Friday, June 29, 2007

I don't understand the do-gooder soft-headed progre peaceniks around here.

This morning the cops busted a fourth Al Qaeda member here in Barcelona; they had already arrested three of them (not two) on Tuesday. These guys were running a cell that recruited jihadis for training camps in North Africa and then sent them on to their martyrdom in Iraq. They are wanted by the Moroccan police, and will probably be extradited.

People, it's right here under our noses. Al Qaeda is operating in Barcelona. It is recruiting people who live here. They then go to Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Lebanon, and blow people up. The six Spanish soldiers killed in Lebanon were probably Al Qaeda victims. The nearly 200 who died on March 11, 2004 were definitely Al Qaeda victims. Why do all politically correct Catalans oppose fighting Al Qaeda on the ground in Iraq, which is where the war on Islamism is going to be won or lost?

Part of me thinks they're so shortsighted that they prefer an Al Qaeda victory to an Anglo-American victory, just because they despise the United States so much.
In Spain, summer officially starts on San Juan, June 24, and not much happens until October or so. This is why there's not much news from around here, which is a good thing.

Former economics minister Rodrigo Rato is going to resign as head of the IMF as of September. The March 11 bombings trial ends on Monday, but the sentence won't be handed down until October. The verdict, of course, is going to be guilty. The Spanish cops arrested a man and a woman in Cadiz for trying to collect a ransom for the missing English girl in Portugal; it looks like the arrestees have nothing to do with the kidnapping. The King and Queen are in China, and the Chinese kindly offered to rent a pair of pandas to the Madrid Zoo. (The renting is fair enough, since it's my understanding that the money goes to protect panda habitats.) Housing prices are rising a lot more slowly than they were a couple of years ago. But they're still rising. Two Spanish players, Rudy Fernandez and Marc Gasol, were chosen in the NBA draft, but I'm not sure either is really NBA quality. Barça signed Eric Abidal, and is now trying to get a center-back; if they can't get Chivu from Roma, they want Gabi Milito from Zaragoza or Andrade from Deportivo. For some reason the Spanish press is covering the Paris Hilton whooptedoo. Why anyone would care, I don't know, especially on this side of the Atlantic. We have enough idiot pseudocelebrities over here already.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I'm currently working on a Spanish sixth-grade social studies text, of which the last three chapters are devoted to history, mostly Spanish and European, between the voyages of discovery and today. Of course I can't mention the company or the title, but I can say that the textbook follows the official curriculum and has been approved by the Ministry of Education.

The text's interpretation of history is rather bizarre.

It doesn't mention the 1492 expulsion of the Jews and Muslims who refused to convert to Catholicism.
It mentions the forced conversions of the Muslims in the caption of a picture; it does not mention the rebellions of the Moriscos, which were brutally crushed and ended with more expulsions.
It doesn't mention the Inquisition or the Counter-Reformation. No one gets burned at the stake in the Plaza Mayor of Madrid, of which there is a large photo.
It mentions the Santa Hermandad, saying it was responsible for "security," but without going into the ugly details.
It fails to speculate that these expulsions and repression might have contributed to the decline of the Spanish Empire.
It does not mention the bloodiness of the Aztecs; it briefly mentions "sacrifice," but not human sacrifice.
Cortex and Pizarro get one sentence between them. War and battle are not mentioned, just "conquest."
It does not mention the great Indian die-off, caused mostly by epidemics but also by Spanish abuse and mistreatment.
It does not mention slavery in Spanish America or the large Spanish participation in the slave trade.
It does not mention the eighty-year Dutch War for Independence.
It does not mention the Spanish Armada and the failed invasion of England.
It blames imperial decline on "famines, epidemics, and wars" without mentioning the many shortcomings of Spanish society and culture.
It does not admit that following the War of the Spanish Succession, Spain was a French satellite state for a century.
It includes a Marxist analysis of the Industrial Revolution, including class struggle between workers and bourgeois; it fails to mention the growth of the salaried middle class, managers and technicians and clerks. Remember Orwell's 1984, in which Winston looks at a history text that includes a drawing of a fat bourgeois dressed in black with a top hat? THIS BOOK ACTUALLY INCLUDES ONE OF THOSE.
It calls the Peninsular War "The War for Independence," but doesn't mention that Spain sided with France until 1808 and saw its fleet destroyed at Trafalgar. It doesn't mention Joseph Bonaparte or the Duke of Wellington.
It doesn't mention the independence of Spanish America, or the wars that it involved. Simon Bolivar is not mentioned.
It doesn't mention the Carlist Wars.
It doesn't mention the Cuban war of independence or the Spanish-American War, which is a little surprising.
It mentions World War I, but doesn't say which countries it was fought between, and it doesn't mention the Russian Revolution. In fact, the word "Communism" does not appear.
World War II receives the same treatment; only Hiroshima and the Holocaust are mentioned. Adolf Hitler is not mentioned. Neither are Lenin and Stalin.
The Spanish Civil War gets four pro-Republican paragraphs. The killings behind the lines on both sides are not mentioned.
The Franco regime gets four paragraphs.
"Inequality in the 20th Century" gets two pages, including the code words "society of consumption," "social inequality," and "ecological problems."
"The European Union" gets two pages, too.

Interesting to compare this version of national history with that taught in American schools, which is all about the rights of minority groups and women, and how mean white men were to Indians, blacks, women, Chinese, Japanese, and people of alternative sexuality.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

TV3 is reporting that two Al Qaeda operatives were arrested in Barcelona this morning. They're Moroccans and recruiters for jihadi volunteers; their network sends recruits to training camps in the Sahara and then on to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Spain passed the United States in the list of the world's top cocaine users. 3% of Spaniards have used cocaine within the past year, and it's 7% of high school students. In the EU as a whole, less than 1% of persons used cocaine. One in five European cocaine users is Spanish. This sounds to me like a problem. Hypothesis: As Richard Pryor, I think, said, "Cocaine is God's way of telling you that you have too much money." There's lots of cash floating around in Spain.

There's an insect plague in southern and western Catalonia, some kind of tiny little black fly whose bite hurts like hell. The Generalitat is going to spend half a million euros fumigating the creeks and streams where it breeds. Sounds like something useful to do with our tax money.

Barça signed Yaya Toure, who is supposed to be a hell of a good defensive midfielder. He will replace Edmilson, and maybe Marquez as well. They announced today that Motta is definitely out, along with Saviola, of course.

Amnesty International issued one of its tendentious reports saying that 102 countries practiced torture. So of course TV3's report paid attention only to Amnesty's charges against the United States. As usual. By the way, Amnesty says it's all America's fault because we have "legitimized the use of torture," which obviously had a great deal of influence over the behavior of North Korea, Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda, who would never, never have tortured anyone if there weren't a prison camp at Guantanamo where a few hundred very dangerous people are held.

I suppose you saw that Cameron Diaz was criticized in Peru for carrying a bag with a Maoist red star and a quote from Chairman Mao. Peruvians in general don't much like Maoists, since Shining Path killed quite a few people in the name of Mao. What I want to know is why Cameron Diaz would think that wearing Communist symbols, including the infamous Che T-shirt, is cool. I'm sure she knows that wearing a swastika T-shirt would get her well-deserved public scorn. I don't see a difference between the two, myself, though the Che T-shirts are useful as they show at a glance that a person is too ignorant for you to waste your time with.

Current big political stink: They're trying to decide what route the high-speed train (AVE) will take below Barcelona between Sants and Sagrera stations. One proposal runs close to the Sagrada Familia, and a hoohaw is being made about the vibrations causing the thing to fall down or something. I doubt it; lots of subway and train tunnels have been dug under lots of cities, and Notre Dame and Saint Paul's haven't collapsed yet. Hell, the blue line of the subway already runs right under the Sagrada Familia. Also, if all the new construction they're doing collapses, I'll be more than happy anyway, since it's ugly as hell. They should have stopped building when Gaudi died and just left it.

Oh, yeah, I read somewhere that the Sagrada Familia does not have a municipal building permit, and apparently never had one. This does sound like something that ought to be worked out just for the sake of coherence.
Let's do another blog roundup, since it's been at least a week.

Notes from Spain has an interesting series up of several posts by guestbloggers, all folks who write in English from Spain. Check it out.

Observing Hermann has news on the Tom Cruise-Scientology-Germany thing; by the way, Drudge reported it wrong yesterday. The German military said it would ban Cruise from filming at military sites, but the country of Germany itself did not, and probably cannot, ban Cruise from making a movie there.

Robert Duncan reruns a 2003 piece on the confusing Spanish Gas Natural-Endesa corporate-government brawl in which regional nationalism raised its head as usual.

Roncesvalles reports on thug street violence in Germany, with photos.

Samizdata features a fine piece of verse on the silly new sporran law.

South of Watford comments from the left on the deaths of the six soldiers in Lebanon. Spanish Pundit has more from the right, including photos.

The Dissident Frogman flays French government and politics in general.

A Fistful of Euros reports that a wacky German Holocaust denier who was sentenced to prison is getting support from the flaky American extreme right. Sounds like they deserve one another. Reminder to AFOE: These nutballs have little to no influence on American opinion. Nobody pays any attention to them.

The Brussels Journal, meanwhile, has a completely different story; they say that the wacky guy is not a Holocaust denier, but an anti-abortion activist, who compared abortion with the Holocaust. That's a rather different kettle of fish, methinks, well within the bounds of free speech and not Holocaust denial at all. The BJ says that a lot of this guy's supporters are European, not just American.

Colin Davies, as always, is full of information about Spain; today it's politics.

Davids Medienkritik links to a criticism of German media exploitation of Guantanamo.

Eursoc has an extensive rundown, from the sceptical position, of the EU treaty agreement or whatever it is.

Fausta has more on Correa and Morales, part of the Axis of Evel Knievel along with Chavez and Castro.

La Liga Loca names his all-star Spanish League team; only Messi and Iniesta from the Barça make it, which seems about right to me. Only questionable choice: Poulsen instead of Albelda or Xavi.

LA-Madrid Files points out what's wrong with the Spanish movie industry: It makes crappy movies.

Monday, June 25, 2007

National Review links to a Real Clear Politics article speculating on "The Return of Authoritarian Great Powers," specifically China and maybe Russia. Not for a good long while, I don't think, and the author seems to agree:

But the most important factor remains the United States. For all the criticism leveled against it, the United States -- and its alliance with Europe -- stands as the single most important hope for the future of liberal democracy. Despite its problems and weaknesses, the United States still commands a global position of strength and is likely to retain it even as the authoritarian capitalist powers grow. Not only are its GDP and productivity growth rate the highest in the developed world, but as an immigrant country with about one-fourth the population density of both the European Union and China and one-tenth of that of Japan and India, the United States still has considerable potential to grow -- both economically and in terms of population -- whereas those others are all experiencing aging and, ultimately, shrinking populations. China's economic growth rate is among the highest in the world, and given the country's huge population and still low levels of development, such growth harbors the most radical potential for change in global power relations. But even if China's superior growth rate persists and its GDP surpasses that of the United States by the 2020s, as is often forecast, China will still have just over one-third of the United States' wealth per capita and, hence, considerably less economic and military power. Closing that far more challenging gap with the developed world would take several more decades.

The article includes a vital point about 20th-century history that most European analysts sort of skip over:

Throughout the twentieth century, the United States' power consistently surpassed that of the next two strongest states combined, and this decisively tilted the global balance of power in favor of whichever side Washington was on. If any factor gave the liberal democracies their edge, it was above all the existence of the United States rather than any inherent advantage. In fact, had it not been for the United States, liberal democracy may well have lost the great struggles of the twentieth century. This is a sobering thought that is often overlooked in studies of the spread of democracy in the twentieth century, and it makes the world today appear much more contingent and tenuous than linear theories of development suggest.

Definitely go check it out.
As you probably know, six Spanish soldiers on the UN peacekeeping mission in south Lebanon were killed in a bomb attack on their convoy. Three more soldiers were wounded. It was a car bomb loaded with 50 kilos of explosives triggered at a distance. The Spanish convoy was not outfitted with "frequency inhibitors," which can prevent remote controls from functioning. Spain has about 1100 troops in Lebanon.

Defense minister Alonso declared that yes, it was a terrorist attack, but he doesn't think Hezbollah did it. Well, who else would have done it? Rajoy told Zap that he'd sent Spanish troops into combat areas and should stop bragging about being a pacifist.

Three of the soldiers were Colombians. About 7500 of the Spanish military's 85,000 troops are Latin Americans; the quota is a maximum of 9%. In 2006, the US military had about 69,000 foreign citizens serving, about 5%, with the largest contingents from Mexico and the Philippines. Less complaining from the international Left that the US is recruiting foreign "mercenaries," please.

La Vanguardia's Beirut correspondent Tomás Alcoverro, who I believe to be on somebody's payroll, calls for UN forces to get out of Lebanon, and especially for Spanish troops to get out, apparently because he thinks those who live there should be left to kill one another. He blames the whole thing on the Lebanese government and on American support for it, though he doesn't bother mentioning the actual killers.

Thanks to the members of Spain's armed forces for their sacrifice, and condolences to the families of the dead soldiers.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I honestly don't know what to think about the European Union summit; La Vanguardia is reporting they made a deal, that the Poles managed to get the reallocation of power delayed until 2017, and that France is claiming victory because they got a light version of the rejected Constitution of 2005 through. Apparently there will be "more foreign policy and law enforcement cooperation," but the document will not be a constitution and certain limits, unspecified by La Vangua, will exist. It's still not a done deal, as there will be referendums in Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. I bet the Dutch, Danes, and Czechs vote no. Zap and Moratinos are trying to take the credit and talk up how important their participation in the discussions was. Guys, if you have to go around telling people you're important, you probably ain't.

Hugo Chavez update: He's buying nine submarines, armed with anti-aircraft missiles, off the Russians. Just what the Venezuelan people need. Uh, Hugo, Russian subs have a rather disappointing track record, tending to sink. He's also bought attack helicopters, fighter planes, and air-to-air missiles from our friend Putin. France refused to sell subs to him, a first for the French, notorious for arming pretty much everybody and his dog. Meanwhile, you've heard that he's opening up a Kalashnikov factory in order to arm every bunch of nuts with a grudge throughout Latin America.

La Vanguardia reports that Spanish farmers and ranchers, mostly small landholders who emigrated to Venezuela in the 50s and 60s, are being forced off their land by gangs of Chavista thugs who claim they are taking over the land to create alleged cooperatives. They then collect government subsidies and do no work, so nothing is produced. 16,000 farm cooperatives have been created in Venezuela; only 200 have not gone broke already. There's been a wave of kidnappings for ransom, 30 in the last 18 months, which the Spanish farmers consider to be government intimidation.

Says La Vangua's reporter Joaquim Ibarz: "The result is the asme as in an African country: lack of investment, decline of production, fear, crime, impunity, poverty, and chaos." He visited a Caracas supermarket and found no sugar, meat, eggs, milk, cooking oil, or beans on the shelves. "Scarcity increases because productive land is invaded by people without experience and ranchers and farmers do not invest for fear their land will be expropriated. The control of food prices leads to scarcity, as the government forces food to be sold for less than the cost of production." I'm a little surprised at La Vangua printing anything so liberal-capitalist; let's hope it's a trend.

Congratulations to Sevilla, who had the best season of all the Spanish football clubs: they won the European Supercup against Barcelona, their second consecutive UEFA Cup against Espanyol, and the Spanish Cup against Getafe. They finished third in the league, winning a Champions League spot for next year, and were only two points off winners Real Madrid. These guys are a professional team with no big superstars that plays good football, and they've had a season to remember. Hope they don't lose many of their good players to bigger teams.

Some guy from England had a very good idea: he's going to pay a few million quid to buy second-division Malaga. Now all he has to do is invest twenty million more in players and he's got a Spanish First Division team, with all the money that's worth. And Malaga is by far the most desirable market with no First Division team, with 600,000 in the city and a million more along the Costa del Sol; also, it doesn't have another historic club that you'd be competing against. The other smart thing some genius ought to do is buy the Ciudad de Murcia second-division club, which is selling its spot in Division Two. Then move the club to Madrid and spend twenty million on players to get up to First Division, and you've got a team in Europe's third-biggest city.

Political speculation: If the PP gets the same results in the upcoming general election that it got in the municipals, it will be strengthened in such important areas as Madrid, Valencia, Cadiz, Malaga, and the Balearics. The Socialists only gained strength in a couple of out-of-the-way places like Cuenca and Orense. This shift in the vote in dynamic, growing areas is likely to give the PP a relative majority. Sun Belt hypothesis for Spain's booming Mediterranean coast, anyone?

Al Gore and his traveling circus sideshow are in town again doing the global warming shtick. He said if Greenland melts his 16-room house will be under water, or something like that. Of possible interest to Americans: Al introduced himself as "the next President of the United States." Now an Al-Hillary-Obama three-way would be really fun...wait, I didn't mean that, I meant a presidential campaign with three contenders...He drew an audience of 1500, which is probably better than he'd do in Kansas City, as part of the First International Meeting of the Friends of Trees. I shit you not. The Friends of Trees.

Today is San Juan, so last night was firecrackers night and all the kids in town blew their little fingers off, I hope.

La Vanguardia runs an entire page of anti-Israeli bigotry by a photographer named Bru Rovira, who blames Israel for the Hamas-Fatah civil war. Just a few pearls: "The jailers have no desire to find a just solution...the occupier's main strategy is dehumanization...the repression of the Israeli army...where are the schools and the hospitals?...the Jewish and democratic (sic) state...half of the Palestinian population was expelled by the Israeli army...a war with intolerable massacres...Israel imposed and Arafat protested, shouted, and signed...the most brutal episodes began...extrajudicial executions...the massacre at Jenin, completely leveled by the army and the bulldozers. An undetermined number of civilians died...the complete suffocation of the economy and political system."

Friday, June 22, 2007

TV3 is reporting that Barça has signed Thierry Henry from Arsenal for €24 million. I'm not sure how good a move this is--he's probably got a couple more good years in him, we hope, but who knows? Also, somebody is going to have to sit down, and that somebody is most likely Samuel Eto'o, who is not going to be happy with this. Oh, well, Barça has four forwards for three spots now, and when one of them gets hurt they'll have someone to cover for him. They were hoping Gudjohnsen would be that guy last year, as Larsson had been the year before, but that didn't happen.

Meanwhile, an Euromed fast train derailed in El Prat, fortunately with nobody on board, and this has blocked the train line to the airport and to Sitges until Monday. This is ridiculous. Renfe, the Spanish railroad monopoly, is clearly not getting the job done in the Barcelona area, where the commuter trains are constantly late or cancelled. Privatization, anyone?

The story on the ETA car loaded with explosives in Huelva: Seems that they had a scout car running ahead of the explosives car, and the scout car ran into a police checkpoint and alerted the terrorists behind them who were transporting the explosives, who abandoned their car at the side of the road. The Spanish cops are positive that ETA has an operatiive cell in Andalusia.

Tony Blair is going to convert to Catholicism, as everybody had speculated. Good for him, I hope he's happy, but is this actually a big deal? One thing about Blair: I still think he was wrong on all the small stuff and right on most of the big stuff. I think the fact that he is sincerely religious helps to show that he thought he was doing the right thing on the Iraq war. Which we still have to win.

The Poles are standing firm and they're going to block the Franco-German proposal for a new EU treaty. Sarko and Merkel have convinced the Brits, but the Czechs and Dutch are still with the Poles. Theory: The Poles don't trust either the Germans or the Russians any farther than they can spit, and neither do the Czechs. I sure wouldn't.

Under pressure to close down Guantanamo, the Bush administration says it might ship the prisoners to Afghanistan. Sounds good to me; I don't care where those arms-bearing terrorists are locked up, as long as they can't escape.

The CIA is releasing "unflattering documents" that had formerly been classified; looks like the worst stuff they can find are assassination attempts on Castro and surveillance of a few reporters. Unpleasant and wrong--I mean the spying on reporters, not trying to knock off Castro, which sounds like a good idea to me--but come on, folks, it's not precisely as bad as what the KGB was up to in those days.

Everyone is reporting that a Generalitat study says that Catalan, with 9 million speakers, including me, is the 88th most spoken language in the world. All right! We're number 88! Ahead of Swedish and Bulgarian!
Arts and Letters Daily links to a TCS interview with Bryan Caplan; we linked to a longish article by him on the same subject a few days ago. Caplan's thesis is that voters often make irrational decisions, especially regarding free markets, and that sometimes the voters should not get what they want. Check it out.

I knew I'd seen Caplan's name before and here's where: a few years ago he wrote a fascinating article titled "The Anarcho-Statists of Spain," one of the best pieces I've ever seen on the Spanish Civil War.
I've always thought that Gandhi, King, and Mandela, the multiculturalists' holy trinity, were highly overrated. Their chief virtues were their bravery--it takes some guts to stand up against the authorities when you're a member of what they consider an inferior group--and Gandhi's and King's non-violence. Mandela, notoriously, approved of violence.

However, none of the three was particularly altruistic--each worked toward the benefit of his own people, just like any other nationalist does. We're not talking Wilberforce or Henry Ward Beecher, members of the dominant group who worked for the rights of the dominated group. Or Lyndon Johnson and Earl Warren, who did much more to put an end to Jim Crow than King did. Johnson rammed literally dozens of civil rights laws down Congress's throat, and Chief Justice Warren backed him all the way. Or Eisenhower; when Little Rock tried to defy the Supreme Court and maintain segregated schools, Ike sent in the Airborne and Arkansas got the idea that things had changed.

Also, working against a system that does bad things does not necessarily make you a good person. Look at the Communists around the world. Sure, here in Spain they opposed Franco, and Franco was a bad guy, but the Communists were just as bad and might have been even worse. We're not talking about a democratic opposition or intellectual dissidents here.

Finally, Gandhi, King, and Mandela were fighting British imperialism, American Jim Crow, and South African apartheid, respectively. All bad things, I will agree, and they are all happily long gone. But these three men were dealing with more or less civilized opponents, who shrank from using extreme violence and repression. None of them would have lasted five minutes under Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Castro, Ho, Kim, or Saddam. Or even such comparatively mild dictators as Mubarak, Pinochet, or the king of Morocco.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Quick news brief: The cops found an ETA car with 100 kilos of explosives and detonators in Huelva province. It was not set to explode; presumably, the explosives and detonators would have been used to make several bombs.

A Madrid judge declared the Latin Kings an illegal organization. In Catalonia, though, they're an officially recognized cultural group that gets subsidies from the regional government.

A big kerfuffle is being made over the negotiations on Germany's proposed lite EU treaty. Spaniards, who are real big on the EU because it gives Spain lots of money and because a lot of them trust European bureaucrats more than Spanish politicians, hope that opposition from the UK and Poland will fail. Don't be so sure. I don't think many of the EU states are going to want to give up much more power to Brussels. France and Holland already voted no, remember, and no British government is going to give up its control over the currency or its own foreign and defense policy.

Puyol popped a ligament at an exhibition game in South Africa and will be out for three months, which is probably not such a bad thing because he needs the rest. Oh, get this, the Barça players were invited to meet Nelson Mandela and only five showed up. Garments are being rent over the squad's lack of solidarity.

From Wikipedia:

In 1961, Mandela became the leader of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (translated as Spear of the Nation, also abbreviated as MK), which he co-founded. He co-ordinated a sabotage campaign against military and government targets, and made plans for a possible guerrilla war if sabotage failed to end apartheid. A few decades later, MK did indeed wage a guerrilla war against the regime, especially during the 1980s, in which many civilians were killed. Mandela also raised funds for MK abroad, and arranged for paramilitary training, visiting various African governments.
What a disgrace. In Austin, Texas, a lynch mob killed a passenger in a car that hit a child, who was slightly injured. There aren't many details, fortunately, but it seems that the crowd surrounded the car and beat the passenger to death.

This would be getting a lot more press if it were a white lynch mob killing a black man, but in this case it was a black lynch mob killing a Hispanic man.

Now let's see what law enforcement does.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It's been a long time since we did a blog roundup. So let's do one.

A Fistful of Euros has a good, long piece on European demographics in response to an article in the Economist. Check it out.

Biased BBC reports on the internal BBC study that determined the network is indeed biased.

Colin Davies has more groovy stuff on Gallego politics and fiestas and weather.

Ray comes out of the closet at Davids Medienkritik! Congratulations!

Eursoc comments on the French legislative election.

Expat Yank slaps around pro-Argie Brits.

Guirilandia has the dope on Barcelona street scams (with video) and deviant sexuality. Notes from Spain features more deviancy.

Kaleboel warns us that Spanish vultures have invaded Holland, with video.

La Liga Loca has the first half of his report on the Spanish football weekend up. Nicholas Mead has more.

LA-Madrid Files demolishes a self-hating Yank.

Spanish Pundit has more on Spain, the EU, Cuba, and Palestine.
I thought this was funny. I'm mother-in-law sitting, and I put on my Pogues greatest hits CD. My mother-in-law asked, "Isn't the singer really old?" Well, yes, his body probably had about 80 years on it by the time this stuff was recorded, and probably has 80 more on it now, making him 160 in Shane years. I remember once he claimed he had been drunk since the age of thirteen. Not that he'd been drinking, that he'd been drunk.

She actually doesn't care what kind of music I play, though she seems to prefer swing and standards. She'll tolerate the Ramones, though.
The political news around here is that the Convergència i Unió coalition may break up. CiU is moderate-conservative and Catalan nationalist, and they're the second-biggest vote-getters in Catalonia. Convergencia is the more moderate and more Catalanist of the two parties, and Unio is more conservative and less Catalanist; Unio is part of the European Christian Democrats.

A lot of people think that Convergencia was basically Jordi Pujol's personalist party, and that it will fragment into at least three groups, one aligning with ERC, one with the PP, and the third with Unio. Pretty much the only things that ever held this lot together were Pujol and the fact they all hate the Catalan Socialists.

There's a conflict on between Convergencia leader Mas and Unio leader Duran Lerida; both want to be the overall boss of the coalition. In addition, Convergencia would prefer to center on the region of Catalonia; they hope to cut a deal with the Socialists in Madrid, putting Mas in as Catalan premier. In exchange for backing Zap in the Congress of Deputies, Montilla would step down at the Generalitat. Unio would prefer to focus on Spain and gain a couple of ministries in a Zap cabinet, a nice juicy one for Duran Lerida.

Note: Both Convergencia and Unio are counting a few chickens before they hatch. General elections are coming up in January or February, and both C's and U's plans are based on doing well. If they do badly, they won't be in a position to cut any deals, and especially not if Zap gets beat by Rajoy, which might happen. Or if Zap takes an absolute majority, less likely but still possible.

Also, if CiU breaks up, they'll divide the moderate nationalist vote and dilute its strength, making it even less likely that they'd be in a position to cut a deal with anyone.

Soap opera in France. Segolene Royal and François Hollande have split up sentimentally and politically. Now they're going to fight it out for Socialist leadership. He wants to stay in till 2008, and she wants him out now. This is great. How much you want to bet that if Hillary doesn't become president in 2008, she divorces Bill in 2009? Meanwhile, Sarko's UMP comfortably won the second round of the legislative election last weekend, though they actually lost about fifteen seats. He will have no problems putting through whatever legislation he wants.

EU weaseliness: The EU's foreign ministers voted to "reopen an open and general dialogue" with Cuba, at the request of Zap and Moratinos. I despise Zap, but I'd dislike him less if he weren't so pro-Castro. I don't get it; I don't see what he has to gain by backing a Communist dictatorship. All I can figure out is that he must actually like Castroism and believe in the Revolution. What a dope. The Zap regime also introduced a proposal to, get this, lift the diplomatic sanctions the EU laid on Cuba after the 2003 roundup of dissidents. The dissidents have not been freed, by the way. The UK, Sweden, and the Czechs, to those countries' credit, blocked that bit of groveling; the Czechs wanted to slap heavier sanctions on Cuba.

The Boys of the Squad, our regional police force, is supposedly tracking down three Islamist cells in Catalonia. Two of them recruit jihadis to go commit terrorism in Iraq, and the other falsifies documents in order to get Pakistani Al Qaeda prospects into Spain. I'm not sure they should have announced this until they'd actually captured these guys.

Rumors: Barça may unload Rafael Márquez as well as the other eight guys who are definitely out. La Vanguardia says they want to sign Eric Abidal, fullback at Olympique Lyon; Yaya Touré, midfielder at Monaco; center-back Chivu at Roma; and Thierry Henry. Supposedly they want to buy Diego Forlán; that rumor's been around for a while. I would not sell Marquez, he's young and has upside though he had a poor season, and I wouldn't spend a lot of money on Henry, he's only got about one more year left. Gudjohnsen supposedly has an offer from Man United. Saviola's pissed off, and he's claiming he might go to Real Madrid. Ronaldinho and Eto'o are staying, says the club. Deco was not mentioned. Frank says he's going to be a tough disciplinarian next season. Everybody seems to agree that there was not enough discipline last season, and that's why they blew the title. Sounds like a simplification to me, but I'm all for being a hardass on the players. If I were paying these guys millions of euros, you can guarantee there'd be clauses in their contracts specifying no doing anything the slightest bit unhealthy.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Nobody in Spain was talking about anything but football today. The League championship was down to the last game. If Real Madrid won, they won the league; if they didn't, then Barça could take the title with a victory. The games were played simultaneously, and Barça got out to an early lead over Nastic while Mallorca took the lead over Real Madrid. For about sixty minutes it looked like the title was Barcelona's, and then Madrid scored, and scored, and scored again, and they won the league fair and square. There is no way Barcelona should ever have let this one get away, they had a lead of several points with just a few games to go, but they did. You can't win them all, but this was one they shouldn't have lost.

The papers are saying no big shakeup of the Barça squad. Rijkaard will stay, and so will Ronaldinho and Eto'o. On their way out: Motta, Sylvinho, Edmilson, Belletti, Gudjohnsen, Giuly, Ezquerro, and Saviola. Supposedly they're going to sign Chivu; this rumor is a little solider than others I've heard because it was in La Vanguardia and not one of the notoriously unreliable sports papers.

I noticed something down at the bar this evening, since of course the game was on pay-TV. The place I go is frequented by working-class guys who are perfectly OK but not too refined or well-educated or anything like that, and none is particularly good-looking. However, three of them have recently scored with fairly attractive chicks who they normally wouldn't have a chance with, and they were all there for the big game tonight.

All three of these girls are Eastern European, and a Spanish working-class guy with a steady job looks pretty good to them. So there's one social result of immigration: it has improved the sex lives of at least a few of the locals no end. I'm guessing that Asian, Latin American, Arab, and African girls tend to stick with their own folks, but the Eastern Europeans, who I'm guessing are often more mature and self-reliant and came here on their own, aren't so locked into their own communities. I'm also guessing that Spanish guys are much more likely to hit on white women than those of other races.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

On the exclusion of writers in Spanish from the Catalan delegation at the Frankfurt Book Fair:

Josep Bargalló, extremist Cataloony and head of the Institut Ramon Llull, in charge of this shindig which is costing all Spanish taxpayers €12 million from the Ministry of Culture, said in the regional Parliament on March 7, "The protagonists will be the writers who express themselves in Catalan; if we invite them, the authors in Spanish will come only for the dialogues and to talk about Catalan literature...We want to explain our reality as it is and, yes, we are plurilingual, but what makes us different from others is the Catalan language; without it there would be no Catalan culture in Frankfurt."

From La Vanguardia on May 6, 2007: "Until a week and a half ago, the principal Catalan authors in Spanish had not received an official invitation from the Generalitat to go to Frankfurt."

Quimera has an excellent summary of the whole kerfuffle, reminding us that on May 26, 2006, the Catalan Parliament passed a confusing resolution; "CiU and ERC were completely convinced they had agreed to the absence of Spanish at the fair. The press interpreted it that way as well. PSC and ICV understood, however, that they had agreed to give preponderance to Catalan without excluding Spanish. But from the text of the parliamentary resolution, according to which Catalan was "the unique identifying characteristic" of Catalan literature, it was difficult to deduce anything but the exclusion of authors in Spanish."
Extremely obnoxious snobbery from yesterday's El Periódico: Woody Allen is in town making preparations for his next movie, which is to be filmed here. Now, though I haven't liked any Allen movies since Annie Hall, and I can't stand the man personally, I admit this is news, and that a visit from Woody would get coverage in any city that he was going to film in. The local press has gone nuts, though, reporting on Allen's every movement in Barcelona, and Arturo San Agustín wonders in his column whether the excessive attention lavished on Allen is a sign that Barcelona is more provincial than it would like to believe.

So far so good; that's actually not a bad topìc for a throwaway column.

Now check out San Agustín's last sentence:

"Woody Allen (is) a director who some of us Europeans like more than the numerous fat Yankees who come here on cruise ships."

What a dick.

Friday, June 15, 2007

CNN reports on bullfighter José Tomás's comeback corrida in Barcelona, which has sold out the Monumental bullring, which seats 19,000. The local press is reporting that thousands of out-of-town aficionados are paying scalpers up to €600 for a seat.

This is controversial around here because Catalan nationalists consider bullfighting to be non-Catalan, a foreign import. That's not true; Barcelona has held bullfights for centuries, had three bullrings operating in the early 1900s before heavy migration from the rest of Spain, and in 1835 saw a local revolt touched off by a bullfight gone wrong. In addition, bullfighting is popular in the town of Olot and in the Catalan towns on the Ebro.

It is true, though, that bullfighting is not as popular in Catalonia as in other parts of Spain. Andalusia and Castile are the heartland of bullfighting, but it's also popular in the Basque Country, Navarre, Aragon, and Valencia. As far as I know, the only Latin American countries where bullfighting is big are Mexico, Colombia, and Peru.

One thing is that it's not considered a sport, but rather a performance. Those who appreciate it consider it an art. I am not one of them.

I've changed my position on bullfighting at least twice. At first I thought it was barbaric and repulsive. Then I began to think that, well, I don't like it but it is part of the culture and has a long history, and who am I to tell Spaniards what to do? Now I've sort of gone back to my original idea. Just because it's part of the culture doesn't make it right, but so many people like it that you really can't ban it, that would be a miscarriage of democracy. But people should damn sure stop patronizing it unless they stop killing the bulls. The Portuguese don't kill the bull. Seems to me that doing it Portuguese-style would be a reasonable compromise.
Check this out. Fark links to this story explaining that the rules for the Miss Spain contest have been changed, and from now on mothers will be allowed to compete as well.

Here's what Fark didn't link to. Ms. Angela Bustillo, the lady who was disqualified as Miss Cantabria because she had a child, got a boob job and took off most of her unmentionables for Spanish trash mag Interviú. Check out the whole gallery of photos. Not safe for work unless you work at a strip bar.
Interesting example of European coverage of the United States in today's La Vanguardia. Washington correspondent Eusebio Val, who is normally pretty reasonable, puts up a softball piece today on page 12 of the international section. It's old news by now, at least three or four months, but some dinky little town in Louisiana banned wearing droopy pants that let your underwear show.

Now, this is not precisely big news.

Val does point out that the black mayor of the town denied that the measure was racist, as it's mostly black kids who dress like this; he's backed by the local black Baptist churches. But then he has to get all analytical, and this is where he slides off into bogosity.

Quoth Val, "The controversial law against droopy pants is a symptom of the complicated and often contradictory relationship between the Americans and questions of sex and morality." Huh? It's a little town in the middle of nowhere, not the whole country we're talking about here.

Addeth Val, "The problem goes back to the Puritan origins of the nation." I don't think the Puritans ever had much influence in Louisiana. Catholics, Baptists, Cajuns, Creoles, New Orleans ethnics, blacks, and rednecks add up to a state where they sell daiquiris at drive-through bars and where a governor once won re-election on the slogan "Vote For The Crook."

He continues, "The United States is the world's largest producer of pornographic material." Yeah, that makes sense, since we're the world's largest producer of a lot of things, including anything related to Internet.

"However, there is enormous shyness (pudor) to show certain things, and it is unthinkable to see at newsstands covers of magazines showing skin, TV programs with nudity, or topless women at the beach." I always thought that the rule was that public life is PG-rated and that private life is most distinctly rated between R and NC-17. Reason: We have a lot of people from a lot of places with a lot of different ideas, so don't embarrass other people with your own selfish behavior. Behavior that a sizable minority objects to should be done privately--don't bug the Baptists by pulling out your peter at the public pool as if you were in Germany or something. Suntan nude in your own back yard. If you want to look at skin mags, buy them and take them home with you. If you want to see sex on TV, get cable. If you want to go topless at the beach, go to a topless beach. But don't make a spectacle of yourself; that's in poor taste.

"Such an extreme is reached that it is even very difficult to find in the shops skirts for girls which do not have underpants attached inside so that their panties cannot be seen." Wait a minute. I didn't know or care about this, and I sure hope Mr. Val knows about it because he has a three-year-old daughter. If not, he shows an unhealthy interest in the subject. By the way, there's sort of a difference between this "extreme" and, say, the burka.

Then, on page 14, the next news page, there are a few international briefs, obviously much less important than the droopy-pants law in Assboink, Louisiana. One is merely a quote from the Dalai Lama in Australia: "Whether it's intentional or not, cultural genocide is happening. Without a Tibetan people, our language and culture will disappear in less than fifteen years." The second's headline is, "North Korea: Death penalty for mobile phone users." It continues, "Pyongyang has increased public executions of users of mobile phones and those who send information out of the country. The North Koreans are prohibited from communicating with the rest of the world, but some manage to listen to foreign news and use mobile phones using Chinese communications systems."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

You probably already know this, but the AP is reporting that Hamas is defeating Al Fatah in the battle for Gaza; Hamas terrorists have been executing captured Fatah terrorists. The Israelis say they will do nothing unless one of the two sides attacks them. Best hope: Egypt takes over Gaza and enforces order. Not too likely. At least 20 dead and 80 wounded so far today. The bloodshed is just getting worse. And it's not America's or Israel's fault.
You were wondering where the American Black Legend comes from? Answer: A lot of it comes from the propaganda of the Old Left, both in its American and international versions. Yesterday, in La Vanguardia's post-mod culture supplement, one Robert Saladrigas, reviews John Steinbeck's newspaper reports on migrant workers in 1930s California, which have been translated into Spanish. along with Dorothea Lange's famous photographs.

Says Saladrigas, "...the tenant farmers who, dragged by the drought and the dusty winds, went with their families to California for the harvest and were treated like human garbage...he was the witness to absolute evil that surpasses any fiction...he saw with his own eyes the subhuman living standards and the deaths from consumption of the dispossessed in cardboard shacks...under the tyranny of police and bullies...they saw how their children literally died of hunger...a spine-chilling human landscape...the eyes of Florence (who appears in a Lange photo) are an icon of pain, impotence, and the barbarism of soulless capitalism...savage oppression by rich Americans of other, poorer Americans."

Boldface mine.

That seems a bit excessive, no? I actually know something about the Dust Bowl, since all four of my grandparents lived through it in West Texas, and I've heard hundreds of stories. They weren't rich folks, either, they were working and lower middle class, and had all grown up on farms or ranches. Times were tough and sometimes you didn't know when you'd get paid next. It was hard to get work, and if you got work it wasn't well-paid. You didn't have a lot of spending money and there wasn't always much to spend it on. Your diet was boring and your lifestyle very basic. Some people had very bad housing and clothing.

But nobody starved to death. Times were hard but not that hard. Many people have fond memories of those years, as others do of Britain during World War II, for example. Literally millions of people starved to death in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, but the American Dust Bowl gets one thousand times the attention of the Ukrainian famine, just as Joe McCarthy's nonsense (there were no executions, of course, and nobody spent more than a couple of years in jail) gets one thousand times the attention of the Stalinist purges.

Keith Windschuttle torpedoes Mr. Saladrigas's ignorance in an excellent article titled "Steinbeck's Myth of the Okies," which appeared in the New Criterion in 2002.

Says Windschuttle,

Steinbeck’s book was presented at the time as a work of history as well as fiction, and it has been accepted as such ever since. Unfortunately for the reputation of the author, however, there is now an accumulation of sufficient historical, demographic, and climatic data about the 1930s to show that almost everything about the elaborate picture created in the novel is either outright false or exaggerated beyond belief.

Just one of many good paragraphs:

This entourage (Steinbeck's Joad family) would have been demographically unusual. Rather than large families extending over several generations, the most common trekkers from the southwest to California were composed of husband, wife, and children, an average of 4.4 members. Only twenty percent of households included other relations. Most were young. Of the adults, sixty percent were less than thirty-five years old. They were also better educated than those of the same age group who stayed behind. In other words, they were typical of those who have undertaken migration in every era, whether over the Rockies or across the Atlantic: upwardly rather than downwardly mobile young people seeking better opportunities for themselves and their children.

Another one:

In the film of The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck’s statement that people owned their land not because they had a piece of paper but because they had been born on it, worked on it, and died on it is given to the half-crazy character Muley Graves. His sentiments, and the injustice of the dispossession behind them, resonate throughout the drama. Again, however, these remarks bear very little relationship to the real farmers of Oklahoma. American rural communities have rarely been populated by the permanent, hidebound settlers that urban journalists and novelists have so condescendingly assumed. Southwestern farmers in the early twentieth century were highly mobile people who felt free to move about in search of better land or even to leave the land for opportunities in town. At the 1930 Census, forty-four percent of Oklahoma farmers and forty-seven percent of those in Arkansas said they had been on their current farms for less than two years.

And another:

Rather than a tragedy, the Okie migration was a success story by almost any measure. By 1940, well before the World War II manufacturing boom transformed the Californian economy, a substantial majority of Okies had attained the goals that had brought them west. Eighty-three percent of adult males were fully employed, a quarter in white-collar jobs and the rest evenly divided between skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled occupations. About twenty percent earned $2,000 or more a year, a sum that elevated them to middle-class status after less than five years in their new state. While their average incomes were beneath those of longer established Californian families, their earnings were significantly higher and their unemployment rate significantly lower than that of their compatriots who remained in the southwest. In short, despite the Depression, California delivered on its promise.

And his conclusion:

Rather than a proletariat who learned collectivist values during a downward spiral towards immiseration, all the historical evidence points the other way. The many sociological studies made over the last forty years confirm the same picture. In the 1940s and beyond, the migrants retained their essentially individualist cultural ethos, preserved their evangelical religion, and prospered in their new environment. In popular music, Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads proved a bigger hit with New York bohemians than with California Okies, who much preferred Gene Autry and Merle Haggard. By the 1960s, the Okies and their offspring constituted an important part of the conservative coalition that twice elected Ronald Reagan governor of California.

Game, set, and match to Windschuttle.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Jonah Goldberg linked to this fascinating map. Each US state is labeled with the name of a country with approximately the same GDP. The map demonstrates why it would be very stupid for the United States to go to war for raw materials: it just wouldn't be worth it. War is bad for business. It sucks up lives and treasure. It's destabilizing. And if we took over Saudi Arabia, the great king of oil exports, all we'd be getting is the equivalent of Tennessee--a lovely state to be sure, home of my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, but not worth enough to go to all the trouble of invading somebody and fighting a war over. If we took over Iran, all we'd get would be the equivalent of Alabama. There's no equivalent given for Iraq, but I bet it's no more productive than, say, Delaware.

There's no equivalent for Spain either, but probably Texas or Florida would be about right. Shocking: Russia's economy is no bigger than New Jersey's. How the mighty have fallen. What a complete disaster area of a country. They have never had a decent government in their whole history--probably the best ruler ever was Catherine the Great, who was comparatively enlightened, being German and all. And that wasn't precisely a liberal free-market constitutional democracy. France is economically about the size of California, meaning the only countries whose GDP is larger than any state's are Japan, Germany, and the UK. Kansas is comparable to Malaysia, which is a pretty successful country, and Missouri is comparable to Poland.

Check out the whole blog. It's cool.
Fortunately, it's a rather dull week here in Barcelona (knocks on skull). TV3 is playing up the latest bit of Catalunacy: Seems that "Catalan culture" is the "guest of honor" at the Frankfurt book fair. The Institut Ramon Llull, whatever that is, has decided that only Catalan authors who write in Catalan will be represented. That means Catalan authors who write in Spanish will not be.

Catalan authors who write in Spanish, to be excluded: Eduardo Mendoza, Juan Marsé, Javier Cercas, Enrique Vila-Matas, and Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

Catalan authors who have received the Katalanisch seal of approval: Pere Gimferrer, Baltasar Porcel, Quim Monzó, Joan Francesc Mira, and Carme Riera.

Gee, is there some difference in the quality and reputation of the authors in the first group and the second? I submit there is, that the first group is much better, and also sells a hell of a lot more books. Monzó is the only author in Group Two you might want to consider reading; the rest produce boring wank. Especially Porcel, the stupidest intellectual this side of Harold Pinter. Besides, Porcel is Mallorcan, not Catalan at all.

Since Mendoza is no less Catalan than Monzó, it seems to me that the writers in Spanish are being unfairly discriminated against, and if there is a dime in tax money going to this shindig then a big stink should be made. It also seems to me that, since all these books are to be sold to foreign publishers to translate into their own languages, it doesn't matter what the original language they're written in is. As far as I know every book by a Catalan author in Spanish is immediately translated to Catalan anyway.

And this is a subject that has been "bitterly debated for months." Why? Should such a small thing be such a big deal? The problem with identity politics is that nobody can see beyond his own little group.

International news: Hamas is shelling the crap out of Gaza. 36 dead and 50 wounded so far. No one is indignant. Of course, if it were the Americans or, God forbid, the Israelis... I feel very strange, knowing that Al Fatah are actually the least bad of the two warring forces. Hamas is even worse than Arafat's corrupt thugs.

With the Palestinians killing each other, naturally British intellectuals have decided to boycott Israel. I am therefore boycotting all British intellectuals who are boycotting Israel. Step One is not reading or listening to or watching any British media but the Telegraph. Goodbye Guardian, Independent, and BBC.

Here's Rafael Ramos on page 10 of La Vanguardia yesterday: "The British university professors' union...joined by groups of doctors, journalists, architects, and even the Church of England are enthused by the possibility that a boycott similar to that decreed against apartheid South Africa may push the government, the Israeli ruling classes, and the Jewish lobby in the United States toward the real search for a solution to the Palestinian conflict...The disproportionate influence that the Israeli community exercises in North America (sic) is already well-known."

Complete and total anti-Semitism. Boycotting Israel while not boycotting Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, Burma, et cetera, shows that the boycotter has his priorities confused, and the reason is that he doesn't mind leftist murders but he hates Jews. Comparing democratic Israel to apartheid South Africa is a foul, stinking piece of moral equivalency. And saying the Jewish lobby in the United States is behind Israeli policy equals believing that the Jews are running America for their own purposes. As an American, I call bullshit on that. The Americans are running America, and calling America a Jewish sock-puppet is the rankest Protocols of the Elders conspiracy theory.

More Ramos gems: He accuses Alan Dershowitz of "threatening" the British anti-Semites by calling for a counter-boycott, calling it "an attempt at intimidation." Says Ramos, "Money rules...the pressure organized by the hardest-line sector of the Israeli lobby in the US will probably succeed in watering down the boycott."

Largest immigrant communities in Spain: Morocco 575,000; Rumania 525,000; Ecuador 420,000; UK 315,000; Colombia 260,000; Bolivia 200,000; Germany 165,000; Argentina 140,000; Itasly 135,000; Bulgaria 120,000; China 105,000; Peru 100,000. Regions with more than 12% immigrants: Madrid, La Rioja, Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia, Balearics, and Canaries. Makes sense; except La Rioja, that's where the jobs are. Northern and western Spain get the fewest immigrants.

La Vangua's foreign correspondent in Havana reports that food rationing is making poor Cubans fat since they get lots of greasy carbs and not much else. Those rations last ten days or two weeks. Then they have to scrape up the rest of their food through the black market, theft, money sent by relatives, and prostitution. He also says that a high-capacity submarine fiber-optic cable is being laid between Cuba and Venezuela, which will multiply Castro's communications capacity by 2500. Since Cuba has about eight phone lines, prohibits Internet, and has no use for such a cable, since one-tenth of the cable's capacity would be enough to monitor all Venezuelan phone calls, and since a Cuban-Venezuelan company got a contract from Chavez to produce new ID cards and passports for all Venezuelan citizens (including a chip with all personal information), he is a bit suspicious.

The cops found two GRAPO weapons caches, one outside Barcelona and the other in Murcia. Let's hope this really is the end of the road.

Finally, under pressure by CiU, the Catalan "historical memory law" will pay homage to all the victims of the Civil War, and "not just those of the Francoist repression." The law will refer to "the memory and the dignity of the victims of political violence in the Republican rear-guard and the persons who suffered persecution because of their religious option." Pretty good but not good enough. If the law refers specifically to Franco and the Nationals as a band of murderers, but doesn't do the same to the Republican government in general and the CNT, POUM, and Communists in particular, it's not balanced.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Get this. The Air Force actually considered spending $7.5 million back in 1994 to research a chemical weapon ("hormone bomb") that would turn enemy soldiers gay; presumably, they would then proceed to arrange flowers and stage musicals while our troops would just, uh, cruise on by.
Not much big news. Zap and Rajoy had their meeting and nothing really happened. Maragall formally resigned as president of the Catalan Socialist Party, but he's been effectively in retirement since Montilla took over the Generalitat. Spain topped the 45 million mark in population; 4.5 million, a full 10%, are immigrants. Sarkozy's UMP cleaned up in the first round of the French parliamentary elections, with 40% of the vote; the Socialists got 25%, Bayrou got 8%, and the Commies, Greens, and National Front all got less than 5%. The runoff is next weekend and the Socialists are in a panic, calling on all the left parties to back them to "fight against the hegemony of the right." Bet it don't do no good.

Saturday night football was wild. With about one minute left in the simultaneous matches, Barça was beating Espanyol on two goals by Messi, one with his hand, and Zaragoza was beating Madrid. Barça would nearly have clinched the league title, as they'd have a three-point lead with one game to go. But Tamudo scored for Espanyol and Van Nistelrooy scored for Madrid, and both games suddenly ended in a draw. The Bar Els Rossos became very quiet and Xavi, the owner, went outside and smashed his signboard over one of the posts that keep people from parking on the sidewalk. Now Madrid has nearly clinched the league title, since all they have to do is beat a weak Mallorca team, and it doesn't matter what Barça does.

Barça had the league in its pocket twice, and gave up goals in the last minute first to Betis and then to Espanyol. They blew it. You can't win them all, though, and I wouldn't shake up the squad too badly. Ronaldinho and Eto'o still have upside to their careers, not to mention Messi.

Note: I do not know all the details of this story, but I do know that Messi signed with Barça when he was only about 13, and they gave him growth hormone, saying that he was undersized and had a deficiency. Players signing for pro teams below age 16, and pro teams giving their kids such powerful drugs, both seem wrong to me.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Andy Robinson, La Vanguardia's New York correspondent, is one of those guys who can never pass up an opportunity to sneer at American society. Never once has American society ever done anything sensible or reasonable, in Robinson's way of thinking.

So Andy decides to write a softball piece on food in the US. Naturally, he has criticized what he sees as the burger-laden "American diet" many times, never considering that many Americans do eat fresh vegetables and fish and lots of healthy stuff like that.

Now he's suddenly discovered that there is such a thing as a farmers' market. In case you'd never heard of them, every town of any size has one at least once a week. Local truck farmers sell their produce. My dad goes to the one in downtown Overland Park every Saturday morning in season to buy green beans and tomatoes and canteloupes and peaches and corn on the cob. You get a good deal both on quality and price. Not everybody shops there--Andy says only about 8-10% of Americans--but it's an available option that's becoming more popular. Andy adds that there are 44 farmers' markets in New York, more than ever before, which means that it's not only us folks out there in Kansas who can get this stuff.

This looks like a promising trend, Americans buying healthy fresh food locally, doesn't it?

Nope. Andy's take is that the reason behind it is that the Yanks are--get this--"frightened of the contamination of massified foods." The headline is, "Global fear, local food." It wouldn't be because the Americans are developing better tastebuds or want to be healthier or any other intelligent reason, it has to be because they're afraid. The Europeans constantly peddle the line that everything we do in America is because of fear.

He adds, "Ironically, 30 years ago massified and scientifically reconstructed food was considered safer and more hygenic than natural, local products." Huh? I remember lots of natural, local products available for sale in 1977. Hell, I remember going out to the local pick-your-own strawberry farm every summer, to the apple orchard every fall, and planting a fairly large garden as well. I don't remember anyone ever saying that such food was unsafe or not hygenic, at least not if you washed it first. In fact, that was the collectivist Seventies, when everybody was into brown rice and stuff like that. Duh. The other thing I remember people doing, which they don't do as much anymore, is putting up fresh foods for the winter in Mason jars.
Since ETA hasn't killed anybody yet, the big news here is the football. Real Madrid and Barcelona are tied on points at the top, with Sevilla two points back. Madrid holds the advantage in case of a tie in the standings. Each team has two matches left; Barcelona plays Espanyol tonight at home, Madrid plays Zaragoza away, and Sevilla plays Mallorca away. The games are all scheduled at the same time, 9 PM.

Madrid can clinch the title tonight if they win and Barça and Sevilla lose; Barça fans, of course, are rooting for a Madrid loss or draw combined with a Barça victory. Even a Barça draw would be acceptable if both Madrid and Sevilla lose.

Realistically, the most likely team of the three to fail would be Real Madrid, since they are playing away, Zaragoza is a good team, and it also has something to play for; with a victory it can clinch a spot in the UEFA cup next year. So Zaragoza will be a hyper-motivated opponent. Barça is playing at home, so it has the advantage; Espanyol is not a bad team, but they're playing for nothing but pride, since they're set in the midtable. Agreed, pride is a pretty strong motivation to beat your crosstown rival. Sevilla is playing away but Mallorca has nothing to play for; they're also set in the midtable. So Sevilla is likely to pull out a win.

There are rumors of maletines flying every which way; a maletín is a briefcase, and it is assumed to be full of cash. Everyone in Spain believes that Barça has offered a huge bonus to the Zaragoza players if they beat Madrid, and that Madrid has done the same to the Espanyol players. This practice is strictly illegal but everyone assumes that it happens all the time. You get in big trouble in the States if you get caught making payments of any sort to opposing players, and we just assume it isn't done at all.

Earlier this season Torii Hunter of the Minnesota Twins tried to pay off a promise he made at the end of last season; if the Kansas City Royals swept Detroit, Minnesota's rival for a playoff spot, he'd spring for a couple of cases of champagne. The Royals swept them, against all odds, and Hunter (known as an all-around good guy) was going to pay off at the beginning of this season when the Twins made their first visit to KC. Now, this is obviously just a fun thing, not real money--what does that cost, a couple grand for the good stuff? That's pocket change to a ballplayer--and a sign of respect between guys on different teams, but the league told them no, Caesar's ballplayers must be above all suspicion.

So tonight Ronaldinho can't play because of that ridiculous foul he got red-carded for in the last game two weeks ago. Rijkaard's lineup is going to be Valdés; Zambrotta, Puyol, Thuram, Van Bronckhorst; Xavi, Motta, Deco; Iniesta, Eto'o, Messi. Looks pretty good except for that large hole right in the middle named Motta. Márquez will be on the bench; why not play him there?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi was imprisoned at 1 PM today; the Supreme Court made his 15-month suspended sentence effective and he will have to serve it. Good. Zap is finally showing a little backbone. Now he has to ban the ANV, Batasuna's front party, in order to meet the PP's conditions for their support. Rajoy is not going to demand any firings; he said he didn't want to humiliate anyone, and declared that the PP would "shoulder its burden" against ETA as long as "there is no return to the path of negotiations."

Said Rajoy, "I will tell Zapatero that I will support anyone, no matter whether he has done things well or badly in the past, if he wants to defeat ETA." Good. Rajoy is going to be responsible and cooperate in order to reach everyone's goal. I think the PSOE is on board now and ETA will be crushed very soon. Unfortunately, it should have been crushed at least two years ago, and it wasn't thanks to Zap's acceptance of the alleged truce. Now some more people are going to be killed in ETA's last stand.

De Juana Chaos has already gone back on hunger strike and Judge Castro of the National Court ordered that he be force-fed if necessary. I wouldn't bother force-feeding him, I'd just let the son-of-a-bitch die. He wouldn't be missed. José Bono called him "an excrement of the human species," which is a pretty good one.

Nicolas Sarkozy is off to a good start: He's proposing an €11 billion tax cut, including the elimination of estate taxes for spouses and an €150,000 exemption for children, the elimination of taxes and "contributions" on overtime wages, a direct tax (income, property, capital gains) maximum limit of 50% of total income, an income tax exemption for students who earn less than three times minimum wage, and an income tax deduction on mortgage interest payments for the first five years. Sounds pretty good to me, since we all know that as much of national income as possible should stay in private hands. Viva Adam Smith.

Coincidentally, France is to hold national parliamentary elections next week; the first round is June 10 and the runoff is June 17. Sarkozy's UMP will roll.

A bunch of squatter hippie anarchists tried to disrupt the G-8 meeting. Fortunately, they didn't get within five miles of Bush and Merkel and Sarko. Way to go, cops! Beat 'em, thump 'em, let's go, Cops! I thought it was cool when the police launch ran over the Greenpeace boat.

By the way, here's the video of the Mossos roughing up the Russian girl.

Chemical Lali Solé claims today in La Vanguardia that the arms manufacturing sector is "the pivot" of America's GDP. America's GDP in 2006 was $13.2 trillion, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Total American exports, including arms, and also food, machinery, technology, entertainment, raw materials, manufactured goods, and so on, added up to $1.4 trillion, while the domestic service sector alone accounted for $5.5 trillion.

The hippies at Common Dreams say that US arms exports totaled $9.7 billion in 2001, and that future contracts worth $12 billion were signed that year. $9.7 billion in arms is a very small percentage of $1.4 trillion. Gee whiz, looks to me like the "pivot" of the US economy is services, and arms exports are insignificant.

Meanwhile, in 2006, total US defense spending was $621 billion. That means total US defense spending is a little more than 2% of GDP. And Wikipedia says that a maximum of $1 trillion is spent on arms in the entire world per year.

You'd be surprised how easy it is to find neat statistics like these if you google "united states gdp", which Lali doesn't seem to have thought of doing.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Here's something interesting I came across by accident: an interview with former Barcelona mayor Pasqual Maragall in the International Herald Tribune from 1991, the year before the Olympics. Note the concern with street crime and heroin addiction; one has multiplied and the other has disappeared, because all the heroin addicts got AIDS and died. Maragall is rather dismissive of Catalan nationalism, hopeful about the European Union, and concerned by ETA terrorism--some things never change. Problems like immigration had not reared their heads yet.

One thing that all of us who criticize Maragall have to admit is that the Olympics really were a great success, and he probably did more than anyone else to make them one. Too bad he was such a lousy regional premier.
De Juana Chaos is in jail in Madrid, and they've ordered that he be force-fed if he goes on hunger strike again. Judge Garzón pulled the passports of Batasuna leaders Otegi and Barrena, and prosecutors have petitioned the Supreme Court to imprison Otegi based on his previous convictions and suspended sentences. Otegi may go to prison as soon as this evening. Zap and justice minister Fernández Bermejo publicly warned the ANV that it might be banned at any time under the Political Parties Act.

At 6 AM today, the French cops arrested three ETA medium-size fish, part of the recruiting squad, in a town near the Spanish frontier. One of them was in on the robbery of 350 pistols last year at a French factory, and another one is a suspect (he was acquitted in 2006) in a murder in Zaragoza, as well as being an instructor in explosives and firearms. French cops had been surveilling them for a couple of weeks, and decided to make the arrests now because they thought this cell might be ready to pull an attack in Spain.

Looks like Rajoy is pretty much getting what he wants, though I'd hold out for Conde Pumpido's head before I'd be willing to make nice. Then the responsible thing for Rajoy to say would be something like "We have many differences with Mr. Zapatero and the PSOE, but we know that we must work together with the PSOE and other democratic parties that oppose violence in order to form a united front and finally defeat ETA. We are willing to put aside our disagreements until the next election if the PSOE is willing to do the same." Besides being the right thing to do, it would also be politically expedient; the PP could go around saying "We're not dividers, we're uniters." They'd gain a lot of votes in the center and lose very few on the right; the right has nowhere else to go anyway.

The pundits say there's no way Zap's going to call an early election; it'll be in March 2008, and the Andalusian regional election will be held the same day. Reason: Andalusia is the PSOE's breadbasket, and Zap figures that the regional election will bring out even more voters there.

There's another piece of important terrorism news that won't get much play outside Spain: The Guardia Civil arrested six persons in Barcelona's Sant Andreu district last night. They're accused of being members of the "very violent Marxist-Maoist organization" GRAPO, sort of the Spanish version of the Red Brigades. They've been killing people since 1975, though not nearly as often as ETA. Two of those arrested murdered the wife of a Zaragoza businessman in February 2006, the gang's last killing. The other four were infrastructure, running safe houses and the like. This was apparently GRAPO's last operative cell. The leadership was arrested in June 2006 in Reus, and they ratted out this last bunch; one of them personally led the cops to the GRAPO safe house where the bust was made. The Guardia Civil says there may be more arrests, and that they have evidence that will solve several bank robberies.

Goodbye GRAPO and good riddance.

La Vanguardia's worst columnist, Baltasar Porcel, was awarded something called the Premi d'Honor de les Lletres Catalanes, which is passed out by an Catalanist organization called Ómnium Cultural. This guy is Earth's most boring novelist and least astute political commentator. He's getting old, though, and he just went through a bout of cancer, so we suppose this will make him happy in his twilight years without really hurting anyone else. A couple of people might actually be encouraged to read one of his books, but the damage will likely be minimal because no one has actually gotten beyond page 38 in any of them.

Past Porcel posts here.

Yesterday evening the Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra ("Boys of the Squad") held a big old demo in downtown Barcelona, about 4000 strong, demanding that Communist interior counselor Joan Saura, in charge of the regional cops, resign. The Squad Boys say that they're demoralized and feel discredited, and that it's Saura's fault. Yeah, Saura is a dope and couldn't manage an ice cream stand; he's still a Commie, for Christ's sake. But the problems in the Mossos go back much farther than Saura's term in office, and Saura wasn't the guy who told the Mossos to beat up the Russian woman or not restrain the gypsy kid who jumped out of the squad car. I'm generally pro-law and order, but the Mossos have not looked at all good recently and they've got no one to blame but themselves.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

TV3, which is not precisely a PP sock puppet, is reporting, based on anonymous police sources who met with Zapatero yesterday:

ETA is capable of immediately attacking anywhere in Spain...According to police information, ETA has taken advantage of the 14 months of truce to recover from the most recent police roundups. At this moment, ETA has about one hundred militants ready to take action, of which between 20 and 25 are organized into cells. It also has explosives and the technical and human means necessary to make car bombs.

The police fear that the gang will decide to commit an attack in order to cause alarm, and therefore is not ruling out a murder. Evidence confiscated from the "Donosti" cell, broken up at the beginning of this year, shows that the first target might be police officers, though ETA might also attack PSOE, or even PNV, political office holders, as the ETA communique announcing the end of the truce harshly criticized these two parties.
I don't know if my comment the other day had any effect or not--I know that a couple of people at La Vanguardia read this blog--but La Vanguardia has redesigned their website, which they have obviously been working on for months, and they have dropped the link to the prostitution classified ads. They have not quit running prostitution classifieds in the print edition; there's a full page of them today.
TV3 is reporting that, at a press conference this morning, Zap said that he would not call an early general election (his term runs out in March 2008), and added that he wanted the PP to help "shoulder the burden." Mr. Zapatero, I think the PP already told you what you'd have to do if you wanted to convince them that you now believed in fighting ETA for real. You've only done one of those things so far, jailing De Juana Chaos. You have a few more policy and personnel changes to make. Rajoy is absolutely right on this issue. He doesn't trust you, and I don't either. You've made so many errors dealing with ETA already.

One thing. If I were Rajoy, my bit of collaboration would be not calling for a new election, on the grounds that terrorism had already succeeded in changing Spain's ruling party once, and taking down the Socialists now would be giving terrorists another success. The responsible thing for the PP to do is just let Zap hang himself. Why give him a push when he'll fall without one?
TV3 is reporting that De Juana has already been arrested and is being sent back to a Madrid prison to serve out his sentence for writing threatening letters. They also say that Arnaldo Otegi will most likely be jailed tomorrow, as he is currently out of prison awaiting the results of his appeal on his conviction for exalting terrorism.
More on ETA: José from Barcepundit has expanded his post of yesterday and put it up on Pajamas Media. The Big Chorizo and Colin Davies have more.
ETA's announcement has been a punch in the gut to the Zap administration. El Periodico's headline today was, "Against the ropes." La Vanguardia calls the announcement "the tipping point" for the administration. Zap went on TV yesterday afternoon and didn't say much, except for his call for support from the other political parties. He was going on again in the evening, but cancelled even though TV1 had been running announcements that Zap would do an interview for several hours.

The PP's terms, as announced by Angel Acebes yesterday, are: Ban ETA front parties PCTV and ANV; fire attorney general Candido Conde Pumpido, an outrageous choice for the position as he used to be an ETA defense lawyer; jail De Juana Chaos and ETA spokesman Arnaldo Otegi. The PP also wants to bring fairly moderate regional nationalists CiU and the PNV into any deal they cut with the PSOE. It looks like Zap is going to give in on the jailings, at least; he is going to turn loose the prosecutors on these guys. Which shows you that Zap was lying the whole time when he said that the soft treatment that De Juana and other ETA prisoners got had nothing to do with any negotiations with ETA. I would demand the head of interior minister Perez Rubalcaba as well.

Judge Grande-Marlaska said he was irritated that Judge Garzon was handling all the ETA cases, and announced that he was opening another case against Otegi for exaltation of terrorism. Again.

And the cops said that ETA has several cells ready for action in Spain, and others in France waiting to cross the border. This is pure wishful thinking optimism about negotiations on Zap's part. ETA's truce, as usual, merely gave them a chance to rearm and reorganize themselves, and Zap did nothing about it. The police must have been telling him what ETA was doing; if they know now that ETA has several cells ready, they must have known that the cells were being organized a long time before this. Zap ignored them.

Francesc-Marc Alvaro, the Vanguardia's best columnist, tears Zap a new one today. He says, "Only the very gullible are surprised at the end of the truce. Unofficially it ended with the Barajas bombing in December. And the signs come from even farther back, from the previous summer. After so many years of activity, ETA has developed a code (of behavior) that experts know how to read: what the gang thinks and what its plans are. Well, the ones who were not being advised by those experts are the Administration, concretely Mr. Rodriguez Zapatero. Or, if he was advised, then he didn't listen, which is even more irresponsible...ETA has taken advantage of such irresponsibility."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Cartoon in Sunday's La Vanguardia: An African woman is preparing what looks like a meager meal for six skinny children; the children are rather unattractive caricatures of black people, with thick lips and jutting jaws. They're sitting on the ground in front of a hut. The woman says, "The US has spent $565 billion on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 42 times what would be needed to eliminate hunger in the world in 2015." A child replies, "And what are we going to eat in 2015? Crude petroleum?" (Play on words in Spanish; see, "crudo" means both crude and raw. Ha, ha.)

a) Who really thinks that the world's hunger problem could be solved with $15 billion? Where did that figure come from?
b) I don't see Spain or Europe stepping up to do anything about world hunger. The cartoon seems to assume that world hunger is America's responsibility.
c) Iraq and Afghanistan are comparatively cheap wars; see Niall Ferguson in the Wall Street Journal today.
d) The US spends lots of money on defense. This is largely because it's our job to be the world's policeman. It's our job because Europe wimped out. Any European who dislikes the American role as the world's cop needs to immediately call for the quadrupling, at least, of his own country's defense budget.
e) It is a lot easier to get your people to pay taxes for their own benefit than for the benefit of some people in a faraway country who they do not know. This is why your country isn't helpìng Africa out too much, either.
f) Could Africa's situation possibly be Africa's own fault, and if this is true, why is it the United States's job to send money?
g) If Africa's situation is to be blamed on colonialism, where does the US come in, since we never tried to colonize Africa? Shouldn't it be England and France and Belgium paying the bills, not us?
h) For the last time, Afghanistan has nothing to do with oil, and neither does Iraq. Afghanistan has no oil, and Iraq's oil was its problem, because any bandit warlord like Saddam who managed to seize control of the state suddenly had a lot of money to spend on weapons. America does not need Iraq's oil, and even if we did, it's a lot cheaper to buy it than steal it. No American president would ever go to war to grab raw materials, because we have plenty of our own and war is bad for business. The very idea of going to war for raw materials is an 18th century mercantilist concept popular in Latin countries, where economic thinking is very backward.

But left-wing Radio Ser, Spain's least responsible radio network (much worse than Cope, whose lies are limited to Spanish internal politics; Ser regularly lies about the entire world) is running two-page ads in the Spanish press. On the left page, there's what looks like a blurry photo of a violent Baghdad street scene, with the title in large yellow letters, "Weapons? No, petroleum." On the other page there's a photo of the aging, egotistical, and unintelligent radio host Gemma Nierga, a PSOE mouthpiece, who read the manifesto at one of those anti-American rallies they had in 2003.

Looks to me like Radio Ser is advertising that they're going to tell you the lies you want to hear.

Speaking of oh-so-holy do-gooding La Vanguardia, they link from a prominent place on their own website (under the masthead, run your cursor over "Clasificados," and "Contactos" will appear) to this. That is, they're acting as pimps, shilling up clients for prostitutes, some of whom are victims of debt slavery.
Further comments on the ETA announcement: Barcepundit and Notes from Spain.
ETA announced this morning that their so-called truce is over as of midnight tonight, saying that they would "resume activities on all fronts." I guess they mean they're going to kill more people. I had also figured when they blew up the parking garage at Barajas, killing two, that the truce was over then, but ETA must want to make it official. El País reported yeaterday that ETA has an attack plan all ready to go; the TV3 news last night said that ETA had sent another round of extortion letters to Basque businessmen. La Vanguardia says today that both Spanish and French intelligence have warned of a large increase in ETA activity recently.

During ETA's alleged truce, which they announced in March 2006, street terrorism, weapons robberies, extortion, preparation of explosives, and recruitment and training all continued, not to mention the Barajas bombing. Yet the Zap goverment continued negotiations with them. The only negotiations these guys should be allowed into are the ones they make with the prosecutors to get a few years off their sentences if they spill everything. I cannot believe there are still enough idiot people out there who think you can negotiate with other people who are trying to kill you.

ETA claimed that the votes obtained by its front party, the ANV, were support for its claim that the Basque people support them. More stupidity from Zap, who did not use the prosecutors' office to completely close down the ANV as he could have done under the Political Parties Act. It's time for him to do that right now.

Zap's reaction has been to call for all political parties to support him and the government against this "new" ETA threat. Of course I support the rule of law, but it's kind of hard to back Zap now when his naivete has gotten us this far into this mess. If I were the PP I'd demand that Zap fire every single one of his pro-negotiations advisors as proof he has had a real change of heart. All the leaders of the Basque Socialist Party, who have met with ETA secretly during the last three years, need to resign as well.

Meanwhile, hunger-striking mass murderer Iñaki de Juana Chaos is walking around free, leaving his house and going for walks although he is supposedly under house arrest. He is refusing to wear an ankle bracelet to monitor his movements because, he says, he "is not a dog." No, he's much lower than any dog that has ever lived, since dogs don't commit premeditated murder, especially not 25 times. The collar he ought to be wearing is called a noose.

Shakeup in the Madrid Socialist Party after its disastrous losses in both the municipal and regional elections. Mayoral candidate Sebastián, who won a city council seat as first on the Socialist list, resigned and retired from politics, and Zap fired regional candidate Simancas as local party boss. The PSOE was also crushed in Valencia and Murcia, and their regional bosses are refusing to take the blame and resign their positions.

Putin is bluffing. He's holding a weak hand, and if he plays his ace, an energy cutoff to Europe, it's going to hurt Russia much worse than anyone else.

La Vanguardia's Beirut correspondent Tomás Alcoverro, the only Spanish journalist that I am convinced is on the take, says on the 40th anniversary of the Six Days War:
"The State of Israel has consolidated itself at the price of war, destruction, violence, frustration, and the impoverishment of its neighboring peoples, the Palestinian, the Lebanese, and the Iraqi." That is of course from the news pages, not analysis or opinion.

La Vangua also takes advantage of Larry Flynt's offer to pay $1 million to anyone who had sex with a congressman in order to run a nice juicy rehash of all American sex scandals of the last forty years. The story mentions the "hypocrisy of those who stand up as custodians of family values and are so militant against homosexuality and abortion." I could come back with the old line, "Hypocrisy is the price that vice pays to virtue," but I'd rather point out that only about ten or fifteen prominent conservatives have ever been outed as hypocrites, and several of them were clownish TV preachers, not serious elected officials. What about all the rest of those who support family values and oppose legal abortion and gay marriage (virtually nobody is "against homosexuality" in itself anymore)? I can name dozens of them whose names are completely untainted by scandal.

By the way, the Democrats' hypocrisy about money (Edwards and Gore and Hillary Clinton, especially, the first a robber-baron ambulance-chaser, the second the oldest of old money, and the third a snooty upper-middle-class private-school Chicago WASP, but they're all just plain folks) is a good bit more distasteful to me than any sex scandal the Republicans have ever been mixed up in. As far as I can tell, the only prominent non-hypocritical Democrat is Dennis Kucinich, who fortunately for the world has no chance in hell of ever getting elected.

There's an interview in Sunday's Vangua with Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, a traditional anti-American conservative Spaniard. Quotes: "Bush feels completely just as he has a God and believes that because he has this divine mandate any barbarity is permitted." Ridiculous. Bush DOES NOT believe that he has a divine mandate. That's just plain silly. He's a Methodist, not a Shiite.

"Censorship comes from the United States...Someone told me that he was in San Diego, and that the same thing does not happen to Noam Chomsky that happens to students....those who have recorded his speeches listen to them in a locked room. Because the pressure does not come from the government, but from the public, from the other students." What? That makes no sense at all. Any student in San Diego who went around quoting Chomsky would become a campus hero.

"There is a bomber, the Spirit, that can leave the US, bomb Iraq, and return without refueling or landing. What justice is that? The bomber is a terrorist instrument." What pathetic moral equivalence.

Supposedly the Barça wants to buy a club in the US soccer league in order "to increase the number of fans in that country." Hey, the Barça's great and all, but I don't think it has more than about eleven fans in the States, just like I don't think the New York Yankees or the Chicago Bears have more than about eleven fans in Spain.

Barcelona lies between two stinking ditches, the Besós and Llobregat "rivers." La Vangua's Eugenio Madueño called them "threads of liquid shit." They cleaned up one of the ditches, the Besós, and fish will supposedly be able to live in it soon. Took them eight years. Now they're going to try to clean up the Llobregat, which will probably take eighteen. They have €12 million for the job so far, which is not quite what it's going to cost.