Wednesday, October 31, 2007

In case anyone is interested, here's a link to the piece I wrote for Pajamas Media back on February 15. It holds up fairly well, I think.
Update: Here are the English-language reports on the verdict in the Madrid bombings trial from the Telegraph, Fox News, the Guardian, CNN, the New York Times, and the Times of London.

Interesting bits:

Fox News: Much of the evidence against the men was circumstantial. Bouchar, for instance, had been seen on one of the bombed trains shortly before the attack, but at trial no one could positively identify him and there were no fingerprints or other forensic evidence placing him at the scene.

A senior court official privy to the decision-making told The Associated Press following the verdict that the case against Osman was "flimsy," and that there was "no hard evidence" that Belhadj or Haski were masterminds. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

Circumstantial evidence is admissible in Spanish court, but the judges may have avoided relying heavily upon it because of a number of high-profile terror cases that were overturned on appeal, including one involving a Spanish cell accused of involvement in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, said Fernando Reinares, until recently the chief counterterrorism adviser at the Interior Ministry.

He said the judges in the case used a narrow approach to the law and warned that Spanish courts would have to change their rules of evidence if the country was to defeat Islamic terrorism.

"Islamic terrorism ... leaves a different kind of footprint," said Reinares, now head of the terrorism studies program at the Elcano Royal Institute, a Madrid think-tank.

The Guardian: Rogelio Alonso, a lecturer in politics and terrorism at King Juan Carlos University, said he believed the trial had shown that "it is possible to fight this type of [Islamist] terrorism through the courts". He also said the investigation had uncovered a link between the Madrid suspects and the wider world of al-Qaida.

However, Scott Atran, a US academic who has investigated the Hamburg cell connected to the September 11 2001 attacks in the US as well as those behind the Bali bomb attacks of 2002, and who witnessed the trial, said: "There isn't the slightest bit of evidence of any relationship with al-Qaida. We've been looking at it closely for years and we've been briefed by everybody under the sun ... and nothing connects them."

CNN (note the teaser at the end attempting to play on morbid voyeurism): Of the 28 men on trial, eight had been considered prime defendants, alleged to be either the bombers, ideologues, or "necessary cooperators" in the fatal plot. Each of the eight faced 191 charges of mass murder and more than 1,800 charges of attempted murder.

But there were gasps in the courtroom as the judges convicted only three of the eight prime defendants of the gravest charge -- mass murder. The judges convicted four others on lesser charges and acquitted one prime defendant of all charges.

The number of acquittals is likely to disappoint survivors of the attacks and relatives of the victims, who said the trial had dredged up bad memories of the bombings that they could not now put to rest. As they left court, some victims and families said they felt deprived of justice. Watch how victims of the bombings are coping.

The New York Times: The verdicts closed a sprawling trial that over the course of five months brought 29 defendants, 40 lawyers and 350 witnesses to a temporary courtroom on the outskirts of Madrid. The verdicts offer the first taste of justice to those wounded in the attacks as well as to relatives of those killed on March 11, 2004, when 13 sports bags stuffed with explosives tore through trains carrying hundreds of people from mainly working-class suburbs to the city center. The bombings changed the course of politics in Spain, which was used to decades of Basque but not Islamic terrorism.

They were carried out by a group of Islamist radicals that intersected with a band of Moroccan petty criminals whose ringleader, Jamal Ahmidan, had become radicalized in a Moroccan jail. Seven of the main suspects, including Mr. Ahmidan, killed themselves in a Madrid apartment to avoid arrest three weeks after the attacks, and another four are believed to have fled.

The verdicts underscore the difficulty of building a solid legal case against defendants suspected of playing an inspirational role in a diffuse and nonhierarchical network, rather than having direct involvement in the violence.

The Times: Thomas Catan, Times correspondent in Madrid, said that many survivors of the attacks appeared surprised and upset today by the number of acquittals and by some of the sentences imposed, which were shorter than prosecutors had demanded.

But Jose Luis Zapatero, the Socialist Prime Minister who came to power after the Madrid bombings, insisted that justice had been served.
Spain's National Court just handed down the verdict in the March 11 bombings trial. Jamal Zougam and Otman El Gnaoui were sentenced to 40,000 years each in prison for actually planting the bombs on the trains, and José Emilio Suárez Trashorras, who swapped them the dynamite for drugs, got 35,000 years. The maximum possible time served in Spain is 40 years. Fifteen others were also convicted.

Surprise: "Mohammed the Egyptian," currently in prison in Italy and accused of being the mastermind of the plot, was acquitted. Seven other small fry were also acquitted. The three-judge tribunal ruled out any ETA participation in the bombings, and the alleged Zap-ETA-Carod-Trilateral Commission-Masonic conspiracy theory is completely dead.

Here are the reports from El Periodico, La Vanguardia, TV3, and El Mundo.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The demo last night in the Plaza Sant Jaume was apparently a pretty good show, especially since about eight different groups showed up and tried to hijack it, among them the PP who wanted to protest against the Socialists, and the Cataloonies, who wanted to protest against Spain. A Cataloony got all agitated and punched a woman in the face, breaking her glasses. I love the way they'll call a demo at the drop of a hat in Spain; what's the point of protesting against the commuter train system being all screwed up? I thought we were all against that.

There were between 500 and 1000 demonstrators, not much compared to what they can bring out on the streets when it's a question of attacking the United States.

Meanwhile, very wisely, the Generalitat has decided to postpone its plan to reduce the speed limit to 80kph (50 mph) on the motorways leading into Barcelona, since they're all snarled up right now, and making drivers go slower would just make things worse and really piss everyone off; there was a 13-kilometer traffic jam yesterday inbound on the B-23 until 10 AM.

They've announced that the closed-down commuter lines will not be back up until after the upcoming long weekend (four days for Todos los Santos), and I'll bet they won't be back on line for a long time after that.

Note: I'm getting at least twenty hits a day on Google searches for the story about the scumball who beat up the Ecuadorian girl on the train. Many of them are from the US and in English; I get the idea that this incident is being seized on by the multiculturalism industry over there, for some reason.

The story about Sarkozy walking out on Lesley Stahl for asking persistently about his relationship with his soon-to-be ex-wife has caught on over here, and is getting plenty of play.

Looks like it's going to take a while and maybe a bribe to get the seven Spanish aircrew out of Chad, whose government has accused them of being "pederasts." La Vanguardia speculates that the whole thing has something to do with French dirty dealing in order to get European Union troops to go into Darfur. La Vangua loves to speculate.

Yesterday foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos finally got a face-to-face meeting with Condi Rice. They discussed, get this, the agenda for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting at the end of November in Madrid. Real top-level issue, that. Cuba was not mentioned because there was obviously no point in mentioning it, as the Zap administration is pro-Castro.

Want some moral snobbery? The Milà i Fontanals high school has a student body that is 80% immigrants. So they decided to put on "an exhibition and a series of debates" on capital punishment. Why? Because "many students come from countries where the death penalty is used, and some of them are in favor of it." So, therefore, we have to teach them that they're wrong. Wonder how many sides there are going to be during the "debates." The exhibition includes pictures of garrotes, gallows, and guillotines, along with "a documentary about Guantanamo." Now wait a minute. A total of zero executions has taken place at Guantanamo.

Naomi Klein gets the back-page interview in La Vanguardia today. It's the same old wank as you'd expect. She claims that people are allowed to die every day in the United States because they cannot pay for medical care. And that "capitalist fundamentalism takes advantage of natural disasters," like the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. She blames the US for "the CIA coup in Chile," and the lack of social democracy in Russia and China. She states that the "neocons" have replaced the public school system in New Orleans with a private system, and that in California "the fire brigade has been privatized." Says Klein, "Washington fights efficient and solidarious states that restribute goods and services, because they get in the way when it tries to apply its global capitalist utopia." And she adds, "In Iraq, the dogmatic American prophets of fundamentalist capitalism have wiped out all vestiges of the Iraqi state and have left the country in the hands of mercenaries and subcontractors."

The interviewer provokes Klein twice into going even farther than she'd planned, by saying that in the US "public health is unknown," and that "In the '60s, the CIA, in order to stop social democracy, created the myth of suicide in Sweden." Naomi takes the bait, of course.

But get this. The best part is our interviewer's introduction. He says that Klein's new book "perhaps incurs in some simplifications and possesses a certain adolescent idealist vision...So what? Milton Friedman and the neocons at the American Enterprise (sic), who give Washington an ideological alibi, have committed gross simplifications of reality and idealism that violates common sense. Naomi, besides, doesn't invade countries, just libraries."

How snotty and self-righteous.
There are a whole lot of people around here who are absolutely obsessed with the Catalan-Spanish identity conflict. Everything takes second place to that, no matter how important an issue it may be, and they'll work nationalism into the discussion about every single issue.

So former Catalan premier Jordi Pujol accused the Spanish media and Spanish politicians of "fomenting hatred for Catalonia" by blaming the Catalan regional government for the Great Transportation Snafu of 2007. Actually, I think Pujol is doubly wrong: first, it's not anti-Catalan to blame the Generalitat for making mistakes on a specific issue, and second, I think people are blaming the Socialists and the Tripartite, who are in control of the troika of the central, regional, and local governments, more than they are the Generalitat in itself.

(Comment: I have always held a certain admiration for Pujol, who was one hell of a good machine politician, sort of like a classier Mayor Daley. Yeah, there were a lot of financial scandals, and his government put in the laws that discriminate against Spanish-speakers, but a lot of positive things got done in a reasonably democratic manner. No incompetent could have stayed in power for 23 years.)

La Vanguardia has already pulled in 339 comments on their website on this story. There's nothing that will get the commenters all heated up faster than waving the Catalan flag. Check out some of these. I think some of them are pretty reasonable, and some of them aren't. Let's see what you think!

A. (Original Spanish): Most of the blame for our bad image belongs to the independentistas' childish stunts and the self-interested manipulation that the right-wing media makes of them.

B. (Spanish) You aspire to your own State, one more. A great advance for the world. And besides, from an ethical point of view, a questionable obsession. State-of-the-art hospitals, absurd millionaire salaries for athletes, a port, an airport, and you go around telling the world what victims you are. No one is listening to you.

C. (Catalan) 2014, goodbye Spain and enough already of putting up with this rubbish. We don't need to go around justifying ourselves, and we don't have to explain what it is to be Catalan...independence!

D. (Spanish) A question for nationalists. When personal sacrifices are demanded in the name of the glorious fatherland, how far are you willing to go? Let's see who has the guts to answer.

E. (Catalan) This hate, Mr. Pujol, is innate, they carry it inside them like a gene. We will never be friends because by definition we are different, and the larger one (the Spanish empire) oppresses the smaller ones who resist (the Catalan colony). Luckily we are in the 21st century and now sovereignty is possible without a war. There are more and more nations with their own state in Europe and now it is our turn.

F. (Catalan) The future is self-determination, since with the Castilians as friends we are going nowhere...They want Catalan and its culture to disappear.

G. (Spanish) What do the excluding nationalists want? That in addition to spending all day working against community among the citizens, we non-nationalists are going to reward you with recognition? Pujol complains about hate but that is exactly the fuel that moves nationalism. As nationalism prospers more and more, hate spreads to more places. That is the dynamic of nationalism, which the 20th century made clear.

H. (Catalan) INDEPENDENCE NOW! And stop whining, little Spaniards, "God's empire" and "united, great, and free" fortunately failed. Good-bye Spain, and good luck (you're going to need a lot...)

I. (Catalan) Can you imagine being married to a fat, dirty, stinking, ignorant, violent, and crude broad? Well, that's what living with Spain is like. We want a divorce! And we want it now! Freedom!!!!

J. (Spanish) When in my building things don't work, it's the superintendent's fault. When my city doesn't work it's the mayor's fault, and when my region doesn't work, it's the regional premier's fault. In Catalonia, when something doesn't work, it's not the fault of anyone's Spain's fault!

K. (Catalan) And what should we expect? We spend all day putting down Spain, saying Spain robs us, we whistle when the speaker at the Mercé ceremony speaks Spanish or when someone sings in Spanish at the Diada celebration, we don't respect the Spanish flag, which we don't fly at town hall buildings when there is a law requiring it, we say nothing when photos of the king are burned, et cetera...What surprises me is that they let us cross the Ebro river. Pujol, Carod, and company, why are you surprised?

L. (Catalan) An independentista is not born, he is made by blows like insults, manipulation, injustice, disrespect, boycotts, hate, and scorn. All of this is what Spain shows toward Catalonia.

M. (Spanish) Spain is indescribably disgusting. We want independence and we want it as soon as possible. No one can stand you. Not Gibraltar or anyone.

N. (Spanish) Catalan independence is unstoppable and inevitable. No sane person wants to live tied for life to such a repulsive and oppressive entity as Spain.
O. (Catalan) Spanish nationalists have enjoyed themselves shooting people, above all Catalans. I don't know how many Spanish nationalists CiU or ERC shot, I would say none, and not because they didn't have a good reason to.

P. (Spanish) Without the Spaniards we would live much better, and we're working on it. Soon we'll achieve it.

Q. (Catalan) Keep dreaming about your eternal Spain. In the long run all totalitarian states end up getting what they deserve. Look at the Serbs, so happy with Greater Serbia. Look at them now. Montenegro has left them and Kosovo is next. Here the Spanish-Falangists won't wait one moment to come and massacre us. They'll end up like the Serbs, alone and humiliated. This isn't 1936 any more.

R. (Spanish) It is insulting to see the nerve of the new Spanish ultra-nationalists. Now they are pretending to be democratic and modern when they are nothing more than Franco's puppies. Spanish nationalism is murderous by definition. Catalan nationalism is democratic by choice.

S. (Spanish) Today there are few Falangists left, but there are plenty of Escamots and Maulets. Why do you separatists tend to radicalize? Something tells me that after the hypothetical independence of Catalonia, all this hate will be turned first on the non-Catalanists, then on the moderate Catalanists, etc. I don't want my homeland to become a slaughterhouse.

T. (Spanish) Accusing Catalan nationalism of being violent can only come from a sick mind. Violent, crude, ignorant, anti-democratic, and militarized nationalism has always been Spanish.

U. (Spanish) It's all Bush's fault. That dumb Texan has created most of our problems. I know because one of my relatives works in Washington.

I hope the last one is a joke.

Monday, October 29, 2007

It's Day 6 of the Great Barcelona Commuter Train Transportation Disaster. Zap made a quick trip to the construction site yesterday, along with Montilla and other local dignitaries. He accepted all responsibility for the mess, which was the smart thing to do, since it takes some of the pressure off the local authorities. Then the development minister, Magdalena Alvarez, will be the scapegoat. The ad hoc plan to build the terminus station at El Prat has been shot down.

TV3 is promoting a demonstration to be held this evening at seven in the Plaza Sant Jaume; the organizers are using a blog in order to publicize their demo. I think demos are silly, and have no plan to show up. The most useful place for citizens to express their dissatisfaction is the ballot box.

Let's hope this leads to fewer out-of-line statements by Montilla, who struck back at PP criticism by accusing them of "wanting to win outside the democratic process what the ballot box denies them." That is, they're plotting a coup, Mr. Montilla? Yep, he added: "One hundred years ago, or 70, or only 26, attempts to reach power through non-democratic ways are called, here and everywhere, coups d'etat." Oh, bullshit. Criticizing your party because it bungled an important piece of infrastructure is not precisely undemocratic, and neither is appealing a proposed new law to the Constitutional Court. In fact, such behavior is democratically laudable.

A La Vanguardia survey taken last week shows few changes in the division of Catalan seats in the Madrid Congress of Deputies, to be determined at the March general election. Catalonia has 47 seats; according to the survey, the Socialists would gain two seats at the expense of the Cataloonies, and that's all, leaving the division PSC 23, CiU 10, ERC 8, PP 6, ICV 2.

The verdict in the March 11, 2003 bombings case will be released on Wednesday; the National Court is likely to hand down the harshest sentences possible. Of course, the longest stretch a criminal can serve in prison is 40 years in Spain, and that's not counting possible time off for good behavior, etc.

In Catholic circles, the beatification of 498 of the clerics murdered by the Left during the Spanish Civil War has caused a good bit of fuss in Spain; there's still a lot of Jacobin anti-clericalism around here. Seems to me these people were all murdered because of their religious activity, and that the Church is entirely within its rights in honoring them.

There's a huge mess going on in Chad. Seems that a very questionable French charity group called Zoe's Ark chartered a plane to transport 103 children, supposedly orphans, to France. The Chadian government seized the plane and accused the charity of trafficking in children. The seven-person crew of the plane is Spanish; the charter company operates out of Barcelona. The crew is being held by Chadian authorities. I assume they are innocent of everything but being hired by a shady charity group which they thought was legit, and that they will be turned loose sometime soon.

Good news: Spain's life expectancy has reached 80, one of the highest in the world. Why? Probably a) generally good health care, including preventative maintenance; b) a comparatively relaxed lifestyle; c) comparatively close extended family ties leading to better care of old folks; d) a diet high in fish and fruit, the two things Spaniards eat a lot more of than other Europeans; e) the decline in smoking.

Sports update: Barcelona beat Almeria last night 2-0, putting on an unconvincing show but holding on to second place, two points behind Real Madrid. Barça president Joan Laporta got in a street scuffle outside a restaurant before the match with a former club employee. More classy behavior from Cataloony Laporta, who declared an "independent republic of the Barça" a couple of weeks ago, and once took off his pants when instructed to pass back through an airport metal detector. Rumor has it that Laporta is trying to use his position as Barça president to go into politics. Won't work; he's too big a jerk and everyone knows it.

Serious coach movement in Spain: Juande Ramos left Sevilla to sign with London's Tottenham Hotspur, and Valencia fired Quique Sanchez Flores this morning.

Kansas beat Texas A&M on Saturday, going 8-0 for the first time since 1909. So what if five of the eight teams were schloops?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Barcelona transportation crisis is going to be a political disaster for the Socialists. La Vanguardia is speculating that this mess will do for the PSOE wnat the Prestige disaster did for the PP. (In case you don't remember, the Prestige was an oil tanker that sank off the Galician coast a few years back. The Aznar government was accused by the Socialists of not managing the crisis well, and with some help from the media, the PSOE made it look like the PP were a bunch of dirty unecological polluters.)

Incompetence is rampant. Yesterday a sinkhole opened up under one of the platforms at the Bellvitge commuter station, which is normally very heavily used. Fortunately the station was closed, because people would have been killed. All construction on the AVE line was halted indefinitely by Adif, the central-government owned company in charge of contracting out railway construction. Which should of course be privatized.

Today development (Fomento) minister Magdalena Alvarez announced that she had no plans to resign, though everybody is reporting Zap is going to fire her next week. She also contradicted the Socialist government of Catalonia, the Generalitat; the Gene announced that OHL, one of the contractors working on the AVE, was going to have its contract rescinded, but I guess the central government overruled them.

The Communists (ICV) and the Cataloonies (ERC) are trying to distance themselves from the Catalan Tripartite by demanding minister Alvarez's head. It'll work among their loyalists, but both these parties are going to be badly hurt among the non-hardcore voters who went for them in March 2004 in the wake of the Madrid bombings.

Get this. The idea of improvising a station at El Prat as the temporary terminus of the AVE line is being floated. What awful planning.

The crisis at the Constitutional Court continues. Both the PP and the PSOE are trying to disqualify every judge who disagrees with them for the key upcoming vote on the Catalan statute of autonomy. Since the Court is divided 6-6 (not 5-5, as I had said) between "progressive" and "conservative" groups, and everybody is going to get recused eventually, there is a complete deadlock and there is no precedent for a solution. There is now no way that the Court is going to decide on the Catalan statute case (the PP's appeal to the Court that the statute is unconstitutional) before the all-important March general election.

I have no idea why Spain gives out the Principe de Asturias prizes every year; I suppose they're trying to compete with the Nobel Prizes. Whatever. The ceremony was last night in Oviedo. They gave Al Gove the prize for International Cooperation, and Al showed up and gave a speech. Bob Dylan got the Arts prize, but he was too busy playing Omaha. No kidding. I love Dylan and all, he's probably my favorite musician except maybe for Johnny Cash or Hank Williams, but I don't know why Spain needs to give him a prize. And Michael Schumacher got the Sports prize. Just what he needs.

It'd make sense if these prizes were sort of like the Pulitzers in the US--you'd give one for, say, fiction, nonfiction, theater, film, serious music, popular music, visual art, and you'd give them only to people from Spain. I can see why you'd want national prizes in order to foment culture in your country, and I can even see inviting a Woody Allen or somebody for a special prize every year to make the thing more high-toned. But inventing a prize for Communication and giving it to the magazine Science and Nature? I will give them credit for awarding the Concord prize to Yad Vashem, the Israeli holocaust museum, except that--I don't know quite how to put this, but it seems to me that Yad Vashem's moral stature is considerably higher than that of whoever decides who gets this award.

Sports update: FC Barcelona nneds to get back on track tomorrow night against Almeria after losing against Villarreal in the last league game, and drawing against Glasgow Rangers in the Champions' League. Touré. Márquez, and Zambrotta will all be back from their injuries, and Messi and Ronaldinho are apparently going to play. Barcelona's defense will be immeasurably improved with Zambrotta instead of Oleguer, Márquez instead of Thuram, and Touré instead of Gudjohnsen. (Note: Some English club ought to make an offer for Gudjohnsen; he's a good player but just doesn't seem to fit in here.) Espanyol is having a good year, with homegrown young Albert Riera looking good. Real Madrid is in first place, but their squad isn't anywhere near as good as Barça's.

A lot of noise is being made about getting rid of Ronaldinho. Staying out partying in Brazil instead of coming home in time to play against Villarreal was the tipping point, I think. Without using his name, Joan Golobart called him a "vampire" in his column in La Vangua today: "A vampire leader is one who sucks the energy from his teammates in order to grow," and concluded, "In most situations there is an optimum moment to sell a player, no matter how much he has brought to his club." There have been even more reports than usual about back-office moves being made by Ronaldinho's brother / agent to move him to AC Milan. Team president Joan Laporta denied any plan to sell him to anybody.

Kansas is 7-0 and ranked 10th in the college football polls, but they have to play in College Station tonight. They've already beaten Colorado and K-State on the road, though; on the other hand, the other five teams they beat were a bunch of patsies. Anyway, I'm going to take this opportunity to rub it in on my brother-in-law Phil, who is a Tennessee fan. This week is the first time since about 1969 that KU has been ranked higher than Tennessee, and it may very well not happen again ever. Should KU get past A&M, though, their biggest challenge is Nebraska, who's not very good this year, and KU doesn't even have to play Texas or Oklahoma this year. They just might go into the season-ending showdown with Missouri with only one loss.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The story on President Bush visiting the area of the San Diego fires has received these comments from readers of La Vanguardia:

lylo, Mataro: The images don't look anything like the devastation in Iraq...these rich Americans will collect on their million-dollar insurance policies, but the Iraqi civilians won't.

Diferente: Immediate aid has arrived because the governor is Republican, in New Orleans the mayor and governor were Democrats, there's the difference.

rapadink, Barcelona: Don't forget about the great business that the corporations will do "reconstructing California" like in New Orleans and Iraq...Mr. Bush is a crook who will pay the price within a few years.

junkers: You're totally right, cowboy (sic), in order to prevent fires you have to cut down all the trees. Brilliant. All right? (sic)

Manuel BA: They should have sentenced Bush to life imprisonment a long time ago. A criminal like him cannot walk around loose as if nothing were happening. He is one of the most dangerous thugs on our planet Earth.

Eduardo: Of course it's not like the Katrina situation. In the Malibu area there are a bunch of millionaires, of whom many know Bush personally and can talk to him directly. And with him or without him, they're going to reconstruct the area with even bigger houses. Those from Katrina are still there waiting.

tonimarsa: That thug Bush goes there now with a sad face and I wonder why he didn't go to New Orleans during Katrina.

emyr, Wales: The fires are caused by global warming. Bush should do something about the problem to prevent things like the fires in California and Katrina. It's Bush's fault that the fires are happening!

Note: There's a persistent urban legend around here that Bush once said forest fires could be stopped by cutting down all the trees.

Note II: These attacks on President Bush are clearly anti-Americanism, not criticism of government policy.
Another tragedy on the high seas: A Spanish fishing boat found a cayuco adrift about 400 miles off the coast of the Canaries with one survivor and seven dead bodies aboard. A total of 56 African illegal immigrants died on the boat while it was adrift for twenty days. Three days ago a boat with 106 illegals aboard was found off Tenerife, and last week a boat with 161 illegals washed up on La Palma. Something has got to be done about the crisis of the African boat people, and the place to start is by establishing free trade with those countries and writing off the interest on most foreign debt.

Sergi Xavier Martin, Mr. Douchebag Skinhead who beat up the Ecuadorian girl on the train, has had a court hearing and has been released WITHOUT bail. The judge's reasoning was: The crime wasn't serious enough to jail Mr. Scumball; there are no medical reports proving that the girl was injured; there is no risk Mr. Shithead is going to attack her again; the victim has not suffered serious psychological damage; grabbing her breast was not sexual harassment; and Mr. Asswipe has a fixed domicile.

Therefore, the judge charged him with "an attack against the moral integrity of the person with the aggravating circumstance of xenophobia," for which Mr. Cowardly Punk may be sentenced to between six months and two years in prison. If he is eventually sentenced to a year or less, his sentence will be suspended.

Completely ridiculous. This guy committed assault and battery, it's an open and shut case since the attack is on film and the scumbag admitted it anyway, and he's got priors for armed robbery. Get him off our streets. He ought to be locked up, instead of selling interviews to TV channels and scandal magazines.

The video has gone around the world, and the Latin American media is angry. La Vanguardia says, "The modern, integrating image of Barcelona has suffered a hard blow...Barcelona is associated with racism and xenophobia, and it is stressed that this is not the first serious case of attacks on immigrants."

Nota bene: Barcelona is no more racist than any other big European city, and maybe less so than some. At least for now. Barcelona has no history of foreign immigration, and as recently as 2000 there was very little. Now the number of immigrants is growing so quickly (15% of the city's population) that some conflict is inevitable as society adjusts to a brand new phenomenon.

Violent conflict needs to be stopped as soon as it starts, though, and an excellent way to do this would be to put this dickhead in jail and leave him there as an example to others.

They had a big old demonstration in the Plaza Sant Jaume to protest. 400 people showed up. Of course, they can get more than a million out to demonstrate if the United States decides to take out an aggressive and bloody dictator. The priorities of some illustrated and enlightened Barcelonese seem to be to throw lots of stones without worrying about their own glass house.

Meanwhile, more than 40 illegal immigrants, mostly Moroccans, broke out of the Center for the Internment of Foreigners here in Barcelona last night by simply climbing the fence.

The Madeleine McCann circus continues, with the parents doing an exclusive interview with Antena 3 TV and hiring a Barcelona detective agency. This story will not die, and it's become the European O.J. Simpson case. My guess is that they accidentally overdosed her with a sedative while they went out, came back and found her dead, and panicked and got rid of the body.

Unemployment in Spain in the third quarter rose back above 8%.

The transportation crisis continues in Barcelona. Yesterday's brilliant idea was to make one of the lanes of the Castelldefels motorway buses-only, which didn't work and made the traffic jams worse.

It's beginning to hurt the Socialists. Montilla is blaming Zap big time for this mess, and development minister Magdalena Alvarez looks like she's going to take the fall. Zap is pissed off because he doesn't think he deserves the blame, but the PSC is dumping it on him rather than accepting any responsiblity themselves.

Meanwhile, a while back a big deal was made out of the Madrid government's agreement to transfer control of the Barcelona commuter-train system to the Catalan government on January 1, 2008. But now the Generalitat is refusing to take over the system until the Madrid government has fixed the mess. Wait a minute, guys, isn't the whole point of your demand for more authority here in Catalonia, that the Generalitat can do a much better job than the central government? Why aren't you willing to roll up your sleeves and get to work?

So guess what Socialist-controlled TV3 is trying to whip up on its morning show today? That's right, Catalunacy. The big debate today is going to be on why it pisses Cataloonies off when they address someone else in Catalan and get an answer in Spanish. Give it a rest, people, we've got a few more important things to worry about right now.
Congratulations to Spain on hitting the trifecta this year in the category "drunk truck drivers transporting hazardous cargo before dawn." The cops pulled over this guy driving a truck hauling diesel fuel, for weaving in and out of his lane and nearly causing an accident, in the Baix Llobregat suburbs. He blew four times the legal limit, and, get this, he was perusing a catalogue on top of his steering wheel while driving. At eight in the morning. What is it that makes these guys think it's a good idea to get up early, get drunk, and haul a load of diesel? They're too smart to pull a stunt like that even in Oklahoma.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Some guy on my referrals log Googled "spanish politician pujol yoda."
It's been a very long time since we've done a blog roundup, so here goes.

A Fistful of Euros comments on continuity between Nazi Germany and the early Federal Republic.

Barcepundit has the dope on an old Bush-Aznar conversation leaked by the Zap administration to El Pais.

Biased BBC sees an anti-Bush prejudice in coverage of the southern California fires.

The Brussels Journal reviews a Diana West book blaming the wimpiness of Western civilization on the Sixties, the welfare state, and feminism.

Colin Davies posts on everything that happens in Spain, and is nice enough to add a link to us.

Davids Medienkritik links to a documentary on European anti-Americanism. Highly recommended.

Eursoc reports on Italy's proposed law that would gag bloggers. This is one of the most repressive laws that I have ever seen, much worse than anything Bush or Blair ever did.

Expat Yank comments on an incredibly dumb statement by Doris Lessing.

Fausta has plenty about the Chavez and Correa show.

Guirilandia, who is considering retirement, has one on the meaning of "relax" in Spain.
Includes a video of Salvador Dalí on What's My Line.

Trevor has a photo of a stolen Dutch bicycle for sale at Els Encants market, where they have absolutely all the junk (mostly fished out of garbage skips) you might ever want. I keep saying I'm going to go down there and see if any of the old magazine dealers have a copy of Signal, the Nazi propaganda magazine sold in Europe during World War II.

La Liga Loca keeps us all up on the latest news from the top national obsession of Spanish males. Cars would be second, with women coming in a poor third. Or maybe food and drinking would come in third, with women dropping to fourth place.

LA-Madrid Files has a fascinating piece on a guy who combined the worst excesses of both New York and Madrid, and is therefore not surprisingly dead.

No Pasaran! recommends Johann Fest's autobiography of his childhood during the Nazi years, comparing it with Gunter Grass's, and points out a few differences between today's US and Nazi Germany.

Notes from Spain
has been running a generally lighthearted series on "The Worst of Spain." Check it out.

Observing Hermann posts on a German cultural thing that I had never heard about before.

The Dissident Frogman takes a shot at both Bernard Kouchner and Der Spiegel.
This town is talking about only two things: Mr. Piece of Shit Skinhead, whose attack on the Ecuadorian girl has been televised around the world, and the disastrous commuter train situation.

Interestingly, there hasn't been a bunch of soul-searching and meditation on institutional racism around here, the way there always is in the States when something like this happens. For example, look at the "Jena 6" case: six black teenagers in Assboink, Louisiana stomp a white kid half to death, for whatever reason, they get charged with attempted murder, and garments are rent among the illustrated and enlightened. Here there's been a great deal of condemnation of Mr. Scumbag Skinhead, but no self-questioning by society.

Meanwhile, the State Development Ministry has admitted that the AVE to Barcelona won't be in service until at least January, if not February.

La Vanguardia blames it on a combination of the inefficiency of the state, regional, and municipal governments: "Negotiations about this section of the AVE go back to the end of the Nineties, with the PP governing in Madrid, CiU (governing the Generalitat), and the Socialists, Communists, and later also ERC (governing the city). The three sides negotiated from different perspectives. Those in Madrid planned a line in the straightest line possible. Others wanted to go toward France, and the others wanted to develop the city. Some wanted the line to go through Cornellà, others through the Vallés, and the third to the airport and La Sagrera. The solution was to take the choice in the middle, to Sants, for many the worst possible solution."

Those responsible seem to have: underestimated the difficulty of tunneling through the soft soil of the Llobregat delta; rejected the possibility of using an underground tunneling machine, choosing instead to dig a trench to be later covered; set an unrealistic target date for the AVE's completion for electoral reasons; underestimated the possible consequences of working too hastily; and not planned for the possible transportation problems the construction would cause.

So La Vanguardia editorializes today on the fires in Southern California: "In any case, the management of emergencies and internal security in the United States is not sufficient. The policy of reducing the structures of the states leads to situations that make them ineffective, as is happening now in California."

Huh? I thought part of the story of these fires is that the government's crisis management HAS been effective this time, especially at the state and local level--precisely the opposite of New Orleans, where state and local government performance was truly lousy. And what does all of this have to do with "reducing the structures of the states," which I think means cutting the budget? Besides that, California HASN'T cut its emergency management budget, and neither has any other administration.

Says Eusebio Val: "Exactly as happens in Florida with hurricanes, in California massive urbanization has invaded formerly protected areas. If you defy nature, it will take revenge...More and more construction is happening in frontier areas between what is urban and what is natural; this increases the dangers."

Seems to me that whenever any city anywhere in the world expands, it grows into areas that were once "natural" and non-urban, no? So why is this particularly problematic in San Diego and not, say, Barcelona?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Kansas City Royals announced their coaching staff for next year. One of the new hires is a guy named Rusty Kuntz. If I were him, I'd have changed my name to something like Joe Smith a long time ago.
News from these here parts: Pepelu Carod-Rovira is now everybody's favorite TV show guest because of the probability that he will say something outrageous. He's already been on Monica Terribas's TV3 show, and he's supposed to appear on Buenafuente and Jordi Gonzalez later this week. My guess is that he'll make a lot more enemies than converts, and all those enemies will be fired up to vote for the PP. All Rajoy has to do is say, "A vote for Zap is a vote for Pepelu," which is true, since the Socialists have been allied with Pepelu's party both in the Catalan regional and Barcelona municipal governments.

The cops busted an alleged Islamist North African pro-terrorist cell in Burgos, of all places, making six arrests. They were recruiting jihadi volunteers, raising money for the terrorist cause, and spreading pro-terrorist propaganda, and they'll be charged with conspiracy and belonging to a terrorist gang as well. The story I want to see is Iraqi Baath Party spokesman and agent "Abu Mohamed" behind bars, as well as his Spanish contacts who helped him raise money to kill his fellow Iraqis.

Scandal on a Barcelona commuter train: A Catalan skinhead (his name is Sergi Xavier Martin, not Sergio Javier, as Pepelu would say) was caught on a security camera harassing a young Ecuadorian girl, using racist slurs and grabbing her breasts. Then he hauled off and karate-kicked her right in the face, and followed it up with a few punches. There were other people in the train car, but no one did anything, and the skinhead just got off the train at the next stop. The girl was so afraid she didn't even report it to the police.

Shocking racism and violence. What a piece of shit. If you want to fight, pick on someone your own size. Typical skinhead courage. I hate those assholes.

This story is being played up big in the European media as an example of Spanish racism, and Al Jazira is playing it up; I don't think Spain's more racist than anywhere else in Europe. Wherever you go, there are a few assholes; this appalling scene is neither common nor typical around here.

So get this. Mr. Asswipe Skinhead had an arrest record for, get this, armed robbery, but he was walking around free and clear. When the cops busted him for attacking the girl, he was arraigned, and they TURNED HIM LOOSE on bail. There was a public outcry, and now they say they're going to arrest him again and jail him without bail sometime later this week.

The US criminal justice system is sometimes harsh, but I guarantee you this would not have happened in the US, because Mr. Piece of Shit Skinhead would have been serving five to ten for the armed mugging he committed, and he would be looking at five to ten more for this assault and battery charge, aggravated by the violation of the hate crime law. We'll see how much time he actually does.

Also, on the subway in, say, Chicago, you never know who might have a gun, so it's smart not to go around kicking people in the face. Never knowing who might have a gun has its negative side, of course, but an armed society tends to be a polite society.

The Al Gore Traveling Patent Medicine Show was back in town this week, as Reverend Al flew into town on his private jet and picked up another €200,000 for giving his stump speech. Supposedly the two hundred grand goes to Al's foundation, which I think is a synonym for his campaign fund. I don't think he's running for 2008, though, because he'd be on the trail in New Hampshire and Iowa right now if he were. Unless he's planning on a "Draft Al" movement at the convention.

It's Day 3 of Operation Traffic Disaster in Barcelona, with the commuter trains still down and huge traffic jams on the highways leading into the city. The Socialist Generalitat is blaming the Socialist central government, and the central government is blaming the allegedly pro-PP contractors, while the Cataloonies as usual blame some kind of sinister Madrid conspiracy to keep Catalonia down.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Transportation chaos continues today in the Barcelona metro area. Everything is snarled up. Three RENFE (State-owned) and one FGC (region-owned) commuter lines (serving the southern and western suburbs from Sants central station) are cut off because of complications from construction on the parallel AVE (high-speed) line which is to connect Madrid and Barcelona. Vice-prime minister De la Vega admitted the RENFE lines would be down for two weeks, and the FGC line is going to be down for two months. At least. Those train lines transported 160,000 passengers a day, which I assume means 80,000 people daily on round-trips. The fleet of buses that was hastily improvised to cover the transit gap is not doing the job, and city street traffic is up more than 10%, which the system can not handle without massive traffic jams. And the AVE will definitely not have been completed in time for Christmas.

So get this. De la Vega blamed the contractors doing the work for delaying construction, presumably for political reasons. SER Radio, which belongs to pro-Socialist media conglomerate PRISA, specifically accused a company named OHL, which belongs to a well-known PP supporter, of creating intentional delays.

As usual in Spain, the best defense is a good offense. We, the Socialists, look bad because a major transportation screwup is happening on our watch? Let's just blame the PP and other assorted conspirators who care about nothing but damaging us politically.
Let this be a warning to all of you. Do not put off going to the dentist for seven years, no matter how much you hate it, or you too will have what seems like eighteen cavities to be filled. Then you will have to spend a very long, uncomfortable time in the chair and your whole mouth will be sore for several days.

The quality of medical, dental, etc. care in Spain is very high, but it's done a little differently than it is in the States. Americans expect to be pampered by their health care personnel. They expect to be treated as a personal, special case, which the system can handle as long as it's private.

It doesn't work that way in Spain. The National Health is overworked, you wait in line, and they get you in and get you out as fast as they can. Dental care (except for extractions) is all private in Spain, but they've learned their style from the National Health. You open up, they shoot you full of a lot of anaesthetic that keeps your mouth numb for the rest of the day, they drill out every tooth you need work on, and then fill them up. That's it. No pampering. No special treatment. You're just a mouth, not a person.

I actually think I prefer it the Spanish way. Less hassle, and it's over and done with fast. None of this "we'll do it one tooth at a time and come back next week" stuff. And it's a good bit cheaper than it is in the US, where most people's health insurance covers dental care and dentists charge whatever they want to. In Spain, where few people have such an insurance policy, dentists can't charge exorbitant prices because patients can't afford it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Cataloonies came out in force last night with a big old wingding hoo-haw at the Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona's arena, demanding the return of the "Salamanca papers." We've discussed this many times already; after the Spanish Civil War, enormous quantities of files and papers were stored at the Civil War Archive in Salamanca. A few years ago, the Cataloonies, looking for a divisive issue, demanded that all documents that originally belonged to Catalan organizations (the Generalitat, the CNT, the PSUC, and all that lot) be turned over to the current Catalan government.

Of course, this is a big "Who cares?" It's a bunch of old historical papers from seventy years ago of interest to nobody but a few historians. Besides, the Zap government has already agreed to send them to Catalonia anyway. The big old wingding hoo-haw was held, get this, in order to demand that they be turned over RIGHT NOW.

They managed to get 12,000 people with absolutely no sense of proportion to show up at the Palau Sant Jordi for this. I've never seen 12,000 Barcelonese turn out against, say, the Castro dictatorship or the Burmese junta or Saddam Hussein, but the Cataloonies among them will yell and scream for hours over some files from seventy years ago. The justification repeated over and over at the wingding hoo-haw was, "The papers were stolen from us and we want them because it's a question of national dignity." National dignity is something you earn, not something you demand, and whining en masse is not dignified, but instead rather pathetic.

Pepelu Carod-Rovira was of course the star of the show, with Communist Joan Saura and CiU leader Artur Mas there as well. Of course there was some opening up of old wounds: some descendents of Lluís Companys, the wartime Catalan premier shot after the war (with some justification--he was in charge while 8000 alleged fascists were murdered between 1936 and 1939 in Catalonia), and relatives of wannabe anarchist terrorist Salvador Puig Antich, garroted in 1974 (with some justification--he shot two cops, killing one), were there in order to whip up some anger and indignation.

Naturally, the real function of this wingding hoo-haw was to serve as a political rally, since the general election is coming up in March. The whole thing is really very cynical, as nobody with any sense cares about these damn papers; they might as well stay in Salamanca or be transferred to Barcelona, it really doesn't matter as long as historians have access to them. Besides, somebody should have microfilmed them all long ago, and if they're so important, they could be posted on the Internet to make them accessible to anyone anywhere.

Of course, the highlight of the show was when Sixties leftovers Raimon, earth's worst folk singer, and Maria del Mar Bonet, earth's biggest Joan Baez copycat, sang all the old revolutionary nationalist hit songs, only slightly relevant now that the Franco regime has been dead for thirty-two years.

What I really want to know is: Who paid for this? It must cost a couple of hundred thousand euros to rent out the Palau Sant Jordi for a night. Did this come from the taxpayers' pocket or from the pockets of the political parties represented? If from the political parties, how much of the cash did they get from illegal kickbacks?

Meanwhile, Barcelona's metropolitan area is completely snarled up, since they've closed down the Barna Sants-Bellvitge-Airport commuter train line because of the construction on the parallel high-speed train line, which most certainly won't be finished by Christmas as it was supposed to be. They kept having cave-ins on the commuter train line, and so it will be closed down for, officially, one week. I bet it doesn't reopen for a lot longer than that. They're substituting a fleet of buses for the train, but it's not working very well, and the streets are flooded with cars since people who normally use the train drove into town today.

My old boss, Federico Jiménez Losantos, who is right on some issues and very wrong on others, has dragged King Juan Carlos into his partisan struggle against Zap and the Socialists. I don't like Zap and the Socialists at all, and I heartily hope that they lose the election, but Jimenez Losantos has a big conspiracy theory set up in his brain about a plot between the Zapsters and ETA and Pepelu Carod and those guys to break up Spain and establish a Masonic-Bolshevik regime. Absurd on the face of it, and besides Zap's not that smart anyway. Losantos claims that the Zapsters are somehow using the King as a tool as part of this great conspiracy, and he wants Juan Carlos to abdicate in favor of Prince Felipe. How dumb.

Note: If you thought some items in the old Spain Herald were pretty crazy, you should have seen them before I translated them to English. Once, during a long string of daily attacks on Socialist party hack Gregorio Peces Barba, I sent back a story with the note, "Is this the Spain Herald or the Peces Barba News?" We laid off that subject for a while.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

We reported several years ago that Bill Clinton's black Labrador retriever Buddy, which he got during the dark days of the impeachment in order to make him look cuddly, was hit by a car and killed not long after Clinton's presidential term ended.

Now it's being reported that Socks the cat, supposedly Chelsea's pet, was dumped on long-suffering secretary Betty Currie when Bill and Hillary moved out of the White House.

Poor Buddy and Socks. They thought they were loved and cherished parts of a family's life, but they were just public relations props that made the hungrily ambitious Clintons seem like real people with human feelings.

And the children of America, deceived by Hillary's mendacious "book" about Buddy and Socks's bucolic, idyllic lives with the Clinton family in the White House. The poor animals were cynically used in order to steal our children's innocence.

Those of us who love our animal friends must stop heartless Hillary now, before she becomes President again and exploits more dogs and cats to burnish her image for her sinister political purposes.

So I'm organizing a political action committee called AnimaL Lovers Against Hillary (ALLAH), in order to publicize Hillary Clinton's manipulation of our emotions and feelings.

We need volunteers and contributions for our struggle against America's Number One hypocritical pet exploiter! My cat Oscar has already volunteered to scratch Hillary if she ever gets within five feet of him. Let's see some humans show the same spirit!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Former Barcelona mayor and Catalan premier Pasqual Maragall of the Catalan Socialist Party announced this morning that he has Alzheimer's disease. This might explain a few things that have happened in recent years.

I've never had a positive opinion of Maragall as a politician, and I think he was a lousy premier. However, he seems to be a decent person, and I'm sorry this happened to him. Let's hope modern medical treatment can do its best for him and other Alzheimer's sufferers--and yes, that includes stem cell research.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Just to show you how much Pepelu Carod-Rovira's performance brought out the radicals on both sides of the Catalan nationalism issue: La Vanguardia's story (video link included) has received 1566 comments so far, which is an all-time record. Most of the comments are pro-Pepelu: his little tantrum has really brought his supporters out in force, so the tantrum was successful. He's distracted his grass-roots base from the pathetic show he and his henchman Bargalló put on in Frankfurt.

Not to mention the scene with Maragall and the crown of thorns in Jerusalem, the most disrespectful public behavior I've ever seen--Pepelu and Maragall managed to offend Jews, Muslims, and Christians simultaneously by clowning around at their holy place. And, of course, Pepelu's worst-ever error, or act of high treason, depending on how you look at it: meeting with ETA representatives in Perpignan, France, and negotiating a "truce" in Catalonia.

By the way, Maragall has resigned from the Catalan Socialist Party. There's talk about a new party in Italy called the Democratic Party, which is supposed to be similar to the US Democratic Party, and Maragall has been mentioned several times as a possible founding member of a Catalan and / or Spanish branch.

Other news: The construction of the high-speed train (AVE) to Sants station in Barcelona is being done in a tremendous hurry, since it's supposed to be ready for Christmas. There have been five cave-ins within the last week on the commuter-train line next to the AVE line, and the commuter system is snarled up every day, leaving hundreds of thousands of users stuck in tunnels or on platforms for hours. Sloppy work. Let's hope nobody gets killed.

The Cordoba-Antequera-Malaga AVE and the Madrid-Segovia-Valladolid AVE will also be ready for Christmas, and they've apparently done the work well in those two places.

I suppose everyone has heard that more than 130 people were killed and hundreds were wounded when a suicide bomber attacked Benazir Bhutto's motorcade in Karachi. I'll just bet that Al Qaeda had something to do with it.

There is a very confusing political-juridical mess going on right now in Madrid, and I'm not sure if I understand what's going on. The situation is that the ten-member Constitutional Court is divided 5-5 between a "progressive" faction linked with the PSOE and a "conservative" faction linked with the PP. In Spain the justice system is openly partisan.

The Constitutional Court is going to have to rule on appeals against the new Catalan statute of autonomy (US = state constitution) filed by the PP; the PP says that the Catalan statute violates the Constitution because its provisions interfere with the rights of other autonomous regions. They're probably right, as far as this non-lawyer can tell.

So what happened is the conservatives of the court voted to disqualify two of the progressives on the ground that they were not neutral, since they had worked for the Generalitat, the Catalan regional government. Don't ask me how they got away with this.

Now, for the first time ever, the Zap administration has filed a motion to disqualify two of the Court's conservatives on grounds I can't figure out. We'll see what happens, but no matter what, the Catalan statute is not going to make it through the courts; too many people in both big political parties are against it, as are the great majority of Spaniards.

Comments from lawyers would be welcome.
In case anyone is interested, the last 100 readers of Iberian Notes logged in from the following countries:

Spain 51
United States 28
France, United Kingdom 3
Japan, Germany, South Africa 2
Switzerland, Australia, Philippines, Costa Rica, Canada, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, Netherlands, "Europe," "Satellite Provider" 1
Here's the piece that was posted at Pajamas Media on Monday. I've only included the two most important links here.

Barcelona daily newspaper La Vanguardia, which has been published since 1881, likes to consider itself the reasonable and moderate voice of the Catalan middle class. What passes for responsibility in the conspiracy-theorizing Spanish press is a long way from the ideal, though. Today they’ve set a new record for journalistic irresponsibility and amorality.

La Vanguardia has actually become a mouthpiece for terrorists. This morning they’ve given the two lead pages of their International section to a spokesman for the Iraqi Baath Party.

Reporter Carla Fibla interviews one “Abu Mohamed” in Madrid; Abu Mohamed is billed as “The spokesman for the Baath Party and the armed resistance.” There’s a photo of him, taken from behind. Fibla says he is a university professor and that he has been in Madrid for the past week making contact with “organizations opposed to the American occupation in Iraq in order to explain the resistance’s projects and objectives.”

The Spanish government should track down Abu Mohamed and arrest him and his contacts immediately. He is the spokesman for a terrorist organization, and apology for terrorism is strictly illegal in Spain. Twenty-two leaders of Batasuna, the ETA-front political party in Spain, were arrested just last week on orders from Judge Baltasar Garzón on charges of membership in a terrorist organization and apology for terrorism. Abu Mohamed is no different from Arnaldo Otegi, the Batasuna spokesman who is right now facing a prison term here in Spain. And anybody Abu Mohamed meets with is guilty of collaboration with a terrorist gang.

If the Spanish government doesn’t arrest him, the CIA ought to grab him and send him off to a torture camp in the Ukraine. (Assuming they do such things, that is.) If he knows what the Baath Party terrorists’ plans and goals are, he is a legitimate target.

One thing Abu Mohamed says is that his “resistance,” which he claims includes 80% of anti-Iraqi-democracy terrorists, is also “fighting” Al Qaeda and the Iranians.

Sure, the national-socialist Baath Party probably doesn’t like either of them any better than it likes the elected Iraqi government or the Americans and British. But somehow I doubt they’re actually “fighting” either of them.

Abu Mohamed told his interviewer:

Iran’s interest in Al Qaeda is the creation of a sectarian confrontation in Iraq. Something they are fueling because Al Qaeda is supported by the Mossad.

Yeah, right.

We, the Baath and the resistance, believe that this is not a government, but a gang of collaborators and spies who have created something they call the Government and Parliament, and have organized fraudulent elections in order to impose their plans on Iraq. The Government will fall before the occupation.

So he brags that they are trying to overthrow the elected Iraqi government. When somebody tries to overthrow the elected Spanish government, like ETA, we call them terrorists and put them in jail. Spain should do no less with Abu Mohamed and his homegrown Spanish collabos.

Iraq is living under occupation, subjugated by external elements who collaborate with them: political parties, militias, and death squads that murder in the name of the occupation.

If I remember correctly, the Iraqi government was elected by the Iraqi people, and if anybody’s murdering anybody, it’s the “armed resistance.”

Most of the people support the resistance.
That’s not what the election results said.

Terrorism is an American product. There has been terrorism in Iraq since the invasion; before Al Qaeda did not exist for us, there were no militias, no death squads, nor murders, nor kidnappings.

Except the ones Saddam and the Baath Party committed, of course.

The current destruction of infrastructure, theft of the money and wealth of the country, sectarian confrontations, it’s all a product of the occupation.

The Socialist Baath Party has … become a party of resistance. We want to expel the occupation, put an end to the invasion, and establish a pluralist democratic regime based on alternating powers … In my party we have always aspired to democratic functioning, even during the time of the regime of the martyr Saddam Hussein democracy was practiced at an internal level.

“The martyr Saddam Hussein”?

At the beginning of October we will unite with other nationalist and Islamic factions to form a supreme command, the High Command of the Jihad and Liberation, led by Aezt al Duri (the ex-vice-president of Iraq during the Saddam Hussein regime.) It includes 22 factions in the whole country that represent 80% of armed resistance.

Yep. This guy says straight out that his party “represents armed resistance” — which of course means killing all Iraqis who don’t agree with them, not to mention the occasional American soldier.

What the combatants need are weapons, and there are Iraqi army technicians in the resistance making them, above all mines.

Mines are the kind of weapon that kills the most American soldiers.

As the resistance and as the Iraqi people, we value the withdrawal of Spanish troops, as well as the support of the Spanish people against the war. This brave decision will have a positive reaction in the future relations of free Iraq with Spain.

“The support of the Spanish people against the war”? So Abu Mohamed says that Spanish public opinion has aided the terrorists. That’ll make many Spanish very happy.

The US must recognize and accept our patriotic national rights. They are the following: the unconditional and total withdrawal from Iraq, accepting the consequences of the invasion and occupation, paying indemnizations to Iraq as a state and a people, overturning all the illegal laws that are the fruit of the political process, freeing all Iraqi prisoners, annulling trials under the illegal occupation and the Security Council resolutions based on article 7 from 1991 until now, based on lies; and ceasing incursions into the houses of Iraqis with the excuse that they belong to the resistance. Also, the collaborationists who have committed high treason against the country and the people must be turned over to the government.

Abu Mohamed is a supporter of Saddam who wants the UN to revoke all their resolutions against that thug. And La Vanguardia gives him two full pages.

If (the UN) again serves as an instrument to carry out the US’s project, as occurred in the destruction of Iraq, killing in its name more than two million Iraqis and legitimizing the occupation, then the resistance and the Baath will reject any UN intervention. The resistance will decide the future of Iraq.

No, he really doesn’t care what the UN thinks.

There are international leaders who have been elected democratically but who direct dictatorial and criminal governments, like for example Bush. Nonetheless, there are leaders who were not elected democratically, and practice policies of human rights and freedom. It is related to a moral vision, the relation between the ruler and the people has to be human. Not to defend the previous regime, but, the relationship between the leaders and the people was moral and human.

So he’s anti-democratic, but supports dictators who are “moral and human.” How can anyone who believes in democracy and the rule of law support this man and what he stands for?

(American) soldiers cry in the streets of Baghdad and many refuse to follow orders.

Interviewer: There have been dozens of American deserters. Do you help them leave the country?

Yes, in many cases. I call on American soldiers, because we are still willing to help them leave Iraq.

The American soldiers are refusing to follow orders and are deserting by the dozen, and the Baath Party is hiding them? First I’d heard of that.

Our political project is very clear. All Iraqis, parties, movements, currents, and persons, no matter their names, except for traitors to Iraq, will be part of the agreement when they recognize the rights of Iraq. The traitors know who they are, all of those who have helped the occupier in the invasion and who collaborate with the American project. They are lackeys.

That sounds like everyone who voted in the elections is a traitor and will be treated as one if the Baath somehow manages to take over again.

We have been invited (to Spain) by the State Campaign against the Occupation and for the Sovereignty of Iraq (CEOSI), a movement that supports the rights and welfare of the Iraqis. We represent the Iraqi people and give thanks for the opportunity to tell what is happening in our country. This allows us to transmit our message to the occupier from outside.

He fulsomely thanks La Vanguardia for allowing him to spread propaganda.

The CEOSI needs to have its headquarters raided right now to find out how much of its money (which it claims is for “medical aid”) has gone into the hands of the Baath Party terrorists, with whom they are openly in contact. I would expect a long string of arrests to follow. Googling “CEOSI” leads you to an enormous long string of links that clearly show it’s a front for the Communists and those to their left.

The CEOSI is mixed up with Ramsey Clark’s International Action Center, and we all know who those guys are: a front for the Workers World Party, a bunch of Trotskyist-Maoists.

They’re still fighting the Cold War, they’re the Vanguard of the Revolution, and the Baath Party is their proxy now.

La Vanguardia allows readers to comment on all stories on their website, something few newspapers in Spain do. I counted 15 comments in favor of the Baath Party, and 13 against; pro-terrorist, anti-American feeling is unfortunately widespread in Barcelona. Check out some of these pro-terrorist comments from La Vanguardia’s readership.

Pepe (Miami): Send this interview to the New York Times and let’s see if they figure it out in the US, here the media only tells lies.

dax (L’Ametlla del Vallés): You can’t call people who defend their fatherland invaded by the Westerners terrorists. The only terrorist is Bhus (sic) who for economic interests has no doubts about turning Iraq into a second Vietnam. The same thing that happened there will happen to him.

MonsieurTon: Very, very interesting. Let’s hope this leader gets more chances to explain his message, and that our media listen to him. Bravo LV!

Teresa (Barcelona): I don’t understand how anyone can say the US has killed few Iraqis (How dare we!) And a question: Aren’t the invaders and occupiers responsible for security, especially among the civilian population? Yes, for every one of the deaths, which are several hundred thousand…

ahaverus: Well, I think it’s normal that an invaded people organizes itself against the occupying army. Everything else is secondary. I suppose we would do the same in a similar case, independently of our sympathies with Zapatero or the PP.

Mar (Buenos Aires): The media must give a voice to those who do not have one so that it can reach the ears of those the warlike empires are trying to disinform. Excellent report … American imperialism is hurting us directly. It is not just a war for oil, but to extend terrorism and justify international bellicism.

Pathetic. Fortunately there are a few sensible people in Spain who disagree with these idiots.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More corruption: The president of the Valencian Socialist Party, Joan Ignasi Pla, was forced to resign today. He got some land in Denia rezoned so that a contractor friend of his could build a new subdivision. Nobody is surprised. Political parties do that all the time.

Weirdness: They've been digging up the Plaza Lesseps just up the hill from my house for what seems like the last decade, and today they found two skeletons buried under it. The cops are investigating.

Get this: There is a shantytown on the western outskirts of Madrid (right next to the landfill) called the Cañada Real Galiana, with about 2000 buildings and 30,000 inhabitants, mostly gypsies, Moroccans, and Romanians. The cops were ordered to tear down a shack that had been built in the public right-of-way. The residents put up a fight, which ended up with 22 injured, including eleven cops and eleven Moroccans. Nine Moroccans were arrested. This shantytown is the area's largest center of drug dealing and crime. The administration plans to tear down all shacks in the right-of-way, which is apparently a lot of them. Sad situation. Hard to know what to do in cases like this. I suppose you have to deport the Moroccans who are here illegally and help the rest of them find temporary shelter of some kind. After arresting all those wanted by the police, which is probably a pretty high percentage.

Barcelona's 2007 budget: €2.35 billion. €875 million comes from municipal taxes and fees. I guess the rest comes from the central government in Madrid, of course from everyone's taxes.
One of the things about Catalan nationalism is that there are complete and total jerks on both sides of the issue. Case in point: Albert Boadella, a theatrical director and playwright, who is one of the founders of the Ciutadans anti-Catalan-nationalist political party. I generally agree with Ciutadans's view on nationalism, because it's on the right side of the issue in its campaign against anti-Spanish discrimination.

But Boadella is a self-righteous prick. He's disgruntled because the "cultureta"--that is, the Generalitat-subsidized official lower-middlebrow Tàpies-Porcel-Llach-Joel Joan-Els Pets TV3 Catalan-only exclusivist branch of Catalan culture, which just embarrassed itself before the whole world in Frankfurt--has ignored him and denied him subsidies ever since he began criticizing them. So of course he has to react immaturely. He's written a book, and he held the premiere on a boat offshore of Barcelona "in order not to do it on Catalan territory." How childish.

Of course, this doesn't mean he's going to pack up and leave, since "the climate is benign as long as the nationalists can't change it." Boadella claims that in the rest of Spain, his works fill theaters, while in Catalonia "the silent majority" does not. Well, Al, the market has spoken. People around here won't go see your stuff, for whatever reason. So you have two choices: Give the people what they want, or don't change what you're doing and accept that you're going to be poor and ignored.

But no, Boadella blames his lack of success on a Catalan-nationalist campaign against him, on the part of both Convergence and Union and the Catalan Socialist Party, which would be just about the first time those two lots ever agreed on anything. He claims that they unfairly criticized his work because of his politics; I'd respond that his politics are an integral part of his work, which is generally crappy anyway. Boadella added that he "cares less about Catalonia than Burma."

He's just as bad as Carod-Rovira, but on the other side.

Other notes: Iberia announced that starting in 2010 it will fly four regular nonstop routes from Barcelona El Prat to the US and Latin America. Hey, all you right-thinking perennially indignant Barcelonese, if America sucks so bad, why do you want direct flights there so desperately?

TV3 is gleefully chortling that Sarkozy will be brought down by the combination of the transport strike and his separation from his wife. Naturally, as good capital-S Socialists, they're playing up the marital-discord part, and playing down the fact that Sarkozy is going to stomp the unions on this one. Hispano-Catalan lefties, who are all Francophiles and Americaphobes, have been terribly disappointed at France's turn to the right; they feel abandoned by their parents.

Judge Garzón jailed two more Batasuna leaders, charging them with belonging to a terrorist organization. He added that he was going to lock up a whole bunch more of them. Good. ETA-fomented "kale borroka," street violence in the Basque country, is up massively over the last week. I don't understand why there aren't lots of plainclothes cops all over Basqueland ready to whack these jerks on the head as soon as they torch an ATM or a garbage skip.

The Guardia Civil finished its search of the Odyssey ship, and they didn't find anything or they would have announced it. The ship has been released and is free to go.

The IMF predicts a Spanish economic growth rate of 2.7% for 2008, and Spain's second-largest bank, BBVA, predicts 2.8%. The Zap government's prediction is 3.3%. We'll see who's right. I'm going with the BBVA, since they're the private institution whose income depends on getting such predictions correct. For 2007 the IMF and the Zap government agree that growth will be about 3.7%. The IMF warns that Spanish housing prices may decline because credit has become tighter, making the demand smaller, and it adds that the housing market is considerably more overvalued in such European countries as Britain, Ireland, and Spain than it is in the US. It estimates Eurozone growth for 2007 at 2.5% and for 2008 at 2.1%. The rise in the price of the euro--it hit $1.43 today--is hurting Spanish exports; Spain runs about a 10% trade deficit, which is made up by income from tourism.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pepelu Carod-Rovira, president of the pro-Catalan-independence Izquierda Republicana de Cataluña (ERC) political party and Vice-Premier of the Catalan Generalidad, has decided that the best defense is a good offense.

Don Pepelu and his henchman, Pepe Bargalló, just made incredible fools of themselves by bragging before the TV cameras that they had scored a nonexistent invitation for Cataluña to host a pavilion at the 2009 Venice Biennial art fair. The Venice Biennial immediately responded that Pepelu and Pepe were full of poop. In feigned embarrassment, Pepe Bargalló turned in his resignation as Head President Number One Nabob of the Instituto Ramón Llull, the government organization that is supposed to do for Catalan what the Instituto Cervantes does for Spanish. Pepelu refused to accept the resignation, of course, and everybody's still holding their lovely government positions.

So Pepelu went to TV1 in Madrid for a program called "I Have a Question for You," in which ordinary citizens ask questions to politicians. Zap and Rajoy have both been on, and last night they invited Pepelu, Llamazares the Communist, and Unión Democrática leader Durán y Lérida.

Four million people were watching throughout Spain.

And Pepelu got all indignant. Very indignant. His dignity was injured. More than that, Holy Cataluña and the Sacred Catalan Language were desecrated.

Some people from Valladolid had the nerve to address him as "Don José Luis."

Here's the video; Pepelu comes on. He's the short bald guy with the combover and the brushy mustache who looks like your 11th grade geometry teacher--you remember that guy, the one with BO who wore a maroon polyester blazer and stared at all the girls' chests.

(Note: Non-Catalan Spaniards do not like the fact that bilingual Catalans can leave Catalonia and pass a government job exam in Spanish, but monolingual Spaniards cannot come to Catalonia and pass a job exam in Catalan.)


Young man: Good evening, don José Luis.

Pepelu: Excuse me. My name is Josep Lluís.

YM: I don't understand Catalan.

Pepelu: You don't have to understand Catalan. My name is my name just as much here as in China. You have no right to change my name.

YM: Señor Carod-Rovira, or whatever you prefer...

Pepelu: No, not what I prefer, what my name is.

YM: My question is simple. Don't you think it's unfair that a Castilian-Leonese, which I am, shouldn't be able to go to Catalonia to take a civil service exam because Catalan is demanded, but it can be done the other way around? Don't you think since both Catalan and Spanish are co-official languages in Catalonia, people should be judged by their knowledge and skills before the language?

Pepelu: You're right, people should be judged by their skills, and in Cataluña there are two official languages. Those who know both languages have more skills than those who only know one. If you went to work as a doctor in Paris would you claim to feel rejected because you didn't know the language of Paris?

YM: But we're talking about Spain.

Pepelu: That's where I wanted to go. Well, this Spain that you love is a Spain that is only in Spanish.

Old Woman: Good evening, don José Luis. I'm from Castilla y León, and I'm sorry I don't know Catalan.

Pepelu: Allow me to repeat something to you. Don't bother. My name is not José Luis. If you haven't learned in the three centuries between 1714 and today to say Josep Lluís, but you know how to say Schwarzenegger and Shevardnadze, you have a problem, not me.

OW: I have no interest in learning Catalan, thank you.

Pepelu: If you have no interest in learning Catalan, how is it that you want people in Catalonia to feel comfortable in a state (Spain) that expresses the scorn for the language that you just showed.

What a self-righteous prick.

Well, he got what he wanted. All the Cataloonies, who only live in Cataluña, have an excuse to forget all about Pepelu's little faux pas about the Biennial, and get all indignantly up in arms because people from León can't pronounce "Josep Lluís" and feel embarrassed about doing it in public. The other result of his tantrum, of course, will be even more support in the rest of Spain for the extreme anti-Catalan wing of the PP. He stirred up his homeboys and antagonized everybody else, which is just what he wanted.

This contretemps was the big story on the TV3 news this afternoon, and the afternoon talk show devoted its roundtable to the subject. All the panelists were righteously indignant at the insult to Holy Sacred Catalanity, and almost all the dorks who send SMSs to the show had their blood stirred up and were ready to raise the barricades.

Get this. La Vanguardia's Web article has attracted more than 1150 comments already. That's more than I've ever seen for any story. Naturally, all the commenters are thoughtful and educated gentlemen and ladies making reasoned and logical arguments.

Meanwhile, the following LV story from page 20 in this morning's paper has received zero reader comments:

The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) yesterday accused Convergence and Union (CiU) of charging illegal kickbacks, after a Barcelona judge ruled that in the year 2003 a contractor paid a 20% kickback when working for Adigsa, a public company belonging to the Generalidad...The investigation began when Pasqual Maragall in February 2005 accused CiU, on the floor of Parliament, of collecting kickbacks of 3% of all public works contracts...The judge ruled that there was evidence of embezzlement of public funds, fraud, influence-peddling, abuse of power, and forgery...The judge wrote that Adigsa's plan to build housing for young people "was created with the goal of winning votes for the party in power in the region, CiU." He mentioned the 20% kickbacks, but could not specify the final destination of the money..."All parties finance themselves in the same way, said Pasqual Maragall yesterday in Valladolid...The ex-premier expressed his surprise at the size of the kickbacks. "I didn't know the commissions were 20%."

All Spanish and Catalan political parties, see, run patronage machines. When your buddies are in power, you get a share of the jobs and the contracts, and you have to pay somebody between 3% and 20%. And everybody gets a share, it's all neatly divided up; the Socialists get the biggest piece, but their partners ERC and the Communists have their own little domains as well. CiU, of course, got the biggest piece back when they were running the regional government; now they're out of power, and desperate to get some back, because they have sagging bank accounts. Pepelu Carod-Rovira's ERC openly levies contributions on holders of patronage (not civil-service) government jobs in the departments they control. This, by the way, is actually at least semi-legal.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Breaking news: The Spanish Navy and Guardia Civil have seized the American ship "Odyssey Explorer" in Spanish territorial waters, and brought it to the port of Algeciras. A Spanish court ordered the seizure on the grounds that it is investigating whether Odyssey, a US company that searches for undersea treasure, stole its most recently discovered trove, worth €370 million, from Spanish waters. Odyssey, of course, denies it. Spain has also filed suit in American court. My guess is that this is not going to do wonders for bilateral relations. Guess number two is that Spain is never going to get its hands on this stuff because there's no way they can prove it was found in Spanish waters.
Slate's running an interesting series by Tim Wu on American laws that the government does not enforce. So far they've dealt with prescription drugs, copyright, and porn. I thought the following was worth noting:

What all of these changes reflect are several major shifts in how the U.S. legal system views depictions of sex. The first reveal an acceptance of the libertarian idea that private consumption of nearly any material is not a public harm. That view excepts children and animals as victims, but not consenting women and men who have sex before cameras. In that view, the U.S. legal system has effectively and informally reached the same conclusion as the 1970 commission: Whether you like it or not, private consumption of pornography is just not harmful enough to merit public enforcement.

Yet at the same time, the United States has concluded that it will not be a place, like Europe, where bared breasts grace bus-stop billboards or soft-porn films can be found on regular late-night television. Americans love zoning—compartmentalizing behavior to designated times or places. It's how a diverse nation manages to live together. And so our obscenity system—much of which takes the legal form of an outright ban—is often in practice being used to move erotic content away from public places.
The funniest fallout from the Frankfurt book fair is that, at the closing ceremony, wacky independentista Carod-Rovira of ERC bragged that Catalonia had been invited to the Venice Biennial art fair, with its own pavilion, in 2009, and that he had confirmation from the mayor of Venice.

Of course he was bullshitting. The Venice Biennial does not invite anybody. Independent countries PAY (Spain's participation is subsidized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) for their pavilion in the Biennial's official building. Non-independent regions or countries or pieces of land or whatever are allowed to apply to the Biennial for the privilege of setting up a pavilion in some other building; only Scotland and Wales have ever done so. Paying for it, of course, and outside the official program. The president of the Biennial said he hadn't even received an application from Catalonia, and that no decisions of the sort would be made until February 2008 anyway. Finally, get this, the mayor of Venice has nothing at all to do with the Biennial art fair.

Says author Llátzer Moix in La Vanguardia: "How is it possible that Bargalló (boss of the Ramon Llull foundation and ERC blabbermouth) and Carod acted in such a precipitous way? What caused their modus operandi, which does not concord with the reputation for seriousness and trustworthiness that we Catalans have worked for? Maybe one answer is enough: For these politicians, culture has a mere instrumental and propagandistic value, and it's more important to shoot first rather than take aim."
Plenty of news from Baja Andorra today. The story that's picked up international attention is the beginning of the trial of 30 Islamists who allegedly conspired to blow up the National Court building in 2004. The plan was to crash a truck loaded with 500 kilos of explosives into the courthouse. Irony: They're being tried in that same building.

Most of the evidence consists of "incriminatory messages" exchanged between the conspirators, which leads to the question of: how did the authorities get hold of them? Obviously they were monitoring these guys' telephone and Internet use. So why is this a threat to democracy when the Americans do it, and good security and intelligence work when Spain does it?

The first guy to be questioned by the court claimed that he was a junkie and didn't remember anything, which is a fairly original defense.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese intelligence service arrested seven persons allegedly implicated in the attack that killed six Spanish peacekeepers in Lebanon on July 24. Spain has 1100 peacekeeping troops in Lebanon as part of the UN force.

A gunman shot an Army sergeant in the back in San Sebastián last night; he is not seriously injured. Nobody's claimed responsibility, but it's most likely ETA or ETA sympathizers, of course. Meanwhile, Zap and Basque PM Ibarretxe are supposed to meet today to discuss Ibarretxe's plan for an illegal referendum on Basque independence. Zap will tell him no dice.

And you thought America was racist: The inhabitants of a town in Galicia called Vilarchán voted to contribute a total of €250,000 to buy a vacant house in order to preempt a gypsy family from buying it. That'll cost them 16 euros each per month over the next 35 years; a high price for keeping your town Gypsyrein.

According to a government survey, 36% of Spanish teenagers between ages 14 to 18 have tried cannabis; 30% have consumed it during the last year; and 20% have consumed it during the last month.

Get this. The Environmental Ministry is going to pay €580,000 in order to distribute 30,000 copies of the Al Gore pseudoscientific documentary to Spanish schools.

And maybe the biggest news of all: The National Competition Committee, something like the FTC or the ICC, has accused Spain's three largest mobile-phone companies, Telefónica, Vodafone, and Orange, of conspiring to fix prices. The three companies are accused of "increasing their income in an abusive manner" to the tune of €1.2 billion during 2005. When the operators were prohibited from rounding up per-minute charges, they all raised the basic price of making a call by 25%, from 12 to 15 cents. Spanish mobile-phone prices are 20% higher than the European average. The companies may be fined as much as 10% of their income for that year.

Monday, October 15, 2007

La Vanguardia ran a two-page interview this morning at the beginning of their international section. With a spokesman for the Iraqi Baath Party. Disgusting. Sickening. Terrorist-loving. I wrote a piece for Pajamas Media. Go read it.

Quote from the interview:

We have been invited (to Spain) by the State Campaign against the Occupation and for the Sovereignty of Iraq (CEOSI), a movement that supports the rights and welfare of the Iraqis. We represent the Iraqi people and give thanks for the opportunity to tell what is happening in our country. This allows us to transmit our message to the occupier from outside.

My reaction:

He fulsomely thanks La Vanguardia for allowing him to spread propaganda.

The CEOSI needs to have its headquarters raided right now to find out how much of its money (which it claims is for “medical aid”) has gone into the hands of the Baath Party terrorists, with whom they are openly in contact. I would expect a long string of arrests to follow. Googling “CEOSI” leads you to an enormous long string of links that clearly show it’s a front for the Communists and those to their left.

The CEOSI is mixed up with Ramsey Clark’s International Action Center, and we all know who those guys are: a front for the Workers World Party, a bunch of Trotskyist-Maoists.

They’re still fighting the Cold War, they’re the Vanguard of the Revolution, and the Baath Party is their proxy now.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

La Vanguardia devotes four pages and the lead editorial today to the presence of "Catalan culture" as the guest of honor at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair. One article mentions that the whole thing cost the Institute Ramon Llull €12 million, of which €4 million came from the Ministry of Industry in Madrid. The Ministry of Industry spent a total of €12 million in 2006 and 2007 subsidizing Catalan publishing houses for the occasion.

Absolutely disgraceful. The government should not be subsidizing private companies, period. And next time I hear any whining about how the central government in Madrid cares about nothing but putting everything Catalan in its place, I'll point out that this is by far the most money spent on the behalf of any "guest of honor" culture at the Frankfurt fair. For example, when Russian culture was guest of honor last year, they spent about €5 million.

La Vangua is falling all over itself praising this great success, but they let slip that only 2500 people, total, attended any of the speeches or readings or whatever. El Periodico reported last week that the majority of those in attendance were Catalans, and that one of the events attracted zero non-Catalans.

I think this whole expensive wingding was a huge failure. Basically, nobody gives a crap about the whole thing except for the Catalan cultural establishment--and the Catalan cultural establishment got a huge black eye.

Probably the nastiest comment was from the Frankfurter Allegemeine, which said, "Catalan cultural patriotism is becoming impossible to put up with." (Frequent comment I hear around here: "Americans are too patriotic." My standard response: "Am I in Catalonia or am I not?")

From the Times: Appointing Catalonia as Guest of Honour for the Frankfurt Book Fair has caused no end of controversy: the regional government in Barcelona – fiercely protective of its autonomy – decided to invite only authors writing in Catalan, thereby excluding a whole group of popular Spanish-language writers from the region, such as Carlos Ruiz Zafón (The Shadow of the Wind). After a lot of pressure, the government relented, only to have the angry Spanish authors turn their invitations down. The director of the fair, Juergen Boos, said, “We made some calls last week, but nothing happened. It’s very disappointing that the Spanish authors didn’t come, and it’s a pity that this political dispute is overshadowing the Catalan Culture part of the fair.”

From the International Herald Tribune: One of the Spanish-language writers boycotting the fair is Barcelona-born Carlos Ruiz-Zafon, author of the international best-seller "The Shadow of the Wind." He blamed "political commissars who eagerly took over and handled this affair and who decided what kind of image of Catalonia they wanted to project, mostly to their own Catalan constituents, who are the real audience of this whole sideshow, not those attending the fair or the international media."... Ruiz-Zafon told The Associated Press that Catalonia's handling of the fair was "an unfortunate mixture of ignorance about the very nature of the fair and its purpose. Misguided political ambition and bigotry coming from all sides has provoked this discussion."

Another writer who will not be attending is Javier Cercas, author of "Soldiers of Salamis," a hugely successful novel which has been made into a film. Cercas told the Spanish daily La Vanguardia he saw no point in going unless "the politicians responsible make it clear that in the Catalan culture includes two languages" — Spanish and Catalan. Ildefonso Falcones, author of "The Cathedral of the Sea," last year's No. 1 best-seller in Spain, said authorities had decided what the 'official' Catalan culture consisted of without consulting others. The Spanish government and regional authorities have spent €12 million ($16.5 million) promoting the Catalan section — the biggest budget ever spent by any country at the book fair.

From Der Spiegel: The Catalan regional government has hired the Ramon Llull Institute, a cultural organization similar to Germany's Goethe Institute, to stage the exhibit ... But the institute has retained little of its namesake's cosmopolitan approach ... Rivalries within Spain led to heated discussions in the run-up to the book fair. Sergi Pámies, one of the best authors writing in Catalan, declined an invitation to attend the Frankfurt fair, saying that he preferred not to be exploited for nationalist purposes ... It was Volker Neumann, the former head of the Frankfurt Book Fair (from 2002 to 2005), who invited Catalonia, apparently without considering the problematic nature of inviting a linguistic region in which regional nationalism is thriving, more so than in most other parts of Europe.

From Agence France-Presse: Nationalist tensions, never trailing far behind questions of identity in Spain, emerged after the regional capital Barcelona decided that only those who write in the Catalan language may come. Under fire for playing politics, Barcelona -- which is a stronghold of Spain's publishing industry -- changed its mind in June and said all writers who hail from the region were welcome to represent it at the fair.

The U-turn rang hollow for Catalan authors like Carlos Ruiz Zafon, who writes in Spanish and scored an international hit with "The Shadow of the Wind", a whimsical mystery set in his native Barcelona. He is boycotting the Frankfurt fair, along with Javier Cercas of "Soldiers of Salamis" fame and Eduardo Mendoza -- known to English audiences mainly for "The Year of the Flood", a heart-rending story of a nun who falls obsessively in love with a landowner ... But Ruiz Zafon has said the writers' polite stance masked their anger at politicians for trying to hijack the event and show the literary world a selective picture of the region that fits their separatist agenda. Albert Sanchez Pinol, the author of the hit thriller "Cold Skin", was initially in the protest camp though he writes in Catalan, but now plans to attend. "It is true that I considered not going but thinking about it I had the feeling that many people would be disappointed and perhaps it would harm Catalan culture," he said recently.

Looks to me like all they gained out of this is criticism from the British, American, German, and French media. Note that the only American story I could find was from the IHT, the European version of the New York Times, and not from any American papers themselves.

You'll also note, if you look at the stories I linked to, that all of them claimed that Catalan was banned under Franco's regime. This is the standard nationalist lie which we have already been through. Use of Catalan was restricted, but not banned. Publication of books in Catalan resumed in 1940, Catalan-language literary prizes were introduced in the 1950s, and by 1962 censorship had been reduced a great deal, and publishing houses that used only Catalan had been established. So maybe the nationalists won something after all, since they managed to spread their version of history in the world press.

However, I don't think anyone who's not in the book business ever read any of these articles anyway.

Bonus: Which blogger and occasional commenter here said the following on Barcelona Reporter's comments page?

As to whether it's right that Spanish language writers are excluded from the invite, I don't have much of an opinion on that. I find it difficult to think of one Spanish or Catalan writer who I've enjoyed reading so as far as I'm concerned, they can invite whoever they like: it'll still be full of fatuous bumpkins.

What utter contempt. And they accuse me of being unfair to Spain and Catalonia! I have said more than once that there are several writers in Spanish and Catalan who I don't like at all, starting with Balto Porcel and going all the way down to Maria de la Pau Janer. But Mendoza, Monzó, Ruiz Zafón, Sergi Pàmies, and Cercas are all worth reading, as are many others. Do any of these folks match the best writing in English? I would say that Mendoza does, and there are at least twenty-five more authors from Spain / Catalonia who are very good.