Thursday, December 20, 2007

You've probably heard that the US released three British citizens from Guantanamo, and they got shipped back to Britain. Spain has demanded the extradition of one of them, Palestinian Jamil al-Banna, on terrorism charges, and the British police have arrested him. They also arrested the other two, on British terrorism charges. Innocent little angels, these guys are not.

The National Court convicted 47 members of ETA-front organizations of membership in a terrorist gang; they have been sentenced to between four and 23 years in prison each. Five persons were acquitted. This case has been dragging on for years, and we all knew what was going to happen--the cops began rounding up those convicted a couple of weeks ago, just to make sure they didn't all go into hiding. Three of them are still on the run.

As we said before, this is important because 1) it's the first time Spanish courts have ruled that members of ETA front groups are just as much terrorists as the triggermen 2) a lot of Basque-wacky jokers are going to think twice now about publicly supporting ETA, since they know they can't do it with impunity anymore 3) if the government's plan is to negotiate with ETA (which I strongly oppose doing), then they have 47 new bargaining chips in jail.

Of course, the convicted prisoners tried to make a mockery out of the sentencing, shouting that they didn't accept the verdict of an "illegitimate court," making obscene gestures, and singing ETA rebel ballads. The judge ordered the courtroom cleared and that was the end of that.

A few days ago the Spanish Senate, in which the PP has the majority, passed a motion to censure development minister Maleni Alvarez. This is the first time ever that a minister has been censured by the Senate. The funny thing was that the Catalan nationalist parties, who put on a big demo a couple of weeks ago supposedly to protest the messed-up transport system in Catalonia, abstained because they didn't want to vote with the PP. So they held a demonstration against her, and then failed to vote for her censure. Boy, that's coherent.

The Catalan Parliament passed the pompously named Right to Housing in Catalonia Act, which gives the government the power to force owners of vacant apartments to rent them out whether they want to or not. The law is especially obnoxious in its interference with the right to private property, since landlords in Spain have very few rights due to other laws regulating rentals. Not only will the owner be obligated to rent out his vacant place, but he'll be placed under restrictive landlord regulations. The Socialist-Communist-Green-national socialist Catalan Tripartite passed the bill over the opposition of both CiU and the PP.

La Vanguardia is encouraging its readers to "send in photographs for an erotic calendar." Just what we needed, nude photos of a bunch of middle-class middle-aged Catalan Catholics.

It seems like the European political story that's gotten the most coverage this week is Sarkozy's romance with the model and singer Carla Bruni, who is an extremely hot babe. The funny thing is up till now she's been romantically involved with leftists and rock stars, not conservative politicians. Zap put his foot in it; reporters asked him to comment on the subject, and he said that Bruni was "more beautiful" than Sarko's ex-wife. He's right, of course, but isn't that superficial retrograde patriarchal sex-objectification?

The John Edwards sex-scandal story is heating up; the Enquirer, not earth's most reliable news source, is running with it and headlining that he has an illegitimate child with some crazy nutter chick from New York. If he were single it wouldn't matter; during the 2004 election, nobody got into John Kerry's agitated love life before he married Teresa, for example, and nobody's really gone after Rudy Giuliani hard about his own matrimonial troubles, at least not yet. But adultery is another thing in the voters' minds, and Elizabeth Edwards, who may be dying of cancer, is an important part of her husband's campaign. If he was cheating on her it'll look terrible.

Andrew Young, civil rights activist and former ambassador to the UN, apparently doesn't think Barack Obama is "black enough"; he was quoted as saying that Bill Clinton had had sex with more black women than Obama.

The thing about the US black community is that it's not one solid group, as many people seem to think. It's divided into "native American blacks," descended from Southern slaves, with their own distinctive culture, a 400-year history in America, and who further divide themselves into various social classes; West Indian immigrants, who started coming over about the time of the First World War, and whose culture is in some ways similar to but not the same as that of the natives; and African blacks, who have mostly come over in the past thirty years, and have nothing in common culturally with the other two groups but the color of their skin.

Obama is the son of a Kenyan immigrant father and a white mother, and part of his childhood was spent overseas. He really doesn't have any more in common with native American blacks than I do. Not that this disqualifies him from being president or anything, though I certainly wouldn't vote for him due to his left-wing political ideas and his lack of experience. In case you're wondering, Colin Powell is West Indian, and Condi Rice and Clarence Thomas are both native Americans.

So far I have no fearless predictions for the primary elections; I plan to vote for Giuliani, and McCain is more than an acceptable alternative. Huckabee, Romney, and Thompson are minor-leaguers in comparison with those two, and Ron Paul is nuts. If Huckabee gets nominated I might sit this one out rather than vote for him. Among the Democrats, I don't much like anybody. You probably know that the last Democrat I liked was Lieberman, and he's bolted the party and usually votes with the Republicans. Hillary, Obama, and Edwards are the only three candidates I think have a shot at the nomination, and Edwards has just been torpedoed. Hillary is probably the least offensive of the three.

Sports update: Everybody's gearing up for the big Barcelona-Real Madrid soccer game this weekend. Down at the bar I put three bucks in the pool on a 3-1 result. Messi's out, Ronaldinho will probably play, Henry is back, Giovani and Bojan are both fit, Gudjohnsen and Iniesta are in good form, and Milito is excellent.

Ronald Koeman, Barça hero and new coach of Valencia, has decided to break up the team; he's kicked off Cañizares, Albelda, and Angulo, three guys who have been with the team so long they think they're synonymous with it. Several more guys, like Baraja, are also on the way out. Koeman doesn't like their attitude, he says. Cañizares is kind of wacky; he says he's a Buddhist and takes all that yoga and meditation stuff seriously. He has been known to use nail polish to paint flowers on his toenails. I'm not complaining, he's been a good goalie for a long time, but he's now 38 and not getting any younger.

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