Saturday, May 31, 2003

And now it's time for the Daily Irish Lesson.

Níl sciorta aici agus níl léine aige.

"She hasn't got a skirt and he hasn't got a shirt."

This has been the Daily Irish Lesson.
There's really not that much to say about the latest ETA murders. This is only the second ETA attack this year in which they have killed, which to me indicates that they have lost a great deal of strength and that they cannot maintain an operating cell. The murder happened in Sangüesa, a small city in Navarra. The two dead policemen are Bonifacio Martín Hernando and Julián Embid Luna. A third policeman, Ramón Rodríguez, suffered multiple wounds in the thorax, abdomen, and legs. And, I bet, somewhere else that they didn't mention out of delicacy. He is in very serious condition. Passer-by Carlos Gallo was also seriously wounded; he suffered damage to a major artery.

The police officers were based in Pamplona and had traveled to Sangüesa in order to do the necessary bureaucratic work of renewing people's identity cards and passports; they were members of the documentation unit, and regularly visited smaller cities in Navarra in order to carry out the necessary red tape. Their visits to Sangüesa were regular, every two months.

ETA members planted a limpet bomb under their car at some time between their arrival at 9 AM and their departure at 12:25 PM, when they started the motor of the car and the bomb went off. The bomb contained about five kilos of explosives and was more than powerful enough; fragments of the dead policemen's bodies were found on a balcony and on a rooftop in the square where the car had been parked.

Arnaldo Otegi, the boss of the ETA's now-illegal political wing, EH (or HB or AuB or Batasuna), said that this deliberate massacre occurred because "the Government brings armed men to make war in the Basque Country". I think we can bust Otegi's ass for apology for terrorism, which is against the law in these here parts. I vote we do so as soon as possible. However, Otegi probably has about ten trials on similar charges pending anyway. He really is an asshole; I think he's probably the most hated man in Spain. I certainly hate him. If Otegi's scrotum was on fire I wouldn't even piss on it to put it out. I might piss in his face if I ever got the chance.

Of course, Iberian Notes calls for the adoption of the death penalty for terrorist murder. It won't happen, though I'll bet a solid majority of Spaniards would support it. We also call for the public whipping of collaborators with terrorism. You want deterrents? We want deterrents. Deterrents R Us.

Friday, May 30, 2003

ETA has killed again. They planted a bomb that killed two National Policemen, seriously wounded a third officer and a passer-by, and also injured three others, in a town in Navarra. Full details tomorrow. The only consolation we have is that the perpetrators are going to get rounded up in a week or two, like all ETA cells have been recently.
Now it's time for the Daily Irish Lesson.

Haí, a duinhe, an bhfuil toitiní agat?

"Hey, man, have you cigarettes?"

This has been the Daily Irish Lesson.
Well, it's a lovely day in Barcelona, nice and warm...My geraniums are blooming...The cats are all stretched out on the bed in the front room, undoubtedly dreaming of mice...Or lizards...We don't have mice, and we don't have cockroaches either, or pigeon poo on the balcony. Pigeon poo on the balcony is a problem for catless houses in Barcelona...I actually rather like pigeons; I also rather like city squirrels, which we don't have here. We do have these weird green birds that were imported from Latin America that are called "cotorros"...Most of the trees around here are plane trees (sycamores), and there's a strange Spanish belief that every few years you have to prune them way back. They just did that to the beautiful, shady sycamores down in the plaza, which are now nude trunks with a few green branches sprouting out...In some places they wire plane trees, like grapevines, into growing into particular shapes. I especially have seen that up north, like in Navarra and Burgos...People complain about the sycamores because they say they produce a lot of pollen, which I guess they do; the air in Barcelona isn't too clean and I do find myself sneezing a lot more here than in clean Kansas (or clean Vallfogona). I think it's the dust particles from all the damned lead-gas-burning old beaters still on the road...Wait, I own a lead-gas-burning 1988 Renault 5, which supposedly produces 100 times as much air pollution crap as a new car...On the other hand we only use it to drive out to the pueblo and back, and that's only like a hundred miles each way...Nobody has air-conditioning at home around here, well, at least not too many people, and you do become a little laid-back when the temperature's 80ºF; you conserve motion...Or is that just an excuse for being lazy? People around here really aren't lazy, they work pretty hard...Obtrusive government regulation causes a great deal of inefficiency, swallowing up various quantities of time and effort whose loss to the economy is pretty substantial...On the other hand, you gotta give the Spaniards credit, they're good-hearted people, and it's pretty hard to fall completely through the cracks of the social system around here, some bureaucrat actually doing his job is eventually going to see what needs done and do it...You gotta try really hard to be a bum in Spain...

Spanish Bums (Strummer / Chappell)

Spanish bums in Andalucía
Begging you money for a bus to their hometow-ow-ow-ow-ns
Oh, please give me seven euros
Been drinking tinto and hanging out downtow-ow-ow-ow-n
Vomit stains on the drunk tank walls, the night bus of the Guardia Civil
Spanish bums pee in the doorways, then pass out in the Rambla toni-i-i-ght

Spanish bums, hey you wanna buy some kleenex?
Buy some kleenex for la volunt-a-a-a-d
Spanish bums, hey I'm gonna wipe your windshield
You better pay me 'cause I'll get psychotic ma-a-a-a-d

The Rambla rings with "¡Hijos de puta!"
Oh, that's just Old Pepe, he's fouled himself agai-i-i-i-n
One day he's gonna kill somebody
All we don't know is who or where or whe-e-e-enn
Spanish bums lie on the sidewalk, clutching boxes of Don García wi-i-ine
Spanish bums waylay the tourists, I'm passing out behind the Boquería ton-i-i-ight

Spanish bums shout in the subway, isn't it a pity that
I have to beg so that I don't have to ste-e-e-eal
Gimme some money, I just got out of prison
Go to Can Tunis to make another de-e-e-al
Spanish bums bother the shopkeepers, the taxi drivers won't stop for them
Spanish bums on the freeway, another one just got run over again

There are too damn many bums in this town and the city government tries to do a reasonable job taking care of them. If you're a bum and you want three hots, a cot, and a penicillin shot, and a bath and some clean clothes, they'll take care of you. And if they won't, for some reason, the Church, or some other nonprofit organization, will. Let's face it. Bums are anti-social. The system here is organized to help people out, and if you don't take advantage of what it will do for you--and it will get you psychiatric help, which is what you probably need if you're a bum--then we can't blame the system for your problems. Nobody but a psycho, whose family won't take care of him and who has no friends and has rejected the intervention of the government and the Church, has to be a bum. And is it the psycho's fault he's a psycho? No. Absolutely not. But he is a public menace, and he needs to be institutionalized until he's back on his feet. They're not tough enough around here about institutionalizing people for their own and everybody else's good.

I know the slippery-slope argument, who draws the line, who decides who's a psycho? I dunno, but I hold that if you're wearing clothes you haven't changed for two months and you're sleeping in a Caixa Catalunya bank branch and you're up over four liters of Don García a day, you're a psycho.

I once, at three o'clock in the morning on the Rambla, noted a bum in front of the Generalitat bookstore who was leaning on a pillar of the arcade and pissing all over himself. The guy could barely stand. I alerted a cop and he said, yeah, yeah, that's the usual, look, I gotta go break up a fight in the Plaza Real, (burble burble from the radio) he'll be OK, they'll sweep him off the street when dawn rolls around if he doesn't get run over first. Or, I suppose, if he does.

It must suck to be a cop. I bet at least three-quarters of a cop's job is preventing stupid assholes from getting themselves hurt, and that cop had higher priorities than the bum at that particular moment. I can see his point of view, the immediate danger is the fight.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Everyone's been linking to this excellent Adam Michnik piece, and if you haven't already read it, here it is.
The following is from James Taranto's "Best of the Web" from the Wall Street Journal online, which all y'all ought to read every day because it's worth it. You know, I always thought Geldof was full of shit, but I guess he's proven he isn't, and I need to apologize for underestimating the man.

Bob Geldof, the musician behind the well-intentioned if somewhat treacly Live Aid efforts of the '80s ("Do They Know It's Christmas?"), has high praise for President Bush, London's Guardian reports:

"You'll think I'm off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical--in a positive sense--in its approach to Africa since Kennedy," Geldof told the Guardian.

The neo-conservatives and religious rightwingers who surrounded President George Bush were proving unexpectedly receptive to appeals for help, he said. "You can get the weirdest politicians on your side."

Former president Bill Clinton had not helped Africa much, despite his high-profile visits and apparent empathy with the downtrodden, the organiser of Live Aid, claimed. "Clinton was a good guy, but he did f--- all."

Geldof also has disdain for the European Union, whose efforts in Africa he calls "pathetic and appalling."

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

On John Lennon:

The Beatles were cool but they're overrated. They certainly did manage to put Elvis and Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly and all the other R&B and C&W guys together into a new and coherent sound, which all popular music since has been influenced by. But a lot of people, especially the Beach Boys and Bob Dylan, were well ahead of the Beatles as regarding a lot of innovations often credited to the Beatles. They were great and they were hugely important, but a lot of Beatle fans' attitude: that there was nothing between 1963 and 1969 that could possibly compare with those years of the Beatles, is shortsighted and navel-gazing.

I really think that John Lennon's most personal album was "Rock and Roll", the one he did in about '74 of covers of old rock and roll tunes. It's actually a pretty crappy album; why would you want to hear John Lennon singing, badly, Little Richard rather than Little Richard himself? Lennon was very mediocre as a musician. He did have soul, though, he had spirit, he sang his balls off, no one can deny him that, at least if he wasn't fucked up, which he seems to have been most of the time.

The "Rock and Roll" album really tells you where Lennon was coming from, the kind of blues-country-swing-gospel that made him want to become a musician. The man had terrific taste, we've got to say that for him. His albums like "Plastic Ono Band" and "Imagine" always sounded completely full of crap to me, full of phony flavor-of-the-month stupidities like "bagism" and that primal scream crap and that BS pseudo-hindu-buddhism and those songs he did along with Yoko, all automatically crap by definition

But "Rock and Roll" is spirited. Lennon chooses songs to cover that actually kick some ass. No better than ten thousand garage bands could do in an old rock-and-roll cover set in a biker bar, but at the very least spirited. That's the John Lennon I like, not the "Two Virgins" crapmonger--the ballsy kid who brought a new, rough sound to rock and roll, carefully modulated by his friend, the golden-eared and highly professional Paul McCartney, back in the nineteen-sixties.
After today, we're going to declare a unilateral moratorium on stories about the elections. But today ain't over yet, so we're gonna translate TWO articles on the results of said elections. They're both from La Vanguardia, which is incredibly sensible today, just like the good old Vanguardia before September 11.

"Tantrum" by Francesc-Marc Álvaro

I have a friend in Madrid who just doesn't get it, how the PP was able to hold on so well in the last elections "if there were so many people out in the street, indignant about the Iraq war, the chapapote (oil spill), the decree (on education), and Aznar's own style". My friend is an artist and he believes that the creators and intellectuals should mobilize themselves (clothed or not) at all times. My friend believes that the people should participate more actively in making decisions, Porto Alegre style. My friend doesn't understand it at all, since he was expecting a major collapse of the PP, and now, he's stammering, but he can't find any arguments: "The people are manipulated, the Government media cover up the truth, banging pots during so many nights wasn't worth anything..." My friend, who went to vote wearing all the possible stickers on his sweater, believes that, in the city of Madrid, one of the greatest evils was (Ecogaysocialist José María) Mendiluce's candidacy "because it hurt the left badly", and he refuses to admit that (Madrid PP mayoral candidate) Ruíz Gallardón attracted a lot of non-conservative voters.

My friend comforts himself with the results in the Madrid region but he does not hide the severity of his overall diagnosis: "The Spanish people is not mature yet, there are strong leftovers of Francoism, authoritarianism is popular, bossism exists in certain places..."

I tell him that perhaps what he calls "the Spanish people" feels, at least partly, comfortably represented by Aznar and the PP and that it is too easy to attribute everything to endemic backwardness and the legacy of the dictatorship. I remind him that (Socialist ex-prime-minister) Felipe González renewed his majority after winning the referendum on entry into NATO (1986), a fact that, certainly, caused my friend enormous headaches. I add that, in the case that it has lasted and endured, sociological Francoism has inhabited, equally, the years of Felipeism just as much as the years of Aznarism.

My friend cannot accept that many Spaniards vote for the PP--only two hundred thousand fewer than for the Socialists--and they believe that their choice is just as free and serious and defensible as that of those who choose leftist parties. My friend is convinced that they need to be, more or less, reeducated, saved, brought to the only truth. The right (whether or not it dresses up as the center) is always, according to my friend, an error, and therefore it cannot win. My friend had high hopes for the collapse of the PP, and disappointment has turned over his world. He feels that the people has failed him, instead of trying to understand what it is that Aznar offers to many citizens. Today he observes what the calls "the people" and he is filled with an aristocratic dismissal, which, no question, is not exactly progressive. He's terrified of analysis. He prefers a huge tantrum.

Mr. Álvaro, who is not an idiotarian, has his (almost certainly imaginary) friend twigged. That's the totalitarianism of the Left: no matter how many times we tell them we aren't going to do what they want us to do, they're going to be hassling us about the same old crap, because they know better than we do and there's no way we're going to convince them that they're wrong.

Here comes Quim Monzó, one of our two cleverest Barcelonese writers along with Eduardo Mendoza, a man who would be considered a first-rate writer--OK, maybe high second-rate--if he were American or British, but is stuck in the swamp of Spanish / Catalan writers that are so mediocre that they're not worthy of translation to English: see, for example, María de la Pau Janer. Because the reeking muck of Hispanic literature is so foul at the moment, intelligent people like Monzó get swallowed up and find it hard to sort themselves out from the mire of their contemporaries.

Monzó is often ironic. This piece is called "Is Barcelona losing importance?"

The elections have demonstrated that the protests and the kitchenware concerts of the last couple of months haven't completely fallen into forgottenness. Even the day before the elections, while Televisión Española was showing the Eurovision Festival, there was a timid revival of the pot-banging. And, despite it all, the punishment of Aznar for his attitude toward the Iraq War wasn't as great as that predicted. How can it be that in Barcelona the PP should gain a Council seat while across the whole world the antiglobalizers are every day more and more organized? The latest news is from last week: an online-dating website.

Boiled down, it's a webpage like any other of the millions through which you can pick up, whether permanently or temporarily. Its address is and its promoters describe it as an online-dating webpage for "aware people", for people who were shouting, a few weeks ago, "No war!" and "No blood for oil!". Those people now have a million personal advertisements to choose from, among whom it shouldn't be difficult to find someone who makes your heart go flitter-flutter. A million people are a lot of people, that is, if you don't find anyone appetizing, it means that you are castratingly selective. They splash their website with sentences like "Activists of the world, unite! (literally)" and there is an agenda of demonstrations, solidarious fiestas, concerts for peace, and lawsuits against tobacco companies. So, therefore, since the planet is so global, one may end up falling in love with a rasta from Seattle or a homeopath from Genoa.

So I signed up in order to check it out. They asked me exactly what I was looking for. In order not to miss any chances, I tried to be as eclectic as possible. I said I was looking for a person, but I didn't specify any of the things they gave me to choose from: sex, age, race, religion, hair color, zodiac sign...How can we put up barriers against love because of something insignificant like that ascendent in Libra? I also showed myself to be open-minded regarding alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (Note: I, your blogger, have personally seen Mr. Monzó indulge in tobacco and alcohol in fairly herculean quantities), so my spectrum is very wide. The only thing I specified is that, no matter who this progressive and multicultural person is, he or she must live in Barcelona; I'm not going to spend a fortune on phone calls to Porto Alegre.

Well, do you know how many Barcelonese have signed up? Only one: a 33-year-old woman. And, when I read her information, I discovered she was born in California. Of the million people that the personal-relationships website offers, only one is from Barcelona. Only one in a million! This is not due to language difficulties with English, after all the summer courses we've spent in Ireland, Great Britain, and the United States.

Is this the Barcelona that Bush I pointed out as an example not to follow? Within the little anti-system world, today being from Barcelona gives one cachet, something much more important than, on the day of the blind date, staining your Doc Martens black to imitate chapapote (the oil spill), hiding your posters of Beth (the winner of 'Spanish Idol' who represented Spain at the Eurovision festival) under 'Nunca maís' flags, or refusing Coca-Cola in favor of drinking Mecca-Cola. If you're from Barcelona, here's the website where you'll be beating them away with a stick! Just remind them of the Tragic Week, the Cabot Utopians of the 1850s, the demonstrations on Diagonal Avenue, the sustainable campout at the Plaza Macià...

But there's only one Barcelonese woman, and, adding insult to injury, she's imported from California. I'm not at all surprised that (conservative PP candidate) Alberto Fernández Díaz won another Council seat in the elections.

It's time for the State of the Blog address. Readership is down. My personal guess, from what I figure from the blog stats, is that we haven't lost any hardcore readership--we've got 42 inbound links now and rate as "Floppy Birds" on N.Z. Bear's blogosphere rankings. What's way down are our visitors brought in from Google searches, from other blogs' blogrolls, and especially from InstaPundit. Yeah, the first thing I checked was whether he'd delinked us. He hasn't. This leads me to think that there's a postwar blog slump and that we're heading for a blog depression.

There are an awful lot of blogs now. I discovered them in about November 2001 and started my own in February 2002. They weren't cool and hip yet. Mainly we were a bunch of dorks writing about politics and a bunch of misfits writing about our daily frustrations. Yeah, I know, you're not a real blogger if you started up after September 11. But now that we've all made the New York Times, a lot of people have joined the group of bloggers, which is all to the good. In November 2001 you could almost keep up with most of the good blogs. Now there's no way you could do so, there are so many. This is great, because there's all sorts of wonderful stuff to read; remember, I'm more of a blogreader than a blogger, I spend about the same amount of time doing one thing as the other.

But there's gonna be a shakeout. Whenever some novelty in communication gets big enough that Bill Clinton joins in and major media outlets have to have one and the New York Times is writing about it and my mom, for Chrissakes, has seen the story, it's a fad that's riding high. Regression to the mean, guys, it's gonna happen and I think my stats are a sign of it happening already. We got whipped up into a frenzy of need for information between September 11 and the Iraq war, and I think a lot of people are sitting back and relaxing and thinking that it's all over, so they're not paying as much attention to the news after that year-and-a-half information overload--I mean, we've all heard of Karbala and Uday and Qasay and Umm Qasr and the Fedayeen and Paradise Square and Mosul and Kirkuk and the Marsh Arabs and the like now, which we had no idea about before the war. People are relaxing and blowing off current events to the same extent that they did before September 11.

This is good. But it might be bad.

That's Iberian Notes' solid, unshaken, cast-in-iron opinion.

On the other hand, everything I just wrote above might be a crock of crap and readership is down because a) we've bored the piss out of everyone with the elections or b) we just plain suck and everyone's figured it out.

I kind of figure that we and Ibidem are the blogs of record in Spain in English, so I had to get that election reporting in in detail just in case somebody really needed to know it. Sorry.

Anyway, if you're a regular reader (I know my parents and sister and brother-in-law are readers, and so are my pals Clark, Murph, Damian, and José Manuel), leave a message in the Comments, whether it's for the first time or the twentieth, just so that I'll know you exist.
Country music notes: I've been listening to KHYI in Dallas. Turn on your speakers and click on "Listen Now" on the upper left of the screen. They rock. They play about half classic country--Merle, Willie, Johnny, George and Tammy, and the like--and half active Texas musicians and especially their newest stuff. There's a song they play over and over called "The Road Goes On Forever and the Party Never Ends" which was apparently written and first recorded by Robert Earl Keen and covered by Joe Ely, which compares favorably to any Bruce Springsteen story-song. Joe Ely is great. He kicks ass. Friggin' A. Some rock radio station ought to just get slightly hip and start playing Keen, Ely, and Steve Earle--call themselves "Authentic American Rock" or something like that and then play Petty and the Dead and the Stones, who wanted to be American so badly they succeeded, and Creedence and Dylan and the Band and the Allmans and the Byrds and that stuff, plus the Blasters and Jason and the Scorchers and Cracker and whatever. And a little bit of Taj Mahal and Keb Mo blues stuff, not to mention your B.B. King and Willie Dixon and an occasional funky James Brown tune. That'd be a great station.

They've been playing this guy named Tom Russell, whom I've never heard of before, who's got a new record out with three good songs on it, one called "Modern Art", another called "Racehorse Haynes", and one more Western tune about a vigilante called Deacon and two horse thieves, the Sandoval brothers. Great stuff. I highly recommend it. According to the DJs, Russell got on David Letterman a few weeks ago, so he's not exactly an unknown.

The only thing that bugs me about KHYI is they play a lot of Waylon and Jerry Jeff songs about how great Bob Wills was, but they don't play any Bob Wills. Or Hank. They play a lot of covers of Hank, many of which are terrific, but we wanna hear the real thing occasionally.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Occasionally I get accused of not liking Spain or of insulting Catalonia or of dissing Barcelona. Nothing could be further from the truth, though I do reserve the right to be critical. I have insulted Cataloonies and socialists, but that's not insulting the Catalans or the Spanish. That's insulting individuals who have no brains or sense as far as politics goes.

One thing about Spain that I like is, of all things, the National Health (confusingly called "la Seguridad Social" around here). You'd figure a free-market dude like me would be blasting socialized medicine left and right, but it actually works pretty well around here; note the fact that Spain's life expectancy is longer than America's, though American per-capita income is almost double Spain's, and the Spaniards drink and smoke more than the Yanks. They also get more people killed in car wrecks, which balances out our higher homicide rate. Therefore, somebody's got to be doing something right (my guess: extensive preventive care), and my attitude is, if something works, even if you're ideologically opposed to it, don't try to fix it. I don't like residential zoning laws either, ideologically, but I have to admit they work.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon, I finally got my wisdom tooth pulled--left side, lower jaw. I'd gone in three times previously, thinking they were going to yank it that day, but they were doing something else. Once I went and waited for like an hour and saw the doctor for about 30 seconds; I opened my mouth and he said, "Yep, that tooth's impacted, it's got to go," which I already knew, thank you very much. So the National Health can be inefficient and slow and you have to wait in lines if what's wrong with you isn't life-threatening or an emergency, but when they do something, they do it very well. The doctors are absolutely top-quality. Several years ago, I cracked a fibula and they fixed it; I also had an operation to unblock my vas deferens in which they cut me open and I was hospitalized for four days; and the National Health provides me with psychiatric care. I am the last guy who's going to complain about it.

So they pulled the tooth; shot me up with lidocaine, waited five minutes for it to take, and then the doctor used this mean-looking implement to straighten the tooth out by prying and instantly yanked it with his forceps. Didn't hurt a bit; it was painful yesterday evening, but I took some pills they gave me and managed to get to sleep. Today I've got a mild, dull ache, but nothing more. The ol' lower jaw is just a little swollen. I think I have a pretty high threshold of pain; I didn't use to, but now mild pains that other people make a big deal about don't bother me much.

So I'm fine; it's the Socialists who are in pain. They did win, in the sense that they increased their representation almost everywhere except Catalonia, but they lost, in the sense that they really thought they were going to massacre Aznar and his PP over the war and all the rest. They didn't, and they are yelping and howling and whining like three-year-olds who didn't get what they wanted for Christmas. Check out this bit titled "Comeback" by Enrique Gil Calvo in yesterday's El País.

Judging by the provisional vote counts, there has not been an electoral turnaround in the May 25 local elections. It's true that the opposition might have won the most votes, but it has not managed to take the most disputed strongholds from the People's Party. We could talk about a tie, but given the expectations of only a month ago, we are really dealing with an Aznar victory. This produces a bitter feeling of historical injustice, since if these first estimates are confirmed (note: they were, in spades), their result could be interpreted as a validation on the part of the Spanish electorate of the most recent--and most negative--governance by Aznar.

Instead of unleashing a massive punishment vote, as an expression of protest against the three black holes of the last year for the Administration--the general strike, the Prestige disaster, and the aggression on Iraq--, on the contrary, this Sunday, there has been a tacit vote of forgiveness, if not support, for Aznar's extreme right-wing economic policies--which clean up the economy at the cost of increasing "exclusion" and social inequality--and security--with the increase of judicial repression as its worst but most demagogic black hole. It's the classical "shut up and eat" vote of the middle classes...

(Paragraph calling Zap and Gas dipshits)

But these explanations, though plausible and pertinent, grow pallid before the unquestionable pull of Aznar's comeback. His exclusive protagonism has stolen the show from both his partners and his rivals, because of the surliness and harshness of his dirty electoral games, without scruples in terrifying the least informed of the electorate through the media that serve the Administration. Aznar's political style has always been that of a madman, but in this last year he has surpassed all previous limits, since the final stretch of the campaign has been characterized by his lack of dignity, stealing the show from his political allies, threatening right and left, and insulting everybody.

WAAH! WAAH! WAAH! After the PP wins the general elections again next year we're going to hear even more crying from these Socialist jokers. Note that Mr. Gil i Pollas calles Aznar a madman and surly and the like and then accuses Aznar of insulting everybody. Also note that he says that the PP won because they frightened the stupid people through manipulation of the media. I call bullshit on that. I say that the Spanish middle class voted for their man and their party knowing full well what they were doing. I also say that Mr. Gil's column, which does not show a great deal of respect for the Spanish people, the Spanish voters, is a much graver insult to the Spaniards, who have just spoken out democratically and said what they wanted, than anything I have ever said.

¿Dónde están, no se ven, los amigos de los Bardem? ¡Zapatero, jódete, España es del PP!

Monday, May 26, 2003

Just to remind you, here are the predictions I made May 20.

I will make several predictions, more specific than the last lot, which I figure will be borne out. The three most powerful positions that are actually in play, the Valencia region, the Madrid region, and Madrid city, will be held by the PP. The PP will win at least three of the eight Andalusian capital cities as well as both of those in Extremadura. The Popular Front, with a Communist mayor, wins in Córdoba. The Socialists repeat in their strongholds of Extremadura's and Castile-La Mancha's regional governments--Socialist home base Andalusia, as well as Galicia, Catalonia, and the Basque country, are the four "historical communities" that are holding their regional elections on different dates. Three-way tossup in the Canaries, the PP, the Socialists, and the Canarian Coalition. The Socialists take Aragon. The PP takes the Balearics and Navarra. The PP takes San Sebastian and Vitoria with the support of the Socialists; the Socialists take Bilbao with PP support. The Socialists take most of the Galician cities in alliance with the Galician wacko nationalists, and the Socialists take Asturias and its cities, Oviedo and Gijón. The PP takes its home ground, Castile-Leon, Cantabria, and La Rioja. The Socialists repeat in Barcelona and Gerona, and Convergence repeats in Lérida and Tarragona.

Not bad. Missed the Madrid region. Got the Basque cities all wrong--Vitoria to the PP, OK, but the Socialists get San Sebastian and the Basque Nationalists took Bilbao. I called three PP mayoralties out of eight in Socialist homeland Andalusia; the PP actually won four. Other than that, some pretty good predictions there, if I do say so myself.
Here's a Washington Times story on how absurd federal regulations are screwing up one man's life. The guy is a DC public school teacher and baseball coach, apparently a competent professional, who ran for office on the Green Party ticket though he didn't expect to win. That's an American citizen using his right to free speech and his right to stand for public office, right? That's being public-spirited and participating in the democratic political process, right? Wrong, according to the Feds. They want to fire him. Check it out. I vote we give the guy a medal for teaching in DC, for wanting to stay there, for God's sake, and for not being so freaked out by that fact, that he runs for office instead of spending the rest of the day after school lets out down at the bar.
Here's the Daily Telegraph's take on the results of the elections. The reporter has bought the Socialist spin; in reality the PP suffered small losses, not huge ones, and even registered some gains. Either that or she sent off her story before any of the real results were in; as usual, the surveys taken outside polling places gave the PP two or three percentage points of the vote fewer than the real, counted results. Note that she says that voters wore stickers and buttons to the polls and that's against election rules. Wrong. You can wear anything you like to go vote. What's prohibited is actual electioneering--putting up political signs in the voting places. The Election Board decided that no signs referring to the war, the oil spill, the general strike, etc., could be hung in voting places, which are mostly public schools. Since all of Spain's lefty teachers have been assigning their kids to make "No to the war" posters and the like and hanging them all over the walls of the schools, the Election Board decreed that those signs were against the rules and had to come down. In many places, they didn't.
Here are the most important races and their results, with all the votes in:

Madrid mayor: PP absolute majority
Valencia mayor: PP absolute majority
Sevilla mayor: Socialists most voted, either PSOE or PP must pact with regionalists
Barcelona mayor: Socialists most voted, must form Popular Front
Zaragoza mayor: Socialists most voted, must pact with regionalists
Málaga mayor: PP absolute majority
Las Palmas mayor: PP absolute majority
Murcia mayor: PP absolute majority
Valladolid mayor: PP absolute majority
Bilbao mayor: Basque Nationalists most voted, must pact with Communists
San Sebastián mayor: Socialists most voted, must pact with PP
Vitoria mayor: PP most voted, must pact with Socialists

Regional elections:

Aragon: Socialists most voted, must pact with regionalists
Asturias: Socialists most voted, must pact with Communists
Balearics: PP absolute majority
Canaries: Canarian Coalition most voted, must pact with somebody
Cantabria: PP most voted, must pact with regionalists
Castile-Leon: PP absolute majority
Castile-La Mancha: Socialist absolute majority
Valencia: PP absolute majority
Extremadura: Socialist absolute majority
Madrid: PP most voted, Popular Front pact can unseat PP
Murcia: PP absolute majority
Navarra: PP most voted, must pact with regionalists
La Rioja: PP absolute majority

PP spin: We won because we held our own, because we won the most total votes in the regional elections, because we took eight of the thirteen regions up for election, and because we won in the great majority of provincial capitals.
Socialist spin: We won because we got most total votes in the municipal elections and we took the Madrid region and Zaragoza away from you. Besides, you only got the most votes in the regionals because two big Socialist power centers, Andalusia and Catalonia, didn't vote.
PP spin: We held two of the three big prizes, Madrid mayor and Valencia region, and we took the Balearics region and the Burgos mayoralty away from you guys. Besides, our holding our own in this election is a big win because you guys had a lot of ammo to shoot at us and you missed with most of it. And one of our big power centers, the Galicia region, didn't vote either in the regionals.
Socialist spin: You sons-of-bitches, we thought we were gonna romp all over your asses.
PP spin: Ha, ha, ha, you didn't. Nanny-nanny-boo-boo, stick your head in doo-doo.
US Government spin: There was no anti-war backlash. The anti-war demos didn't mean a damned thing politically. Our friend Aznar is just as strong, probably stronger, than he was before March 25.
Anti-Catalanist spin: the Plataforma per Catalunya, the out-and-out Catalan racist and xenophobic party, won City Council seats in Vic, Manlleu, El Vendrell, and Cervera. As far as I know the Plataforma is the only political party in Spain that could reasonably be called "fascist" that holds official representation, and where did they win it? In four medium-sized and very Catalan cities.
We'll fill you in on the election results from yesterday and run down our predictions and see how we did pretty soon here.

The important news, though, is that a Ukranian plane carrying mostly Spanish soldiers crashed in Turkey on its way from Afghanistan to Spain. 74 people were killed, including more than sixty Spanish soldiers. These guys had been keeping the peace in Afghanistan and were on their way home. Damned shame. If any leftist groups attempt to use this tragedy politically I will--well, all I can really do is point it out on this here blog and then insult them. But that's what I'll do.

And can we please start decommissioning those damn Russian-made planes? I certainly wouldn't fly in one.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Here's Libertad Digital's review of the election news.

More results from around Spain, these based on actual partial counts of the vote:

Vigo goes to the PP if there is no deal between the Socialists and the Galician nationalists. La Coruña goes to the Socialists. The PP gets an absolute majority in Valladolid, Palma, Badajoz, Burgos, and Málaga. The PP loses Toledo to a Socialist-Communist coalition. The Andalusian regionalists hold power in Sevilla; whichever side can convince them gets the mayoralty.

The radical right-wing Plataforma per Catalunya won a Council seat in the city of El Vendrell.
The results have been coming in from around Catalonia and there haven't been any major changes in who's going to be governing our cities. One thing that is almost uniform is that the Socialists and Convergence have generally lost votes, the Socialists up to 25% of their seats in some cities, including Barcelona. The PP has gained some, a couple of percent, and the Communists and the Republican Left have increased their representation by a good bit, more than doubling it in Barcelona. What it looks to me like has happened is this: the protest vote went from the Socialists to the two smaller leftist parties. The PP voters stayed loyal, and some of the right wing of Convergence moved over to the PP.

Here's the repulsive news of the day from the emblematic and super-Catalan city of Vic: the Plataforma per Catalunya, which is a far-right anti-immigration party, run by Josep Anglada, who is known in those parts as the guy who organizes the pro-Franco demonstrations. took 8.77% of the vote and won two seats on the Vic City Council. The guy from TV3 dared to go so far as to say that said party is considered by some to be xenophobic.
Catalunya TV has just announced some real results, that is, results based on partial vote counts.

Barcelona City Council:

Socialists 35.77%, 16 seats
Convergence 19.49%, 8 seats
PP 15.52%, 7 seats
Republican Left 12.58%, 5 seats
Communists 12.57%, 5 seats

The Socialists got hit hard in Catalonia, with the protest vote going to the smaller leftist parties, the Republican Left and the Commies. The PP actually increased the percentage of its vote. Convergencia lost votes. Looks like in Catalonia, though, the protest vote hurt the Socialists and Convergencia. I suppose that the 15% of Barcelonese who went for the PP are supporters of Aznar and his politics. Nonetheless, Mayor Joan Clos continues at the head of a Popular Front government on the City Council.

Tarragona City Council: A Convergence-PP deal gives the mayoralty to Convergence.
Lérida and Gerona City Councils: Socialist mayors backed by Popular Front coalitions.
The two major parties are beginning to spin. The PP is saying that they're the winners because they were the most voted party in the majority of regions and in the majority of the provincial capitals. The Socialists are saying they're the winners because they got more total votes than the PP did. My spin is, again, Aznar has weathered the storm and the PP didn't lose too much; there was not a general "punishment vote" on account of the war or anything else.
I've gone over to Tele 5 to see what they're saying. Their survey results vary slightly from TVE's. There will be Socialist-regionalist-Communist pacts in Vigo and Sevilla, putting those mayoralties in Socialist hands. Valladolid may go the same way, they're saying now. The Valencia mayoralty goes to the PP. Bilbao is still up in the air.

The general media take--I've been through Catalunya TV as well--is more or less what I was saying, that the Socialists get a marginal win but they didn't hit the PP a killing blow. The Spanish people did not react, as a whole, against the government and in favor of the left, as some were hoping.
Televisión Española is calling the various election races on the basis of surveys taken of people leaving the polls. The polls close in the Canary Islands at 9 PM mainland time and the official preliminary results are scheduled for 10:30. Here's the rundown so far:

Autonomous Regions:

Madrid: PP most voted but could be unseated by Socialist-Communist coalition
Valencia: PP holds absolute majority
Balearics: PP most voted but could lose out to leftist-regionalist coalition
Navarra: PP most voted, likely to get Socialist support vs. Basque nationalists
Murcia: PP holds absolute majority
Castile-La Mancha: Socialists hold absolute majority
Castile-León: PP holds absolute majority
Cantabria: PP most voted, could be unseated by SocioCommunist coalition
Asturias: Socialists gain absolute majority
La Rioja: PP holds absolute majority
Aragon: Socialists most voted, must make coalition
Extremadura: Socialists hold absolute majority
Canaries: Canarian Coalition most voted, will have to form coalition.

Catalonia, the Basque Country, Galicia, and Andalusia did not hold regional elections.

These results for Aznar's PP aren't what I'd hoped for but aren't too bad. They didn't get their clocks cleaned, though in most places they have declined by a couple of percentage points. It looks like the big loss, though, is the Madrid regional government, which will almost certainly fall into the hands of a Popular Front government. The big hold is on the Valencia region, once strongly Socialist, no longer so.

Major Cities:

Madrid: PP holds absolute majority
Bilbao: Completely up in the air
San Sebastián: Socialists most voted, can form coalition with PP
Vitoria: PP most voted, can form coalition with Socialists
Barcelona: Socialists most voted, current Popular Front council to continue
Valencia: PP holds absolute majority
Sevilla: PP most voted but SocioCommunist coalition would win
Malaga: PP holds absolute majority
La Coruña: Socialists hold absolute majority
Vigo: PP most voted but leftist-nationalist coalition could unseat them
Valladolid: PP holds absolute majority
Burgos: PP most voted but could be unseated by SocioCommunist coalition
Toledo: Socialists most voted, Popular Front coalition unseats PP. Big PP loss
Zaragoza: Socialists most voted, leftist-regionalist coalition wins
Pamplona: PP most voted, wins with Socialist support
Palma: PP most voted, must form coalition with regionalists
Badajoz: PP absolute majority

If these figures hold up, and they are very approximate, I think we can call this election a marginal Socialist win. They've increased their percentage of the vote almost everywhere, and the PP's percentage of the vote has declined, at least slightly, almost everywhere. It also looks like they've taken the Madrid regional government with help from their Communist pals on the United Left. That's an impartant win, and their strong showings in San Sebastián and Zaragoza are also good news for them. But the PP did not get creamed. There was no overwhelming rejection of the Aznar government. These results do not leave them in too awful a position going into the elections for the four regions that didn't vote today and for the general elections next spring.
For new readers, these municipal and regional elections are important even if you do not live in Spain. The Socialists (PSOE) and Communists (IU) have successfully turned the election into a referendum on the conservative, pro-Anglo-American central government, which has done several unpopular things recently, more or less in order of importance: Spain's stance in the War on Terrorism, the government water plan, the controversy over the Galician oil spill, the decree on education reform, and the problems with the construction of the Madrid-Barcelona TGV line. If the PP, the conservative governing People's Party, wins most of the key races, then we'll be able to say that it hasn't been too badly hurt by all these controversies, and it's still the top dog party. If they lose most of them, then we'll know they're up to their necks in dog doo when Catalan regional elections come around this fall and general elections come around in spring 2004.

Municipal elections, in particular, are considered by Spanish political scientists as trend predictors; if these municipals go to the Socialists, it'll be a strong sign that they're likely to take next year's generals. We saw this trend before the PP takeover in 1996 and before the Socialist takeover in 1982, and we saw it way back in 1931 when very poor results obtained by the monarchist parties caused King Alfonso XIII to leave the country, giving place to the Second Republic.

So if you approve of Spain's international policies, you'd better join me in hoping for a good showing by the PP so that the peacenik Socialists don't take over again.
Oh, yeah, they had another pot-banging last night. I was downtown, where the Vangua says that participation was the most noticeable, and I didn't hear too much racket. Today, since anti-war and anti-government signs are supposed to be removed from polling sites (no political messages allowed in polling places), all the lefties have plastered themselves with stickers and buttons proclaiming their leftiness and peacefulness. Of course, wearing whatever you want is your right and you can wear that stuff into the voting room, but some of these folks looked pretty damn silly with stickers all over themselves.
Here's Libertad Digital's rundown on today's key posts up for grabs. I'm not going to bother translating it since I figure if you're one of the three people following our election coverage, you probably already know Spanish, and if you don't, you can figure out the story because of all the numbers.

The only place where abnormalities have been reported is the Basque Country, where things got a bit hairy over the last week or so. The cops count thirty violent actions in the Basque region in the last ten days, more than half of which were assault and battery on sympathizers of other parties handing out their brochures and exercising their right to free expression. Meanwhile, anti-ETA candidates have received an avalanche of death threats; yesterday the pro-ETA "radical youth" (teenage rioters, looters, and vandals) Molotov-cocktailed the house of a policeman in San Sebastián for the thirtieth act of low-grade incompetent crap terrorism the Basques have seen. In the rest of Spain, some pseudo-anarchist shitheads let off a letter-bomb at the Valencia post office and seven people were injured.

Here in Catalonia, which is divided into some fifty "comarcas" (counties), the Socialists are going to take the five counties of the Barcelona metro area: Barcelonés, Baix Llobregat, Vallés Occidental, Vallés Oriental, and Maresme. The Catalan nationalists, Convergence and Union, should win all the other counties, with maybe a fluke Socialist or even Esquerra win or two somewhere. Now, wait, CiU control most of the counties, right? So they should be the strongest party, right? Wrong. More than four million of Catalonia's six million people live in the five counties of the BCN metro area. The Socialists are clearly the biggest party here in Catalonia.

The percentage of voters in municipal elections in Catalonia has been between 55% and 65%; they're saying it looks like voter participation this time is going to be pretty high, at least 60%, which is good news for the Socialists; most people whose interest in politics is marginal tend to go for the Socialists and their paternalistic program and guff about the rights of labor. The higher the turnout, the better they tend to do. This isn't good news for the PP, as they tend to do better with a smaller turnout; PP voters are very loyal, but there just aren't that many in Catalonia, 15% of the vote maximum.

Today is a Japanese girl's favorite day: Erection Day! I accompanied Remei to go vote early this afternoon and we checked out two polling places, and everything seemed to be going completely normally. There's been a bit of a stink because most of the polling places are schools, and they've all got their "No to the war" and "No to the water plan" bulletin boards and murals up. The Elections Commission has decided that such expressions of opinion are not permitted in voting places because they have political overtones, and nobody is supposed to be influenced in his vote by electioneering at the voting booths. At the first one we checked, on Calle Sant Salvador, all was in order. If there had been any "illegal" signs up, they'd been taken down. At the second one we checked on Calle Providencia, there were two "no to the war" bulletin boards up in the lobby, along with one anti-water-plan art project. Results won't start coming in until the polls close this evening.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Here's an article from the Daily Telegraph on tomorrow's municipal and regional elections here in Spain. The Telegraph is a little less optimistic about the chances of José María Aznar's People's Party than we are here, but they agree that Aznar and his conservatives are not likely to suffer crippling losses.

Today is the "day of reflection" before tomorrow's elections; campaigning is prohibited. Tomorrow evening we'll be watching TV and filling you in on the results as they come in. The big races we're watching are for the presidencies of the Madrid and Valencia regions, the mayoralty of Madrid, and the mayoralties of Bilbao, San Sebastián, and Vitoria in the Basque country. Again, our predictions are that the PP holds Madrid and Valencia, and that the PP and the Socialists team up in a "democratic alliance" to split the Basque capitals, the PP getting San Sebastián and Vitoria and the Socialists getting Bilbao. There is no question that the Socialist-Popular Front coalition will hold Barcelona's mayoralty. Here in Catalonia, the Socialists will also take Gerona and most of the industrial suburbs around Barcelona, several of which are substantial municipalities (L'Hospitalet, Sabadell, Badalona, Santa Coloma, all of which have at least 150,000 people). The Catalan nationalists, Convergence and Union, will hold the mayoralties of Lérida and Tarragona. The PP is gunning hard in Sevilla but that's a Socialist stronghold and they're not likely to take it.

As long as we're linking to the most prestigious British paper, let's link to the least prestigious. The Sun has a piece on how further integration into the EU will destroy Britain's sovereignty and autonomy. It's written in mostly one-syllable words even you and me can understand. Check it out. (Via FrontPage.)

There's a Fred Barnes article in the Weekly Standard on how we won the war, including some stuff I didn't know. It's rather a puff piece on Tommy Franks, but it's well worth a read. Here's one from last week's Economist on how Saudi Arabia has lost influence in Washington.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Check out this bit of sexually explicit anti-Axis propaganda from the good old days. Don't worry, it's OK, it's for historical research purposes. Also check out this pre-WWII Japanese sex toy catalog. I don't recommend looking at the rest of the website this stuff is from unless you have an extremely strong stomach.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Derb is kind of funny today in the National Review. I know, he's too paleoconservative for my taste, too, but he is usually funny and often makes pretty good sense when not discussing homosexuality.
There's been a major earthquake in Algeria, with more than 500 dead and thousands injured, and they're not done counting. Here's the BBC story. Just what they needed in Algeria. The civil war wrecked the country in the Fifties and it never really stopped. Algeria has nothing resembling a real economy because, well, you never know, when you open up a textile plant, whether your workers are going to get their throats cut or not. This tends to discourage foreign investment.

Algeria is very close to Spain--just look at the map--and I'm surprised that more attention isn't paid over here to Algerian affairs. You see a good bit of stuff about Morocco, with whom Spain has a rather tempestuous relationship; diplomatic relations have been restored--they'd been cut off for a while. You don't get a lot of news from Algeria except for when a bunch of villagers get murdered; that'll get a couple of paragraphs in the International News Briefs in the Vangua.

Earthquakes, of course, are not rare in the Mediterranean. The famous monastery in Ripoll, here in Catalonia, was wrecked, I believe twice but at least once, by a large earthquake during medieval times. There is occasionally a very mild tremor here in Barcelona; I've known people who claim to have felt it. I never have. Supposedly the tremors from this one were felt in southern Spain and the Balearic Islands.

My friend Shannon Stice was in the 1989 San Francisco earthquake; he was living in a crummy apartment at California and Hyde. He slept through the whole thing. The first he heard about it is when our pal, his roommate Erik, called him from LA; Erik had been driving up from LA to SF that day, heard the news on the radio, and very sensibly turned around and returned to LA. As soon as he got home, he called up his roommate, of course; that was the pre-cellphone era. His phone call woke Stice up.
I posted this on the Comments section over at EuroPundits. I thought it was kind of clever and didn't want it to die in the Comments where nobody would read it, so here it is.

Here's a bad analogy. There are five of us in the same ninth grade class who are getting pushed around by Billy the bully. He keeps extorting our lunch money and the like. So we get together and two of us, Johnny Bull and Sammy Yank, propose that we all get together, jump Billy, take him down, and whale on him for a while. Then he'll leave us all alone. Johnny and Sammy calculate that Billy isn't nearly as tough as he lets on, anyway, and they volunteer to lead the charge while the other guys back them up. Now, there are risks; Billy might pop one of us good while we're taking him down. Johnny and Sammy figure this risk is worth it, but little Jacques, little Gerhard, and little Guy are so scared of being the one dude who gets popped by Billy that they chicken out of helping Johnny and Sammy jump Billy, finding various excuses for doing so.

Well, Johnny and Sammy do jump Billy and they win; Billy doesn't even get the chance to pop either of them just because they're so fired up and pissed off and ready to kick Billy's ass good. Gerhard, Jacques, and Guy have now gained the benefits of Johnny and Sammy's ass-kicking on Billy: ie, Billy isn't going to be pushing anyone around anymore, not even them--but they haven't taken the risk of Billy's smacking them one. They therefore feel ashamed; that is, somebody else did something courageous which they chickened out of doing themselves. They don't like to feel ashamed; therefore, they will say that Sammy and Johnny aren't really so tough, that they cheated when they jumped Billy, that they beat up Billy too badly after they got him down, that they just did it because they want to take over Billy's extortion racket, and even that Billy wasn't such a bad guy after all and that Sammy and Johnny were the real bad guys because, after all, they were the ones who started the violence when they jumped Billy.

That's what they call self-justification, a way of relieving the cognitive dissonance caused by Gerhard's, Guy's and Jacques's desire to maintain their good opinions of themselves and their certain knowledge, which they are unwilling to admit consciously, that they didn't have the guts to face Billy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I just put up a post on EuroPundits--check it out. It's the nastiest America-bashing piece I've seen for a long time, so I just had to translate and fisk it. It's by Xavier Rubert de Ventós, a person who should be read out of polite society starting now for being flat-out evil by nature. From the Vanguardia, of course.

Here's a wackjob piece on why Catalonia ought to be independent by Rubert de Ventós, which someone else has briefly commented upon. It's in Spanish and I'm not going to translate all that crap.
The Jedman waxes poetic:

Saturday, May 17, 2003
I long to be back at the sea. I've always yearned to be near the sea. The sea has always been dear to my heart. I've been in love with the sea as long as I can remember from my early steps as a young man. No other place gives me the peaceful feeling of love and happiness that the sea does. Heaven is being on the boat with nothing but the sea around. I am returning to the sea soon and the sea will be returning to me. The sea is love. The sea is peace. The sea is freedom. The sea is timeless and everlasting. Cable TV is your friend. Big fish scare me. theJEDMAN

Also follow the Jedman's adventures in the swinging single dating world of the Greater Johnson County, Kansas metropolitan area.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Trevor is fact-checking Rafael Ramos's ass and has him trapped in a piece of plagiarism, among other bits of incompetence. What we ought to do is march down to the Vangua's office and demand they let us look through their archives of Ramos and Serra's stories. I bet we find eight million bits of plagiarism and just plain making up stuff. Especially by Ramos.
Check this one out from the BBC. We're torturing Iraqi prisoners with the Barney theme song. Amnesty International is protesting, quite justifiably, I would say. I mean, thumbscrews and electric cables are one thing, but the Barney song, now that's harsh. Also, the Beeb provides us with some examples of Iraqi humor. Give them a break; they've just gotten started. They'll need some time to really get going. The only things they have to make fun of as of now are, like, oppression, fear, and hunger. Soon the Iraqi airwaves will be soaked with Baywatch and Knight Rider and Starsky and Hutch reruns and they'll have a veritable gold mine of stupid stuff to make fun of.
They've been playing this song on the radio:

I drink the Shiner and the Pearl, sing the Waylon and the Merle
We pick a little "Ramblin' Man"
Pounding out the rhythm in this five-piece honky-tonk band

I couldn't resist a minor modification:

I drink the Shiner and the Pearl, eat the possum and the squirrel
On Sundays we have barbecued skunk
We couldn't stand to eat that if we wasn't shiftless and drunk

"Squirrel", of course, is pronounced "squirl", to rhyme with the four basic ingredients of an oil patch Friday night: you find some girl, drink some Pearl, listen to Merle, and, eventually, hurl.
Here's a damn good recap of the reasons why American foreign policy is successful by Jonathan Rauch in the Atlantic. Check it out. (Via FrontPage.)
Everyone, by now, knows all about the wave of terrorist attacks that has hit Riyadh, Casablanca, and Israel over the past few days. The Spanish press has immediately jumped, en masse, to the conclusion that the War on Terrorism has been a failure so far. Wrong. We know the terrorists aren't completely beaten. They've been badly hurt by the defeats of their supporters, the Taliban and Saddam, and by the international police offensive against the various terrorist gangs. But we haven't got all of them yet, or anywhere near all of them.

The United States and Great Britain never promised that overthrowing Saddam would bring an instant end to terrorist attacks. Far from it. I bet you could find five on-the-record quotes from Powell or Rummy or Fleischer or Bush himself saying precisely the opposite, that we've weakened terrorism but have by no means completely defeated it yet.

Several people have made the point, which I heartily concur with, that there's a major difference in scale between this latest wave of attacks and what happened on September 11, 2001. On September 11, within United States territory, they hijacked four planes and crashed them all, three of them into buildings full of people. It was the greatest terrorist blow that has ever been struck, requiring years of planning, twenty fanatical volunteers, and huge quantities of money and the ability to move it around and exchange it for weapons and other needs. Three thousand people were killed.

Now the best they can do are badly carried-out attacks within Arab territory that kill a couple, three dozen people. Tragic. A damned shame. We will get the people who did this. In fact, we already got most of them. But the terrorists' reach is no longer what it was. And we can thank Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair for that, and we can thank Mr. Aznar for throwing Spain firmly behind Britain and America.

Over here they're playing up the fact that the restaurant that was attacked in Casablanca was called the Casa de España; it has no connection with the Spanish government. Two of the dead were Spanish. Now, it is perfectly obvious that particular restaurant was chosen as the attack site because of its connection with Spain--gee, a Spanish restaurant named after Spain, they choose it to blow up, don't you think they're sending a message? The Aznar government is disingenuously trying to spin the story the other way. Ana Palacio stuck her foot in her mouth again while attempting to "disvinculate" the Casablanca bombing and Spain's pro-Alliance position.

What they ought to do is tell the truth. "Yes, we stuck our necks out against terrorism and on the side of the Alliance. We're proud we did it. Of course this makes us a target, and our security forces are doing everything they can to prevent further terrorist acts. We may not be able to stop them all. There may be more. But that's the price you pay when you make the tough decisions and don't take the easy way out. Spain stood up for honor and decency, against the terrorists and the dictators, in favor of the democratic countries. What do we Spaniards want the world to think about us? That we're courageous people who stand up for what is right or a bunch of cowards slinking around kissing terrorist ass? Are we like the Poles or like the French?"

I'd vote for any leader who talked like that. I bet a lot of Spanish people, and even a few Catalans, would, too.

Meanwhile, Bob Graham has been shooting off his mouth about how we've let Al Qaeda off the hook by devoting our energies to taking out Saddam. That is extremely shortsighted of Graham. The fight against international terrorism continues; it's just not getting much press because the invasion of Iraq is a much sexier story. Recently, for example, they turned loose the biggest antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan since Tora Bora. Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt also blasted Bush for the same thing.

This is great. There are nine candidates for the Democratic nomination, not counting Al Gore. Dean, Kucinich, Moseley-Braun, and Sharpton are running from the far left. Gep is running as a labor liberal. Graham, John Edwards, and John Kerry are running as Bill Clinton clones; Graham may be trying to trend left in the buildup to the primary season, to become the "realistic" candidate embraced by the mainline Dems, rather to the left of most Americans, when they finally figure out that Kooch and Red Howie Dean and Brother Al and Expense-Account Carol and the Gepper are all unelectable as President. Your typical mainline Dem would really prefer one of these five candidates, but he'll have to throw his vote to the electable guy who's farthest left. That's who Big Bad Bob, the Graham Cracker, wants to be.

Gore can beat Graham and Kerry and Edwards, among the electable candidates, if he decides to run; he'd pick up the mainstream Dem vote as the leftiest and most electable of these four guys. Can any of these four guys beat Bush, barring massive disaster or a deep economic slump? I don't think so. Any of them would run a decent race as the Dem candidate and win in most of the blue states, but they'd all get beaten by Bush.

The only Dem candidate I'm afraid of is Lieberman (the damn Vanguardia guy keeps spelling his name with a double N, I had to go look it up to be sure I was right about the single N). Lieberman will win most of the blue states, just like any Dem candidate would, but he's moderate enough to run well in the industrial Midwest, Florida, the more progressive Western states (CO, AZ, NM, maybe even MT) and the border states. None of the rest of those guys will win anything but California, New York, and your Marylands and Minnesotas and Massachussetses. If Lieberman wins the nomination those places where he can challenge Bush will be the battlefield, since Bush sweeps the South, Texas, the Plains, and the less progressive West, and will also put up a fight in everywhere I mentioned, plus the Northwest and even the Northeast. Maybe even California. Bush won't go down easily, and Lieberman is the only Dem candidate who has a chance of beating him.

Why am I so afraid of Lieberman? I might end up voting for him.

Anyway, the Socialists, of course, have jumped all over the Casablanca bombing and are accusing Aznar of getting Spanish citizens murdered. Aznar is hitting back by promising to crack down on illegal immigration, which is populist as hell. Felipe González is striking the most cowardly note, accusing Aznar of irresponsibly making the terrorists mad. Other cowards include the Communists, Convergence and Union, and the Pene Uve. Zap is trying to make George Bush the villain and is running against him almost as much as he's running against Aznar himself.

Gotta hand one thing to Zap and his SocioCommunists--they're running as a Popular Front, basically, except in the Basque Country, where the Socialists are anti-ETA and the Commies are waffling--is that they've managed to convert these elections, which are for all the municipalities in Spain and for thirteen of the seventeen autonomous regions, into almost a referendum on the Aznar government. Of course local and regional issues are going to influence the voters, but the Socialists have managed to capitalize on a strong anti-Aznar feeling on the left and center-left, just as visceral as the Democrats' hate of Bush. They're going to get people out to vote against Aznar in these elections, no question about it.

I will make several predictions, more specific than the last lot, which I figure will be borne out. The three most powerful positions that are actually in play, the Valencia region, the Madrid region, and Madrid city, will be held by the PP. The PP will win at least three of the eight Andalusian capital cities as well as both of those in Extremadura. The Popular Front, with a Communist mayor, wins in Córdoba. The Socialists repeat in their strongholds of Extremadura's and Castile-La Mancha's regional governments--Socialist home base Andalusia, as well as Galicia, Catalonia, and the Basque country, are the four "historical communities" that are holding their regional elections on different dates. Three-way tossup in the Canaries, the PP, the Socialists, and the Canarian Coalition. The Socialists take Aragon. The PP takes the Balearics and Navarra. The PP takes San Sebastian and Vitoria with the support of the Socialists; the Socialists take Bilbao with PP support. The Socialists take most of the Galician cities in alliance with the Galician wacko nationalists, and the Socialists take Asturias and its cities, Oviedo and Gijón. The PP takes its home ground, Castile-Leon, Cantabria, and La Rioja. The Socialists repeat in Barcelona and Gerona, and Convergence repeats in Lérida and Tarragona.

Thus saith Iberian Notes. Hey, we called the 2002 Congressional elections right on the nose and were one of the few and the proud to speculate (didn't have the guts to actually put our money where our mouth was) that Le Pen would outpoll Jospin in the last French elections. Also, the very moment CNN predicted Gore had taken Florida, I said we were gonna be up all night and that this one was going to the wire. All my liberal friends were yelling that it was going to be a Gore sweep. How wrong they were. However, I'd also predicted a clear Bush victory, not a close one and certainly not such a squeaker. Also, all our soccer predictions have gone dreadfully wrong except for all the times we predicted the Barça would lose.

Monday, May 19, 2003

National Review links to Anne Applebaum's site as their Cool Link of the Day. I heartily agree. Applebaum's got a new book out on the gulag which is supposed to be really good, and she knows about as much about Communism as anyone who never lived under it possibly can. All of the articles of hers that she links to are well worth reading.

Jack Shafer from Slate has a good piece on Howell Raines and Bear Bryant, the God of football coaching. Shafer has been writing some interesting stuff in his media column. I haven't heard a lot of people talking about his stuff, but I think it's pretty good. Jump on the Shafer bandwagon! There's another good article on the war we're all forgetting about in the Congo.

Realistically, here's why people like me get into trouble. I argued in favor of the war on Saddam for three reasons: 1) Saddam was a threat to the well-being of the United States and the rest of the world because he was an aggressive dictator with weapons of mass destruction 2) Saddam was connected to and provided the support of the Iraqi state to the loose network of international terrorists including Fatah, Al Qaeda, the PFLP, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Brigade, ETA, and the like 3) Saddam was a brutal killer whose overthrow was necessary for his people to escape from the slavery of his rule. Three is proven to be true. Two is proven to be true. One has not yet been proven to be true. We know he had 'em but we don't know how he hid 'em.

We should, therefore, logically, look at the Central African mess (which has been going on ever since Leopold the Big Fucking King of the Belgians was running his enormous death camp, so ironically named the Congo Free State, at the turn of the last century) as the next place that something has to be done. No question something has to be done in what they call the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Realistically, what has to be done is that somebody with no connection to the French or the Belgians or the British--I would recommend a ruling council of, say, Chileans, Bangladeshis, Singaporeans, Fijians, Botswanans, Malians, Beninites, New Zealanders, and Filipinos, countries that are fairly respectable and responsible and not suspect of being CIA stooges, and not too tied up with the Yanks--has got to take over that whole Central African area from Kinshasa to Zanzibar, and probably Angola too, and run it as an internationally governed protectorate. This is something the UN could get behind if the Chinese and the French didn't have a veto in the Security Council.

The military forces involved ought to be from major democracies, not Anglo-Americans, to make sure this doesn't look like a power grab, which we don't want it to be. They will be the elite units of the Indian, South African, Brazilian, Ukrainian, Turkish, Thai, and Mexican armies, all of whom have at least one elite unit. The Americans will provide the necessary logistics.

The military forces and civil governments involved will ACTUALLY HAVE POWER. They will SHOOT rioters and looters and gang leaders instead of acting like a bunch of Belgians. They will establish something approaching stability and allow a free market economic system to spontaneously arise, while providing the necessary structure of rule of law and authority, for about the next twenty years. We'll get a judiciary and a banking system and a system of titles to land and capital goods established. For like the next forty years, maybe, because, let's be honest, Central Africa cannot govern itself. It's proven it hasn't. And its former foreign masters didn't do too well at managing to develop the stable structure that a former colony needs in order to govern itself in the world of the international state system.

Will it happen? Nope. Sounds too much like colonialism. Would require too much world cooperation. The French and Chinese and Russians wouldn't dig it. I'd be willing for the US to spend the necessary money keeping these guys supplied, though. It would cost a lot less in money than the cost of the suffering that's been going on in Central Africa for, like, the last hundred years. And, we hope, Central Africa would become stable, sort of, which would undoubtedly be a good thing for everyone concerned, including the Sapniards, who would be able to sell the Central Africans Chupa-Chups in peace and tranquility.
Iberian Notes was off the air last weekend because Remei and I went to Madrid, mostly to get out of town for a while and with the specific mission of seeing the Vermeer exhibition at the Prado. We had to wait two hours to get in on Saturday morning, but it was worth it. There were some 80 paintings; the theme was 17th-century Dutch paintings of interiors. The exhibition focused on allegories and symbolism, often moralistic in character--these people were Calvinists; on these guys' use of perspective and geometry; on how they often used animals to symbolize loyalty and love; and on Dutch culture of the time and how these guys reflected it.

10 or so of the paintings were by Vermeer himself, who of course was not prolific. The most famous ones there were the Young Man in a Red Hat and The Muse of Painting. Every single one of the paintings on show was memorable, though, and worthy of a place of honor at any museum in the world.

By the time we'd given the exhibit a good look, though, we'd been in line for two hours and in the exhibit for about three, we were museumed out. We've been through the Prado a few times, so we contented ourselves with going to look at the Velázquez rooms again and then bailed out and got lunch.

We got in touch with Jesús Gil from Ibidem and had some tapas and a few beers on Friday night; he's a very nice guy and quite interesting to talk to. We chatted about politics, about Madrid, and about a few experiences that Jesús has had, among many topics. He's well-informed about a lot of things and has a rather unique perspective on some of them.

One of the things that is obligatory in Madrid is to hit the downtown tapas joints and drink Mahou on tap. Mahou is a clean, crisp beer that's delicious fresh from the brewery, which it is in Madrid. Madrileños prefer their beer on tap, so all the kegs were tapped that very day. In Barcelona people generally drink Estrella out of the bottle. Estrella out of the keg sucks. Either a) Barcelona people just like bottled beer better, so kegs stay around for a few days after they tap them, and the quality of the Estrella on tap declines and becomes sucky, or b) Estrella on tap just naturally sucks, so everybody orders bottles. I'm tempted to go with hypothesis B.

Anyway, we went to Casa Labra, the Cervecería Alemana, Viva Madrid, Los Gatos, and Casa Alberto, all of which are pretty well-known places. We especially like Los Gatos on the Calle Jesús, where we go every time we're in Madrid, and there are several other nice places on that same street, right near Calle de las Huertas just across from the Prado. Recommended: the tortilla española at Casa Alberto, the fried bacalao at Casa Labra, and the canapés at Los Gatos. Remei also loaded up on ham at the Museo del Jamón; according to her the ham you get in Madrid tends to be a lot better than the ham in Barcelona, since Madrid ham comes from Extremadura and Salamanca and Barcelona ham comes from Catalonia.

Oh, by the way, the place to stay in Madrid is the Hostal Sud-Americana on the Paseo del Prado. It's clean, hospitable, and cheap, the beds are comfortable, and you just cannot beat the location. Ask for a room with a view over the Paseo del Prado if a nice view is what you want, and ask for an interior room if you prefer quiet. We prefer quiet. Further advice: the place to stay in Barcelona is the Hotel Casa-Jardín on the plaza del Pi. Beautiful place, not too expensive (two stars), and again, you can't beat the location. Also investigate the Hotel de España on the Calle Sant Pau, a modernista place designed by the famous architect Doménech and Montaner. The neighborhood is not great, though.

One more piece of advice: Do not fly Iberia if you can avoid it. You don't want to hear the story of the little battles we had to fight. Just don't fly Iberia. Take my word for it. By the way, the worst screw-up I've ever been through was committed by Aer Lingus, who accidentally checked in my bag without labeling it at Heathrow once. Of course, the bag disappeared and I wound up getting $120 in compensation, which was a good bit less than the clothes inside the bag cost to replace. I also lost my favorite gray "Converse Rubbers" T-shirt.

See, I think Remei and I are pretty good tourists. We go somewhere because we want to see the place, and we've normally got at least one cultural thing we want to do, as well as joining in the life of the city as much as we can--you know, going where they go, eating what they eat, and so on. And, of course, we spend money at the hotel and at restaurants and bars, as well as paying to get into the museums or whatever we want to see, so we're a shot in the arm to the local economy.

Manuel Trallero in today's Vanguardia doesn't agree, though. In his view the only good tourist is a dead one.

Barcelona, colonized

They're here, they've arrived! Here in the City of the Counts what the enlightened call the "tourist season" has begun. This makes my very own liver turn flip-flops. Although, correctly viewed, this invasion of the barbarians of the north doesn't stop during the year, but at this time of the year the swimming season is officially inaguarated, just as if we were a spa town from the 19th century, in an operetta nation. The only intimate pleasure they bring me is seeing them during the deceptive nights of the spring, in short pants and a T-shirt--with various straps showing at the same time, the tackiest thing in the world--shivering with cold because they thought Barcelona was in the tropics, baked by the pitiless sun, ready to inoculate themselves with poison in the form of paella and to leave their credit cards torn to pieces.

(Note: For good paella check out a restaurant guide and go somewhere that says its specialty is seafood and rice dishes and its prices are moderate. There are several such places in Barcelona where you can eat well for thirty bucks or so. This is much better than eating badly in some tourist trap for twenty or twenty-five. Hint: Catch the subway and get out at a station halfway to the end of the line. Tourists probably don't go there. Walk around until you see a place that has tablecloths, and you're pretty sure it's the most attractive in that three-or four-block area. Check the menu and see if you like what's on offer--it might be an octopus place or specialize in roast piglets or something gross like that--and it's less than 25 or 30 bucks. Check to see if anybody's eating there. If you get affirmatives, go in and you'll probably do very well. Hint number two: go to the tourist office and ask the guy there where he eats. This almost always works.)

This is one of the few pleasures left to us natives, the indigenous, who suffer this Biblical plague called tourism with stoicism that is near suckerdom. Some consider tourism to be a sort of abundant and unlimited cornucopia providing all sorts of profits, supposedly for all of humanity but in reality just for a few smart guys. We Barcelonese count for nothing, we're like the wild beasts in the zoo, they gaze at us inhabitants of the metropolis from a distance, the next thing you know they'll start tossing us peanuts, and if things keep going this way they'll put loincloths on us and exhibit us as sideshow attractions. To sum up, the Catalans' greed was already proverbial in Dante's time. We've trashed our seacoast, we're continuing with our mountains, and now we've started on this Barcelona place; let's see how many more hotels we can build or how many more luxury cruise ships dock at our port.

A true motive of pride, almost as much so as taking a walk on the Ramblas, that veritable Fifth Avenue of contagious sleaze, among living statues, Mexican hats, stands selling fake artworks and T-shirts with Raúl's name, merchants in the temple right and left just trying to be stereotypical. Can anyone with a minimum of good taste and common sense walk there with his soul dropping to his feet before such a spectacle of degradation and baseness? Well, from what we've seen, these are the advantages of tourism, contemplating gentlemen (pardon the expression) drinking kilometer-sized mugs of beer, with their bare feet onn the chair in front of them, with their shirts off. But don't worry, because between all of us we'll make the best city in the world. For sure we will.

Now, of course, Trallero is exaggerating. The Rambla, all right, is tourist hell, and the Plaza Real is full of drunk working-class North Europeans trying to get as much drunker as they can as fast as they can, and there is a lot of tourist crap around the Sagrada Familia and the Park Guell, but that's about it in Barcelona. Some of the coast towns are pretty awful, too, especially Lloret and Salou. Sitges and Cadaqués are still pretty decent, though, and Tossa's OK. As a whole, it's really not that bad, certainly not if you compare it with Paris, London, or New York as places totally taken over by tourism. Up here in Gràcia there aren't too many tourists and the ones who make it up here tend to be all right--you don't make it to Gràcia unless you've at least read the guidebook, which shows that you've got some interest in the place and are therefore a pretty decent tourist.

His feelings are shared by a good few Barcelonese, though definitely not the majority. Most folks here really are pretty nice. Those who work at tourist places are capable of treating you with scorn and disdain, though. Whatever you do, DO NOT buy a Mexican sombrero. People around here hate that and will yell at you, "This isn't Mexico!" I can see their point. It's like the people who find out I'm from Kansas City and ask me if I'm a cowboy or the people--normally British--who assume that since I'm a Midwesterner I must be an uncouth Bible-thumper.

Oh, of course, note the conspiracy theory. Can't have an article in la Vanguardia without a conspiracy theory. A few big rich dudes are wrecking Catalonia for their own benefit by filling it full of tourists, against the will and to the detriment of the great majority of Catalans. Wrong, of course. Something like 15% of Catalonia's economy is based on tourism, so if tourists all stayed home, that'd whack the income of the average Catalan by 15%. Trallero doesn't seem to realize that in a country that's more or less a capitalist democracy, as Spain is, long-term trends like the growth in tourism, which the majority of the people seriously disagree with, don't happen.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Plus ça change, plus c'est the same goddamn French:

"The French are weak and difficult to deal with."

--Winston Churchill, in a telegram to Harry Truman, May 12, 1945
Erin O'Connor is all over the Dennis Dailey thing. Check it out.
This is from the Weekly Standard; apparently there's been a stink about one of the questions on the PSAT. David Skinner's point is that the question 'Are there any grammatical errors in this sentence:"Toni Morrison's genius enables her to create novels that arise from and express the injustices African Americans have endured".' is obviously a patronizing token bone thrown to the minority pride lobby. Why make your example sentence a paean to the genius of an author who is, to say the least, controversial? There are five hundred American authors more worthy of being cited as genii ahead of Toni Morrison. Some of them are even black. Well, if the black community isn't complaining about this tokenism, then I'm not.

What bugs me is that, according to Skinner, the original correct answer was "No errors", but some smartypants said that the sentence was grammatically incorrect on the grounds that the pronoun "her" is incorrect because it refers to "Toni Morrison's genius", which would be an "it", I suppose. The PSAT had to replace the question.

Ridiculous. Just recast the sentence like this: "Toni Morrison's genius allows Toni Morrison to spout off massive quantities of horsehockey." This is quite plainly the meaning of the original sentence, slightly modified. Now let's apply the law that says we substitute a pronoun for a noun whenever possible to avoid repeating the noun. "Toni Morrison" is the noun we don't want to repeat. "Toni Morrison" is a feminine noun, last I checked. I suppose she mighta had one of them operations, but I ain't heard about it yet, so let's replace the second "Toni Morrison" with the appropriate feminine pronoun, which is "her" because the second "Toni Morrison" is the direct object and so the pronoun takes the objective case.

You don't believe me, do you? Well, let's make up some parallel examples.

1) "Noam Chomsky's prejudices allow him to perform flights of fancy in his alleged logic." Gee, that sounds grammatically correct to me.
2) "The Democratic Party's habitual stupidity will allow the Republican Party to sweep the 2004 elections." No pronoun replacement of the object. Any problem there? Nope. So how about this one:
3) "The Democratic Party's habitual stupidity will cause it to get its clock cleaned in 2004." We replace "the Democratic Party" with "it" because "the Democratic Party" is neuter. We didn't replace "the Republican Party" in the second example because it was the first time that body was mentioned in the sentence. "The Republican Party" had no antecedent. But in Example 3 "the Democratic Party" has an antecedent. That antecedent doesn't have to be the subject; in this case it's a possessive.

The error that the smartypants made is that of believing that a pronoun must be in the same case as its antecedent. The pronoun must actually be in the same case as the noun it replaces.
Here's an article from the New Republic on Richard Hofstader's famous essay on "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" and current leftist conspiracy theories going around. Check this one out. (Via FrontPage.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Hey, here's an issue I actually know something about! It seems that Dennis Dailey, KU sex prof, has gotten blasted for showing porno vids and talking nasty as part of a KU class! Here's the file of stories from the Lawrence Journal-World on the case.

I took Dailey's "Human Sexuality in Everyday Life" course in fall term 1986, I think; this is the course that is under fire. The photo of him from the Urinal-World looks exactly like he did more than fifteen years ago. Dailey is a charismatic speaker and has virtually no tabooes. He told our class that he was willing to discuss any question relating to human sexuality except for "What causes homosexuality?", on the ground that the motivation behind asking that question was the desire to "cure" homosexuality. My attitude was, "OK, Dennis, if that's true then why do we ask 'What causes life?'? Do we want to "cure" life?" As you can probably tell from just that, Dailey is a paragon of political correctness.

I do not remember any specific cases of Dailey's speaking approvingly of incest or of pedophilia. I do know he brought up the sexuality of children, which is quite frankly something that exists, as part of his lecture on sex throughout the human life span. He's really big on that, especially on old people's sexuality, and he emphasizes that there is no such thing as a sexless person, which is true.

What I remember his main emphasis being on, though, was AIDS, which was a big deal back then, the dread disease that killed everyone who got it. (Well, it's still a big deal if you get it and can't afford the pills.) Dailey, to his credit, didn't go into a frenzy of panic and tell everyone to join a monastery; he was, instead, a major condom advocate, which turned out to be the right answer in the long term--that and avoiding wild promiscuity, which Dennis did not advise us to do.

He is very pro-sex; he believes that sex is at the bottom of everything. I think the guy's obsessed with it, I really do. Yeah, yeah, he's a sex professor, that's his field, but I always thought he was just a little bit creepy. He used to enjoy hearing personal-experience stories, I remember that; anyway, the guy goes on and on about how everyone should be sexually happy and not have any nasty old hang-ups that might get in the way.

Most of the course is really pretty reasonable, straightforward facts and advice, along with a healthy dose of feel-good pop psychology. We did see some, uh, video presentations. There was one on how gay men had sex, and there was one on how lesbians had sex, and there was one on masturbation that showed various techniques, and the like. None of it was commercially-produced porn; it was all, like, Masters and Johnson films or whatever.

What I question is not so much Dennis Dailey and his attitude toward sex; his class is very popular, three or four hundred students per term, and I imagine Dailey has done a lot more good than harm in the twenty-some-odd years he's been teaching that course. He's told seven hundred kids a year to basically feel good about sex, and that's pretty healthy.

My question is what the hell it's doing as an elective. It's hardcore sex education, that's all it is; it's high school sex ed taught by somebody who's dynamic and charismatic instead of your slowly-turning-red ninth grade bio teacher, with lots of pictures and stuff. It's widely known as a "blow-off" class, a guaranteed easy good grade, and so a lot of people use it to fill up one of their Social Science elective requirements. It should, frankly, not count toward a degree. It's just too easy a course. Dennis Dailey should be doing what Dr. Ruth did--he'd make a lot more money. All Dennis's class really is is thirty hours of Dr. Ruth lectures with neato films occasionally.

By the way, I got a B.
This is the dumbest thing I have heard of for years. As a good libertarian, of course I believe that these people, if they're of legal age and sound mind, should have every right to get their tongues split if they are sufficiently stupid to do so. But I just do not understand why you would want to do that. I am thoroughly disgusted. Repulsed. Sickened. Good God, just look at the photograph accompanying the story. I sure hope this is a hoax.

Good Lord. Getting your tongue split. That has all the appeal of, say, coprophagia. Next thing you know people will be getting trepanned just for fun. What? You say they already do that? That's old news? Gee, I tell you what, I think I'm gonna have a colostomy. That'll look great at the beach this summer, you know, sunning on the Costa Brava with my colostomy bag sticking out of my side. It'll be the next fad. Don't let the losers who read all those other blogs beat you to this one; be the first in your crowd to wear your own colostomy bag! I hate those poseurs who just get the bag attached but don't really have the operation.
Here's a funny little bit from James Taranto's Best of the Web; how about "Pete Townshend Tougher on Winwood than Burdon" as the punchline, though?

Pete Townshend Blasts Steve Winwood
"WHO: Traffic Is Four Times as Lethal as War"--headline, Reuters, May 14

Speaking of Pete Townshend, kiddie-porn criminal charges against him have been dropped. Happened a few days ago. He seems to be innocent of everything but being really dumb. We slammed Mr. Townshend when this story broke, and we are happy to know that he deserves an apology from us.
More evidence from the Telegraph about Saddam's SOB status. This here mass grave has only 3000 dead people in it. I predicted more than once that those of us who supported the war are going to be publicly vindicated when Saddam's Belsens and Babi Yars and Vorkutas start turning up. Have you people seen enough yet to realize that we not only eliminated a blatant threat to both ourselves and all Saddam's neighbors, not to mention seriously undercutting international terrorists' support base, but also eliminated the most evil non-Communist dictator since Hitler? This should have been done years ago. Like maybe in 1991.

Question: Did what was left of the Soviet leadership, or the Army, or the KGB, or some combination thereof, get together and tell Bush I that Kuwait was fine but he'd better not try Baghdad--and threaten him with the use of WMD and / or with an invasion of the East European satellites if he didn't comply? That was 1990-91, and Russia wasn't nearly as supine as it has become now.

There are certainly rumors that Ike, upon his accession, threatened the Russians with WMD if they didn't stop the Korean War. I have no idea whether they're true; I can't see it because I don't think Ike was ever dumb enough to bluff and risk his bluff being called, and I can't see Ike's going nuclear over Korea, or Ike's wanting to whip up the already serious crisis--hell, Americans and Chinese were fighting hand to hand, more than 50,000 Americans died, it doesn't get much more serious than that--to a level when use of nukes by either side might seem plausible.

Several Nixon Administration people said that the Russians and Chinese came very close to nuclear war in 1969-70. I don't know whether that's true, either. There were, I believe, some border clashes with conventional weapons between the two like in Sinkiang or somewhere literally the middle of nowhere like that. On the other hand, these Nixon guys' saying that obviously works in their favor, since it makes the Administration look good for managing a serious crisis well.

The Cuban Missile Crisis, OK. Japan, of course. Any other time when we almost went nuclear?