Sunday, August 31, 2003

Check out this archive with literally hundreds of links on nationalism. Its purpose is scholarly rather than inflammatory. The links range from high-level political theory analyses to organizations promoting atrocious pseudo-history and racism. Many of them are just plain fascinating, ranging from Dutch claims to have invented printing to Italian irridentism in Dalmatia to invented "Irish" names used by the diaspora in America to an exhaustive list of the nearly 100 "genocides" the Assyrians have suffered since 612 BC.

There is something in here to offend absolutely everybody, so check it out. You are likely to learn a great deal, a lot of which is probably wrong; you yourself must be the judge of the credibility of a linked source.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

June Thomas has finished her very interesting series in Slate on the Basque country. Go read it if you haven't yet. Here's a paragraph I'm going to take exception to, though.

A recent study by Inaki Zabeleta found that 85 percent of articles about Basques in the U.S. press refer to terrorism, so it's not surprising that for most Americans, nothing says "Basque" more than Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Homeland and Freedom), the terror organization responsible for more than 800 deaths over the last 30 years. Of course, ETA didn't appear out of nowhere—the Spanish establishment imprisoned more than 8,000 Basques in the 20 years following Franco's death, torturing many of them while in custody.

Well, first, ETA was founded during the early '60s, so its existence has nothing to do with anybody's being arrested after 1975 when that old bastard kicked off. Now, it's possible to justify ETA's actions during the Franco dictatorship, which included the 1973 murder of Admiral Carrero Blanco, Franco's No. 2. However, after about 1960 Franco turned over all real power to the "technocrats" who administered the country competently for him, and really the only restrictions on freedom were those on speech and assembly--you couldn't criticize the government but you could do pretty much whatever else you wanted. Franco was still a dictator, though, and a few people were still executed for political reasons. You can make reasonable arguments that it is OK to use violence to overthrow a dictatorship, even a dictablanda like that of the late Franco years.

But after Franco's death, Spain went through a three-year transition-to-democracy-period, and in 1978, with the approval of the Constitution, Spain became a full-fledged democracy, including special rights for minority groups like the Basques and the Catalans.

There is absolutely NO justification for the use of violence against an elected representative democratic government, especially not one with such a liberal constitution as Spain's.

So the Spanish government, made up of lots of Basques (see Benegas, Txiki, and Damborenea, Ricardo) as well as people from all the rest of Spain, imprisoned 8000 Basques between 1975 and 1995. First, let's eliminate those arrested between '75 and '78, when Spain was still in transition and the government was not completely democratic yet. I bet that drops our number of Basque arrestees by plenty. Second, do you think the Spanish government was going around arresting Basques for shits and grins? I sure don't. I think they were arresting them for their connections with ETA. And, yes, it's true that a few ETA prisoners were tortured. A few of them--six or eight--were even killed by the anti-ETA GAL death squads the early-eighties SOCIALIST government set up. But ETA prisoners, as a rule, always claim they've been tortured. I don't buy the great majority of their claims any more than I buy the claims of torture in Guantanamo.
We've got a scoop! Television Espanola is reporting that they have learned that Mariano Rajoy will be Jose Maria Aznar's successor as the conservative People's Party candidate for Prime Minister of Spain. The official announcement will be Monday.

So we're going to have lots of electoral fun over the next few months here, with the Madrid regional Parliament elections on Oct. 26, the Catalan regional elections sometime in early November, the general elections in March 2004, and the Andalusian regionals sometime around then, possibly on the same day. Then we'll have the European Parliament elections sometime in later spring 2004. This is going to be great.

Predictions already: PP wins the Madrid region, Maragall and his Commie / Republican Left supporters win in Catalonia, ending 23 years of Convergence and Union government, the PP takes an absolute majority in the generals, the Andalucist Party will decide the Andalusian elections because there'll be a near-tie between the PP and the Leftist coalition, and nobody's going to vote in the Europeans since nobody gives a rat's patoot.
Yesterday El Periodico, Barcelona's working-class newspaper, printed a three-page "dialogue" between "actors" Carles Flavia and Pepe Rubianes. Here are a few of the highlights:

Flavia: ...Hey, listen, Pepe, you should have come to the Club (Barcelona de Natacion, where some of the events at the world Swimming championships were held). They insulted the American anthem!

Rubianes: I'll tell you something really kick ass (cojonudo) that I saw in Egypt, in a hotel in Cairo: the TV was on and I saw all the people watching and applauding. I thought there was a football game. No way. It was some scenes from Iraq, Yankee soldiers...And you know why they were applauding? They applauded every time an American got killed.

Flavia: Did they do the wave?

Rubianes: And they cheered...One day, when they killed three of them, I thought Cairo was going to explode...

Rubianes: ...What's happening in the world has me completely traumatized. I really mean it.

Flavia: You pick up a newspaper and it makes you bitter.

Rubianes: I never thought that humanity could reach such levels of barbarity and of moral and ethical misery. The Iraq war, Israel and Palestine, so much injustice that we're seeing and so much arrogance and so many lies. Today everything is OK, everything is justifiable. We've reached a terrible point of human evolution, above all because power is in the hands of a bunch of mental retards, morally handicapped, who always have the ace up their sleeves.

Flavia: We could have a very bad time.

Rubianes: They talk about terrorist groups, Al Qaeda and all that, and it turns out that it is the army of the poor. It's their defense against the rich. When I was a kid, my dream was to kill Franco. I didn't want to be an engineer or a lawyer or a doctor. I wanted to kill Franco. I would have been thrilled to kill him when I was 18 or 20 years old. And, of course, I'm a terrorist. I'm very proud of having been one, although only mentally, because I've never killed anyone. Of course, later they tell you that innocent people die, but there's nobody innocent in this world. We're all guilty from birth.

Flavia: Original sin.

Rubianes: People defend themselves the way they can. State terrorism is as bad as these groups' terrorism. Isn't what Israel is doing in Palestine terrorism? Isn't what Bush is doing terrorism? You see this and your soul falls down to the floor. People are good. But the problem are those four sick people who govern, who live far away from the people's reality.

Flavia: All this is creating, in addition, a huge abyss between civilizations, a bestial hatred.

Just one comment, from the historian Stanley G. Payne:

(Andreu) Nin (leader of the semi-Trotskyist POUM in Catalonia during the '30s, killed by the Communists) was a sincere and courageous man who died an martyr to his cause. Yet it is well to remember where he stood on the question of revolutionary violence. There is no evidence that he did anything to limit the mass killings in Catalonia in 1936, and in 1922 he penned the following justification of the Bolshevist liquidation of the revolutionary extreme left in Russia:

"The Russian Communist Party is the only guarantee of the Revolution, and in the same manner as the Jacobins saw themselves obliged to guillotine the Hebertists, in spite of the fact that they represented a tendency to the left, in the same manner that we ourselves (in the anarchist CNT--Nin was none too stable in his affiliations) have eliminated those who constituted an obstacle to the realization of the objectives we pursued, our Russian comrades see themselves inevitably obliged implacably to smother any attempt which might break their power. It is not only their right but their duty. The health of the Revolution is the supreme law."

Like most of those who seek to justify revolutionary murder, Nin assumed that he was justifying the elimination of other people, not himself.

Source: The Spanish Revolution, p. 301.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Did you need any more evidence to make you believe that what they're calling the "Iraqi resistance" over here are a bunch of terrorist murdering sons-of-bitches? Here it is.
You know who's got a funny site is our regular contributor in the Comments section, Akaky. Check out Passing Parade. It's worth a read. I just wish he'd post more often, but he's somewhat more selective in his posting than we are. I mean, over here at Iberian Notes we just blather on off the top of our heads about whatever. Akaky doesn't post unless he's sure it's good.
Big news today in Spanish politics: For some reason the government funds something called the Center of Sociological Investigation, which is their equivalent of the Gallup Poll. Anyway, the most recent survey on which party Spaniards intend to vote for gives the PP a solid six-point advantage, showing that the mud the Socialists have been slinging (Iraq, the oil spill, the water plan, the education plan, the failed general strike, the problems with the high-speed train) is not sticking, while the circus the Socialists have put on in the Madrid regional Parliament has re-convinced a lot of people that the Socialists are unprofessional and incompetent and not fit to govern.

The stats: PP 41.2%, Socialists 35.2%, Communists 6.3%, Convergence and Union 3.8%, Galician National Bloc 1.5%, Basque Nationalists 1.2%. Aznar has promised to name his successor as PP candidate for Prime Minister within a month; the two big favorites are Rodrigo Rato and Mariano Rajoy. Jaime Mayor Oreja is their man in the Basque Country, Josep Pique is their guy in Catalonia, the incombustible Manuel Fraga is the man in Galicia, and Alberto Ruiz Gallardon is their leader in Madrid. These guys, except Pique, are all heavyweights. The Socialists have nobody comparable.

The Socialist reaction was to accuse the government of manipulating the statistics, of course. The PSOE is drifting; they stand for nothing except for being against Aznar and the PP. They have no program, no proposals, no plans, nada de nada. They are reduced to simply reacting to everything the PP government does.
Check out HispaLibertas, one of our favorite blogs. They were nice enough to link to us regarding the heat wave controversy, even though they disagree with us. Well, hell, this is just more evidence that us folks on the right aren't a conformist flock of sheep that don't think for ourselves, as our amigos on the left would have it.

They've picked up a hilarious story (in English) on a bunch of Ukrainian hoaxters-con men who sucked up subsidies and contributions from Western radical-left groups by pretending to be the representatives of a variety of Ukranian lefty groups struggling among themselves. These guys represented themselves to Commie groups as Commies, to Trot groups as Trots, to Green groups as Greens, and the like, and the money came rolling in. I've been laughing for the last ten minutes. I hope these dudes are on their way to Rio; I'm normally anti-fraud, of course, but this one is just too good.
I'm starting to feel like a sportsblogger, but it's August and there's not that much in the news except for Iraq and Tony Blair, who seems to have given a bravura performance during his testimony. This whole deal about the "45-minute" intelligence report has been blown massively out of proportion. There were thousands of facts, all damning to Saddam and his government, in the British dossier on Iraq that was released to the public. (I linked to it back in the day--just hit "search this site" if you want to find it again.) One of those facts turns out to probably have been wrong. One error does not a liar make. And as for David Kelly, I'm sorry he's dead, but if you're a government official and you go around leaking stuff to the media, your ass is going to be called on the carpet. If Kelly, who seems to me to have had the same problems I have (major depression, possibly bipolar, along with a couple or three personality disorders--trust me on this one, I've spent enough time institutionalized with really crazy people to be an authority on this subject) couldn't handle pressure, he should simply have avoided pressure situations for his own health. That's what you do if you're unstable.

So here's the sports.

In American Major League Baseball the payroll maximum is $117 million; if you exceed that, you have to pay a "luxury tax", so teams try to stay below that amount. Teams close to the limit are the Yankees, the Mets, Texas, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Boston. The Yankees' total budget is something like $150 million. In baseball, the smallest payrolls are in the $20-40 million range, putting the smallest possible total budget at around $40m.

Here are this year's total budgets, in millions of euros, in the Spanish soccer First Division:

Real Madrid 293
FC Barcelona 163
Valencia 90
Deportivo de La Coruna 75
Atletico de Madrid 54
Betis of Seville 48
Celta de Vigo 42
Athletic de Bilbao 38
Mallorca 36
Real Sociedad of San Sebastian 35
Malaga 29
Villarreal 27
Espanyol of Barcelona 26
Sevilla 24
Racing de Santander 23
Valladolid 18
Zaragoza 18
Osasuna of Pamplona 13
Murcia 7
Albacete 4

Gee, who do you think is going to win? And can you predict which teams are almost certain to drop down to Second? They really ought to go to a 12 or 14-team First Division--who wants to see Madrid play Murcia?--but that ain't gonna happen. It's fascinating that American sports leagues are much more "socialist" and European leagues are more "capitalist"--e.g. the NFL's sharing out, equally, the TV money among all teams, or the fact that all the leagues are closed to new teams and that teams that perform badly don't drop in category. In baseball even the most pathetic team wins three of every ten games. If Albacete wins three games all season (out of 38) I'll let Baltasar Porcel, Chemical Lali, and Ballpark Nacho take over this blog.
June Thomas from Slate has continued with her week-long series of articles on the Basque Country. They're very good, and she does discuss ETA terrorism, though perhaps not as much as some of us would prefer. See, when most people in Spain think of the Basque Country, the first thing that comes to mind isn't "the food is great" or "the people are friendly" or "the coast is lovely" or "the countryside is pretty" or "the culture is unique". It's "ETA has killed more than 800 people and wounded thousands more."

One minor complaint: she doesn't like the Jeff Koons statue "Puppy" out in front of the Guggenheim museum. It is, simply, an enormous puppy made of a wire screen (I suppose) that is completely covered with flowers. I love it. It's a perfect living contrast to the metallic museum building. Sure, it's kitschy. It's also far superior to any of the works of "art" inside the museum except for the three small rooms of mediocre Picassos and Kandinskys and Klees and Grises and Mondrians that they stuck in seemingly as an afterthought. The rest of the place is filled with contemporary conceptual crap.

If you look carefully, near the giant puppy off to the left, there is a small bouquet of flowers left there every day. It's in homage to a Bilbao policeman who was killed on that spot on opening day of the museum by the ETA.

One problem with these huge new museums--Barcelona spent millions of dollars on an enormous white lump of a building that's called the MACBA (Museu d'Art Contemporari de Barcelona?)--is that they don't have anything to put in them. There are only so many good works of art. The Macba, I believe, doesn't even have a permanent collection, though I wouldn't know because I've never been inside.

If you want art in Barcelona, go to the Romanesque / Gothic museum in the Palau Nacional on Montjuic, which is unique in the world, or the Museum of Modern Art in the Parque Ciutadela, full of 1860s-1920s works by Catalan artists, or the Thyssen collection up in Pedralbes (not nearly as impressive as the one in Madrid but well worth a visit) or the Miro Foundation, also on Montjuic (only if you like Joan Miro, of course; I don't, but if you do, this is THE place) or the Picasso Museum in a 16th century palace on Calle Montcada. The thing about the Picasso is that it's full of mediocre works that he did before he was famous and mediocre works that he did after he was famous, but all the works that actually made him famous are in New York or Paris. Also check out the galleries along Calle Petritxol; you might even want to buy something if you have some bucks.

Dumbshit thing I saw in Kansas City: We have an excellent art museum, the Nelson-Atkins, strong on American, Expressionist, and especially Oriental art. I suppose the pride of the collection are the Van Goghs. They have a Miro, though, and on the little sign next to the painting telling you the title and the artist, they identified Miro as French. Jesus Christ. Any professional art historian or curator ought to know that Joan Miro was from Montroig del Camp right here in Catalonia and that he lived for most of his life in Mallorca. Remei and I complained and they corrected it. But that's a really basic and just plain embarrassing, provincial mistake.

Anyway, though, go read Ms. Thomas's series.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Check out this hilarious article on the world's most famous streaker from ESPN Page 2. If you like sports, you really ought to keep up with Page 2, which never makes the mistake of taking sports too seriously. As Jim Bouton once said about '70s TV sports coverage, "They read off the scores like they were the Vietnam battle deaths."

Also, by the way, don't miss "Bend It Like Beckham". It's the best sports movie since "Breaking Away".
Here's a damn good story from the Weekly Standard on the Dems currently campaigning in Iowa. Boy, I sure hope Howard Dean actually wins the nomination. Bush will chew him up, spit him out, and leave the nasty mess all over the floor for Hillary to try to clean up sometime before 2008, which is when she's going to run. Forget Al Gore. He's done. Well-done. Charred on the outside without the slightest bit of pink inside. We ain't talkin' carpaccio here.

Also check out this lovely self-smearing Hillary stumbled into and the Wall Street Journal pointed out. (Via FrontPage.)
Here we go again with some gratuitous America-bashing from the Vangua! There was a workplace shooting in Chicago in which six people were killed, as you know. The murderer (who had been fired, probably for spending all his time in court rather than at work) had been arrested twelve times in the last four months for illegal possession of weapons, assault, and domestic violence, so it's clear we're talking about someone with a real stable personality here. About as stable as a giraffe on ice skates. What I want to know is why they didn't lock him up a long time ago. Anyway, check out these facts from the news story, which is not labeled either "Analysis" or "Opinion":

It is evident that the harshness and competitiveness of the American labor system, added to the fragile network of social assistance, contribute to the desperation of those people who lose their jobs, and this can cause violent reactions.

Gee, that's interesting. It looks to me like this guy was a violent criminal who was seriously mentally disturbed. I bet that was what caused his "violent reaction".

Another fascinating comment in the story was that, in our reporter's opinion, the TV news didn't give enough coverage to this mass murder--they merely interrupted regular programming for a special report, that's all--because workplace killings are so "habitual" in the United States. He was able to cite two cases from 1999 to back up his statement.

Now, that's how you can distinguish legitimate criticism from America-bashing, because in cases of America-bashing you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. If the TV news had gone wild and played the story up huge, our reporter would have slammed the States for its superficial and sensationalistic media news reporting.

I also think it's interesting that our reporter didn't mention the well-known fact that Yankees are gun-crazy nutcases, at least in this particular story. This might be because a) the killer was Hispanic, and we all know that Hispanics aren't wackos like those Bible-belt shotgun-toting rednecks, b) he had obviously obtained his gun illegally, so you can't blame this one on the Second Amendment, and c) the guy's last name was Tapia, which is a surname of Catalan origin.

Here's my take on the story: Catalans are naturally inclined to extreme acts of violence, as is proven by the violent uprisings they carried out against a constitutional government in 1909 and 1919-23, and the mass violence that both sides dealt out in the 1936-39 Civil War, with thousands of civilian victims on both sides. The Catalans are, by nature, so dangerously violent that General Franco's 40-year repressive dictatorship was necessary to prevent even more acts of senseless killing. The fact that this murderer is of Catalan descent just proves my point.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Sports Update: Good God, the Royals have actually made a couple of smart deals to help them out down the stretch. They're just a game back of Chicago, and they've picked up Brian Anderson from the Indians, who is a competent No. 3 or so starting pitcher (ERA 3.71) and who beat the Rangers last night, and they got former Yankees All-Star outfielder Rondell White from the Padres for two lousy minor leaguers. White has the big bat that they need so badly. This will allow them to bench Ken Harvey, the Royals' worst regular player, move Raul Ibanez to first base, stick White in left field, and let Aaron Guiel play full-time in right. Guiel is on a hot streak, he's having what's clearly a career year, but you ride a guy who's playing as well as he is right now. Mike Sweeney and Carlos Beltran are back in the lineup. Kudos to General Manager Allard Baird, who's not nearly as big a moron as we all thought he was, and to Manager Tony Pena, who took an awful 2002 team and turned it into a pennant contender. Pena is clearly the American League Manager of the Year. And wait till next year, when they've got two hot pitching prospects (Gobble and Greinke) and another big outfield bat (DeJesus) ready to come up from Triple-A.

More Big Sports News: I have relented and am willing to give FC Barcelona another chance. It's hard to turn your back on a team that you've rooted for during fifteen years like I have for the Barca. They have done several things that are making me change my mind.

1) They got rid of obnoxious moron Joan Gaspart as club president and elected competent and well-behaved Joan Laporta.
2) They're getting rid of the Argentinian contingent who made so much noise talking radical leftist politics last season. Sorin, Bonano, and Riquelme are all gone. Saviola is staying, but he's the one who kept quiet.
3) They are accepting their punishment of a two-game closing of their stadium for the disgraceful pig-head throwing incident last year. No more whining.
4) They have announced that they will no longer tolerate the actions of their radical hooligans, the Boixos Nois. Until this season, not only did Barca allow them to raise hell in the stands, they let them in free and even gave them monetary subsidies. No more.
5) They hired much-respected Frank Rijkaard as coach and got rid of Milosevic-supporting Serbian Fascist Radomir Antic. Frank is the first black coach in Barca history and he was one of AC Milan's legendary Duch trio from the early '90s, along with Gullit and Van Basten, and he's a Cruyffist, too. He might be the first black coach ever in Spanish soccer, I don't know.
6) They didn't blow lots of money on crappy players this off-season--they used to be so arrogant that they figured they could just throw money around paying millions of euros for overrated players and they'd win anyway. This off-season they spent their big cash on Ronaldinho, who's worth the money, and some small cash on pedestrian players like a goalie and a couple of defensemen who are actually both competent and young.
7) They've been punished for their hubris with last year's sixth-place finish.
8) You've just got to hate Real Madrid and their high-dollar Beckham circus. Since nothing pisses off a Madrid fan more than Barcelona's success, I have to root for Barcelona by default.
9) I remember the early-nineties glory days with Bakero and Beguiristain and Koeman and Laudrup and Stoichkov and Eusebio and Zubi and Guardiola. That was a team you had to love. They had real class, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson class. Hating Barca, like I've been doing for the last nine months, is betraying the memory of the spirit that team had.
Oh, jeez. Here we go again. The Vangua publishes a section called "Cultura(s)" every Wednesday. Normally, it consists of an interview with someone nobody cares about, several reviews of books and art exhibitions that nobody is going to read or see, and an essay bashing America.

This week it's Jorge Semprun's turn. Semprun is an old Stalinist who has never been right about anything. OK, we'll give him his props: he fled Spain after the Civil War and went to France, where after a couple of years he was arrested by the Nazis and sent to Buchenwald. He survived, as did many of those sent to Buchenwald and Dachau, because those were not Auschwitz or Treblinka-style death camps created for the killing of Jews and other racial undesirables, nor were they holding camps for those who would end up at a death camp, like Bergen-Belsen; they were political camps for anti-Nazis. The problem is that Semprun wasn't arrested for being a liberal or a democrat or a patriot; he was arrested for being a Communist, a Stalinist true believer, who followed Party orders at all times. Semprun also wrote the script for the movie La guerre est finie, which is what he'll be remembered for, and something like forty books.

In the debate about Europe: its future, its political formation, its ongoing expansion to ten new countries--a debate which is, by the way, logically permanent, since Old Europe is, above all, pluralism, critical reason, and democratic debate--in that discussion, new considerations have been introduced since the crisis opened up by the American war in Iraq.

A crisis which is neither the first nor the last in the Europe-United States alliance, as necessary and problematic since its beginnings. In this case, nevertheless, the unilateral and fundamentalist decision by President Bush's cronies to ignore all international legitimacy, basing all their strategy on the undeniable military power of the US, which nobody today in the universe can oppose, that arrogant unilateralism has multiplied the negative effects of the initial decision.

Unilateral? 15 of the 19 NATO countries supported the war, along with everybody else in Eastern Europe. Ignoring international legitimacy? We are currently occupying Iraq with the permission of a UN resolution passed 14-0 in the Security Council.

From the first moment, France and Germany were right, in the Security Council, when they opposed the American affirmations about Iraqi arms of mass destruction, maintaining the orientation toward a reinforced intervention of the United Nations inspectors in that country. It has already been demonstrated that the overblown danger of those weapons was a lie by the State, the most shameless, the most cynical, that world history has ever seen. And it is lamentable, not only from an ethical point of view, that such a disgusting and horrible lie--none of the dictatorships of the 20th century has ever dared to do so much to justify an imperial intervention, has been conceived, developed, and put into effect in a great democracy.

WHAT? Imperial intervention? Remember the Nazi-Soviet pact or the Nazi takeovers of neutral Denmark, Norway, Holland, or Belgium? How about the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe or the crushing of the Hungarian revolution? Comparing the Anglo-American decision to permanently get rid of rogue states and terrorist gangs to any real imperialist power grabs is so stupid that it's, well, really stupid. And, by the way, no one in the Bush or Blair administrations told any lies at all, as the British investigation of the BBC is demonstrating.

Now, from this correct position, neither France nor Germany has been able--though the overwhelming principal responsibility lies with France--to develop and occupy a strategic position that would have permitted Old Europe to distance itself militarily from the US, maintaining, nevertheless, a political position in the coalition and in international responses toward the predictable and inevitable problems of the US in Iraq after its also inevitable and predictable rapid military victory.

If I'm reading this right, Semprun wants to have his cake--Old Europe decides what's going to happen, not the Americans--and eat it too--maintain Frog-Kraut presence in the Western coalition--while doing nothing to make that cake, such as, say, spending money on an army that can actually fight.

We should point out, among the most negative factors of the Franco-German strategy against Bush's fundamentalism, the circumstantial alliance which was established with Putin's Russia. That political regime, today, no matter how optimistic we are about its long-term future, is not worthy of an operative alliance with Old Europe, the mother of all democracies, of all freedoms, of all the universalist visions of history, which we should remind poor, primitive Donald Rumsfeld about.

Old Europe is the mother of all democracies? Check out this timeline: British Glorious Revolution 1688; US Revolution 1775; US Constitution 1787; French Revolution 1789; French Revolution dissolves into totalitarian dictatorship 1791; British Reform Bill 1832; British Dominions get self-government, peacefully, 1860s; House of Lords stripped of most power 1910; Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Austria become stable democracies 1947-1978. And Jorge Semprun the Stalinist is not fit to lick the soles of Donald Rumsfeld's boots. Mr. Rumsfeld is one of the statesmen who best understands that all "universalist visions of history"--i.e. Fascism and Communism, Socialism and nationalism--are extremely bad ideas.

Besides, that alliance, though it is ephemeral and opportunistic, necessarily causes suspicion and fear in the Central and eastern European countries that are preparing to join the EU. For Poland, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Baltic States, it is clear that Russia still provokes terror, not only for the fearful past of the Stalinist empire, the second nuclear power in the world, but also for its future.

Wait. I thought Semprun had just said that the US overthrow of Saddam was worse than anything the 20th century dictatorships did. Coherence and consistency is not his strong point. Nor does he remind us that he was a Stalinist activist and true believer until 1964 when La Pasionaria and Carrillo purged him from the Spanish Communist Party for Trotskyist tendencies. It's a little too late for you to start slamming Stalin, Jorge.

That's enough of this crap. Here's some more crap. This is from the movie review section. Beware any writing about movies that uses the words "film", "criticism", or "cinema". European movie sections review all American movies that are not patriotic pamphlets like "Independence Day" as courageous criticisms of the American system and way of life. Uh, guys, they're just movies.

From Quebec, in the heart of American civilization, Dennis Arcand prophesized in 1987 that we were about to witness the decline of the American empire; a few years later, Arcand certifies that with the live-on-TV collapse of the Twin Towers, the time of the barbarian invasions has arrived. That fable has a double meaning. On one hand, Armcand insists on reminding us that the political preponderance of the Impire has entered a crisis situation and terrorism is announcing the beginning of the sack (of Rome, I assume).

Nevertheless, the death of every civilization leads to darkness and obscurity. So, in the field of culture, illustrated values--humanism, in the wider sense of the term--have not ceased to succumb, replaced by the new barbaric values of technology. the intellectual who was formed through knowledge is rejected by a society that gives more importance to cellphones than to books. In these new times, culture too is condemned to an exodus.

Among the values in crisis is democracy. Among the most interesting fables about America that cinema will provide us in the upcoming season is the work of a Dane who has never set foot in the United States, "Dogville" by Lars von Trier. Similarly to what Berthold Brecht did in the Thirties, von Trier constructs a critical parable, with a structure similar to epic theater, about the splendor and the decadence of American civilization. As is habitual in Von Trier's cinema, the protagonist of "Dogville" is a saint--Nicole Kidman--exiled by her family and condemned to live in the heart of deepest America. The Danish cineast shows us a community with no moral, fearful for its own possessions, where the mad dogs do not hesitate to devour one another because they tolerate no differences. An America conceived in ambition in which intolerance eats away at its own structures. Another parable about America, "Elephant", directed by Gus Van Sant, has many points in common with Michael Moore and his "Bowling for Columbine". "Elephant" shows us a massacre in a high school, dissects the moment of the catastrophe, reflects on the impossibility of objectivising it, and warns us that the slightest detour toward monstruosity can turn out terrifying. In the middle of a sick civilization everything is unpredictable and adolescents, with no future, live in a state of perplexity.

Right. Whatever you say, dude. Note the similarity of the sentences I boldfaced and the Nazi criticisms of the US that I pointed out from the Nazi propaganda archive.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Check out Cecile Dubois's blog. She is a frighteningly precocious teenager out in La-La Land, and she knows how to write. And she's a fellow unapologetic right-wing nut. She's also linked both to us and to Cinderella Bloggerfeller, so you know she has good taste.

By the way, we've got 68 incoming links now. There are two kinds of linkers: those who just copy InstaPundit's blogroll, which we're on, so we get a link from them, and then there are the ones who intentionally choose to link to us because, like, they've actually read our blog. Thanks very much to the first kind, of course, but we really appreciate the second kind. Cecile is the second kind.

Jesus Gil's Ibidem out of Madrid is still off the air. I don't know what's happened to him. If you read this, Jesus, let us know what's going on. We're starting to get worried.
You know, I love Mark Steyn and all, and I know I sound like a broken record, but I am just about tired of people's not taking the southwestern Europe heatwave seriously. Look, 900 people died in my town. It is not funny. Nor is it ironic. Yes, the French and the Catalans are, in general, ignorant loudmouths about political and international affairs, and they criticize America far too much without knowing what they're talking about. But let's not fall into Schadenfreude.

By the way, Mark, Paris is NORTH of Montreal, where M. Chirac was vacationing. Hundred-degree heat in Paris is something they are not prepared for, for good reason, whether they're Socialist or not. One spends one's insurance money (=natural disaster budget) on the disasters that are likely to happen, not on the ones that are unlikely. Like a six-week ninety-five F heat wave at forty-nine degrees north latitude.

The Spanish Health Ministry's figures of some 100 dead in Spain, by the way, are BS. They're counting only deaths from heatstroke and not including all the other heat-related deaths.
Check out this extensive archive of Nazi and East German propaganda. It is of scholarly and not sensationalistic bent. (Obligatory disclaimer: I am, of course, not trying to promote Nazism or Communism, but rather the opposite.)

You might particularly want to look at Nazi anti-American propaganda, like this pseudo-historical tract denouncing the Americans as a money-mad "population" that did not meet the Nazis' criteria for being a "people"; this is still a common criticism among both right-wing and left-wing national socialists in Europe today. A couple of other Nazi points from this publication are that the US has no moral ideal and that it only values materialism, and that rather than being individualistic it is conformist; it has destroyed the old European social classes and therefore prevents people from being what they really are by forcing them into an Americanizing straitjacket.

Here's the conclusion of a 1942 book by a well-known travel writer, A. E. Johann, some of whose books are still in print:

It was not the goal of this book to discuss whether America can win the war, or whether it must lose it. But perhaps it has become clear —and that was my goal — that America does not deserve to win the war and spread its system over the entire world. There is nothing in the American system worth imitating, neither for Germany or Europe. If Americanism conquered the world, it would mean the end of all human values and of genuine freedom — the freedom to do something, not from something! — of all the values for which Europe has fought and suffered for millennia, for which it has given all its strength of body and soul.

You could very easily find that last sentence in today's Le Monde--or today's La Vanguardia.

There are several more anti-Yankee commentaries in rather the same vein, along with dozens more examples of Nazi propaganda on dozxens of different subjects. Warning: A lot of this stuff is viciously anti-Semitic, as you might have guessed, but if your stomach is sensitive you might want to avoid looking at it.

Julius Streicher's slime is especially foul. Happily, Streicher was hanged at Nuremberg. His last words were a curse on the Jews. They botched the hanging and Streicher strangled slowly to death; finally an American sergeant had to pull down on his kicking and thrashing legs to finish him off. Can't think of too many better ways to dispose of such a truly evil man.

Henry Ford is mentioned approvingly many times in the archives, especially in the earlier propaganda texts, as an authority on both Jews and economics. It seems to me that Ford should long ago have been exposed for his vile anti-Semitism, which he did not hide but rather used his position to spread as extensively and as shrilly as he could.

Not only was he anti-Semitic, but he also treated his workers like his subjects, spying on them and using his own band of hired thugs, led by the sinister Harry Bennett, to keep them in line. Ford was also a crackpot pacifist who was under the influence of what were called at the time "spiritualists". Finally, Ford spent a lot of time and money on agricultural experimentation, some of which was very useful (soybeans, for example) but most of which was crap. The exaggerated conspiracy claims of today's "hemp movement", that big business (to Ford, big business = Jews) wanted to illegalize marijuana because the plant had so many different uses that it would drive their companies out of business, can be traced directly to Henry Ford's paranoia.

You also might want to look at the Communist East German propaganda posted here and note its similarities to Nazi propaganda.
Here's some Yankee-bashing mental diarrhea by one Suso de Toro in last Sunday's Vanguardia magazine. Check it out.

Hey, have you seen that photo of the Iraqi prisoners and the American soldiers? Which one, which one? I'm referring to some in which the prisoners are tied up with hoods over their heads, stuck in the back of a truck, and a smiling American soldier walks among them with a machine gun pointing at them and a can of cola in his hand. No, I didn't check. I don't know if it was diet or normal. What's for sure is that it wasn't that Mecca-Cola made by Arabs, but for sure it was a nice cool can with American flavor.

No, man, it's nothing special that I'm saying. It wasn't anything special, but just suddenly I was stunned seeing it, all those people prisoners with hoods over their heads, not knowing what's going to happen to them, scared, thirsty, and the other guy, the American, walking around smiling and drinking a nice cold can. You can say whatever you want, but this must really suck, I say. That some foreign son-of-a-bitch comes to your country and does that to you, some guy who talks English and doesn't understand your country's language. It's not the same being arrested by the police as it is by an enemy soldier. And in your own house...I don't know, it would piss me off. If I'm Iraqi I would be pissed, it would fill me with hate. Well, you, whatever. But me, yes.

(Note: The Americans did not arrest these people just for fun. They are suspected of doing something very bad or they would be left alone. Very bad stuff might include, say, being one of Saddam's secret policemen who stuffed prisoners into shredding machines. Second, anyone with any common sense would much prefer to be made prisoner by the Americans than by Saddam's police. Mr. de Toro seems to have absolutely no common sense. Third, what's going to happen to those guys, as everyone knows, is that they will be decently treated, housed, fed, and allowed to practice their religion. They will be interrogated but not tortured. They will be held prisoner until they are tried or released. If they're real bad dudes they might get sent to Gitmo. And everyone, Iraqis and Americans, will be better off.)

It's brutal, just brutal. Man, what do you want, the scene is intolerable. Yeah, I know that everybody does that, that all the wars are the same. And the thngs that they'll do to them and we won't find out. But those hoods...that's fucking scary. See, these good guys in the movie are worse than the bad guys. I know, I know. The soldier in the photo is doing what he does every day, it was the photographer who portrayed him like that and now we see it and we say, wow, that's wild. There's no other word for it, bastards (cabrones).

That's enough of that. There are three more paragraphs, but I have better things to do than translate them, like, say, pick my nose and scratch my ass.

What brought on this rage on the part of Mr. de Toro? I'll tell you. He knows that Catalonia and Spain and Europe are weak and they cannot impose their will on anybody. The United States can. The United States can say to any tinhorn dictator like Saddam, "Behave yourself or we're going to eliminate your ass. With extreme prejudice, if that's what's necessary."

How can any sensible person side with the dictator Saddam Hussein and his henchmen against the democratic and liberal United States? Answer: Those people have no sense. Mr. de Toro is so full of rage at his chosen power units' (Catalonia, Europe, Socialism, whatever) lack of any real power that he'll side with anybody against those (=the US) who have that real power and exercise it--no matter how evil those who oppose his hated United States are. There is absolutely no logic or reason in his diatribe. He himself admits it's pure emotion.

Newspapers are supposed to tell us the news and give us their opinion on said news. I expect those opinions to be based on facts and logic and reason, not on nationalistic fury. My expectations are obviously far too high in the case of La Vanguardia.
Here's a very nice story by Slate's June Thomas on the Basque Country in general and Bilbao's fiesta mayor in particular. It looks like she'll be writing a week-long series. Perhaps she'll touch on Basque terrorism some time later in the week. The Basque Country is a lovely place but it has a very dark side to it. You've got to admit, though, that they sure know how to party.

I will point out that the sign pictured at the beginning of the article, saying "Tourists: You're not in Spain, you're in the Basque country" is clearly the work of ETA sympathizers. It shows the "izquierda abertzale's" map of the Basque country, which includes mostly Spanish Alava and Navarra.

Yes, I know that Alava is within the Basque country's frontiers. It's also 95% Spanish-speaking and votes for the PP, not for any of the Basque nationalist parties. And 90% of the Navarrese want nothing to do with the Basque country, either.

Monday, August 25, 2003

OK, here's an ethical debate. Imperio Argentina, the Spanish Marlene Dietrich or Tallulah Bankhead, died yesterday at the age of a lot. She was born in Argentina of Spanish parents, got her start over there in the Twenties, and then came over here and made several hit movies in the Thirties and stayed here for the rest of her life as a movie actress and cabaret star. During WWII she went to Germany and made two movies for the Nazi film studios. She said she'd have slept with Hitler if he'd asked her, and that she had an affair with Spanish Falangist leader Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera.

Question: Do we mourn her? I vote no. If you work for the Nazis, you're the human equivalent of floor scrapings at Billy Bob's or Gilley's.

Here's a real dilemma. I know where there's a sweatshop. It's on my own street, several blocks down. Everyone who works there is Chinese. They leave the door open occasionally so everybody inside doesn't die from the heat, which is bad for business. That's how I got a lok inside. These people are obviously not earning the minimum wage or receiving government benefits or anything. On the other hand, it doesn't seem like they're kept as slaves--you see the women walking around with their kids and the like.

So do I call the cops or not? It's my civic duty to stop lawbreaking, especially when immigrants are getting exploited, and I imagine this place is breaking five hundred laws a day. But on the other hand, the workers are quite likely better-treated here than they would be in China, which is where they'd get deported back to if I dropped a dime.

I really don't know what to do. I feel like I have guilty knowledge of a nasty crime, which is trafficking in and exploiting illegal immigrants. I don't like knowing this. But if I call it in, won't the people being exploited be a lot worse off in the long run?

The easy thing is to say it's none of my business. But if I knew somebody had, say, robbed a bank, I'd turn him in with no qualms. How is this different? It doesn't help that about two years ago some guy got murdered in a Chinese "restaurant" where nobody ever eats and which is clearly a front for something. The cops wrote it off as a tong war and never got the killers. The "restaurant" is convienently about two blocks away from the sweatshop.

Got any thoughts on the situation? I'd appreciate some ethical advice.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Seems like there's a lot of discussion going on about the Southwest Europe heat wave. Straight and simple, here's what happened.

1) It was much, much hotter than usual for much, much longer than usual.
2) Countries prepare for the disasters that are most likely to strike. The South Atlantic states are prepared for hurricanes--but are they ready for blizzards? In Kansas City we're ready for blizzards--but what if we get hit with a hurricane?
3) There's only so much you can protect yourself against. In KC we're ready for pretty good-sized floods but nothing like the flood of '93, the kind of thing that happens only very rarely. I suppose we could spend eight billion extra dollars raising the levees thirty feet or whatever, but would it be worth it? Isn't there something more useful we can do with that cash?
4) The '03 heat wave has been of staggering proportions. In Paris the average daily HIGH temp in July is 79 F. In Barcelona the average daily HIGH in July is 81 F and the average LOW is 66 F. Split the difference and that's an OVERALL average temp of 73.5. In Kansas City the OVERALL average temp in July is 81 F. Now, I personally can testify that KC in the summer is very damn hot, and Barcelona is comparatively cool--its average temp in July is comparable to that of Boston, Chicago, Denver, and Minneapolis (all about 73 F average in July). But this year in Barcelona we've been averaging 90 F--AVERAGE, not HIGH--for six straight weeks.
5) Imagine what would happen in Boston with a 90 F average (17 F per day above normal) every day for a month and a half. Would Boston be prepared? Hell, no. Old folks and sick people would drop like dot-com stocks. They might be ready for three or five days of 90 F average heat, but any more than that would catch them unready.
6) In France and in Spain people do not have air-conditioning, just like a lot of people in Boston and Minneapolis don't, either. You don't really need it. They don't even have it in a lot of hospitals. This means you SUFFER ALL DAY AND NIGHT instead of living in a nice 72 F A/C house and car and office and going out for an hour in the evening when it gets cooler.
7) Conclusion: We just had a major natural disaster and it's not done--temps hit 95 F today here in B-Ville, with overnight lows around 83 or so. The French figures of 10,000 dead are not exaggerated. The Barcelona metro area figures a total of 900 dead so far, and extrapolated to the rest of Spain that'd be about 9000 for the whole country. You can't blame anybody for an extreme natural disaster. There's no way to be ready for it. And I don't think anybody was particularly negligent, since the heat was so extreme. What we got hit by is a one-in-a-hundred-years summer, the equivalent of a blizzard in LA or a hurricane in Omaha. You just can't pin the blame on the politicians or anything else. It has just been TOO DAMN HOT and there's nothing to be done about it.
Lazy day. Mireia (Murph's wife) has a family house out in an exurb the other side of Granollers called Santa Eulalia de Ronc(s)ana. We went out there this morning, farted around with Patrick and Kira (the Murphy-Comajuncosa vastages), went swimming--they have a small pool and a lovely rambling house which is just enormous. It better be because Mireia's got like nine brothers and sisters and they all use the place too, of course. We had it all to ourselves today, though. Had some lunch, shot the shit (Murph's been reading Steven Pinker's latest and found a lot of interesting stuff), and drank some cheap beer. Anyway, we made it home all right, driving down the most dangerous road in the world, the N-152, in the dark.

Patrick's language development is fun to watch. He speaks Catalan and English and understands Spanish. He can distinguish between the three, e.g. he speaks English to his dad and me and Catalan to his mother and her family and understands Spanish because of TV and the other kids in school. He's noted that I don't talk like Dad, who has a London Irish accent. The funny word is "water"; I pronounce the final R and Murph, of course, drops it. Patrick has decided he wants to be like me and Clark and the Barney videos he used to watch and pronounce "water" the American way. He's decided this consciously; he likes the sound of the word in American better. One thing I've noticed is that whenever you say something new to him, he repeats it and gets it right, and then he's got it. He's about 3 1/2 years old, so he's in that heavy language-acquisition period. He'll also code-switch; if he's talking English and doesn't know the English word for a thing, he'll interject the Catalan word for it. Same thing vice versa.

Note which seems sensible: Europeans, I think, and Spaniards, I know, dream of having a second house, much more so than Americans do. For us, one house is enough; we aspire to buy a nice one in a good neighborhood and then we just buy a lot of crap we don't need to fill it up. Spaniards really want that second house, though, since their first house is most likely a ninety-square-meter flat in a middling Barna neighborhood. Fortunately, since families are tighter than in the US, eight different couples plus Dad and Mom and a cxouple of stray aunts can easily maintain a five-bedroom house out somewhere fairly close but much cleaner and better-smelling with, like, trees and a yard.

Our house out in Vallfogona, being "rustic"--they were illegally hotwiring the electricity off the power line until I made them stop, and it has a medieval basement (really) and almost-medieval plumbing--is sort of an exception because Remei's dad didn't sell it when he moved them to the city back in sixty-five. All he probably could have gotten for it back then was maybe five hundred bucks anyway, people didn't want houses in the middle of nowhere then. So he kept it and now we're very glad we have it. God knows how much we could sell it for but I bet plenty. Of course, we'll sell everything, even my mother-in-law, before selling that place.

Sports: The Royals have been caught but don't count them out. Both Chicago and Minnesota are better on paper, but with so little time left in the season, anything can happen. The Royals have used 27 different pitchers this year. Only Darrell May has been consistently good, if you don't count Miracle Jose Lima who they picked up from an outlaw league and then he proceeded to go 7-0, then injured his groin, and is now 7-1 (OK, he did lose to the Yankees, no shame in that, but he got creamed rather than giving up five in six or some sort of respectable way to get beat.) Sweeney, their best hitter, and Beltran, their all-around best player, have also been injured, but Angel Berroa, their rookie shortstop, is for real. Watch for him in the future. I'm not betting against the Royals.

Barca is not looking too bad. The latest dumb thing they've done is announced that they'll make their non-Catalan players learn to speak Catalan. Asturian Luis Enrique, an admirable player, made a try today at using Catalan in a press conference. Hey, I think that's great. He said he used Catalan because he wants to feel closer to the fans. Terrific. That's my kind of player. You do something really embarrassing like speak a foreign language in front of fifty reporters with mikes and cameras, that's taking one on the chin for the team. And if a pro soccer player actually changes his behavior in order to make the fans happy, that's a guy who appreciates the privilege of his position as a millionaire pro jock.

I did see a sensible letter in the Vangua today, though, which pointed out that Ronaldinho might much more profitably use the time he spends studying Catalan on, say, practicing direct free kicks.

It's NFL time! Earth's best sports columnist, Gregg Easterbrook, America's only sports guy who moonlights at the Brookings Institution and writes tech, scientific, and environmental articles for the New Republic, is back on ESPN Page 2, the funniest (though rather Lettermanesque) and smartest collection of sports articles there is. This week Gregg covers the AFC; last week he wrote on off-season developments, and next week is the NFC. You might even want to look up some of his older stuff in his archive.

While there, go to the Jeff Merron archive. He has some funny bits, but the best one is when he told the true story behind the making of the greatest sports movie ever, Slap Shot. Turns out it was based on a real minor-league Pennsylvania hockey team and that the "actors playing" the Carlson brothers were real bottom-of-the-barrel pro hockey players who specialized in brawling. One of them got himself kicked out of the league for being too violent.

If you're really into the NFL, you might check out this site called Football Outsiders. They're trying to take a Bill James approach to NFL football; they weight yards gained or lost according to eight million variables and have all sorts of new stats. One thing they came up with is that the Chiefs should have made the playoffs last year, and they would have if Priest Holmes hadn't gotten injured with two games to go. They rank KC as the fourth best team in the AFC last year. Another thing they discovered is that Dick Vermeil is very much below average at on-field coaching; his teams regularly lose a game or two per season than they should have won. Well, go check it out yourself. It's just started up, so when it becomes famous three years from now you can say you were an original reader.

Friday, August 22, 2003

There really hasn't been too much news of note around here lately. A Spanish military officer was killed in the Baghdad UN bombing. RIP and condolences to his family; his daughter was quoted on TV as saying something like "He was an officer, he loved his job, he died doing what he spent his life training to do." The left-wing parties and press have not been nearly so mature and respectful and they're going on about how this is the first death in the quagmire of Iraq and the like.

The heat wave's broken and the temperatures are now normal for summer--just in time for the fall flash floods. Autumn is the rainy season around here. Millions of people in Spain live along the Mediterranean coast. Geographically, you've got the beach, a couple of kilometers of flat land where the towns are built, and then fairly sharp and steep hills. The ground gets baked hard and then suddenly there's a heavy rain. The rainwater just rushes straight to the sea and carries away everything in its path. Each town has designed its hill drainage so all the rain from all the hills flows into one large torrent or waterspout or whatever they're called. The torrent is dry 360 days out of the year and it's just this big empty ditch running through town. People do things like park their cars there. Then, whaddya know, it's September and here comes a big-ass storm as usual and several people get drowned doing something dumb.

Spain's really a safe country as far as murders go. Basically all you get are domestic killings, a terrible thing, but it's what happens when you combine an asshole with alcohol everywhere. I don't think there are more domestic killings in Spain than anywhere else, but they get a lot of media attention because they're usually the only good murders the press can write about. Every now and then some Romanian or Albanian organized crime dude gets ventilated full of holes. And then there are the sex pervert killings, which get tons and tons of media attention. It's usually a teenage girl who gets raped and murdered, often horrifically. These are rare but they really shock society. 59% of Spaniards agree with me that we ought to hang the bastards. Probably not too many would go along with my proposal to bring back public executions, though.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

What an awful day. Terrorists, presumably Hamas, blew up a bus in Jerusalem and killed at least twenty people, and the Saddamite terrorists blew up the UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing twenty more. These people, along with the three thousand on 9-11 and the two hundred at Bali and those murdered at the US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and the victims of the Cole explosion and the US and British troops murdered by the Saddam Fedayeen and its Al Qaeda allies, and the hundreds of Israeli citizens killed by nationalism-crazed psychopaths should not be forgotten.

I've got the solution for the Israeli problem. Very simply, pull all the settlements out of the West Bank. (This is the major Israeli political problem. It's got to be Sharon who makes the deal--a weak Labour government wouldn't be able to pull it off.) Pull all your troops out, too. Build an impermeable wall along all Israel's pre-1967 frontiers, though including the Golan Heights. Let foreigners in and out as you wish through official checkpoints. Let the Palestinians set up whatever governments they want in the West Bank and Gaza and do whatever they want, as long as it doesn't include violence against Israel or sheltering terrorists. If those things happen, Israel should be free to retaliate as it sees fit. If those things don't happen over a span of, say, five years, tear down the wall.

As for Iraq, check out this story on page four of today's Vangua by Eusebio Val. I was extremely surprised when I saw this.

...The attack (in Baghdad) has been the latest step in a series of actions against the so-called "soft targets"--of a non-military character and very vulnerable--such as the Jordanian Embassy, the oil pipelines, and the running-water infrastructure. The escalation seems to respond to a well-detailed plan to sabotage the reconstruction of the country, to generate chaos, to increase internal discontent, and frighten away foreign aid.

The terrorists have crossed a line and their message is unmistakeable: not only the occupying troops from the US and the coalition which supports it are in constant danger, but also all those who collaborate in any manner with the reconstruction, whether they are company executives or members of international organisms. Not even the personnel under the flag of the united Nations is safe, as the secretary-general's own special envoy, the Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello.

In the eyes of the terrorists, they are all accomplices of the policy designed by the White House which--we should remember--was approved in a large part in Resolution 1483 passed by the Security Council last May. This resolution, passed by 14 out of 15 votes, accepted the new status quo after the war and gave the Anglo-American occupation coalition supreme power in Iraq for at least a year...

Yesterday's attacks, added to the escalation of recent weeks and the unstoppable attacks on the American troops, support the thesis that Iraq might become an El Dorado of terrorism in the Middle East, the favorite destination of jihadists--Muslim extremists in favor of a holy war against the West, like Al Qaeda--and agents from the countries of the region--Syria? Iran? Sectors of Saudi Arabia itself?--who have no interest in Iraq's stabilization and progress under a democratic experiment that might spread.

It is an ironic paradox that a war officially fought within the framework of the world struggle against terrorism, has fertilized and sown the land for Iraq to become a terrorist magnet. It was never proven that during the Saddam era, Al Qaeda was active in Iraq. No one doubts that it certainly is now.

The spectacle and the media impact of the actions of the Iraqi resistance to the occupation are frustrating for Washington and eclipse the successes which have occurred in many aspects of the everyday life of the Iraqis and the relative tranquility with which, despite the avalanche of negative news, most parts of the country including the capital enjoy, as Joshua Hammer reported yesterday in Newsweek.

Good God. This is the most sensible thing I have ever seen written in the Vangua. Note the emphasis (I added the bold type), that Mr. Val gives to calling a terrorist a terrorist. Note that Mr. Val mentions that most of the country is calm. Note that Mr. Val could sort of deal with the concept of these terrorists fighting the American occupation troops, but he went ballistic when the terrorists started blowing up international do-gooders. Fair enough, I guess, but chalk up one correspondent from the Vangua on the side of the angels.

Alfredo Abian goes spastic in the page two signed editorial:

The dispersed Iraqi resistance is showing itself more and more active. So much that we don't know anymore what the line is between an open insurrection and the ambushes, the bomb attacks, or putting a bullet into an American soldier's head while he is buying a CD...The resistance is in no mood for diplomatic sophistications. To it, all are invaders now, including the very same UN that tried to stop the occupation.

Alf, it would be an insurrection if the people en masse were grabbing guns and standing in the street facing off with the occupation troops. This is a bunch of terrorist gangs, to wit: the Saddam Fedayeen--Saddam's SS, who are all criminals and deserve no pity--Ansar Al Islam, a terrorist gang operating in north-central Iraq with ties to Al Qaeda and many Muslim-fanatic volunteers from other countries--and Saddam's Marielitos, the guys he turned out of the jails, are just plain criminals operating criminally in small gangs. This is not a resistance, since resistances are fighting for their national survival, and the Iraqi terrorists are destroying their country rather than helping it build itself up.

I see several very positive sides to the current struggle in Iraq: a) it is now clear to the whole world outside Berkeley and Barcelona that these are bad guys, as if it weren't clear already, but you must have your head up your ass if you can somehow argue that these murderers are fighting for the right b) we're fighting the terrorists in their territory, not ours, and that's where we want to fight them c) if Iraq is a terrorist magnet, all the better, we can get 'em all in one place d) everybody is recognizing that the reconstruction people are trying to do something good and decent rather than being ruthless imperialists e) we're going to win if this is the best they can do. They've got a limited number of loyalists and I don't think they're going to get too many new ones outside the Tikrit triangle. Assuming our Special Forces are not complete morons, which I just bet they're not, they ought to be cracking down on some of these terrorist cells f) there's a swing toward seeing the war as legitimate, if a paper like the Vangua can print an article like Eusebio Val's using words like "terrorist" g) our guys keep busting more and more of Saddam's top henchmen--the ten of diamonds just got nailed.

The Vangua prints several very good George Bush quotes:

"The civilized world will not allow itself to be intimidated and these murderers will not determine the future of Iraq, which is on an irresistible route toward self-government and peace."

"The terrorists have demonstrated their fear of progress and their hatred for peace. They are enemies of the Iraqi people. They want to go back to the days of the tortures and the mass graves."

"We will persevere through all difficulties, we will continue this war against terrorism, and we will win."

Remember the Casablanca bombing that killed 45 people, incluiding four Spaniards? The Moroccan government held the trial. 87 members of the terrorist group Salafiya Yahadiya were convicted. Four death sentences. Life imprisonment for 37. 30 years for 16. 20 years for 16 more. Lesser sentences for thirteen.

Morocco, for a North African country, is pretty decent. It has a fairly stable and legitimate government. Its people live acceptably, at the level of, say, Turkey or Brazil or Thailand. It is a US ally. I vote we do whatever we can to strengthen ties with Morocco (without going into opposition of Spain, of course) and make it a high-level project to induce the absolute Moroccan king to increase the country's amount of democracy and liberalize the economy. Morocco could be a real success story in five or ten years with a couple of pushes in the right direction.

In the Barcelona metropolitan area approximately 900 more people died during the heat wave than during that usual stretch of time. We're about 1/10 the population of Spain, four million or so, depending on where you draw the metro area line. 9000 extra dead in Spain? That might be way too high, but I guarantee you it's in the thousands.

The Catalans are all thrilled because there was a big feature in the Travel section of the New York Times, which I haven't read but which I gather was very positive. It mentioned Ferran Adria's restaurant as having the most creative cuisine in the world, and pointed to Spanish cooking as able to stand up to the best France can offer.

The story also mentioned hiking at Aiguestortes National Park, the scenery in the Valle d'Aran, and the Romanesque churches in the Valle de Boi. I've been to all of those places and highly recommend them. The local people up there are great because the tourists they get are not millions of sun-sea-sangria morons, but several thousand appreciative people who like their country--and are high-dollar tourists, too, interested in nature and culture and good food. The other tourists you meet are cool people, too, not chalky-white fat guys from Sunderland with tattoos on their faces but people who know the difference between Romanesque and Gothic architecture and that the Pyrenees has some of the best hiking trails in the world.

By the way, check out Trevor over at Kaleboel if you want to set up a hiking trip; that's what he does, organizes cool hikes in Catalonia.

Monday, August 18, 2003

The Spinning of a Story: How La Vanguardia Covered the Blackout

Friday, August 15: The blackout is a breaking story for La Vangua's staff and they obviously can't tear down their whole paper. Their front page headline, in a one-column box to the left above the fold, is "Giant Blackout Leaves New York, Other US and Canadian Cities in the Dark". The full story is on page five, and it is credited to "Agencies", which means, I guess, EFE, AFP, AP, and Reuters. The story reports that rumors of a terrorist attack were quickly quashed, that various American and Canadian authorities were blaming one another for what had happened, that the nuke plants were shut down and there was no danger, that hundreds of thousands of people got stuck because of transport problems and had to walk home or spend the night in their offices or whatever, that there were no civil disorders, that seven major airports were closed down, and that President Bush, Governor Pataki, and Mayor Bloomberg were up on the situation and had announced that it was under control and the power would be back on soon.

The "human interest" details were that a lot of people, as long as they had nothing better to do, went to bars and restaurants to finish off the cold drinks and fresh food and that restaurants were offering free food because it would just spoil without registration.

Fair enough. That's pretty good. It looks to me a lot like what I saw in other sources.

Saturday, August 16: Front-page lead headline: "Giant Blackout Affects 50 Million Americans; Power Returns Slowly to New York and Other US, Canadian Cities; Thousands of Citizens Sleep in Streets, Unable to Reach Home; Washington and Ottawa Blame One Another for Biggest Blackout in History". Further stories are on pages 2-6 and on the editorial page.

From Alberto Abian's signed page 2 editorial: ...No matter how surprising it might seem, the first world power controls, even militarily, the principal energy-producing zones, but it is incapable of delivering this transformed energy to its citizens, who for one night must have felt the same sensations of fear and impotence that the Iraqis of Basra must suffer: they live above an immense lake of petroleum and they have to use candles for light. Bush himself admitted yesterday that his country's electrical grid had become obsolete. A euphemism which hides the lack of investment and the chaos which the deregulation of the sector, whose costly investments in infrastructures are incompatible with the immediate profitability that some Wall Street sharks want. The Californians, for example, have suffered from blackouts caused by the companies themselves in order to raise their prices and gain more official subsidies. In the light of this dark experience, the American neoliberals (=free-marketeers) will be able to see in their own retinas that the privatization of this sector should not be incompatible with the maintenance of some type of intervention on the part of the State.

Great. First sign of the spin: Reducing the powers of the government through deregulation and privatization is bad and it caused this blackout mess. Problem: Most Spaniards seem to believe that there is no government regulation whatsoever in the United States. In fact, there is plenty, especially in the energy sector.

(Technical Stuff I Really Don't Understand): My understanding, from what I can figure out, is that there are three phases of getting electricity to your house: the production of the power in a coal or hydro or nuke or whatever plant, the transmission of large quantities of power from the power station to the local power companies, and the distribution of small amounts of power from your local power company to your house and everybody else's. The power plant is the factory, the transmission company is the wholesaler, and the local power company is the retailer.

The current problem is not so much in production or distribution but in transmission, it seems. Apparently the problem is due to TOO MUCH government regulation of the prices transmitters of power can charge, and they're not making a profit and so have no money to invest in their infrastructure. There are other problems, like the effective monopolies that local power systems have--it's like the Seventies, when you got your phone service from Ma Bell or nobody. Well, in KC, you get your power from KCPL or from nobody. The consumer has no choice. Also, our friends the Greens and our tinfoil-hat wackos about the dangers of radiation from transmission lines haven't been any help in getting new connections built.

Second, notice the Yankee-bashing beginning right here, with the reference to "now the damn Yankees know what it feels like to be an Iraqi in Basra". Also note the continuing emphasis on fear in all reports from the United States. The Vanguardia has been pushing this line for years, that the Yanks are panic-stricken cowards crapping in their pants at the slightest pretext. I guess it makes them feel better to think the Americans are richer and their country is more powerful, but they're forced to live in a society that keeps them in terror.

Sunday, August 17: "Light Returns to New York" is the full-page head, with a huge color photo of the New York skyline with the lights on again. And here's Andy Robinson on page four:

...a young woman was caught in a human wave trying desperately to get on the ferry to New Jersey: "There was a real riot to get on and I was pretty scared," she said.

No matter what, luck always respects money, and more so in New York than anywhere else. There were those in the opulent downtown having a sushi dinner by candlelight before the fish could spoil. They even celebrated "warm champagne" parties. But for the masses of service workers who walked sweating down the great avenues of Manhattan, the closing down of public transport meant long walks to the workers' neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx. "I had to walk five hours," said a young Polish waitress.

Almost all New Yorkers of a certain economic level followed the advice of the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and took Friday off--though his advice to go to the beach became less attractive when it was announced that thousands of tons of excrement had been dumped into the sea after the shutdown of the water treatment plants. The silent immigrant working class, however, walked back to Manhattan on Friday to clean empty offices or wait in the kitchen for the return of the electricity.

In the luxurious neighborhood of Soho small generators with cables were connected to the sumptuous lofts. In the cafes they were charging fifteen dollars for a sandwich, charging the blackout tax. But in any case the electricity would return soon to neighborhoods like Soho or the Upper East Side, next to Central Park. The Wall Street brokers had electricity at the regular opening time thanks to a generator in the stock market. But three blocks away in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, the neighborhoods with the lowest incomes in South Manhattan--there was no light until nine PM.

Hoo boy. According to Yank-hating Brit Andy, this whole blackout was a lesson in class consciousness and about how in supposedly egalitarian America the rich party and the poor suffer.

So let's see. There was a blackout in New York. It was reported neutrally by the international news agencies. As soon as the Vanguardia got a chance to opine, though, they immediately spun as negatively as possible. The blackout means something profound, you see. This means that American-style deregulation, privatization, and market liberalization are bad. This also means that Americans should reflect on the terrible suffering they are causing the Iraqis. It is a symbol of the panic in which Americans live. And it is proof of the abysmal difference between rich and poor in the United States.

That's quite a spin job, that is. But what did you expect?

Sunday, August 17, 2003

The almost always superb James Taranto wrote a doubting piece about the 3000 dead from the heat in France.

Does anyone else find this claim suspicious? "France's worst heat wave on record has killed an estimated 3,000 people across the nation, the Health Ministry said Thursday, as the government faced accusations that it failed to respond to a major health crisis," the Associated Press reports from Paris.

Three thousand deaths? In a Western European country? Because of the weather? This is the kind of death toll usually reserved for Third World natural disasters--Chinese earthquakes, Bangladeshi floods and the like. Has the heat really killed 3,000 Frenchmen?

As it turns out, the AP dispatch gives ample reason to regard the French claim as fishy. For one thing, the Health Ministry says the 3,000 figure includes deaths "linked directly or indirectly" to the heat. Who knows how tenuous the link would have to be to say a death was "indirectly" linked to the heat? And it turns out the claim rests at least in part on a correlation without any proof of cause and effect:

In a statement, the ministry said its estimate was partly drawn from studying deaths in 23 Paris regional hospitals from July 25-Aug. 12 and from information provided by General Funeral Services.

According to 2002 figures, the Paris regional hospitals that were surveyed could have expected some 39 deaths a day, the ministry said. But Tuesday, they recorded nearly 180, it said.

"We note a clear increase in cases beginning Aug. 7-8, which we can regard as the start of the epidemic of deaths linked to the heat," the statement said.

Morgues and funeral directors have reported skyrocketing demand for their services since the heat wave took hold. General Funeral Services, France's largest undertaker, said it handled some 3,230 deaths from Aug. 6-12, compared to 2,300 on an average week in the year--a 37 percent jump.

Might it be noteworthy that the French are claiming almost the same number of deaths from the heat as America suffered on Sept. 11? A popular lunatic conspiracy theory on the "European street" has it that George W. Bush is to blame every time the weather is bad. (This cartoon from Le Monde hints at the idea.) Don't be surprised if the America-haters' next talking point is that by renouncing the Kyoto Protocols Bush killed as many people as Osama bin Laden did.

Jim, Jim, Jim. Not even the French ALWAYS lie.

Their stats are almost certainly true, if you look at the figures for excess deaths in Barcelona. Let's just say, since the heat wave lasted (it's finally broken!) more than fifty days, that only on the last twenty days did people with asthma and other respiratory diseases and just generally old or sick or weak people die in large numbers due to the heat. Well, Barcelona was averaging about fifty deaths a day more than normal during the end of the heat wave. Fifty times twenty is two thousand. Take just one-quarter of that figure, to be conservative, and you've got five hundred extra dead people in Barcelona alone this summer.

So what's different about this August and any other August that would account for the excess number of deaths? No epidemics. No weird mutant flu viruses. Nothing medical especially strange. But, well, it's been incredibly hot for a long time with no relief this August. That is not true of a normal August. That seems to me to be the difference.

Such huge death tolls are not unusual in the United States during extreme heat waves. Says my 2002 World Almanac:

June-Sept. 1980, E and Central US heatwave. Approx. 10,000 dead.
Summer 1988, E and Central US heatwave. Approx. 5000-10,000 dead.
July 12-17 1995, MW and NE US heatwave. Approx. 800 dead, incl. 560 in Chicago alone.
Summer 1998, S US heatwave. Approx. 200 dead.
Summer 1999, continental US heatwave, 502 dead.
Summer 2000, US heatwave, 140 dead.

Looks to me like in a big heatwave in the US as many as 10,000 people have died, and I remember that 1980 one. We were living in Dallas and the temperature hit 100 every day for more than a month. So it seems to me that the 3000-deaths number the French have come out with is by no means out of line.

Sorry, Mr. Taranto. You blew this one.
Great. I go away for a long weekend in the country and you guys go and have a blackout. I know absolutely nothing about complex technical stuff like power generation, which is why I teach English. This morning's interview from Fox with the US Energy Secretary, Spencer Abraham, is pretty informative. It's not quite "Power Generation and Distribution for Dummies", which is what I'd really like to see. I'll bet Den Beste has something up like that; that's one place I'll definitely be checking during the next few minutes.

What pleasantly surprised me is that there were very few reports of looting and violence, and what there was happened in Detroit, surprise, surprise, and Canada. The overwhelming majority of those who lost their electricity seem to have behaved very civically with a "we're all in this together" spirit. At least that's what I'm putting together from the TV news and the Vangua.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

France is admitting it: there are more than 3000 dead officially recognized by the French government due to the heat wave. That means you gotta figure a couple thousand each in Spain and Portugal. They finally stopped the fire near Terrassa and that one's under control, but there's another one broken out up near Massanet, up the coast from Barcelona. That one's caused 4000 evacuations.

Most of these fires seem to be springing up in exurbs. I imagine this has something to do with the reason that tornadoes always hit trailer parks. What really happens, of course, is that when a tornado hits someplace that's solidly constructed, the damage it does is pretty minimal and people don't get killed, well, maybe one or two if they get real unlucky. It's quickly forgotten. But when a tornado hits a trailer park, where the alleged buildings are just boxes bolted to a concrete slab, everything gets blasted to hell and gone and a lot of people die and it sticks out in our memory.

Same with these fires. There are a lot of subdivisions (called urbanizaciones here) within, say, fifty or sixty kilometers of Barcelona. They're often built in foresty areas with a lot of the local vegetation, white pine and scrub oak (encina), all over the place. But those urbanizations get all dry, almost as dry as just plain forested land, when it's hot and parched like it is right now. So the area around them catches fire and everybody has to be evacuated just in case. Those are the fires that get on the news. Now, there's not enough dry vegetation to catch fire in Barcelona or its inner suburbs, and nobody ever hears about the fires out in the middle of nowhere. The news-making fires happen in these exurbs, rural enough to catch fire.

God only knows what causes them; I suspect either Catalonia's decades-old electricity grid infrastructure of sparking most of them off, or the occasional farmer doing something dumb like burning off his fields. There seems to be a mass conspiracy theory going on here, though, because I just don't believe that these fires (there will be the odd exception) are started by pyromaniacs, as so many reports state. Almost always the fire department's verdict is that it could have been caused by firebugs, but it could have also been caused by everything from a trail bike's sparking off or some picnic barbecuers who didn't put out their charcoal to the typical moron who tosses his cigarette out the car window.

Yesterday the Vanguardia printed a letter to the editor from some paranoid who thinks the fires were started because there are significant hidden money interests behind it. Yeah, right, if I'm a developer I want to torch forest land so my urbanization will consist of houses intersperced with charred tree trunks. This guy's probably thinking some really devious people like Jews and Masons and the Trilateral Commission are behind the whole thing for dark, obscure reasons that will only become clear centuries after.

Prediction: within days somebody will come out with a story saying a) the heat wave is due to global warning b) global warming is all the United States's fault c) the US is to blame because it rejected the Kyoto Protocol d) therefore the fires here in Southwestern Europe are the United States's fault e) the Americans are all murderers because their energy consumption is causing the climate change that is causing all these French people to die.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Kittyblogging and Complaining:

It's hot. The fire that has already killed five people near Sant Llorenc Savall is burning out of control, and it's joined with another fire that started near the village of Gallifa. The conjoined fires are moving north and they can't stop them. Several hundred people have been evacuated and the death toll from the heat has hit 32 in Spain. I'll bet there are going to be a lot more than that. The Vangua published a photo from a weather satellite, in which an enormous smokeball covering central Catalonia is visible.

Oscar and the Siamese Twins are in the hall, Bart is under the living room sofa, Lisa is under the dining table, and George is under the bed. They are all stretched out on the comparatively cool floor and moving as little as possible. They are not happy. I wouldn't be, either, if I was wearing a fur coat. We have the bathtub full of cool water for occasional dips, and Oscar, who is a water cat, can't resist climbing onto the side of the tub and dipping his little paw in and splashing a bit. Except this time he fell in. Didn't like that one little bit.

They're predicting a break, maybe, for Friday or Saturday. We all sure hope so.
In case you'd forgotten (I certainly had), here is a collection of statements made about the Saddam regime in Iraq and using military force against it--by folks who immediately began carping at President Bush when he began to do precisely that. Honorable Exception: Bill Clinton, who publicly expressed his approval of the war on Saddam.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

A writer I like who doesn't seem to get much attention is Slate's media critic, Jack Shafer. I've linked to him before. This is a good solid Shafer column that shows a couple of different sides of the guy. If you like it, check out his archive.
There's a rather manufactured controversy going on regarding a supposed feud between Rush Limbaugh and the blogosphere. InstaPundit and several other bloggers have picked up on it.

My take is this: The radio audience is much bigger than the blogosphere will ever be. Rush Limbaugh is an excellent, professional talk show host, and he will continue to be an important influence on popular opinion as long as he keeps going. Rush's target audience is approximately high school graduate level, same as Time and Newsweek and the network news. Radio gets huge numbers of listeners, and if I am correct, Limbaugh has the single most popular talk show in America. There are few choices on the radio, though--there are not many information sources, 20 or 30 stations in a city of which two or three are news-talk, and a whole hell of a lot of information receivers, anyone with a radio.

The blogosphere is just the other way around. There are a tremendous amount of information sources and a much smaller number of information receivers. How many people, bloggers and blogreaders, are active in the political B-sphere? We're not counting kittybloggers or techheads, we're counting Reynolds and Den Beste and Quick and their ilk, and let's define active as reading at least one blog a week. I bet it's fewer than one million people all totaled. Limbaugh gets what, five million listeners a day?

Blogs are also generally aimed higher than mass-market radio; I figure most political blogs are written for a college-graduate audience. One thing this means is that blogs are only going to appeal to the top 30% socioeconomically, while Rush appeals to that big middle seventy percent. (There are overlaps, of course, but the bottom twenty percent are reachable only through the most basic TV programs.)

So I'm really not sure what the big deal is. Limbaugh and bloggers, I think, are aiming at different audiences and so there's not that much competition between them. Sure, some of the blogosphere also listens to Limbaugh, but I don't see that either is taking audience away from the other, unlike what the blogosphere and the net in general are doing to the daily newspapers (showing how much they suck) and the weekly newsmagazines (showing how out of date they are; it's a dying format).

Prediction: Limbaugh is a loudmouth but he is very far from being stupid. He might not have been too hip to blogs before this little contretemps, but I'll guarantee you he is now, and I would not be at all surprised to see him mention several of the more prominent conservative bloggers on an upcoming program. Why turn the bloggers into an enemy when he can so easily have them as an ally?

Comment: One of the shibboleths of the left is Rush Limbaugh. You have to hate his guts if you're a liberal. Well, I've actually listened to Limbaugh with some frequency, and he is the opposite of angry, mean, and rude, as his enemies paint him. He's actually one of the calmer and less obnoxious radio talk-show hosts. He's made several well-publicized errors, but that'd be hard not to do when you're on the radio 900 hours a year. I wouldn't put myself down as a big fan, but Rush is definitely the best radio guy in America now in his field.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Tragedy near Terrassa. Five people were killed--asphyxiated--in Sant Llorenc Savall. There is a major fire up there that is still burning out of control; several hundred people have been evacuated from the area. Portugal, Spain, and France are burning; square miles of forest are going up and people are dying. High temperatures are ranging from about 95 to 110 F over southwestern Europe; Barcelona, where the highs are around 95, is getting off comparatively easy because of our seacoast location, though the surface temperature of the seawater is around 78-82 F, extremely warm. There are no signs of a break this week.

I've seen a few American bloggers calling the Europeans a bunch of wimps because it's a big deal that it hit 100 F in London, which has never happened before. See, you Yanks over there don't understand that we don't have air conditioning. Everybody in KC has air conditioning. 98 percent, anyway. It's a necessity of life when it's 90 F every day for two months like it is there. That never happens here in Europe. Nobody in Britain has A/C--hell, it gets hot enough to use it maybe three days a year. I don't have A/C because 85 F or so is as hot as it ever gets in Barcelona--but this year we've had 52 consecutive days with temps above 90 and there's no sign of any letup. They don't have A/C in a lot of hospitals, which is causing hundreds of deaths. Only fifty have been reported in Paris, but there'll be hundreds more all around Europe.

As usual the loonies are shouting that it's global warming. Folks, the whole point of global warning is that it's a gradual increase in temperatures caused by the buildup in carbon dioxide, right? It's supposed to be something we will see in the years to come, according to the theory. This here we're experiencing isn't a change in climate, it's a weather phenomenon caused by two enormous high-pressure systems. It is nasty hot weather, all right, but it is neither proof of nor a symptom of climate change.

Record-breaking temperatures, you say? Well, there are 365 days in a year, which means one record high temp and one record low temp for each of them 365 dates. In Barcelona records have been kept since about 1860, about 140 years. You do the math, but it looks to me like you ought to have an average, every year, of two record-breaking high temp days and two record-breaking low temps. Some years you'll have zero. Most years you'll have a couple. Every twenty or fifty or whatever years you'll have a big year and 20 or 30 new records. This is a big year for record high temps.
There hasn't been a good wild one from La Vangua recently; Baltobrain Porcel is on vacation, and someone's told Chemical Lali Sole to go back to howling about gender discrimination rather than to continue howling about the intrinsic evil of the United States. But Jose Ignacio Gonzalez Faus is still in business. Mr. Gonzalez Faus is a Jesuit priest, billed as the "academic director" of Cristianisme i Justicia. Our pal Jose Manuel, who knows a lot about Church matters, says that Gonzalez Faus is "for a Jesuit, a pretty good Marxist." We'll call him Nacho, the nickname for Ignacio, which is especially appropriate because Mr. Gonzalez is about half-flaky and about half-soggy, just like ballpark nachos. He's also pretty indigestible and just generally hard to stomach.

Ten years ago I had already written about the danger that "we will end up selling our prized liberty for a mess of pottage" and that we were on the road to "a world-level Fascism, infinitely more difficult to escape from than when one is dealing with Fascism in one or two countries." It wasn't a fatalistic verdict; life has "surprising mechanisms of correction" and we can expect that we will function. But "perhaps one of these mechanisms is that somebody warn of the danger".

OK, Nacho, you're Cassandra. We are now warned. Shut up already.

Ten years later, my fear is growing. In its yearly report, Amnesty International is launching a similar warning. The situation of the world has gotten worse with the change from the old "balance of terror" to the current unbalanced terror, where only one country can arm itself to the teeth and with no control, while the rest, if they arm themselves, will be condemned to death as a terrorist threat.

Calm down, Nacho. Are you saying China and Russia and Taiwan and India and Pakistan and South Korea and Israel and Britain and France aren't "armed to the teeth"? And are you saying that the United States' defense policy should be under the control of others? What others? Are you saying that Afghanistan and Iraq weren't terrorist threats? Have you noticed those are the only two governments we've taken out? If what we were trying to do was silence criticism, we'd have taken out France, not the Taliban. And are you saying that the world was better BEFORE the fall of the Soviet Union?

The coming Fascism is a transvestite Fascism, dressed up as democracy. This is not negated but sterilized. The separation of powers is annulled in fact, though not by law: the "fourth estate" becomes the property of the executive (the Berlusconi case) and the judicial branch is nominated by the executive which puts it at the executive's service (the Cardenal case).

OK. Globalization is Fascism, huh? Of course, Nacho is using "Fascist" according to the standard leftist definition: "anybody who's smarter than I am." If you're saying the United States is not a democracy, sorry to inform you you're wrong; the government does not own any of the media of communication, and we conservatives like it that way. We don't want either Berlusconi or Red Ken to get hold of any state-controlled media. And, of course, in the US federal judges are nominated by the executive but must be confirmed by the legislative, and if Nacho had the slightest idea about American politics, he'd know that during all of President Bush's term he's been having problems getting judicial appointments confirmed by the Democrats in Congress. He'd also know that some big names, like Robert Bork, have been kept off the bench by the Congress.

A Guatemalan author once said that dictators are not a cause but an effect. Searching for the causes of this devalued democracy, we might point out the neoliberal separation between policics and the economy. Political life is becoming more and more controlled by the economy. Now look: capitalism is an excluding system, while democracy tends to be inclusive--votes for everyone, health and education for everyone. For a while democracy braked and partially held back capitalism. Now capitalism, free of political controls, is threatening to put and end to democracy.

What? Look, doofus, capitalism is not only an ECONOMIC system but the only effective one. Democracy is a POLITICAL system. You could have a (mostly) capitalist democracy (the US), a capitalist dictatorship (Pinochet), a Socialist democracy (Sweden, more or less), or a Socialist dictatorship (the USSR). The United States has plenty of brakes on unscrupulous people who misuse the capitalist system, like the Federal Reserve system, the IRS, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the insider-trading laws, the regulation of banks and insurance companies, the regulation of corporations, the antitrust laws, the laws allowing labor unions and collective bargaining, the Treasury Department, the contract-enforcing judicial system, and an extremely long etcetera.

As for votes for everyone, of course. That's democracy. Health care and education for everyone--that's not democracy, that's the welfare state. Don't confuse the two. Now, it is true that I support access for everyone to health care and education, and that's what we've got in the States--sure, a lot of the public schools suck, and only old people (Medicare) and poor people (Medicaid) get government-subsidized health care. You can't be turned away from an emergency room, though. The American welfare-state system could be improved and I yell and scream about it all the time, but it does exist. Most European countries have considerably more generous welfare-state systems than the US, but it's just a lie to imply that capitalism implies no government spending on welfare.

More fertile ground for the new Fascism would be this: human beings, at least today's Occidentals, can be defined as an "insecure animal" And the two great principles of modernity and democracy--the dignity and the liberty of man--imply a sizable dose of insecurity, risk, and trouble as part of human life. Maybe this insecurity is what puts the idea of preventive war, which is not new, into circulation: "We have the moral obligation, we have the obligation to our people, to kill those people who, with no doubt, will kill us." These are not the words of Bush or one of his idolators. They are from a speech by Himmler in 1943. But they coincide with Bush in two points: the "moral duty" to kill and the "no doubt" which justifies it--Saddam Hussein had, without a doubt, weapons of mass destruction.

Oh boy. Comparing Bush with Himmler, huh? That's a new low. It's really obscene, not to mention ignorant. The current War on Terrorism, of which Afghanistan was the first campaign and Iraq the second, is not a preventive war. It was started on September 11, 2001, in case you don't remember, and it's nowhere near finished yet. Second, Himmler was talking about the moral duty to massacre people because of their religion, which is of course sickening; Bush is talking about his sworn duty to defend the United States. Himmler wanted to kill as many Jews as he could; Bush wants to kill as few as possible of anybody who isn't actively fighting for the terrorists and the rogue states.

By the way, all animals are insecure. The rabbit never knows when the fox or hawk is going to get him. Humans today, at least outside Africa, are more secure than they have ever been. A Westerner today is about as safe as any animal has ever been in history; not too many rabbits or foxes or hawks die of old age. And Saddam did have weapons of mass destruction. He used them on the Iranians and the Kurds, and the Boston Globe is reporting that he ordered chemical weapons to be used against Allied troops in the March-April war.

Another factor could be the current "culture of demotivation" that the mass media broadcasts. The people sometimes intuits the danger and protests or goes out in the streets for a few days. But if time is allowed to pass, the people ends up getting tired. Then they can admit freely that they lied: that there was no solid evidence to attack Iraq, that the only solid thing was the desire to drop bombs. The lie will be admitted without anybody's feeling obligated to resign. And when lies become installed in public life, democracy is very threatened.

The fact is that issues like the Iraq war don't affect the people of Spain at all, except for making them somewhat safer in the long run, which they generally don't recognize. There are no immediate benefits or losses for the Spaniards relating to this issue, so a little bit of feel-good, we're-so-moral protesting went on. It was more of a fashion statement than compassion for the Iraqi or Afghani peoples; I still remember TV slut Yola Berrocal showing up on Tele 5 wearing only a bikini, with a "No War" sticker hanging off her tit. If something really affected the lives of Spaniards, like the ETA, you'd see mass demonstrations all over the place. Which you see. It's Maslow's hierarchy; if you've got enough to eat and a place to live and physical safety for yourself, then you can allow yourself to spend your energy demonstrating against the damn Yankees because it makes you feel good about yourself.

But what this people wants is not to struggle (the struggle for life is already tiring enough), but some idol to cheer for and some gadget to become idiotized by. It doesn't matter of they're Beckhams today or Butraguenos tomorrow; modern man needs to identify himself with some social legend in order to feel positive about himself and accept himself peacefully. But when a people has lost its sensitivity to measure the level of its own ridiculousness (the Beckham case), the immunological system of the society is threatened.

Well, sure, there's a lot of stress these days, but "struggle for life"? In Spain, where if you're hungry or homeless it's not the government's fault, life is less of a struggle than anywhere else in history. That's why people can afford to waste time going to public demonstrations instead of, say, digging up worms. And plenty of ridiculous ephemeral shit goes on all the time in any society that can afford it. Methinks that what Nacho is really complaining about is that the lumpenproletariat has plenty of money and spare time, two things that Western democracy and capitalism have provided them with, and they choose to spend their excess money buying tacky garbage they don't need and their excess time absorbed by bad television. Set up the re-education camps! Nacho's in town, and it's 24 hours straight of documentaries about Peruvian fishermen and Social Realist theater! He knows what's best for you!

Some symptoms of this Fascism might be the discredit of democracy, fallen into the hands of the BBA (I'm not referring to any bank but to the trio Bush, Berlusconi, Aznar) Or the different way in which the United States believes that justice should be administered whether we are dealing with alleged American criminals (the negative to the International Criminal Court) or those from other countries (the cases of Guantanamo and Iraq) Typical of all forms of fascism faw the practice of preventive prisons with no judicial process against those who are suspicious or opponents: and now the Department of Justice is justifying the admitted violations of human rights in Guantanamo as necessary to prevent new terrorist acts.

So the United States, Bush, Aznar, and Berlusconi are all Fascists? What the hell definition of Fascism is Nacho using? I thought it had something to do with absolute dictatorship and the (non-capitalist) corporative state, neither of which accurately describes the aovementioned four. (I will freely admit that I think Berlusconi's a crook, but he did get elected, and he's PM of Italy until their judicial system gets him.) As for human rights and Guantanamo, that's a red herring. Nobody's being mistreated there; the Russian citizens--probably mostly Chechens--imprisoned at Gitmo want to stay instead of being sent home to face the music there. What the Gitmo prisoners are is illegal bearers of arms caught in the act. In the old days they'd have been shot out of hand. Today we're not sure what to do with them, but we do know if we turn 'em loose they'll be back in business as fast as a Barcelona mugger.

Oh, yeah, the US problem with the ICC is that a bunch of jokers like you, Nacho, would immediately trump up charges against anyone ever involved with the US government and military. We prefer to try our own citizens, thank you. That's called national sovereignty, which you yourself, Nacho, are so fond of defending when it comes to Cuba or Iraq.

That's enough. If I translate any more of this shit I'll puke. Nacho is really spiteful and hateful, isn't he? I've never read anything angrier with less reason. My guess is he's a transferred nationalist and his base loyalty is to communism and the Soviet Union. The collapse of his dream, everything he spent his life working for, has left him with no God except the one up there he probably doesn't really believe in, and as a dialectical materialist he has a Manichean point of view about good and evil (good: the Party line, evil: everything else). His God's dead but his Satan, the United States, is stronger than ever.

He does mention, toward the end of the article, that Martin Niemoller said, "When they came for the Communists, I wasn't a Communist, so they said nothing. When they came for the union men, I wasn't a union man, so I said nothing. When they came for me there was nobody left to say anything." Well, actually, if I remember correctly, Niemoller mentioned those damn Jews at the top of his list. Nacho has intentionally falsified a quote.