Thursday, February 26, 2004

We're getting massive piles of hits on the Noam Chomsky post from a few days ago. Seems that the lovely, talented, chic, and happily married Sasha Castel linked to it, and then Winds of Change linked to her, and the whole Winds of Change audience descended here through Sasha. Welcome. Don't shoot me, I'm only the piano player.

Here's a hypocritical little local story. The elections are coming up in about three weeks, and Esquerra Republicana has been made to look very bad because of its leader's secret meeting with the ETA leadership in Perpignan. In addition, the Socialist Party and the Communists have been made to look very bad because they are Esquerra's partners in the coalition governing Catalonia. So what they've done is call a demonstration against ETA and against the ETA truce declared in Catalonia for this afternoon in the Plaza Sant Jaume. The three leftist parties, Maragall's personal organization (Ciutadans pel Canvi), and the unions, along with Convergence and Union, are sponsoring it. The PP has refused to join in because they consider that all these groups are mounting a phony demo, that they are trying to whitewash their dirty faces and hands by having a demo against ETA that they wouldn't have given the slightest thought to having if not for Pepelu Carod-Rovira's stupidity, venality, or both, which has embarrassed the hell out of everybody associated with him.

There's a story going around saying that Carod-Rovira's real last name is Perez. I neither know nor much care whether it's true; I'd be worried if it was Schickelgruber, though. The point of the rumor is that Carod is trying to cover up his Spanish origins, which is really not too unusual around here. Remei has a female cousin who shares her molt katalanisch surname, Guim, who married a guy whose surname is Rodriguez. Their kids' surname is therefore Rodriguez Guim. The cousin does not like this and wants to change the order of the two surnames so they'll be Guim Rodriguezes.

In the media, Miguel Calzada uses the name "Mikimoto" and Jordi LP's surnames are Lopez Perez. In soccer, all the Barca players who have Catalan surnames use them as their official soccer one-word nicknames--Guardiola, Ferrer, Puyol, Victor Valdes. The ones that don't, though, use their first names, so Gerard is Gerard Lopez, Sergi is Sergi Barjuan, Oscar and Roger are Garcias (they like to be called Garcia Junyents, since they have a molt katalanisch second surname), Dani is Dani Garcia, Xavi is Xavi Hernandez, and so on. The two Catalan NBA basketball players are referred to here as Gasol (the guy who plays for Memphis, Pau Gasol) and Raul (the guy who plays for Utah, Raul Lopez).

Campaign promises: Rajoy wants to cut taxes on small businesses and Zap is promising a 26% increase in pensions over the next four years.

Meanwhile, in Haiti, life expectancy 53.3 years, the lowest in the Western hemisphere, the rebels have rejected a peace plan backed by the US, Canada, France, the OAS, and Caricom, which sounds pretty damn multilateral to me. I vote we let the French send in peacekeeping troops and let them run the show. That'll make them feel better about themselves and keep us as far out of this mess as we can. As for whether the rebels or the government approve of said force, the hell with them because the first thing the peacekeeping troops need to do is round up several hundred, at least, of the bad guys on each side. This needs to be a real invasion, no pussy-ass stuff like we did back in '94. Then some nation-building needs to be done and the United States, as rich as it is, really needs to pony up, assuming the French and Caricom troops are going to occupy the place for several years. I wouldn't give a dime of foreign aid to either Aristide or the rebels, but if say the Red Cross--or the French Army--were established there and some real work on health and education and the economy got done, we should be generous.

Meanwhile, we're meeting in Peking with the Chinese, Russians, Japanese, and both Koreas about what to do with North Korea. We really don't know whether the North Koreans have nukes, but we've got to assume that they do until proven otherwise. What we've got to do is exactly what we, and China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, are doing: make sure they don't use those nukes until their government collapses, which it will one of these years. We can't risk invading them; there are tens of thousands of American troops hostage along the DMZ, as well as the huge city of Seoul, right under the guns of the North Korean artillery.

The PP president of Murcia, Ramon Luis Valcarcel, let a good one loose the other night. Now, you need to know two things: 1) the PP central government is going to build an aqueduct to carry water for irrigation south from the Ebro river to the areas of Alicante, Murcia, and Almeria. The Socialists oppose this because they're the opposition. Catalonia and Aragon oppose it because they want the money to be spent irrigating Catalonia and Aragon rather than that land down south. 2) It is very widely rumored that Catalan prime minister Pasqual Maragall is a major drunken alcoholic. There's a discussion on this very subject going on at HispaLibertas (in Spanish).

Anyway, Valcarcel said, "I would understand the Catalan Socialist's objections to the Ebro aqueduct if we were talking about wine, because he drinks quite a few hectoliters a day and that makes him say certain things." I actually think that's kind of funny. Objections have been raised, though.

I will bet you money that this is a planted story in La Vanguardia. It seems that the new chief Cabinet minister, Josep Bargallo (he's Carod-Rovira's substitute), is completely unknown. I'd certainly never heard of him before. So the Vangua runs consecutive stories, yesterday and today, AND gives a front-page teaser above the head to yesterday's story, AND prints a letter to the editor in the place of honor, in a box, at the center of the Letters page yesterday, about the fact that--get this--Josep Bargallo does not wear a tie. The President of the Catalan Tiemakers' Association or whatever complained that Mr. Bargallo's tielessness is going to hurt the tie business, so he should provide a good example by wearing one. Now, could this just possibly be a maneuver by certain obscure interested parties whose interest is increasing Mr. Bargallo's popularity and/or notoriety for political reasons? Naah. I've been living here too long. I see conspiracies everywhere.

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