Monday, November 24, 2003

One of the most common flagrant economic errors made about poor countries in Spain is that they are "rich in natural resources". The problem here is that natural resources don't matter much of a damn if you can't do something with them that adds value. The implication of the statement, though, is that these poor countries with lots of natural resources ought to be rich. Why aren't they? There's some sort of capitalist conspiracy holding them back and exploiting them, of course. See, that's the problem with, say, Bolivia, according to Vanguardia-thought.

La Vanguardia, in writing about the situation in Georgia, includes these pearls:

The growth of corruption and the rapid impoverishment of a country rich in natural resources are at the roots of the Georgian crisis...(Georgia) was the garden of the Soviet Union, and its wines and fruits supplied the whole Soviet Union, which gave it a higher per capita income than the rest of the (Soviet) republics.

Corruption, OK, no beef with the Vangua there. But "rich in natural resources"? Georgia, on the Black Sea, was the only part of the old USSR with a Mediterranean climate suitable for cultivating vines and fruit trees. That's it, that's all the resources they have. Now, a well-managed country ought to do fairly well selling wines and fruits (hey, wine's a value-added manufacture), and you'd think with their attractive seacoast they could have a tourist business. Think Chile or even Spain.

The difference, though, is that both Chile and Spain have sizable industrial and service sectors. And Georgia is not and never has been well-managed. Its "prosperity" under the USSR was the result of having the whole empire as its captive market. Now it's just another run-down ex-Communist dump on the Med--well, on the Black Sea--in the same league as Albania.

Anyway, the Vangua is emphasizing that the Yanks are behind the opposition to Shevardnadze and that a proposed oil pipeline between the Caspian Sea and the Black would run through Georgia. See, nothing happens without the consent of the All-Powerful, and the All-Powerful will do anything to get more oil. (That's why we were in Afghanistan and Iraq, you know. I even remember seeing some real nutcases around here claim that the Somalia intervention was because of oil.) And then they accuse America of being simplistic. Seems to me that America-bashers are guilty of being reductionists.

Here's more Vanguardia-thought from Tikrit Tommy Alcoverro.

Iraq, on the road to civil war

Almost everything that is happening in Iraq since the Anglo-American invasion had been predicted. We were warned that occupation would foment anarchy, the struggle to resist, and, finally, war among the Iraqis...(The attacks on the Iraqi police stations) corroborate the confrontation of the guerrillas with persons, institutions, and business accused of "collaborationism" with the occupiers.

1) Tommy was predicting mass American carpet-bombings of Iraq that would massacre the population, not any kind of anti-terrorist war. 2) I very much dislike Tommy's use of terms with positive connotations like "guerrillas" and "resistance" to refer to murderous fanatical thugs.

...The American armed occupation, like all the invasions in history, is exacerbating nationalist feeling, but it is also creating destructive divisions among the population. In Algeria, during the FLN's struggle for independence, those who sided with the Paris government were insultingly called "harkis" and they had to abandon their homeland after the liberation...

1) Where Tommy writes "American", read "coalition". 2) I can think of thousands of invasions and conquests in human history that did not exacerbate nationalist feeling because the conquered people were all too busy being dead or slaves to worry about things like nationalism--or because, like between 1940 and D-Day, the conquered people were, well, French. (Of course, the myth of the Resistance in Nazi-governed Europe is largely just that, a myth.) 3) As for Algeria, the FLN were murderous fanatical thugs. Tikrit Tommy is absolutely right about the strategy being used, though. The FLN murdered the "harkis" mercilessly and the Iraqi terrorists are going to try to do the same to moderate Iraqis. That's the first thing you do in a struggle for national liberation, see, you kill all your fellow oppressed people who disagree with you. (See this previous post on Algeria.) 4) It is NOT the Americans who are creating divisions among the Iraqis, it is the pro-Saddam terrorists who are committing the murders. 5) I find it fascinating that Tommy does not condemn, ever, pro-Saddam terrorist attacks on Iraqis or coalition forces, on any grounds, including humanitarian ones of being against innocent people getting killed. Yet if the Americans drop a bomb on a terrorist hideout and some kid gets a splinter in his arm, it's the Nuremberg Trials all over again but this time with the evil Americans in the dock.

...Maybe it would be exaggerated to compare the provisional council established by the US to the Vichy government during the German occupation of France.

Maybe it would. How about these differences:

Transition to democracy underway: Iraq Yes, Vichy No.
Civil liberties, human rights established: Iraq Yes, Vichy No.
Mass sums of money spent on improving daily life: Iraq Yes, Vichy No.
Occupying power sucks out national wealth: Iraq No, Vichy Yes.
Tens of thousands of Jews deported to death camps: Iraq No, Vichy Yes.
Hundreds of thousands of citizens deported as slave labor: Iraq No, Vichy Yes.
Harsh, murderous measures taken against peaceful dissenters: Iraq No, Vichy Yes.
Government overthrown by occupiers evil, corrupt dictatorship: Iraq Yes, Vichy No.
La Vanguardia sympathetic to totalitarian dictators: 1940-44 Yes, 2002-2003 Yes.

Snowflake (Copito de Nieve or Floquet de Neu), the world's only albino gorilla, has died at age 40 of skin cancer in the Barcelona Zoo. That's a shame, of course. We knew it was coming, he'd been very ill for a while, and they took him off display late last week.

The most popular name in Catalonia for newborn males in 2003 is Mohammed, according to TV3. I have no problem with this; I'm pro-immigration, both to America and to Spain. However, I predict a tragic rise in racism in these parts over the next five or ten years, as more (and poorer) immigrants arrive and the locals fail to deal with them in a positive or at least pragmatic manner. See, the locals aren't used to dealing with immigrants at all.

Local TV frequently does news pieces on immigrants, and they're almost always positive (good), and almost always both patronizing and inaccurate (bad). A (well-educated, good-looking) immigrant is shown leading a successful life, perfectly integrated into Catalonia, and the message that this is what happens is thus diffused. In fact, this sort of success is fairly rare among immigrants in Catalonia, most of whom live in comparative poverty--though better than back home in Morocco, so they're just going to keep coming.

We're going to be just like France, not just like America, unfortunately. Old European nationalisms, like the French and the Catalan and the German, are not good at dealing with other folks on an intimate level. They don't mind you visiting, but they want to make sure you go back home without contaminating their blood and land. The only way to overcome this rejection is to become "more Catalan than the Catalans".

I have an article on this phenomenon by Llatzer Moix, which I'll translate either later today or tomorrow.

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