Monday, December 08, 2003

The latest rumors about the aftermath of the Catalan regional elections are that the deal has been done and that a coalition of the Socialists, the Republican Left, and Initiative for Catalonia (the Communists) will govern in Catalonia for the next four years. There is some general irritation because the Republican Left waited several weeks and negotiated with both the Socialists and Convergence as if they were in good faith, and now the story is they were with the Socialists all along. Convergence is particularly irritated, since they will be shut out of the Generalitat after 23 years in power. They feel that the Republican Left, their fellow nationalist party, has backstabbed them. It is said that there are 7,000 "spoils system" government jobs that may change hands. I assume that Convergence will respond by moving closer to the Partido Popular, their fellow conservative party. At least I hope so.

I just thought of this analogy. There are bars and hotels and the like that call themselves "gay-friendly". That means if you walk in with your boyfriend they won't look at you funny. The places aren't necessarily owned by gays and certainly do not cater to an exclusively gay clientele, but they do guarantee that gay people will feel welcome. Well, the PP has to become "Catalan-friendly". They're still seen by many Catalans as enemies of Catalonia, no matter how hard they try to show they're not monsters (e.g. Aznar visits Catalonia a lot to meet with local businessmen and community leaders, the PP named four Catalan cabinet members in this current administration, including Josep Pique at the key post of Foreign Affairs, Rajoy announced that for 2004 16% of government infrastructure investment would be spent in Catalonia, the unacceptable PP leader Aleix Vidal-Quadras was kicked upstairs to the European Parliament). What it's going to take are some symbolic gestures.

For example, the damn Civil War archives that are stored in Salamanca. The Generalitat wants the records of the Second Generalitat, i.e. that of the Spanish Republic, to be returned to Catalonia. Why the hell not? It won't hurt anything and the Catalans will like it. It would help if Rajoy would say "Bon dia a tothom" next time he gives a speech here. He speaks Galician, so why can't he pull off a few words in Catalan? It's not like it's hard or anything. If I can speak it he ought to be able to figure it out. The Catalans would love that. Hell, what he ought to do is show up at the Catalan "national team's" annual soccer game, held every Christmas with Catalonia against some expensive foreign team they pay to come play here, and openly cheer for Catalonia. He might get booed, but if he took it like a good sport he'd gain a lot of respect--and Rajoy is known for his people skills. Bingo, you're not a monster any more. This doesn't mean the Catalans are going to fall down at your feet and worship you, but it will give you more credibility in their eyes, at least a lot of them. Maybe they'll even start listening to what you have to say instead of just automatically discarding it as Madrid right-wing lies, as too many of them do right now.

The Barca was lucky not to get destroyed Saturday night against Real Madrid. They lost 1-2 in the Camp Nou. At least there were no incidents, unlike the Great Pig-Head Flinging of last season. The Boixos Nois were on almost their best behavior. They didn't even beat anyone up. By the way, the Barca has not yet served its two-game suspension that it was sentenced to by the League after last year's fiasco--they have to close down their stadium and play two games in some other city's stadium. It's been a year, guys. You're going to have to face the music sometime. How about doing it this season, at least? Oh, yeah, the game. Barca came out playing not to get killed, and they almost did. They were playing with eight guys behind the ball. Madrid romped all over them in the first half. The second half was somewhat better, but it was obvious that everyone was very relieved that Madrid didn't beat the boys in blue and red any worse than they did. Kluivert actually scored a nice goal, a header from outside the small box off a cross from the right, after the game was already decided, of course.

The Chiefs lost, too, in Denver. One can take it philosophically and say, yeah, that's one we usually just chalk up as a probable loss every season; see, flatland teams have a distinct disadvantage in Mile High. (Interestingly, Denver is one of the few large cities in the First World at high altitude. Yeah, I know, you have La Paz and Lhasa, but those aren't exactly booming urban centers. Bogota is way up there, I guess, and Quito and Mexico City also.) Still, you never like to lose, and the Chiefs' run defense is blowing turkey chow. They've lost home-field advantage through the playoffs to New England, though. However, the rest of their schedule is fairly easy, so going into the playoffs at 14-2 is not too wild a hope. If they can figure out how to stop the run, or at least slow it down.

As for the local tendency to drive like idiots, I should mention first that this is a holiday weekend. Dec. 6, Constitution Day, and December 8, the Immaculate Conception, are both national holidays in Spain. So sandwiched around a Sunday, that's almost everyone in the country off work for three days. People left the big cities en masse, as Spaniards are wont to do. So far there have been fifty killed in car accidents, and that's not counting this evening, when they all come back home. Spaniards actually tend to be fairly able drivers, much more so than Americans; they have to be because traffic is a lot heavier here, the cities aren't designed for car traffic, and many of the roads aren't as good. Besides, there are those damn motorbikes zooming in and out you have to watch out for. Their problem, however, is that many of them drive recklessly and at high speeds; also, a lot of them are driving over the legal alcohol limit, not swacked out of their minds but after lunch with wine and a carajillo in 'em. Remei says it's a macho thing.

Well, last week Zap stopped behaving decently over the fate of the seven dead Spanish agents. He accused Aznar of being unilateralist (huh?), of defending preventive war (well, yeah), of ignoring the UN (oh, come on), of lying about weapons of mass destruction (bullshit), of occupying Iraq illegally (wrong, UN Resolution 1511 says we can), of sending troops without the approval of Parliament (he doesn't need it, and even if he did, his party has the absolute majority anyway) and of obstinately continuing to err in his ways (Three cheers for Aznar and his PP for standing firmly with the US, the UK, and all the other responsible countries!) (Sources: La Vanguardia and El Periodico.)

Zap loses his tip of the hat for behaving responsibly. Such words, spoken in Parliament, are more fit for an antiglobalization demo than for a serious Parliamentary debate.

Here's a funny one. There is a guy named Ali Lmrabet who is a journalist in Morocco. He is now in jail, supposedly for insulting the King. Now, I looked Lmrabet up on Google and what I found on responsible news sites shows him as basically who he presents himself to be. He is a leftist Yankee-hater, that's for sure, but I'm almost sure he's a legit opposer of the government and not mixed up with either the Islamic terrorists or the revolutionary left. It seems clear that this is a case of injustice, that this guy has been locked up for opposing the absolute-monarchical government which is an ally of the United States.

Several points: 1) Morocco's government is one of the least offensive in the region. It's certainly better than Algeria's and Libya's and not any worse than Tunisia's or Egypt's. 2) Morocco is considered to be a moderate Arab country and its government is strongly anti-terrorist. 3) That doesn't mean you can just lock up people for expressing their opinions, though. 4) Morocco should release Lmrabet from prison. 5) There are four other journalists imprisoned in Morocco; I am not sure whether they're all as clean as Lmrabet seems to be. Two of them, at least, are in for preaching violent jihad from their newspaper, and if Morocco thinks that is the best way to deal with these jihad guys in this situation, I suppose I won't complain too much.

I think it's interesting, though, that the Free Ali Lmrabet campaign got started at about the same time as Fidel got in international trouble for jailing a bunch of opposition journalists. Fidel made his defenders look really bad again. (Incidentally, Lmrabet has criticized Castro for exactly this.) Now, what does a leftist do when faced with something blatantly wrong done by his side? He hits you with the "tu quoque" argument. So what if Fidel locks up innocent journalists? There are other countries that are just as bad! Like Morocco! Let's start an international campaign! The leader of the campaign actually said on TV3 that "if Aznar is so critical of Fidel Castro, why doesn't he speak out in favor of Lmrabet?"

So I'm in a strange situation. I don't like dictatorship and I don't agree with locking up people for their nonviolent ideas. Ali Lmrabet, at least, should be freed, and these other four guys should have their cases looked at to see if they've really been promoting violence and revolution. However, most of the people who are behind the Lmrabet cause are people I just don't trust. Look at who they are when you google "Ali Lmrabet". They're the usual French Trotskyists and leftover Spanish Republicans and Latin American poets, and anything those guys are in favor of needs to be fled from like bubonic syphilis, as a general rule.

So what do I do? Well, as they say, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Somehow these leftist loonies have gotten hold of a real injustice. Let's call on Morocco to clear up this situation, both because Lmrabet's human rights are being violated and in order to shut the Left up.

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