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.