Sunday, June 29, 2008

Congratulations to the Spanish national football team. They finally won one. I didn't think they could. I didn't think they'd get past Italy. But they won fair and square, and they played better than the Germans. Everyone played well; probably Xavi and Torres were the best. Senna has had a great Eurocup, and his value has probably doubled. Possibly the main advantage Spain had: the average age of the players is the youngest of all the Eurocup squads, something like 26.8 years. Stats show baseball players peak at age 27; if that translates to soccer, and I bet it does, Spain's guys are, on the average, just hitting the best years of their careers.

Puyol had a good Eurocup, which surprised me, because he was all beat up physically during the late unlamented Barça season. Iniesta was OK. Xavi was excellent. Fabregas was very good, and he'll be playing here again within a couple of years.

Barcelona needs a forward. I wonder if they make a big offer for Torres with the, say, €50 million they're going to get for the three big stars who will be leaving soon.

The celebration isn't too wild around here; there are a few firecrackers going off, but it's not as if the Barça had won something. Toni Soler had a piece today in La Vangua about the people like him who "don't care" if the Spanish team wins; of course, what they want is for Spain to lose, but saying so would seem unsporting.

It is true that the announcers have been obnoxiously nationalistic through this whole thing; there have been a good few pieces in the Catalan papers about this, and they're right. Rather than, say, reporting on the game, they've been leading cheers.

Anyway, congratulations to the players, and we hope the fans are happy. I bet a lot of people show up for work hung over tomorrow.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Well, the Spanish football team has proven me wrong; I didn't figure they'd get past Italy, much less win the semifinal as well. Germany will be tough to beat in the final, but there's no reason Spain can't beat them if they play like they have so far. Hard to believe that a team coached by that ancient jackass Aragones has made the final of the Eurocup, proving that the coach doesn't have much to do with the way the team plays, I guess.

Housing starts in Spain over the first trimester of 2008 are down 36% over the same period last year; all the real estate statistics, secondhand housing sales and number of new mortgages and that stuff are significantly down. To my unscientific eyes, asking prices for apartments in Barcelona have fallen by a third over the last year. The stock market is down as well, about to drop below the psychological barrier of 12,000 points; it's off something like 15% on the year. Rising interest rates--the Euribor is at 5.3%--and high oil prices--$140 a barrel--don't help matters any.

Weird pervert news around here. The guy who raped the horse last year got five months in prison for cruelty to animals. This kind of sicko needs to be kept away from everybody for a long time. And remember Javier Rodrigo dos Santos, the Prevert of Palma, the guy who ran up €50,000 on a municipal credit card in gay brothels? He's now been accused of child sexual abuse. Jeez. We've got just about as many weirdos around here as they do everywhere else.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

We're going off to the pueblo for the long weekend; Iberian Notes should be back on the air Tuesday. I've been putting some effort into, and it's looking pretty good. A couple more tweaks, some publicity, and systems are go. We're planning to go to this Spanish blogger thing called the Blogellón in Zaragoza on July 4, so that ought to be fun.

It's San Juan weekend, and I hate San Juan in Barcelona because of all the damn firecrackers. They bother me and frighten the pets.

News from these here parts: Rajoy got what he wanted at the PP convention. He's the candidate for the next election, and Dolores de Cospedal is the new party secretary-general. Two Spanish soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash in Bosnia. Our Castro-loving government, led by Zap and Moratinos and other weasels of that sort, persuaded the EU to lift its symbolic diplomatic sanctions on Cuba. Of course whoever writes Fidel's articles said that wasn't good enough for him, that the Europeans were hypocrites. I'm amazed the Europeans haven't twigged yet that the Cuban pattern is: whenever you get a concession, demand more.

Nasty crime among gypsy drug dealers in Tortosa, two murdered, a mother and her son. Spain's population topped 46 million, 5.2 million of them immigrants. Top 14 nationalities: Romania 730,000: Morocco 645,000; Ecuador 420,000; UK 350,000; Colombia 280,000; Bolivia 240,000; Germany 180,000; Italy 160,000; Bulgaria 155,000; Argentina 145,000; Portugal 125,000; China 125,000; Peru 120,000; Brazil 115,000. It's pretty clear that Spain is not Eurabia, with the Moroccans the only Muslims among the top immigrant groups. And three-quarters of a million of our immigrants are well-off Europeans, often retired.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

We've got pretty much the way we want it now. We had a bit of a struggle with WordPress; what we've discovered is that you can do all kinds of stuff with it, that it's much more versatile than Blogger, but it's also much less user-friendly. Remember, I'm a complete technological disaster, I don't even have a cell-phone and I don't know how to use one, and even I can figure out Blogger. WordPress is above the capabilities of the average idiot, that is, me. Anyway, now, is mostly a question of content and getting the word out; the technical stuff is mostly dealt with.

News from these here parts: The commuter trains were down again yesterday and this morning due to heavy rain in some areas. Sau, the biggest of the reservoirs that supplies Barcelona, is at 80% of capacity, so fears of the drought have completely subsided. The PP opposition to Rajoy has pretty much folded, and will not be abataining from the vote of confidence to be held at the party convention. That crook Joan Puigcercós got elected head of Esquerra Republicana, at least until he goes to jail over the comissions scandal.

Building starts were down 21% in Spain this April over the previous year. They busted 25 municipal employees and elected officials in Estepona, governed by the PSOE, for massive fraud, embezzlement, extortion, abuse of power, and other groovy things. Every single political party in Spain runs a crooked political machine that looks out for the interests of its clients first and everything else second, so municipal corruption exists everywhere no matter what the governing party.

Everybody's talking about this sex pervert who called himself "Nanysex," a pederast who molested very young children. He's been sent off to jail and supposedly the other prisoners tried to torch his cell and burn him to death.

That clown Moratinos went to Venezuela and hugged Hugo Chavez and talked about the bilateral "intense and solidarious connection" between the two regimes. Every time I start thinking, "Oh, Zap's not all that bad, things could be a lot worse, at least he hasn't nationalized the Internet," something like this happens and makes me want to puke.

As expected, Spain qualified for the quarterfinals of the Eurocup without much problem, easily defeating Russia and Sweden. Tonight they play Greece in a meaningless game, and they'll face Italy in the quarters, where Spain will be eliminated as usual. If I had any money I'd bet some of it on the Italians, especially with decent odds. Holland is the team that's played the best so far, with Portugal and Croatia this year's dark horses.

Guardiola made his first speech as Barça coach. He confirmed yesterday that he was going to ship out Ronaldinho, Deco, and Eto'o. So all the teams making offers for those guys must have tried to lowball the management directly afterward, because today they said that they wouldn't sell the Tainted Three if they didn't get enough money. Yeah, right, I seriously doubt that any of those guys will ever play for Barça again. Now they're speculating Dinho to Man City, Deco to Chelsea, and Eto'o to Newcastle or West Ham. For what that's worth. Milan will probably come up with the cash for at least one of them.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Don't forget to read just for grins.

The big news in the States related to Spain is the extradition of Monzer al Kasar, a Syrian arms trafficker who has lived in Madrid for years, to the US on charges of conspiring to sell ground-to-air missiles to the FARC. This guy has sold arms to many of the worst scuzzballs around the world, from Nicaragua to Iran. This is getting almost no coverage in Spain; La Vanguardia gave it one paragraph on page 10. I get the idea the Zap government is trying to downplay this one.

The truck drivers are still refusing to work, but the blockades and violence by "picketers" have at least partly petered out. Yesterday they blocked off the motorways at Sant Cugat and Amposta, snarling things up good, but not completely. The government actually arrested a few of these guys who were blocking the border at La Jonquera. One of the "strikers" got run over by a pissed-off driver down in Andalusia and got killed.

Panic hoarding has pretty much stopped; most of the gas stations in Catalonia ran out during the week, but they've been resupplied. There's plenty of food in the supermarkets; besides staple nonperishables, which they never ran out of, fresh meat and fish are available again. Fresh vegetables and fruit are still scarce. The port is back in business, as is the central wholesale market.

Transport is still a mess; two trains broke down on the main Renfe commuter line yesterday, and they had to shut down the line to the airport. Meanwhile, the independent taxi operators called a work stoppage for yesterday, so millions of working hours were wasted, one more time.

Seems to me like public services have been real crappy around here for about the last year; first the Carmel subway tunnel collapse, then the blackout last summer, then the commuter train crisis, exacerbated by the AVE foulups, then the drought for which adequate measures had not been taken, now this mess that has been a huge pain in the ass to the whole country. And there have been at least a dozen minor events that have caused large hassles for the citizenry. I say we hold the Socialists and their Red-Green-Brown friends responsible and vote them out of office, but that might be just me.

Get this. A 24-year old American tourist died yesterday in Barcelona after being mugged. A Moroccan with a police record as long as your arm (he has been arrested "dozens of times") pulled a knife on him near the funicular station on Montjuic in front of numerous witnesses. La Vanguardia says "This is an area historically plagued with thieves who besiege the tourists who visit the Olympic area and the Miró Foundation." SO WHY DIDN'T THE AUTHORITIES JAIL THEM ALL YEARS AGO?

The American didn't fight back and handed over his camera. Witnesses say he apparently went into some sort of state of shock, walked a few steps, and then collapsed, hitting his head. An Italian tourist, who is a doctor, tried to give him first aid, but he died, either of a heart attack or of head injuries.

The amount of street crime against tourists in Barcelona is absolutely disgraceful, and the authorities aren't doing anything about it. I have always recommended that people come to Barcelona anyway, since the good things about the city have always outweighed the bad ones, and if you're careful you can greatly reduce your personal risk. I'm starting to change my mind, after the murder of the Danish tourist a couple of weeks ago and now this.

My position now: Come to visit Barcelona at your own risk. If anything happens to you, you've been warned. By some amateur with a blog, not by the police and government authorities, whose business it is.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Big news around here: This morning they arrested eight Algerians on charges of belonging to Al Qaeda in the Maghreb. This lot was providing logistical, financial, and recruiting support to Al Qaeda activities. The arrests were made in Castellon, Barcelona, and Pamplona. Ten more people were detained; their nationalities and involvement have not yet been announced.

This bunch has carried out five attacks in five days in Algeria, the worst on Sunday, killing 13 people. They are not related to the Pakistani group rounded up in Barcelona in January on charges of plotting to suicide-bomb public transport. The United States believes this bunch of Pakistanis is linked to the outfit run by Baitullah Mehsud, suspected of organizing the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Don't forget to go read I improved it some more today, and added a few more posts.

So the damn truck drivers blocked up all the highways in and around Barcelona today, as well as the border crossing at La Jonquera, causing immense chaos. Gasoline hoarding has begun; 40% of the gas stations in Catalonia are sold out and there's no telling when more will get there. This is simply not tolerable. Groups of people cannot be allowed to infringe everyone else's rights. If they want to stay home and not work, fine, but that's not what they want to do. I say simply pull their licenses, tow away their trucks, and jail them. Naturally, nothing of the sort is going to happen. And, get this, the taxi drivers are going to shut down (it's not a "strike") on Friday, and probably go around acting like a bunch of dickheads too.

(By the way, a bunch of shithead parents brought out their kids, the height of irresponsibility, and blocked off the Diagonal to protest the latest education law. That's setting a good example of how your own selfish petty demands are more important than everyone else's civic rights. And, get this, this lot are the conservative Catholic parents, not a bunch of goddamn hippies or something.)

You want more bad law enforcement? Here's some bad law enforcement. One Alejandro Martínez Singul, a serial rape-o, raped twelve girls between the ages of 9 and 18 in Barcelona in the early '90s. They locked him up in 1992. AND THEY LET HIM OUT IN 2007. Look, people, the reason we have jails is to protect the citizens from people who want to hurt or rape or kill us, and who we're too soft-headed to hang as they deserve.

So Alejandro the rape-o raped a girl in Perpignan, France, and the cops arrested him today in Cardedeu. I hope he falls out the back of the police van going 120 kph while trying to escape. I bet that can be arranged.

There's a big stink going on in the Spanish Constitutional Court. María Emilia Casas, the chief justice, committed the indiscretion of giving informal legal advice to a woman she knew whose husband had been murdered; that woman has now been indicted for said murder. Oops.

Finally, the board of the Autonomous University tried to hold a meeting today. They called out the cops to protect the board members. About fifty middle-class student punk squatter wannabe poseurs, protesting the so-called Bologna process, decided they'd charge the cops, and the cops beat the crap out of them. Good job, Cops!

Sunday, June 08, 2008 is in full swing. We still have organizational stuff to do, but we've got content up and going, and "Liffey" is fixing our mistakes. I think it's pretty funny. It's not all hilarious, some of it is just curious, but we think there's a place for such a website in Spain. So go visit it and link to it and tell your friends about it.

By the way, please make suggestions if you have any.

Big news from around here: ETA again. They exploded a small bomb in front of the offices of the Bilbao newspaper El Correo, with no warning, at around 3 AM today while about 50 people were working inside. No one was hurt, fortunately.

Political stuff: Interior minister Rubalcaba told Basque premier Ibarretxe that it doesn't matter what the Basque nationalists do, "self-determination" for the Basque country is out of the question. Of course Ibarretxe is going to carry on with his plans for a referendum, and he's going to say it's binding, and the Spanish government is going to say it's not binding, and this will all end up signifying nothing.

PP founder Manuel Fraga said that Ruiz-Gallardon would make the best successor to Rajoy as head of the PP, and that Gallardon has a majority among the Madrid branch of the party. Gallardon, of course, has declared his support for Rajoy more than once, so the question is whether Fraga meant "now" or "after Rajoy loses us the 2012 election."

30% of the women murdered in domestic violence cases in Spain this year had already filed charges against their abusers. This is entirely unacceptable. A great deal more must be done in this country to protect people, especially women in abusive relationships, against violence. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I honestly don't know whether there's a battered women's shelter anywhere in Catalonia, and you'd think a guy like me who reads the paper (and filters through the Internet, and watches the news on TV) every day would have heard about it if there were one.

The shitbag truck drivers who are refusing to work because they don't like the price of gas went out and blocked up the highways near the Montmeló racetrack this afternoon, a race day, causing five kilometers of traffic jams and an uncountable quantity of irritation. I have no idea why the police don't haul all these shitbags off to jail for about seventeen felony traffic violations each, not to mention interfering with the citizens' right to travel, creating a public nuisance, and generally being assholes, and tow their trucks away to the vehicle pound, along with pulling their licenses.

Speaking of shitbags, four punk kids were arrested last night in Sant Feliu after smashing the windows, headlights, and mirrors of 50 parked cars, along with denting the metalwork with iron bars. They must have caused at least €100,000 of damage, figuring about two grand per car. When asked why they did it, they said, "Just for fun." I bet almost nothing happens to them.

We had some fun yesterday afternoon here in Gracia. The goddamn squatters had them a big old "Freedom for Franki" demo, which I went down to check out in the Plaza Virreina. They were pretty much what you'd have figured, dirty and drunk, swigging out of bottles of Xibeca and chanting "Prisoners on the streets, freedom and amnesty." That's a well-known ETA chant. They finished off their march by torching a few dozen paper Spanish flags in the Plaza Rius i Taulet. I was unimpressed. No discipline. These people are more of a poorly organized sub-lumpenproletariat than a social movement, and they could be scattered with just one firehose.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

I've been occupied during the last few days setting up, which is starting to look really good, I think. Our volunteer editor, "Liffey," is doing a great job fixing our mistakes and cleaning up our prose. We have plenty of content, and we're still learning all we can do with WordPress. Next step: Get some publicity.

My poor little dog, Perla, has had a terrible month. On May Day she ran out into traffic on Calle Providencia and got hit by a van. I thought she was dead for sure, but the van driver slammed on the brakes--it wasn't his fault--and didn't run over her, just hit her pretty hard. She spent two days at the vet's; fortunately, it was mostly just a scare. We learned something from this, though: Perla absolutely needs to be leashed whenever she's anywhere near a car.

Then yesterday we took her in for an operation we'd scheduled months ago: dogs have little scent glands on each side of their butt, and Perla's are constantly getting infected, with unpleasant consequences. So we had the vet extirpate them. Now Perla is wearing one of those plastic funnel things around her neck so she can't lick her bottom, and she does not like this at all.

She has to go back to the vet in ten days to have the stitches out. Let's hope that's the last time she has to go there until her vaccinations next year.

News from these here parts: ERC is holding a primary election among its 10,000 members; they've got four candidates to choose from, including the crook Joan Puigcercos, all of whom I hope lose. The entire Spanish press is orgasmic for Obama. Spending our tax money wisely: the Zap government is beginning an ad campaign in the world financial press explaining what a great job it is doing with the economy. They're going to kick it off with a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal. God knows what that'll cost. PSOE hypocrisy: The Aznar government hired a Washington PR firm to lobby for Spain in Washington for €2 million, and the Socialists raised hell about it. Now the situation's reversed.

Barça bought Dani Alves from Sevilla for €29 million, and Martin Caceres from Villarreal for €16.5 million. That's pretty expensive for a pair of defensive players, though they are both very good and Caceres is very young as well. The Eurocup starts today with Switzerland facing the Czech Republic in what's sure to be a thrilling 0-0 defensive battle. Spain's got an easy group and should have no problem qualifying for the quarterfinals, where they will lose as usual.

Two dirtbag doormen of Spanish nationality refused to let three Moroccans into a disco in Fuenlabrada, a Madrid suburb. It got violent and the thugs stabbed one of the Moroccans to death. Of course, Spain's not racist or anything. And this morning five Spanish dirtbags were injured in downtown Madrid in a gang fight involving baseball bats and, get this, axes.

There's an unfortunate tendency to blame all crime in Spain on immigrants; immigrants commit a disproportionate amount of crimes, of course, but there are logical reasons for that. Immigrants are generally of low socioeconomic status in their home country--if they were middle-class and well-educated, they wouldn't have to emigrate. They're also in an unfamiliar and sometimes frightening situation, away from home, where they don't speak the language well and don't understand some of the things happening around them. And, along with the 98% of immigrants who are good citizens and valuable acquisitions for Spain, we also get 2% who are criminals in their home countries, on the run from justice there or looking for opportunities to prey on their own vulnerable compatriots here.

The truck drivers are going on strike beginning Monday in protest against the high price of gasoline. This actually isn't a strike, it's not workers against management, it's a bunch of small operators refusing to work, so it's really more of a lockout than a strike. I believe in the right to strike, but I'm a bit puzzled about why you'd strike against the price of raw materials. What do they want, for the government to magically increase the oil supply so that the price goes down? Probably what they want is more government subsidies for themselves, some tasty Treasury pap.

And you just know they're going to pull a bunch of crap, blocking the public highways with roadblocks of burning tires and facing off against the cops.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Good news. We got our silly-news-in-Spanish site up and running at So go check it out and see what you think. And tell all your friends. And call up everyone you know and tell them to buy advertisements.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Quick Monday blog roundup:

Biased BBC fondly recalls the most outrageous Beeb moments ever. Read the comments, they're entertaining.

Colin Davies is reliable, always there with more insights from Pontevedra.

Eursoc has more on food prices and EU agricultural subsidies.

Expat Yank suggest that Susan Sarandon move to Spain. He also has a whack at European Obama-worshippers.

Gates of Vienna reproduces a sonnet written in SMS-speak on everybody's favorite punching bag.

Iberian Nature has good stuff; check out these photos of bears, wolves, and eagles.

La Gatita Gringa does not much care for bullfighting. I don't, either. LA-Madrid Files has his own perspective.

No Pasaran! takes the Euros to task about making phony comparisons with the US in order to prove the EU is, like, better.

Observing Hermann denounces more EU subsidies for Airbus and EADS.

Oliver Kamm says that Obama has no idea about foreign policy at all.
No news today. The green line of the metro went down today between 8:30 and 9 AM, thereby screwing up the system during morning rush hour. Meanwhile, a car wreck on the motorway leading into town from the suburbs in the Vallés at around 8:30 AM caused a seven-mile backup. Probably nearly 100,000 people got to work an hour late, costing us that much productivity. When one piece of the puzzle goes down, the entire infrastructure feels it.

Three-quarters of Spanish workers are suffering from workplace stress and feel burned out. Of these, three-quarters claim to be suffering health problems due to said stress. Causes: Not knowing what is expected of them, not being permitted to make decisions, and not feeling secure about their future.

I would add generally distant management that is not able to convince the worker that his and the company's interests are the same. I would also add that small businesses in Spain often try to exploit their workers big-time, I believe more so than in the United States. My wife Remei has only been satisfied with the way management has treated her at one of the small companies she's worked at; I can personally state that small language academies in Spain are generally very badly run.

More boat people: 34 black African illegal immigrants arrived near Almeria today, having crossed the Mediterranean from Morocco. The foreign press didn't notice.

44% of Spanish university students admit having used a cheat sheet on an exam, and 47% admit copying off another student's paper. Now they're trying electronic tricks, using MP3s and the like to store information. I can't claim to be Mr. Ethics and Morality, having fallen short of my own standards many times, but I never cheated on a test. One thing is that I was always good at school, so I never felt like I had to.

In America they take this really seriously. I knew a guy at KU who got expelled from the university for cheating on a chemistry final exam. Not much loss; he was a jerk anyway. Ted Kennedy got kicked out of Harvard for cheating on a Spanish final.

Latin gang fight in Madrid last night: two stabbed, one seriously, and three arrested. At least in Madrid the Latin Kings aren't a "cultural organization."

Heavy rains and flooding in the Basque Country, especially near Bilbao. They've evacuated parts of several towns, including Guecho and Santurce. Some of the highways are closed down, and the trains have been seriously delayed. Nobody's died yet or anything really bad like that. Here in Catalonia the reservoirs are all above 50% of capacity, and several are higher than that.

Barcelona sold Zambrotta to Milan for €9 million and Giovani dos Santos to Tottenham for €8 million. I think they gave up on Giovani too quickly, he's got tremendous talent, but the story is that he picked up a lot of bad habits in Rijkaard's free-and-easy clubhouse.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

ETA again. This time it was a bomb at 2:30 this morning in Zarautz, Viscaya, a prosperous Bilbao suburb. They called in a warning first. The target was one of the companies that is working on the high-speed train line from Madrid to the Basque country. It wasn't a big bomb, about five kilos of explosives, small enough to be carried in a backpack. Not much damage was done; three people were slightly injured, but they're OK.

Zap promised he wouldn't let the companies raise electricity rates any higher than the rate of inflation, which is a problem because such a fixed price is well below what it costs them to produce the electricity.

Eto'o, in Cameroon, head-butted a local journalist in a fit of pique. That's assault and battery. Of course he's going to get away with it because he's God down there. Supposedly Milan wants to buy him. Barça is asking for €50 million and Milan says that's too much. They already bought Zambrotta, but the price hasn't been announced; it's probably about €8 million or so. It's pretty clear they want to get rid of Giovani dos Santos, probably to Tottenham. Bargain sale at the Camp Nou!

The Royals finally won a game after like twelve straight losses.