Saturday, September 15, 2007

News from west of the Besós: Nationalism rears its ugly head as usual as a cover for a blatant pork-barrel grab. Cataloonies, and not a few non-loony Catalans, believe that the Madrid government is screwing them over because it takes in more tax revenues from Catalonia than it lays out in public spending in Catalonia. This makes them very mad and they get all worked up about it, since they believe that Madrid is doing this out of the purely evil desire to exploit the hard-working Catalans for the benefit of those lazy Andalusians.

Now, this is completely nuts, simply because INDIVIDUALS, not REGIONS, pay taxes. Catalonia is an area of above-average wealth, so the average Catalan pays more in taxes than the average Andalusian, who comes from an area of below-average wealth. However, of course, a Catalan and an Andalusian who make the same amount of money pay the same amount of taxes.

As for the divvying up of the public spending pork, let's not pretend there's any high nationalist motivation behind it. Catalonia wants as much of the pork on its plate as it can get, and that's fair enough. If I were a Catalan politician I'd be demanding lots of government spending in my region too. (In the United States one of the main reasons the people either re-elect or vote out their Congressional representative is whether he is good at bringing in the public spending for their district. This is why every post office in West Virginia is named after Robert Byrd.) What I wouldn't do is wave the bloody shirt of nationalism as a way of justifying my greed for ham, bacon, chitlins, chicharrones, butifarra, lomo, sobrasada, fuet, and pickled trotters.

So Spanish economics minister Pedro Solbes and the Generalitat's counselor for economics Antoni Castells are having a big old wingding meeting on Monday to divide up the jamón for the next seven years. Currently state spending ("investment in infrastructure") in Catalonia is €3.2 billion. Catalonia is supposed to get 18.8% (Catalonia's percentage of Spain's gross national product) of state spending on "infrastructure"; however, they can't agree on the definition of "infrastructure." Last year it was "spending by the ministries of Development (Fomento) and Environment." The Generalitat, however, claims a much broader definition of "infrastructure," adding up to €25 billion a year for all of Spain, and they claim Catalonia ought to get 18.8% of that, nearly €5 billion a year.

On September 11, the Catalan National Day, King Juan Carlos was in Girona at the grand opening of the local university's new science and tech facility; in other words, doing his job. So about 400 radical Cataloonies had a big old illegal demonstration and torched photographs of the King. That's pretty stupid and tasteless, of course, because there are much better ways to oppose the institution of monarchy if you're dumb enough to make a big deal about whether Spain has a figurehead king or not.

So these dopes are now in big trouble for lese-majeste; the National Court's prosecutors are going to file charges against the two guys wearing hoods who actually burned the pictures. TV3 and La Vanguardia have been trying to downplay this story--they didn't mention it until this morning--while Antena 3 and El Mundo have been playing it up big.

More fallout from September 11: The radical Cataloonies who show up in the morning in order to insult nearly everyone who comes with flowers for Rafael Casanova's statue were caught on film shouting "Gora ETA (long live ETA)," "Tots morts (kill them all)," and "Fills de puta (sons of whores)" at their targets, especially the representatives of the PP. Disgusting. I'd file charges against those filmed shouting in favor of ETA (exalting terrorism is illegal) and in favor of killing their political opponents (making threats of violence is illegal too).

Said Manuel Trallero in La Vanguardia yesterday:

They whistle at the prime minister of the Generalitat, calling him a traitor; they whistle at (Miguel) Poveda for singing in Spanish; they call all the politicians "sons of whores"; they warn (PP leader) Alberto Fernandez Diaz to check under his car, in allusion to a possible attack. All this happens in front of (Catalan regional police) the Mossos d'Esquadra, who do not move a finger. Joel Joan tells us, "I am not a friend of ETA and I never said I was." It must have been the reporters, visibly excited, who understood him wrong when he said, "Right here, Xirinacs spoke of his friends (ETA and Herri Batasuna)," adding, "Today I will not speak of his friends, of my friends. I will speak of my enemies." Groups of radicals face off against members of ERC at the Fossar de les Moreres...Catalonia, an example of coexistence.

You must be a real radical Cataloony to feel driven to go out and provoke members of Esquerra, who are wild-eyed Cataloonies themselves, if somewhat less crazy than the far-out extremists.

I can't believe this: The WWE's Smackdown Tour drew 15,000 people, a sellout, to the basketball arena in Badalona. Tickets cost, get this, €25 to €125. That means they took in €750,000 at an average price of €50 a ticket, and I'll bet it was well more than that, what with souvenirs and all. The WWE scammed Catalonia (sorry, 15,000 Catalan individuals) for a million bucks. I really did honestly think that there were some things too cheesy for Barcelona, but I was obviously wrong; I just found out they regularly hold monster-truck rallies at the Palau Sant Jordi. What next? Mud wrestling? Girls Gone Wild?

So next time you hear a European brag about European cultural superiority, just nod and smile knowingly.

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