Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The big news story around here is Danish public TV's investigation of illegal late-term abortions being practiced in Barcelona. One thing Americans don't realize is that most European countries have much stricter abortion laws than the US, where the Supreme Court has ruled that abortion on demand is a constitutional right.

Spanish law sets three conditions under which abortion is legal: 1) If the fetus is deformed. Two doctors must agree. Legal up to 22 weeks. 3.5% of abortions performed in Catalonia in 2005. 2) If the woman was raped. Legal up to 12 weeks. Only one abortion in Catalonia in 2005. 3) If the woman's physical or mental health is at risk. One doctor (counting psychiatrists) must agree. No theoretical time limit, though only seven, 0.04%, of 2005 abortions were performed later than 22 weeks. 96.5% of abortions in Catalonia in 2005. (Note: If seven, 0.04%, of all abortions were later than 22 weeks, that means the total number of abortions in Catalonia last year was 17,500, right? That seems a lot.)

Quite clearly, the risk to the woman's mental health is the enormous loophole here. Just get a shrink to sign off and it's D&C city.

The Danish TV network reported that in Spain, not only in Catalonia, abortions on highly-developed fetuses, as advanced as six months, are routinely performed. La Vanguardia says that if a cesarian section rather than an abortion had been performed in these cases, the children (no longer fetuses) would have survived.

The Danish investigators filmed a Barcelona doctor named Carlos Morin of the GBM clinic offering to perform an abortion on a woman 31 weeks pregnant, which is just plain infanticide, in exchange for €4000. Morin has a history of doing such things; an October 2004 Sunday Telegraph investigation reported that he had aborted 30-week babies. The Danish team interviewed a woman who had received an abortion at the EMC clinic in Barcelona at 27 weeks. Morin was a doctor at EMC at that time.

According to the Danes, Catalonia is a favorite destination for European women who want to abort, and some 5% of abortions performed in Catalonia (at least 830 in 2005) are performed on foreign women. London and Amsterdam, also homes of liberal abortion laws, are other popular abortion destinations for women from such countries as Germany and Ireland. The Danes also say that they believe further illegal, unregulated abortions are also performed in Barcelona.

Time for my personal opinion, which is pragmatic and will please neither side. Make abortion on demand legal, American style, as long as the fetus is non-viable, which I think is about 12 weeks. Then, when it becomes viable and is clearly a baby, make abortion illegal with a very few exceptions for women whose lives are actually physically in danger or fetuses with severe deformities who would not survive if carried to term. These exceptions would be hard to get, requiring, say, three gynecologists to agree.
Pointless thoughts while listening to Steve Earle:

You guys ought to check out the music clips I link to. It's all good stuff.

Today is the "day of reflection" before the Catalan regional election, when all campaigning is suspended. My guess is that Mas has run the best campaign and will win the most seats, but then what? He won't have an absolute majority. Some kind of pact will have to be made. Mas has already sworn he won't make a deal with the PP. Saura has sworn that his Initiative (Commie) party will not make a deal with Mas's CiU. That leaves only the national socialist Republican Left (ERC), whose irresponsibility dynamited the former Tripartite regional government (Generalitat of Catalonia) led by Pasqual Maragall, or a grand coalition between CiU and Jose Montilla's Socialists.

So can Montilla form a government without CiU? It would have to be a repeat of the Tripartite, and that wouldn't last long, since the Tripartite split over the Catalan statute of autonomy (in US terms, state constitution), and ERC is terminally irresponsible and cannot be trusted. And the Socialists and Commies alone aren't going to get enough votes for a majority. The answer is no.

That's Iberian Notes's official prediction for tomorrow night, when we'll be liveblogging the election returns: a CiU-PSC coalition, "Sociovergencia." This is the government that the surveys say most citizens would prefer; it would be a moderate government, rather social democratic, but we can live with that. The Socialists, most of whose supporters are Spanish speakers from the Barcelona industrial suburbs, will keep the Catalan nationalists of CiU more or less under control. Good. I'd prefer more of a free-market and decentralized system, of course, and that's the long-term trend, but in the short run we can live with a "business as usual" government.

Mas, as the larger vote getter, would get to be premier, but Montilla would demand the cabinet chief of staff ("conseller en cap") position and several juicy portfolios for his PSC.

Most interesting campaign note: All the candidates' wives except for Pique's discussed their intimate sex lives openly, starting with Saura's life-partner, Chemical Inma Mayol, the top Commie in the Barcelona city council, who informed us that Saura was tender and adventurous, or something like that, in matters regarding l'amour. Carod's wife had the best comeback; she said that she and Carod were great in the sack because they practiced a lot.

This is actually a great idea for the US; I think all candidates' wives or husbands should be obliged to report on their favorite acts of copulation and/or sodomy in detail. Jeez. Imagine Hillary Clinton discussing her sex life with Bill. That might be very dull. But, hey, since Hillary's the candidate this time, Bill would be the one questioned: "Well, actually, Oprah, she's an ice-cold frigid SS-guard bitch who won't give me head. But then again, so are you." Condoleezza Rice might also present a problem here. And I don't think Dick Cheney gets to have sex anymore, because he might have another heart attack and pull a Nelson Rockefeller on us.

Zap was the keynote speaker at Montilla's final campaign rally and called Montilla "the Lula of Catalonia." I dunno. Lula won his election, while Montilla is going to lose his. Neither one has a university degree, which Xavier Sala i Martin managed to get under Montilla's skin about.

Meanwhile, Mas went to the Ripoll monastery, sanctuary of the most atavistic Catalan racial feelings, and burst into tears while paying homage to "the ancient Catalan nation," which I believe is a necessary formality for any nationalist candidate. I don't think Mas takes this rhetoric too seriously, even though his speech was titled, "A declaration of commitment to the people of Catalonia before the tomb of Wilfred the Hairy," Guifré el Pelós, the founder of Catalonia's first ruling dynasty back sometime around AD 986. That's pretty hardcore blood-and-soil nationalism, that is.

By the way, if you ever get a chance to go up to Ripoll, do it. There are several other interesting places in the area, including Sant Joan de les Abadesses and Nuria.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I'm having problems publishing my posts. Apparently Blogger was down on Sunday; I keep getting a Java script error every time I try to publish. The posts don't get eaten, though; they show up on the beta. Here's hoping you get to read them pretty soon.
Every election I repeat my warning: Don't vote for the Partit Humanista, whatever you do. It's a front for an Argentinian ultra-leftist cult run by a mysterious guru called Silo. This is a post from 2003 on these guys, including several links; none of the basic facts have changed since then. Check out their campaign video for this year; it's hilariously stupid.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Aimless thoughts while listening to Ella Fitzgerald:

Not that much news from Spain. The last stink in the Catalan regional election, which is just around the corner on November 1, is that FC Barcelona club president Joan Laporta, known to be close to CiU, held a meeting and photo-op with CiU candidate Artur Mas. The Socialists started bitching, and Laporta met the next day with PSC candidate Jose Montilla. What still seems strange to me is the attempt to mix a sports team with politics, though I know this happens all the time in Spain.

Convergence looks like the clear winner, and there are rumors that they are actually hoping to score as many as 58 seats (out of a total of 135). The problem, though, is that if the vote comes out according to the surveys, the Tripartite parties will be able to form a majority and Montilla will be the next regional premier.

They held a demonstration in the Canary Islands today calling for a law allowing the islands' government to regulate the number of people living there. That is, they're pissed off about the number of African immigrants washing up on their shores, which the international media is still ignoring. I smell far-right racism all over this one.

Fidel appeared again, though only through government-controlled media; he didn't come out in public. He looked pretty bad; the old bastard is finally going to die one of these days soon. Looks like I was wrong about the Brazilian election; Lula is pretty sure to be reelected. And they've got a real genuine Communist revolution going on in Oaxaca, a place I have actually been to.

The French Intifada continues, and is getting worse; the rioters torched a bus in Marseille with the passengers inside, and one woman was burned over 65% of her body and is in very serious condition. They're trying to kill people now. This has become terrorism. They've crossed the line.

Barcelona crushed Recreativo on Saturday night with no problems, and Recreativo is not an awful team. Ronaldinho was considerably more active and aggressive than he has been lately, and Sylvinho and Belletti seem to be the halfbacks in best form right now. Gudjohnsen is not a center-forward. He would make a better midfielder. Some guy commenting over at La Liga Loca suggested that Barça change from its current 4-3-3 formation to a 4-4-2, since Barça has plenty of good midfielders but is short on forwards right now.

A lineup of Valdes; Belletti, Marquez, Puyol, Sylvinho; Xavi, Edmilson, Gudjohnsen, Deco; Saviola and Ronaldinho might do very well. Iniesta would be your twelfth man, to come out after halftime replacing whichever midfielder is having a mediocre game.

Real Madrid did not look strong against Gimnastic of Tarragona, though they won. Again, Robinho was Real's best player. I cannot believe Capello is not designing his team to get Robinho the ball as often as possible, since he and Van Nistelrooy are about the only players having good seasons for Madrid. Not true: Raul, surprisingly, has been playing quite well.

Surprise teams this year are Sevilla, currently in second place and having a very fine season including a victory over Barça in the European Supercup, and Getafe, which coach Bernd Schuster has turned into a solid midtable club that must be taken seriously. You have to figure that Sevilla is the top candidate for Spain's fourth Champions League slot--Barça, Madrid, and Valencia pretty much have the other three locked up. Getafe has an outside chance at a UEFA Cup slot, which would be excellent coming from a small suburban Madrid club.

The American elections are getting some news coverage over here; most of the stories seem to be using the angle that they will be a referendum on Bush.

I had a ridiculous experience last night; I went down to the Cafe Flanders on Plaza Rovira for a beer, and encountered a fellow American expat whom I will call Dick. This guy is fifty-fiveish, a slob with a round fat face, has no visible means of support, and just rubs me the wrong way with a sort of fake heartiness. I don't see much of him, and I'm just as happy about this. So Dick says, in his booming hearty fake voice, apparently trying to start a conversation, "So when are the next elections in the United States?" I say, "2008," wondering why he doesn't know this himself. "You mean we've got two more years of that shithead?" he replied.

I find it interesting that Dick would just naturally assume that I hate George Bush. Anyway, I said, "Well, I voted for him twice," in a rather friendly manner, and then quickly suggested that we agree to disagree on the subject. Then I bailed and went home.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Brief Friday afternoon blog roundup: Guirilandia has a worth-reading piece on the Catalan regional election, La Liga Loca has the weekend football preview, which Spanish football fans should not miss, and Publius Pundit and Pave France have updates on the French Intifada.
Peter Katzenbach and Robert O. Keohane have a fascinating article in the Hoover Institution journal Policy Review called Anti-Americanisms, which Arts and Letters Daily links to this week. Their thesis is that anti-Americanism is too broad a concept and so it should be more clearly defined and if necessary subclassified.

First, they differentiate between opinion and bias; they define anti-American opinion as reasoned opposition to American policies, and consider it unimportant in the long term, as those who oppose said policies will cease to do so when those policies change. Bias, however, is a tendency to always believe the worst about the United States.

Bias implies a distortion of information processing, while adverse opinion is consistent with maintaining openness to new information that will change one’s views. The long-term consequences of bias for American foreign policy are much greater than the consequences of opinion.

However, the authors rather overestimate the amount and influence of mere opinion. In all of Europe, biased anti-Americanism is rife. In 2006, according to a Pew survey, 56% of the British, 39% of the French, 37% of Germans, and only 23% of Spaniards had a favorable opinion of the United States.

The view we take in the volume is that much of what is called anti-Americanism, especially outside of the Middle East, indeed is largely opinion. As such, it is volatile and would diminish in response to different policies, as it has in the past. The left is correct on this score, while the right overestimates resentment toward American power and hatred of American values. If the right were correct, anti-Americanism would have been high at the beginning of the new millennium.

I don't agree. I think most Euro anti-Americanism is definitely based on bias and not mere opinion.

The authors divide bias, quite accurately I think, into four types, from least to most malevolent: liberal, social (which I would call "socialist"), sovereign-nationalist, and radical. Then they add two other "special cases," elitism and historical grievances.

Liberal bias: Liberals often criticize the United States bitterly for not living up to its own ideals...Hypocrisy in American foreign policy is not so much the result of the ethical failings of American leaders as a byproduct of the role played by the United States in world politics and of democratic politics at home. It will not, therefore, be eradicated. As long as political hypocrisy persists, abundant material will be available for liberal anti-Americanism.

Yep. The United States cannot avoid being seen as hypocritical. That's because it has ideals which are very difficult to live up to. Liberal anti-American bias is very common in Spain, affecting nearly all Spaniards at least sporadically.

Socialist bias: Many democratic societies do not share the peculiar combination of respect for individual liberty, reliance on personal responsibility, and distrust of government characteristic of the United States. People in other democratic societies may therefore react negatively to America’s political institutions and its social and political arrangements that rely heavily on market processes...Social anti-Americanism is based on value conflicts that reflect relevant differences in many spheres of life that are touching on “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Yep. Socialist ideals are much stronger all over Europe than in the US. I'd say half of Spaniards are affected by socialist anti-American bias.

Sovereign-nationalist bias: Sovereign nationalists focus on two values: the importance of not losing control over the terms by which polities are inserted in world politics and the inherent importance and value of collective national identities. These identities often embody values that are at odds with America’s.

Yep. Nearly all Spaniards are subject to sovereign-nationalist bias at times. Catalan nationalists are a particularly interesting case.

Radical bias: It is built around the belief that America’s identity, as reflected in the internal economic and political power relations and institutional practices of the United States, ensures that its actions will be hostile to the furtherance of good values, practices, and institutions elsewhere in the world...For progress toward a better world to take place, the American economy and society will have to be transformed, either from within or from without. The most extreme form of contemporary radical anti-Americanism holds that Western values are so abhorrent that people holding them should be destroyed. The United States is the leading state of the West and therefore the central source of evil...Religiously inspired and secular radical anti-Americanism argue for the weakening, destruction, or transformation of the political and economic institutions of the United States. The distinctive mark of both strands of anti-Americanism is the demand for revolutionary changes in the nature of American society.

Yep. I'd say about one-fourth of Spaniards are radically biased against the United States, and what pisses them off most is that the US won the Cold War. They wish we had lost.

Elitist bias: Elitist anti-Americanism arises in countries in which the elite has a long history of looking down on American culture. In France, for example...

Yep. Every Spaniard who has graduated from high school thinks he's a member of an intellectual elite in comparison to us ignorant Yankees.

Legacy bias: Legacy anti-Americanism stems from resentment of past wrongs committed by the United States toward another society...Between the late 1960s and the end of the twentieth century, the highest levels of anti-Americanism recorded in Western Europe were found in Spain and especially Greece — both countries that had experienced civil wars; in the case of Spain the United States supported for decades a repressive dictator.

Yep. At least half of Spaniards blame the United States for the Franco dictatorship, in complete ignorance of anything resembling a fact, since the US was no more fond of Franco than any other member of the Western alliance and had absolutely nothing to do with his rise to power. I have actually heard Spaniards blame the US for not having intervened on the Republican side during the Civil War, if you can believe that.

The authors claim that there is no "grand explanation" for anti-Americanism, but they rather defeat their own case by their careful classifications. I would say that anti-American bias in Europe, at least, stems from some combination of these six factors the authors have identified, and different factors have different strengths in different countries--but each country is affected by all these factors to some extent.

They add that American culture is "polyvalent," which means that it is so huge and varied that virtually anyone can find something he doesn't like in it. Too atheistic, as conservative Muslims would have it, or too religious, as liberal Europeans would?

The authors' conclusion is rather weak, though; they wonder why we should care about anti-Americanism.

Perhaps the most puzzling thing about anti-Americanism is that we Americans seem to care so much about it.

I have three reasons: first, it reminds me rather too much of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and xenophobia, and we all know what that's going to lead to if unchecked, an isolated America rather as Israel is isolated today. Second, it's illogical and irrational and contributes to further flawed thinking; anti-Americans use their anti-Americanism to reinforce their national socialist biases. Third, it does positive harm to American (and pro-American; we have many friends in Spain, difficult as that may be to believe sometimes) interests around the world. We'd all be much better off if Zap were not prime minister, for example, but the Socialists were able to play upon popular anti-Americanism after the March 11 bombings.

Anyway, go read the article and see what you think. The essay is the basis for a book to be coming out next year, which I am looking forward to reading.

Some bozo who cares more about bashing America than checking his facts posted the following in the comments section in regard to the death penalty:

If your system is so great why is your crime rate, murder rate etc so high?

Buddy, if you had done any research, like say googling "us crime rate", you'd have come up with lots of interesting websites, such as the FBI Uniform Crime Report, which says the US murder rate was 5.6 per 100,000 in 2005. The murder rate has been in steady decline since it peaked in 1991, when there were about 24,700 murders in the US. In 2005 there were about 16,700 murders, which means that the number of murders in the US has declined by one-third in the last 15 years, while the population has risen from 252 million to 296 million.

Coincidentally, while the murder rate has declined by one-third since 1991, the execution rate has increased quite a bit since then. Wonder if there might be some sort of correlation? I'll bet there is.

All crime in the United States has been in steady decline since 1991, not only in percentages but in absolute numbers. The absolute number of armed robberies, aggravated assaults, and property crimes peaked in that year, while the absolute number of forcible rapes peaked in 1992.

Nation Master says that in 2005, the international rankings for murder rates per 100,000 were:

1. Colombia, 61.7
2. South Africa, 49.6
3. Jamaica, 32.4
4. Venezuela, 31.6
5. Russia, 20.1

Most of the countries among the next 15 in the rankings are pieces of the former Soviet Union.

20. Poland, 5.6
24. United States, 4.2 (no, I don't know why the stat they give is different from the FBI's)
30. Finland, 2.8
33. Portugal, 2.3
40. France, 1.7
46. United Kingdom, 1.4
48. Spain, 1.2

So the average American is twice as likely to be murdered as the average Portuguese and between three and a half times as likely as the average Spaniard, using Nation Master's figures. That's actually not so bad, when you figure that the United States is a much larger, more complex, and more diverse place than either of those countries. Most importantly, what we see here is that the US murder rate is not extremely high compared to what it could be; the US rate is much closer to European rates than to Third World hellholes.

Now let's look at male suicide rates per 100,000, again from Nation Master.

1. Lithuania, 81.9

Most of the next ten or fifteen countries were part of the former USSR.

9. Finland, 43.4
12. Belgium, 37.3
14. Austria, 34.2
16. France, 30.4
21. Japan, 25.0
25. Germany, 21.8
30. United States, 19.8
47. United Kingdom, 11.0
50. Spain, 11.0

Hmm. Interesting. Civilized, European Belgium has a suicide rate nearly twice that of the US, and France's is 50% higher. If we add up the murder and suicide figures, the violent death rate for European Finland, progressive social democratic home of Nokia, is 46.2 per 100,000 per year. France's is 32.1. That of the United States is 24.0, and Spain's is an extremely low 12.2. So what's this fear and loathing in the United States stuff? You're more likely to die earlier due to violence in most of Europe than in the US. We see that Spain is an extremely non-violent country in both murder and suicide, which probably colors Spaniards' perception of how high crime rates are in other places.

Let's look at road safety now. Nation Master has a partial list of persons killed per billion vehicle-miles traveled, which does not include Spain. From the top:

Czech Republic 31.7
Greece 26.7
South Korea 25.0
Belgium 15.3
Japan 11.2
France 10.9
Germany 9.7
United States 9.4
United Kingdom 7.6

Looks like most Europeans are more violent on the roads than us Anglo-Saxons.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Anti-Americanism Watch: Check out this letter to Slate's advice columnist, "Dear Prudence." Unfortunately, yes, a standard enlightened-and-illustrated-European conversational gambit when actually forced to deal personally with a flesh-and-blood American is to express a wish that George Bush would die. And the Americans have a reputation for being unsubtle and tasteless over here, for some reason.
One of the major debates of the upcoming US legislative elections is happening in Missouri: the question of stem-cell research. Now, I don't know anything about stem-cell research, certainly not enough to form my own opinion without help. So I googled "gregg easterbrook stem cell", and, what do you know, he's got a basic introduction to the subject over at Belief.net.

Assuming Mr. Easterbrook is telling the truth, and there is no reason to doubt him, private companies can do any sort of stem-cell and cloning research they want to right now, as long as there's no federal money involved. That seems fair to me.

Therefore, this Missouri state constitutional amendment is a red herring. It doesn't matter what the Missouri constitution says about stem-cell research; that research will continue to happen no matter what. And if we wish to use federal money to support stem-cell research, that's the business of the US Congress and the federal courts, not of the Missouri state constitution. I am willing to bet that very little Missouri state money goes to stem-cell research. So it doesn't matter which way you vote on Amendment 2, and this issue should not affect your choice of senatorial candidate.

But, of course, both sides are trying to make it a campaign issue, and the celebrities have pitched in. Michael J. Fox, who as you know has Parkinson's (full disclosure: so does my father), has made a TV ad supporting not only the Missouri amendment but also the Democratic party, trying to link the hope for a cure to a particular political option. Social conservative celebrities, including three well-known Jesus jocks, are hitting back with their own ad, bringing up fears of Brave New World, and Rush Limbaugh has piled on, which surprises me as he's usually more responsible.

Both sides are behaving disgracefully, trying to score political points off the issue of whether devastating illnesses should be treated or not--of whether ill people should live longer. Of course they should, and the fate of the rubbish at an abortion clinic does not concern me nearly as much as the fate of people with cancer. That doesn't mean either side is justified in using scare tactics.

Very important note: According to Mr. Easterbrook, chances of dramatic cures being discovered through stem-cell research are very slim during the next five or ten years, at least.
It's been a good day for justice in the United States. Texas gave the injection to Gregory Summers, who hired a hitman to kill his parents and uncle for the insurance money, and Florida put down serial killer Danny Rolling, murderer of five young women. Any complaints from other more enlightened and illustrated nations?

By the way, the executed murderers were both white and middle-class.

Here is a list of murderers executed in the United States since capital punishment was reinstituted in 1977. And their victims.

Update: Danny Rolling, before his execution for killing five Florida college students, admitted having also murdered three more people in Louisiana.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wednesday afternoon blog roundup while listening to Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys:

Jane Galt, currently in London, comments on Sky News's portrait of the US.

La Liga Loca discusses the near-useless Copa del Rey, Spain's FA Cup equivalent.

Expat Yank posts on "Iraq is Vietnam" syndrome.

Free Will Blog fisks the BBC. Eursoc has more. And here's Biased BBC.

IMAO features Frank J.'s artistic talent in the "Democrats in Charge" comic-strip series.

Notes from Spain reports that King Juan Carlos allegedly shot a drunk bear.

The Rottweiler savages France and its banlieue violence. Pave France has more.

Rainy Day is leading a campaign in favor of a Bangladeshi journalist.

The Glittering Eye has a historical piece on the Hungarian revolution and the Beirut barracks bombing.

Fausta is, as usual, prolific and very interesting.

Davids Medienkritik comments on "Germany's Abu Ghraib."
Little Green Footballs has a post up titled "Spanish Blogger Charged with Supporting Israel," which has attracted a lot of comment around the blogosphere. Barcepundit has been in contact with the blogger in question, Alejandro del Llano, who has confirmed that he was sent a court order to come in for a hearing.

Here is Del Llano's original post, translated by a human (me) and not a machine:

Two years ago the mayor of the municipality of Olieros in La Coruña province, who is also a friend of Fidel Castro, organized a campaign with public funds against the democratic state of Israel. Because of that, I sent him an e-mail expressing my opinion about all this. Today I received a summons from the criminal court ordering me to testify as the defendant on charges of "being in favor of Israel and against the Palestinian people." What do you think?

As Barcepundit says, it sounds fishy to me.

It is not a crime to "be in favor of Israel and against the Palestinian people" in Spain. We have freedom of expression here, too, and though the legal limits of expression are slightly different in Spain that in the US, they basically guarantee the same thing, the individual's right to speak his mind. So if some idiot left-wing mayor actually did press charges against Del Llano for supporting Israel, the case will instantly be thrown out of court by the judge, and Del Llano has excellent grounds for a lawsuit. Also, he can press criminal charges against the mayor for "prevaricación," which is more or less abuse of power.

Therefore, if it's true that charges have been pressed against Del Llano, who sent Barcepundit a copy of the summons but not of his original e-mail, it must be for some real crime, not for backing Israel and criticizing the Palestinians.

It is a crime in Spain, as it is in the United States, to commit libel, and libel in Spain includes gratuitous personal insults. That is, you can say the mayor is wrong and he shouldn't have done what he did and he should resign or be impeached and no one should ever vote for him again and any other political criticism you can think of. You can call him arrogant and insensitive and vindictive and small-minded and incompetent. What you can't do is call the mayor a fucking son of a whore, for example. He can press libel charges against you if you do. And, of course, you can't threaten him--we don't know whether Del Llano's original e-mail contained threats, or statements that could be interpreted as threats, or not.

So here are the problems with Del Llano's accusations:

First, he is our only source; we have no outside confirmation that he has been charged with anything, except for the summons that he sent to Barcepundit. This story hasn't appeared in the press, and it's a good story, so you'd think they'd be all over it. If this happened to me, first thing I'd do is get a lawyer, and second thing I'd do is call a press conference.

Second, assuming the summons is real, we're not sure whether he has been charged with "supporting Israel," or whether he has been charged with some other crime, such as libel or making threats. Del Llano admitted to Barcepundit that his original e-mail included unspecified insults, and he hasn't made that e-mail public yet.

My guess is that Del Llano's claims are largely bogus.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Trevor from Kaleboel knows of a very nice cat in Barcelona who needs a home. I'm trying to talk Remei into adopting her, but I am failing. If you want a cat, though, contact Trevor.
If you're talking to a Spaniard and he starts giving you crap about where you come from, which is not unusual, he's likely to bring up the death penalty if you're American.

(Digression: What is it with this Spanish thing about giving foreign people crap about their home countries? I've heard it done not only to Americans, who are admittedly a large, easy-to-hit target, but also to Brits, French, Germans, Italians, Australians, and even Dutch. I believe the only Third Worlders who get handed crap about their nationality are Argentinians, however. Not saying that Americans are perfect, but foreign people are not likely to be criticized about their nationality in the States. If anything, Americans will bend over backward to be polite.

One extenuating circumstance: Spaniards will give other Spaniards crap about where they come from, too, and it's not just Catalans versus Madrileños. In fact, giving people crap may be the chief conversational artifice in Spain, sort of like talking about the weather in England.)

Well, what do y'all think about this guy getting the injection? I say good riddance, myself.

I'm not sure what's so awful about the death penalty. The US executes around a hundred people a year or so, and they've all been convicted of particularly heinous murders. There is no solid evidence that anyone innocent has been executed since capital punishment was restored in 1977. Also, the three largest established democracies in the world by population, India, the United States, and Japan, all use the death penalty, as does leftist sentimental favorite Cuba. Not to mention the country whose market Spain's entire business class is rubbing its hands at entering, China. Japan still uses hanging, as does Singapore.

Besides, the death penalty in the US is carried out exclusively through the legal process. We don't have government death squads, unlike, say, Spain in the 1980s.

Remember the GAL? In case anyone's forgotten, the GAL was a death squad created by the Socialist government of Felipe Gonzalez in the early 1980s. The GAL, composed of both police officers and hired mercenaries, killed and kidnapped people it thought were part of ETA. Some of them were and some of them weren't. Such high-ranking Socialists as Jose Barrionuevo and Rafael Vera, the interior minister and his right-hand man, were convicted and sent to prison. Felipe maintained deniability, but I'm convinced he knew what was going on, just as Reagan and Bush maintained deniability about Iran-Contra, but must have known what was happening.

That was done in Spain, and not under the Franco dictatorship, but under Saint Felipe Gonzalez's democratically elected Socialist government. Here's the Wikipedia link, which smells rather as if it had been written by someone sympathetic to Basque nationalism.

I would say there are a whole lot of worse things about the US than the death penalty.

Want a list? Precarious health care for 10% of the population or so. Agricultural subsidies and other forms of protectionism. Crime in bad neighborhoods in most large cities. A sometimes incoherent foreign policy, though, to be fair, the world is so complex that it's hard to be coherent. Poor public schools in many places. Draconian drug laws. Bad infrastructure in some older cities and rural states. An incoherent immigration policy. And I've just gotten started.

Note, though, that my list is generally made up of facts rather than opinions, and doesn't mention the people, either favorably or not.

Monday, October 23, 2006

I was looking around in the blog archives and found this from October 31, 2004, right before the Bush-Kerry presidential election. It's an opinion article from La Vanguardia by Josep Pique, currently the PP's candidate for Catalan regional premier and formerly Spain's foreign minister. In case anyone out there is still wondering who to vote for, Pique is the only one of the five candidates to have expressed such sensible ideas.

These days we've been seeing different surveys which show how Europeans in general, though there are significant differences between countries, would prefer Senator Kerry to win the next Presidential election rather than President Bush. Also, I have personally observed, with some surprise, that people across the whole political spectrum find it incomprehensible that someone whom they consider, euphemistically, unadmirable (Bush) might win.

And it is true that a certain stereotype of Bush has jelled, with the inestimable help of the media of communication. A stereotype of Bush which reduces him, in my judgement very simplistically, to a crude, simple, aggressive character, ultra-right-wing, a religious fundamentalist, obsessed with terrorism, who prefers security to freedom. I know that this feeds the anti-American spasms that are so present in some European countries--which, nevertheless, owe their freedom, security, and prosperity to the sacrifice, the commitment, and the protection of the United States--and especially in Spain, all across the political spectrum. But, sincerely, I think this shows a lack of the intellectual rigor which will be necessary in order to deal with our international relations and their demands, in the best interests of our citizens.

Let's take this in order. The visceral anti-Americanism that we see every day--even in our own Administration!--may satisfy our primary instincts or even win votes, but it is not in harmony with the objective realities of our global context. The United States has been the guarantor of European freedom against the totalitarianisms, and we should remember that if the European Union has today no less than twenty-five members, it is thanks to the defeat of the Soviet Union by the United States in the Cold War. It wasn't so long ago that, two hours by air from Barcelona, in the Balkans, we Europeans were incapable of stopping the genocide that was happening and so the United States had to pull our chestnuts out of the fire. How short memory is sometimes!

But, besides, with a certain schizophrenia, we criticize the so-called "lack of culture" of the Americans and at the same time we do not see the beam in our own eye. It is often argued that they know nothing of Europe and, in many cases, it is true. But do we know, in general, what is the capital of Florida, for example? Or Michigan? And, even more, are we Europeans capable of naming right off hand the capital of Slovenia or Estonia, countries that are members of the European Union? I think we need a little humility.

But this schizophrenia is produced also when we criticize their habits of living but then copy them in every detail, sometimes, as with eating habits, with very negative results. But what about cinema, music, or fashion? And I don't know anybody who has ever had the chance to visit New York, New Orleans, or San Francisco who hasn't been fascinated.

What's going on, then? Isn't it that, from our millenarian history, we Europeans feel the clichéd scorn toward the nouveau riche or the arriviste, the best student, who beats us out in so many things? If I may make a personal reference, I consider myself a fervent Europeanist who has had the immense luck to put into practice, in some of my political posts, his Europeanism. But I have always thought that one is not less European by being pro-American and favorable to the strengthening of the trans-Atlantic link. If we weaken that link, Europe will establish itself more firmly on the real periphery of the world.

The planet's center of gravity is no longer on the Greenwich meridian, but in the Pacific. And it is an unchangeable and irreversible trend. Whoever is not conscious of this is gravely wrong. And this can only be partially compensated for if we strengthen our relationships with the Americas and Asia simultaneously. This is what is in our interests as Europeans, not isolating ourselves in our bubble of well-being and defending ourselves as we can against the enormous pressure of immigration so that our societies will continue to be reasonably organized and integrated, and thinking that in the long run, if there is some threat, we'll always have the Americans, although they may see us as non-contributors regarding our own security.

I remember a headline of a very important newspaper of reference (El País) which, on September 12, 2001, ran on the front page a headline, not about the attacks or the victims of terrorism, but the "fears" of the world about Bush's eventual reprisals! Think about the logical reaction of an American citizen to that.

The United States feels threatened by an invisible, unpredictable enemy which has attacked, for the first time in its history, its continental territory. And it seeks solidarity and cooperation. And I should express a conviction: foreign and defense policy will not change whether either Bush or Kerry wins. Democratic presidents--with the arguable exception of Jimmy Carter-- have never been "soft" regarding foreign policy. Think about Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, or Clinton himself, who I believe was President when NATO bombed Belgrade, with no resolution from the United Nations Security Council, with Javier Solana, the future European Union Foreign Minister, as the secretary general of the Atlantic alliance.The differences are more tangible in domestic policy, though Bush is presenting himself as the best guarantor of American security and Kerry is putting more emphasis on relations with the allies.

Because of all this, I think our attitude toward the elections should transcend our personal sympathies or antipathies based on stereotypes--remember what was said about Reagan in Europe and today, everybody admits he was a good president who won the Cold War and managed the economy well--and base itself on objective factors that will have real repercussions on our interests as European citizens when it comes to defending our collective security or thinking about our economic growth or our capacity to generate jobs and well-being. At least that way our analysis will be more complex and much better supported, less vain and more realistic regarding our limits.

Europe is in the middle of a very difficult time of construction as a political and economic union. We have advanced enormously in the last fifty years, much more than it seems due to constant governmental crises. But we have not only lost strategic and political influence, in relative terms, to the United States; we have also done so regarding culture and economics. One fact to think about: in the last thirty years, since 1975, the United States has grown at an annual rate of 3.2%. The European Union has done so at a rate of 2.3%, a difference of nine percentage points annually, though the most worrying aspect is that the difference has been growing over the years, marking the trend that widens the growth gap between the US and the EU.

The reasons for this are diverse, but a lot of it has to do with the entrepreneurial mindset, business dynamism, less public intervention, and more market flexibility, and, in any case, with a capacity to create jobs that is very superior in the United States. Therefore, Washington's economic policies affect us in a very important way, as much or more so as its foreign policies, which, excluding minor changes, will continue down the same path as it's been on since September 11. And there, in economic policies, is where Bush does not have a good record. What we don't know is whether Kerry would offer better solutions.

So let us leave the American citizens to decide what, although their decision affects us all, they are the only ones capable of doing. And, by the way, did you know that the publication of the surveys that I mentioned at the beginning increased the support for Bush? I think we Europeans ought to think about this a little.
Check out all these groovy snaps over at Barcelona Photoblog.
This is unnecessary and cruel. I am not an animal-rights nut, but I believe that animals, especially mammals, should not be killed unless it is for a valid purpose. People need food, OK, that's why literally billions of cattle and hogs and sheep are done to death every year in slaughterhouses. I understand why. But when there is no good reason to kill, then don't do it. Hunting endangered whales is clearly something that we humans could get along just fine without doing.
Monday afternoon blog roundup while listening to Otis Redding:

Here's a profile of my friend Franco Aleman of Barcepundit in Normblog.

Chicago Boyz has a fine tribute to Ralph Harris, someone I should have heard of before.

Davids Mediankritik is spot-on as usual, shredding Der Spiegel.

La Liga Loca has this week's "heroes and zeroes"; Barcelona made it onto the "zero" side of the line with a loss against Real Madrid, 2-0. After the losses at Chelsea and in Madrid, some folks in the press around here are getting all excited. Calm down. It was only one week ago that they soundly beat Sevilla, next weekend they will soundly beat Recreativo, and with regard to Chelsea and Madrid, games played in May are a lot more important than games played in October.

Trevor at Kaleboel explains important facts about vocabulary that Roger Mellie would be proud of, and mentions Barcelona's cemetery problem. Note: People in Spain, when they die, are placed in coffins which are then sealed up inside a niche in what looks like sort of a six-niche-high concrete parking garage.

Here's Pave France on French banlieue rioting and vandalism.

Winds of Change comments on Europe's "demographic death spiral."

Roncesvalles answers a reader's questionnaire on German public opinion, society, and politics. Recommended.

Publius Pundit has extensive info, including photos, on the Panamanian referendum in favor of expanding the capacity of the Canal.

Meryl Yourish tears a new one for a pro-Islam "feminist".

Expat Yank has moved, and is blogging away full-blast.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

I just watched the debate on TV3 and here are my notes, at least as best as I can read them:

Host Josep Cuni: Why an early election? Mas is Mr. Spinmeister, Pique is lounging, Cuni is wearing an ugly tie. Mas blasts the Tripartite, Montilla is uncomfortable, he's reading a script, brags about Tripartite social spending, so does Carod. Carod makes big deal out of Salamanca papers. Pique is a little uncomfortable with his hand to his face, now he's OK, says Tripartite has looked foolish, he's the first to show some spirit and leave the script. Saura isn't wearing a tie like a good Communist, talks about more spending. Mas smooth, takes credit for social spending "achievements."

"If you did such a great job why are we holding an early election?" --Mas

Montilla's a nerd, he doesn't speak Catalan much better than I do, but he doesn't express himself well in Spanish either. Pique points out that turnout in this election will be less than 50%; fails to take advantage of the opportunity to call on marginal PP voters who often don't vote in regional elections. He's articulate, able to improvise. Carod's surprisingly reasonable, he's a pro debater but he's memorized these lines and it shows. Saura is repeating himself, now he's trying to appeal to the small-town vote. Mas is running on Convergence's 23-year record in the Generalitat before the Tripartite took over. "We didn't have to hold any early elections." --Mas

Mas is the best. Now he tries to disassociate himself from the PP and brings up the Carmelo subway tunnel cave-in. He refers to a report and remarks, "I'm translating from English." "You were in power eight years thanks to the PP," says Pique, who then refers to "Mr. Saura, who is so ecologistic and green," while criticizing opposition to the old PP national water plan shot down by the Zap government. Cuni is starting to lose control of the debaters, especially Mas.

"We've created a new culture of water," says Saura, whatever that means. Montilla is a zero, completely overcome by stage fright. Pique pats him on the arm. Montilla is extremely tense. Carod appeals to the long-term future while Pique smiles rather patronizingly at Montilla. Montilla's voice is down to nothing. Saura has to take over and defend the Tripartite.

"Forget about Aznar. Look at the past and into the future," says Mas, trying to shrug off past CiU deals with the PP. He goes too far and Pique flares up: "I am not questioning the democratic value of the statute (regional constitution) and don't say I am." Now Pique and Mas are sniping at one another and Cuni tries to retake control. Montilla reads his speech again, more social spending, he is not smooth at all. Tremendous stage fright. This man might be about to lose his dignity.

Now Carod brings up immigration, as a typical blood and soil national socialist would. He says it would hurt the working and middle classes. He's also in favor of better health care, by the way. Pique is rather sardonic, but he comes out with the first original thought, saying immigration is Europe's most serious problem and it must be dealt with at all levels of government from the EU to municipalities. Saura promises to spend more money. "We want rights, not vouchers," he says; Mas has promised vouchers for everyone for everything. Saura wants more public housing. Mas piles on Montilla, promises "good government versus bad government." Mas might make a good candidate in the States. Pique reminds me of Bob Dole.

Now Montilla acts like a jerk, trying to catch Pique with a childish rhetorical trick. He repeats Saura's line, "rights instead of vouchers." Everyone else looks bored. Carod cites more stats proving the Tripartite spent a lot of money. He says, "If we don't administrate taxes here in Catalonia, we won't have social justice here." Pique throws a line to Montilla, saying, "I agree with something Mr. Montilla said about immigration, that we must take it seriously." Montilla: "Neither Clos nor I has ever supported 'papers for everyone'...I believe immigration must be limited." Saura says vouchers would take resources from the public sector and transmit them to the private. I wonder how creative and tenderly passionate Saura feels when his iife-partner Imma begins to slowly but firmly caress his--oh, never mind.

Mas accuses Montilla of having the same position on immigration as the Zap government in Madrid. Pique keeps touching Montilla's arm, trying to buck him up. Mas and Saura face off on tax cuts for those who learn foreign languages, and then Mas accuses Montilla of voting for the PP. The debate is clearly out of control now and Cuni calls for a commercial break. They run an ad for La Caixa that has Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" as the background music.

Now Cuni challenges the candidates to explain how they will pay for everything they promised. Carod brings up immigration again--Esquerra thinks it's found a hot button!--and says, "Catalonia should have the right to decide how many people come every year...We can't pay for the health care of all of Africa." He adds, "Those who live here without integrating will always be immigrants," in a shot at the charnegos. And he wants consumer products to be labeled in Catalan. Now he repeats, "What about the people who were here already?" Carod Le Pen.

Cuni tries to regain control and get Carod back to the subject of taxes, and Carod BSs for a while. He actually talks about using market incentives to foment economic growth, and he's also against bureaucracy." Pique fires back, "When Carod talks about 'our country's language,' he should remember there are three." He then praises Carod for "joining the liberals' club," in the European sense of the word. Now he goes after CiU and the Tripartite for the crappy state of the educational system--"very bad quality," says Pique. He's Mr. Sensible, globalization forcing us to adapt and all that.

Saura repeats that there isn't enough social spending and that Catalonia is eight percentage points below the EU average, however that's calculated. I wonder how tender and passionate he is when Imma is wearing that special pink nightie--oh, never mind. Now he goes off on the environment and appeals to the countryside again--most of the Commie vote is found in the metro area. Montilla had gotten confused and could only name Sweden as a social democratic country which Catalonia should take as an example; Saura names the others, you know, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, all very tender and affectionate countries, I must say.

Mas repeats his promises to raise pensions, etc. etc., and adds that his proposed spending increases would mean less than a 5% increase in the budget, however that's calculated, and challenges Catalonia to rise to the occasion. He also wants to eliminate the inheritance tax, appealing to petty-bourgeois CiU voters "who have worked hard and want to leave something to their families." Montilla says the Tripartite spent a lot and is proud of it, and that the new statute will bring in more revenues to spend. He promises he will reduce the inheritance tax, and then bumf. He is still very wooden and nervous.

Carod wants fewer regulations that interfere with business, but more bureaucrats! That is, a "facilitator" for small businesses at every city hall. Sounds to me like just somebody else you have to bribe. Pique criticizes the rest for being simplistic and points that reducing taxes does not necessarily mean reducing revenues. He points out that the PP government in Spain reduced income taxes twice and it worked very well, and then gives a short lecture on classical economics. Saura wants 8% more social spending--I think he means percentage points--in order to reach the EU average and so is against cutting any taxes. Then he gets confused on his figures, or at least he confuses me.

Mas says, "CiU is always in favor of cutting taxes," and he and Pique snipe at each other over the budget, a subject only they seem to understand. Mas says, "Nobody is listening to what you say because you can't govern in Catalonia." Mas points out that in Sweden, "which Montilla says he admires," the Socialist government abolished the inheritance tax. Carod has a good line, quoting Josep Pla: "Sweden's wonderful, but Catalonia's problem is that there aren't any Swedes here."

Then Carod starts bitching about Madrid and Pique slaps him down for comparing two distinct things, calling it "a cheap argument. Let's not mix things up. We were talking about the inheritance tax." Montilla is lost, saying that everyone wants low taxes but good services too. He wants to modify the inheritance tax but not eliminate it, saying "Bill Gates is in favor of inheritance taxes. He is terribly out of place, seems about to choke or even cry. Mas picks on him. Mas: "We only supported the PP until 2001 when it went down the path we have seen." He wastes Montilla, who is unable to name a specific, but does remind Mas that CiU conspired with the PP. Then Saura talks about Sweden, where he and his common-law wife Imma once passionately and caringly...uh, never mind.

Mas drops a bomb. "In 2004, you, Mr. Montilla, were the first person in the Spanish government to announce an appeal against the statute, before even Ibarra and Bono." He's clearly painted Montilla as a Spanish politician first. Pique says, "The new statute doesn't solve anything," as he removes his glasses. He adds, "Saura is honest, he wants the Tripartite government to continue after the election. We will be honest too; we will negotiate with anyone." He then challenges the rest to say what they will do after the election.

Saura makes no sense on the budget, but says he won't deal with the PP or CiU. Mas says, "We won't govern with the PP," and then accuses the PP of having "used Catalonia for partisan ends." Pique says, "Nonsense." Mas is good, improvising. Montilla can't get in a word. Cuni is pissed, saying, "You're not obeying the rules you agreed to." He gives Montilla his turn and here comes the prerecorded speech again. "We want to negotiate," he says, and adds, "We'll say the same thing here and in Madrid, in Catalan and in Spanish." Now he rather pathetically goes after Mas: "The Catalans don't believe you when you say you won't deal with the PP...A politician who goes to a notary is ridiculous. We can't trust you."

Carod says they'll deal with anyone but the PP, and then unloads some more bumf. Mas charges Carod with making a deal with Zapatero, but they've pretty well cornered Mas into saying he won't make a deal with the PP. Mas slams the Tripartite hard. Looks like a bit of a bully. Montilla is out of play. Cuni cuts Mas off. Now Saura says he wants a leftist government--he's suddenly afraid that CiU might win and be forced to cut a deal with the Socialists, leaving them out of power. Carod points out that he has one surname that is not Catalan, and that Montilla has two. Montilla saves some dignity though the stress shows. Mas goes on the attack again and Pique calls him arrogant. He is pissed now, and says, "More humility. You went too far."

Mas fires back, saying again, "You, Mr. Pique, have used all of Catalonia," and then brings up the dread names Zaplana and Acebes. Pique explodes and threatens to leave. Cuni cuts in with, "I cannot allow any more," aimed directly at Mas. He's pissed now and gives them all a lecture. Now everybody gets thirty seconds.

Saura: In the last three years there have been problems, but we have made many improvements. So if you want more government subsidies, vote for us. And we're moral. And my partner and I have a creative and passionate sex life.

Pique: If you think what's happened in the last three years is negative, vote for us.

Carod: Bumf.

Montilla, memorized: "Catalans don't want a conservative government or a nationalist front."

Mas, back to normal: "Bumf. And the Tripartite sucks."

Now it's over and they all pretend to laugh. Tango and Cash comes on.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Aimless thoughts while listening to Doc Watson:

The cost of housing is Spaniards' main concern, not Iraq or North Korea or the Congo; La Vangua reports that housing prices are climbing at 9.8% a year. I sat through a long harangue last night on how the government ought to take over the housing market and produce cheap houses for everyone. I refrained from remarking that that's been tried many times and it hasn't worked, because whenever the government situates the price of anything below its true market value, that good disappears from the market. That's the problem now; restricted zoning and complicated bureaucratic procedures, along with strict rent control, mean it is generally unprofitable to build unless you are paying someone off to fix your zoning classification, and that owners of properties that could be rented hold them off the market because they will never be permitted to raise the rent more than the rate of inflation again. Let the free market rip!

(By the way, I personally benefit from rent control, as I am paying 1998-era rent, half what this place would go for on the market. Then again, if rent control were lifted, prices would presumably drop as more renters entered the market and competition increased. So who knows?)

Fox News is reporting that North Korea is backing off, that they've apologized for the nuclear test and will promise not to carry out any more if the US will make concessions. This is what happens when you let a rogue state obtain nuclear weapons. Still, jaw, jaw is better than war, war.

Barça was defeated on Wednesday night 1-0 by Chelsea, who clearly played better even though they were forced to use their third-string goalie. Don't worry, Barça will be fine. They can't win every game and we can't expect them to. Losing 1-0 at Stamford Bridge isn't precisely a disgrace. Comments: Puyol needs a rest, but I'll bet he plays against Madrid. He shouldn't. Both Marquez and Thuram are fitter right now. Edmilson also needs a rest; he really hasn't come back from the injury that kept him out of the World Cup. Gudjohnsen will be fine. Zambrotta has been merely OK so far. Messi has been very good but I still think he's overrated. Bit of strangeness: On the left wing of the attack, Barça uses a right-footed player, Ronaldinho, and on the right wing of the attack, they use a left-footed player, Messi. Completely the opposite of what tradition says. Agreed, both of these guys are pretty good with their "weak" legs.

The best bit of political news is that the Communist youth brigade was using the slogan, "Folla't a la dreta, fes-t'ho amb Iniciativa," literally, "Fuck the right wing, do it with Initiative (the Commies' official name)," while passing out condoms. Chemical Imma Mayol then announced that her life-partner, Commie candidate Joan Saura, was "tender and imaginative" in the sack, which was a little more than we needed to know, and that they had gone straight to bed on their first date, a degree of intimacy which rarely becomes public in American politics until some congressman starts sending dirty e-mails to minors.

This proves one thing: Saura and Mayol are, shock, practicing heterosexuals. How square. With Initiative's ultra-politically-correct ecosocialist orientation, you'd think they'd be transsexual lesbians of color involved in a mutually fulfilling five-way marriage with a goat, a beret-wearing bearded deconstructionist of indeterminate gender, and a trisexual illegal alien from Neptune named Grok.

Says Antoni Puigverd in today's Vangua:

You, candidate Saura, are the champions of the game of moral superiority. As Catalanist as it is possible to be, "real, genuine" leftists, more solidarious than anyone, and the only lovers of nature. You float above the other parties in your sanctity! The risk of showing such a clean heart, candidate Saura, is that when one slips, one becomes spectacularly dirty.

The Vangua also reports that the London betting line on the Catalan election has Mas as the favorite at 2-3 odds, with Montilla at 6-5, Saura at 37-1, Carod-Rovira at 54-1, and Piqué at 74-1. I assume that winning the elections means getting the most votes, which does not necessarily make you regional premier.

Tonight is the debate between the five candidates, TV3 at 9:45. I'll be watching and taking notes rather than going out partying, as most voters probably will be doing. Whose idea was it to have the debate on Friday night? Why not Sunday afternoon after lunch, peak viewing time, in order to reach more of the people? And after the debate tonight, get this, they're showing "Tango and Cash" dubbed into Catalan. No wonder they think Americans are idiots over here with the crappy movies they run on TV.

This election hasn't stirred up a great deal of passion except maybe among the Communist youth brigade. But in case you're interested, here are some videos of the five candidates:

Three different interviews with Artur Mas, one from Vilaweb, one from Canal Latino, and one from TV3. Lots and lots more Mas stuff available out there.

Two rather unfunny gags about Montilla from a TV3 "humor" program. Hey, Montilla supporters, you'd better get some good videos of your candidate up on YouTube.

Carod-Rovira giving a fiery nationalist speech on the Diada this year. This ought to be all the Carod you need to see.

A quick sound-bite of Pique. Nothing more.

An interview with Saura, and a speech at a rally. There's lots of Saura stuff up; Initiative and Convergencia seem to be the only two parties that have caught on to YouTube.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wednesday blog update while listening to Commander Cody:

I was rather snotty about Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk a few days ago; A Fistful of Euros has a nice piece on Pamuk's writing.

The Rottweiler, in his inimitable and rather foul-mouthed style, snacks on British Muslims angry, get this, that the 2012 Olympics will be held during Ramadan.

Chicago Boyz has an insightful piece comparing English and Spanish economic and cultural history.

Fausta is always entertaining. Just start at the top and scroll down; note news from Ecuador and Venezuela.

Eursoc has a post on the contest between Guatemala and our friends in Venezuela for the Latin American seat on the UN Security Council. Go Guatemala!

USS Neverdock is one of my favorite linking blogs; Marc has six or eight links every day that are worth checking out.

Samizdata comments on Islam and intolerance.

Guirilandia is back with a feature on the legendary Seat 600, with photos.

Daniel W. Drezner has a post on the success of American culture in anti-American places.

For those who read and/or understand Spanish, here's Xavier Sala i Martin's interview with José Montilla, the Socialist candidate for Catalan premier, in which Montilla is reduced to a quivering wreck. He totally lost his cool and marched out of the interview while spewing insults. (Via Barcepundit.)
Sports update: As you probably know, Barcelona is now alone in first place in the Spanish football league. Valencia and Real Madrid both lost last week, and so Valencia is three points back and Real Madrid is five points down.

A massive refereeing screw-up gave Atletico Madrid a 2-1 victory last weekend over Recreativo Huelva. First the ref called a penalty in favor of Recre when there was no foul. Then he failed to call a penalty in favor of Recre when there was a very obvious and blatant foul. Then he called a penalty in favor of Atletico when there was no foul. Then he allowed a goal in favor of Atletico when Aguero quite obviously knocked the ball in with his hand. And then he gave an Atletico player a second yellow card but failed to send him off; the linesman had to remind the ref that the guy was out of the game. Just pathetic. They need three on-field refs and four linesmen, all of whom should be professionals.

Last night Madrid beat the crap out of a very poor Steaua Bucharest team in Champions League play; Madrid and Olympique Lyon should have no problem in their group. And tonight Barcelona plays Chelsea, so I will be going down to the bar to watch it. Should be a hell of a game, Ronaldinho vs. Henry and all that. These are probably the two best teams in the world. If you're in the States, look for the match on ESPN 7 or one of those marginal sports channels; one of them ought to be showing it, or maybe one of the Spanish language channels.

La Liga Loca has a rundown on the week in soccer; we agree with him that Robinho is probably Real Madrid's best player and should be on the field every match.

Also, Real Madrid won't start playing well until Guti and Sergio Ramos get rid of those fruity haircuts that make them look like teenage girls.
Pointless thoughts while listening to the great Frank Sinatra:

The regional election campaign is well under way and there is no news, just the various parties slagging one another off. The Bipartite (the Catalan Socialists and Communists), the Esquerra Republicana national socialists, who are no longer part of the Tripartite, and moderate nationalist Convergence and Union are all running against the PP, and each is accusing the other of wanting to make a post-election coalition with the pariahs. Convergence and Union actually did this while Aznar was PM, and so CiU candidate Artur Mas went to a notary and swore he would never make a deal with them no matter what happens. CiU, meanwhile, is accusing both the PP, the PSC, and the Communists (who prefer to be called "ecosocialists") of not really being Catalan parties, but rather "branch offices" of the national People's and Socialist parties.

La Vanguardia's survey, released on Sunday, has CiU with 35.5% of the vote and 52-54 seats in the regional parliament; the PSC has 29% and 38-40 seats; Esquerra with 12.1% of the vote and 16-18 seats; the PP with 10.5% and 13 seats; and the Communists with 10.4% and 12-13 seats.

Parliament has 135 seats, and you need 68 for a majority, so the math is pretty clear. A CiU-PP conservative coalition would just barely not sum up enough seats. A CiU-Esquerra nationalist coalition would form a majority, and so would a repeat of the Socio-Commie-ERC Tripartite. What I think most of us would prefer is a CiU-PSC grand coalition in which the two major parties, who are also the two parties considered most moderate by the voters, cut a deal.

Spain, itself, basically has a two-party system, with the conservative PP and the social democratic PSOE. The Communists always vote with the PSOE. There are powerful regional parties in Catalonia, the Basque country, and Galicia, however, which makes the system much more complicated in those places. The PP doesn't really count as a major party in either Catalonia or the Basque country, while the Socialists have a significant presence in both places.

The problem with Esquerra is that they're a wild card. They can't be trusted as part of a coalition, because they are an opposition party by nature. They want to yell and scream for Catalan independence, and nothing more. The only proposals they make are ones that would increase Catalan autonomy. They are a single-issue party, and have no program worth describing on any issue that really means anything.

Actually, it's rare for a Spanish party to have what we'd call a program in the United States. What the various parties mostly do is make wild promises of all the money they're going to hand out to the voters, fail to specify where they are going to get it, and then cheerfully forget those promises when the election's over.

This campaign season, the most-discussed issue has been government subsidies for parents. I will personally eat a barretina in the Plaza Sant Jaume if a single one of the measures proposed by the various parties is ever adopted.

Oh, by the way, speaking of adoption, this movie-stars-going-to-the-Third-World-and-adopting-kids-to-be-treated-as-pets has to stop now. How insulting to those countries. Hey, Madonna, why don't you invest all your dough setting up a microcredit bank in Malawi? That would actually do some good for the children there, helping their parents build a future. Or how about setting up a real adoption program for kids whose parents have died of AIDS so that thousands of them could go live in the First World instead of just one?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

InstaPundit links to a Hillary Clinton statement saying that the US government can use torture in exceptional cases if the president orders it and it is secretly reported to Congress. Boy, that shows you how things have changed since September 11. Before that moment, I think we all would have said, "Torture? That's the Nazis or the Spanish Inquisition. Or the French in Algeria. We don't do that." Now, even Hillary is willing to contemplate using torture.

I'm still against it, and I think some of the techniques used now during interrogation of prisoners, such as sleep deprivation, exposure to cold or heat, or being forced to listen to Barry Manilow at 110 decibels for hours, border on torture. But what would I do if I were president and we caught Zarqawi? Probably break out the rack and hook up the electrodes and make him talk, under amoral utilitarian "greatest happiness for greatest number" reasoning; that is, if we can make him talk by hurting him terribly, it will save lives, and Zarqawi's pain is secondary to innocent people's lives. But that's the same end-justifies-the-means logic that says it's OK for Stalin to kill the kulaks because their existence impedes the general happiness of all of society.
They're running one of the grossest ads I've seen on TV ever. The product is some skin cream that will help you look younger, and the big sales point is that it is made with "snail slime" (baba de caracol, literally "snail drool"). There are shots of slimy snails, and we are told that snail slime is the substance that allows snails to repair their shells when broken. Great, that really makes me want to use the stuff. I'll wipe snail snot on my face and it will harden into a shell and then I'll look really great. Who the hell buys this crap?

By the way, I have nothing against snails. I rather like them. I kept a few in a fishbowl as a kid. What I do think is gross is the way people around here go out and collect them and then eat the poor little things by the dozen. Ick.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Here's the vile Andy Robinson, New York correspondent, in his blog for La Vanguardia.

It's possible that after publishing this post I will receive indignant e-mails and commentaries in various blogs accusing me of holding questionable attitudes about the Jews...My best American friends are Jews.

Thanks for letting us know that, though I'm a bit surprised they'll socialize with you. Must be pretty tolerant folks. Either that or Andy considers the Jewish bartender at his watering hole his best friend, since he hasn't got any others.

I'm glad to announce two pieces of very good news from downtown Manhattan. One is that, finally, the play "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" by the Britons Katherine Viner and Alan Rickman about the valiant pro-Palestinian activist who was run over and murdered by an Israeli bulldozer while protesting against the demolition of Palestinian houses in the Gaza Strip in March 2003.

The Israelis are murderers, huh? Gee, I'm not Jewish and I'm already pissed off.

The play was a box-office and critical success at the Royal Court theater in the West End of London. But the New York production at the New York Theater Workshop was suspended before opening night from fear--according to the authors and others--of offending the patrons of the theater, who in many cases are steely defenders of the Israeli "right to self-defense" (it's a saying) in the Palestinian territories.

And, of course, "the authors and others" are trustworthy sources. Meanwhile, no theater has any obligation to put on any play, whether it might offend people or not.

Newspapers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal wouldn't have liked it very much either.

Because they're Jewish-controlled?

The director of the theater, James Nicola, said the decision was because of Hamas's victory in Palestine and a tight production schedule. Rickman, an actor from the Harry Potter series, responded then, "I don't want to underestimate the difficulties of financing in a theater in New York, but that doesn't stop this from being censorship."

1. Another reason to boycott Harry Potter movies.
2. Censorship is when the government says you can't put on your play, not when a private organization decides it would be better not to.

At that time, many said that nobody in New York would dare to "bite the hand that feeds them" with an anti-Israeli production. But things change, and now the off-Broadway Minetta Lane Theater will premiere the play on October 15.

And if I were in New York I'd be out front with a protest sign. Note that Andy himself calls the play "anti-Israeli."

The second piece of good news from New York, with its powerful Jewish community, is that, after being a taboo subject for so long, a minefield for those who fear being accused of anti-Semitism, is that it is beginning to be openly questioned whether the pro-Israel lobby exercises too much influence over American foreign policy.

Yep, it's them damn Jews again, they run everything, and so we all live in fear of being labeled anti-Semitic.

A couple of weeks ago at the Cooper Union in Manhattan, at an auditorium full of people, a panel of experts--composed of two diplomats from the Clinton administration, an Israeli ex-foreign minister, two academics who denounced the existence of a lobby, and a Palestinian intellectual--held an unprecedented debate on the question, sponsored by the British literary weekly London Review of Books.

1. Of course there's an Israeli lobby. It's called AIPAC. Every other group you can possibly think of, including the Arab-Americans, has one too. The question is whether AIPAC has too much influence over American foreign policy. My question is, since the Saudis and Taiwanese and British and Poles all have powerful lobbies in Washington, why are we all so concerned about the Israelis and only the Israelis?
2. What do you mean unprecedented? This question has been debated over and over, and every time it gets debated, we all end up deciding that America is not too pro-Israeli, if such a thing were possible. Except for Pat Buchanan and David Duke, who are in full agreement with Andy.
3. Note that Andy only considers stuff from England to be really intellectual.

That magazine published a long essay titled "The Israel Lobby" in March by two prestigious foreign policy experts, Stephen Walt,. professor at Harvard's Kennedy School, and John Mearshimer, from the University of Chicago, who participated in Thursday's debate. The Atlantic Monthly had commissioned the article but decided not to publish it at the last moment. "The significant thing is that the authors are not Noam Chomsky but from the conservative mainstream," said Roane Carey, staffer at the weekly The Nation, after the debate.

Walt and Mearsheimer demolishingly criticized the "special relationship" between the United States and Israel, and a pro-Israeli lobby that includes--according to the authors--pressure groups in Washington such as the powerful AIPAC--it has 100,000 members and spends $47 million on its activities--and the neoconservatives in the Bush administration, including commentators in various newspapers and even Christian evangelists, now fervently pro-Israeli.

1. The term "special relationship" is, as far as I know, applied only to that between the US and the UK.
2. You mean the Jews can buy America for a measly $47 million? Boy, they must be even cleverer and sneakier than we thought.
3. And you know, of course, that if the neocons in the Bush administration and the Christian conservatives agree with a policy, then it must be evil.

According to Mearsheimer, the influence of this heterogenous group of steely defenders of Israel explains the privileged treatment that successive administrations, both Democrats and Republicans, have granted to the Jewish state. Israel is the principal beneficiary of American economic and military aid--more than $2.5 billion this year, $140 billion since the Second World War--despite being a rich economy and despite the fact that its policies in the Palestinian territories violate international law.

1. "Privileged"? Does that imply that Israel is undeserving of its status as a close American ally? Or does the fact that Israel is the only Middle Eastern democracy have something to do with it?
2. "Violate international law"? You mean like suicide bombers and rocket attacks and stuff like that?

The authors of the article state--more arguably--that the Iraq War has been fought principally because it is in Israeli interests. "The US has a terrorism problem largely because it is so closely allied to Israel," they say. For the pro-Israeli lobby, "It is essential to control the debate," say the authors--"because if there were a frank discussion on the Israel-US relationship, the Amjericans might decide they want to change it."

Yep, those damn Jews started the Iraq war, too, and it's their fault all those people got blown up at the World Trade Center. And, besides, they control the media, so the rest of us can't express our real opinions.

Curiously, according to members of the panel, it is easier to speak openly and without fear about Israel in Tel Aviv than New York, if one compares the press in the two cities.

In America you can't criticize Israel without being afraid? What, is the AIPAC Gestapo going to knock on your front door and haul you away some dark midnight?

Predictably, the essay was explosive in the American universities and communications media, setting off a series of accusations of anti-Semitism. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, author of Case for Israel (sic), called it "an article that stinks with the desire to segregate the Jews." The Anti-Defamation League, a group that constantly warns about an alleged intensification of anti-Semitism, which is not visible to the rest of us, called the article anti-Semitic. Harvard professor Michael Oren said in the Washington Post that the two authors, and not only their article, were anti-Semitic.

Yeah, that's what we call "free and open debate." These guys have the right to spout off about the Jews, and their opponents have the right to call them anti-Semites. Note that Andy doesn't mention any of these critics' arguments or reasoning.

At last Thursday's debate Martin Indyk, former US ambassador to Tel Aviv during the Clinton administration, returned to the attack, accusing Mearsheimer of "descending to the level of anti-Semitism." Indyk is a former director of AIPAC. Shlomo Ben Ami said that the article has "anti-Semitic connotations." Dennis Ross, another ex-diplomat with the elder Bush and Clinton and an ex-director of AIPAC, called it "dangerous."

Gee, think any of these guys might know what they're talking about? Again, Andy doesn't explain why these people believe the article is anti-Semitic.

But these accusations back up the thesis of the article, Mearsheimer said. "It's almost impossible to have a free and open conversation about Israel without being accused of anti-Semitism," he said on Thursday. Tony Judt, NYU historian, said that his own article in defense of Mearsheimer and Walt ("A lobby, not a conspiracy," April 19) was about to be rejected by the New York Times. "They asked me if I was Jewish and only published it because I said I was." Rashid Khalidi, professor of Arab studies at Columbia, said, "This debate is not carried on rationally, either in the media or in the Capitol."

1. Not even I believe Judt's charge against the NYT, that you must be a Jew to criticize Israel in its pages. And I hate the New York Times.
2. Khalidi accuses the Jews of running not only the media but also the legislature, and then he's surprised he gets called an anti-Semite.
3. Seems to me this little debate demonstrates that freedom of speech in the US is alive and well. Hey, Andy, you think Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria, or Al Fatah would allow you to trash their system while living inside their territory?

Walt told me that since publishing his article, "a few invitations made to me by politicians in Washington have been canceled." But several large publishing houses seem willing to break files for the first time. Farrar Strauss & Giroux will publish a longer version of Mearsheimer's essay. In addition, last week a new book by the former editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, Stephen Schwartz, on the alleged crisis inside the pro-Israeli lobby--"Is it good for the jews?: the crisis of the Israel lobby" (Doubleday, 2006) (sic)--after the case of espionage which involved neoconservative members from the Defense Department.

Andy, publishing companies have been coming out with books critical of Israel for decades. I'm surprised you didn't know that. Maybe you should go down to the library or something.

Here's the original Walt and Mearsheimer article from the London Review of Books, along with a video of the debate held on September 28.

This is CAMERA blasting Judt and the New York Times.

Alan Dershowitz's response is here.

The American Thinker's response is here.

Here's James Taranto from the WSJ's Opinion Journal.

This is a piece in Spanish from El Mundo on the controversy.

By the way, part of the fun here is that the Mearsheimer-Walt essay came out in March and the controversy was over by the end of April--but Andy's all over it in October. Just six months too late.
Saturday blog roundup while listening to George Strait:

Barcepundit has posts on Zap and the US flag, and on the cancelled housing ministers' meeting. And here's Publius Pundit on Zap.

La Liga Loca has its weekend preview up. The best match, Barça-Sevilla, won't be televised, even on pay-TV, due to contractual issues between the Sevilla club and the TV networks. I agree with LLL--home win.

Eursoc has an excellent piece on a Times interview with Segolene Royal, and Pave France comments on Ms. Royal's debate problem. Meanwhile, here's ¡No Pasarán! with a blast at French racism.

And Expat Yank has another excellent piece on the British court's judgement against the US Army.

This is Back Talk on why the Lancet study claiming more than 600,000 dead in Iraq is bogus. I mean, jeez, it's an extrapolation based on non-random interviews.

Roncesvalles comments on anti-semitism in Germany.

This is funny. I think.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Muhammad Yunas and the Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize this year; finally, a good pick, someone who has actually improved hundreds of thousands of people's lives by inventing a system to extend credit to the very poor and bring them into the market. This is the first time I remember them giving the Peace Prize to a capitalist. Some Turkish guy I never heard of won the Literature Prize; I think the last good choice for that was V.S. Naipaul and I can't think of any others I like since about William Faulkner or so. The Americans swept the rest of the prizes, you know, the ones they give out for doing something useful.

The fun political campaign news is that moderate nationalists Convergence and Union have come out with a 14-chapter campaign film blasting Maragall's Socio-Commie-Cataloony Tripartite coalition, whose crash led to these early regional elections. CiU isn't my favorite party, they're a little too nationalist and a little too statist for my admittedly finicky taste, but it's a perfectly reasonable moderate choice. The link takes you to their website and the movie, which comes in 14 chapters which you can pick and choose from. I haven't seen it yet, but it sounds like fun.

Here's what seems a bit novel: they're producing one million DVDs of this film, and one will be included along with every Sunday paper sold in Catalonia. Let's see if it works. Sounds like a good idea to me.

The latest Socialist screwup has the city of Barcelona, the region of Catalonia, and the Spanish central government all blaming one another for the cancellation of the meeting of EU housing ministers, which was to have been held here. Everyone was afraid that the squatters were going to riot, and so they called it off. The cops estimate there are about 250 active rioters, a mix of squatters and anarchists, based in between 50 and 100 squats. What everyone in town is suddenly asking is: how did this situation get so out of hand?

Barcelona's tolerance is part of what makes it a nice place to live, but that tolerance is sometimes carried too far. Until a short time ago, these youth riots were looked on indulgently by the relics of 1968 in charge of the Socialist party machine, along with the rest of our Illustrated and Enlightened folks around here--"prohibiting is prohibited" and all that. Now we've got them firing homemade bazookas at the cops.

Crush them. Repress them. Make their lives unpleasant to the fullest extent of the law. Ban the open bars they run on weekend nights, with which they fund themselves, and arrest them when they don't comply. Make these Black Blockheads move on to some other more congenial city for squatters. When the hard core moves along, the local middle-class wimp hangers-on (absolutely no squatters are working class; they're either homeless bums, professional agitators from the middle class, or hangers-on) will find something else to do, like go to the sex shop or something.

Meanwhile, yesterday they held the big Day of Hispanicness armed forces parade in Madrid; the Americans were invited this time, and Zapatero stood up when the American flag went past, which he hadn't done the last time the US was invited, in 2003, before he became prime minister. It won't help him with the Bush administration, with whom Zap is persona non grata.

Speaking of Zap, he touched off some turmoil when he said that he'd halt criminal trials of members of Batasuna, ETA's political branch, if the party agreed to renounce and condemn violence. Lots of people aren't very happy about this. I think what I'd do is compromise just a tiny bit, and drop all criminal charges arising from pro-ETA political behavior. The ones I would not drop, though, are charges arising from actual ETA activities. Prosecute those guys just as strictly as anyone else.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Wednesday afternoon blog roundup while listening to Dale Watson:

Check out this hilarious piece on North Korea's sock-puppet Western sycophants. (Via Eursoc.)

Expat Yank comments on Islam, Iraq, and Western nations.

Read about corruption at Atlético, drugs at Valencia, and tonight's friendly against Argentina over at La Liga Loca.

¡No Pasarán! reproduces an anti-American French cartoon whining about "secret personal information" being turned over to the evil CIA by European airlines.

Publius Pundit has a roundup on the anti-Chavez demonstrations in Venezuela.

Meryl Yourish writes on "the tyranny of the Muslim minority."

Frank McGahon comments on the contradictions between environmentalism and "social justice."

Davids Medienkritik blasts downmarket German magazine Stern.

Daily Pundit agrees with us on the Spanish Civil War.

The Rottweiler comments on the war, the Republicans, the Democrats, and the upcoming congressional elections.