Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Congratulations to our friends at HispaLibertas and to Franco Aleman for getting Instapundited! Here's the link to an excellent piece on the LA Times's coverage of Spain. Go read it now. If you can read Spanish I highly recommend that you make HispaLibertas an everyday stop--and even if you don't, make it an everyday stop because Franco will be posting there, I assume at least sometimes, in English.
Just a little comment about Steve Earle--Mickey Kaus linked to a little piece about him. I like Steve Earle, I think he's a hell of a good country / rock musician. Several of his songs, like "Guitar Town" and "Copperhead Road", are classics, and all his songs are good. He's also known for playing hot live shows.

Now, Steve is also known as a lefty loudmouth. He is, but he's more responsible than some, and I've never heard him bitch too much about the way the media treat him, unlike the Dixie Chicks.

The thing about Steve is 1) he's not a mass-market star and he's not all over mainstream country radio 2) he's been around for a long time and everybody knows he's kind of a weirdo and he used to be a junkie and he's been in jail and all that 3) he's never pretended to be anything he's not 4) he was a lefty back before being a lefty was cool 5) even before he came out and said so everyone already knew he was against the war. So he didn't surprise anybody and he didn't get "Dixie Chicked". Mainstream country radio never played him anyway, and alt-country radio didn't quit playing his stuff after he spoke up on the war.

The problem with the Dixie Chicks was that they were selling an all-American wholesome image and making the big--no, huge--bucks off it. (Steve Earle probably still lives in a trailer park. I don't think he's ever made any money and whatever he's made he's spent on Evan Williams and crank.) Nobody knew or cared what they thought about politics. They were pretty girls and good musicians who played nice country songs. Then, suddenly, they go off the deep end and criticize the President--and the state of Texas--in pretty harsh terms in a foreign country, then, when people get angry, they whine that all the folks who bought their records and subsidize their opulent lifestyle are ignorant warmongering evil scum, then they get naked on a magazine cover, and then they tell all their fans to fuck off and that they're not a country band anymore.

Therefore, mainstream country radio and fans told them to fuck off in return. The people didn't know what kind of human beings the Dixie Chicks were and they were pretty surprised when they found out. Everybody has always known what kind of human being Steve Earle is and so he didn't surprise anyone in the least.

That is why I am supporting Steve Earle and boycotting the Dixie Chicks. If you haven't heard Steve's music, you might check it out.

Monday, November 10, 2003

InstaPundit links to Nick Denton who links to this collection of Spanish female hot newsreader babes caught with ecstatic porno queen expressions on their faces. There are a couple of, uh, head shots of future Queen of Spain Letizia Ortiz. Denton's direct link is to Antena 3's Susana Griso, who is a genuinely hot babe and whose brother I had in class once. No, I can't get you a date. Warning: I make no promises about whether you might get on some penis-extension spam list by clicking here.
Well, they gave Susan Sarandon some kind of award in Sevilla and she insisted on shooting off her mouth as soon as she saw a camera and a microphone within range. Said Susie, according to El Periodico, the Barcelona daily:

It terrifies me to think that today's patriotism means following the government's line without questioning it. It's a dangerous form of democracy that is becoming Fascism...I think I was the first woman to speak out and they've been talking about me as if I had committed treason. As if I were putting our troops in danger. It's very unpleasant.

...There is the idea that only bad actors get involved in politics. but in a free country, everybody has the right to get into politics...As a citizen and an actress I do not lose the right to criticize them, above all if Arnold is occupying a public position...I've spoken with Spanish actors and it was very moving for me that in the Goya Awards ceremony (Spain's mini-Oscars) they were able to raise their vioces against the war. (In my country) there is no freedom of expression. In the United States you cannot say things out loud. And this is a terrifying situation for democracy, because whatever the government says, we artists are free to express ourselves.

Right, Susie. I think artists like, say, I dunno, Willem de Kooning (is he still alive?) or Roy Liechtenstein, or Frank Gehry, or Jeff Koons, or David Hockney--my favorite living painter--, or my man Stan Herd, the Kansas crop-art guy, genuinely creative people, ought to speak out even if they don't make any sense, because they see the world from a real original artist's viewpoint and that's something the rest of us ought to pay attention to. Life isn't just economic statistics. These folks have demonstrated that they are worth hearing out because of their creativity and originality and hard work and intelligence. I wouldn't go out and elect one of them President, but they are real creative artists and deserve our respect even if we do later decide they are full of crap politically.

But Susie, you, an artist? Fugeddaboudit.

Sports Update: The Chiefs blew out Cleveland and are now 9-0. If they keep playing like that they'll go down as the greatest team in NFL history. FC Barcelona has won three straight games against two schloops (Mallorca and Murcia) and one decent team (Betis) and are currently in fourth place behind Deportivo, Real Madrid, and Valencia. Things don't look too bad; they're learning how to play as a team. Coach Frank Rijkaard has a set starting lineup: Valdes; Gabri, Puyol, Cocu, Van Bronckhorst; Xavi and Gerard (or Motta); Quaresma, Ronaldinho, Luis Garcia; Saviola. Marquez has seen some action in midfield and has done very well, scoring a goal last night. Kluivert went in for Ronaldinho, who got himself mildly injured, early in last night's game, and also scored a goal after an incredibly infantile error by the Betis goalie. Maybe he'll break out of his slump.

Some guy from England wrote in late last football season and told me I'd blown all my cred for suggesting a defense with Gabri and Cocu (and Gerard, who hasn't been tied down there yet). Yeah, blown my credibility my ass, right now Gabri and Cocu are both starting defenders and Gerard plays either at defender or as a defensive midfielder.

Catalan NBA Watch: It's pretty incredible that a small place like Catalonia, with six million people, has produced not one but two NBA players. They are Pau Gasol of Memphis, in his third season, whom any casual fan like me recognizes and who might well be on his way to an All-Star season this year. He's a seven-foot power forward who can rebound, shoot, and play D, and he's Memphis's best player. The other guy is Raul Lopez of Utah and this is his first NBA season. He got drafted two seasons ago but was out all last year with injuries. He's getting about twenty minutes a game at point guard and is making the most of them, with ten fourth-quarter points in his last game, precisely against Memphis. It was the first time two Spanish, let alone Catalan, players have competed against one another in an official NBA game. Spain's only other NBA player was Fernando Martin, who was with Portland a couple of years in the early 80s.

Congratulations to both Gasol and Lopez, and to FC Barcelona's basketball program, which produced both of them.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

New Partido Popular leader Mariano Rajoy was interviewed in today's Vanguardia about the upcoming elections for the Catalan Parliament. Here are a few of the things he said. This is pretty good. It is not typical governmental guff. Mr. Rajoy, in the interview, demonstrates himself to be a well-informed and thoughtful leader who shoots straight. I often complain about Spanish politics, but I admire the Spaniards as a whole for producing such a competent, responsible, and professional political party as the PP, and then electing it.

Look at the piece we did on Zap way back when in May he gave an interview to the Vangua. We translated some of his utterances then. Compare the intellectual and moral level of the two men, Zapatero and Rajoy. The difference is shocking.

Says Rajoy, ...What we want, as I said before, is to be able to work with the "rules of the game" in place now; with the Constitution and Statute of Autonomy, which have been useful and which have allowed a great advance in the self-government of Catalonia, and also in the well-being of the citizens. We hope to achieve, in the upcoming years, real convergence (equivalence in GDP per capita with the rest of the EU) and full employment, and let nothing distract us from that situation. It's a problem of priorities. Our priority is not reforming the Constitution and the Statute, and I don't think that's the priority for the majority of Catalans, but rather working so that Catalonia will become better and better off. Let's not forget that Catalonia has seen large growth over the last few years. It's the second autonomous region in Spain as far as the active (percentage of) population, outranked only by the Balearics, and its employment rates are very reasonable. We plan to continue in this line and to continue working in favor of governability in Catalonia, as we did during these eight years of getting the (regional) budgets passed. We are satisfied by this, as we are satisfied by the cooperation that Convergence and Union gave to the Administration of Spain.

...I believe that the agreement there has been during the last eight years has been positive; sincerely, it's been positive. That is, to give you a figure that is enormously significant, the budget of the Generalitat since the PP has been in the Administration has increased more than a billion (US=trillion) of the old pesetas, more than six thousand million (US=billion) euros, which is not pocket change. That has meant an enormous increase in the capacity of self-government.

From another point of view, I think that the economic growth that has occurred is enormously relevant in Catalonia. And, look, I think it's been that way from the perspective of investment, because the average investment (in Catalonia) during the years of Socialist Administrations was 8% of the total spent by the Ministry of Development (Fomento); in our first legislative term, when we had an agreement with CiU, it was 11%, and in more recent years it's been 16%, arriving at 17% of the 2004 budget. Therefore, cooperation has been positive, and what I think is not positive is distracting ourselves from what is really important to us, which is continuing to work toward growth and employment.

In the year 1978 the whole of Spanish society decided to look forward and forget a history that had certainly been complex, to put it like that. And there was a political agreement, a social agreement, there was an agreement that permitted that in Spain the PSOE or the PP could govern with a majority, allied sometimes with the (regional) nationalists, sometimes not; that is, it permitted governing with everyone and establishing a territorial agreement (division of governmental power between the central government and the regions) that was very difficult to reach. And the territorial agreement was established fundamentally because of the special situation that responds to history, and not to something just made up, of Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Galicia. And there we all said, "We're going to move from a centralist State to a State decentralized politically, legislatively, and administratively." Today, the autonomous regions in Spain have a level of public spending very superior to those of the decentralized European models, concretely Germany and Austria. They have authority over the fundamental large public services, and with the PP Administration we passed the new model of regional financing that has produced the greatest autonomy of income that there has ever been, because before there was authority to spend but not to generate income.

The Generalitat can make decisions about taxes that are important to the people, like income tax, inheritance tax, gift tax, judiciary acts, VAT, et cetera. And this is a very relevant fact. From there on, that was the big decision we made when we (the Spaniards) passed the Constitution and the Statute.

Note several things about Mr. Rajoy. His thoughts are organized. He knows his facts cold. He has his priorities straight. He avoids using demagogic rhetoric. He is a dealmaker, not a divider. He is a moderate, not an extremist. Compare Mr. Rajoy's statements with Zap's again, and two things just leap out at you: 1) Mr. Rajoy is professional and competent and will do a fine job as Prime Minister, which we all know he's going to be. 2) Zap is a dope. How the hell did he ever get to be leader of anything, much less the major opposition political party in a major European democracy?

By the way, if you want some political guff in Catalan, here's the link to the PP's program for next weekend's elections. It's just baloney, mumbo-jumbo, bushwah, gobbledygook, horsehockey, whatever, but it is MODERATE above all else.

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.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

I love listening to the early morning show on KHYI in Dallas. First, they play great country music. Second, the DJs are generally personable and sometimes even funny. Third, they take a lot of calls, and about five percent of the time the callers are really bright and witty. Half the time they're just regular Joes. The rest of them range from a little slow to real dumb. Seems that many of them have been up all night drinking, like the guy who just phoned in, said, "I jus' wanned to--BURP--uhh, some Mac Stallings." The DJ instantly put on "Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink". They run this thing they call "Earl Pitts, American" at about 8:20 Central time, which is worth tuning in for. Earl is an Angry White Male.

Christopher Hitchens is off the reservation. He's rolled over, flip-flopped, jumped the fence, changed his coat--joined the Right. Welcome, Chris. You may remember that we predicted this would happen several months ago, but we were still awaiting his recantation of his past sins before we would currently accept him into the congregation. Here it is. He hath repented. Kill the fatted calf, the prodigal has come home. Note the bold type.

An example: In trying to justify the earlier eviction of Saddam from Kuwait, Secretary of State James Baker put forward the case that "jobs" were the main justification. I thought that to be both stupid and ignoble at the time (and was generally antiwar at that date) but did not think that it automatically, or even partially, invalidated the case for restoring Kuwaiti sovereignty by force of arms.

He was a little more than antiwar at that date. In fact, he spent a great deal of his time slandering Bush I in particular and the United States in general at that date. But hidden and convoluted as it may be, that's the mea culpa we needed. Chris is in the club.

I think it's interesting that Hitchens's hero is George Orwell, and I can't avoid thinking that Orwell's thought developed greatly during the years. As late as 1937 he was still parroting the Trot / Left Socialist doctrine about the coming war against the Nazis being a dastardly capitalist plot. Then he went to Spain and learned that it was possible for the Left to be not only wrong but evil. From 1938 Orwell was anti-Soviet. From 1939 he was pro-war. But until at least 1940 he was anti-Semitic:

25 October (1940)

The other night examined the crowds sheltering in Chancery Lane, Oxford Circus, and Baker Street stations. Not all Jews, but I think, a higher proportion of Jews than one would normally see in a crowd this size. What is bad about Jews is that they are not only conspicuous, but go out of their way to make themselves so. A fearful Jewish woman, a regular comic-paper cartoon of a Jewess, fought her way off the train at Oxford Circus, landing blows on anyone who stood in her way...

Surprised to find that D., who is distinctly left in his views, is inclined to share the current feeling against the Jews. He says that the Jews in business circles are turning pro-Hitler, or preparing to do so. this sounds almost incredible, but according to D. they will always admire anyone who kicks them. What I do feel is that any Jew, i.e. European Jew, would prefer Hitler's kind of social system to ours, if it were not that he happens to persecute them. Ditto with almost any Central European, e.g. the refugees. They make use of England as a sanctuary, but they cannot help feeling the profoundest contempt for it. You can see this in their eyes, even when they don't say it outright. (War-time Diary, 1940)

Lovely, George. Xenophobic and antiSemitic all at the same time. But he grew over the years. I am convinced that when he says "you" in the following famous passage from 1945, he is talking about himself:

As for the nationalistic loves and hatreds that I have spoken of, they are part of the makeup of most of us, whehter we like it or not. whether it is possible to get rid of them I do not know, but I do believe that it is possible to struggle against them, and that this is essentially a moral effort. It is a question first and all of discovering what one really is, what one's own feelings really are, and then of making allowance for the inevitable bias. If you hate and fear Russia, if you are jealous of the wealth and power of America, if you despise Jews, if you have a sentiment of inferiority toward the British ruling class, you cannot get rid of these feelings simply by taking thought. But you can at least recognize that you have them, and prevent them from contaminating your mental processes. (Notes on Nationalism)

The second passage is a great deal wiser and more mature than the first. This is Orwell's recantation of his antiSemitism, twisted as it is: "I admit I despise Jews, but I don't like that fact about myself". I think he's being honest.

I have a feeling that Orwell's movement toward the Right would have continued if he had survived; he might well have moved as far as Muggeridge or Paul Johnson did. Certainly his two best-known books, written after 1943, were savagely anti-Soviet, and he's known to have made a list of literary figures who were untrustworthy because of their Communist affiliation, in his judgment. I think Hitchens is passing through the same intellectual process that Orwell did.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Apropos of nothing, but I just thought this article from the Weekly Standard by Joel Engel on Rod Serling and his battles with censorship was very interesting and well-done, so I figured you might enjoy it too.
The Spanish government, as you may already know, has pulled out most of its staff at the embassy in Baghdad. Several staffers will be staying on and the Embassy will not close. "State security forces" recommended that the embassy be moved to a larger and more secure building; the new building will be able to house the entire delegation. Before, some embassy staffers lived in private residences in the city, and one was murdered several weeks ago. Prime Minister Aznar announced that the government would take advantage of the situation by calling diplomats back to Madrid for high-level consultations. Most Embassy staff should be back in Baghdad by the end of the month. Said Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, "This is a temporary measure. The representatives who have gone to Amman will return soon."

Robert Fisk pitches a fit in today's Vangua. Seems Edward Said died and some people said some things that were not very nice about him. Mr. Fisk thinks this is repugnant and unhealthy and insulting and execrable and in bad faith. He thinks we're all racist against Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular. He is especially miffed that some people have accused Hanan Ashrawi of favoring Palestinian suicide attacks. Mr. Fisk is particularly angry at one Zev Chafetz, so he attempts to discredit him by pointing out that Mr Chafetz was an Israeli government spokesman back in 1982, and he says that all this is the work of "supposed friends of Israel" and "Israeli pressure groups". I say Mr. Fisk is a big poop head.

The Catalan regional election campaign continues apace. Both Jaime Mayor Oreja of the PP and Jose Bono of the PSOE have blasted the Catalan nationalists for their fence-sitting regarding the Ibarretxe plan for a semi-independent Basque Country. Bono called CiU (!) and the Republican Left (well, OK) a bunch of radicals. Here's our official election prediction, and remember we haven't been wrong yet: A Socialist-Republican Left-Communist coalition takes over the Generalitat with Pasqual Maragall (who has botoxed his narrow piglike eyes so he doesn't look like as big a drunk as he did before) as Prime Minister. Convergencia, the moderate nationalist party, is going to take a bath and the PP is going to get the same 15% of the votes it always gets. As Jordi Pujol, Catalan Prime Minister for the last 23 years, goes into retirement, the party he held together all these years is going to begin to crack up. The less Catalanist and more conservative CiU voters will move to the PP, the more Catalanist CiU voters will go to the Republican Left, and the more social democratic CiUsters will go over to the Socialists, holding their noses maybe, but they will. CiU will become a minority party probably under the leadership of its Christian Democratic faction, Democratic Union, and its boss Josep Antoni Duran Lleida. (Note: If you ever want to irritate a Catalan nationalist call this guy "Duran Lerida", using the Spanish version of his second surname. The explosion will last at least five minutes.)

Some of the more idiotic Cataloonies have been making noises implying that the nasty Spaniards planned this royal wedding thing to distract attention away from the Catalan elections. This is known as thinking that the world revolves about one's own navel. Toni Soler is unhappy with the choice of Letizia Ortiz because he thinks she was just a mouthpiece for the evil antiCatalanista TV1 while she was doing the news (up until last Friday. Letizia note: she's way too skinny. She also has a camera-friendly large head compared to the rest of her body.)

Letter to La Vanguardia: ...Many theater, dance, and review shows use, absolutely bare-faced, the Yankee model for inspiration, without this impeding the same people from later scorning everything American after performing it on stage. Or is all this antiAmericanism and scorn for their way of life, their culture, and their customs, just a mask to cover up the envy we have for them?


Andy Robinson simply cannot shut up about the fires in California. I think he's written as much about the California fires as the whole Vanguardia staff did about this summer's heat wave, in which at the very least several hundred people died in Barcelona and several thousand in all of Spain. Says Andy, wrong again about American history, The suburban model was promoted by Anglo-American real-estate developers and car manufacturers like Ford, who did not understand its incompatibility with the unpredictable and extreme Mediterranean ecosystems. The move to a suburban model--a middle-class dream made in the very same California--has been brutal in recent years and has coincided with the destruction of the rural economy.

Oh, Lord. Suburbanization has been a constant in American history going way back; check out the book Gotham, a well-known history of New York, which makes it clear that New York had residential suburbs going back at least two hundred years--what do you think Harlem was until about 1910? For other examples, look at the net of leafy towns around Boston, the Philadelphia Main Line, Fairfield County, Westchester, Queens, Grosse Pointe, Shaker Heights, Oak Park and the North Shore, et cetera. Those places all existed long before the automobile. Henry Ford and the evil real estate guys didn't cause the phenomenon. And the idea of the American dream goes back to the pioneers and the immigrants, not merely to the LA metro area.

Michael Moore's opus "Stupid White Men" is Number 1 on the Vangua's best-seller list in both Spanish and Catalan. That might have something to do with this story from yesterday's Vangua:

MAJORITY OF EUROPEANS BELIEVE US, ISRAEL AGGRESSIVE STATES: Spaniards view Bush's America as most dangerous country on planet

The majority of Europeans consider that Israel and the United States as a threat toward world peace, according to a study performed by the statistical office of the European Commission, Eurostat, published yesterday. Israel comes in first, with 59% of those surveyed seeing that country as a danger. George W. Bush's America is not far behind, since 53% of those consulted see it as dangerous to the world, as many as Iran and North Korea, and more than Afghanistan (50%) and Pakistan (48%).

Seems that the figures for those who "see the Jewish state as a threat" are 74% in Holland, 69% in Austria, 64% in the UK (!), and 56% in Spain. Those who see the US as "threatening" are 88% in Greece and 61% in Spain. 68% of Europeans surveyed said the coalition attack on Iraq was unjustified, 58% said the UN should be in charge of Iraqi reconstruction, 65% said the US should pay for said reconstruction, and 54% opposed sending their troops for peacekeeping in Iraq. The study was carried out between =ctober 8 and 16 and consisted of 7515 telephone interviews.

Now, Eurostat is up to its neck in corruption, there's a major scandal going on there, but I don't think the survey is incorrect. I think the results reflect EU opinion pretty well, which leads me to one conclusion: They don't like us.

What should our response be to this ejaculation of America and Israel bashing? I'm tempted to say this: Screw European public opinion and the European public. The results of the survey make it pretty clear that most Europeans want us to go home. I vote we do so. Why should we volunteer to defend the Greeks? Let's pull out of NATo and replace it with a series of bilateral treaties, since there's no reason for us to stick out our necks for these people. Goodbye nuclear umbrella, goodbye American bases, goodbye American intervention in Europe, if that's what they want. Also goodbye most-favored trade status. I'm not calling for isolationism here, I'm calling for a realistic foreign policy based on our interests and exclusively our (and our friends') interests. If Greece doesn't want to be our friend, fine. They don't have to be. But then they shouldn't expect any favors, either.

InstaPundit links to this article by Jonathan Rauch on American "unilateralism". Check it out for a review of debunking arguments shredding the "big bad USA" stereotype. Front Page links to this Daniel Pipes article which basically says that the Europeans are all mouth and whining and bitching but no action. They talk big about the US as a threat but their governments do nothing effective that would indicate they really believe in that alleged threat.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Since it's Tuesday, it's time for the weekly TMQ-tribute NFL Power Rankings. There were a good few surprises last week, but our rankings haven't changed that much.

Rank. (Last week) Team; Won-Lost; Ratio points for / against

1. (1) Chiefs; 8-0; 1.89
2. (2) Colts; 7-1; 1.61
3. (3) Dolphins; 5-3; 1.46
4. (4) Bucs; 4-4; 1.43
5. (6) Vikes; 6-2; 1.36
6. (7) Titans; 6-2; 1.34
7. (5) Rams; 5-3; 1.34
8. (12) Niners; 4-5; 1.33
9. (10) Cowboys; 6-2; 1.32
10. (9) Seahawks; 6-2; 1.31
11. (11) Ravens; 5-3; 1.23
12. (8) Broncos; 5-4; 1.23
13. (14) Pats; 7-2; 1.19
14. (13) Packers; 4-4; 1.19
15. (15) Panthers; 6-2; 1.09
16. (17) Giants; 4-4; 0.98
17. (16) Bills; 4-4; 0.97
18. (21) Eagles; 5-3; 0.93
19. (18) Jets; 2-6; 0.93
20. (19) Saints; 4-5; 0.92
21. (22) Bengals; 3-5; 0.88
22. (20) Browns; 3-5; 0.88
23. (23) Jedskins; 3-5; 0.78
24. (24) Raiders; 2-6; 0.75
25. (25) Steelers; 2-6; 0.73
26. (28) Bears; 3-5; 0.71
27. (30) Lions; 2-6; 0.71
28. (26) Jags; 1-7; 0.69
29. (29) Texans; 3-5; 0.64
30. (27) Chargers; 1-7; 0.61
31. (32) Cardinals; 3-5; 0.53
32. (31) Falcons; 1-7; 0.53

Note there is barely any difference between #5 and #10; those teams could be mixed up in any order. The Dolphins and Bucs look to be overrated by the system, though I still like both teams. The Patriots are definitely underrated, though I don't think the Panthers are; I think the Panthers are a middle-of-the-pack team, rated about right. I guarantee the Cowboys are not overrated. I think the Niners are too high, that they're not as good as their ranking. Too inconsistent. The Jedskins, Raiders, and Steelers are all finished for the year. The Eagles are moving up slowly but surely. The Jets are ranked too high; they ought to be down there with the other 2-6 teams. The Ravens are for real. The Broncos will keep sliding.

Last week we "broke even" again, with the Bucs letting us down and the Ravens covering the spread against the Jags. So we're now down forty bucks after two weeks. We've got three picks this week: we like Indy at Jacksonville, giving 6 1/2 points (this is 7-1 Indy ranked Number Two playing 1-7 Jax ranked Number Twenty-Eight), we like the 6-2 Vikings to snap out of it at the expense of the horrible 1-7 #30 Chargers in San Diego, giving six points; and we like Dallas at home to beat the Bills by more than four points. We think Dallas is really a legit playoff team and that the Bills are mediocre at best.
Check out this article from Slate which shows that there's not a correlation between making campaign contributions to the Republicans and receiving Iraq or Afghanistan reconstruction contracts. Yes, Bechtel and Halliburton have received big contracts, largely because they are the best-known and most-experienced companies in their field, I assume. They are also very well-known contributors to the Republicans. That's their right. They're allowed to make publicly-announced campaign contributions and there's nothing wrong with their doing so. But a lot of companies that have made only tiny contributions or none at all have also received Iraq / Afghanistan contracts, demonstrating that the quo is not necessary to get the quid.

Here's another article by the same author, Daniel W. Drezner, from the New Republic, which tells us not to panic at the apparent backlash of antiglobalism and antiliberalism in Latin America; it supports a couple of the things we said in yesterday's post about moral equivalence. There's another piece by Andrew Sullivan in TNR, in which he shreds Andy Rooney's idiotic 60 Minutes rant on the Iraq War (and provides stacks of evidence demonstrating that the ilk of Moore and Franken and Rooney are baldly lying when they accuse President Bush of doing just that) that is well worth reading. And if you want some more discrediting of Al Franken's screeds, check out this story by David Frum from Front Page.

Finally, Sullivan links to this old British magazine, Homes and Gardens, from November 1938. Just like Becks and Posh show off their houses in Hello! and OK!, Adolf Hitler shows the fawning reporter his mountain house at Bertechsgaden in the Bavarian Alps. Read the article to learn how delightful it is to spend time with der Fuehrer and his cultivated guests, while Frauen Goebbels and Goering entertain the local children, suave cosmopolitan Ribbentrop chooses the wine at dinner, and Putzi Hanfstaengel, Hitler's court jester, plays post-prandial piano.

Monday, November 03, 2003

There are two interesting City Journal pieces that Front Page links to today; the first is Victor Davis Hanson on the Europeans, and the second is a look at the new conservative hip media. Check them out.

You want moral equivalence? Here's some really shocking and extremely stupid moral equivalence from El Periodico last Friday. the author is one Jose Ovejero, billed as a "writer". The title is all you need to know: "Not All Violence Is Terrorism". In case you're a masochist, though, and actually want to read it, check this out.

In recent years a strange and repetitive consensus has been developing in the Western world, according to which all violence not generated by democratic states is intrinsically condemnable. Paraphrasing the Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, in his recent speech before the UN, the nobility of a cause cannot serve as an alibi for the ignominy of the act--terrorist--an affirmation which not only the great majority of politicians support, but also Western commentators and columnists. Let me quote Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the UN: "No goal gives anybody the right to kill innocent civilians..."

Violence seems to be only a legitimate recourse in the hands of democratic states; then the cause does justify the ignominy of the act: Aznar himself, to defend Spanish participation in Iraq, affirmed with noticing any contradiction, that "guaranteeing the security and the freedom of the world...seems like a noble cause to me": the civilian victims, a priori unacceptable, become in this way the painful but necessary price of a noble objective, at least if anybody still thinks that a war can be fought without causing casualties among the civilian population.

We should not think that those who say things like terrorism is everywhere, violence is never justified, or that the Zapatistas and ETA are the same thing, as a Socialist politician said after a visit to Mexico, have become pacifists overnight and repudiate all violence. What is rejected is terrorist violence, which seems to be defined as that directed against the democratic states, their citizens and their companies. Which gives us at least two problems.

The first, the definition of a democratic state. Is it enough to have elections and a theoretical freedom of the press and of expression to talk about democracy? Do countries like Bolivia, Colombia or Mexico live in democracy, which makes any use of violence to achieve social or legislative gains condemnable? We must suppose so, because otherwise we cannot understand that Western countries sell arms and give logistic and intelligence support to the Government of Colombia, or have friendly--and economic--relations with those of Bolivia and Mexico.

Well, yeah, Mexico, Colombia, and Bolivia are all countries striving to move toward greater democracy and better social conditions, and the fact that there are a bunch of communist guerrillas running around each of the three countries is not helping a whole hell of a lot. Is this guy saying it should be OK to use violence to weaken those governments? If so, just who elected those people who are killing others in order to "achieve social and legislative gains"? Oh, by the way, the biggest difference between the ETA and the Zapatistas is that the Zapatistas aren't nearly as proficient at killing people.

The fact that in one of those countries 85% of the population lives in poverty (presumably Bolivia, per capita GDP 1999 about $3000, literacy 82%, unemployment 11%--so it's poor but not that awful, not comparable with Africa. Says the World Almanac, "Since 1985, Bolivia has implemented economic changes that have been phenomenally successful. Still at the bottom of the South American economic ladder, its economy has steadily improved over the last fifteen years. Political stability has helped."), that the Government of another is pushing the civilian population to implicate themselves in the war--creating networks of civilian informers and with its plans to recruit peasant-soldiers--and in which the connivences between the army and the paramilitaries are obvious (that means Ovejero doesn't have to prove this, he just says it's "obvious"; also, what's wrong with encouraging the population to do their civic duty?), and another in which numerous crimes are planned and protected by a corrupt system, does not seem to make Western politicians and businessmen uncomfortable, although many more people die the victims of those false democracies than because of terrorist or guerrilla--if that distinction is permitted--actions. (Well, no, the distinction is not permitted. What this guy is saying is that it's OK for people to organize private armies, beholden to no one, in order to overthrow the imperfect governments of Mexico, Colombia, and Bolivia, and presumably the rest of the Latin American countries, in order to "achieve social and legislative gains", whatever those may be. I imagine they are similar to the gains Fidel Castro has made.)

The second problem is posed by the fact that the democratic countries are only democratic within their own territory, but they use reprehensible and even criminal means in the territories of others. They have no problem with allying themselves with dictators that defend their interests (false; the US has never supported a dictator unless he was the lesser of two evils, as during the Cold War, and it's never enjoyed doing so), they sell weapons and military technology to countries that are far from being democratic, even with the knowledge that they might be used against their citizens (the only nondemocratic countries I know America is supporting are precisely in the Middle East where they are still the lesser of two evils; I won't vouch for the French, though, with their network of client states in Africa and their deals with Saddam and Assad and, well, everybody else with money who wanted to destroy Israel), and they bribe corrupt bureaucrats so that they will approve projects that are often damaging--and even fatal--to the population of the country in question, that, for example, is expelled from its lands to give room for exploitation of forests or petroleum or the construction of a dam. (Give me one example of the US government doing this, please. I thought the last place they built a huge dam and made like a million people move was China.) While they pretend to fight terrorism with one hand they feed it with the other. (Here's his real point. Those goddamn Yankees are just reaping what they sowed and deserve whatever happens to them.)

So, deciding that all terrorism--all non-state violence--is the same, that is, persisting in ignoring its causes and its distinctive characteristics, is not only stupidity; it is also a subtle way of leaving aside a crucial question: how the political and economic interests of the First World are responsible, often directly, for the appearance of violence in the Third World. And not accepting that responsibility is a way of perpetuating the violence we are supposedly condemning.

Wow. That sure is some moral equivalence there. We're even WORSE than the terrorists because their violence is OUR fault. I would estimate that the majority of Spaniards who read the papers or watch the news on TV believe this stuff, because this is a common message in the Spanish media. It's not usually stated quite so bluntly, but it's a very common belief. I'd say most Spaniards who don't vote for the PP believe this line and actively parrot it. Fortunately the PP is going to win again in 2004, so we won't have to worry about these demented fools coming to power again until 2008.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

An American helicopter was shot down over the Saddam Triangle. There are 15 dead soldiers. It seems to me that we should perhaps increase our efforts in pacifying said Triangle, to the effect of blowing the crap out of anybody who's carrying serious armament. The rest of the country seems to be doing pretty well, the 80% of the country that is either Kurd or Shiite, with universal allegiance to the new government and the occupying powers, but the Saddamites haven't given up yet. OK, whatever it costs, we have to level them, because we're fighting the whole damned Terrorist International here. And I vote we spend money rather than lives as far as possible. But let nobody be fooled. This is the War on Terrorism and we're going to have to be ready to fight on several fronts at once, because either we take the war to them like we're doing right now, or they're going to take the war to us like they did on September 11.
Well, Prince Felipe, the Principe de Asturias, the heir to the throne, has officially announced he's going to get married. Everybody was expecting this to happen pretty soon, since Felipe is 35 and it's about time he got around to producing his own heir. The future Queen is a very attractive young woman who has had a good bit of plastic surgery and was, until Friday, one of the newsreaders on the 9 PM TV1 newscast. Her name is Letizia Ortiz and she is from a middle-class family in Asturias. She is 31 and has been married (civilly, not religiously) and divorced, so there are no phony standards of virginity operating here.

Prince Felipe has a long history of romances attributed to him; the three most famous former aspirants to the throne were Isabel Sartorius, of the minor Spanish nobility, with whom he actually had a long romance, or at least what was publicized as one; Giselle "Gigi" Howard, an attractive upper-class New Yorker; and Norwegian model Eva Sannum. There are only two possiblilities about our Prince. Either he's a real lady-killer, since his name has been linked with everybody's from Elle McPherson to Tatiana of Liechtenstein. Or he's got Prince Edward / Albert of Monaco problems and all the women are smokescreens. It's one or the other.

The Spanish media are absolutely wild with the news; the Royal Family is actually pretty popular. They're not known for being a bunch of Eurotrash or spendthrifts or perverts or whatever (can you say "Belgium"?); their behavior is exemplary. They are a comparatively poor bunch of nobles--it's not like they're homeless or anything, but their resources are limited. There was a big stink a few years ago about the taxpayers' paying for the King's yacht, and it hasn't been that long since they sold off a couple of palaces back in the Eighties. One of them that they unloaded was the palace in Santander; my impression is they turned it over to the State in lieu of taxes. We are not talking the British royals here, we are talking about fairly shabby nobility. They are pretty popular but I don't think many people have a real affection for the monarchy. I doubt many people would mind if Spain were a republic.

Catalan feeling seems to be, great, lovely for them, big deal. They are not precisely swept up in the excitement.

To demonstrate the good sense of the Spanish Royals, Juan Carlos's and Sofia's first daughter, Elena, who is apparently a little retarded and maybe a little autistic, married minor Spanish noble and fellow borderline person Jaime de Marichalar. They've had two children who seem pretty normal. The ceremony was held in Spain's third city, Seville. The second daughter, Cristina, who is perfectly normal and quite pretty, married Inaki Urdangarin, an Olympic and FC Barcelona team handball player from the Basque bourgeoisie. These two apparently carried on a secret romance for years, and their marriage was celebrated in--Barcelona. They have three kids. Cristina "works" here in Barcelona. The big wedding, that of the heir to the throne, will of course be in Madrid.

The only thing nasty that's rumored about the Royals is that the King supposedly has problems keeping his pants zipped. Supposedly he has gone through half the women in Spain. There is allegedly a videotape of the King in action with aging starlet Barbara Rey which has been covered up, paid off, whatever. He is also supposed to like a drink but not to be a Boris Yeltsin. Maybe not even as bad as Ted Kennedy.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

The Jedman is back in business. Check out his experiences with mafia dudes in Grandview, Hooter's girls, at Arrowhead, and as public address anouncer at junior high basketball games.

We're going to hold a "Win a Date with the Jedman" contest. Minimum requirements: 18 years or over. Female. (Or maybe very persuasive gay male, I don't know.) Write in down in the Comments section explaining why you want to date a bald guy with a bad back who speaks two languages badly and has taught them both to impressionable children. The winner gets to go out with the Jedman. Second place gets to go out with the Jedman twice.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Here's a Fox news story on the most recent US poll; it looks to me like anti-Bush sentiment hit its peak during the summer and it's nosing ever so slightly downward. Depending on how you measure it, more than half of Americans approve of Bush--the poll says he has a 56% favorable rating. The third year of a term is normally when a president has his lowest ratings; during the last year the "excitement" of the campaign tends to firm up support for the Prez. Bush has made damned sure that no recession is going to torpedo him like that one back in '91 torpedoed his daddy, so his financial "negligence" has redounded to his short-term political benefit. This is only smart if we can clean up Iraq within the next year. I think Bush thinks we can, if that makes any sense. He's going to need the people to be more or less happy with the economy if he's going to get the support we're going to need to win the War on Terrorism fairly quickly, at least that stage of it that's being fought in Iraq. But how long will popular support hold out if victory drags on and on? Not more than a year, I don't think, counting from now. That'll be enough to get him reelected, something I do not doubt will happen barring absolute disaster. The problem will be in 2005, which is when Bush has put off the recession until. If we haven't pretty much won the Iraq stage of the war by then, though, he's going to be in a weak position due to the inevitable roll of the business cycle. Bush has held it back long enough to win a second term. If we haven't pacified Iraq by then, I won't bail out, but a lot of people who are currently willing to stay the course will. That includes the entire right wing of the Democratic Party, the Joe Lieberman wing, and the left wing of the Republicans, all those moderate Republicans from the Northeast, the civilized, non-barbaric ones. That'll quite likely leave an unpopular President Bush beginning in 2005 and the country heading for a Democratic win in 2008 behind Hillary.

This is why we need to win in Iraq within a year. Boy, I hope I'm being pessimistic in the long term. Hey, I'm optimistic in the short term. Look at the answers to the individual questions at the bottom of the news article.

I slammed English authors who wrote about American cultural stuff and how they just get it wrong no matter how hard they try. Well, here's an American writing about Spanish stuff and getting it totally wrong. It's George V. Higgins, now deceased, a pretty decent writer of thrillers. His schtick was that his novels took place mostly in dialogue. This is from the 1991 mystery-procedural The Mandeville Talent. An investigator, young Joe Corey, has called a Spanish Claretian priest named Luis Delatorre to testify about a land deal. Delatorre has a "minder", Father Dawes. Corey has just asked whether Father Delatorre would like to speak through an interpreter.

"My goodness, no," Dawes said, recoiling, "that would upset him most greatly. Father Delatorre is Hidalgo. His family is very old. Of the nobility. Very close to El Caudillo, during the Regency. You have perhaps heard of his cousin, Francisco Delatorre.

"No," Corey said, "I can't say I have."

Dawes raised both eyebrows. "Well, of course, the passion for the art is limited in this country. But when Father Luis was in the Panama, of course, much of his ready acceptance and his honor by the peasants whom he dealt with originated, he told me, in his blood connection to the famous matador. It was felt by many at that time that Francisco was in truth superior to both Dominguin and Ordonez. But of course I do not know."

Delatorre then addresses Corey's pal, investigator Baldad Ianucci, in this way: "So often do we see, do we not, Senor Baldad, the pain of the men and the women..."

Delatorre is simply not a convincing character (if you read the novel, he will testify at length, and his errors will not be those typical of a Spanish-speaker using English).

a) Nobody's used the term "hidalgo" for like the last two hundred years.
b) Bullfighters come from the very lowest stratum of society, like boxers. They do not come from the type of old-line cultivated middle-class family that produces Claretian fathers and military officers and liberal professionals and the like.
c) Nobody ever called the Franco regime the Regency.
d) Members of the nobility do not go into the Church, as a general rule.
e) Native Spanish-speakers do not call the person they're addressing "Senor Baldad" when speaking in English. They avoid using Spanish honorifics. They use English ones, and Father Delatorre would have said, "Mr. Ianucci", just like anyone else.
f) To my knowledge bullfighting is not practiced in Panama, and if it is famous matadors do not perform there. Spain is the center of real top-class bullfighting, and Mexico, Colombia, and Peru are the Latin American countries where it is popular. A big Spanish matador might fight in Mexico; one got murdered last year in Colombia, of all things, so I don't think they go there any more. He certainly wouldn't go to Panama; the pay is too good in Madrid and Sevilla. No Panamanian peasants would have heard of a famous matador any more than they'd have heard of, I don't know, a famous golfer. At least not back in the early Sixties when Delatorre was supposed to have been in Panama.

Lesson for authors of all nationalities: Don't pretend knowledge of a foreign culture that you don't have, and this applies to everyone. Hey all you Spaniards: The way your authors generally portray us has exactly the same faults and stupidities as Higgins' portrayal of Spaniards. Vazquez Montalban's fictional portraits of Americans, for example, have little to do with reality. They include exactly the same errors as Higgins does, errors that cause any knowledgeable reader to lose his suspension of disbelief.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Have you ever seen those articles in the Onion signed by Herbert Kornfeld about his life as a gangbangin' accountant? I just found who they ripped the idea off from--or who they're parodying, to put it more politely. His name is Madd Ronald and he's from the Rollin' 20s Bloods in LA. Here's his newest screed, just came out yesterday, hot off the silicon. Should you care to peruse more of Madd Ronald's work, there's plenty more where that one came from.
Update on the Latin Kings. Our pal Akaky wrote in saying that the American Latin Kings are big on the East Coast of the States. It seems that they dress in black and yellow (or gold), and use a three-fingers-up "crown" hand symbol. Here's a 2001 article in Spanish from an Ecuadorian paper on these guys' appearance in that country. It says that the gang (and perhaps its rivals) was founded by foreigners--I assume people who had been in the States--and that its leaders are between 25 and 40 and come from the world of music, nightclubs, and entertainment. Apparently Ecuadorian immigrants, of whom there are a lot, both in Barcelona and Madrid, brought the gangs over here with them. They've appeared only in the last year or so in Barcelona; they didn't turn up until April 2003 in BCN, according to the cops.
Anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism are sadly much more common in Western Europe than one would hope at this late date. The two, of course, are closely related.

The basic mindset of the anti-Semite and the anti-American is the same: there is some all-powerful person or organization or institution that controls the world. The All-Powerful, whoever he or they are, is responsible for everything that happens, both good and bad. Therefore the All-Powerful is guilty for everything bad, which always happens for a reason--if it weren't in the interest of the All-Powerful, of course, it wouldn't happen. Now here comes the logical twist--therefore, the All-Powerful always acts exclusively in its own interest. So, it never acts altruistically or with the intention of doing good. It always acts selfishly. Everything good, honest, solidarious, caring-and-sharing, and the like comes from those who OPPOSE the All-Powerful.

The Americans and the Jews, as I said, are the peoples most commonly accused of being the All-Powerful, and they are quite frequently considered to be the same thing--or don't you remember the El Periodico cartoons of the American flag with the Star of David in the corner blue field? This is where the meme "The Jewish lobby controls the USA" comes from, in case you were wondering.

This is also why it's just as offensive for a European to say, as so many do, "Oh, individual Americans are all right, you're cool, it's just most of them are ignorant or materialistic or whatever, and it's the system's fault, the society's fault" as it is to substitute "Jews" (or "Catalans", as many people in Castile would--the Catalans aren't seen as the All-Powerful themselves but rather as sellouts to the All-Powerful) in that statement for "Americans". It's the same conspiracy theory.

I'm not letting us Americans off the hook. A lot of your moron Americans who believe in idiot conspiracy theories--the CIA killed Kennedy, the Defense Department is covering up what they know about UFOs, there are satanic perverts running our nursery schools--are guilty of the same thing, except the US government is the All-Powerful in their eyes. Unless it's the UN or the Masons or the Trilateral Commission or the British royal family or just "big business" or "the corporations" or the cattle mutilators or whatever.

Anyway, check out this article on anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism from Front Page. I especially liked this section:

But another element of the new anti-Semitism is often overlooked: The time frame for this resurgence of judeophobia corresponds with the intensification of international links that took place in the 1990s. “People are losing their compass,” observes Dan Dinar, a historian at Hebrew University. “A worldwide stock market, a new form of money, no borders. Concepts like country, nationality, everything is in doubt. They are looking for the ones who are guilty for this new situation and they find the Jews.” The backlash against globalization unites all elements of the political spectrum through a common cause, and in doing so it sometimes fosters a common enemy—what French Jewish leader Roger Cukierman calls an anti-Semitic “brown-green-red alliance” among ultra-nationalists, the populist green movement, and communism’s fellow travelers. The new anti-Semitism is unique because it seamlessly stitches together the various forms of old anti-Semitism: The far right’s conception of the Jew (a fifth column, loyal only to itself, undermining economic sovereignty and national culture), the far left’s conception of the Jew (capitalists and usurers, controlling the international economic system), and the “blood libel” Jew (murderers and modern-day colonial oppressors).

Yep. That's what we have here in Catalonia. All European nationalisms are mildly, at least, anti-Semitic, and Catalan nationalism is no exception. Fortunately our "browns", the Republican Left more obnoxious than Convergence, aren't too awful. Neither is real hardcore right wing and they both at least make nice noises about diversity occasionally. They do tend to be instinctively anti-American culturally--of course, that's why they're nationalists, they don't want non-Catalan stuff, or at least they don't want non-Catalan stuff that they didn't carefully choose for themselves, and America is by far the most culturally active and therefore "aggressive" society on earth, so it's the biggest enemy of the Catalan nationalist since it has more influence than any other (except the Castilian-Andalusian culture, which is much more of a threat to the Catalanistas because it's much closer and there's an enormous Spanish-speaking fifth column in the high schools recruiting nice Catalan-speaking boys and girls into smoking hash, getting tanked up in the streets ("el botellon"), listening to Estopa, and pronouncing "es que" "ejjjkay").

Our greens are linked both with our browns--ecologism and "land and blood" nationalism tend to go together--and our reds. My impression is that there are two different green parties in Catalonia; one is more nationalist and conservative, and it's linked to the Republican Left, and the other is more internationalist, hard leftist, and Spanish-speaking, and they're linked with Initiative for Catalonia, the local Communists' official name.

The Catalan Socialist Party occasionally attempts to appeal to all these motivations to be anti-American or anti-Semitic: they'll go brown and talk about being Catalanistas and against American culture, sometimes they'll go green and talk about being ecologically concerned and anti-American because the US is destroying the planet, and sometimes they'll go red and start talking Marxistically. You already know what that leads to.

What all the groups are capable of doing is using the blood libel: the All-Powerful is manifesting itself in the Middle East leaving blood dripping in his path. The Jews are murdering the Palestinians (local genius Baltasar Porcel says it's because they want the water) and the Americans massacred the Afghans and now they're massacring Iraqis. We're murdering them so we can grab the oil, see.

Of course, the only major political organization in Spain that openly opposes the idea of an American-Jewish confabulation that runs the world is the People's Party.
The government has announced that Spain is 0.5% over budget this year to the tune of $3.5 billion, the fifth straight year of a basically balanced budget (no deficits above 1%). Congratulations to Prime Minister Aznar and Economics Minister Rodrigo Rato; we've got the healthiest economy in the European Union. Overall economic growth is at 2.9%, the third best in the EU after such big and important countries as Ireland and Greece. The Eurozone growth average is under 2%. Zap, of course, is complaining that the extra cash in the budget should be spent on "social programs". Aznar and Rato are going to use it to pay down the national debt, of course.

No one can deny that the average Spaniard is much better off under Jose Maria Aznar than he was under Felipe Gonzalez. Felipe used to run 6-7% budget deficits year-in and year-out. The killer stat is this one: Spanish per capita income was 78% of the EU average in 1995, the year before Aznar took over. In 2003 per capita income is 85% of the European average. I submit that you've got to give the government big-time credit on this one.

Zap claims that Spanish economic growth is based on the construction sector, which has caused an increase in families' debt and a real estate bubble. The Socialists are really going off on the real estate bubble; the question is whether there is one. Housing prices have increased dramatically, but Spain is still very cheap compared to the rest of Europe. One would figure if our income is 85% of Europe's, our housing prices ought to be about 85% of Europe's. I don't know anything about European housing prices, but I can tell you that the average price in Barcelona is 3000 euros per square meter, meaning that an 80-square-meter flat ought to go for about €240,000. This is pretty cheap compared to most big cities around these parts, I think.

The real housing problem is this. The great majority of Spaniards are homeowners. Renting an apartment is not as common as it is in other big cities. Now, the rent control system put in way back when prevents landlords from jacking up the prices on old rental contracts, so there are an awful lot of people still paying forty euros a month on enormous flats in fine neighborhoods.

Corollary to the Law of Supply and Demand: When the government sets the price of a good at below that good's market value, that good will disappear from the market. That's why you can't rent a cheap place in Spain. All the rental apartments are already taken, because nobody wants to give up his old contract that allows him to live basically free. Rental apartments only come on the market when these folks actually die off. (I'm exaggerating slightly but not much).

The fact that you can't rent a cheap place means that instead of moving out of home at age 21 or 23 or even 25, people stay with their parents until they're past thirty, have established jobs, and plan to get married. There are lots of consequences of this system, to wit:

a) Close family ties. Generally a good thing but sometimes frustrating. b) Immature young adults whose moms take care of them until age 30. c) Lack of independence, conformism among young people. d) Low birth rate--people don't have kids till their thirties and then they have only one. e) A tendency toward laboral overqualification--while kids are sitting at home during their twenties they tend to collect more and more academic credentials of questionable utility. f) Lower consumption of goods--if the kid is living with mom and dad instead of his own place, that's a washing machine less that the economy sells. There are probably a hundred more but those are the ones that come off the top of my head.

Minister of the Treasury Cristobal Montoro, by the way, told Zap openly in the Parliament that he didn't know a damn thing about economics, which he doesn't (an open mike caught one of his advisers explaining to him the difference between progressive and regressive taxation while up on stage recently; Zap had confused them while speaking--and they call Bush dumb). Montoro then rubbed it in by saying, "You'll never get your budget through, because you'll never be Prime Minister, and you won't even be the leader of your party because you're gone after you lose the next elections. You're going from defeat to defeat leading up to the final debacle". Boom, boom, out go the lights.

By the way, we also have the healthiest pension system in Europe; it's running a 0.8% surplus with a €13 billion reserve fund.

Meanwhile, the Frogs and the Toads are both over the 3% budget deficit that the EU agreement permits them to run, and they are going to just flat-out break the EU rules on this. Who can stop them? They run the EU and will break as many agreements as they feel like. That's our friends the French and Germans.

Street gang murder in Barcelona: A bunch of Latin American street punks killed a fellow Latin American teenager outside the San Jose de Calasanz high school near the Sagrada Familia. That's where Remei went to high school, by the way. The killers supposedly come from a gang called the Latin Kings; they dress up like American gangbangers. I do not know whether these guys are affiliated with the American street gang the Latin Kings or whether they're just copycats; I assume the latter. In the past year there has been a wave of gang crime in the schools, with young thugs (often of immigrant origin, it must be said) hanging out near schools and robbing the kids when they enter or leave. Says the city government, "The high school (in question) is not conflictive and violent groups have never appeared, either inside or outside...This is an isolated case." Yeah, right. Everybody else in town hates these punks. And we know they exist because we see them every day. Some of them hang out in the Plaza del Norte, outside the La Salle Gracia high school. In the Vanguardia editorial they say it's just like West Side Story. Uh, no. Manhattan's West Side is a good deal safer, as far as street crime goes, than Barcelona.

Oh, yeah, the Vanguardia's Andy Robinson says that the people who live in the places where the fires are burning in southern California are there because of "white flight" (all Andy knows about LA is that he thinks "City of Quartz" is the gospel truth). They're all multimillionares living in opulent mansions--Andy likes the word "opulent". He thinks the fires are their own fault because they voted against higher taxes. See, if taxes were higher, then there wouldn't be any fires. Or something like that.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I've been rooting around in the mire of hate groups on the Internet. The great majority of them are simply nuts. These folks, however, the League of the South and the Council of Conservative Citizens, might fool unaware people into believing that they're something they're not. What they are is white supremacy groups. They're a lot slicker than the Klan, and they don't say anything about violence--well, not much. They do recommend that "European-Americans" should carry guns or other weapons just in case, well, you know what them big black bucks all want to do to our sweet little white girls.

I would take these guys semi-seriously. They're 25,000 people between the two of them, which is not a lot, but is enough to bring them to public attention. There is a photo of Haley Barbour at a CCC barbecue on the homepage of the Council of Conservative Citizens' website. I would suggest that Mr. Barbour immediately disassociate himself from these people, or that the Republican Party should immediately disassociate itself from him.

Note that both sites openly support Maurice, the racist barbecue guy from South Carolina, in his battle against Wal-Mart. Maurice didn't integrate his restaurants until the Supreme Court made him in 1976.

Please, all you foreigners, don't assume that these guys are typical of either conservatives or Southerners. They're not. There are still some unpleasant racist white people left in the South (some of them are related to me; hear that, Larry, you goddamn redneck from Lufkin)--and everywhere else--but they're dying out slowly but surely. Racism is still alive and ugly, as these websites show in a slightly slicked-up way. But it ain't what it used to be.
Andrew Sullivan mentions Fred Phelps today. Fred's picketing someplace in Long Island for some reason. I'm from Kansas. I know all about Fred Phelps. He's been at it for years. I remember back in the mid-eighties when I was at KU in Lawrence; Fred was already very well-known then. He used to show up on campus a lot with his small flock and his "God Hates Fags" and "AIDS Cures Fags" signs. From what I hear, he still does, but he went nationwide years ago. His website has attracted over 3.5 million visitors.

Fred is the self-appointed pastor of his own minuscule Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, which to my knowledge has no affiliation with the American Baptists or the Southern Baptists or any other legitimate group of Baptists. All of his church's members are his relatives; he has like twelve kids, a few of whom are estranged from their father but most of whom are his followers. Fred may have attracted a few nutcase loyalists outside his family, but since even Jerry Falwell thinks he's crazy, he's well out of sync with the most conservative wing of the Christian Right.

What frightens me about Fred is not that he's going to attract a mass movement of followers; he's too far out for anyone except for those people with nine toes and eight teeth who move out to Idaho or down to the Ozarks and live in incestuous and heavily armed compounds that the Feds roust every so often and some nutjob's poor innocent kids wind up getting shot. I'm worried that some Alan Rudolph type is going to be encouraged by Fred to go on an anti-gay killing spree. In fact, I pretty much guarantee you it's going to happen one of these days, sooner or later.

Also, what is tremendously offensive is the sheer hate that Fred exudes toward gays. He's not a "hate the sin, love the sinner" type; at least those guys are nonviolent. In fact, much of his rhetoric is obscenely scatological, as he continually refers to gays as "filthy" and "pigs" and "dogs" whose sexual practices include "fornicating with feces" and "drinking urine and semen". (I saw a rather attractive young female the other day wearing one of those tiny T-shirts. This one had the Pepsi logo on the front, but instead of "Pepsi" it said "Sperm". If I weren't married I'd have asked for her phone number.)

This, of course, is the good old dehumanizing tactic used by such lovely folks as the Nazis. You really ought to check out Fred's stuff, though, for the ultimate in crude hate propaganda. Here's a collection of his pieces called "God Hates America". Warning: click at your own risk. This stuff is vile.

What can we do to stop Fred? I think nothing. Fred's speech is protected by the First Amendment--up to a point. I don't think the law can close him down until some Fred follower shoots up a gay rights parade; then we can get him for inciting to violence, at least implictly. It looks to me like he's pretty careful (he's a lawyer) to avoid doing that explicitly; that is, he says that gays are sodomite pigs who have destroyed America, but he never takes the next logical step: he never out-and-out calls for violence.

Note to foreigners: Do not assume that Fred Phelps is a typical American from the heartland. He is not. Ninety-nine point nine nine nine percent of the population of Kansas, not to mention the rest of the country, thinks Fred Phelps is demented.
Here's this week's tribute-to-TMQ Power Rankings for the NFL, based on the ratio of the teams' points for / against ratio just like we did last week.

This week. (Last week); Won-loss; Ratio

1. (3) Chiefs; 8-0; 1.89; 4 blowouts, 4 close wins
2. (2) Colts; 6-1; 1.65; 4 close wins
3. (6) Dolphins; 5-2; 1.65; 5 wins, 5 blowouts
4. (4) Rams; 5-2; 1.57; 4-game win streak, 4 blowouts
5. (9) Bucs; 4-3; 1.54; 4 wins, 4 blowouts
6. (1) Vikings; 6-1; 1.47
7. (10) Titans; 6-2; 1.32; 3-game win streak, 5 blowouts
8. (5) Broncos; 5-3; 1.30; 2-game loss streak
9. (8) Seahawks; 5-2; 1.30
10. (7) Cowboys; 5-2; 1.29; lost 2 blowouts
11. (16) Ravens; 4-3; 1.21
12. (11) Niners; 3-5; 1.21; 4 close losses
13. (13) Packers; 3-4; 1.20; 3 blowouts, 3 close losses
14. (14) Patriots; 6-2; 1.19; 4-game win streak
15. (15) Panthers; 6-1; 1.13
16. (12) Bills; 4-4; 0.97; lost 4 blowouts
17. (20) Giants; 3-4; 0.96
18. (17) Jets; 2-5; 0.94
19. (19) Saints; 3-5; 0.90
20. (18) Browns; 3-5; 0.88
21. (22) Eagles; 4-3; 0.88; 2-game win streak
22. (21) Bengals; 3-4; 0.87
23. (22) Jedskins; 3-4; 0.78; 3-game loss streak
24. (24) Raiders; 2-5; 0.77; 3-game loss streak
25. (25) Steelers; 2-5; 0.73; 4-game loss streak, blown out 4 times
26. (26) Jags; 1-6; 0.69; blown out 4 times
27. (27) Chargers; 1-6; 0.64; blown out 4 times
28. (30) Bears; 2-5; 0.63
29. (29) Texans; 2-5; 0.61
30. (28) Lions; 1-6; 0.60
31. (31) Falcons; 1-6; 0.52; blown out 5 times
32. (32) Cardinals; 2-5; 0.51; blown out 4 times


I like the Dolphins over the Patriots for the AFC East title. The Bills are not going to contend. The system seems to be underrating both the Patriots and the Panthers; then again, it might be telling us they're not as good as their records. It's pretty clear that all twelve of the playoff teams will come from the top fifteen in the power rankings, with the possible exception of the Eagles. If the Eagles can win a couple more games, we'll have to take them seriously as a playoff contender. It looks like the system is overrating both the Niners and the Packers, telling us they're not as solid as a lot of us thought they were--or maybe it's telling us they're still better than their records. The Broncos are almost certainly ranked too high, based on their quarterback troubles and losing streak. The Bucs and Rams are not ranked too high; they're going to the playoffs. Gotta like the Rams' four-game win streak since Bulger took over as QB. The Steelers and Raiders are through. Finished. Kaput. I love it when the Raiders suck. I hate the Raiders, everything about them from Al Davis down. Remember when Davis used to force Marcus Allen to sit the bench before Allen finally got liberated in Kansas City?

As for NFL imaginary betting, we're down twenty bucks on the year--remember, you gotta pay a ten-percent vig to the bookie, so if you bet a hundred and win, you win ninety, and when you bet a hundred and lose, you're out 110. St. Louis beat up on Pittsburgh, as we foresaw, but the Niners choked and lost to the Cardinals. This week's bets: we're giving the points both times. A hundred imaginary bucks on the eleventh-ranked Ravens at home, favored by 6 1/2 points over the Jags--the Ravens are playing well, have home-field, and the Jags suck, and a hundred imaginary bucks on the Bucs--I like that--favored by 8 1/2 at home over New Orleans. The fifth-ranked Bucs, playing at home, are on a roll and the Saints are merely mediocre.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The news from Iraq is not good at all; 40 people were killed in a wave of bombings in Baghdad. All of them were Iraqis except for one American soldier. The bombings hit the Red Cross international committee's headquarters and four Iraqi police stations.

Robert Fisk, in today's Vanguardia, says that

During Ramadan--the press likes to call it the "month of sanctification of the holidays," which is only appropriate up to a point--Muslim feeling flourishes: during these days, a Muslim feels that he or she has to do something important so that God will listen to him or her. There is no passage in the Koran related to violence during Ramadan, nor about suicide bombings--just as there is nothing in the New Testament that calls upon Christians to perpetrate genocide or "ethnic cleansing", in which they became experts during the past two centuries--but the loyal Wahabi Sunnis have gotten used to combining holy war with the "message", the "dawa" during Ramadan.

As a consequence, what has the message been? In Baghdad, the political message of the last two days has been clear: it indicated to the Iraqis that the Americans cannot control Iraq, and it told--something more important, perhaps--the Americans that their country cannot control Iraq...which is a sign to the Iraqis that--an even more essential factor--they must not cooperate with American forces! (By the way: After yesterday, who's going to want to be an Iraqi policeman?)

...We must add, of course, what happened at the headquarters of the Red Cross, the last "honest broker" for the Americans, the last truly neutral international organism--after the double suicide attacks against the United Nations--still able to provide a certain degree of communication in the actual circumstances between American forces and their adversaries. But now that possibility is finished. It is possible that some elements hostile to the United States really come from other Arab countries...but most of the armed opposition to the American presence comes from the Iraqi Sunnis. Not from the "remainder" of Saddam's forces, from his "hardcore sympathizers" or "people with no future" (Paul Bremer's typical expressions, covering up a real and growing Iraqi resistance), but from men who in many cases hated Saddam.

They don't work for Al Qaeda. They don't work for Mullah Omar or for Osama Bin Laden. But they've learned their own vision of history. Attack the enemy during the holy month of Ramadan, Learn form the war in Algeria. And from the war in Afghanistan. Learn the lessons of the "war against terrorism" that the United States is waging. Go for the throat. Remember that about "Bring them to me"...Kill their leaders. And then "You're either with us or against us. You're either collaborators or patriots."

That was the lesson of yesterday's bloodbath in Baghdad.

Now, Mr. Fisk's celebration of these events in Baghdad is, of course, disgusting, but Mr. Fisk is not stupid. Evil, probably, but not stupid. He is actually an expert propagandist, which is what has led him to make so many mistakes in the past and to get people to forget about them, since he's always off on a new wild tangent, more reckless than the last. This time he has not made a mistake. As a longtime sympathizer with dictators and totalitarians, he well knows what Step One is in organizing your "people's struggle movement." Step One is: Kill all of your people who don't want to struggle and would prefer a negotiated peace to a victorious--or losing--violent conflict. This is why the Palestinians are so united while the Israelis are all divided--because any Palestinian who openly disagrees with the people's struggle movement has an appointment with a death squad.

The most notorious places this strategy has been practiced include Vietnam, with the Vietminh and Vietcong; Spain, where anarchist terrorists murdered workers who opposed the CNT, the anarchist union; and Algeria. Says Paul Johnson in his book Modern Times (pages 497-98), on the post-1945 civil war:

These (Algerian FLN terrorists), who had absorbed everything most evil the twentieth century had to offer, imposed their will on the villages by sheer terror; they never used any other method. Krim told a Yugoslav paper that the initiation method for a recruit was to force him to murder a designated "traitor", mouchard (police spy or informer), French gendarme or colonialist: "An assassination marks the end of the apprenticeship of each candidate." A pro-FLN American reporter was told: "When we've shot (the Muslim victim) his head will be cut off and we'll clip a tag on his ear to show he was a traitor. Then we'll leave the head on the main road." Ben Bella's written orders included: "Liquidate all personalities who want to play the role of interlocuteur valable." "Kill any person attempting to deflect the militants and inculcate in them a bourghibien spirit." Another: "Kill the caids...Take their children and kill them Kill all those who pay taxes and all those who collect them. Burn the houses of Muslim NCOs away on active service." The FLN had their own internal reglements des comptes too; the man who issued the last order, Bachir Chihani, was accused (like Roehm) of pederasty and sadistic sex-murders, and chopped to pieces along with eight of his lovers. But it was the Muslim men-of-peace the FLN killers really hated. In the first two-and-a-half years of war, they murdered only 1,035 Europeans but 6,352 Arabs (authenticated cases; the real figure was nearer 20,000). By this point the moderates could only survive by becoming killers themselves or going into exile.

The FLN strategy was, in fact, to place the mass of the Muslims in a sandwich of terror. On one side, the FLN killers replaced the moderates. On the other, FLN atrocities were designed to provoke the French into savage reprisals, and so drive the Muslim population into the extremist camp. FLN doctrine was spelled out with cold-blooded precision by the Brazilian terrorist Carlos Marighela:

"It is necessary to turn political crisis into armed conflict by performing violent actions that will force those in power to transform the situation into a military situation. that will alienate the masses who, from then on, will revolt against the army and the police...the government can only intensify its repression, thus making the lives of its citizens harder than ever...police terror will become the order of the day...The population will refuse to collaborate with the authorities, so that the latter will find the only solution to their problem lies in the physical liquidation of their opponents. The political system of the country will then become a military situation."

Of course, this odious variety of Leninism, if pursued ruthlessly enough, has a certain irrestible force.

Robert Fisk doesn't seem to have any problem with it, though. You might remember that attacks that fit in with the above perverse but effective strategy have already happened at the UN headquarters, the Jordanian Embassy, two mosques (one was a moderate Shiite leader's in Najaf, where 83 innocent people died), and several Iraqi police stations.

This is why backing out now will only make things worse. Yes, I'm aware that's what they said in Vietnam. We have some advantages in Iraq: 1) there's no big nearby country that is supporting the terrorists within Iraq with weapons, supplies and cash 2) armor and airpower are a lot more effective in the desert than the jungle 3) our own equipment is many times better than what we had in Vietnam 4) our soldiers are volunteers, not draftees 5) we know damn well that these people may not be exactly the same folks who blew up the World Trade Centers, but they're fighting on the same side.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Just a few thoughts while wondering what ever happened to Charo...It's a journalistic custom to refer to the leadership of a political party by the name of the street their headquarters is on; therefore in Madrid Socialist headquarters is "Ferraz" and PP headquarters is "Genova", and in Barcelona Socialist headquarters is "Tarragona" and Convergence headquarters is "Corsega"...Genova rocked and rolled last night, with the most printable chant: "Simancas, jodete, Madrid es del PP"...Ferraz was so worried about being tainted (nationally) by their foreseeable (regional) loss that they had their (regional) election-night convention-press-conference-party thing at a rented-out auditorium, not at Ferraz itself...The province of Alava is now talking about seceding from the region of the Basque Country whether or not the Basque Country declares independence from Spain, and Navarra wants nothing to do with Ibarretxe or his party or his plan that would include them...Barcelona beat Mallorca 1-3, saving the players from the lynch mob this week at least...Deportivo beat Valencia 2-1 in a spectacular game, full of action, giving Depor first place in the League followed by Valencia and Real Madrid...I was drunk the day my ma got out of prison and I went to pick her up in the rain...The Chiefs are eight-and-oh. Is this finally the year?...People I think are probably bigger stars in Europe than America: Nicole Kidman, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue, Claudia Schiffer, Abba, Cher, Mia Farrow, Julio Iglesias, Sharon Stone, Lorenzo Lamas, Cliff Richard, Boney M, oh my god.....
Well, they done had them elections in the Madrid region and conservative People's Party candidate Esperanza Aguirre was elected Prime Minister of the region with 48.4% of the vote. Rafael Simancas of the Socialists took 39.0% and Fausto Fernandez (yeah, this guy's name is Faust, which is probably one reason he came in third) of the Communist United Left took 8.5%. The PP has 57 seats in the regional Parliament; the PSOE won 45 and the United Left 9, so not even a Popular Front coalition can overturn the PP absolute majority.

Esperanza Aguirre is one of the conservative political figures most hated by the Spanish Illustrated and Enlightened Among Us because she's a member of the Madrid haute bourgeoisie and is married to a minor noble. She's often portrayed as an idiot when quite the opposite is true; she passed the highest-level Civil Service exam, which is not real easy to do, and she's been involved in politics as a representative in the Madrid regional parliament, a representative in the national parliament, minister of Culture, and president of the Senate, ever since 1981.

A common urban legend cherished by the Spanish Left is that when informed that Saramago had won the Nobel Prize for literature, Ms. Aguirre y Gil de Biedma responded "Who is Sara Mago?" Ha, ha. Ms Aguirre obviously knows who Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago is, since she's smart enough to read El Pais just like all the geniuses who like to make fun of her. She probably doesn't think much of his writing. I don't, either.