Monday, March 08, 2004

A Spanish journalist named Ricardo Ortega, who had been Antena 3's correspondent in Washington and Iraq and whom I did not consider a good reporter, was killed in a shootout in Haiti. Some Aristide supporters opened up on an opposition demonstration and killed six people and wounded some twenty. Ortega took one in the chest and another in the abdomen and died in a Port au Prince hospital. De mortuis nil nisi bonum.

John Kerry put his foot in it big-time, in my opinion, when he said he agreed with the Americans and French going into Haiti but that they should have supported Aristide rather than overthrowing him. The only reason I can figure Kerry said something so stupid is to pander to American black political leaders, who were strongly pro-Aristide. Now, I don't think that ordinary American black people care more than any other American about what's going on in Haiti.

Caveat on Haiti: While the going is good and there's an atmosphere of international cooperation on the issue, let's get together with the French and Canadians and CARICOM and set up a plan for some Iraq-style Marshall Plan stuff for Haiti, which is by far the crappiest place in the Americas except maybe for Cuba. A well-spent couple of billion dollars there might work wonders IF we round up the top several hundred bad guys in the country and send 'em to Guantanamo, too. And we can let the French be in charge. They'd love that.

Now, what's essentially different between the Haiti operation and the Iraq war? Both of them got rid of obnoxious dictators. In both of them there was a wide-ranging international commitment. Agreed, it was a good bit bloodier in Iraq. I can see only two big differences. The first is that in this case the French are in favor, so there's nobody going around whipping up anti-Yankee feeling. And the second is that there's no oil in Haiti so the gringo-haters can't diffuse the Iraq Big Lie: that the United States did not go into Iraq for its oil. Oil is less than 2 percent of the world GDP and the United States has more than plenty of fossil fuel energy: we're the world's second producer of oil and first in both coal and natural gas, and anything we don't have our three nearest important neighbors, the Canadians and Russians and Mexicans, will be thrilled to sell us. As for proven reserves, that doesn't matter a damn. There's enough of a supply to keep us going for hundreds of years no matter at what rate we use the stuff. The question is at what point do fossil fuels become so expensive that it becomes more economical to switch to another energy source, and that point is not coming until they have enough laser power to make nuclear fusion work or figure out how to make solar energy efficient. And when that point comes, the market will let us know.

The thing about oil is that it's instantly convertible into lots of fast, easy money, and that makes it a rather special commodity on the world market, so any tinhorn dictator who is lucky enough to take over a country with oil can instantly convert that oil into weapons. The reason the Americans keep getting mixed up in the oil-rich Middle East is that we can't allow any of those guys to use their vast fortunes gained through no merit of their own in order to do some serious damage to the world. They've already done enough and this has got to stop. (Hugo Chavez: are you listening?)

The conservatives won in the Greek elections, making Sweden, Britain, and Germany the only EU15 countries with left-of-center governments. The reason the French and Belgians have been so damn bolshy recently is due to nationalism, not leftist ideology.

Four major newspapers came out with election polls over the weekend: remember, the election is next Sunday. Estimates of the results range from a La Vanguardia low of 162 seats for the PP and a La Razon high of 176. The PSOE has a low of 134 seats in El Pais and 147 as the high in La Vangua. Everybody seems to agree that CiU will pull 10-12, the Communists 9-12, the PNV 7-8, Esquerra 5-7, and other parties 5-15. All these results are less favorable to the PP than the government survey we posted a few days ago.

Here's my list of possible scenarios, from most likely to least likely:

1. PP scores absolute majority of 176+ seats.
2. PP scores 172-175 and governs from the minority with the Canary Coalition's support and maybe that of Union Valenciana.
3. PP scores 162-171 and makes a deal with Convergence and Union along with CC and maybe UV.
4. PP scores fewer than 170 seats and everybody else makes an alliance against them.

Zap has looked goofy a couple of times recently. He posed for a photo in Marie Claire, for some reason, and they did an atrocious makeup job on him, slapped it on really thick. The universal reaction was that he looked just like the Joker from Batman. Yesterday he came out wearing a black turtleneck and Manuel Trallero said in the Vangua, "He looks like a cross between a blue-eyed working-class priest, the student leader at a university assembly, and the lead singer in a 'ye-ye' band."

Says Alfred Rexach in the Vangua, who went to an "ecosocialist" (i.e. Communist) rally on International Women's Day, whatever that is, "The ecosocialists, that is those guys who have the endless acronyms, because they always have schisms and those things and then it's a pain in the neck getting them back together (this year they're IU-ICV, but ICV is really ICV-EUiA here in Catalonia), come from the PSUC (the Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya, the old Seventies Commies, very romanticized in these parts), but now at the rallies they don't play the "Internationale" or the "Cantata for the 20th anniversary of the October Revolution" by Prokofiev, but some elevator music, which isn't exciting at all and doesn't give you the urge to take the Winter Palace or nationalize Iberdrola and Fecsa (the electric companies)."

Barcelona is actually a big convention city; the food fair is just starting up and there are lots and lots of exhibitors and the like all over town. One thing the Vangua says is that the most-eaten dish in Spain is not gazpacho or paella, but the humble fried egg. So much for Catalan culinary pretentions. Spaniards do eat an awful lot of fresh fruit, almost always of high quality, and the stats bear this out. This may be a major dietary factor that helps them live longer. So eat more fruit and ditch the damn fried eggs! Another thing the Spaniards don't do a lot is eat between meals. The light breakfast, light midmorning snack, heavy lunch, and medium dinner is a standard. They eat an average of 4.3 times a day. This keeps them fairly close to a reasonable weight, in general. You see plenty of chubby people here, and guys with beer guts and chicks with big butts, but very few huge fat tubs of goo like you see in the extra-wide aisles at Sam's Club buying these mattress-size bags of tortilla chips while chowing down on every single free sample out there. So quit the between-meal snacks if you want to lose weight.

FC Barcelona won its seventh straight league game against Mallorca, not much of a team. 3-2 in the Camp Nou, two goals by Luis Garcia and one from old hack Luis Enrique. Mallorca has one real star, Samuel Etoo, who I think is from Cameroon, and that's about it. I like Etoo; call up your local team president and tell them to buy him, because he wants out of there after this year. Barca is on 49 points, one behind Depor and five behind Valencia. Real Madrid has a eleven-point lead over Barcelona and that's just too much to overcome with nine games to play, but what was a horrible first half of the season is now starting to look pretty good. Difference: Edgar Davies. Luis Garcia has been playing well. Xavi is free to play his game. Van Bronckhorst is playing very well at left defense, frequently moving up to midfield behind Garcia at left wing. Cocu's not what he used to be, but he is doing pretty well now. Oleguer, from the youth squad, looks like he's won a job at left fullback. Of course, even when Ronaldinho doesn't have a great game, he's still one of the best players out there. Kluivert is toast. He's gone and so is Overmars. They don't get to play anymore. They might as well put their houses on the market now.

Vanguardia headline: "Wave of US puritanism hits radio". The story from EFE starts with these words: "The wave of puritanism that began when Janet Jackson showed a breast during a live TV broadcast may finish off several radio programs..." The story goes on to report on Howard Stern's self-centered whining. Does any person with more than a few grams of sense give a crap if Howard Stern gets fired? And isn't it time for the Vangua to give up on the Janet boob Super Bowl hooha? That story has been dead for weeks in the rest of the world.

There's an ugly story from La Manga, a resort complex near Murcia. The Leicester City soccer team from the English Premier Division went down to train for a few days at the Hyatt. While there nine of their players got themselves into extremely serious trouble. Seems that three German girls were staying at the hotel and these guys broke into their room, raped one of them, and sexually molested the other two. The girls reported this to the cops and nine arrests were made. One of them, who apparently was just there and didn't do anything, has been let off with no charges. Five others have been charged with breaking and entering and/or "sexual aggression" and are out on bail; the other three are in jail, no bail, and might not get out for the next ten or so years. They're all international players; one's Northern Irish, one's Scottish, and the third is Jamaican. It looks like the girls' story is true; somebody sure the hell broke into their room and assaulted them. The players say the sex was consensual, which doesn't match up with the bloody panties the cops have as evidence. This lad culture shit is just pathetic, immature punks with big money and no sense who think they can get away with whatever they want because they're rich jocks.

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