Friday, December 05, 2003

Uh, right, this blog is supposed to be about Spain and Catalonia and Barcelona. So enough half-baked philosophizing, pro football commentary, arguing with dead lawyers, insulting every group conceivable, and the like. Here we go with some news. Thanks, by the way, to those who have linked, especially Ms. Attila, who did so twice! We love getting linked. We really should share the love more often, both to keep y'all up on other blogs (like, say, Mr. Erudition, he who actually knows what he is talking about) and to embarrass other bloggers into linking us more frequently.

Oh, by the way, we're still averaging about 10,000 visitors a month, the same as since about June. We were getting about 15,000 a month during the early part of the year, but readership declined after the war ended. I've read several other bloggers say similar things, that interest in their blogs peaked during the Iraq war and its aftermath and that it declined somewhat afterward. Well, either that, or I offended a lot of readers. Anyway, I think we're at about our natural level here. We get most of our new visitors from InstaPundit, though we've had a bunch from National Review, Libertad Digital, and Andrew Sullivan fairly recently. I figure we're averaging about two or three "major links" a month. Such is the State of the Blog.

It's definitely winter in Barcelona; it snowed pretty good up in the Pyrenees and everybody's gone ski-happy. There are pretty good ski slopes up there, three or four hours away by car, though the traffic jams can be horrible getting in and out of those ski resorts on two-lane roads way up there where nobody lives. If you're a skier (I am not), I'd recommend you come to check it out. And they have several non-challenging ski areas, which are more my style, thank you. There's one up in the Vall de Nuria which you can get to by train, no car necessary, from Barcelona; it's run by the Generalitat. So's the train; it's what they call a "rack railway". You have to change from the real train at Ribes de Freser; there's an early morning train from Barcelona via Vic and Ripoll (both towns are worth at least a quick visit, as is Sant Joan de les Abadesses) that will get you there at about 9:30 AM. The fun part is that you either go into Nuria on the train or by foot; there's no way in for road vehicles. It's one of the few places I know where there are no cars. I imagine they helicopter in whenever there's an emergency, of which they must have a few, being a ski area. Another ski area well worth the trip for cultural reasons is Boi-Taull. You need a car but it's beautiful up there, and they have a bunch of Romanesque churches that anyone interested in history or art ought to see.

As for the aftermath of the Catalan elections, there is still no deal. The Republican Left is enjoying its position as the arbitrator between the two major parties, conservative nationalist Convergence and Union and the Socialists. Whichever they pick will be the next governing party in Catalonia. They're basically holding out for all they can get--at least four consellerias (ministries), so goes the rumor. They are busy negotiating with both sides.

The Barca royally sucks this year. Without their two best players, Ronaldinho and Puyol, they got their asses kicked 5-1 in Malaga. That's pathetic. Malaga isn't even a good team. Ronaldinho is out for at least the next several weeks. Tomorrow Real Madrid comes to town in the first big game of the year. I'm sorry, but Barcelona is no longer one of the Big Two. It's a Big Four now, including Valencia and Deportivo, both of which have had more success than Barca lately and both of which are better than the Barca this year. This is just awful, and they have no money to buy good players and they have no good players coming up out of their "farm system", the youth team. I have never seen a Barca squad as bad as this year's, and I have been following them since 1987. I know whereof I speak.

The United States is in the process of devaluing the dollar in order to pay for this year's economic growth with inflation. This is ridiculous. The economy is way overheated. Here is the one conspiracy theory I buy about Bush: He is running the economy hot now, with big deficits and a currency devaluation--the dollar is at €1.20 now and if we don't watch it, it'll hit €1.30 by spring--in order to get reelected in November 2004 behind a strong economy. Payback time is 2005. I do not like Bush's economic policies at all (I do not pretend to be an expert on this, so correct me, please, if I'm wrong). About all I can say is he's just ended the "steel war". Good. The freer trade is, the better for everyone in the long term. Now, what pisses me off are the subsidies to agriculture. It's not quite as bad as the EU, which basically buys the French farmers off so they won't riot (and a French farmers' riot is a lovely thing, with burning tires and trucks overturned and produce spilled out onto the road and occasional farm animals slaughtered in public places.) But it's ridiculous to "protect the family farm" by paying subsidies to huge agricultural corporations while keeping tariff barriers up against democratic Third World nations. (If we want to pressure non-democratic countries with trade sanctions, that's another story.) Colombia should bloody well be selling us millions of pounds of fresh fruits a year. Mali, one of the few real African democracies (a quite admirable place, really; look it up. They're even both Islamic and anti-fundamentalist) has peanuts out the wazoo that they'd love to sell us. The Central American countries, El Salvador and Honduras and Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, are standing by us right now. They've sent troops to Iraq. All four of those countries should be admitted to NAFTA right now. And Colombia, while we're at it. If any country deserves a break, it's them. They've been fighting the same damn civil war since 1948.

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