Saturday, May 31, 2008

Other news from around here:

Zap says he's going to turn over management of the Barcelona commuter train system and the Barcelona airport to the Generalitat. Somehow I think this will mean that they go from being badly administered by Spanish bureaucrats to being badly administered by Catalan bureaucrats. How about a little privatization?

Domestic violence increased by 29% in 2007 in Barcelona, while sexual assaults increased by 32%. I imagine most of the increase is due to a higher percentage of crimes being reported, but this is not good.

More African boat people: a cayuco with 55 persons on board reached Tenerife. I am tired of the international media ignoring this story.

Basque prime minister Ibarretxe is going on and on about his October 25 referendum on self-determination for the Basque Country. The problem, of course, is that such a referendum is unconstitutional, besides having no legal value. But Ibarretxe says he's going to hold the damn thing anyway, and that its results will be binding if approved by the Basque Parliament. He's wrong, of course, since the Constitutional Court outranks the Basque regional government.

For comparison's sake, imagine if Alabama were to hold a referendum on reinstating segregation, banned by the US Constitution. Or on outlawing abortion, protected by the US constitution. Or establishing the Baptist Church, executing juveniles by burning at the stake, raising the voting age to 30, or banning the Communist Manifesto. What do you think would be the consequence, whether they passed it or not?

Ruiz-Gallardon announced his support for Rajoy in a speech at which Esperanza Aguirre did not show up. Read into that what you will.

So the government polling agency CIS, and why we need one I don't know, did a survey ranking world leaders in popularity here in Spain. Michele Bachelet was first, and Lula de Silva was second. Bush came in third from last, followed by Castro and Chavez.

Spanish heartthrob pop singer Alejandro Sanz is appearing in the Spanish-language pro-Obama ad, titled "Podemos." Although Sanz is not American, of course, he does have freedom of speech and so he can say what he wants, including endorsing a candidate in another country's elections. I remember back in 2000, though, when the American singer Gloria Estefan campaigned for Jose Maria Aznar, and the entire Spanish left became very indignant at this foreign interference. So which is it, people?

The Lakers, featuring Catalan power forward Pau Gasol, made the NBA finals, where they'll play Boston. Everybody's getting all excited about it over here, especially the media, and of course 100% of them are backing the Lakers. I don't care because I 'm not interested in the NBA; half of me wants the Lakers to lose because I've never liked them and their big-city Hollywood glamour image, and the other half wants the Celtics to lose because it would piss off Bill Simmons so much. I suppose I'll be rooting for Boston because former Kansas star Paul Pierce plays for them.

The orgasmicness over Gasol, billed as the first Spanish player in the NBA finals by TV1 and the first Catalan player in the finals by TV3, is going a bit too far; he's a good player, but not an All-Star. Oh, well, he's happy to get out of Memphis, which he bad-mouthed for years in the Spanish press, and get him some media spotlight.

Oh, yeah, speaking of TV3, they've taken it off their site now, but last night they headlined their story about the "new" Amazon tribe, "A tribe that has never seen white men before." Uh, guys, they've never seen black people, or East Asian people, either. Not to mention women of any of those races. Talk about sexist ethnocentrism. I demand an investigation. Heads must roll.
The Colombian government announced today that FARC has been plotting with ETA to murder Colombians in Spain, including vicepresident Francisco Santos and ex-president Andrés Pastrana, along with cabinet ministers and ambassadors, since at least 2003. ETA members trained in Colombia in that year, and ETA and FARC have had contact since at least the early '90s, when they held a meeting in Cuba, of course. Two ETA men gave the FARC an explosives and car-bomb master class. During the ETA "truce" in June 2006, a FARC member traveled semi-openly to the Basque Country to take part in a meeting with pro-ETA front groups, organized by banned ETA-front party Batasuna.

What I want to know is why nobody on the European left will believe that the whole lot of extreme left gangs around the world, from the Montoneros to the Red Brigades to FARC to the Japanese Red Army to the Sandinistas to the PFLP to ETA, are creations of the Cold War. Every single one of them received Soviet support and money, often laundered through Cuba. Of course ETA and the FARC have connections going way back, and the very most basic foundation of those connections is called the KGB.

The far-leftist propaganda machine is already rolling, trying to discredit the computer files discovered by the Colombians during the anti-FARC raid into Ecuador. It won't fly. They're guilty as hell, and so are Chavez and Correa, who are bankrolling them and providing them with shelter.

Zap, do you get it now? Your friend Hugo Chavez, who you sold military weapons to, is supporting a gang of terrorists guilty of kidnapping, drug trafficking, and murder, not to mention trying to overthrow a democratically elected government. And that gang of terrorists is an ally of our very own Spanish gang of terrorists that is murdering members of your very own political party. And the connection between them all is Raul Castro's Communist dictatorship in Cuba. And you yourself are continually seeking to lift European Union sanctions against the brother and handpicked heir of the Godfather.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Jesus. I got another one of these. Showed up on my referrals log because Iberian Notes is becoming your one-stop shop for incest porn. This guy is from Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia, and he did a Google search for "sun fuck whit mather." Four words. Three spelled wrong. Note which one he got right. What a freak.

If I were into stereotyping people I know nothing about, like certain readers of El Pais, I'd say that the Oedipus complex runs rampant among males in Islamic countries. As does bad spelling.
El Pais has a big exclusive scoop: Dunkin' Donuts inadvertently ran an ad campaign in the US featuring Rachael Ray, whoever she is, wearing a Palestinian scarf. El Pais says that the keffiyeh "was made by Yasser Arafat into the symbol of the resistance of the Palestinian people against Israel...It is worn by all sympathizers of the cause." You can see why some people got mad.

Naturally, neither the company nor the actress had any idea of what the thing means. So they received protests and pulled the ad. Obviously. They don't want to run any ads that offend any of their customers. That's bad business. For the same reason, they probably wouldn't dress their spokesmodels up in Obama T-shirts, McCain baseball caps, or a Red Sox jacket in a New York ad. Or the Confederate flag. Or a Che Guevara T-shirt. Or a KKK hood. Or an SS uniform.

In fact, I bet Spanish companies do the same thing. I bet you don't see a lot of American flags in Spanish ads, and that they wouldn't use someone in a US army uniform to promote a product in Spain. I bet they wouldn't use the Catalan flag in Madrid, or the Spanish flag in Barcelona, either. I doubt you would see a Spanish republican flag anywhere. I bet they don't show people wearing Falange blue shirts. Or Franco-era gray police uniforms. Or those T-shirts with big marijuana leaves on them. And I know for a fact that they never show anyone wearing either an Arab headscarf or a Jewish kipa.

In fact, I don't recall ever seeing anyone in a Spanish advertisement wearing a keffiyah, either.

So here are some of the comments:

More proof that Israel really governs in the US. No matter what they say, the Israelis are the most important power in the world: just remember their 60 years of occupation of Palestine, and the rest of the world letting it happen. FREE Palestine!

The poor Americans!

Multinationals take over everything because everything can become a consumer product. They've done it with hippie and punk symbols, and now "Palestinians" (apparently among some Spaniards an Arafat scarf is called merely a "Palestinian") Before, wearing a "Palestinian" had ideological connotations, now everybody wears them because they're in fashion. The ones who used to wear sweaters with American flags now wear "Palestinians." It is an abusive appropriation by the global multinationals to homogenize thoughts and appearances.

There are a lot of Jews loose around here.

Horrible! She's wearing pants too!!! Bin Laden wears pants too!!! People who cover their legs are terrorists!!! Worse than terrorists!!!

If you read the New york times (sic) you'll learn that the suicide rate in the navy (sic) is the highest in history, but why would they worry about that? Instead let's make a fuss about the Palestinian scarf.

What is coffee sweetened with? Sugar. What country produces sugar? Cuba. So the advertisement is communist propaganda. They're imbeciles.

In the US, they're truly ignorant, but they should not be excused. This ignorance is the fruit of their social, cultural, and economic dictatorship. This country is a real danger for our society, and not the "sources of immigration." They provoke and generate so much hate.

As Obelix would say, these Americans are crazy!

I imagine that many young consumers wear whatever is the most fashion (sic) without seeing any militant allegiance. Knowing the cultural level of many Americans, I would not be surprised if it is just another fad. In any case it is one more example of the intolerance that they have accustomed us to.

No comment...Thank you, Lord, that I am not American.

This is one more sign that the gringos are panicking, which is an ideal weapon for the conservative extremists in the United States, who are trying to eliminate all the cultures and religions different from theirs.

But does nobody remember the scandal of the nipple at the Super Bowl? This is more of the same. They don't worry about Guantanamo or other disasters, though.

Is this story serious? It seems so ridiculous to me that I can't believe it's true! Carrying an 8mm Magnum in your pocket is totally normal, moral, and legitimate, and wearing a "Palestinian" is a proclamation of terrorism? And I thought they used guns in war instead of "Palestinians"!

What a country...I hope we never become like them.

These Americans (from the North) with their mental illnesses, are stepping on individual and collective rights (traveling comfortably, wearing a scarf, or a T-shirt). The bad thing is that here there are many imitators of their model. Will we end up goose-stepping?

They can't show a scarf, but rifles, pistols, machine guns, tanks, bombs, that's not censored, on the contrary.

It's completely logical. Everybody knows that Palestinian scarves were produced by Arafat in a high-tech laboratory in order to make everyone who wears them a potential terrorist.

What poorly thinking people! Poor country! Ignorance cubed.

Even being a great power, the United States of North America, "paladins of freedom," are not precisely an example to imitate, but exactly the opposite. Their expansionist ambitions, united with their great ignorance about many subjects, the ease with which they let themselves be influenced by Zionist groups, have led them to commit innumerable errors that many of our countries refuse to condemn. CYNICISM, and nothing more.

All advertising actors should wear a Palestinian scarf in all the ads on European TV networks. It would be a good chance to remind the Americans of the holocaust they are committing against the Palestinian people.

I will never buy products with that brand again. We should prohibit all videos that show the American flag, which is the most bloodstained symbol in the history of humanity. It often appears in videos of people torturing in Guantanamo, dropping cluster-bombs, invade countries, kill democratically elected leaders of other countries, massacre entire peoples, and a long list of crimes against humanity. The United States is the greatest international terrorist.


If this is the contry that calls itself "the land of freedom," where is that FREEDOM? I'm sure if she had been wearing a Jewish kippa or any other Zionist or militarist garment, then there would have been no problem. The only adjectives that fit are "UNEDUCATED", "IGNORANT", "ZIONISTS", "ILLITERATES", "MANIPULATORS", and their synonyms.

The message of the advertisement is exactly that: "choosing." Choosing my coffee shop, my coffee, my donuts, choosing to wear a Palestinian or Hindu scarf or live in an igloo...but retrograde and ignorant American society cannot understand these subtleties.

And then the Western world considers them tolerant and democratic! What repression! And what if the actress had been wearing a veil? Then, people who think differently are called anti-Semites. Please, it's just a scarf.

If they have such a bad opinion of Palestinian scarves, what must they think of Palestinian people?

Proven: 1. Human stupidity has no limits. 2. The power of the Jewish lobby in Israel.

There are Yankees who have no idea where they live.

These Americans are crazy. Ridiculous. They love looking for problems where there aren't any.

What a list of supine foolishness to justify fear of others. This is like fried potatoes, that became freedom fries instead of french fries because of pure chauvinism. Really, they make me sick. Because of a scarf!

What an absurd country! What if they worried about things that are really important!

I have 4 "Palestinians." This stupidity could only happen in the United States, where carrying a gun and killing people is normal, but having a cloth around your neck is bad. Ridiculous. What a "country of freedom."

This is ridiculous. I've been wearing a "Palestinian" since I was 15, and I do not support extreme Islamism, simply, I support a cause that has cost many lives, and I repudiate the injustice that has no end because it's not in the interest of the US.

Radical Islamists often wear blue jeans too. Let's prohibit them!

This perfectly shows the Islamophobia of the Americans. Now pieces of clothing are offensive and promote radicalism. Next thing they'll prohibit dark-skinned people or those who look like Arabs from television, we wouldn't want then to be Islamists and we don't realize it!

So if I drink Coca-Cola I'm an accomplice of Guantanamo? Of course, we've forgotten that the Americans are friends of the Israelis, and the Palestinian scarf is a symbol they don't like. They've given me an idea, I'm going to go out now and buy one.

Note the fact that many of these commenters don't know how to read; they've confused the decision of a private company with some sort of national ban on "Palestinians." Also note the fact that "Palestinians" are so fashionable in Spain that they have their own slang term; one guy even brags that he has four. Note the psychological need that many commenters have to feel individually superior to Americans. Note the widespread stereotyping of and ignorance about American people. Also note the bitter sarcasm, which is the verbal weapon of he who knows he has already lost.

Finally, note that the commenters drip hate for Americans individually and the American people as a culture and a nation. Though most anti-Americans deny such hate, claiming that they merely dislike the policies of the American government, they're lying.

By the way, did this story even make the news in the US? I haven't seen it anywhere, and I cover news on the Net pretty thoroughly. El Pais's article says they got it from the BBC, which isn't surprising, knowing the Beeb's particular biases.
Not much news today. Econ stuff: The national budget for 2009 will be €160.2 billion, a 5% increase over 2008. Solbes proyects a balanced budget for the next two years, and then a surplus in 2011. However, these projections are based on a 2-3% annual growth rate, and the private sector's predictions say it mignt not be even half that.

Meanwhile, economics counselor Antoni Castells announced that the Generalitat's budget deficit for 2007 was €762 million, €300 million more than projected.

Car sales in May were down 18% over May last year. Consumer spending must be way down.

Other news: These idiot chefs are still arguing with one another over whether it's OK to use chemical additives in haute cuisine, and everybody is talking about it, which means our frivolity level here in Spain is high, as usual. That's one of the things I love-hate about Spain: there's a lot of excitement about things that aren't important at all. Which I guess is true in America as well, but I notice it more here.

The Barcelona press is split: La Vanguardia is supporting Santamaria, probably because he is the spokesman for a long-running promotion they're doing, distributing cooking utensils. El Periodico is supporting Adria, probably because Santamaria is backed by the eternal rival La Vangua.

Complaint about the newspapers: They're always running eight million promotions at the same time. La Vanguardia is promoting an atlas, a CD series, a book series, and a collection of exotic bugs encased in plastic, as well as the kitchen stuff. I wish they would lay off the damn promotions and charge less for the paper.

By the way, El Pais has raised its price to €1.10. I imagine the other papers will soon follow suit. They very obviously practice price collusion; I'm not going to claim that the papers are actively conspiring to rip us off, but it's clear that nobody is willing to compete on price.

The 150,000 members of FC Barcelona are mad. 9000 of them signed a recall election petition against club president Joan Laporta, double the necessary number. So it looks like there will be an election. Barça elections are always fun because they're full of outrageous skullduggery. Somebody's already stolen a computer with access to the entire Barça database, and has allegedly tried to sell it for a million euros to an opposition candidate.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Yearly inflation in Spain hit 4.7% in May, a five-point increase over April. It is directly caused by the increase in oil prices, and by the subsequent increase in the price of every other raw material. Inflation is not a good thing. Better low growth than high inflation.

The CIS, the government polling agency (and why we need one I don't know), says that the PSOE would beat the PP in a general election held today, 43.6% to 37.6%. I'm surprised to see the PP so high, what with the internal power struggle and the poor electoral campaigh they ran. Zap is a very weak incumbent and they had no business losing to him.

Oh, by the way, I'm going on record right now to say that McCain is going to win the US election handily, taking the Republican heartland along with the big three swing states, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. Hillary is not going to give up; she's going to take Obama all the way to the convention. And the Republicans are going to jump all over Obama's past record, and lack thereof. He and his crazy wife and their past and present associations are going to make him unelectable. I will bet they have some oppo dynamite on him, too. McCain will win both the center and the right, which has nowhere else to go. They may not much like McCain but they will come out to vote against Obama.

I think Bobby Jindal would make an excellent vice-presidential candidate. He's young, attractive, more conservative than McCain, more qualified than Obama, and being East Indian-American and a convert to Christianity isn't going to hurt. This guy gets elected in Louisiana, so his appeal to the Southern Christian vote is real. He ought to nail down the Bible Belt for the Republicans. He'll also be appealing to the naturalized citizen vote, as he's the son of immigrants, who tend to be very socially conservative. And he'll make it possible to vote Republican and not look racist, for people who think that's important. Jindal can talk technocrat with the college graduates and talk Jesus in the small towns. Besides, he and his family are vegetarians, which I think is totally cool. I also think McCain should offer Secretary of Defense to Joe Lieberman, and announce it now if Lieberman agrees. I wonder when the Democrats are going to kick Lieberman out of the party.

Water update: The reservoirs that supply Barcelona have reached 50% capacity, and it's even higher in the reservoirs in the Ebro watershed. They are going to build the aqueduct between Barcelona and Tarragona in case of future emergencies, but they will not transfer any water this year. The tanker ships will continue bringing in water until August. The current water restrictions will be lifted very soon. Also, the rains have been so good that the danger of forest fire this summer is very low, at least until September.

My former boss Jimenez Losantos is definitely off the reservation; he's bolted the PP. He accused Ruiz-Gallardon's witnesses, Acebes, Zaplana, and Aguirre, of "total bald-faced manipulation." These three used to be Losantos's favorite politicians, and they've thrown him under the bus. They are more loyal to Gallardon (and Rajoy) than to Losantos. He is definitely going to lose this lawsuit; the only support he got was from Pedro J. and Luis Herrero. One thing is that Gallardon doesn't come off looking too great, either; he seems like a whiny little kid who says everybody's calling him names.

Something just happened that really pissed me off. Some woman came to my door (I have a sign on my door saying "No solicitors or Jehovah's Witnesses") saying she was not a saleswoman, she was from Endesa and wanted information about my use of natural gas. I said to myself, hell, it's a survey, I'll help her out and tell her how much gas we use. So I go find the latest gas bill to show her that we used eleven euros worth of gas last month. She asks me to show me the bill, which I do, and she starts writing down stuff. I look and see that it's a form to get me to change companies, from Gas Natural to Endesa. I say, "What's going on here? I don't want to change companies." She said, "If you don't change companies you don't get the discount." I said, "So you are a saleswoman, trying to get me to buy something I didn't ask to buy," and shut the door on her.

Has Endesa, or any other company, tried this on you? It's most certainly an unethical business practice, and somebody ought to complain to the consumer protection people.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'm working on a new idea: a silly-news website. Right now I'm beta-testing it. Monday and Tuesday I worked on finding content. Today I learned how to post photos. Tomorrow I hope to learn to size and place them correctly. If you have a spare couple of minutes, go over there and see what you think. I'm already aware of one weakness: I need an editor to check my Spanish for grammar mistakes and the occasional semantic error.
The Colombian terrorist group FARC had tentative plans to murder anti-FARC Colombians living in Madrid, according to the computer files captured during the raid into Ecuador. Interpol confirms that the information is authentic. Can our local moonbat left please stop kissing the feet of this gang of kidnappers, extortionists, drug traffickers, and murderers, and the clownish Mafia don Chavez who bankrolls them?

The Spanish real estate market has reached the status of "flaming gasbag," as housing sales were down 39% in the year ending in March. Secondhand housing sales were down 46%. 42% less money was lent out by banks in the form of mortgages. By the way, 98% of Spanish mortgages are variable-rate.

You may wonder why I've been paying so much attention to real estate; it's because the majority of most Spaniards' accumulated wealth is plowed into their dwelling, and when real estate prices drop everybody loses wealth, at least on paper. Nobody gains wealth, not the banks nor the government nor the big companies, contrary to the opinion of most folks, believers in the "physical fallacy."

My old boss, Federico Jimenez Losantos, the hard right-wing host of the morning program on Cope radio, is in trouble. Madrid mayor Ruiz-Gallardon has sued him for libel, since in 2006 Losantos claimed that Gallardon "didn't care" about the March 11, 2004 victims, though he planned to use them for political purposes, and that he was collaborating with the PSOE. The case has now come to court, and I think Losantos is going to lose. Some big wheels have been called to testify, including Aguirre, Acebes, and Zaplana, along with the editor of El Mundo, Pedro J. Ramirez.

Spanish libel law is a good bit looser than American; in the US you have to prove that the defendant lied intentionally with malicious intentions toward the plaintiff, while in Spain you can sue for insults and "injuries."

Amnesty International has released its annual report, and La Vanguardia gave it all of Page 4. As usual, AI is much more indignant about the shortcomings of democratic governments than it is about the crimes committed by dictatorships, but at least somebody is trying to keep track of what's going on.

La Vanguardia's account focuses on "extrajudicial arrests, the prison at Guantanamo, restrictions of freedom, and abuses carried to the absurd such as requiring an old man to take off his shoes at an airport." I detect an unhealthy interest in what Paul Hollander called "a relentless critical impulse toward American social, economic, and political institutions, traditions, and values."

At least AI flays China for supporting the oppressive governments in Burma, Zimbabwe, and Sudan. It criticizes the European Union for "not investigating its member states about human rights, turning over terrorism suspects to the US (the CIA's secret flights), restricting the rights of immigrants...and marginalizing the gypsy minority."

The most important criticism of Spain, which I think has some validity, is "the difficulty of women who are victims of violence to obtain protection, justice, and restitution, especially in the case of immigrants, who do not go to the police for fear of being deported. 48 of the 71 women murdered in Spain in 2007 were immigrants."

I do think the government ought to make it clear that the legal resident status of people who go to the police to report crimes will not be investigated, that those who denounce crimes will not be deported as a consequence of doing so.

Get this; it's in La Vanguardia's print edition but not online. Here in Barcelona they invited "the Iraqi journalist and writer" Eman Khamas to speak at the press conference marking the release of the report. She said, "They talk about a civil war in my country, but it isn't a civil war, it's a war against the occupation that some Iraqis have benefited from. The US insists that security has improved, and it's a dirty lie. The proof is that they sent 30,000 more soldiers at the beginning of the year."

Uh, Ms. Khamas, the reason that security has improved in Iraq is precisely because the Americans sent more soldiers. It's called "the surge." Some guy named Petraeus is in charge of it. They've been doing it for a while now. Deaths of US soldiers have been more than cut in half since the surge began.

Oh, by the way, CIA secret flights? What CIA secret flights? Minister of Defense Alonso told Radio Euskadi that the Zapatero Government "has checked and confirmed the reports of US flights that use bases in Spain and has not detected any sort of illegality. The Government has systematically reviewed all information about US military flights. As Minister of Defense the first thing I did was ask for the reports about the suspicious flights. There is no evidence that anything illegal has been done in Spanish territory. If it had, it would not have been tolerated, since regarding human rights, we must not be complacent."

And another conspiracy theory, this one promoted by El Pais, deflates.

They found a body floating in Barcelona harbor this morning. The cops have not identified it yet, or explained what the person died of. I hope it was a squatter who shot up a bunch of heroin and then fell off the walkway to Maremagnum.

La Vanguardia's reader photo of the day is of a sign painted on the wall of a junkyard in Prat de Llobregat. It says, "Me cago in los muertos y en to su puta madre del ke me robe," which translates as, "I shit on the dead ancestors and the whore mother of whoever steals from me." La Vangua's commentary is, "The photographer hopes you laugh along with him." So far there have been no cultural analyses of the vulgarity and obscenity of the language used by most Spaniards, or the role it plays in the Spanish collective imagination, whatever that is.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Yet another moral disaster for the UN. The NGO Save the Children has accused UN peacekeeping troops, and members of other "peace" and "humanitarian" groups, of routinely committing sexual abuse of children in the countries where they are stationed. The countries mentioned are Haiti, Liberia, Congo, and Ivory Coast. Some children are telling horrific stories. I know that charges of sexual abuse are often false--for an example, look at the wave of late '80s-early '90s false stories of Satanic child sex abuses at several US preschools, all of which were bogus--but Save the Children has so many independent accusations that at least some of them must be true.

I really think that when the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are over, the US ought to consider pulling completely out of the UN, which is rotten to the core, and help set up an organization of established democratic states only, based on NATO. And I mean democratic; Turkey, Singapore, Thailand, and Russia don't qualify, much less Morocco and Pakistan and Angola and Venezuela and China. I would be willing to give such an organization, which would be very hard to get into and not very hard to get voted out of, veto power over American overseas use of the military.

Interior minister Perez Rubalcaba said yesterday that ETA has already reestablished a new leadership, just a few days after the capture of the bull goose etarra, Lopez Peña. He added that he was going to put 800 more cops on the terrorism beat.

More PP infighting: Gabriel Elorriaga, the PP's press secretary, has come out against Rajoy. Elorriaga is known as a moderate, which is a change from the others questioning Rajoy's leadership; the rest of them are all from the right / Spanish nationalist wing of the party.

Another near-disaster in Catalonia. Get this one. A truck driver ran his truck off a bridge near Solsona in Lleida province this morning, crashing partway through the guardrail. The truck is now hanging off the side of the bridge, with the driver still in the cab. Nobody died. So what's the big deal? The truck is full of explosives. The area has been evacuated, and the cops are waiting for a large crane to arrive so they can pull the truck and driver to safety. Let's hope it works.

What I want to know is exactly how a guy driving a truck full of explosives manages to drive it off a bridge. Shouldn't he be going like ten miles an hour?

The combination of high oil prices, crashing real estate prices, and Zap's social programs have cut the budget surplus by 56%. Government income has declined, due to lower VAT receipts caused by the construction slump, and lower gasoline tax receipts due to the high price and decreased consumption. Spain is still running an €9 billion surplus, so we don't need to worry yet, and a little deficit spending won't hurt. But let's not make the American mistake of borrowing to keep consumer spending high and keep the economy out of recession. A short sharp shock might well be salutary for the US, and it looks like it's coming here too.

Ana Obregon update: Ana Obregon is an aging Spanish slutty bimbo and sometime TV actress. She has had sex with at least one-eighth of the men in Spain. Her last program was the repulsive "Ana y los siete," in which her character was the nanny for a large family by day and a stripper by night; the most horrifying sight in the history of Spanish TV was la Obregon's seminude silicone-laden body. So she's in trouble now for offering to pay her bodyguard to beat up a TV host who had made fun of her. I say that's conspiracy to commit assault and battery, a violent crime, and that she ought to go to the slam for it. Obregon denies the story and is threatening to sue the magazine that published it. I bet she doesn't do it, that she's all hat and no cattle.

(Contrast: I wouldn't want to put Isabel Pantoja in jail, even though she's mixed up in this Marbella corruption case and is almost certainly guilty of tax fraud, at the very least. She's a nonviolent, economic criminal, who shouldn't suffer loss of her physical freedom, but rather of her economic freedom. Sentence her to five years in public housing, scrubbing floors and eating off food stamps.)

Oh, by the way, you know the urban legend in which a celebrity with mega-fake boobs is on an airplane that loses cabin pressure, and her juggernauts explode? Here in Spain that celebrity is Ana Obregon. I've heard it in the US about Dolly Parton and Pamela Anderson.

Dumbest controversy of the year: Catalan chef Santi Santamaria has accused Ferran Adria and other celebrity chefs of ruining Iberian cuisine by using artificial chemical ingredients in their fancy expensive avant-garde dishes. So everybody's all excited, and, get this, they're debating the question on TV and the radio, and taking sides on it. Who gives a crap? It's obvious that nothing interesting has happened yet this week.

The death toll of the construction accident at the new CF Valencia stadium has reached four. Three of the dead have been identified, an Ecuadorian, a Bolivian, and a Spaniard. They're arguing about the causes now, but it's obviously not the fault of the men who fell, it's the fault of whoever was in charge of putting up the scaffold.

Barça update: Keita has officially signed. Pique is coming for sure. Rumor has it they want to sign forward Dani Guiza, who led the league in goals last year, from Mallorca, Hleb from Arsenal, Villa from Valencia, and Alves from Sevilla. Villarreal (not Recreativo; he was merely on loan there last year) is demanding €20 million for Uruguayan defender Martin Caceres.

Meanwhile, the Royals are dashing our hopes yet again. The season started out so nicely, and now they've lost eight straight on a road trip to Boston and Toronto, including a no-hitter by Jon Lester, a guy who has just come back from having cancer. Congratulations to Lester, it's a great story, but you hate it when it happens to your team.

Here's the Royals' best possible lineup in my opinion. By the way, OPS (On-base average Plus Slugging percentage) is the best statistic that measures a batter's performance, I think. You want your guys at the power positions (3B, RF, LF, 1B) to have at least an 800 OPS, and your guys at the skill positions (C, SS, 2B, CF) to have at least 750. A weak-hitting shortstop might have a 700 OPS, while a top hitter like Manny Ramirez or Albert Pujols might be well over 1000. Barry Bonds used to rack up a steroid-fueled OPS of like 1300 every year. Under 700 and you're a marginal player, one step away from the minors, unless you're an exceptional fielder or a reliable catcher.

L DeJesus CF 694
R Grudzielanek 2B 710
L Gordon 3B 799
R Guillen LF 718
R Olivo C 911
L Teahen RF 681
R Butler 1B 669
S Callaspo SS 660
R Buck DH 690

That just blows. Only Olivo and Gordon are doing their jobs, and Guillen is hitting well now after a disastrous April. That's it. Everybody else is hitting far below average for his position. And both Callaspo at SS and Butler at 1B are below-average defensive players, to boot. (The rest of the team is average or above-average, at least.) The Royals have above-average defensive players at both those positions. The problem is that 1B Gload's OPS is 573, and SS Peña's OPS is 388, which might be the worst in the history of the major leagues--and they've already given him more than 140 at-bats.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Typical Monday, not much of a news day, especially since it's Memorial Day in the States and everyone's down at the lake. Bit of weirdness: Some Spaniards, including Baltasar Porcel, get snippy at America's celebrating Halloween, a kids' dress-up holiday, at the same time Spain celebrates Todos los Santos, the day when dead people are remembered in Spain. Porcel has accused the Yanks of turning a solemn ritual into commercialized kitsch.

Of course, Todos los Santos (All Souls' Day) is a CATHOLIC holiday, and the people of the US are religiously mixed. We have our own secular day to remember the dead, Memorial Day. In fact, we have another similar holiday, Veterans' Day in November, when those who died for their country are remembered. You could argue that Americans are therefore even more respectful of their dead than the Spaniards.

Another piece of evidence: Most Spaniards know nothing about their family history. Remei, for example, doesn't know about any of her ancestors before about 1900. Many Americans, on the other hand, are interested in genealogy and in the lives of their ancestors. My family knows, for example, that some of us were Tennessee-Texas Scotch-Irish (including a couple of Confederate soldiers and Methodist circuit riders; at least one owned slaves), some of us were Kansas Germans from Bukovina in the old Austrian Empire, and that one branch, my mother's maternal grandfather's line, was Oklahoma Cherokee. They were all farmers or ranchers; we're from the landowning-peasant class, not the urban proletariat. An aunt and several of my cousins have married Mexican-Americans, meaning that I have Hispanic relatives as well, none of whom speak Spanish. Family surnames include Chappell, Colley, Whitney, Shannon, Stuart, Aust/Ast, Shoemake, and Walz. My favorite distant-relative surname is Schimmelpfennig.

Spaniards are surprised when they find out I know all this, but it's not unusual among Americans; we all know we're half-Irish, one-quarter Italian, and one-quarter Polish, or whatever the mix may be.

So the Jaume Bofill Foundation did a study and found that only 2% of immigrants in Spain who have been here at least ten years want to go home. Well, duh. If they wanted to go home they'd already have left. Wonder how much the Generalitat subsidized this one with.

Living on the infrastructure edge: This morning the main commuter-train line lost power in a tunnel near Plaza Catalunya and went down for forty minutes, thereby snarling up everything as usual. Another train broke down south of Sabadell and fouled up that line as well. I figure at the very least 50,000 people were an hour late to work, costing us 50,000 production hours that could have been used to increase our GDP.

It rained again this morning, and the five reservoirs in the Ter-Llobregat watershed that supply Barcelona are now at 40% of capacity. Worries about running out this summer are rapidly disappearing. Now they're talking about halting the shipments of water by tanker and calling off the Tarragona-Barcelona aqueduct plan. I don't know; I wouldn't start feeling too safe and secure yet.

Tragedy in Valencia: A scaffold collapsed this morning at the construction site of CF Valencia's new stadium, killing two and injuring four. Jeez. Somebody screwed up bad here, because scaffolds are supposed to be firmly attached to something so they don't fall down. There are entirely too many deaths on the job in Spain, and it's frequently due to half-assery, ignoring the most elemental safety precautions. There is also far too much drinking on the job.

Two squatter punks used climbing equipment to dangle themselves off the front of the Sabadell city hall this morning, in order to demand the release of Franki from jail. If I were the cops I'd give the punks five minutes to cease and desist and then cut their ropes. That would put a rapid end to this crap. I hope Franki is enjoying his stay in the Modelo.

The Spanish real estate developer Habitat is in massive trouble. They already laid off 350 workers at their Don Piso subsidiary, and now they're laying off half their staff, 160 more workers. The Spanish real estate Zeppelin has crashed and burned. Their own company forecast is, get this, to lose €650 million between now and 2010. They've made a deal with the 39 banks to which they owe €1.6 billion to reschedule payments, saving them from bankruptcy, at least for now. The contractor Ferrovial owns 20% of Habitat. I'm glad I don't own any Ferrovial stock.

14 million Spaniards saw the Chiki-Chiki guy perform on Eurovision, a 78% share. That's one-third of the population. I missed it. Damn.

The Japanese yakuza who murdered the mayor of Nagasaki has been sentenced to death. In Japan they hang the condemned in secret, without informing his family until he's dead. No one around here has yet criticized the primitive, barbaric, brutal Japanese for using capital punishment.

Barça update: Edmilson is going to Villarreal. Inter Milan wants to buy Deco. Negotiations for Ronaldinho and Zambrotta continue with AC Milan. Manchester City's offer for Ronaldinho is the best they've received. He's exactly the player a midtable club like that doesn't need. I'd spend that money on five competent young players with a future. Instead of buying one ex-superstar with mysterious injuries and bad habits, get five real, solid pros. Supposedly Barça is going to buy the 21-year-old Uruguayan defender Martin Caceres from Recreativo.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Chiki-Chiki guy bombed at Eurovision and came in 16th. Bummer.

More boat people: A cayuco carrying 68 black African illegal immigrants washed up on Grand Canary early this morning. Two of them had died at sea, and three more were urgently hospitalized, suffering from exposure, shock, and thirst. Fifteen of them were minors. El Pais gives the story two paragraphs. La Vanguardia doesn't mention it.

It's raining pretty good today, and the rains will continue for most of the week, which is just what we need. Reservoir capacity in Catalonia is now at 35%, up from 20% just a few weeks ago. Now they're talking about not needing the aqueduct from Tarragona or the tanker ships full of water. I dunno: we're going to have more dry years sometime in the future, and having the aqueduct there will end fears of Barcelona running out of drinking water.

Good news: The Colombian air force killed the FARC leader, "Tirofijo" ("Sure Shot"), in a bombing raid back in March. Hope he's finding it nice and warm where he's gone. The Colombian government says it's the strongest blow ever suffered by that gang of terrorists.

Hillary's gaffe about Robert Kennedy has made the press over here, and there's wild speculation that the Americans are so racist they'll never elect Obama in the first place and if they do he'll be assassinated.

The pro-ETA crowd in the Basque country had a demo yesterday "against the Spanish flag." They managed to bring out 250 people in San Sebastian. It never ceases to amaze me that 15% of the Basques support ETA, terrorists and organized criminals, extortionists and murderers. If this were an oppressive dictatorship such as Burma or Sudan or Syria I'd understand--hell, I'd support--a resistance movement, but Franco's been dead for 33 years now.

The Prado has a very cool exhibition opening soon and running through September: the subject is Renaissance portraits, 70 of them, by Durer, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, Van Eyck, and Botticelli, among others. El Pais has a slideshow that you should check out. I'm going; it'll give me an excuse to take a weekend trip to Madrid.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

From today's El Pais in an article titled "Cuba and a hope named Obama": 'A Cuban academic declared that, differently from other occasions, the American electoral process is being taken very seriously this time in official circles. "In previous elections it didn't matter who won. Now it is different. McCain represents immobility. It would be the same policies as always there, and the same response as always here. But an Obama victory would move the whole political scene,' said this analyst, a member of the Communist party."

Another near-disaster here in Barcelona: Yesterday they were loading a cargo of dimethylamine off a ship in the harbor, and the crane dropped it, so the nasty poisonous inflammable stuff got all over the place and they had to shut down the seafront part of the motorway loop around the city for nine hours. The traffic jam was amazing.

I think one of the problems with Barcelona's infrastructure is that we're living on the edge. The system works OK in normal conditions, but let one thing go wrong--a rainstorm that shorts out the traffic lights, a sinkhole that closes down a commuter rail line, a power cable that comes down atop an electricity substation, a bunch of squatters blocking off the Via Laietana with their latest attempted riot--and the whole thing collapses, making everybody's life impossible and costing innumerable hours of work time, thereby decreasing our productivity and hurting our economy.

So CiU wants €5 billion more in tax money for the Generalitat from the central government. That would be OK if they were going to spend it usefully, but you know what they want it for: to pass out to their own clients in their own political machine. More money for TV3! And the Department of Linguistic Normalization! And their pet newspapers (mostly in provincial towns like Lleida, Girona, Manresa, etc.)! And their own "consultants"! And all the 175,000 civil servants employed by the Generalitat!

The cops have been running an anti-drug operation in the Zona Franca, one of Barcelona's most degraded slums. They've arrested and jailed 48 persons for drug trafficking, and have pressed charges against 373 more for drug dealing and 33 for illegal possession of a weapon. The story only mentions the nationality / ethnicity of two of those jailed, both Spaniards.

So everybody's excited about the Eurovision festival tonight. God help us all. Check out the video of Spain's candidate. El Pais says this whole thing is paid for with taxpayers' money through the Cervantes Institute (whose job is to promote Spanish culture around the world) and TVE, the state-owned (and why we need one I don't know) television network.

Supposedly Barça has bought the French-Malian midfielder Keita from Sevilla for €14 million, and has repurchased the Catalan defender (and product of Barça's youth team) Pique from Manchester United for €5 million.
The Spanish government-owned news agency EFE (and why we need one I don't know) got an interview with Obama. Highlights:

Obama promised to "open a new chapter" in US-Spanish relations, and said he would work with Spain on issues like preventing terrorism and climate change.

He promised closer ties to Spain, saying, "As someone who did not support our initial invasion of Iraq, I am not in the same position as the Bush administration." Obama added that Bush "judges his allies on whether they support his agenda or not," and promised a "different attitude toward foreign policy, with energetic diplomacy with the international community."

Said Obama, "Spain has always been one of the United States's strongest allies, and we want to make sure that we will be able to continue working on the issues that are important for both countries." He stated that his Latin American policy would be "guided by dialogue," and that he was willing to talk with every country, including Cuba and Venezuela.

He declared, "Obviously, it will be necessary to complete a series of steps before having any serious diplomatic conversations." Obama volunteered to take the first step toward Cuba; in order to show his "good faith," he will relax restrictions on US residents sending money to and going to visit their relatives in Cuba. Before talking to Chavez, he said, the Venezuela-FARC connection needs to be "uncovered."

Obama concluded by stating his position on illegal immigration: "I believe it is important that we have solid border security and that we penalize businesses that intentionally hire undocumented workers, but I also think we need to find a way toward citizenship for those who have no papers."

All this might sound good in Spain but it's not going to play in Peoria or convince the little old lady in Dubuque.

Says Charles Krauthammer:

Before the Democratic debate of July 23, Barack Obama had never expounded upon the wisdom of meeting, without precondition, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar al-Assad, Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong Il or the Castro brothers. But in that debate, he was asked about doing exactly that. Unprepared, he said sure -- then got fancy, declaring the Bush administration's refusal to do so not just "ridiculous" but "a disgrace."

After that, there was no going back. So he doubled down. What started as a gaffe became policy. By now, it has become doctrine. Yet it remains today what it was on the day he blurted it out: an absurdity.

Friday, May 23, 2008

I just heard this song on KHYI internet radio out of Dallas; I haven't found out who does it:

"I never kissed a girl till I went to college
She got drunk and cheated on me
And I never kissed a boy till I went to prison
Murder in the first degree."

Way better than Raimon.
So the PP infighting is getting worse: the San Gil and Rajoy supporters have each called demonstrations by SMS for this afternoon. This is a terrible, irresponsible idea, and Gustavo de Aristegui, at least, agrees. A political party that's going to win an election needs to show an undivided front; if it can't make up its own mind what it wants, then it's never going to convince the voters.

The average retirement pension in Spain has increased 7.3% over the last year to €813 a month, which is an improvement but still not enough for old folks who have worked hard their whole lives. So I guess Zap can claim to have done something more or less useful, for once.

Let me clarify that I am by no means a tax-and-spend left-liberal / social democrat--I'm generally in favor of keeping taxes and spending as low as possible--but when it comes to helping out people who deserve it, I think we can afford to be generous. More money for retired people, and less for consultant reports and agricultural subsidies and culture ministries and state-owned TV and concerted Church schools and subsidies to the press and foreign aid to Cuba and propping up decaying rust-belt industries and supporting a bloated bureaucracy and payoffs for underemployed Andalusian "agricultural laborers" who for some reason always vote for the PSOE.

The goddamn squatters had themselves a big old time here in Gracia last night; they torched 25 plastic garbage containers. So how much is it going to cost us taxpaying citizens to replace them, and where do we put our garbage in the meantime? This ain't Naples; we don't live in filth around here.

I hate these dirtbags. They contribute absolutely nothing to the community, and they detract from it by committing vandalism and and shoplifting and living rough and dirty in abandoned buildings. So I bought a black indelible marker pen, and I've been writing "Okupas fuera" and "Okupas = parasitos" on the fly-posters they stick up on all the walls calling for anarchy and freedom for Franki.

So with all the foreign news out there they could be reporting on, La Vanguardia devotes a page to Ellen DeGenerate inviting John McCain to be the best man at her lesbian wedding. Wow, that's hot breaking political news. The most interesting part of the whole thing is that they spelled McCain's name wrong.

Get this. It's very weird. Santiago Cañizares, Valencia's goalie, formerly on the Spanish national team, is being investigated for child sexual abuse and has been subpoenaed to testify. Cañizares is known for having, well, unusual ideas, and hanging around with occult psychic cultish pseudophilosophical types. Specifically, he's been hanging around with a Uri Geller-type called "El Brujo," or "The Wizard." Seems that The Wizard has been charged with sexual abuse by 15 young women between the ages of 11 and 22. The Wizard instructed the girls that they needed to have sex with men as part of their "recovery" therapy. That's rape. How exploitative. What a betrayal of trust. Well, one of the girls has identified Cañizares as one of those men.

The Wizard was jailed in February 2007, and refused to testify until February of this year. Cañizares's agent denies any wrongdoing, but says Cañizares will not make any public statements. I say if he did it then we lock him up.

Headline from La Vanguardia: "Moving performance by Raimon in Madrid commemorates student revolution during dictatorship: 1000 people, among them ministers Sebastian, Soria, Aldo, and Salgado, attend singer-songwriter's concert."

You know an "artist" sucks when he's the official singer-songwriter of the current political regime. Here in Spain, there are several alleged artists--Llach, Sabina, Serrat, Ramoncin, and that lot, of whom Raimon is probably the worst--who pretended to be all radical back in the Sixties but never actually got beat up themselves. Now all those parlor-pinko lefty chuckleheads who think they were cool back in the good old days pretend to like these clapped-out used-up old farts.

The thing about Raimon is he cannot sing, he cannot play the guitar, he cannot write melodies, and his lyrics are stupid.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Judith Miller has a long piece in City Journal on ETA and terrorism in Spain. Go read it. There are a few small inaccuracies, but there are also some things I didn't know, such as the following paragraph:

American intelligence and counterterrorism officials have repeatedly traveled to Madrid, American officials say, to urge the Spanish government to close loopholes that international terrorists have exploited in its legal system, reduce the self-defeating envy among Spain’s warring police forces, improve police training, and step up bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism cooperation. Some of this has occurred. Spain recently approved the stationing of an NYPD detective in Madrid to monitor counterterrorist operations. But most U.S. pleas have had limited impact, perhaps hampered by the tension between Washington and Madrid over Iraq and other issues.
PP infighting news: Maria San Gil will not stand for reelection as the Basque PP leader; that is, she's getting out of the way. Very responsible, and worthy of Ms. San Gil, famous for her courage and honesty. She's receiving support from Gustavo de Aristegui, an intelligent man who is the PP's shadow minister for foreign affairs, and former Prime Minister Aznar's wife, Ana Botella, a Madrid city councilwoman. De Aristegui said, "Rajoy is makeing a profound mistake," which is pretty strong language when you're talking about your own party's leader. Rajoy, meanwhile, got support from Andalusian PP boss Javier Arenas.

Drugs and alcohol update: Of Catalan high-school students between 14 and 18, within the last month, 25% have consumed cannabis, 3.5% have consumed unprescribed prescription drugs, 31% have consumed tobacco, 61% have consumed alcohol, and 2.6% have consumed cocaine. Where do teenagers get enough money to buy cocaine?

Well, those little bastards, the Barcelona street criminals, have killed somebody. They bag-snatched an 80-year-old woman, a Danish tourist, and threw her to the ground on Tuesday. She was taken to the hospital, where she went into a coma, and she died yesterday. The cops say it's going to be almost impossible to find the murderer--under Kansas law, anyway, this is capital murder, committed during the commission of a felony--unless somebody talks. What cowards, victimizing old women who can't defend themselves. I vote we hang them, but you already knew that.

They arrested two more people for Internet kiddie porn here in Spain, where punks mug old ladies with impunity, but at least we round up pervo pederasts by the dozen. Get this: One of these pervs is a pediatrician. Glad I didn't send my kid to him.

The Euribor, the Eurozone's base interest rate, hit 5%, and oil has hit $135 a barrel. This means higher mortgage payments and higher food and gasoline prices, so it's time to pull in the old belt a notch or two.

What America should do: Reduce energy dependence on the Middle East. Despite the drawbacks, with oil this high, using ethanol makes sense. We have enormous coal reserves; let's use them. Drill in Alaska: it's an enormous place and a few oil wells are not going to drive polar bears into extinction. And it's not like anyone lives north of the Brooks Range. Wind power makes sense with oil this high, as well, and there are lots of windy places in Kansas where nobody lives where they could put up thousands of windmills. Build state-of-the-art nuclear plants; the risk is negligible though the cost is high. Sure, all this is going to cost money, but I'll bet private corporations could more than handle it.

Today it's Corpus Christi, and in an ancient Barcelonese tradition, they place an blown-out egg on top of the stream of water shooting up from the fountain in the Cathedral cloister, along with a dozen other medieval churches. The stream of water elevates the egg and it "dances," held up by the water. It's called "l'ou com balla," and is definitely worth having a look at if you're in town.

Get this: Nearly half of all Spaniards do not shower every day, according to a Proctor and Gamble survey. And with water restrictions, it's only going to get worse this summer.
Today La Vanguardia has nothing in the news pages on the Catalan consultant-reports corruption scandal, not surprisingly. However, Francesc de Carreras has an opinion piece buried back on page 20 in the print edition, the first opinion piece I've seen on this issue. They don't link to it from their website.

Remember, while reading, that the major issue in Catalan politics has been the new regional statute, which is supposed to make sure that Catalonia gets the same amount in government services as it pays out in taxes. Catalan nationalists' justification for this is that the regional government, the Generalitat, is badly financed and does not receive enough tax money to pass out in pork-barrel spending.

De Carreras points out that some of the reports commissioned had titles like "Ten arguments in favor of non-sexist toys" and "Design for a parcheesi board and jigsaw puzzle made from cardboard";

that 70% of the reports were billed at less than €12,000 and therefore not subject to competitive bidding;

that the Generalitat's budget for this year is €33 billion;

that the Generalitat has paid the Platform in Favor of Catalan National Sports Teams over €4 million in the past five years, along with the rent on a luxurious office, and just day before yesterday they received €1.2 million more;

that in 2007 the Generalitat subsidized pro-Catalanist organizations outside of Catalonia with more than €2 million;

that they gave €2.9 million last October and €625,000 just last week to the La Bressola Foundation in order to provide Catalan classes for 600 students in schools IN FRANCE;

that the Generalitat employed 126,510 civil servants in 2003, and 178,948 in 2007, an increase of more than 50,000 in four years;

that the Generalitat is opening "embassies" in foreign capitals, including Berlin (already open), London, Paris, New York, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and Peking;

and that Generalitat-owned TV3 gives discounts of up to 95% to certain favored advertisers.

His conclusion: "This is happening just at the very moment (the Generalitat) is asking for a new financing system due to the insufficiencies of the previous one...Is the Generalitat badly-financed or does it waste money and pay off its clients?"

La Vanguardia doesn't have room in its news pages for this story, but they have plenty of space for Robert Fisk, in a news story titled "Where will the madness end?" on page 8, not labeled either analysis or opinion, to vomit hatred for President Bush and Israel and cheer on Islamist terrorists.

Says Fisk: "This George W. Bush declared in Jerusalem that 'Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas will be defeated because the Muslims in the whole region recognize the inanities of the terrorist perspective and the illegitimacy of their cause.' But where will this madness end? At what point do words lose their meaning? Al Qaeda is not being defeated. Hezbollah just won an internal war in Lebanon with similar dimensions to the victory of Hamas in Gaza. Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza are horrendous disasters. But this stupid and pitiless dunce of a man has lied to the world again...he explains the benefits of Israeli democracy to the world, as if the Palestinians benefit from a democracy that continues taking the land that they have owned for generations away from them."

Interestingly, they don't have a link to the Fisk story on their website either.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Catalan "consultant reports" corruption scandal news: The 1583 reports were commissioned by the Catalan government in 2007 alone. They include a one-page report billed at €11,999 (€12,000 is the line above which government contracts are subject to competitive bidding), many reports cut-and-pasted from Internet, and many invoices made out blank, without the recipient's name appearing on the bill.

Others include a €28,000 report on a species of clam, a €11,965 report on the cultivation of tiger nuts ("chufas"), and a €150,000 37-page report on Chinese culture.

And there are those damn tiger nuts again.

Among the "consultants" paid are the former Communist deputy in the Catalan parliament, Bet Font, and ERC Girona leader Enric Pujol Casanovas. Health counselor Marina Geli paid €29,999 in advance for a report on family medicine and €11,999 to create a "virtual library." Neither report has yet been received.

CiU says that during its last year in power, 2003, it paid consultants €67 million, while in 2007 the Pink-Red-Brown-Green Tripartite coalition paid them €317 million.

La Vanguardia buried this story on Page 16, giving it about a quarter of a page. And, get this, it's not even on their website, so I can't link to it. I'm appalled but not surprised, since La Vanguardia is also part of the Catalan influence-peddling endogamic system of political machine clientelism. I wish La Vangua would publicly announce how much money it receives from local and regional governments for the thousands of subscriptions they buy; I will bet they pay for at least 10,000, and maybe double that. A yearly subscription to La Vangua costs €360, so you do the math.

In addition, neither El Periodico, nor El Pais, nor Avui links to the story. Wonder how many subscriptions the Generalitat buys from them.

Meanwhile, Zap's goverment passed the Dependents Law last year as one of its major social programs: "severe dependents" (that is, retarded, disabled, senile, etc. people) are supposed to receive benefits, an average of €516 a month, each.

Great, I'm all for it. I believe it's part of the social contract that we help the weakest among us, and I think it's the government's job to make sure it happens. And for €516 a month, you can have a caregiver come in a couple of hours every day, or you can feed your grandma pork chops and fresh fish instead of weenies, or you can send your disabled kid to special physical therapy. As Rosa's primary caregiver during the last nine months of her life, I can tell you that such things make an enormous difference in the dependent's quality of life.

So 23,000 severe dependents in Catalonia, have not received their Dependents Law benefits yet, though the law has been in effect for a year now. That's more than a third of them. Carme Capdevila, of ERC, the Generalitat's counselor (=cabinet minister) for Social Action, admitted that there have been delays in implementing the program, because, you see, a year is just not enough time to put a law into practice.

Carme Capdevila, in case you don't remember, is one of the seven Generalitat counselors under investigation in the consultant report scandal. So she had time to make sure that her party's clients got the kickbacks they had coming, but not enough to make sure that all the severe dependents got their benefits before a year had passed.
Big ETA news: The French police, in a coordinated French-Spanish operation, arrested four ETA members in Bordeaux last night at about 11:30. These are big fish, the leaders of ETA's political branch, and Francisco Javier López Peña is the biggest of them all. Interior minister Rubalcaba said that López Peña is the bull goose etarra, the leader of both the political and operational branches.

He was known to have been, at one time or another, ETA's political leader, in charge of ETA's weapons cache, in charge of ETA training, and in charge of ETA safe houses in France. López Peña was part of the ETA delegation that met with the Zap government in December 2006, and he is thought to be the leader of the faction that decided to break the most recent ETA alleged truce (March-December 2006) with the Barajas bombing.

The other three etarras arrested were also members of the leadership of ETA's political branch. They are Ainhoa Ozaeta, the daughter-in-law of notorious ETA boss "Josu Ternera," who was the masked etarra who read ETA's March 2006 "truce" communiqué; Igor Suberbiola, who planned a series of 2004 bombings and who already had a warrant out for him; and Jon Salaberría, a former leader of the ETA youth brigade Jarrai and an ex-member of the Basque parliament from ETA's front party Batasuna.

The four were captured while meeting in a safe house in Bordeaux; each was carrying a pistol, they had a small amount of explosives, and they also had a lot of files and documents, which should prove very useful.

This morning the former Batasuna mayor of Andoain, José Antonio Barandiaran Ezama, was arrested. He is alleged to have met with the four arrested terrorists. The person who rented the Bordeaux safe house has also been arrested. I will bet that a whole string of arrests will happen within the last couple of days. And you know everybody in ETA is scrambling right now, because a load of evidence has just dropped into the laps of the police.

This is a major step along the way to destroying ETA.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Spanish political news: Pacifist defense minister Carme Chacon gave birth yesterday in Barcelona to a boy named Miguel. Interior minister Rubalcaba will take over her duties while she is on maternity leave. Zap and Basque premier Ibarretxe had a meeting and they didn't agree on anything. Madrid mayor Ruiz-Gallardon announced his support for Rajoy and his move toward the center, while Aznar warned Rajoy not to abandon or ignore the right wing of the PP. Looks like Gallardon will be the next PP secretary-general.

Spain's carbon-dioxide emissions are up 1.8% over last year. Since 1990, Spain's CO2 emissions have increased 52%, while the Kyoto Protocol permits an increase of only 15%. It's a good thing Zap's prime minister, because he's an ecologist who believes in the Kyoto Treaty to the point that he criticizes George Bush for not signing it. You can really tell that reducing pollution is one of Zap's top priorities.

Another Spanish justice system disaster. You won't believe this one. A young man named Daniel, from Lleida, raped six women at the age of 14. They sent him to juvie in Barcelona, where they allowed him out on furlough, and he raped eleven more women. So in 2002, they sent him to five years of prison, where he held a knife on a fellow inmate and forced him to perform fellatio. Now his five-year sentence is up, and his fifteen-month sentence for the prison rape runs out in October. Daniel has refused to participate in any sort of rehabilitation, and the prosecutor's office considers him "highly dangerous."

So the National Court has decided to release him now. This unrehabilitated serial rapist should obviously be locked up for life far away from the rest of society. If Spain's justice system won't do that, then there is something seriously wrong with it. I would suggest that the PP should pick up this issue and bash Zap around the head with it repeatedly.

National Health disaster update: Another patient died at the 12 de Octubre hospital in Madrid of a hospital-acquired bacterial infection, this time staphylococcus aureus. Looks like the 12 de Octubre hospital features a variety of bacteria to infect its patients with.

The Catalan corporation Abertis, in a consortium with La Caixa and Citigroup, has won the bidding to manage the Pennsylvania Turnpike for the next 75 years for a total of €8.3 billion. Abertis's most important businesses are turnpike and airport management, along with logistics. The Barcelona savings bank giant La Caixa owns nearly 29% of Abertis, and is the company's largest stockholder.

Note: The Spanish toponyms for American states are usually the same as in English. Exceptions: The states whose names include "New," which is "Nuevo/a," the ones that include a direction (e.g. "Dakota del Norte"), Pennsylvania ("Pensílvania"), Missouri ("Misuri"), Mississippi ("Misisipí"), Louisiana ("Luisiana"), Hawaii ("Hawai"), and sometimes Texas ("Tejas"). Frequently the Spanish pronunciation is quite different, even when the spelling is the same; for example, Virginia is "Beer-HEEN-ee-ah," and Georgia is "Hay-ORE-hee-ah."

Monday, May 19, 2008

United States Senators who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned segregation in all public services, whether publicly or privately owned:


Tower, TX
Hickenlooper, IA
Goldwater, AZ
Mechem, NM
Simpson, WY
Cotton, NH


Russell, GA
Harry F. Byrd, Sr., VA
Ellender, LA
Hill, AL
Eastland, MS
McClellan, AR
Fulbright, AR
Johnston, SC
Holland, FL
Robertson, VA
Sparkman, AL
Stennis, MS
Long, LA
Smathers, FL
Gore, TN
Ervin, NC
Thurmond, SC
Talmadge, GA
Robert Byrd, WV
Walters, TN

Robert Byrd is notoriously still in the Senate. Fulbright is the scholarship guy. Gore is Al Gore's dad. Thurmond is the one who lived to be 100. Ervin is the Watergate guy. Long is one of the Long dynasty.
ETA again: They set off a truck-bomb loaded with 60 kilos of explosives on the beachfront street in Guecho (Getxo), Vizcaya, at 1 AM today. They called in a warning an hour before the bomb went off, so nobody was hurt. For a big explosion--it left a crater a foot deep and six across--it did surprisingly little structural damage.

Constitutional Court confusion: Justice Roberto Garcia-Calvo, a conservative, died suddenly yesterday, leaving another vacancy among the court's twelve members. The Court had been divided six to six between "progressives" and "conservatives," with the progressive Chief Justice breaking ties. No one knows who's going to replace Garcia-Calvo, especially since four of the current Justices' terms expired in December and the PSOE and PP haven't been able to agree on who'll replace them, either.

Here in Catalonia the focus is, of course, on the controversial Catalan statute of autonomy (= regional constitution), which was passed by the Catalan and Spanish parliaments, but which has been held up by judicial appeals from both the opposition PP and from other Spanish regions. With Garcia-Calvo dead, the "progressives" would have an advantage if a decision on the statute were to be made now. Which is highly unlikely.

The Spanish construction sector's production was down 10% from a year ago as of March, the highest drop in the EU; the EU average is a mere 0.1% decline.

72% of Spanish soccer fans would rather watch soccer than have sex, which might have something to do with the birth rate around here.

ERC Catalunacy: Pepelu Carod-Rovira is going to Portugal to request support for Catalan independence. Why would he possibly think he's going to get any? Meanwhile, accused embezzler and influence-peddler Joan Puigcercos wants to be the party's candidate in the 2010 regional election so he can get Catalonia all ready for independence in 2014.

Defense Minister Carme Chacon said yesterday, "I am a pacifist woman, and the Army is pacifist too."

They had a big old demonstration in Amposta, a small Catalan city on the Ebro River, against sending any of their precious liquid to keep us clean and hydrated here in Barcelona. As usual in Spain, the organizers and the authorities claimed radically different turnouts; this time the organizers said 35,000 and the authorities said 6000. The selfishness is appalling, since the Ebro Valley towns and farms don't need the water to be sent to Barcelona through the new "mini-transfer" aqueduct supposedly already under construction. The whole point of sending this Ebro water to Barcelona is that Barcelona is buying the excess water that the Ebro Valley farmers aren't going to use.

I bet the murder in Reus becomes a big stink; the victim was a law-abiding citizen, a 37-year-old engineer from a nearby small town, while the alleged killer is a Spanish gypsy. That is not going to go over well around here, where gypsies are stereotyped as knife-wielding criminals. Which some of them are.

The Spanish First Division soccer season is over. Real Madrid is champion; other Champions League teams next year are Villarreal, Barça, and Atletico de Madrid; Racing, Sevilla, and Valencia (Cup champion) will play the UEFA Cup; and Levante, Murcia, and Zaragoza are relegated to Second. Just wait till next year. Meanwhile, this summer we'll have the Eurocup to keep us entertained.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The PSOE has decided to grab onto the immigration issue, since their surveys tell them it's the PP's strongest weapon against them. Get this: the PSOE promises to "guarantee respect for social norms that, before the arrival of immigrants, our society had never seen broken, in such important areas as housing, quality of life, commerce, opening hours, or the use of public space, which have suffered evident tensions because of the arrival of foreigners coming from different cultures." They also promised to "prioritize employment for Spaniards." Yet Socialist deputy prime minister De la Vega just made a fool out of herself by criticizing Italian immigration policy as racist and xenophobic.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Moratinos announced that he wanted to "take ambitious steps" to make Spain's relationship with the US "deeper and more profound." Unfortunately, Zap took a couple of ambitious steps in the other direction a few years ago which are going to keep bilateral relations cool as long as he's prime minister.

The Ted Kennedy story is getting play over here; of course, it's news only because he's a Kennedy. If some other Democratic senator had a couple of seizures and was hospitalized, it wouldn't be trans-Atlantic newsworthy.

Another thing that's getting massive press is the 40th anniversary of May 1968. Every newspaper is literally devoting entire pages every day to romanticizing a bunch of pseudorevolutionary middle-class mama's boys. I'll spare you the reminiscences of those who claim to have been in Paris at the time. May 1968 has to be the most overrated historical event ever, since it changed absolutely nothing.

Relatives of the 14 alleged terrorists arrested in January for plotting suicide bomb attacks in the Barcelona subway, among other places, held a demo demanding their release. The high point was when a young daughter of one of the arrestees made a weepy plea for her daddy's freedom. They got a mere 200 people out, which shows that almost everyone is happy that these guys are behind bars because at least in jail they can't blow us up. Naturally, our friends the Communists, along with the rest of Barcelona's trendy suicidal extreme left, helped them organize it.

Sometimes I can't believe the crazy shit that gets talked up around here. The Basque Parliament has passed a resolution accusing the Socialist Zap Spanish government of torturing ETA prisoners. Can you imagine an American state legislature passing a resolution accusing the federal government of torturing, say, that lot in Guantanamo?

National Health hospital infections update: A court ruled that the Madrid regional government had to pay an indemnity of €90,000 to the family of a baby girl who died of the pseudomona aureginosa bacterium contracted at the 12 de Octubre hospital. In the US a jury would award them at least $9 million.

Remember the Great Barcelona Blackout of last summer? The city's electrical system won't be completely repaired until June, a mere eleven months after the breakdown.

You may have heard that the Spanish cops arrested five hackers--it made the American press--who were going around breaking into other people's websites, including the US government's. Don't worry, they're not ideologically oriented, they tried breaking into everybody's site, including that of the Spanish Communist Party; they substituted caricatures of Rajoy and Zap for the Commie website's content.

Get this headline from El Pais: "Woody Allen fills Barcelona with intelligence." Seems Woody's Made in BCN movie has been released. Penelope Cruz is in it, which is the only reason to pirate it when it comes out on DVD; I wouldn't bother paying to get in at the theater. I think the last Woody Allen movie I liked was "Annie Hall."

Lynching in Reus, right here in Catalonia: A mob of six to ten persons were chasing two men through the streets at 4 AM in the city's downtown. One of the men tripped, was caught, and was stabbed to death. The press is not reporting the ethnicity of those involved.

Barça finished its regular season last night with a 3-5 victory in Murcia, already sentenced to relegation to the second division. The press is unanimous that this was a season to forget. Eto'o is leaving, along with Ronaldinho, Deco, Zambrotta, and company. Marquez will stay because Milito is out until at least January. Supposedly Alves and Keita have already been signed from Sevilla, and Piqué from Man United. Champions Real Madrid play relegated Levante tonight, but the club owes the Levante players millions of euros in back pay, and they've threatened to strike.
I found out what happened re: gunfire here in Gracia. Just before dawn on Friday, a car tried to escape a police roadblock on the Travesera de Dalt, headed down Torrent de les Flors, and the cops fired on the car near the corner of Torrent and Legalitat. The car stopped and those inside were arrested; the driver was an Iraqi. Nothing to do with terrorism, we have been assured.

I don't think it was a very good idea for the police to shoot at a car in the middle of Europe's most crowded residential neighborhood, unless the car contained extremely bad people who could not possibly be allowed to get away. If these guys were just car thieves or hash smugglers, they should have kept the guns holstered.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Here's some nice Spanish racism from El Correo Gallego via our compadre Colin Davies. Yes, you're right, this cartoon was published in a mainstream newspaper, not in the Ku Klux Klan Kronikle. It's a reference to De la Vega's outburst of horror in Niger after being photographed with a Nigerese businessman and his three wives.
There was gunfire early this morning on Calle Torrent de les Flors two blocks away from my house; when I went down to the café with my newspaper and the dog, there were three cop cars and they had the street blocked off. Nobody seems to know what happened, whether anyone was hurt or why the guy did it. There is a consensus that it's got nothing to do with terrorism. The local press hasn't picked up on it yet.

Gracia is a very peaceful place but we do have the occasional murder; within the last three or four years an Argentinian girl was knifed by her boyfriend, an old guy murdered his wife over on Principe de Asturias street, there was a Chinese mob killing at a restaurant on Calle Providencia, and some psycho murdered two women at a parking garage just the other side of Plaza Lesseps. The wildest one was when this guy fell in love with a prostitute and shot her Albanian pimp at a bar in the Plaza Rius i Taulet; the pimp survived. ("Just like in the movies," everyone said.) All that sounds pretty bad, but remember we've got 200,000 people packed in here; we've got the highest population density of all Barcelona neighborhoods, and Barcelona is the most densely populated city in Europe.

The boat people continue arriving; this morning a boat containing 76 black African illegal immigrants washed up in Almeria, and another boat with 26 more was found off the Granada coast. These voyages across the Mediterranean from Morocco are much safer than the attempts to reach the Canaries from the Mauritanian and Senegalese coasts. It's still a shame and a tragedy, and what we in the West can do to help is stop interfering with their commerce. Put an end to protectionist tariffs and stop subsidizing our own producers, especially farmers. That's the best way to help out the Third World: give them a chance to compete.

ETA update: They seem to have re-established their car bomb factory in France; the French cops raided their last one in September 2007 and confiscated 400 kilos of explosives. It's thought that the new bomb workshop cell turned the van-bomb over to the Vizcaya operational cell, who proceeded to set it off in Legutiano yesterday. They tried something similar last year in Logroño, but the bomb didn't go off, as ETA's bomb-making expert, Luis Ignacio Iruretagoyena, who made the enormous Barajas bomb that destroyed an entire concrete parking garage, had already been arrested during the French roundup. Since then ETA has only exploded small, amateurish bombs, since they didn't have the explosives or expertise to make big ones. Until yesterday.

More PP infighting: Now the Basque PP says it backs Rajoy against Maria San Gil's challenge to his leadership. That is, they're supporting the national party leader over their own regional party leader. This can only strengthen Rajoy's position.

Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega has made a damn fool out of herself again. There's been a backlash in Italy against Romanians in general and Romanian gypsies in particular. There are 550,000 legal Romanian immigrants in Italy, and 195,000 illegals. Among them are 42,000 Romanian gypsies, and also 28,000 Yugoslavian gypsies. As usual, there has been a populist working-class backlash against them, exacerbated by several well-publicized crimes; the ones that angered many Italians were when a Romanian gypsy woman tried to steal a baby from another woman's arms, and three rape-murders committed by Romanians. Gypsy camps have been burned by mobs in Naples. This is a problem.

So the Berlusconi government in Italy is setting up three police brigades specifically to deal with gypsies, one in Milan, one in Rome, and one in Naples. Yesterday morning the Italian cops rounded up 400 illegals and deported a bunch of them, and more raids are coming.

Racism? That's a factor, but no country is free of racism. Especially, no European country is free of anti-gypsy racism; Spain is notorious for it. The problem is that there's some justification for disliking many gypsies, especially some of the Romanians, who even the Spanish gypsies fear. Many gypsies just do not follow the rules of European society; it's not their different but harmless customs and beliefs that are disliked, it's the stealing and bullying and drug dealing and throwing garbage around and begging and abusing women and not working.

Anyway, De la Vega felt it necessary to spout off about Italian internal affairs, and accused Berlusconi of "exalting violence, racism, and xenophobia." She added that she disagrees with the deportations "because it does not respect the law and the rights of immigrants. Our government repudiates violence, racism, and xenophobia, and therefore cannot accept what is happening in Italy."

Oh, shut up, you self-righteous ninny. Take a look at the La Mina gypsy neighborhood here in Barcelona if you want to find a few social problems that your Socialist government might want to do something about.

In the mood for some irony? La Vanguardia says today that "integration is a failure in Catalan schools." Half of the immigrant children in Catalonia would have to be forcibly transferred to another school in order to desegregate. Some public schools have become effectively ghettos for immigrant children, because when the tipping point of immigrant students is reached, all the Spanish parents pull their kids out of the school. 85% of immigrant children in Catalonia go to public schools, and so the nice, white, often Catholic (which equals no Muslims) private schools are the obvious refuge. Funny, I thought "white flight" was only a problem in racist countries like the United States and Britain, and that moral, high-minded people like Spaniards would never succumb to it.

Example: In the working-class Fondo neighborhood in the Barcelona suburb of Santa Coloma, the percentage of immigrant children is 35%. One public elementary school there is 69% immigrants. The neighborhood "concerted" (fee-charging Catholic school that receives state subsidies) elementary school has only 4% immigrant children.

Reality tops Viz. Viz is a vulgar English comic magazine that features the running character Eight Ace. Eight Ace is a pathetic alcoholic addicted to Ace beer, which goes for one pound forty-nine an eight-pack at Mr. Patel's off-license down the street. His family, which includes his violent wife and an indeterminate but large number of children, lives in a shack on the edge of town, though Eight's wife often makes him sleep in the shed, especially when he urinates on himself, which is usually.

In every episode, Eight tries to reform, and he's well on the way to becoming an upstanding citizen, when somehow the sum of one pound forty-nine reaches his hands. Eight can't resist the call of the Ace, and he backslides yet again, gets beaten up by his wife, and is forced to sleep among the debris in the front yard once more. My favorite was when he decided to be a good father and took his kids to the zoo, but unfortunately people had thrown 1.49 in change into the crocodile pen. The last frame shows a horribly mangled Eight, leaving a trail of blood behind him, dragging himself down to Mr. Patel's.

Naturally, of course, there's no beer in England called Ace, and definitely no beer in England that goes for less than five pounds for six cans down at the off-license. But here in Barcelona, in today's La Vanguardia, Caprabo has an ad advertising Aurum beer, which I've never heard of before, at 18 euro-cents a can. A little multiplication means that an eight-pack would cost €1.44. And if we convert that into pounds--one euro is about 0.8 pounds--an eight-pack of Aurum would set our man Eight back by only one pound fifteen. Amazing. Eight cans of beer for one pound fifteen. Eight ought to move down here, he'd save money in the long run.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In case you haven't noticed, I figured out how to make the polls stay open for longer than a week, so you can now vote in all of them if you scroll down and look on the right side.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tragedy update: Now they're talking 20,000 dead in China and 100,000 dead in Burma, with 1.5 million people in danger of death from hunger, disease, and exposure. When are we going to start bombing Burma with parachute-loads of rice and medicines? To hell with the junta and what they want us to do. Slate has two pieces worth reading, an Anne Applebaum denunciation of the Burmese junta and an explanation of how disaster casualties are estimated.

Al Qaeda is making Internet threats to carry out bombings in Switzerland and Austria during this summer's soccer Eurocup. Let me point out that both Switzerland and Austria are constitutionally neutral nations, that neither has troops outside its borders, that neither is a member of NATO or an American ally, that neither is participating in the Iraq or Afghanistan occupations, and that neither is especially pro-Israeli. Many people in Spain still don't get the basic fact that Islamist terrorism wants to kill us all or force us to submit. Zap: Spain is still a target and don't forget it.

Spain news: Rajoy and Zap are making a show of unity in the wake of the ETA bombing in Alava. We'll see how long this lasts. Maria San Gil is not going to get on the bus: she had a meeting with Rajoy and told him that she has no confidence in his leadership. The price of rented flats in Spain increased by almost exactly the inflation rate, 4.2%, over the last year, so while sale prices are dropping, rental prices are holding.

The water wars continue: Aragon wants the Zap administration to halt construction of the aqueduct that is to carry water from the Ebro to Barcelona. The European Central Bank says the eurozone countries are going to go through "a prolonged period of inflation." Remember that Alan Greenspan said it might be necessary to sacrifice growth in order to hold inflation down. Fallout from the housing market: The Barcelona real estate agency Don Piso, which belongs to the developer Habitat, is going to close the 120 offices it owns and fire 350 people. They will keep their 140 franchised offices open. Habitat's yearly sales are down 66%, they lost €444 million in 2007, and they're expected to take further losses in 2008 and 2009.

Remember a few weeks ago when La Vanguardia ran a photo taken in the US of a joke sign reading "No trespassing. Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again," and everybody went wild about gun-nut Americans and their violent society? Well, today they ran a photo taken in Sant Boi of a sign reading "All dogs that shit here will be exterminated," that was then rectified to "The owners of all dogs that shit here will be exterminated." No one is going wild about how violent Catalan society is, though.

Speaking of violence, I came across this Wikipedia entry; it's a list of murder rates around the world, and it includes a color-coded illustrative map. According to Wikipedia, these are the most recently available national murder rates per 100,000 people; they're from between 2004 and 2006. I've selected a few of them:

El Salvador 55
Jamaica 49
Venezuela 45
South Africa 41
Colombia 37
Brazil 27
Russia 17
Mexico 13
Argentina 9.5
Thailand 8.5
United States 5.9
Spain 3.4
Switzerland 2.9
United Kingdom 2.0
Canada 1.9
France 1.6
Japan 1.1
Germany 1.0

So Spain is actually more violent than the UK, and not that far behind the US. By the way, many countries are not included in the list, including China and India, as well as most of Africa and a good part of Asia.

The homicide rate in the US is actually a good bit lower than it was in the "good old days." Except for an unusually peaceful period between 1947 and 1968, the American murder rate has always been high. In 1916 it was 6.5, in 1921 it was 8.1, in 1928 8.6, in 1933 9.7, in 1939 6.4, in 1946 6.4, in 1969 7.3, in 1974 9.8, and in 1980 10.2. It declined dramatically in the mid-1990s to more or less the current level.