Thursday, November 01, 2007

Today is Todos los Santos, the day when the dead are honored in Spain and Catholic countries in general. (Note: The American equivalent is Memorial Day.) So today is a national holiday, and tomorrow is what they call a "puente" in Spain: a workday between two off-days, which most companies and people take as one more day off work. That is: four-day weekend! Remei and Rosa are going out to the pueblo to pay their respects at the cemetery, and I'm holding the fort down here.

We'll see if they can fix the commuter train lines over the long weekend. I bet they don't.

The majority reaction in the Spanish media to the verdicts in the 3-11 trial was that the ETA conspiracy theory, promoted by elements of the PP and the right-wing media, is dead and buried. Rajoy announced that the PP "accepts" the court's verdict, though he said, "Those who were accused of being the planners were acquitted." Meaning, I guess, that since no planner has been convicted, the question of who planned it is still open. Wrong. They're all either dead or on the run. He also pointed out something I've been saying for a long time, that it was the Interior Ministry under the Aznar administration that arrested and made the case against all these guys who were on trial.

A very important point made by the verdict: The plan to attack in Spain was first discussed at an Istanbul meeting in February 2002, more than a year before the invasion of Iraq. That is: Spanish participation in Iraq may have made Al Qaeda even angrier at Spain than it already was, but there would have been an attempt at an Islamist terror attack in Spain with or without Iraq.

One more very important point: The Aznar government had established a signals intelligence operation in order to monitor phone and computer use--not the messages themselves, but the signal that each communication produced--by several of the conspirators. They put the system into action the day of March 11 after the bombings. It was the key to breaking up the gang and convicting these guys. When the Americans pass the Patriot Act and do the same thing, though, then all the illustrated and enlightened among us pitch a fit.

Pepe Blanco, the Socialists' organizational secretary and eminence grise, shot off his mouth, saying, "The planner of the massive lie of 3-11 is Jose Maria Aznar, it was carried out by Angel Acebes, and the conspirators are Mariano Rajoy and Eduardo Zaplana." Yep, the Spanish political scene is still very hot: the Socialist Party boss called the top four members of the main opposition party liars, for the five thousandth time in the last three and a half years.

The date for the general election, to coincide with the Andalusian regional election, is March 9, 2008.

The Generalitat announced its budget for 2008: almost €35 billion, a 7.9% increase. "Investment," whatever that is, will increase by 17%, to almost €6 billion. I presume most of that will come from the larger transfers from the central government to the Catalan government. 33% of the budget is dedicated to health care, and 18% goes to education. This budget is predicated on economic growth of 3% or more, though, and if growth is less than that (as many, including the IMF and Spain's BBVA, predict), then the numbers won't work out so well. La Vangua also complains that the inheritance and gift taxes have merely been reduced by 13%, rather than completely eliminated, as other regions have done.

Rising gas and food prices have caused the economics ministry to raise its forecast for 2007 inflation to 3.6%. Most people think inflation is a lot higher than that; basics like milk, eggs, and fruit have risen by more than 20%, and rising interest rates are hurting Spaniards on variable-rate mortgages, which is most of them. The government points out that the prices of many goods and services, such as telephone calls and pharmaceuticals, have dropped, but people don't notice that nearly as much. Food prices are expected to continue rising, perhaps 10% more, because of increased demand for cereals combined with a bad harvest in both Europe and Australia and an increase in transport rates due to fuel price rises.

Percentage of Spaniards who consider the following to be "a principal problem": Housing 37%, Terrorism 35%, Unemployment 35%, Immigration 29%, Economy 22%, Jobs 14%, Crime 13%.

Meanwhile, La Vangua ran its annual anti-Halloween article yesterday, giving a full page to complaints by Catholic schools: "On this holiday, based on fear, death, the living dead, black magic, and mystical monsters, minors are disguised using all these elements. What idea of death must remain in the heart of the child who has dressed up as a skull and has been playing? Death is not a game or a party in order to have fun once a year." The Catholic PTA added that Halloween is "imported," and that it "has colonized Spanish culture to the detriment of Todos los Santos." They claimed that Halloween has become popular "because of rebelliousness, snobbishness, and a desire to break with tradition." Geez. Calm down. Besides, if you want really creepy, check out the Day of the Dead celebrations in Catholic Mexico.

They found a headless body floating in Barcelona harbor yesterday. Reminds me of the greatest tabloid headline in the history of journalism, from the New York Post: HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR.

Sports update: Midweek games in the Spanish league. Real Madrid stomped the shit out of Valencia last night, 1-5. Tonight Barça plays at Valladolid, and they'd better win. Valencia named former Barça star Ronald Koeman their new coach. Barcelona is all excited because local hero Juan Carlos Navarro has signed with the NBA Memphis team, where Pau "The Crying Spaniard" Gasol plays. They're going to suck again, of course. Also, TV3 is tremendously excited over the fact that the Catalan National Roller Hockey Team has been invited to play in the Roller Hockey Cup of the Americas. Catalonia is 4-0 so far, and they just beat the United States 13-0. I hang my head in shame. In a real manly sport like ice hockey, though, we'd win by forfeit after putting all their guys in the hospital.

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