The big news here in town is that Barcelona has been invaded by about 20,000 Glasgow Rangers fans, who are currently attempting to drain the city of beer in preparation for tonight's Champions League game against Barça. Only about 6000 of them have tickets. There was some hell-raising last night in Plaza Catalunya, with bottles being thrown around and three people injured, but nothing too serious.
The Barcelona press is playing up the hooligan stereotype, but most of these guys seem to me like fairly good-natured drunks. I doubt anything bad is going to happen; it seems to me like the British football scene has been cleaned up a good deal, with much less thuggery than there was fifteen or twenty years ago. This lot is here for a laugh, not a fight. Also, in order to afford to travel to Barcelona, you need to have a job, and people with jobs don't do too much serious rioting or vandalism.
TV3 is reporting that scalpers are selling tickets at €400 each.
Breaking story: Somebody in Finland got a gun and shot up a school, with at least two dead. The Spanish media is not churning out pieces questioning the violent basis of Finnish society.
They busted four junior terrorists this morning in San Sebastian, and the cops say that Segi, the current name of ETA's youth brigade, has been broken up in that city, at least for now. These guys are accused of torching city buses, sabotaging train lines, tossing Molotov cocktails at public buildings and bank branches, and starting riots after illegal pro-ETA demos, besides recruiting and indoctrinating new members. Lock them up and throw away the key.
I have been keeping track of real estate prices around here, and a three-bedroom place in Gracia has declined by about €25,000 in the last couple of months. They interviewed Leslie Crawford, a Financial Times reporter here in Barcelona, in La Vanguardia. She says Spain is going to have its own subprime mortgage crisis, since Spanish banks have been giving out shaky mortgages too, and the difference is that in America the banks sold off their debt in the secondary market, while in Spain they didn't. Also, in America only 13% of mortgages are considered to be subprime, but I have no idea what the percentage might be in Spain.
Crawford spoke at the big Barcelona Meeting Point real estate trade fair, and was roundly criticized by a couple of local developer big wheels for tossing freezing water on their already cooling market.
It doesn't help matters that the trade fair complex is right in the middle, both physically and chronologically, of the AVE-commuter trains construction mess. Which has a lot of people really angry. I think I already said that a few times. The level of pissed-offitude is tremendous, bigger than I've ever seen it, and this latest bungle comes on top of the blackout.
Montilla shot off his mouth again, demanding that the central government respond to the "anger, skepticism, and pessimism" of the Catalans. That's what we call passing the buck where I come from; Mr. Montilla, you are the regional premier, are you not? You are in charge here, are you not? Sure, the Zap government deserves some of the blame, and so do the various local administrations, but so do you.
This guy is a terrible spinner, a lousy vote-getter, Mr. Negative Charisma. He needs to stick to the backroom wrangling and stay out of the public eye, because he is so incredibly unconvincing as a leader. I prefer competence to charisma, and Mr. Montilla has shown little of either so far.
Get this. After years of bitching about the US being a police state spying on its own people and everybody else, the European Union has just decided that it is going to do exactly what Europeans have criticized so often. They are going to require airlines to turn over passenger data on flights entering or leaving the EU, just like the US (and Britain and France) already require. La Vanguardia says directly, "The system is based on the American PNR (Passenger Name Record) established after the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington."
The EU Commissioner for Justice, Security, and Freedom, Franco Frattini of Italy, also wants to restrict Internet use by terrorists. This would be a good idea if they wanted to MONITOR internet use and see who keeps googling "bin laden jihad kill kill kill" and creative stuff like that. However, Mr. Frattini wants to block Internet searches for such words as "bomb, murder, genocide, or terrorist." That might be going just a little too far.
The prosecutor's office wants to retry "the Egyptian," Rabei Osman el Sayed, who was acquitted at the 3-11 bombings trial of being one of the masterminds, on the ground that he is already serving a sentence in Italy for membership in a terrorist organization and so convicting him in Spain would be a double conviction for the same crime. The prosecutors do not buy this and are appealing to the Supreme Court. I say good for the prosecutors.
The Generalitat's health department is introducing how-to sex education for children as young as 10. They've published two comic-book guides "directed at an audience between 10 and 16 years old," and the Generalitat's Salut and Escola (Health and Schools) program is sending 400 nurses to tour Catalan schools and hold workshops and discussions with students aged 12 and 13. Now, I'm in favor of sex education for teenagers; hell, it should form part of every biology class. But I'm not sure ten-year-olds need brochures telling them, "Condoms allow us to enjoy and share our sexuality with security and tranquility," along with cartoon figures of a nude young girl with her arms around a boy in his boxer shorts asking themselves, "Will I know how to put it on right? Will I lose sensitivity? Will it break?"
Meanwhile, the Spanish government wants to ban spanking kids. Glad we've got our priorities straight.