Monday, July 28, 2003

Beirut Bob Fisk is back in action; there have been a couple of articles by him in the Vangua over the last two days, and I'm going to wait for a couple more and then take him to task. But in case you have been hearing "quagmire" talk, which is all over the place here, check out this piece by Wall Street Journal honcho Robert Gigot.

Also check out this lovely shredding of Michael Moore from the City Journal. (Via Front Page.) And have a look at Mark Steyn's vicious slagging-off of the loony left British media, if you haven't already. (Via Andrew Sullivan.) Sullivan himself has a nice piece on why the Alliance is right and the off-slaggers are wrong.
You know, there's a lot to blog on, but none of it really strikes my fancy. The biggest news is that ETA is making a show of force this week; a large (30-kilo) car bomb went off in the parking lot at the Santander airport. The bomb threat was called in to the newspaper Gara; the airport terminal was evacuated and flights were rerouted. Fortunately there were no injuries.

Recently there have been ETA bombings in Benidorm, Alicante, Lizarra, and Pamplona, with no serious damage done. The cops think that the bombs in the north are the work of an established ETA cell in the Basque Country or Navarra. They haven't announced any leads on the Alicante bombings.

A pioece of big news last weekenc was the Rodney King-style beating of a Danish tourist in Calella, just up the coast, by a local cop. It was caught on video and boy, it doesn't look good. The victim was pretty good-sized and obviously a kid (he's 18), and he was hassling people around the swimming pool at his group's hotel, spraying them with a fire extinguisher. He certainly appeared to be drunk or on drugs. The hotel management called the cops.

So far so good. You've got a violent situation, you call the cops. That's the responsible thing to do. Anyway, the cops show up, three Catalan police and one local yokel.

Now, I've seen pro cops take care of drunks. At Luton Airport, of all places, there was this fortyish big working-class Brit, tattoos and a shell suit, the whole nine yards, and he was drunk off his ass. I guess he was part of a package tour to Torremolinos or something. The cops were attempting to reason with him--it seems that he'd been causing a disturbance in the terminal and they weren't going to let him get on the plane because intoxicated passengers are not allowed on board for obvious reasons. He must have said something the cops didn't like because all of a sudden they had him on the ground and then in handcuffs. It took them like five seconds, and then five seconds later they were dragging him off to wherever they take guys like that. Nobody got hurt in the slightest, not even the drunk. It was real professional police work.

That is not what happened in Calella, which is a notorious dive of a beach town catering to the very cheapest of package tours. It particularly appeals to Eastern Europeans, who can't afford to go anywhere nicer. If you go to Tossa or Platja d'Aro or Cadaques, you'll see signs in French and English and Dutch and German. If you go to Calella the signs are in Polish, Czech, and Russian. The townsfolk of Calella earn their living by serving large quantities of cheap alcohol to foreigners and then providing a place near the beach for them to sleep it off.

Now, this is one thing about Spain. Spanish people, in their own environment, are usually wonderful folks if you make the slightest effort to appreciate their country or region or city. However, these beach towns are not a Spanish environment, and the Spanish folks who work in beach towns tend to be pretty contemptuous of the tourists. Most of the tourists deserve a good deal of contempt in the beach towns, since they're just there to party till they puke. Imagine Spring Break at Cancun or Padre or Lauderdale. It's that kind of morons behaving like that, except they're Europeans instead of Yanks.

Therefore: Avoid crappy beach towns and other moron-tourist hellholes. Go to nice places, approximately ninety-seven percent of the country. In nice places you will be treated with appreciation if you're a nice person. In moron-tourist hellholes you will be treated like a moron-tourist. Like in Calella, for example.

So this Danish guy is acting like a first-class jerk out by the pool, anyway, and the cops decide they are going to remove him from the premises, which sounds like a great idea to me if they do it the way they did it in Luton Airport, and there were only two cops there and the Brit they took down looked pretty tough to me. Here out by the pool we've got four cops and one teenager. So, anyway, the local cop pulls out his billyclub and starts whacking the Dane over the head. He whacks him like twenty times, bang bang bang on the top of the head. The next thing we see is the Dane being dragged off, just like the Brit in Luton, except he's lying on a stretcher and they're taking him to the hospital with blood all over his head--he got worked over a lot harder than Rodney King did by the LAPD.

This has created a big stink in Denmark, especially since it turned out that the victim is schizophrenic. What happened, of course, is that the Calella cop said to himself, "Another drunk moron-tourist idiot. I'm sick of these guys," and just beat the crap out of the Dane. While that is perhaps understandable, it's not exactly professional behavior. It's also abuse of power.

Fidel Castro informed the European Union that he would refuse any aid from the EU. Good. Why were we ever giving him any in the first place? Fidel gets an awful lot of press over here, I suspect because Spain's emigration links are closer with Cuba, Venezuela, and Argentina than with other parts of Latin America that got less immigration from the Peninsula. Those three countries receive considerably more coverage than the rest of Latin America put together. Of course, they have been pretty newsworthy places lately, but it seems you never hear anything about Mexico or Peru.

They're all screaming for the Yanks to intervene in Liberia. Don't we have to get UN permission first? The Quai d'Orsay is floating the story that the Yanks want to move into West Africa to get the oil off Sao Tome and Principe, of all places. I hadn't heard anything about oil in Liberia. I remember the same chorus shouting that we were only after the oil in Iraq and Afghanistan and Somalia, for God's sake. Oh, well, Balto Porcel says we're trying to corner the market in water, so what we're probably going to do is seize the Niger River and charge the peasants to water their fields or something base and evil like that. We are sending in three thousand Nigerian troops, to whom we will provide logistical support.

Former Socialist minister Cristina Alberdi has come out firing from the lip, slamming Zap and Simancas and all the other PSOE doofwads for completely screwing up the political situation in the Madrid region and then trying to blame it on nonexistent PP corruption. She's calling for resignations. She also took a piece out of Pasqual Maragall, who came out with another goofy off-the-top-of-his-head-after-a-three-martini-lunch idea, something about restoring the Crown of Aragon. She said something about how Maragall should shut the hell up instead of making proposals that he hasn't run by anybody else in the party. The problem here is that Maragall has to appear independent of the Spanish Socialist Party in order to attract Catalan nationalist votes. In fact, he and the Catalan Socialist Party are not independent of Madrid. If Madrid decides that Maragall should shut up, he shuts up. You'll never hear another word about the Crown of Aragon from Sausage-Lips Pasqui.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Well, Lance Armstrong has won his fifth consecutive Tour de France, joining Miguel Indurain of Spain as one of the two men to accomplish said feat. Jan Ullrich of Germany was second and Alexandr Vinokourov of Kazakhstan was third. Today's stage was largely ceremonial, since it was held over a flat course; everybody can keep up with the peloton when the course is flat and the stage win goes to one of the several guys at the front who sprint the final couple hundred meters or so--but nobody gains any overall time on anybody else in the general, as opposed to stage, classification. Time is gained and lost on the mountain stages and the time trials.

Yesterday was the last competitive stage of the race, a time trial ending in Nantes. As soon as I saw the weather I said, "Looks good for Lance". It was cool, wet, and windy, just the kind of weather Armstrong likes and American cyclists often do well in. (It is said that Mediterranean riders don't like the bad weather, sort of like dome teams in American football.) Then I saw Jan Ullrich on this weird bike with the handlebars way low, more aerodynamic but harder to control and balance, and the announcers said that he'd never used this bike before in competition and I said "He's gonna crash". It was a nasty time trial and guys were crashing all over the place, including the stage winner, David Millar of Great Britain, who got up and just kept going. Ullrich left next to last and he was pushing the curves to the limit on the wet asphalt. Armstrong, knowing he had more than a minute to play with, didn't take risks. Ullrich couldn't gain any time on Lance, though, and two-thirds of the way through he did crash. Fortunately, he wasn't hurt, but that put the kibosh on his chances. Millar was first, Tyler Hamilton was second, and Lance was third. Great day for les anglosaxons.

The reaction of the Spanish commentators was perfectly reasonable; of course they were rooting for the Spanish riders, but they were fair to everyone else. It was clear that their sympathies were not with Armstrong, but that's understandable since it's much bigger news if someone beats the champ than if the champ wins another one.

Can Armstrong win next year? Who knows. He just proved he's still the best, but he won by only a minute this time, not by six or eight like he has in the past. However, there are no truly brilliant young stars coming up to take his place, though there are, of course, a lot of excellent riders. How about this: I wouldn't bet against him.

In other sports news, FC Barcelona plays Juventus tonight in Boston in a game that I will be boycotting due to Barca's hypocrisy in dissing America and then going there to make some big money--they'll receive $1.1 million for their American tour, $800,000 more than they got for playing against Qadafi's son's team. Watch out for flying pig heads.

Barcelona forward Patrick Kluivert had a few difficulties getting into the US. Seems he has a conviction for vehicular homicide and reckless driving in Holland. He was also acquitted once on rape charges. Anyway, Dutch people normally need just a passport to get into the States, but convicted felons need a special visa. Kluivert forgot this, which is kind of dumb of him because we already refused him entry once a couple of years ago. So he shows up at the airport, flies off to Boston, and they don't let him in because he doesn't have his visa. They sent him back to get the visa here and he'll be back in the States on Monday. Of course, he misses tonight's game.

Friday, July 25, 2003

The Volokh Conspiracy pays tribute to the source of our name:

On another note, I am a big fan of John Gunther's Inside USA, a tour guide of sorts, major edition published in 1947 but still fresh and vital. Explains what regional America is really about and why places like Duluth are important for our history. The tone won't appeal to highbrows, but this is the closest thing to a second Tocqueville we are likely to find. Plus it is ideal for bathroom reading, just bite off the small bits you are interested in, it is organized by state and region.

A correspondent, Dell Adams, writes: "More than the Tocqueville, I'd call him [Gunther] the Herodotus of his time. If you haven't read Inside Europe (published months before WW2) and Inside Asia (months before Pearl Harbor), by all means do so. Someone who can visit 30-40 countries, strange to him, within a year, and get THE story every time, is a journalist for the ages."

If only Gunther had had a blog. I like the South America book as well.

Front Page has a symposium on Ann Coulter's book, Treason, which is a valuable work in that it is forcing people to take another look at American anti-Communist policies during the late Forties and early Fifties and redebate the issue. The book has been criticized for being a whitewashing of Joe McCarthy and for being unduly harsh to the liberal Democrats of the time.

In Spain everybody knows what el maccartismo is, that evil time when sinister capitalist propaganda and the CIA drove all the Americans crazy so they would arrest all the freethinkers and dissidents and accuse them of being dirty no-good Commies because that's the way Wall Street wanted it. The word is used now in Spanish to refer to anything resembling a witch-hunt. Every few weeks our friend the Vangua refers to something as "the new McCarthyism". Interestingly enough, the term "McCarthyism" was coined by the Daily Worker.

We've got to get a few things straight here. Franklin Roosevelt's leftist New Deal movement (about which many good things can be said, of course) was made up mostly of honest liberals and Democrats, but there were a few pro-Soviet bad eggs in the omelet. During the 1930s nobody cared too much because, contrary to what some history books will tell you, it was the Nazis rather than the Commies we saw as the immediate threat. (Check any American book on international affairs published between about 1935 and 1941.) During World War II the Soviets were our allies and our espionage and security services were aimed at the Nazis and the Japanese, not the USSR. But once the Nazis were beaten--Japanese militarism is a system that is not going to be too popular anywhere outside Japan, we've got everybody's hearts and minds agreed on that case--the only threat left to the United States became the Soviet Union, clearly more powerful and dangerous than Nazi Germany had ever been. And the Soviet Union was expansionist. It expanded into Eastern Europe and it wanted to expand into Western Europe and it wouldn't have minded in the least expanding into America.

By about 1947 it was pretty clear, due to several defections and the Venona transcripts (this information was of course not made public at the time) that we had a bad problem with Soviet agents, literally hundreds of spies, within the federal government, especially at State and Treasury. President Truman became convinced of the Communist threat and purged Communists from Federal jobs in 1948. The House Un-American Activities Committee, meanwhile, was purging Hollywood, and the famous Hollywood Ten went to jail in 1947, while other folk like Lillian Hellman and Pete Seeger lied their way out of trouble. The Communist Party USA leadership was convicted under the Smith Act and sent up the river. Alger Hiss was convicted of espionage.

Truman got himself reelected in 1948 despite the defection of his predecessor as Vice-President, Henry Wallace, to the Communist-influenced Progressive Party; the Progressives got only a million votes from the most extreme New Deal leftists and failed to carry any states. In 1950 the Rosenberg espionage ring was broken up. Meanwhile, overseas, Truman sent aid to Turkey and Greece under the Truman Doctrine, which committed us to stopping Communism from expanding. NATO was established. We fought the Communist invasion of Korea.

Then Joe McCarthy appeared on the political scene.

Joe'd been elected back in forty-six and needed to get reelected in fifty-two, if I have the dates right. He didn't do much until he jumped on the anti-communist train in 1950. By then almost all the real action needed to clean Soviet spies and agents out of the government and out of the Hollywood "propaganda department" had been taken. So Joe blew hard and made up a bunch of stuff and accused almost nobody specifically by name--except Truman, Dean Acheson, and George Marshall, the Democratic foreign-policy leadership, all liberal Democrats and all strongly anti-communist, like Hubert Humphrey and Walter Reuther and Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson. Joe, a Republican, was accusing the ANTI-COMMUNIST Democratic leadership, which had taken very strong measures against communism, including that of sending American troops into battle, of being "soft on Communism".

This was unadulterated bullshit and the whole country knew it. Maybe you didn't think Harry Truman was worth much--a lot of people didn't--and maybe you couldn't stand Acheson for being snobby and talking with that damn phony English accent, and maybe you thought Marshall was a cold son of a bitch, which he was, but these men were not traitors. McCarthy was widely hated. It didn't help that he was ugly and was drunk most of the time and was obviously a nasty person. When Truman left the Presidency in 1953, Republican Ike squashed McCarthy--let him hang himself and then came down on his neck with a guillotine, just in case one was needed. And nothing more was heard from him except when the Senate publicly censured him. Then he drank himself to death.

The Truman Administration's error was to deny that there had ever been a problem with Soviet infiltration rather than to say, "Well, there were some Russian spies but we caught 'em".

Note: Richard Nixon, who was a leading member of HUAC, had nothing whatsoever to do with Joe McCarthy. Nixon was a representative from southern California and McCarthy was a senator from Wisconsin. Nixon was a Quaker. McCarthy was an Irish Catholic. Nixon was cold, aloof and calculating. McCarthy was a "one of the boys" back-slapper. Nixon was highly intelligent, with intellectual interests; McCarthy was as dumb as, well, most guys whose brains have been dissolved by a quart of whiskey a day since age twelve. Think Shane McGowan. McCarthy was a caveman; Nixon was a rather liberal Republican, and never an isolationist. Nixon was a professional politician, not a loud-mouthed demagogue. He knew better than to get involved with that irresponsible lout McCarthy. And Nixon had made his name years before McCarthy came along.

About the only thing the two had in common was that they were both poor boys who wanted to make it big in politics.

I recommend you read the whole thing; I think the admission by well-known Dem and Friend Of Hillary Susan Estrich that

The Anti-Joe camp suffers from the American Liberal Left's pathological inability to admit that it was wrong about most, if not all, of the big issues during the first 10 to 20 years of the Cold War. For example, it is now established, as a matter of historical record, that the Rosenbergs were spies; that Hiss was a member of the Communist underground and engaged in espionage; that Stalinist Russia had designs on Western Europe and anything else the Comintern thought it could get its hands on; and that the Soviets deliberately infiltrated, and attempted to manipulate, both Hollywood and the American civil rights movement.

These are the facts. The truth is that all of the old shibboleths of the American Left -- "Hiss was framed by Nixon!"; "The Rosenbergs were framed by Hoover!"; "Stalin was Papa Joe!" -- just weren't true. The Commies were out to get us, whether the American Liberal Left wants to admit it or not. To this end, there were secret Reds in the Roosevelt and Truman Administrations -- whether the American Liberal Left wants to admit it or not.

This is the first time I have read an American Liberal Leftist like Ms. Estrich admit that not only was the Left tremendously wrong about something of critical importance, but that the American Left of that time, 1945-50 or so, was strongly under Communist influence.

Here's Emory University historian Harvey Klehr:

While I deplore McCarthy and his tactics, I agree with those who note that his influence had been exaggerated all out of proportion. There was no reign of terror in the United States during the 1950s. Several thousand people lost their jobs--some unjustly or unfairly--and a few hundred went to prison for brief periods of time--including some who probably should not have been prosecuted. Two--Julius and Ethel Rosenberg--were executed for conspiracy to commit espionage, although Ethel should not have been subjected to that punishment. Compared to the violations of civil liberties during previous American wars--and remember that we were fighting both a Cold War with Russia and a hot war in Korea when McCarthy rose to prominence--this hardly justifies the fevered and breathless suggestions that Americans were living in a state of sweat-drenched fear and that it took real courage to challenge the ogre from Wisconsin.

Here's historian John Earl Haynes from the Library of Congress.

I think it is important to add that, by the time, 1950, that Joseph McCarthy became a national figure in the debate about domestic communism the American public, the government, and both major political parties, were already well awakened to both the domestic and foreign Communist threat. McCarthy appeared years after Truman's order setting up a loyalty program to remove Communists and security risks from government service, after the announcement of the "Truman Doctrine" that implemented America's Cold War containment strategy against Soviet aggression, after the Marshall Plan to save Western Europe from economic collapse and Communist takeover, after the CIO expelled Communists from their power base in some trade unions, and after the Popular Front liberal allies of the Communists had withdrawn from the Democratic Party and embarked on their disastrous Progressive Party venture.

The new young liberal stars of the Democratic Party were men such as Hubert Humphrey who had risen to the leadership of the Democratic party in Minnesota (Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party to use its exact title) by defeating the Popular Front liberals and their secret Communist allies who had seized control of the Minnesota party in 1946. And among Republicans, Richard Nixon's work on the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1948 on the Hiss-Chambers case contributed greatly to arousing public opinion in regard to the seriousness of Soviet espionage. Nixon's activities both preceded that of McCarthy and were far more responsible.
You guys might check out CavBlog by Eugenio for a whole bunch of good commentary. The Baseball Crank, besides providing lots of excellent and enlightened baseball thought (how many of the rest of you has Bill James influenced? James, as an advocate of clear thinking, has been as influential on me as anyone else. Yeah, he's using his talents on something comparatively insignificant like baseball, but he's using baseball debates--who was better, Mantle or Mays?--to show us how to approach a question, frame its possible answers, and choose among them) has a lot of other good stuff about politics and law and the like. He was also nice enough to link to us, so check him out. I also linked to Aaron's Baseball Blog, which is another terrific source of info from a Jamesian perspective. If only Aaron weren't a Twins fan. I hate the Twins. Anyway, he's still young and I've got the idea he'll be a real sportswriter in the future. He's only twenty, still in college, hasn't yet gotten his minor-league contract with the Ottumwa Warthog or the Sioux Falls Hookworm ("All the News Here in Sioux; Published Bimonthly"), but he'll go high in the draft within a couple of years and you've gotta figure he'll peak between ages 24 and 30. The rumor is he's prone to carpal-tunnel syndrome, though...Rob and Rany on the Royals is by far the best team blog out there; its two authors are real writers, Rob Neyer with ESPN and Rany with the Topeka Capital-Journal. Now, the CJ is one of those papers you subscribe to for the coupons and the comics, but it is a paid job writing, which is more than I've got. Also, Rany's a doctor when he's not a baseball columnist, so I get the idea the CJ gig is something he does more for fun than anything else. Rob--well, I won't call him an idiotarian politically, but let's just say we disagree a lot about everything. He sure does know his baseball, though, and he's not a bad writer at all.
The Basque Nationalist Party's frontman, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, has got himself a plan to reform the Basque statute of autonomy. Every single newspaper in Spain except maybe Avui and Egunkaria is just plain appalled--not only ABC, El Mundo, and La Razon but also La Vangua, El Periodico, and El Pais. Aznar called the plan "crazy" and "not viable" with "zero chance" of becoming reality; the Socialists and Communists are just as irritated.

Ibarretxe's plan would basically give complete independence to the Basque country, along with incorporating Navarra and the three Basque districts in France. Of course it ain't gonna happen. Most of the people in the Basque Country are against independence, and the Navarrese and French Basques are overwhelmingly against. So why do Ibarretxe and the Basque Nationalist Party boss, Xabier Arzalluz, keep banging on the drum with unrealistic proposals that can only come true in a dream world?

My guess is it's all they've got. What other reason is there to vote for the Basque nationalists, who remind me a lot of the far-out Christian Right in the United States--socially conservative, economically pro-redistribution, desirous of an intrusive State, fanatically nationalist, with a violent hardcore and youth fringe. This is about as dumb as a political movement can be. It's supported by people who want to turn back the clock on modernity because they don't like the changes that come with it, people who identify with the group rather than themselves as individuals, people who want to be able to depend on the State, people who only want to be around other people just like them.

Fortunately most Basques, like most Catalans, are not crazy. They understand that we live in a surprisingly libertarian and prosperous representative democracy with a Constitution and the rule of law. They know that people in Spain are generally happy, free citizens, and fairly well-off. Anyone who can count to eleven with his fly buttoned has to admit that things are better now in 2003 with Aznar as Prime Minister than they were in 1996 with Felipe as Prime Minister--just like anyone who knows his ass from a hole in the ground has to admit that things were better in 1996 with Felipe as PM than they were in 1982 when Calvo Sotelo was PM. And things in 1982 were immeasurably better than they'd been just ten years before under the Franco dictatorship.

It's obvious, at least to me, that the path toward an even better life for the citizens of Catalonia--and the Basque Country and Spain as a whole--is to stop wasting our energy on fruitless silly battles over whose flag ought to fly on the Manresa City Hall and get to work on innovation and research and improved technology--and good old production of your standard Catalan farm products and light industrial goods, development of the tourist market our economy is so dependent on, and continual development of the infrastructure, and an improvement of the educational system, which fortunately we're going to get now that Aznar has thrown away the goddamn "Reforma", and the maintenance of the welfare state, which may not be the smartest policy economically but which an overwhelming majority of Catalans want, so if we've got to have it--this is, after all, a democracy--we might as well manage it as effectively as we can.

What I'm saying isn't obvious to a lot of other people, though. Their minds are stuck in the 1850s and the Catalan Renaixement and the idea that any bunch of people with the same language have to have an independent state. Said idea of the nation-state first became widespread with the 1860s unification of Italy and the 1871 unification of Germany. If the Italians and the Germans are both a nation and a state, why not us too? They've been using the same argument for a hundred and fifty years. You can't appeal to fervent nationalists with reason--it will do no good reminding them that the late 1800s heyday of the nation-state, between the 1850s and 1914, largely contemporaneous with the reign of Queen Victoria, with its concurrent militarism, imperialism, xenophobia, centralization, regimentation, and conformity, is the source of both Communism and Fascism and both the First and Second World Wars. This is the twenty-first century and nation-statalism is a dead old doctrine, as rotten and decaying as phrenology, spiritualism, Esperanto, psychoanalysis, anarchosyndicalism, homeopathy, eugenics, the masturbation-blindness link, and other bits of nineteenth-century conventional wisdom.

Now, nationalism, under a truly repressive government, is an important psychological tool to use to organize a resistance. The Continental states in which nationalism grew up during the second half of the 19th century, the German, Austrian, Russian and Ottoman dominions, were pretty damn repressive. You can understand why a group of people would get angry at their treatment--say if you're a Pole in Germany or a Czech in Austria and you see not only yourself, but everybody who talks like you or goes to your church or lives in your town, discriminated against in favor of Germans or Austrians. I'd sure get angry. This ain't Germany, though, and this ain't 1871. Comparing the semi-dictatorial and quite repressive German Empire with today's democratic Spain, and comparing the current lot of Catalans and Basques to the lot of the Poles 100 years ago, is like comparing me and John Holm--uh, never mind.

Just a note. I'm not glibly dissing the Victorian Era. The advances made during that time in science, technology, the arts, medicine, human understanding, and the individual standard of living, were enormous. I am rather a fan of the Victorian Era in many ways. But I'm not real fond of some of the ideas, most notably nation-statalism and Socialism, that sprang up largely in Central Europe (but also in other places) during that time.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Here's the periodic State of the Blog address. We're looking at about 10,000 page views for July, which is about what we had in May and June. That's a lot more than we had at the beginning of the year, but it's down from our peak of about 15,000 a month for March and April. Not bad. I am assuming there's been a general fall of blog readership from the height of the Iraq War, since there's less news happening now. We've got about 60 inbound blogroll links, more than we've ever had; on N. Z. Bear's Blogosphere Ranking chart, we're now classified as "Marauding Marsupials". We'll never be "Higher Beings", but it's nice to at least have made the Mammalia class. Our major sources of readers from blogroll links are InstaPundit, by far, and Samizdata.

I'm not sure I've given the guys at Samizdata, the British libertarian blog, any props recently, but they deserve large quantities thereof. Samizdata was the first major blog to blogroll us, to link to our material, and to provide us with encouragement, all the way back in February 2002 when we were just getting started on the old Homestead site. Patrick Crozier, one of the Samizdata mob, was both the first person to send us positive e-mail and the guy who set up this Blogger website for us--we're so computer-illiterate that we wouldn't have been able to figure it out ever. In their honor, we've tried to be generous about adding links to our blogroll--we try to link every blog we come across that we like, and we especially try to blogroll good blogs that are just starting out. If you've got a blog and we haven't linked you, let us know and we'll probably do it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Those two bastards are cold meat, to paraphrase Orwell. The air around here smells just a little better. I imagine that this American coup by a CIA-Delta Force hit squad will turn the tables against the doomsayers for the next week or so. It ought to shut up the Bush Lied Brigade for a while; that's just so early July. It also ought to do serious damage to the cause of the thuggish, murderous Baath-Saddam loyalists, the cause Tikrit Tommy Alcoverro and Rafael "I Interviewed Brian Epstein" Ramos have baptized the Iraqi Resistance.

Meanwhile, the unfortunate David Kelly suicide is becoming seen by many to be more his own and the BBC's fault than the British government's. Perceptions are changing. The BBC is going to take a tremendous hit over this, because they've been forced to admit that Kelly really was their source--and their only one. That is, they did not get double, independent corroboration of their story the way they're supposed to and the way Woodward and Bernstein did during Watergate. And Kelly lied under oath before Parliament. The BBC must have known his claim not to be the BBC's sole source was false. Yet they did not say so; they covered up the truth for at least 24 hours.

ETA struck today with two bombs in hotels, one in Alicante and the other in Benidorm. Both are popular Mediterranean vacation spots. A total of thirteen people were wounded; a German tourist is in a coma. Among the injured were five cops trying to localize one of the bombs. The Vanguardia is reporting that ETA is planning a campaign of small-time kidnappings, Latin American-style, looking for small but quickly paid ransoms of a few thousand euros. I am convinced that ETA is badly hurt and is about to collapse, despite its support on the street from radical youths. The recent bust of nine ETA members in Mexico didn't help them much; the arrested were part of ETA's financial apparatus. They cannot keep an active cell operating for more than a couple of weeks; the dirtbags who killed the two cops in Sanguesa were arrested only a few days after their crime. This cell will be quickly broken up, too.
In case you haven't seen it yet, Qusay and Oday look like they're well on their way to their 72 virgin sheep, goats, and donkeys in hell. American troops think they found them and shot them full of holes.
FC Barcelona's soccer team leaves on July 25 to play a series of exhibition games (that is, friendly matches) against, I believe, Manchester United, Juventus, and Milan, on the US East Coast. They'll be playing in Boston, New York, and I think Washington.

Now, we Americans are polite people. We don't boo at foreign athletes because of where they come from, unless we're Detroit hockey fans, and then we don't bother booing, we throw switchblades on the ice. Seriously, in Kansas we don't boo at any athletes ever unless it's college basketball, and then it's good-natured and considered part of the atmosphere. But, anyway, you may have noticed our mentioning a couple of times in this blog that here in Barcelona, the fans have booed and whistled (an insult in Spain) at the American competitors at the World Swimming Championships repeatedly. For no good reason. Just because they don't like Americans.

I have a suggestion. Consider the following facts:

1) FC Barcelona hired Serbian Milosevic-supporter Radomir Antic last season as the fill-in head coach.
2) FC Barcelona played an exhibition game in its own stadium against Libyan dictator Qaddafi's son's team in exchange for 300,000 euros.
3) FC Barcelona organized an anti-American demonstration (they called it anti-war) in their stadium, with their players appearing on the field wearing "FC Barcelona for peace" T-shirts.
4) Normal behavior for FC Barcelona fans consists of throwing whiskey bottles, mobile phones, and pig's heads at players they don't like.
5) The citizens of Barcelona held a demonstration of several hundred thousand people, supposedly against the war in Iraq but actually against the United States and Israel, judging by the public statement made at the culmination of the demonstration.
6) The citizens of Barcelona held a pot-banging demonstration in protest the night Baghdad fell to the US military.
7) Again, they're booing American swimmers just because they're American.

No, my suggestion is not that you boo the FC Barcelona players. My suggestion is that you BOYCOTT the games FC Barcelona plays. Why should you give FC Barcelona any of your money? Don't attend any matches they play, and don't watch them on TV, either.

They've told America loud and clear what they think of America and Americans, and they've shown by their actions that they mean it. It's time for Americans to stand up and show them what we think of them. We don't have to be rude. Just don't go to the games. If you already have tickets, tear them up. It's that simple.

If you agree with me, please e-mail this post to someone else, preferably any sportswriter you might know.

--John Chappell,

Thanks to HispaLibertas for the link--check 'em out for some damn good classical-liberal commentary in Spanish. If'n y'all cain't read none of that thar fuzzy furriner talk, they do post lengthy quotations in English.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Check out Cinderella Bloggerfeller, the most erudite of bloggers, with lots of fascinating stuff up about languages and alphabets and Transcaucasia and stuff like that. Biased BBC is fighting the good fight and has plenty of info on the dust-up between the BBC and the Blair government. The OmbudsGod is ombudsing everything he can find to ombuds, so check him out. We'd like to know his feelings on Vanguardia ombudsidiot J. M. Casasus. Eamonn Fitzgerald has a brand-new piece on the Tour and a long appreciation of Cormac McCarthy. If you're not keeping up with Merde in France, it's your own fault. And Dark Blogules gleefully skewers idiotarians right and left, mostly left.
Here's Charles Krauthammer (love that name, always have) on why we were right to overthrow Saddam. And here's the Wall Street Journal on Happy Howie Dean. God, I hope they nominate him. Note that his spokesman's name is Joe Trippi, speaking of great surnames.

By the way, here's another from the WSJ on the new mosque in Seville. There are already plenty of mosques here in Spain, though this one seems a lot bigger and nicer than the ones around here, which are in, like, converted garages because the people who establish them are generally poor immigrants. We don't have anywhere near the ethnic problems they have in France, maybe because only about one percent of the population here is Muslim. I wouldn't be getting too worried even though we do have the occasional unpleasant incident between locals and Moroccans; also, the street kid criminals are all Moroccan. Other than that, immigration into Spain has generally been surprisingly trouble-free.
Lance Armstrong broke the Tour open this afternoon on Luz Ardiden. He didn't break it open by much, and he even hit a spectator and crashed, bringing down Mayo with him. But he did manage to pull away from Ullrich and Vinokourov and win the stage. He has an advantage of well more than a minute over Ullrich, in second, almost three over Vino in third, and more than five over Mayo and Zubeldia in fourth and fifth. Barring total disaster for Lance tomorrow in the time trial, or an absolutely spectacular performance from Ullrich, the Tour is Armstrong's. Tyler Hamilton continued his fine performance and is still in the top ten, which I imagine must be his goal at this point. Just finishing is a tremendous achievement for him. One American rider, Fred Rodriguez, dropped out of the race today.

I saw a few jerks in the crowd flipping Armstrong off as he passed, but the great majority of the fans are sportsmanlike and cheer for everybody. All those people dressed up in orange waving the flag that looks like a green UK flag on a red background are Basques. It's the ikurrina, the Basque flag. It is the symbol of all Basques no matter their politics. If you see anyone with a UK-looking flag but in rainbow colors, though, it's the pro-ETA flag. The orange shirt is the color of the Euskaltel team, all of whose riders are Basques. Those wacky Basques are just plain nuts about sports, especially bike racing.

One Tour de France custom is that the fans paint messages on the road surface, hoping their favorite rider will see their message and feel spurred on or hoping that they'll get their message on TV. There weren't too many "Gora ETA" or "Presoak Azkatu" signs painted on the pavement, though there were a lot of hardcore Basque nationalists waving "Euskal Presoak Euskal Herria" signs. Tomorrow the Tour goes into the French Basque Country. We should see triple the Basque paraphernalia tomorrow as we saw today.
You guys might want to check out LIBRO, the Library of Iberian Resources Online. It's got links to some 50 books available, including Stanley Payne's History of Spain and Portugal and this great thing I'm reading called something like Crime and Society in Early Modern Seville. It's written by some doctrinaire Marxist who insists on seeing everything anyone does as a function of his class. Check it out for a glimpse at how absurd Marxist historians can get.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Here's a letter from today's Vanguardia:

After seeing what's happening in these Swimming World Championships (currently being held in Barcelona), which should symbolize tolerance and brotherhood among peoples, I have come to the conclusion that now it is possible to insult a Moroccan for what his king does or a Cuban for what Fidel Castro does without falling into rudeness or xenophobia. I am referring to the lamentable spectacle that certain people provide us with, who, lacking the minimal level of sportsmanship and thought, boo and whistle at some athletes just because they were born in a certain country, a behavior that any normal person would condemn.

I'm referring to the boos directed at the American team. I suppose it is due to that anachronic and puerile knee-jerk anti-Yankeeism that we have been suffering from a certain political and cultural class for many years, and which impedes us from realizing the intolerant and closed image we are offering. I hope all those people so fond of stereotyping and judging based on where a person is born will reflect and understand that all foreigners deserve respect, and that we must know how to differentiate a citizen from his government. No Spaniard would have liked to be called a Fascist thirty years ago because of the anterior government.


Bravo, Mr. Garcia! Well said.

Today's stage of the Tour just ended. Gringo Lance Armstrong held the overall lead but Kraut Jan Ullrich and that Rooskie from Towelheadistan are right behind him, less than twenty seconds back. Spicks Zubeldia and Mayo, who are not just spicks but the spickiest kind, Basque spicks, are in fourth and fifth places with a chance at catching up, since they're less than five minutes back in the general. Gringo Tyler Hamilton is putting up a hell of a fight with that busted collarbone and is in seventh overall. Among the top ten riders there are four spicks, two gringos, a kraut, a frog, a wop, and that damn Rooskie from Towelheadistan. The Rooskie is having himself a great tour. Some other wop won the stage today. Tomorrow they have to climb both the Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden and then there's another individual time trial. That's it, that's all of the competitive stages. Somebody is going to do something tomorrow.

Loudmouth ex-Barcelona mayor and current candidate for the Catalan regional presidency Pasqual Maragall shot off his mouth again, calling Artur Mas, the Convergence candidate who is currently in South America on an official visit, "an ambassador for Aznar's policies". Mas fired back, "That's just more evidence of Maragall's delirium tremens that we're already accustomed to; all he knows how to do is repeat the nonsense that his brother writes for him. He suffers from mental diarrhea." The Vanguardia reporters helpfully provide the definition of delirium tremens just in case you didn't know; according to the Real Academia, it means "delirium characterized by great agitation and hallucinations suffered by chronic alcoholics." Maragall, as we commented back when we compared him with Hermann Goering, is widely rumored to be a hopeless alcoholic. He sure looks like a heavy drinker.

My guess is that the gloves are going to come off and Convergence is openly going to question Maragall's fitness for office.

Hey, guess what? Our pal Franco Aleman got mentioned by idiotarian Vangua ombudsman Josep Maria Casasus in today's screed.

A headline over some statements by Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defense, published July 10, caused the reader F. Aleman to complain. The headline attributes this sentence to Rumsfeld: "We invaded Iraq without evidence." In the text, however, it says that the US acted "without new evidence" in addition to that which already existed. We must avoid allowing typographic adjustment to reduce our rigor and precision.

You cynical shithead. Typographical problems, my ass. Some anti-American asswipe put the most anti-American headline he could think of on that story disregarding completely the truth and you damn well know it, Mr. Casasus, just as you know that Marius Serra and Rafael Ramos are plagiarists, and as you know that Andy Robinson, Ramos, Tomas Alcoverro, and Rafael Poch are so biased in their reporting as to constitute journalistic fraud.

Check out Raffy's story from London on page three.

...There are many people ready to remember that Blair got the country into an unpopular war, without the mandate of the UN and against international law, basing himself on the apparently false premise that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and exaggerating the threat of Saddam through all imaginable channels, including the use of false (official) reports.

Now, that would be fair enough in the opinion section, but it is NOT UNBIASED REPORTING.
Well, we've got plenty of stuff to blog about today. The Spanish press is going wild with Tony Blair's political problems, which I think he's going to overcome for several reasons. First, the suicide of David Kelly looks just awful, but going off on wild Le Carre-esque tangents is not precisely carefully reasoned. (The Vangua actually sub-headed yesterday, "A Case for John Le Carre".) It looks like Dr. Kelly had, to put it kindly, some mental-health problems. I personally know something about mental-health problems. My guess is that Kelly had a strong anxiety disorder and major manic-depression; in a manic stage he talked too much to the press and when he got called on the carpet for it he freaked out, hit a serious depressive stage, and his anxiety wouldn't let him cope with the trouble he'd gotten himself into. Quick and dirty solution: suicide. Or, maybe, a suicide gesture that went wrong, since Kelly took some pills and cut his wrists, neither of which is the most effective suicide method.

As for "lying", I still don't see where anybody lied. We had eight million reasons to go to war with Saddam, many of which are detailed in the Economist article we linked to below. (You might follow the links within the Economist story back to earlier articles of theirs about the subject, should you need a reminder of who said what and when.) One of those reasons is we thought Saddam had chemical weapons. Well, we knew he had chemical weapons, since he's used them. The question is what he did with them. But let me repeat: SADDAM HUSSEIN HAS ACTUALLY USED WMD. THEREFORE, HE HAD THEM. DUH. Maybe he did a damn good job getting rid of them without us finding out he'd done it--but that begs logic. If Saddam had really disarmed he'd have informed the Western powers about it so that the embargo would be lifted and so that the Americans would get off his case. Maybe he was such an egomaniac that he couldn't bear to show himself backing down, or maybe he felt that if he backed down he'd lose face and be overthrown. I dunno what he was thinking, but we all do know that Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons.

So the charges of "lying" are nuts. Not 100% of intelligence reports are accurate. It seems that Bush and Blair each said something that could be questioned. Bush said that the British had learned that Saddam had tried to buy uranium from Africa. Period. Well, Saddam did buy uranium from Niger during the 1980s. If the Brits got hold of info that indicated he had tried to buy some more, I don't blame them for believing it, since it fits the pattern of Saddam's previous behavior--remember the Osiraq nuke plant the French built for the Baathists that the Israelis blew up in '81 or so, and it's a damned good thing they did. Just for example. And I don't blame Bush and the CIA for believing info the Brits gave them. Intelligence agencies are not perfect. Anyway, we've got one questionable statement by Bush out of the many hundreds of official statements he has made about Iraq and Saddam.

As for Tony Blair, what he seems to be under fire for is having said that Saddam had WMD that he could fire off within 45 minutes. Those WMD haven't been found. Maybe Saddam was a paper tiger and he had dismantled those weapons secretly without our knowledge since 1998, when he kicked out the UN inspectors and made everybody really mad. You guys remember that big stink when Saddam kicked the inspectors out and everybody in the West talked real big about what they were going to do and then did nothing? I certainly do. But, at least at one time, Saddam Hussein DID have chemical weapons he could fire off at will, because he did it to the Iranians and he did it to the Kurds. And Saddam Hussein, upon whom the burden of proof lies, according to 17 United Nations resolutions and the cease-fire he himself signed in 1991 (that means that HE HAS TO PROVE he doesn't have chemical weapons; HE has to prove he's NOT GUILTY. He was UNWILLING TO DO SO) refused to prove to us he didn't have those weapons anymore. So we were totally within our rights in assuming that he still had them.

Notice how the people howling about the supposed "lies" told by Bush and Blair seem to be paying no attention to the mass graves that keep turning up?

Did you also notice that NOBODY seems to remember what happened on September 11, 2001? Let me remind everyone. Three thousand of our people were murdered by radical Islamic terrorists. We all swore that such a thing would never happen again, and that we would eliminate both terrorism and the corrupt dictatorial murder states that support it. Well, we eliminated Al Qaeda, we destroyed the Taliban, and we overthrew Saddam Hussein. That seems to be a pretty good start. Remember after September 11 when we were all thinking about when and where the next one was coming? Except for Bali and the Palestinian terrorists' attacks in Israel, the next one hasn't come. Let's make sure it stays that way.

As for the current difficulties in Iraq, did anybody expect it to be a bed of roses? In fact, I was predicting serious civil disturbances in Baghdad when the regime collapsed. They didn't happen--the "looting" now turns out to have been an inside job at the National Museum and a bunch of chairs and sofas dragged out of official buildings. The "Iraqi resistance" movement, as the Spanish press insists on calling the gang of Saddam's thugs that are sniping at the Americans, is operating in a tiny area to the north and west of Baghdad where the Sunnis, and in particular Saddam's own clan, are the strongest. It's not the Kurds or the Shiites, 80% of the country, that are fighting. It's a tiny minority of Sunnis, many of whom probably have connections to the Baath party, Saddam's clan, or the armed forces. And if they keep killing one American per day, they're not going to last very long.

As for the infrastructure, it was so crappy before we captured it that it's quite a job putting it in working order again. Sorry it's not going fast enough. You can't turn Baghdad and Kabul into Copenhagen or Stockholm overnight. But stories about hunger and epidemics are just plain false.

And for the (tiny minority of) American soldiers who are complaining, I'm sorry, but you guys did volunteer to join the Army. Part of the deal, when you join the Army, is that you swear you're going to obey orders. If your orders send you to Iraq for six months or a year, that's a bummer. I understand it's hot and dangerous and extremely unpleasant and I'm certainly glad I'm not there. But I didn't take the King's shilling, either. You did.

I apologize to the great majority of brave and patriotic American soldiers who are not SLAGGING OFF THEIR COUNTRY TO THE FOREIGN MEDIA like a few jackasses did on Spanish TV. General Patton would have had those whiners and sad sacks thrown in the stockade and they'd have been damned lucky if he hadn't shot them.

Well, Barcelona finally signed Ronaldinho, much to my surprise. They offered Paris St-Germain €28 million and PSG took it. His addition will greatly help the club, but what I'd do if facing Barca is simply slap my best defender on him and trust in the general suckiness of the rest of the team. Now they can't buy anyone else, though they did pick up a Portuguese guy named Quaresma who they're hoping will finally replace Figo at right wing. Supposedly they're trying to get rid of Riquelme, who needs to go, and Gerard. They just flat-out released Christianval, who they'd spent €16 million on, and Geovanni and Rochemback are long-gone.

The Tour de France is getting exciting. Armstrong is being seriously challenged by Jan Ullrich; Lance had a fifteen-second lead over Ullrich going into today's stage, which is going to be a real killer. The only other guy still in the general is a dude with a Russian name from Kazakhstan whose name I can never remember, but he's damn good and if both Armstrong and Ullrich lose it in either of the next two mountain stages or the following time trial, he'll win for sure. Everyone else is like five minutes back as of today; Tyler Hamilton is in fifth and he's riding with a broken collarbone, for God's sake. Lance still has to be the favorite, since he's shown what he's got so many times. They're all going to move on him today and he's got to hold on. Carlos Sastre of Spain got a big stage win yesterday on that stage with the two big climbs. Congratulations to him.

Of the top twenty racers, I think six are Spanish. Spain is definitely the country with the overall best level of bike racers in the world. They don't have a real superstar, haven't had one since Indurain, but they have an awful lot of damn good riders.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Just in case you haven't already seen it, here is the Economist's take on the Iraq War. This is a must-read.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Check out these poll results from Fox News on Bush and on various issues, foreign and domestic. Bush is enjoying a positive rating of 59%, a few points below where he was this spring, but nonetheless damn good. The Dems are completely divided and many of their candidates are little-known. The doomsayers are going to be proved wrong. We'll predict right now that, barring disaster (BIGAMIST BUSH WEDS GAY SPACE ALIEN IN SATANIC CEREMONY), Bush will win reelection easily.
Rundown of the Vanguardia news and commentary staff:


Rafael Poch, Tomas Alcoverro, Rafael Ramos, Andy Robinson, Balto Porcel, Xavier Bru de Sala, Gregorio Moran, Remei Margarit, "Chemical Lali" Sole


Quim Monzo, Xavier Sala i Martin, Miquel Porta Perales, Pedro Schwartz

Here comes Monzo, from Wednesday's Vangua. It's titled "I have a dilemma".

Last week Juan Ruiz published, in El Periodico, an article in which he depicted with perfection one of those situations with which the Gullible International cheers us up occasionally. Turns out that at the recent Sant Cugat (a wealthy Barcelona residential suburb) fiesta mayor, in the area for the young people and the so-called alternatives, they decided not to serve Coca-Cola. It's imperialistic. Juan Ruiz explains, "The organizers boycotted that drink. In its place, they served Mecca-Cola, the combative soft drink invented by a French businessman of Tunisian origin." Mecca-Cola has been on the Spanish market for four months and, they say, in the beginning the importers thought that it would be very popular among the immigrant Muslim population. But that didn't happen. The immigrant Muslim population prefers other brands of cola, including the perfidious Coca-Cola. The reasons for this preference are varied and the article remarks upon them. One is the price. A 1 1/2 liter bottle of Mecca-Cola costs €1.60. However, the other brands cost only €1.20. We must keep in mind that Mecca-Cola has pledged to destine 10 percent of the profits to the Palestinian cause.

The importers have wound up discovering that the immigrant Muslim population doesn't give a hoot about Mecca-Cola, but the supporters of "responsible consumption" do. Well, that's better than nothing. That is: you will not find Mecca-Cola in the mom-and-pop groceries of the Raval (the downtown slum district with a heavily Muslim immigrant population)--which is where they thought it would sell the best--but you will in the shops belonging to the Network of Solidarious Trade. Juan Ruiz also reproduces the statements of Carles Montanya, the spokesman for the importer, who says that the consumers are all Christians and that "the Muslim population in Spain is not politically aware". Take that.

In the same style as those shwarma and falafel joints where they serve water and soft drinks but not even one sad little beer, the bottles of Mecca-Cola also show a discriminatory attitude toward alcohol. On all of them it says, "Please do not mix with alcohol." And you think, why not? Why not, if, as the importers say, all the drink's consumers are Christians, and, to begin with, the Christians not only have no problem with alcohol, but their priests get hammered on slurps of wine during Mass? My question now is which position I should adopt. I'm writing this article at mid-afternoon. A good time to have myself a "raf"--ice, gin, a wedge of lemon, cola...But which cola do I use? If I add Coca-Cola, I am helping the maximum symbol of the malevolent, perverse, and evil Yankees' evil, perverse, and malevolent capitalism. Of course it's not going to be Pepsi--I'd rather die. I'd almost choose to put in Mecca-Cola, in order to compensate for the immigrant Muslim population's lack of solidarity and in order to be 10 percent fraternal with the Palestinian cause in general and the French businessman of Tunisian origin's company in particular. But if it says on the bottles, "Please do not mix with alcohol", that means, for them, mixing the drink with alcohol is some sort of offense. So I don't know what to do. If I put Coca-Cola in my rum I'm siding with imperialism. If I put in Mecca-Cola I'm offending them. What would you do in my place?

If you would be kind enough to advise me, I would appreciate it if you would send your letters to me, care of the Opinion section of La Vanguardia, Calle Pelai, 28, 08001 Barcelona, Spain. Should you prefer to do it by e-mail, send it to Thank you very much.

Good column, Mr. Monzo. Here's my advice: NEVER mix Coke and gin. It tastes like hell. In college we called it an "Aqua Velva", because it tastes and smells like that cheap American brand of cologne. Mix your gin with Schweppes tonic instead. Reserve Coke to mix with rum or bourbon (of Four Roses-Evan Williams quality, not Maker's Mark or Weller or Wild Turkey). Use limes rather than lemons, if you can, if you want to add a citrus taste. (Not that I have anything against lemon, I just like lime better.) And, here in Spain, we are privileged to have many different varieties of good wine available at reasonable prices. Drink good Spanish wine whenever you get the opportunity. Try the Pazo brand from Galicia. It's a light (10%) wine that's crisp and refreshing, and very cheap. It would be no sin to turn it into a spritzer.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Well, a Catalan won a stage of the Tour de France for the first time I can remember. Joan Antoni Flecha broke from a group of eight riders with ten kilometers to go and held on all the way to Toulouse. Bike racers dream of winning a Tour stage, and this is Flecha's first year of competition. That's like hitting a home run on your first day in the major leagues. Congratulations to Flecha.

Check out this surreal piece of bike-racing analysis--socioeconomic theorizing--film criticism from today's Vangua. It's by one Rafael Vallbona.

"The Snail Strategy" was an excellent movie that denounced the abusive tactics of some real estate speculators to kick out the tenants from a building and so, once remodeled, rent the apartments at an exaggerated markup. The tenants come up with a defensive strategy that, finally, leaves the businessmen looking foolish. Well, more or less this is what the first ten stages of the centennial of the Tour have given us, leaving out Beloki's crash. Seeing that it would not be at all easy for him to break the humble tenants of the peloton, realizing that he could not humiliate his adversaries on the Alpe d'Huez and impose the law of the powerful just as he had planned; Armstrong decided, on the way to Gap, to ask the Quick Step team for help (in exchange for the mountain-leader's jersey for Virenque) to overcome Jaksche's break from the pack, to dedicate himself to the speculative economy, in the style of his friend Bush, and to leave aside for a better occasion the industrial economy, which would give chances to Mayo, Zubeldia, or Vinokurov and work to their own. At that instant the American and his team were weak. The Tour was wide open. Then what happened to Joseba happened and the centennial Tour came to an end, if Mayo can't break the race open on Luz Ardiden. The Pyrenees will be a sea of ikurrinas (Basque flags). Despite the controversy over the deal with Batasuna, only the Basques can save the race. They will have to be the snails from the movie.

Just a few comments: a) Armstrong hasn't been seriously challenged yet b) why would he be afraid of Jaksche, who's in 18th place 7:05 back c) why would he ask Virenque for help, since Virenque is a bigger threat to him than the German d) it's too bad Beloki crashed, but he showed few signs of being able to do any better than second or third again in the stages before his accident e) note the scorn for Lance's team, which includes the "weak" turncoat Spaniards Heras (in 8th place), Beltran (in 13th), and Rubiera (in 28th, out of 171 riders) f) I am guessing that Postal's strategy was to win the team time trial, give Lance the lead going into the Alps and hold it, pick up a couple or three more minutes in the two upcoming individual time trials, and hold on in the Pyrenees--if he can't break it open there himself g) There are still five competitive stages ahead, three in the mountains and the two time trials, and not being optimistic for Mayo's chances (he's only 1:02 back) and Mancebo's (he's just 1:37 behind) is chicken-heartedly throwing in the towel already. Of course, I think Armstrong is going to win, but these guys are less than two minutes back! Don't give up yet! Root for your guys, that's terrific, I like Mayo a lot and I hope he comes in second, and it would be a great story if he won--"Underdog Dethrones Armstrong"--but don't start whining that it's time to go out and eat some mud when the majority of the race hasn't even been ridden yet.

For the benefit of the unenlightened, here's the deal with bike-racing teams. They're sponsored by companies or organizations, and each team is considered to be from the country where its sponsor is from. For example, Credit Agricole is considered a French team. The teams have no connection with any government, and they may contain riders from any country. US Postal, I believe, has three Americans, three Spaniards, one Colombian, and one Russian. For some reason the US Postal Service decided it would be good advertising to sponsor a bike-racing team; they say it costs them four million bucks a year and gets them $18 million of publicity. The French and Italian national lotteries also sponsor teams, as does the Spanish organization for the blind, the ONCE, which runs a lottery of its own.

Oh, yeah, as for capitalism and neoliberalism, Cofidis, a French team, is a consumer-loan company. Now, we all know that these companies perform a legitimate service--they lend small amounts to borrowers with lousy credit at high rates of interest. This used to be called usury. Now it is one of the less attractive hard facts of the free-market system; that is, the higher the risk the lender takes, the more interest he charges the borrower. But if we're going to attack neoliberal capitalists, maybe Lance Armstrong wouldn't be as good a target as a consumer-loan company that CHARGES POOR PEOPLE HIGHER INTEREST THAN BANKS DO.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Here's Phil Taylor's comment on two recent bits of baseball-linked buffoonery, the "vicious" assault upon someone getting paid for dressing up in a sausage costume by a ballplayer in Milwaukee, who was then dragged off in handcuffs, and manager Dusty Baker's slightly bizarre but basically harmless attempt at historical anthropology. Dusty is no ignorant racist, of course--for those who may not know, he's black; he's an experienced, respected, and successful manager who previously had a fine career as a player.

Check out this chronological list of bizarre team-mascot incidents from CNN-SI. It's a gas.

The films of the Great Sausage Beating and the arrest of the player were shown on Spanish TV, along with other shots of beanball brawls and those two disgraceful incidents when some morons charged the field and assaulted a first-base coach and an ump, as signs that American culture is degenerating into a downward spiral of violence.

Oh, please. Remember Heysel? Or Sheffield? Or Glasgow? Or the time the FC Barcelona hooligans, the Boixos Nois, stabbed a French fan of crosstown rival Espanyol to death? Or when some Atletico Madrid thugs stabbed a Real Sociedad fan to death while shouting "Let's get those fucking Basques!" Or, just this season, the pig-head-throwing antics of the so-called Barca "fans", or when the crowd in Seville mobbed and beat a security guard? Total killings in American sports due to fan violence: zero, as far as I know, over the last fifty years, outside Detroit anyway. Those people are nuts.

Most Representative Sports Hero of a City: New York, Lou Gehrig. San Francisco, Joe Montana. Chicago, Michael Jordan. Detroit: Ty Cobb. Cobb was so racist he used to fly into rages at the very sight of a black person. Somebody called him "nigger-lover" once from the stands and he charged the bleachers and beat the loudmouth half to death. Players in those days wore shoes with sharpened metal spikes, and Cobb "spiked" the other team's players at every opportunity. He also fixed at least one game while he was a manager.

By the way, they're having the world swimming championships here in Barcelona. The American team has been booed by the crowd at almost every event. Fine. If that's the way they want it, that's the way they can have it.

On an upbeat note, how about those Kansas City Royals? They were supposed to stink this year. Who figured Michael Tucker or Angel Berroa or Jose Lima, of all people, would be having good years? I can't believe they're seven games up in the AL Central at the All-Star break. In a nice bit of inclusiveness, this year's slogan is bilingual: "We believe -- nosotros creemos". Several notable Royals--Beltran, Ibanez, Febles, Hernandez, Lima, Berroa--are Hispanic, as is manager Tony Pena.

The pathetic Barca can't get anybody signed. They've backed down and are going to have to pay Patrick Kluivert's huge contract, variously reported as €6m-8m a year. Kluivert is not a bad player, but he is not a superstar and he is making superstar money. Man U is going to beat out Barca in the race for Paris St-Germain's Ronaldinho, since their offer is €10m higher than Barca's. Joan Laporta, Barca president, said, "We've made our offer. They can take it or leave it". Wanna bet PSG leave it? They've signed Marquez, the Mexican center defenseman from Monaco, which does address a need, and he's still pretty young, so it's a good signing. They also want to add Valencia's center defenseman Ayala, who is Argentinian. He's a real thug. They've signed Rustu, the Turkish goalie. That means that three of Barca's four spaces available for "extracommunity" player are taken. That leaves Saviola, Riquelme, and Rochemback; two of them have to go. They're trying to send Rochemback off on loan to Sporting Lisbon, and they're desperate to dump Riquelme. They are whining that Rustu should be considered a "community" player on some specious grounds--wait a minute, didn't we all believe that we should keep Turkey out of the EU just a few months ago? Now it's to the Barca's benefit for Rustu to be considered a community player, so what do they do but make another wild claim that the UEFA will laugh about for five minutes and then circular-file.

Jose Bove's sheeplike followers interrupted the Tour de France yesterday in order to protest Bove's imprisonment for vandalism. The funny thing is that Bove is identified in the news stories as a "French farmer." He's about as much a farmer as Subcomandante Marcos. Bove is a middle-class city boy with hardcore lefty-green beliefs who "went back to the land" a few years ago and started agitating. If he can be labeled as anything, it would be "professional activist".
You know, the beauty of the Internet is that it's unregulated. It's freedom of expression taken to the max. People in Iraq and Iran and such places can use the Net to let the rest of us know what's going on in their countries--Salam Pax and all the Persian bloggers are an example. Intelligent people like engineer Steven den Beste and law professor Glenn Reynolds and musician Dr. Frank and businessperson-diplomat Jane Galt and Christian Jesus Gil and atheist Laurence Simon, who wouldn't have been published in the old days (circa 1998) because they're just a little offbeat for the big media, publish themselves and are a wonderful addition and complement to what we thought the news was just five years ago. Us dummies, like me and most of the rest of us, get to spout off about whatever's on our little minds, and we are comforted by the fact that at least somebody is listening to what we have to say. I love the Internet and I love the blogosphere.

But the problem with freedom is when it gets abused. As readers of this blog do not know, there was an extremely dumb serious blogfight last month involving (at least tangentially) heavy hitters Treacher, Blair, Olsen, Harris, and Slade. We just found out about it ourselves and thought we'd do a little research. If you check out this thread of comments from when the issue was hot, you will see some obvious lying and paranoia going on, and, what shocked me, death threats.

Now, there are various legal restrictions on the freedom of expression. False advertising is illegal, as is any form of fraud involving false promises. You can't write or say malicious lies about someone; that's called libel or slander. You can't lie under oath; that's called perjury. In many democratic countries Nazi propaganda and other racist material is illegal. Here in democratic Spain apology for terrorism is illegal. In the democratic US "hate speech" or "racial intimidation" is considered an aggravating factor to a crime. In democratic Japan and Canada pornography is tightly restricted. In some democratic places, like Belgium and Catalonia and Quebec, the choice of whichever language is used in certain situations is regulated by law. You can't shout "Fire" in a crowded theater, and you can't incite a riot, and you can't discuss a plan to break the laws--that's called conspiracy. In the United States you may not advocate the armed overthrow of the government. And you can't make threats, especially not threats involving violence; if there's no violence involved, it's called blackmail, and if violence is involved, it's assault. (If you carry out the threat, it's assault and battery.) You are also not allowed to encourage people to make threats or to break any other laws; remember the movie The Accused, based on a real Massachussetts case, where those who verbally encouraged a group of gang-rapists were convicted and imprisoned. Same goes for assault and blackmail, of course.

You will notice that several of the posters in the thread I linked to made threats, some involving assault and others merely involving blackmail, and that other posters encouraged them to continue to do so.

That is not acceptable behavior. In fact, it's against the law.

And it's the kind of bullshit that is going to get us all regulated if we don't keep our free expression within the grounds of legal behavior. Hey, I mix it up and I insult people and I'm irritatingly outspoken, but I don't think I've ever broken any laws on this blog. Please correct me if I am wrong about this (breaking laws, that is, not shooting off my mouth) and I will immediately change my behavior. But I think I'm well within my rights and within the law, and this here blog is full of not only my free expression but also of the commenters'.

And I like it that way, and I don't want the government breathing down my neck (or getting my Internet provider breathing down my neck, which is more likely) about what I say. I think I am responsible enough to use my freedom of speech without anybody's supervision.

And I think the above-linked thread of comments demonstrates that some other people are not so responsible.
William Safire has a piece republished in Front Page on a rather unpleasant side of Harry Truman. As Safire correctly sees, though, Truman managed to divorce his anti-Semitic and anti-black personal feelings from what he decided was the right thing to do--for example, integrating the Army and recognizing the statehood of Israel. You might call him a reformed segregationist, something like George Wallace when he was governor of Alabama in the late seventies and early eighties.

I always believed Wallace really had a change of heart and I think that the assassination attempt that left him incontinent in a wheelchair had a lot to do with it. I think Truman had some kind of change of heart, too, though as an old man in the Sixties he did not approve of the civil rights movement. Even if Truman never changed his ideas at heart about Jews and blacks, he was wise enough to overcome said ideas for the good of the country.
Hey, I don't remind y'all to click on the blogroll enough. I like all these sites for some reason, so you might want to check them out.
Well, here at Iberian Notes we took a short summer vacation; not a hell of a lot happened while we were gone anyway. Our old pals the Jedman from KC and Joan and Shannon from Oakland showed up last week. Jed decided it would be a good idea to show up and surprise me. I was pretty surprised but happy to see them after the initial shock wore off. We farted around here in Barcelona and took them to the beach in Tossa del Mar and to Remei's village, Vallfogona. In general we had a party-ass good time; I put them on the train to Madrid this morning. It's always great to see your old friends again, and real friends wear well. They might get faded or get paint dripped on them or pop a fly button but they're still the same comfortable pair of jeans. So, naturally, while they were here, blogging took a back seat.

The big story today in all the papers was Joseba Beloki's horrific crash yesterday in the Tour de France. Beloki was going too fast downhill into a left hairpin turn with Lance Armstrong only a couple of lengths behind him. Beloki hit the brakes hard and skidded on the burning-hot pavement; his rear tire blew out and he wiped out spectacularly. Armstrong couldn't go either to the right or straight ahead, so his instant reaction was to swerve left off the road, out of control, and across a wheatfield. Miraculously, he wound up on the road on the other side of the hairpin turn and kept going; he holds the lead in the general by like 22 seconds or something. Beloki broke his wrist, broke his elbow badly--the bone was showing--and broke his femur and pelvis. The TV cameras focused right in on him screaming in pain like a wounded animal. It was not pretty. There goes the Great European Hope to dethrone Armstrong. Beloki had finished, I believe, second once and third twice in previous Tours, and he was one of the five or ten best cyclists in the world before the accident. Now the question is whether he's ever going to come back and if he does, whether he'll ever be the same. If Armstrong wins this Tour, giving him five straight and tying Miguel Indurain's record, prepare for an avalanche of articles saying that it doesn't count because Beloki would have beaten him. No matter what, we wish Joseba Beloki a speedy recovery. He's universally known as a good guy and a fine competitor. And he just might have beaten Armstrong, but sports, like life, is partially a roll of the dice, and Beloki, sadly, sevened out.

Two evil ETA dirtbags got busted this morning in Navarra. They planted a bomb in a Pamplona hotel timed to coincide with the end of the San Fermin festival; it didn't go off. They are suspected of killing two policemen earlier this year in the town of Sanguesa. Both are veterans of the "kale borroka", the street thugs aligned with the ETA who torch buses and bomb bank branches and beat up anyone they feel is insufficiently Basque. Try 'em and if they're guilty, hang 'em.

Jacques Chiraq bragged that he "has always maintained a relationship of cooperation with, not submission to, Washington." We have decided that we believe in being typical Americans. Therefore, we must arrogantly insult France. Here goes, Jacques. You don't cooperate worth shit, and you will submit when we decide you are going to. Over and out.

Lula da Silva is demonstrating that he is a fairly reasonable leader of Brazil; at least he's clinically sane, unlike Castro and Chavez. He is, however, up to his neck in trouble. The Brazilian pension system is leaking badly. Public workers, some 800,000 of them, retire at age 53 if they are men and 48 if they are women; they receive pensions that are actually higher than what they earned while they were working, and they are allowed to double-dip, continuing to work for the State and collecting both their salary and their retirement pension. Some 20,000 are currently doing so. The system is running a $35 billion (with a b) a year deficit. Lula has, of course, proposed a reform and, of course, he's run up against the unions and the bureaucracy. Meanwhile, he's had to jack the interest rate up to 26% to control inflation, which has slowed the economy--they're in mild recession, minus 0.1% in the first quarter of 2003, and unemployment's running 13 percent while consumer confidence is crashing. Brazil's on the Road to Nowhere at the corner of Desolation Row, and let's all just hope they don't take that hard left turn onto the Highway to Hell. I see Lula as at best Jimmy Carter and at worst Alan Garcia. But he's not crazy, which is a relief.

The Turks' investigation says that the Ukranian plane carrying 62 Spanish soldiers home from peacekeeping duty in Afghanistan, which went down between Trebizond and Ankara killing everyone aboard, crashed due to pilot error, not due to mechanical failure. I still wouldn't fly in any plane called a Yakovlev 42. The usual idiots are claiming some kind of conspiracy.

Zap said that the globalization of the economy allows many decisions to escape democratic political control. (Like, say, what you want to invest your own money in, for example.) Somehow he managed to give the example of the Socialist crackup in the Madrid regional parliament as evidence. Zap also says, get this, that the Madrid mess is a reflection of the struggles within the PP over the succession to Aznar--rather than being the corrupt, divided, and incompetent Socialists' own damn fault. I cannot believe that anyone can take this guy seriously--he is the man who was elected Socialist leader by the skin of his teeth due to the votes of the very Balbas-Tamayo-Saez faction within the Party that just went off the reservation. He is the man who is just about to get tossed over the side by his own party because of his own utter incompetence. Even Vanguardia reporter Jose Maria Brunet criticized Zapatero's lack of continuity in his speech. I will be very surprised if Zap is still running the party at Christmas.

I read somewhere that somebody said, "The thing about people who call George W. Bush stupid is that none of them are as intelligent as George W. Bush." Zap, though, really is stupid. He might get elected to the city council in Overland Park, Kansas, if we somehow had a city-wide epidemic of salmonella poisoning and the latest Asian flu on election day that kept everyone who had graduated from high school home. That's about how far he'd get in American politics, not because of his leftist ideas, because he doesn't have any ideas, but because any sentient human being can tell he's a moron. Jose Bono, who is a real politician, is going to toss Zap's ass onto the Almunia-Borrell scrap heap just as soon as PSOEmonkey Rafa Simancas gets trashed in the upcoming re-vote in the Madrid region.

Zap's also going off on how he wants the Anti-Corruption prosecutors to investigate the PP in order to "guarantee the correct functioning of democracy". Of course, Zap's party is the one that produced Interior Minister Jose Barrionuevo, Deputy Interior Minister Rafael Vera, Bank of Spain president Mariano Rubio, Guardia Civil commander Luis Roldan, and Basque Socialist Party president Ricardo Garcia Damborenea, all of whom went to jail, like Socialist-connected financiers Mario Conde and Javier de la Rosa. For, uh, corruption. And / or running a death squad.

Socialist candidate for Catalan prime minister Pasqual Maragall collected more than $300,000 at a dinner with important business folk last night. Among those present were representatives of Freixenet, La Caixa, Caixa Catalunya, Gas Natural, La Seda, Almirall, Aguas de Barcelona, Borges, Casa Tarradellas, and Damm. The construction sector was especially well-represented by the bosses of Llave de Oro, Colonial, Amrey, Vertix, Habitat, and FCC. Now, the very same Socialists are claiming that the mess in Madrid was caused by evil conservative property developers and construction companies in the pay of Aznar and the PP. Oh, hell, you figure out the irony yourself.

It's hot. It's dry. There are lots of forest fires. Fortunately we had a wet spring or the fires would be a lot worse. So far no really serious damage has been done. Knock on, uh, wood. Maybe it'll rain in the next couple of days.

400 black Africans have showed up in the town of Alcarras, near Lerida, looking for work as fruit pickers. Unfortunately, the locals have decided they much prefer to hire white Christians from Poland or Romania or Bosnia. These people seem to not have a whole lot of trouble getting papers. The growers like to hire them on in their home countries and bring them here to Catalonia. So the Africans are camped out outside of town with nowhere to go and the local city government is telling them to go away. These guys, by the way, don't do crimes. They're here to work and they're straight-up. Both African and Eastern European immigrants are largely trouble-free except for the organized criminals from like Albania, who normally do not seek work as fruit pickers. Meanwhile, two more boat people drowned off Tarifa. Ho hum.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Hey, here's some news. Akaky has set up a real blog called Passing Parade and it's damn good. Check it out. I love his subtitle: "Cheap Shots from a Drive-By Mind".
David Horowitz blasts Ann Coulter for demonizing Dems! Friends, this is news. Horowitz also runs through the history of American anti-Communism. His perspective is that Joe McCarthy's irresponsibility and recklessness did a great deal of damage to the anti-Communist cause, because there really was a very serious threat caused by Communist infiltration of the US government. The threat was more or less already cleaned up by the Truman Administration before McCarthy got started in 1950. Here's Andrew Sullivan on the same subject.

Sullivan also links to the story of Michael Savage's totally deserved firing for gay-bashing on the radio. It's a perfectly legitimate political position to oppose gay marriage or gays in the military or whatever. It is a completely different thing when one wishes for gays "to get AIDS and die". I wouldn't have someone who thought or talked like that on my radio station.

I do not much like Ann Coulter. I have chuckled more than once at her outrageous rhetoric, but she is not a responsible commentator and is not to be taken seriously. Pas d'ennemis a droite, my ass. If we can tone down Coulter and get rid of Savage, like we did with Morton Downey Jr., the conservative movement will get a lot more respect in centrist circles. and the centrists are who we need to convince if we want to grow. There's very little room to the respectable right of the Republican Party, but plenty of room to grow in the direction of the center. And if the Democrats manage to make a circus out of this primary campaign, which I'll bet you euros to croissants they manage to do, lots of those middle-of-the-road folks are going to look at the Republicans and say, "All right, here's your chance. These Democrats are losers, you can't count on them. So show me why I should think about voting Republican."

Well, I think there are already plenty of good answers for that, which I won't go into, but Ann Coulter and Michael Savage totally turn off the centrists. Of course they have a right to free speech, but can't we toss a blanket over 'em and muffle them somewhat?

PS--I don't think Coulter is all that good-looking. Attractive compared to most normal people, of course, maybe a 7 or an 8 on a 10 scale, but we're not talking supermodel here.

Here's another one from Front Page. This isn't a particularly good book review, but it does make a point that I have written about before and that I still believe. I think you can judge a person on how he treats animals. I don't mean you have to just wuv kittycats and puppydogs, I mean that a decent person has to oppose any unnecessary cruelty and suffering that animals are put through. Like, I know, people eat meat and so animals must be killed. But let's do it as humanely and painlessly as possible, at least.

One kind of unnecessary suffering a pet animal might go through is owner neglect and carelessness. Does anybody really believe that Bill Clinton gave a crap about the poor old PR dog, Buddy, that he got himself when the Monica situation was beginning to heat up? Well, not long after Bill became ex-president, Buddy got hit by a car. Bill was shocked and saddened, of course. I guarantee you Bill got sick of him and turned him loose in traffic. He's that kind of self-absorbed son-of-a-drunken slut.

Monday, July 07, 2003

One of the things I enjoy about July in Spain is, surprisingly, the TV--yeah, I know I just spent several paragraphs crapping all over Spanish television. But in July every day they show the footage from the daily running of the bulls during San Fermin (los sanfermines) in Pamplona. That's part of the afternoon news every day. Then, after the news, the Tour de France is on TV2. Watching bicycle racing, for me, is strangely relaxing, though I know that the Tour is considered to be the most grueling of official sporting events this side of the Ironman Triathlon. (By the way, Lance Armstrong started out as a triathlete.)

San Fermin started today with the very first running of the bulls. Nobody was seriously injured; scrapes and bruises were about as bad as it got.

We DO NOT recommend running before the bulls. It seems like a good way to get yourself hurt doing something stupid and macho. But lots of people from around the world come to San Fermin in order to do just that, so here are a few hints.

1) Watch them do it at least once before you try it.
2) Do not try to run drunk.
3) Get some locals to tell you what to do--wear a red beret, carry a rolled-up newspaper, etc.
4) Be able to run a hundred meters or so pretty damn fast. None of you two-pack-a-day smokers ought to try this.
5) Consider lying about it instead of doing it.

There are, by the way, encierros (bull-runnings) in other places in northern Spain, especially in Navarra, at about this time. You can look 'em up yourself--try googling "encierros Spain" or the like. You won't believe this, but somewhere in southern Catalonia near Tortosa they had a "running of the ostriches", since ostriches are now farmed in these parts. The poor things were chased around by the local street urchins and all their feathers were pulled out. They actually have mini-encierros for kids with little tiny bulls with their horns covered in sponge.

Then, after lunch, it's time for the Tour. Lance Armstrong is the heavy favorite again, and I don't see any reason he might lose unless he takes a bad fall. Lance is one of the best-known athletes in the US, with something like a seventy-percent name recognition rating. But absolutely nobody in the United States watches bicycle racing. I don't think the Tour is available at all on American TV, despite the about nine different sports channels that must be aching to fill up time.

Every single Old European out there is rooting for Lance to get smoked, since he's won their big prize for the last four years in a row. A bunch of assholes spent half of last Tour yelling "Dop-PAY" (doped, on drugs) at him. Of course, Lance has passed every doping test he's ever taken, unlike, say, all the Italians, or Jan Ullrich, the last guy before Armstrong to win the Tour, or like that Lithuanian guy who came in second last year whose wife got busted trying to cross an international frontier carrying not only his dope but the rest of the team's.

It is sheer heresy for an American to run away with such a hallowed Old European competition as the Tour. They just can't stand it. He must be cheating somehow. Uh, what if he's the fittest rider with the best team? Lance's team is awesome, featuring his two favorite sidekicks, Americans George Hincapie and Floyd Landis, and two of Spain's best riders, Roberto Heras and Jose Luis Rubiera. Also keep an eye out for fellow-American former Armstrong sidekicks Tyler Hamilton and Levi Leipheimer, who are now heading up their own teams and who are threats to place in the top ten. Imagine a one-two-three American sweep; it's within the range of possibility, though extremely unlikely, of course.

Now, if we only knew why the US Postal Service is sponsoring Lance's team. I guess they're trying to compete with UPS and Federal Express and the like.
A quick roundup of the news here in Mudville. They've got a shell (from a gun, not the beach) that they can connect to the guy who confessed to being the Madrid "Playing Card" killer. I still haven't seen any articles linking this guy, who shot six people dead and wounded a couple of others over the space of a month and a half, to the Americanization of Spanish society. If you wait for it, it will come.

Yola Berrocal, a professional prostitute who sometimes strips in the Barcelona imitation version of American girlie bars, has been on a TV program called "Hotel Glam", a Survivor / Big Brother-like atrocity that was later rehashed every night on "Cronicas Marcianas", Javier Sarda's trash-TV vehicle which I got to be on once. The twist was that the contestants were all people on the fringe of celebrity society, sort of like Spanish Sally Kirklands or something. One of them was the notorious semi-celebrity asshole Pocholo, old Generalisimo Franco's grandson, who apparently said all kinds of awful things about Yola on these two really sickening TV programs.

Get this. During the time of the Iraq war, Pocholo was apparently slagging off Yola big-time on Hotel Glam and then later on Sarda's program. Yola is accusing Prime Minister Aznar of being behind Pocholo's verbal aggression toward her, because he wanted to divert people's attention from the war.

I once came across a first-person my-experiences travel story on Salon in the late Nineties by a young American guy who'd gone out big-time partying in Madrid. Seems he latched onto a crowd of Madrid pijos and they all wound up at Pocholo's house. Drugs were being passed around freely, the guy noted, and Pocholo was a lousy pool player but thought he was hot shit.

American TV is awful. British and Japanese TV are worse than American TV. But Spanish TV is a grade Z ripoff of all three of them. At any one time they have two or three of these people-living-on-a-desert-island programs going, not to mention Sarda's nightly recap of the whole thing. Something like a quarter of all Spaniards follow these televised atrocities. Then there are the "Noche de fiesta"-type variety shows, a format as dead in the United States as Ed Sullivan, in which sixty-seven year-old chanteuses who are on their seventh facelift show up, lipsynch their way through a bad disco number, and do an interview with the gushing, airheaded hosts about their latest husbands from Cuba and babies adopted from China. Or vice versa. Whatever.

You know, I suppose, that both the Washington Times and UPI are owned by Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, better known as the Moonies.

I hate the Moonies. I hate cults in general. About all I am willing to say in favor of the Moonies is that at least they're not one of those cults that gets all its members to commit suicide. And that's damning with faint praise.

This is why I take everything I see in the Washington Times with at least several grains of salt, occasionally approaching a half-pound or so. However, when the WT prints a story based on facts and interviews--this article on Bush's record regarding Africa seems to be a thoroughly professional reporting job--I'm willing to judge the piece on its merits, and this one is pretty good.

If I were a professional reporter I would not work for the Washington Times. I cannot help but think that the reason some legitimate people choose to report for the WT is that it's one of the very few papers that is openly conservative; there are simply not that many options open for conservative journalists. The Times's staff claim that "Reverend" Moon is not involved in choosing the contents of the paper. I dunno. I'd be a lot happier with the Times if if were run by somebody respectable instead of a cult leader.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Rumor has it that several denizens of the Vangua newsroom occasionally check in on this here blog. I'd appreciate it if those folks would check out this post from the archives. The rest of y'all might want to give it a look, too.