Monday, April 23, 2007

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

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