Thursday, January 23, 2003

A cursory look at today's Vanguardia tells us that the French and Germans are making antiwar noises again. I don't think it means too much, though French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin suggested that France might use its veto on the Security Council to torpedo any authorization for war on Iraq. I'm not demanding that it's France's duty as an ally to support us. I am saying that it's their duty as an ally not to actively oppose us. I don't care if they abstain. It doesn't even really matter whether Germany backs us up or not, though a German no vote in the Security Council would be a clear sign of lack of German common decency. But if France vetoes a US-UK proposal to go to war in Iraq, I vote we revoke all France's privileges. They should no longer be considered even a friend, much less an ally. No need to make an enemy of them, but no reason to do them any favors, either. We'll nod politely as we pass one another on the street, and that'll be it.

In Venezuela, underhanded Chávez maneuvers--he's retroactively fired one of the judges and invalidated all decisions he had taken part in--caused the Supreme Court to suspend the February 2 non-binding referendum demanding that Chávez resign which opposition petitions, signed by more than 2 million people, had legitimately demanded. Sounds a lot like what the Nazis did in order to seize power in Germany. Instead, Chávez bussed thousands of his rural supporters into Caracas with the objective of intimidating demonstrators. Sounds a lot like the March on Rome. (The Blackshirts didn't march, they traveled by train. You think Mussolini could have marched more than about twenty feet with that gut?) Venezuela is looking at a 25% drop in GNP, unemployment up to 28%, hyperinflation, and hyperdevaluation of the currency. They will have to suspend payments on the national debt within weeks.

What the Cataloonies seem most offended by, in Chief Judge of the Constitutional Court Manuel Jiménez de Parga's verbal diarrhea against the "historical nationalities", is that he said their ancestors were dirty and unwashed 1000 years ago while a great civilization flourished in Andalusia. Boy, did that ever make them mad. Meanwhile, the Catalan shopkeepers' association have said that they have no problem with the Generalitat law on the commercial use of Catalan, but they have requested subsidies in order to buy new signs. Yep; if the government is interfering with private businesses in matters that aren't related to public safety, it--that is us--ought to pay for the costs of its interference until we get together and vote said government out of office. One of the requirements of the law is that there must be at least one employee capable of attending clients in Catalan. So if I move to Barcelona from, say, Cáceres, because I want to open a comic book shop there, I have to either learn Catalan myself or hire someone who knows Catalan. What if I don't want to hire any employees? I have no choice. Catalan-language laws are effectively barriers and constraints on trade and employment. I should be allowed to use whatever language I want. If I want to attend clients in Latvian, that's my business. It might be smart for me to hire someone who knows Catalan, but I shouldn't be forced to do it. As PP Justice Minister José María Michavila said, "The problem is when language is not used as an element of communication but, on the contrary, when there are people who want to use it as an element of confrontation."

In a survey of 12,000 students between 12 and 16 years old in the five Spanish autonomous communities with most young immigrants, Madrid, Catalonia, Andalusia, Valencia, and Murcia, 36.5% have a negative point of view toward immigration, and 9.5% of them "totally reject" immigrants. It seems that Spanish parents do not object to immigrants if there are less than about 10% of them among the students; teachers do not see problems until the immigrant percentage gets up to 15-30%. Several elementary schools in the Barcelona immigrant ghettos downtown--Pakistanis on Sant Pau, Dominicans on Carders, Chinese around Princesa, Filipinos on Bonsuccés, Arabs and South Americans in several areas--have 60% or more immigrant children. The reporter lets an ethnic judgment slip through, implying that schools with a low percentage of Arabs among the immigrants have fewer problems than those with a high percentage of what are now called "Maghrebies".

A second woman was murdered inside the same parking garage in the Putxet area, right next door to Gracia, only fifteen or so minutes away from my apartment on foot, within the past two weeks. El Putxet is an upper-middle class area where nothing ever happens--at least not until a woman was stabbed to death twelve days ago by an unknown assailant. Somebody, either the same guy or someone else (sharp thinking there!), killed another woman yesterday; this time she was beaten to death. Looks like the cops might suspect the second woman's husband, at least in her own death.

Lay's gets busted! Lay's, the number one potato chip brand in Spain (pronounced "Lies"; "Roof-lehs" are also popular) has gotten itself into trouble for deceptive advertising. Lay's advertised one of its products, Lay's Mediterranea, as being made with olive oil; they went far enough as to hire Antonio Banderas to do TV ads. Well, only 6% of the oil used in the production of Lay's Mediterranea is real olive oil. So a judge sentenced Lay's, which is a subsidiary of Pepsi, to cease and desist and to pay the court costs. All right! Get those corporate cheaters! False advertising really pisses me off.

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