Wednesday, April 30, 2003

I've got a post up on EuroPundits on the May 25 municipal and regional elections here in Spain. I did my best to make it kind of interesting. It's one of those pieces like spinach--it's good for you. I tried to make it sort of interesting. If you're a regular reader of Iberian Notes you've already seen most of the stuff I put up over there in one form or another here. So check it out, or not, as the case may be.
Here's a link to a red-meat story from FrontPage on "Peace Studies" courses of study at American universities. The article's pretty much what you'd expect, a lambasting of the university Socialist cadres. What I would like to know is what employer would hire someone with a degree in Peace Studies as opposed to, say, something useful like business administration or engineering or computer science, or a solid liberal arts degree in something like philosophy or history or English lit. Probably Greenpeace.

Here's a piece from the Weekly Standard by a reporter who's gone out with the Yanks on a peacekeeping patrol. I like the part where they get a call over the radio asking for advice because the lions at the zoo have gotten out and one of them ate a horse and the zookeeper has fled and won't come back while the lions are still loose. The guys at the zoo don't want to shoot the lions but this horse incident has got them a bit shaken up, it seems. Well, horses are valuable in a country like Iraq, and we can't have a bunch of huge pussycats going around eating them, much less snacking on the citizenry. I bet there's somebody among the troops who knows how to use a lasso--got to be at least one amateur rodeo cowboy among that lot--and I'd get him and tell him to throw at the lions' back legs. We'd be ready to shoot if he missed and the lion attacked, of course. If you've got their back legs tied up you ought to be able to drag them back into their cages.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Here's one I've been saving up to do one of these days. It's Maruja Torres from El País's Sunday magazine.

The Only Certainty

I don't want to forget that today my eyes and my conscience are overflowing with horror and I know that I am not alone in my impotence. And although the day that you are reading me, things have changed, or even improved, I want to remember, and remind you with me, that there were days of ignominy of which we were faraway, distressed witnesses. The torn-apart victims; the children murdered one atop another, as if they were sleeping in the middle of a nightmare of the evil of others; the blood soaking badly-bandaged stumps, the mutilated bodies, the entrails. The blank stares, above all the blank stares. In the atrocious hours, long hours of the battle of Baghdad, they are coming to my house, to my country, governed by one of the most obsequious representatives of this century's moral misery, those blank stares of pain and surprise, of infinite sadness, of the loss of all hope, are coming. Of fear, of panic. Of anger, of rage. Of offended dignity, of defended dignity. Barely armed men who resist in the trenches, others who have survived in pieces and in hospital beds who barely have the strength to send to the world, through the camera, the only thing they can bomb us with: their recently discovered hate toward an enemy they do not even know. And those operations performed without anesthesia, and that rice that keeps arriving to the port when what is needed is water, and that marine who gives a demonstration of rap to the defeated children. A dark boy, surely enlisted for a hot meal, surely from a vile building in a miserable slum: you, who are like the conquered ones but without knowing it.

And the cries of the mutilated babies when a camera focuses on them and takes shots of them, as if they already knew that they are not only cannon fodder but TV news fodder.

And bombs and more bombs, and fire and more fire, and destruction and more destruction. And invading soldiers swaggering around, blinded with disdain and indifference as much as by their military superiority, leveling what were streets, houses, small shops, and whispering avenues.

Against forgetting everything we have seen, from far away with our hearts in flames. I don't know what is happening in this world today, that other cadavers have been swallowed up by the crater opened up in Mesopotamia, besides the innocence, the tranquil existence of the poor and the oppressed, legality, decency, and justice. I also don't know how many of my journalistic comrades will have died in the war that should never happened, and we know who is responsible.

If today, while you are reading, is a day in which death does not fill the headlines and we are already being invaded by the fever of what they call reconstruction, and we're busy with the ups and downs of the market, don't let them fool you. Remember what is happening while I am writing and which I am pallidly trying to write on this page, on this inscription against forgetting. And think that behind all the big words there is only one, as vile as the men which it represents: greed. We have seen what we didn't want to see, but we have seen it. And this is our only certainty.

I have several certainties. One is that Maruja is extremely self-absorbed, since she goes on and on about how she herself feels about the situation. My guess is that she is bipolar and has a narcissistic personality disorder. Trust me on this one. I'm good at this stuff. I'm the only one of you who's ever been committed to a mental hospital.

The second is that this is an atrocity piece, of which there have been so many about this and every other war. For atrocities, those perpetrated by Saddam and his international terrorist co-conspirators--and that perpetrated on September 11, 2001 (remember that one? There weren't too many bodies left after that one to pierce anybody with their blank stares)--are infinitely worse than the admittedly tragic deaths of some 800-1200 Iraqi civilians in the War on Saddam. Some of these deaths were admittedly perpetrated by the Americans and the British, zero of them intentionally, unlike Saddam placing military targets within populated areas, the Fedayeen forcing the ordinary civilians to be suicide bombers, and the explosions in the Baghdad markets that we didn't cause. And saying "Who cares whether you meant to kill them, they're dead anyway, just like Saddam's victims" is flat-out relativism, the idea that the morality of an act is not in its intention but in its effect.

A third certainty is that this here tantrum Maruja spit out onto paper is caused by a deep, deep anti-Americanism, since she never criticizes anybody else anyway and since she goes on about dignity and rage and the invaders and the like. She's what Orwell would call a transferred nationalist, someone who stakes her psychological identity on a profound feeling akin to nationalism but not directed towards a nation. Maruja is a Stalinist, a hardcore Red. She bet on the wrong side, and she bet on the wrong side big-time. She lost everything when the Berlin Wall came down, and that's why her dignity is injured and she is full of rage; every time the Americans, the sworn enemy of her chosen faith, do anything that demonstrates their power, influence, and prestige, which her own Stalinism has completely lost. That's how she feels, psychologically destroyed by the failure of the godhood of Communism and especially by its rejection by most other people, and she's projecting the crash of her world all around her upon the suffering Iraqi civilians, imagining that they must feel the same way she does.

A fourth is that she's an ignorant racist. She obviously knows nothing about American black people and especially nothing about American Marines who are black.
Here's one for you foodies that I found through Slate, a review of a visit to El Bulli, the Michelin Guide Three-Star Super Mega Famous Restaurant up in the Empordà. It's food-porn, basically. The diners involved in this meal thought it was excellent, especially given the prices, which, according to them are very reasonable--135 euros for the thirty-course meal, wine not included. You would apparently pay double or triple in Paris. Don't bother if you don't book, like, a year in advance or whatever.

Since I am an amateur eater, I would not waste my money on such a meal since I'd never appreciate it. As I've said before, though, there are many very good restaurants in Barcelona where you can eat very well for less than thirty bucks, wine included. For fresh seafood at unbeatable prices, the places to go are the Puerto Pesquero in Santander and the Viejas Calles in Bilbao.

Coincidentally, here's a story from the Telegraph that says El Bulli is the second best restaurant in the world, down one spot from last year.
Here's an interesting article from the Weekly Standard about geopolitics and OPEC and oil production and the like. It is illuminating for those who, like me, don't really know anything about the oil industry.
Methinks InstaPundit has fallen for an urban legend--note the lack of specifics and the two different versions. So--since the story is BS, let's not worry too much.

DON'T SNIFF THE MYSTERIOUS WHITE POWDER: Well, this story isn't really that funny:

An Egyptian merchant-marine sailor met "someone" in Cairo and was given a suitcase. He traveled to Brazil to join his ship, which was loading bauxite intended for Canada. He was supposed to deliver the suitcase to "someone" in Canada, but being curious about the suitcase he opened it while in Brazil, and shortly thereafter died from anthrax. Like as not, having found the legendary white powder he suspected it was drugs, and took a sniff to see.

I don't know if he really sniffed it -- another account I saw suggested that he died of intestinal anthrax -- but this is a rather serious worry.

UPDATE: Here's more, suggesting that worry is appropriate.

posted at 10:35 PM by Glenn Reynolds

Monday, April 28, 2003

Well, somebody out there thinks we're right: Andrew Sullivan is on board with us (that's fun to say; we finally beat him to this one) as saying that the Times and Telegraph reports on Saddam's ties with Al Qaeda and France's leaking secret information to Saddam are a big deal and are not getting nearly enough media attention.

We agree with Andrew's Sunday Times (of London) column, now up on his site, about idjit hard-right Reps like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum shooting off their mouths and blowing all the political capital Bush has saved up. Both Newt and Rick missed good chances to shut up, and Sullivan is right to worry about the various strands of the Republican party unraveling (though they're a lot less likely to unravel than the Dems' unstable minorities-labor-feminist-university-Socialist-cadres coalition; let's not panic yet, people). However, we're not with Andrew on Bush's tax plan, which he slams as being "supply-side" economics. This article from the National Review adds a little bit of light to the extremely confusing subject of the federal budget. Check it out.
The best baseball blog out there is Rob and Rany on the Royals, written by two thirty-fiveish baseball columnists. One of them is Rob Neyer, whom I actually sort of know; we lived in the same college dorm. He probably wouldn't remember who I am. Anyway, though, Neyer is now a daily columnist with ESPN, and if you like baseball a lot, you ought to read him; he's one of Bill James's disciples. Warning: Neyer is a major idiotarian regarding politics, but he almost always keeps it out of the blog and his columns. We shouldn't judge his baseball writing by his political ideas.

Neyer is into a couple of offbeat stats which he and the other "sabermetric" (i.e. statisticics-interpreting) baseball writers have been talking about for a while. One is the OPS, which is simply the player's on-base percentage (better indicator than the traditional batting average of how often a guy gets on rather than making an out) plus the player's slugging average (indicator weighting how many bases the guy gets per plate appearance). It's a rough stat but really does distinguish between a guy who looks good but really doesn't do much and a guy who is better than he's normally considered to be. A pretty good major leaguer will have an OPS above 800, and a guy whose OPS is above 1000 is a damn good player. Guys like Neifi Perez whose OPS is under 500 should be playing in, like, Omaha.

Another rough stat Neyer uses to measure the overall quality of an entire team is to look at the team's position in its league in two hitting categories, home runs and walks, and two pitching categories, home runs allowed and walks allowed. A team gets one point for its league position in these four categories.This is the Beane Count, named for Oakland executive Billy Beane. The top score is of course 4, meaning you are the best in the league in all four categories. A good playoff team would be in the 20s or low 30s. The Yankees so far this year have a Beane Count of four. That's how good they are. The Royals are still in the twenties.

He also uses this thing Bill James made up called the Pythagorean Standings: looking at what a team's ratio of runs scored to runs allowed is and using that to forecast what a team's record "should be according to the stats". It's pretty accurate, usually never off by more than about 3-4 games either way at the end of the season.

Let's try that with soccer. Specifically, with teams' ratios of goals scored to goals allowed. Here's the ratios for the Spanish first division in the order of their league standings.

Real Madrid 2.12
Real Sociedad 1.45
Deportivo 1.44
Valencia 1.92
Celta 1.50
Málaga 1.11
Sevilla 1.04
Betis 0.95
Atlético Madrid 1.08
Athletic Bilbao 0.92
Mallorca 0.81
Barcelona 1.17
Racing Santander 0.83
Español 0.90
Valladolid 0.85
Villarreal 0.74
Recreativo Huelva 0.66
Osasuna Pamplona 0.74
Alavés Vitoria 0.56
Rayo Vallecano 0.50

That pans out. The five teams at the bottom are all below 0.75. The three teams that descend to Second will come from these five. The ten teams in the middle, between 0.80 and 1.20, are mediocre. Then there are three teams that are good, at around 1.50, then Valencia at 1.92, and then Madrid at 2.12. The two real anomalies are Valencia, who ought by all rights to be in second place rather than fourth, and Barcelona, which should be in sixth place rather than twelfth as the best of the mediocre crew.

So what factors are causing Barcelona's and Valencia's poor actual performance compared to their goal ratios? Well, Valencia is still fighting for a Champions' league spot, so they're not doing that lousy, and they played this year's Champions League all the way to the quarterfinals, which neither Deportivo, Real Sociedad, and Celta had to do, so their guys are a lot fresher since they've seen fewer games. Particularly interestingly, second-place Real Sociedad, who I thought would wilt under pressure, is having a terrific season and are a legitimately fine squad. It may help that their foreign stars, Nihat, Kovacevic, and Karpin, are from such non-charismatic football countries as Turkey, Yugoslavia, and Russia and don't go to big-time Nike exhibition games in, like, Japan the way the Brazilians and Argentines do.

As for Barcelona, they also played in the Champions' League through the quarterfinals, and their foreign "stars" are Brazilian and Argentinian, so being tired might have something to do with it, too, though first-place Madrid has made it all the way to the Champions' semis and their guys ought to be just as tired. But Madrid has a deep bench with Guti and Morientes and McManaman and Solari and Flavio, all of whom can pick up the slack when they need to. Barcelona's bench is crappy.

But most importantly, Barcelona is demoralized. Their players have no confidence and can't usually hold a lead. It's already been made clear that a lot of them are going to be looking for new jobs come June 30, and the coach knows he's gone at the end of the year, and the interim club president has already resigned. Nobody's running the team and everybody knows it.

Good. I hope they descend to Second.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

I'm pretty sure that the next big wave of stories coming out of Iraq will be full of lots of neato information from Saddam's files. So far we've got George Galloway's corruption, the records of the meetings between Iraqi government officials and Al Qaeda, and France's passing on diplomatically-obtained American information to Saddam.

Here's a piece from the Weekly Standard about the theme; check it out. The question everybody's asking is what's going to come out next.

My guesses: much more evidence of French and Russian collaboration with Saddam, much more evidence of Iraqi ties to international terrorists in general, and much more evidence of corruption in the international press. Not real difficult guesses to make, mind you, but how much you want to bet that half the French press is on the take and a good bit of the Spanish press as well? The only name I'll mention as a for-sure suspect is Scott Ritter, and I think we know very well what Saddam had on him: photos of the guy having sex with children.
If you go to National Review Online's site right now, you'll see nothing but this message on a white background:

Hacked by DarkHunter ... Freedom for palestian and Iraq ... gr33tz to #USG and #teso channels
Looks to me like the documents showing French intelligence cooperation with Saddam and Saddam's contacts with Al Qaeda are going to be today's big story, so here is a paragraph-by-paragraph quick-hitter from today's interview with Baghdad Bob Fisk--well, now he's Beirut Bob because he states that his home city is Beirut and that's where the interview took place--in the Vanguardia just to show how wrong about everything Tikrit Tommy's best buddy usually is. You name the event, Fisk will figure out how to completely miss it in his forecast while beating the Allies over the head with last week's story. Anyway, the Roman numeral corresponds with the paragraph.

I) The Shiites are going to pull an uprising against the Yanks and the Brits.
II) The looting of the museum and library in Baghdad was the Yanks' fault.
III) There's some nasty conspiracy behind the looting in Baghdad.
IV) The robbery of valuable items from said museum was planned.
V) Some bad people must have given the Iraqis maps of where the valuable stuff was.
VI) The looting was obviously an American plot.
VII) Bob warned an American marine that a ministry was being torched; said marine refused to do anything on the grounds he was guarding a hospital.
VIII) The Americans did nothing to stop the looting.
IX) The Americans shouldn't have attacked Saddam's military establishments near civilian areas.
X) Doing that may have killed 14 civilians.
XI) The Yanks are evil because they used cluster bombs. They are as much war criminals as the Saddamites.
XII) Thousands of Iraqis must have been killed.
XIII) The Yanks are bad because they fired on cars that didn't stop when ordered to.
XIV) The Yanks murdered journalists.
XV) The Yanks attacked Al Jazeera TV in Baghdad on purpose.
XVI) The Yanks lied about why they fired at the Palestine Hotel.
XVII) The Yanks really lied a lot about why they fired at the Palestine Hotel.
XVIII) The Yanks are big liars in general.
XIX) The Yanks should have known there were journalists in the hotel, and they are big liars.
XXX) The Yanks are war criminals and they lie a lot, but some of the ordinary grunts are OK guys.
XXXI) Saddam is alive and is hiding out in either Baghdad or Bielorussia.
XXXII) The Sunnis and Shiites will unite and expel the American troops.
XXXIII) Judith Miller's stories in the NYT are Pentagon / CIA propaganda.
XXXIV) The Yanks won't attack Syria because it has no oil.
XXXV) The Yanks are occupying an Arab capital city.
XXXVI) "We have entered a new imperialist era".
XXXVII) The Yanks invaded Iraq for the oil.
XXXVIII) We, as journalists, must demand that those who rule over the people tell us why they are doing things and stop lying.

See how fast and easy it is to compress Beirut Bob's thought into easily digestible--well, totally indigestable, but you know what I mean--little nuggets. Thank God I took care of that or you'd never have read through the whole thing. It's two whole pages in today's Vangua.

This article from Libertad Digital says, first, that the Sunday Times of London is reporting this morning that documents found among the ruins of Baghdad show that France was informing Iraq about the progress of Franco-American diplomatic discussions. If this is true, French perfidy is much greater than I had thought it was.

Second, the Sunday Telegraph of London is reporting that they have documents demonstrating contacts between Saddam and Al Qaeda dating back to 1998. If this is true, that's the smoking gun. There's the justification for the war: they collaborated with terrorism.

Now you have to wonder what else is going to turn up in those files. I bet plenty more incriminating stuff is yet to come out. This is going to be even more fun than the overthrow of Mr. Squalid Dictator Hussein itself was: the implication of the Axis of Weasels in Saddam's international racketeering ring. Baghdad Bob Fisk, as usual, just got dreadfully wrong-footed.

Here's the story from the Telegraph. Here's the little summary of the story from the Times--you need to live in the UK to get in to the whole thing for free.

Dossier reveals France briefed Iraq on US plans
Matthew Campbell, Baghdad
France gave Saddam Hussein's regime regular reports on its dealings with American officials, documents unearthed in the wreckage of the Iraqi foreign ministry have revealed.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

I swear this just happened to me. I went down to the Dia discount supermarket (it's a big no-frills chain) to pick up a few things before they close at 8:30 and don't reopen until 9 on Monday. Got some skim milk, muesli, a chocolate bar with almonds, some frozen eggrolls, some of those spinach linguine-like substances, tuna for the cats, cat litter, OJ, and Fanta lemon. Perfectly normal Saturday evening shopping experience, don't you figure? Nope.

A few other people were in line, too, and directly in front of me was a longhair dude and a local progressive-looking university chick who was about 19. I'd seen him hanging around the squat down on the plaza a few times, so I twigged them for squatters. Very ungenerously, the whole time I was waiting in line, they were bickering in wonderful communalist style about who was going to pay for the twelve one-liter bottles of beer they had in their shopping cart.

(By the way, I've heard the two checkout girls, one's Polish and one's from the Philippines, complain that the squatters "borrow" the shopping carts without asking and only infrequently bring them back. When somebody says, "Hey, you can't take those outside the store", they whiningly wheedle, "Come on, be cool." [Venga, tía, enróllate])

So, anyway, the guy, who is Argentinian, says that he's going to pay for one and that some dude named Alejandro gave him five euros to pay for six liters. The hippie-looking girl says you can't buy six liters of beer for five euros and gets out her cellphone and tries to figure it out on the calculator. The guy has to hold back some of his dough, like everything more than the price of a liter, it seems, and repeats that he has Alejandro's five euros several times. Bingo, twigged him, he's a counterculture scam artist.

Then, get this, the girl turns to him and within my hearing, not to mention that of everybody else in line and the checkout girl, and says, "Let the guiri go first while I figure this out." "Guiri" is the fairly mild Spanish ethnic slur, along the lines of "mick" or "kraut" or "wop" in American English, used to refer to people of Northern European ancestry, and the guiri is me. I am a little annoyed, anyway, and plan the devastating comeback line I would use should they actually offer to allow me to jump the queue: "No, no, que las charnegas pasen por delante de los guiris." (No, let the charnegas go before the guiris.) A charnego is "a person of Spanish ancestry" here in Catalonia and is quite an insult--and almost certainly the girl is a charnega, because there are very few Catalans who are "of pure roots".

Unfortunately, they don't let me cut in front of them and I can't use the devastating comeback line. Damn. Just when I had one all ready.

Anyway, they continue to bicker and the hippie girl calls up someone on her cellphone while the longhair dude is trying to scam the checkout girl--he's divided the bottles up into three groups and he's going to pay for his one separately from the ones that Alejandro's fiver is going to take care of, which will be separate from the rest, which the girl is going to pay for. He's trying to confuse her and slip past a couple of the bottles while she's making change from the one he bought and then the ones Alejandro's fiver bought, if you follow me. The checkout girl doesn't let him. She is no dummy. The girl talking on the cellphone is shafted because she winds up having to pay for like eight of their twelve bottles herself.

Anyway, I take care of all my business, the Philippine girl checks me out, I pay with exact change, and get out of there while the squatters still haven't bagged up their stuff and are arguing because the girl had to come up with like twelve euros for whatever the amount of beer she had to pay for was.
Here' s a well-researched piece from the National Review from a couple of days ago. It explains why George Bush is going to get reelected in 2004. Bush, obviously, will be the candidate of the Republican Party in November 2004. His running mate will probably be Cheney, who's apparently done a good job as one of the President's top advisors; there's no good reason to change veeps unless 1) Cheney wants to do something else or b) we get all concerned about Cheney's health. In that case, Powell or Rice would be electable, as would Bill Frist or Hank Thompson.

The Democrats have a wide-open field with eight months to go before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries. John Kerry, the favorite, currently senator from Massachusetts, if there can be said to be a favorite--he's sort of good-looking, but not too smart and never did much in the Senate, and he reminds a lot of people much too much of Bill Clinton--has raised about $7 million in the last three months, according to the article by Jim Geraghty. John Edwards, another blow-dried airhead who's a senator from North Carolina, is the other Clinton clone in this election, and he's also raised a $7 million war chest in the last trimester. Dick Gephardt is the solid, dull candidate he's always been; he's the House Minority Leader, a representative from St. Louis, Missouri, and in the unions' pocket. Gep is always the union man. At least he stands for something, though. Howard Dean also stands for something; he's the ex-governor of Vermont and is running way off to the left, and he's got $2.6 million, pretty good for an obscure regional politician from a joke state. He's reminiscent of Martin Sheen on The West Wing--charismatic guy. Watch out for him. Dennis Kucinich, a representative from Cleveland, Ohio, who would be the nerdiest presidential candidate since Michael Dukakis, is also running way out to the left; we don't have figures on how much he's raised, but I bet not much. No figures either on Carol Moseley-Braun, ex-senator from Illinois; she's unelectable not so much because she's a black woman but because she's so notorious for playing the double victim card, for alleged financial corruption, and for her extreme left-wing views. Her goal is likely to be unifying the black Democratic vote, probably 20% of the Dems who vote in the primaries, in order to wield it decisively at the convention.

One of the great things is that the article links to the official websites of all the candidates mentioned here, plus Al Sharpton, whose link isn't working. Kerry's and Edwards's are both completely vacuous of thought, except that Edwards's tries to appeal to the lawyers and jumps all over the Social Security bandwagon; he's going for the trial lawyers' and the old folks' interest groups, both of which are powerful and spend a lot of money. Moseley-Braun's is equally dim-witted. Howard Dean is blatantly establishing himself as a lefty, and Dennis Kucinich is doing the same but in a really dorky sort of way. Gep's includes a lot of typical policy wonk wank about his alleged enviro plan, which he believes in about as much as I believe my cat can fly, and the most recent union to give him their support. God only knows what Al Sharpton's site might contain.

OK. Either Kerry or Edwards will run very well early but they're appealing to the Clintonites among the Dems and I just don't think there are that many Clintonites any more. Whichever makes it through has a very good chance of winning the whole thing, though, more likely Kerry, who's been in the Senate for years, than Edwards, who just got elected for the first time two years ago. One of the two will likely bomb out very early since they're both appealing to the same audience. Gep will be second or third in every non-Southern state and will be one of the guys who drops out midway unless no one has cleaned up the South. If Kerry and Edwards should split their vote and the Midwest becomes decisive, Gep could do well. If not, not. He may be looking for the vice-presidential nomination. Carol Moseley-Braun will get a big piece of the black vote and will stay in the race all the way to June. She'd like a cabinet post, I imagine. Denny the K will get stomped by Dean for the NPR vote; Kucinich will be the first candidate to drop out of the race. He might do something wacky like run with Nader. Dean is likely to do well in New England, and there'll be a boomlet for him early on in the race. If both Kerry and Edwards cancel one another out for the blow-dried airhead vote in the South, Dean may do very well when things get to the industrial states.

As for any other candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton is apparently not going to run. She just made it to the Senate and she knows as well as anyone else she needs some experience in her own name to be viable for the Presidency. She won't run in 2004 unless the party gets so desperate they draft her, among other things because she promised not to run for President in this upcoming election. She will run in 2008 or 2012.

And, of course, there is not-officially-in-the-race-yet former Vice President Al Gore. Here's his--well, some "grassroots supporters" of his--website. Al's site is putting it about that he'd be running first in New Hampshire if he were running. If this is still semi-true in a couple of months and Al can pick up some big, greasy contributions, something he's always been good at, Al will run in 2004 and will win the Democrat nomination for President.

Should Al not run--if he loses again, he'll never get a third chance, and he might want to wait for 2008--it's Kerry, Dean, or Edwards for the Democrat nomination, in that order of probability.

This is wonderful news. If you're a Republican.

Bush can mop the floor with any of those guys, and we all know it, unless there's a stock-market crash or a nuclear war between now or then. Both are pretty unlikely, much more unlikely than a year ago. Bush knows there's only one Democrat with the national prominence, the willingness to run, the generally moderate record, and the solid pro-war position that will all appeal to the swing voters whose support means victory in every election. And, just maybe, give him some real trouble.

That somebody is Joe Lieberman, Senator from Connecticut.

But Joe will probably not make it through the Democrat primaries. He's only fifth in fundraising, with some $3 million, behind (presumably) Gore, Kerry, Edwards, and Gep, and he's not much ahead of Howard Dean. If the Gore campaign is telling the truth, Joe is in fourth place behind (presumably) Gore, Kerry, and Dean in the New Hampshire primary.

Things don't look good for Joe. Gore, Kerry, and Dean split the early primaries. Kooch drops, and maybe Edwards too. Then Gore sweeps the South, with Moseley-Braun second. Everyone else drops out but Dean, and maybe Joe. Gore gets at least half of the vote in the Midwest and that puts him over to win at the convention on the first ballot. Joe comes in second or third or fourth overall. We could even see a replay of the Al-and-Joe ticket in 2004.

That's fine with me. Bush and Cheney or Powell or Rice or Thompson will whomp Al and Joe, or Al and whoever else, 54-44 at best, with 2% for Nader or Kooch, come November 2004.

What I'd hate to see is an Joe-and-Hillary ticket. Hillary didn't promise not to run for vice-president. That combination would give Bush a tough race. And if Joe and Hillary lose, they both stay in the Senate with Hillary as the Democrat front-runner for 2008. But the odds against a Joe-and-Hillary ticket are at least a couple of hundred to one.

Which means that y'all kin start gittin' ready fer four more years o' writin' "Here I sit, cheeks a-flexin', just squeezed out another Texan" on bathroom walls all 'round this here world in order to work out all y'all's frustrations 'bout them Tixas politicians.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Andrew Sullivan links to this Christian Science Monitor story, which nails the bought-and-paid-for-by-Saddam left-wing British MP George Galloway to the wall. That's two completely separate accounts, the Monitor's and the Daily Telegraph's, saying that Galloway was taking millions in bribes from Saddam Hussein. Scratch one libel suit. When do they open the prosecution? And can we--well, you--try him for treason, or just for accepting bribes?
I've got a post up over on EuroPundits; it's a translation of a news report from Iraq written by a Spanish journalist that is, actually, like, good. Check it out. Andrew Dodge has a post up and so does Nelson Ascher, so check that stuff out too. C'mon, guys, we're getting behind on the EuroPundits duties, myself not excepted. Murph and I should have put that long bit on Zap that we did (don't blame me for too many of the rhetorical flourishes) up on EuroPundits, but we didn't think to until it was already up here.

Hey, Sasha, could you check the HTML of EuroPundits again? Nelson seems to have been having posting problems.
I found this groovy site called the Sourcebook for Ancient History at Fordham University. It totally rocks. It's got connections to a lot of complete texts by the big guns of the times. I've been going through Julius Caesar and Augustus by Suetonius, who was sort of the Kitty Kelley of ancient Rome. Fascinating stuff. Skip over all the bits about which obscure dude was tribune in the fourteenth year of Augustus' mandate and all the tributes that were offered to Jupiter Biggusdickus at his temple on the Crapitoline, the little-known eighth hill the Eternal City was built on. There's all sorts of conspiracy and murder and massive dirty dealing. Read all of that. Robert Graves cribbed most of I, Claudius from Suetonius.

I looked into this because of that Italian nutcase below who compared George Bush to Julius Caesar, negatively. Lemme tell ya, every single American president, even JFK, has been like a saint in heaven, St. Francis of freakin' Assisi, compared to either Julius or Augustus Caesar. Hell, every senator we've ever had has been Mr. Upright Probity compared to any of the weasels Suetonius describes in the Roman Senate, and we've had senators even worse than Ted Kennedy. Jeez, even Aaron Burr seems comparatively honorable. I bet I find something similar to be true when I go through the other ten guys in Suetonius' scandal sheet. I sure found that to be true when I read the abridged version of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire a few months ago. My favorite was this one guy who seized power, in the period of full decline and total military dictatorship, along about 292 AD. Gibbon says about him, "He was an Arab, and so by nature a robber." Some other guy cut his head off a couple of years later and took over himself.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Here's an article from FrontPage taking Amnesty International to pieces as the leftist propaganda machine it is. Check it out. Fred Kaplan in Slate has a good piece on why the Apache helicopter is way overrated and why the A-10 is the best damn weapon we've got if we have air superiority, which we bloody well ought to have.
This is from James Taranto's column today at the Wall Street Journal online.

If you really believe that all sexual activity between consenting adults should be legally permitted, you ought to object to laws against incest (when no child is involved) and polygamy too. (The adultery example doesn't really fit, since adultery involves a usually nonconsenting third party, the betrayed spouse.)

Well, Jim, yeah, that is exactly what I believe. As far as I'm concerned, if everybody involved is eighteen and is acting on his and / or her own free will, what's the problem? Remember the bit about "the pursuit of happiness"? If my neighbor wants to get it on with his grandma and a billy goat on roller skates with a gallon of Crisco, that's only my business if they make so much noise they keep me awake at night. And don't give me any animal rights crap about the billy goat.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003


An examination of Spanish Socialist leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

by Alan Murphy and John Chappell


The PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers' Party) came to power after an overwhelming victory in the 1982 general elections; the PSOE was considered, at the time, to be a party of the little man, of the underdog, having been outlawed under the Franco regime. The Socialists were believed by most Spaniards to be pure and honest, and the Socialist slogan, "100 years of honesty", spoke volumes. They were led by young, super-charismatic Felipe González, who would govern the country as Prime Minister for the next fourteen years.

What really happened after the Socialist landslide was the reign of "los Sucialistas", "the dirty ones". It was a throwback to the worst excesses of feudal caciquismo (boss rule). A myriad of financial scandals such as the Rumasa case rocked Spain shortly after Felipe, as he was universally known, came to power. Subsidies flowed like sangría to the comparatively poor southern areas of Extremadura, Castile-La Mancha, and Andalusia, buying hundreds of thousands of votes of semi-skilled semi-unemployed agricultural laborers. How much money did they steal? Nobody knows. But they scored an enormous publicity victory in 1992 when Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games and Sevilla got the World's Fair; Barcelona and Sevilla, of course, were, are, and apparently always be Socialist fiefdoms.

ETA, the Basque terrorist gang, was Felipe's most serious problem. They ran around killing dozens of people a year; their worst atrocity was the Hipercor bombing of a Barcelona department store which killed and wounded literally hundreds of people. things came to a head even before this atrocity, though, because the Spanish Army has always held a great deal of power, and many ETA victims were army officers. In 1981 elements of the Army went so far as to attempt a coup and took over the Parliament building. Felipe desperately feared another coup, so something had to be done.

Felipe looked around. He saw that the British and the Israelis had a novel way of getting rid of terrorists, as exemplified in the triple killing of an IRA hit squad in Gibraltar by the SAS and the Mossad's selective assassination of any terrorist who looked at them the wrong way. My (Murph's) feeling is that was not necessarily a bad thing; after all, these terrorists do claim that they are soldiers in a war and so they can expect to suffer the consequences. Clearly, Felipe concurred with this view. So he decided to set up an enormous slush fund to finance his very own death squad.

However, there was what they call in intelligence circles "a significant operational difference" between the Brits and the Israelis on the one hand and Felipe's GAL, his very own secret army, on the other. Whereas the SAS and the Mossad select their operatives with utmost care, Felipe hired a bunch of illiterate Corsican mercenaries and alcoholic local cops. Naturally, these Keystone Killers bungled several hit jobs, once kidnapping the wrong guy and, repeatedly, leaving their fingerprints all over the crime scene when they did manage to kill someone who actually had something to do with terrorism.

So 1992 rolls around, the apotheosis of Socialist glory, with Barcelona and Sevilla occupying the center of the world's attention. Everyone is happy, but something is bubbling under the surface, and that something erupts in a pustulent chancre in the very next year. The press gets on the money trail and blows it all wide open. The money that was supposed to fund anti-terrorist operations was used to buy mink coats for police chiefs' wives. The head of the national bank and the boss of the Guardia Civil go to the slammer. Carelessness and incompetence. Exposure. Ruin. Disgrace. Cabinet ministers behind bars. Felipe walks. His troops stay loyal.

The PSOE government was exposed as corrupt, incompetent, and completely disrespectful of the law. Next time elections came around, in 1996, José María Aznar and his conservative People's Party toasted them. Exit Felipe to his palatial home in a plush Madrid suburb. Now the PSOE have to find someone, anyone, who can restore them to power.

To cut to the chase, the result was a two-headed monster. Some guy whose name nobody can remember (Joaquín Almunia--we looked it up) was the nomenklatura's candidate, but someone got the bright idea they ought to innovate and have a primary election, which was won by the charismatic Catalan José Borrell, surprising the hell out of said nomenklatura. It was decided that the guy-whose-name-nobody-can-remember and Borrell would sort of be co-leaders. This made everybody very confused since nobody was sure who was really running the party. The ambiguity was resolved when Borrell got mixed up in another financial scandal and had to be defenestrated; the guy-whose-name-nobody-can-remember ran against Aznar in the 2000 general election and crashed and burned. He hasn't been heard from since.

The PSOE's wheels were spinning in a muddy ditch and nobody was driving the pork-barrel juggernaut. They looked around for someone, anyone, who had a learner's permit to take the wheel. Somebody had to overtake the Aznar hot rod, which was disappearing over the political horizon. Who had the horsepower?

ZAP! Along came José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, whom nobody had ever heard of before, but he did look a little bit like Tony Blair. So, they figured, maybe he could do the same thing Blair had done--renovate the out-of-touch leftist party so it resembled something the ordinary Spanish José could identify with. And that's where we are today.

So does Zap's ponderous pork-barrelling eighteen-wheeler have the specs to catch Aznar's '66 Chevelle with a 350 V-8? Let's find out by looking at last Sunday's interview with the great man himself from El País, house organ of the PSOE.


Q. Hasn't this war at least served to put an end to Saddam Hussein's dictatorship?
A. No. What it's been good for until now, it seems, is to secure the oil wells. Everything has been a lie. In fact, there are other dictatorial regimes that are going to rearm themselves as a consequence of this war. No. this war was fought to exercise political, economic, and military domination in the area, ignoring the conventional norms of International Law.

...One. As this action concludes, it has been proven that none of the reasons used to justify and support this war were true. (Saddam's) regime had no WMDs, nor was the Iraqi Army a threat to the coalition or the world. Number two: the Iraqi regime was in a situation of absolute weakness, and the inspectors could have easily done their work. Now they tell us that the Iraqi war was a war of liberation. This is prohibited by the Charter of the UN, and moreover, not only is this liberation momentary, but the liberty which is being given to the Iraqi people has become libertinism. It is one of the most brazen moments that has been seen for decades, pillage, humiliation, and an absolute disregard for human rights. I believe that history will judge those who have allowed a part of our history to be destroyed. This war began outside the law, it has been carried out outside the law, and it seems that at the end of the war the law has not been respected.

...I am asking for a vote on the 25th of March as a function of the best constitutional values, as a function of the best values of tolerance, reaffirming myself in our Europeism. Reaffirming another method of governing and another method of behaving...I think the massive demonstrations correspond to three expressions. First, the rejection of the war. Second, the citizenry wants a more just international order, it wants an international order based on legality and not based on who has the most B-52s. And third, I think the people are expressing a feeling of an improvement of democracy, that their condition of citizen should be relevant and be listened to, with respect to a Government that in the last two and a half years has been conducting policy very much against the people in several ways.

...We must improve democracy in Spain. There are three aspects that seem essential to me. One, we have to improve the functioning of Parliament. Parliament has to be more and more reflective every day of what is happening in the national life. Two, I think we have to improve the truth when communicating the policies and the values of plurality, independence, the truth of information through the public media. I think one of the things that brought most demonstrators out onto the streets is the manipulation of the public media of communciation, the vulgar manipulation of the public media of communication and the attempt to control some private media. Spain needs a radical change of policy in the public media of communication. And, third, I think our democracy needs instruments and channels of participation on the part of the citizenry.

...I think that since I was elected secretary-general I said that I wanted politics to be governed by profound convictions and principles. I have been as radical in defending and supporting the Government in the struggle against ETA, exactly the same degree of radical and firm, as when opposing this war, because of moral conditions and principles. Exactly the same.

Q. Would a Government presided by you have permitted the use of the bases (in Spain) to the US?
A. For this action against Iraq, no, of course.
Q. Or the overflight of the B-52s?
A. For this action, no.
Q. And for actions in the future?
A. It would have to be in function of what the agreement, or a multilateral agreement, says, or if the territorial interests of Spain or the United States are at risk. And this is the chain of legitimacy. If not, we will arrive at the absurdity that the bases, of joint use, have no limitation, that the US can use our territory in any circumstances and that Spain cannot do anything...We democrats have chosen to construct a world in which right is not imposed by military superiority. Military supremacy cannot be the same as moral superirity and superiority in the rules of the game. The rules of the game are between everybody and for everybody.

...Sincerely, the one in a very evident minority within European social democracy is Tony Blair, and therefore, Tony Blair is the one who should reflect...I sincerely believe that Tony Blair's putative strategy has not borne fruit. Blair's discourse as an element of moderation and contention of the Bush administration has not given its fruits. It is so true, that we already see him in hot water, as when Colin Powell, Rumsfeld, and Bush start looking at Syria.

...I think every day there will be more and more positions like ours. I have certainly found this with many Latin American governments, various Arab countries, and with the climate there is in Europe that this has been a tremendous error. I think that, just as much France as Germany as the PSOE, what we are trying to do is that this erroneous line is not continued, that sensibility be recovered, that dialogue be recuperated, that the Bush Administration should listen to the rest. That there have been so many countries, the majority of the countries in the world, the majority of the public opinions of the world in disagreement, this road can not be continued down. And that is a message directed at Tony Blair and at Aznar.

...If the occupying forces try to act as administrative forces without the permission of the United Nations, we will continue in a situation of international illegality. Besides, in the political and social terms of benefitting the people of Iraq, I think that every day there will emerge a feeling among the Iraqi citizenry of seeing themselves as occupied and invaded, not liberated

Sorry, y'all, there's a page and a half more of Zap but I just can't bring myself to transcribe any more. Just a few comments: 1) He really is this dumb. It's not hard to speak clear Spanish, but Zap can't do it. This drivel is just as drivelly in the original. And they have the nerve to call Bush a moron. 2) Spanish political discourse really is this poor. Zap doesn't say anything specific in the whole damn interview. This is not unusual in these here parts. 3) We'll see if this is what the people want on May 25. If it is, they can't say they weren't warned.

The Vanguardia has outdone itself. In today's international news section, not "Analysis" or "Opinion", they've got a story by their Rome correspondent, Roger Jiménez, titled "The US, Sparta, against Athenian Europe: Italian scholars see similarities between ancient times and the present world with the war on Iraq". Just a few pearls:

It is true that historical circumstances never repeat themselves in the same way, but it is undeniable that many human motivations and behaviors maintain themselves. The conquest of Gaul was, in the opinion of historians, an example of a "preventive war". Caesar decided to act without the authorization of the Senate, and he justified himself with the pretext of coming to help one part of the Gallic tribes threatened by the others. But there is another episode even more reminiscent of the "Bush doctrine" that led to the Third Punic War. One day, Marcus Porcius Cato received as a gift some splendid figs from Carthage, the powerful city that had been defeated in 202 (BC) and on which severe conditions were imposed. Cato displayed the gift in the Senate as an affront: "Look how the Carthaginians laugh at us, we must destroy them because the danger still persists." And an army under the orders of Scipio Emilianus reduced the city to ashes.

Hoo boy. 1) Caesar's war on Gaul was a war of conquest, not a preventive war. 2) George Bush had the approval of the United States Congress for the US overthrow of Saddam, so there's no comparison with Julius Caesar. 3) The Third Punic War could be called a preventive war, but Carthage gave no provocation to Rome, unlike what Saddam gave to every decent country in the world with his support of international terrorism and his program to develop weapons of mass destruction. I'd call it another war of conquest, like most Roman wars. Now get this one.

Luca Canali, Latinist, translator, and writer resists making comparisons between George Bush and the leaders of ancient Rome. "The problem is that those were extraordinary men and he (Bush) is not. They went off to die in battle, something that Bush junior (sic) and his people do not precisely do. He has nothing in common with Julius Caesar, not even from the personal point of view. It is enough to remember that Caesar was highly cultured, a friend of the greatest intellectuals of his time, while Bush confuses Slovenia with Slovakia. Caesar was a great political leader, the only one in history who made a revolution and did not install a reign of terror. He trusted that the justice of his works of peace and war were worth the favor of his entire people. He was assassinated after breaking up a group of Spanish cavalry that he had as bodyguards because he preferred to die than to live protected day and night."

I am extremely happy that no reasonable comparison can be made between George W. Bush and Julius Caesar, who was an absolute dictator and who would attack your country, enslave your people, and steal your property just as soon as look at you. Why the hell is Mr. Jiménez allowing some Italian Fascist to attack Bush for not being Caesar in his pages? I'd be a lot more concerned if Bush did try to emulate Julius Caesar. And, by the way, Caesar offed his enemies just like any other dictator, and his "revolution" was a military coup.

...In all wars there were, like today, economic reasons. Slaves were the "petroleum" of the era. And also, like today, there were people who, like Colin Powell, played the role of the "dove"; these were the senatorial aristocracy...

1) Thucydides, whom these people should have read, said that there were three motives for war: honor, fear, and interest. Not just interest, and it looks to me like the motives for overthrowing Saddam were, in order, a) fear of Saddam's attacking us in the future with WMDs or terrorist acts b) American honor, demonstrating to the world that we are not to be trifled with in the wake of 9-11 c) interest, the stability of the volatile Middle East, and d) a motive unimaginable to either Thucydides or today's Spanish anti-Americans, common decency. 2) What Julius Caesar did, idiot, was to strip all power from the senatorial aristocracy.

Bush is surrounded by a group of eminences grises, from Vice-President Cheney to the secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, or Paul Wolfowitz, whom many consider to be the real decision-makers in the White House. Some emperors also had powerful advisors, like Augustus, who left the management of the state to Agrippa in his absence...and, as influences on young Nero, Seneca and the emperor's mother, Agrippina, a version of Condoleezza Rice.

Boy, that's damning, that is. Bush has advisors just like Augustus did! And comparing Condi Rice with Agrippina the Younger is like comparing Marie Osmond and Marilyn Manson.

Continuing the thread of parallelisms with ancient Rome, similarities have been found between the US president and Crassus, a very rich man who aspired to gain a reputation as a great warrior. Absolute military superiority is common to the two peoples. Rome could lose a battle but would win the war. Afterwards it constructed monuments, highways, bridges, and aqueducts in the whole world, conscious that it was necessary to give people water, theaters, culture.

Comparing Crassus and Bush is like comparing...oh, you finish the simile. And is Jiménez arguing that it is the job of the state to give people culture? That, to say the least, is a highly illiberal attitude.

Question: How did this crap get into a newspaper that considers itself the paper of record in Catalonia with a circulation of over 200,000? Answer: There are a lot of pretentious jerks in this country, many of whom are alleged intellectuals at the universities or in journalism, who are so full of themselves that they have no idea how stupid they seem in the eyes of the world. This is because nobody in the rest of the world particularly cares what they have to say, nor is anyone willing to take the time to bother refuting their nonsense. Thus a great deal of nonsense goes unrefuted around here, and the average Jordi, who is no smarter nor dumber than your average Joe, believes it because "it says so in the paper".
FrontPage links to this article from the Times (of London, natch) on the so-called oil-for-food program which financed Saddam for the last twelve years. Check it out for even more information on the cupidity of the United Nations, the "moderate" Arab states, and France, Russia, and China. Then check out Dick Morris's piece, also from FrontPage, on the general scuzziness of Saddam's friends on the Axis of Weasels.

The oil-for-food scam must end instantly. What I would do is this: Cancel all contracts signed by the Saddam regime. Confiscate all Iraqi assets overseas and use the money for reconstructing Iraq. Put all oil contracts up for bids just as soon as possible; exclude France, Russia, Germany, and China from the bidding, and also exclude American and British companies to prove to the world that we did not overthrow Saddam for the oil. Have the contracts run out after three or five years; by then, if there is a democratic government in Iraq, they will be able to manage their own business for themselves and can deal with whoever they decide to, even if it is TotalFinaElf. Don't do this for reconstruction contracts; give the jobs of, say, fixing the port and putting out the oil fires and the like to whoever can do the job the best, even if it is Halliburton or Bechtel.

By the way, Joe Queenan has a funny piece in the Wall Street Journal. There's a not-so-funny gag in the Onion on Christopher Hitchens, whom I firmly believe is a jerk, but they insist on portraying him as a drunk. Why does everyone who takes a shot at Hitchens accuse him of being a drunk? Is he one? And why do they say that Hitchens was attacking the antiwar crowd "from the left"? I thought he was attacking the antiwar crowd because he hated Saddam, and as far as I could tell he used pretty much the same arguments as pretty much everybody else on the right, in which direction he has plainly moved.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Here's a link from InstaPundit:

THIS PAST WEEKEND, Jim Bennett asked where all the European Fascists had gone. Apparently, they were standing in line to read this book, which argues that Franco wasn't such a bad guy after all:

"A controversial, revisionist history of the Spanish civil war which claims it was sparked by a leftwing revolution and that Winston Churchill was crueller than General Francisco Franco has proved a surprise publishing success.

The Myths of the Civil War, by the former communist guerrilla turned Franco apologist Pio Moa, has outraged the Spanish left and many mainstream historians with its attacks on the icons of the period.

But it has become the second most popular non-fiction book in Spain as it is snapped up by former Franco supporters and those curious to see a different interpretation of a civil war which most historians agree was started by a rightwing military uprising against a democratic government." (From the Guardian.)

Humph. Wait until you read my soon-to-be-bestseller about how Marxism was actually a plot by British Intelligence to hobble Britain's adversaries with a self-destructive ideology. Hey, weren't you always a little suspicious of how a guy like Marx worked so freely in the bowels of the British Empire, with support from a wealthy industrialist?

The book is by Pío Moa, a regular contributor to Libertad Digital. They've got a file of all his pieces going back several years. Moa really is an ex-terrorist; he was one of the founders of GRAPO, the Spanish equivalent of the Red Brigades or the Baader-Meinhofs. He has "repented", as they say around here, and is a convert to free-market democracy.

It is not fair to call Moa pro-Franco. That's a smear thrown at him by the modern Spanish left. It's more accurate to say that, regarding the Spanish Civil War, Moa believes in "A plague on both your houses".

So do I.

Stanley G. Payne is, in my opinion, by far the best historian writing about Spain. He is a legitimate historian who has written extensively not only on Spain and Portugal, but also on European history, and especially on Fascism. His book A History of Spain and Portugal is the standard introductory textbook used in American universities on Iberian history. And, guess what, it's available online! I've linked to it before, and I'm going to link to it again.

Here is Payne's chapter on the Second Spanish Republic, which lasted between 1931 and 1939, and here is his chapter on the Spanish Civil War itself, which lasted between 1936 and 1939.
From Sports Illustrated, here's the geniusy sports story of the week:

During a tour of Fort Buchanan in Puerto Rico, a military policeman asked if any of the Expos wanted to know what it felt like to get shot. Reliever T.J. Tucker volunteered, and the MP shot him in the rear with a simulated 9-millimeter pistol used for training. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Tucker. We hope so.

Speaking of sports, tyrant-loving FC Barcelona, the team that protested in favor of Saddam and against the United States and then took money from Qadafi's son in exchange for an exhibition game, tied Real Madrid in the Bernabeu on Saturday 1-1. It was a sloppy but exciting game, with neither team able to put together a sustained offensive attack. Barcelona slapped young midfielder Thiago Motta on Madrid's Zinedane Zidane and took him out of the game, but they were playing on the defensive and looking for the counterattack during most of the match. This strategy, which is the opposite of playing your game and taking it to the other team, is the equivalent of a dink-and-doink passing attack in pro football, the approach you use if your players just aren't as good as the other team's. Johan Cruyff is disgusted with the current Barcelona squad and their approach to the game, of course.

Barcelona is currently in twelfth place in the twenty-team Spanish league, with Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, and Deportivo de La Coruña in nearly a dead heat for first place with eight games left to play; Valencia and Celta de Vigo will fight over fourth place and the last Champions League berth, and Betis is likely to take sixth place and the last UEFA berth. (One UEFA spot automatically goes to the winner of the Spanish Cup, either Mallorca or Recreativo de Huelva.) Looks to me like next season Barcelona will stay home from European competitions for the first time since they were instituted. Their only hope is to win the Champions League to qualify next year, and realistically, they're the seventh-best team of the Elite Eight, so it ain't bloody likely.

Barcelona plays Real Sociedad next weekend at Anoeta in a league game that la Real has to win to keep up with Madrid and Depor. Barcelona has nothing riding on it, so they're probably going to blow it. Tonight Juventus of Turin comes to the Camp Nou for the return leg of the Champions League quarterfinals; Barcelona and la Juve tied 1-1 at Delle Alpi in the first leg. This is, of course, a must-win game for both teams; Barcelona advances to the Final Four on a win or a 0-0 tie, while Juve advances on a 2-2 tie (or more) or a win. In case of a 1-1 tie they go to overtime and then to penalties. The other team is eliminated. The game is on TV1 tonight.

Also, this evening, Inter Milan plays Valencia (1-0 in the first leg); tomorrow, Real Madrid plays Manchester United (3-1 in the first leg), and Ajax Amsterdam plays AC Milan (0-0 in the first leg). The Final Four is most likely to be Juventus, Inter, Madrid, and Milan. I'm rooting for Ajax but I have few illusions. They're a good team, well-coached by Ronald Koeman (a true sports hero, a widely respected gentleman), but they're just not a superstar squad.

How 'bout them Kansas City Royals? What the hell are they doing winning games? They're supposed to suck! They sure did last year, anyway. Keep an eye on their young pitcher, Runelvys Hernandez. He's the real deal. They have four established, competent players, Mike Sweeney at first base / DH, Carlos Beltran in centerfield, Raul Ibañez in leftfield, and Joe Randa at third. The rest of the young pitching staff looks pretty good but they'll come down to earth. If they come anywhere near .500, though, we can call the season a great success.
The Daily Telegraph is reporting that Saddam's mouthpiece in the British Parliament, Old Labourite George Galloway, was taking payoffs of over 375,000 pounds a year from the Iraqi government. It sure looks like they've got him red-handed, since they've found a bunch of documents in Saddam's files pointing at him by name. He was taking a slice of the "oil-for-food" money that was supposed to benefit ordinary Iraqis and prevent their suffering under the regime of sanctions that was intended to hurt Saddam and his minions.

If Galloway has any decency, which I doubt, he'll resign. He should be immediately prosecuted for taking bribes and anything else they can pin on him. Now let's check up on some of our own more notorious Bonior-McDermott-Owens-McKinney Saddamites and see what kind of skeletons they've got hanging in their closets. I'll bet at least one of them was on the take.

Here in Spain, I'd like to know where Zap and especially Gas have been getting their money from. We know that Gas's Spanish Communist Party was getting "subsidies" (i.e. bribes) from Moscow until the Soviet Union collapsed, but nobody's ever been prosecuted for that. Not too surprising. Wonder how much they've received from other unpleasant sources.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Here's a guy named José Luis Orihuela who runs a blog. J.L.'s site is mostly a collection of links to dozens of other blogs in Spanish and Portuguese, or about similar themes, along with commentary. He was nice enough to list us as one of his "recent discoveries", especially since I bet we're a little too right-wing for his political taste--my guess is he's a fairly reasonable moderate lefty. J.L.'s site is a great resource for all kinds of stuff in the Iberian languages, and he's put a good bit of work into finding all of this, so check it out if you can read fuzzy furriner talk.
Check out this wacky website (mostly in Spanish) called It's by some guy named Luis Toribio, whom I've never heard of and whom I will not stick my neck out for--that is, if he turns out to be some kind of neofranquista weirdo it's not my fault. He's got it in big-time for the Spanish left and for the Basque and Catalan Nationalists. He's registered a whole bunch of URLs like which get you into his website. Now, the website is full of absolutely outrageous comparisons between, say, the Socialist Party and the Nazis, and not such outrageous comparisons between the Basque Nationalists and the Nazis, but it's fun to check out for a bit of right-wing demagogy. The organization of the site reminds me of what John Gunther said about the front page of the Denver Post back when it was notoriously the worst newspaper in America--"It looks like a confused and bloody railway accident." I figure his analogies are no worse than the ones you'll see in the article below by a professor of German at the U. of Barcelona.
Here's an article by one Josep María Ruíz Simón on page 34 of today's Vangua. Its title is "Analogies".

It seems that the invasion of Iraq has come to its end. Maybe it's time to remember the arguments that were used to attempt to justify it. Or maybe not, since nobody ever, not even those who used them, believed that those arguments were the reasons behind the war. Maybe it is more pertinent to remember, as the Brazilian politologist Luis Alberto Moniz Bandera reminded us a few days ago, what Adolf Hitler said in 1939 to the high command of the Wermacht (sic): "I'll give a propagandistic reason to start the war, it doesn't matter whether it's plausible or not. The winner is never asked whether he told the truth." Only a little later, the Führer ordered Operation Himmler: members of the SS and the Gestapo, dressed in Polish uniforms, attacked a radio station in Gleiwitz. The propagandistic motivation was provided. And the world preferred to swallow it. (Gee, I thought Britain and France declared war about two days later. It was the Soviets who allied themselves with Hitler to divide up Poland, remember?)

It's never a bad idea to remember. And I think that, though it may seem like an exaggeration to many, remembering the Third Reich when the "Project for the New American Century" is being implemented is not out of place. Despite the fact that the hundred years projected for American dominion don't reach as far as the millenium that had been prophesied by the German National Socialists.

We suppose that something must have rubbed the American administration on a raw spot when it pressured the German government for the resignation of the minister of Justice for comparing Bush with Hitler and when it also pressured the UN so that a reproduction of the painting by Picasso, so that the bombardment of Guernica by the Nazis would not be forgotten, would be covered by a blue cloth the day that Colin Powell presented his inconsistent arguments in favor of war.
(False. The UN covered the painting not because of American pressure but because they always do so when a speech is televised.) And I don't think that it was only the memory, also brought up these days, of the close financial connections that existed between George W. Bush's great-grandfather and the Hitler regime. (False. See Cecil Adams's column on this.)

Analogies give us something to think about. And those (leaving aside the question of the negligence of the American secret and security services) who have spent months thinking about the analogies between the political use of 9-11 and that of the fire in the Reichstag (the German parliament) in 1933 (sic) are many. Without getting into conspiracy theories, it is clear that in the same way that that fire was the pretext for Adolf Hitler to seize extraordinary powers and establish a police state without the necessity of revoking the Constitution of the Weimar Republic, George W. Bush, after the attack on the Twin Towers, has also obtained extraordinary powers and has installed a repressive system (through, among other laws, the Patriot Act) that violates the civil rights of the United States, permitting, for example, that American Moslems be arrested and imprisoned without a trial, or the creation of secret military tribunals to try, imprison, and execute foreign citizens without the possibility of appeal.

Guantánamo is no joke. Neither is the fact that FBI agents are now authorized to observe what citizens read and the sites they visit on the Internet. The "war on terrorism" has its domestic front. And it's worth it to reflect, without leaving aside the copycat effect that American politics generates, about whether on this front, like overseas, arguments are also being fabricated to justify decisions that have already been made.

You heard it here first! We're Nazis! Bush is Hitler! We're all stupid sheeplike followers! 9-11 was a setup! The war on Saddam was just like the Nazi attack on Poland! America is a repressive police state! The FBI is watching all of us! And the jails are full of innocent civilians! And Spain is going to copy America and Aznar is Mussolini!

If this had been printed in an American paper, could Bush sue for libel?

Well, today's Vanguardia has a few entertaining bits. On the first page of the Culture section, of all places, they have a story about Madonna's new album. This is just another example of the weird multiple personality (not schizophrenia) that the Europeans have regarding the United States and its popular culture--you know, they hate us but they're still fascinated by us. Madonna is not a successful recording artist anymore in the US--it's been years since she had anything resembling a hit song. Last thing I heard on the radio by her was her version of "American Pie", which sank like a stone, if I recall correctly. In Europe, though, once a celebrity, always a celebrity, no matter how crappy the person in question's career has gone. Oh, get this, they call her "the legendary singer-songwriter". I thought Joni Mitchell had copyrighted that title.

Says Madonna, "The album cover is an homage to Che Guevara, because my current state of mind is revolutionary. I feel that the world needs a serious change and because of this I was looking until I remembered that image of Guevara. I think that most of the lyrics and a good part of the feelings that I have put into this album are revolutionary." That's our Madonna Luxemburg Goldman, that is. Next thing you know she'll be throwing herself in front of the King's horse at the Derby. I bet Madonna had never heard the word "revolution" until she saw it in a Benetton ad back in about ninety-three or so.

By the way, one of the songs on the album is titled, quite accurately, "I'm So Stupid".
The World Health Organization is blasting China for having covered up information related to SARS, the mutant form of pneumonia that seems to have started there (like most forms of flu and pneumonia, since humans seem to pick up these diseases from pigs and poultry, and China has by far the largest number of these animals kept domestically).

I wonder if the Perenially Indignant Catalans are going to hold any demos or pot-bangings, since China hid information about a disease that could become an epidemic from the rest of the world, and if that's not irresponsible, I don't know what is. How much do you want to bet that when SARS gets to Africa it wipes out that one-third of the population (in some countries) that has AIDS? Remember, you don't die of AIDS, you die of some other disease, normally pneumonia, that you picked up because AIDS has damaged your immune system.

So let's see. There were some 1000 civilian deaths in the War on Saddam, more or less, and the United States has been excoriated in the simple-minded Spanish press and by the simple-minded Spanish populace as the epitome of evil. Millions will die in the Third World from SARS, and where are the protests at China's behavior? Sorry, dumb question. Only America is bad. I keep forgetting.

Let's hold a contest. The first person to find an article blaming America for SARS wins a prize of some sort, probably something along the lines of getting your name published in the blog.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Here's an article from Fox News giving a rather different perspective on the looting in Baghdad that the Spanish press has gotten so worked up about.

It's a low-on-news weekend, which is just as well because I'm on a mild blogging break. Good Friday is a holiday in Spain and Easter Monday is one, too, in Catalonia. It's been a very nice weekend and Barcelona, which can be gray and dull (though never too cold, at least not outdoors) during the winter, is now green and flowery. The wisteria is in bloom and so is the jasmine. Everybody's geraniums are out; the geranium is definitely the most popular balcony plant in Spain, I guess because they are hardy and don't require a lot of attention. We had an epidemic about five years ago of worms that infested all the geraniums in town and a lot of them died; the ones that didn't, which include all three of mine, seem to be immune, and now the streets are almost as geraniumy as they were before the worms came. The herb garden is just fine--we've got oregano, thyme, lavender, parsley, mint, and some weird kind of parsley that Remei brought back from the pueblo. It's just fine, tastes like strong parsley, but I have no idea what it's called.

Baghdad Bob Fisk has gone back home to his undoubtedly very expensive British residence--like most lefties with jobs, Bob talks big about solidarity and the like, but I'll bet he sacrifices very little of his paychecks to help those less fortunate. But we don't have to read Bob's whinings in the Vanguardia any more. The Catalan lefties are all notorious for behaving in such a way--they all make a lot more money than I do, anyway, and every time Catalan Socialist leader Pasqual Maragall (who got raked over the coals by none less than the Economist for having compared José María Aznar with Hermann Göring) gets all solidarious, we should remind him that he comes from the most bourgeois Hochkatalanisch family imaginable.

Friday, April 18, 2003

I'm getting really annoyed at the moronic leftist Spanish media for trumpeting over and over that the United States overthrew Saddam Hussein because of the arms sales and the oil. That is flat stupid. First, war is bad for business. It causes uncertainty, and business hates uncertainty. It eats up resources unproductively (not only natural resources, of course, but capital and labor), taking them out of the economy as a whole. It gets people killed and wounded, removing their skills from the economy and costing us, uh, an arm and a leg to take care of them. Stuff gets destroyed and it has to be rebuilt, costing us even more resources. Wars always cause internal political friction, which, to say the least, is not helpful to the smooth running of an economic system. You simply don't make money off participating in a war. You lose money. Unless, of course, you are a neutral country selling goods to both sides. Then you make a ton of money. Case in point: Spain, neutral in both WW I and WW II. Especially in World War I, the Catalan textile and leather industries got incredibly rich supplying the French Army with their uniforms and boots. This is why Spaniards think that people make money off wars. Because they did.

Now, let's look at the United States economy. In American billions (1 followed by nine zeros, called a "milliard" in Europe) of dollars, the US economy is by far the largest in the world, at $9,100 billion a year GDP, according to the 2002 Economist Pocket World in Figures. Japan is second with $4,300 billion per year, Germany is third with $2,100 bn., the UK fourth with $1,400 bn., and France fifth with $1,400 billion. Italy, China, Brazil, Canada, and Spain round out the top ten.

The American economy is just plain enormous, and it runs extremely well despite the mild slump we are in now. It would be just moronic to risk all we have going for us on an unnecessary war. Absolutely moronic. Mr. Bush and his Cabinet and the leaders of Congress are not morons.

Now, first, let's look at international arms trading. According to the US State Department, in 1999, the US was by far the world's largest arms exporter--we exported arms to the tune of $33 billion. The UK was second with $5.2 bn., Russia third, France fourth, and Germany fifth. Now, 33 billion dollars is just a drop in the bucket in the total economy of more than $9,000 billion. Are we sufficiently idiotic to risk screwing up our whole economy--and, of course, getting our own people killed--to make five or ten billion dollars extra in weapons sales? I just bet we aren't. Arms exports are less than one-tenth of one percent of the American economy. By the way, the leading arms importers in 1999 were Saudi Arabia with $7.7 billion, then Turkey with $3.2 bn., then Japan, Taiwan, the UK, and Israel, in that order. The big importers of arms are not rogue states but established, legitimate governments (though I don't like the Saudis any better than anyone else, it is a functioning state).

Now let's look at oil and other forms of energy. First, we are the world's largest producer of energy, second after Saudi Arabia in oil production, second after Russia in natural gas, and first in coal. We produce 73% of the energy we use, again according to the Economist's little handbook. (Spain produces only nine percent of its own energy.) We also get a good deal of our imported energy from our NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico. Mexico is the fifth world producer of oil and Canada is tenth; both are ahead of Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, and Indonesia in oil production. In addition, Canada is the third producer in the world of natural gas. Let's face it, Middle East oil is nice and cheap and importing some of it is good for our economy. But we could live just fine without it, unlike Europe and the Far East tigers, who are completely dependent on it except for the North Sea countries.

By the way, again according to the Economist, of the twenty largest companies in the world in sales, only three are oil companies: America's Exxon Mobil, third in the world with $163.9 billion in sales, the UK / Netherlands company, Royal Dutch Shell with $104.5 bn., eleventh in the world, and at seventeenth, the Anglo-American BP-Amoco with $83.6 bn. in sales. These statistics are from 1999.

Now, these here companies are powerful and influential, and rightly so, since what's good for them is good for the world economy as a whole, and especially for their hundreds of thousands of workers and stockholders. But to think we attacked Iraq so we could get fifty or a hundred billion dollars more in oil money is just ridiculous when you look at the United States' total GDP of NINE THOUSAND BILLION DOLLARS. Oil, like everything else, is an important part of our economy, but it just isn't the be-all and end-all, and if anybody knows this it is George Bush and Dick Cheney and Condi Rice, all of whom actually know something about how the petroleum industry works and what its comparative importance is.

You might be wondering about the makeup of the US economy. You might have thought that it really was based on weapons and oil. It certainly is not. Here are the stats for 2000 of the components of the American economy according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in billions of dollars.

Agriculture $135 bn
Mining $127 bn (oil and gas extraction, $99.5 bn--remember we're second in the world in both oil and gas production)
Construction $463 bn
Manufacturing $1,566 bn
Transportation $825 bn
Communications (includes the entire media industry) $281 bn
Utilities $230 bn
Wholesale trade $674 bn
Retail trade $893 bn
Finance / insurance / real estate $1,936 bn
Services $2,164 bn
Government $1.216 bn

Thursday, April 17, 2003

The European Union held its summit in Athens and signed the deal expanding itself to 25 countries. The three Baltics, Poland, the Czechs, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, and Greek Cyprus are all in. The treaty of admission is 4900 pages long, so everybody, of course, has been able to read the whole thing. Wonder what kind of nasty hidden clauses they stuck in there which won't be fully exploited until they're faits accomplis. We'll find out in a few years.

What this means, of course, is that it's going to become a hell of a lot more difficult to get any sort of consensus on a common EU foreign and defense policy, especially since eight of the new members are very pro-American and not real fond of the arrogant, bullying French government, which threatened to keep them out of the EU if they didn't behave themselves appropriately over the Iraq crisis. Well, they didn't behave themselves, especially not the Poles, who took on some fighting and by all accounts did a good job in a tough situation.

I think it's interesting to note that France and Germany (and their lapdog Belgium) are surrounded, going clockwise, by Britain, Holland, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, all proud members of the coalition. The Axis of Weasels has broken up, and the countdown is on for the collapse of the Schröder government in Germany and for a Christian Democrat-Free Democrat takeover. Russia, of course, is waffling. France is going to wind up all by itself. The Americans, unilateralists? I'd look first at Paris if I were looking for a country that likes to throw its weight around all by itself (see Ivory Coast, Central African Republic, etc.)

By the way, since when did the European Left think Chirac was a hero? Anybody remember when they sunk the Greenpeace ship or tested nukes in the South Pacific? How about the nuclear reactors they've sold to everybody and his dog--France, of course, is less dependent on foreign oil than other countries because they've built so many nuke plants in France itself. What about the race and immigration problem that France can't handle? How about the massive corruption in French private and public life? Does anyone remember that France sells weapons of all kinds to the highest bidder, which is often an unlovely African satellite or, worse, a belligerent and aggressive Arab non-satellite? One would think the Left would be against all these things. But they forget all about them when France opposes America, because what the Left really hates is capitalism and democracy, not nuclear plants and nuclear testing and international arms sales and propping up Third World dictatorships and drowning hippies and invading African countries and beating up Muslims and Jews in the streets and all the other things they say they hate that France habitually does.

Anyway, there's a whole bunch of meaningless guff spouted by various high commissioners for this, that, and the other thing. You don't want to hear about any of it, trust me.

Spain is offering to send the Spanish Legion, their best troops, to Iraq for peacekeeping purposes. They also want to send elements of the paramilitary police force, the Guardia Civil, for public safety and police training. This worked out pretty well in Bosnia; both the Legion and the Guardia Civil were there, gaining useful experience. They also want to send teams of Army engineers to help with rebuilding; these guys have been active in Afghanistan building things like police stations and schools. Meanwhile, Spain will maintain its supply base at Umm Qasr, from where they will distribute aid flown into Kuwait by transport planes. This sounds to me like a good, solid, honest offer of help that we need to take them up on. I'll also point out that taking measures of this sort prove that Spain is really an important actor on the world scene. One of the things that has always irritated Spaniards of all political persuasions is the feeling that Spain was being ignored, that the world didn't pay it the attention it deserved. Well, José María Aznar has succeded in bringing Spain to a position of international prominence for the first time since about 1715. Spain now has some weight it can throw around itself, and this is mostly thanks to Aznar's intelligence, clarity, decency, and courage.

Xavier Sala i Martin, the groovy Catalan economist, has another piece. This one is on privatizations, mineral wealth, corruption, and Nigeria. It's good, as always, and I'm going to post it on EuroPundits since it's an internationally themed article. Check out EuroPundits, by the way, for a damn good article from The Radical, lots of stuff by Nelson Ascher, and a very long piece by Murph that I liked and put up over there. So check it out!

Well, there's actually a good bit of news in today's Vangua, most of which is not related to the war, for once. They gave Baghdad Bob Fisk the front page again, and his "news" report begins,

This is going badly. Worse than anybody could have imagined. The "liberation" army has become an army of occupation.

I dunno, Bob. I can imagine a lot of things that are a lot worse than the edgy first days of attempting to reconstruct a country that hasn't had a decent government since 1958. Like, for instance, this imaginary Vanguardia headline that Baghdad Bob and Tikrit Tommy would have loved to see:

Chemical weapons kill thousands; Republican Guard massacres hundreds of prisoners; Saddam uses human shields to protect self; Pakistan threatens nuclear attack; Oil fields blazing out of control; Western journalists taken hostage; Scuds hit Israel, Kuwait with biological weapons; President Gore to retire American troops.

How's that, Bob? See, I imagined something that's a lot worse than mild disorder in a city of five million. You'd probably think it was much better, though, because all your reporting is just a restatement of one sentence:

"I, Robert Fisk, hate the United States of America."

Just print that every day, Bob, and you'll save yourself a lot of trouble writing these damn long three-tabloid-page dispatches that all boil down to those nine little words.

Here's the ineffable Rafael Ramos, from London, on page nine of the Vanguardia. This is a news story, not marked as "Analysis" or "Opinion".

Bush's first priority is reelection so he can have four more years to continue assaulting civil liberties, increasing the differences between the rich and the poor, reducing taxes for the millionaires, and promoting the agenda of the Religious Right.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Here's a damn good Spanish blog called the Blog Liberal Andaluz, or, for short, "Bla Bla Bla". Excellent proof that there is intelligent life in Spain. Check this one out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Mark Steyn, as usual, has another kick ass column--this one's from a couple of days back, but I didn't find it until about five minutes ago. Read it if you want a quick summary of what Baghdad Bob Fisk is going to be writing about next week, with common-sense rebuttals for the so-called arguments that Bob will be using.
Here's an excellent Brazilian blog called Picuinhas, which I assume means "pequeñeces" (little things). It has some links to other Portuguese-language blogs, and a link to us right here. It's really not that hard to read Portuguese if you read it out loud and remember that "nh" is "ñ" and "lh" is "ll", and "o" is masculine "the" and "a" is feminine "the". Check this blog out and give it a try.
I've been bashing the Vanguardia steadily for the last year and two months, and today they're at it again with Baghdad Bob Fisk and Tikrit Tommy Alcoverro. They're saying just what you think they're saying, so I won't bother with any of the details thereof. We do, however, have an article by groovy Catalan economist Xavier Sala i Martin titled "The hard part is providing solutions". Sala i Martin teaches both at the Pompeu Fabra here and at Columbia in New York, and when he's not doing that, he volunteers his time as an economics advisor to Third World governments. Just so y'all know that there are a few people here who have their heads screwed on straight around here, this is today's column. I wish Sala i Martin would write more often.

The other day I was at the university when I heard two students planning future mobiliations against the war. "I just had a brilliant idea," one said. "First you stand with your legs apart, and I'll kick you real hard in the nuts. Then I'll stand with my legs apart, and you kick me real hard in the nuts. That'll show those American imperialists." "Fantastic," the other said."For sure the Catalan university rectors will consider that our behavior is 'educational and enriching'."

No. I'm kidding. I made up that conversation. but it came to my mind when I saw that the students were demonstrating by blocking streets and highways. When you get down to it, if it's true that 91% of the population is against the war, the poor citizens who get stuck in their cars due to the demonstrations are, with all probability,against the war too.

Something similar is the story with the nocturnal "pot-bangings", which awaken our neighbors' (they're against the war, too) babies, or the boycott of "American" products like McDonalds, which they do not realize is a franchise system with Catalan owners who, in their turn, buy meat, lettuce, and potatoes from Catalan producers--who, of course, are against the war too. They buy thousands of Cokes and pour them out in the streets (as if the producer cares what you do with the product after you buy it) and so add to the profits of the company, whose proprietors are certainly in favor of the war. The attempt to pressure George W. Bush by hurting those who are against and benefiting those who are in favor of the war is just as peculiar as that of the two students practicing mutual testicular aggression.

Another curious aspect is that everybody is protesting against something: against the war, against the (conservative governing) People's Party, against representative democracy. Well, taking advantage of the trend toward saying what one is opposed to, here's my list: I am against the war because I do not like it when governments use the power we citizens give them to kill innocent people. Of course, for the same reason, I am against bloody-handed dictators like Saddam, who murder and torture their own people. The problem is that, as far as I know, no one has come up with a peaceful method of kicking Saddam out of power (the sanctions and the UN inspections were nothing more than a bad joke), which leads me to wonder whether the war and the following elimination of the dictator are going to end up causing more or less suffering than the status quo.

In addition to being against the war and against Saddam, I am against the absurd idea that a war is only 'legitimate' or 'legal' if the Security Council of the UN authorizes it. We all know that the members of this Council act because of obscure interests or use their vote to gain economic favors that have nothing to do with ethics: does anyone really believe that Chirac was in search of peace and not the protection of his petroleum contracts with Saddam? Does anyone really believe that the war would have been more 'legitimate' if the US, and not France, had managed to buy (I repeat, buy) the votes of Cameroon, Guinea, or Angola?

I am also against the people who organize demonstrations against the war in Iraq and ignore other much bloodier conflicts like those in Congo, Rwanda-Burundi, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia-Eritrea, or Ivory Coast, conflicts which, I might add, did not have UN approval. The selective irritation of the organizers reveals anti-American hate difficult to reconciliate with true pacifism.

I am against the political use of the genuine pacificm of the citizenry. The speeches by some leaders accusing one another of being Nazis or Hitlerian are not worthy of a civilized country like ours. I am also against the leaders who stir up anti-Americanism in Europe and anti-Europeanism (especially against the French) in the US in order to scratch out a few miserable votes. Terrorism is a common problem that all Westerners face and when politicians campaign on fomenting divisions, the real winners are the terrorists.

And I am against the witchhunts that have been unleashed in all of Spain against those people who disagree with the majority. the high priests of pacifism have awarded themselves a supposed moral superiority and dedicate themselves to chasing down everyone who does not agree with them. Some go as far as insults and aggression (though, I must say, I applaud those students who acted as 'human shields' to protect other people or buildings against the violence of the more delinquent*). But even if there is no violence, I am against the criminalization of disagreeing voices, as small a minority as they might be. Not long ago, in these pages I denounced the persecution that sectors linked to the People's Party fomented against Marta Ferrusola's and Heribert Barrera's statements about immigration. With the same emphasis today, I am against the physical and verbal persecution that the offices and the members of the People's Party are the objects of.

You see: all of us, including myself, have our list of things we are against. Criticizing, saying no, and being against are all very easy. The hard thing is finding solutions.

* Sala i Martin is referring to an episode when a group of pacifist protestors placed their bodies between a group of rioters and a government building that was being attacked a week or two ago here in Barcelona. We applauded them here at Iberian Notes, as did some of our readers, as being true pacifists with a sense of ethics who put their bodies where their mouths were. I just bet they were from a Catholic pacifists' group--those guys don't riot, and they know what they believe in, unlike the high school kids, whom it would be just as easy to whip up into a pro-war frenzy with real, pitiless propaganda, or the SocioCommunists, who are mere opportunists.