics got hanged. But if you were religiously orthodox, you could party your ass off, and they did. Their alcohol consumption was likely as much as four gallons of pure alcohol per man, woman, and child per year, and America was known as the "Alcoholic Republic" until the Temperance movement and Victorian morals began to take effect in the 1830s and 40s.

I've heard it suggested that Temperance and anti-sensual puritanism is still so strong in the American South, at least according to the lip service that it gets, because American white Southerners are largely Scotch-Irish in their origin, and the more redneck you are the more Scotch-Irish blood you're likely to have. The Scotch-Irish were a mean bunch of bastards with a real taste for drink. If you don't believe that, take a look at what the Scotch-Irish still running around Belfast are capable of. The religious prohibition of alcohol was necessary to keep the rednecks off the sauce and keep fetal alcohol syndrome, pointless massacres of natives, and shiftless yokelhood down.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

I put up a post over on EuroPundits. It's a translation of the back-page interview on Saturday, Sept. 26, with Robert Kagan. As you probably know, Kagan is one of the better-known think-tank pundits, and in the US he's generally considered a hawk on defense and foreign policy issues.

Here's the thing, though: the Vanguardia gave him their back page to say his piece, and gave him the page 4 second-in-importance international story. The interview I translated on EuroPundits is presented in a manner that's fair enough, and here is the news story about Kagan's public pronouncements at this wingding they had at the Barcelona World Trade Center; I've translated about two-thirds of it, and you'll see that the presentation the reporter (I assume it's Victor M. Amela, the same guy who did the back-page interview--the article is by-lined "Staff") gives is remarkably unbiased.

...Kagan states that the real problem separating Europe and the United States is not Iraq. Though he used to think that despite the disagreement over the war against Saddam Hussein the common values of Europeans and Americans would be preserved, Kagan says he has realized that the differences between the two are deeper than before, that they are "structural and ideological". The ocean dividing the West's two components is very wide. To Kagan, we have to accept that "those who have more power tend to use it and to believe in the legitimacy that that power gives."

The Europeans, who created the idea of "raison d'etat", Kagan says, are giving that up and find themselves in a position that could be defined like this: "Weak countries have always wanted to have mechanisms to limit the power of those who have it." The problem, according to this axiom, is not the United States but Europe: Europeans do not want to recognize military power and "don't want to use it", and this is due to the bitter experience of the wars of the twentieth century.

To sum up: "You the Europeans are the ones who are isolated." Why? "Because the methods Europe uses to understand and relate with the world cannot be applied outside of Europe." The United States, on the other hand, adds Kagan, knows how to deal with the world, and it has a double standard for doing so: one for the European countries, who are the incarnation of post-modernity, and another for the pre-moderns.

With the Cold War over and the two blocs broken up, the world is unipolar because "Europe does not want to take thenecessary steps to become the other pole," it wants Russia and China in the middle, and "most Europeans think that the Security Council is the only guarantee of multipolarity." How, then, can we repair transatlantic connections? "I think there are many advantages to a unipolar world, but I can understand the anxiety that this may create in Europe."

Kagan's thoughts are different facets of the same piece. The Bush Administration's recent moves to legitimize its policies in Iraq in the UN will be nothing more than a mess of red tape. "Let's not be simplistic, let's remember that American presidents have never believed in the UN." The pillars that supported American legitimacy fell with the end of the Cold War. It was Europe who pulled them away, and now Europe should reflect because "world order is based on the power, relatively benevolent, of the United States over the last century." "If the only country which can face new threats does not have this legitimacy, the Western world will not be able to face these threats." According to Kagan, one should not fool oneself regarding the future of the world: "Order and justice will always be more of a hope than a reality."

We've got to give credit where credit is due. Ever since Josep Maria Casasus's outbreak of mental diarrhea last Sunday, in which he accused those who have protested La Vanguardia's anti-American biases of being agents for the American government, the Vangua has been remarkably well-behaved. Their reporting this week has been a model of even-handedness; the only thing that I found irritating were Robert Fisk's daily dispatches to the Independent, which the Vangua is picking up, and that's fair enough. Fisk gives only one side to the story, of course, but the Vangua can argue that a lot of people in England and other places regularly read Mr. Fisk and that his side of the story is worth reproducing.

Now let's see what the reaction to Kagan's words will be. If he gets ambushed en masse over the weekend by the Vangua's usual scribes, I'll be annoyed. If he gets bashed by Porcel and Sole but the news pages stay as neutral as they have been over this week, I'll be pleased.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Patrick Crozier has nailed his Three Theses to the door as he announces the beginning of his campaign for Mayor of London. Check it out over at Samizdata.

Faithful Iberian Notes blogreader John Lilly sent along this New York Times article on the tailgate barbecuing that goes on before every Kansas City Chiefs home game. The pre-game feed is generally considered to be more important than the football, and if you like meat, which I don't (vegetarian since age 13), this is probably the best food in the world. You can't get in, though, since all the tickets are sold out before the season starts. If you do something like buy them from a scalper, get there early and bring a cooler full of expensive beer. Go around to people who have big stands set up and ask if you can swap a couple of brews for some of their BBQ. (This'd look cheap if you were offering them a couple of Black Labels or something.) Tell 'em theirs smelled awful good. They'll drop to their knees and smother you in brisket. Comment: Real African-American KC barbecue sauce is vinegary and spicy, a little hot. Example: Arthur Bryants. That sweet stuff is more white-bread suburban and is scorned by KC barbecue fans. Example: KC Masterpiece.
Here's a piece from Front Page called "Eugenics and the Left". Margaret Sanger doesn't come off in it too well. And here's a Jack Shafer piece from Slate on the megaquestionable ethics some reporters used in Baghdad earlier this year. Certainly, some of the Spanish reporters there did not disclose the facts that they had to be accompanied by a minder, that they had to pay large sums for any sort of access, and that the Saddamites were censoring their reports.
Iberian Notes Admits Occasional Quality Vanguardia Articles Exist (in other news, Lawyer Performs Humanitarian, Unselfish Act; Gay Rights Parade "Quiet, Dignified"; Car Mechanic Finds Problem within Minutes, Fixes It for Under $500; Greenpeace Releases Report Audited by Peer-Reviewers; Sun Rises in West; Tigers Win Game)

The Vangua's headline today is "Schroder Repairs Rupture with US; Chancellor Proposes to Bush German Training of Iraqi Police, No Troops". Sounds good to me. I vote almost any sort of agreement or deal we can make is fine with me, as long as the United States retains military occupation over the Tikrit triangle and the British retain military authority over Basora, where there has been a little too much trouble lately, and as long as those military authorities are subject to no one but their respective commanders-in-chief. The rest of the country is getting pretty close to being able to partially take care of itself. And if we have to kiss France's and Germany's asses over this, I don't mind.

Here the Vanguardia provides some excellent hard information. There is a "road map" detailing the plans for turning over some parts of governance and administration to the new civilian regime. In October a job retraining program will begin and certain new taxes will be imposed; in January the tax system will be completely overhauled, and in February the training for new tax officials will begin. In October training of the new Iraqi Army will begin. In October the prewar electricity supply of 4000 megawatts a day will be restored, and by January 5000 more megawatts / day will be available. The whole system is expected to be up by March. In January control over the police, the ports, and the railroads will be turned over to the Iraqis.

Now, if I may say so myself, that seems like a schedule everybody ought to be able to deal with. You're not going to get it totally perfect from Day 1. Things take time and mistakes are made. But this looks like a set of concrete plans to me, and if we can get these things done anywhere near when the road map says they're going to be none, in six months we'll be well under way toward a transference of power to the Iraqi government. That seems to be what the Germans and the French want, and I submit that this road map--released by Paul Bremer on Monday before a Senate committee--is evidence that America is operating in good faith.

As for the cash, where's it coming from? Well, Bush has asked the Congress for $87 billion for Iraq-related expenses. $66 billion is for military expenses, and, hey, if that's what it's gonna cost, that's what it's gonna cost. But there are some pretty large sums destined for the necessities of the Iraqi people, more than $20 billion. that's a hell of a lot of money. Nearly $3bn is going to rebuilding the power grid, more than $2 bn is to rebuild the oil industry (which is where the Iraqis are going to get the real money they're going to use to rebuild the country further) and more then $100 million each is going to a new hospital in Basra, ten different irrigation projects, reconstruction of the railroads, investigation of war crimes, housing, and prison modernization and construction. This, to my eyes, is concrete proof that Bush has some kind of definite plan for the reconstruction of Iraq. He's got a timetable, he's got specific projects, he knows what it's going to cost and where the money's going to come from. So enough quagmire talk. This sounds to me like organization being imposed slowly but surely upon chaos.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

In case you haven't read it yet, check out this article from the Atlantic by David Brooks, which is ostensibly about what the seven Democrat candidates running for the presidency must do in order to have a hope at winning the nomination and / or election. It's really a more general look at the electorate.

They've been reporting that a poll says Wesley Clark would be the favorite to beat Bush as of right now. Just wait a week or two. The boomlet will pop as soon as Clark gets the massive raking that the press is going to do on him. As American economic growth increases and the terrorists in Iraq get weaker and the media begins to report on the fact that in 95% of Iraq things aren't going too badly, Bush will hang on in the polls at least a few points above 50%. If I'm wrong and in a couple of weeks or a month Bush's approval rating is down around 40%, I'll be ready to admit there's a problem.

Seems that Tony King, the "Costa Killer", used to be named Tony Bromwich and did a five-year stretch in chokey for a series of rapes in which he strangled but did not kill the women victims. The English sensationalistic press is all over this one. We're going to declare an Anglosphere scoop on this story, since we were blogging about it before Bromwich / King was even caught. It looks like Dolores Vazquez is going to walk.

The bit of fun is that some British paper, the Sun, I think, paid this guy who is both a lawyer and a "journalist" named David Rojo. Rojo talked his way into a meeting with Bromwich / King in jail and got him to write two letters of apology to the families of the victims he killed, which included a full confession. He then passed on the letters to the Sun, who went full-page cover with them. Now, this is rather unusual in Spain--we're not used to Brit sensationalistic-paper shenanigans around here. It's also rather irregular behavior, to say the least. Maybe "scandalous" would do the trick. They're talking about disbarring Mr. Rojo, Esq., which is no less than he deserves.

The last time Rojo's name came up was when he ghostwrote a novel for TV Oprah-style afternoon host Ana Rosa Quintana a couple of years ago. His ghostwritten book, promoted and sold as being "by Ms. Quintana", turned out to have been plagiarized off Danielle Steel. The book was recalled and pulped. Ms. Quintana's feathers weren't even ruffled.

I just watched Barca play some team from Slovakia in the UEFA cup; Barca brought out its first-string lineup, with the variation of substituting Quaresma for Saviola. The Slovaks were all big, strong, fit guys whose technique was minimal but who kept approaching the Barca goal too frequently. They got like seven corners in the fiirst ten minutes, but couldn't capitalize. They had Barca against the ropes, though. After the half the Slovaks slowed down and Kluivert finally scored a goal--he'd muffed several tries at it. Ronaldinho made a couple of good plays. The Slovaks retreated to their own penalty area, waiting for a kick-and-rush counterattack. Barca couldn't score as Kluivert muffed a couple more chances, and in minute 93 when the Barca guys figured the game was over a Slovak wingman took a long ball and crossed it where one of his men was just arriving and he put it in. Slovaks from Slovakiaville 1; FC Barcelona 1. Ouch.

They showed the Pope on TV. He was drooling. Literally. Can't he resign in a dignified manner?

The squatters are calling a big demo for October fourth; you read it here first. Looks like there are about four squats that are all going to be closed more or less at once, and they're calling for mass popular resistance like in the Paris Commune. Go Cops! Bang 'Em on the Head, Cops! Meanwhile, it looks like that gang of wannabe architects of anarchist propaganda by the deed who got busted by the cops had serious plans. They were going to hit Luis del Olmo, the radio guy, and several other folks they figured had done them wrong.

Aznar went to go see Colonel Gaddafi of Libya on a state visit. I understand Libya is a major supplier of both oil and natural gas to Spain, and that one must at the very least be civil. But we don't have to be any friendlier about it than we need to be. Gaddafi gave Aznar a horse. Aznar had to accept it because you don't turn down a gift you get on a state visit. Well, don't put yourself into the position of having to accept gifts from noxious foul dictator gasbags.

Those who like inoffensive mid-tempo pop-rock might look into a band called Jarabe del Palo, who put on a pretty good show here at the Merce. They're really not bad at all. Santana played last night and he said something about how there were two Americas and he was from the one Bush isn't in charge of, or something like that.
Thanks very much to InstaPundit for instapunditing us again. This time he's linked to the post from a couple of days ago on Mr. J.M. Casasus, so the Great CIA-Backed Conspiracy to Reform the Vangua has just gained a lot more publicity, and more publicity can't hurt in the least. As for you new readers out there, thanks for dropping in. Please stay and set a spell.
Check out this one, which I picked up from Libertad Digital. The Katalanisch newspaper Avui has thoughtfully provided an online video game called "Attack of the Spainators". Seems that the evil cyborg Spainators from Planet Genova (a reference to PP headquarters on Calle Genova in Madrid) are trying to attack the peaceful planet Catalonian and your job is to destroy them. To play the game click on one of the links in the Libertad Digital story I linked to above.

Feel free to read into this whatever you wish.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Well, the Brit who was arrested in the Malaga murder cases has confessed. His name is Tony Alexander King and he is a 38-year-old bartender who lived exclusively within the English community that is so large a part of the Costa del Sol. He admitted killing both Sonia Carabantes and Rocio Wanninkhoff; he claims to be innocent of the third disappearance linked to him by the press. King also says he committed three rapes, and he claims to have murdered the man who raped his sister in England, which sounds like a pretty specious way of bucking for an insanity plea to me. His motive was sexual; he got pleasure out of touching dead bodies, it seems. He claims to be impotent, depressed, and alcoholic, all of which is probably true, but it's not an excuse for going around raping and killing people. Hang the bastard. We can't, of course. He claims to have acted alone, which would rule out Dolores Vazquez as some sort of accomplice. (One of King's compatriots was arrested and accused of helping to cover up for him.) If King is telling the truth, she's completely innocent, not that there was ever any real evidence against her anyway. Ms. Vazquez has suffered from a serious miscarriage of justice, and Rocio's mother is guilty of the false accusation of her lesbian ex-lover out of pure spite.

The Spanish media, for the first couple of days after his arrest, referred to him as "Alexander King", Spanish-style, as if those were his two surnames. Alexander, of course, is the guy's middle name; his surname is just King. Now they've gotten it straight; he's King, at least as of yesterday. I wish they'd get this name thing right, though I must admit that the English-language press is thoroughly capable of screwing up Spaniards' names by assuming that the first surname is the middle name and the second surname is the real surname, if you see what I mean. Maybe we can manage to beat this getting-people's-names-right thing into the heads of journalists in both languages.

Something that always bugs me, by the way, is whenever there's a sports event in Spain, the headline the next day in the English-language press is always "Serena (or whoever) Reigns in Spain". It's been done, guys! Get a new one! We're already sick of this! And everybody does it, from Sports Illustrated to the Sun.

That and can you touring bands please refrain from doing covers of "Kansas City" when you play KC? Everybody does it. It's not original or creative or clever. We're tired of it. And you all do the Beatles' version, anyway, not the original. And don't play "La Bamba" in Spain. That's a Mexican song. It's about as appropriate as playing "London Bridge Is Falling Down" when you're doing a gig in, say, Albuquerque. And you look really stupid when you don't know any other words of the song than "la bamba", anyway. "Bla-bla-bla-bla la bamba". Ouch.

Here's an interview from Sunday's Vanguardia with Artur Mas, the designated successor to Jordi Pujol as Prime Ministerial candidate for Convergence and Union (CiU), the Catalan Nationalist party.

Q. Do you still think the PP (conservative People's Party) and the PSOE (Socialist Party) have exactly the same vision of "Catalanness"?
A. The PP and the PSOE coincide on the same model of the State. It is the Spain that is based on the principle that the equality of Spanish citizens is more important than the differences between regions (comunidades autonomas), whether they are historic or not. The PP and the PSOE are trying to guarantee this equality with a strong State and weak regions, equally low.

Q. And where does CiU want to go?
A. Toward a plurinational Spain, giving freedom and autonomy to everyone (every region / ethnicity) as a function of his abilities, goals, and wishes, so that everyone can go where he can and where he wants.

Q. But to make that forward leap in substance that you propose, there's no other way except dealing with the others or "running off to the hills".
A. So far we've demonstrated that we can advance. It always depends on the correlation of forces. When CiU has been strongest, the Spanish model has opened more.

Q. You're forgetting that the difference between the PP and the PSOE is that the Socialists accept the reformation of Statutes (of regional autonomy) and the PP doesn't.
A. The Socialists talk a lot and don't do much, except for the reform of the Senate, which the PP had already proposed while they were in the opposition.

Q. Is CiU in favor of reforming the Senate?
A. Yes, but that is a marginal issue. It does not give any more freedom of decision to Catalonia.

Q. And regarding the conference of regional prime ministers?
A. We are not interested in just being "one more in the crowd". The dream of the PP and the PSOE is that we should be all just the same, the same at the level of the most conformist. Snow White and the seven dwarves.
Q.Will you attend if you become Prime Minister?
A. As a rule, no.

Q. You'll admit the PSC (Catalan Socialist Party) is different from the PSOE.
A. I have no doubt that Maragall (Socialist Candidate for Catalan Prime Minister) favors more autonomy than Ibarra (Prime Minister of Extremadura) or Bono (Prime Minister of Castile-La Mancha). the problem is that the PSC does not have the influence to orient the regional policies of the PSOE regarding Catalonia's interest. If they can't influence their own party to increase self-government, how is it going to convince everyone else?
Q. What are you referring to?
A. The examples are repeated every week. Without going any farther, this week it's happened with the Catalan national sports teams. The PSC votes in favor in the Catalan parliament, but in Madrid its deputies abstain. The PSC is more pro-autonomy than the PSOE, but when the moment of truth comes it cannot tip the balance against the PSOE's centralism.

Q. What is your central argument for a victory?
A. Catalonia must be governed from Catalonia and not from Madrid, and CiU is the only force that can guarantee that Catalonia is governed from the Plaza Sant Jaume and not from an office in Madrid.

That's his whole argument. More self-government for Catalonia. Fair enough. I am actually in favor of making government as decentralized as possible, and I would normally support Mas in his demand for more locally-based decisions. The thing, though, is that Mas wants the power to belong to the Catalan regional government. He's not going to decentralize any power at all any further down to the comarcal or municipal level. He wants the power to make the real decisions in Catalonia in his party's hands, because the regional elections are the only ones that Mas's party, CiU, do well in. So he wants for power to be maximized at the regional level. His motive is not "keep government small, local, and unobtrusive." It's "Maximize the amount of government authority in my hands".

Mas and CiU are against what they disparagingly refer to as "coffee for everyone", that is, giving all 17 Spanish autonomous regions the same status and the same amount of power. Right now some autonomous regions are more autonomous than others: Navarra has the most local power, then the Basque country, then Catalonia, then Galicia and Andalusia, and after them all the rest have the same level of authority. What Mr. Mas wants is for Catalonia's regional government to get more power than anybody else's.

Q. Regarding management, what does a CiU administration offer that would be better than a PSC administration?
A. CiU administrations work cohesively, get to the point, and maintain stability. The alternative to CiU, a PSC-Initiative for Catalonia (Communist)-Republican Left coalition, would paralyze government wand would be a reversal for the country.
Q. Why?
A. Because of a problem of internal coherence. There will be no stability.
Q. That's like saying "Me or chaos".
A. I don't want to sound apocalyptic, but I think that is a worse alternative...
Q. If you win, where will you begin?
A. The first thing I will do will be to convene all the presidents of all Catalan parliamentary groups and establish a calendar for the negotiation of the new statute (of Autonomy). The drawing up of the new Statute should be finished between March and April. then I will call on the Minister for Economics to have the budget ready for 2004, and this will be the guarantee that we are working and that there will not be paralysis in the administration.

Oh, jeez, the goddamn Statute, as if anybody cares. What we're concerned about is police protection and taxes and traffic and education and health care. We don't give a rat's ass whether the government branch in charge of that is municipal or regional or Madrid-based as long as what's supposed to get done gets done, and in many cases--street crime, air pollution, illiterate kids, and my pet hate, those goddamn squatters, or spending all our money.

(Murph says, Look at real people complaining in today's Letters to the Editor column in the Vangua--my little girl can't go to the public day-care center because there aren't any open spots, when I ask people politely not to smoke on the Metro they get rude and nasty to me, I can't sleep because the city government allows building construction in dwellings to go between 8 AM and 8 PM Saturdays and Sundays, my son had his rollerblades stolen off him in a park, the city government promised to put a park in my neighborhood and now they're going to let apartments be built there, in my neighborhood plaza it smells like a sewer and there are bums sleeping out there, there's a public statue near my house that's falling down--all of these real, legitimate problems have nothing to do with the Constitution but have everything to do with competence in government (including the police) and good management. All these issues are examples of problems that somebody should be dealing with and is not, while our regional government is debating about meaningless questions of symbol and status. They go all-out for projects like renumbering all the inter-city highways while doing nothing about any of these much more basic issues. Murph says they're trying to distract us from the real issues by nationalist bloviating.

I wouldn't go that far, but I will agree that on one very basic measure of governmental competence, keeping a balanced budget, Jose Maria Aznar's central administration has had a brilliant record at doing exactly this. Now Spain's the country keeping the deficit and inflation rates down within the EU, while the French and Germans want to be allowed to run a deficit of more than 3% of GDP. By contrast, the CiU Pujol government never gets anywhere near staying on-budget; there's always a new propaganda campaign to remind us how wonderful we all are for living here and how grateful we should be to the Convergence and Union administration that they can spend a bunch of linguistic normalization money on.)

Also notice that Mr. Mas makes a total of zero specific statements about the budget, just that we're going to have one. Hey, Art, how about some concrete proposals?

Q. What is, in your opinion, the new immigration?
A. A social challenge, but also a strong challenge to our identity.
Q. What conditions should a recently-arrived immigrant to Catalonia fulfill, in your opinion?
A. He should know what Catalonia is, the different characteristics of our country, our culture, our language, and the social framework they will have to live in along with us. I want them to commit themselves to Catalonia. We have to show them the way.
Q. And how do you plan to achieve this?
A: I will promote a project, which we will call the Contract with Catalonia, whose objective will to be to preserve Catalonia's own identity at a moment in which people from all over the world with very different customs, and with an absolute lack of knowledge of who we are, are coming to our country.
Q. What will it consist of?
A. The recent arrivals will be offered the opportunity to voluntarily participate in a linguistic and social immersion seminar. From the first moment they will be taught Catalan at its most basic level (that of conversation) and they will be given entry-level job qualifications. They will also come into contact with the society's own values of Catalan society and culture. Once this seminar is finished, they will be given a certificated during a formal ceremony at the comarcal council in the presence of the mayor.

Q. A certificate of "a good immigrant"?
A. A mutual commitment between Catalonia and the immigrant in the form of a symbolic "contract"
Q. How will you convince them to go to this seminar?
A. With this argument: a person coming in from abroad will have more possibilities of individual promotion if we stimulate his feeling of belonging to the society which has received him.

Rejoice, honey, the Normalization Squad is dragging me off to the re-education quarry. I'm being given the voluntary opportunity to participate in the old Catalan community tradition of breaking rocks. There'll be classes in Catalan too, they've promised! We all have to shout "Gracies, Senyor, vull trencar mes pedres!" When we get it right we'll be allowed to come home after maybe a couple of months.

Damn, I'm glad I've already got my papers. Watch them somehow get elected and make it retroactive.
I'm an idiot. (Yeah, I know, you've said that before.) I didn't figure out until last night that I could listen to Kansas City Chiefs games on Internet radio. Yep, it can be done; just google "KCFX radio", go to the site, and click on "Listen now". While there's a game going on, of course. The rest of the time they play crap seventies rock. Anyway, the Chiefs crushed the Houston Texans 42-14, bringing them to three-and-oh. This week they limited the use of Priest Holmes, which is an excellent move; you're going to have to count on Priest for twenty-five or thirty touches a game throughout the season, and we know he got hurt bad last year and missed the last two games and was questionable during the off-season, so questionable that the Chiefs drafted a running back in the first round. So don't use him when you don't need him. Don't make him into another Earl Campbell, who the Oilers used to give the ball to forty times a game and who just got pounded to death, shortening his career by many years. By the way, the Chiefs' defense is much better than it was last year and Trent Green is a competent quarterback. Not great, no superstar, but he can do his job. He has one Super Bowl ring, which means something. OK, it was with the Ravens, but he still won a Super Bowl. The Chiefs haven't made it to one of those since about 1971.

As for the Royals, it looks like they're finally out of the race in the AL Central, though time hasn't run out on them yet. Still, though, they're going to finish over .500, which is a miracle coming from a team that had lost 100 games the year before, that used something like thirty different pitchers during the season, and that was widely predicted to be the worst team in the league.

Barcelona tied Osasuna on Saturday night at home; I saw some of the game on pay-per-view at Miguel's bar. Barca is 2-2-0 and in fifth place with eight points, which is not bad after four games. Ronaldinho is all he was cracked up to be, a genuinely fine signing. The problem is that Kluivert and Saviola aren't doing their jobs, that the Xavi-Gerard double pivot at midfield is uninspired, that for some reason they're using Cocu and Reizinger, both out of position, as central defenders--Cocu I can see, he was always a tough midfielder and now that he's over thirty drop him back to defense just like Real Madrid did with midfielders-turned-defensemen Fernando Hierro and Ivan Helguera. Where's Marquez, the young Mexican star defenseman who we just signed? And what, for God's sake, is Mark Overmars doing getting playing time? How about a 4-2-3-1 lineup like this: Valdes; Puyol, Marquez, Cocu, Van Bronckhorst; Xavi, Gerard; Quaresma, Ronaldinho, Luis Enrique; Kluivert.

I have confidence in new coach Frank Rijkaard, who is widely thought to be Johan Cruyff's man. I just don't think that most of the players are all that great; Ronaldinho and Puyol are the only two who are outstanding. Philip Cocu might turn out to be an excellent defenseman; if any player's going to blossom in a new position, it's hard-working, always fit, intelligent Cocu. Same goes for Luis Enrique, though he's clearly over the hill as far as playing full 90-minute games goes. He can play in almost any position, though; I remember way back when Ferrer was hurt and they'd just signed Luis Enrique; they put Lucho in at right back and he did just fine. That was '96, I think. As for the rest of the team, they're not that special. Kluivert has the talent, and he does a lot of things well (he's a big guy so they bring him back on corner kicks to play defense, for example; he's the guy who stands in front of the near post and tries to get his head on the ball before it passes in front of the goal), but he does not do what he is paid to do, which is score goals. He's a muff diver, which means that whenever he gets a chance he muffs an easy goal and then takes a dive looking for a penalty call. The rest of the players are replacement level, more or less.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Ombudsman Josep Maria Casasus lets fly in this week's episode of his Ombudsman column in La Vanguardia. If you've been keeping up with Trevor's Kaleboel, several Vanguardia writers are under fire from, well, us, for various journalistic crimes ranging from lying to plagiarism to editorializing in a news article. Trevor is taking this straight to them and his complaints have been either dismissed or ignored. Check out his blog for further information.

Ombudsmen cannot influence, nor should they try, to influence the editorial line of the newspaper, or the opinions of the commentators and critics, or the interpretations made by analysts and correspondents, or in the selection of the letters destined for publication in which readers expose their own ideas.

So what the hell are you good for, then, Mr. Casasus? I'll take your job for half the salary and do it twice as well--oops, forgot, can't multiply zero.

...It is legitimate and healthy, of course, that readers freely express their opinions to the ombudsman about the line which each thinks the newspaper should follow. disinterested and sincere opinions are welcome, though they be intuitive or biased.

Gee, thanks, Mr. Ombudsman, sir. You're so generous.

It is a different thing, however, an unfair practice, that we ombudsmen find in electoral campaigns and in other types of campaigns, or regarding international ideological and strategic confrontations, like that underway now deriving from the Iraq war.

We have vehement suspicions, however, that the various political parties' propaganda services, and also those of various governments and embassies, mobilize agents dedicated to sending letters to the editor and to the ombudsman. They are letters or telephone calls, anonymous or covered-up, which appear to be spontaneous but rather obey a plan in order to pressure the newspaper or to influence its contents.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Is he talking about Trevor? Franco Aleman? Me? Maybe even our correspondant Angie Schultz who spotted the Marius Serra plagiarism. We're conspirators working for the CIA! And we use our real names, by the way. At least I do.

What a nut. Every time somebody stands up and opposes a damn fool here in this country, said damn fool immediately comes out with a conspiracy theory to explain the hidden powerful forces operating behind what is apparent.

Several people have been bombarding the Vanguardia with correspondence relating to lies, plagiarism, editorializing in news pieces, and bias resulting from not researching the facts in the editorial section. And, gee, it's fascinating that all these lies, plagiarisms, editorializing, and biases are always anti-free-market, anti-capitalist, anti-Israeli, and anti-American.

I have been one of these correspondents. It is nice to see how seriously Mr. Casasus is taking our complaints. If some goddamn guiris are trying to tell Us, The High and Mighty Lords of the Vanguardia, how to run our business, they must be Yankee agents obeying their sinister overlords. I just wish I were an American agent. Hey, Casasus, I once passed the State Department exam but blew it in the interview. Think you can draw a connection there that will prove my vile corruption?

I'd like to hear Mr. Casasus say clearly, "John Chappell is an agent of the American government. He is part of a malicious plan to pressure the newspaper and to influence its contents." That is, if he's saying what I think he's saying. If you believe there's an American-backed conspiracy operating against the Vanguardia, Mr. Casasus, please name those you consider to be conspirators. If my name's on the list, I'll more than happily hire Rodriguez Menendez to represent me in a suit for libel and we'll turn this into the circus of the century with your newspaper starring as the laughingstock.

And as for pressuring you guys to alter the content of the newspaper, yes, Mr. Casasus, that's exactly what we're trying to do. We're trying to get you to stop printing made-up stolen biased articles written from ignorance without bothering to do any research.

The defense of all the readers forces us to neutralize these operations, perhaps legitimate in politics, but distorting of the principle of balance that should guide the press. It is a delicate job of separating the wheat from the chaff, but it is our responsibility to perform it in defense of the reader who addresses us without following orders.

Well, Trevor, looks like this is going to be Mr. Casasus's reason for ignoring you yet again. You're working for the American embassy! So am I! So is Angie Schultz! And Cinderella Bloggerfeller, too--the Yanks are bribing him to make fun of Baltasar Porcel!

Mr. Casasus then segues neatly into the next part of his column, which is about the bonehead Vangua reporters who think they see a strange shadow on one of the planes that hit the Twin Towers. (We reported on this a couple weeks ago.) He refers to four readers whose letters applauded the Vangua for doing such fine investigative journalism.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

September 23, the Dia de la Verge de la Merce, is coming up; she's Barcelona's patron. Therefore, it's time for the fiesta mayor. They're having a bunch of like theater and modern dance stuff, none of which seems like too much fun to me, but then I'm an old stay-at-home stick-in-the-mud party-pooper.

Here's Mayor Joan Clos's official declaration:

Barcelonese and Barceloneses,

With the first days of the fall comes La Merce, Barcelona's fiesta mayor, the vibrant explosion of the energies we save up to face the new season. La Merce, a living tradition, expresses the best of ourselves, which is the ability to share happiness. there is wisdom in the peoples who know how to find themselves in the fiesta; there is wisdom in the cities which turn the street into a meeting place, a space of dialogue, a stage for different cultures. La Merce is the affirmation of generous and open, curious and cosmopolitan Barcelona, the symbol of the Mediterranean city we are.

This is La Merce of peace, a desire which the city has expressed and expresses, as a demand to those who have the power to make decisions that define the destiny of the world. Barcelona has suffered, too much, under the whip of war, not to know that it is always a tragedy.

(OK. I've already had enough. 1) I don't think it's appropriate for us to pat ourselves on the back about how great we are. I think we should leave that to others. 2) Suffered, my ass. Barcelona took a few bomb and shell hits in the Spanish Civil War, killing some 2000 people, but we're not talking Dresden here. As for the killings, it was you folks who killed each other. Don't blame "war". Take some responsibility. Barcelona wasn't hurt too badly in the Napoleonic wars. The last time it was besieged was 1714, and if they'd had any brains, they'd have made a deal with King Felipe a long time before that.)

We are not in favor of armed conflict. We are in favor of the construction of just and balanced peace. A peace that is not imposed, a peace that is often not easy, but which is better. We will talk about this in the Forum 2004. There we want to explain our feelings and we want to listen to all of those who have something to say.

(I'm not in favor of armed conflict, either. and I'm in favor of kitty-cats and teddy bears and Easter chickies, too. And my ass you want to listen, or you would, to the voice of an angry America demanding a just and balanced peace, which is not the state of affairs we have now what with terrorist gangs running all over the Middle East and rogue states from Tehran to Pyongyang threatening to develop nuclear weapons. I thought we were broadcasting loud and clear enough. Guess not.)

A city is defined by the values it exercises, but also for the values that it aspires to share in the future, because this is the deeper construction of the city as a collective project: the consolidation of values, experienced by all.

(Wait a minute. Doesn't this sound a bit like brainwashing? "Down with Saddam! Down with Communism! Free North Korea! Stop the starvation! No nuclear blackmail! No to terrorism! Castro's a dictator! Oops, Mr. Clos-Thought Newspeak Big Brother Officer, uh, I meant 'Peace and love!'" At least twenty-five per cent of us folks in Barcelona, if you figure the 15% who vote for the PP plus 5% each corresponding to the more intelligent and moderate voters for Convergence and the Socialists, think Mr. Clos is full of dog doo.)

Citizens: there can be no fiesta without freedom, but there cannot be freedom without commitment. This is civicism: measure, balance, the exact point where the individual and the collective meet. There is no excuse for vulnerating everyone's well-being: this respect is civicism. The foundation, along with tolerance, of the good-neighborliness that is the identity of Barcelona.

(In Spain, if you start bragging and talking big, they ask you, "Don't you have a grandma already?" The implication is that it's your grandma, not you, who is supposed to praise you.)

It is the job of the City Government to provide services so that the fiesta can come off, plan a program, invite artists and groups, increase transportation and sanitation. It is the job of the citizens to make the fiesta a civic celebration, the image of the Barcelona that the world admires, the Mediterranean spirit, shared happiness.

(Geez, not even Kansas City is this provincial in its need to build up its own self-esteem.)

Remember, Barcelonese, that it is the tradition of the fiesta mayor to open the doors of our house, invite friends and relatives to visit, make the dinner table more generous with food in company.

Citizens and citizenesses, visitors and foreigners: I call you to the fiesta. come out of your house, come into the streets, enjoy it. the city is yours, La Merce is yours.

(Now, why couldn't he have just limited himself to that, a call to inviting guests to help us enjoy our city? I think we can all be happy to do that and don't need our bums kissed about doing so.)

Friday, September 19, 2003

Thomas Friedman went so far as to call France an "enemy" of the United States a couple of days ago. I'd call them a "rival" at this point; they haven't crossed the line of an open casus belli yet. What does seem to be true is that the motive behind and the main point of their foreign policy is to demonstrate that they are important. Global security, fighting terrorism, eliminating dictators--all that stuff comes in second to polishing up the old grandeur.

I don't see any other motive for France's obstructionism regarding Iraq. The Vangua has been giving plenty of coverage to the Franco-German antics that have been keeping the rest of the world awake nights with worry, they wish anyway. The last one is that Chiraq said that America should "transfer power, as soon as possible, under the control of the United Nations, to Iraqi governmental agencies. To us that is a question of months, not years."

That's dumb because so far there's not a functioning native government of Iraq, just the beginnings of one; the United Nations is morally bankrupt and powerless; it's going to take years, not months, before we can leave Iraq; and you can't transfer power. You either have it or you don't. Though you can abdicate it, you can't transmit it. I vote that it's nowhere near time to abdicate our power in Iraq.

As a sign of who's got the power, the IMF has US economic growth at 2.6% in 2003 and 3.9% in 2004. That's the motor keeping the world moving, since Germany's economic growth is calculated at 0.0% for 2003 and France's at 0.5%. The US is looking at a 1.3% inflation rate and a 5.7% unemployment rate for 2004. That's all excellent news for President Bush, who can only be helped by a strong economy. Spain, by the way, looks comparatively healthy, with growth of 2.2% this year and 2.8% for 2004. Great for Mariano Rajoy and just another nail in the Socialists' coffin.

Here's Alfredo Abian's page 2 signed editorial from Wednesday's Vangua.

Clark, Bush's worst adversary

The nine Democrat politicians who had announced their intention to dispute with George Bush for the Presidency of the United States had as much chance of beating him as Rodriguez Zapatero does against Rajoy: slim, in order not to say none. However, the current resident of the White House has seen, finally, the worst adversary he could possibly have expected (barring last-minute surprises): the tenth aspirant to be nominated candidate is the prestigious retired general Wesley Clark. A convinced multilaterist and godfathered by Bill Clinton, this centrist military officer knows europe well. As commander-in-chief of NATO forces, he fought Milosevic in Kosovo, and he hasn't gotten tired of repeating that that diplomatic-military experience of the alliance is the only model that Washington should have followed after 9-11. Especially ciritical of the war in Iraq--Clark stated that hours after the fall of the Twin Towers, Washington proposed that he should relate the terrorist attack with Saddam Hussein, with no evidence--this ambitious Vietnam veteran has all the ingredients to make Bush nervous, of whom he said that he is a loudmouth who is not fit to be the president of the US. And Clark, the Democrats' Colin Powell though he is much less known, will be able to present himself before the voters as a true expert in defense and national security, unwilling to set his country and the world off on risky adventures.

Wishful thinking sopped up from reading the British left-wing press. Clark is little-known and not particularly popular, and it's pretty clear he's the Clinton-Gore stalking horse in these elections.

Crime Rates; Europe, 2002, US, 1999

Homicide, per 100,000

Luxembourg 14.01
Netherlands 10.87
Sweden 10.38
US 5.7
EU average 3.7
Spain 2.91

"Sexual felonies" Europe; forcible rape US, per 100,000

Sweden 94.89
United Kingdom 69.55
Norway 66.59
UE average 42.91
US 32.7
Spain 17.47

Robbery, per 100,000

Sweden 8170
United Kingdom 6174
Netherlands 5302
EU average 3504
Spain 1768
US 150

See, Spain is very safe. On the other hand, over here in most of nice, peaceful, Illustrated and Enlightened Europe, crime rates are, uh, worse than they are in gun-crazy America.

Six Barcelona bonehead "anarchists" started up a terrorist gang and sent a letter-bomb to the Greek embassy. They'd gotten hold of two pistols and a sawed-off twelve-gauge. The Guardia Civil arrested the lot. Throw the book at them. They'll probably get off alleging youthful idealism.

According to Jordi Vilajoana, mouth-breathing conseller de Cultura, 94% of the population of Catalonia can understand Catalan, down from 107% last year and 123% the year before. Ooh, not good. 74% can speak it and read it and 49% can write it.

Seems that Brits are flying down here on cheap return tickets between like say Bristol and Girona in order to stock up on cigs. They're about ten bucks a pack in England and about two bucks a pack here.

The Vangua is complaining that it's terribly uncivic for people to hang out their laundry so it's visible from the street. I can think of approximately fifty other bigger civic problems that the city might just be able to fix: traffic, parking, pollution, graffiti, picking up the trash, fixing the sewers in the Old City, beggars, street crime, bad driving, dog crap...oh, I could go on...but we're campaigning about hanging out your clothes on the balcony.

Hanging out your clothes on the balcony demonstrates that a) you're not rich, since you wouldn't hang them there if you had somewhere else b) you are clean, since you actually wash your clothes. Seems to me this campaign is aimed at the clean poor. How about a campaign aimed at the dirty rich, like say those middle-class kids who call themselves "squatters" and occupy property that isn't theirs?

We've got a squat down on the plaza. They've apparently been served notice that they're going to be kicked out; the cops must have a warrant. A lot of aggressive graffiti has been painted, advertising that there will be rioting. Good. Bring it on. I'm betting on Barcelona's Finest--well, OK, Barcelona's Barely Adequate.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Catalunya TV is reporting that an arrest has been made in the Malaga murder cases. A 38-year-old British citizen has been charged with the murder of Sonia Carabantes. Since there was a DNA match between pieces of skin found under the girl's fingernails and a cigarette butt found at the murder scene of Rocio Wannenkhof four years ago, we'll know very soon whether this guy was also involved in Rocio's murder. The police have said in the past that they suspect there was more than one killer. Dolores Vazquez's retrial for Rocio's murder was suspended. It's beginning to look more and more like Vazquez's conviction was a terrible miscarriage of justice, since she served a year and a half in prison for a murder she did not commit.

Superjudge Baltasar Porcel ordered the arrest of five people in Spain accused of being connected to the Al-Jazeera Spanish correspondent, who was himself arrested and accused of working for Al-Qaeda. Those 16 people who were arrested in Catalonia earlier this year on charges of connection with terrorism were going to have charges dropped against them, though there's not much question that some of them gave shelter to terrorists traveling through or hiding out in Catalonia, but this latest round of arrests has caused the authorities to think twice about letting those guys off.

Sad news: Copito de Nieve, alias "Floquet de Neu" or "Snowflake", the world's only albino gorilla and the pride of the Barcelona zoo, doesn't have long to live. He's got terminal skin cancer and he's been given three months maximum. The City Council is not going to play politics and blame anybody, since Copito's something like 40, not too bad for a gorilla. That's about thirty-nine years longer than an albino gorilla would have survived in the jungle, which Copito was ape-napped out of whill still a baby. Proposals have been made to a) have him stuffed, which has been ruled out b) build a monument to him inside the zoo, which sounds pretty reasonable, and c) name a street after him. I have a suggestion. Why don't we rename Plaza Karl Marx as Plaza Floquet de Neu? The ape is much more deserving.

It's widely rumored around town that, apart from the renaming-of-streets frenzy that surrounded the transition to democracy, the reason the Ronda General Mitre (who was an obscure nineteenth-century Argentinian general) hasn't been renamed yet is because Jordi Pujol is saving it for himself after he retires as Prime Minister of Catalonia. Socialist Josep Tarradellas got the old Avenida Infanta Carlota and the Republican Left's Francesc Macia got the old Plaza Calvo Sotelo, not to mention their Lluis Companys, who got an avenue and a football stadium. Seems to me Pujol can demand equal time for himself and his Convergence and Union Party.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

This is John and we're back in business with a vengeance. We got back yesterday from London; since the last time I posted, we went to Brighton and Kew Gardens. Brighton was a fascinating sociological experiment. A lot of it is pretty tatty and has clearly seen better days.

Here comes an unkind generalization. Based on what I saw in England, and we were in London, Ealing (suburban London), Salisbury, Canterbury, and Brighton, the locals ain't that physically attractive. The blacks are very good looking in general, the South Asians and East Asians are often rather handsome, and the white folk in middle-class and upper-class areas are attractive in a rather English way. But the British working class is, almost to a man (or woman), rather plain and most likely overweight, and wearing unattractive and obviously cheap clothes.

I can feel the poisoned darts flying my way and hear the outraged folk in Essex and Bradford screaming for my tarring and feathering. No, neither the American nor the Spanish working class is known for its refined taste either, but I can't help reaching the judgement that both American and Spanish middle- and lower-middle-class people are physically more handsome than their English equivalents.

Yes, I freely admit that I personally tend to bring the American attractiveness average down rather downward than upward. I have no illusions about myself, except for the fact that I might actually look cool in sort of a geeky way after I throw away this damn weak-ass fragile pair of glasses and get them replaced by some unbreakable Buddy Holly or John Lennon specs, whichever is available cheaper.

While we were in Brighton they had a Mods and Rockers reunion. Forty thousand people wearing either green duffle jackets with patches proclaiming their allegiance to the Who riding on scooters, often ridiculously chromed up like an East LA lowrider with twelve or sixteen headlights and rearview mirrors or (the majority, maybe three-to-one) wearing leather jackets with patches proclaiming their allegiance to Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent and those other rockabilly guys. They had cool motorcycles, like Triumphs and BMWs and Harleys and Indians, also often ridiculously chromed up. I immediately sympathized much more with the Rockers than with the Mods.

All these people were members of the white English working class; there were very few non-white people.

I've never been surrounded by so much ugly. These guys were all, like, fifty-five or whatever. I had to wonder how many of them were real people who were part of those groups back in the Sixties and how many of them joined up after the fact. They sure looked goofy. Well, OK, some of the Rockers looked pretty cool.

The locals and the more middlebrow, middlecrust tourists hang around on St. James's and this area they call the Lanes, full of shops where you might actually want to buy something. I was particularly impressed by one place where they sold kites and frisbees and hackysacks and the like, physical-movement games I almost bought a plastic American football that claimed it could be thrown for longer distance than any of its competitors because of like the way it was weighted or something. I would have bought one of their plastic-vinyl-spandex specialty kites with unbreakable fishing line cords, but they were all like forty-eight quid.

We ate very well at a place called Leo's Lounge in the Lanes. If you're ever in Brighton, go there. We each had fresh fish (John-cod, Remei-trout, Elizabeth-sole) that was very good and quite reasonably priced. Nicely and simply prepared.

Official Stonehenge Visitor's Comments: Apparently you used to be able to just walk up to Stonehenge and climb up on the rocks and stuff. Now they've got a walk cordoned off with rope around which visitors can walk while listening to a (well-done; slightly social functionalist) audio commentary. It costs five pounds to get in; a round-trip bus from Salisbury's central bus station which passes by the railroad station on the way costs like five more pounds. No complaints. I understand you used to be able to go in and commune with Jim Morrison at dawn on the summer solstice or whatever, and I can see why they've decided you can't do that anymore. Last thing we need is a bunch of damn hippies tripping on acid to have a mass freakout and knock one of the lintel stones over.

As for the question, "Who built it and why did they do so?", answer number one is its building was organized by the people living there between 5000 and 3500 BC. The locals were apparently a sizeable, wealthy, and powerful pre-Celtic people who knew how to weave and to make pottery, and they traded all over southern Britain. Answer number two is that it served as a calendar. There are far too many coincidences between various stones and wherever the sun comes up over the eastern horizon in line with whatever big rocks for that to be a coincidence. Answer number three is they built it out of huge stones as homage to the sun god; the greater the effort and sacrifice put forth, the greater the devotion to the god and the more likely the movers of the project would be rewarded by the god's favor. It probably didn't hurt that anyone from rival peoples who saw such an impressive construction would be impressed by the strength and power of the people who oversaw its construction. If the function had been strictly that of a calendar, they'd have stayed with the first construction they made at the site, a circular ditch with wooden posts. All the work of quarrying out and moving the huge stones is superflous to Stonehenge's function of knowing the seasons; it therefore has another purpose, which is religious.

And answer number four is that Stonehenge was built by slaves. Our constructor-people were comparatively rich traders. Slaves have long been one of the most basic commodities traded, and I do not know of any peoples that never had some kind of slavery. According to the audioguide, the heaviest stones weigh 45 tons, 90,000 pounds. If each slave can move 100 pounds, you need 900 slaves for each stone. I imagine the constructor-people managed to get their hands on at least that many.

P.S.- Here's a Barcelona shout-out to Elizabeth's roommates in Ealing, Darren and Kelly and company, for putting up with our staying in their house. They are very nice folks and treated us extremely well, and we're hoping to see some of them show up in Barcelona sometime.
And now John is back, I'll hand over the keys to this super-blog sportster. No more than a few scratches and a dented wing to show for the adventure.

John Lilly contributes this link from the WSJ to an opinion piece about Aznar and his reign . It's only available to subscribers, though, so I have no idea what it says. So how about some home-gown op-ed?

One of John's challenge questions was what Aznar will do after his retirement. Obviously he'll go for a top Euro-sinecure, when the time is right. Let's just hope he doesn't hang around in Spain acting as "eminence grise" behind the scenes of the PP as Felipe Gonzalez has done with the PSOE.

My (Murph's) feeling on Aznar is that he has been a competent though unispiring and at times extremely divisive leader. Top marks on the economy. Low marks for public services, justice, health, transport infrastructure and relations between the regions. Foreign affairs high point? Becoming one of the "Azores Three" which declared war on Iraq on 16th March, and subsequently standing solid on his position. Foreign affairs low point? Allowing the whole Gibraltar-Ceuta-Melilla-Morocco mess to get so far out of hand and then crowing about his "counter-invasion" of the worthless rock of Perejil.

One thing is for sure- Rajoy is no more than an even less inspring version of Aznar. Expect Spain to be a charisma-free zone for the next four years.
Yesterday was the "Official Opening of The Spanish Justice (what?) Year". This means that all the judges and dignitaries make endless speeches about how great they are, after the two-month holiday they have given themselves. The King Juan Carlos was there, and boy does he have a lot of medals. I suppose they would be things like "The Order of the Cognac Bottle", "Knight-Commander of the Screwed Actress" and "Congressional Medal of Witlessness". He slurred his words rather more than usual, though I suppose if you have to sit through several hours of meaningless drivel, it's fair enough to have a slurp or two of the hipflask.

Meanwhile in the real world of law enforcement: ETA are getting sloppier and sloppier. They ambushed two Basque policemen on Sunday night, catching them totally by surprise and shooting them at pointblank range with sawn-off shotguns. Result: two injured cops, one dead terrorist. Best wishes to the cops for full recovery. Good riddance to the terrorist motherfucker.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Let's all have a look at Anthony's latest link, showing as he says that "Spain is finally number 1 in something".

My comment: I find it incredibly annoying that the media in this country (here I include TVE, TV3 Catalunya, El Pais and La Vanguardia) use "Jewish" and "Israeli" as synoyms. So we get, for example: "The Jewish army evicted Palestinians from their homes". Every time this happens I want to scream at the TV: "Not all Jews are Israelis, and not all Israelis are Jews". The subliminal effect of all this is to suggest that all Jews are badass repressors. Hence we get graffiti like the following: "[Star of David] + $$$ = [Swastika]".

Another point to note from the Barcelona Football Club elections held in July: what really sunk favourite candidate Bassat was the "revelation" that his maternal surname is Cohen. Apocryphal? I have heard on more than one occasion that Barca supporters refused to vote for a Jew.
I'd like to share a little poetry with you today, before the return of John and normality.


It is possible to live within the culture of war for so long
that the end of a particular war seems like the end of
all violent political struggle, and the temporay quiet that
follows seems to promise a perpetual, peaceful and
exhausted statis.

Philip Bobbitt “The Shield of Achilles”

Then –

Our world was a tower with a strong steel spine.
We had a panoramic view of victory marches:
they stretched along the boulevards of time,
fun-loving souls sprawled on all our couches.

The hour of bliss was ours to the far extent:
a giggle or two at the silliness of life,
a hot tomato whose full lips held a president.
Noise that overwhelmed the grinding of a knife.

Now –

This dawn of wrath, new deaths are born prodigious.
Lives fall like raindrops on the street so far below.
Monster-martyrs-victims mixed in the same storm:

those who aimed so well to die, those who died
and didn’t know they’d gone, those cast away
on a steel reef with no boat to bring them home.

Huddled gasping mass, a mile up in the sky
drowned with ash of lives, hot hate dust of history.

Could they know what courses led to this,
and whisper prayers to the futile god they chose?

No time.

The spine is melted

sheer blister crack

we fall...


Sunday, September 14, 2003

Hi, Murph here...

Sorry, I've been doing a poor job of keeping up with the haps here in BCN, but with the September 11 long weekend, I've been away with my mother (visiting from Ireland) and my family. I'll try and post later today.

Thanks to all those showing appreciation for sad efforts so far.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

By the way, there's quite the debate on civic behaviour and the lack of it in Barcelona, since the Mayor Joan Clos and his aides started brainstorming publicly on the theme. On Monday La Vanguardia published a letter from yours truly rebutting the Mayor's claim that "Barcelonans are very civic people". I suggested that the City Hall apply a policy of zero tolerance and public education. Another reader supported my proposal yesterday and made the point that "to the left, such proposals smell like fascism". Of course encouraging a sense of personal responsibility for one's actions, and respect for other people, is the exact opposite of fascism. But he has a point. Something as obvious as making the citizens obey the law is far too straightforward for the City Hall. Instead they have announced that they will "look into the theoretical basis of action... make a study... [and consider] setting up a commission of expèrts to report on the matter". Expect some action around 2023, by which time we Barcelonans will be neck-deep in empty whiskey bottles, dog shit and radical flyposters.
Today's big news from the wacky world of Spanish politics:

Catalan supremo Jordi Pujol is to announce the end of his political career and new elections for November 16. His successor is the mind-numbingly bland Artur Mas, selected by Pujol for his resemblance to a 1940s matinee idol. Mas's opponents include Pasqual Maragall (Socialist - has a slight chance of winning); Josep Pique (Popular Party, therefore with no chance of winning here in Catalonia) and Josep Carod-Rovira (Esquerra Republicana, the extreme nationalists overshadowed by the moderate nationalist Convergencia i Unio party led by Pujol and now fronted by Mas). Though there are important issues to face - law and order, education, road safety, immigration and health - all of the candidates will focus on the bogus non-issue of constitutional reform. This translates as separatism, something which nobody on the steet gives a shit about, but is strangely fascinating to the pols, who should have better things to do.

And the issue of separatism brings us to the second nugget for today. The Basque regional government in Vitoria has presented a lawsuit in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg against the Spanish national government in Madrid with reference to the Ley de Partidos (Law of Political Parties), passed last year to ban the ETA political wing Herri Batasuna (or any alias they choose to adopt). The law was enacted, the law was executed, Batasuna's network of offices was closed down, but they still exist as deputies under another name in the Basque parliament. Various orders to throw them out have gone unheeded by the ruling Basque Nationalist Party, and they clearly decided they neded another few years as a delaying tactic. Hence the suit in Strasbourg. It has no chance of succeeding - the last time I looked, the EU Declaration of Rights didn't give free speech and the right of political association to terrorists - but it has the appearance of doing something to resist the so-called "fascism" of Madrid. It's a well-known paradox of the Basque wonderland that the Nationalist party, which tolerates the firebombing and assasination of those who oppose the monolith of Basque separatism, calls the other side Nazis. Even the Basque bishops do it: yesterday the Bishop of San Sebastian - an asshole who will go nameless - declared that the use of legal measures, properly voted on in a democratic assembly was a form of "violence". False equivalence or what?

Monday, September 08, 2003

I'm reposting John's "challenge questions" below, and let's see what we can do with them. I also republish the comments made so far. Let's get to work, people!

Here are a few topics for discussion:

What's the deal with sending more troops to Iraq? Good move, bad move, not necessary?

What the hell are the French and Germans up to now?

Is the United Nations merely useless or useless, corrupt, and incompetent?

Rank the nine Democratic candidates for President.

When I get back, will Zap still be the PSOE's "leader"?

What about the California recall election? Do you really see Arnie as Governor? Exactly how awful is Cruz Bustamante?

What do you think Aznar wants to do after he gets through as Prime Minister?

Have you ever read a newspaper with worse international coverage than La Vanguardia's?

Have you come across any good America-bashing that you'd like to share with us?

Do you have any stories grosser than the J.F. incident alluded to below?

I challenge you guys to make at least fifty comments among all of you on these themes, or any others you may choose, before I come back on September 17.
Further to the post below, clumsily sent through three times.

Al-Jazeera journo Taysir Alouni was hauled before super-judge Baltasar Garzon today to face charges of aiding and abetting Al-Qa'eda. Result? Nothing. The judge declared a secret process, so there's no way to know what evidence they have on Alouni. Then the accused was sent back to jail, to await trial sometime within the next four years. And that's it.

This is the unsatisfying nature of the Continental European "justice" system, so unlike the good ol' adversarial system we know and love in the Anglosphere. Where we have the concept "justice must be done and be SEEN to be done" they have... well, secret investigative processes. I bet the guys in Guantanamo get more due process than this. Judge Garzon resembles Judge Dredd in that he is both investigator, prosecutor and, uh, Judge.

I don't hold a candle for Al-Jazeera or anything, but imagine a judicial bigshot like Garzon got it into his head that YOU were an Al-Qa'eda terrorist while you were over here enjoying the paella. It would be a long time until you saw the light of day, let me tell ya.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

The big news from Spain today is the arrest by Judge Baltasar Garzon's order of Al-Jazeera journalist Taysir Alony, accused of being a member of Al-Qaeda. Though a Syrian national, Alony was legally resident in Spain because of his marriage to a Spanish national. He was arrested yesterday at his house in Granada, and will be charged on Monday by Garzon. According to La Vanguardia, this forms the fourth phase of Garzon's grand Operation Date (Datil - meaning the fruit of the date palm, not a calendar date). The first action was the arrest of thirteen suspects in November 2001, of whom eight are still in prison awaiting trial. Second phase was in April 2002, with the arrest of further suspects and the exposure of part of Al-Qaeda's financing ring. Third, in July 2002, the arrest of three Syrian suspects in Madrid and the seizure of videos from before 9-11 (in fact, from 1997) showing potential targets: the Golden Gate in SF, the Statue of Liberty and of course the WTC. "Sources close to the judge" say that Alony couriered these target videos to Bin Laden some time in 1997. What is not in dispute is that Alony was Al-Jazeera's resident reporter in Afghanistan until the Afghan War of 2001, and that he was the first to interview Bin Laden after 9-11. Last June 8, Alony appeared as a speaker in a seminar organised at the University of Complutense, where he suggested that both Bin Laden and Saddam were dead.

So far Judge Garzon has published no hard proof against him, but we shall see. Keep you posted on this. Murph.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Hi, Murph here... Just to let you know that John has given me the keys to his hi-powered blogvehicle. He, he! So business will be booming as usual for a few days until the inevitable happens and I dribble Irish whiskey all over the keyboard.
Tomorrow morning Remei and I are off to London, where we'll be until September 16. I doubt I will be doing any blogging from there. What y'all can do, of course, is keep the blog going yourselves by adding your opinions in the Comments section below--hell, your comments are usually more intelligent than mine anyway. Murph and Clark can keep you all up to date if anything important happens here.

Here are a few topics for discussion:

What's the deal with sending more troops to Iraq? Good move, bad move, not necessary?

What the hell are the French and Germans up to now?

Is the United Nations merely useless or useless, corrupt, and incompetent?

Rank the nine Democratic candidates for President.

When I get back, will Zap still be the PSOE's "leader"?

What about the California recall election? Do you really see Arnie as Governor? Exactly how awful is Cruz Bustamante?

What do you think Aznar wants to do after he gets through as Prime Minister?

Have you ever read a newspaper with worse international coverage than La Vanguardia's?

Have you come across any good America-bashing that you'd like to share with us?

Do you have any stories grosser than the J.F. incident alluded to below?

I challenge you guys to make at least fifty comments among all of you on these themes, or any others you may choose, before I come back on September 17.
The Ertzaintza, the Basque regional police, have made five arrests of people linked to ETA this morning; without further details, we have to figure these are infrastructure people rather than hitmen.

There are a couple of other big stinks; the Basque government has been subsidizing the families of ETA prisoners so that they can go visit them in jail. They have ETArras divided up among all the prisons in Spain so that they can't conspire with one another, so that they can't take over the jail like the IRA did with the Maze, and so that they'll be isolated from terrorist gang discipline. One of ETA's big demands is that the prisoners all be sent back to the Basque country for humanitarian reasons, so that "their families can visit them." Yeah, right. They want 'em all in the same prison so that the gang can stick together. This is one of ETA's demands, and they've said if they don't get what they want there will be no negotiations. Screw them. What's there to negotiate about, anyway? Crush them. They're almost done.

Far-left Hispano-French singer Manu Chao is doing a tour. Since there are few concert promoters in Spain, and since there is the tradition of the local fiesta mayor which is paid for by the city government, Manu is getting paid with our tax money to spout his opinions on public stages around the country. Not satisfied with that, though, he's got Fermin Muguruza, who is openly a member of Batasuna, ETA's political branch, opening up for him. There are some of us folks questioning whether that is appropriate. Sure, these guys have freedom of speech, but not on my dime.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

I sure did hit a hot button with Margaret Sanger.

a. I am not Catholic or even Christian. I am an agnostic.
b. I support equal rights for women and men.
c. I support--and use--legal birth control.
d. I support legal abortion on demand in the first trimester of pregnancy.
e. I support people's finding sexual fullfillment however they choose to do so as long as everybody's 18 and consenting, and nobody gets hurt. And let's keep the animals out of it.

(I once completely grossed out the Jedman, who had been complaining about his involuntary long-term sexual abstinence, by suggesting that he get his mom's cat, rub tuna fish all over his tallywhacker, and "let that little pink sandpaper tongue take care of it." To date, this is the only time the Jedman has ever been grossed out, except for the time some jerk whose initials were J.F. invited us to come over to his girlfriend's house and promised us that "you can fuck her mom". That grossed me out pretty big-time, too.)

I just do not like Margaret Sanger.

Here is a link to NYU's Margaret Sanger Papers Project. This looks to me to be about as definitive as it gets. Click on "About Margaret Sanger" to get started.

You might want to check out Planned Parenthood's defense of Sanger.

Here's an article from the Kansas City Star on eugenics which mentions Sanger.

Here's a National Review article by Jonah Goldberg on eugenics applied to both people and our pets.

This is a long piece from FrontPage on the subject of the Left and racism that touches on Sanger and eugenics.