Friday, November 30, 2007

ETA has been struck a massive blow. The police started rounding up 45 members of the ETA-front organization Ekin, who will apparently be found guilty of membership in ETA. 28 of them have already been arrested. Until now they have been free on bail. Their trial has lasted for more than a year, and the verdicts are scheduled to be released sometime before December 10.

Of course, we all expected the verdict to be guilty--in Spain, when they get to the point of actually trying somebody, they've generally got a very strong case against him. The judge has ordered their arrest on the ground they are flight risks, because they are looking at some seriously long sentences, between 4 and 19 years. Since 52 persons were put on trial, and there are warrants out for 45, seven were either acquitted or received suspended sentences.

Ekin, according to La Vanguardia, is the "social, political, international, economic, and media network of the ETA terrorist organization." Among those already under arrest are former Herri Batasuna leaders José Luis Elkoro and Francisco Murga, and ETA mouthpiece lawyer Txema Matanzas. They are going to be convicted on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization, defrauding Social Security and the taxman, and forgery. Here is the complete list of those tried.

What happened the last time that a bunch of ETA collaborators was sent to jail, when they rounded up the leaders of Segi, the youth brigade, was that they didn't surrender to the cops but went into hiding for a week. Then they held a mass ceremonial rally and turned themselves in to the law in a group, making great street theater and firing up all their supporters. Looks like the judge doesn't want to give this lot the chance to pull a stunt like that.

This means two important things. First, the judiciary has finally decided that so-called civilians who assist ETA are just as guilty as the thugs who pull the trigger. Second, one common hypothesis for an eventual deal cut with ETA--I would prefer no deals, just crush them, they're terrorists--is that ETA would turn over its arms in exchange for an amnesty for its members who didn't personally commit violent crimes. If this is the plan, then the government now has a lot more bargaining chips.
Supposedly, on Saturday, the Great Barcelona Transport Snafu will come to an end, and service on all the RENFE commuter and regional lines running south and west from Sants station will be restored. The FCG line running west from Plaza España will be out of service for several more months, and the high-speed AVE line will not enter service for at least three more months.

So get this. The extremely controversial plan to reduce the speed limit on the motorways entering the Barcelona metropolitan area from 100-120 kph (60-75 mph) to 80 kph (50 mph) will also take effect Saturday. Supposedly the objective is to reduce pollution, but I swear that don't make a damn bit of sense to me. I figure that you want the speed limit to be as high as safely possible so that traffic will clog up less. The more traffic clogs up, the more smog-producing gasoline is wasted by idling, not to mention the time wasted by everyone part of the traffic jam. In addition, driving slower than is safely possible irritates drivers a great deal, and irritating the citizens unnecessarily does not sound intelligent to me.

In Spain, we have public holidays on December 6 (Constitution Day) and December 8 (the Immaculate Conception), which means that week generally becomes a vacation for a lot of people. This year, according to La Vanguardia, Catalans' Number One vacation destination will be New York. Seems the dollar is very low and they all want to go over there and buy out the whole city. All I can say is if America sucks so bad, how come everybody wants to visit it?

So, anyway, all you folks in New York and Orlando, get ready for a flood of Spaniards the first week in December, especially between Thursday the 6th and Sunday the 9th. They're the ones complaining about the food and not leaving tips.

The six illegal abortionists arrested this week had a hearing and testified; they have been bound over without bail until Monday. Looks like they'll be charged with conspiracy, forgery, and practicing without a license as well.

The EU's economic growth rate this year is 2.9%, and the Eurozone's is 2.7%. Not stunning, but not total stagnation either.

Looks like the PSOE has reached similar conclusions to the PP about electoral strategy; they're trying to tone it down, especially in the areas of regional nationalism. The PSOE doesn't want to offend any nationalists by harping on the theme of the unity of Spain; they would rather not put off the ones they have a chance at winning over, and not fire up the ones they don't have a chance at in order to keep them at home on election day.

Fighting broke out last night around the Vicente Calderón stadium in Madrid. 17 people were injured when the local Frente Atlético hooligans took on the Aberdeen fans before, during, and after the UEFA Cup game. There was some criticism about the light touch used by the Barcelona cops on the Glasgow Rangers supporters who came here a few weeks ago; the Rangers fans drank a lot, smashed a few bottles in the Plaza Catalunya, and urinated prodigiously in public. But there was no serious fighting or vandalism, and nobody got hurt. I thought it was pretty good police work, myself; the cops kept it under control but didn't interfere as long as there was no violence. And the public urination, which is nasty, could have been taken care of by putting up a few dozen portable toilets.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

This is interesting. Check this out. They found a huge trove, literally 100 times as large as a typical discovery, of dinosaur bones, while working on the high-speed train line between Madrid and Valencia.
Other news from round here: Inflation over the last 12 months, November to November, is 4.1%; half a point of that is in the last month, with a 5% increase on packaged foods. Econ minister Solbes says inflation will continue to rise over the next several months, effectively devaluing the currency.

Meanwhile, in September 2007 the number of new mortgages taken out in Catalonia declined 26% over September 2006. I think it's safe to say that the bubble has burst. In Spain as a whole, the number of new mortgages declined 10% over that period.

They did an international education study called the PISA 2006 report in 57 countries. They tested scientific knowledge, reading comprehension, and mathematics, and Spain did lousy. The United States didn't do any better. Finland came out on top, with 563 points, followed by Hong Kong with 542 and Canada with 534. Germany was 10th with 516, France was 21st with 495, the US was 24th with 489, Spain was 26th with 488, and Italy was 30th with 475. Mexico got 410, and Brazil 390. Within Spain, Castile-Leon scored highest with 520, Catalonia got 491, and Andalusia was at the bottom with 474.

I know how to fix the educational system. First, blow up all the education departments at every university in the country, and mercilessly liquidate the professoriate while hurling all education textbooks into enormous bonfires. And dancing the Carmagnole. Then savagely purge the teaching staffs of every school of all teachers who don't score an IQ of 90, which is about half of them. K mart is hiring, people, better get down there. Then double teacher salaries and only hire new staff with real college degrees. Then, lower the working age to 14. Allow alleged students to drop out then, or go to vocational school. Get the ones who don't want to be there, which is half of them, out of the academic schools.

The system would improve enormously.

The Guardia Civil put on a big Internet kiddie-porn sting and arrested 70 pederasts all around Spain. I had no idea so many people were so pervy that they needed to exchange photos of child abuse. Or so stupid they didn't know they would eventually get caught. Among those arrested are a high-ranking police officer and a psychiatrist, both in Zaragoza.

The Zap government held a meeting with the heads of the private TV stations regarding the "Patricia's Diary" murder. They said they should not be blamed for society's problems. What a cop-out. I don't think private TV stations ought to be censored; I do think they should have enough of a sense of decency and responsibility to follow certain minimum standards. And I would suggest that the TV stations should get on the ball and self-regulate, or the government might have to get involved, and nobody wants that to happen.

Springsteen is going to play the Camp Nou. People camped out, and they sold 55,000 tickets on the first day of sales.

Real Madrid bungled it last night in Bremen and lost 3-2, forcing them to win their last first-round match against Lazio in order to qualify for the next round. Valencia was eliminated from the Champions' League with a draw against Schalke. Chelsea, Milan, Man U, Inter Milan, Sevilla, Arsenal, and Barça have already qualified for Round Two, and Celtic is very close.
There's gonna be some Catalunacy on Saturday at 5 PM, since the Cataloonies and the Commies, along with CiU, who are usually moderate Catalanists but always have to wave the bloody shirt at election time, are gonna put on a big old demo downtown. Get this: Our old friend Joel Joan and Catalonia's only porno director who works in Catalan, Conrad Son, will be there. By the way, Son actually gets subsidies from the Generalitat in order to linguistically normalize porn. Joan and Jordi Pujol are already firing up the faithful, calling on them to come out "in favor of the dignity of Catalonia and against the insults of Rajoy and Zapatero."

The organizer of the rally is basically CiU, using the name of the Platform for the Right to Decide, which coincidentally is CiU leader Artur Mas's campaign slogan. They're trying to play on the Great Barcelona Transport Snafu, a major black eye for the Socialists, by demanding Generalitat control over the transport system, along with the right to collect all income tax paid within Catalonia and to spend it exclusively within Catalonia. The Catalanists are claiming that each Catalan pays €1000 more in taxes than he receives in government services, but they sort of skip over the fact that each Madrileño pays twice as much. And, of course, taxes are paid by individuals rather than regions, and since Catalonia is a wealthy region, it has lots of wealthy and middle-class individuals who pay comparatively high taxes. I thought all us leftists was in favor of progressive taxes.

Anyway, here's the least bold prediction ever made: The Junior Cataloony Youth Squad is going to put on a riot after the demo, probably with some help from the squatters, and some hell will be raised. The cops ought to be planning for it, and have eight hundred guys there ready to bust some heads. I bet they don't.

Other election news: Jose Bono is going to return to politics and run first on the PSOE list for Toledo. When he wins, he'll become speaker of the Congress of Deputies. I rather like Bono, he's more reasonable than your average Socialist, and I'd really like to see moderates like Ruiz Gallardon, Bono, and Miquel Roca start a Liberal Party in this country; if you could pull 10% of the vote you just might become the swing vote between the PSOE and PP.

La Vanguardia says that the PP is going to turn down the tone on its campaign and run more toward the center than the right, in response to the recent surveys that put them fairly close behind the Socialists. I've been telling them to do that for, oh, the last two and a half years or so.

Anyway, the PP thinks that there's no way they're going to gain any votes from the PSOE in the center--they've pissed off everybody who didn't already sympathize with them over this conspiracy theory bullshit--, so what they want to do is tone it down in order not to piss off the leftist voters and thereby reduce their turnout on election day. It seems that rhetoric about the unity of Spain and claiming that Zap sympathizes with ETA inflames many of these leftist voters. They would usually go Commie or radical regional nationalist, or stay home, but they may go Socialist if they are frightened enough of a PP victory that they'll vote for the PSOE as a lesser evil. Therefore, the solution is to sit down and shut up and not scare anybody.

Also, the PP figures that there are at least one and a half million shaky Socialists who are not regular voters and only came out in the last election because they were so worked up by the post-March 11 media frenzy. If those voters stay home, the PP wins, because PP voters are more faithful than leftist voters and more likely to come out and vote; the PP estimates that 90% of their regular voters are going to turn out, against 80% of regular PSOE voters. So, basically, the lower the turnout is, the more likely the PP is to win. This is probably true of conservative parties everywhere.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Oh, Jesus. The Guardia Civil found machines to shred aborted fetuses (màquinas trituradores de fetus) in two of the four clinics that were raided here in Barcelona two days ago. The clinics are accused of illegally aborting babies up to 32 weeks of gestation. They only turned the machines on in the mornings because they made so much noise.

The machines were connected to a pipe that flowed into the sewer along with the waste from the toilets.

This investigation has obviously been going on for a while, because they tapped the clinics' telephones (they had a court order). One thing they learned was that the alleged doctors referred to an abortion as a "rompecocos"--that is, a "skull-buster."

It's like something out of a horror movie.

A disgruntled ex-employee informed the authorities, which led to the telephone taps. Some of the "patients" had their phones tapped, too, and some of them were put under surveillance as well. At least fifteen of these women had late-term abortions performed on them, and they are in serious trouble.
Here's a good one. Yet another survey says that Spaniards are the EU citizens most likely to participate in demonstrations, with 17.8% claiming to have been in a demo during the past year, compared to 5.7% in Europe as a whole. However, after the Portuguese, they are the Europeans least interested in politics, with 35.7% saying they have no interest at all in the subject. Nearly 50% of Spaniards say they "have difficulty forming political opinions." Spaniards are pretty happy with life, though, since they rated "life in general" at 7.4 on a scale of 10.

I wonder whether individual happiness with life and lack of interest in politics are correlated. Might be; if you spend a lot of your attention, time, and thought worrying about politics, that probably detracts from the attention you can give to your family and friends and everyday life. I will guarantee you, though, that there's a hell of a strong correlation between lack of societal interest in politics and poor quality of government. Only 7% of Danes and Norwegians say they're not interested in politics at all.
Not a whole lot of news. Maleni Alvarez, the PSOE minister of development, barely won a no-confidence vote in the Congress of Deputies with the support of the PSOE, of course, and the PNV. The PP, CiU, the Commies, and the Cataloonies all voted against her, and she squeaked through on a three-vote margin.

They arrested a 68-year-old serial-killing perv in France for 18 murders. Also in France, there's been more rioting in the Paris suburbs, and there are reports some of the rioters were packing guns.

The abortion clinics that were raided were aborting 32-week babies, which of course is infanticide, and everyone involved should be severely punished. By the way, a woman who aborts illegally in Spain can get up to a year in jail. The legal question now is related to the patients' right to medical privacy; it looks like they don't have one if a crime is suspected.

And get this: Jaume Roures, the boss of Mediapro, the production company behind the Barcelona Woody Allen movie (which is titled "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," one of the worst titles I've heard), has announced that Woody will not film again in Barcelona because of "too much mean (mezquino) pressure." Some say the pressure was over the government subsidies awarded to Allen's movie; others say the pressure came from Catalan nationalists.

Barça played a pretty good game last night in Lyon and drew 2-2 against Olympique, on a nice goal by Iniesta and a penalty on Messi that he converted. Barça has qualified for the next round in the Champions League, along with Manchester United, Roma, Inter Milan, Sevilla, and Arsenal.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sad NFL news. Washington safety Sean Taylor, one of the league's top defensive players, died after being shot two days ago in his Miami house in an apparent robbery. Taylor had been in trouble with the law, most notably for a 2005 gun incident, but reports said he had cleaned up his act. With the climate of off-the-field violence and lawbreaking that surrounds the NFL, guys with posses with guns, something like this was bound to happen sometime. (I don't doubt that Taylor was the completely innocent victim of this murder, but I will also bet that the robber was someone he knew.) The NFL is going to have to establish some kind of program to keep its guys out of bad company; the league is in serious trouble, after Michael Vick and Ray Lewis and Pacman Jones and Tank Johnson and Rae Carruth all got in major trouble with the law.
The cops arrested six people in yesterday's abortion clinic raids. The head of the prosecutor's office said the four clinics involved, all owned by Carlos Morín, were performing "radically illegal" abortions on babies as late as 30 weeks. Interesting stats in La Vanguardia: For every 1000 women between ages 15 and 44, 9.6 abortions are performed in Spain every year. In Catalonia it's 11.4; France 14.6; England 17.2; Sweden 20.6; US 20.8; Eastern Europe 44. Spaniards are always surprised when they learn that abortion on demand is legal in the US, since they think it's such a reactionary traditional religious place.

The authorities are claiming that the Great Barcelona Transport Snafu, which is still in full swing, will be cleared up by December 1. I don't buy it. Neither does anybody else.

They rounded up another kiddie-porn Internet ring, thirteen arrests throughout Spain and three in Catalonia. The obsessed weirdos who used to hang around their basement with their handful of dirty pictures have discovered that they have access to millions of them on the Net. I don't get it. Is kiddie-porn really so attractive to these pervs, that they risk going to jail and having their lives ruined over it? And they think they can get away with doing something majorly illegal on the Internet, where your every activity can be traced? It seems that every week they bust more of these guys.
The campaign for the March 9 general election is well under way, and it's really boring. Nobody has anything new to say. The PP should be way out in front, after all the failures and errors of the Zap administration, but they're running a very limp campaign and are a couple of points behind in the polls. One thing is that there's definitely a hidden PP vote. Since it's so socially unacceptable in many circles to say you're a conservative, some PP voters aren't willing to admit it even in surveys; that's why the PP usually scores two or three points higher in the elections than the surveys predict.

Hugo the Chav called Spain "an invader." Get used to it, Spaniards, Latin American populist slander is coming your way, too.

The authorities busted six people mostly linked to the PP in a Murcia real-estate political corruption scam. Good. It's just the tiniest tip of the corruption iceberg, in which all political parties are involved.

The cops cleaned out a squat down in the Ribera this morning. The squatters are claiming that the cops beat them up. It's almost too bad they didn't.

Caja Madrid has announced that it's going to increase its share of Spanish airline Iberia to 23%, but that it's not interested in taking over the company. British Airways waived its right to first refusal, and BA isn't going to bid for the whole company, either. So far one Spanish consortium has made an offer, and there are likely to be further offers from another Spanish consortium, from Air France, and from Lufthansa.

Barcelona plays Olympique in Lyon tonight in the Champions' League. A win would be nice but not absolutely necessary in the standings, since Barça is almost certain to qualify for the next round; the problem is the psychology of the fans and the front office, who are engaged in a massive freakout because the team is only playing fairly well and because nobody trusts Ronaldinho anymore. He might play tonight; so might Bojan.

Monday, November 26, 2007

This morning the cops raided four abortion clinics in Barcelona that are suspected of performing illegal abortions. In Spain, abortion is technically illegal with three exceptions: if the fetus is defective, if the pregnancy is due to rape or incest, and if the mother's life or health is in danger. The last one is the loophole; all a woman needs to do is convince a doctor that having a baby would hurt her mental health. It is said that some clinics don't bother with this formality. The four clinics raided are thought to have performed illegal late-term abortions. The guy mentioned in this post from last year, Carlos Morin, is one of those whose clinic was raided.

Hugo the Chav is still in a snit. He says King Juan Carlos is going to have to say he's sorry for being mean or he'll "freeze" Venezuelan relations with Spain. Meanwhile, the revolt against Evo Morales has begun in Bolivia, and I'll be willing to bet that something similar happens in Venezuela after Chavez rigs the referendum and makes himself dictator-for-life.

La Vanguardia says Catalonia received 7.9 million foreign tourists last year, making it the second most-visited region in Europe after Ile-de-France. This is why the complaints that some Barcelonese make about tourists rub me the wrong way. Yes, shops and restaurants catering to tourists have become more obvious, and some tourists are regrettable or even undesirable. But tourism provides 20% of our regional income, and without it we'd be really poor. It also makes us a more international city, with all the benefit that brings. Tourism receipts in Spain have increased 81% in the last ten years. Pretty good investment, that.

La Vangua also reports that rumbles among Latin American street gangs are becoming more common, and that there are five or six places in Les Corts and Sants where they've pretty much taken over a street or a plaza. Fights between the different gangs often break out in these places, scaring the locals shitless; seven years ago we didn't have immigrant gangs around here, and they're not used to it at all. La Vangua explains to its Catalan readers that Latin culture involves sitting around getting drunk and listening to loud music in public places. The four most notorious gangs in Barcelona are the Latin Kings, the Ñetas, the Mareros, and the Black Panthers (not black Americans, but Dominicans). The Latin Kings are registered as a cultural association and receive subsidies from the Generalitat. They used the dough to make a rap CD which they are now trying to sell.

Get this. In order not to stir up public opinion, the Mossos (regional police) actually maintained secrecy about a gang fight in a Hospitalet bar back in September. One gang member was badly wounded, stabbed in the back with an 8-inch knife, and those responsible have been arrested. The local cops in L'Hospitalet are cracking down big-time on the gangs, forcing them into Barcelona itself. One cop claims that a gangster told him, "You don't scare me. If I did back home what I do here, the police would take me out back and shoot me, and I'd never be heard from again."

They drug-tested 58 drivers on Saturday night in Bilbao. 16 of them, or 27%, were under the influence.

Sports update: Barcelona beat Recreativo on Saturday night, 3-0, with a very dull first half and a quality second half. Bojan scored his first League goal, Milito scored on a header, and Messi got fouled in the area and converted the penalty. The fans and the media are still up in arms and shouting for Rikjaard's and Ronaldinho's heads. Madrid tied Murcia 1-1, and so Barça pulled within two points of the lead. Villarreal and Espanyol are having excellent seasons, and Atletico Madrid and Valencia are doing OK. Levante's clearly the worst team in the league.

Missouri beat Kansas on Saturday night, and the Jayhawks finish out the regular season ranked No. 7 with an 11-1 record, much better than anyone had predicted. Great season; no one expected it after going 6-6 last year. Kansas has never finished ranked anywhere near as high, and they'll get to go to a major bowl game. Missouri has a real chance at the national championship if they can beat Oklahoma in the conference championship game.
State of the blog report: We get about 150 readers a day, and are linked by about 120 other blogs. The only one we get a significant number of visitors from is InstaPundit. Since Iberian Notes has been around for five years now, and we've commented on pretty much everything about Spain, we get a good few Google hits as well; the two most popular themes are "gypsy surnames" and "arguments for and against bullfighting." I guess every English teacher in Spain assigns bullfighting as the topic when it's time to work on the persuasive essay. There's also a lot of interest in the Spanish royal family. The biggest recent source of Google hits was the story about the thug who kicked the Ecuadorian girl on the train; that one has caught on both in Latin America and among the multiculti diversity crowd in the States.

Last 100 visitors to Iberian Notes: United States 49, Spain 32, United Kingdom 5, Netherlands 3, France 3, Canada 2, Brazil, Germany, Israel, Australia, Belgium, and Norway 1 each.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tikrit Tommy Alcoverro has an interview in La Vanguardia with one Moshen Bilal, who is the Syrian minister of information. That is, he's the Assad dictatorship's propaganda chief. Why the hell is La Vanguardia giving this guy a platform? It's not like he's going to say anything we haven't already heard, and it's not like he's some dissenting voice.

Get Alcoverro's introduction: "Moshen Bilal is one of the best images of Syria, previously as the efficient ambassador in Madrid, and now as minister of Information. With his white hair, a friendly manner that is not habitual among Arab leaders, he occupies a prominent position in the regime of the rais Bashir el Assad, with whom he has a close relationship. He often wears jeans and a sports shirt, and says smiling, "I'm an anarchic (sic) minister." Bilal, a surgeon, gives classes at the University of Damascus twice a week. In his office in the Baath Party building, he proudly shows me a thick university textbook."

Sounds to me like Tikrit Tommy likes--and respects--Assad's Dr. Goebbels.

A few quotes from the Fascist Baath Party mouthpiece:

"The majority of the Western media is in the hands of multinational companies, and in the United States above all it is dominated by Jewish companies. Most of its news is concentrated on subjects like Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas. With its tremendous campaign of defamation, it presents Syria as a dangerous, trouble-making, aggressive country that provokes insecurity. But when official delegations like the one of Nancy Pelosi, of the United States Congress, visit us, they realize that Syria is one of the few states in the Middle East that enjoys stability...The United States ambassador in Beirut is the real ruler of Lebanon...Our biggest problem is that, because of the United States and Israel, the government must acquire defensive weapons for our protection...(The recent Israeli air attack) was an act of provocation, and it reveals that the Israeli government has neither the intention nor the desire to make peace or renew diplomatic negotiations."

The thoroughly despicable American Klansman and Nazi David Duke is here in Barcelona today to give a speech to our local scum of the earth. Duke is going to say exactly the same thing as this worm Bilal did. The difference is that our local Illustrated and Enlightened have pitched a fit about Duke's presence. Somehow I bet nobody is going to complain to La Vanguardia about giving a Baath Party Fascist, a toady of a murderous dictator, all of Page 4 of Catalonia's largest newspaper to spew his Jew-baiting. And nobody is going to call out Alcoverro for fellating the dictator's propaganda chief in his introduction, either.

Oh, and congratulations to US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, of the Democratic Party, of course. It's not often that you get a favorable mention by an anti-Semitic Fascist propaganda boss. I wonder if Ms. Pelosi knows or cares that the Syrian regime is using her for its own anti-American and anti-Israeli purposes.

Other news from around here:

The Pope made Barcelona archbishop Lluís Martínez Sistach a cardinal, which I guess is good for Catalonia. Maybe he'll be able to get us some cash to restore a few churches and artworks around here. By the way, one of the most underrated sights in Barcelona are the smaller medieval parish churches; Romanesque Sant Pau del Camp is my favorite, and Gothic Santa Anna, Sants Just and Pastor, and Sant Pere are pretty cool, too. A lot of people miss Santa Maria del Pi, too, which is a big Gothic church with a huge interior space and an enormous rose window. Something else well worth seeing, which almost everyone misses, are the several side chapels in the Cathedral that contain 14th and 15th century Gothic altarpieces. Those need to be thoroughly restored and then better-lighted so they can be more easily appreciated; they're kind of hard to see right now. Oh, by the way, in the Cathedral check out the baptismal font, to the left going in the front door. Looks very modern, but it's 14th century early Italian Renaissance.

What they're calling "public dissatisfaction with the political situation" in Catalonia has reached 50.8%. I'm a little surprised it's that low right in the middle of the Great Transport Snafu, along with the educational mess, the immigration controversy, the rising crime rate, inflation of food prices, the bursting of the housing bubble, and the continued sniping over the nationalist issue.

Fernando Onega lets loose with a massive gilipollada today in La Vanguardia. On page 22, he says, "'Tomate' (a TV show) announced the upcoming divorce of a politician who was at the top, isn't there anymore, and crossed the pond. The whispering machine got started, and since there are few who have been at the top, they've named him. If it is confirmed, it would have more impact than the separation of the duke and duchess of Lugo. Infinitely more."

There's some ethical reporting for you! Way to check those sources! If he had, he'd have known that on page 20, Vanguardia readers had already seen the following: "José María Aznar and Ana Botella have been forced to make public a press release denying the rumors of a divorce, which they consider slanderous, and they will take legal action against those who have expressed such calumnies in the media." I wonder if they're going to sue Onega? That'd be hilarious.

Terrific editing there by whoever's in charge of that, too. Nobody caught Onega's rumor-mongering in time to pull it when the report of Aznar's denial came in.

Paco Candel died; he was a writer back in the '60s and '70s whose big book was "The Other Catalans," about the wave of Spanish-speaking migrants that were arriving in large numbers at that time. He was one of them; he tried to convince his fellow migrants to integrate into Catalan society, while also trying to convince the Catalans to accept the migrants. Everybody liked him. He was a Commie for a few years, but not one of the obnoxious ones. I never met him, but I know a guy who was a good friend of his.

A bunch of thugs--not a racist gang, just anti-social low-life types (what they call "quinquis" or "quillos" around here) because it included a couple of Moroccans and Latins along with Spaniards--attacked a bunch of middle-class alternative types at the fiesta mayor in Berga, near here, in 2005. They stabbed a guy to death, and seven of them just got convicted of premeditated murder and two more got convicted as accomplices. They got sentenced to between 25 and 43 years each, though no one serves a full sentence in Spain. Eight other minors were involved, and they have been sent to juvie for three to seven years. Some Catalanists have been claiming that the victim was picked out specifically because he was a Catalanist; I dunno, my guess is that the dirtbags involved just wanted to beat up on some middle-class youths, whom they despise as pampered pussies, wimps, mama's boys, etc. I have no problem with these guys going down for premeditated murder, since they did plan to attack this other group with knives.

Sports update: Ronaldinho has begged out of tonight's Barça match versus Recreativo, claiming that he's tired coming back off his stint with the Brazil squad. I think he's sending a clear signal that he doesn't want to play here anymore, and it's time to sell him to the highest bidder. Too bad. I've always liked him, and he was a tremendous player during two years here. Barça needs to win tonight; the pressure is high, though they're only four points behind Real Madrid with 26 games still to play.

The Barça game is one of my weekly social events; you can't beat watching the local sports team (and for you folks back in the US, people here are much more fanatical about the Barça than they are about your team in your town) among a noisy crowd of extreme fans knowledgeable about the game. I remember last year when the Barça got eliminated by Chelsea from the Champions League, Xavi the bar guy took his triangular chalkboard from out in the street and smashed it over one of those iron posts they put up so people don't park on the sidewalk. Also, beers at the bar where they show the games are only €1.30, so you can't beat the price, either.

Kansas plays Missouri tonight for the Big 12 North title and the winner will be top-ranked in the country, since No. 1 LSU got upset by Arkansas. The Aggies beat Texas, so it looks like Oklahoma wins the Big 12 South, but they have to beat Oklahoma State tonight.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Unintended irony alert: For some reason, all Spanish governmental bodies spend lots of money on publicity campaigns for or against something of civic importance. I have no idea how much it costs them, but they run slick, professional TV commercials on prime time and print full-page, full-color ads in the daily papers. My guess is this whole shebang is part of the political patronage system: incumbent-friendly ad agencies and media outlets that are party clientele get the biggest piece of the cheese.

Recent campaigns I remember have been against driving too fast, snorting coke, drinking on the job, and beating your wife, and in favor of eating fruits and vegetables, speaking Catalan, reading books, and recycling. Now the Generalitat is running one...well, I'm not sure exactly what the point is, except it's against the patriarchy because the Institut Català de les Dones (Catalan Women's Institute), a well-known source of public subsidies for feminist organizations and sinecures for party activists, is behind it.

(Among the Catalan Women's Institute's priorities, according to its website, are "the lesbian collective, migrant women, non-sexist language use, sexism in the media," and establishing gender quotas for public spending.)

So. The most recent campaign against the patriarchy has a rather "hippy happy flowers" (as they say here) aesthetic. The print ad features photos of attractive, alternative-looking teenagers, with the slogan, "Love has to be free. Free of sexism, free of anger, free of jealousy. You can make a new era begin. You just have to exercise the right to choose your friends, your beliefs, your way of dressing and acting, of thinking, of having opinions, and of loving. Don't let your partner give you orders, control you, shout at you, or limit your freedom. Love is either free or it is not love."

Aw. How cute. Of course, it will have absolutely no effect.

Here's the YouTube video of the TV commercial. The slogan is the same. Again, the aesthetic is "hippy happy flowers"; a bunch of alternative but well-groomed children of the Catalan bourgeoisie put on a fun demonstration, dancing around and singing just like it was against the Iraq war or something. Or an ad for Coke. No throwing rocks at the riot squad like it was a real demo. The song that accompanies the ad is, for some reason, in English, and it sounds sort of '60s folk-rock. I've never heard it before, so I assume that it was written specifically for the commercial.

What's strange about the song, though, isn't its sound, but its lyrics. It's a male voice singing lead. The first verse goes:

I've been walking along
Singing this song
I'm gonna play it for you

Which is not quite native English, but does sound like something that Donovan might have come up with on a bad day. Or like the beatnik in "Animal House" who gets his guitar smashed by John Belushi. Anyway, it's nice and non-threatening and gentle, right?

Now check out the second verse:

I've been walking along
Going too long
I'm gonna make it with you

Wait a minute. That sounds a lot more like James Brown. That sounds like, "Honey, I've got such a bad case of blue balls that when I get you home I'm going to bone you till I blow my jizz out your ears." Doesn't sound like the woman is going to have much choice in the matter to me. Where I come from, we call that date-rape. At the very least, it's sex-objectification.

What I wonder is: Was the choice of lyrics intentional? Does the Catalan Women's Institute have any idea what they mean?
I have a piece up over at Pajamas Media on the "El Diario de Patricia" murder story, along with a few reflections. Go read it.
"Democratic" Spanish Communists Support Iraq Terrorism

The Alfonso Comín Foundation, a Spanish Communist liberation-theology group named in honor of a notorious agitator, awarded its 2007 International Prize to one Mada al Hadeethi, "the co-founder of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress of resistance to the occupation." Past recipients include the late PSUC political commissar Gregorio López Raimundo, School of the Americas Watch, "the innocent people of Iraq" (in 1991), Abbé Pierre, "the Palestinian people" (1988), and "the Nicaraguan people" (in 1984).

Supporters of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress on the net include the UK Socialist Worker, the UK Socialist Review, Common Dreams, Indymedia, Counterpunch, the Workers World Party, and, of course, our friends at the Huffington Post and the Guardian. That is, the ususl suspects. Now we know who we're dealing with.

And in Spain? The Iraqi National Foundation Congress is supported by our old friends at CEOSI, the National Campaign against the Occupation and for Sovereignty in Iraq. The CEOSI, if you'll recall, has been inviting "representatives of the Iraqi resistance" to Spain for the last three years, and is actively collecting funds "for health care purposes." And who's behind the CEOSI? The United Left, the Spanish Communist Party, and the pro-Communist union Workers Commissions.

Now, no one in Spain claims to be more democratic than our local Communists. (They were against Franco forty years ago, don't you know.) So it is contradictory when they invite representatives of the Iraqi "resistance," who justify and practice terrorism against both Allied troops and their fellow Iraqis, as their honored guests--and actually help them to raise money.

The so-called Iraqi resistance kills people, American, British, and Iraqi. And the Spanish Communists support them through the CEOSI.

Apology for terrorism is illegal in Spain, and an ETA supporter would be immediately prosecuted for speaking in favor of the organization, much less for raising money for it. And the Political Parties Act says that organizations which support terrorism are illegal in Spain. Looks like forming a party that is speaking in favor of and raising money for a terrorist organization whose first priority is killing American troops would be apology for terrorism, along with a violation of the Political Parties Act, no?

I guess it isn't, though, if you're a democratic Spanish Communist, and if the Socialist Zapatero central government (along with the current governments of Catalonia and Barcelona) in power needs your support in the Congress of Deputies.

La Vanguardia has decided that it's going to interview everybody that the Iraqi "resistance" sends to Spain for propaganda and fund-raising; they already interviewed a Baath Party spokesman in October.

So on November 9, La Vanguardia ran an interview with Ms. Al Hadeethi of the CEOSI-supported Iraqi National Foundation Congress (La Vangua gets it wrong and calls them the Iraqi National Congress, which is a very different kettle of fish). On their back page in their daily featured spot. At least this time La Vanguardia's interviewer (Lluís Amiguet) does not fawn all over her, as they did when they interviewed the Baath party representative.

We'll cut to the chase and give you the best part first:

Interviewer: Do you justify armed resistance?
al Hadeethi: According to international law (article 51 of the United Nations Declaration), we have the right to defend ourselves against an invading army; we demand that resolution 1546 of the UN Security Council be applied.

Yep, she justifies it. She's supporting terrorism, and La Vanguardia is giving her a public platform to do it.

Here's some good stuff from the rest of the interview:

I: Who would be capable of planting a bomb in a market and killing hundreds of innocents?
al H: The Americans.

I: That would cause chaos, which would hurt them.
al H: It benefits them, because they want to provoke the division of the country, and the first phase is dividing us and firing up factions, according to their plans. And they pay mercenaries, who pay other Iraqis to plant the bombs. These bombs divide us and prevent us Iraqis from reorganizing ourselves and standing up to the neocolonial invasion.

I: I don't think it is the way you say it is.
al H: The bombs cause fear and pain and prepare the Iraqis for the next step, which will be creating three states where there was one before. They are trying to divide us into three states that will be easier to control, because while there is a drop of petroleum, the US will not leave Iraq...It is no accident that the US and Al Qaeda arrived together; they need one another to justify their violence and the occupation.

I: What does your political activity consist of?
al H: We used to meet daily to unmask the neocolonial operation that the occupation has caused. But the coordination of resistance groups in which I participate has had to reduce our meetings, because they persecute us and arrest us.

I: What is this discourse of occupation?
al H: It is banal democracy. Simply, the oil companies that are friends of the Bushes have divided up our petroleum reserves supported by an army of mercenaries that is paid by the American taxpayers. They say they have brought us democracy and freedom, and what they have done is simply steal our oil.

I: You have had free elections.
al H: Under American military occupation and that of its allies! What sarcasm! Would you call elections free in your country if it was occupied by another? All the ideological discourse of democracy and freedom is a pantomime to justify the division of our natural resources. It is a division that the Bushes have been preparing for years.

I: You voted for your government.
al H: The Iraqi government are puppets who only meet with Washington's permission, and I know because I have cooperated with the Ministry of Justice, and it is to laugh: they ask permission from the CIA to go to the bathroom.

La Vanguardia gives them a propaganda outlet, the CEOSI sends them money and moral support, the Communists and the CEOSI are the same people, and the Zapatero government depends on Communist support. Something stinks.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

American agents formed a brutal gang of robbers that murdered 28 people in Belgium in the early 1980s? El Periodico says it's true!

The "Brabant massacres," as this dark episode in recent Belgian history is called, continue to torment the people's memory. Especially because it is suspected that these crimes were motivated by political reasons to destabilize the Belgian state, and that former secret service members in the service of American geostrategic interests were involved.

Wait. Why would the Americans want to destabilize the allied government of Belgium, a NATO member? And why would they do so by forming a gang of robbers and killing a bunch of people?

The "Brabant massacres" occurred during the years of the massive protests of the people against the installation of the American Euromissiles in the last episodes of tension of the Cold War.

Oh, that explains it. We want to destabilize Belgium's government, which is supporting our missiles policy, because of anti-nuke demonstrations.

The gratuitous violence of the robberies, the small booty, and the cold, precise, and military action of the group support the thesis of a plot to destabilize the State and harden government policy, as finally occurred when the power of the gendarmerie was increased.

Okay, that proves it. The Americans wanted the Belgian gendarmerie to have more power, so they killed a bunch of people.

The researchers Rene Haquin (Belgian) and Daniele Ganser (Swiss) argued, in different books, in favor of the implication of the American secret network Gladio and NATO in these episodes.

What more evidence could one possibly want? It must be true, and so we urgently need to run an article on it!

Of course, this is complete bushwah, bosh, bunkum, and baloney. According to the US State Department, the entire "Operation Gladio" conspiracy theory is 30-year-old Soviet disinformation.

The Greek writer making the claim – and a Swiss researcher who wrote a 2005 book on the “stay behind” networks – both give credence to a Soviet forgery from the 1970s, which has long been publicly identified as a phony document...Grivas and other prominent “stay behind” researchers appear to have been influenced by a bogus text that first surfaced in 1976, a Soviet forgery purporting to be Supplement B to the U.S. Army’s Field Manual 30-31.

So what's the Spanish connection?

FM 30-31B reappeared in 1978 when it was reprinted in two Spanish publications, El Pais (18 September) and Triunfo (23 September). This was the work of a Spanish communist and a Cuban intelligence officer. Since September 1978, the manual and/or articles concerning it have appeared in the world press in more than 20 countries, including the United States.

Oh, so that's it. El Pais fell for this one back when they were pro-Soviet, and that's how this conspiracy disinformation has stayed alive.

Here's the State Department's conclusion:

A thirty year-old Soviet forgery has been cited as one of the central pieces of “evidence” for the false notion that West European “stay-behind” networks engaged in terrorism, allegedly at U.S. instigation. This is not true, and those researching the “stay behind” networks need to be more discriminating in evaluating the trustworthiness of their source material.

Gee, I think that sums it all up pretty well.
Someone called me biased for not mentioning that the two Cataloony jerks who were fined for burning the King's photo whined afterwards about not being allowed to speak Catalan at trial. The reason is simple: I hadn't heard about it. If I had heard about it, I would have slammed these Cataloony jerks even harder, since the trial was held in Madrid before the National Court. Of course the judge refused to allow them to testify in Catalan, since judges in Madrid have no obligation to know Catalan. Madrid is not in Catalonia. Besides, the aforementioned jerks know Spanish perfectly well anyway, so it's not like they were put in unfair legal jeopardy by being tried in a language they didn't know.

I will add that if the evil cold heartless system had wanted to screw over these poor idealistic oppressed youths, the judge could have sent them to jail for fifteen months each. However, he decided to let them off with a fine.

Here's the story from El Periodico, with a photograph of the oppressed viotims of centralistic imperialism. Note the flags behind them as they give their impromptu press conference. The one on the left is the Catalan independentista flag.
All right! We're Number One! Spain is the leader in Europe! 20% of us have smoked weed during the last year! According to a European Union study, of Spaniards between 15 and 64 years old, an amazing one-fifth have smoked up, and not at some time in their lives, but within the last 12 months. The European average is 13%. I'll bet it's a good bit lower in the US. The report congratulates the EU because cannabis use has "plateaued and stabilized." Yeah, a stable 20% is a pretty damn high plateau. More worrying: 3% of Spaniards between 15 and 64 have used cocaine during the last year, as against 1.3% in the EU.

The most recent government survey of voter intention puts the PSOE barely two points ahead of the PP, 39.7% to 37.4%, which is within the margin of error, and a smaller distance between the two parties than previous surveys had shown. Meanwhile, an El Periodico survey has the PSOE well out in front of the PP, 43.5% to 37.6%. Here's their graphic in case you're interested.

The actor Fernando Fernan-Gomez died yesterday. Too bad. I liked him. You've seen him as the old guy in Belle Epoque and All About My Mother. His career went back to the '30s, and he was also a director, an author, and a member of the Real Academia de la Lengua. Quite a life. A lot of people didn't like him personally because he had an image as a rude loudmouth. He also claimed to be an anarchist, but he didn't say anything about that before about 1975 or so.

Jack Chiraq has been indicted for corruption and embezzlement while he was the mayor of Paris, only four months after his term as president ended. He'll probably be able to weasel out of going to jail until he finally dies, though. And this isn't the only case against him; there are several more coming up.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Internet news: At the request of a Catalan government agency, Microsoft (the server) has shut down four Spanish blogs that promoted anorexia and bulimia. This is a precedent because it hadn't happened before without a court order.

Comments: 1) These blogs seem to have been set up by anorexic and bulimic teenagers themselves, with the goal of reassuring and supporting one another. There must be hundreds of them. 2) You can find them in both Spanish and English; just google "ana mia" and see what you get. "Ana" refers to "anorexia," and "Mia" to bulimia. 3) A quick look through a few of them shows that these girls have a Peter Pan-ish pre-sexual identity; they compare themselves to "princesses" and "dolls," and their tone is prepubescent. Anorexia and bulimia allow them not to grow up. 4) It goes without saying that this is a serious mental illness, and its sufferers have all my sympathy.

5) Microsoft, as a private company, has every right to ban anything it doesn't like from its hosting service. And these blogs' message is unhealthy and anti-social. 6) But. There are a lot of other things out there, like drinking and and anarchism, that are unhealthy and antisocial as well. Ought websites devoted to them to be banned? Then, what about pro-terrorist websites? 7) It's the old slippery-slope problem, where do you draw the line? I would prefer for the line to be drawn as libertarianly as possible, and I guess the place we draw it is what's defined by law. Terrorism is against the law. So is kiddie porn, and so is making violent threats, and so is libel. Anorexia isn't.

More censorship: American Nazi and Klansman David Duke is coming to town on Saturday to speak to a bunch of Fascist scumbags. He's gonna bash the Jews. A group of pretty reasonable local intellectuals, Francesc-Marc Alvaro, Magda Oranich, Joan B. Culla, and Pilar Rahola, have asked the government and the prosecutor's office to do something. The problem is that in Spain, it's not quite clear if apology for Naziism is against the law, and the Constitutional Court said that denying the Holocaust is legal. I'm personally in favor of enforcing the law, and if they can ban Duke legally, do it. I don't like such laws, though; I'd prefer not to ban political speech of any sort, no matter how hateful.

Note: The story going around here is that Duke is a former Republican senator from Louisiana. That's wrong. Duke has run for office many times in both the Democratic and Republican primaries, and he got elected to the Louisiana state House of Representatives for one term back in the seventies. Other than that, he's never won anything, and he has nothing to do with the political mainstream.

Big corruption news: Former FC Barcelona president Jose Luis Nuñez, hia son Jose Luis junior, a famous crooked wheeler-dealer named Javier de la Rosa, and several other people have been indicted for defrauding the taxman out of €13 million. If they're convicted, they're going to jail; the prosecutor has demanded eight years for both Nuñezes. Nuñez pere is probably the city's biggest real-estate developer, and he ran the football club for more than twenty years.

Guess what? Catalonia's educational system is not only the worst in Spain, it's the worst in the European Union! The high-school dropout rate is 34.1%, at the bottom in Spain and better than only Portugal and Malta. The high-school graduation rate is 60.3%, fifteen points below the EU average. They're blaming it on heavy immigration and not getting enough money from the Madrid government. Remember, nothing around here is our fault!

Well, we've had our Jerry Springer moment here in Spain. Some guy went on the afternoon trash-TV program "El Diario de Patricia" in order to get back together with his ex-girlfriend, and to propose to her. She turned him down flat, on the air. So he cut her throat four days later. Turns out he'd been convicted of abusing her, and there was a restraining order out on him. "Patricia" is as bad as any American talk show, and there are voices calling on the Antena 3 network to pull it off the air. I say it's trash, but if the people want trash, that's what they're gonna get.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Not much news from around here, which is probably good. The Cataloony jerks who burned photographs of the King were sentenced to fines of nearly €3000 each. The city government retracted a report that said that the water supply 8% of Barcelona households that get their water exclusively from the Llobregat was chemically contaminated, and apologized for agitating people needlessly. The Great Transport Snafu still has everything all snarled up around here, though one of the four commuter lines that is shut down has resumed partial service. Some dopes announced that they are going to build a mini-Las Vegas in the Monegros desert along the Barcelona-Zaragoza road. I'll believe it when I see it. They arrested five members of the ETA youth brigade in Pamplona; they'd been torching ATMs and sabotaging train lines.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Quick blog roundup:

Must-watch video footage at No Pasaran! of the Barcelona squatter riot. The video begins with demonstrators taking metal fences from the Plaza Catalunya construction site. At 00:09 it cuts to Via Laietana in front of the Interior department building. At 00:16 you can clearly see rioters hurling the fences, along with other things, at the police. At 00:44 it cuts to ambulances and police vehicles on Via Laietana. At 00:54 it cuts to the police charging a crowd at what looks like the top of Laietana, at Plaza Urquinaona. At 1:09 it cuts to an ambulance crew taking an injured rioter away.

Jules Crittenden makes fun of Euro stereotypes of Americans.

Pejman says things are getting worse in Venezuela. Publius Pundit has more.

Sadly, Sal de Traglia is packing it in; he leaves us with some thoughts for prospective expatriates.

Expat Yank has a very nice fisking of some global warming insanity in the Independent.

Davids Medienkritik acidly suggests a thought experiment for readers of the German (and by extension, European) media.

Colin Davies, "Old Reliable," comments on Spanish building permits and Franco nostalgics, among other things.

Barcepundit links to an apt cartoon.
Public opinion is massively against the riot the "anti-system" squatters put on a couple of nights ago. A peaceful demonstration would have gained them a little sympathy, perhaps, but attacking the police with those metal construction-area fences and smashing shop windows was going way too far. The main target of despotrication is Joan Saura, the Communist head of the Interior department, in charge of the regional police, the ones that were attacked. Saura has in the past spoken in favor of rebellious youth. Now he looks very weak.

I cannot believe that the people of Barcelona, after the blackout and the Great Transport Snafu and this latest riot, are going to go back out and vote for the Tripartite at the next municipal election. But they will. No matter what a lousy job they do, they have a big enough machine and patronage clientele to put them over.

La Vanguardia has a rundown of all the squatter riots in the last two years: August 16 and 17, 2005; December 17, 2005; March 19, 2006; June 28, 2006; October 5, 2006; May 19, 2007. And now this one.

The campaign for the March 9, 2008 general election is already well under way. PP leader Mariano Rajoy promised to eliminate income taxes on anyone who makes under €16,000 a year, which sounds good to me; this would affect the majority of retired people and the working poor, some 7 million people. Rajoy also wants to limit the governmental powers of the autonomous regions, establish a two-thirds majority in Congress for reforms that affect the Constitution, guarantee the right to use and learn Spanish in the educational system, declare that there will be no negotiations with ETA, and establish that the most-voted party should govern, rather than allow coalitions of minorities. Not much of this is new except the tax cut.

That's a winning platform if they present it the right way. It would help if they had canned Rajoy, who is personally uninspiring; I think Madrid mayor Ruiz-Gallardon would clearly stomp Zap in the election, but Rajoy--well, who knows. If he loses this one, he'll have to resign as party leader, and I just hope neither Acebes nor Zaplana takes over.

The surveys are saying that Hugo the Chav might well lose the December 2 referendum he has called "on the constitutional reform aimed at implanting a totalitarian regime," says La Vanguardia. The latest survey says 66% will vote No and only 28% Yes. "The most reliable polls show that his support has diminished in recent weeks because of his closeness to Cuba, threats to private property, repression of the students, scarcity of basic foods, growing crime, and rejection of a presidency-for-life with full powers."

La Vangua, meanwhile, has picked up on the Barry Bonds story, and guess what? They played the race card just as I predicted they would, asking whether "there are racist ingredients in these scahdals." They mention Marion Jones and Michael Vick as well. Gee, I dunno. The Vick case has nothing to do with drugs; he was running an illegal gambling ring on dogfights that he put on. He'd be in deep shit whether he was black, white, or green. And as for doping, seems to me that Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Roger Clemens, and Jose Canseco are all in a heap of trouble, too, and they're all white folks. Not to mention all the cyclists, including Landis, Hamilton, and Lance Armstrong.

As for real crimes, African-American Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens defensive star, didn't even have to go to jail when his posse killed somebody and he tried to cover it up. And African-American Adam "Pacman" Jones just received a suspended sentence after starting a free-for-all fight in a Las Vegas strip bar, in which a security guard was shot and paralyzed. And African-American Tank Johnson spent a few days in jail after his best buddy was killed in a fight, along with multiple drug and gun charges. Lewis is still in the NFL, and Johnson may be allowed back this year. Jones might be allowed back next year.

If there were real racism against black athletic stars, I have a feeling that these guys would all be serving very long sentences.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The King's verbal putdown of Hugo the Chav is now part of popular culture. El Mundo is reporting that "¿Por qué no te callas?" is bringing in €1.5 million as a mobile phone ringtone, and some guy in Alicante is selling T-shirts for eighteen euros each.

There are already hundreds of YouTube parodies. Check out this one, to the tune of "Y Viva España," this max-mix disco thing, and this Latino-Caribbean rap version. The first one is most definitely racist, comparing Chavez with a monkey repeatedly.

Last night's riot was a lot worse than they reported. Some 20 police officers and 40 rioters were injured. The rioters were actually trying to kill the cops outside the Interior building, hurling metal fence barriers at them, along with rocks and bottles and everything else they could find. It was premeditated, too, since they picked up most of the crap they threw at a construction site in Plaza Catalunya and carried it all the way to Via Laietana. The cops had to fire rubber bullets, and actually did beat the shit out of a lot of them. Good. Let's go, Cops! Club 'em, thump 'em, Cops, Cops, Cops! I've read--and take this with a grain of salt--that Jarrai has sent instructors to train Barcelona radicals in correct rioting procedures.

That old Commie son-of-a-bitch, Gregorio Lopez Raimundo, died. Good. This guy was a PSUC political commissar on the Aragon front during the Civil War, which means it was his job to have anarchists and Trotskyists arrested and executed. Yes, he was opposed to Franco. Being opposed to Franco does not mean that you were necessarily one of the good guys, just like being opposed to Hitler does not put Stalin on the side of the angels. Lots of murderous radicals were opposed to Franco.

The Catalan Parliament, with the exception of the Socialists, voted for the first time ever in favor of the resignation of a cabinet minister, Maleni Alvarez, who is the scapegoat in the Great Barcelona Transport Snafu. The PP, the Commies, the Cataloonies, and CiU all agreed on something for once.

Sports update: Spain's national soccer team clinched a spot in next year's Eurocup with a 3-0 victory over Sweden at the Bernabeu. They finally played well, led by Iniesta and Xavi; Capdevila had a tremendous game. Iniesta needs to start every game for Barça, no matter who has to sit on the bench to make space for him. Italy beat Scotland 1-2, eliminating them; good show by the Scots, stuck in the same group as Italy and France and in the fight until their very last match. Israel saved England's ass by beating Russia, which means that England needs only a tie against Croatia on Wednesday to qualify. So far, along with the hosts Austria and Switzerland, the teams that have qualified are Spain, Poland, Italy, France, Croatia, Netherlands, Greece, Germany, Czech Republic, and Rumania. The other four qualifiers will probably be Sweden, Turkey, England, and Portugal.

Kansas stomped Iowa State, and is still the only major-conference team without a loss. 11-0. Yes, six of the eleven victories were over bad teams. But they face Missouri at Arrowhead next week; the winner takes the Big 12 North title, and will play either Oklahoma or Texas in San Antonio for the conference championship. Oklahoma lost at Texas Tech, and Oregon lost to Arizona, which means that KU is ranked number two for the first time ever.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Well, about a thousand squatters (who call themselves "anti-fascists") had themselves a big old riot in downtown Barcelona tonight--seven arrested, ten injured policemen. One of the cops was knocked out after being hit in the head with a flying rock or bottle, and is in the hospital.

I really do not understand why they do not arrest fifty or a hundred of these jerks every time they pull one of these stunts; it wouldn't be that hard. Then give them some massively unpleasant community service, like scouring out the sewers, since they're all breaking at least a dozen laws: holding an illegal demonstration, destruction of property, assault and battery, resisting arrest, and probably mopery as well.

Even progre-bobo TV3 called the scene outside the Interior department building on Via Laietana "especially violent," as the rioters hurled heavy objects at its façade. The cops guarding it outside had to retreat. They pretty much trashed all the shops along several streets, set up barricades, torched garbage skips, trashed parked vehicles, and generally had themselves a good old time.

I bet next time they have one of these riots the cops kick some tremendous ass. I can't believe they put up with this crap.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Today's winners of the Self-Hating American prize are Brian De Palma and George Clooney. Both of them are in Spain promoting very serious films of trenchant criticism of the hypocrisy of America's oligarchical unsustainable consumer society, or something like that.

Said De Palma in El Pais, "(Bush) goes around killing people with my tax money...The war in Iraq can be stopped if the dead are shown every day. It happened in Vietnam...In the United States violence is only seen in fiction. But on the TV news there are no dead bodies, violence is shown in small doses. They're selling us a war that has nothing to do with reality, and meanwhile people are getting blown up."

Said Clooney in La Vanguardia, "I grew up in a generation suspicious of the government and of big business. We never believed the government. Watergate was the confirmation of what we all suspected. I never believed in the CIA or in corporations. And movies like Chinatown reinforced these feelings. Unfortunately, things have not improved. In the United States, during twenty years, nobody gave a damnm about what the government did. As long as it didn't affect your personal life, you didn't pay attention to anything...I always remember Ned Beatty's words in Network, when he said there was no United States or Soviet Union, the only thing there was were IBM and ATT. In the world we live in everything is controlled by the big corporations, which is not always bad: I have worked for them and I am not sorry. It depends on who makes the decisions."

Note that Clooney thinks that images from fictional movies are logical support for statements about the nature of society and government.
There's a good bit of indignation in Spain about Hugo the Chav's anti-Spanish rhetoric, calling Spain imperialist and arrogant and bashing the country's leaders. All I can say is that Latin American populist rhetoric bullshit stinks whether it is applied to the United States or to Spain, and this week a lot of it has been sprayed Spain's way. Spain doesn't like it. Welcome to the club, guys.

Chav update: He told French television that he's going to start a Venezuelan niclear program "for peaceful purposes," and added that he supports the Iranian nuke program.

News: 16 Madrid civil servants have been arrested for taking bribes in exchange for granting business licenses. If you remember our post from a few days ago on Spain's competitiveness problems, you won't be surprised to learn that if you don't bribe somebody, it'll take you three years to get a business license in downtown Madrid. No wonder these guys were raking it in. This is a story of medium importance in most of the Spanish media, but last night it was the top domestic politics story on TV3. Because playing this up makes Madrid look bad, of course.

Supposedly, tomorrow one of the three Renfe commuter lines that are down because of the Great Barcelona Transport Snafu is going to come back on line, though with fewer trains than normal. The line affected runs to Bellvitge, Castelldefels, Sitges, and Vilanova. I hope there isn't some kind of disaster. The line to the airport is still down.

Silly demonstration of the week: They got 3500 university students out yesterday in order to protest against the Bologna Process, a multinational European plan to standardize the post-high school university system. According to the EU (note the mediocre English: "why European higher education systems must be modernized ?"), this is why:

1) European higher education is fragmented into (what are often) small national systems and sub-systems, without effective links and bridges between them;
2) National regulations are too often over-detailed, and this diminishes universities’ responsiveness to changing learning and research needs emerging from markets and society;
3) Europe’s universities have a tendency to uniformity within each system/subsystem which has led to a good average level, but has limited access and failed to enable enough world-class research;
4) Universities under-use the knowledge they produce because they and business still inhabit largely separate worlds;
5) Many universities are insufficiently prepared for the coming competition for students, researchers and resources in an increasingly globalising world.
6) Most importantly, funding for universities is far too low compared to our major competitors, both in education and in research, due mainly to much smaller contributions from private sources.
7) Furthermore, access rates to higher education are still lower in Europe than in many other leading world regions.

So, of course, the students are protesting because they claim a college degree will cost more, and because, get this, they'll have to work harder, with 40 hours a week between classes and individual study. Oh, no, how tragic, 40 hours of education time a week. When I was in college I put in 60 hours many weeks, and that wasn't unusual. There were a lot of people who worked harder than I did. The government says that they'll give out student loans to those who need them; the protesting students say such loans would "mortgage their futures."

What this was really all about was simply an excuse for the Perennially Indignant, made up largely of what are euphemistically called around here "older students" (that is, those who never go to class, fail repeatedly, and hang around campus occupying places that could be used by real students who have plans to graduate one day), to hold a big old demo and bitch about the system in general. There were quite a few red flags and even more independentista ones.

Ridiculous demonstration number two: In order to protest against global warming (which may not exist, and if it exists it may not be caused by humans, and if it is caused by humans it is also not nearly as big a problem as the lack of democracy and the rule of law), the Generalitat, the Barcelona city government, and the Catalan parliament turned off all their electricity last night between 8 and 8:05 PM, and encouraged citizens to do the same. In Madrid, the Congress, several ministries, and the PSOE headquarters joined in. Nobody paid any attention except for a few hippies and a Commie or two, of course. Red Electrica said that electrical consumption did not decline noticeably during the attempted protest.

A Spanish consortium has made an offer to buy Iberia, Spain's largest airline, for about €3.5 billion. The consortium's leader is Gala Capital, which belongs to the wealthy Koplowitz, Jove, and del Pino families, and which would own 51% of the shares. Other members are the owner of Air Europa and a group of savings banks led by the Basque BBK. Other offers are in the works. Iberia stock climbed 4.6% yesterday.

The price of milk has gone up 24% in the last three months. Dairy farmers get 46 eurocents a liter in Spain, compared to 36 in Germany and 30 in France. There's a worldwide shortage due to below-normal production in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina, causing higher prices. The 30% increase in the price of grain doesn't help, either. In addition, Spain has cut back production by a million tons a year in order to meet EU norms.

Sports update: Barry Bonds, the world's best baseball player during the last 20 years, has been indicted by the federal government for perjury in the Balco doping scandal. He's going to jail. This is a big deal; imagine if, say, Ronaldo or Zidane was going to the slam for doing illegal performance-enhancing drugs and for lying about it to a grand jury. It's the second federal indictment of a major athlete this year, since Atlanta's star quarterback, Michael Vick, pleaded guilty to federal charges of running a dog-fighting gambling operation. He's going to jail, too.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

In case anyone's interested, the last 100 visitors to Iberian Notes were from: United States 40, Spain 37, "Unknown Country" 8, UK 3, Canada 2, Germany 2, Mexico 1, France 1, Nigeria 1, India 1, Philippines 1, Australia 1, Sudan 1, Norway 1.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The bully is blustering. Hugo the Chav claims that he is going to "profoundly review" Venezuela's relations with Spain, and added that King Juan Carlos is going to have to "apologize to Venezuela and Latin America in order to prevent relations with some countries from deteriorating further." He also threatened reprisals against those countries, like Chile and El Salvador, that supported Juan Carlos after the Showdown in Santiago. "It will be all the King's fault," he said.

The Chav warned that he is going to crack down on Spanish companies that do business in Venezuela, including the two big banks, BSCH and BBVA, oil company Repsol, telecoms operator Telefonica, insurance company Mapfre, and--get this--Prisa, the pro-Socialist media company that owns El Pais. Which I guess is no longer a mouthpiece for the Chav. Spanish companies have invested more than €1.7 billion in Venezuela since Chavez reached power.

Chavez finished off by comparing former prime minister Aznar to Adolf Hitler, which is what started the whole mess off on Saturday. Neither Zap or the King was willing to listen to the man whom the Spanish people elected twice as prime minister be called a Fascist. Legitimate criticism is one thing and anti-Spanish bigotry is another thing, and the King and Zap were absolutely right to stand up to the Chav's loud-mouthed vulgar demagogic boastful bullying.
Big royal family news: Princess Elena, King Juan Carlos's and Queen Sofia's oldest daughter, has separated from her husband, Jaime de Marichalar. (Marichalar and Elena are known as the Duke and Duchess of Lugo.) It's not a legal separation, but it is an officially announced "end to living together."

This is by far the biggest story today in the Spanish media.

The two married in 1995 and have two children, Felipe, aged 9, and Victoria, aged 7. Marichalar suffered a stroke in December 2001, "from which he has only partially recovered."

In case anyone is interested, here's La Vanguardia's photo gallery.

There has been gossip about both of them for a long time. It is said that both of them are borderline retarded; Elena is, at best, shy and not very bright, while Marichalar has a bad reputation as a playboy and cocaine user.

La Vanguardia is reporting that: 1) the decision to separate was made more than a year ago 2) "Marichalar's character changed" after he had his stroke 3) When their first child was born, Marichalar told the media, "Poor kid, he looks like her" 4) Rumors of a separation began in 2004; "Don Jaime, a great follower of fashion, has attended the principal fashion salons alone on many occasions" 5) "He sought refuge among ill-considered friends, and did not follow his designated course of recovery."

El Periodico says, "Recently, the monarch has not been a big fan of Jaime de Marichalar. Among other reasons, because of his lifestyle and his disproportionate passion for luxury. The duke is especially attracted to fashion and cars. After the stroke he suffered in 2001, the princess and her husband distanced themselves from one another. The duke, in very serious condition, showed an incredible will to recover. Thanks to his efforts, he is able to walk and talk with some normality. Once physically recovered, Marichalar decided to live it up. He even gained a malicious nickname from the media: "The Duke of Lujo." It is common to see the King's son-in-law browsing in the most exclusive shops in Madrid."

Looks like the guilty party in media eyes is going to be Marichalar.

It's been a rough year for the King. The El Jueves magazine cover, the attacks from the far right, the Cataloonies burning photos, the controversy over the Ceuta-Melilla visit, and the Hugo Chavez scene. Now this.

Now, I'm a republican with a big R and a small one, too. I prefer a system in which no one has special privileges because of their birth. However, a parliamentary monarchy like Spain or the Netherlands or the UK is a perfectly reasonable form of government, and if it's solving more problems than it's causing, it would be stupid to change it. The question, of course, is when that line is crossed.

I don't think the Spanish monarchy is anywhere near crossing that line. The Spanish royals are generally discreet and well-behaved, they don't cost the State a whole lot of money, and they do their public-relations jobs, opening health clinics and meeting with charity organizers and shaking hands with foreign dignitaries, very well.

I do think Juan Carlos provides a great deal of stability in this country. The only thing we can get the two main parties to agree on is that they both say they support the Constitution, of which Juan Carlos is the living symbol. The old wounds of the Civil War have still not healed, and significant numbers of left voters think the PP are a bunch of Francoists, while significant numbers of right voters think the PSOE are a bunch of Bolsheviks. Lots of them still hate each other.

Juan Carlos is trusted by both sides, though, since if he'd wanted to rule as a military dictator after Franco's death, he could have. Instead, with the cooperation of the responsible elements in Spanish society, Juan Carlos led Spain toward a parliamentary democracy just three years after the dictator's death. People have actually seen him deliver the goods, while staying above partisan politics.

It's commonly said around here that many Spaniards are not monarchists, but they're "Juan Carlosists."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Little news is good news, I guess.

They convicted the two cartoonists from El Jueves who drew Prince Felipe doing Princess Letizia doggy-style on the magazine cover and fined them €3000 apiece for lese-majesté.

It turned out that the skinhead who killed the squatter in the knife fight in the Madrid subway is in the army. Great, just what we need, neo-Nazis in the armed forces.

Supposedly one of the commuter train lines that is still on the fritz will be repaired over the weekend. Don't hold your breath.

Hugo Chavez claims that he didn't hear the King tell him to shut up, but if he had, he would have told him "to go wipe his ass." Fidel Castro called the incident "an ideological Waterloo." Yep, with Juan Carlos playing the part of Wellington.

Some dipshit dad left his vial of liquid Ecstasy lying around where his two-year-old could find it. The kid drank it, went into a two-day coma, and Dad's in jail. Can you say "custody hearing"?

Another dipshit, this time a rock-and-roller named Melendi (who I've never heard of) and his band boarded an Iberia flight for Mexico City drunk, and then pitched a fit when the stewardess cut them off. The pilot turned the plane around, back to Madrid, and Melendi's in the slam. Meanwhile, the 180 other people on the plane had their flight delayed by twelve hours.

Spanish families have adopted 23,000 foreign children in the last five years, the most in the world per capita. It must have something to do with Spain's very low birth rate, and possibly with the advanced age of first marriage.

Five executives, including the big boss of Mutua Universal, Spain's third-largest workman´s-compensation insurer, are going on trial in Barcelona for embezzling €12 million from the National Health. Ah, the sweet smell of corruption that impregnates this city.

Barça lost a match against a mediocre team, so everybody wants to fire the coach. Typical immature reaction by the local media, who have nothing else to write about.

Monday, November 12, 2007

King Juan Carlos made the news all over the world after his public humiliation of Hugo Chavez. Aznar called up Zap to thank him for defending him against Chavez's attacks. Rajoy blamed Zap's "dangerous liasons" with Latin American populists for the whole scene. As one might expect, the Communists and the Cataloonies have criticized Juan Carlos; Pepelu Carod-Rovira accused him of having bad manners, and the Chavez-loving Commies called the King's attitude "unacceptable." Convergence and Union, the moderate Catalanists, congratulated the King for defending Spain's "democratic integrity."

Looks like all the reports are in regarding the Madrid stabbing: The skinheads were on their way to their demonstration "against immigration and anti-Spanish racism," and a bunch of squatters were on their way to break it up. The two groups found themselves in the same subway car and the gang fight broke out; each side accuses the other of starting it. The skinhead demo wound up being broken up by the cops, who charged them with nightsticks several times, and the squatters put on a riot last night in downtown Madrid, burning garbage skips and looking for trouble.

Spain's largest corporation, Telefonica, earned a profit of €7.85 billion (with a B) over the first nine months of the year.

According to El Mundo's latest electoral survey, the PSOE leads the PP by three points, 42.2%-39.1%. That is 1) within the poll's margin of error but 2) pretty much what all the polls have been saying. The Commies got the support of 4.8%.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Here's the video of King Juan Carlos telling Chavez to shut up. And here's commentary from Barcepundit.

This was the main discussion topic at the cafe this morning; general feeling is very pro-King, seen as standing up against bigoted anti-Spanish rhetoric. Even the moderate Catalanists approved.

ETA planted two small bombs, one with five kilos of cloratite and the other with three, outside the courthouse in the Vizcayan town of Guecho this morning; the cops dismantled them.

One person was killed in a knife fight this afternoon between squatters (called "anti-fascists" in Spain) and skinheads on the Madrid subway. Eight more were injured, one very seriously, and a cop got hit in the head with a flying bottle. The skinheads involved were this bunch of dirtbags, who had put on an anti-immigrant demonstration. Now they're saying that the killer is one of the eight injured, that the squatters picked the fight by trying to break up the fascist demo, and that several people were tear-gassed. The paramedics had to set up a field hospital.

Meanwhile, here in Barcelona, they arrested six Latin immigrants for starting a knife fight last week outside a disco at the corner of Balmes and Diputacion, only two blocks from Murph's house. Three people, also Latins, were seriously wounded; they had to remove a kidney from one of them. The cops say the rumble wasn't gang-related.

As everyone knows, the percentage of immigrants in Barcelona is more than 15%, and we are beginning to see the backlash. Dark-skinned Latin immigrants, especially Dominicans and Ecuadorians, are not popular among a lot of people (light-skinned Argentinians, and all Brazilians, are OK). The Latins, fairly or not, are associated with gang violence; the Moroccans are even less popular, associated with street crime and drug dealing. There isn't much prejudice against black Africans, east Asians, or Pakistanis, who are seen as being here to work; in fact, the only complaint I've heard about the Chinese is that they've taken over the area near Arco de Triunfo with their textile import-export houses.

Sports update: Kansas beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater and is now 10-0, for the first time since 1899. KU is now the only unbeaten major-conference team left. Yeah, the truth is that they've slaughtered five really bad teams at home, and they laid a historic whupping on a not-very-good Nebraska. But they have beaten four pretty good teams on the road, Colorado, Kansas State, Texas A&M, and now Okie State. Next they play Iowa State, another bad team whom they should beat, and then comes the showdown with their first real challenge of the year against Missouri at Arrowhead in Kansas City. If they beat Missouri they win the Big 12 North for the first time ever, and they play Oklahoma for the Big 12 championship.

Barça lost in Getafe, 2-0. They were solidly outplayed. If they're going to compete for the title, which they should be able to do, they're going to have to start winning some games away.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

This is great. King Juan Carlos told Hugo Chavez to shut up at the Ibero-American summit in Chile. Made him look like the crude, vulgar demagogue he is.

Chavez was slagging off Spain in general and former prime minister Aznar in particular, calling him a "fascist." Zap showed some class (for once) and reminded Chavez that Aznar was a democratically elected leader and deserved respect. Chavez interrupted Zap, and kept on with his anti-Spanish rant, and the King told him, "Why don't you shut up?" Then Daniel Ortega got into it, attacking the Spanish company Union Fenosa, and Juan Carlos walked out.

Three cheers for the King, and one cheer for Zap, too.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Here's a very interesting report by the World Bank called Doing Business 2008 Spain; there's one of these profiles for pretty much every country in the world. What it makes clear is that Spain has a long way to go on the road to international competitiveness.

Personal note: I myself had the idea a couple of years ago to open a nonfiction bookstore in Barcelona, and I still think there's a niche for one. So I went down to the city hall, and learned that it was so slow and difficult and expensive that there was no way I was ever going to make any money. So BCN is short one bookstore.

Spain ranked 118th worldwide in ease of Starting a Business; 46th in Dealing with Licenses; 154th in Labor Regulations; 42nd in Registering Property; 13th in Getting Credit; 93rd in Paying Taxes; 47th in Importing and Exporting; 55th in Enforcing Contracts; and 17th in Closing a Business. Figures that the stuff Spain does well at is getting easy cash and going bankrupt.

A few comparisons between Spain and the US (the UK figures are generally pretty similar to the US):

It takes you 47 days to open a business in Spain; 6 in the US. It costs you 15% of per capita yesrly income in Spain to open up; in the US it's 0%.

In order to build a warehouse, it takes 233 days to get the permits in Spain; 40 in the US. The license costs 65% of per capita income in Spain; 13% in the US.

It costs an average of 56 weeks' pay to fire a worker in Spain; it's 0 weeks' pay in the US. Nonwage labor costs are 33% of wages in Spain; 8% in the US.

Registering property takes 18 days in Spain and 12 in the US; it costs 7% of the property value in Spain and 0.5% in the US.

Average taxes are 62% of profits in Spain and 46% in the US.

It takes 515 days to enforce a contract in Spain and costs 17.2% of the claim; the figures in the US are 300 days and 9.4% of the claim.

Maybe some smart political party can campaign on these issues, putting forth a real program for making it easier to do business in Spain. Of course the logical consequences would be more businesses, higher employment, and a greater tax base, and everybody's in favor of that, right?

Naah. It'd never work. Better to slag off the opposition about not being Catalanist enough. Or just question their commitment to democracy and accuse them of plotting a coup.
The top story around here is that the three remaining Spanish aircrew held in Chad have been released, which makes sense because they're innocent of everything but being hired by the wrong outfit.

Jordi Pujol cited an urban legend the other day, claiming as fact that a Madrid taxi driver had kicked a Catalan friend-of-a-friend out of his cab for speaking Catalan on his cell phone. Yeah, right. All Pujol's loud-mouthing has only contributed to fanning the flames of discontent caused by the Great Barcelona Transport Snafu. And Montilla is going around saying that if the central government doesn't do anything to solve the problems partially caused by his and his party's bungling, then Catalonia is going to get very mad at Spain. He's so uncharismatic that he's a terrible demagogue, though. And he's got Zap pissed off at him now.

Development minister Maleni Alvarez now says that the commuter trains will be back on line before November 30. Yeah, right.

All the Glasgow Rangers fans went home; they supposedly drank 140,000 liters of beer among them, which is pretty good. If there were 20,000 of them, that's seven liters (an American six-pack is a little more than two liters) a man during the day-and-a-half they were here. That doesn't count all the other alcoholic beverages they consumed while here, either. They didn't cause a whole lot of trouble; they made a big mess in the Plaza Catalunya, and urinated profusely in public. However, the mess they caused was a lot less than what happens when the Barça wins the league or New Year's Eve. The cops were mellow and just kept an eye on them to stop matters from getting out of control, and nobody got arrested, which was probably pretty smart. Putting a lot of porta-johns around the Old City might have been a good idea, though, which they didn't do.

However, one Ramon Masagué Arribas sent a letter of complaint to La Vanguardia that was published this morning: "Every year the same thing happens with the English fans. They keep drinking and drinking..." Now wait a minute. People from Glasgow are Scots, not English, and they kind of make a big deal out of that. Mr. Mesegué has no idea, however, which is interesting because many Catalans become very indignant that the rest of the world does not pay much attention to their attempt at differentiating themselves from the rest of the Spaniards.

I cannot count the number of times that people around here have told me accusingly, "Americans don't even know that Catalonia exists." As if not having heard of a European region with seven million people made one ignorant. I bet no Catalan could tell you the difference between North Carolina and Missouri, much less that between a Bengali and a Gujerati, or a Mandarin-speaker and a Cantonese-speaker. Hell, TV3 doesn't know the difference between an Arab, a Persian, and a Turk; they have no idea that Kurds are Persians, Azeris are Turks, and Armenians are none of the above.
The school shooting tragedy in Finland, in which eight people were murdered, got interesting coverage in La Vanguardia. Here's the lead paragraph:

Finland doesn't believe it, not even the government. A multiple murder in their country was, until yesterday, unthinkable, something that only happened in the United States. Pekka Eric Auvinen, an 18-year-old student, armed with a pistol, opened the eyes of the Finns to the fact that globalization includes everything and that massacres like those at Columbine and Virginia Tech are also exportable to the countries of peaceful, developed Scandinavia.

What utter bosh.

First, the shooter used a German name, Sturmgeist89, on the Internet, and he claimed to be an admirer of Hitler and Stalin--and to be violently anti-American. If anything, he was a Nietzche-Nazi, and he called himself "a social Darwinist." Second, such things are not unthinkable in Finland, since in 2002 a nutcase with a bomb blew himself up at a Helsinki mall, killing six other people. And third, we've posted before on mass murders in Europe, of which there have been plenty:

Top European spree killer: Thomas Hamilton, who killed 17 people at a preschool in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996. Next is Robert Steinhauser, who killed 16 people at an Erfurt, Germany school in 2002. He's tied with Michael Ryan, who killed 16 people in Hungerford, England, in 1987...More European spree shooters: Eric Borel killed 13 people in Cuers, France, in 1995. Richard Durn killed 8 people in Nanterre, France, in 2002. Mauro Antonello killed 7 people in Chieri, Italy, in 2002. Mattias Flink killed 7 people in Falun, Sweden, in 1994. Josef Gautch killed 6 people in Austria in 1997. Jean-Pierre Aillan killed 5 people near Rennes, France, in 1996. Tommy Zethraeus killed 4 people in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1994.

Germany had three single murders in its schools, one in November 1999, one in March 2000, and one in February 2002. In January 2004 another single murder occurred in the Hague, Netherlands.

So I'd say that it's most definitely anti-Americanism to blame a school shooting in Finland on the Americans.