Wednesday, February 28, 2007

All right, I've had enough. I love sports. I'm a big sports fan. I've been to see three Barça games this season and had a good time, and I'm happy to pay what it costs to see a game as a special treat every now and then. In Kansas City, I'm always ready to go to a Royals game, and I'd certainly go to a Chiefs game if tickets were available, which they're not. I'm always in for KU (University of Kansas) football, too, and would be in for basketball if I could get tickets, which I can't.

Well, you know, this season things have gotten a bit ugly here in Europe, as usual. Earlier this season a black French cop shot dead a rioter who was part of a lynch mob that was trying to kill him and a Jewish fan at a Paris Saint-Germain game. Then a police officer was killed in rioting between the Catania and Palermo hooligan gangs in Italy a couple of weeks ago, blown up by a homemade explosive.

Tonight I turned on the TV at 9:30 for the second leg of the Zaragoza-Barcelona tie in the quarterfinals of the Spanish Copa del Rey, the national Cup. Zaragoza led Barça 1-0 going into this match after a very strong game in the first leg; they proved they were a tough team that knew how to stay organized. They're in sixth place in the League out of 20 teams, which is proof that they're well above average. The match should be exciting, right?

Well, it was. Barça beat Zaragoza 1-2 to advance to the semifinals, on goals by two of my favorite players, Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta, Barça's homegrown midfield geniuses. The game got a little rough, one of the Zaragoza players got red-carded, but hell, you can be a good sport and get a bit rough as long as everyone shakes hands afterward, right?

Unfortunately, tonight at the Betis-Sevilla tie, held at Betis's Ruiz de Lopera stadium, somebody threw a bottle out of the stands and cold-cocked Sevilla coach Juande Ramos, a well-known and respected man in Spanish football. Ramos was knocked unconscious. The match was immediately suspended, of course.

Mr. Ramos is OK, fortunately.

This is too much. I know we fans say this all the time, that we are sick of these violent scumbags mixing in with us, but maybe it is time for the clubs to kick the violent scumbag supporters' hooligan squads, like the Boixos Nois, out of the stadiums.

Maybe FC Barcelona, since we're all peace and love and understanding and contribute to Unicef and all, should be the very first club to kick the hooligan squad out. Ban the Boixos Nois from the stadium. Then let's see if the other clubs follow our example.

I'm less interested in football than I was earlier today. I don't know if I can explain it, but you know, it just doesn't seem worth it if people are getting hurt.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Fausta has a link to our podcast and her comments on it, so check it out if you haven't already. I thought it went very well; the only thing I didn't get a chance to mention was the humanitarian tragedy of the boat people, probably several thousand in 2006, who die at sea while trying to reach the Canary Islands from Africa. I'm not blaming Spain for this; Spain's coast guard and navy do what they can to pick up these folks, but they can't save them all. It's the whole world's problem, not just ours.

I don't get it. El Periódico devoted its first eight pages to the Academy Awards today, and La Vanguardia published a special sixteen-page insert. I thought we all agreed that Hollywood was shallow Yankee capitalist opiate for the people.

My personal comment on both the Academy Awards and the Grammys: It's quite obvious that prizes are being awarded--for instance, to Al Gore, Melissa Etheridge, Jimmy Carter, and the Dixie Chicks--as a reward for the politics of the recipient. This, of course, devalues the things even more, since they are just PR ceremonies held to garner media attention anyway.

The Basque Nationalists (PNV) and Communists (IU) are demanding that mass-murdering terrorist Iñaki de Juana Chaos be released from prison. Shows you something about where they stand on the issue of antiterrorism, I think.

Day 6 of the March 11 trial: The brains behind the plot, Rabei Osman "the Egyptian", along with four small fry, Bouharat, Slimane, and the Moussaten brothers testified, and denied all responsibility. Mohamed Moussaten claimed that he had confessed previously because he had been tortured. Note to those who believe everything they hear out of Guantanamo Bay: Torture claims are just as bogus there as they are here.

Esquerra Republicana has a proposal that I actually agree with. They want to prohibit killing the bull in bullfighting, along with the pìcadores and the banderilleros; that is, do it Portuguese style. Come on, people, that ought to be good enough, watching the torero do his passes and show his courage as he faces the bull. In fact, it takes a lot more guts to stand in front of a bull who hasn't already been stuck full of holes, I think. I don't want to completely ban bullfighting, I understand that it is an integral part of Spanish culture, but we don't have to kill the bull to have bullfights.

Twelve domestic murders so far this year in Spain. Two yesterday. A strangulation in Pontevedra and a burning alive in Badalona, a suburb of Barcelona.

La Vanguardia reports that when the commuter trains snarl up, as they have been doing repeatedly so far in 2007, more people drive to work and Barcelona city traffic goes straight to hell. There is some sort of grassroots mass movement going on, with people boarding trains without paying for tickets in protest against lousy train service.

Remei and I went to the Barcelona-Athletic Bilbao game on Sunday night, and a good time was had by all since Barça won 3-o. Everyone played well, Ronaldinho was back in form, and Eto'o started the game and scored an excellent goal on a pass from R. Barcelona opened up a two-point lead on Sevilla, and extended its lead on Real Madrid and Valencia as well. The next test is Zaragoza in the Copa del Rey; Barça will have to beat Zaragoza by two in order to make the quarterfinals. Remei had never been to a game at the Camp Nou before, and she was very impressed by the show.

Check out this article by Lang Whitaker in Sports Illustrated comparing FC Barcelona to the New York Yankees.

Quote: This morning, Barcelona remains in first place, after a 3-0 win Sunday night, capped by typically sparkling play from Ronaldinho and a goal from Eto'o in his return to the starting lineup. The Yankees will soon return to the diamond to battle the Red Sox. Gallons of ink will be used on both teams, trying to explain why we should care about either of them. The words within the stories will not matter that much, as it will be a combination of bold letters and color photos on the back page that will move product.

And whether it's in Spanish or English, it's the commerce that matters, after all.

Monday, February 26, 2007

In just a few minutes Fausta is going to interview Jose Guardia of Barcepundit and yours truly; we're going to do a podcast on what's going on in Spain, especially the March 11 trial, and you'll get a chance to call in! We start at 6 PM Barcelona time, which would be 5 London time and 12 noon New York time, so don't miss it. Of course, it will be archived, so you'll be able to listen to it any time you want even if you can't tune in live.

The Wall Street Journal has two must-read pieces up. One is by Bret Stephens; he explains several important differences between Anglo-American common law and Continental European civil law, focusing on the role of the investigating magistrate, a position that does not exist in the Anglo-American system. Juan del Olmo was the Spanish investigating magistrate in the March 11 bombing, and Baltasar Garzón is Spain's most famous investigating magistrate. Spanish law is almost exactly the same as French; Stephens's article focuses on a French magistrate named Jean-Louis Bruguiere.

Quote: Consider the powers granted to Mr. Bruguiere and his colleagues. Warrantless wiretaps? Not a problem under French law, as long as the Interior Ministry approves. Court-issued search warrants based on probable cause? Not needed to conduct a search. Hearsay evidence? Admissible in court. Habeas corpus? Suspects can be held and questioned by authorities for up to 96 hours without judicial supervision or the notification of third parties. Profiling? French officials commonly boast of having a "spy in every mosque." A wall of separation between intelligence and law enforcement agencies? France's domestic and foreign intelligence bureaus work hand-in-glove. Bail? Authorities can detain suspects in "investigative" detentions for up to a year. Mr. Bruguiere once held 138 suspects on terrorism-related charges. The courts eventually cleared 51 of the suspects--some of whom had spent four years in preventive detention--at their 1998 trial.

In the U.S., Mr. Bruguiere's activities would amount to one long and tangled violation of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution.

Nick Cohen, meanwhile, accuses the British left of allying with reactionary Islamism; since the enemy of the enemy is my friend, the left and the Islamists have formed a strange partnership against the Western civilization both despise so much.

Over at Front Page, Aaron Hanscom reports on the March 11 trial. Definitely check this one out.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Everybody in Barcelona is talking about a completely senseless murder that happened yesterday. Some guy, who is apparently a mental patient / homeless bum / drug addict, pushed another man onto the subway tracks at Navas station on the red line, and the train ran over him. They have no idea why; the two did not know one another. Other passengers chased the murderer down and held him on the ground until the cops showed up.

The other thing everyone's talking about is the awful Barcelona commuter train system; there was another massive delay yesterday on two of the suburban train lines. That makes about twelve major screwups on the Renfe commuter trains this year so far. This time a bunch of passengers got pissed off and blocked the train tracks at Martorell, thereby holding things up even more, of course. That's what happens when the government runs the trains or any other industry that should be in private hands.

In Italy, Romano Prodi and his lefties have cut a deal with the Christian Democrats to form a new government. The price: Italian troops stay in Afghanistan. The lefty bill granting rights and privileges to unmarried couples (homo and hetero) gets shot down. The high-speed train from Turin to Lyon will be built. There will be more unspecified economic liberalization. According to La Vanguardia, the Church is the big winner. I will never understand Italian politics.

Headline in La Vanguardia: "US soldier, rapist and murderer in Iraq, may go free in ten years." The story, of course, is that five American soldiers raped and murdered an Iraqi girl in March 2006. Now, of course, whenever you get 135,000 men in one place, a few are going to be bad eggs; the US army hanged some 25 US soldiers in England during World War II for murder or rape, for example.

I think the real story is that justice is being done publicly and swiftly. The soldier who was court-martialed and convicted was sentenced to 100 years in prison; he will be eligible for parole in ten years. This particular rapist talked; he testified against the other four soldiers involved, and got more lenient treatment. A second rapist has been court-martialed and sentenced to ninety years. Rapists three and four are awaiting their court martials, and rapist number five, who was also the shooter, will be tried before a US civilian court in Kentucky and may well get the death penalty.

The ironic part here is, of course, the fact that in Spain nobody serves more than thirty years in prison, by law, no matter how many people he kills. And La Vangua is scandalized that this US rapist may get out in ten, which I doubt will happen. They call this rape-murder "one of the most atrocious episodes of the Iraq war." Atrocious it most certainly is, but it rather pales in comparison with the terrorist bombings that kill dozens of people in Baghdad markets every week.

The right--the PP and AVT--is holding yet another demo in Madrid today, supposedly to protest against the reduction of the prison sentence of ETA terrorist Iñaki De Juana Chaos. More symbolic politics that won't do a damn bit of good. Street demos are supposed to be the province of infantile populists on the left, not of serious political organizations that have a real plan to govern the country.

Get this. Families of convicted ETA prisoners get government subsidies in order to go visit the prisoners in jail. Socialist deputy Jesús Loza said, "We are not the only ones who suffer. The (imprisoned) murderers and their mothers suffer, too." Tears are dripping down my cheeks as I type.

TV newsreader Ramon Pellicer will be the new host of the TV3 evening news. Quote: "I would love to report the story of (socialist) Segolene Royal's victory in the French election." Yep, TV3 news is sure neutral and objective. There's a letter to the editor today pointing out that of the 60 minutes devoted to each TV3 newscast, more than 20 go to sports, and most of that to the Barça.

Censorship on Spanish TV, and this after years of bashing Americans for our nonexistent censorship! State-owned TV1 did an interview with loudmouth sports journalist José María García, who criticized a bunch of famous people, from ex-Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez to PP leader Mariano Rajoy to Socialist Interior minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. They then refused to air the whole interview, since García allegedly "insulted people"; they cut out all the interesting parts and reduced it from two hours to 45 minutes. It's not like Spanish TV doesn't insult people all the time anyway, especially on those cheesy celebrity trash shows where they call each other prostitutes and drug addicts all the time.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Go watch this video called "A World Without America" by 18 Doughty Street. Brilliant. It's currently Number One on YouTube.

Denis Boyles at National Review compares European anti-Americans with the US Democratic party, a comparison we have made here several times. He links to our friends at Eursoc and their take on the fall of the Prodi government in Italy. Eursoc, by the way, has a very nice-looking redesign.

Also at National Review, Clifford May attacks the anti-American spin of nearly all European reporting on Iraq.

Theodore Dalrymple at City Journal takes apart the British nanny state.

Don't miss this wonderful cat video.

Old Marxist Eric Hobsbawm spews misinformation on the Spanish Civil War in the Guardian. Quote: "The wrong side won." No, no, Mr. Hobsbawm, both sides were undemocratic ideology-crazed brutal killers. Your side was even worse than Franco's here in Catalonia, where the Republicans in three years outmurdered the Francoists in forty, and that's not counting the number of anarchists shot by the Communists and vice versa in Catalonia's own little inter-Left civil war. The only thing Hobsbawm says that is true is that the Left won the propaganda war--hell, the Left is still fighting the propaganda war, as the mere existence of Hobsbawm's article demonstrates.

Daniel Johnson in the Weekly Standard blames Europe's weak-willed wobbling on Iran's nuclear program on European scorn for Israel.

Mark Steyn has no respect for America's allies in name only.
You will want to read this article by Edward Jay Epstein in the Wall Street Journal on Spanish investigating magistrate Baltasar Garzón and the Spanish connection to the September 11, 2001 bombings.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The big news today is that a female Spanish soldier, Idoia Rodríguez, was killed yesterday by a mine in Afghanistan. Two other soldiers were injured, not seriously. Private Rodríguez is the first Spanish woman soldier to be killed in action. We appreciate and are grateful for the sacrifice that the Spanish troops in Afghanistan are making and that the Spanish troops in Iraq made before Zap pulled them out. 82 Spanish troops have died in Afghanistan, most of them (62) in the May 2003 crash of a plane taking a group of them back home.

Here in Spain there isn't much talk about supporting the troops; I think a great many Spaniards, especially on the left, are rather scornful and disdainful of the military. It's not hard to understand why: the army was one of the foundations of the Franco regime. However, like the police, the Spanish army has changed a great deal in 30 years. These guys aren't oppressors or imperialists; they're used almost exclusively on peacekeeping missions. Scorning the military today shows a lack of ability to adjust to the present.

Romano Prodi's leftist government in Italy fell yesterday when the Communists (part of his coalition) abstained during a vote on the Italian mission in Afghanistan. I have no idea what's going to happen next. Italian politics make no sense whatsoever to me. The guess around here is that Prodi will try to form a new government, probably with a broader coalition and therefore weaker.

France's very own semi-Fascist, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who finished second in the last French presidential election, called the 9/11 bombings in New York "an incident," and added that the 3000 people who died that day "is what happens in a month in Iraq, and much less than in the bombings of Marseilles and Dresden during the Second World War." Of course, Le Pen would have preferred a Nazi victory. Certain elements in France are still complaining about the civilians who got killed in the fighting in Normandy in 1944. They can all kiss my ass.

The 3/11 trial continues. One of the infrastructure guys, Rachid Aglif, testified yesterday that he had cut the deal to trade several kilos of hashish for the dynamite used in the bombings at the McDonald's in Madrid suburb Carabanchel. He was very persnickety in his insistence that he didn't actually eat there. Four more of the infrastructure guys also testified, and confessed their involvement while trying to downplay it. They are all Moroccan small fry, more small-time criminals than Islamist ideologues.

We're number one! Gràcia leads all Barcelona neighborhoods in the number of squats we have, 53 out of the city's total of 293. In the first month and a half of 2007, the cops closed down 30 of them. Great work, guys.

Corporativism at work: The Barcelona bakers' guild is complaining that some places that sell bread are not part of the guild. There are serious restrictions in Spain on who can sell what; you can't just open up a store and sell pharmaceuticals, newspapers, lottery tickets, or cigarettes, because the number of points of sale is limited. If I want to open a newsstand--well, I can't. I have to buy a license from somebody who's already got one. Or if I've just graduated from pharmacy school and want to run my own pharmacy--same thing. And then Europeans wonder why their economic growth rates are slow compared to the US.

La Vanguardia interviews a local economist who says that Spaniards are the third slowest country in Europe in paying off their debts. He says many small businesses in Spain go under because their clients never pay them, and claims that only 23% of such debts go to court, where fewer than half of those are resolved, and only 35% of the money owed in the cases resolved is ever paid back. In the construction industry, clients take an average of 225 days to pay their bills. An industry that exists in Spain, and nowhere else I have ever seen, is costumed debt collectors. That is, if some guy owes you money and doesn't pay, you hire one of these companies and they send someone dressed up as a bullfighter or a bagpipe player to follow the debtor around wherever he goes and embarrass him in public. Quotation: "You can't expect judicial security in a country where those who govern are anti-system."

Get this. Since November 2005, one José María Vera Arjona has been arrested 55 times in Barcelona city alone for robbery, mugging, pickpocketing, etc. Vera Arjona just passes through the turnstile: he robs someone, they arrest him, throw him in jail, and then turn him loose. He leads the list of the top ten arrestees in the city. Seven of them are Bosnian women who have been arrested between 26 and 45 times each during that period. They operate exclusively on the tourist bus, the Bus Túristic, and rob only tourists.

The city of Barcelona has a major problem with crimes against tourists, as we have said many times, and it is extremely irresponsible in not warning all visitors explicitly upon arrival of the dangers they face. You are more likely to be pickpocketed or snatch-and-grabbed as a tourist in Barcelona than not.

The only significant police operations against those criminals who prey on tourists have been one in which the cops managed to jail five Romanian gypsy parents who trained their kids to steal, and another in which they arrested 15 members of a gang who slit car tires in order to rob the car occupants when they pulled over due to the flat. Half of this bunch is still in jail, but the other half is walking the streets.
Podcast update: Fausta will be doing a podcast, an interview with me and Jose from Barcepundit, next Monday at noon Barcelona time / 6 PM New York time. So tune in.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

This is just totally retarded. By the way, it's not a joke.
Quick blog roundup:

Kaleboel denounces pirated software in Spain.

Ibex Salad has everything you ever wanted to know about the olive oil market.

Fausta has your Go to Hell Hugo update. By the way, Jose of Barcepundit and I will be appearing live on Fausta's podcast next Monday at noon. We're going to be talking about the 9/11 trial, immigration, and probably the Zap government too. I'll give y'all more information when I get it.

Speaking of Barcepundit, he's got three excellent links up to a writer named Robert Latona, including comments on Zap and 3/11.

A Fistful of Euros gets us all ready for Eurovision again.

Davids Medienkritik catches Der Spìegel being snarky about US democratic practices.

Expat Yank blasts New Labour "pay-as-you-use" dogma.

Eursoc fills us in on those fringe French candidates who just might torpedo a major candidacy again this year.

Playing Chess with the Dead blasts the PP and especially its conspiracy-theory wing. He's right. The PSOE deserves a good blasting, too, though, for the way it has also used the dead of 3/11 politically.

Pejman doesn't buy the theory that the US is swinging leftward.

Pave France denounces anti-Semitism in, you guessed it, France.

Notes from Spain celebrates ham.

Meryl Yourish exposes more typical Reuters bias.

¡No Pasarán! points out the lack of logic behind the Red-Green alliance.

Beautiful Horizons reminds everyone, especially Continental Europeans screaming that the sky is falling, that the Cold War was a lot worse.

Colin Davies has more on 3/11 and all other things Spanish or Galician.
The 3/11 trial continues. The defendants are still taking the stand and denying everything. Nobody believes them.

Bad news for the Catalan statute of autonomy: Judge Perez Tremps, recused from the Constitutional Court, will not resign and allow Zap to appoint a new judge to replace him. Therefore, the Court will stay divided 6-5 between conservatives and leftists, and everyone is predicting that the six conservatives will throw out the statute.

I assume everyone has seen the photos of the baby born after only 22 weeks of gestation. The legal limit for abortion on demand in the UK and the Netherlands is 24 weeks, and I don't think there is any kind of limit in the US. Iberian Notes is pragmatic about abortion. We don't like it, but banning it would cause too much social turmoil. Our position is that aborting viable babies is murder, though, and we would ban abortion after 12 weeks except in the most extreme circumstances.

I certainly do think the Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the US, is a judicial excursion into legislative territory and should be overturned. Overturning Roe v. Wade would not ban abortion in the US; it would throw the decision on abortion back to the individual states, rather like the death penalty. You'd have places like Oregon, Minnesota, and Massachussetts where it was legal, places like Utah and South Carolina where it was banned, and probably most of the states somewhere in the middle, with restrictions.

Oh, by the way, the referendum legalizing abortion in Portugal passed by something like 55-45, but fewer than 50% of the voters turned out, so the referendum is not binding. However, Portugal is expected to legalize abortion with restrictions fairly soon.

Big stink in the wine industry: The Zap government has been trying to pass a law raising the drinking age for beer and wine to 18; right now it's 16, but nobody pays any attention, and teenagers routinely purchase hard alcohol anyway. The wine producers are up in arms, and they seem to have won, since the bill has been withdrawn. Wine is a major industry in Spain, employing thousands of people and earning billions of euros, and they put intense pressure on the PSOE and minister Elena Salgado to stop the bill.

You might be asking, "Who cares? Teenagers don't drink wine anyway." Well, they do in Spain. They buy cheap red wine, mix it with Coke, call it a "calimocho," and drink the stuff by the gallon. Yecch. Seems to me like a waste of perfectly good Coke, since cheap red Spanish wine is fit only to be turned into ethanol or mixed with lots of orange juice and lemon soda to make sangria. Which the kids also drink. 64% of Spanish teenagers between 14 and 18 say they drink alcohol regularly on weekends, and nearly a million admit to having been drunk at least once in the last month.

If they want to cut back on juvenile drinking, what I'd do is ban drinking in the streets and enforce it. What lots of teenagers do, buying lots of cheap booze and chugging it down in the local plaza while making noise and committing vandalism and pissing in doorways, is called "the botellón," and a lot of people don't like it. Well? Bust the little bastards. Don't jail them, of course, but hand out hefty fines, say €200, that the kids' parents would have to cough up. That ought to put an end to the botellón, or at least add to local government's coffers to pay for cleaning up the mess these kids make.

La Vanguardia claims that the West is using the carrot and stick approach to negotiating with Iran, with the US providing the stick and Europe the carrots. I don't buy it for a second; I don't think the West is nearly that well-organized, and I'm not so sure Europe is all that frightened of a nuclear Iran. In fact, a common argument around here is, "Well, the US has atomic bombs, so why shouldn't Iran and North Korea have them?" Moronic moral equivalence, of course.

By the way, I've been working on a long piece on this subject and on the Korean War. I should be done in a couple of days.

Remember De Juana Chaos? He's apparently still on his hunger strike despite the reduction of his sentence for making terroristic threats to three years, of which he will serve one. I hope he dies, of course, mass-murdering terrorist scum.

The EU has decided to reduce greenhouse gases by 20% in 2020. Yeah, right, I'll believe that when I see it. The problem, of course, is that they have no idea of how they're going to do it. No details whatsoever have been decided on. Also, there's division within the EU, as Finland, Poland, and Hungary are all complaining already.

The average price of a night in a hotel room in Barcelona is €110, €6 more than last year. That seems highly excessive. Stay in a pension when you come here.

The National Museum of Art of Catalonia, which is well worth a visit, will be exhibiting eight well-known Picassos on loan for the next year. I can't stand Picasso. What a pretentious git. And the guy I really don't understand is Joan Miró. None of his paintings make the slightest sense, and they all have titles like "Bird Shitting on Masturbating Woman." For Spanish 20th century artists, give me Sorolla, Nonell, Casas, and Rusiñol.

Worst Barcelona artists ever: Tàpies and Subirachs. These guys are not only pretentious, their stuff is flat-out ugly, and it defaces the streets of the city. Some artistic terrorist commando needs to blow up the concrete atrocity in the Plaza Catalunya, the pile of old furniture in a glass box on the Paseo Picasso, and the World War I trench barbed wire on top of that Domenech and Montaner building on Calle Aragon, not to mention the new portico of the Sagrada Familia.

Champions' League action tonight: Barcelona vs. Liverpool. The Brits are all over town, drinking overpriced beer at the sidewalk cafes on the Rambla or just getting tanked in the middle of the Plaza Real. Messi will start for Barcelona. Should be a good game. Barça needs a win to get back on track after last weekend's convincing 2-1 loss at Valencia, which could well have been 4-0. Real Madrid beat Bayern Munich last night at the Bernabeu, 3-2, in a poorly played but action-packed game. Former Barça player Van Bommel scored for Bayern in the 88th minute and flipped off the crowd.

Soccer purists, which Spain is full of, have loudly decried the sale of Liverpool to a pair of North American sports-team owners. Gee, it's not like Spain doesn't have its very own del Nidos and Ruiz de Loperas and Jesus Gils and other out-and-out criminals running its soccer teams. What happened was that Liverpool was heavily in debt and couldn't afford to build a new stadium or bid for top players, and the new Yank and Canuck owners have bailed them out big-time.

People. Sports is a business. It has been ever since it was professionalized. Get over this silly weepìng about its being corrupted now.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Latest news from B-ville: Some guy tried to hijack a plane from Mauritania to the Canary Islands a couple of days ago; this was apparently not related to terrorism, just some not real smart illegal immigrant. The passengers and crew overpowered the guy; after 9/11, nobody's going to sit still while some criminals might be going to crash your plane into a football stadium.

Barça defender Lilian Thuram has stuck his nose into the upcoming French election. He says Nicolas Sarkozy has a "racial" vision of France, and has been devoting most of his free time denouncing Sarko. Yeah, he's got the right of freedom of speech, and he hasn't used an official team press conference to spout off, unlike Oleguer. Still, I would rather sports stars, like movie and rock stars, keep their mouths shut about politics rather than using their position to support ideas many of them, from Thuram and Oleguer to Barbra Streisand and Sean Penn, don't know a damn thing about.

Andalusia votes today on the referendum for its own statute of autonomy, but the process hasn't caught the attention of the public or the media since both major parties generally agree on the text. The statute will pass easily, and turnout will be low. See how easy it is to do things when there aren't a bunch of nationalists involved?

On the 3/11 trial: Even La Vanguardia has pointed out, "Threads link the radical Islamist groups in Spain to almost all the terrorist actions carried out in the name of Al Qaeda in the last ten years: from the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania (August 1988, more than 200 dead) to 9/11, the murder of the film director Theo Van Gogh, Casablanca, or the deployment of men to fight against the Americans in Iraq."

Even La Vangua says: THESE ARE ALL THE SAME PEOPLE. If we are going to fight terror, we have to do it on every front, and the main front right now is Iraq. Those who want the US to pull out are irresponsible.

Those interested in following the 3/11 trial should check out a blog called Playing Chess with the Dead, written by a gentleman with whom I suspect I agree about only one thing: the conspiracy theory blaming the PSOE / ETA / rogue cops / CESID / the Masons for the bombings is ridiculous.

Notes from Spain, in a rare current-events comment, has more.

From the "If This Had Happened in Cleveland" department: Some psycho in a small town in Toledo beat his mom, wife, and son to death and seriously injured his two daughters before committing suicide by jumping out the window. No hypotheses about the hidden violence bubbling up behind the peaceful façade of Spanish society, though. Meanwhile, get this, the managing director of the Lleida soccer team got his throat cut with a broken wineglass in a brawl at a bar at four in the morning a couple of nights ago.

The number of reported crimes in Catalonia has increased by 17% in three years. La Vangua says, "The fear of being the victim of a crime has been more present lately." It also says that 70% of Spaniards associate crime with immigrants.

There's a ship loaded with 6000 tons of fertilizer in trouble off the Galician coast; the government says it's no big deal. If it turns out to be a big deal, watch the PP go after the PSOE in exactly the way the PSOE went after the PP after the sinking of the oil tanker Prestige. How can you blame the sinking of a ship on a political party? Well, they do it in Spain.

Rijkaard announced that he's staying at least through next season, thereby quashing a lot of the rumors and instability around the Barça. People are still mad at Eto'o; I guess they'll forget about this tempest after he scores a few goals. He's really not ready to play yet, and will sit out tonight's game in Valencia. This should be a good one. If Barcelona can pull out a win, they'll open up a several-point lead on everyone else--especially since second-place Sevilla plays fifth-place Atlético Madrid, and a weak Real Madrid drew at home last night against Betis.

Colin Davies is on a roll.

Puerta del Sol announces the birth of Madripedia. There is already a Cordobapedia.

Kaleboel comments on language immersion, as practiced in Catalan schools.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Not that much news from these parts. The 3/11 trial is off for the weekend; on Friday Youssef Belhadj, Hassan el Haski, and Jamal Zougam all denied having anything to do with the bombings. Nobody believed them. El Haski is also accused of being one of the planners of the Casablanca bombings in May 2003.

News from the French Basque country: Chef Alain Ducasse announced that he is closing down his hotel and restaurant in the town of Bidarray because of the harassment he has received from pro-ETA sectors, including death threats and a bomb last June. Gee, that's great, some world-famous guy comes to our town and brings jobs--Ducasse's empire employs 1200 people--and gets us publicity. So let's run him out of town!

Two women died last week during plastic surgery at the Hospital Evangelico right here around the corner in Gracia. Different surgeons operated on them, and inspectors are trying to figure out what's going on. They've shut down the hospital operating rooms just to be safe.

The Generalitat says it's going to train 15,000 English teachers. Yeah, right. I'm not sure there are 15,000 English speakers in Catalonia, not counting us immigrants.

Starting April 14 they're going to keep the subway open all Saturday night here in Barcelona. Good. That ought to reduce drunk driving a good bit, and make it easier to get a taxi, which is virtually impossible after about 1 AM. This is very convenient for me because I live right between the green line, which runs Fontana-Catalunya-Liceu, and the yellow line, which runs Joanic-Urquinaona-Jaume I. Direct connections from Gracia to downtown, which are the two most interesting parts of the city.

In case you were wondering, Britney Spears shaved her head. That should make her 100% hairless, rather like a Chihuahua.
The New Yorker has a good piece on quotations, and the first paragraph focuses on spurious quotes--that is, Patrick Henry really didn't say "Give me liberty or give me death."

I can think of a couple of semi-spurious quotes: one is that nobody coined "He's a son-of-a-bitch but he's our son-of-a-bitch," until the 1960s; somebody, maybe Lyndon Johnson, used it to refer to Ngo Dinh Diem, but he probably didn't use it first. Latin American folklore says that quote was used in the early 20th century in reference to the first Somoza, but I've never seen any proof.

Another is "America for the Americans," which does not appear in the Monroe Doctrine, and was actually used as a Nativist anti-immigrant slogan in the 1840s or so. It has nothing to do with Latin America, either; the immigrants in question were Irish and Germans.

One from Spain is Unamuno's "You will win, but you will not convince" speech in Salamanca in 1936; he was extemporizing without notes and nobody was ready for him to say anything of note, so reports of the speech were all written down later. There is no recording. So we really don't know exactly what he said, though whatever Unamuno did say caused quite a tumult in the auditorium. Unamuno died just weeks later, so he wasn't there to ask later. By the way, everybody seems to think that in the Civil War Unamuno was pro-Republic; he was actually pro-National, though with reservations.

Another one from the Civil War is that no one knows exactly what was said during the famous phone call made by Colonel Moscardó's son, under duress as he was a Republican prisoner, to the colonel, who was leading the National resistance at the Alcazar in Toledo. It's generally agreed that the phone call was made, that the son told Moscardó that he was going to be shot, and Moscardó told the son to die bravely. But the exact words spoken are unknown.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Franco Aleman at Barcepundit links to this excellent piece from the Australian on anti-Americanism. Quote:

While Russian President Vladimir Putin was railing against US power at an international security conference in Munich on Saturday, a respectable case can be made that, as hegemonies go, the US is the most benevolent history has ever seen. Not perfect by any means, but certainly deserving of better treatment than the acid reflux and bile of Western elites. America is big, rich and makes mistakes. But for the past 50 years at least, it has been the ultimate guarantor of the Western way of life. Surely it deserves a more balanced press from its critics.

Denis Boyles from National Review has more on the subject. Check it out.

Colin Davies has excellent commentary on Spain and especially Galicia every day; he's one of the most regular and consistent bloggers out there. He's on my daily reading list.

Guirilandia has a think-piece on that endangered species, the macho ibérico. He's the opposite of regular and consistent, since he'll sometimes go a couple of weeks without posting, but he's always original.

Talk about regular and consistent: La Liga Loca brings us all the Spanish football news. Since it's Friday, it's time for the weekend preview. I posted this in his comments section:

I don't think they necessarily have to get rid of either Ronaldinho or Eto'o. Every sports team is full of big egos and I think these guys will figure out how to get along--especially if they win another League, as looks likely, and/or the Champions, which is at least a possiblity.If you get rid of one, though, it's Eto'o. You already have Saviola to replace him, not to mention Gudjohnsen, who is OK, and goal-scorers are available on the market for a lot less than magicians like Ronaldinho. There's only one Ronaldinho, and Barça has him tied up for years.

There are a few other arguments: a) Ronaldinho knows how to behave himself in public and wash the dirty laundry at home b) Ronaldinho seems to be much more popular among the players, and with the coaches, than Eto'o c) Ronaldinho sells a lot more jerseys, fills more seats in the US and Japan, and gets the Barça a lot more publicity than Eto'o d) Ronaldinho doesn't break nearly as easily as Eto'o; he's both bigger and stronger, and has no history of injuries.

Also, if I were Rikjaard, I'd stay at Barcelona. He'll have to put up with the same amount of crap if he goes to Milan, and he has the chance to be the greatest Barça coach of all time. If Frank stays four more years and wins a couple more leagues and maybe a Champions, he'll be legendary.
With everybody and his dog running for President, including Akaky, Iberian Notes is going to get into it early. We're for Rudy Giuliani. We like almost everything about him, especially his record. He was tremendous as New York district attorney and then mayor. This guy sent Mafia bosses to jail, cleaned up the city, and was right there when the bombs hit. He's liberal on social issues and tough on crime and terrorism. And he can beat Hillary.

That, of course, is the Number One question we Republicans need to ask ourselves when we vote in the primaries and caucuses a year from now. Can this candidate beat Hillary? Barring disaster, she's the Democratic candidate, and Republicans need to be planning to beat her now. So we need to grab the center and leave her out on the left, and liberal tough guy Rudy is just the person to do that. We would be complete idiots to choose some right-wing Sam Brownback primitive social conservative as our candidate, since we on the moderate right have already got the right-wingers anyway--who else are they going to vote for?

And I would love to see Lieberman as the VP candidate, but this time for the Republicans. If somehow Rudy doesn't come out as our man for Prez, let's draft Joe.

Tom from the Bad Rash doesn't agree with us. He says,

Much as it annoys Americans who loathe foreigners commentng on their politics, is 'backing' Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States.

Actually, Iberian Notes loves it when foreigners take an interest in American politics, since it helps all of us be better-informed. We only object to biased or ignorant commentary. Tom's position is more than fair enough. He's for Obama, we're for Giuliani, may the best candidate win, and we'll see what happens at the polls.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Continued blog roundup:

Europhobia comments on the lack of diversity in the Europarliament.

Guirilandia makes fun of the Barcelona ajuntament.

La Liga Loca has the quotes of the week.

Pave France blasts Chiraq over Iran.

Eamonn Fitzgerald has a whack at the New York Review of Books over North Korea.

Publius Pundit takes Vladimir Putin apart.

Sal deTraglia runs a great Spain lifestyle blog, including some food porn.

Roncesvalles questions the enforcement of Germany's anti-swastika law.

The Euroserf blasts EU economic bullying. Short, sweet, and correct.
News from the 3/11 trial: Rabei Osman El Sayed, alias "Mohammed the Egyptian," the first of the defendants on the stand, denied any involvement in the bombings and refused to speak any further, but after a recess has apparently agreed to testify. He is currently serving a ten-year sentence in Italy for belonging to a terrorist organization; he was part of the infrastructure sending jihadis to Iraq from there. The Italian police bugged his apartment and caught him on tape bragging that the 3/11 bombings were his idea.

Gustavo de Aristegui, a reasonable man and one of the PP moderates, this morning limited himself to saying that he hoped that "the truth would come out" at the trial. He claimed that too much is still unknown about what happened, which I suppose he is sort of right about, but any operation this big is impossible to completely unravel. To continue with the metaphor, there are still a lot of loose ends, but we know the basics about the bombings: who did it, why, and how.

The Samuel Eto'o conflagration has been put out. Everybody had a nice talk, Eto'o claimed to have been misinterpreted, Puyol convinced him to behave himself, Ronaldinho hugged him for the cameras, and Rijkaard didn't punish him for first refusing to play and then shooting off his mouth. Let's hope that a big blowup like this is what the team needed in order to get its shit together for the rest of the year. Barcelona has about an 80% chance of winning the league championship, I think, and as good a chance as anyone to win the Champions' League, which would make it the first club to repeat as champions in this format.

To show how important the Barça is, TV3 has devoted the past two days to the Eto'o story, much more time than the 3/11 trial. The afternoon talk show has wrung at least three hours out of it. And La Vanguardia has given front-page color photos to the story, both yesterday and today. In La Vangua, Barcelona's most serious newspaper, the 3/11 trial got one page yesterday and two pages today, along with a banner front-page headline. The Eto'o story got three pages yesterday (including an anguished opinion piece titled "It'll never be the same again"), and three more pages today.
I have an article up at Pajamas Media on the beginning of the trial of the 3/11 bombers. Check it out.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

We haven't had a blog roundup for a week or so. Here goes.

Mark in Mexico is doing some great local reporting from Oaxaca. Fascinating stuff.

Citizen Smash debunks the false "no spitting on Vietnam vets" urban legend.

La Liga Loca has the dope on Samuel Eto'o's verbal incontinence.

Fausta is your one-stop shop for Go to Hell Hugo news.

Expat Yank blasts a moronic UN report.

Brussels Journal profiles the Flemishaloony Vlamms Belang.

Colin Davies has thoughts on Spanish prison sentences.

Davids Medienkritik slaps the Austrians around for selling arms to Iran.

¡No Pasarán! links to another excellent Josef Joffe article.

Pejman agrees that Giuliani looks like the best Republican candidate right now.

Akaky is running, too.

Notes from Spain runs down the top ten Spanish celebrities. Don't miss this one.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Spanish Supreme Court reduced De Juana Chaos's sentence for writing threatening letters to judges to three years, which means he gets out in one. You may remember that Spanish regulations allow De Juana Chaos to leave prison after serving 18 years of a 3000-year sentence for 25 murders; no matter how long a prison sentence in Spain is, the maximum time served is 30 years, from which De Juana Chaos got twelve off for good behavior or whatever. No news on whether he will continue his hunger strike. What a travesty. This guy killed five times as many people as Jack the Ripper.
This is the best cat video ever.
The Guardian has a piece up by Peter (not Paul) Preston on ETA, and if I understand him right--the article could have used some editing--he's saying that the Spanish government needs to make concessions to ETA in order to win ETA's trust, which in turn will permit real peace negotiations. Quote: "Talk doesn't always do it. Talking to terror means delivering, too." No, the Spanish government needs to hunt down those bastards and shoot or jail them all. Anyway, the usual gang of idiots joins in the comments, and it's quite entertaining for a few minutes.

My favorite Australian historian, Keith Windschuttle, has an book review article up at the New Criterion, saying that the 20th century was the century of the English-speaking peoples.

Key quotes: "The English-speaking peoples are temperamentally less inclined towards fanaticism, high-flown rhetoric, and Bonapartism than any others in history. They have respected what is tangible and, in politics at least, suspected what is not...Anglo-American capitalism, when allied to the right to own secure property and the rule of law, unleashed the energy and ingenuity of mankind. It formed the basis of the English-speaking peoples’ present global hegemony...Like the Romans, the English-speaking peoples would be envied and hated by others. They would sometimes find, Roberts argues, that the greatest danger to their continued imperium came not from their declared enemies without, but from vociferous critics within. One of the constants of their common culture’s freedom of expression has been its propensity to harbor a degree of internal censure that among many other peoples would probably prove fatal."

Nobel Prize-winning economist Edmund Phelps has an article at the Wall Street Journal arguing that Continental Europe's culture makes it a weak economic competitor.

Key quote: "Perhaps many would be willing to take it for granted that the spirit of stimulation, problem-solving, mastery and discovery has impacts on a country's dynamism and thus on its economic performance...The weakness of these values on the Continent is not the only impediment to a revival of dynamism there. There is the solidarist aim of protecting the "social partners"--communities and regions, business owners, organized labor and the professions--from disruptive market forces. There is also the consensualist aim of blocking business initiatives that lack the consent of the "stakeholders"--those, such as employees, customers and rival companies, thought to have a stake besides the owners. There is an intellectual current elevating community and society over individual engagement and personal growth, which springs from antimaterialist and egalitarian strains in Western culture. There is also the "scientism" that holds that state-directed research is the key to higher productivity. Equally, there is the tradition of hierarchical organization in Continental countries. Lastly, there is a strain of anti-commercialism."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Barcelona is a pretty tough sports town. There's basically one important thing, the Barça, and everything else is very secondary. There are two newspapers, Sport and El Mundo Deportivo, completely devoted to the Barça, and they fill pages and pages with Barça news every day. The lead story on TV3 sports news is nearly always the Barça, even if the only news is that Sylvinho is still injured and Motta has the flu. If things are going well, they love you, but beware when things are not. Players who do not perform well are mercilessly hooted, as Bogarde and Zenden and Reiziger can tell you.

So it's with more than a little surprise that I notice a growing tide of resentment in the Spanish media at the current unfriendly reception Pau Gasol, virtually Catalonia's only non-football hero (he played on the Barça basketball team, so he has worn the holy red and blue too) is receiving in Memphis.

Now, let's review why:

1) Gasol demanded to be traded. Yeah, that makes the fans love you. Imagine if Barça's best player demanded a trade after sitting out half the season. They'd crucify him.
2) He got the coach fired.
3) He can't get along with team president Jerry West.
4) He got hurt while playing for the Spanish team and missed half the season for Memphis while earning $13 million a year.
5) Memphis fans perceive that Gasol doesn't always give 100% and doesn't play defense. He doesn't play the low post, and takes too many outside jumpers.
6) They built the team around Gasol, and they haven't won a playoff game yet. Perception around the NBA seems to be that he's good, but he should be the second- or third-best player on your team, because if you don't have anybody better than him, you're going nowhere.
7) To quote: "Scoring a lot of points for a shitty team doesn't make you a good player."

So a Memphis radio talk-show host named Chris Vernon wrote a ditty called, "Ode to Pau, or Who Wants a Crying Spaniard?" By Barcelona standards it's pretty mild, since the lyrics merely make fun of Gasol's play and attitude, don't attack him as a human being, include no swear-words, and don't mention his mother.

Quotes: "He's great in the first half," "When he runs up the court it'll make you laugh," "His wondrous defense looks like it's stuck in the mud," and "Me gusta baloncesto, no me gusta Pau."

Check out some of the comments Vernon got on his blog:

You're a fucking ignorant retard. Also, you don't know shit about basketball. Stupid americans think their basketball is the best around the world. Oh, no, wait, you forgot, you lost the world basketball tournament. who won? spain? with what player? Gasol? Face it, people are just pissed because they know that they're loosing their best player. Who'd want to stay in a team with people who don't want to win and cant play basketball... who wants fucking crying americans that don't know about basketball. Get a proper job, freak, somewhere where you don't have to talk shit about other people.

Vernon, your C.I. is very near to the average level in USA, 0.Make an effort and you´ll reach it soon!The song is pathetic, a real shit. Maybe you´ll have to try other things to make money, like being politic. In thant country of non-brained people I´m sure you´ll be soon president!

Yes, we are africans and fond of Al Qaeda, and we will crash a plane against Graceland.

You ungrateful freak! Your are blinded by your stupidity!! Yankee go home!

The world had very bad luck, osama bin laden had had to destroy your fucking head, no the twin towersfuck you, little bastard

Maybe you need to be visited there in Memphys....don't leave your wife alone

Say thanks to spain cause today u are civilizated people thanks 2 us. And we have to say thanks 2 US cause thanks to them, all the world is in war. And of course, that wars are because they have a great sense of humor right? yes, i think that when people celebrates american people murders, is because they have a great sense of humor.

hijo de puta!!!! Te meterte con PAU es meterte con todoso los españoles. Eres un fuck america, fucking bush and all that. You are very stupid like your funking mother.what happen with PAU?? ies the best player that you ever seen in memphis. You like to be nigger but you are a fucking white men.Yesterday your mother suck my assand i'ts so great and free.your mother is a fucking bech

Hurra for the charlies that kick the american ashes.Hurra for the japanesses that attacked pearl-harborAMERICAN DEAD FERTILIZER FOR MY GARDEN

Notice anything these responses have in common?

There's a lot more in Spanish, which I didn't bother translating. In case you want to read the whole thing, here's Vernon's January archive which includes several posts on the subject.
News from Portugal: They're holding a referendum today on legalizing abortion; they need a 50% turnout for the referendum to be valid, and it looks like it'll be in the high 50s. All the surveys point to a Yes vote. Currently abortion is completely banned in Poland, Ireland, Malta, and Portugal; most other EU countries have some restrictions, though in the UK and Netherlands it's abortion on demand up to 24 weeks. It's estimated that some 20,000-40,000 illegal abortions are performed every year in Portugal; also, thousands of Portuguese women abort every year in Spain, where a loophole in the restrictions is easily exploited. There are two abortion clinics in Badajoz, five kilometers from the Portuguese border, that do 80% of their business in Portuguese women.

The trial of the 29 accused for the March 11, 2004 bombings in Madrid begins on Thursday. There is absolutely no question that the accused are linked up with both Al Qaeda and the terrorists currently operating in Iraq. Several of those going on trial are known to have recruited jihadis for Iraq, including Basel Ghayoun and Hassan el Haski. Daoud Ouhnane, who fled and for whom a warrant is out, was one of the actual bombers; he is believed to be in Iraq right now. Another of the March 11 bombers, Mohamed Afalah, suicide-bombed an Italian convoy in Iraq in 2005, killing 19 Italian troops. So why aren't the Spaniards screaming for the defeat of the terrorists in Iraq who are not only fighting the country's legitimate government, but also the armed forces of Spanish allies Italy, the US, and and UK, and who committed the murder of 191 people in Spain's capital not even three years ago? Let me repeat: THE SAME PEOPLE are behind both the Iraqi "insurgency" and the Madrid bombings. They are so clearly the enemy of all of Western civilization that you really have to be pretty damn dense not to see it. And, Spain, Western civilization includes us too.

Interesting little stink: Oleguer got dumped by his shoe company, Kelme, for his pro-De Juana Chaos statements made at an official FC Barcelona press conference and his article in a pro-ETA newspaper. Of course, the company has the perfect right to hire and fire whoever it wants to represent it. I will say one thing in Oleguer's favor: he's not a hypocrite. He's a total idiotarian, but he at least does not live the glittery football-star lifestyle.

Seems that the perceived crime wave in Spain is at least partly for real. In 2006, there were 8566 home invasions in Spain, 5.6% more than in 2005. I keep hearing people talking about how they want to get a gun. In Spain, there are basically two ways to get hold of a firearm. The first is if you have a hunting license. I figure that the biggest game around here is the jabalí, the wild pig, and that it would take a deer rifle to take one of those things down. That ought to do you for home protection. The second, get this, is to take up pistol target shooting. Right now you have to be a member of a club and have a license, but you're allowed to take your target pistol home with you. The guy in Lleida who shot the two criminals (who broke into his house and tied up his son) is a licensed target shooter, and he hit those two right between the eyes with his target pistol. Pretty good shooting.

Racial tension continues in Badalona, where the neighborhood of La Salut wants to expel the Romanian gypsies who have taken up residence there. It doesn't seem to be mere racism, since the Pakistanis and Chinese and Moroccans who live there all want to kick the gypsies out, too.

There's still no agreement about what to do with the cargo ship Marine I, which is drifting off the West African coast with nearly 400 illegal immigrants aboard, mostly Pakistanis. Supposedly it will reach the Mauritanian port of Nouadibuh today, but who knows what will happen to the people on board.

No official cause of Erika Ortiz's death has yet been announced.

The Anna Nicole Smith media feeding frenzy has just begun. I predict it will be as big as the OJ trial, which you may remember was the next-to-last frivolous media frenzy before 9/11. This will be the first post-9/11 return to the good old days before most of us had heard of Osama bin Laden. I remember seeing the Anna Nicole TV show a couple of years ago and deciding that the woman was nuts and heading for a breakdown. I do not remember her as any sort of pop-culture icon, as some over-heated commentators are already bloviating about.

Let's hope that this trial puts to rest the absurd conspiracy theory that blames the Zap government for the bombings.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The big news around here is still the death of Erika Ortiz. No cause of death has been announced; Libertad Digital, Spain's most tasteful news site, is speculating that she committed suicide with an overdose of barbiturates. La Vanguardia's take is that she was a shy and private person and did not deal at all well with media intrusion into her life, especially after she and her husband separated several months ago. I have to say that I had never heard of her before they announced her death, and I keep up with the print, Internet, and TV news pretty well, so the media intrusion can't have been that bad. Then again, who am I to judge.

If it's true that she committed suicide because of media harassment, it's time for the celebrity-oriented media to take a good, long look at its practices. I don't want the government to get involved, of course, but there should be some industry-wide minimal standards, one of which would be respecting the privacy of those who do not want to be news. There's a clear and obvious distinction between those who seek press coverage and those who do not want it.

They cremated her early this afternoon; Spanish burial practices are quite different from American. Here the funeral is almost always the day after the person dies, while in the US it's between, say, three days and a week after. This is why embalming is normal in the US and not practiced in Spain. Cremation used to be very rare, and is still uncommon among the working class here, but it's becoming more frequent as the cost of a cemetery niche keeps going up.

In Spain, of course, they bury people above ground in niches. They look like five-meter-tall concrete beehives. Apparently--I'm not entirely sure how this works--they stick you in the niche and let you decay for a few decades. Then they dump your bones into the ossuary, and reuse the niche.

I think one reason they embalm the body and delay the funeral in the United States is so that people can travel to the ceremony. Many families are scattered across the country, and can't get together on very short notice.

Zap named Mariano Fernández Bermejo to substitute Juan Fernando López Aguilar as minister of justice. There's been judicial turmoil in Spain in the last two weeks because of the De Juana Chaos case, Ibarretxe's being cited to testify about his meeting with Batasuna, and the kerfuffle at the Constitutional Court. So somebody's head had to roll, and apparently López Aguilar had failed to foresee any of these decisions and Zap was left unprepared. As for the Constitutional Court thing, Pérez Tremps hasn't made a decision yet and Rajoy and Zap sniped at each other in Parliament.

They busted another etarra in France in the wake of last week's arrest of Iker Aguirre in Portbou. This one, Pedro Álvarez Saleta, is apparently an infrastructure guy who rented apartments for ETA members and drove them to meetings and the like. ETA has stolen dozens of cars in France already this year.

Barça club president Joan Laporta is pissed off at Oleguer Presas for having said his political piece in the club's pressroom; Laporta said that he wouldn't have let Oleguer make such statements while representing the club at an official interview if he had known about it previously.

Al Gore's in town promoting his Chicken Little movie. He's done his slideshow thing and had a 1 1/2 hour meeting with Zap. Zap promised to make Al's movie part of the curriculum at every school in Spain.

Genius Joan Saura, the Catalan interior counselor (chief law-enforcement officer) said a few days ago that he wanted to legalize drugs. Cool! He has, however, been roundly hooted down by CiU and the PP, and Montilla told him to shut up.

Speaking of enforcing the law, three squatter punks took an iron bar to the famous "psychedelic lizard" in the Parque Guell, just up the hill from my house. They smashed in the head of the statue, which of course is a significant work of art. The cops got two of them only after it was too late; they suspect the other is hiding out at one of the squats in the area. One of them has a police record for, get this, participating in a fight between a gang of squatters and some locals. He tried to escape by breaking into an old lady's apartment and ordering her to get out. He's got several counts of theft and vandalism as well, including smashing the windows of parked cars and kicking a phone booth to death. Why isn't this guy in jail?

Great. How in the hell did these lowlifes ever think they could get away with such pointless vandalism? Answer: Because of broken-windows syndrome. There were no park police up there at night and bums were sleeping there and the local scumbags were drinking litronas and getting high and leaving garbage all over the place. Come on, Saura, do your job and have the cops patrol Barcelona's parks. And kick out the damn squatters instead of kissing their asses.

Gee, the suspension of the Italian league sure lasted a long time; play begins again this weekend. Stadiums which do not meet certain standards will be closed to the public; the games will be played before empty seats and TV cameras. Of course, the big clubs' stadiums meet the standards. This is not a bad idea, forcing clubs to build safer stadiums, but the real problem are of course the street gangs associated with the clubs. Meanwhile, Madrid coach Fabio Capello, get this, praised the Ultra Sur, Madrid's hooligans, for supporting the team.

The murder case in Fago is getting even better--now the guy who confessed to killing the mayor has withdrawn his confession. Meanwhile, the astronaut-love-triangle story is big news over here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Big news in Spain: Erika Ortiz, the sister of Princess Letizia, Crown Prince Felipe's wife, was found dead today in her Madrid apartment at age 31. This is all over the media; they're currently speculating about the cause of death, which has not been announced.
Football update: The Spanish media is reporting that Barcelona plans to buy Cristiano Ronaldo for next season, that the deal is going to happen. Sounds like a great idea to me, he's young and a great player. The question is which midfielder do you get rid of--Deco, Xavi, or Iniesta? Doesn't make sense to have four skill guys to play two skill midfield positions. I suppose you could change to a 4-4-2 and play three skill guys along with Edmilson or Márquez as the defensive midfielder, but it looks to me like somebody is going to get sold.

Other players likely on their way out: Ezquerro, who is a decent player, but just doesn't belong here, Motta, who is nowhere near living up to his promise, Thuram, who has not been what was expected, and Jorquera, who is several years older than Valdés and not convincing as the backup goalie. Also, Barça is getting old at both fullback positions, with Zambrotta, Belletti, Sylvinho, and van Bronckhorst all over 30.

Barça defender Oleguer, a fine player, is also a political idiotarian, a Commie ultra-Cataloony. He even "wrote" a book last year full of his ill-considered ravings. Now he's written an article, published in a pro-ETA Basque newspaper, calling on the government to free De Juana Chaos. Question: If Fascist Italian player Fabio di Canio has been widely criticized for his extremist political views, why not Oleguer?

Spain and England play a friendly tonight, which should be fun. Both teams are notorious underachievers, and both are in trouble in the preliminary round of Eurocup qualifying. They don't like each other, either, after Spanish coach Luis Aragonés's highly racist comments about Thierry Henry and the Spanish crowd's racist jeering of the black English players.

Nobody's really sure what's happening at Real Madrid. Is Calderón in or out as club president? Is Capello in or out as coach? Is Madrid ever going to win another match after the 0-1 humiliation they suffered in their own stadium against Levante last week?

Note: There are currently 10 American players starting in the English Premier League. Mostly for mediocre teams, to be sure, your Fulhams and Watfords and Readings. I suppose the only two playing for important clubs are Howard at Everton and Ogeiwu at Newcastle. Still, our boys are getting a little better; I'll bet in two more years there'll be twenty of them. American players seem to do better in the physical English league than in the more skill-oriented Spanish or Italian leagues, and language and culture also have to be a factor.
There's a massive constitutional stink going on over here in Spain. It's confusing, but illustrative of the state of government around here.

1. A few months ago the Spanish parliament approved a new "statute of autonomy" (something like a state constitution in the US) for Catalonia, after negotiations between Socialist Prime Minister of Spain Zap and CiU leader Artur Mas.

2. The new statute is not popular on the Right or among centralist elements on the Left. The PP, among other organizations, filed a judicial review appeal to the Constitutional Court, saying that the new statute violated the Spanish constitution in a myriad of ways. The most important violations were related to the division of powers between the national and regional governments; the PP and its allies say that the statute arrogates powers to the Catalan regional government which the constitution reserves to the Spanish central government.

3. Well, that's fine, that's the way we do things in a representative democracy under the rule of law. If the legislature does something you think is unconstitutional, you appeal it to the courts.

4. On Monday, the Constitutional Court voted 6-5 to recuse judge Pérez Tremps, a leftist member of the Court, on the grounds that he had been paid as a consultant on the very issue of division of power for the Generalitat, the Catalan regional government, before his appointment to the Court. Note that Pérez Tremps did not feel it necessary to recuse himself.

5. This means that the Constitutional Court will most likely vote 6-5 to overturn the Catalan statute.

6. Media shitstorm.

7. Now there is pressure on Pérez Tremps to resign his position on the Court so that Zap can appoint another judge to take his place, which would presumably make the vote 6-6.

8. Many people have therefore concluded that one massive problem with democracy in Spain is that there is no pretense that the judiciary is a neutral honest broker. Rather, the judiciary is openly political. Which means that there will always be an element of society that refuses to accept its verdict as a honest judgement.
Gregg Easterbrook, of the Brookings Institution, Atlantic Monthly, and, is earth's best NFL columnist. Here's his take on the Super Bowl.

Easterbrook, however, says something laughably incorrect in about his third paragraph:

The popularity of American-style football is likely to grow internationally – gridiron is taking off in Mexico at the moment, for instance. Not only is football fun to watch and to play, most of the world continues to admire the United States and look up to us – it's our foreign policy the world disdains; the American dream remains beloved almost everywhere. As democracy expands and more nations liberalize, more nations will long to become like the United States. And since football resides near the core of American culture, more people internationally will want the sport. They will reason, "America is strong and free and prosperous, America loves football, maybe football somehow helps you become strong and free and prosperous."

Maybe in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, but not in Western Europe or Latin America, where everything about the United States is despised. It's not our foreign policy, Mr. Easterbrook, it's us they don't like.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Here's Andy Robinson in La Vanguardia on the Super Bowl.

Everything ended up as predicted despite the torrential rain. The Indiana (sic) Colts contundently defeated the Chicago Bears, 29-17, and Indiana quarterback Peyton Manning was voted Most Valuable Player. The Super Bowl--with 74,000 spectators in the stadium and millions at home--was the great cohesive holiday, the 50 states united by Joseph Addias's (sic) touchdown, the national anthem by old Billy Joel, Lay's potato chips, barbecue sauce, commercials from ailing General Motors, and Coca-Cola. Even Prince behaved himself. Gallons of ink were spilled in elogies for Tony Dungy, the first champion Afro-American coach, and no one spent too much time on the suicide last year of his 18-year-old son.

Stay classy, Andy.
From the "We're All Moderates Here at the Guardian" department:

Get this dreamy supporter of Go to Hell Hugo named Richard Gott:

A freshly mobilised and alert population is beginning to flex its muscles, taking part in political decision-making through a myriad local councils and ad-hoc committees operating at many levels. Nothing like this has happened in Latin America since the Cuban Revolution nearly half a century ago.

And when this guy mentions the Cuban Revolution, he's in favor of it. There's even more here, including a defense of Chavez's expropriations:

We know too that he wants to improve tax collection and to do something about gross inequality, the untackled evil throughout Latin America except in Cuba. We also know that he is hostile to unbridled capitalism, and has made friendly remarks about cooperatives and other ways of organising the private sector.

And a defense of the crackdown on the press:

Chávez is not a dictator and has never shown the slightest sign of wanting to become one. He has no blueprint that he seeks to impose on the country. He wants to extend press freedom for example, not to reduce it, and, while curbing the power to make money of irresponsible press barons like Marcel Granier of RCTV, he has also put state funds into the development of community radio and television stations...

To top that off, here's some guy named Edward Pearce who's pissed off that he gets called "anti-American":

The charge of anti-Americanism made by new right British journalists against critics of the Bush government is in itself a nonsense...

Dude. Critics of the Bush administration are not necessarily anti-American. People who complain about the society as a whole, who do not mention the good along with the bad, and who fall into oft-repeated stereotypes most certainly are.

That nation is, for a start, absurdly militarised...(it)has taken on Prussian qualities - qualities reinforced by bullying and manipulative populism: Prussia served by Fox TV...The United States is far too patriotic for the ultimate good of the rest of us. They salute a flag; they talk about themselves all the time...The United States, for all its vein of intense religion, attracts politicians fascinated by immoral acts...American society, so patriotic, so fundamentally deferential to money and power talking patriotism, is not shaped to stop them. For American life contains another poison - nicely cultivated fear...a country so self-preoccupied that, on the last figure I heard, only about 12% of citizens held passports, is ill-equipped to understand the complexity of those dangers.

Not much about Bush there, but a lot about power-mad manipulated hyper-patriotic ultra-religious panic-stricken self-absorbed ignorant Americans. Now get the last line:

"Anti-American" we are not; but darkly worried about America we certainly should be.

You are anti-American, Mr. Pearce. Your problem is not the Bush administration, your problem is all of us. You don't like us, and you wouldn't like us no matter what our president did. Why can't you just be honest and admit that?
The British press has been making a stink for several days about a friendly fire incident in Iraq, dating from only seven days after the invasion, when American A-10s made an erroneous attack on a British convoy that killed one British soldier. Fox News has the Sun's report (including a link) on the just-leaked video; of course, the two media outlets are part of the same corporation.

What the tape makes clear is that the soldier, Corporal Matty Hull, was killed in a tragic mistake. The pilots (reservists who had never seen combat before) and air traffic controller screwed up massively, and were overcome by remorse as soon as they realized what they had done--one of them started crying.

I do not understand why the Pentagon and the British ministry of defense tried to cover this up. Obviously, it was a military secret during the actual fighting, but after Saddam's armed forces had been defeated, they should have made the incident public.

I do understand the US military's unwillingness to turn its soldiers over to a foreign court. What I don't understand is why the US military did not itself publicly court-martial and discipline those responsible.

And what I want to know is who leaked the tape to the Sun.

Monday, February 05, 2007

John Derbyshire at National Review has a piece on West African immigration to Europe, especially Spain. We have been posting on this story for at least 18 months, and we've seen very few articles in the international press on the tragedy of the boat people who die by the thousands on their way to the Canary Islands.
Breaking news: They busted an Al Qaeda / Salafist suspected terrorist this morning in Reus, near Tarragona. This guy, a Moroccan, was part of an infrastructure group that sent 32 suicide bombers to Iraq. And there are those who doubt that we are fighting the enemy, who openly declare their goal of killing or forcibly converting those of us who prefer Western liberal democracy, on the ground in Baghdad.

Yesterday in Bilbao 18 of the 19 members of ETA's youth squad, Jarrai, who have been sentenced to six years in prison each for membership in a terrorist organization, were arrested in the middle of a pro-ETA show of force. The puppy terrorists and Batasuna leaders like Otegi and Permach held a demo outside a jai alai fronton, and then the "youths" retreated inside the building while the rest of the demonstrators (without using violence) impeded the police from entering to arrest them. The cops were filmed hauling the punks away while the pro-ETA crowd jeered them.

In probably related news, somebody set off a small bomb at the Baracaldo train station last night.

The PP, the Foro de Ermua, and the AVT had a demo on Saturday in Madrid against negotiations with ETA in particular and the Zap government in general. More symbolic politics; the Right opposition calls one of these demos every couple of months, and I don't see what good they're doing. One of the problems with demos is that in general only the most rabid partisans turn out, and those people make your cause look bad. The lefty hippies and anarchists and that lot who show up for all their demos make most normal people react negatively to their cause, while the far-right wingnuts who show up at these PP demos yelling (often in pre-constitutional language) that Zap is behind the March 11 bombings have the same effect. I would suggest fewer demonstrations and more attention to the virtues of the free market, the rule of law, and a realistic foreign policy.

Barcepundit has more.

Racial tension in Badalona: A bunch of Romanian gypsies squatted in an apartment building in that Barcelona suburb, and the local residents kicked up a big stink, though there was no violence. The gypsies, who had trashed the place and had been having all-night parties, have moved on, and the crisis is over until it happens somewhere else in a couple of weeks or months or so. Meanwhile, the conflict in the town of Vidreres, where some twenty gypsy families have set up a trailer camp, is still on. Locals accuse gypsies of extorting money from them and of defecating in the streets.

Most Spaniards dislike gypsies a great deal, and I'd say that some of them hate gypsies. They say gypsies are dirty and steal and beat up their women. I'm not real fond of a lot of gypsies myself. Yeah, that's racist and prejudiced.

Unfortunately, there is some justification for these stereotypes. Most gypsies are part of the underclass, and many behave a great deal like some underclass people in the US--that is, with a values system of their own, quite different from mainstream society. I would not willingly go to gypsy neighborhoods like Can Tunis, La Mina, or parts of El Carmel here in Barcelona, because those are bad areas and you might get robbed. Nobody who wasn't looking to buy drugs would go to Can Tunis, and the cab drivers won't go there. Now, there is a gypsy area around Plaza Raspall in Gracia, and another around Calle de la Cera in the Raval, and those are decent neighborhoods inhabited by decent people. Some gypsies do live according to the standards of society in general. But a disproportionate amount of them don't.

The Times got an interview with hunger-striking terrorist Iñaki de Juana Chaos, guilty of 25 murders, including a photo of him in shackles in his hospital bed. I say if he wants to die, let him. I have no sympathy for such a person, and if Spain had the death penalty, he would have been a leading candidate for it. I'd have voted yes if I were on the jury.
Anthony Daniels has a must-read piece in the New Criterion, a revisionist look at George Orwell and "Homage to Catalonia."

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Mark Steyn has a whack at the environmentalist fundies, who he calls the ecochondriacs, and what we call the Joan Saura and Imma Mayol show over here. Key paragraph:

The question is whether what's happening now is just the natural give and take of the planet, as Erik the Red and my town's early settlers understood it. Or whether it's something so unprecedented that we need to divert vast resources to a transnational elite bureaucracy so that they can do their best to cripple the global economy and deny much of the developing world access to the healthier and longer lives that capitalism brings.
The European press, along with much of the American, makes me sick. Every Continental report on the war in Iraq denounces the Americans, the British, George Bush, and Tony Blair every single day.

I am repulsed by the press's total lack of concern for the majority of Iraqis who want to live in freedom and peace.

Remember, in 2005, 63% of Iraqis turned out to vote on their new constitution, and 78% of them voted in favor. Iraq has held several free elections with more than 50% turnout, including the one that put the current government in office.

But there are well-funded and well-armed gangs of terrorists who, for whatever reason, don't want peace. They prefer to kill, as we saw in the latest suicide-car bombing in a Baghdad market that killed at least 120 people. These gangs of terrorists operate almost exclusively in four provinces in the central part of the country, and they are committing the worst atrocities imaginable. They have killed tens of thousands of law-abiding people.

I do not understand why the press is not demanding that the terrorist gangs in and around Baghdad, who are aided by the Iranian and Syrian regimes and Al Qaeda, be crushed militarily. Every day they kill innocent people. Every day. And no one but the Iraqi government and the American and British armed forces is trying to stop them.

Don't fool yourselves. The terrorists operating today in Baghdad will be more than happy to operate in London and Paris as soon as they can.

Did Bush make mistakes? Yes, he made a lot. The most important was underestimating the threat of Islamist terrorism and not sending in enough troops for the postwar pacification of Iraq. The second was going to the United Nations, as if that gang of Third World dictators had any moral authority, to ask permission to take out Saddam. The third was giving any explanation for doing so, beyond a mere "Saddam is quite obviously a criminal who is a threat to world peace." And the fourth was not using US military power to interdict terrorists and their supply lines within Syrian and Iranian territory.

The fact that Bush made mistakes does not mean that the reason the war was fought was wrong, or that the war which is being fought now is wrong. No American war president has failed to make mistakes, some of them (Washington's near-crushing defeat at New York, the British capture of Washington DC, giving McClellan a field command, the defeat near the Yalu River, manufacturing incredibly crappy naval torpedoes, not firing MacArthur soon enough, backing down to Stalin at Yalta, screwing up the Treaty of Versailles, trying to defend the Philippines, choosing Vietnam as the place to stand up against the Communists, not taking Saddam out in 1991) much more serious than any George W. Bush has yet made.

Now Hillary Clinton, who voted for and vocally backed the Iraq War, has turned 180 degrees and is saying that if she had been president, the US wouldn't have invaded Iraq. She's also called for US troops to leave Iraq before Bush's second term ends.

What selfish hypocrisy. Hillary Clinton obviously cares nothing for the great majority of Iraqis, who support their democratic constitution and who are now being murdered by the hundreds by those who don't. And she does not realize that the people who are killing the Iraqis now are the same as those who want to kill the rest of us.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

From the "With Allies Like These, Who Needs Enemies" department, here's Xavier Batalla in today's Vanguardia:

The Bush Administration has decided to turn the screws on the Iranian regime, which will not renounce its nuclear program, now minimized by Jacques Chirac, though he later rectified. Washington is officially motivated by the ideal of changing a dictatorship into a democracy. And in order to achieve this, it wants worldwide sanctions on Teheran, an initiatie that has caused concern among the other members of the Security Council.

Why is this initiative not convincing? Because the United States is the only member of the Security Council that has nothing to lose. Washington ended its political relationship and most of its commercial links with Iran a quarter of a century ago. And the Iranians are now buying automobiles from France, arms from Russia--which is courting them over natural gas--, and air conditioners from China, which in return gets 18% of the petroleum it consumes. The European Union, beginning with Germany, which sells generators to Taiwan, represents one-third of Iranian trade.

What a bunch of weasels.

From the "We're Not Anti-Semitic, We Just Don't Like the Way the Jews Are Running the World" department, by Manuel Castells, boldface mine:

...(The perspective of negotiations with Iran and Syria) is blocked, of course by Bush, but also by the powerful pro-Israeli lobby among the Democrats, including Senator Lieberman, who has the key to breaking ties in the Senate and who directly represents Israel's interests. And also Hillary Clinton, whose electoral base and financial support have decisive influence in the pro-Israeli media, particularly in New York.

Mr. Castells apparently does not know that, in the US, alleging that a person is not loyal to the US first and to any other country or organization second is considered bigotry and prejudice. For example, it wasn't until John F. Kennedy that the false idea that Catholics were loyal first to the Pope and only second to the United States was finally put to rest.

The Spanish media is also on a massive global warming kick; in an orgy of antiglobalization propaganda, La Vanguardia devotes its first-page main headline and three more interior pages to Green orthodoxy today.
Soccer violence went too far again last night in Italy as a policeman was killed by a homemade explosive during rioting between the street gangs loyal to Palermo and Catania. Literally hundreds of people were injured, as both gangs fought one another and the police. The Italian league has been suspended indefinitely. Last week a soccer gang fight led to the beating death of one man, and last month a black French policeman shot a rioter dead after a PSG-Hapoel match, as a lynch mob chased him and a Jewish fan. Here in Spain, a couple of years ago, a Celta-Deportivo game ended up with a man kicked to death, and the Sevilla gang brutally beat a security guard inside the stadium with the cameras on.

I don't know why the authorities don't make the clubs ban these gangs. They should not be allowed in the stadiums. I bet what would work is holding the home club financially responsible for the actions of its followers. That'd end a lot of the violence right there.

The Fago murder case would make an all-time classic roman noir. The cops arrested the local PSOE leader, who had had both political and financial problems with the PP mayor, who was found filled full of bullets. The suspect confessed this morning and said he was the only one involved, which the media doesn't seem to believe. The town was apparently sharply divided between partisans and enemies of the mayor, and the sleazier TV shows are playing this up big.

Looks like the big electrical corporate merger war is over, with German utility E.ON bidding €38.75 a share for Endesa, Spain's biggest electric power company. This is, of course, a much better deal than Spanish utility Gas Natural was offering. Anti-Zap polemicists claimed that Zap and the PSOE were favoring a Gas Natural takeover, and the Zap administration certainly did everything it could to block E.ON's bid.

Barça plays Osasuna tomorrow night in Pamplona. Since Osasuna is the roughest team in Spain (reet tough buggers, says La Liga Loca) and since it's going to be cold, Ronaldinho is sitting out. Eto'o is finally coming back, though, after nearly five months out, and that ought to improve this team a lot. Meanwhile, Leo Messi might be ready for the match against Racing next week. Barcelona was able to cling on to first place without these two guys, and I imagine that as they get back in form, Barça will pull away from valiant but overmatched Sevilla and the circus that is Real Madrid. Watch out for Valencia, whose injured players are also coming back, and who have the best group of Spanish players in the league. They are the team I fear most.

Friday, February 02, 2007

It's about time for another blog roundup:

Expat Yank has more on the attempted kidnapping and beheading of a Muslim British soldier.

La Liga Loca has its Flustered Weekend Preview up.

Davids Medienkritik has a guest post up titled "Why the Amis Are the New Nazis." A must-read.

Patrick Crozier, the guy who helped set up Iberian Notes, has a thoughtful reconsideration of the First World War.

Pave France has a whack at Jack's flip-flopping on a nuclear Iran.

This video is hilarious. !No Pasarán! links to a rather weak French contestant on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

The Euroserf has more on another EU attempt at censorship. Good thing the US has a First Amendment.

Roncesvalles remembers the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.

Royals Review wants to know who the worst ever of our boys in blue was. I say Neifi Perez.

Publius Pundit has the text of Go To Hell Hugo's enabling act that makes him the Führer.

Rainy Day compares Jack Shafer and Christopher Hitchens.

Biased BBC has something nice to say about Jeremy Paxman.