Sunday, June 24, 2007

I honestly don't know what to think about the European Union summit; La Vanguardia is reporting they made a deal, that the Poles managed to get the reallocation of power delayed until 2017, and that France is claiming victory because they got a light version of the rejected Constitution of 2005 through. Apparently there will be "more foreign policy and law enforcement cooperation," but the document will not be a constitution and certain limits, unspecified by La Vangua, will exist. It's still not a done deal, as there will be referendums in Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. I bet the Dutch, Danes, and Czechs vote no. Zap and Moratinos are trying to take the credit and talk up how important their participation in the discussions was. Guys, if you have to go around telling people you're important, you probably ain't.

Hugo Chavez update: He's buying nine submarines, armed with anti-aircraft missiles, off the Russians. Just what the Venezuelan people need. Uh, Hugo, Russian subs have a rather disappointing track record, tending to sink. He's also bought attack helicopters, fighter planes, and air-to-air missiles from our friend Putin. France refused to sell subs to him, a first for the French, notorious for arming pretty much everybody and his dog. Meanwhile, you've heard that he's opening up a Kalashnikov factory in order to arm every bunch of nuts with a grudge throughout Latin America.

La Vanguardia reports that Spanish farmers and ranchers, mostly small landholders who emigrated to Venezuela in the 50s and 60s, are being forced off their land by gangs of Chavista thugs who claim they are taking over the land to create alleged cooperatives. They then collect government subsidies and do no work, so nothing is produced. 16,000 farm cooperatives have been created in Venezuela; only 200 have not gone broke already. There's been a wave of kidnappings for ransom, 30 in the last 18 months, which the Spanish farmers consider to be government intimidation.

Says La Vangua's reporter Joaquim Ibarz: "The result is the asme as in an African country: lack of investment, decline of production, fear, crime, impunity, poverty, and chaos." He visited a Caracas supermarket and found no sugar, meat, eggs, milk, cooking oil, or beans on the shelves. "Scarcity increases because productive land is invaded by people without experience and ranchers and farmers do not invest for fear their land will be expropriated. The control of food prices leads to scarcity, as the government forces food to be sold for less than the cost of production." I'm a little surprised at La Vangua printing anything so liberal-capitalist; let's hope it's a trend.

Congratulations to Sevilla, who had the best season of all the Spanish football clubs: they won the European Supercup against Barcelona, their second consecutive UEFA Cup against Espanyol, and the Spanish Cup against Getafe. They finished third in the league, winning a Champions League spot for next year, and were only two points off winners Real Madrid. These guys are a professional team with no big superstars that plays good football, and they've had a season to remember. Hope they don't lose many of their good players to bigger teams.

Some guy from England had a very good idea: he's going to pay a few million quid to buy second-division Malaga. Now all he has to do is invest twenty million more in players and he's got a Spanish First Division team, with all the money that's worth. And Malaga is by far the most desirable market with no First Division team, with 600,000 in the city and a million more along the Costa del Sol; also, it doesn't have another historic club that you'd be competing against. The other smart thing some genius ought to do is buy the Ciudad de Murcia second-division club, which is selling its spot in Division Two. Then move the club to Madrid and spend twenty million on players to get up to First Division, and you've got a team in Europe's third-biggest city.

Political speculation: If the PP gets the same results in the upcoming general election that it got in the municipals, it will be strengthened in such important areas as Madrid, Valencia, Cadiz, Malaga, and the Balearics. The Socialists only gained strength in a couple of out-of-the-way places like Cuenca and Orense. This shift in the vote in dynamic, growing areas is likely to give the PP a relative majority. Sun Belt hypothesis for Spain's booming Mediterranean coast, anyone?

Al Gore and his traveling circus sideshow are in town again doing the global warming shtick. He said if Greenland melts his 16-room house will be under water, or something like that. Of possible interest to Americans: Al introduced himself as "the next President of the United States." Now an Al-Hillary-Obama three-way would be really fun...wait, I didn't mean that, I meant a presidential campaign with three contenders...He drew an audience of 1500, which is probably better than he'd do in Kansas City, as part of the First International Meeting of the Friends of Trees. I shit you not. The Friends of Trees.

Today is San Juan, so last night was firecrackers night and all the kids in town blew their little fingers off, I hope.

La Vanguardia runs an entire page of anti-Israeli bigotry by a photographer named Bru Rovira, who blames Israel for the Hamas-Fatah civil war. Just a few pearls: "The jailers have no desire to find a just solution...the occupier's main strategy is dehumanization...the repression of the Israeli army...where are the schools and the hospitals?...the Jewish and democratic (sic) state...half of the Palestinian population was expelled by the Israeli army...a war with intolerable massacres...Israel imposed and Arafat protested, shouted, and signed...the most brutal episodes began...extrajudicial executions...the massacre at Jenin, completely leveled by the army and the bulldozers. An undetermined number of civilians died...the complete suffocation of the economy and political system."

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