Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's been cold these last few days here in B-ville, which is not unusual for December, of course. What is unusual is the drought we've had over the past few months; Catalonia's reservoirs are at 29 percent of capacity, and they'll need to impose water rationing in a couple of months if it doesn't rain sometime soon. Winter and especially spring are the rainy seasons around here, and the soil needs that rain that it absorbs in spring in order to make it through the dry summer. If we don't get it, that means a bad harvest and a lot of forest fires.

They were working on a deal during the Aznar administration to transport water from the Rhone to Catalonia, and water from the Ebro to Valencia and Murcia, but the Socialists shot the water plan down when Zap took over. Too bad, we could use that pipeline from the Rhone right about now.

I have a dumb computer keyboard problem which I don't know how to fix. I'm sure it's just a question of changing one setting, but I don't know which setting needs to be changed. On my Spanish keyboard, when I hit the apostrophe-question mark key, I get a hyphen. In order to type an apostrophe, I have to hit the o a key at the top left. For a question mark I have to hit shift-9. What's the problem? Thanks in advance.

I'm probably the most technology-ignorant blogger in the world. I have no idea how to use a computer except at the word processor-Internet level, I don't know how to use a cellphone since I don't have one, I don't have a DVD or VCR or any of that stuff, I don't have an iPod, and I don't even know what any of the buttons on the TV remote control do.

Well, I never want to hear Zap criticize the Americans for anything again. We all agree that Gadafi is an evil dictator, right? He's certainly at least as bad as Franco was, and he's been in power for even longer. So Zap and Gadafi cut a deal for €12 billion with a B in bilateral commerce, including, get this, two billion euros worth of military weapons and a €3.5 billion Spanish investment in the Libyan oil fields. And it's Zap who gets all righteous and idealistic on us. Looks to me like he believes it's moral that Spain should profit from selling weapons to and buying oil from a crazy-ass tinpot dictator.

The current big stink going on around here is what they call the "digital canon." Spain's SGAE, the General Society of Authors and Editors, which represents musicians, authors, movie makers, etc., charges what is effectively a sales tax on digital copying technology to offset the alleged sales losses caused by private copying of copyrighted works. The system was introduced in September 2003 under the´Aznar administration. Now Rajoy's against it. All the rest of the political parties, except the PSOE, are also calling for it to be phased out.

So the Ministries of Culture and Industry got together with the SGAE and made this proposal to modify the fees: CD-Rs, 17 cents each. Cellphones or messengers with MP3: €1.50 each. MP3s and MP4s: €3.15 each. DVD-Rs: 44 cents each. Scanners: €9 each. CD burners: 60 cents each. CD=DVD burners: €3.40 each. These charges, of course, are paid by the consumer. In addition, value-added tax is charged on the fees.

The system has been criticized for several reasons, including 1) everyone pays the fees, including those who never make copies of copyrighted works 2) it's effectively a tax, but it didn't go through the same legal process as a straight-out tax would have to 3) the money doesn't necessarily go to the creator whose work is copied; instead, the SGAE parcels it out arbitrarily according to the artist's "importance."

I dunno; copyright law exists for a reason, in order to make sure creators get paid for their work. Some kind of system like this one is necessary; I'm just not sure this is the best way to do it.

What I do think is funny is the whole gang of left-wing alleged creative artists who have taken out half-page ads in all the newspapers in favor of the fees. That is, they want to make sure they get theirs, Jack. Don't ever believe an idealist when he says he doesn't care about money. Next thing you know he's going to start accusing all the rest of us of being consumerists and destroying his planet, while he continues flying around in his private jet and living in his huge mansion. Signers include such notorious working-class friends of the people as Pilar Bardem, Victor Manuel, Joaquin Sabina, and Ana Belen.

They arrested seven doctors involved in the illegal-abortion scandal. Now what they're going to do with them is perfectly legal in Spain: they're going to let them sit and stew in jail for the full 72 hours that the law says may pass before an accused person is given a court hearing, in the hope that somebody talks.

The real estate market is clearly crashing. The newspapers are full of ads for small places under €175,000, and medium places well under €300,000. 1015 apartments were sold in Barcelona in the last quarter of 2006, and only 505 have been sold during that period in 2007. It looks like the market peaked in around July 2006, and the fall has barely begun, despite the spin the real-estate agents are trying to apply.

Durex is going to close down its plant in Rubi, a Barcelona suburb, and lay off more than 250 workers. I'm sorry, there's absolutely no way you should be losing money if you're a condom manufacturer. That's a high-demand product if there ever was one.

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