Sunday, January 27, 2008

Al Qaeda in Catalonia update: Police throughout Europe are looking for at least six uncaptured members of the Barcelona terrorist cell. The leader of the Barcelona cell, Maroof Ahmed Mirza, is linked to the chief of Al Qaeda in Pakistan, Amir Baitula Mehsud, and to other cells in Europe, which are thought to be hiding the six men on the run. The authorities are currently tracing down all the phone calls made by suspected cell members.

Everything the confidential informant (who was to have been one of the suicide bombers) says checks out, except the cops can't find the 100 kilos of explosives he says they had. Very similar to Saddam's chemical weapons: we know he was going around acting like he had them, we took action based on his bluffs and threats, and then we just couldn't find the weapons.

Get this: El Pais says that the terrorist cell that murdered Daniel Pearl was financed by a Barcelona Pakistani cell that got its money running shops and call centers in the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona; the money was transferred to Asia through the hawala money-lending network. They also report that the CIA and FBI believe that jihadists have been using Spain as a logistical and financial center for years.

Those old sons of bitches Georges Habash and Suharto died. Good. Hope they get a nice warm reception where they're going.

Political problem: Former speaker of the Basque parliament, Juan Maria Atutxa, along with two other members of his PNV party, was found guilty by the Supreme Court of contempt of court; he refused to expel the ETA-front party Sozialista Abertzaleak from the regional parliament. The PNV put on a big protest demo in Bilbao yesterday which went off peacefully. Meanwhile, Basque Country premier Juan Jose Ibarretxe is coming up for trial, also on contempt of court charges, for having met twice with ETA leaders. This will be the first time that a regional premier has gone on trial in the history of democratic Spain. If he gets convicted the PNV will pitch a fit.

Campaign promise update: Zap says he'll refund all taxpayers and pensioners who pay income tax €400 each in June. Rajoy says he'll provide day care for 400,000 children.

Hugo Chavez is at it again; he's now claiming that Colombia (as a US puppet) is planning an attack on Venezuela. He's moved forces to the border, allegedly to stop smuggling.

Toni Soler, TV guy and sometime columnist, has a well-written summary of his linguistic ideas in La Vanguardia today. Here it is.

IMMERSION: This is what I answer when someone attacks linguistic immersion in the public schools: in Catalan linguistic policy, equality between Catalan and Spanish is not the baseline we are starting from, but the objective to achieve, since such equality does not exist. The baseline now is of evident inequality in favor of Spanish, which will not be corrected if the two languages receive the same treatment. In fact, it will increase, because of immigration and the imperatives of the market. Therefore, an authentic policy of linguistic equality should clearly favor Catalan so that it can recover what it lost after centuries of prohibitions and interference. In addition, Catalan is our own language, our own individual contribution to the world's linguistic patrimony. This is more than a sufficient reason to rescue it.

I just flat-out disagree with Soler about everything in this paragraph. 1) Catalan and Spanish are starting from a different baseline socially. The majority of people in Catalonia speak Spanish normally; the (large) minority who normally use Catalan tend to be better-educated, richer, and of a higher social class. There is nothing wrong with this, and it is not the government's job to interfere with the language that people want to speak. 2) Spanish and Catalan SHOULD start from the same baseline legally. It is the government's job to make and enforce the laws, and those laws should provide all citizens with equal rights, no matter what language they speak. In fact, Catalan-speakers have MORE rights than Spanish-speakers. If anything needs to be "corrected," it is these affirmative action (in Spanish, get this, "positive discrimination") policies that favor Catalan-speakers, especially in the job market.

3) What makes one policy of linguistic equality more "authentic" than another? Couldn't you say that the most "authentic" language policy should be one of benign neglect, letting the citizens choose on their own what language they want to speak? 4) We don't know what the status of Catalan would be now if history had not happened the way it did, and we can't make up a false history of a monolingual Catalan utopia before those nasty Spaniards came up with their "restrictions and interference." 5) Lots of people in Catalonia think that Spanish is "their own language," Mr. Soler. 6) Catalan does not need to be "rescued." It has at least five million speakers, and the Generalitat claims ten. 7) If economic history teaches us anything, it is that the less we meddle with "the imperatives of the market," the better.

Faced with these arguments, Spanish nationalism, wearing its liberal and civic sheep's clothing, is in favor of letting Catalan crash ihto the logic of the market, which blows in its (Spanish nationalism's) favor. And, in order to complete the pressure from both sides, it hides behind the defense of certain individual rights which, it seems, are only applicable to the Catalan children who speak Spanish at home, not to the thousands who speak Arabic or Urdu. Let us not let the wolf fool us: it is still the same thing, and it wants what it always did, a great and free homeland, in which "regional" languages are only used to sing Christmas carols.

1) There's not some anonymous force called "Spanish nationalism." There are people you could call "Spanish nationalists." Most of them (El Mundo, Cope Radio) don't make any more sense than the Catalan nationalists. What it isn't fair to do is to claim that all those who disagree with Catalan nationalists are therefore Spanish nationalists. 2) Just because it makes sense economically to use Spanish as the predominant language of business does not mean that Catalan is threatened as a language outside of the business world. 3) Spanish-speaking citizens have rights in Spain that immigrants do not. One of the rights they SHOULD have is being allowed to use their own constitutionally protected language in the worlds of education and business. 4) It is an extremely nasty rhetorical trick on Soler's part to identify people (98% of whom are pro-democracy) who disagree with Catalan nationalism with Francoists. 5) Supporting the rights of Spanish speakers does not mean that one wants to interfere with the rights of Catalan speakers, or that one wishes to see Catalan reduced to the equivalent of a folk dialect.

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