Saturday, June 26, 2004

I've been asked recently several times how and why I turned into a conservative. First, of course, conservative is too simple a label. I'd rather call myself a libertarian on issues of personal freedom, in favor of a somewhat modified welfare state (we can afford it) on the social side, free-market and laissez-faire (up to a point) economically, and hard-line on military and international affairs. If you add that all up you get conservative, I guess, though I support gay marriage, legal abortion on demand in the first trimester, a very expensive reform of the educational system, legalized pot, and generous standards toward letting the government help individual citizens.

How about this. When I was a little kid I believed everything I was supposed to believe. Authority figures like parents and teachers were all-wise and -knowing. Then I grew up a little and I learned for myself that there was a lot of phony BS in what authority, as I saw it, represented. So I turned totally the other way around and began to despise authority and tradition and whatever you were supposed to do. I threw myself behind the questioners who I believed were trying to change society for the better.

Then I grew up a little more and I began to question the questioners. Soon I discovered that tradition and the established way of doing things has been around for thousands of years, and it's been surprisingly flexible in its acceptance of different ways of thinking and acting. (Look at how well we deal with new technology, for example, quickly exploiting it for all it's worth and trying as hard as we can to improve it.) These traditions and laws and this system that comes down from our cavemen ancestors through the early chiefdoms and tribes to modern civilizations have an awful lot going for them, and any questioner who wants to throw them out has some serious explaining to do. The burden of proof is on him.

When I started questioning the questioners, I soon realized that a lot of the stuff they were spouting was the same old boilerplate that malcontents have been spitting out ever since they had the right to do so without getting executed. There's nothing new in Chomsky or Gore Vidal or Michael Moore or Naomi Wolf or Susan George or any of today's "advanced thinkers". They're just recycling anti-status quo arguments that all go back to the Greeks. I began to distinguish between thinkers and innovators who actually made contributions, did things that tradition would adopt and make a universal part of humanity, and cranks who were just repeating the same damn thing over and over again.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Get this bit of Forum incongruency. One of the sponsors is the Damm company, makers of fine beers like Estrella. Their bottom-of-the-line beer, their Old Milwaukee or Busch, is Xibeca (shee-BECK-uh), which is sold mostly in liter bottles for about 90 cents-1 euro by supermarkets everywhere in Catalonia. It's drunk by basically two classes of people: working-class folk who prefer a liter of beer rather than a liter of vino de mesa on the dinner table, and teenagers looking to get hammered for cheap.

(Note: Xibeca is lightly alcoholic, 4.5%, and doesn't taste like much. It's actually quite similar to, say, Busch or Old Style or High Life if you get it real cold. Estrella, one grade up but basically still a proletarian beer, is 5.4%, standard for Spanish lager beers. Damm makes a prestige brand called Voll-Damm, which I used to like--it's now much too strong for my taste--that's 7.2%, and another prestige brand called A.K. Damm, which is 4.8% and is a lager made according to the German law so it has no artificial additives. I actually like A.K. Damm.)

(Ironic Note Number Two: Damm is currently running some ads that are meant to make the viewer hearken back to the good old days of the 1870s. See, the company was allegedly founded in 1876. Half the screen shows people dressed in late Victorian clothes whooping it up and drinking Damm beer, in black and white, and the other half shows people of today whooping it up wearing modern garb. The ad has a few shots of workers producing Damm beer in the good old days and today. It ends with an 1870s Damm deliveryman providing a case for a 2004 bartender; they each pull out a bottle, clink them together, and take a good ol' healthy swig. The point of the ad, of course, is to identify Damm with the good ol' days and to make the viewer think, "Hey, it was good stuff then, it's good stuff now."

Now, there are several problems with this ad. First, it shows viewers that beer has helped people party down for a very long time. This is absolutely true. It's also, however, not exactly the image we're trying to project--"Drink Estrella! Get wasted! Boogie till you barf! Party till you puke!". I was under the impression that alcohol manufacturers had this thing about, like, encouraging drinking in moderation.

And, second, the Damm company had absolutely horrible labor relations back in the old days, when the owners were old-style dictatorial exploitative robber barons and the workers were a bunch of anarchists who kept going on strike and sabotaging the works and assassinating people they didn't approve of.

Oh, yeah, third, I thought we weren't supposed to make drinking attractive to teenagers. Hell, the ads Estrella has been running for the last ten years make it look attractive to six-year-old children.

Anyway, if you save up twelve Xibeca labels, you get into the Forum for free. Good deal. Assuming each Xibeca costs you a buck, you get in for twelve euros AND you get the beer you were probably going to drink anyway. That's a lot better than the twenty-whatever euros they're charging at the gate, without even the twelve quarts of beer included.

However, should a beer company be a sponsor of a human rights love and peace multiculti whooptedo? (Or an arms manufacturer, Indra, I might add.) One would think the peaceniks would discourage drinking, on the ground that it's a wase of money that could be better spent on the drinker's family, that alcohol consumption makes many people violent and aggressive, and makes everybody stupid, and the fact that consumption of large quantities is very bad for your health.

And, especially, I love the twelve liters you have to buy (and, presumably, either drink or bestow on the homeless) to get the free entrance. Two liters is a little bit less than a six-pack, so that would make a case and a half of beer, six six-packs. I have to drink a case and a half of beer if I want to take advantage of this offer. If I want to get my wife in, too, I have to drink three cases. That can't possibly be good for me, but the Forum of Cultures Barcelona 2004 is actually encouraging me to drink three cases of beer! You have to love Spain.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

I've been too busy sitting around being depressed to bother doing any writing. Sorry. I've been off-computer for a few days, just staying away from the damn thing and doing no work at all. Oh, well, I used the time to read David McCullough's biography of John Adams. Highly worth the time you'd spend doing it.

I figure I can read with good accuracy and recall about fifty pages an hour. Any faster and it's just skimming and I miss most of the text.

Spain really sucked very badly in the Eurocopa. That last game against Portugal was just pathetic. Everybody played awful, especially Raúl.

Here's a piece you ought to read by Christopher Hitchens on Michael Moore and his new movie. Check it out for some slicing, dicing, and filleting.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Yesterday the European Parliament elections went off smoothly and with no surprises. Abstention was high; the turnout in Spain was 46%. The Socialists won with 43% of the vote and 25 seats; the PP was second with 41% and 23 seats; Galeusca, the moderate regionalist coalition (CiU, PNV, BNG--not real moderate) was third with 5% and three seats; the Communists were fourth with 4% and two seats; the leftist regionalist coalition (ERC, EA, Labordeta) was fifth with 2.5% and two seats; and the conservative regionalist coalition (CC, PA, UV, PAR) was last with 1.2% and no seats.

My guess is that these results are extremely indicative of the political feelings of the top 50% or so of the population. (Note: I am assuming that smart people are also generally politically aware. Most of the smart people I know vote. A lot of the crazy or dumb ones I know don't. Also, I don't mean the top 50% by class, I mean the top 50% in general intelligence, civic participation, concern with the general and public interests, awareness of what's going on, etc.)

What this means is that the balance really has moved toward the Socialists. The "people who are part of the political process", as my old high school history teacher, Mr. John Forbes, used to say, have tipped from majority PP supporters to majority Socialist supporters. The PP has shown it's still a force to be reckoned with; they showed that they have staying power. They lost these elections but they didn't crash and burn.

Fair enough. What it looks to me like is that a significant number of former PP voters among our top 50% have changed alliegence, due probably to their dislike of the PP positions and actions regarding Iraq.

Normally, in politics, we get participation rates in the 50-70 percent range. These are the ones who are part of the process, and they are the ones who decide for everybody. So when we were predicting the results of the March 14 general elections, we were assuming that the regular voters would stick with the PP, as they had for the previous eight years. Because of the March 11 bombings, though, the turnout was over 80%. Many people who normally don't care enough to vote voted; between a third and a half of the Spanish nonvoters did come out for the March 14 generals this one time. That is a serious vote of punishment. The regular voters pissed off the proletariat enough to bring them to the polls where they laid a whupping on the PP, the most obvious target for their wrath. I will guarantee you that 100% of those normal abstainers who voted did so against the PP.

Well, now we're back to politics as normal; now the Socialists have proven they're on top, though not by much, among the political participants. They are definitely the legitimate governing party in Spain. The people have spoken. They gave enough of their votes to the PP to allow them to be a creditable loyal oppoition.

Overall participation in the 25 countries voting was 44%, meaning these elections definitely did not inspire your normal non-voter at all. In Europe as a whole, the European Popular Party (conservative) was the big winner with 268 seats (out of 732). The Socialists are second with 199; independent small groups make up 88; the Liberals (not that liberal in the European sense, more centrist) 63, the Greens 42, the Union for...oh, screw it, the conservative regionalists, 26, the Communists 26, and the Europe for Diffe...ohm screw it, the euroskeptics 20. This most likely means some kind of center-right alliance, emphasis on center, between the EPP, the Liberals, and the conservative regionalists.

Friday, June 11, 2004

It's time for the week's description of local foibles. The best one was Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos taking credit for the recent UN agreement in Iraq. See, when Spain pulled out its troops, it showed the Americans how serious the situation was and made them rush to negotiate with the Frogs and the Toads. Never mind that the Americans got what they wanted out of the agreement, we must find some way to make Spain a protagonist, even if it isn't.

Spaniards can get prickly with Americans over World War II, which was the beginning of unquestioned American world primacy (not dominance). Americans, quite justifiably, tend to see WWII as the most recent refounding of the national ethos. Spain, which wasn't even part of it, feels left out by all this commemoration of the Normandy landings. This is why they tend to give a lot of press to the complaints of the defeated Germans--that we bombed their civilians, that a lot of them got ethnically cleansed from Eastern Europe (both true), and that mistreatment in Allied POW camps caused a huge amount of deaths (true for those in Russian hands, not true for those in Western

This goddamn post has been eaten three times. I'll rewrite it again, I suppose.
I mentioned my favorite radio station, KHYI in Dallas, in the Comments section. KHYI is what I call "certified simulated authentic rootsy pop culture". It works like this.

When I go to London, I like to drink London Pride bitter. It's a real ale, they have to pump it out of the basement and the whole deal just like a traditional authentic ale. I think it's pretty good, and lots of pubs have it. Now, London Pride is no country ale made in small batches according to the same recipe since 1487 with a guaranteed pickled rat in every barrel--that's where it gets its authentic unmistakeable taste, as they say. It's made by a big company, one of those huge breweries that puts the stuff out in millions of gallons. And it's cheaper than some of the other, more exclusive brands--and I can't tell the difference in the flavor. When I can, I usually like London Pride better.

See, what London Pride is is real ale directed at the midscale mass market. It's simulated authenticity. I kind of like simulated authenticity.

For one thing, all those gorgeous castles and cathedrals and whatever all over Europe are simulated authentic; they got torched by the French or the Germans or the Americans or the local peasantry or proletariat. The ones that are still there either because extremely good care was taken of them or because, like Carcassonne and Poblet, they were completely rebuilt according to the old plans or the closest approximation they could find.

KHYI's music is simulated authentic. Real country folks like most of this stuff, but KHYI has filtered out most of the disagreeable elements of the kind of country music that real country folks listen to. No Oak Ridge Boys, no Shania Twain, no commercial-pop influenced stuff, nothing you'd see on the CMA. That's what real people in the real country like, not that sophisticated Dwight Yoakam stuff that appeals to 25-39 bourgeois bohemians. KHYI only plays "tasteful" music, either the classic stuff with all the mountain of crap Nashville has produced suppressed, or the new stuff that takes the quality old stuff as its model, even if it's by preppie college kids. See what I mean? They've taken real redneck music, extracted the part that urbanites will disdain, and replaced it with new music based on the quality old stuff. Thereby they keep the rednecks happy and please the new BoBos they're trying to appeal to.

So why would I want simulated authenticity? Because a lot of real authentic stuff is crap. Regular country radio is atrocious, full of the most retarded cheap sentimentalism, and that's what real country folks listen to. Real real ale often tastes like the sweat of the hop-pickers. Real authentic Spanish (and American, and English, and French) food means greasy slop in a cheap bar. Real down-and-dirty Spanish wine is undrinkably bad, which is why they have to turn it into sangria. What KHYI does for me is guarantees that I won't listen to the crap I'd have to put up with if I went searching for real authenticity.

And, hey, right now they're playing Ray Charles doing "Hey, Good Lookin'". Hard to beat that.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Here's the storyline from a cartoon from the British humor magazine Viz. It's a strip called "The Modern Parents", and it's from all the way back in 1992, by a guy named John Fardell. Malcolm and Cressida are the politically correct parents of Tarquin (age 8 or so) and Guinevere (age 2).

Tarquin and Guinevere are having their play session...

Cressida: Look, we can make a refugee camp with these chairs and rugs...I can be a Palestinian refugee, Guinevere can be an aid worker...And what are you going to be, Tarquin?
Tarquin: I'm going to be a F-111 jet bomber! Whee! Bang! Na-na-na-na! (Spreads arms and runs into pile of furniture, knocing it over.)


(Sign on wall: "House Meeting No. 307. Agenda: Tarquin's Violence.")
Cressida: Well, I think that Tarquin's displaying white, middle-class, male behaviour patterns of violence and cultural domination.
Malcolm: Don't you feel guilty about the damage and suffering your society has inflicted on the world?
Tarquin: No.
Malcolm: Well, you should. Remember, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.
Tarquin: I don't care! This is boring. I'm going out to play football. (Leaves.)
Cressida: Hmm...I wonder how we can promote global peace awareness to young people like Tarquin in a more fun way...
Malcolm: I know! Let's hold a One World Weekend Peace Festival! Our ethically aware parents' group could organize it.
Cressida: Oh, yes! What a good idea. Vanessa and Dominic live in the countryside. We could use their llamas' paddock...

So, the next weekend...

(The family is on a tandem bicycle, Tarquin in a child seat on the back and Guinevere in a sack on Malcolm's back. Malcolm steers the bike across traffic on the wrong side, nearly hitting a bystander, two cars, and a truck. They are all wearing helmets and surgical masks.)
Malcolm: Aren't you glad we decided not to use our car for this trip, Tarquin?
Tarquin: I'm freezing, and it's dangerous.
Malcolm: Nonsense! We've got a greater moral right to this road space than these polluting car drivers...All roads should be turned into cycle-paths anyway.


Cressida: Hi, Dominic and Vanessa! How's it going?
Dominic: Really well! The young people are really getting into it!
Malcolm: Great: Right, I'll go and set up my stall...
(A sign, "One World Peace Festival", hangs over the paddock gate. Smiling adults are showing obviously very bored children activities like "African Vegan Cookery Workshop", "Llama Wool Weaving", "Carnival Mask Making", and "Ukrainian Story Telling". Malcolm is naked and massaging a naked Daphne's back with a stick next to a sign, "Aboriginal Digereedoo Back Massage". Ashley, her other, looks on in disgust.
Daphne: Mmm...Malcolm's really good at this, Ashley. He's so sensitive! You should try one...
(Sign: "Rainforest Hut")
Kid: Have you got any shrunken heads?
Dominic: These tribes live a peaceful existence at one with nature. They don't shrink heads.
Kid: Yes, they do! I saw it in a film! And they eat people!
Vanessa: Come on, Tarquin! Would you lile to join in our tai chi workshop?
Tarquin: What's tai chi?
Vanessa: Well, it's an ancient martial let your body flow through a series of movements, which...
Tarquin: Great! Kaiii-yah! (Kicks Vanessa in the knee.)
Vanessa: Ow! What on earth are you doing?
Tarquin: You said it was martial arts.
Vanessa: Tai chi is a passive martial art, Tarquin...perhaps you'd better go and do something else.
Trevor: Now, calm down, everyone...violence isn't clever, is it? No, it's not,, let's all find our centres again...
Kids: Hai-yaah! Cowabunga! Kapow! (All kick one another.)
Dominic: Hello, Tarquin! We're having a craft session making North American indigenous tribal artifacts.
Tarquin: Mega! Like bows and arrows?
Dominic: Well, er, yes...some of us are making bows and arrows, but we must remember that they aren't for fighting, only for hunting buffalo in a caring and sustainable why don't you make a nice clay cooking pot?
Tarquin: What are you making? (He's carving a tree trunk with a peace sign and a whale on it.)
Dominic: This is a totem pole...our daughter Lucinda's just started having her periods, so later today the Women's Ritual Dance Group are going to do a circle dance around this pole to celebrate her rite of passage into womanhood.
Tarquin: Hmmmm...

Vanessa: Right, we're ready to start our circle dance. Isn't it exciting, Lucinda?
Lucinda (embarrassed): Well,
Dominic: Great! Now where's my totem pole?
Claire: I think I saw Tarquin taking it off behind the trees with some of the other young people...
(The kids have tied Guinevere to the totem-pole and are racing around whooping and waving tomahawks and shooting arrows, with feathers in their hair.)
Everyone: Tarquin!
Cressida: How could you be so violent and irresponsible?
Tarquin: But that's what Red Indians do! I saw it on telly!
Claire: Well, my Luke and Amy don't normally behave so badly...I'm sure Tarquin must have coerced them!
Ashley (sees his chance): Yes, I propose an emergency meeting of the Ethically Aware Parents' Support Group to consider Malcolm and Cressida's validity as members, in view of Tarquin's inappropriate and disruptive behaviour!
Cressida: Are you saying we're bad parents?
Ashley: Well, our Joshua would never...
Claire: Well, I saw your Joshua eating a sausage roll last week...Really, Ashley, I'm not sure about your commitment to the vegan principles of this group...
Ashley: Well, you wear leather shoes!
Claire: That's a completely different issue!
Vanessa: Anyway you've no room to lecture anyone about ethics! My Zoe says your Oliver tells sexist jokes in the school playground!
Claire: Zoe doesn't even go to Oliver's school anymore! You took her out and sent her to some private place!
Vanessa: Zoe is a sensitive individual who needs special tuition!
Malcolm: Tarquin's very sensitive! I'd have expected more support from this group!
Trevor: Tarquin's a little brat!
Dominic: I resign from the group! I'm going to start a breakaway Ethically Conscious Parents' Action Organization!
Ashley: I'll join you! And I propose I be the chairperson!
Daphne: Typical! You're seeking power for yourself as usual! That's not setting our Joshua a very good example, is it?
Claire: Are you implying that our Oliver's thick?
Vanessa: Of course he's thick! He's a complete cretin and I know where he gets it from!
Cressida: I can't believe you just used that word! That's totally degrading to people with learning disabilities!
Dominic: You keep out of this, you silly bint!
Ashley: Well, thanks for the support, you bitch! Why don't you set up your own support group with Malcolm and find out how sensitive his bloody didgereedoo is!
Daphne: You bastard! You're just jealous!
Malcolm: I consider "brat" to be a patronising term of...oof!
Trevor (slugs Malcolm): Oh, give it a rest, you self-righteous git!
Vanessa (slugs Claire): And you can shut up, meat-eater!
Claire (pulls Vanessa's hair): Don't you call me a meat-eater!
Vanessa: You stuck-up cow!
Cressida: (kicks Dominic in the crotch: Sexist pig!
Dominic: Oww! You cunt!
Trevor: I'm going to report you to the anti-violence committee of...oof!
Ashley: Tart! Me, jealous, of that little jerk?
Daphne: Fuck off! (Slugs him.)
Malcolm (bashes Trevor with a sign reading "One World Peace Festival"): Eco-fascist! Eco-fascist!
(The kids sit around watching, hugely entertained.)

The program of the "One World Peace Festival" is curiously reminiscent of a certain event happening, like, right now somewhere around here, only twelve years later. I just wish the Forum would end up like this, with Maragall and Clos and Carod all beating the crap out one another.

Note the standard Viz narrative technique of having virtually every strip end with a knock-down and drag-out. "Violence and Swearing Galore" is what they promise their readers, and they don't stint on it.
I'm about tired of people saying that I'm anti-Catalan. For the umpteenth time, I'm not. I wrote that bit on Catalan / Spanish claims to protagonism and importance that are demonstrably goofy because it's my job to make fun of the foibles of wherever I live. If I were living in Kansas City locals would be writing in bitching about me all the time because I'd be writing stuff like this:

The local publicity-mongering Babbits responsible for city public relations are going around saying "Kansas City has more miles of boulevards than Paris and more fountains than Rome." Well, maybe it does, if you count every multilane divided street as a boulevard and every drinking fountain in a public building as a fountain. Come on, people. We have several pretty streets and a couple of nice fountains, but let's not get carried away. We're playing in the same league as Omaha and St. Louis, not up there in the first division with Rome and Paris.

And there's that other ridiculous claim, that "Kansas City barbecue is the best in the world." Well, I dunno, maybe it is. There are a lot of barbecue joints and steakhouses in town and they're all very popular. If you like meat you can have several very enjoyable meals in KC. But, come on, it's not like we're a center of world cuisine. We're a one-Thai-restaurant kind of town. And having the best barbecue in the world isn't that big a deal compared to, I dunno, say the Indian or French culinary traditions.

Locals pride themselves a great deal because we're a "major-league city". By American standards, OK, we are, since we have a professional football team and an allegedly professional baseball team. (The NBA team moved to Sacramento about 20 years ago.) Our guys play against the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys. But KC is about the 30th biggest market in the country, and that is just barely on the fringe of the major leagues--both baseball and football have 32 teams. We could very well lose a team. And this American habit of judging places by their sports teams is pretty dumb--is, say, Santa Fe or Austin any less attractive, or Detroit any more so, because of pro sports or lack thereof? (Note: The city of Barcelona has a rather similar relationship with its soccer team.)

Not only that, but we've made a mess of some of the things we had going for us. The city's jazz heritage is real, as Count Basie and Charlie Parker can attest, but they built some lame-o Jazz Hall of Fame that just has nothing in it but Bird's saxophone, which cost them like half a million bucks. City fathers should look to New Orleans and Austin and Nashville and take them as an example for reviving a real music scene in KC. And we've got a very attractive enormous old train station in the middle of town that had been a wreck for years. The building, of course, is of first-rate quality; you just can't tear a monster huge thing like that down. So what do they do? Put, say, a RAILROAD museum in the TRAIN station? There are tons of railroad and history buffs out there who'd come to such an exhibit, especially if they had lots of cool stuff like, I dunno, functioning steam engines. So what did they do? Why, put in one of those kids' science museums that every city seems to be building. Nobody visits it and it sucks and is overpriced. At least that's a better idea than this other one they had about putting in an aquarium. Oh, yeah, that'll bring in the tourists. Kansas City is about a thousand miles from the nearest ocean. Our only native water creatures are, like, crawdads, minnows and catfish. The only thing less appropriate would be putting a dude ranch on the Upper East Side.

However, I don't usually write stuff like that about my beloved hometown because I don't live there and I don't see it every day. I do, however, see Barcelona's faults close-up, because I actually live here, and so I do write about it.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The most recent local news is that,led by the typical bunch of Trotskyists, the CGT and the POR, a thousand Third World immigrants had a sit-in in two of Barcelona's three major medieval churches, the Cathedral and Santa Maria del Pi. The Socialists in power--this went all the way up to Zap--had them booted out and are planning to deport 25 of them. Seems there was some damage in the Cathedral--pews smashed, urine everywhere, accumulated garbage. The churchman-in-charge made sure all the side chapels (several of which contain very important and quite beautiful 14th or 15th century retablos) and the choir (a masterpiece of woodcarving, prepared for a Europe-wide meeting of kings and nobles in 1519 that never came off) were locked up and inaccesible. The Vanguardia is very pro-government on this one--of course, they've got nothing against immigrants, but those people can't go around occupying our public places. They do mention that Eastern Europeans and Latin Americans fit rather better into their scheme of desirable immigrants than...well, we won't go into that.

There is a bunch of lefties organized by the Trots whose demand is "Papers for everybody". Now, I'm pro-immigration all the way--I'd be rather hypocritical if I weren't--and I approve of the US immigration policy which allows something between 800,000 and 1 million immigrants per year. That's about one-third of one percent of the national population, and the US seems to be able to handle that number without much trouble. Therefore, Spain, which has about 1/7 the population of the US, should be able to take about 14% of the immigrants that we can--say 140,000 a year. More than that and you'd probably have some serious social problems. Fewer than that and you'd be doing less than you could to help folks who want to immigrate. But I don't think we can take everybody all at once. I wish we could.

Just a comment: I am, of course, disgusted by the Trots' manipulation of these illegal immigrants for their own political purposes. About all I can say is a) some Trots are honest dupes who really believe they're doing the right thing, and those people probably think they're really helping the immigrants, and b) nobody gives a crap what the Trots have to say anyway. They get like seventeen votes every election.

Of course, one of the best things we can do to help the Third World is to invest our money there and create jobs, property, and capital, and then let them trade freely with the West. Isolationists and protectionists seriously disagree with this stance; a writer of a letter to the Vangua's editor today mismo proposes a boycott of those companies that close factories here and move to the Third World. Wait: I thought we were supposed to be all solidarious and multiculturalistic and the like. Shouldn't we SUPPORT those companies that provide jobs in poor countries?

In case you were worried about the conditions at Abu Ghraib: Barcelona's local jail/prison, the Cárcel Modelo, is 100 years old now. It was designed for 800 prisoners, held up to 12,000 during the Civil War, and now holds about 2000 inmates, some awaiting trial who can't make bail and some already tried and convicted. One American who was held there for alleged drug trafficking (he got off but under somewhat cloudy circumstances) several years ago called it "the Black Hole of Catalonia". It is rumored that if you don't give the cops and judges any trouble, they'll send you to Can Brians or some better prison, while if you are a pain in the ass they stick you in the Modelo. Rape, IV drug use, and AIDS are rampant. Pretty much everybody agrees it should have been torn down years ago, if only because it occupies an entire city block of the Eixample, very valuable real estate right in the center of town.

Looks like everyone is playing nice and making a deal on the Iraq situation. Seems the US, the interim government, and the Brits and Germans have already signed on. France, of course, is being prickly, but it looks like they're on board too. This should result in a quick UN Security Council resolution. So much for American unilateralism. Seems to me we're doing what we've been dong for the last 59 years or so: looking for support from other democracies. Positive Iraq detail: they've gotten nine militias to come over to the government side, who have a total of 100,000 men. The two biggest militias involved are the Kurdish peshmerga, and the main Shiite militia is part of the deal. Al Sadr's boys are not involved in this one. The militiamen will be reorganized as Iraqi Army or hired by private security agencies. All in all, quite a coup for Bush on the eve of the G-7 1/2 meeting.

Forum news: Total disaster. 110,000 visitors a week, most schoolkids, well short of the five million they told us they were going to get. One new step is that they won't charge you full admission price if you just want to see one of the concerts, about the only interesting thing they've had (mostly world music but some of that stuff is pretty cool, and at least it's a little different). Best of all, Mikhail Gorbachev showed up Barcelona Mayor Joan Clos at his "dialogue": somebody from the crowd asked a question, Clos ignored it, and Gorbachov dressed him down in public, saying he should always listen to his fellow citizens.

Letter to the editor from yesterday's Vangua:

...Here we depend on Europe, Europe depends on the UN, and the UN depends on the United States. And we all know that Uncle Sam will continue as an ally of Israel, because he needs the votes and the money of the Jews in order to govern his country and the whole world...It would all be different if there were oil in Palestine. Signed: Miquel Pongiluppi, Barcelona.

Hey Mr. Pongiluppi: FUCK OFF!!!! Goddamn Nazi anti-Semitic bastards getting their letters printed in the local newspaper.

Spain's roster for the Eurocup, to start June 16: Goalies: Casillas, Cañizares, Aranzubia. Defensemen: Puyol, Capdevila, Raúl Bravo, Helguera, Marchena, César, Juanito. Midfielders: Albelda, Baraja, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Valerón, Gabri, Etxeberria, Joaquín, Vicente. Forwards: Luque, Raúl, Morientes, Fernando Torres. Good players left off the team: Salva, Mista, Tristán. Most likely starting eleven: Casillas; Puyol, Helguera, Marchena, Raúl Bravo; Vicente, Albelda, Baraja, Etxeberria; Raúl and Fernando Torres. The Vangua says this is a good lineup but too defensive. I say it's a defensive lineup but Spain's best teams except for Real Madrid have pretty good defenses, especially Valencia, whose success you can't argue with. Vicente, Albelda, Baraja, and Marchena all play together at Valencia and they play pretty damn well. La Vangua says that a midfield with Xavi and Valerón would be much more offensive, which is true, but then you've got a midfield that can't play defense at all. Here in Catalonia we're rooting for Capdevila and Puyol, who are the two REAL Catalans on the team; Xavi, Gabri, and Luque count, too, but not quite as much. They're from Barcelona and speak Spanish. Capdevila is from Tárrega, Remei's country, and Puyol is from Pobla de Segur, way the hell up in the middle of nowhere in the Pyrenean foothills.

Groups: A. Portugal, Greece, Russia, Spain. Tough group. I like Spain and Portugal. B. France, England, Switzerland, Croatia. Should be easy for France and England. C. Sweden, Bulgaria, Denmark, Italy. This is the non-powerhouse group. Italy's the clear favorite, but any of the other three could get the second spot. D. Czech Republic, Latvia, Germany, Holland. Germany and Holland are the obvious favorites but Latvia is the sentimental favorite darkhorse; they don't even have a professional league.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Well, the Vanguardia's headline today is "Sixty years later", referring, of course, to the Normandy invasion. (Remember back when we called it "D-day" and considered it one of many battles in the war, one of the most important, sure, but not the only one? Not to disrespect the Normandy veterans in the least, of course, but we don't commemorate Okinawa or the Bulge or Guadalcanal or El Alamein with nearly as much pageantry. Or Stalingrad.)

Anyway, Bush and Schroeder and Chirac made kissy-face; who knows, maybe some kind of deal on Iraq has been worked out. La Vangua mentions that Chirac had a big dinner with the Queen and everyone there and the wines served were a '99 Sauternes and a 1996 Margaux.

The Vangua repeats a common Old European theme on page 7: the Allies bombed the hell out of the Normandy battlefields and France's transportation network, and as many as 20,000--though I bet not more than a couple of thousand, since most bombing was done away from large cities--French civilians were killed. So AFP has a report on how some of today's Normans are still bitter about--you guessed it, the Allied bombing. Not the Nazi occupation or anything like that.

Sebi Val has an absolutely disgraceful article on page 8 titled, "Reagan created Bin Laden". He proceeds to draw a connection between American aid to the various brands of mujihadeen and Saudi support for Osama Bin Laden, who to my knowledge didn't become active in the struggle for what was left of Afghanistan until the Russians pulled out in 1989. Also, since the Americans pulled out when the Russians did, in '89, and the Taliban didn't become prominent until 1994, it would be kind of hard for party A to have armed and supported party B. Oh, yeah, the Soviets started it, remember? Here's the Wikipedia entry for the USSR and Afghanistan. To quote Sebi:

The elegies destined for Ronald Reagan tiptoe around one very disastrous consequence of his Presidency. The late American leader's aggressive anti-Communism, his obsession with the defeat of the Soviet Union, helped create the monster of Bin Laden....he sowed the destructive seed that led to 9-11...establishing the connection between Reagan and Bin Laden is too subversive and disagreeable for the average American...

Alfredo Abián's signed page two editorial is just as bad:

(Reagan's) planetary legacy is more frightening and intolerant than the "evil empire" that he so efficiently fought and which was none other than communism...In 1978...(Carter's) Administration provoked an uprising in Afghanistan against Kabul's leftist government...Reagan even received in the White House, as "freedom fighters", a group of bearded men with turbans who said they were Allah's soldiers...the Alzheimer's disease that the weakened thought of today suffers from impedes us from seeing that Communism, despite its disastrous and cruel history, was at least a child of this civilization that fundamentalist barbarism is fighting against.

So wait a minute. We were wrong to support the anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan since most of them went local warlord and a few went far-out Islamic nutcase after the USSR collapsed? Uh, the collapse of the USSR liberated, what, 300 million people from Communist tyranny? The USSR had how many nukes and how big an army, compared to what Osama and Saddam can muster now? Mr. Abián seems to be nostalgic for the good old days of Stalin and Khrushchev.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

All right, time to stop feeling sorry for myself and do some blogging. The polls are showing a solid Socialist win in the upcoming European Parliament elections; they should get 27 seats to 22 for the PP, with the Commies getting two and the various regional nationalists pulling in three.

Andy Robinson is actually reporting that Colin Powell has announced that the UN Security Council is "very close" to an agreement on a new resolution that will legitimize the current interim government in Iraq and set up a multinational force under US command that will respect Iraqi sovereignty. The Iraqi interim government has endorsed this plan. The US-led force will be "guests" of the new sovereign government. This is amazing. Andy Robinson writing a piece saying there is agreement among the major countries about what to do on the Iraq issue and not bashing the Americans. I'm gonna have to check tonight to see if the moon is really made of green cheese.

On the Iraq media front, there have been fewer self-righteous denunciations of late, I think because of several factors: a) the situation is calmer there and the bad guys are really cornered in Fallujah and Najaf and a few other places like that; note that even Sadr City and Karbala are calm and under control. b) The Abu Ghraib media cycle is finished, largely because of the lack of indignation in the Arab press. After all, this sort of treatment, given out this time by a few renegade Yanks now facing long prison terms (not to excuse it in the least), is not exactly news to anyone familiar to the Middle East. The Arab street has not exploded in anger like doomsayers said it would. c) They really did find some sarin gas. Not much, but they did find some. Everyone's had to admit it. So much for "BUSH LIED!!!", version 4.2. I guess the lefties will come up with a patch pretty soon. d) Iraq, outside the few and limited violent areas (the parallels I'd make would be Northern Ireland, where most of the country was peaceful but there were two or three conflictive areas, like the Shankill Road and most of County Armagh, or the Bronx, where there are several conflictive areas best avoided but where 90% of the district is perfectly respectable working-class and lower-middle-class folks), is better off now and even Tikrit Tommy Alcoverro admits that the average Iraqi has a much higher standard of living, both material and political, than before. e) Does anybody really want Saddam Hussein back? My guess is no. No matter how much they protest now, I bet that the Iraq War will go down in the history books, twenty-five years or so from now, as the correct thing to have done.
Here is the AP's obituary of Reagan. Note that Nancy said a while ago (pronounced "walago" in Texas) that Ronnie was close to death. What I suppose I wonder is whether medically prolonging Mr. Reagan's life to the utmost was the right thing to do. Don't get me wrong, I'm not second-guessing Mrs. Reagan. I think if I were conscious I wouldn't want to be euthanized, no matter whether I were quadraplegic. If I were a vegetable, though, it doesn't seem to matter much whehter they unplug me or not, since I wouldn't know the difference.
Ronald Reagan has died. He is a President whose stock is going to continue to rise as we get farther away from his Presidency and come to realize that he was right on all the big things. I didn't vote for him in 1984 when I could have. I now rather wish I had. Thank you, Mr. Reagan.
Still feeling incredibly blah. Haven't been this depressed for years. I guess I'll snap out of it pretty soon.

European Parliament elections are boring. Zap is talking big about going into Haiti, though he's already qualified any possible Spanish intervention with so many escape clauses that it probably ain't ever gonna happen.

A bunch of jerks around here, including the Vice-Presidenta de la Vega, are complaining because Rumsfeld said that both the US and Spain were among countries under Al Qaeda's eyeball. They're accusing the Americans of wanting to screw up Spain so badly that they're (the Yanks, that is) attempting to damage Spain's summer tourism business. This is called not being able to see any higher than your own ombligo because you're too busy meneando your own polla. I very much imagine that Mr. Rumsfeld has not the slightest idea that 800,000 Swedes spend at least five days in Spain per year, or whatever it is, and I bet he cares less.

The Forum administrators are reduced to pointing out that they get some 5-8,000 kids every day on school trips and that they're expecting a total of 250,000 schoolkids before the thing is over. They haven't been getting anybody else at all. That's gonna be a big chunk of the five million to break even, or whatever it is, that they were talking about. Very simply, nobody in Barcelona cares, and absolutely nobody outside Barcelona has ever heard of it. And they spent 3.2 billion euros on this. Imagine how many tanks or attack helicopters or cruise missiles you could get for that.

Friday, June 04, 2004

OK, here's the news, such as it is. Looks like Tenet's taken the fall for the various intelligence errors (like, say, missing 9/11--I'm not accusing the CIA of evil or corruption, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was a lot of institutional incompetence).

We're having European Union elections soon. Normally I'd be all excited and covering the event. Now I just don't give a shit. The Socialists are running Pepe Borrell and the PP is running Jaime Mayor Oreja at the head of their lists. I much prefer Mayor Oreja (who I'd figured was the PP's man in the País Vasco, but both parties are OK, in the sense that the Socialists aren't any worse than, say, Ted Kennedy, and if your country was governed by a bunch of freely elected Ted Kennedys who more or less were forced by the Supreme Court not to screw with the Constitution too much, that'd still be better than, say, your Hollenzollerns, Hapsburgs, and Romanovs.) The other candidacies trying to make the slightest amount of news are the Commies, who, in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, "ain't goin' nowhere", and three different coalitions of regionalist groups: one is led by CiU, the PNV, and the BNG, and is considered to be the moderate regionalist / autonomous / "nationalist" coalition. There's a more conservative group, led by regionalists sympathetic to the PP (CC, the PA, UV, etc.), and a more radical group, made up of ERC, EA, Labordeta, and that lot.

The Socialists are going to win by five percentage points or so, according to what I've seen. The PP will, of course, be second. The Commies and the CIU/PNV and CC/PA coalitions will win representation. The argument going around the newspapers and radio stations is whether these European Parliament elections are an important sign of anything (e.g. a real growth of Socialist strength, or a sign of regional / autonomous decline) or whether they're a load of wank that means nothing because voter turnout is like 44% and I bet not 2% of the population could name both Borrell and Mayor Oreja as the two leading candidates. That's how lively it is.

There's a really nasty interview on the back page of the Vangua. When I get around to it I'll translate most of the damn thing.

Six and a half inches, by the way, is the length of my cat Chang's tail. We don't know what happened to the rest of it, since he didn't have it when we got him. What were you guys thinking?

Thursday, June 03, 2004

I just don't much feel like writing. There's the same crap in La Vanguardia as usual--several Andy Robinson stories that I could tear up, for example. I could write about Iraq but everything's already been said--all I can do is recommend the Iraqi bloggers for people who want to know what's going on. I don't even feel like making up any more silly questions to answer.

Hey, Rich, great to hear from you. My e-mail is down; I don't know why it isn't working. Come on over and see us. My wife's e-mail is

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Since Iberian Notes is my means of communciating with the world (though the world doesn't seem to pay too much attention), and since the only things I have to write about are the world and me, I thought I'd do something everybody else seems to have done: answer fifty questions about me. Because I sure am sick and tired of writing about the rest of the world.

1. 37.
2. Schnectady, New York.
3. Married.
4. No kids.
5. Five cats.
6. Six foot one.
7. About 175-180.
8. Light brown hair, hazel eyes. Not going bald.
9. Really bad eyes. Bad knees too.
10. Used to run. 3:27 marathon, 1:32 half-marathon, 37:14 10K.
11. Am now way out of shape.
12. Near-photographic memory.
13. Love popular culture, the worse the better.
14. BA Spanish 1987; MA Linguistics 1994; Univ. of Kansas.
15. About six and a half inches.
16. Hated school. Got picked on. Fuck 'em; they're probably all poor now.
17. Narrow, deeply-set eyes.
18. Mostly British, some German. 1/32 American Indian. I qualify according to the Dawes Roll for the Cherokee Nation.
19. One direct ancestor owned slaves, three great-great-grandparents fought for the South in the Civil War. One was wounded in the ankle at Antietam (Sharpsburg).
20. English teacher.

That's more than enough for today. Maybe next week I'll take enough tranquilizers in order to write this calmly again.