Friday, January 17, 2003

There are a good few things in the Vanguardia from the past couple of days that I could comment on, but don't really feel that I desperately need to comment on. Oh, well, here goes. Pasqual Maragall, the Socialist candidate for Prime Minister of Catalonia in the 2004 election, is calling for voting weight to be taken away from the three largely rural Catalan provinces of Girona, Lleída, and Tarragona and given to Barcelona. As of now, the three rural provinces receive a disproportionate amount of seats in the Catalan Parliament, which of course elects the PM. Wouldn't be a coincidence that the three rural provinces, especially Girona and Lleída, vote heavily for the Catalan Nationalist CiU party (as does rural Barcelona province, the area north of Manresa), while the Barcelona metro area votes heavily Socialist except for the wealthy neighborhoods of the Eixample and the Zona Alta, would it?

The Portuguese lefties, led by Socialist ex-president Mario Soares and Communist Nobel Lit prizewinner José Saramago, have come out with an antiwar petition. It's the same old steam table lefty conspiracy theory crap--"warlike propaganda is at the service of the interests of anonymous international capital, and it constitutes a threat to the sovereignty, the dignity, and the liberty of the nations and peoples", but it includes a couple of twists: they're against the "demential violation of the Palestinians' most elemental human rights" and they're worried about "the silence and manifest ignorance of how much the process of globalization, in opposition to the most elemental ethical principles, represents." One of the weaknesses of the antiwar left, as I've read elsewhere several times in recent days, is they're not, just plain not, ordinary American folks who don't like war. Those people exist, and they're not doing a good job at all of getting their (much more defensible than, say, ANSWER's point of view) message out. The people who are getting the anti-war message out are the same old anti-Americans we've been hearing from for years, and the evidence is that all their proclamations get off the point of a possible war against Iraq and onto the same old America-bashing--free Mumia, stop the pipeline, no oil drilling, lift the embargo on Castro, stop McDonald's, hurray for Lula, smash capitalism, ban toy guns, rights for transgendered chimps, whatever. That's why they're failing in America, which is the only place where public opinion might affect what's going to be done. Americans see these Christic Institute No Nukes Michael Stipe kooks and are repelled by them, and they tar whatever respectable antiwar movement there may be.

The Attorney General (fiscal general del Estado), Jesús Cardenal, has begun the investigation which will lead to the prosecution of the alleged environmentalist organization Nunca Máis for fraud in their fundraising, for convincing people that contributions would, like, actually help people, when the donations were actually used in a partisan political attempt to discredit the government through the media. This scam is going to backfire big time on those goddamn obnoxious Gallego independentistas.

Here's a UN study on gypsies in Eastern Europe, specifically the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, that says that 15% of them suffer from hunger every day. I dunno. I don't buy it. They're poor and discriminated against, but I don't think they suffer from hunger, if only because so many of the women are overweight. The stats on their standard of living are at once discouraging and also indicative of problems within gypsy culture. Infant mortality, infant malnutrition, poor women's health (too many pregnancies from too young an age), and educational levels are at sub-Saharan Africa levels. Up to 70% of these gypsies receive welfare payments from their governments, which have contributed to the typical "vicious circle" that leads them to avoid work--why work if you can get money from the government? And if they're getting government aid, how can they be hungry? Only 37% of Eastern European gypsies have finished elementary school and 6% have finished high school. Meanwhile, traditional gypsy crafts and trades are now obsolete; there isn't much of a market for tinsmiths and peddlers and street musicians and fortunetellers. 46% of gypsies in these five countries are unemployed. Gypsy spending habits are also misprioritized; 59% have running water and 55% have dishwashers! 11% of Bulgarian gypsies who claim to go hungry have satellite dishes. What's the UN's solution? Affirmative action, of course. They think everything would be better if gypsies "integrate productively into national societies through work, education, and political participation." Well, yeah, that'd be great. Any ideas? And, no, not affirmative action. We'd like ideas that work, please, not ideas that we merely wish would work.

70% of movie spectators in Spain saw American movies in 2002. 12.5% saw Spanish movies. This is because not even spaniards can stand Spanish movies. The three big movies this year are, number one, "El otro lado de la cama"; the plot summary in the movie section says, "A couple breaks up because she admits to him that she is in love with another man: his best friend.". Number two is "Los lunes al sol", described in the movie section as "A group of ex-workers from a Galician shipyard try to deal with the situation of unemployment they find themselves in." I've heard it better described as "Like "The Full Monty", but not funny." Number three is "Hable con ella", the Almodóvar flick, which I haven't seen because I don't like Almodóvar flicks, but people who have seen it say it's a pretty good Almodóvar flick for those who like that sort of thing. None have been seen by more than two and a half million people. This is because the Spanish movie market has "been kidnapped by the Americans", not because they make boring, predictable movies that no one wants to see.

Van Gaal wants to buy Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink from Chelsea. Great, we've got Kluivert and Saviola, so of course we need a goal-scorer who's 31 and has a history of injuries. Well, he will score some goals, that's what he does with every team he plays for. Now, he doesn't do much else while on the field, but he does score goals. Barça needs goals. It's a real sign of a failed attempt to put together a squad when you have to get a new goal-scorer, the equivalent of the cleanup hitter or the running back or the shooting guard, at midseason. This is not like the Yankees landing another DH or middle reliever at midseason like they always do, this is looking for a new basic part of the machine. Bad sign. I hope Hasselbaink does well, but he's not a savior and he's not going to get us into fourth place. And it's not a good sign when you're spending big bucks on a 31-year-old mercenary who'll be around for a season or two. Big bucks should be spent on top young players like, say, Joaquín from Betis.

Two illegal immigrants drowned and twelve are missing off the Canary Islands; their raft sank. Poor bastards. It pisses me off that we don't knock down trade barriers that keep Third World products out of our American and European markets. You can't expect them to grow economically and feed their people if they can't sell their stuff to us, the people with the money to buy it. We tell them to invest and produce and when they do it, then they're kept out of our markets by tariffs. So people get drowned.

Today is San Antonio Abad. Traditionally, in Catalonia, this is the day in which you can take your animals to church and the priest blesses them. Historically it's been for horses, mules, burros, you know, working animals, but people bring their pets, too. My mother-in-law brings her dog every year. Also, I saw something that was just weird on the local news. Seems that there are lots of wild bunny rabbits in the area around the town of Verdú, near Remei's hometown, and it's been decided that humane measures will be taken. So, get this. They've got hawks and other birds of prey, and they put, get this, protective gloves on their talons. They then put a muzzle on a ferret and turn him loose down a rabbit hole. The rabbits flee, terrified. Then they let loose the hawks, who catch the poor rabbits and bring them back. The rabbits are then vaccinated and taken somewhere else. They showed the whole process on TV; damn, those hawks are good hunters. They mentioned on the news that stress might be caused to the rabbits. Uh, yeah, no duh, being chased out of your hole by a ferret and then grabbed by a hawk and carried back through the air to some humans who stick needles in you and then drop you off miles away from home is pretty much a bad day for a rabbit. This seems to me like an extremely stupid idea. Why not use, say, humane traps to catch the bunnies? I'm waiting for PETA to weigh in on this one.

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