Thursday night was the First Occasional Blogger Bash here in Barcelona. Franco Alemán of Barcepundit presided and Golan of HispaLibertas, in town from Malaga, was the life of the party. Several other bloggers and blogreaders were there, including Trevor from Spain Media and Nihil Obstat, a total of fifteen or so, and a good time was had by all. The only problem was since it was Thursday, no serious drinking or visiting of gentlemen´s clubs or anything of the sort went on since people had to work the next morning. Also, we need more chicks next time; only one showed up, and, while she was lovely and gracious, a bunch of babe magnets like us should have attracted the nipple rings of a few irresponsible young right-wing heiresses with tailbone tats. Other than those minor complaints, the evening was a great success and I vote we do it again. There were several people I didn't really get a chance to talk to.
Common note: Everyone in the group was thrilled to be among a group of people among whom we didn't have to watch what we said. It is, at best, socially unacceptable to be conservative or classical liberal or non-Catalanista or anti-anti-American (and especially pro-Israel) around here. I've been told off several times, and I'm careful not to let people I don't know well in on what my genuine ideas regarding politics and society and suchlike are. I think in general leftists are much more intolerant of rightists personally than vice versa; I noticed this to be true even in Kansas City.
The Vanguardia today is priceless. Page Three, top of the International Section, by Sebi Val, begins, "The American elections of November 2 will not be held with the guarantees of democratic integrity worthy of a developed country. Ex-president Jimmy Carter warned of this several weeks ago. Other voices and the facts on the ground are confirming this. Twenty international observers, invited by the pro-human rights organization Global Exchange, have come to the same conclusions."
Jesus Christ. This is actually not an uncommon tactic among anti-Americans of the European Left; they flat-out deny that the United States is a democracy. Based on what? Well, Sebi and Global Exchange admit that "there have been advances made in order to avoid new chaos like that of 2000". But: 1) the officials who supervise the elections in the various states "have a partisan character". That means, uh, that these folks are elected by the voters. That's grass-roots democracy, it seems to me. 2) Convicted felons are barred from voting in eight states, says Sebi. Huh. I thought it was more. So what's the problem with that? Who wants people like George Steinbrenner to be allowed to vote? Well, seems that "4.7 million citizens--with a high proportion of African-Americans and Hispanics" are affected. Seems to me that this disenfranchisement is merely a symptom of a root problem, which is that felonies are committed to a disproportionate level by blacks and Hispanics. 3) There are confusing rules about voting. Yeah, that's what happens when you put the government in charge of something. It gets all bureaucratic and complicated. I've complained about this before. However, the main cause of the complexity is that each jurisdiction, and there are literally tens of thousands of them in the US, conducts its own elections. More grass-roots democracy, it seems to me.
Get this, though. "The most negative consequence of many of the weaknesses and faults is discrimination against voters of minority groups--Hispanics, African-Americans, and American indigenous people". Oh, please. The sum total of these complaints is that stupid people might not figure out how to vote, that criminals can't vote, and that elections are held at the local rather than national level. That does not invalidate America's status as a democracy, the best damn one there's ever been.
Jimmy Carter really is an international embarrassment.
This is even worse, of course, it's Andy Robinson on page 4. Andy's been to a Bush rally at Hershey, Pennsylvania. "...the 20,000 Republicans who attended the rally paraded under the rain to their 4x4s shouting "Four more years!" Then they came across a small group of Democratic demonstrators. "Communists!" shouted Heath Gephart, 31, pilot and Baptist. "The Democrats are a bunch of liberals, more or less the same as Communists," he explained. "They're against the ethical principles of this country. Against the culture of life. They support murdering babies. We are the moral majority." Chris Thomas, a soldier of 34 years who has just arrived from Iraq, could not control himself when he saw the demonstrators' poster that said "Protect life, leave Iraq". "They're lucky there are guys like me so that they have the freedom to protest", he said. "Get a real job!" another shouted. Hundreds of Republicans circle the demonstrators. Some of the demonstrators begin to cry..." Andy then begins to beat conservative Protestants over the head for a while. If you believed Andy, you'd think that all of America was like the Ozarks. Or, even worse, most of England.
You know, actually, I agree one hundred percent with the obviously fictional Chris Thomas. Heath Gephart--great name, Andy--is even more obviously phony.
Anyway, on page 6 Xavier Batalla has a long dull opinion piece on whether the Americans can afford to pay for both the Iraq War and the social welfare system (Answer: Yes, Xavier, we can. The $422 billion deficit Bush has run up is a blip compared to the size of America's $9 trillion economy. You just wasted seven triple-length Spanish paragraphs.)
In the editorial section, Balto Porcel says that really bugs the Europeans about American throwing around its weight is the fact that the Americans do it so incompetently. He says, "(There is) a global feeling of insecurity, we know we are tied to its leadership, but it seems brutal and clumsy to us, as incapable of solving conflicts as absolutely hegemonic among the peoples. Why does the United States go to war if it doesn't know how? Why does it try to lead the world if its leaders are that lousy Bush, his Texas oilmen, and his radical and arrogant thinkers? It's incomprehensible...Warning: This problem, like that of relations with all of Islam, comes from the old Palestine-Israel chaos also sponsored by the United States and which has gotten worse under Bush."
In other words, Balto objects not to US imperialism but to incompetent US imperialism. It would be okay if we killed people more effectively, you see, like the NKVD and the Gestapo used to do. How long do you think the Iraqi "resistance" would last if we went after them like, say, Lenin or Goering would have? Oh, by the way, it's all Israel's fault in the long run. Balto, like most Europeans, has forgotten that the trouble down there is not the fault of Israel, which openly expresses its desires for peace, but that of Palestinian terror organizations, who continue massacring civilians inside Israel and thus forcing retaliation. Continued: "These elections will cost more than $650 million...twice Barcelona's Forum." Wrong. The Forum cost more than €2 billion.
Friday Sebi Val had a piece on how the NRA and the Bible-banger Protestants are powerful lobbies with lots of money. They're powerful lobbies with lots of money because a lot of people support them, you dipstick! They have political muscle, it's true, but no more than their share. Meanwhile, we are informed that the Dems are sending out ten thousand lawyers to contest the vote everywhere they lose. I am genuinely angry at the Democrats for this strategy of impugning the elections if your man didn't win. What they're trying to do, in case you haven't noticed, is take away the political legitimacy that the candidate who has won an election has earned. Also, Andy Robinson informed that "the African-Americans of Philadelphia feel genuine rage about the robbery of black votes in Florida and other states in the previous presidential elections." Now, come on. A more accurate sentence would be something like "The Democratic Party has as usual been trying to play the race card in the inner cities by falsely making claims that black voters were somehow cheated in the 2000 elections, and they have had some success by repeating this distorsion ad nauseum."
News from around here: I really haven't been keeping up with it but there's been a struggle for power within the PP. Seems that Esperanza Aguirre beat out Alberto Ruíz-Gallardón for control of the Madrid party. Aguirre is a standard-model conservative and Gallardón is the most "moderate" PP leader, which I think means "the guy who has been trying to distance himself the most from Aznar". Watch out for Mr. Gallardón. Seems like someone with ambition to me. This is mostly notable because it's been the first major stink within the party for some time; under Aznar, everyone was disciplined. Now that Rajoy's the boss, some people are going to try to test his authority.
There's a survey about Barcelonese opinion regarding municipal services. The most criticized areas are parking, traffic, and crime, in that order. Citizens are the happiest about the subway, the buses, citizens' information, cultural information, and public street festivals. I'l agree with the parking, traffic (which really isn't that awful, it's just scary) and crime as aspects of life that could certainly be improved, and crime is the worst. I'll also agree about public transport being generally good; you can actually get around town without a car, which a lot of people do. As for information, though, give me a break, and as for as popular cultural street fiestas, here in Gracia we're sick of them. Revealing stat: Gracia was the only neighborhood of town whose main complaint is noise, most specifically the noise made by the goddamn Fiesta Mayor. The poorer areas all said crime or immigration; the wealthier areas said cleanliness or parking; and we said noise. I'll agree with the wealthier areas that the city is quite dirty, one of the dirtiest in Western Europe, and that some of the dirt (along with the noise, traffic and parking problems) is because the place is so crowded.
The big sports whoop-te-doo here is--the World Series! No, six million Catalans don't give a damn. The Patriots' win streak! No, six million Catalans don't give a damn. The big whoop is that the Catalan roller-hockey team (roller hockey! Is there a dorkier sport?) has been internationally recognized and has won a place in the International Roller Hockey Premier Division or whatever it's called. This is the main sports story.
Something that the local lefties are criticizing with good reason is the government's handling of the plane crash that killed 62 Spanish soldiers on their way back from Afghanistan on May 26, 2003. Yes, I know tragedies and accidents happen, and that something like one-fifth of combat soldiers killed are done in by friendly fire. But this one didn't have to happen. It was a Soviet Yakovlev plane with a Ukrainian crew, and, I'm sorry, I wouldn't fly in a Soviet plane no matter what. Couldn't they have hired somebody flying American or European planes to do it, or, failing that, couldn't they have done it themselves? I would certainly hope that the Spanish Air Force is at the very least capable of transporting 62 soldiers from Afghanistan back home. If it isn't, something's very wrong. There are also allegations about poor airplane maintenance and an exhausted crew that had been on duty for 23 hours.
Finally, congratulations to Loyola de Palacio, currently vice president of the European Commission, who said she hoped Fidel would kick off as soon as possible because that's the only way there will be change in Cuba ("I'm not saying kill him. I'm saying let him die," she clarified), pointed out that Castro is "a sinister dictator with many deaths upon his shoulders", and poured scorn on the Socialist government's attempt to improve relations with Cuba, saying "That's playing the game of distinguishing between good dictatorships and bad ones." The implication is, of course, for Zap and the Socio-Communist-Cataloony government in charge, Castro's is one of the good ones. You go, Loyola!