Friday, January 10, 2003

In today's news, the Federal Appeals Court in Richmond has ruled that the President, as commander-in-chief, may indefinitely detain American citizens suspected of being "enemy combatants" without filing charges or providing access to a lawyer. The judge said, "Whatever his nationality, anyone who takes up arms against the United States in a foreign theater of war can effectively be described as an enemy combatant and treated as such." This decision only applies to two people, Yasser Esam Hamdi and José Padilla. The Supreme Court is not likely to hear an appeal. Another federal judge had already ruled that the treatment of the prisoners at Guantánamo was legal. There go the anti-war folks' challenges to the legality of American actions.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela, 80% of bank employees went out on a two-day strike, and the transport workers' union has called a two-day strike to start Monday, January 13. These guys are the Venezuelan Teamsters and they're going out against the government. With the transport workers and the oil workers out on strike, Chávez can't claim that the opposition to him is only middle-and upper-class. The Vanguardia's correspondent, Joaquim Ibarz, with whom I have had my differences, reports, "The opposition can count on the majority of civil society, a majority that is mobilizing, that is active, that will listen to any call that is made on it that concerns disobeying and ignoring the government...Chávez has been radicalizing his discourse over the last several days...he can't manage to reactivate the petroleum industry, which is vital in order to normalize the country. The government has neither the management skills nor enough political leadership to get the principal source of income back to work." Let's hope Chávez falls by the end of the month with no bloodshed, though if they want to go Ceauscescu on his ass it's fine with me if they don't kill anyone else. Unfortunately, Venezuelan papers are reporting that the government is going to use groups of armed civilians (otherwise known as "vigilante gangs", "lynch mobs", and "death squads") and Army elements to "contain the people's protests". How the international Left can support this man I have no idea.

An interesting phenomenon is that when people, whether Spaniards or Americans, get back from living several years in the United States and come back to Spain, they suddenly love America. It's so convenient, the waiters pay attention, you can get anything you want, everything's clean, and so cheap, people are so responsible, and you've got elbow room to move around a little, and people smile at you, and the streets get fixed and the phones work, there are tennis courts in the park, and there's often something good on TV, and the food's really not that bad, and how come Wal-Mart doesn't come to Spain? I've seen this syndrome over and over, and I went through it once when we came back here in 1994. Xavier Mas de Xaxàs, the X-man, former Vangua correspondent in the US, is going through it now. When he was in America he couldn't say anything good about it, but now that he's back here everything was so wonderful over there.

Anyway, Barcelona's Socialist mayor, Joan Clos, gave a "state of the city" address, and here's Mas de Xaxàs's sidebar column:

Mayor Joan Clos lives in the contradiction of being American and anti-American. He dreams of a world government that would neutralize the imperialism of the United States. He doesn't say it in so many words, because he speaks in dialectic meanderings, but he makes it clear that he does not like the Bush Administration. He believes that 9-11 is "a clash of civilizations" and that the possible war against Iraq would "finish off the revenge" for those attacks. He criticizes the "divine references" that Bush often makes and, against them, assures us that "in Europe we work for secularism, the separation between Church and State, republicanism in the French sense of the word." French republicanism, however, was inspired by American, and both of them by the Enlightenment. Mayor Clos confuses the religiosity of one man with that of a republic that protects the Church from the interference of the State. The progressive (here with its literal meaning, that of making progress) and businesslike nucleus of Joan Clos's discourse, however, is very American.

I might also point out to Mayor Clos that the United States is the country whose Constitution separates Church and State, and that the Spanish State is not secular at all; its official religion is, of course, Roman Catholicism. On your income tax form there's a checkoff; if you mark Yes, a small sum of your tax money goes to the Catholic Church. Mayor Clos also errs when he praises French republicanism; Spain, remember, is a constitutional monarchy with King Juan Carlos as titular head of state. It ain't no republic, and the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party does not call for the removal of the monarchy. As I recall, the French cut their king's head off when they declared their republic back in the good old days; I certainly hope Mayor Clos is not really calling for the decapitation of Juan Carlos, who seems like a perfectly nice, normal guy except for his (and his family's) mild speech defect.

Joke. Crown Prince Felipe goes to his father the King and says, "Papá, soy gay." The King responds, "No. Yo soy el Gey, y tu madre es la Geina."

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