Friday, December 15, 2006

The big news around here is that low-cost airline Air Madrid has suspended operations, leaving 120,000 passengers stuck in Latin America. Seems that the Ministry of Fomento (business regulation, etc.) threatened to pull their license because of maintenance problems and long delays. The company closed down in response. No one knows anything right now about what's going on, and people holding tickets are probably screwed. Hope you're not one of them.

The Zap government is trying to pass the pompously titled Recovery of Historical Memory Act, which is a terrible idea. The law's purpose is to revive memories of the Spanish civil war; it would allow persons who consider themselves victims of the war or the Franco dictatorship to demand that the authorities recognize injustice done them. Basically, the law is just symbolic, it won't change much.

The problem, of course, is that the Spanish Civil War wasn't good guys against bad guys, it was bad guys against bad guys. Neither the Republicans nor Nationalists behaved anything like democratic governments are supposed to behave. Both sides executed thousands of civilians.

The difference between the Spanish Right and the Spanish Left is that the Right has basically admitted that its side was in the wrong in the Civil War. You will hear no right-wing politicians exalting the Franco government or the Nationalist side in the war. The Left, however, with its "hyper-legitimacy complex," continues to exalt the Republic. It will not admit that its side was in the wrong, too.

Here in Barcelona air pollution is so bad--it exceeds EU standards almost 100 days a year--that the Generalitat is going to cut the speed limit on the freeways in the metro area from 120 kph to 80. Actually, that's probably a pretty good idea, as cars really do produce a lot more emissions at higher speeds. I'll bet it doesn't go over very well, though. One thing they need to do is get a lot of old junker light trucks and vans off the roads, since they're major smog producers.

It's not unusual, up here in Gracia, to look down over the city and see a greyish-brown haze in the air down there. It really is pretty nasty and something needs to be done; I vote in favor of spending our some of our tax money on making the air less stinky, instead of, say, subsidizing movies in Catalan that will never be shown. Ever. Anywhere.

Speaking of which, there's an education controversy going. Seems that the Zap government in Madrid has decided that kids in elementary school here in Catalonia must study ONE MORE WHOLE HOUR A WEEK of Spanish language. That will make a total of THREE WHOLE HOURS A WEEK. The Cataloonies, of course, are livid. What's wrong with this picture?

Anti-Americanism Watch: They had a debate on TV2, you know, the serious (seriously leftist, that is) public TV station, on the question: Is understanding possible between the West and Islam? The purpose of the show, of course, was to promote Zap's egghead do-gooder Enlightened and Illustrated Alliance of Civilizations. The debaters were PSOE ministry of foreign affairs heavyweight Bernardino León, who is a reasonable and serious person; PP shadow foreign minister Gustravo de Aristegui, of whom the same is true; a reporter from El Pais named Javier Valenzuela; and some silly woman who claimed to be a writer. Of course, it turned into a debate on you-know-what.

Valenzuela, of course, took the first swing at the Americans, saying something like "How can we tell the Muslims what to do when we do things like the horrific torture at Guantanamo?" which seemed completely off the subject to me. Then the silly woman said something like, "How can we criticize Islamist fundamentalism when George Bush is the biggest fundamentalist in the world?" She went on to justify terrorism by saying, literally, that Israel was committing genocide. Both continued with their moral equivalence between Islamist terrorism and the West's, and especially America's, response to it.

The fun part was that more than 75% of the people who called in--of course, viewers were supposed to call in with their opinions--voted No, that understanding is not possible. The moderator of the debate was very disappointed.

My attitude, of course, is that Islam is one thing and Islamist terrorism something else, and that understanding with Islamist terrorism is not possible. I will point out that Islamist terrorism is operating in almost every Islamic country, and the great majority of violent conflicts in the world involve extremist Islamists.

From El Periódico, by Havana correspondent Mauricio Bernal:

"Our prostitutes are the best-educated in the world," bragged Fidel Castro at the beginning of the '90s, when the large increase in prostitution in Cuba began. A boast in bad taste which made light of a reality that leaps into your eyes in the streets of Havana, including its most traditional streets: friend from the First World, there's a mulatto girl for you. Being a man and traveling alone to Cuba makes you suspected, and maybe that's why your flight's closed-circuit TV repeatedly runs an announcement warning about child prostitution. The message is clear: be a bad boy, but not a pervert.

It is no secret that Cuba is one of the countries with the highest level of HIV in Latin America. There's a reason some Cubans advise tourists to look for an ugly woman instead of a mulatto girl with a good figure, since the risk is less. But the warning, just look at the streets of Havana, is not heeded. It isn't that Cuba is the country of mixtures; it's the fact that in every hotel lobby, every disco, and every tourist restaurant, there is a European who has paid in order to be well-accompanied.

The son of a Cuban writer told me that Cuban prostitutes are not prostitutes in the full sense of the word, and that all they want is a good time, to be taken to a good restaurant and a nice discotheque. Places where, if it were not for the tourist's wallet, they could never enter.

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