Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Barcelona transportation crisis is going to be a political disaster for the Socialists. La Vanguardia is speculating that this mess will do for the PSOE wnat the Prestige disaster did for the PP. (In case you don't remember, the Prestige was an oil tanker that sank off the Galician coast a few years back. The Aznar government was accused by the Socialists of not managing the crisis well, and with some help from the media, the PSOE made it look like the PP were a bunch of dirty unecological polluters.)

Incompetence is rampant. Yesterday a sinkhole opened up under one of the platforms at the Bellvitge commuter station, which is normally very heavily used. Fortunately the station was closed, because people would have been killed. All construction on the AVE line was halted indefinitely by Adif, the central-government owned company in charge of contracting out railway construction. Which should of course be privatized.

Today development (Fomento) minister Magdalena Alvarez announced that she had no plans to resign, though everybody is reporting Zap is going to fire her next week. She also contradicted the Socialist government of Catalonia, the Generalitat; the Gene announced that OHL, one of the contractors working on the AVE, was going to have its contract rescinded, but I guess the central government overruled them.

The Communists (ICV) and the Cataloonies (ERC) are trying to distance themselves from the Catalan Tripartite by demanding minister Alvarez's head. It'll work among their loyalists, but both these parties are going to be badly hurt among the non-hardcore voters who went for them in March 2004 in the wake of the Madrid bombings.

Get this. The idea of improvising a station at El Prat as the temporary terminus of the AVE line is being floated. What awful planning.

The crisis at the Constitutional Court continues. Both the PP and the PSOE are trying to disqualify every judge who disagrees with them for the key upcoming vote on the Catalan statute of autonomy. Since the Court is divided 6-6 (not 5-5, as I had said) between "progressive" and "conservative" groups, and everybody is going to get recused eventually, there is a complete deadlock and there is no precedent for a solution. There is now no way that the Court is going to decide on the Catalan statute case (the PP's appeal to the Court that the statute is unconstitutional) before the all-important March general election.

I have no idea why Spain gives out the Principe de Asturias prizes every year; I suppose they're trying to compete with the Nobel Prizes. Whatever. The ceremony was last night in Oviedo. They gave Al Gove the prize for International Cooperation, and Al showed up and gave a speech. Bob Dylan got the Arts prize, but he was too busy playing Omaha. No kidding. I love Dylan and all, he's probably my favorite musician except maybe for Johnny Cash or Hank Williams, but I don't know why Spain needs to give him a prize. And Michael Schumacher got the Sports prize. Just what he needs.

It'd make sense if these prizes were sort of like the Pulitzers in the US--you'd give one for, say, fiction, nonfiction, theater, film, serious music, popular music, visual art, and you'd give them only to people from Spain. I can see why you'd want national prizes in order to foment culture in your country, and I can even see inviting a Woody Allen or somebody for a special prize every year to make the thing more high-toned. But inventing a prize for Communication and giving it to the magazine Science and Nature? I will give them credit for awarding the Concord prize to Yad Vashem, the Israeli holocaust museum, except that--I don't know quite how to put this, but it seems to me that Yad Vashem's moral stature is considerably higher than that of whoever decides who gets this award.

Sports update: FC Barcelona nneds to get back on track tomorrow night against Almeria after losing against Villarreal in the last league game, and drawing against Glasgow Rangers in the Champions' League. Touré. Márquez, and Zambrotta will all be back from their injuries, and Messi and Ronaldinho are apparently going to play. Barcelona's defense will be immeasurably improved with Zambrotta instead of Oleguer, Márquez instead of Thuram, and Touré instead of Gudjohnsen. (Note: Some English club ought to make an offer for Gudjohnsen; he's a good player but just doesn't seem to fit in here.) Espanyol is having a good year, with homegrown young Albert Riera looking good. Real Madrid is in first place, but their squad isn't anywhere near as good as Barça's.

A lot of noise is being made about getting rid of Ronaldinho. Staying out partying in Brazil instead of coming home in time to play against Villarreal was the tipping point, I think. Without using his name, Joan Golobart called him a "vampire" in his column in La Vangua today: "A vampire leader is one who sucks the energy from his teammates in order to grow," and concluded, "In most situations there is an optimum moment to sell a player, no matter how much he has brought to his club." There have been even more reports than usual about back-office moves being made by Ronaldinho's brother / agent to move him to AC Milan. Team president Joan Laporta denied any plan to sell him to anybody.

Kansas is 7-0 and ranked 10th in the college football polls, but they have to play in College Station tonight. They've already beaten Colorado and K-State on the road, though; on the other hand, the other five teams they beat were a bunch of patsies. Anyway, I'm going to take this opportunity to rub it in on my brother-in-law Phil, who is a Tennessee fan. This week is the first time since about 1969 that KU has been ranked higher than Tennessee, and it may very well not happen again ever. Should KU get past A&M, though, their biggest challenge is Nebraska, who's not very good this year, and KU doesn't even have to play Texas or Oklahoma this year. They just might go into the season-ending showdown with Missouri with only one loss.

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