Thursday, September 27, 2007

This is Iberian Notes's 2000th post on Blogger; I had a couple of hundred posts on the old Homestead site I set up back in February 2002 as well. That's more than five years of blogging. I still haven't figured out how to get the archives functioning on the Blogger template, but here's a link to them in case you're interested.

There's been news this week but I've been too lazy to post. The most important item was the deaths of two Spanish soldiers (paratroopers) in Afghanistan, Germán Pérez Burgos of Badajoz and Stanley Mera Vega, originally of Guayaquil, Ecuador, when their armored vehicle was bombed by Taliban terrorists. The Afghan interpreter was also killed. Three more Spanish soldiers were seriously wounded, and three more lightly wounded. The vehicle had a "frequency inhibitor" to prevent radio-controlled bombs from being set off, but this one was connected to a cable.

Our deepest gratitude and sympathy to the families and to the Spanish armed forces in Afghanistan.

The Communists are calling on Zap to cut and run just like he did in Iraq, but Zap's position on Afghanistan has been that it is a legal conflict declared by the UN and therefore Spain will participate, though with a very small force of 690 soldiers based at Herat in the southwest.

The PP is demanding that Zap admit that Afghanistan is a war zone, which doesn't make much sense to me. The logic seems to be that if Spain pulled out of Iraq, then it ought to pull out of Afghanistan, too. However, the PP backed Spanish participation in Iraq, and supports expanding the Spanish force in Afghanistan. I guess they're trying to make Zap look inconsistent, which his policy is, but their policy isn't too coherent either.

This contretemps, mixed with Ahmabignutjob's speech at the UN, sort of took away Zap's thunder, since he wanted to make a big deal of leading the global struggle against climate change or something ecosocialist like that. He had a big speech all prepared and everything. Nobody cared. Internationally, Zap reminds me a little bit of Eleanor Rigby, lonely and ignored though he tries his best.

For some reason, it is big news over here that Zap and Bush have never held an official meeting, and that Bush has given Zap the cold shoulder. I don't think it means anything, since of course official Spanish-American relations are handled by the appropriate ministries and departments and are going along quite smoothly, as usual. The two crossed one another's path at the UN, and Bush said, "Hola, amigo, ¿qué tal?" This was one of the top international stories in the Spanish press.

Meanwhile, the French cops busted fifteen etarras this week, four of whom are medium-size fish who had multiple warrants out for them. I just don't see ETA being able to sustain the terrorist struggle with all their guys getting arrested right and left. They let off a five-kilo bomb on Tuesday in front of the Basque regional police station in Zarautz, but almost no damage was done.

The political crazy nationalist news coming up is that tomorrow Ibarretxe, the Basque prime minister, is supposed to announce something important about the referendum on self-determination that the PNV keeps threatening to call. Since any referendum would be illegal and its results non-binding, it's pretty much mental masturbation on the part of the Basque Nationalists.

La Vanguardia ran a big article on changes in Spaniards' alcohol consumption. They've just discovered the concept of binge drinking, which 30 percent of males and 18 percent of females between 18 and 24 admit to doing on occasion. 14% of males between 18 and 64 have binged within the last month; the figure for females is 7%. People who binge-drink do it between twice and three times a month. La Vangua blames this alleged trend on Anglo-Saxon influence, of course. They quote a social worker who blames it on the consumer society. I must say I notice a good deal more drinking in general, and specifically among college and high school kids, since I got here back in 1987.

Last Friday there was a serious electrical fire at the Vall d'Hebron hospital, which I believe is the metro area's biggest. The entire electrical system went out and it still isn't back to normal. They had to postpone procedures and move patients to other hospitals; they've moved 20 generators there to provide electrical power. Things won't be back to normal for four months, and there's going to be some debate on closing it down, since it's more than 50 years old.

I have to admit that the city government's Bicing program--you sign up for fifteen bucks or so and get unlimited bicycle pick-up and drop-off usage--seems to be quite successful. They've got 3000 bikes, plan to add 1500 more in January and 1500 more next summer, and to expand the center-city area where there are pick-up points out to Les Corts and Poble Nou. 90,000 people have signed up, and you see people riding the bikes all over the place.

Somebody's going to get killed, though, mixing all these bikes with heavy Barcelona traffic. The city government came up with a whole set of new bicycle rules, which has hacked off the bicyclists since they are now going to get fined for breaking traffic laws.

The situation in Burma is getting a lot of press over here. Let's hope a real "people power" movement can force the dictatorship to step down without too much bloodshed. Burma's much poorer and more backward than any country in its region except maybe Laos, and the military junta is very hard-line. It's not quite as bad as North Korea, but it's still pretty bad.

Dumb Spain media thing: A Spanish woman snapped a photo in Morocco on August 31 of a young couple with a blonde girl who looked a little like Madeleine McCann. She went to Interpol. The media ran with it, especially television, and of course the girl turned out to be a nice Moroccan child named Buchra Achkar taking a stroll in the park with her parents.

Catalan prime minister Montilla is already promising how he's going to split up the pork-barrel money Catalonia is going to get. Companies who give "permanent" contracts to people under 30 will score a €2000 check; more discrimination against older workers, you could argue. The "death tax" will be eliminated on estates under €500,000, which sounds like an excellent idea to me. The metro will run all night on Saturdays and nights before public holidays, which is also a good idea, and he wants to spend the rest of the money on the health care system. Not too bad; I don't see way too much of this cash going to the Socialist patronage network, with the exception of €319 million to raise health care workers' salaries, and you can argue they deserve it.

The Police are in town tonight. Of course I'm not going.

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