Saturday, November 08, 2003

WE SAY SOMETHING NICE ABOUT SQUATTERS: In other news: NASA confirms moon-green cheese theory, Generalitat designates bullfighting "element of traditional Catalan culture", Saddam endorses Bush for 2004

The squatters down in the plaza copped a break: the cops were going to kick them out last week, but the judge decided they couldn't because he had not received a direct formal request from the owners of the property that he eject said squatters. Looks like they'll be around a while longer. Anyway, they hang around the plaza a lot, and there are several squat dogs that look sleek and well-fed and behave themselves a good bit better than their owners, who keep painting defiant violent slogans on the walls about how they want to blow everything up. I am pro-dog, and these guys are pretty obviously dumped pets that the squatters picked up somewhere and took in. So you have to give them credit for something. There's one of them, a Spanish hunting dog (big, ugly, goofy, good dogs as a rule) with a bandanna around his neck, who insists on sniffing my crotch when he sees me. It's a friendly gesture. I hope.

Catalan regional elections are next weekend; the Vanguardia's poll has Convergence picking up 48 seats, the Socialists 47, the Republican Left 18, the PP 14, and the Communists 8. Convergence loses 8 seats, the Socialists lose five, the Republican Left gains six, the PP gains two, and the Commies (Initiative-Greens) gain five. All the other newspapers have polls, too, and they're all about the same. One of them has the Socialists winning more seats than CiU, but that doesn't really matter. The facts, Jack, are that all the polls show that a PP-CiU coalition AND a CiU-Republican Left coalition would fail to win a majority. The only winning ticket possible, if the actual voting comes out like the surveys say, is what we said a couple of days ago: a Red-Green-Light Brown Popular Front coalition of the PSC, the Republican Left, and Initiative-Greens. Precisely what we have now in the Barcelona City Council.

They had a debate on TV last night. It wasn't very interesting. The only candidate I like is, of course, the PP's Josep Pique. Convergencia's Artur Mas is a lightweight, the PSC's Pasqual Maragall is a blowhard, the Republican Left's Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira is a one-issue candidate, and Initiative-Greens' Joan Saura is dumb. Intellectually. He's a smart politician running on Marxist hot air and exaggerated criticisms of everyone else, and he got most attention in the debate.

Xavier and Murph and I have a debate going on about whether the PP is or is not "monolithically centralist". They say it is. I say the PP is not in favor of greater autonomy for the regions, but it doesn't have a problem with the system of autonomous regions as it stands, and that it would be willing to consider some changes in the system.

Josep Pique, the PP's candidate (and the most qualified candidate: Maragall was Mayor of Barcelona for many years and has proved that he has political credibility. I don't like him, but I admit that a lot of reasonable people do. If you're a Clinton-Gore Democrat, Maragall's your man. Neither Mas, Carod, or Saura has ever held an important position. Pique was a Cabinet minister in Madrid three different times in three different posts, including that of Foreign Minister) said this during the debate:

"The PP defends the Estatut (the Statute of Autonomy, the Catalan regional constitution), and we are the only ones. And here are four political forces that want to destroy it. We won't close ourselves off intellectually to reforms, if it continues to be the Estatut of all Catalans."

There you go. The PP is satisfied with the level of Catalan autonomy as it is. And it is open to certain changes. That, to me, is not monolithically centralist, it's pretty damn reasonable.

The Vangua got itself into a nasty little mess. It seems that activist idiot actor Joel Joan (our Woody Harrelson, sort of) got up on a stage at a Republican Left rally and told about going to an Italian place called La Corza Blanca in Barcelona's Vila Olimpica. Joan says he went into the restaurant and asked for a table for seven in Catalan, and he was treated rudely and basically told to fuck off. Quim Monzo fell for this one and repeated it in a rather hysterical Vanguardia column last week titled "The Harassment of Catalan".

Explosion. The people from La Corza Blanca and their clients raised a huge stink, saying that they weren't an Italian place, first, and that second, they never treated clients badly and always used the language the client preferred, Catalan or Spanish. They got a bunch of signatures from their regulars over dinner that night and wrote in to the Vangua the next day. Monzo and Joan both had to retract.

Now, let's think for a minute. Let's say you run a restaurant and Joel Joan, who has been on TV and in movies a lot and whom you certainly recognize (he's about six foot six and quite distinctive-looking), walks in with six other people and asks for a table in Catalan. What do you do? You think, humm, at seven people and twenty-five euros each that's €175, and if they get into the wine list or order whiskey or brandy that's €300 at least, and you also figure that if you give them good service and treat them right they'll come back and cough up more dough at your place, and you think that if you have Joel Joan as a regular client he'll tell his friends and your place will look fashionable and hip and maybe you can even get an autographed picture or something.

What you do is say "Si, senyor, es clar, aqui mateix. O on vulguin." And then you rub your greedy little restaurant-owning hands all the way to the bank. Have you ever heard of a business owner offending a client in the way Joan says he was offended?

Here's what happened. Joan repeated an urban legend that he's heard more than once. It didn't really happen to him; he repeated something that "happened" to "a friend of a friend" that he thought was a good story. Joan, as a hardcore radical Catalan nationalist, enjoys playing the victim, and this story of alleged discrimination against Catalan-speakers was too good not to use, so he appropriated it. That is, he lied.

WARNING: The Partido Humanista is running in these elections. It is a front group for a cult that calls itself La Comunidad and is controlled by an Argentinian "visionary" named Silo. They recruit at a very grassroots level among idealistic far-leftists, and their modus operandi is well-known since they've been at it since the Sixties. The organization consists of an inner circle around the mysterious Silo which receives contributions sent by cult branches around the world.

Their political party is merely an opportunity for them to take advantage of the free airtime provided by Spanish television to parties during elections; it never gets more than about seventeen votes. Most notorious was what they pulled off in the '91 election, when they adopted the name "Ecologistas Verdes" and skimmed off some 20,000 votes from those who thought they were supporting a legitimate Green Party rather than a front for a cult.

Don't believe me? Google some combination of "silo" and "partido humanista" and "la comunidad" and "cartas a mis amigos" (the title of Silo's magnum opus.) Just look what you'll find.

Lluis Foix, former editor-in-chief of La Vanguardia, goes off the deep end in Thursday's op-ed section:

The plot thread of these hypotheses is that the terrorist organization Al Qaeda could not have had such a sophisticated level of preparedness to carry off such a perfect and successful attack. It is questioned, for example, whether the suicide terrorists were sufficiently trained in aeronautic navigation as to carry off an attack with so much precision and such synchronicity against New york's Twin Towers.

I am never in favor of conspiracy theories and I look at the facts that are in front of my face. However, why didn't the American intelligence services act correctly, knowing as they knew that a terrorist attack of great dimensions was being planned using commercial airplanes?...

Where is Bin Laden? Was that terrible massacre prepared in Afghanistan? If the official version is true, the power of the terrorists could strike the most unexpected objectives. I don't give a lot of credit to the hypotheses going around. But it's difficult to believe that the perversity of the terrorists was so perfect.

Louie, Louie, Louie. Bin Laden said he did it, and we know how it was done. We also know he pulled off sophisticated attacks on our African embassies three years before 9-11. Your logic, Louie, is that of conspiracy theories, despite how many times you try to throw us off the trail by claiming you don't believe in them--because this is a pretty big one. Louie is using that same old anti-American bias, thinking the USA is the All-Powerful and that so nothing can happen without its say-so.

Louie, what happened is that our intelligence services got caught with their pants down and their asscracks sticking out behind. That happens much too frequently for my taste, and the incompetence of that bunch of bunglers is proof that all CIA-based conspiracy theories are false, because there's no way the CIA could actually make something so complex as Al Qaeda's 9-11 plan work. You need a tight, organized, motivated terrorist cell run by professionals to pull that off.

Are you seriously suggesting, Louie, that the United States government is lying about what happened on 9-11? Your use of the words "official version" and your last sentence seem to show that you are. So why would they lie about it? Obviously because the US government was really behind 9-11. Come on, Louie, admit that's what you're saying. And then think for a minute about exactly why the US government would intentionally get 3000 innocent people killed. Obviously because the US government is evil enough to murder innocents for its own nefarious purposes. Just come out and say it, Louie, tell us what you really think.

The shocking thing is that 1) such ignorant and baseless speculation is taken seriously enough by a prominent journalist to get in the paper and 2) Louie tells us that his column is in response to a growing number of rumors in Europe that 9-11 was an American government setup. I've personally heard those rumors spread by ignorant people I know, including some of my in-laws whom I don't have to go visit anymore. My guess is that within a year most Europeans will come to believe in the 9-11 conspiracy theory that Louie lays out while telling us he does not believe in conspiracy theories. If they don't already. Eurostat ought to do a poll on this one, if they can keep their hands out of the till long enough to do their so-called job. I bet half the Europeans think 9-11 was an evil CIA plot.

Oh, yeah, Louie, the power of the terrorists CANstrike the most unexpected objectives. Like the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They missed the White House thanks to the efforts of the cowardly, fear-stricken Americans who charged the cockpit and caused the terrorists to crash the plane in the Pennsylvania mountains. That's why we're fighting this war. 9-11 must never be allowed to happen again, whether in New York--or Barcelona. Don't fool yourself that they wouldn't take a shot at Barcelona. They would if they saw a good chance.

Lluis Foix, you are a stupid asshole. You are too stupid to recognize that the United States is not the All-Powerful and that is why you indulge in masturbatory fantasies about an arch-villainous American government pulling the string behind everything that happens in the world. You are also too stupid to realize that international terrorism has you on its list, too, and that wishing it away with antiwar demonstrations and whining for peace will serve for absolutely nothing when you are behind the eight ball, which you may be one day. And you are such an asshole that you accuse those people who are in charge of the US government of being callous murderers with absolutely no proof, just the wildest speculation. That's what we call libel where I come from.

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