Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Aaron Hanscomb has a piece up on Front Page on anti-Semitism in Europe, and is kind enough to link to us. This one is much better than the Front Page piece we linked to yesterday.
Seems that the city of Miami is planning a celebration, to be held in the Orange Bowl football stadium, when Fidel dies. I'd hold off on the party until democracy is reintroduced in Cuba. By the way, Fidel hasn't been out in public for more than six months.

Iker Aguirre, the ETA guy who got arrested a couple of days ago on a France-Barcelona train, had been ordered by ETA leader Garikoitz "Cherokee" Aspiazu to plan a major attack in Valencia in the next three months. The proposed targets were Valencia harbor, which is being prepared for the America's Cup, and tourist areas in Alicante province. The attacks were to go off in April and May, right before the municipal elections. Crush these bastards now. To hell with "dialogue."

Basque Country premier Juan José Ibarretxe of the PNV has been summoned to testify as a witness in the case against Otegi, Petrikorena, and Barrena, the leaders of ETA-front political party Batasuna. Seems that Batasuna, though it was banned for supporting terrorism by the Political Parties Act, held an official meeting in April 2006 with Ibarretxe. This is illegal, since Batasuna is not allowed to carry on any kind of political activity unless and until it breaks with ETA. All the Basque nationalist parties held a protest demo in Bilbao that brought out 45,000 people according to the local police. The problem with the Basque nationalists is you're never sure whose side they're on, since they condemn ETA but oppose a government crackdown.

Francesc-Marc Alvaro takes a whack at Anti-System Imma Mayol in today's Vangua, calling her words "absurd," "an invitation to satire," "ultramoralizing and decorative parlor-pink fetishism," "frivolous," "an official imposture," and "far from reality."

Seems there was a riot last night at the Internment Center for Foreigners in the Zona Franca; a bunch of the prisoners beat up the guards and some of the other inmates. The riot was suppressed by the strong-arm squad. These guys are all of North African origin and mostly have long police records; they rioted because they heard rumors that they were going to be deported. I'm not sure why we haven't deported the lot already.

La Vangua has a full-page story on Paris Hilton today. Why? Why would anyone in Barcelona care? We have our own trashy celebrities over here and we don't need any more.
One clear sign of anti-Americanism (and anti-Semitism, and anti-everythingelseism) is out-of-context criticism. That is, if you're talking about something completely different and you throw in some America-bashing for no particular reason, you're most likely an anti-American. You are especially likely to be anti-American if your bashing is an oft-repeated stereotype.

So get this on the back page of La Vanguardia this morning. One Lluís Amiguet interviews one Clément Rosset, who is billed as a French-Spanish "philosopher." One of Rosset's pearls is: "Iberian culture knows how to find happiness in the tragedy of living." Huh? Since when? What a dumb generalization.

Anyway, Amiguet asks Rosset, "Why are we so afraid?"

First, who's "we," white man? I'm not particularly afraid of anything I can control; yes, I'm "afraid" of getting run over by a bus, as anyone sensible would be, but I don't exactly dwell on the subject, since I'm generally pretty careful to stay out of the path of oncoming buses. And as for things I can't control, I just have to accept that shit happens, and you play the hand of cards you get dealt.

But Rosset answers,

Because when you deny death, illness, and pain, you are much more afraid of everything. You fear that a sick person or even a dead one will sneak into the shopping mall and wake us up from the dream of consumption. Look at the United States: they live sunk in continual paranoia.

For some reason anti-Americans love to think that American society lives shaking in fear and panic. It's the most frequently-repeated Yank-bashing meme I see. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth; in fact, I think Spanish society is more paranoid than American. You hear many more conspiracy theories over here; there's always some hidden power group that controls everything. Rosset manages to work in another Yank-bashing meme, that American society cares about nothing except for material consumption. And, of course, who says Americans deny death, illness, and pain? Seems to me that if we're a bunch of crazy Jesus freaks, as another oft-repeated meme goes, that means we're very concerned with the subjects of death and the afterlife, right? But with an anti-American, you can't win either way.

Amiguet replies, "The Frightened States of America."

Says Rosset,

Precisely because they have decided to hide the dark side of existence. If you accept it naturally, you are much less afraid, because you accept that someday you will get sick, die, get old, be ugly, sad, maybe you'll be alone, very alone...

1) The Americans have "decided to hide the dark side of existence?" How was that decision made? Did we take a vote or was it imposed by the Bush administration? 2) It seems healthier to me not to dwell on or obsess about unpleasant facts like illness and death that we cannot control. If you go around thinking about that stuff all the time, as Rosset seems to be recommending--he says, "The central question of philosophy is that we are going to die," and "We must be conscious of the immense joke of this existence: we are all going to die," you're likely to be miserable. Yes, we all know we are going to die, but why ruin a nice sunny morning contemplating it?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Christopher Hitchens praises Nick Cohen's book and rips the Left a new asshole. Check it out.
Go read this article at Front Page; it's a rather foaming-at-the-mouth denunciation of the Zap government, and the translation from Spanish is not particularly good. The author, of course, is totally biased against Zap and the Socialists; while he makes many good points, especially regarding Zap's (and leftist Spain's) anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, he goes too far in more than one place. Even the title, "Spain: the European Iran" is a bit excessive. "The Zap Government: Wannabe France-Loving Weasels" would be more like it.

Here are a couple of paragraphs:

Zapatero introduced what the calls “the process,” Spain's very own Oslo Accords. The idea is to give the Marxist Leninist group ETA everything it asks for (including whole parts of Spain like Navarra, in a move some say reminiscent of Hitler’s claims over Czech Republic) in order to “bring peace.”

While I completely agree that Zap is a fool, he doesn't want to "give ETA everything it asks for."

Zapatero’s numbers are plunging faster than Bush’s.

Not yet they're not, unfortunately.

...but after putting his men in charge of many important business and banks, Zapatero promised Endesa to a government-friendly Gas Natural.

I've heard speculations of this sort, but haven't seen any proof.

(People are asking) if Moroccan dealings in Córdoba and Seville expelling non-Muslims from whole neighborhoods are not “occupation.”

I haven't heard about anything of this sort.

Saudi petrodollars are bribing increasing amounts of Spanish journalists through Muslim organizations in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Murcia to talk about Iraq, but also about the Wahhabi version of the Middle East. Journalists earning less than 1000 EUR a month are driving BMW cars, and there seems to be a pact of silence inside many Spanish newspapers not to ask a single word.

If you're going to make charges like this, you've got to have proof. Some specific examples would be nice. I think Spanish journalists tend to be more incompetent and biased than corrupt. Possible exception: Tomás Alcoverro. I am convinced this guy, who owns a house in Beirut, is in somebody's pocket. But I can't prove it.

No wonder why Spanish Jews are considering aliyah.

I hadn't heard they were.

A country ready and willing to receive tourists? No, tourists should avoid it right away.

The Zap government infuriates me too, but you can't blame the whole country. Be anti-Zap, but not anti-Spain.

Friday, January 26, 2007

From the "We're Not Anti-Semitic, We Just Oppose the Israeli Government" department:

The Madrid suburb of Ciempozuelos, governed by the PSOE, of course, has announced that it will celebrate "Palestinian Genocide Day" on Saturday. In case you didn't know, Saturday is the international Holocaust day of memorial. Israeli ambassador Victor Harel said, "This is an act of pure anti-Semitism, in which the memory of the Jews and Israel are offended with monumental falsehoods." Harel called the Ciempozuelos mayor and city council "insensitive, ignorant, and acting in bad faith."

Meanwhile, the Asturias regional government, run by the PSOE, of course, financed and published a book called "Internationals in Israel" that calls Israel "a terrorist state" and calls for its "total defeat."

Zap met with the European Jewish Congress on Friday and said he was against anti-Semitism. However, he doesn't seem to have done anything about the behavior of his own party.
I was wrong to give credit yesterday to the Zap government; they actually did want the Audiencia Nacional to grant house arrest to ETA terrorist De Juana Chaos. They blamed the 12-4 vote by the judges on "pressure from the PP." The Basque regional government, headed by the PNV, called the decision "a mistake." Meanwhile, the cops busted an ETA terrorist on the train between the French border and Barcelona. The guy was carrying instructions for manufacturing bombs and stealing cars and six fake IDs, among other things. He's got a record for terrorist attacks, rioting, and concealing weapons.

The two major public opinion stinks going around are 1) the way dishonest renters are taking advantage of the Spanish law requiring a judicial order for an eviction, causing landlords not to want to rent out their apartments and 2) the panic in the middle-class Barcelona suburbs (urbanizaciones) over the perceived rising crime rate. Yesterday a homeowner in Sudanell, Lleida province, faced with a home invasion, shot one man dead and wounded another inside his house. The cops busted a third robber, and a fourth got away. La Vangua reports on its front page that suburban residents are starting up their own neighborhood patrols.

Weirdness: A Colombian woman named Darling Vélez applied for Spanish citizenship. They told her that the first name "Darling" was unacceptable; seems that Spanish law prohibits "ridiculous" first names, and first names that do not clearly indicate the sex of their bearer. Ms. Vélez will have to change her first name or be denied citizenship. That's absurd. Who the hell is some bureaucrat to judge that the name "Darling" is ridiculous? And I know an American woman named Joan. What, will she be forbidden Spanish citizenship because "Joan" is a male name in Catalonia? Or an American woman named "Harriet," which is a male name in Basque? And what about a Chinese person named, say, Ziaoshang? How are we going to detect the sex of that one? How about if the government stays out of what people decide to name their kids?

It's cold. There's snow all over Spain. Spanish drivers do not know how to drive in snow, which is understandable since it does not snow much here. Therefore, the highways are snarled up all over the country.

Manuel Trallero, who has pissed me off in the past, comments in La Vangua that Communist-Green pro-squatter anti-system third assistant mayor Imma Mayol goes to the same private eye doctor that he does, rather than using the public health system like my mother-in-law.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Audiencia Nacional voted this morning to keep hunger-striking terrorist De Juana Chaos in prison; he's currently in the hospital, but he will not be sent home under house arrest, as he is demanding. Good. One thing about this guy is that he is not a repentant former terrorist, he's one of the most violent ETA loyalists. He's tried to escape from prison several times, has sent threatening letters to judges, and has celebrated ETA murders while behind bars. By the way, to the Zap government's credit, they're against turning him loose too.

There's a flu outbreak here in Catalonia. Hasn't hit me yet. The hospitals are full. Almost 200,000 people a day are seeking flu treatment in Spain. Meanwhile, more than 50,000 Catalans are on waiting lists for non-urgent operations. More than 14,000, including my mother-in-law, are awaiting a cataracts operation, about 6000 for bunions, 6000 more for knee replacements, and 5000 for hernias. I'm not complaining about the Spanish public health system, they've treated me very well, but it does have its disadvantages.

Somebody wrote a letter to La Vanguardia today pointing out that Ms. Anti-System, Imma Mayol, makes about €100,000 a year as third assistant mayor.

Tourists spent €8.6 billion in Catalonia in the first eleven months of 2006.

Some guy got stopped Monday night in Cunit at an alcohol checkpoint and he blew 0.68 mg/l on the breath test, so they immobilized his car, charged him, and turned him loose. About an hour later, the same cops were still manning the same checkpoint. The same driver came along in a different car. This time he blew 0.71.

Reminds me of a small-time drug dealer who lived next door to me in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1991-92. This guy's name was Tim, and he wasn't very smart. So one night he's driving home from the Jet Lag Lounge--Tim used to try to get me to go down to the Lag with him, saying, "There's some fine lookin' ladies at the Lag," which was true if your idea of a fine lookin' lady included missing teeth--and the cops nail him for drunk driving. So Tim goes back to the Lag the next night, and what do you know, the cops nail him for drunk driving again. He told me, "I think I can get out of this one. The cop accused me of drinking beer, and everybody knows I only drink Crown." This legal strategy did not work, and Tim got weekends in jail for three months. He instructed me to watch his stash, which he kept under the doghouse in the back yard.
People in the US might want to know that Catalan company Borges has reached an agreement to sell its olive oil and vinegar through Wal-Mart. Borges is headquartered in Tàrrega, about 15 kilometers up the road from my wife's hometown, Vallfogona de Riucorb. It's a pretty good-sized privately-owned company, doing more than €500 million a year in business, and it's a respected brand name in Spain.

In Spain Borges has a line of varietal olive oils that are especially good, and I particularly recommend the arbequena variety, produced mostly in southern Lleída province.

Vallfogona de Riucorb is also in the Costers del Segre wine denomination of origin area. and if you ever see any wines from there, try them. I imagine Raimat, which belongs to the major cava producer Cordoniu, is sold in the US; they make a very good and inexpensive cabernet sauvignon.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Go to Hell Hugo hasn't been receiving much criticism from our friends in the intellectual Left, even though he's shutting down the independent media in Venezuela. Funny, they all seem to think Bush is exercising some kind of iron censorship of the American media.
Canal Plus, which is owned by Prisa, the same pro-PSOE media company that owns El País, showed a documentary called "Jesus Camp" a few days ago, and the America-bashing hysterics are out in full force. The makers of "Jesus Camp" claim that their documentary is a neutral look at a summer camp for charismatic Christian kids; here's the trailer so that you can judge for yourself.

But here's how Canal Plus advertised the documentary: "While other children go on vacation, Levi, Tory, and Rachel train to be soldiers of God. Every summer they attend Kids on Fire, one of the thousands of camps in which they are instructed in the most radical evangelical Christianity, preparing them for the conquest of America in the name of Christ. Brainwashing that millions of American youth are submitted to." Neutral, huh?

Note: Spanish TV loves showing documentaries about the United States that focus on religion, racism, and ultra-right-wingers. TV3 repeats over and over a documentary on those weirdos out in Idaho who are racist survivalist pro-Nazi extremists. The problem with these documentaries is that if they're all you see, you get a very warped and twisted picture of reality. Yes, everything in the documentary about these guys is true. No, they have absolutely nothing to do with ordinary American life, since about 0.01% of the population falls into this category. They are also not a serious threat to anybody but themselves, and are about #1394 on America's list of "Important Things We Need to Do Something About." It took me half of Christmas dinner to explain to Remei's cousin Jordi that these wackos are an infinitesimal minority who everyone else thinks is crazy, rather than in the mainstream of society.

"Jesus Camp" looks like it falls into that same category of documentaries: yes, it's true, but no, it has nothing to do with the mainstream. Check out this paragraph from Wikipedia:

Some evangelicals have taken issue with the filmmakers spotlighting such an extreme group and then associating it with the 90 million-strong National Association of Evangelicals. (Camp leader) Ms Fisher's organization Kids in Ministry International was founded by herself and has absolutely no ties with any other major American evangelical denominations or the National Association of Evangelicals. The film might cause viewers to conclude that Ms. Fisher's camp represents even a fraction of evangelical practice when this is not the case.

Also, check out this piece by Ray Scarborough of liberal cable news network MSNBC.

Even one of the filmmakers told Christianity Today:

At the same time, I did notice some very admirable qualities to the children in our film. They're extremely articulate, they're smart, and they do good things for other people. They think about others, and they lack vanity I've seen in other kids. So on one hand, they're being raised very well. And it's complicated, because one might not agree with the adult that this person might become, or the direction this child is going. However, as children, they're extremely pleasant, and have a lot of things going for them. So I think, again, this whole film falls into a really big grey area. Which is what I think makes it a good movie.

CT also links to this movie review:

Denny Wayman and Hal Conklin (Cinema in Focus) write, "When a documentary explores a subgroup of a large contingent and implies that this defines the whole, then it is appropriate to call 'foul.' This is the case in Jesus Camp. … The implication is made that Pastor Fischer is a prime example of Evangelical Christians' beliefs and practices. This is not only untrue but it also leads to a pervasive misunderstanding."

Now get this, by Ferran Monegal in yesterday's El Periódico, boldface mine:

Infantile brainwashing

My hair stood on end last night while watching the shocking documentary "Jesus Camp" on Canal Plus. It showed us a summer camp for children between 5 and 15 years old in Kansas, Missouri (sic). A woman leader, like a Dr. Menguele (sic), but chubbier, brainwashes them every day with a cardboard statue of Bush presiding the sessions.

First they are submitted to rigorous collective hypnotism in which they are made to repeat, while looking at heaven as if possessed, slogans like "You are the special generation! You will change the world! Raise your hands! Bless George Bush! Let him feel your ardor! Pray for his soul! Tell him, Mr. President, one nation under God!" And after this witches' coven of kidnapping and brainwashing, most of the children enter a sort of general epilepsy, fall on the floor, cry, shout, chant hallelujah, try to touch the Holy Spirit with their hands, and more than one, at the end, openly says that God has entered him and that he guides his hand when he writes in his diary, and in his steps when he walks.

There's more. The parents of these children say, proudly, that their children have never entered a school. This community of brainless fanatic pseudo-evangelists normally educates their children by themselves "to prevent their being contaminated with scientific explanations: the only valid explanation of the world is divine."

I was scared stiff after seeing this documentary. Those spiritual exercises they made us do here, years ago, frightening priests who terrified us with the anger of God and hellfire are nothing in comparison with what we have seen. And the most terrible thing is that we do not know how many American children enter these terrifying camps of mental extermination every summer.

See what I mean? This guy is terrified. He's so biased about America that he really thinks brainwashed evangelical Protestants are coming to get him. They've never showed him a documentary of normal people going to a normal church, or not going to church, so he thinks that the behavior of a tiny handful extreme fundamentalists is somehow dangerous.

Mr. Monegal, there have been a total of zero fundamentalist Christian American suicide bombers, and a total of about three murders of doctors who performed abortions. These people are not dangerous. Weird, yes. But dangerous, no.

For a much more reasonable look at the documentary in Spanish, check out the Catalan Catholic webpage E-Cristians.
The prosecutor's office has announced that it will ask the court to put imprisoned ETA terrorist Ignacio de Juana Chaos under house arrest, as he is "at risk of death" due to the hunger strike he has been on since November.

De Juana Chaos was the head of ETA's Madrid cell, which was responsible for 25 murders. That's more than Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, and Jack the Ripper put together. Let him rot in jail and if he dies, that's his problem.

The big stink around here is poor performance by Renfe, Spain's train system, especially on the commuter lines in the Barcelona area. Yesterday a tree branch came down across the main Barcelona-Valencia line down in Tarragona province and caused all services to be shut down. In addition, the line from downtown Barcelona to the airport was out of service from 6:30 AM to 2 PM, which also snarled up the rest of the commuter network. 80,000 people were delayed for up to several hours.

My main complaint here is that Renfe is not a private company, it's state-owned, and you know what I think about state-owned companies. I can understand the argument that we should subsidize public transportation in order to discourage the use of cars and to make travel easier for everybody. People are demanding, though, that we get decent service in exchange for the tax money we spend, and they have every right to do so.

Our genius third assistant mayor, Communist-Green Imma Mayol, announced yesterday that she supported the squatters that currently plague Barcelona and that she considered herself "anti-system," which is Spanish code for idiotarian naive-Left frootloop. She boasted, "I rebel against injustice," and I guess that if she's anti-system that means she thinks the city she helps govern is an unjust place. Imma added, "I feel closer to a squatter than to a speculator." CiU responded that Mayol had invented a new category, "anti-system activists with an official chauffeur," and the Socialists, leaders of the Tripartite coalition that governs Barcelona and Catalonia, said, "You can't live inside the system by day and be anti-system by night."

By the way, a letter to today's La Vanguardia takes Mayol to task for shouting from the rooftops that Barcelona's air pollution is double the EU maximum, and demanding that sweeping changes be made, when she herself has been in charge of the city government's environmental department for the last seven years.

La Vangua also reports that a line of cocaine costs three euros in Barcelona. That's less than half the price of a mixed drink, and booze is cheap here too.

The cops busted an Al Qaeda guy in Badalona; he's a Moroccan accused of being part of the gang's finance and forgery infrastructure.

Most brilliant recent idea to alleviate the housing problem: ERC wants to slap a nine-euro-a-day charge on vacant apartments. Better ways to alleviate the housing problem: 1) abolish rent control 2) liberalize antiquated zoning laws 3) make it possible for landlords to evict renters who don't pay or trash the place, which they need a court order to do now.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

You will want to read this book extract published in the Observer, of all places, by Nick Cohen. It's on the contradictions of the Left regarding Iraq, and one of Cohen's theses is that Leftists around the world are supporting real, genuine Fascists like Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party simply because they are anti-American. If you didn't think anti-Americanism was dangerous, here's some evidence.

Key paragraphs:

The apparently sincere commitment to help Iraqis vanished the moment Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and became America's enemy. At the time, I didn't think about where the left was going. I could denounce the hypocrisy of a West which made excuses for Saddam one minute and called him a 'new Hitler' the next, but I didn't dwell on the equal and opposite hypocrisy of a left which called Saddam a 'new Hitler' one minute and excused him the next. All liberals and leftists remained good people in my mind. Asking hard questions about any of them risked giving aid and comfort to the Conservative enemy and disturbing my own certainties...

Why is it that apologies for a militant Islam which stands for everything the liberal left is against come from the liberal left? Why will students hear a leftish postmodern theorist defend the exploitation of women in traditional cultures but not a crusty conservative don? After the American and British wars in Bosnia and Kosovo against Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansers, why were men and women of the left denying the existence of Serb concentration camps? As important, why did a European Union that daily announces its commitment to the liberal principles of human rights and international law do nothing as crimes against humanity took place just over its borders?

Why is Palestine a cause for the liberal left, but not China, Sudan, Zimbabwe, the Congo or North Korea? Why, even in the case of Palestine, can't those who say they support the Palestinian cause tell you what type of Palestine they would like to see? After the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington why were you as likely to read that a sinister conspiracy of Jews controlled American or British foreign policy in a superior literary journal as in a neo-Nazi hate sheet? And why after the 7/7 attacks on London did leftish rather than right-wing newspapers run pieces excusing suicide bombers who were inspired by a psychopathic theology from the ultra-right?
I'm always amazed at how seriously the Academy Awards, which are just a Hollywood publicity stunt, are taken by the news media over here. One would think that such outfits as El País and TV3 would scorn this capitalist showbiz opiate-of-the-people bread-and-circuses pseudo-event, but they don't. Antena 3 led off the news this afternoon with the story that Penélope Cruz had been nominated for best actress, rather than the news from Lebanon or Iraq or Alcorcón.

Looks like Penélope did good business by agreeing to serve as Tom Cruise's beard for two years. Rumor has it that Pe and Salma Hayek are, uh, planning to star in the film version of "Heather Has Two Mommies."

The cops have taken over Alcorcón, and the local scumbags are currently lying low. The story is they're planning a mass "demonstration" for next Saturday night, armed with baseball bats, in which presumably they will go hunting for sudacas, the local ethnic slur for Latin Americans. They're using text-messaging and internet to organize their activities. Great, just what we need, technologically aware and up-to-date racist mobs. Seems that the Latin Americans in question are by no means innocent, either; it's scumbags vs. scumbags. There are different reports on the Latins: some say they're Latin Kings, and others say they're not.

La Vangua mentioned that some of the local girls have taken up with Latin American boyfriends, which I will bet is one of the major causes of the conflict. You'd be surprised how important sex is as a motivation for racism. The Nazis made a big deal out of Jews corrupting innocent German girls, for example, and Southern white racists were more frightened of black men having sex with white women than anything else.

Real Madrid is apparently ready to get rid of Ronaldo; he's supposedly heading for AC Milan and they are now just haggling about the price. Ronaldo is fat and lazy and a bad influence on the younger players--he's been taking Robinho out drinking, and they showed up at practice hung over a couple of weeks ago. What a disappointing end to a very promising career. If Ronaldo had stayed with Barcelona...but he didn't. I'll bet Ronaldo is playing in MLS before the end of 2008. Figo, by the way, has signed with a team in like Dubai or somewhere like that. That's another guy who will be playing in MLS before too long.

Pau Gasol is supposedly moving to Chicago or Boston before the end of February, says La Vanguardia.

Monday, January 22, 2007

On the Latin Kings:

According to El Mundo, "The Catalan Generalitat has legalized the Latin Kings, the urban gang whose actions have been investigated on numerous occasions by the police, and from now on it will be called "The Cultural Association of Latin Kings and Queens of Catalonia"...The Barcelona city government, which aided in the process of legalization, has also made a commitment to aid in the legalization of the Ñetas, the other gang of similar characteristics, which is openly in confrontation with the Latin Kings...From now on, the recently legalized association will be able to enjoy all the benefits of a legal body, such as receiving economic aid and official subsidies."

According to El País, "The Latin Kings, one of the youth organizations with the largest social base in the United States and Ecuador, created as a brotherhood of support for Latin youths, appeared in Barcelona and its industrial suburbs in December 2002..."The Latin Kings are not a criminal group. It is an organization of aid and solidarity among young Latin American immigrants, although some sectors of the police, especially in Madrid, insist the contrary. It's true that their name has been implicated in some tragic events, but those are isolated incidents, which should not mean the criminalization of the group," said Carlos Feixa of the Barcelona city government."
Quick blog roundup:

A reader of Chicago Boyz has an excellent comment on anti-Americanism in Mexico.

Colin Davies posts on nationalism from Galicia.

Guirilandia takes a swing at just about everybody in Spanish politics, and kindly links to us.

Planet Churro is back and he's not happy with Carod-Rovira.

Publius Pundit fills us in on "Go to Hell, Gringos" Hugo Chavez. Our new nickname for Chavez, a play on "Give 'Em Hell Harry" Truman, is "Go to Hell Hugo."

Pave France has damning evidence on France and Rwanda.

¡No Pasarán! has more on language, Africa, and France.

Notes from Spain is bemused by obligatory nudity in Spanish movies.

Akaky is awesome. I can't believe everybody isn't reading his blog.

The Bad Rash actually has a reasonable and moderate post (on the future of the Left). In other news, Ronaldinho turned down a TV commercial offer, Imma Mayol admitted that she gets "a little hot" when Joan Saura slaps her around, and Bill Clinton reportedly failed to proposition even one woman on November 7, 2006.
La Vanguardia has one of its typical unquestioning reports on what Europeans call "altermundismo," the naive belief that "another world is possible." Seems they are having something called the World Social Forum in Nairobi. Says La Vangua's reporter, "Disputes over land were a factor, along with the fall in the price of coffee and tea, in the genocidal catastrophe in the overpopulated highlands of Rwanda, and they are a factor in the Sudanese province in Darfur."

This sounds to me like economic justification for genocide, as well as a way to blame what happened in Rwanda on someone else rather than the people who beheaded their neighbors with machetes.

Said Vandana Shiva, billed as "an Indian ecologist," "The green revolution in India destroyed the most prosperous land."

And, said Nmimmo Bassey, billed as "the African coordinator for Friends of the Earth," "So far, no genetically modified crops offer benefits to the consumer in terms of quality or price, nor have they done anything to alleviate hunger and poverty in Africa or anywhere else."

Gee, really? From Wikipedia:

There has also been rapid and continuing expansion of GM cotton varieties in India since 2002. (Cotton is a major source of vegetable cooking oil and animal feed.) It is predicted that in 2006/7 32,000 km² of GM cotton will be harvested in India (up more than 100% from the previous season). Indian national average cotton yields have been boosted to close to 50% above the long term average yield during this period. The publicity given to transgenic trait Bt insect resistance has encouraged the adoption of better performing hybrid cotton varieties, and the Bt trait has substantially reduced losses to insect predation. Economic and environmental benefits of GM cotton in India to the individual farmer have been documented.

Or how about this:

The majority of commercially available crops have an agronomic advantage like herbicide tolerance or insect resistance. These traits offer major benefits to the farmer and the environment. Importantly, economic benefits of GM crops in developing countries are more significant compared to industrialised countries because agriculture in these countries is a larger part of the economy, and employs a larger fraction of the labor force, and often agriculture suffers from losses of crops to insects which are remedied in insect protected GM crops. However, in industrialised countries, the consumer benefits from GM traits are mainly indirect, and channeled through their benefits to the environment, including promotion of efficient use of available arable land and water.

GM crops have shown to contribute to significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices. This reduction results from decreased fuel use, about 1.8 billion liters in the past nine years, and additional soil carbon sequestration because of reduced ploughing or improved conservation tillage associated with biotech crops. In 2004, this reduction was equivalent to eliminating more than 10 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. GM cotton has greatly reduced synthetic pesticide use in the US, Australia and India.

Or this:

Proponents say that genetically-engineered crops are not significantly different from those modified by nature or humans in the past, and are as safe or even safer than such methods. There is gene transfer between unicellular eukaryotes and prokaryotes. There have been no known genetic catastrophes as a result of this. They argue that animal husbandry and crop breeding are also forms of genetic engineering that use artificial selection instead of modern genetic modification techniques. It is politics, they argue, not economics or science, that causes their work to be closely investigated, and for different standards to apply to it than those applied to other forms of agricultural technology.

Here's why:

There is a significant amount of evidence suggesting that the Green Revolution had the effect of weakening socialist movements in many nations. In countries like India, Mexico, and the Philippines, technological solutions were sought as an alternative to expanding agrarian reform initiatives, the latter of which were often linked to socialist politics.
News from here in Upper Castellón:

La Vangua is making a big deal out of Hillary, Obama, and Bill Richardson all running for the Democratic presidential nomination, as if the sex or ethnicity of the president mattered.

There has been serious rioting in the streets of the Basque Country by pro-ETA youth vandals in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that ETA's minor league team, Jarrai/Haika/Segi, is a terrorist organization. Of course, they threw stones and molotov cocktails at the cops and torched trash containers and bank machines. Three arrests were made.

Convicted ETA murderer Ignacio de Juana Chaos, which is a great surname for a terrorist, has been on hunger strike since November 7. Why don't they just let him die, if that's what he wants? And if that's not what he wants, if he's just making a political point, then he'll call off the hunger strike when he's ready.

Meanwhile, many prospective PP candidates for city council posts in the Basque Country have withdrawn from the campaign after the end of ETA's "permanent cease-fire." Of course, they're afraid of being murdered by ETA. People living in the Basque Country do not enjoy full democratic rights, of course, because of this fear. They must contain their freedom of speech, assembly, and standing for office, if they do not want to be targets.

From the "If This Had Happened in Cleveland" department: Racial gang-fights in Madrid working-class suburb Alcorcón. On Saturday night local scumbags fought it out with Latin American scumbags, and it turned into a 100-strong rumble that ended up with four seriously injured and seven arrests. Last night some 400 armed local scumbags held a "demonstration" against Latin American gangs, especially the Latin Kings, a criminal gang that started in the New York prison system. Of course, they were really looking for some sudacas to beat up. The riot squad was called out and the local scumbags took them on with stones and set up flaming barricades; the cops responded with rubber bullets. We haven't seen the end of this one.

Note: The Catalan Generalitat has recognized the Latin Kings as a cultural organization, and apparently they are getting government subsidies.

The lefties in Madrid are starting up a new newspaper that will back Zap and compete with El País, Spain's largest newspaper and the unofficial voice of the Socialist Party. It will be called Público and sell for fifty cents rather than the standard one euro price for newspapers. I'm guessing this paper will be even farther to the left than El País, which is occasionally known to publish opinion pieces by moderates, and also that it will aim at the lowest common denominator because of its low price and the fact that your middle-class high-school or college graduates are happy with El País.

By the way, what's the deal with all newspapers costing a euro? Isn't this collusion in restraint of trade? The various papers compete among themselves with ridiculous promotions--La Vangua is currently distributing kitchen utensils, for example--that must cost a fortune and waste tons of paper. Why don't they get rid of the dumb promotions that few people want and cut the price? I'll bet El Periódico, just for example, would outsell La Vangua massively if they cut the price to fifty cents.

Local political dustup: Former twenty-year Catalan premier Jordi Pujol ran an op-ed article last weekend saying that the stickers showing a Catalan donkey that some nationalists stick on their cars, in response to the sticker showing a Spanish bull that some other people stick on their cars, are silly and immature. Pujol's op-ed was, of course, greeted by cries of "Traitor!" from the Toni Soler-Oriol Grau-Joel Joan wing of nationalism-obsessed scorn-filled TV3 "humorists" whose only attempts at comedy attack a straw-man caricature of backward Spain and ignorant Spaniards.

There were 72 domestic-violence murders in Spain last year. So far this year we've had two.

Malcolm Gladwell is today's back-page interview in La Vangua. I like Gladwell; I've read The Tipping Point and Blink, both of which I liked, though I didn't think either was an intellectual breakthrough. Gladwell is a terrific reporter and writer, but the conclusions he draws are not especially new or different.

I had two mild complaints with Gladwell. First, he said that he was "a leftist in the United States, but a centrist in Europe." C'mon, Malcolm, you're no rad, you're a moderate Democrat and a capitalist, and you would fit extremely well into the moderate wing of the PSOE. The European political spectrum is roughly equivalent to the American; the difference is that in most of Europe there are lots of little fringe parties with narrow appeal, while in the US there are two big ones that include people of a wide range of opinion. In Spain, Nancy Pelosi would be part of the left wing of the PSOE, and Ron Dellums would be a proud member of the Communist party.

Second, Gladwell calls himself biracial. He said in the interview, "When I grew out the Afro haircut that I am wearing now, the police started to stop me for no reason much more frequently." I'm not going to call Gladwell a liar, but the interview includes a large photo of him. He looks like Art Garfunkel in about 1971, except less-threatening and better-dressed.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

La Vanguardia ran a survey today that makes it clear that the PP is significantly turning off a lot of voters with its hard line against Zapatero. The survey was taken early last week, after the Barajas bombing that killed two men and some of the political fallout.

If elections were held today, the PSOE would get 161-164 seats in the Congress of Deputies, the PP would get 138-142, CiU would get 13-14, and the Communists would get 13. 176 seats are needed for a majority. Currently the Socialists hold 164, the PP 148, CiU 10, and the Communists 5. Key stats: 58% have a worse opinion of the PP than they did one year ago. 60% said the PP's performance in the opposition had been "bad" or "very bad, and only 24% said "good" or "very good." 39% had "no confidence" in Rajoy, and 35% more had "little confidence." 68% said that "the PP distrusted the administration too much and irresponsibly caused difficulties in the peace process."

Methinks what this means is that Zap isn't incredibly popular, but folks really don't like Rajoy. It also means that the bombing did not move the political center closer to the anti-ETA hard line.

The PP needs to open itself up to internal democracy, because Rajoy is going to lose us the next election. We need primary elections within the party in order to choose the leaders, and if we had them I will bet you that Ruiz-Gallardon would win. Zap should be an easy candidate to beat--he's a naive weenie party hack--but Rajoy is not the man who's going to do it. He should step down now.

I will add that the crazy-ass wing of the party that believes in some kind of conspiracy between the Zap government, ETA, the PSOE, and of all people the CESID, the intelligence bureau, behind the March 11, 2004 bombings, is not doing the PP one bit of good among the moderates. Somebody needs to make those people sit down and shut up, or get out of the party. I can't believe that Aznar doesn't have these tinfoil-hat Acebes-Zaplana wingnuts on a tighter leash.

Friday, January 19, 2007

News from this here neck of the woods:

I was watching TV today and first a game show host and then a TV newscaster mentioned Mel Gibson, and of course both of them pronounced his surname "Jibson," with the "soft" sound. That sounds slightly obscene to me. "Ooh, gross, you got jibson all over my leg."

The Supreme Court ruled that Jarrai, ETA's youth brigade, is a terrorist organization. 23 of their leaders received a six-year sentence for belonging to a terrorist group; they were already under a two-and-a-half-year sentence for conspiracy, but for some reason were not in prison. The roundup has begun. Good. Lock them up and throw away the key.

40 people have been killed in a nasty winter storm that swept across northern Europe. Gusts of wind reached--get this--100 mph. Nasty, yeah, but no real big deal by American standards. If anything Katrina-size ever hit Europe the devastation would be immense, since most of Europe is even less prepared for really bad weather.

Catalonia got 15 million tourists last year, which is approximately 2.167 tourists per Catalan. Folks, admit it, we live well here in Barcelona, and tourism is a large part of our income. Yes, part of downtown Barcelona has become touristy. No, this is not necessarily a horrible thing.
Michael Radu has a piece at Front Page on anti-Americanism in the European media.

I've heard many Americans say they are surprised at the Yank-bashing tone of the European press, and wonder whether it is something new. It's not. Americans just hear about it a lot more now, thanks to the Internet, than they did before about 2000.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

We haven't done a blog roundup in a while, so here goes.

Right Wing News has more on Barack Obama.

Some Cataloony is hassling Guirilandia, who neatly disposes of him.

La Liga Loca has the quotes of the week up. This is the single best source in English on Spanish football.

Notes from Spain has a podcast on San Anton in Madrid, which is the same as Els Tres Tombs in Barcelona--when you bring your pet to be blessed. This is probably the best Spanish lifestyle blog. They generally avoid controversial and political stuff, but they're great on everyday life in Spain.

¡No Pasarán! smacks down some conspiracy theorists.

Davids Medienkritik has Der Spiegel dead to rights again, this time on Iran.

Pave France looks at France and Iran.

Eursoc says the new far-right group in the Europarliament is no big deal, and points out more standard leftist hypocrisy.

Expat Yank opines on an English Parliament.

Samizdata gets revisionist about FDR. Check out the links. Iberian Notes's position: The New Deal is way overrated and didn't accomplish much. Nor was it precisely the work of Satan. And FDR won the war.

Publius Pundit has a serious-magazine-quality post on media malpractice at the Observer on the Litvinenko case. Read it.

Biased BBC has a roundup of articles from the British press on the BBC budget.

A Fistful of Euros comments on the 1956 proposal for a Franco-British merger, just released by the British National Archives.

I've added a link to Colin Davies, blogging from Galicia. Definitely check out his blog.
Here's an article from the Daily Telegraph on Barack Obama and the race question in the US. A few random thoughts:

1) Obama is certainly attractive and charismatic, and very intelligent. But are two years in the Senate enough government experience to run for President? Right now Obama is still a political amateur, and you remember what happened last time we elected an amateur--Jimmy Carter. Also, you'll remember that other outsiders, such as Ross Perot and Wesley Clark, have attracted attention and votes, but never came close to winning the big one.

2) There's no question in my mind that America is "ready" for a black or woman president. I don't think many people under about 50 are racist or sexist enough to refuse to vote, because of race or sex, for someone they think is a qualified candidate and ideologically compatible. I don't think that a whole lot of people between ages 50 and 70 are, either, outside Mississippi.

3) Obama's not culturally Old American Black, which is an ethnic category I just made up to refer to those who are descended from American slaves and suffered from discrimination within living memory. Old American Black people's families have actually been in the US much longer than most white people, descended from late-19th century immigrants. (Note: The Census Bureau uses the term Old American to refer to white people whose ancestors were in the US before the Revolution, and who don't have any ethnic group connection--e.g. they're not, say, Irish-Americans or Italian-Americans.)

I would divide American blacks into at least three groups: Old American Blacks, Jamaican- and West Indian-Americans, and New American Blacks, descended from 20th-century immigrants from Africa. Obama would be a New American Black, as would the community of Nigerian immigrants in Kansas City. Colin Powell is Jamaican-American--his folks came in the Twenties or so. Condoleezza Rice and Clarence Thomas are Old American Blacks.

You could further divide Old American Blacks into the old-line Southern urban middle class and the working class, who were mostly farmers or laborers, or went North. Martin Luther King, for example, was middle-class.

Of course, no ethnic group is monolithic. I would divide people living in Catalonia into five groups, for example:

1) Old Catalans. Origins in rural or small-town Catalonia. Speak a regional dialect of Catalan. Have few family connections outside Catalonia. Older Old Catalans may speak Spanish imperfectly.

2) Assimilated Catalans. Origins in Murcia, Aragon, Balearics, Valencia. "Rascas un catalán y salen sus antepasados bailando jotas."--Ivà. Immigrated to industrial areas, especially Barcelona, in the early 20th century. Speak a more standard urban Catalan. Often have Castilian surnames. Tend to be the most Catalanist of the groups.

3) New Catalans. Origins in Andalusia, Extremadura, Galicia. Immigrated to Barcelona suburbs in 50s and 60s. Second generation has adopted Catalan; speaks with a Castilianized "xava" accent. Have Castilian surnames and Catalan first names. Consider themselves Catalans. (Some Old Catalans may not consider them to be fellow-Catalans.) There is a good deal of intermarriage between groups 1, 2, and 3.

4) Non-Catalans. Similar to New Catalans, but have not adopted Catalan and do not consider themselves Catalans. Have Spanish first names. Tend to be less educated and of lower social class than New Catalans. Frequently do not intermarry with previous three groups.

5) Immigrants. From Pakistan, Morocco, China, Senegal, Romania, etc. Arrived here within the last 10-15 years. Normally don't know any Catalan, and do not consider themselves Spanish, much less Catalan.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

News from here in Baja Occitania:

Head Cataloony Carod-Rovira babbled about how the Tripartite was going to promote the "social use" of Catalan. Seems they want to institute a policy of including "linguistic clauses" as part of the process of awarding public contracts, which seems discriminatory against companies from other parts of Spain and from the rest of Europe--and I thought we were part of the EU, where that sort of discrimination is outlawed. And get this--they want to extend this regional government policy to Catalan municipal governments as well. This is, by definition, unnecessary and even harmful government interference with both economic and individual rights.

According to Carod, "Catalan must be considered an unsubstitutable common heritage." The problem is, it isn't for more than half the people in Catalonia. At least three million are Spanish-speakers, and at least another half-million are immigrants, while 99% of native Catalan-speakers also speak Spanish with native fluency and accuracy. If all these people have any language in common, it's Spanish.

My position, as always, is that speaking Catalan is wonderful, but not necessary, if you live in Catalonia.

Meanwhile, TV3 reported that somebody did a study on second-language use in Europe, and discovered that while 79% of the Danes speak English, only 21% of Catalans and 18% of Spaniards do. And I guarantee you that those percentages are exaggerated in the Iberian cases. My guess is that around 10% of people under about 30 can get along OK in English and another 10% or so can speak it well enough to work in the tourist industry. Over about 35, it's very rare to meet someone who knows English.

Why? 1) Until recently you didn't need to know English if you lived in Spain, and most people still don't need to know it. So they don't need to learn it, and learning a language is hard work. 2) English is very badly taught in Spain, and the main reason is that most of the teachers don't know English. Hell, some translators don't know English. (I am currently rewriting a fifth-grade history text in English, to be used in Spanish schools, that somebody else very drastically failed to correctly translate.) 3) It's harder for Romance-speakers to learn English than it is for Germanic-speakers, because English is a Germanic language. Duh.

Oh, get this. Carod wants everyone in Catalonia to know Catalan, Spanish, English, and "a fourth language, which might be French." Yeah, right, most people in Catalonia can speak about a language and a quarter right now--that is, half-assed Spanish, half-assed Catalan, and "Don't Worry, Be Happy." (Note: Before anyone gets angry, I freely admit that most people in America speak half-assed English and nothing else. Four languages just seems excessive when folks don't even use their own very well.) And why French? Why not something useful like Japanese, Mandarin, or Arabic?

Immigration note: The PP claims that there are currently a million and a half illegal immigrants in Spain, and that 3000 persons are missing and probably dead at sea while trying to cross the Atlantic to the Canary Islands.

Other news: A Spanish court has reissued an arrest warrant for three US soldiers accused of murdering Jose Couso, a Spanish TV reporter, who was killed by gunfire from a tank in the battle for Baghdad. This is ridiculous. Some dope gets himself in a war zone and gets himself killed, so let's call the Americans murderers. I call on the US government and military to treat this warrant with the contempt it deserves.

Two local big stinks: The security guy who shot the Albanian robber whose gang was trying to break into his employers' house is still in jail without bail. I vote we give him a medal. And somebody murdered the mayor of the town of Fago in Huesca province, Aragon, filled him full of bullets, and nobody in town is talking. Very occasionally very weird things happen in little Spanish towns.
Europeans often criticize the United States over capital punishment. However, they ignore the use of the death penalty in such countries as India, Singapore, and Cuba. And Japan, where four men were hanged on Christmas Day 2006.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has an excellent piece on European anti-Americanism. Read it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tim Robbins showed up in Madrid to promote a movie, and of course ran his mouth to the press. According to La Vanguardia, in what seems like an extremely lousy translation, Robbins said,

"In the United States, we should be wondering, knowing everything the government is involved in, aren't they killing us, killing our souls? We know there is torture and we don't do anything."

Well, Tim, actually, we know they aren't torturing people simply because there are so many people watching what the Americans are doing with the nest of terrorists locked up at Guantanamo. And every time we do catch a unit gone bad torturing people, as at Abu Ghraib, those guilty are punished and their crimes are made public.

He added,

"Bush is not only my devil. I used to belong to a minority, but since November, when it was overwhelmingly voted to stop the war in Iraq, we are a majority. However, Bush's response is something like a commander who talks with God, with absolute disdain for what the American people is trying to tell him."

1) Bush is the devil? 2) The November election was rather close, if we're comparing Republicans and Democrats. 3) The November election was not a referendum on the Iraq war. 4) This wacky idea that people have around here that Bush is some kind of simple-minded fundamentalist who hallucinates that God speaks to him is not something the Spanish invented out of thin air, it's something our own illustrated and enlightened has been reiterating to them. Bush is a Methodist, for God's sake. There's nothing more middle-of-the-road and respectable than a Methodist.

Robbins added that he felt "used" because Madrid mayor Ruiz-Gallardon--whose government is subsidizing the progressive film festival at which Robbins's film is being shown to the tune of a million euros--showed up to shake his hand and get in the photos. Tim snitted, "I didn't come here to pose in photos with right-wing politicians." Seems to me Ruiz-Gallardon is the mayor and has the right, as the elected representative of the citizens, to show up at a film festival those citizens are paying for and shake hands with anyone he wants to.

What I don't understand is why Ruiz-Gallardon would want to shake hands with an asshole like Tim Robbins.
New developments from out here in the badlands west of the Besós:

El Pais is reporting that Fidel is in "very serious" condition with diverticulitis, which is apparently what that Spanish doctor, whose salary we all pay, went over to treat him for. He's reportedly had three operations.

El Pais didn't mention that Miguel Valdés Tamayo, one of the 75 Cuban dissidents jailed in 2003, died last Wednesday at age 50 in a Havana hospital after suffering two heart attacks. He was prohibited from leaving Cuba in order to seek medical treatment abroad. Valdés Tamayo, by the way, was an Afro-Cuban with hundreds of years of ancestral heritage in the country, while Castro is a second-generation immigrant middle-class white boy from Spain. Valdés Tamayo's father might have worked on Fidel's father's plantation.

I would say El Pais is likely to be a credible source on the Castro story, since it's the unofficial organ of the Spanish Socialist Party, which has good relations with the Castro government. If El Pais is reporting that El Comandante has taken a turn for the worse, it's likely true.

There was an article in La Vanguardia a few days ago which rather stridently said that the Cuban exiles should be excluded from having any voice in what happens to Cuba after Fidel. Dude, those people either are Cuban citizens or would be if not for Castro's dictatorship, so I don't quite see how they either should or can be kept out.

For some reason (probably leftist indoctrination in the schools and media), around here public opinion is very strongly against the Cuban exiles, especially among those living in Florida. They are portrayed as Fascist mafiosi, not just the few who are shady--and among any group of people, a few are going to be shady no matter what. It was claimed around here that the Cuban-Americans were responsible for Bush's victory in 2000, because most of them vote Republican, and Bush won Florida by only a few thousand votes. That's reductionism, of course; you could equally well make that argument about any group that tends Republican.

In Parliament, Zapatero and Rajoy had a big fight about what to do about ETA. Rajoy was very harsh, blasting Zap for negotiating with the terrorists, and he had a point. However, politically I'm not sure Rajoy's hard line is going to play well with the center, unless the Barajas bombing has moved the center toward the hard line. Rajoy's biggest weakness is that most non-PP voters see him, and especially the Zaplana-Acebes wing of the party, as mean and nasty. Zap's biggest weakness is that most non-PSOE voters see him as a weakling and a wimp.

Zap's appearance in Parliament didn't help anything. He seems bewildered. He thought he could trust ETA and they betrayed him, and now he doesn't know what to do. Rajoy nailed him to the wall, saying, "If you don't obey them, they'll commit bombings, and if there aren't any bombings, it's because you've given in." Zap wasn't able to point out the bad logic here--that is, he should have said that he now understands that ETA would commit bombings no matter who was prime minister, and that a lack of bombings might very well mean that state security has the terrorist gangsters up against the ropes. He didn't. Instead he demanded that Rajoy take back what he had said, and Rajoy of course refused.

Local big stink: They've been digging a tunnel along the route of the AVE, the high-speed train that is supposed to run from Madrid through Barcelona to the French border, in the suburbs directly southwest of the city. Poorly-constructed buildings in places like El Prat de Llobregat have begun to develop cracks. This is worrying, and shows an unfortunate lack of planning, since one of the first things they should have done is consider the effects of this massive construction project on its environment. Oh, well, maybe it'll turn into an excuse to tear down some crappy old buildings and put up some decent ones.

Monday, January 15, 2007

It's Martin Luther King Day in the US, so everybody's got a day off work. This 2005 post shows my ambivalence toward King, who (like Gandhi) I think is a bit overrated.
They hanged Saddam's half-brother and secret police boss. The noose ripped his head off.


UPDATE: In case you're wondering what this looks like, they hanged train robber Black Jack Ketchum in New Mexico in 1901 with similar unfortunate results.
There's been some controversy around here over the world's oldest mom. That's right, a 67-year-old woman gave birth a few days ago to twin boys in a Barcelona hospital after in vitro treatment in the United States. Local opinion is not particularly sympathetic, though there are some who say that what a woman chooses to do with her body is her business. I suppose my perspective is that the woman is within her rights, but I would not choose to do such a thing myself.

The other controversy, more political, is about these damn demonstrations that they've had here in Spain over the weekend in reaction to the Barajas bombing. I personally do not give a crap, since I scorn symbolic politics. Barcepundit and Publius Pundit have more on the story, so check them out; Barcepundit takes a well-deserved whack at the New York Times and Reuters, while Publius takes the demos more seriously than perhaps he should.

The Bad Rash takes a rather undeserved whack at the PP and the AVT, saying those groups are against peace because they boycotted the Socialist- and PNV-organized demos. No, what they're against is a compromise peace. The PP and AVT, and I agree with them, want a victorious peace and the defeat of ETA.

Finally, for a pro-ETA perspective, check out Eusko Blog. This guy is nuts. Here's a quote:

(Rodriguez Zapatero) thought he could bring ETA to the negotiating table while steping up the Spanish repression in Euskal Herria. And while Rodriguez was using the international forums to claim he was engaged in a peace process, all the while he was hammering down on one of the columns of peace, justice. Now, if only Rodríguez and his PSOE and Rajoy and his PP can get it through their thick heads that they need to stop their genocidal violence against the Basque people, maybe in the near future we can finally see justice served, which in turn will usher a new age of peace. Read that again, justice first, and then peace will take place as part of a natural process.

The author wrote this AFTER the Barajas bombing. This is the mindset we are dealing with around here. Probably 15% of the Basque people agree with this guy.

Friday, January 12, 2007

An Excuse to Link to Some Softcore Porn

I've been getting a lot of Google hits for "miss lepe." The story is that a PP city councilwoman in the city of Lepe has entered the Miss Lepe 2007 beauty pageant, and has posed for tasteful but rather revealing photographs. Here's the link to El Periodico's story, which includes one of the photos.

This is funny because a) of course the PP is the conservative party, and PP women don't normally go around posing nude for photographers and b) Lepe is the Spanish equivalent of our Polish jokes--that is, people from Lepe are supposed to be remarkably thick-witted. Just mentioning the word Lepe will normally get bad comedians a laugh out of their audience.

Well, actually, if you have to explain it then it isn't funny.

Here's a link to the other nude photos in the news around here: A woman from Galicia was in the news a few months ago when she was arrested at the Cancun airport. A few bullets were found in her suitcase, and apparently it all turned out to have been a mistake, but they kept her in jail for a few days there and it became a media cause celebre. Well, now she's posed topless for softcore trash mag Interviú, and there's some media controversy over whether the girl is a skank or not. I would say that she has a nice figure but not quite the face of a model, if you know what I mean.
Sad news in the world of bunnies. Robert, the German Giant rabbit pictured in this famous photo (scroll down just a little), has been sold to the North Koreans. I fear Robert's fate will be closely intertwined with a stewpot.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fox Sports is reporting that David Beckham will sign with the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS. Beckham is the most famous soccer player in the US, though he is of course nowhere near the best player in the world. The guy can still play, though; he's probably one of the world's top 50 players, and one of the top five free-kick specialists.

This is a good move. MLS needs to improve its quality; right now it doesn't even pay enough to keep American stars at home. Most of those guys are playing in England, Germany, or Holland. Beckham will give the league much-needed star power, and his arrival will encourage other top European players to spend their declining years in the US--if MLS can raise the salaries.

Right now the players belong to the league, not the "clubs," which are actually franchises, and there's a rigid salary structure that prevents anyone from earning more than around $200,000. The league recently passed what has become known as the "Beckham Rule," which would allow each franchise to sign one player without salary limits. I expect they will expand the number of exempt players and raise the salary structure in order to attract better players in the future.
Sometimes Spanish symbolic politics drives me up the wall. Every time there's some civic tragedy, they have a big demonstration in order to show they're against it, and the big demonstration is always big news, though it's just symbolic.

(Note: I think this Spanish particularity is the cause of a common misunderstanding among Spanish commentators. Pretty much the entire Spanish press has accused the Bush government of trying to cover up the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq, because there are no big public funerals and mass demonstrations in America if a local kid gets killed in combat. American funeral services are private affairs, and the press is not invited; also, we do not have big public demos on such occasions, as they do in Spain. This cultural difference causes some Spanish reporters to scream "Conspiracy! Coverup!" when there is, of course, nothing of the sort going on.)

So the story is that the Basque PNV government has called a big demo for tomorrow "for peace and dialogue" in the wake of the Barajas bombing that killed two men. Batasuna, ETA's political stooges, has announced that it will join in the demo, which is a first, since Batasuna has never been publicly critical of ETA before. However, I wouldn't march in any demo that Batasuna was marching in. Meanwhile, the Basque Socialist Party has announced that it is boycotting the demo because it does not explicitly condemn ETA.

Symbolic politics. Who gives a crap? Lock the bastards up and throw away the key. Crush ETA while we have the chance. Dialogue, my ass; looks like at least some of the Socialists have learned that you can't negotiate with terrorists, you have to kill them before they kill you.
You'll want to read this article, from the Guardian, of all places, on French complicity in the Rwanda genocide of 1994. The author charges that France was so obsessed with the grandeur of la Francophonie and its own status as central African hegemon that it aided and armed the pro-French Hutu government while the killings were happening.

One caveat here: You may know that Iberian Notes is pretty sensitive to anti-Americanism, and the standard I use to define it is: Does the speaker or writer show bias against the whole society or just opposition to some American government policy? Does he who judges the US show balance by pointing out the good as well as the bad, or does he portray everything as bad because it's American and so it must be?

Well, while reading this, my anti-American sensors went off, except this time what I detected was anti-Frenchness. The writer of this article clearly doesn't believe that France ever does anything right.

However, if what he reports is even half true, French conduct in Rwanda was despicable.

Key paragraph:

As the French left, years of anger among Rwanda's Tutsis spilled out over the price they believe they have paid for Paris's unique view of its place in post-colonial Africa - a role critics say is shaped by an obsession with the influence of its language and culture that led Paris to support a murderous regime because its opponents spoke English. France went on backing the killers even as the bodies piled up in the streets, churches and football stadiums. "France wants to blame us, the ones whose families were murdered, the ones who put a stop to the murderers; they want to blame us for the genocide because they cannot face their own guilt," says Rwanda's foreign minister, Charles Murigande. "The French armed the killers and they trained them even when they were saying they were going to kill the Tutsis, and France supported the genocide regime right up until the end, even helping the killers to escape." Why? "Because they have this obsession with Anglo-Saxons."
This paragraph from Wikipedia's biography of Real Madrid's Brazilian footballer Emerson can't possibly be true.

When Emerson was a child he learned at an early age that he was gay, however, he didn't come out of the closet till he was 18 and playing proffesional soccer. After this not many teams wanted to sign him because of his sexual orientation. Though none of the owners stated this.

I Googled it and got nothing, leading me to believe that it's false. Also, if such a prominent player had come out of the closet, I'd probably have heard about it by now.

If it is true, though, that's just one more act in Madrid's three-ring circus. Supposedly Madrid's GM, Pedja Mijatovic, told the Italian media that Beckham's contract would not be renewed next year. The US media has been reporting for months that Beckham is on his way to MLS.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo and Robinho are in the doghouse for going out and getting drunk last week and showing up for practice hung over two days in a row.

Coach Fabio Capello told the Spanish media yesterday that, basically, his team sucks and he doesn't know why, except that a lot of the players don't seem to give a crap. He declared, though, that he wouldn't resign.

The Spanish press is reporting that Beckham, Ronaldo, Cassano, and Salgado are on their way out at Real. That's not enough. They also need to get rid of Roberto Carlos, Cannavaro, Helguera, Raul, Guti, Diarra, and Emerson. This team needs to be broken up, like Barcelona broke up Van Gaal's team in 2002-03, and then regroup.

The following are young players with promise who I would keep: Robinho, Marcelo, Ramos, Reyes, Gago, Higuain, Diogo (now on loan to Zaragoza), and of course Casillas. In addition, they have four fairly young defenders from the youth squad, Bravo, Pavon, Miñambres, and Mejia. Among these four guys, a couple at least ought to be able to play reasonable center-defense. I'd also keep the veteran striker Van Nistelrooy, since he's new, not contaminated by the bad attitude of the other veteran players, is doing OK this year, and should still have a decent year or two left in him.

Meanwhile, Barcelona does not look great, though they hold second place with one fewer game than league leader Sevilla. They've been moving the ball slowly and not taking advantage of opportunities to score. They have been hurt by injuries, especially to Eto'o and Messi, and when these two come back in February or so, Barça will get a lot better quick. One thing to remember, of course, is that if you're going to have a bit of a cold streak (two consecutive League draws), January is a good time to have it. You need your best players to step up for the stretch run in April or May, not in January.

Of this year's signings, only Gudjohnsen has been good. He's not Eto'o, and he knows it, but he is a competent player and has done exactly what they asked him to. Zambrotta has been OK, not awful, but not an upgrade over Belletti and Oleguer either, which is what they did ask him to be, and Thuram has not been good. I suspect he's over the hill and needs to play somewhere else next year.

You Americans who don't have a soccer team to follow might adopt Sevilla; they're young and hungry, and they've been playing very well this year. They've got several very good players like Kanouté, Luis Fabiano, Alves, and Navas, who are worth watching. They're the underdog, the little guys, in comparison with behemoths Barça and Madrid; also, they put a lot of emphasis on their youth squad and so a lot of their players are homegrown, guys who actually believe in the team.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

History buffs will be glad to know that Time magazine has opened up its archives going all the way back to 1923. There is lots of fascinating stuff here. In many cases, the articles tell you more about American society at the time than about the subject. You could just browse around in here for hours.

I searched for "spain," just to see what would turn up, and this is some of what did:

A 1962 article on Spain after Franco.

A 1966 article on Spain's modernization.

1975: Franco dies.

1992: Before the Olympics.

1946: Spain after World War II.

1982: Felipe gets elected.

1931: The Republic takes over.

1936: One month into the Civil War.

1977: Spain's first election.

Fascinating stuff, full of useful information.
Yesterday we linked to a Pave France post on a new book by Frederic Martel called On Culture in America. La Vanguardia made the book its main story in the Culture section last Saturday, and in a tone of some surprise, reported that the American "cultural model" has its virtues.

According to La Vangua: "The United States is not only a dominant cultural power because of its imperialism, but 'because, with its immense minorities, it has become the world in miniature'." Well, I question whether American cultural imperialism even exists, but that's fair enough.

The article adds that among Martel's points are a) US government spending at all levels on culture oscillates between $25 and 50 billion dollars a year, more per capita than France b) private donations to culture add up to $13.5 billion a year, four times the French culture ministry's budget c) The US has 4000 universities, 700 museums, 2300 performing arts centers, 110 publishing companies, and 3500 libraries d) some universities, like Harvard, have tons of money--Harvard's endowment is $26 billion e) the US has seven times as many libraries per capita as France.

Quotes from Martel: "A continuity exists between the cultural activities of the universities, the non-profit institutions, and the commercial sector," the result of "fierce competition in the non-profit sector." He adds, "The powerful European culture ministries, which so often distribute subsidies arbitrarily, opposes the American policy of massive tax exemptions, which empowers those actually in the field."

Martel criticizes high prices (true for top-line performances, but every city with a university has theater and music with some standards at accessible prices), puritanical donors (that's not much of a problem; if donor X won't give you money for peeing on a statue of the Virgin Mary, donor Y probably will just to look avant-garde), and the growing "mercantilization" of charitable foundations and nonprofits, which he is spot on about. From what I have seen, there are a lot of mediocre careerists in the nonprofit foundation bureaucracy.

My only question for the writer of the article, Oscar Caballero, who is generally more than fair to US society, is why he's so surprised at the flourishing of the cultural industry in the United States.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

People interested in the Spanish Civil War will want to read this American Heritage article from 1969 on the Lincoln Battalion.
Blog roundup:

All you need to know about Hugo Chavez and Venezuela is at Publius Pundit. Check out the links.

¡No Pasarán! pokes a hole in French hypocrisy.

The EU Serf is pessimistic on reform.

Angie Schultz meditates on the infamous "plastic turkey."

Pave France comments on a new book about American culture in France; we'll post later on how La Vanguardia dealt with this subject.

Davids Medienkritik castigates a Yank-bashing German politician; here's the follow-up post.

Finally, check out this bit of Catalan nationalist dogma; it's a rather partial history of FC Barcelona and its Cataloony connections.
News from around here: ETA issued an official communiqué this morning claiming that their "permanent cease-fire" is still in effect. Yeah, right, what happened at Barajas?

Batasuna did publicly criticize the Barajas bomb, which I believe is a first, and this adds weight to the thesis that there are two factions among ETA and its supporters, the soft-liners and the hard-liners. Both groups are still demanding an independent Basque country, the annexation of Navarra, an amnesty for jailed ETA terrorists, and other such absolutely unacceptable things; the difference is that the soft-liners are now against using violence because they're hoping not to spend the rest of their lives in jail when they get caught.

Speaking of caught, the French cops busted two members of the ETA cell that abandoned large quantities of explosives and bomb-making materials a few days ago in a rural area of Vizcaya. One of them was Asier Larraniga, the guy that they had identified and were trying to hunt down.

Zap and Rajoy had a meeting. Nothing happened. Zap's reaction to the bombing has not been good; he's been repeating the same platitudes about negotiations and peace that he was repeating before. Other top Socialists, like Rubalcaba and Blanco, have sounded much more realistic and responsible.

TV3 is running this crazy conspiracy theory, which you know they got from the Quai d'Orsay, claiming that the Americans hit the Al Qaeda base in Somalia for geostrategic reasons since they want to increase their influence in Africa and control the exit to the Red Sea. Europeans are full of geostrategy, probably left over from their mercantilistic pre-capitalist economic ideas.

See, they haven't figured out that free trade makes it unnecessary to have political control over areas that don't belong to you. That is, in the bad old colonial days, Belgium had a monopoly over the mineral riches of the Congo, and nobody else could buy any of the minerals unless Belgium said it was okay. Now, with the elimination of trade barriers, those minerals are available to the highest bidder. You don't have to occupy the Congo to buy those minerals. You would have to do so if you wanted to STEAL the minerals--grab them without having to pay--but that's terribly inefficient, costly in lives and treasure, and wrong anyway.

This is why the United States and Great Britain did not go into Iraq to grab the oil. The oil is available on the world market at the market price, and there was no need to steal it when we could just buy it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Aaron Hanscom has a piece up on Pajamas Media called "The Islamification of Europe's Cathedrals," in the wake of Muslim requests/demands that Islamic services be held at Cordoba Cathedral, which was formerly a mosque. (If you've never been there, it's well worth a visit.)

Check it out. I think the article is a little bit alarmist, but you be the judge.
A&L Daily links to this review of a book called "American Fascists" by a guy named Chris Hedges. You'll have no problem guessing who the so-called Americanazis are, but in case you needed a hint, he's not referring to the Osama fans out there.

Check out this bit:

Hedges concludes the United States today faces an internal threat analogous to that posed by the Nazis in Weimar Germany.

There are problems with this analogy. First, democracy in America is much stronger than it was in Weimar Germany in 1933. Nor is the Christian right as widespread or powerful as Hedges suggests. Among conservative Christians who are working class or lower class, "a dramatic majority" voted for Bill Clinton for president — that's the finding of sociologists Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout in their recent book "The Truth About Conservative Christians." A 2004 survey for "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly" on PBS found that a majority of evangelicals have an unfavorable view of Falwell and that a significant minority of them are more concerned about jobs and the economy than about abortion and gay marriage.

And it isn't as if conservative Christians are the only obstacle to gay marriage: Yes, 85% of white evangelicals oppose gay marriage, but in the general population the figure is 61%. In fact, the differences between today's Christian right and the movements led by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini are greater than the similarities. Hitler was more pagan than Christian. Street violence was a key tactic of Mussolini's Brownshirts; the Christian right has focused on nonviolent demonstrations outside U.S. abortion clinics and on changing laws at the ballot box. And there's a big difference between supporting laws against gay marriage and putting gays in concentration camps.

Nevertheless, Hedges concludes that the Christian right "should no longer be tolerated," because it "would destroy the tolerance that makes an open society possible." What does he think should be done? He endorses the view that "any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law," and therefore we should treat "incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal." Thus he rejects the 1st Amendment protections for freedom of speech and religion, and court rulings that permit prosecution for speech only if there is an imminent threat to particular individuals.

Ironically, Mr. Hedges's disdain for the rights of freedom of thought, expression, and religion, and his totalitarian streak that makes him want to ban speech he disapproves of and punish those who do not conform make him much more similar to the real Fascists than the American Christian conservatives are.

Now get this. Mr. Hedges is a reporter for the New York Times. How can he claim to be an unbiased reporter when he thinks that more than a quarter of his fellow citizens are Fascists? Has his newspaper no judgment at all in who it hires?

Naturally, of course, both he and his editors would scream bloody murder if anybody tried to interfere with their own precious rights.

Note: This is how a lot of anti-American crap gets over here to Europe. Our own left wing thinks it up, and the Europeans just parrot what they hear from renegade Americans.
Check out this girly-man slap-fight between Diogo and Luis Fabiano in yesterday's Zaragoza-Sevilla game.
I think I set a record in last week's Spanish First Division soccer picks. I went 0-for-10. Got every single one of them wrong. That leaves me at .000 for the week and .000 for the year.

Here's next week's picks; I can't possibly do worse.

Espanyol-Barça 2
Nastic-Getafe X
Celta-At. Madrid X
Osasuna-Betis 1
Racing-Real Sociedad 1
Valencia-Levante 1
Sevilla-Mallorca 1
Recreativo-Deportivo 1
Athletic Bilbao-Villarreal X
I got a Google hit for something like "spain three kings blackface offensive." Yep, it is true that traditionally in Spain, one of the Three Kings paints his face black.

The story is that every city has a parade on Three Kings Eve, Jan. 5, when the Three Kings (the Wise Men from the Bible), all dressed up in flowing robes, ride through the streets on their way to bring presents to all the good little boys and girls and caca i carbó (poop and coal) to the bad ones. (Now, the poop and coal are meringue candy with brown or black food coloring.) In Spanish tradition, one of the Three Kings is blond and wears a blond wig and beard, and one of them is black. Since black people in Spain were extremely rare until about five years ago, and are still rare in a lot of places, they usually get a white guy to black up in order to be the black King--I think Baltasar is his name. The other two are Melchor and Gaspar. As far as I know, here in Barcelona they get a real black man to play Baltasar, but in smaller places they paint someone's face.

Come on, people, this isn't offensive. They're not making fun of black people here; they just need someone to dress up as a black Wise Man. Remember, the character of Baltasar is a good guy, one of the wise Kings of Orient who brings pressies to the kids. He doesn't do a minstrel-show Stepin Fetchit act, he throws candy to the kids lining the streets and waves at them.
People interested in language ought to look at this report from the American Dialect Society. I like the verb "to pluto," and plan to use it on every occasion. I hate "truthiness," though. Just awful.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Check out this paranoid crap from the Guardian. The headline should read, "Britons Who Choose to Visit the United States to Be Scanned for National Security Reasons." See, if you stay in Britain, none of this will happen to you!

Get this: Britons already have their credit card details and email accounts inspected by the American authorities following a deal between the EU and the Department of Homeland Security.

1. Only if they choose to visit the United States! 2. My understanding is that such transactions are merely monitored--that is, Homeland Security can easily find out if you sent an e-mail to Osama, or sent cash through your Visa card to Hamas, but they can't inspect the contents without a court order, just as they always could monitor your mail, but not open it without a judge's permission.

Look, people, if you choose to go visit another country you have to obey their laws. When I applied for Spanish residency, they fingerprinted me, and I had to have a medical checkup, which the government knows the results of. What's the problem? I have to carry my ID card at all times here. So what's the big deal? I have to inform the government every time I change address. Who cares? I'm not allowed to work for the civil service (which includes teaching in the public schools) because I'm not a Spanish citizen. I'm not complaining. These are the Spanish government's policies, and if I don't like it I can leave.

Friday, January 05, 2007

News update: The cops found sixty more kilos of explosives in the Basque Country all ready to be used, the third important find in two days. They're looking for a four-person ETA cell in that area, probably traveling together; the only one identified so far is one Asier Larrañaga. They searched a couple of apartments in Bilbao, but didn't find much.

The bomb scare at the Bilbao airport, fortunately, was just a scare.

They found the body of the second man killed in the airport bombing under tons of rubble this afternoon. He was an Ecuadorian immigrant who'd been sending $300 a month to his family back home; the TV crews went to his hometown to get his family's reaction. Those people are poor. Way to go, ETA.

Socialist party head honcho hack Jose Blanco admitted that the Zap administration had been a bit naive regarding its dealings with ETA, and promised they wouldn't do it again.

In case you were interested, TV3 made a big deal out of Keith Ellison's being sworn into the House of Representatives on a Koran; they let him use one from the National Archives that belonged to Thomas Jefferson. They emphasized that Ellison had been criticized for being "un-American." I think they erred in their emphasis, since it was one idiot Congressman who said that, and everyone else told him to shut up.
La Liga Loca has its predictions for next weekend up; it's back in business after the long Spanish winter break in league play.

Our picks:

Atletico Madrid-Nastic 1
Real Sociedad-Osasuna X
Zaragoza-Sevilla 2
Getafe-Barça 2
Betis-Celta X
Levante-Racing X
Mallorca-Athletic Bilbao 1
Espanyol-Recreativo X
Deportivo-Real Madrid 2
Villarreal-Valencia X
National Public Radio ran a debate the other day on Hollywood and anti-Americanism, and they've got it up on their website, so you can listen to the whole thing. Check it out. I haven't listened to it yet, because it's an hour and a half, but there are plenty of ideas here.
Arts and Letters Daily links to this piece from Commentary on the Robert Redeker affair, anti-Semitism, and just plain bad judgement in France. Check it out. Two key paragraphs:

The effect of these views on the wider political discussion in France is profound. The present generation of Orientalists is omnipresent in the French media, unavoidable on radio and television. They assure the country that the progressive Islamization of European suburbs, plain for all to see, poses no danger. They suggest that the problem with Israel is its very existence. They inspire the open sympathy with Hamas, Hizballah, and Iran that can be found in newspapers like Le Monde and Libération. And they encourage the use of the term “Islamophobia” (a coinage of Iranian clerics) in order to delegitimize all those who might be tempted to disagree with them—individuals like Redeker.

I am neither an Orientalist nor any kind of expert on the issue of Islamism. But I have spent years in the Middle East, as well as in other Muslim countries, and I know that the situation in the Islamic world corresponds very little to the wishful thinking of so many French scholars, journalists, and political leaders. A quick look at a world map—from Chechnya to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Kashmir, southern Thailand, and the southern Philippines—reveals that the planet’s most devastating wars are now of the jihadist type. All are fueled by Islamism.