Thursday, September 30, 2004

I don't bother to read Andrew Sullivan any more. He's a very intelligent man and an excellent writer; there's not any question about that. But he's gay and that's the most important thing in the world to him. He doesn't seem to give a damn about whether George Bush or John Kerry would be a better President, although anybody who's taken the positi0ns Sullivan has taken over the last couple of years can only support Bush. But Bush has come out in favor of a Constitutional amendment that would leave gay marriage up to the states and that would permit states such as, say, South Dakota to refuse to recognize gay marriages that took place in, say, Massachussetts.

I am going to be honest here. Gay people would probably think of me as a homophobe. I guess I am. I believe that if you want to suck other guys' dicks, that's your business, but don't ask me to celebrate it, or even approve of it. I personally find the concept repulsive, and I think that men who want to have other men's penises inserted into their rectums are psychologically ill--and, folks, I know whereof I speak, since I have spent some time in a mental hospital. If you believe you are homosexual, I certainly think that you should have the right to do whatever you want with other consenting adults--but do not ask me to consider your behavior to be normal.

What repulses me about Sullivan is his record--he has AIDS but hangs around in gay chatrooms for people who like to "ride bareback", which means having anal sex without a condom. Meanwhile, he used to support President Bush (if you want to see some serious ass-kissing, go back and look at Sullivan's pieces written during the six or eight months after 9/11), but has changed sides because the President has come out against legal recognition of homosexual couples. Now, people, there is a major difference in the importance of the two issues. President Bush's stance on terrorism affects every single person in the United States and in the rest of the world. His stance on gay marriage affects a bunch of fruit loops in NY, SF, and LA. But which is more important to Andrew? His own naked self-interest, of course.
I've seen almost no news either from or about Spain for a long time; I can only assume that not much has happened there. I will point out that many American people may know nothing more about Spain than one fact: in the wake of the Madrid bombing and the following incredibly biased media hysteria, the majority of Spaniards chickened out and let Al Qaeda determine the results of their election. Here's a quote from National Review's Jay Nordlinger:

Lincoln Chafee, the Republican senator from Rhode Island, will not say that he will vote for Bush: "It's no secret that I have big differences with the president on a host of issues, whether it's the environment, the war in Iraq, women's reproductive freedoms . . ."
"Reproductive freedoms"? What ever could that mean? Who is stopping women from having babies?
Chafee continued, "And, like all Americans, I'll be really looking at this war and what happens over the next number of weeks."
Ah! What does that mean? That the terrorists have only to keep applying the pressure, and Chafee will pull a Spain?

"To pull a Spain". That phrase should become part of the world's vocabulary, standing for cowardly surrender to and appeasement of terrorists when challenged by them. I am saddened by the fact that the majority of the people in a country I love did such a thing. I suppose the translation to Spanish should be "hacer una espanolada" (pardon the lack of the tilde on this keyboard). Previously, "una espanolada" referred to doing something in the tradition of cheesy movies from the Sixties with feel-good scripts including several pseudo-flamenco musical numbers, multiple bad jokes, low-budget production, frequent transvestitism, and the presence of Marisol, Joselito, or Paco Rabal. Now, forever, it will be associated with backing down before Bin Laden. Before March 14, Nordlinger would most likely have said "pull a Munich". Chamberlain's 1938 surrender to Hitler has now been eclipsed.

On a completely different note, I am repeatedly surprised by how blatantly the Left appeals to emotional references to romantic comradeship in fighting the good fight.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

This is a story from the Associated Press today. The AP is in italics. My comments are in regular type.

As world leaders gathered Monday for the annual U.N. General Assembly, French President Jacques Chirac — already deeply at odds with the Bush administration over the war in Iraq — accused Washington of obstructing a worldwide campaign to eradicate poverty.
Chirac spoke after the U.S. administration declined after two high-level meetings to endorse a final declaration that was supported by 110 countries. The nonbinding document called for a "renewed political mobilization" to help more than 1 billion people trying to eke out a living on less than $1 a day.

Note the words "nonbinding" and "declaration" and "political mobilization". In other words, nothing serious, just another blast of hot air aimed at taking the high moral ground. Sorry, M. Chiraq, we all know that such empty posturing is the behavior of the weak. The strong do not posture. They act.

"However strong the Americans may be, in the long term, you cannot successfully oppose a position taken by 110 countries," Chirac told a news conference. "You can't oppose that forever."
Chirac planned to return to Paris Monday night, making it impossible for him to meet with President Bush who speaks before the General Assembly when it officially opens Tuesday. Bush did not attend the Monday meetings.

We certainly can oppose something so meaningless with absolutely no damage whatsoever. As for meeting with President Bush, even if Chiraq had stuck around I don't think he'd have gotten one.

Chirac said he and and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva would propose new approaches to fund the alleviation of poverty, although the preparatory meetings resulted in no specific proposals.
"The price of selfishness is rebellion," he warned. "We should ensure that the world's unprecedented wealth becomes a vehicle for the integration, rather than exclusion, of the most underprivileged. It is up to us to give globalization a conscience," he said.

Wait a minute, Jack. Are you calling us selfish and exclusive and concienceless? That's rich, seeing as how the United States has provided more aid (99% wasted) to the Third World than France, Germany, and Spain put together, and seeing as how everybody in France would be living in mud huts eating grass right now if not for the Marshall Plan. France has certainly been generous to folks like Saddam, though, I will say that. As for the dumb "root causes of terrorism" argument, that's already been so completely shot down that I won't bother doing it again. By the way, note the words "no specific proposals".

Bush has said his speech will emphasize international humanitarian concerns as the world body begins two weeks of meetings in the midst of an upsurge of violence in Iraq and a massive humanitarian crisis in western Sudan.
The document adopted after Monday's meetings, but not signed by the Americans did not make specific anti-proverty proposals but said the time had come "to give further attention to innovative mechanisms of financing — public or private, compulsory and voluntary, of univeral or limited membership" to raise funds to fight poverty.

I saw Bush's speech. He pointed out that we're spending fifteen billion dollars in Africa to fight AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. That sounds specific to me. Again, no specific proposals by Chirac, just a load of wank. And I think "innovative methods of (compulsory, public) financing translate to "Give France some control over your money, you evil rich Americans, so we can waste it propping up our former Empire of cheap-ass African dictators."
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Venemen rejected the idea of a global tax proposed in a February U.N. report and favored by some of the participants, including France, saying it was impossible to impose.
"A global tax is inherently undemocratic," she said.

That's right. Nobody but the US government is going to tax US citizens. The rest of y'all around the world can do whatever you want.

Silva said overwhelming hunger and unemployment in developing nations was contributing to international violence.
"How many more times will it be necessary to repeat that the most destructive weapon of mass destruction in the world is poverty?" he asked during a speech at a session that focuse on a U.N. report about the growing divide between the world's haves and have-nots.
Asked later whether he was concerned by the lack of U.S. support for the declaration, Silva told journalists that the United States had taken an important step by sending a representative.

There goes Lula again with the root causes argument. You want to cure poverty in Brazil, Lula, there are a few things you can do all on your own. Just ask Xavier Sala i Martin. Anyway, poverty doesn't cause violence, fanaticism and greed (both caused by envy) cause violence.

The report said the income gap between the richest and poorest countries has widened over the past four decades and the vast majority of the world's population could fail to see the benefits of globalization.
"Fair globalization must begin with the right of everyone to a job," Silva said, stressing that "dignified work, like the fight against hunger, cannot wait."

First, the fact that the rich are getting richer faster than the poor are getting richer is not a bad thing, it's a good thing, since everyone is getting richer. Second, I'm tired of the word "globalization". The world economy has been global ever since it began sometime during the Neolithic age, and it's never been fair. And third, nobody has the right to a job, since rights are free (they do not have a cost) and your "right" is somebody else's obligation. You have the right to look for a job, but nobody has the obligation to give you one.

According to Bjorn Lomborg, who cites UN figures, world life expectancy has risen from 30 to 67 years since 1900. Only 18% of people in the Third World suffer from hunger, down from 35% in 1970. Only 16% of young people in the developing world are illiterate, down from about 75% in 1915. 80% of Third World people have clean drinking water, up from 30% in 1970. In the last ten years caloric consumption in the Third World has risen 8%. People around the world are richer, healthier, and better off than they ever have been. That does not mean things are good enough. It does mean that they aren't nearly as bad as one might think after listening to Chiraq and Lula.

"We have more leisure time, greater security and fewer accidents, more education, more ameneties, higher incomes, fewer starving people, more food, and a healthier and longer life. This is the fantastic story of mankind, and to call such a civilization 'dysfunctional' is quite simply immoral." (Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, pg. 328.)

I just watched Bush's speech at the UN. I'm not sure it was a home run but it was definitely a triple off the wall. Bush made the case for democracy around the world and emphasized the idea of "human dignity" as what the US and its allies are fighting for in the War against Terrorism. He linked Afghanistan and Iraq as different battlefields in the same war against murdering fanatics. He openly spoke in favor of a Palestinian state and criticized Israel's settlements policy as he called yet again for peace in Palestine: his emphasis, though, was on the corruption and cruelty of the current Palestinian leadership, as he said that peace would be impossible while the current leadership was in place. Bush talked tough about Darfur, calling the current situation genocidal. The two things that most impressed me were 1) that Bush accepted partial American responsibility for the situation in the Middle East, stating that American policy had too often worked in the interests of stability and not enough in the interests of democracy and freedom and 2) that he did not back down on Iraq; he said America and its allies would stand firm and achieve victory. No flip-flopping or panicking here.

This was the speech of a President, not that of a mere politician.

Monday, September 20, 2004

The terrorists in Iraq have murdered another American and they are holding one more American and a Briton. They will undoubtedly be killed soon. Every atrocity they commit should merely make the will of the West stronger. Excluding our friends in Paris, Berlin, and Madrid, of course, who have no will whatsoever. There is only one way to stop terrorism and that is to kill those people who are committing it. I'm surprised that so few people are willing to say this publicly, even over here in supposedly conservative Kansas City.

Time magazine has a piece on our friend Zap and an interview with him. No comment, except to say that Zap is a dope.

I certainly did mistranslate El Pais's slogan for the advertisement they produced the other day: as well as using the photographs of the World Trade Center atrocity in an attempt to stir up business, they used the slogan "Un dia da para mucho." This has two different meanings: the first is, as I said, "A lot can happen in one day". The second, even more offensive, is "You can accomplish a lot in one day." Fortunately, El Pais has done the decent thing and apologized on their editorial page--though I still think that what they're really sorry about is letting their real feelings for the US slip through.

As for our friends Dan Rather and CBS, thay've finally admitted they were wrong about the phony memos. Jeff Greenfield was on CNN; Judy Woodruff asked him how this could have happened and Jeffy said it was human error. Judy mentioned that there are some people who think the media has a liberal bias and might possibly be gunning for Bush. Jeffy said nope, that it was an honest mistake. Jeffy went on to say, insinuatingly, that it is the Bush campaign that has benefited as a result of this hoo-hah. No, no media bias there at all.

The Chiefs suck. Can you say "six and ten"?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

You guys should absolutely check out Franco Aleman's Barcepundit. From there, if you don't read Spanish, just click on Barcepundit in English. Franco is holding down the fort while I'm gone and doing a hell of a job as usual, with comments on CBSgate, El Pais, La Vangua, those idiots in the Spanish government, and just about everything else. In particular, he reproduces an advertisement from El Pais which shows a photo of New York taken the morning of Sept. 11 and another one taken on Sept. 12, with the obvious difference that there are two large buildings in the left photo that don't appear in the right one. The slogan? "A lot can happen in one day. Subscribe to El Pais and get three months free." Gee whiz, why didn't they use photos of, say, Atocha Station before and after the events of March 11 this year? Or maybe a before-and-after of one of the kids in the school at Beslan? What poor taste. Disgusting.
Quick update on coverage from Spain in the American press: CNN has been reporting that 1. Aznar is going to speak before the Parliamentary commission investigating the 3-11 bombings and the government's response thereto and 2. ten Pakistanis have been arrested in Barcelona, accused of forming a low-level organized crime syndicate dealing in phony IDs and p[assports and pirate CDs and DVDs. They are apparently not linked to Al Qaeda but allegedly have provided money and logistical support to radical Islamist groups. The KC Star has a paragraph on the arrests.

Comment on the KC Star: Its coverage of local issues--city and state government, mostly, and local occurrences--is first-rate, considerably more detailed than what you find in Spain. Its coverage of national issues is a good bit more sketchy and mostly depends on the wire services. It's not a bad summary, but you'd want to, at the very least, read one of the national newsmagazines and/or the Sunday New York Times and/or the Wall Street Journal and/or listen to talk radio and/or watch TV news, in addition, as far as the mass media goes. As far as international issues, there's really not very much and it's all off the AP wire. Exception: Iraq, where the coverage is both more detailed and less prejudiced than what you get in Europe. For anything else about the rest of the world, the Kansas City Star is not sufficient.

I suppose this has everything to do with local folks' priorities. The KC metro area is about 1.5 million people; there are some 2.5 million people in all of Kansas and like 4.5 million in Missouri. Add up Missouri and Kansas and you get an entity very like Catalonia in population, though much greater in size. Missouri and Kansas put together would be a medium-small European country in population that batted well above its weight economically, and that's about most people's everyday scope. Chicago? Denver? Dallas? Those places are beyond our local scope.

Since American government is much more decentralized than European governments generally are--that is, most decisions about education, police and fire protection, public utilities, government social services, criminal and civil law, banking and insurance regulation, public and private transport, intrastate commerce regulation, and some taxes are made at the state or local level with between some and no federal input--people tend to be a good bit more concerned about state and local news than they would be in Europe. National news is also very important, since the federal government is responsible for a lot of stuff, too. International news just isn't so big a deal except for Iraq and other fronts of the War on Terrorism to most people around here, which is why coverage in the KC Star is so limited. Maybe a proper comparison would be, for media purposes, that a US state (in our case, two states since we're right on the line) is comparable to a European country, that the federal government is comparable to the European Union, and that you don't hear much about the rest of the world either in the US or Europe unless something big happens there.

Note for confused people about local geography: Kansas City is in Missouri, right on the Kansas state line, where the Kansas River flows into the Missouri River. The rivers were named long before there were any white permanent settlers in the area. Missouri became a state in 1821, and Kansas City was founded about that time, though it didn't become important until 1850 or so. Kansas didn't become a territory until about 1850, and it became a state in 1861. So the story is that the municipality of Kansas City was named for the Kansas River and has nothing to do with the state of Kansas. Later, as Kansas City, Mo., grew, its metro area spilled over into Kansas. There is a city called Kansas City, Kansas, about 1/5 the size of KCMO, across the state line. (Most of it is a real hellhole.) South of KCK is Johnson County, Kansas, where many of the middle-class suburbs are, including Leawood.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Well, we've been here for a couple of days now in lovely Leawood, Kansas. Here are some first impressions after two years outside the United States:

1. Everyone seems to be very prosperous. Not that people in Barcelona are poor, but it's clear that the standard of living here is much higher, and real estate has gone up in price a good deal though not as much as in BCN. I see virtually no real poverty. There isn't anyone who doesn't have the minimums except for the few local homeless. Working class folks ain't rich by any stretch of the imagination, and dad and mom both have to work at least part-time, but things aren't too bad for anybody and are pretty good for most people. This does not strike me as a temporary blip; it strikes me as a real gain.

2. Government services are not anywhere near as ungenerous as they are painted by the lefties in Europe. Just for example, if you are a family of four and you earn less than 170% of the poverty level income (170% is $34,000 or so), your kids qualify for reduced price school lunches. $34,000 is a hell of a lot more than Remei and I make, put together, in Barcelona.

3. The only big problem I see that people here have is health care. Now, I pay 8% of my income in Spain for social security (=health care plus pension) taxes. I don't think most people in the US pay 8% of their incomes for health insurance, but I don't have the facts, either. What I do see is people who would be in big trouble if they didn't have decent insurance, like my parents. This is what most people I know seem to be concerned about. I really don't know what I would do to fix the situation; I believe that strict controls on malpractice suits and jury awards would help a lot, I do not think insurance should cover bogus so-called alternative medicine (e.g. chiropractic, vitamin therapy, acupuncture, psychoanalysis--google the website Quackwatch for the real information on this), and I think that Americans have a silly fixation on the idea that "I want to choose my own doctor". No, if you're not paying for it out of your own pocket, you don't get to choose your own doctor. By the way, doctors in America make way too damn much money. But from these personal prejudices of mine to a coherent plan there is a long way.

4. People are nowhere near as dumb as the average bigoted European thinks. Most Americans are much better informed about domestic affairs than most Spaniards are about their domestic affairs, and most Americans are not ill-informed about significant international affairs. Yes, probably only about 2% of Americans can identify the prime minister of Spain, probably not much more than 5% have ever heard of the Catalan language, and I doubt more than 10% could accurately place (not find--any idiot who can read a map can do that) Barcelona on a blank world map. You did hear me say "significant", though.

As for what they call in Spain "general culture", everybody who's ever been to college has plenty. People who haven't been to college often don't. Is that a surprise? I think what bothers Spaniards is that in Spain, there's a connection between cultural level, class, and money. It is expected that someone with enough money to travel the world is of at least bourgeois, social class. In America there are a lot of working-class people with lots of money and no culture who have never been anywhere near a university except to supervise the installation of the air-conditioning and earn more for doing that than an assistant professor makes in six months.

5. People here are very polite. And they don't shout and scream and get angry all the time. Also, service in bars and restaurants and the like is good, and you generally tend to get what you pay for.

6. People have lost weight since about five years ago. There's a real move toward eating healthier and doing more exercise. It's not a "cult of the body" thing, it's people behaving more sensibly in general. Yes, there are fat slobs out there, but they're about 15-20% of the people. Then there is everybody else, many of whom are slightly or moderately overweight, but that's not incredibly unhealthy or unsightly. There sure are a lot of people around here who wear ugly clothes, though--except that one thing you see a lot more of in Spain than here is people wearing polyester. Americans tend to wear ugly natural fabrics.

7. It sure seems like there are a lot of people who want to be victims. Everybody can now identify himself as a victim of some kind who can demand special treatment. "Treat me with more respect! I have Asshole Personality Disorder and it interferes with my ability at social interaction in a way that unfairly influences my ability to..." You know what I mean. Gays are especially obnoxious about this.

8. New music sucks. So does new TV. And new movies. Good thing there are a lot of interesting books and plenty of old music out there to discover.

9. The mainstream American media is tremendously biased toward the left. This is also true in Spain, but at least they don't pretend to be neutral or unbiased over there.

10. The Chiefs' defense bites the big one. No way they'll get beyond the first round of the playoffs. Jed says we should go for it on fourth down every time, and onside kick after every score, since the other team will score whether or not the Chiefs punt or kick off deep.

8. People drive much more carefully than they do in Spain.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

We're leaving for Kansas City today for a bit of vacation. Stay tuned for more stupidity-bashing from the other side of the Atlantic, including an evisceration of the Kansas City Star, within the next few days.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Well, it looks like the Dems have decided to play dirty. InstaPundit has the link. Susan Estrich, who is most likely operating as a Hillary stooge as usual, has a nasty piece out accusing Bush and Cheney of being alcoholics, stating with no evidence that they have racked up several drunk driving arrests between them (Bush has one from the early Seventies before he quit drinking), and also insinuating that Bush is cheating on his wife. Evidence: Seems there's a Kitty Kelley book coming out, and we all know how reliable she is. For good measure, she throws in some more unsubstantiated accusations of draft-dodging.

The Dems are flailing. They're furious that Kerry's Vietnam record is being challenged. The man's Vietnam service is part of his public record. Well, folks, that's what he's running on, so it's logical that the Reps would attack it. That is not a dirty trick. Bush and Cheney are not running on a platform of marital fidelity and sobriety, and their personal lives are not part of the public record.

Also, the challenges the Reps have made against Kerry have been made based on evidence, not innuendo, exactly the opposite of Estrich's charges. Susan, let's see the facts. If you can prove Bush and Cheney are philandering drunks, do it. Then the American people will be able to decide whether it matters or not. Seems to me that the Reps have managed to prove that John Kerry lied about his Vietnam record. And the American people seem to be deciding that that does matter.

This was the part of Estrich's piece that struck me:

"The arrogant little Republican boys who have been strutting around New York this week, claiming that they have this one won, would do well to take a step back. It could be a long and ugly road to November."

This is not the first time I have seen radical feminist women attack men's adulthood and sexuality. So the Republicans are "little boys", are they?

What would Ms. Estrich think if we said that she and her beloved Hillary are just little girls who should stay out of things that are the business of real men?

And, if the Dems want to play dirty regarding sex and drugs, I imagine there's plenty more good stuff out there on Kerry. You're telling me that a wealthy liberal counterculture young man in the 1970s wasn't doing cocaine? What about Kerry's divorce? Might there have been some screwing around related to that? (Here in Spain, it would probably look worse to be the cuckolded husband than the deceived wife, by the way.) And--the big one--money. Why precisely did John marry Teresa? Was it her unattractive face or her unpleasant personality, or maybe was it some other reason? That, to me, is a much uglier possibility than any accusations of drunk driving or adultery. See, if the Dems like innuendo, the Reps can come up with lots worse.

Finally, if Estrich actually had anything good, she'd save it for an October surprise, the way the Dems did back in 2000 when they released Bush's drunk driving arrest at the last minute before the election. And I don't think they have anything good, because if they did they'd already have used it back in 2000.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Point Number One: The Chechens have a legitimate beef against Russia. They were incorporated against their will into the Czarist empire during the 19th century. They were savagely mistreated by Lenin and Stalin, so much so that when the Nazis invaded, they collaborated. In revenge, Stalin deported the lot, along with the Ingush, to Siberia in 1944. Khrushchev allowed them to go back home, but thousands had already died. The Chechens then had to put up with more decades of Soviet misrule.

Point Number Two: This is no excuse for taking over a school and murdering four hundred people, mostly children.

Got that? I don't care how badly your people have been screwed over in the past. That was then and this is now. If you're going to go back to the days of Caucasus blood feuds, we're going to have to stop you, and "we" means the civilized world.

I am appalled by the comments of Spanish Socialists Javier Solana and Miguel Angel Moratinos, demanding explanations from Vladimir Putin and yammering on about dialogue and finding the root causes of terrorism and all that crap. Terrorists only understand one language, and that language is what comes out the muzzle end of an assault rifle.

I also believe that this is all the same war. If the Chechens aren't in league with Al Qaeda and the other Middle Eastern terrorist gangs, like the boys from Hamas who just murdered sixteen Israelis, or the Saddamites in Iraq who just murdered twelve Nepalis, not to mention seven Iraqi policemen in Kirkuk, then what were ten Arabs doing among the hit squad that took over the school in Beslan?

Finally, I'm not sure how Vladimir Putin can be blamed for this tragedy. My understanding of what happened in Beslan is that the terrorists took over the school, held more than a thousand children and other people hostage without food or water for two days, somehow caused an explosion that made many of the hostages attempt to flee, and then fired on those escaping, shooting them in the back. The Russian security forces had the place surrounded and the bombs and the gunfire started. Bodies were falling left and right. What were the security men going to do? They reacted quickly and went in shooting. I don't know who gave the order, or if there was one, but it seems safe to say it wasn't Putin because, of course, he wasn't on the scene.

It's the same enemy, folks. The civilized world has got to destroy them. Or else we're next. Remember the WTC. Remember Bali. Remember Madrid. Remember Fallujah. How short some of our memories are. Particularly those of the Spanish Socialists.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Problems with Nationalism: George Orwell wrote in his essay, "Notes on Nationalism", that there is a difference between patriotism and nationalism. A patriot is someone who loves his country, its people, and its culture, but has no desire to force his culture or religion or lifestyle on anyone else. His patriotism is only one of the many factors, both emotional and rational, that forms his worldview. A nationalist, on the other hand, is someone whose worldview is emotionally based on his love for his chosen power unit, which may be a state, a people, a political system, a religion, or whatever. A nationalist thinks only or mostly about the comparative prestige and power of his chosen unit.

According to Orwell's definitions, I consider myself an American patriot. I don't want the United States to annex anybody else's territory. I see no need to force American culture on anybody. I believe that if you leave us alone, we ought to leave you alone. Sure, I have emotional, non-rational feelings toward the United States, but I try to keep them under control and not let them dominate my thinking.

Excessive nationalism can have various negative consequences.

1) Irredentism. You believe that your power unit should control territory that doesn't belong to it. Milosevic's Greater Serbia and Hitler's Greater Germany are classic examples. When Catalan nationalists start talking about the Països Catalans, including not only Catalonia proper but also Valencia, Baleares, and Roussillon, as a single unit, that's a problem since none of those places want to be part of Catalonia. And let's not even mention Gibraltar. Oops, I just did.

2) Internal divisions. You believe that some of the people within your unit are not part of your group. Hostility toward immigrants is a very common consequence of this. We see this in the United States; some Americans fear that the country is being flooded by Spanish-speakers. Our man Jordi Pujol recently made a very nasty crack about how immigration is going to make Catalonia a land of mestizos. This is made even worse when there are several groups who have lived within the same territory since time immemorial; for example, in Catalonia, there are some people who believe that others are not good Catalans because of the language they speak or the political party they vote for. In Spain, there are people who believe that many Catalans are not good Spaniards for the very same reasons. When taken to an extreme, this leads to ethnic cleansing and even genocide. Fortunately we're nowhere near that around here...but up in the Basque Country...

3) Falsification of history. Nationalists have the habit of ignoring facts when they don't fit into their chosen worldview. For example, Sabino Arana invented his own history of the Basque country which has nothing to deal with reality. Some Spanish nationalists claim that there is a Black Legend (the Inquisition, expulsion of Jews and Moors, ethnic purity, foreign aggression) that has been greatly exaggerated by foreigners who wish to slander Spain's name.

4) Excessive emphasis on symbolism. September 11 is the Catalan national holiday. So what are they fighting about? What flag should fly over the City Hall. Who should lay flowers at the Holy Statue of Rafael Casanova. This is a serious distraction from real issues.

5) Excessive emotionalism. This leads to poor decision-making. The classic example is probably Japan in 1941; they knew they were going to lose but went to war anyway.

6) Ignorance of other groups. Nationalists have the bad habit of assuming that either everybody is just like them (a common American error) or that everybody else is completely different. This is generally because nationalists are obsessed with their own unit to the point that there's no room in their brains left for the comprehension of other units. What this leads to is stereotyping of others. In Barcelona there's a real problem with this: many people who think they're well-educated about the world are so self-absorbed with nationalist issues that their comprehension doesn't extend south of about Tortosa.

7) Bitterness. Some Catalans, for example, live in a constant state of anger because they believe that Catalonia is an oppressed nation under the Spanish jackboot. They obsess over it. This is probably not good for their mental health, and it makes them unpleasant to be around.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

George W. Bush is going to win the election. The Democrats are so mad they could spit. Just look at Slate or Salon or the New Republic. They can't stand it. Bush's convention bounce is going to be enormous and they know it. I don't think Mickey Kaus minds, though.

The Democratic convention was a big fat zero. Nobody was impressed. Nobody's mind was changed, or even influenced. But Zell Miller, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Laura Bush, Dick Cheney, Rudy Giuliani, and company have successfully gotten the Republican message out. The bases are loaded and two runs are already in. And Bush hasn't even spoken yet. He doesn't need a home run; a line-drive single will do.

The message is very clear. If you want to win the War on Terrorism, vote for Bush. And John Kerry is not fit to be President. The Republicans have completely blown away any pretense he ever had to be taken seriously as a national politician. If I were a Dem, I'd just give up on Kerry now and vote for Ralph. At least he believes what he says.

I think I know what's gotten into Andrew Sullivan. (Have you read some of the crap he's been putting out?) When you get right down to it, Mr. Bareback is a single-issue commentator. He cares only about gay rights; everything else, even the War on Terror he has supported, is secondary to him. Bush is against gay marriage; therefore, Bush must lose. Sullivan has blown all his credibility. Sad. Go back to Provincetown, Andrew.
On Sunday La Vanguardia published an interview with Carles Fontserè, an old Spanish leftist (now 88) from Civil War days who designed propaganda posters. He fled to France after the war was over, where he complains about being mistreated by the French, who weren't sure what to do with the horde of leftist refugees (some of them very dangerous people) and so locked them up in camps. That's where we start, in France in 1939 before the outbreak of World War II. I quote:

"INTERVIEWER: ...How did you feel when you saw yourself so mistreated?

CARLES FONTSERE: First, discombobulated. We arrived there thinking we were a collective, part of an army. Soon I saw that I had to fight for myself, take care of myself. I decided my obligation was to escape from that concentration camp. Other comrades, on the other hand, enlisted in the Foreign Legion or in work brigades for France, a job for slaves! Then, when those comrades were captured by the Nazis, they sent them to the camps as prisoners of war of an enemy army, which they were.

INT: Did you escape?

CF: I refused to be a slave for France. I put all my intelligence and all the strength of my 23 years into escaping from there. I studied the wire fence and the routine of the guards, and I discovered a possibility. And, crawling like a snake under the wires, I escaped.

INT: Bravo!

CF: When I did so, I deserted from the honorable ranks of the antifascist martyrs. I gave them all the finger: the guards and the prisoners! I rebelled against that fate of martyrdom.

INT: You say that as if the rest decided to be martyrs.

CF: I think that's true, many of them accepted that fate. Not me. And today it seems that you are only one of the good guys if you have suffered a lot. Well, although many "good guys" may become indignant, I will say that I had fun in exile, I had a good time.

INT: Did you make it to Paris?

CF: Yes, with no money or papers. At the beginning, I was hungry, but when I got some pencils and paintbrushes I earned a good living drawing for various publications.

INT: Was there a cultural life in Nazi-occupied Paris?

CF: A great deal. Jean-Paul Sartre began to be known during those years, and Albert Camus expressly left Algeria for that Paris in order to present his works successfully. There was a lot of intellectual, artistic, and cultural life in Paris under the occupation!

INT: Clandestine?

CF: No! The Nazis organized free concerts in the streets of Paris. I came from a lousy concentration camp and I found music in the streets: marvelous!

INT: But they were Nazis!

CF: Look, the German soldiers entered Paris hand in hand with the French soldiers, and they loved Paris, and they protected it. The economic activity in France didn't change: there was electricity, telephones, everything. The head of the German General Staff in Paris, Hans Speidel, met with French artists and intellectuals like Cocteau, Guitry, Gallimard...In the streets, the German officers stepped off the sidewalks to let you pass. In the five years I was in Paris I never saw an armed German soldier in the streets. They didn't need to (carry arms)! They gave chocolate to the people in the streets.

INT: Wasn't there any resistance?

CF: Of course not. That's a myth, invented later by Gaullists and Communists. There was agreement, there was collaboration. According to what I saw, there were 40 million Petainist Frenchmen! The Germans respected the French army, and Petain, with that agreement, saved Paris and the French from destruction. It was intelligent and sensible. Remember that Germany had the most powerful army in Europe...The Nazis respected the Spanish Republican fighters more than Franco. They admired the way we had formed a Popular Army, the way we resisted for three years. Hitler, who was a Socialist, respected the Spanish Reds.

INT: But the Germans turned over Lluís Companys (the leftist, Catalanist president of Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War) to Franco.

CF: Companys made a mistake. Instead of presenting himself proudly to the Germans as president of the Generalitat, he walked around Paris like everybody else. I tried to free him when he was held prisoner a few days in La Santé in Paris: along with other Catalans, we wrote a letter to the German commander. It didn't work. But the Germans didn't like the way Franco had him shot, and after that they never permitted a single Spaniard to be turned over to him.

INT: You always excuse the Nazis.

CF: No, I just say what I know, and the truth is that Germany represented at that time the most avant-garde and advanced of Europe. Their rulers were young, while the French were ancient.

INT: Young and perfidious.

CF: Look, Goebbels was wrong: while the Americans made dozens of movies about perfidious Nazis played by the leading Hollywood stars, the Germans didn't make even one about the Americans! What a lack of propaganda! Also, the Nuremberg trials were more propaganda than justice.

INT: Come on...

CF: They executed four of them who they didn't need, but they accepted in the United States scientists who had made Nazi bombs, like Von Braun! Thanks to him the Americans made it to the moon. And where do you think senator McArthy (sic) got those lists of Reds?

INT: Where?

CF: From the Gestapo archives that they bought from Colonel Muller, a Nazi who had them in Switzerland and went over to the United States with his dollars.

INT: Meanwhile, you stayed in Paris.

CF: I was there from 1939 to 1948, yes. (Later he went to the United States, where he lived until his return to Spain in 1973.)"

My only comment is that Carles Fontserè is the most amoral person I have ever heard of, and he dares to boast about his amorality. I wish the so-called Free French had shot the son-of-a-bitch back in '44.