Thursday, April 21, 2005

I haven't commented much lately because we've been busy at the Spain Herald this week and I can only spend so much time in front of the computer.

Everybody knows all about the new Pope. I think Ratzinger was a pretty good choice, conservative and in John Paul II's tradition, but not crazy like, say, Lefevre. He's certainly got the intellectual credentials. Now maybe there won't be much Vatican news for the next few years, which would be a good thing because I am heartily tired of this story. The Vanguardia has literally been running 10-12 pages daily on the subject. Now, this is understandable because the Vangua is very pro-Church and they make no bones about it, but everybody's been playing it up big-time.

The Basque elections went off fairly cleanly. The main problem has been this: Batasuna, ETA's front political party, was outlawed a couple of years ago by the Supreme Court under the Political Parties Act, which says that it's illegal for a political party to support terrorism. Batasuna's representatives were kicked out of the Basque Parliament, party offices were closed down, etc. So what they did, what they always do, was to change the name. First they set up a front group called AG, which stood for something like Aukera Gurriak. The Zapatero administration challenged their candidacy in court on the grounds it was a Batasuna front, a front for a front, and the court agreed and banned them. AG has not been heard from since. So they set up front group number two, called the PCTV, the Communist Party of the Basque Lands, and the Zap administration did not challenge them even though they're just as obviously Batasuna as AG was.

So the PCTV won nine seats out of the 75 in the Basque parliament. The total breakdown of seats is: Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) 29 seats, down four over their total in the 2001 election; Basque Socialist Party (PSE-PSOE) 18 seats, up 5; People's Party (PP) 15 seats, down 4; PCTV 9 seats, up 2; Basque Communist Party (EB-IU, traditional Communists) 3 seats, no change; Aralar (a nonviolent split off Batasuna) 1, up one.

What this means is that there are several possibilities to form a government. Probably the most likely is that the PNV will govern alone from the minority, making pacts as necessary. Second most likely is some sort of understanding between the PNV and the Socialists; I doubt they will openly form a coalition and split up the Cabinet posts, though they might. Third most likely is an arrangement between the PNV and the PCTV. The problem here is that the PNV would thereby burn its bridges in the Madrid parliament, where it has some influence, because joining up with the terrorists would not go over well there at all. Theoretically a Socialist-PP-Communist-Aralar coalition would only get 37 seats against a PNV-PCTV total of 38, and both the real Communists and Aralar are more likely to ally with the nationalists than the two "Spanish" parties.

Another thing this means is that the Ibarretxe Plan is dead, since the Ibarretxe administration had pretty much campaigned on the idea that last Sunday's election was a referendum on the Plan. Well, Ibarretxe's party lost five seats. Even Ibarretxe admits that if the election was a referendum, the Plan lost.

There is an unfortunate trend in country music toward doing bluegrass covers of classic rock tunes. I think Dwight Yoakam kicked it off ten years ago or so when he covered "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," which actually made sense because it's kind of a country song in the original version. Then somebody did a good cover of "Fat Bottom Girls", which again is basically a country-blues tune when you get down to it. Then the poo hit the fan and somebody did a whole album called "Lonesome Skynyrd Time" in bluegrass, which took the concept a little bit too far, but still kind of makes sense because there was of course a lot of country in Skynyrd. Then this group called Hayseed Dixie (get it?) came out with a bunch of bluegrass AC/DC covers, and the joke was funny the first couple of times you heard it. Then they got popular and did Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" not-really-in-bluegrass, which became a big hit and officially made country covers of rock songs uncool. Now there's a whole bluegrass tribute album to the Moody Blues, of all awful bands, and they just played "Knights in White Satin" on KHYI. We don't need this.

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