Tuesday, July 11, 2006

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.

No comments: