Sunday, May 11, 2003

It's always fun to flip through the Sunday Vangua because it's a double-size dose of pure Vangua Old Europeanness. See, Catalonia is the most Old European place in Europe. Catalanists have identified themselves with England, Germany, and / or France rather than Spain since Catalanism became an important political movement in the second half of the nineteenth century. The thing about contemporary Catalonia is that it has always had an income higher than the rest of Spain's but lower than France's and Italy's, but a cultural level similar to that of France and northern Italy (Or Madrid and Old Castile.) Catalonia therefore tends to disdain Spanish culture and to adulate Paris's or Milan's or London's. The Catalan Francophiles think the French are superior beings and that France is a model for Catalonia to follow--and if a Catalanist doesn't think that about the French, he probably does think that about the British or the Germans. (Note: Some 50% of Catalans are Catalanists. Some 20-30% of Catalanist Catalans are Cataloonies.)

The Francophile and Germanophile Catalanists are more French than a poodle (or more German than a dachshund) because they've transferred their nationalism to France or Germany. Catalanists are highly nationalistic about their national culture, and justifiably so, though the main thing that distinguishes Catalan literature from any other country's is that no other national literature is full of boasting about how great Catalonia is. But a Catalanist can't be proud of the military or diplomatic or sports status and prestige of his chosen power unit, Catalonia, because Catalonia has null international prestige. It's virtually unknown outside Western Europe.

And, of course, a Catalanist can't be proud of Spain's military or diplomatic or sports successes because he has chosen Catalonia rather than Spain as the power unit closest to his heart. Choosing Catalonia implies rejecting Spain, and many Catalanists, mostly Cataloonies, actively desire misfortune for Spain. Certainly many Barcelonese root against the Spanish national soccer team; the Spanish national squad plays here only very rarely, because when given the chance the football federation chooses to play on a home field, not in enemy territory.

What this means is that a Catalanist has to choose a major power unit to support. It's kind of like those baseball fans in Columbia, Missouri, who don't have a big league team in their town, so they have to decide between the Kansas City Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals if they want to root for a real team playing in the sphere and at the level where it really counts. Who cares if the single-A Columbia Peckerwoods beat the Springfield Inbreds or not? Well, people in central and southwest Missouri, nowhere else. Equally, who really cares what the Catalan regional government decides? Well, people in Catalonia, nowhere else. If you're a Catalanist who wants to take a position that ain't just woofin' on any world event of importance, you've got to pick one of the various sides that are confronting one another, and those three sides have been the Brits, the French, and the Germans during most of the 150-year history of Catalan nationalism. The Yanks, being Johnny-come-latelies and opposed at one time or another to all three of the Catalan Europhilias, are not a side chosen by many. There were a good few people who chose up sides with the Russians back in the good old days, but since about 1989 we haven't heard much from the Russophiles, assuming there are any left besides Remei Margarit. They've all gone over to the French.

Anyway, the Franco- and Germanophiles around here are even more radically Old European in their attitudes than the Old Europeans in Paris and Berlin, since somebody who suffers from a philia toward a foreign national group is only capable of seeing the good about that adopted national group--and to him anybody who supports a national group opposed in some way to his chosen philia is pure evil. Thus the Catalan Francophile is much more aggressively pro-French (and thus anti-American and British) than a Frenchman himself. When you combine this with good old traditional Iberian anti-American feeling and the Marxist-anarchist-Leninist socioeconomic perspective of many Catalanists and almost all Cataloonies, it's no wonder this place is seething with Yankee-hatred. Only the Anglophiles, who are often but not always "liberals" in local terminology, have been backing Britain and the US in the current international crisis triggered by 9-11--and there are not a few Anglophiles whose philia is for the British Left, and those guys are of course supporting the Beirut Bob Fisk / George Galloway wing of said British Left.

Enough generalizations about those wacky Catalans and their Cataloony minority.

There was a major ETA bust near Bordeaux Friday night. They got one of the leaders of ETA's "military branch", two hit men, and one infrastructure collaborator. Apparently there have been two more arrests made based on the information they squeezed out of these guys. Anyway, the French and Spanish antiterrorist squads had these people's house under surveillance and made the move to arrest them--naturally, they waited as long as possible before making the bust to see if anybody else they could identify showed up. The four arrestees were packing up their (stolen) cars to leave, so they sprang the trap and arrested the lot.

There have so far been seventeen arrests made of ETA terrorists this year in France. Excellent. I sure hate to give them the credit they deserve, but the French police have done an excellent job rounding up terrorists recently.

I've said this before. My position on this one is that in Kansas we have the death penalty for first-degree murder. To execute someone he must first be found guilty by a jury, have sentence imposed by the judge, have said sentence confirmed by the jury, go through an obligatory appeal before a different judge and jury, go through all other appeals the convict's lawyer can think of, and then have the death warrant signed by the governor. Those are an awful lot of people who have to sign off on an execution, and if all those people are corrupt and stupid then injustice will likely be done. But if the jury members are honest citizens, if the judges are decent and impartial, if the governor lives up to his oath of office--and, let's be serious, most of the time those things are true, society is not corrupt through-and-through as the Left would have you believe--then there are a lot of safety valves in the system. You gotta get at least two juries and two judges and the governor to agree that what a guy undisputably did was not just an average murder, but premeditated and intentional with an aggravating circumstance. (The aggravating circumstances are, I think, serial murder, rape-murder, torture-murder, felony murder [done in the course of committing a felony, e.g. bank robbery, carjacking, mugging], murder of a law enforcement officer, murder-for-hire, and murder committed by somebody serving a prison sentence).

Well, I'd add terrorist murder to that list of aggravating circumstances and start toasting these etarras convicted of murder, not only the triggermen but also those above them in the hierarchy who give the killers their orders. In the States that's what we did with Tim McVeigh, who certainly had it coming. I think that would do a great deal to diminish the appeal of joining the ETA, and I wouldn't mind if those executions were televised. If you think the death penalty is a deterrent, which I firmly do, then it ought to be as deterring as possible. As many people as possible should therefore see it. If you don't believe in the death penalty, you should want executions to be televised, too, so that the people can see how horrible the death penalty is and will want to abolish it.

Spain's in full campaign frenzy--the political campaigns here are really like those in America now, they begin the day after the last election, but they're not as aggressive as the constant campaigning in America--since election day is just two weeks away. Official campaigning begins like three weeks before election day, and that's when the various parties are allowed to paste up signs all over the cities and when they get free space on all the TV stations to run their commercials.

At the national level Aznar has been working the crowds in Murcia and Valencia and Ruíz Gallardón looks like a good bet to repeat as Madrid mayor; he's been appearing all over the city with Ana Botella, Aznar's wife, who is quite attractive in a rather haute-bourgeoise sort of way. Zap went to Murcia too and called Aznar Bush's lapdog again. C'mon, Zap, keep playing up the war. Identify yourself even more with Saddam. People like to back a winner. You're a loser. Zap promised to solve the drought problem in the southeast in some other way than the controversial government water plan. He didn't say how but promised it would be in a solidarious manner. Gas went to Bilbao and gassed about how he didn't like terrorist violence but didn't believe in getting tough on terrorism either. Or something like that. He called for the "rebel vote"; since AuB, ETA's political branch, has been prohibited, Gas is trying to appeal to their voters. The diff between the Commies and the Sucialists in the Basque country is that the Suciatas are, at least, on the government's side against terrorism, while the Commies are trying to ride the fence. They are part of the current coalition with the Basque nationalists of all stripes that governs the Basque country.

I will give the Socialists this. They are social democrats, not too much different than our Democrat Party in the US. They do not want a dictatorship of the proletariat. They're wacky about a lot of stuff, but no more wacky than Bernie Sanders or Dennis Kucinich or Howard Dean. The more moderate ones aren't that different from, say, Robert Byrd--that is, mostly interested in pork-barreling everything possible to whatever poor area they come from. (See also González, Felipe.) They are not hardliners, they support democracy and at least sort of accept the market economy and oppose the ETA and usually aren't horribly anti-American, just a little. Their winning an election would not be a tragedy. But if Gas and the Commies managed to inveigle the Sociatas into another Popular Front--oooh, that would suck.

Here in Catalonia, Convergence and Union (the conservative Catalanists in charge of the regional government--they get most of their vote from the rural counties) is swinging hard at Pasqual Maragall, the popular former mayor of Barcelona and now boss of the Catalan Socialist party. Maragall's not running in this election, since we're not having regional elections here; the Socialists have put up Joan Clos for reelection as Barcelona mayor, of course. Clos will be reelected easily, and CiU knows it. So what they're really doing is campaigning against Maragall and girding up for the next regional election, which is where there real source of strength is. One thing CiU is trying to do is pick up a few more City Council seats in the ring of Spanish-speaking industrial suburbs surrounding Barcelona; they have virtually no representation there, and they're not going to gain too much more. Those districts are all solidly Socialist. In Barcelona itself the four uptown neighborhoods--Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, Les Corts, the Eixample, and Gràcia--vote Convergence and Union, while downtown--Ciutat Vella--and the five outlying districts within the city limits, Sants-Montjuic, Sant Martí, Sant Andreu, Nou Barris, and Horta-Guinardó, vote Socialist. The few wealthy Catalan-speaking suburbs--Sant Cugat, Bellaterra, Sant Just, and Sant Joan--vote Convergence, while the rest of the poorer Spanish-speaking suburbs, as I said, vote strongly Socialist.

I didn't know this. Chemical Inma Mayol, Commie candidate for Barcelona mayor and currently Joan Clos's coalition partner in the City Council, is the hose-monkey-partner of Joan Saura, the boss of Initiative, the Catalan Communists. These two have been cohabiting for years. I smell nepotism. And what's that on Inma's breat--uh, never mind.

The Partido Popular has no chance in Aragon because of the damn water plan and the problems with the high-speed train; they'll be the single most-voted party there, but they'll lose to a Socialist-Communist-Aragonese Regionalist Party-Chunta Aragonesista coalition when it comes time to constitute the next legislature.

By the way, there's an Iraqi immigrant dude running for City Council on the PP ticket in Tarragona; he's eighth on the list, so he's not going to get a seat, but I think that's pretty cool. He supports Spain's efforts to get rid of Saddam Hussein, of course.

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