Thursday, October 05, 2006

Directionless thoughts while listening to Dr. John:

The campaign for the November 1 regional legislative election is in full swing, with both major candidates promising lots more government handouts in an attempt to gain votes. Convergence and Union's Artur Mas kicked it off by announcing three different new subsidies for parents, to cover things like nursery school and the like. Socialist candidate Jose Montilla upped the ante by promising subsidized optical, auditory, and dental care for old folks and children. So Mas came back yesterday and promised to subsidize half of the rent for "youths" (under thirty years of age, part of a legally recognized "couple"). Swell. At this rate somebody will promise to subsidize half the rent that 40-year-olds pay, and I will fervently recommend that everyone vote for him.

Minor scandal: Montilla challenged Mas to two different debates, one in Catalan and, horrors, the other in Spanish, to be broadcast to all of Spain. Mas doesn't like this idea at all, but there will be negotiations, and, apparently, debates. Carod-Rovira, our ERC national socialist, called the proposal "undemocratic" since he will be left out. Dude, the only thing that has to be democratic is the election. Everyone gets to vote, democratically. But there's nothing in the definition of democracy that says Carod-Rovira must be included in all debates held.

An ETA terrorist is near death from a hunger strike he went on when he was told he would not get out after serving only eighteen years, that he had twelve more to go. This guy killed more than twenty people in his bloody career. All I can say is good riddance and what took you so long, but plans are actually being made to take this killer to a hospital and make sure he doesn't die. Sounds like a waste of taxpayers' money to me.

In 1999 3.66% of Catalan citizens reported a crime "against personal safety," that is, involving violence. In 2005 8.21% did. This sounds like a major problem. Property crime is actually slightly down over those six years, but 2.89% of Catalans had their bags robbed last year, 1.83% suffered violent threats, 1.29% had their mobile phones stolen, 0.65% suffered armed robbery, 0.65% were physically assaulted, and 0.48% were mugged. That seems like a lot of crime. 90,000 mobile phones were stolen last year, and 45,000 persons were assaulted. A total of 18.6% of Catalans have suffered a violent crime at some time in their lives. The Boqueria market on the Ramblas has requested more police presence, as in a typical morning there are at least 15 robberies or thefts there. "They're basically Moroccans and Kosovars," said Manuel Ripoll, president of the market's business association. He added that the vendors recognize the thieves, and can easily identify them to the police. In the parking lot behind the market, fences have established a market in stolen goods that attracts as many as 100 people at any one time.

Here's the ineffable Rafael Ramos in Monday's Vanguardia. He's got a story titled "The US doesn't win anymore" in the sports section, which is sort of interesting because Ramos is the London correspondent. That is, he came up with the idea for the story on his own, because I somehow doubt the editor assigned the London correspondent a US sports article.

Get this quote: "With the least popular president of all time, George W. Bush, in the White House, a foreign policy that has lost all prestige, and the memory of Hurricane Katrina still opening wounds in the skin of a country that took five days to begin to help their compatriots in New Orleans, the Americans need, like spring rain, sports successes that will make them forget the arrival of coffins from Iraq, the crash of the real estate market, the fear of an "economic crash," and various other miseries. But they will have to find consolation in other things."

Ramos is clearly gloating, he's thrilled that the Americans have failed to win several recent sports competitions. What makes his gloating ridiculous, of course, is that the Americans don't really care, and it's sort of dumb to gloat when the other guy's reaction is, "So what?". They don't pay much attention to world sports, and don't particularly care how the US does in foreign competition. They're interested in the NFL, the NBA, and major league baseball. I think what he's doing is projecting: that is, Spain is feeling very athletically successful of late, and it has done something to the national mood, at least if my bar-ometer is accurate. Suddenly everyone in Spain has been a basketball fan all his life.

Just a few comments on Rafa's soliloquy, though:

1) Bush isn't the most unpopular president in US history; both Truman and Nixon left office with popularity ratings below 30%.

2) US foreign policy has lost all prestige? So that's why everyone is constantly trying to influence, above all other countries, the United States, of course.

3) Of course it did not take five days for aid to reach New Orleans and the rest of the central Gulf Coast after Katrina, and we now know the performance of emergency services was much better than the media was reporting.

4) No matter how infantile Ramos thinks the American people are, the government does not use sports to distract them from the country's real problems. The regimes that tried to do that were the South American military dictatorships in the '70s and '80s with soccer. Anybody remember the 1978 World Cup?

5) I didn't know there had been a real estate crash, and, in case Ramos hasn't been paying attention, the stock market is hitting record highs.

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