Monday, April 30, 2007

We haven't had a blog roundup for a week or so, so let's do one.

¡No Pasarán! has a whack at the EU; also look for many smaller posts on the French election. Eursoc, meanwhile, carves up François Bayrou. By the way, Barcelona's own huge egotist, Pasqual Maragall, is trying to float some kind of international Euro-progressive party that would include Bayrou. I'll believe that when I see it.

Angie Schultz neatly disposes of an anti-gun-nut.

The Big Chorizo has a good roundup of links on what he's calling the Spanish real-estate crash, along with some opinions. Ibex Salad has more.

Playing Chess with the Dead is keeping up with the Madrid bombings trial, and has all the details.

Pave France toasts cowardly French policy in Afghanistan. There's a lot more here, so check it out.

Akaky is one of the best satirists in the blogosphere.

The Brussels Journal scalds hypocritical Euro-Greens.

Colin Davies has a three-year compilation of his posts on the EU.

Expat Yank blasts a lousy BBC piece that fails to explain anti-Americanism around the world.

LA-Madrid Files has more on America-bashing reactions to the Virginia Tech murders.

Guirilandia rambles about contemporary Barcelona, and includes a photo of a typical chapuza. He's also got a hilarious post about the dumbest hash dealer in Catalonia.

Notes from Madrid gives some anti-pickpocket safety advice, along with a first-person story.
At least three people were killed in a shooting incident at the Ward Parkway shopping mall in Kansas City yesterday. This one strikes a bit close to home, since Ward Parkway is about a mile and a half from my parents' house near 91st and Lee in Leawood. (The mall is between 85th and 89th streets, Ward Parkway, and State Line Road.) We shop at the Target, buy gas at the gas station, and bank at one of the banks there; I bought my first pair of track spikes at the mall in about 1982, and in high school we used to go to the movies there.

Not that I'm worried. Mass shooting incidents are so rare in the US that you're much more likely to be killed in a car wreck on your way to the mall than at the mall itself. If you're going to be murdered in Kansas City, you are most likely a gang member, a prostitute, or a domestic violence case, not a random victim. Speaking of which, there is a serial killer operating in KC murdering prostitutes along the Independence Avenue strip; the bodies turn up in the Missouri River. Catching this guy, a known threat to humanity, and giving him the injection, ought to be a bigger priority than taking steps to stop random shootings, which are completely unpredictable and very rare. KC has had several serial killers within the last 20 years, including Bob Berdella and John Robinson; much more worrying than crazy Michael Douglas guys with assault rifles. And if we really want to stop the kind of crime that hurts the poor the most, we should bust up the gangs and legalize drugs. Finally, we need to be much stricter about jailing men who abuse women, since they probably commit more acts of violence against the defenseless than anyone else. We can actually prevent murders by sticking these bullies where they belong, behind bars.

However, none of this stuff ever makes the news outside the US. TV3 ran the Ward Parkway shootings as their top world story, and it's one of La Vanguardia's five international stories and--get this--El Periódico's top international story, on their websites right now. I dunno. Some nut shoots three people at a mall in Missouri and it's bigger than Afghanistan and Iraq and Darfur and the Congo and Russia and Somalia and Iran.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The story below about Mr. Martinez, the drunk truck driver, exemplifies several words that are important if one wants to understand the Spanish character, especially in its working-class version.

Machismo: Many Spanish men just naturally assume that there is a masculine code they must live up to. Among other things, men should be able to handle a couple of wimpy copas of brandy before work in the morning.

Cojones: What every macho Spaniard has a big brass pair of. "Porque me sale de los cojones": Just because I feel like it.

Chulería: A chulo just naturally assumes that he can do anything he wants and the hell with everybody else.

Marica: Homosexual, faggot. Men who are not sufficiently macho or chulo are always at risk of being called maricas.

Bajarse del burro: Literally, "to get down off your donkey." Something like "climb down" in English. To admit you were wrong. No macho, chulo Spaniard ever gets down off his burro.

Fantasma: Literally, "ghost." A fantasma is a person who will claim that obviously false things are true in order to back up his machismo.

Chapucería: A chapuza is a half-ass job, done both incompetently and carelessly. Spaniards are not lazy. Many of them are chapuceros, though.

Cachondeo: Ridiculous absurdity. The idea that a lawyer can plead his client not guilty of drunk driving on the grounds he is an alcoholic, for example.

"Vuelve usted mañana": Literally, "Come back tomorrow." You hear this both from bureaucrats and the private sector. Example: Letting a guy rack up six drunk driving arrests before you get around to taking him to court.

Note: One must keep in mind that different countries have different national mottoes, such as "Vive la France," "Deutschland über Alles," or "Rule Britannia." Spain's national motto is "We Laugh at Death."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

El Periódico reports that a gentleman named Antonio Martínez, truck driver by profession, was arrested on the morning of April 7 in the town of Mont-roig del Camp after police noticed him weaving. He blew 0.53, more than three times the legal limit of 0.15. Officers testified that he smelled of alcohol, could not walk a straight line, and could not speak clearly.

So far, so good. This happens everywhere all the time.

Mr. Martinez was transporting 14 tanks of propane and 70 tanks of butane on his truck when arrested.

Whoa. This is a bit unusual. I still suppose it could happen just about anywhere but a Germanic country or some place like Singapore.

He told the court that he normally had two drinks with breakfast, two drinks with lunch, and "four or five" beers after work, and that the day of his arrest he had been drinking between 4 and 6 AM before beginning work. Mr. Martínez has been arrested six times and convicted twice for drunk driving; the second conviction occurred April 4, only three days before his arrest in Mont-roig.

It's getting worse. Getting regularly hammered at 4 AM before transporting explosive gas in a truck would be rather unusual even in, say, southeastern Oklahoma.

Mr. Martínez did not actually lose his drivers license until his second conviction. In this case, the prosecutor is asking for a six-month jail sentence, which he will actually have to serve as it will be a third conviction, along with a license suspension of 3 1/2 years and an €6500 fine. Mr. Martínez's lawyer is asking for him to be acquitted on the ground that he is an alcoholic, which under Spanish law is an extenuating circumstance; the lawyer has also asked that Mr. Martínez, should he be convicted, be sent to rehab instead of jail.

Either of the two punishments would be extremely lenient anywhere else in the First World, but I'm still willing to admit that something of the sort just might happen in, say, Italy or Greece.

However, Mr. Martínez rejected the possibility of rehab and said he would prefer to go to jail, thereby surprising his own lawyer, when he told the court, "I am not an alcoholic and therefore I don't think I should submit to a rehab program." He added that he was not drunk, but rather "en condiciones," on the day of his arrest, and as evidence stated that he had already delivered 13 tanks on the morning of April 7. Mr. Martínez further declared that he "had been driving for 15 years and never had an accident," and that "I don't have a problem with alcohol. My hands don't tremble."

Only in Spain.
We should do another Trilingual Barcelona Blog Reunion; José from Barcepundit organized a regular meeting a couple of years ago, and it kept going for a good long time until finally petering out. It didn't help much when the bar we were meeting at closed down.

How about we try it again next Thursday, May 3, between 7 and 10 PM, at the Café Flanders in the Plaza Rovira i Trias in Gràcia? All bloggers and blogreaders who can make it are invited, of course, and bring your friend or wife or mom or whatever too.

I picked the bar because I know the owners, they have a table for eight or ten inside, if the weather's nice we can sit outside, the food is edible though not great, and it's not expensive. They have Stella, Hoegaarden, and Leffe dark on tap. It's also wheelchair-accessible and not too far from bus line 74. Metro Joanic or Fontana.

You think Don Imus could get away with saying "Hoegaarden" on the air? Probably not, at least not if it was the answer to the riddle "Where do nappy-headed women plant tomatoes?"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Not too much going on, just the usual. Terrorist massacres in Iraq. Iran working on nuclear bombs. Starvation continues in Darfur along with civil war in the Congo. Big international news: French runoff election. One poll gives Sarko a 51-49 lead over Royal, which I don't buy, since he's going to sweep Paris and the countryside. The Virginia Tech furor has died down, and I think the global warming furor has peaked, too; people simply don't buy the disastermongering, and ordinary folks' resentment of Hollywood parlor pinkos all jumping aboard this new trend is causing a backlash. The story about Al Gore's energy-wasting house hurt him badly among Spanish public opinion, which now sees him as a typical American hypocrite--they think we're all hypocrites, of course. My response: Isn't everybody, especially Alec Baldwin?

Big news around here: Real estate companies took a serious hit on the stock market yesterday, losing between about 5% and 13% of their value, except for Astroc, which is down 66% in two weeks. Housing construction is a very important part of the Spanish economy, one of the sectors that is providing the most growth, and the big builders are down between 4% and 7%. The decline in real estate and construction shares carried over to the banks, with BBVA and BSCH, Spain's largest corporations, both down 3% on the day.

I seriously doubt there's going to be a crash either in the stock market as a whole or in housing prices, though; the Spanish economy is growing at about 4%, unemployment is dropping, and immigration is raising demand--remember that Spain has gained four million immigrants over the last six years. Interest rates are probably going to stay low, around 4%, says the Bank of Spain. The stats show housing prices are currently climbing by 7.5% a year, and the number of mortgages is growing by 18% a year. So a correction, probably, some people cashing in, sure, but no disaster. Of course, anyone who takes investment advice from me, a guy whose assets consist of a blender and a Cincinnati Reds cap, deserves to lose his money.

Ibex Salad has more; he calls Astroc an "overhyped minor player" and says that if there is a bubble, it's not in housing prices but in the share value of the real estate companies.

Monday, April 23, 2007

These people quite clearly do not understand how absurd they are.
Blogging the French elections: Eursoc, Pave France, ¡No Pasarán!, and Rainy Day. Don't miss Nidra Poller at Pajamas Media.
I have a minor problem--the link to the archives is broken and I don't know how to fix it. Help, please.

It's Sarkozy vs. Royal in the second round of the French presidential elections. Sarko got 31%, Royal 26%, Bayrou 19%, and Le Pen 11% in the first round. Turnout was extremely high, 84.6%, much higher than the 71.5% that turned out in the 2002 elections.

Several comments. 1) The French electorate has shown very good sense in voting for moderate conservative pro-American Sarkozy and sensible centrist Bayrou--add up the two and they're very close to an absolute majority 2) The very high turnout showed that the French remember the 2002 disaster when Le Pen came in second and made it to the runoff, and didn't want it to happen again 3) The wacky left-wing parties, the Trots and Commies and Greens and Jose Bove, didn't do well at all, showing that the French Left vote is also more responsible than it was in 2002 4) The surveys show Bayrou's vote going 1/2 to Sarko and 1/3 to Royal in the second round, and the Le Pen voters have nowhere else to go, so Sarko ought to pull out a solid win in the runoff 5) My guess is Segolene Royal is a flash in the pan; she has no real political achievements, no intellectual substance, little support from her party establishment, little ability to speak in public, and an embarrassing tendency to commit political gaffes. I don't see her ever getting elected, or even renominated by her party, bar a Zap-style disaster.

Today is Sant Jordi (St. George's Day); as in England and Russia, St. George is Catalonia's patron saint. In addition, here it's the equivalent of Valentine's Day; women are supposed to buy men a book and men are supposed to buy women a rose. The booksellers and the florists have a sweet deal set up; Sant Jordi is by far the bookshops' biggest day of the year, and I'll bet it's the difference between staying in business and not for a lot of places. All the bookshops put up huge outside displays and have local authors show up and sign books for customers all day, and there are little flower stands on many corners. Since today is a very pretty Catalan spring day, Barcelona looks especially attractive with the sun and the flowers added to the everyday street life.

Since I know my taste in books better than my wife does, I just buy my own a few days before so I don't have to fight the crowds on the 23rd.

Wanna see total racism and xenophobia summed up in two paragraphs? Check out this letter from today's La Vanguardia.

I've read an article about the problems Italian cities have with their Chinese neighborhoods. In Barcelona, we have been complaining for a long time that Chinese merchants are extablishing themselves massively in the Eixample and the Plaza Tetuan. They are invading the neighborhood, just as they have done in Rome, Milan, London, and so many European cities.

The Chinese mafia supplies money to buy and rent commercial spaces, and shopkeepers who have been there forever have to go somewhere else. Then, they buy and rent housing in the area, and the native residents of the neighborhood see how their apartments lose value and the only new residentss who come are Chinese. Finally, the chosen neighborhood becomes the city's Chinatown. I call on the political parties to define their position on this problem that we residents of the Eixample suffer from.

R. Perez Maldonado

Saturday, April 21, 2007

It's been at least two weeks since we did a blog roundup, so it's about time for another.

On France and tomorrow's election: A Fistful of Euros and Pave France,

Natalie at Biased BBC comments on coverage of the Duke lacrosse case.

The Brussels Journal has a must-read hit piece on Zapatero. Definitely check it out.

Don't miss Colin Davies's thoughts from Galicia.

Davids Medienkritik reports on German media reaction to the Virginia Tech shootings.

Eursoc doesn't like the EU's new law banning speech that "incites racial hatred." I don't much care for it, either.

Fausta keeps us up to date on Cubazuela and Chavstro.

La Liga Loca has the must-see weekend football preview.

Publius Pundit has photos of an interesting new form of protest in Russia.

The Bad Rash has taken in a parrot.
Not a whole lot of news from around here, which is why I've been lax in posting. The big international news is the French election. The latest surveys put Sarkozy between 27% and 30%, Royal between 22% and 26%, Bayrou between 15% and 20%, and Le Pen between 13% and 16%. All the other candidates, mostly far-left, are way behind. The fun will be to see whether Bayrou can knock Royal out of second place, as Le Pen did to Jospin in the last election. By the way, it's an international disgrace that more than one-eighth of French voters support Le Pen.

Latest bit of Catalunacy: Josep Huguet of ERC, who is the counselor (=minister) of Innovation, Universtites, and Business and in charge of the Tourism department, just showed what stupidity extreme Catalan nationalism is capable of by, get this, calling on Catalan passengers to boycott Madrid's Barajas airport and fly through Frankfurt or London instead. Yeah, that's going to look just great in the rest of Spain. Remember last time ERC called for a boycott (if I remember correctly, of products not labeled in Catalan), a bunch of Spainiacs like my former boss hit back with a boycott of Catalan products, especially cava, and some serious damage was done to the Catalan wine industry.

Huguet's words: "Barcelona, for political reasons, is forced to turn over its market to the service of another airport...Madrid wants to move from Second Division to First, and in order to achieve it, it is forcing Barcelona to stay in Third...Madrid will never catch up to the big hubs, not even by opposing Barcelona...(Boycotting Barajas) is an important instrument in the hands of Catalan society, which would sent a signal to Madrid to turn over the management of El Prat to Catalonia." Envy and spite, I say.

They ran another one of those citizens-interview-politician things Thursday night, this time with Mariano Rajoy. As with Zapatero, he said nothing new or interesting. The reviews I've heard are pretty good--he came off all right, didn't look like an extremist or a dumbass or a jerk.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Someone named B posted this in the Comments section, and I thought it was something important to clear up.

I will be living in Catalonia for the last several months of this year, sending my 10-year-old to a private school precisely because we have no Catalan. I have assumed that speaking only Spanish and English won't be an insurmountable problem, since locals would realize we're American and unlikely to have been exposed to Catalan. The flap reported in your blog makes me wonder if I should be more concerned than I am. Any recommendations?

B. | 04.17.07 - 8:07 pm

Here's my answer.

B, as I said, there is virtually no conflict among individuals over the language issue in Catalonia. You have nothing to worry about. Half of the people prefer to use Spanish, in the first place. The great majority of those whose first language is Catalan will be happy to use Spanish with you, and the few jerks who won't are not people you'd want to spend time with, whatever language they speak. Also, if you know Spanish, then Catalan is pretty easy to understand and you'll pick it up quick, just by osmosis.

As others have said, look at it as an opportunity to enrich your family culturally. Agreed, Catalan is not a skill that would do anyone much practical good outside Catalonia. But being able to understand Catalan exposes you to a different culture, different books, different theater, different traditions, and so on, and that's an interesting and valuable experience. Also, learning any foreign language is good exercise for the brain. It helps you understand how your own language works, too.

My criticism of the Catalan language laws has nothing to do with disrespect for Catalan language and culture. I have no problem with the regional government encouraging Catalan, either, though I'm opposed to encouraging it with tax money. It's because I believe those laws are unconstitutional and will sooner or later be thrown out by the Constitutional Court, and I believe they're wrong because they discriminate against people who do not know Catalan or prefer to use Spanish.

One thing, B. You will have to send your child to a private school if you want him to be educated in Spanish. I believe this to be discrimination, but for now we have to live with it since it's the law.

John | 04.18.07 - 8:56 am
The Comment Is Free section at the Guardian is the Internet's top repository of anti-American hatred in English, and it's not usually so much the columnists--most are lefty but sort of reasonable, though they run a couple of pieces every week that are insane moonbattery, such as this one--as it is the commenters. Some of these people just spew bile.

Check these out. I haven't reproduced any comments that contain the slightest bit of reasonable criticism; there are a good few comments that show anti-American bias but have at least some redeeming bit of constructive criticism or sympathy and concern for the ordinary American person, so I haven't listed them here. The comments below are the worst of the worst.

April 18, 2007 8:11 AM

Sadly the EU is full of Yank-worshippers like Jenkins but Yanks themselves arent's so hot about their country and each other despite all the boisterous flag-waving. Sure, they all cheer when their army goes and bombs the crap out of some dark-skinned third-world nation and they all snivel in unison when the body bags pile up but the fiercely individualistic winner-takes-all-losers-cringe-in-shame society they live in makes them see every other Yank as a potential rival and enemy. And the ubiquitousness of guns allows them to do something about it. And they do, more than any other civilized nation on earth
Murder is a fundamental part of Yank culture, both of other nations and of each other. They invented the serial killer. Well OK, Britain has the original patent maybe (old Jack) but Yanks mass-manufactured it. They invented the mass killer (like this one). Britain invented the carpet-bombing of cities (as demonstrated by Bomber Harris on Dresden) but Yanks exported this new form of mass murder to the whole world.

They are just killers and their culture of social darwinism coupled with their celebration of violence (TV, movies, and so on) and the ready availability (and glamorization) of the most lethal means with which to effect it (like Glock pistols) turns the black underclass as well as frustrated immigrants like the Korean student into killers as well.

April 18, 2007 10:00 AM

America's grossly unequal 'winner/loser' culture - which spans both the economic and the social sphere - generates the despondency, deviance, frustration and, in this case, unbridled fury that leads to such acts.

The culture of unforgiving, breakneck competitiveness - for money, influence, attractiveness and 'popularity' (almost a cult in the US education system), creates 'losers' who are disparaged, excluded and, often, ridiculed by the 'winners'. It is the internalisation and emotional consequences of being deemed inadequate and worthless that leads to the fermentation of these feelings, while this becomes dangerously intensified amongst those who are also socially isolated.

April 18, 2007 9:49 AM

What these regular and consistent massacres show is how America is declining into a third world country...America will cease to exist has a functioning country/society by 2050 due to an unstoppable increas in gun violence and vigilante militas. America is a third world country.

April 18, 2007 6:07 AM

...AMERICANs are among the most herded and thought controlled people in the Western world and they are ALL ARMED
You don't need guns for protection against oppression you need educated, critical thinkers who have a culture of free thinking and cynicism towards sources of authority, corporate and Governmental. You also need varied and accountable political parties as well as transparent electoral systems. A varied and publicly accountable media is also essential.
In case you hadn't noticed these are all things AMERICA lacks!!!!

Free thinking debaters are not as macho as walking around with guns. Its not freedom from oppression guns represent in the US, its personal power.
Americans are among the most thought controlled westerners on earth. You only have to criticize any war (pick one) and shouts of "traitor" come raining down on any one who disagrees with the dominant view.
If there is one thing Americans love its authority, if its an authority with guns they love it all the more.
In a culture as underdeveloped as the modern US, banning all Guns would be the only civilized step forward.

April 18, 2007 6:49 AM

There are a number of reasons why these crimes happen in America and yes, easy access to weapons is one reason. The others include, a culture which is by its nature aggressive; a school culture which is unkind at best and cruel at worst to far greater degrees than other developed nations; a society which has high levels of racism, elitism and plain old-fashioned bullying which goes on in the society in general and in schools in particular; high exposure to the most shocking levels of gratuituous violence on television and in film; a cultural myth which 'teaches' that ultimately the downtrodden or abused will triumph through power and can then take revenge against those who wronged them (watch a few dozen teen movies if you don't believe me).... hardly surprising that those who do not triumph financially, corporately or academically can always triumph with the gun; a culture which glorifies success at any cost (how many heroes in American movies break the law and get away with it in the name of success); a society which has a cult of celebrity where the infamous are 'honoured' as much as the famous; a society which 'blames' people for failure and sets up the unsuccessful to be permanently labelled as 'losers,' and, last but not least a society which medicalises its children and young people to a far greater degree than any other nation on earth...a relatively unknown fact perhaps is that one of the common factors between all of these campus and schoolyard killers is that they were on medication .... legally prescribed medication, usually for depression, but medication which it is already known can have side-effects which lead to violence or suicide. In short, American kids kill in this way first because they can and second because their society in all sorts of ways encourages violence.

April 18, 2007 12:17 PM

Hey guys don't knock killing, killing is one of the great American pastimes. Killing Indians, killing buffallo, killing blacks, killing Iraqis, killing Vietnemese, killing each other, killing whoever. Thats why they all have flags outside their houses to remind them of what great people they are and of their glorious traditions, one of which, is killing.

April 18, 2007 9:26

Without the death penalty, America would turn in to the wild west, with gun-wielding lunatics wandering the steets taking potshots at people.
America has tried deterence. If they don't execute you in prison, you'll still come out with a bumhole like wizard's sleeve.
You can't solve a country's internal problems by killing everyone who gets in your way, anymore than you can run a foreign policy that way.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What a tragedy at Virginia Tech. The university is saying that the gunman was a student. One of the first things they cleared up is that it has nothing to do with terrorism. Now they're saying the killer was a South Korean student, that he had only one gun, and that he committed suicide.

It's the big story in the Spanish media, too, top story on the news last night and banner headlines in the press this morning. Says La Vanguardia, "The massacre brings that certain cult of guns that exists in the United States back to the forefront of the news," in its page 2 signed editorial, and mentions Columbine High and the Amish elementary school. Eusebio Val's lead on the page 3 news story is, "A demented individual and too easy access to firearms yesterday again created a deadly cocktail in the United States."

They did something I've never seen before: two La Vanguardia reporters used MySpace to contact Virginia Tech students and get their responses, which are published on page 6. One of the students told them to go fuck themselves, and they printed it.

The TV3 afternoon news is just kicking off right now at 2:30 and Virginia Tech is the lead story; the second sentence had something to do with American society being shocked, which it is, and the "eternal" debate over legal guns, which exists mostly among the European media and academic elite. I did notice that InstaPundit was arguing that if some of the people on campus had had guns, this wouldn't have happened--guns are not permitted on the Tech campus, except I suppose in the hands of the police and security guards. I dunno; if you've got a crowd of 25,000 people on campus every day, it might be a good idea if they're not carrying guns.

Now they're doing a piece on Michael Moore and "Bowling for Columbine," saying that in the US there is a gun culture that goes back to the foundations of the country, and that the right to bear arms is in the Constitution. They interviewed some Catalan history professor saying that the right to bear arms goes back to the 18th century "but now, for God's sake, we're in the 21st." They blamed the NRA and John Wayne and Clint Eastwood for "the place of firearms in the American collective imagination," with film clips of "The Alamo" and "Dirty Harry" included. I didn't know we had one of them collective imagination things. Quote from TV3's web site: "In the United States no type of license is required to own a gun." That's wrong., a truly sick site, has a list of the worst mass murderers of all time. Top US school killer was Andrew Kehoe, who blew up an elementary school in Michigan in 1927, killing 45 people. Top spree shooter was Martin Bryant, who shot 35 people to death in Port Arthur, Australia, in 1996. Most notorious spree shootings: George Hennard killed 23 people at a Killeen, Texas Luby's cafeteria in 1991. James Huberty killed 21 people at a McDonalds in San Ysidro, California, in 1984. Charles Whitman killed 18 people from the tower at the University of Texas in Austin in 1966. Top European spree killer: Thomas Hamilton, who killed 17 people at a preschool in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996. Second is Michael Ryan, who killed 16 people in Hungerford, England, in 1987. Latin America's Number One: Genildo Ferreira de Franca, who killed 15 people in 1995 in Natal, Brazil. The top US post office shooter was Pat Sherrill, who killed 14 people in Edmond, Oklahoma, in 1986. Canada's Number One was Marc Lepine, who killed 15 people at a Montreal university in 1989. The Columbine killers murdered 13 people in 1999.

More European spree shooters: Eric Borel killed 13 people in Cuers, France, in 1995. Richard Durn killed 8 people in Nanterre, France, in 2002. Mauro Antonello killed 7 people in Chieri, Italy, in 2002. Mattias Flink killed 7 people in Falun, Sweden, in 1994. Josef Gautch killed 6 people in Austria in 1997. Jean-Pierre Aillan killed 5 people near Rennes, France, in 1996. Tommy Zethraeus killed 4 people in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1994.

And check out this one:

Jesús Andrés Iglesias (4) Before being riddled with bullets, Jesús -- a 40-year-old, mentally disturbed man -- fired more than 30 shots with his double-barrelled hunting rifle at a religious procession passing below his window. The "Corpus Christi Massacre" as it was immediately dubbed by the Spanish media, ocurred in Herreros de Rueda, a tiny village of 35 inhabitants near León in northwest Spain.

Three people in the procession - Victorico Martínez, 73, Herminio Martínez, 72, and Eva González, 22 - were shot in the back and died on the spot. A young sergeant of the Civil Guard died during the ensuing gun battle. "Everyone knew the killer was disturbed, loco. But why did the police let him keep his guns? Why was he allowed a licence?" one of the villagers said. "This is what happens when you allow just anyone to have a gun."

The killer had a history of confrontation with the villagers. He was often abusive and threatening. He was known to fire several rounds from his rifle every night into the trees in his yard. "We complained several times to the Civil Guard," one villager said, "but they never did anything. They said that he hadn't hurt anyone."

The US has quite definitely had more spree killers than Europe, but Europe's not doing too badly in the standings. There are also a lot of people from Russia, Australia, and New Zealand who went on shooting sprees.

As for your standard pervert weirdo serial killers, Europe's right up there with us, too. Erzebet Bathory and Gilles de Rais are legendary. Harold Shipman may have murdered as many as 300 people. Seems that Weimar Germany produced a particularly large amount of them, with four (Bruno Ludke, about 80 kills; Karl Denke, more than 30; Fritz Haarman, at least 27; Peter Kurten, 9) operating during that period. Hungarian Bela Kiss killed 24 during World War I. Frenchwoman Helene Jegado, a mass poisoner, killed at least 23 in the 1850s. Thierry Paulin and Jean-Thierry Mathurin killed 21 in Paris in the mid-1980s. Lucian Staniak killed 20 in Poland in the mid-1960s. German Gerd Wenzinger committed 19 murders in Germany and Brazil during the 1990s. Leszek Pikalski killed at least 17 in Poland in the 1980s. Donato Bilancia killed 17 in the Genoa, Italy area in the 1990s.

Spain's top serial killer, Jose Antonio Rodriguez Vega, killed at least 16 in Santander in the 1980s. He was murdered in prison by fellow inmates in 2002.

All of these serial killers outmurdered Jeffrey Dahmer.

More European serial killers: Dennis Nilsen killed 14 in England in the early 1980s. Thomas Quick killed at least 15 in Sweden in the late 1990s. Joachim Kroll killed 14 in West Germany in the 60s and 70s. Peter Sutcliffe killed 14 in England in the 70s and 80s. Marie Besnard, another poisoning Frenchwoman, killed at least 12 in the 30s and 40s. Jack Unterweger killed at least 12 in Austria and the US in the 90s. Fred and Rosemary West killed at least 12 in England in the 70s and 80s. Joseph Vacher killed at least 11 in France in the 1890s. Marie Becker killed 11 in Belgium during the 30s. Henri Landru killed 11 in France in the 1910s. Martin Dumollard killed 10 in France in the 1860s. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley killed 9 in England in the 1960s. John Christie killed 8 in England in the 1940s and 50s. Jean-Baptiste Troppmann killed 8 in France in the 1860s. Guy Georges killed 7 in Paris in the 1990s. Hungarian Andreas Pandy killed between 6 and 13 in Belgium in the 1970s. Ferdinand Gamper killed 6 in Italy in the mid-90s. Marc Dutroux killed at least 5 in Belgium in the 1990s.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Observations on the Spanish media and racial controversy in the US: The Spanish media has been running a lot of stories recently on the Don Imus flap and on the German video of a drill instructor inciting recruits to imagine themselves killing blacks in the Bronx. I'm not sure why; neither is exactly important news along the lines of, say, Iraq or Iran.

My opinion is that a lot of people need to calm down a lot regarding what is racist and what is not. Language is racist if it a) calls Group X inferior to Group Y b) calls Group X immoral or evil compared to Group Y c) promotes violence or discrimination against Group X. Language is tasteless if it hurts the feelings of someone whose feelings do not deserve to be hurt.

"Nappy-headed hos" is tasteless but not racist. The Rutgers women's basketball team are young women aged 18-22 who are not public figures and never did anything to deserve such namecalling. Their feelings were justifiably hurt, and their demand for an apology was absolutely correct. However, if Don Imus called Whoopi Goldberg, a rather obnoxious public figure, a "nappy-headed ho," it wouldn't bother me in the least. And if he called Pamela Anderson, another rather obnoxious public figure, a "white trash redneck bottle-blonde ho," it wouldn't bother me either. Actually, the sexism (calling women hos, that is, alleging that they are sexually loose and therefore immoral) is worse than any racism in Imus's words.

The German army drill instructor, however, told the recruits, "Imagine you're in the Bronx and a pickup truck pulls in front of you. Three African-Americans get out and insult your mother. Before each shot I want to hear you yell 'motherfucker' real loud. Fire away."

That's racist because it portrays American blacks as violent criminals, and encourages killing them. As an American, I don't like it, and if I were a black American from the Bronx, I'd be especially pissed off.

Here's La Vanguardia's reaction:

At first glance, this is no more than a tough-guy scene in military training, as could happen in all armies...But in the global era, when caricatures of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper can cause violent protests thousands of kilometers away, as happened last year, nothing is innocuous. This weekend, in Germany, the video was almost unnoticed: some private soldiers saying the wrong thing. But its shock wave--by means of Internet--has reached New York.

So it's no big deal for a sergeant to fire up his recruits by encouraging them to kill black criminals in the Bronx, but it's terrible if Tele Madrid makes a documentary alleging that Spanish is discriminated against in Catalonia.

Cartoon on La Vanguardia's editorial page today: A gentleman says, "So you think that they only manipulate the news and lie about the Spanish language in Catalonia?" The Catalan media will not turn loose the Tele Madrid documentary. They have been stung badly.

Comment: Internet does make it a lot more difficult to get away with telling different things to different audiences, or with saying something outrageous without it getting out. You can't get up on stage in London and say you're ashamed to be from Texas anymore, at least if you don't want to face massive flak when you get back home. I remember seeing a Bob Dylan show in Kansas City in around 1987, and he commented from the stage in his confused manner that Leavenworth Prison was nearby and that "some people are in there for doing good things." Since there was about one newspaper reporter there, the critic from the KC Star, and he didn't mention it in his review, no one ever heard about it. You do that now and fifty people who were there will put it on their blogs and the shit'll hit the fan: "Stoned-Out Dylan Praises Criminal Jailbirds."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Latest news from the linguistic front: TV3 has been putting heavy emphasis on a story out of El Prat, a largely Spanish-speaking industrial suburb of Barcelona. Seems a doctor working at a municipal gymnasium would only speak to clients in Catalan, refusing to speak Spanish, and they fired her. Stinkorama. So TV3 is all outraged, saying the woman was fired "for speaking Catalan."

No, she was fired for being rude to the clients and for breaking the official rules. Around here the unwritten social rule is that you speak whatever language you want in private. Many people prefer to adapt to the language the other person in the conversation speaks, and some people insist on speaking their own preferred language. You'll get conversations in which one person speaks Catalan and the other Spanish. So far, fair enough. There is actually very little conflict among individuals in Catalonia over which language to speak. The little conflict that exists is usually caused by people who are just jerks, and language is just one more thing for them to be jerks about.

(Problem for Catalonia's image in the rest of Spain: If some guy comes from Zamora to visit Barcelona, he's likely to talk to some twenty people a day, and the probability is that one of them is going to be a jerk because at least 5% of people are jerks wherever you go. That jerk will refuse to speak to the Zamoran in Spanish. The Zamoran is justifiably irritated, and he goes back to Zamora with memories of the jerk, not the 95% of adaptable normal people that he met. He will then tell everyone he knows about the jerk. Thus all Catalans get an unfair reputation as jerks, as refusing to speak Spanish though you know how is a particularly Catalan form of jerkishness that exists nowhere else.)

However. If you work for the government, your obligation is to speak with the citizen in the language that he prefers, and if you are a private-sector worker who deals with the public, then the social expectation is that you do the same with the client.

This doctor blew it both ways; she did not fulfill social expectations by using Spanish with clients who preferred to use that language, so she was being rude, and she did not fulfill her obligation as a municipal employee by using Spanish with citizens who preferred to use it, so she was breaking the rules. No wonder they fired her. She was pissing people off with her attitude, and you can't do that if you're a public servant. It's ridiculous that TV3 should try to make her some sort of martyr.

Catalonia is steaming mad over the Tele Madrid documentary (link about four posts down).

El Periódico, on Thursday, called it "biased," "an unreal situation of persecution or at least discrimination," and "giving protagonism to the extremes" in an editorial. Meanwhile, the Generalitat, the PSC, CiU, Communists, and ERC, and the labor unions CCOO, UGT, and CGT all condemned the documentary. Antoni Bassas, in El Periódico, says the documentary "would get an F, for lying, at any university," and called it part of "a strategy of provocation of Catalonia." He demanded that Madrid regional premier Esperanza Aguirre apologize for the documentary's contents.

But Toni Soler, who is a jerk, takes the prize for his comments in today's La Vanguardia. He mentions the documentary's "incendiary tone, hilarious dramatism, and peculiar manner of understanding journalism (sic)," and calls it "trash TV."

However, he then says, "However, the Tele Madrid documentary is not just a bunch of lies. It is true that in Catalonia official signs are in Catalan, there is no public education in Spanish--except in individual cases--and in some areas knowledge of Catalan is obligatory." For example, if you want to be a civil servant in Catalonia, you must pass the Level C exam in Catalan, basically impossible if you are not a native speaker. This effectively eliminates all non-Catalan-speakers from being candidates for tens of thousands of jobs.

Soler continues, "It is useless to say that there is no conflict, that Spanish is not discriminated against, and that any child can go to school in the language he wants...Let us admit that, by a democratic mandate, the Generalitat's linguistic policy discriminates against Spanish."

At least Soler is honest; he believes Spanish should be discriminated against because "Catalan is our own language, and it is at a disadvantage because of historical, demographic, and market reasons." Wow. He actually admits that government favoritism to Catalan over Spanish violates the concept of the free market. I've never seen a Cataloony do that before.

He's full of shit about the democratic mandate, though. The rule of law trumps the verdict at the ballot box. No matter if some politician calls a referendum on bringing back the death penalty and 90% of Spaniards vote in favor, Spain cannot bring back capital punishment because the Spanish consititution explicitly prohibits it. No matter what the voters vote to do, if it's unconstitutional or illegal then it can't be done.

The Spanish constitution quite clearly prohibits discrimination against Spanish-speakers. Hell, it says straight out that Spanish is the national language and that all citizens have both the right to speak it and the duty of knowing it. The Catalan language laws are unconstitutional.

Perhaps now a few people at TV3 will be a little bit more sensitive to the negative manner in which the United States is invariably portrayed in the documentaries that it runs, since everyone's so offended at the negative portrayal of Catalonia in this one.

Naah, I doubt it.
So last night I go down to the bar on the plaza for a couple of beers and a chat with the patrons, and I'm sitting on a stool talking with this guy David, who's interested in American Indians and always asks me questions. He notices a pack of cigarettes on the floor and asks me if they're mine; I say no, I've got my own pack, and he picks up the pack and hands it to me and says, "They're yours now," since he doesn't smoke.

I flip up the top of the box; it's half-full of Camels, and contains a packet of rolling papers as well. I say, "Hmmm," turn it upside down, and a lump of hash falls out. Everyone sees it, including the bar's owner, Luc from Bruges, and there's a general round of laughter. I claim the booty as my own and stash it in my jacket pocket. David says, "There were a couple of teenagers sitting here before you showed up. I bet they dropped it."

What do you know, half an hour later the teenagers came back asking whether anyone had found a pack of cigarettes. Of course we all said no, and they left, downhearted and dejected.

I figure my actions in this incident were morally justifiable, since those teenagers shouldn't have been smoking tobacco in the first place, much less hashish, so I saved them from spiraling down into the hell of addiction. They should thank me.

By the way, the hash isn't much good, what they call "culero" around here, the bottom grade of stuff that actually works. You have to smoke a good bit of this shit in order to get the effect you'd get off a couple of bong hits of good marijuana.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Spain is taking the terrorist attacks in Algeria and Morocco very seriously. An organization called Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb has claimed responsibility for the bombings in Algiers. It is apparently a fusion of the Salafist Combat Group and several other Islamist terrorist groups. They killed twelve people in Cabilia, the Berber region to the east of Algiers, during December. It seems that they got themselves organized in February of last year after the Algerian goverment turned loose 2300 suspected Islamist terrorists.

The Zap government has put Spain on a "level 2 alert." This is the second highest level of security, and it means that places where crowds collect or which provide basic services (e.g. airports, power plants) are to be closely watched. Each police unit is to file individual reports on anything suspicious they see. There are at least 70 undercover agents operating in Ceuta, according to La Vangua, which says that there are at least as many infiltrated spies among the Islamists there. Ceuta contains at least 3000 Maghrebi illegal aliens, among whom the Islamists recruit heavily.

Al Qaeda, in its communique claiming responsibility for the bombings, declared, "We will not rest until we have liberated the land of Islam from Jerusalem to Al Andalus." Al Andalus, in case you didn't know, is Spain. Looks like Zap's cutting and running from Iraq didn't do a damn bit of good. Appeasement never does.

Says Walter Laqueur in today's La Vanguardia, "Why call for a Muslim reconquest now? Spain, after all, withdrew its troops from Iraq as a gesture of good will." Because the Islamists want to dominate the entire world, remember, and Spain is to be one of the very first dominoes to fall. People who don't understand this and think that negotiations of any kind are going to work with Islamists are dreaming.

La Vanguardia ran an interview with Baltasar Garzón yesterday; Garzón says a) "We should consider that in Spain we are facing a very high risk of a new Islamist terrorist attack" b) Al Qaeda has training camps in southern Algeria near the Mali frontier c) The Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla on the north coast of Morocco are Al Qaeda's number one target d) We must take Al Qaeda's threats against "Al Andalus" seriously, because they do e) It's very hard to investigate these Islamist terrorist groups because they're mostly semi-independent at least.

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda is using retarded children as suicide bombers in Iraq. The United Nations, whose word I would normally never take seriously, cites twelve documented cases, including the March 21 Baghdad market bombing. One 13-year-old suicide bomber was sold by his parents to Al Qaeda for $10,000. And there are still people who don't understand that we, and I mean the liberal, civilized West, are fighting pure evil, and Iraq is the number one battlefield.

Comment on the Tele Madrid documentary: The Catalan media is absolutely furious, much more so than Iberian Notes ever gets at Catalan media anti-Americanism. La Vangua calls the documentary "false," "biased," and "exploitative" on today's editorial page. Funny how they don't say things like that when Catalan TV shows documentaries like the one on the Aryan Nations that they rerun so often, the one on "Jesus Camp," those nutcase jobs claiming the US government was behind 9-11, or Bowling for Columbine. Or the Al Gore movie and traveling circus sideshow. Looks like the shoe's on the other foot now and they don't like it one bit.

Good news. They're going to run the Barcelona subway all night on Saturdays starting next week. If they're going to tax us, I don't particularly mind if the money goes to such useful forms of public transportation as the subway. Much better than Catalan national sports teams. At least spending the money on the subway gets people where they're going, as well as hopefully reducing traffic and drunk driving accidents.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Guirilandia has an awesome post on a common scam here in Barcelona. Definitely check it out.

I've never worked for one of those places here. I worked for one, called Entertel, while I was in college in Lawrence, Kansas in the mid-'80s. Entertel was a boiler room that was careful, apparently, to operate within the limits of the law. For example, when we made a sale, we were supposed to inform the customer that we were going to record them consenting to buy the product, and we had to tell the customer that we were calling from Lawrence.

It was standard boiler-room procedure, though. We were given a script and told to call up people and sell them something called "credit card insurance." The deal was that if someone stole their card the insurance company would pay back all losses. However, in real life, you're only liable for I think fifty bucks on a stolen card--my card was stolen once and the thief ran up 130,000 pesetas on it, and I wasn't liable for anything since I reported the theft to the police--so the product was completely useless.

What happened was that I did pretty well the first day, but the supervisor constantly pushed me to work harder and faster. They didn't try to fire people up with silly stunts, as I've heard boiler-room operators do, but you were supposed to be constantly calling, dozens of calls an hour.

The second day I made a sale to somebody who was obviously pretty dumb, and after she agreed to buy it she asked me, "Now, what did I just buy?" I explained and she decided not to buy it after all. I figured this job was not the right one for me, since I didn't need the money that badly, I didn't like the pressure, and I didn't feel too good about selling junk that people didn't need, basically cheating them, for minimum wage and pie-in-the-sky commissions. Maybe if the thirty pieces of silver had really existed, I might have stuck around despite my ethical qualms, but they didn't and so I didn't. I quit at the end of the day, and got a job in cataloguing down at the university library, which suited me much better, since it was just honest minimum wage for working with books.
Here's a wonderful new Spanglishism (or maybe Catalanglesism) coined by, of all people, the Barcelona city government. Seems they read somewhere that in places like Amsterdam there's a government-owned bicycle-rental system, and so they decided to start one here. There will be ten or twelve points around the city where you'll be able to pick up or drop off a city-owned bike. The new system is to be called "bicing," which sounds like sexually ambiguous stuff you would use to frost a cake. Yep, they just took the "bic" from "bicicleta" (or "bicycle") and stuck an "-ing" on the end. I figure it's actually supposed to be pronounced "bee-seen," both syllables getting the same stress.

Why this will not work: Barcelona is a Mediterranean city, not a Nordic one. As everyone knows, urban cleanliness and civic behavior decline as you go from north to south in Europe. So Oslo is cleaner than Amsterdam (or London), which is cleaner than Paris, which is cleaner than Barcelona (or Milan), which is cleaner than Naples, which is cleaner than Athens, which is cleaner than anything south of the Med. So what is going to happen is that within a month half the bikes are going to disappear and the other half will be already rusted out due to lack of maintenance.

Besides, there are already several privately-owned bicycle-rental services in the city. My impression is they do most of their business at the Parque Ciutadella. If there was a market for people to rent bikes to travel point to point in the city, these guys would already have thought of it. Also, bikes aren't expensive, and pretty much everyone who wants to ride one already owns one. Finally, traffic is hellacious in Barcelona, and people who don't know the city or how to ride well are going to get themselves killed. The liability insurance on this bright idea must be enormous. Some dumb American kid is going to get run over by a bus and his parents are going to hire some high-powered lawyers to sue the city and bribe a judge (not that difficult around here; remember Pascual Estevill?) and we're all on the hook for God knows how much in damages.

This smells a little like a make-work project, since I'm sure three or four employees at each of the pick-up points, along with twelve or fifteen supervisors, are going to be necessary. There's a lot of labor-intensive public work here; one I think is funny is that two guys with brooms go around sweeping street garbage into the path of a very noisy and very small vacuuming truck that also dampens the ground under it. After they've been through, the street looks the same as it did before. There must be a hundred of these things going around town at any one time. I don't know why they don't buy larger trucks with real suction power and a real water tank.
So I hear that Jimmy Wales is working on some kind of bloggers' code of conduct. May I be blunt? My ass. My conduct is limited by the law. If I commit libel, or exalt terrorism, or make threats, or blackmail somebody, or engage in financial fraud or false advertising, I can be taken to court. If I don't break the law, nobody can do anything to me. My conduct is also limited by the standards of readers--that is, the market. If I behave in a way that they don't approve of, they will stop reading. The market is a much more effective regulator than anything Jimmy Wales can think up.

So I don't need some Internet watchdog organization limiting my freedom of speech in any way, and I will not participate in any kind of voluntary rating system.

As far as the comments section goes, if you break the law on it, it's my responsibility as editor and publisher to censor you. I haven't seen anybody break the law yet except for the occasional death threats I get, so I haven't censored anyone but anonymous cowards.
Spain is taking the Islamist terrorist attacks yesterday in Casablanca very seriously. Moroccan police decided to hunt down three suspected terrorists. Two of them blew themselves up; one killed a policeman, jumping on his back from a low rooftop and blowing them both up. Another terrorist was shot to death by police. A fourth terrorist then blew himself up in the middle of a street, killing at least five and wounding at least fifteen people. The police have evacuated an entire neighborhood of the city. Moroccan police have arrested hundreds of people in anti-terrorist roundups during the last month; they claim to have gotten all twelve of the cell they started investigating a month ago, along with seven "sleeper" suicide bombers. Everyone involved is suspected of connections with Al Qaida.

Meanwhile, today an explosion in Algiers killed at least twenty people; it was apparently an assassination attempt on the prime minister. The three countries of the Maghreb, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, are going to be important fronts in the war on Islamism.

Rafael Ramos, in his dispatch from London for La Vanguardia, makes the following claims: 1) "The British and Italian governments have learned...that their military presence in countries where they are not welcome, against the wishes of their public opinion, is never going to provide them with propaganda victories." Raffy, propaganda victories are not the point here, and foreign military presence is not welcome anywhere but is often necessary--for example, in Kosovo right now, or in South Korea, or in Iraq and Afghanistan. 2) "All governments negotiate with terrorists no matter how much they deny it." Sure, we have to negotiate sometimes with terrorists like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the PLO, because left-wingers like you supported them back when they could still have been stopped. But do all governments swap hostages with terrorists? I doubt it. 3) Ramos is still claiming that the Americans turned over an Iranian agent they were holding in exchange for the fifteen British hostages. I have seen nothing of the sort anywhere else in the Spanish press. 4) "People are realizing that the Karzai government is the fruit of a compromise with the Taliban, and Western powers have strategic interests in Russia's back yard." Hoo boy. The Afghan government is supported by the Taliban? And that old geopolitical claim that the West is trying to surround Russia. Note that Ramos considers Russian intervention appropriate in Central Asia ("Russia's back yard"), while American intervention in the Caribbean is not appropriate.

This is hilarious. Catalan TV (€13 billion in debt) habitually runs extreme anti-American documentaries which all share the same faults:

a) they have a pre-set point of view, and report only on items that back their thesis; b) they take a small part of the whole (racist extremists in Idaho, snake-handlers in Tennessee, Mormon polygamists in rural Utah) and then generalize it to the entire society; c) they interview leftist sociologists and the like, people whose views are nowhere near the mainstream even in academia, and accept the opinion of these alleged experts as the truth; d) they interview disgruntled individuals who are pissed off at society, without interviewing the great non-pissed-off majority; e) they fail to interview any historians, writers, academic figures, or political officeholders who disagree with the alleged experts; f) they take minor issues and blow them up completely out of proportion to their real importance; g) they depend on shocking or very unusual images which do not reflect the experience of ordinary people in ordinary situations.

So Tele Madrid just did a hatchet job on Catalonia.

They ran a documentary saying that Spanish speakers are discriminated against in Catalonia. And they used all the same tricks that constantly show up in anti-American documentaries.

The Catalan media, led by La Vanguardia, is howling like a hit dog. La Vangua calls the Tele Madrid documentary "a very harsh diatribe" in its subhead.

The documentary says that Spanish speakers in Catalonia "are threatened," have "no freedom," and "must leave Catalonia if their rights are to be respected." Spanish-speaking children "are discriminated against" at school; the documentary focuses on two families who cannot enroll their children in Spanish-speaking schools. (La Vangua denounces the use of hidden cameras, which they curiously never held against Michael Moore.) Shopowners who put up signs in Spanish are "persecuted"; Spanish-speakers must seek justice at courts that speak only Catalan.

And they got loudmouth and rather stupid TV3 personalities Joel Joan and Miquel Calzada to shoot themselves in the foot. Joan said, "Catalonia is a people who are inside a union (Spain) but without freedom. We must decide whether we are Spanish or not." Calzada said, "Why are there people who say 'don't speak Catalan to me'? I feel bad, but please get out. With no regrets."

Finally, they got local disgruntled folks Albert Boadella ("my work is totally boycotted") and Arcadi Espada ("I was attacked by a violent gang while I was giving a speech, something that has been fairly common lately in Catalonia") to spout off against the status quo.

La Vanguardia openly accuses Tele Madrid, which belongs to the PP-controlled Madrid autonomous regional government, of propagandizing in favor of the PP with the goal of bringing out the vote in the May municipal elections. I do not recall La Vangua ever saying anything critical of the way the CiU government used to abuse, and the PSC government now abuse, their control over TV3.

Interestingly, TV3 hasn't said anything about the documentary.

Here's the link to the video of the whole thing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The slaughter continues on Spanish highways: 103 dead during the four-day Easter long weekend. (You get Friday and Monday off in Catalonia, Valencia, Basque Country, and Navarre, and Thursday and Friday off in the rest of Spain.) Most Spanish roads are pretty good, but there are a few places that are so poorly designed (case in point: trying to get off the Diagonal on to the Ronda de Dalt) that they cause total disaster. Another problem is Spanish herd vacation behavior. The highways around here are built to handle more or less normal traffic, but Spaniards leave major cities en masse on long weekends and for the August holidays. This means the traffic load is tripled or quadrupled and the whole system crashes. On Monday afternoon a 33-kilometer traffic jam built up at the Tarragona tollbooth. We missed the gridlock because we come into town off the N-II from Lleida, which gets little traffic compared to the routes up and down the coasts and to the Pyrenees.

Latest French survey: Sarkozy 28%, Royal 24%, Bayrou 18%, and Le Pen 16% heading into the first round of the presidential election, to be held April 22. Of course, the idiot French Left is shooting itself in the foot once again by running several extremist candidates, including a Commie, a Green, two Trots, and Jose Bove, who just might suck up enough of Royal's vote to squeeze Bayrou through to the next round.

What an embarrassing fiasco for the British armed forces Iran's little game has been. The Iranians have just raised their bet with their announcement that they're producing nuclear fuel "on an industrial scale." I vote we call; right now they've got a pair of deuces to our four aces, but if we wait much longer they'll have a royal flush and there ain't nothing that beats one of those.

Get this. Our regional government, the Generalitat, has spent €2.6 million in tax money over the last three years promoting official Catalan "national" sports teams. Specifically, they gave the money to the Platform Pro Catalan Sports Teams, headed by a member of ERC. Interestingly, ERC promised to contribute €1.2 million a year to the Platform, and to spend €7.5 million a year promoting Catalan "national" teams.

And the Catalan Radio and Television Corporation, the Generalitat's own propaganda organ, is €13 billion with a B in debt. That's 11.4% of Catalonia's annual GDP. How can they possibly spend that much money? You could make 130 Hollywood big-budget spectaculars, or 1300 clever comedy or dramatic movies, for that amount of cash, and people might actually want to watch them.

Meanwhile, Manuel Castells, the most overrated alleged intellectual in Catalonia, denounces corruption in La Vanguardia--both abroad, including allegations against Bush, Blair, Chirac, Putin, Lula, the Chinese government, and the yakuza, and in Spain, specifically mentioning Andalusia, Valencia, Madrid, and the Balearic Islands. Interestingly, in his article covering two-thirds of an opinion page, the eight little letters "Cataluña" don't appear. Or the letters CiU or PSC or ERC. Or the famous number 3%.

More from La Vangua: Manuel Trallero neatly disposes of Catalonia's own Katie Couric, Monica Terribas, who thought she'd try to get smart with Colin Powell on live television.

Ingenuous Monica Terribas thought she'd have Colin Powell for lunch. Hey, if you're a black man who grew up in a ghetto, became Chief of Staff of the greatest world power, and even made it to Secretary of State, then the journalist who tries to interview you should behave fashionably leftist (hacer monerías progres). Powell ate her with potatoes and left her like a sardine, just the bones. It's one thing to wear sandals to show off your little feet and your painted toenails while you interview Zapatero, and another entirely to try to tangle with a guy who doesn't just look tough.

La Vangua also gives massive quantities of publicity to the new UN bogosity on global warming, and criticizes by name the United States, China, Russia, India, and Saudi Arabia for being unwilling to go along with the report's conclusions. Now wait a minute. Seems if you can't get either the Americans or the Chinese to go along with your report, then the consensus you're claiming may not exist.

ETA has been making its usual threats again; among them was that they were going to kill a cop if De Juana Chaos had died on his hunger strike. They gave an interview to their house newspaper, Gara, featuring a photo of two ETA thugs wearing masks. The thugs said:

"ETA cannot imagine elections without the "abertzale" (pro-ETA) left." (Translation: Their puppet party, Batasuna, is banned and can't participate in the May municipal elections.)

"If the government carries out its attack against the abertzale left, ETA will take it very seriously." (Translation: If their party doesn't get un-banned, somebody dies.)

"The peace process is still blocked because the Spanish government has not listened to what the people say." (Translation: The only people whose say counts are us.)

"Basque society knows perfectly that the keys to solving the conflict are territoriality and the right to decide." (Translation: The killing continues until an ETA-governed Basque Country including Navarra gains independence.)

"With its action at Barajas, ETA is trying to redirect the peace process and send a clear message to the government to think about: it is necessary to fulfill your promises, to deactivate the repressive machinery it uses against the Basque homeland." (Translation: Let our terrorists out of jail or we'll kill some more people like we did at Barajas.)

These cynical, ironic bastards. I hate them for what they do, and for how they do it.
We spent Easter weekend (holidays in Catalonia: Good Friday to Easter Monday) out in the pueblo. Nice weather, very tranquil, far away from computers and translations. We took the dog out every day--walked up the Segura road, up the road to L'Ametlla, down toward Guimerà, up the valley to the spa. Perla the dog loves bounding through wheatfields; that's quite practical now that the wheat is still green and about a foot and a half high.

It's rained a great deal here recently, the first real hard rain since winter 2005, more than three inches in Barcelona. When you figure Catalonia gets 20-25 inches of rain a year, three inches is a lot. So everything out in the country is green and looks like Ireland. This'll last until about the end of May or so, when the dry summer begins to kick in. Out in Vallfogona they don't irrigate anything except the vegetable gardens along the bank of the stream, but parts of central and western Catalonia do irrigate extensively.

Remei made me haul out a bunch of old junk, which weighed a ton, out of the top two floors of that enormous old house we have. Remei's mother, of course, pitched a fit that we were throwing out her beloved garbage, but she calmed down pretty soon and was actually very well-behaved in general. I mean this stuff was garbage, too, broken doors and smashed-up chairs and mattresses from the 1950s; we didn't throw out anything that was either useful or had any possible sentimental value. Remei gave Ramon from Cal Matruqueu fifty bucks to drag the crap to the dump in his tractor and wagon; it was the big news in town on Sunday afternoon. "Hey, look, they're throwing out a bunch of crap at Cal Elvira and the Anglés is getting all sweaty and Rosa is hollering at him. Let's go check it out."

Vallfogona has a couple of Rumanian families; everyone seems to get along fine, though the Catalans say the Rumanians aren't very communicative. Let me tell you, small-town Catalans can be pretty damn uncommunicative at times, too. Everybody seems to respect these Rumanian folk because they're family people with jobs; I doubt the locals would tolerate any outsiders who weren't. Pretty much the only social mixing seems to be at the Barça games on TV at the local bar, which the whole town shows up for. I noticed there was a sign up in the bar in Rumanian saying that Orthodox religious services are held in Rumanian at the church over in Arbeca on Sundays. I bet ten years from now half the people who live in Vallfogona year-round will be Eastern Europeans.

Friday, April 06, 2007

This is kind of embarrassing. I've never been interested in pornography; obviously, watching porno has the same effect on me as it does on every other male, but it's not something I seek out. Probably one reason why I have so few computer and spam problems is that I never go to Internet porn sites.

But I've become fascinated by this book that I mentioned a month or two ago called My Secret Life by an anonymous Victorian gentleman. My guess is that it's a combination of his real experiences, stories other people told him, and his fantasies. A lot of it rings very true, though, because the author doesn't conceal anything about himself. He doesn't mind telling stories that make him look like a fool, or an arrogant jerk, and he enjoys telling stories that make him look rather like a pervert--some of the stuff about thirteen-year-old virgins is pretty unpleasant, not real erotic at all.

I'm not sure I've ever read an author who was so honest, even though at least half of his book is made up. His feelings and actions ring true even in situations that are probably his fantasies.

And it's expanded my vocabulary.

doodle=penis, probably children's word
baudy, leud (adverbs)=horny, excited--"I felt baudy and leud when I saw..." Also adjectives, e.g."my baudy cock"
gamouche=perform oral sex on a female
minette=perform oral sex on a man; also a noun
bum furrow=buttcrack
to spend=to reach orgasm (both male and female)

Most of the other standard words in English were used then in just the way they are now. One that people seem to think was used during Victorian times, "to roger," doesn't appear in My Secret Life, making me think it's bogus.
La Vanguardia was rather interesting today.

Banner headline: "Iran seeks dialogue with liberation of 15 British sailors."

Gee, I'd say Iran is playing the Godfather and letting us know he can extort us like this whenever he wants.

Rafael Ramos, Vangua correspondent in London, kicks off his Page 3 article, top of La Vangua's international section, with:

"And the Oscar for best performance in the political theater goes to.....Mahmoud Ahmadinejad!" The rest of his article is at the same level. I'm so tired of Spanish commentators explaining everything in images. It's a serious fault. I suppose we do it, too, but they really read a lot into images.

Ramos claims there was a swap of hostages, that the Americans turned over an Iranian diplomat they'd captured committing crimes inside Iraq in exchange for the smiling, handshaking Brits.

Tikrit Tommy Alcoverro, La Vangua's paid-off correspondent in Beirut, announces on page 4 that the Syrian regime is thrilled with Speaker Pelosi's visit. Official regime newspaper Al Bass, mouthpiece of the Syrian Baath Party, said that Pelosi's "valorous mission recognizes the part played by Syria and shows that there is more than one criterion in dealing with the Damascus Government." I think anything you do that the government of Syria praises is absolutely the wrong thing to have done just by definition.

Joaquim Ibarz, La Vangua's respectable and serious Latin American correspondent, says that Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez are full of crap when they say things like "Ethanol means the internationalization of genocide," since Chavez set up a project to convert Venezuelan sugarcane into ethanol just weeks before Bush announced he thought it was a good idea. Cuba and Venezuela plan to jointly modernize ten sugarcane-to-ethanol plants that already exist in Cuba. Brazil is irritated at Castro's big mouth.

Scandal: Spanish taxpayers' money is to go to Cuba in the wake of foreign minister Moratinos's visit. Cuba's debt of €1.7 billion to Spain is to be "renegotiated." "Bilateral cooperation" is to be "renewed in all fields: economic, financial, cultural, and developmental." A "permanent and formal mechanism of political dialogue" is to be created between Spain and Cuba, under conditions of "mutual respect, equality, and acceptance of respective political and legal structures."

Meanwhile, Cuban foreign minister and chief gamouche Perez Roque said, "The prisoners in Cuba are not part of this agenda."

Hey, Zap, doesn't look like you got much of a quid pro quo for getting your tongue all covered with the shit dripping out Fidel's tumor-riddled asshole, does it?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Just a few quick links:

The Telegraph's US correspondent comments that he agrees with Michael Cherkoff that the US does not have the same problem with radical Islamist immigrants as Europe does. Check out a couple of the wacky responses by commenters.

Commentary, in a fairly gutsy move, runs a Charles Murray piece with the thesis that Ashenazi Jews have a higher average IQ than other groups for genetic reasons. I could buy it if the thesis is that all historically trading / commercial ethnic groups that have been ghettoized inside larger and wider societies, including the overseas Chinese, the overseas Lebanese, and the Armenian diaspora, are likely to have undergone a process of selection, in which being clever would greatly improve your survival and reproductive chances, and that all these groups are likely to have high average IQs.

Jonah Goldberg shoots fish in a barrel. Come on, Jonah, this is too easy for you.

Front Page features a defense of free trade.

Actually, Keith Richards probably really didn't snort his dad's ashes mixed with cocaine no matter what he said.
Well, Iran has released the British hostages, which is excellent news for everyone, especially them and their families. Ahmadinejad said he was "pardoning them as a gift to the British people" in honor of Easter and Muhammed's birthday.

Britain needs to strike back as soon as its hostages are safe. The absolute minimum they can do is cut all relations of any kind with Iran, especially commercial relations, and freeze all Iranian assets in their power. Agreed, Britain probably couldn't launch a military action all by itself, and since nobody got killed, starting the shooting would look bad in the eyes of the Independent and those other surrender monkeys who blamed this whole thing on the Americans for capturing some Iranian agents inside Iraq.

Thucydides said that wars are fought out of interest, fear, or honor; interest and fear are already both factors in our dealings with the mullahs. And honor has just been lost. You can't let a tinhorn theocrat capture your sailors and then magnanimously pardon them, or no one will take you seriously again in that part of the world.

In strategy--and make no mistake, this is a game of strategy, I'm absolutely positive Iran planned this whole thing out--your opponent makes his decisions based at least partly on what he thinks you are going to do. Iran was betting that Britain and America would do nothing if it took some hostages, and Iran will have won its bet if there is no sharp and immediate response. If there is not one, Iran is going to up the stakes and see how far it can push in order to find out how strong the West's will really is. Be prepared for another stunt like this one in the near future, another test of strength.

By the way, I do not know what I would do if I were taken hostage by the Iranians. They wouldn't have to put too much pressure on me to get me to cooperate; I have no illusions about my own personal courage. I wouldn't smile for the cameras while shaking hands with my captor, though, and I wouldn't wish him success, either.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I think a gentleman named Jose Ramon Ubieto, who is billed as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, may have set the all-time record for Spanglishisms per paragraph in an article in La Vanguardia today. The subject seems to be self-esteem, body image, and what's wrong with superficial consumerist society.

Check these out:

"...una felicidad prometida pero que en realidad sólo atisbamos en su versión low-cost..."
(a promised happiness that we can only reach in its unsubstantial version)

"...una serie de placeres minúsculos y algo efímeros que constituyen los estándares de ese bienestar prêt-à-porter."
(a series of minuscule and rather temporary pleasures that are the basis of that easily-purchased well-being)

OK, I know, and so does Mr. Ubieto, since he's so careful with the accents, that pret-a-porter is originally French, not English, but he's using it as international gobbledygook.

"...Es el don't worry, be happy!"
(It's don't worry, be happy!")

I'm not exactly sure what he means here.

"...nos anestesiamos con una moral light sostenida en el fun..."
(We anesthetize ourselves with undemanding social mores based on enjoyment.)

"...Se trata de planear sobre la vida, como hacen los jóvenes practicantes del parkour..."
(We try to glide over life, like the youths who do parkour)

Whatever parkour is. Sounds pseudo-Franglais.

"...Así nació el body building como sueño de recreación de la propia anatomía..."
(Thus body-building was born as the dream of recreating one's own anatomy)

"...ciudadanos de a pie que aspiran al nothing is impossible..."
(Ordinary citizens who hope they will be able to reach their goals)

"Ahora nos llegan los exitosos (en Estados Unidos) makeover televisivos que prometen un cambio radical..."
(Now the successful (in the United States) television makeover programs that promise a radical change are arriving..."

"¿Radical? Dejémoslo en un lifting del yo que alcanza para lo que alcanza."
(Radical? Let's call it a superficial change in the ego that does whatever good it does."

"¿Se acuerdan cuando surgió el primer reality show?"
(Do you remember when the first reality show came out?"

I count ten and one-half Spanglishisms and one and one-half international Franglaisisms. In nine paragraphs. That's pretty good.

I bet if you asked Mr. Ubieto why he used so many bits of non-Spanish in only nine paragraphs, he'd probably tell you something about his text shows the superficiality of modern language use in the imprecise and pretentious incorrect use of foreign words and phrases.

I also bet that the real answer is that Mr Ubieto's own thoughts are rather superficial themselves, and he didn't feel the need to work real hard expressing them in clear language when he could just throw in a few easy international code words.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The ETA dirtbags the cops rounded up last week were going to pull a hit on anti-ETA Basque author and philosopher Fernando Savater. Meanwhile, they found 170 kilos of explosives in the apartment that one of them was renting. 12 persons have been arrested in Spain and 12 more in France on ETA-related charges since they called off the alleged truce three months ago.

So let's see. A huge bombing of a parking garage at the Madrid airport that killed two people. Caches of hundreds of kilos of explosives. Information on police officers and political office holders, and a plan to murder one of the most notable members of your community. Not to mention another cheap attempt by your illegal political branch to start up under a new name and thereby try to dodge the law.

Yep. Zapatero's right. This must be because ETA wants to get the peace process going again.

Scandal: The Zap administration sent foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos to Cuba; he arrived today. He'll meet with Raúl and chief asslicker Pérez Roque, but not Fidel, who has time for Chavez but not Moratinos. I haven't noted any changes in the behavior of the Cuban regime--it seems just as repressive, brutal, and stupid as ever--so I'm not sure why Spain would want to cozy up to Castro in such a way. Zap already got the EU to lift its diplomatic sanctions on Cuba back in 2004. Unless Zapatero just likes Communism. Which I think he does, at least emotionally. Moratinos's line was, "Spain cannot be absent from Cuba." He didn't say anything about the democratic opposition.

Somebody anonymous told the Vanguardia that Moratinos's trip is "the logical culmination of the strategy of normalization of relations that has been followed since the change of government with regard to Cuba." The anonymous person added that there would be both political and economic "normalization," which I think means our tax money is going to be heading down Havana way. Mr. Anonymous also said that "Cuba's future must be decided by the Cubans," in reference to the Zap government's opposition to the Czech and Polish hard line on Cuba within the EU. Yep. I agree. I think we do everything possible to help the democratic opposition set up free elections, so the Cubans can decide their own future. I don't see how tongueing Fidel's kid brother's balls is going to contribute to that.

La Vangua's take on the Catalan political circus is that ERC offered to cut a deal with CiU in order to remind everybody that it holds the key to the Montilla administration, and when it withdraws its support the Tripartite comes crashing down.

It's Holy Week and they're having processions again. Everyone, even agnostics like me, should have a look at a Spanish Holy Week celebration once. Then, when you've seen one, you've pretty much seen them all; I'm not much of a fan. Some people really get into it, though. Barcelona is not a big procession town; I'm not even sure they have one. They have a little one in my wife's village and all seventy-five people at least stick their heads out the window.

Barcelona opened up a two-point lead over Sevilla with a 2-1 victory over Deportivo, with Ronaldinho back in form and goals by Messi and Eto'o. Three-quarters of the League is over with, and Barça is stepping up and playing better precisely when they need to. If they can pull out a win next week in Zaragoza they'll have gone a long way toward a third consecutive League title.

They're going to beatify John Paul II, which is no less than he deserves as one of the most significant contributors to the fall of the Soviet empire. They have a French nun who said the Pope cured her of Parkinson's. I'm not sure why they're still insulting people's intelligence with such claims. Surely the Church must know by now that nobody swallows this miracle stuff any more. It is simply impossible. We know that the paranormal and supernatural do not exist.

Christianity seems actually more spiritual (for lack of a better word) to me without earthly saints walking around curing people. I mean, we are supposed to believe in God out of our faith in his goodness, not because we believe getting cured of illness by some saint is our earthly reward.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Interesting historical article on Amelia Earhart at Fox News. Check it out.
I generally like Jack Shafer, Slate's media critic, but his last piece is pretty lame. The subject is April Fool's jokes, which is a dumb seasonal topic on which any buttmunch in his first year on the features desk at the Topeka Capital-Journal can churn out a quick one.

Shafer didn't do too much work digging up his funny examples to fill out his article, either, since most of them are referenced at either the Museum of Hoaxes, a very good site which Shafer credits extensively--in fact, his article would totally suck if not for info from that webpage--or Snopes, the world's best urban legends website. I've linked to them both in the past--to Snopes just a couple of days ago.

Nobody's perfect, but that one was kind of crap, Jack.