Friday, March 02, 2007

I slightly botched the De Juana Chaos story yesterday; I can only plead that the story was still breaking then. De Juana Chaos has been given "second degree" prisoner status. This means that he has been sent to a hospital in the Basque Country, and when he is strong enough to leave hospital, he will be released from prison in order to serve out his sentence under house arrest.

That sentence, remember, is three years for writing threatening letters. De Juana Chaos will probably have to serve about a year of that in the comfortable surroundings of his home. He has called off his hunger strike, since he got what he wanted.

I must point out that the Zap government and the judiciary have behaved legally at all times throughout this mess. According to the legal code in existence when De Juana Chaos did those 25 murders, he couldn't be forced to serve more than thirty, and he had the same rights to time off for good behavior as any other prisoner. He has served his sentence, after those eighteen years he spent in prison are up. Unfortunately, that is the law. Now the question is what about that extra sentence for the threatening letters? Well, he was going to do twelve, and now he's going to do one year, at home. Looks to me like he won.

The PP's weak spot in their record is the fact that they freed a bunch of ETA prisoners when they were in power under similar conditions. Their answers are 1) yes, we were negotiating with them then, and look how they made fools of us. We've learned from that experience, and now you Socialists should, too, and 2) the laws forced us to turn loose the prisoners that we released because they had served their murder sentences, just like De Juana Chaos. But the ones we released didn't have extra charges hanging over them for terroristic threats, unlike De J. C.

La Vanguardia actually has pretty good coverage on the US presidential campaign, with Eusebio Val on page 3 on McCain. He got page 4 for an interview with Newt Gingrich, whom he bills as "an intellectual agitator of the right," which is fair enough.

Quotes: Val: Are you worried that the image of the United States has gotten worse in recent years?
Gingrich: "I am worried that the image of the United States government has gotten worse. I don't think the image of the country has gotten worse. There has been no decline in the number of people who want to come here as immigrants. There has been no decline in the number of people applying for visas. We have recovered the number of student applications. But it is obvious that the US government has failed miserably at explaining our values and beliefs."

Val: You defend the centrality of God in American political life. What do you mean by that? Doesn't that contradict the principle of separation between church and state that the United States was founded on?
Gingrich: "That statement is historically false. The United States was founded on a document that says that our Creator gave us certain inalienable rights. It was the Declaration of Independence. How can you explain where your rights come from, if not from your Creator? The United States, in fact, is a unique civilization that God gives power to you as a person, you are sovereign and you cede power to the government. It's very different from the European model...The French Revolution did not work here. We are not a secular society."

I'm not sure I necessarily agree with Gingrich here. a) There most certainly is a separation between church and state in the US. b) Taking your religious beliefs into account when you vote is not an interference with this separation. c) I'm no expert here, but the Founders were mostly some sort of deist or Unitarian or Quaker or something like that. They did share what we would call Christian ethical ideals, and they believed in some kind of higher power. It's important to remember that the Revolution occured before the Second Great Awakening, when what we consider fundamentalist American Protestant beliefs began. The Founders certainly did not intend for America to be a politically Christian country, but they didn't say anything about how they thought individuals should behave regarding religion. All they said about that was that everyone had the right to practice his own. They also didn't intend for American to be anti-Christian, either, unlike those wacky French Revolutionaries. Nor did they practice ritual sacrifice, again unlike the decapitators.

Xavier Batalla gets page 6 for a piece on Arthur M. Schlesinger, saying that he "died at age 89 without ever having left Camelot," which is pretty accurate. Andy Robinson gets page 9 to inform us that New York is allegedly full of rats, mice, and bedbugs. He claims that the UN building is infested by eels.

Industry minister, former Barcelona mayor, and general foo-foo Joan Clos called on everybody to join in "No Mobile Phone Day" in protest against the decision by the three big operators, Movistar, Vodafone, and Orange, to raise the rate for completing a call to 15 cents in order to compensate for the revenue they will lose because of a new law forbidding them to round up fractions.

1) What did they expect? If you cut down a company's revenues by legal regulation, it will take advantage of another (still legal) source of income in order to get back to the same revenue level. 2) Clos's personal participation in the protest will be to "cut back" his own mobile phone use, since his extremely important and very taxing job forces him to keep it on at all times in case some message with deep significance is coming through urgently. What an example of sacrifice for the youth of today. 3) Where the hell is the anti-trust office? Seems a bit suspicious that the three big companies all raised prices at the same time by the same amount.

Problems with members of the underclass who do not live according to the standards of mainstream society: A 19-year old man married an 11-year-old girl according to the "gypsy rite" in Lleida. Both families involved had agreed to the marriage. So had the patriarchs of the clan. So the social workers found out and the case went to court; the man has been sentenced to 1 year and 9 months in prison for statutory rape, since 13 is the age of consent in Spain. Now wait a minute. The people involved didn't think they'd done anything wrong. The whole clan attended the wedding, held in public. Yes, I know the law is the law, but you'd think they'd let the man off with a warning and a lecture about how people are supposed to behave. Fortunately, the girl and her family have been moved away from the husband. But the family were the ones who agreed to her getting married in the first place! What a complicated mess. You can't allow behavior repugnant to the mainstream and its laws to go on, but at the same time you're dealing with people with a completely different set of ethical standards, and it's hard to judge them by ours. So I guess the compromise is to break up illegal marriages, but don't jail people.

Just in case you folks were starting to think that the US was somehow uniquely violent, check out these headlines from today's La Vanguardia:

Civil Guard Shot to Death in Salou
Maximum Sentence for Rapist Out on Parole
Failed Kidnapping in Vic
Seven Neo-Nazi Youth Arrested
Saleswoman Beaten to Death in Sabadell
Gang of Robbers of More Than 20 Houses Arrested in Baix Llobregat

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