Monday, July 31, 2006

Monday blog roundup while listening to Dwight Yoakam:

Davids Medienkritik gives sleazy tabloid mag Stern a good fisking.

Damian Penny has links and comment on Qana; Expat Yank blasts anti-Israeli bias at British AOL; Harry's Place has more; so does Right Wing News.

Trevor has a history piece on medieval Barcelona and the decline of the city-state.

Pave France comments acidly on the French blogosphere.

Samizdata agrees with us on the Spanish Civil War.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The top story on everyone's evening news tonight was the Israeli attack on Qana, which killed at least 50 people in an apartment building, at least some of whom were civilians. Half of them were children.

TV1 used the word "massacre" at least 15 times during its news broadcast, which seemed rather partisan to me.

Israel's answer is that these deaths are Hezbollah's fault because Hezbollah started the war, and because Hezbollah uses civilians as human shields. That is, if Hezbollah hadn't wanted those civilians there, they wouldn't have been there.

And, of course, the Israelis do not blow buildings up at random. They hit that particular one because they knew that weapons were being stored there.

And, of course, the Israelis had warned the people of Qana that their town would be bombed, as it was a Hezbollah base, and that they should leave. The argument that all the roads were destroyed doesn't fly. Israel hasn't blown up every road in Lebanon. The civilians could have left the city on foot with no problems for the great majority--all they'd have to do is get a couple of kilometers out of town at most. If I were credibly informed that Barcelona would be bombed within the next few days, I would leave as soon as possible and on foot if necessary. Why didn't they?

Israel says that it fired two missiles into the building a couple of hours after midnight, and that the building did not collapse, killing many of the occupants, until nearly noon, eight or ten hours later. Assuming the Israelis are telling the truth, why didn't the inhabitants get out when they had the chance?

This tragedy happened because irregular forces, such as Hezbollah--guerrillas, terrorists, whatever you want to call them--hide behind non-combatants. Regular forces, such as the Israeli army, must answer to military law and to the chain of command. They are specifically prohibited from hiding behind civilians, and if they do so, they will be punished by their own superiors. Hezbollah terrorists are responsible to nobody, and they believe that the martyrdom of innocents helps their cause. So they do everything they can to promote it, in their own country and in other people's.

Today Hezbollah fired more than 150 rockets into Israel, the express purpose of each one to kill civilians.
El Periodico's bag of shit editorial cartoonist Ferreres today accused Israel of intentionally targeting the UN observation post where four "peacekeepers" were killed last week.


Kofi Annan: "A UN post bombed? Weren't there signals indicating it?"

"Peacekeeper": "Very well. That's why they hit it so accurately."
"Tikrit Tommy" Alcoverro, La Vanguardia's Beirut correspondent, has this to say in Sunday's Vangua:

Three weeks into the war, around 2000 Hezbollah guerrillas courageously resist deadly and devastating Israeli aerial bombings and land incursions, and their strategists continue launching rockets at objectives of the Jewish state, farther and farther away. Hezbollah leadership, despite the devastation and the exodus of the Shiite population, is still decided on continuing the war, and boasts of having stopped the plans of the Israeli general staff. In the south, as occurred before, one of the most powerful armies in the world is facing a guerrilla organization, which, like a fish in water, is fighting on its own terrain. If Sheik Nasrallah committed an undeniable error in challenging Israel by capturing two of its soldiers, not foreseeing these disproportionate reprisals, the Jewish military leaders have had to reduce their offensive projects before (Hezbollah's) surprising armed resistance and the hecatomb and destruction caused to this innocent and unprotected populace. Lebanon is a small country of only 10,000 square kilometers with some 4 million inhabitants. We must also recognize that this war is almost exclusively carried out against Hezbollah, established among the Shiite population of the south, of the Bekaa, and of the Beirut suburbs. It is, therefore, the Shiite community that suffers in its flesh the incessant reprisals of the Tsahal.

Not hard to see whose side Tikrit Tommy is on, is it?

My question about Alcoverro is the same as my question about Beirut Bob Fisk. Both these guys live in Beirut and have done so for many years. Who, exactly, are they paying their insurance costs to? And in what form? I don't for a moment believe that any Westerner could live for so many years in Beirut without the risk of being kidnapped or having his house blown up, unless he had an insurance policy, and I don't mean the kind you get from State Farm or Prudential.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Further aimless thoughts while listening to KHYI out of Dallas (click on "Click Here to Listen"):

The wildcat strike at El Prat lasted all day yesterday, though the airport is functioning more or less normally now. The strike caused more than 500 flights to be canceled yesterday and a great number to be diverted to other airports, thus thoroughly messing up the rest of Spain's air travel sector as well. Today more than 100 flights had to be canceled as well, about 20% of the scheduled number.

What happened is that the mainstream labor unions, the UGT and CCOO, called an informative meeting of the Iberia handling workers yesterday at 9 AM, and the meeting got out of hand. Radical elements led by the anarchist labor union CGT took over and passed a wildcat strike motion; the runways were immediately blocked. Finally, at about 7 PM, an agreement was reached in which the workers went back to work and management promised to do something so no one would ever ever get fired again no matter how much crack he smoked on the job.

The question now is who is going to reimburse all the passengers who missed flights because of the strike. If you figure there were, I don't know, 10,000, and if they paid an average of, say, €250 for their tickets, that's a pretty good chunk of change.

Note: The anarchist union that panicked the workers' meeting, the CGT, is also the bunch whose logo appears on the "Israel Estat Genocida" banner (scroll down to the fifth photo for a good view) at last week's anti-Semitic demo. These guys are left over from the old CNT-FAI, the most powerful anarchist organization ever at its peak in late 1936.

The boats are still washing up on the Canaries; there have been several more deaths among the West African illegal immigrants who make up the boat people. Over 600 of them arrived just this week.

The world's number one blowhard, Hugo Chavez, told Al Jazira: "The Jews are doing the same thing to the Lebanese that Hitler did to them." Chavez's next stop on his world tour is Iran.

Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock got married. The sheer redneckiness (redneckosity? redneckization?) is overwhelming. Let's hope the kids have her looks and neither's brain.

I didn't make this up, but it's always seemed accurate to me: The difference between white trash, rednecks, and hillbillies is that, if they get invited to a wedding, white trash throw on a stinky old Iron Maiden '82 tour T-shirt and a torn-up pair of tennis shoes and show up. Rednecks, on the other hand, put on a brand-new freshly-ironed Dale Earnhardt Jr. T-shirt along with their biggest, roundest belt buckle and a pair of alligator-skin cowboy boots and show up. Hillbillies, on the third hand, put on the suit their great-grandpappy Jethro was buried in and show up with a chicken under their arms.
Letters to the editor from Friday's El Periodico:

Anti-Semitism might be an even bigger problem than terrorism. Terrorism
might come to an end someday with more justice for everyone, while destroying a country with illegal cluster bombs, with the result of many dead civilians every day, in exchange for two kidnapped soldiers, might make anyone an anti-Semite...
Signed: Francisco Masdeu, Barcelona

I ask Solana: Why don't they send NATO to bomb the terrorist state of
Israel? This action would be much more justified than that of Serbia in 1999 (to my understanding, there was no reason for it.)
Signed: José Luis Calzada Puig, Barcelona

In the Warsaw ghetto, for every German killed 100 Jews were executed. The
Israeli chief of staff, Dan Halutz, threatened to destroy ten buildings in
Beirut for every missile Hezbollah launched. He kept his promise.
Signed: Josep Robert Reig Miró, Barcelona

Note that these were not only letters sent to El Periodico; they are letters El Periodico chose to print.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The big news today in Barcelona is that strikers have closed down the airport. Iberia's handling personnel have not only walked off the job, but they've blocked all three runways, forcing all air traffic to halt.

Why are they striking? Because Aena, the company that administers El Prat airport, awarded the new handling contract to Air Europa, Spanair, and FCC, presumably because their bid was better than Iberia's. The Iberia workers fear that they will lose their jobs, even though the new bosses are required by byzantine Spanish labor laws to take all of them on.

What I can never figure out is why such things are tolerated on the Continent.

Yes, workers have the right to organize and strike, and they have the right to assemble and protest. But let them do so without interfering with other people's own rights. Everyone knows the old analogy, "Your rights end where my nose begins." If the strikers had stood out in front of the terminal holding signs, no problem. But blocking the runways so no one else can use the airport is something quite different.

And this stuff happens all the time in Spain. Truckers and farmers block highways with barricades of burning tires. Not that long ago Barcelona taxi drivers blocked off airport access.

I am not sure whether these actions are protected by law, but if they are, they shouldn't be, and if they're not, somebody should have arrested the strikers and hauled them away. There has to be some kind of law forbidding interference with public services.

But this is the Continent, and so the authorities let them get away with it.

About 100,000 passengers were supposed to have used El Prat today. Somehow I don't think any of them are very happy right now.
Friday blog roundup while listening to John Lee Hooker:

Aaron Hanscom, guestblogger at Barcepundit, was kind enough to link to us in a piece on anti-Israeli propaganda he wrote for FrontPage.

And Bob Skinner, guestblogging at Davids Medienkritik, points out what's wrong with the German media. (Point one: "they make stuff up.")

Guirilandia is maybe just a little bit harsh on the tourists; I'll agree many are regrettable, and parts of downtown do cater almost exclusively to tourism, but it lays golden eggs. And don't miss hard-boiled private dick Larry Kovacs's latest adventure on the seamy side of Barcelona.

La Liga Loca sniffs out dodginess at both Sevilla and Real Madrid, along with more Spanish football news.

Expat Yank finds a real Associated Press scoop on Al Qaeda, Israel, Spain, and Zap.

Fausta has two posts on Hugo Chavez, one on anti-Semitism in Venezuela and the other on Chavez's weapons shopping. With videos and everything!

Akaky is a gas.

Angie Schultz rounds up the current blogosphere controversies, you know, all these people sending out anonymous threats and the like. The Internet is just a tool, of course, and so it will be misused by some people for illegal, immoral, or just crazy purposes. This Deb Frisch sounds like a real barrel of laughs.

Roncesvalles reviews the Bush-Merkel "sexual harassment" incident at length.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Top five recent Google search hits from my referrals log:

5. is alfonso guerra gay

Far as I know, he's not; he's widely rumored to have a mistress.

4. sexy asses of Utah

Try the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Or Marie Osmond. Or Donny, if you're an alternative-lifestyle guy.

3. nude cyclists

Sounds good to me, but wouldn't you get tremendous road rash if you took a spill? And wouldn't your, uh, apparatus flap around in the breeze?

2. sex shops pozuelo

Can't help you there; never been in Pozuelo. I do know there's one on Aragon near Balmes here in Barcelona.

1. where to buy heroin Barcelona

Try Can Tunis, but if you get stabbed it's not my fault.
Aimless thoughts while listening to Robert Earl Keen:

Zap and the PSOE have finally shut up about Israel; I'm not sure they got the message that most of the rest of the world thinks they're anti-Semites, but they learned that their rhetoric aimed at domestic consumption can backfire when the international media gets hold of it.

According to various estimates, there are at least 800,000 illegal aliens in Spain today. This is just one year after Zap decreed a massive asylum program and legalized a few hundred thousand of those who were already here.

I'm in favor of immigration. I'm an immigrant. And I'm not particularly concerned about the number of illegals right now, since Spain can hold the ones it has without much problem (Spain's immigrants are about 8.5% of the total population). Pretty soon sometime, however, they're going to have to set up a guest-worker program, in the same way that Germany accepted Spanish guest workers in the 60s and early 70s.

Of course, if you really want to limit immigration, you have to let the free market work and give those people the chance to earn a living in their home countries. And the best way to do that, of course, is for the US and EU to eliminate import restrictions and tariffs on goods from Third World countries. Let them compete with us on a level playing field. Simplistic, I know, but it would do a hell of a lot of good.

According to La Vanguardia, the average immigrant in Barcelona earns about €800 a month and spends some €550 for a room in a four-bedroom apartment. There's the native Catalan real-estate owners gouging the Third Worlders, since that's twice the price you'd pay if you were a leaseholder, and I'll bet the places the immigrants live are not nearly as nice as what a leaseholder gets for his €1000 a month.

Hugo Chavez is buying armaments from Russia: 24 Sujoi-30 fighters and 30 military helicopters. He is going to have to junk his F-16s because the Americans won't sell him spare parts. In addition, he wants to manufacture AK-47 rifles in Venezuela.

There's a major stink going on in Marbella, the trashy Costa del Sol magnet for Russian mafiosi and Arab sheiks and assorted international con men. The city's mayor, Julian Muñoz, gossip-magazine and reality-TV mainstay because of his romance with aging torch singer Isabel Pantoja, is in jail along with about half of the city council, and Jose Maria del Nido, Muñoz's lawyer and the president of the Sevilla FC soccer club, has just been charged with embezzling €6.7 million. Wonders will never cease.

It's still hot, 45º C in the sun in Barcelona and about 34º in the shade. Unpleasant. Sweaty. Smelly. La Vangua ran a letter to the editor encouraging citizens to shower and use deodorant regularly. Most do but too many don't. Many of those who don't can be found hanging out at the Casa Julio bar on Calle Providencia.

By the way, a gang of aggressive homeless drunks and drug addicts has taken over the beach at Barceloneta and the cops are having no luck moving them along. Sounds like the place to party on Saturday night.
The AP is reporting that Floyd Landis tested positive for excessive testosterone on the day of his huge breakaway in the Alps. A retest is pending, but it looks like Floyd cheated. Too bad, he seemed like a genuinely stand-up guy. I'm disappointed, of course. If Landis is stripped of the title, Spaniard Oscar Pereiro, who had a fine race and finished second, will inherit it.

Bad news for the Tour de France. First a dozen riders, including Ullrich and Basso, are disqualified mere days before the race because of the Spanish doping scandal that brought down famous cycling coach Manolo Saez, and now the winner has tested positive for doping. The Tour had better be even stricter in its testing or it's going to go the way of pro wrestling, a popular sport in the early 20th century that died when the fans decided it wasn't on the level. Or boxing; as recently as the 1940s boxing was America's second most important sport after baseball.

I think looking at Sports Illustrated's homepage is instructive about the current ranking of sports in importance in the US. The tabs directly under the headline which readers click on for all the news about a particular sport read, from left to right:

NFL; College football; MLB (major league baseball); NBA; College basketball; Golf; NHL (National Hockey League); Nascar; Soccer; High school; Other sports.

Boxing is down there in "Other Sports" along with team handball and roller hockey, below even high school sports.

Note that soccer gets its own tab now. This is new and shows that Americans are becoming more and more familiar with the game. Another major clue pointing in this direction is that Bill Simmons, America's most popular sports columnist, recently asked his readers to write in recommending which English Premier League he should support. Note that Simmons doesn't give a crap about the American soccer league, which everybody knows is second-rate; he wants to pick a real top-level team playing good football, and those can be found in the EPL. You might be a little surprised at the team he picks; remember, he's from Boston and is a Red Sox fanatic. Brits might be interested in this article, if only to see how a top American sportswriter views their league.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Francesc-Marc Alvaro describes a conversation with one of our local enlightened and illustrated intellectuals in today's La Vanguardia:

My friend is thrilled with Zapatero's latest diplomatic adventures and with
the PSOE's official position on the crisis between Israel and Hezbollah. My
friend attended last Thursday's demonstration in Barcelona's Plaza Sant Jaume in
order to protest against "Israeli genocide in Lebanon," to put it in his own
words. My friend thinks that Jose Blanco did not go far enough, and recites an
article written by a University of Barcelona professor and retired military
officer which declares that Israel "has responded to every terrorist action with
military reprisals against the Arab civilian population." My friend assures me
that the war is the fault of the Israelis and "their expansionist and
colonialist desires," to put it in his own words.

I try to tell my friend that Hezbollah is a political party and an armed
organization which, moved by Teheran's interests and encrusted inside the
Lebanese state, dedicates itself to imposing through terrorism the same
totalitarian and fundamentalist ideology that the Iranians are suffering from
today. I also remind him that it was no accident that the first attack by
these guerrillas on Israeli soil was on July 12, when the deadline set for the
Iranian government to respond officially about its nuclear program ran out.

My friend, who exclusively watches the TV3 news, insists that Israel
"is killing children, women, and old people," and that "it's all a plan drawn up
by the neocons to expand the empire." A little tired by now, I remind him that
the fanatical cleric that runs Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrala, has stated publicly,
"We love martyrdom," which fits in perfectly with these guerrillas' practice of
camouflaging arms and military bases in the middle of houses and civilian
buildings, using the defenseless population as human shields. Nasrala, who is
totalitarian but not an imbecile, generously promotes the martyrdom of Lebanese
civilians while he and his lieutenants hide away. I cite a recent article by the
Israeli author Amos Oz, a well-known pacifist, denouncing the false symmetry in
placing a democratic state like Israel at the same level as a totalitarian
terrorist organization like Hezbollah.

My friend isn't listening to me any more. It does me no good to remind him
that Hezbollah's attacks occurred exactly when Israel has pulled out of Gaza and
was planning a pullout from the West Bank. Isn't it suspicious that
fundamentalists sponsored by Iran and supported by Syria provoke Israel as soon
as some hope appears? My friend enthusiastically praises Zapatero and talks
about his Alliance of Civilizations. He feels superior and his conscience is
very calm.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tuesday blog roundup while listening to Taj Mahal:

Roncesvalles shreds a fatuous blonde German TV hostess.

Right Wing News makes John Kerry eat his flip-flops and provides this quick Middle East quiz.

Rainy Day outs Angelo Sodano as the head anti-Israeli in the Vatican.

Fausta notes the BBC's significant omissions.

Eursoc unearths a sinister secret EU plan.

Expat Yank fisks another clueless Guardian columnist.

The Rottweiler eviscerates a British foreign office hack.

Daniel W. Drezner debunks an uninformed "another world is possible" foo-foo.

Barcepundit features guest blogger Aaron Hanscom on the PSOE's anti-Israeli disaster.

La Liga Loca has a fresh roundup of Spanish football news.

And Arts and Letters Daily links to this extremely overdone slice-of-life-in-Spain piece, in which the author calls a bunch of folks hanging out in a suburban Spanish plaza "a sacred gathering." No, no, they're just bored and have nothing else to do.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Further aimless thoughts while listening to Ray Wylie Hubbard:

Israeli ambassador Victor Harel snapped back at Pepe Blanco, saying that Blanco's remarks "were the most disgraceful (infame) statements I have heard in recent days...He is accusing us of killing civilians indiscriminately, that is killing civilians intentionally. This is something that Arab propaganda does, but we did not expect it from someone at the head of a party with many links with Israel and years and years of relations...That the organizational secretary of a party, the same that organized (Thursday's) demonstration, should make an accusation of this character against us, has left us completely speechless."

So what did Blanco do, apologize? Nope.

"As I have done since the beginning of the crisis, my first words were of rotund condemnation of Hezbollah's terrorist actions; actions, which I have also been saying for days, do not justify a disproportionate military response which is causing innocent victims," he responded.

These guys are just digging the hole even deeper.

It's hot, with temperatures above 90º F across most of Europe. In southern Spain it can easily reach 110º. 30 people have already been reported dead in France, reminiscent of the tragic summer several years ago when literally thousands of people, mostly elderly, died of the heat. I am on a granola-yogurt-fruit diet to beat the heat. Get this, the Generalitat is warning people about "abusing air-conditioning." I'm not sure what they mean, since anybody who tries to take a whack at my air-conditioner is going to have to get past me first.

The ignored international humanitarian crisis continued this week, as some 600 illegal immigrant boat people were picked up at sea aboard several different open boats in the Atlantic by the Spanish coast guard. At least six died of exposure and starvation, as one of the cayucos was adrift at sea for five days without food before they found it. Canary Islands authorities say they are "desperate." Over a thousand people have died at sea so far in 2006 on the West Africa-Canary Islands route. The international media isn't getting all excited, though.

In good news, traffic deaths are down by half over last summer. This is excellent news, as Spanish highways have always been among the deadliest in Europe. Looks like the changeover to the points system has had a psychological effect on driving habits.

Get this. There are currently nine enormous luxury cruisers docked in Barcelona harbor, and 1.5 million cruise passengers will come through the city this year. And some people doubt that we live off tourism.

Sports: Everyone knows that Floyd Landis won the Tour de France, a well-deserved victory for a guy who toughed it out, who pulled off one of the finest breaks from the pack ever on the day it looked like it was all over for him. Landis is much more popular in Europe than Armstrong, probably because he seems like a much nicer guy, you know, not as arrogant. Lance is, of course, the greatest cyclist ever, but he's apparently also capable of behaving like a major dickhead.

Barcelona signed Thuram and Zambrotta, giving them a squad of:

Goalies: Valdes, Jorquera
Right fullback: Zambrotta, Belletti, Oleguer
Right center-back: Marquez, Oleguer
Left center-back: Puyol, Thuram
Left fullback: Van Bronckhorst, Sylvinho
Defensive midfielder: Edmilson, Marquez, Motta
Playmaking midfielder: Xavi, Iniesta, Van Bommel
Attacking midfielder: Deco, Iniesta, Van Bommel
Right wing: Messi, Giuly, Ezquerro
Center forward: Eto'o, Gudjohnsen
Left wing: Ronaldinho, Deco

That's a pretty good lineup, and they've got three years playing together under their belts. They're the unanimous favorite to win the Spanish league--the online betting sites have Barcelona at something like 1.6-1 to threepeat, with Real Madrid at around 3-1 and longshot Valencia at 8-1. No one else has a realistic chance. As for the Champions' League, Barcelona and Chelsea are the preseason favorites. Since both Juventus and Milan have been disqualified, this means that the CL will be somewhat easier to win than last year.
Aimless thoughts while not listening to Kenny Rogers:

José Blanco, the PSOE's organizational secretary (internal party boss), put his foot in it again; this has been a very bad week for the PSOE and the Zap administration in international affairs. Blanco said that civilian victims in Lebanon "cannot be considered collateral damage, but rather an objective sought by Israel." He added, "No objective justifies the destruction of a country." So the PSOE claims that Israel is intentionally murdering civilians. That'll look great when Moratinos shows up in Rome at this big meeting they've called in order to do nothing about the Israeli-Hezbollah war.

Moratinos, the foreign minister, is the same guy who accused Israel of "perpetrating a bloodbath" on Saturday. The Israeli ambassador, Victor Harel, called Moratinos's statement "unbalanced and biased," and added, "We don't need anyone to remind us that peace is unreachable with planes and tanks."

Deputy prime minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega chimed in on Sunday, calling on Spanish youths "not to feel ashamed to participate in demonstrations for peace like the one last Thursday in Madrid." Remember, they chanted "Israel genocide" over and over and carried banners with the Star of David, an equal sign, and a swastika.

The Zap government has no idea how deep a hole it is digging itself with this rhetoric.

In Spain it's big news whenever some Zap government official has any sort of contact with the Bush administration, since it's well-known that Zap is on the Bush administration's shit list. Therefore, Moratinos announced to all concerned that he had talked to Condi Rice on the phone. Woo-hoo.

Blanco also said that the PSOE condemned Hezbollah's terrorist actions as well as "Israel's disproportionate response and its indiscriminate attacks on the population of Lebanon." See, Blanco, this is why people around the world think that you are anti-Semitic. You spend much more energy condemning Israel than you do Hezbollah, and you criticize Israel for everything it does, while almost never saying anything negative about Al Fatah and Hamas and Hezbollah and Syria. Just like the entire Socialist government and most of the Spanish media and cultural crowd.

Don't believe me? Listen to Giaco Ventura, the president of the Spanish-Israeli Chamber of Commerce. Ventura is "concerned" that relations between Spain and Israel are "less fluid" than under the Aznar administration. He added that "foreign ministers in half the world have recognized the crisis in relations between the two countries," and that "the European Parliament points out Spain as the principal source of incitation against Jews in Europe." Ventura accused the Zap government of "not measuring Israel and Hezbollah by the same standard, which leads to anti-Semitism and Judeophobia."

Blanco didn't miss a chance to attack former PM Aznar, either, saying that he "works for an international arms corporation" and, literally, "He gets off on war." ("Le pone la guerra.") Blanco added, "Spain had a warlike government, that of Aznar and Rajoy, and now it has one committed to peace." That is, to the Triple A, appeasement, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism.

TV3, meanwhile, is reporting that Israel is deliberately targeting civilians with white phosphorus rounds; Catalonia is even more anti-Semitic than the rest of Spain, I think, and anti-Semitism is unfortunately common everywhere here for long-standing historical and cultural reasons. Most importantly, there are very few Jews in Spain, so few people personally know anyone Jewish; Spaniards love conspiracy theories even more than most Europeans, so they jump at the idea that Jews are disproportionately powerful; also, there are few pro-Jewish voices out there in the media and the cultural world, so nobody's opinion is ever challenged. Finally, the Franco regime's propaganda was surprisingly effective among Spaniards, and Franco liked talking about the Jewish-Bolshevist anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish conspiracy.

(Note: Jews were not persecuted under Franco, nor were Jews who escaped to Spain during WWII sent back to the Nazis. One of the few semi-decent things that hard, cold old man did.)

The other piece of big news around here is the Supreme Court has thrown out the conviction of Spaniard Hamed Abderrahaman Ahmed on the ground that his right to be presumed innocent had been violated. Ahmed was convicted by the National Court of membership in Al Qaeda and sentenced to six years in prison. The National Court ruled that Ahmad "with full knowledge of the terrorist nature of the group, joined Al Qaeda and traveled to Afghanistan with the proposition of becoming a mujihadin and practicing jihad." Here's the fun part: Ahmed spent more than two years at Guantanamo after being captured in Pakistan. We then shipped him to Spain. Now they're letting him walk; the Supreme Court ordered that he be immediately released from prison. I hope he and his buddies all move in next to you guys.

Of course, Spain depends on the United States for self-defense; right under the Vangua's story on Moratinos's verbal diarrhea, there's an article reporting that the US has authorized Spain to purchase Tomahawk missiles.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sunday blog roundup while listening to the new Bruce Springsteen album, which I highly recommend:

Natalie Solent comments on a Normblog post on reinterpreting the Golden Rule.

The Rottweiler chews off the New York Times's leg, and PoliPundit does the same to the Boston Globe, owned by the NYT..

Barcepundit links to a video of a pro-Israel demonstrator being abused in Madrid. Fausta's Blog has the same video link, with further commentary.

Expat Yank takes apart a dense Times columnist using an old Looney Toons short as a comparison, and is nice enough to include a link to us. This is one of the most creative and most prolific blogs out there.

Free Will Blog has an extremely thorough post on Israel, Lebanon, the Geneva Conventions, Chirac, Kofi, and the Europeans in general. Highly recommended.

And Denis Boyles, at National Review, well, reviews biased coverage of the Middle East in the Europress, including the Guardian, the Independent, Le Monde, and the BBC.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

My friend Franco Aleman at Barcepundit and Laurence Simon are involved in a minor dust-up regarding Ceuta and Melilla. These are two Spanish cities on the north coast of Morocco which have been Spanish territory for several hundred years, and their populations are Spanish--that is, they speak Spanish, have Spanish names, are Catholic, eat Spanish food, follow Spanish cultural customs, etc. The people of Ceuta and Melilla overwhelmingly want to stay part of Spain.

Democratically, it's clear that Ceuta and Melilla should stay Spanish, even though Morocco claims the cities and every now and then starts a minor diplomatic crisis. (Remember the Great Perejil Island War of 2002?)

Piece of history: Spain took over the northern strip of Moroccan territory in 1912 at the pre-WWI height of imperialism; France got the rest. When Morocco became independent again in 1956 and Spain gave up the northern strip, it kept Ceuta and Melilla, which it had held since time immemorial.

The most logical analogy, I think, is Gibraltar, which has been British territory for several hundred years and whose population overwhelmingly wants to stay part of Britain. Even though Spain claims the city and every now and then starts a minor diplomatic crisis, the will of the inhabitants should be supreme.

Another logical analogy is Hawaii, which was independent until American businessmen overthrew the native ruling dynasty in 1893; the US annexed the islands in 1898, at the pre-WWI height of imperialism. We just went in and took over, and made Hawaii a state in 1959.

Of course, nobody in Hawaii wants to be independent again except for a handful of wackjobs. Following the democratic rule of the desire of the great majority, Hawaii, just like Gibraltar and Ceuta and Melilla--and the Falklands, and Puerto Rico--should stay right where it is.
The Times has a rather fawning profile of Zap, but it does include a few basic facts on the man that you may not have known about. The piece makes the point that Zap has avoided screwing up the economy, for which we have to give him some credit. Things ain't perfect, but he has cut some corporate taxes and has generally avoided interfering too much in the business world. Spain's two chief economic concerns are the trade deficit and inflation, both of which are fueled by increased domestic demand, meaning that people have money to spend and things to spend it on, and neither of which is horribly bad.

The piece comes right out and calls Zap an "accidental prime minister," which he is, but it's not something the Spanish press ever says. There is a meme propagated by the illustrated and enlightened among us, a group which includes many hacks and flacks employed by Spain's media corporations, saying that the Spanish people voted against the PP because they were fed up with Aznar's policies. False. The Spanish people voted against the PP because the majority thought that Aznar's involvement in Iraq was responsible for the Madrid bombings, and preferred to cut and run. No bombings, no Zap as prime minister.
It appears that Zap has put his foot in it big-time with his statements on the Israeli-Hezbollah war and especially with his appearance wearing a kefiya or however it's spelled.

Even El Periodico says in the second paragraph of its lead international story:

Everything may have been a misunderstanding, but the three times Zapatero has spoken about the conflict in Lebanon he has given the impression that he condemned Israeli bellicism more severely than the European Union. He has consistently called for "the cease of hostilities" between both sides, but at first he said, "Israel is wrong, since one thing is self-defense and another thing launching a generalized attack on Lebanon." Then he demanded that Israel "respect human rights and international law," and finally he accused Israel of "using abusive force against innocent civilians." And, to top it off, on Wednesday he posed in Alicante with a kufika--the Palestinian scarf--around his neck."

The rumors going around are that Zap has consistently been very critical of Israel in private, to the point of near-obsession.

Israel, of course, is extremely angry, and the Israeli ambassador warned that "relations between Spain and Israel are not at a good moment." Translation: Zap, who would love to play peacemaker, will have a total of zero influence at any possible peace deal. Impotent and powerless. Zap's Alliance of Civilizations, an idiotic attempt to set up some sort of parallel UN, seems even more worthless every day.

Get this. Zap is so desperate to play some sort of international role that he and Turkish prime minister Erdogan have volunteered themselves, as co-sponsors of the Alliance of Civilizations, as mediators. They sent out a communique condemning "all forms of terrorism," warning that "we cannot accept bombs or missiles falling on the civil population," and "firmly censuring the disproportionate use of force." Yeah, that sounds real neutral and even-handed.

Spanish commentators like to say that Spain is particularly influential in the Islamic world because of historical connections, something that I do not believe in the least. And if they do have any influence, it hasn't done a damn bit of good.

By the way, Spain did not establish diplomatic relations with Israel until 1986.

Friday, July 21, 2006

La Vanguardia's anti-Semitic and anti-American cartoonist Toni Batllori has shown his true stripes again today with this hoary old argument.

The poorly-drawn (Batllori has no artistic ability) cartoon shows a man speaking to us. He says:

"Listen up, a question. Is opposing the Tripartite being anti-Catalan? Is opposing the PSOE government being anti-Spanish? Is opposing the Bush administration being anti-American? No, right? Well, criticizing the decisions of the Israeli government is not being anti-Semitic, OK?"

Wrong, Toni. Opposing ONE particular government or leader or policy is not racist. But opposing EVERYTHING a country does, as you do regarding Israel and the United States, most certainly is. And siding with a country's enemies, as you do regarding Israel and the United States, most certainly is. And intentionally ignoring a country's point of view, as you do regarding Israel and the United States, most certainly is. And attacking the individual citizens of a country, as you do regarding Israel and the United States, most certainly is.

Toni doesn't care who's in charge of the Israeli government; he automatically supports its enemies, no matter what, even if Israel is under attack. That is anti-Semitism in its most obvious form. Toni, I remember when you did a cartoon several years ago showing an Israeli soldier holding a gun on a Palestinian with the caption, "Now you be the Jew and I'll be the Nazi."


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Look what I found on a blog linked by Barcelona Indymedia: photographs of the demonstration in Plaza Sant Jaume this evening. You can see the Israel Estat Genocida sign. They're very proud of themselves. Makes me want to cry.

Other signs read "Israelis, you bastards, you're killers," "Bush, Blair, Olmert, genociders," a cartoon showing an American fist driving an Israeli dagger into a globe, which is labeled "World Peace," "Freedom Palestine and Lebanon, solidarity with the oppressed peoples," and more bollocks.

Here's another set of demonstration photos. The most offensive sign is in English; shouldn't be hard to read.

And check out this poster by Barcelona Indymedia calling on people to demonstrate. The text reads:

Call for solidarity
Let's stop state terrorism!
More than 100 dead civilians
More than 300 wounded
We call on you to demonstrate in front of the embassies of Israel, the United States, and also UN offices
Organize campouts, meetings, and protests
Demand the end of Israeli aggression!
The youth of Lebanon
Besiege them as they besiege us!
The Jew-haters had their demonstrations today in Madrid, Barcelona, and other Spanish cities. The largest, most visible sign at the Nuremcelona rally in the Plaza Sant Jaume, at least ten meters long by three high, read "Israel Estat Genocida"--that is, "Israel Genocidal State." And, get this, on the sign the letter S in Israel was replaced by a swastika.

I am speechless. About the only thing I can say is that only about four or five thousand people were there--that's all the plaza holds--and so the great majority of Barcelonese were not present. I apologize to the world for what some people in my city did today.
Zap and the Socialists have continued their disgraceful behavior toward Israel. The PSOE, along with the Communists and the two largest labor unions, CCOO and UGT, has called a demonstration for today at 7:30 PM in Madrid "as a rejection of the disproportionate Israeli military action in Lebanon and Gaza."

The demo will call for "an immediate cease of military action, since acts of war that question the legitimate aspirations and rights of the peoples that hope to live in peace and with dignity cannot be tolerated...There can never be a military solution to this conflict...With so many violations of international law, we are watching the unreason of a new violation of the Geneva Convention of the laws of war...The end of violence, obedience of international law, the lifting of collective punishments, and massive humanitarian aid for the peoples affected by this conflict." That is, they want to rub Israel's face in the mud and the US to pay for it.

Interestingly enough, PSOE gay activist Pedro Zerolo referred to "Bush, Blair, and Aznar's lies about Iraq" as justification for the demo, and called on PSOE minions to "struggle to defend the spirit of 'No to the War'." Of course, homosexuals are not persecuted in Israel, but they are hanged in Iran. Zerolo didn't mention that. Nor did he mention anything about terrorism or Hezbollah's bloody record.

Now, get this. Spanish Jewish leader Mauricio Hachuel became indignant at Zap's statements that Israel's attack was "disproportionate," and called it an "anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic statement."

Foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, in the presence of Israeli ambassador to Spain Victor Harel, had the gall to lecture Hachuel, saying, "I will not tolerate as a member of the Spanish socialist government your publicly calling the prime minister anti-Semitic...The serious error that Jewish representatives commit many times is confusing criticisms with attitudes against the Jewish people...Let this be the last time that you publicly denounce, condemn, and express yourself in such a way about the anti-Semitism of a government of Spain." Moratinos also brushed off Zap's appearance with a Palestinian scarf, calling it "unimportant."

What unmitigated gall. Moratinos is not fit to be dogcatcher.

Zap and the PSOE are behaving irresponsibly, immorally, and stupidly. They are unworthy of governing a serious country that plays a genuine role in the world, because this kind of childishness demonstrates that they are only fit to carry placards at demonstrations. If they had any real power, they would tragically misuse it. Fortunately, they are impotent.
Aimless thoughts while listening to Hayes Carll:

The Economist completely shreds Jacques Chiraq. Read this one if you read nothing else today.

La Vanguardia's Victor M. Amela makes a ridiculous comparison and throws in a little Jew-bashing for good measure:

Beirut is Barcelona. Tomas Alcoverro, our Barcelonese in Beirut, has always said so. And, today, after a week of bombing, more than ever: they are now bombing families like ours, mistreating them as they mistreated us here in 1938. The same as always. How many more plagues must the Lebanese suffer? Do the sons of Moses hope to destroy all the firstborn sons of Lebanon?

La Vangua also gives Beirut Bob Fisk a full page, again.

Sports update: La Vangua's top story, the big headline on the front page and everything, is about...FC Barcelona! Seems a judge ruled that club president Joan Laporta has to call new elections for the board of directors. I have no idea why the opposition within the club wants elections now, right after Barça won the double, when Laporta seems sure to be massively reelected to another term.

Meanwhile, rumor has it that Barça will sign Zambrotta and Thuram and Madrid will sign Cannavaro and Emerson, as players flee Juve and Milan.

Mini-blog roundup:

Guirilandia has a collection of videos of tourists shot by Spaniards in Spain. Very funny.

Barcepundit comments on Zap's disgraceful photo op wearing a Palestinian scarf.

Davids Medienkritik lays into Der Spiegel again, and includes a link to a great Josef Joffe article. (I've actually been following Joffe for years; he's the best German commentator I know of.)

Rainy Day attacks the vampirism of the Continental press. (Note: The sleazeball softcore porn magazine Interviu that published the photos of Princess Diana is owned by Grupo Zeta, the same company that puts out Ferreres's employer El Periodico.)

Expat Yank rewrites history Al-Jazira style.

In case you were wondering about Ted Nugent, Snopes has verified this foreign policy statement.
El Periodico's bag of shit editorial cartoonist Ferreres has exceeded himself in his hate for Israel and Jews. El Periodico is the top-selling newspaper in Catalonia with a circulation of more than 200,000, and this is what their readers seem to want.

Wednesday's cartoon is a new low.

The captions read: Hitler: "We had the right to defend ourselves, too." Mussolini: "Until they decided to take it away from us."

Makes me want to puke.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

One of the Guardian's bloggers has a post on a story by El Mundo saying that one-third of Spaniards "still back Franco." The story actually says that 30% of Spaniards feel that the July 18 coup attempt "was justified." Half of PP voters agree, as do, surprisingly, 18% of PSOE voters, and, get this, 13% of Communist voters.

What you need to read is the extensive list of comments (scroll down on the Guardian's page). Not surprisingly, nearly all of them are anti-Franco, which is more than fair enough, but the number of comments idealizing the Second Republic shows that the leftists lost all the battles except that of propaganda. Also, I was shocked at the number of comments by English-speakers, some of whom say they live in Spain, that showed utter contempt for it. Check these out:

Spanish authorities act as if there is no law if they want. There are corruptions one after another. This is not yet a "so-called democratic conutry."

The hatred and obsessive intolerance exhibited by many Spaniards towards Catalonia and the Basque Country, and to anyone of even mildly progressive opinion is, I believe, unknown in Northern Europe.

Spain is a pathetic nation thanks to Franco's 40 years. Everything has to be thought out by others, nobody will accept responsibilty, shops still have only one person taking the money, you as a customer have no rights and so on.

...perhaps close to half of "Spaniards" look fondly on the "good old days" of slaughter via the Nazi and Fascist war machines. Probably not a country I would want to be part of...

The saddest thing about the Spanish is that they point blank cannot open their minds.

We leave for France next year, beaurocratic it may be but not totally corrupt like Spain. In many ways I will be sad to leave but can see that with the fattest and most unfit population in Europe it can only be a matter of time before their health system collapses along with everything else.

I can assure you that the Spanish have some way to go to match the tolerance of the Irish or the British.

...seeing a significant number of Spaniards' aggressive attitudes towards people of opposite criterium in lieu of simply trying to discuss the matter in a civil and mild mannered way is befitting of a manner typical of the intolerance shown to all those who refused to agree with the totalitarian principles of the victors of the SCW.

Spain, of course, is much more complex than any of these commenters seem to understand.

Personal comment: A few Spanish readers have accused me of being contemptuous of Spain in the past. I plead not guilty; I have constructively criticized (i.e. not just complained but suggested changes) many things about Spain over the last four years, but I've never said anything like these commenters.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Today is the 70th anniversary of the failed army coup that triggered the Spanish Civil War; though preliminary conflict began on the 17th, in Spain the 18th is considered the day the war began. There is currently a movement among elements of the Spanish left to "recover historical memory," a phrase that is repeated over and over. The problem is that the historical memory the left wants to recover is partial and one-sided.

Since I am American, I have no axe to grind in favor of either side in that disastrous war that killed half a million, the majority murdered behind the lines by both sides. (Spanish Civil War combat actually wasn't particularly bloody; something like 200,000 died in the fighting at the front, about 100,000 on each side, in nearly three years. Neither side was particularly well-armed, well-trained, or well-organized, though the Nationals were more so than the Republicans.)

There were no good guys in the Spanish Civil War, nothing resembling good guys on either side among the leaders. They were all a bunch of killers who wanted to exterminate the enemy. That is the historical memory that should be recovered. There were no heroes, just killers and victims, and many of the victims had been killers themselves.

La Vanguardia's lead editorial yesterday was sensible and moderate:

...The memory of the Republican and Catalanist victims is being taken advantage of in order to idealize the Republican side and lay down a moral lecture, not only on the past, but also on the present...It is not possible to establish, as it seems that the (Zapatero) administration is attempting on occasion, a canonical and institutional vision of the war without falling into false idealism and Manicheanism...The attempt to reintroduce into today's politics the supposed morel superiority of one of the two sides reopens in the present the tragic wounds of the past.

Note that La Vanguardia is by no means calling for the Civil War to be forgotten. Rather, it is criticizing those who are trying to make political capital today by manipulating the past and calling it "the recovery of historical memory."

However, look at some quotes from the English-language press on the occasion of the anniversary:

From the Guardian:

Spain will mark the 70th anniversary of its devastating civil war tomorrow without official ceremony - in keeping with the so-called "pact of silence" that underpinned the transition to democracy. But as the date approaches, the Socialist-led government is putting the finishing touches to a controversial law intended to help heal the wounds on the losing Republican side. Officials are expected to reveal the text of the Law of Historical Memory on Friday, three days after the anniversary of the July 18 military uprising against the Second Spanish Republic that brought the dictator Francisco Franco to power.

And from the Telegraph:

As Spain re-established democracy in the decades since Franco's death in 1975, there was a tacit agreement among most Spaniards not to dwell on the past or seek to punish those guilty of abuses. The process to break that "pacto de olvido" ("collective pact of forgetting") began with the arrival in 2004 of a socialist government under Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose own grandfather was shot by Nationalist troops in the war. This year his government declared "A year of Historical Memory" and has made concerted efforts to collect millions of documents from around the world to shed light on one of the darkest periods in Spanish history. On Friday the government is expected to go a step further when it reveals the text of the Law of Historical Memory, a controversial measure intended to help heal the wounds on the losing Republican side.

See, I don't buy into this "pact of silence" stuff. Spanish TV is full of documentaries, Spanish bookstores are full of books, Spanish newspapers are full of articles, and Spanish politicians are often full of hot air about the Civil War. Like slavery in the United States, the Civil War is the overriding topic in modern Spanish history. Also notice that the Guardian does not mention word one about the civilian victims killed by the Republicans; estimates range from 50,000 to 100,000.

I'll be working on a series of pieces on the Spanish Civil War: the first, which ought to be ready tomorrow, will deal with the months leading up to the attempted coup in an attempt to explain why it happened.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Just checked the referral log; here's the ranking of the five best Google search topics over the last week:

5. "spaniards are ignorant"

No, no, only the enlightened and illustrated among us are.

4. "barcelona salou naked photo"

I did once link to lots of naked photos, here, but they're not from the beach at Salou.

3. "spainiards people who wear their clothes"

Now this shows a rather unhealthy fetishistic tendency. My guess is the guy looking for naked photos is probably more emotionally stable.

2. "drunken british girls platja d'aro"

The Fat Slags!

1. "algerian pornos"

Clearly the winner. No, I have never linked to Algerian pornography, nor do I plan to.
Pointless thoughts as people are killed around the world:

Hezbollah fired at least five missiles into Haifa, while the Israelies have cleaned up all the Hezbollah border posts along the southern Lebanese frontier. Hezbollah is going to deeply regret having started this exchange of violence. Kofi Annan has called for UN peacekeeping troops to be sent in. Yeah, right, what country in its right mind is going to send troops into Lebanon? And I assume he's asking for the Americans to pay for it again.

All the Spanish TV stations have been endlessly playing the film of Bush saying to Vladimir Putin, "We have to get Syria to put pressure on Hezbollah until they stop this shit." Well put, Mr. Bush!

Our enlightened and illustrated alleged intellectual class around here is talking about how the Israelis are using what they're calling "collective punishment" in Gaza and Lebanon, which is forbidden by something like the UN charter that isn't worth a damn when you''re dealing with Hezbollah and Hamas. I dunno. My understanding is that collective punishment is what the Nazis did at Lidice, murdering all the inhabitants of the village which the British-backed freedom fighters had used as their base when they sent Reinhard Heydrich straight to hell. Knocking out a bridge or a power station isn't the same thing.

As for the Israeli shelling, it's aimed at military and infrastructure targets, not civilians. Tragically, some two hundred Lebanese civilians have already died. That's what happens in war, sad to say, and perhaps Hezbollah should not have killed and kidnapped those soldiers. Hezbollah, of course, is deliberately targeting Israeil civilians and has done so throughout its existence.

From what I've put together, Israeli strategy is to trap Hezbollah terrorists inside the Beirut area, and so they have blockaded the coast, taken out the airport, and knocked out the roads leading to Syria. They will not go in heavily on the ground, but continue air strikes until they have wiped out Hezbollah's command and control and left individual terrorists on their own. Hezbollah is going to be wiped out, despite hints the Israelis are dropping that they will stop their attacks if their hostages are returned. Syria will do nothing, as Israel would crush it if it tried. If Iran behaves belligerantly, the Israelis might even take out their nuclear installations.

There have been claims that the "sovereign" Lebanese government needs to step in and do something. Like what? They've got no power or influence.

Meanwhile, forty people were killed today in Baghdad when terrorists mortared a marketplace. Now, I remember being here during the Bosnia war, when all the illustrated folks around here were demanding that someone do something about the shelling of Sarajevo, especially after the Serbs hit that marketplace and killed about forty civilians. I don't hear the same shouting for someone to do something about terrorism in Iraq; in fact, all I hear are calls for those who are trying to do something to pull out and go home. Consistency has never been a strong point of the Perennially Indignant, as P.J. O'Rourke called them.

No one seems to be paying any attention to the terrorist bombings in Bombay, at least not in the media around here.

Lopez Obrador, of course, is behaving extremely irresponsibly, not accepting his defeat and calling for the citizenry to resist. He will fail.

J. M. Hernandez Puertolas says in La Vangua something that I've been trying to tell the PP for years, literally.

A reasonable doubt exists whether PP president Mariano Rajoy is falling into overacting when he describes a country sunk into apocalyptic chaos. Egged on by his media supporters, the implicit message of that trio spraying gasoline on the fire, Angel Acebes, Eduardo Zaplana, and Vicente Martinez Pujalte is evident: the PSOE stole the 2004 elections from us, so let's have new elections as soon as possible. The Democratic Party adopted a similar strategy toward George W. Bush's first victory, and look what happened to Kerry.

My general opinion is that all is fair in politics, but the foaming-at-the-mouth wing of the PP is going much too far when it accuses Zap and his administration of being "traitors." I don't like Zap or his administration or the PSOE, and I would vote against them every time, but they are behaving more or less as they are supposed to as an elected left-wing government. They are acting in good faith. I didn't much like the Catalan statute, either, and I don't see what Zap has to negotiate about with ETA, but the fact remains that Spain is a democracy and trying to undercut the elected government's legitimacy is a very dangerous step. Reminds me more than a little of Lopez Obrador.

The PP needs a change in leadership. This bunch is going to lead the party to sure defeat in 2008.
Monday's blog roundup while listening to Tom Russell:

La Liga Loca fills us on Spanish football gossip, including Real Madrid signing speculations, Pablo Ibañez's faux pas, Mallorca's new stadium name, and more.

The Corner links to a fascinating six-year-old article by an American officer titled "Why Arabs Lose Wars."

Davids Medienkritik takes apart Der Spiegel's anti-American Washington correspondent.

Biased BBC is outraged at coverage of the Israel-Hezbollah war.

Meryl Yourish has links to several pieces on Israeli strategy.

Right Wing News explains why the US supports Israel.

Akaky is surrealistically satirical about government intervention.

Rob and Rany are slightly optimistic about our beloved Kansas City Royals.

Trevor blasts the language police, no matter where they turn up.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Aimless thoughts while sitting in the air-conditioning and listening to KBON out of Eunice, Louisiana (click on "KBON Listen Live Here"):

Zap made a disgraceful speech this afternoon at a Socialist party rally in Ibiza:

...Those who carried out the war in Iraq told us that after the intervention, the expansion of democracy and a future of peace would come. I hope they learn from the lesson these most recent events and the disaster they have meant. Today, more than ever, a new culture of international order is necessary, that will impose a new form of dealing with conflicts, supported by citizens, countries, and governments that represents a call for understanding, not imposing order unilaterally.

Zapatero demanded that the Israeli government "cease hostilities" and "respect international law."

...Struggle against terrorist violence does not justify the loss of innocent human lives. The authority that derives from the United Nations must make all possible efforts to put an end to this insanity of hostilities that may have serious consequences.

I don't even know where to start. 1) Democracy has been expanded in Iraq; they have an elected government that is in control of most of the country, and they've had three elections. 2) Iraq has most certainly not been a disaster, since Saddam is no longer in power and the country is no longer a threat to anyone. 3) Zap, you and your Porto Alegre altermundialist dreamers have no power to "impose" anything, and thank Jesus Christ Almighty that you don't, because you'd try to appease the terrorists and next thing you know there would be stonings of adulteresses in the Plaza Real.

4) Zap wants the ISRAELIS to cease hostilities? Uh, they didn't start it. 5) Nobody, at least not Israel and the US, wants innocent civilians to be killed, but that's what happens when cowardly terrorists hide behind the people. You can't hit Hezbollah without hitting an inhabited area, because that is where the killers take refuge. Besides, Hezbollah has been attacking Israeli citizens DELIBERATELY for decades. 6) Authority? United Nations? LMFAOROTF. 7) Zap seems not to be aware that the only reason Osama hasn't already retaken Andalusia is because the US and NATO are protecting Spain, which is not militarily capable of defending itself.

Meanwhile, the world's biggest pompous self-important ass, Hugo Chavez, is threatening "another Holocaust" if the "Israeli elites" and "US empire" don't do as he says.

I botched the story on Maragall and the regional election, forgetting that November 1, Todos los Santos, is of course a day off work in Spain. It's his Socialist cohorts who want to hold the regional election on a workday, while the rest of the parties want it to be held on a Sunday, as has become traditional. Maragall, though, has irritated everybody by setting it on Todos los Santos, a midweek holiday.

You know, I'm still pissed off at Toni Soler for his crack last week that Socialist candidate Montilla doesn't speak Catalan well enough to be regional premier. Montilla was on the news this afternoon giving a press conference in Catalan, and that reminded me of Soler's bigotry. No, Montilla's first language is not Catalan, and so he has a pretty strong accent. But his grammar and vocabulary are perfect, and what more can you ask? By the way, Soler, do you know any other languages? I bet Montilla's Catalan pronunciation is better than yours in English.

Most Irritating Local Celebrities:

7. Maruja Torres. Bitter, angry bitch who writes for El Pais.
6. Lluis Llach. Very dull Communist Cataloony folksinger and gay activist.
5. Maria de la Pau Janer, celeb-authoress heavily subsidized and promoted by regional Culture department. Many have started and few have finished her books.
4. Toni Soler, unfunny radical Cataloony talk-show host and occasional newspaper columnist.
3. Pepe Rubianes, hateful stand-up comic who applauds when Americans are killed.
2. Raimon. Worst folksinger ever. Llach at least can play the guitar.
1. Joel Joan, unfunny actor and scriptwriter fond of insulting people from other parts of Spain.

Any more nominations? Josmar is hors de categorie, of course.

The Italian football federation has made its ruling. Juventus, Fiorentina, and Lazio go down to second division and Milan is stripped of its Champions' League berth, as Juve loses its last two league titles. Rumors about which players are going where are flying, and I've heard Real Madrid is interested in Cannavaro, Thuram, Vieira, Zambrotti, Ibrahimovic, Trezeguet, and Kaka. Inter has already picked up Toni.
Saturday blog roundup while listening to Slow Down by Keb' Mo' (Kevin Moore):

The Rottweiler blasts the Vatican's response to the Israeli-Hezbollah war.

¡No Pasarán! attacks Chiraq. Pejman also comments.

Rainy Day takes on the Iranians and their Hezbollah clients.

Silflay Hraka debunks global-warmingism and explains why the Republicans will win the November congressional elections.

Right Wing News makes fun of the Dems' newfound desire to reach conservative Christian voters.

Expat Yank explains the American point of view on the "NatWest Three."

Friday, July 14, 2006

Get this bit from the Guardian, that "Yankee Go Home" standard-bearer, on the Israeli-Hezbollah war:

But if the situation shows signs of escalating, the Bush administration may have to drop its hands-off attitude and get more actively involved. Unlike his predecessors, George Bush shows little inclination, to get personally involved in the thankless task of handholding Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. But that is what may be needed. If the president insists on staying away from the fray, at least the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, should get stuck in to defuse a political crisis that is having a direct economic impact well beyond the region.

If I'm reading it right, this guy wants Bush to intervene in the war in order to palliate its economic impact on the UK, an attitude which doesn't jibe at all with the Guardian's usual imperialism-capitalism "no blood for oil" rants. Note the standard European call for the Americans to step in whenever the shit hits the fan and their own interests are at stake.
Getting up on my high horse while listening to Townes Van Zandt again:

One thing I despise is medical quackery. These quacks are con men cheating their victims, who are sick and desperate people. They are contemptible scum.

So on Wednesday, the Vanguardia's top story in its Society section was titled: "Natural therapies pass the exam." And it only gets worse.

"Natural therapies," that is, fraudulent ones, will become "regulated" in Catalonia in September. That means legalized and, I presume, paid for through Social Security, the National Health equivalent. Non-medical personnel ("practitioners") practicing "natural therapies" will be licensed if they have been in practice for at least five years; if they have not, then they must pass an exam. The Colegio de Medicos, the equivalent of the AMA, ALREADY accredits actupuncturists and homeopaths, for Christ's sake.

According to La Vanguardia, the "therapies" regulated are:

"Chinese or Oriental medicine"




Chi Gong




Shiatsu (acupressure)

Podal reflexology

Lymphatic drainage


"Holistic liberation of stress"

All these unscientific frauds are going to be not only perfectly legal, but actually licensed by the state!
I spent a couple of hours today trimming back the blogroll and cutting out dead links. If I removed you and you want to get back on the list, tell me. Sasha Castel, Robert Duncan, Fausta, Dr. Weevil, and Iain Murray, please tell me where you're blogging now so I can relink.

I'll add several new links to the blogroll next week.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Today's stage of the Tour de France just ended, with Menchov beating out Leipheimer and Landis at the finish line. This was the big day, the first mountain stage with five category 1 climbs including the Tourmalet and the Portillon. They finished in Spanish territory at Baqueira Beret, a well-known ski resort in the Pyrenees. It's in the Aran Valley, a small corner of Catalonia where the native language is Aranese, not Catalan. Aranese is a dialect of Occitan, and it's spoken by like a thousand people.

I like the Tour de France. I like endurance sports, since the only sport I was ever good at was distance running. What I actually like most about the Tour is the French countryside, though.

In case you were wondering who all those people dressed in orange waving flags that look like the Union Jack in orange, green and white, they're Basques and that's the regional flag. Fine, great, wonderful, being proud of your land and supporting your homeboy cyclists is totally cool with me. The guys with the flags showing a large black blotch with four arrows pointing to it and the slogan "Euskal Presoak Euskal Herria" are not fine, great, or wonderful, though. They're ETA supporters calling for ETA prisoners to be concentrated in prisons in the Basque Country, which the government won't agree to because if they were all together they'd take the prisons over like the IRA did the Maze.

In the recent past the Basque fans, especially, have been notorious for getting drunk and spewing insults and spit at Lance Armstrong. This year they appear to be much better behaved.

I'm rooting for Juan Antonio Flecha and Levi Leipheimer this year. Flecha is from here in Barcelona, he's a gutsy middle-of-the-pack guy who wins an occasional sprint. He went on a break today with two other guys and stayed in front for at least half the race. Everybody likes him, too, he seems like a real nice guy. Leipheimer is a guy whose career I've followed with some interest; he used to be one of Lance's team and then struck out on his own in 2003, I think, and has done well, finishing in the top ten in the Tour every year since. I particularly like him because in his spare time he works to help homeless and abandoned animals, which is one of my personal causes. Leipheimer was in the front three today, the guys who sprinted it out, along with another guy I like, Floyd Landis.

Landis takes over the yellow jersey for tomorrow. Leiphemer is farther back in the standings, since he had a disastrous time trial that cost him five minutes.
Aimless thoughts while listening to The Mountain by Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band (Yes, I despise Steve Earle's politics as much as anyone, and I don't think he's precisely a positive role for America's youth, either. Among other things, he's been married six times, done prison time, and been hooked on heroin and apparently everything else toxic. However, I love his stuff):

Israel is on the offensive against Hezbollah. Good. The Spanish press is unanimously anti-Israel, and both El Periodico and La Vanguardia have been publishing strident anti-Israeli/American articles and cartoons.

Examples: Ferreres from El Periodico, July 12. Uncle Sam: "You have the right to bomb them, as long as you do it ethically."

Ferreres, July 11. Passerby: "Your Holiness, since you support the family so much, couldn't you go to Gaza and give the ones over there a hand?" Pope: "And get called an anti-Semite? With my past record, I have to be careful."

Ferreres, July 4: Muslim father: "They always say, 'Violence gets you nothing.' They should add, 'Unless you use it against those who are defenseless.' In that case, it gets you everything." Agreed, in this case the tanks could be either American or Israeli.

Genius outgoing Catalan regional premier Pasqual Maragall has decided to call regional parliamentary elections on November 1, irritating everybody because elections are generally held in Spain on Sundays, and November 1 is a Wednesday. Get this logic: Maragall and the Socialists figure since if the election is on a workday and employers by law have to give their workers four hours off to vote, that will lead working-class voters to turn out massively.

They don't close down the bars and liquor stores on Election Day over here like they do in Kansas. The running joke is that we close down alcohol outlets in order to reduce drunk voting; in reality, it's a reform measure left over from the old corrupt days in the Thirties when they'd drag every bum in town out of the gutter to vote and pay them off with a pint of whiskey.

La Vanguardia's Joaquim Ibarz got an interview with Mexican president-elect Felipe Calderon. Quotes:

(Provocation) is part of (Lopez Obrador's) habitual strategy, but we are ready...There will not be an institutional crisis despite the demonstrations. I am prepared to confront this radicalization and govern with a belligerent opposition. Lopez Obrador is losing more credibility each day. The more radical he becomes, accusing everyone of being a traitor, the more electoral support he loses. This not very democratic attitude will cost him votes and credibility among those who voted for the PRD...It is lamentable that Lopez Obrador is accusing his own representatives at the polling places of being bribed...Our surveys show that the great majority of Mexicans is convinced that the elections were clean.

The Iberia pilots' strike has ended and air traffic is expected to be back to normal tomorrow.

Spain is nowhere near meeting any of the Kyoto Protocol's limits, of course; CO2 emissions in 2012 will be 37% higher than in 1990, when the protocol limits them to 15%. Meanwhile, the World Wildlife Fund is complaining that the extension of irrigated farming is the main cause of greater water use in Spain. Well, duh, we're Europe's Florida and grow all the fresh fruit and vegetables they eat in Berlin and Oslo and Sunderland, if they ever eat any fresh fruit and vegetables in Sunderland. They also bitch about golf courses, which they of course are against since golf is stereotyped in Spain as a rich man's sp0rt.

Well, 1) the number of golf courses will keep expanding as long as the number of people earning enough money to take it up keeps expanding, and this is what we want, isn't it? 2) they provide lots of jobs, admittedly mostly low-wage, but that's what working people need more of, right? 3) they are effectively mini-wildlife refuges, and if you don't believe it, visit Kansas City and count the amount of waterfowl, songbirds, and forest creatures ranging from raccoons to deer living on the courses there, and 4) we live off tourism. If tourists want golf courses, we need to give them golf courses or they'll go somewhere else.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Seems that Barcelona's Teatre Lliure, one of those committed progressive theater companies, commissioned a play about President Bush titled "Arbusht" ("bush" in Catalan translates as "arbust"--pretty funny title, huh?).

This is from El Periodico's review:

"Arbusht" possesses the ingredients of good comedy, but this is cold and terrifying comedy. Any sensible spectator's smile will freeze when he discovers that everything that happens is real, frighteningly real. Grotesque, absurd, surrealistic. "Arbusht" is based on well-drawn characters that are symbols of what Bush's policies have been; religion, economic power represented by oil, and affinity with the demands of the "silent majority" (sic), which incarnates the most conservative values, and which condemns abortion while applauding the death penalty.

(The author) has successfully avoided easy jokes by constructing a sad and tragic character: a poor imbecile who lives in the shadow of his father and who is manipulated by everyone, an unfortunate loser who has never done anything he wanted because, in reality, he has never known what he wanted to do.

Sounds even worse than the average Teatre Lliure spectacle. Note, again, the conspiracy-theory mentality, Bush manipulated by the forces that really run the world in the fervid imaginations of those who like this sort of thing.
Wednesday blog roundup while listening to WDVX from Knoxville, Tennessee (click on "Click Here for Media Player):

Davids Medienkritik has a fisking of a silly German pundit who seems to think America's gone Nazi, and another one of an anti-Semite at the Berliner Zeitung.

Expat Yank blasts Reuters' ignorance of World War II history, and slashes away at BBC coverage of the terrorist attack in Bombay.

Samizdata has a good piece on "The NatWest Three," an issue receiving tons of publicity in the UK. The Telegraph is running a campaign demanding they not be extradited to the US.

And La Liga Loca has a post-World Cup roundup on the Spanish football transfer market.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Smug, arrogant Guardian columnist Stephen Humphreys has a lovely piece on the recent Supreme Court Hamdan decision. I'll reproduce a few quotes from his piece.

For anyone who thinks the Bush administration deserves a slap - and that surely includes most of us outside the US - the supreme court's recent Hamdan decision sounds like just the tonic.

Ooh, yeth, Thtevie, thlap me too. It thounds tho thexy.

The US supreme court is the only institution standing between the violence of the most powerful government in the world and the rest of us.

Thtevie, do you realize the only reason why you're not the prime receptacle in Osama's harem right now is because the US, UK, and NATO are protecting you against it? Let me repeat that. There are fanatical people out there who want to enslave you, make you live under sharia law, force you to adhere to their religion, and they will kill you if you resist. Those are the people the United States and its allies are defending you against. The alleged human rights of a few hundred persons taken prisoner while bearing arms illegally in the service of the Islamist cause mean nothing to me. Those people want to enslave us or kill us. They must be confined or killed. I personally prefer confined, as I am in favor of killing as few people as possible.

Protecting you against the violence of the US government! The US government is protecting you against Islamist, Communist, anarchist, Fascist, nationalist, and every other kind of rampaging violence in the world. If you don't believe that, visit the Congo and see what life is like without that protection.

(I)n the dance between the powers of the US government, as each strives to increase its own reach against the other two, it is the three combined, the state itself, that wins.

Yeah, right, Thtevie. That's got to be the least convincing conclusion to an article I've seen this year. What the hell does it mean, anyway? I honestly have no clue.
Fox News is reporting that seven bombs exploded on the Bombay commuter train network during evening rush hour. At least twelve people have been killed and many more injured. No announcement has been made on who did it, though Al Qaeda is an obvious suspect. Our condolences with and sympathy toward the people of India. The war on terrorism must be won.
Aimless thoughts while listening to Townes Van Zandt:

It's hot here--yesterday afternoon it hit 33º in Barcelona, which is over 90º Fahrenheit. Barcelona is usually quite mild, both in winter and summer. Add that to the humidity and you get nasty, and then add in the pollution and you get just plain gross. The south of the peninsula is under a heat advisory. It reached 44º in Sevilla, which is something like 115º F. I had to go to a meeting today and the bus coming back was packed to the point that passengers were getting much too intimate. Luckily, the AC was working or the experience would have been even more horrific.

Yesterday Spain's energy consumption set a new record, basically due to people running the air-conditioning. Most people have it now, and five years ago most people didn't. You can get a decent, efficient, effective unit installed for well less than a thousand euros now. Running it is expensive, of course, and we only turn it on while we're home and awake. Nights cool off enough that they're not too uncomfortable without it.

The Iberia pilots' strike is still on, and the company has canceled 230 flights a day. They seem to be able to get most people on another flight sooner or later, mostly later, but there are hundreds of folks stuck at Spanish airports for up to a day. So far there hasn't been any rioting.

They arrested two more suspects in the ETA extortion ring. One of them was the editor in chief of two regional newspapers in Navarra and Guipuscoa. This makes something like sixteen, and there will be a lot more to come. I will bet we will be surprised at a couple of names that are going to come out. Meanwhile, the ETA-front newspaper Gara reported that Zap had reached an agreement with ETA in February, before ETA declared its "permanent cease-fire," in which he "committed himself to respect the decisions that the Basque citizens freely adopt on their futures, and to stop the arrests of terrorists and reduce police presence." Dixit La Vanguardia. Zap and the PSOE denied it and pointed out that Gara doesn't precisely enjoy a reputation for credibility.

The administration stressed that everything would be done in accordance with the Constitution. I don't know whether to trust them or not. They certainly can't allow any sort of referendum on Basque independence; that's unconstitutional. The document states explicitly, of course, that Spain is indivisible. They can't call any sort of amnesty for terrorists or their supporters; society wouldn't stand for it. I don't see any concessions that Zap and the Socialists can make to ETA. So exactly what are they going to negotiate about?

In case you're interested, here's the Spanish constitution in English. Notice how complex and long-winded it is compared to the American. I freely admit that I have not read the whole thing, nor do I necessarily understand all the parts I've read.

The biggest change in people's everyday lives is the introduction of a points system on drivers' licenses last month. From now on, if you get caught breaking a traffic law, you lose points on your license. You have twelve points, and if you use them up you lose your license for six months and have to take one of those driver safety courses. Get this: you lose six points for drunk driving with an blood-alcohol content of more than 0.75 mg/l. It'll cost you six points for driving under the influence of drugs. You also lose six points for driving more than 180 km/h, which is about 110 mph. I think if you do any of those things in Kansas, we throw your ass in jail, and don't even think about ever getting your license back. Here in Spain, you still have six points left!

I think I'll shoot up some smack and go out for a drive at 100 mph. If I get nailed the heroin will cost me six points and the speeding below 110 mph will cost me four. I still have two points left. Cool.

There's absolutely no question that it's working, though. Last weekend traffic deaths were half what they'd been for the first weekend in July 2005. There's apparently been massive police presence on the highways, and that's noticeably cut back bad driving outside the urban areas. Remei and I have seen it the last couple of weekends driving out to the pueblo. Speeding is way down. People are actually driving the limit, which is 120 kph anyway. That's about as fast as anybody needs to go.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Europeans like conspiracy paranoia. Behold the following, by one Norberto Gallego, in Sunday's Vanguardia:

Washington authorities are concerned every time the possibility of cutting back the unilateral control that they exercise over the management of the Internet, which is strategic for them, is mentioned.

Last year a group of governments, led by China and Brazil, in vain brought up the need to transfer the management of the Internet, once it is mature, to a multilateral body. The American negative is based on two arguments: 1) internationalizing control over the Internet would mean accepting interference from non-democratic governments desirous of cutting back freedom of expression (an evident allusion to China) and 2) a system that connects more than 250,000 networks in the whole world and efficiently manages 30 billion daily connections cannot be left in the hands of 'incompetent bureaucrats.'

Gee, sounds to me like the Americans have a couple of good points here.

Who runs Internet? Above and beyond an undescribable fog of organisms and technical committes, it has been governed since 1998 by Icann, on whose board of directors sit 18 different nationalities, but is subject to California law.

Meanwhile, evidence of parallel diplomacy is accumulating, trying to associate the EU (up to now in an ambivalent position--with the decisions to be taken on the future of Internet. They want to form a homogenous bloc against those who are still demanding that it pass to the control of the UN.

Something that will happen when my mother-in-law grows, uh, hair on her chest.

...After a receptive initial attitude, (Icann) finally declined to approve the creation of an .xxx domain, which would be reserved for websites with pornographic content. It was a notorious backing down to the pressure of fundamentalist Christian groups with good connections in the White House.

That's right, it's those damn Christians again.

From Icann's website:

What is ICANN?

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is responsible for managing and coordinating the Domain Name System (DNS) to ensure that every address is unique and that all users of the Internet can find all valid addresses. It does this by overseeing the distribution of unique IP addresses and domain names. It also ensures that each domain name maps to the correct IP address.

ICANN is also responsible for accrediting the domain name registrars. "Accredit" means to identify and set minimum standards for the performance of registration functions, to recognize persons or entities meeting those standards, and to enter into an accreditation agreement that sets forth the rules and procedures applicable to the provision of Registrar Services.

ICANN's role is very limited, and it is not responsible for many issues associated with the Internet, such as financial transactions, Internet content control, spam (unsolicited commercial email), Internet gambling, or data protection and privacy.

Yep, the CIA's behind it again.