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!

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