Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Barcelona housing market, as we've mentioned several times, is through the roof. Second-hand apartments in the city have gone up 25% in a year, and every square meter will cost you 2,658 euros to buy, meaning that your basic 100 m2 four-bedroom place will run you a cool 265,800 euros, something like three hundred grand.

God knows why. I'm no real-estate expert but I think it's got something to do with several factors: 1) Barcelona is a very pleasant and desirable place to live 2) there is basically nowhere left within the city to put up any new buildings 3) several older neighborhoods have been gentrified 4) zoning restrictions are tight, making it difficult to add to housing stock 5) most of the suburbs are crappy and people don't want to live there. What I would do is completely rezone the city and move everything that's non-commercial or -residential (warehouses especially but also workshops and small factories) to the crappy suburbs.

This is somewhat of a bubble. A lot of people made some big dough on the stock market and are looking for somewhere to put it. Also, it is said that if you have money obtained on the black market, which a lot of apparently respectable people have around here, real estate is one of the easiest ways to launder it. It's not all a bubble, though; prices are going to come down, I wouldn't buy now, but there's not going to be a massive drop in the market because apartments are tangible. If you overpay for one, you still have it and you can live there. If you overpay for a stock with a bad price-earnings ratio, though, and then it bottoms out, you've got nothing. This is why the standard stock-market advice in Spain is to buy into Bodegas Riojanas. If it goes up, you're smiling, and if it goes broke, you can have a hell of a party with the inventory.

The Weekly Standard has a piece on the four candidates' personal wealth. Bush is worth about $18 million, though of course the rest of his family is all wealthy and has been since time immemorial. Bush made his big strike when he sold his share of the Texas Rangers baseball team. John Edwards, who earned his money as an ambulance chaser, is worth about $50 million, and so is Dick Cheney, who also started out working-class and made his dough in corporate boardrooms. John Kerry, however, is worth more than $1 billion because his wife owns 4% of all the Heinz ketchup and baked beans in all the world. Kerry owns five multi-million dollar mansions and has a private jet, and his modus operandi seems to be marrying women much wealthier than he is; his first wife was also a richie. If he is elected, he will be the first mega-rich president in American history. (The Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Bushes are not mega-rich, though they are of course extremely well-off. Their status comes from much more than their money. Lyndon Johnson was probably the President who died the wealthiest.)

Spain wants to send troops to both Afghanistan and Haiti, I suppose to erase the stain of giving in to terrorist demands over Iraq. Fat lot of good that'll do. They want to send two hundred guys to Haiti, get this, in a joint force with Morocco. Most likely all they'll manage to do is get in the way. If you actually want to help, guys, send money and leave your now very demoralized troops at home.

The 3-11 parliamentary commission has been meeting for a while but hasn't decided anything yet and seems to be getting itself all tangled up in minor questions, especially when we already know who did it, how, and why. The Socialists seem to be just trying to embarrass the PP, as if there were anything more embarrassing than getting out of the kitchen because you can't stand the heat.

The National Institute of Statistics did a sex survey! Around 30% of Spanish men and 10 percent of Spanish women admit to sexual promiscuity with casual partners in the last year. The fun part is that only in 41% of, uh, casual contacts was a condom used. About six percent of adult Spaniards are virgins. Men lose their virginity, on average, at 18, and women at 19. (This has something to do with teenagers' lack of automobiles and the driving age of 18.) 3.9% of men and 2.7% of women have had same-sex, uh, contacts. 1.4% of men have had only homosexual sex. 27% of Spanish men have had sex with prostitutes.

Friday, July 23, 2004

I don't get it. The bold, italic, and link buttons still aren't showing up on my Blogger screen. what the hell is the point of a blog with no links? Oh, well, here we go again with the usual pile of shit from La Vanguardia.

They've hit a new low with their front-page banner headline today: "Aznar's government paid to get the U.S. Congressional Medal". Their own story inside proves the headline false. The Aznar Government contracted a legal firm to lobby for Spain and take care of PR. It seems that one of the various things Piper Rudnick did was lobby the House of Representatives in order that José María Aznar would receive a distinction from the U.S. Congress. Hiring the firm for its various activities cost two million bucks. The legal firm in question is the well-known Piper Rudnick. More than 70 nations, including Great Britain and France, have hired lobbying firms in Washington. Spain itself has had a lobbyist in Washington since Felipe González hired the first one in the 1980s.

The headline, though, clearly implies that Aznar's government paid cold hard cash for the distinction. Nothing could be further from the truth. Complete and total bogosity.

A lot of people over here aren't clear on what a lobby is, so I'll explain. A lobby is an organization that attempts to influence government policy in a particular direction. For example, the NAACP is the black civil rights lobby. It attempts to help fashion government policies that it believes will be beneficial to black people. It does this by issuing press releases, calling press conferences, talking to lawmakers and executives and bureaucrats, holding meetings, trying to get on the TV news, and so on. Other lobbies include the American Heart Association, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the Association of Widget Manufacturers, and the AFL-CIO. The firm Spain hired had the responsibility of lobbying for Spain in Washington, nothing more and nothing less.

Everybody seems to be pissed off at Esquerra Republicana for being a bunch of loudmouthed jerks. The problem is that they have only one issue: Independence for Catalonia. That means that they're unproductive as members of the governing coalition. The Parliament is talking about something serious like the budget and up jumps some ERC idiot to complain about how Catalan isn't an officially recognized language in the European Union or whatever. They act like they're still in the opposition; their modus operandi is to attempt to torpedo anything that isn't related to The Only Important Political Question In The World. Maybe the easiest way to define them is as a bunch of stubborn, willful, pigheaded, not-yet-grown-up children.

In local quality-of-life news: they're going to kick the goddamn bongo-players out of the Parque Ciutadella. About time. There are hundreds of them there on Sunday afternoon and everybody for about a mile radius can hear them. Nothing against bongoers, let them bongo all they want, but somewhere where they're not bothering other people, please.

Oh, a couple of days ago they ran another bullshit misleading headline over an unusually foul and stinking article by Robert Fisk, in which Mr. Fisk recounts his interview with a Shiite cleric, to whose asshole his lips remain firmly attached throughout the piece. Fisk almost orgasms when the cleric dedicates one of his books to his brother Robert, with best wishes. The Shiite cleric says some nasty things about the Yanks--standard boilerplate crap, it's all a Zionist plot, whatever. And the headline is "US Trying to Steal Iraq's Oil." Now, that is a statement the Shiite cleric did make. However, running it as the headline all by itself is not precisely unbiased.

One of the more common Cataloony causes around here is the Estatut d'Autonomia. It seems certain elements want a new one. Now, the Estatut is the Catalan constitution. Francesc de Carreras points out some of the dumb arguments for a new Estatut: It's 25 years old. So what? Society has changed in 25 years. So it has, and if those people who believe the Estatut should be amended, perhaps they should explain to us exactly what they're going to change, which they haven't. The argument in the worst bad faith is that of the old leftists, who claim that the Estatut is too conservative because it is based on a political compromise. Very wrong. All basic governmental structures should contain as many compromises as possible. No one should get things all his own way, and especially not if he's a praying, believing, testifying Communist. And the most naive argument is that somehow a new Estatut is going to be the answer to all our problems because it will be so enlightened.

Andy Robinson has two pages on Michael Moore. They're so vile I can't bring myself to quote from them, except to say that Mr. Robinson is attempting to slide the fact that everything Michael Moore says is twisted (something admitted by even the Vanguardia's movie reviewer, who doesn't recommend the movie unless you like to watch TV political spots) past his readers by claiming that Moore demolishes all criticisms of him on his website.

Lance Armstrong has been taking an incredible amount of abuse this week. As you might have seen, the crowds along the roads have been enormous, barely leaving enough room for the cyclists, and Armstrong publicly blasted Tour management for poor security, saying he was afraid when riding through crowds of aggressive drunken Basque supporters and that he was more disgusted than anything else at the behavior of many drunken German fans. He criticized the record level of poor sportsmanship directed his way, saying he'd never seen it in cycle racing before: he's constantly spit on, insulted, and threatened. Chechu Rubiera, one of Lance's Spanish teammates, said he'd never seen anything like it, either, and that the crowd insults him merely because he's a member of the US Postal team. When Armstrong won yesterday, he was greeted with an enormous chorus of boos and whistles; seems that people, including the incredibly prejudiced Spanish announcers, thought he was arrogant or something for winning three stages in a row. What should he have done, ride less than his best? Throw the race? Let somebody else win? If I were Lance, I'd go out of my way to rip their balls off tomorrow at the individual time trial just to piss them off. I just hope nobody sticks a knife into him.

Monday, July 19, 2004

I've had several arguments with a British guy I know named Simon. He's not a bad guy, but he thinks he actually knows something about the United States because he's read Naomi Klein and Michael Moore, and he is anti-American in the sense that some people are anti-Semitic: everything the United States has ever done, is in the process of doing, or may perhaps do in the future is bad. If George Bush started giving out free condoms to homeless lesbian illegal alien single mothers, Simon would find something negative to say about it.

Simon believes that the United States is a jungle where we cut one another's throats for money or promotion, that we're interested only in ourselves and care nothing about the poor, that we're cruel and heartless and mean and that we abuse the poor. He was especially struck by that idiot woman in the Michael Moore movie who was raising rabbits and skinning them to make money off the fur. "If people in America have to do that just to survive..." and you know the rest.

He thinks there are a few rich people (Bush and his fat-cat oil friends), a lot of poor people, some abused women and children and minorities, and a lot of homeless people. He won't believe you if you tell him that poverty in the States is somewhere around 12-14%, that the poverty line is something above fifteen grand for a family of four, that poor people qualify for all kinds of government aid like Medicaid, food stamps, and so on, that poor people get what's called the Earned Income Tax Credit, meaning that they get an income tax refund rather than an income tax bill if they have the worst-paying jobs, and that most Americans completely agree with the idea that it's society's responsibility to help the unfortunate, including old people, poor people, and sick people.

The following post from Mickey Kaus at Slate debunks all that heartlessness of American society crap. (It's not italicized because for some reason the italic, bold, and link buttons are not appearing on my Blogger Create New Post screen.)

"There's a bit of Reich in every Ehrenreich! Barbara Ehrenreich writes:

'... I have been endeavoring to calculate just how many blue-collar men a T.A.N.F. [welfare] recipient needs to marry to lift her family out of poverty.

The answer turns out to be approximately 2.3, which is, strangely enough, illegal.'

I can't tell if Ehrenreich is joking about the "2.3" or if she's up to her old tricks (as when she wrote in 1986, with Frances Fox Piven, that long-term recipients were only a "tiny minority" of welfare mothers, when in fact they were nearly two-thirds of those on the rolls at any one time). If she's serious, how exactly did she calculate that 2.3 figure? ....Some numbers: The 2004 government poverty line for a family of four is about $18,850. For a family of three it's about $15,500. (The exact amount depends on whether you're using the Census or HHS line.) ... Even at the current minimum wage, a full-time worker earns $10,700 a year and an Earned Income Tax Credit of $2,500 (three person family) to $4,200 (four person family). Add in $3,000-4,000 of food stamps and subsidized Medicaid or CHIP health care for the children, and you're well above the poverty line even with a single breadwinner and a stay-at-home mom. ... Is Ehrenreich saying the poverty threshold is set too low? Fine--I'd have trouble living on it even without a family--but then she should tell us what idiosyncratic definition of "poverty" she's using. Is she assuming the "blue collar" man can't find even minimum-wage work? If so, again, why not make this assumption clear? ... Or is Ehrenreich, in the fashion of some left-wing organizers, simply ignoring the programs (especially the Earned Income Tax Credit) liberals have struggled to put in place to help low-income earners? ... P.S.: I doubt it's intuitively obvious to most Americans that the families of women married to typical blue-collar workers live in poverty. (Most blue collar workers make more than the minimum wage, and most wives work too.) The burden would seem to be on Ehrenreich to explain her startling stat."

BARCELONA, June 19--Today is D + 1. Squatter forces disembarked yesterday, by land, sea, and air, at the Barcelona Forum of Cultures. They quickly overcame light enemy resistance and successfully completed their first day's objective.

Seaborne squatter marine troops embarked at the Nova Mar Bella beach in northern Barcelona at 11 AM on July 18. A flotilla of rafts and canoes carried them toward their landing target, the jetty at the Forum beach. Though a few cuts and bruises were suffered, the triumphant squatters successfully landed and proceeded to accuse the Guardia Civil of having tried to sink their navy.

Meanwhile, land-based squatters tore down a fence and poured through the gap into the Forum reserved area. The two corps successfully linked up, at which point airborne reinforcements arrived in the form of a motorized hang-glider.

After the linkup, the squatter forces marched victoriously through the main square of the Forum, 400 strong, with arms linked and the Jolly Roger waving at their head. Police detachments retreated and did not offer resistance. Private contractors (also called "security guards") attempted to put up a fight with their batons as the three squatter corps, united, marched toward the exit, but were overcome.

Jordi Oliveras, general director of the Forum, received several kicks in the region of the derriere when he attempted to negotiate with squatter leaders. Said Oliveras, "We would have had even more complications if the reaction of the organization had been otherwise. We resolved the conflict within a few hours." Squatter leaders did not respond; reporters noted that the conflict was resolved when squatter forces decided to leave.

During the march from the central square to the exit, effective spray-paint assaults were carried out upon all available surfaces. At the Solidarity Fair area, squatter demolition teams took out various booths, banners, and signs. Several food stands were successfully assaulted, sacked, and looted by squatter light commandos.

No arrests were made.

Monday, July 12, 2004

We haven't done this for a while; let's take a look through the pages of the most recent numbers of the Vanguardia. This should be fun.

The Vangua is making a big deal about the International Court of Justice's finding that the Israeli wall (never 'fence') is illegal. They don't mention anywhere that the jurists who made the decision were mostly from non-democratic countries and that the head of the tribunal was Chinese, for God's sake. Or that the reason that the wall is causing so much anger is that it works. Terrorism is way down within Israel. Comparisons with the Berlin Wall are ridiculous, as the Israeli wall is built to keep violent criminals out, while the Soviet wall was built to keep innocent civilians in.

They're having lots and lots of boring political party conventions. Meanwhile, the British nuclear sub Tireless docked in Gibraltar over the weekend; everybody, from right to left, complained that this was a British "provocation". Left unanswered? Why would the British want to provoke Spain into anything except sitting down and shutting up? Seems that Zap is floating the story that this is somehow payback for Spain's switch to the Froggo-Toadish party line. Yeah, I know, sending a message to Spain by docking a British Navy sub at a British possession doesn't make much sense to me, either. Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos is meanwhile taking credit for the initiative that international troops should leave Iraq in January 2006. This guy has delusions of grandeur.

Xavier Sala i Martin skewers an idiot by the name of Vicente Navarro who seems to be some kind of Marxist economist. Navarro claimed, in a public dressing-down of Sala, that under Reagan economic growth had been less than under his predecessors and successors, and that poverty in the US had increased "as never before" under Reagan.

Sala points out that average economic growth per year was 2.68% under Nixon, 1.50% under Ford, 3.20% under Carter, 3.34% under Reagan, 2.11% under Bush-41, and 3.17% during Clinton's first term. As for poverty, it decreased by 0.5% points during the Nixon Administration, did not change under Ford, rose by 2.4% points under Carter, dropped by 1.2% points under Reagan (from 14% in 1981 to 12.8% in 1989), and rose by 1.6% points under Bush-41. Navarro claims to have been an advisor to Hillary Clinton between 1992 and 1994, when poverty rose by 0.3% points, from 14.2% to 14.5%. He then entertains three hypotheses, that Navarro was talking off the top of his head based on his own prejudices and didn't look anything up when he made his statement; that he's a deliberate liar; or he doesn't know that 3.34% is more than, say, 1.50%.
Sala doesn't say, but my guess is some combination of the three.

Manuel Trallero points out what we said a few days ago and which nobody else has mentioned anywhere, to my knowledge:

We're very lucky to be Catalans, yes, sirree. If one is Catalan he can obtain some information--not all of it, of course--about what happens, say, in jails in Iraq. One can see, through shocking images, the tortures the American troops inflicted on Iraqi prisoners; one can even read some very deep analyses among all sorts of condemnatory comments; one can also, if one wishes, hear the public apology that the United States Secretary of Defense made, and one can even discover that the first court-martials have already happened, that some of those found guilty have already been sentenced, and that those responsible for the prisons were instantly fired from their jobs. But, of course, the Americans are bad, and Bush is a natural assassin.

Here in Catalonia things are fortunately very different, because in the same way that the Americans are bad, we, the Catalans, are not just good, but supergood. And if there are tortures in a regional government police (Mossos d'Escuadra) station in Rosas, it's just an isolated incident, and if at the Quatre Camins prison, after a prison riot on April 30, 26 prisoners were mistreated, it's--according to the statement of the Counselor for Justice, Mr. Vallés--an "indication of irregular conduct among prison personnel with reference to the use of force," and so far only the medical subdirector of the prison has lost his job. Mr. Vallés uses the euphemism of "indications of conduct" just like, under Franco, "the forces of public order were obliged to intervene."

...I don't know what Catalan public opinion wants to know, but I know exactly what I want to know, and that is what happened, and I want to know now--more than two months seems to me to be enough time for prudence before the release of information--with the same sort of details with which I know, for example, what happened in a jail in Iraq, because I, at least, when I went on the streets to shout for "Llibertat, amnistia, i Estatut d'Autonomia", did not contemplate that torture would be used in the prisons of my country. I could say this louder, but not much more clearly.

That's a pretty good satire-bomb, that is. I very often disagree with Mr. Trallero, but I like him. Of all things, he's an antique-dealer by trade who works semi-professionally for La Vangua as a columnist and sometimes features writer. This means that he has a rather different perspective on life; he actually knows how to, say, run a business or get through government red tape. He is also highly cultured, and that's exactly his job, putting his historical and artistic knowledge to practical use and making money off it. So many alleged journalists around here have no knowledge of anything. (For example, Trallero is currently doing the entire pilgrimage to Santiago on foot and sending in a daily chronicle to the Vangua. It's quite interesting. I'd translate it but it's much too long. I think that a collection of quality travel writing by Spaniards about Spain--right off the bat I can think of Cela and Pla--might do quite well translated into English. You gotta figure there are some half a million Spain buffs out there who might be interested.)

OK. FC Barcelona is getting rid of Cocu, Reiziger, Quaresma, Mario, Enke, and Davids. Luis Enrique is retiring, I think. Kluivert and Overmars are for sale. They've picked up Belletti to play right back, Giuly for left wing, Larsson for center-forward, Deco for attacking midfielder, and Sylvinho for left back. Supposedly they still want to sign another forward who can actually score goals. Sergio García, Óscar López, and Ramón Ros will be loaned out to other Spanish First Division clubs.

Right now this leaves them with a lineup of something like Valdés; Belletti, Puyol, Oleguer or Márquez, Sylvinho or Van Bronckhorst; Giuly or Luis García, Ronaldinho, Deco, Xavi or Motta or Gabri; Larsson and Saviola or Mystery Signing. I would say the only untouchables are Puyol, Ronaldinho, and Deco. Deco and Motta count as Europeans, as will Sylvinho in about a month. That makes your four non-EU players Márquez, Ronaldinho, Belletti, and Saviola. I don't know what they're going to do with Rüstü, who's from Turkey and whom I suspect they would prefer to use rather than Valdés in goal. I heard some bogus claim about how the Barça was going to sue in order to get Turkey considered as a EU nation for soccer purposes, or something absolutely ridiculous like that.

As for the Tour de France, Armstrong is in fine form. Yeah, a few guys have about a ten-minute lead on him, but they're sprinters and will burn out about halfway through the first mountain stage. There's no good reason why, barring accident, he shouldn't repeat. Oh, yeah, there's the Lance Conspiracy Theory. See, the organizers didn't want Lance to win again, so they picked a fairly undemanding course with less emphasis on the mountains and the time trials, Armstrong's twin strengths. Meanwhile, though the course is not real tough, it is real dangerous. There have been an awful lot of crashes, at least one a day; the organizers included two sections over cobblestones, literally, which they hadn't done for like fifteen years. They also ran the first third of the course through wet, rainy Belgium and Atlantic France rather than the drier central and southern areas. Avoiding crashes is partly skill--and Lance manages his bike as well as anyone--but also partly luck. If the guy right in front of you takes a spill, it's probable you'll go down too, and you just might get badly hurt. Armstrong's already been involved in one crash from which he emerged unhurt. So, basically, what they've done is increase the luck factor; the easier course reduces the necessary and sufficient talent needed to win, the course design plays against Lance's strengths, and the risk factor makes it more likely that a rider will go down and be eliminated through a random accident. You know, it's a conspiracy theory and all, but I wouldn't put it past the French.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Check out this bit. It's from the Reader's Encyclopedia of the American West, a volume intended as a reference for the fairly well-educated reader, written by mostly western state-college academics in the 1960s. That is, it's by people who perhaps weren't great stylists (though they all write very clearly and correctly, unlike most academics today) or well-read in medieval Icelandic literature or the Bhagavad-Vita, and certainly didn't know jack about Foucault or Fanon, but who knew their branch of history cold and reported it honestly. Their like is long-gone on today's American campuses.

Well, it seems that Idaho, in the 1860s when it was a territory and hadn't reached statehood yet, consisted mostly of the parts of the Northwest that other states didn't want because they were out in the middle of Assboink, Bumsquat. There was a mining area in the northern part of the state centered on Lewiston and an agricultural area in the southern part centered on Boise. The Boise area had nine-tenths of Idaho's population, and the Lewiston area only 10%, so guess which part of the state got its way. The only way to get between Lewiston and Boise was via Portland, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City, because of a rough range of mountains and canyons and desert between the two towns. It didn't help matters any that many of the Boise area people were Mormons moving up from Utah; Mormons were not real popular along about that time in that place. Anyway, not only could they not figure out what Idaho's boundaries were supposed to be, they couldn't decide which town would be the capital.

Even without the boundary arguments, few territiories had anything like the sad experience that afflicted Idaho while setting up a territorial government. William Henson Wallace, the governor who organized the territory, immediately got himself elected to Congress as Idaho's delegate. His successor, Caleb Lyon, a political oddity from upstate New York, moved from one catastrophe to another. During the 1864 capital dispute, Lyon attempted to solve the problem by delivering five speeches on his experiences in the Holy Land. He also escaped clandestinely from Lewiston under the pretence of hunting ducks. "Fleeing from the mandate of a probate judge", he left Idaho with no executive department at all; finally, his private secretary decided to take over until a legal official might show up. Afther three months a new territorial secretary, C. DeWitt Smith, reached Lewiston. With military support, he took the territorial seal and archives away from a vigilant armed guard provided by Lewiston's alert citizens, who were resisting permanent location of the capital in Boise. Smith did not last long in Boise. At the end of a strenuous chess game in Rocky Bar, August 19, 1865, he suddenly expired from the effects of a "dismal and melancholy disease". That left Idaho once again with no government. No one knew for sure where the capital was, and the supreme court had not yet succeeded in organizing itself into existence. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Caleb Lyon beat W.H. Wallace in a hard-fought contest for the dubious honor of returning to Idaho as governor.

While Lyon was on the way to Boise, Horace C. Gilson took over the government and soon got himself appointed secretary. An ill-chosen associate of C. DeWitt Smith (who had found him in a San Francisco saloon), Gilson came poorly recommended because of his doubtful "moral antecedents". Gilson and Lyon made an interesting pair. They managed to dodge serious conflict with a bitterly hostile Democratic Party legislature, but in the spring of 1866 they quietly left town. Gilson took along the entire territorial treasury of $41,062 in federal funds, and Lyon escaped with the entire Nez Percé Indian treasury of $46,418.40, to have been used for treaty payments. Lyon had been dismissed because of his policy of treating the Indians decently. Refusing to go along with local sentiment, he blocked a campaign to exterminate the local Shoshoni. But he learned his lesson quickly, and when he got through, nobody could doubt that he had made up for his mistake in trying to help the Indians. No recovery was ever made from either Lyon or Gilson in this defalcation.

With Lyon's departure in April 1866, Idaho ended up with no government again. Location of the capital was still in litigation, but at last the supreme court got organized in time to dismiss the Lewiston complaints and injunctions on June 14. Just then David W. Ballard turned up as governor, and from then on, Idaho at least had a functioning territorial administration. It was about time. A few loose ends from the period of original chaos had to be cleared up. The supreme court, for example, noticed at last that Congressional delinquency in drafting the Idaho organic act had forced the territory to operate without criminal law until early in 1864, when the legislature corrected the oversight. Straightening out territorial finances posed more of a problem and took until 1869.

I forgot who said it, probably H.L. Mencken or Robert Benchley or someone of that ilk: "God looks out for children, fools, drunks, puppy dogs, and the Republic of the United States of America."
Ten Best Rolling Stones Lesser-Known Songs

10. "Factory Girl"
9. "Sweet Virginia"
8. "Rip This Joint"
7. "Let It Bleed"
6. "Stray Cat Blues"
5. "Sway"
4. "Moonlight Mile"
3. "Shine a Light"
2. "Memo from Turner"
1. "Tumbling Dice"

Dishonorable Mention:

5. "Dead Flowers"
4. "Country Honk"
3. "Dancing with Mr. D"
2. "Bitch"
1. "Cocksucker Blues"

Friday, July 09, 2004

Not much news from around here, I'm afraid. There seems to be a lot of crime going on around here, though I'm not sure whether it's a real increase over the old days or just better reporting and police work or straight-out media sensationalism. My guess is mostly choice number three. It does seem like there's been a wave of men killing their wives / girlfriends / exes / female acquaintances, though. Naturally, the Left is blaming this on sexist Spanish society.

Well, they sort of have a point. Spain is a good bit more macho than other European countries, at least among the working class. Many Spaniards from lower-middle-class on down are machistas; in fact, being machista is like waving a big sign saying "I'm unenlightened!" The middle class and up (roughly described as those who have spent at least a year in college) make a big deal out of being non-machista, though.

HOW TO RECOGNIZE A SPANISH MACHISTA: If you are a male, he will repeatedly attempt to demonstrate that his penis is bigger than yours. For example, he may aggressively insist the group go to his favorite bar, which always sucks; he will almost certainly grab as many low-priced checks as he can, but will lay off if a bill for three or more rounds come his way; he will brag about either how fast his car is, or how subserviantly his wife satisfies his every sexual need except for that extra libido he gets rid of down at the puticlub.

If you are a female, he will look you up and down completely, focusing especially on your breasts, before presenting himself to be kissed on two cheeks as is customary in Spain. He will take advantage of this local ritual to grab your hip or butt and plant one flat on your lips. If challenged by you, he will merely laugh. If challenged by your husband / date / friend / dad, he will laugh and say something about it being all a big joke.

Fortunately, the Spanish machista is dying out, though perhaps not as fast as some would like. Anybody who presumes to be the slightest bit enlightened would never stoop to acting machista. However, a lot of Spanish men still think enlightened is what you are if you wswallow a lightbulb.

Our local feminists are yelling and shouting about an epidemic of gender violence, of course. Normally an intellectual fashion takes about ten to twenty years to get from the American universities, where they are generally started, to Spanish enlightened opinion. The rhetoric being thrown by our local Chemical Lali Solés is straight out of about vintage 1985 Dworkin / McKinnon--that is, everything is men's fault. For the appropriate antidote, read Christina Hoff Summers's Who Stole Feminism?.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

For some more Moore mierda, check this out:

Joke only comprehensible by south-midwest folks of a certain social class:

What's the difference between white trash, rednecks, and hillbillies?

Well, white trash folks get invited to a wedding and just throw on a stinky old Iron Maiden 1982 tour T-shirt, leave the trailer door open, and show up. Rednecks get invited to a wedding, take a shower, shave, get all fixed up, throw on a brand-new Dale Earnhart Jr. T-shirt, lock the trailer door, and show up. Hillbillies just ask, "What's a trailer? What's a door?"
Check this one out. While in these here parts there has been much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth regarding the abuses at Abu Ghraib, our local Socialist-Communist-Catalanist-Green coalition had a prison uprising at Quatre Camins to deal with back on April 30. Naturally, the uprising was put down violently. So far, so good. I have no problem with the crushing of prison uprisings.

Here's the fun part, though. 26 of the prisoners involved in the uprising were "mistreated" by jailers after the uprising had been put down. These jailers are responsible to the Generalitat, the Catalan government, not to the central government.

Let's follow the story as it develops and compare it with the American reaction to Abu Ghraib. The American government admitted wrongdoing. There was a serious internal investigation in which names were named. Those accused of the actual abuses are being tried by military courts and will be punished severely if convicted. Several top military officers (Karpinski, Sanchez, Abizaid) have had their careers ruined.

Now, of course, the enlightened Socialist-Communist-Catalanist-Green government we have here in Catalonia had a lovely time damning the Americans after the Abu Ghraib news broke. Wonder how they'll react now that their people are the torturers?

Monday, July 05, 2004

For some reason my former Yahoo e-mail account stopped functioning; I can't get into it.

Note new e-mail:

Sorry if anyone was inconvenienced by my temporary inaccessibility.
Sorry I haven't written for more than a week. I'm just fine, but I don't have much to say. This is the boring time in Spanish politics, when the Congress is out of session and the parties are having their conventions. Of course, nothing of any interest is ever said at those things.

Last thing of any real interest said around here was when Eduardo "Señor Genocide" Haro Tecglen wrote in El Pais that (paraphrasing) Hitler killed millions in order to increase inequality between the peoples, while Stalin's sin is much less since he killed millions, too, but in an attempt to increase equality. Too many people around here, like say almost everybody, failed to call the old, failed, bitter apologist for mass murder what he is. And make no mistake: if Haro and his beloved PCE had ever gotten anywhere near real power, Franco's atrocities would seem like a spit in a bucket.

Comment on Franco's atrocities: some of them were pretty bad, but there's never been any call for the prosecution of Francoist police or military or jailers or executioners, not even since it became clear along about 1985-1990 that there was not going to be another military coup no matter what. Possibile answers to this question: 1) everybody has genuinely forgiven everyone else 2) too many people collaborated; you'd have to try the whole country 3) it would wake up too many embarrassing memories among those Socialists who joined the party only after Franco died 4) there would be a call for the trial of the assassins of the Left, like Carrillo, who managed to escape the first time around. I tend to go for some combination of answers 2, 3, and 4, mostly 2. It ain't 1.

The Forum is continuing to suck. They're getting nobody during the day; everybody's at the beach. I now have eight beer labels, so that leaves only sixteen to go to get us both in.

Comment: I really hate going to the beach unless we're going somewhere pretty or where the swimming is good. I'd say the Costa Brava counts as nice enough, and very nice in its better parts. The water's clear and cool and clean all the way up from Tossa past Collioure. Sitges is also a pretty town, but the water's not incredibly sanitary there. Now, I am not a neat freak or a paranoid health-nut wacko. I like swimming in a nice, clean sea. That simply doesn't exist south of about Calella or so in these here parts of the world. It's a muddy, gritty, not overly attractive sea along most of the rest of the Catalan coast. They tell me it's cleaner way down south along the Delta del Ebro. Dunno, haven't been there, but thought I'd mention it.

Besides, you get all hot and sweaty, and I get sunburned, lying on the beach. And it's boring, unless you want to go swimming, which I don't really want to do unless at Cadaqués or Ampurias.

I prefer to go out to the house in the village, which is 1) at about 2000 feet altitude, so cooler at night, not to mention dry 2) has nice, clean air and pretty paths and dirt roads to walk along through fields and forests and olive groves and vineyards and the like 3) has a very clean and meticulously maintained swimming pool, half in the shade of some pine trees, and, get this, bar service. (No real glass, so your rum and Coke comes in a plastic cup. Smoking is, of course, encouraged. Cigarettes, that is.) Also, there are lots of bored teenage girls from Barcelona spending the summer, and they hang out at the pool, so all you teenage boys take note.

Oh, yeah. A few days ago Tikrit Tommy Alcoverro claimed again that the Americans had armed Saddam. Tommy has absolutely no idea of what he's talking about, of course, or he'd know that the great majority of Saddam's arms came from the USSR, China, and France, in that order. The US got less than 1% of Saddam's military spending.